Women need time and patience in maternity care: an interview with legendary midwife Martine Welter

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In the context of Luxmama Club & ParentPrep asbl’s “#choicetohaveamidwife” campaign, a Luxmama blog contributor met with Martine Welter one of the most experienced midwives in Luxembourg, who has actively worked for the upgrade of the midwives role in Maternity and birth for many years.

In 2019, during the 100 Celebration of the Association Luxembourgeoise Sages-Femmes (“ALSF”) Prime Minister Xavier Bettel announced some great news for midwives in Luxembourg, so we asked Martine to explain a bit more about these changes and also to talk about her philosophy around birth and home birth, as she is the only midwife currently
accompanying home-births in Luxembourg.

Martine Welter (left) at Luxmama’s 2019 Birth Culture Brunch

Question: We heard some good news regarding the midwives profession in Luxembourg
lately? Would you like to tell us more about that? What will be the effect in the
future? Also, how long have Luxembourg midwives been trying actively to
achieve this change?

Martine: It’s our new midwifery “Reglementation” (regulation) concerning the competencies
and “techniques” we are or are not allowed to do. As the “old” one from 1981, even
though quite good and coherent for our profession and adapted to the European
Directives issued in 1980, needed a “lifting”, adapting to new techniques and
situation. Since at least 2006, we started with a working group at the ministry of health, that’s
just to say what time and energy it takes. We wanted to have the law for the new
curriculum for midwifery education that switched in 2012, but discussions were very
difficult and we needed to be very attentive and take care not to lose from our
responsibilities and autonomy, like being able to prescribe different medications.


Why do you think if birth is the same in humans do we have such very
different maternity care systems over the world?

Martine: You have different maternity care systems in different countries because in general
the health care system is different. In the United States for instance, you have
private care systems whereas in Luxembourg If you work you are supposed to have
your Social Security and then a lot of things are paid back by Social Security. There
is no difference between private and public system, this can create limitations in
choices.

Do you know the history of midwives here in Luxembourg? By which country
was the Luxembourgish system influence/resembles?

Martine: The first maternity was at the end of the 19th century and they had also the maternity
and midwifery school because before that the midwives were trained in France or in
Germany and the system here in Luxembourg is somehow based on these different
systems in the countries all along the road in Luxembourg. In 1967 the midwives were
no longer a medical profession, but they turned it to para-medical profession. This
situation resulted in midwives losing their autonomy and it is part of what we are
complaining about for a long time. This situation means we can mostly work if a
doctor gives a prescription.

What is your impression of the midwifery training in Luxembourg and how can
it be improved? Where did you do your training?

Martine: Only in 2012 it has become a direct entry profession. That means after a Bac
technique or classic you go into three years of midwifery before that it used to be
based on the nursing diploma. That means you had to do the nursing training and
then spend two more years to become a midwife. So, we were supposed to be a
specialized nurse, which is not the case. So we got the direct entry system for
midwifery but it has to become a four years Bachelors diploma, like in other
countries, because in three years getting to know what midwives really needs to
know is very concentrated and according to European standards, we are supposed
to conduct autonomously 40 deliveries which is again not very easy to have these
amounts of deliveries.

What do you think about the quality of maternity care in Luxembourg and how
it can be improved upon?

Martine: I would not say that the quality is bad but it often has very high rates of interventions.
The idea is to go into bigger and bigger maternity units and to close smaller units.
Before, there were seven Maternities here in the country and they closed the smaller
ones because they were not financially viable. As a midwife I think of course that
birth should not be looked only as a profit making business. With maternity care a
woman giving birth needs time and patience. So in Luxembourg there is not much place for these things. For me the opportunity would be now to put on a system, similar to other countries, called an ABC (Alternative Birth Center) system. In this system a Birth center (free-standing or an alongside midwifery unit) is the place where women with a normal non-complicated pregnancy are going and there, midwives have the responsibility for the pregnancies. Only if some problem arises and they need medical care the doctor will come into
this unit and see what is necessary.

Also, currently there is high use of synthetic oxytocin. Doctors are not taking into account that
sometimes a woman goes into labor and then labour stops and she might go back into labor
tomorrow. She simply needs to rest and not be given oxytocin to accelerate labour, however it’s understandable that in the hospital setting and organization there is a push not to occupy a bed too long… So, a good alternative would be to let the women that is having a normal pregnancy taken over by a midwifery-led-unit and doctors to only take over when a problem exists or arises. Also, for midwives and doctors to cooperate. A good example would be a Birth Center.

