Three cheers for Chippy!


It’s not often that, as a doula, I feel redundant. But on Monday morning I did, a little bit.

I see a doula’s job as twofold: firstly it’s supporting the woman – encouraging her to breathe, giving her techniques to relax, rubbing her back or showing her partner how best to do it. Secondly it’s to advocate for her – if she has a strong sense of what she would like out of birth, then we will have talked about that beforehand and I will do my best to ensure that that happens, however the birth is unfolding, whatever Mother Nature decides to challenge us with.

And for the very first time in my doula’ing career, I ended up supporting a lady at our local midwife-led unit. It’s a stand-alone unit in a cottage hospital, and it’s staffed entirely by midwives and maternity care assistants. There are no doctors and no epidurals, and unless your negotiation skills are particularly astute, you can only go there if you’re ‘low risk’. The nearest pair of forceps, episiotomy scissors, or emergency caesarean is a good 15 minute ambulance ride away.

The mother took me on because she had felt unsupported and out of control during the birth of her first baby (not at the MLU), and just couldn’t decide where to have this one baby, and was 37 weeks pregnant before she finally decided on the MLU rather than either of the two hospitals whose catchment she fell into. I was really pleased she chose it, actually – if you want a straightforward birth, my gut feeling is that you up your chances enormously by booking into a place like this rather than into a hospital, and in my area of the country we’re enormously lucky that there are three of them!

This particular one has just moved into a spanking new building where everything was purpose built. I went to the ‘launch day’ only a couple of months ago, and was shown around by excited midwives and student midwives. I made all the right noises, but I left feeling, ‘but it’s still a hospital,’ and wondering why people would go there to have their baby instead of having him or her at home.

But I changed my mind on Monday morning: this place was everything that a hospital wasn’t. The lights were dim, it was just us in the place so it was quiet and peaceful, and it was set up perfectly for everything you might need for a birth. There was a pool whose water ran at the perfect temperature, a cd player, a range of essential oils. There was a pretty bedspread and pillowcase, flowers on the windowsill, the most enormous ensuite bathroom you’ve ever seen.

And the most wonderful, wonderful midwives.

Which gets me back to my sense of redundancy. If every woman in labour was graced with a midwife like these ones, I’d be out of a job – and that would be perfect. They nurtured, they watched, they crooned and whispered and supported and did all the lovely things that a woman needs in labour, and which, unfortunately, can be less than forthcoming on a busy delivery suite. Not that most midwives don’t WANT to do it, they just sometimes are denied the chance or the time. They do their best, but it’s my impression that they’re being pulled in so many different directions at once, that it gets hard to do it.

Midwife means ‘with woman’. I have often said that I would become a midwife if I was able to continue to be a doula to the labouring women I was midwifing for. The midwives at this unit – and countless other standalone places around the country – truly manage to do that. And it was an honour to see it in action.

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~ by Kedi Simpson on June 2, 2011.

2 Responses to “Three cheers for Chippy!”

  1. I so hope they have a vacancy in three years time 😉

  2. It really, really is a special place. I was so privileged to do my first placement there and to see what midwifery can be. I’m hoping I get to go back there one day. I know what you mean about “still a hospital” but the place is secondary to the people I think.

    You’re right that midwife led units don’t give anything in the way of personnel or drugs that a homebirth doesn’t but I think there’s a place for them for women who don’t feel happy to birth at home for whatever reason – living in upstairs flats and wanting a waterbirth, having other children and wanting to let them stay at home while mummy has the baby (other children at births aren’t everyone’s comfort zone after all) and being afeared of the mess are the usual reasons I’ve found.

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