We are very fortunate in Australia to have a Midwifery model of maternity care. One of the things this means for expecting mothers, fathers and partners is we get the opportunity to establish a relationship with the woman who will also guide us through our baby's birth.
According to Professor Jenny Gamble, Head of Midwifery at Griffith University in Brisbane, continuity of care means better birth outcomes for new families.
I can see why.
For me, it meant meeting the most gorgeous Irish woman. She had me at "hello". Noreen became such a big part of our family's birth stories (she was there for all three of them!), I have written about her in my book Becoming Us.
Over the time of our prenatal visits, Noreen set us up for early labour at home, including teaching my husband to do "birth circles" with his hands on my hips. It felt like we were dancing. She taught him to do acupressure when the pains became intense. I felt so grateful to both of them. And then, when it was time, she gently suggested my husband stand behind me, so I could lean into him and he could hold me as I birthed our baby. He literally, and figuratively, had my back.
I can't think of a better start for our new version of "us".
The following day, when Noreen was discharging us from the hospital, I felt bereft. "You're letting me go?" I wanted to ask. Our relationship had ended all too soon. I wanted to take her home.
And I needed to. Because that's when the wheels fell off.
Three weeks after crossing the threshold of our home with our newborn son in my arms, I was wondering what the heck I'd gotten myself into. Was I, we, really cut out for all this. It was so, SO! much harder than I'd expected. I felt despair.
I didn't know it at the time, but I was also crossing the threshold into postnatal depression.
Sure, the community nurse had visited me after my early discharge from the hospital, but I didn't have a relationship with this woman, so it felt more like checks and balances than kind words and kinder eyes. The truth is, I kept a brave face. I wasn't comfortable opening up to her.
So I can't help but wonder if even just one visit with my magic Irish midwife might have made a difference. I know I would have felt more comfortable sharing my struggles with her. I would have answered more honestly on any tests. I would have taken her advice. She, more than anyone, might have been able to see the signs that I wasn't coping because she knew what I was like before...
Maybe this might have led to me getting the help I, we, needed but I didn't put my hand up for.