As a midwife I think of course that birth should not be looked only as a profit making business. With maternity care a woman giving birth needs time and patience. So in Luxembourg there is not much place for these things.

Martine Welter

How would you describe equality between the midwifery and obstetric profession? Does it exist?


Martine: There is no equality between the midwives and doctors, they are two different
professions. We are supposed to take care of everything that’s physiological and the doctors are mostly trained to deal with pathology. And I always say it’s like a
train, you know a train runs on two rails and you need the two rails. So, in maternity
care we need them both. I know it’s a different job. So equality for me is respect for
every one’s profession. We need both to go on. So it’s not necessary to have equality but is is absolutely necessary to have respect!

What is your birth philosophy? Do you see birth as important in the context of
the larger society?

Martine: In Luxembourg there was a discussion about choosing how you die but there is none
around birth rights and how you would like to be born! These are both situations that
will only happen only once in everyone’s life. You will only be born once and you will only die once! So, I believe it’s important to carefully consider these two issues and why it is important how you are born.

Like some others said already before me, my philosophy around birth is also that being pregnant and giving birth is not an illness. Up to 90 percent of pregnancies are with no complications and that should also be with births. Birth should not be something that that there is some economical thinking about. In the past, the hospitals in general were run by a
congregation and the nuns were not paid much. Nowadays a hospital is an enterprise, a business with priority on “rentability” and not so much what would be the best for the mother and child: patience, time and to intervene as least as possible. But that brings no money….

It’s always the woman who does the work in birth and for me again what matters in supporting birth is patience, respect and plenty of time.

Martine Welter

The European Convention of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right
to respect for his private and family life…” and observed that “…the
circumstances of giving birth incontestably form part of one’s private life”. Do
you believe birthing families here in Luxembourg have freedom of choice in birth? Will this now change?

Martine: While it’s true that, in some ways, in Luxembourg until now, a woman cannot
choose, because when she is pregnant, she has to give birth in the Maternity that the
doctor who follows her pregnancy works with.

Also, we only have 4 Maternities so there is not much choice in type of facility. In
other countries she follows a doctor during pregnancy and then she decides which
system she is going to give birth at, public or private or at home, in a small unit or in a
university hospital. As women rise up more, things might change, but … things change veeery slowly and don’t forget, they have already changed over all these years, in the 80’s for
example, a water-birth was not possible!

What is you role in pregnancy, birth or post-natally currently and in the past?

Martine: I was trained in Belgium, it was not a direct entry, I first became a nurse. Then I
came here and did a higher nurse degree and trained as head nurse. I was trained
also as a midwife and learned that midwives take care of pregnant women, women
giving birth and post-natally. When I came here I saw that I could only work in a
Maternity and I started quite early to do prenatal education courses with Initiative
Liewensufank because this was the only way to see pregnant couples and talk about
birth before meeting them in the Maternity during labor. The fact that in Luxembourg
midwifes were not very involved in pregnancy was not how I was trained and saw my
way of working as a midwife. I worked in Maternity at the delivery unit and then at the
Postnatal unit as a head midwife. I worked there during the rooming-in
implementation in the 80s it was hard to implement at the beginning.
I worked with the ALSF to get the right for women to get an early
discharge and for midwives to visit at home and get reimbursed by CNS which we
achieved in 1993!

Then I left the Maternity and worked as an independent midwife. At that time, I decided to learn more about home deliveries and I therefore stayed in The Netherlands with a Dutch midwife and learned about their system, how they take care of pregnant women and accompany them to give birth at home. In The Netherlands pregnant women go to the midwife first and if she sees a problem, she will send her to the doctor. Once a week they meet and discuss which
women should go to the hospital and which will remain under the midwives care. In the Netherlands, I attended my first home birth and realized what birth actually was all about! The midwife just stood and waited, and the woman did all the work. There were some midwives in the 90s doing that in Luxembourg, then I took over with some other colleagues and now actually I have about 3 to 12 home births per year. I do have exclusion criteria, like for instance first time mothers I just do a couple if someone asks me to. For me it is not “The” thing to do. You need to discuss with your partner with the midwife and prepare for it. If there are Birth centers or midwifery led units
available and function well the home birth is not that necessary.

In the Netherlands, I attended my first home birth and realized what birth actually was all about! The midwife just stood and waited, and the woman did all the work.

Martine Welter

Do you think the rate of medical interventions in pregnancy and birth in
Luxembourg is satisfactory? Seeing the c-section rate of over 30% how do you
think it can be reduced?

