What is a Good Birth?


I have 3 sisters. Between us we've had 10 children and 10 totally different births. There has been 3 homebirths; 7 hospital births; 3 caesarians; one born in a speedy 90 minutes; an induction; several epidurals; at least one in an OP, or back to back position; one practically born in the bath; at least 1 cervical lip; a shoulder dystocia; an asolutely whopping big baby (or 2)....in fact in those 10 births we've covered a fair bit of obstetric ground between us. We've made our own choices, and accepted interventions as much as we've let nature take her course.

When I started my business my intention was to help women have a 'Good Birth'. But I kept getting caught up in the perenial argument about what exactly it is that constitutes a 'Good' birth? Since becoming a mother I'd seen & heard first hand the conflicting judgements about birth; the wife of a friend of mine told me I was irresponsble for having a homebirth; a holistic practitioner argued that home is the 'best' place to birth; women dismissing my positive experience of birth as 'utter balls'; a friends tearful distress at 'failing' her baby because she had a c-section.

With the experiences of my sisters I knew that this deep polarisation couldn't be The Truth of it - and yet as a new practitioner I couldn't quite grasp hold of what it was I wanted to help women and their partners achieve.

And then I found out about Anne Drapkin Lyerly and The Good Birth Project. Almost literally a breath of fresh air, as with her book 'A Good Birth; Finding the Positive and Profound in Your Childbirth Experience', she clears a new, direct, pathway in the dialogue of birth, shifting the emphasis from what's 'right', to what matters to mothers. Her starting position is that;

'...(current approaches to childbirth are).....often framed as a choice between "natural" versus "medical"....reflecting the values and priorities of midwives and doctors rather than childbearing women themselves.'

She then goes on;

'The birth stories I heard....were as different as the diverse women we interviewed. But what struck me time and again was not what distinguished one birth from another, but what about them was the same.'

Yes! It's possible that looking at the method of birth as the indicator of 'Good' or 'not good' has been a red herring. And worse, that red herring indicator has in itself had an negative effect on how women reflect on their birth experiences.

Drapkin Lyerly re-positions the discussion, reinforcing why a 'Good Birth' is important, but removing herself from the divisive, and often highly charged, status quo. It's not about place of birth (hospital vs home). It's not about using drugs or not. It's not about intervention or not. She says;

'The themes that emerged cut across home and hospital, and the most straightforward and most complicated of births. Considered together, what emerged were five primary "domains" related to a good birth experience, including agency, personal security, connectedness, respect and knowledge....In addition the term and concept of control was also mentioned - repeatedly -....I finally came to see control as one of the most important words in birth'

And THIS is why I'm so keen that more women make the investment in birth preparation. It may well not alter the course of your labour - although that's a test it's impossible to measure - but with more knowledge about how your body works, with more information & support for your birth partner, and techniques to relax and be calm comes the space to discover what's really important to you about birth, and the confidence to adapt to the circumstances on the day.

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