Martine: Yes the rate is quite high here in Luxembourg compared to other European
countries. You know the Germans have what it’s called “Geburtshilfe” and we do a
lot of what is called “Geburtsmedezin”. OK so if you would go back to “Geburtshilfe”
and leave more time and have more midwives working at the units (because
currently in the hospitals, midwives need to support too many birthing women at once) then you might be able to reduce all these interventions. Of course, this comes again to the bottom line and how uneconomical natural birth is. But all is a matter of choosing where to spend money, were to invest! And investing in the way babies are born and a woman’s right to choose how she will give birth is the right thing to do.

Investing in the way babies are born and a woman’s right to choose how she will give birth is the right thing to do.

Martine Welter

More about the contributor

Christina Anyfanti is a Certified Postpartum Professional & part of the Newborn Mothers Collective as well as a Birthlight™ Motherhood & Baby Yoga Teacher.

She also has a Diploma in Counseling Psychology among others. happynewmama.lu

My story of hope… to conceive

My story of hope that make dreams come true.

My name is Virginie Vast – my story which I will share with you today is a story of hope for all women going through fertility issues.  I have myself been through 6 years of infertility treatment to finally have the joy to hold my little girl in my arms. Having openly talked about my story at work after the birth of my daughter, I realised how many women were going through the same journey… in silence. This is probably the worst thing we do to ourselves as women, to carry on in silence, feeling ashamed, not asking for help… and I am hoping through sharing my story and offering my support will make women fertility journey a little easier to cope with.

So here is my story…

As a child, I grew up in a very loving family, my mum was my dad’ first love, they got married in their 20’s and right away became parents. Few years later, three girls came to complete our family and my mum made the choice to dedicate her life to us. My parents were so strong together, at team no matter what the circumstances of life were. I grew up with this very idyllic family picture… you fall in love, you marry the love of your life, you have children and you live happily ever after.

6 years ago, it felt like destiny repeating; I saw him, his name is Laurens. At first sight, I knew he was the one and he will be the father of my children. One year later we said ‘yes’ to each other in this most beautiful wedding day, so excited to make our dream of having our own family come true…but then the story didn’t go on like in my childhood dreams as we faced fertility issues. 

Nothing prepared us, as a couple, to this infertility journey and the thought that our dream of being parents might never be.  We realised we were not alone on that journey as infertility is becoming an increasingly common issue. Did you know that 1 of 6 couples are facing fertility issues and to date, more than 8 million babies were born from in vitro fertilisation (IVF) since the world’s first in 1978.

We stood up strong as a team, more determined and positive than ever to make it happen, however the journey undeniably put relationships into pressure. Our couple life became a calendar of medical events, punctuated by periods of wait, hope and deep grief. And as infertility hits you hard as a couple, it either makes you stronger together or it pulls you apart – in our case, it made us stronger than ever, even if the outcome of that journey was to turn towards adoption.  

Every day I woke up with the same thought ‘Will I be a mum one day? Will our dream ever come true?’, and carried on in silence. People would keep asking us ‘Don’t you want to have children?’, if only they knew and after 6 years of restlessly trying to be parents, we came out of excuses to be able to answer. The norm is to get married and to have children. People have expectations and we did not want to let them down. 

Every day was a challenge – torn between growing my career, fighting to become a mum, dealing with deep grief of battles lost on the way and at the same time, protecting my couple and myself. To plan my days, I had to take into consideration so many variables, depending on workload, priority changes, last minute travel required and the planning of all medical appointments. Both of us having demanding jobs, some IVF cycles were real puzzle of logistical tricks to make it happen while at the same time ensuring we perform at work and we remain happy as a couple. Hope gave us the strength to carry on.

In life, I am a very passionate person; I love to drive initiatives that can make a difference. I have the chance to have new challenges at work that really excited me, and this passion and excitement without any doubt kept me going. I put a smile on my face, I put all my energy in what I love doing as I did not want people to find out or worse to feel sorry. One day, one of my colleague asked me ‘Don’t you want to start a family, you are now married and you would be a fantastic mother?’, this sentence was too much to handle to remain silent so I told her my story, the same story I am telling you today. I felt so relief and touched how understanding and supportive she was. 

If I was not so worried about what people would think and the impact it may have on my career, I would have actually talked about it openly much earlier to create awareness on fertility issues, on what it takes and on ways to get the support and space to persevere. I would have advised younger women at work not to wait to start a family over their career, I would have shared my experience to support those turning towards adoption.  

After 6 years of battle against infertility, my story is one of hope. The journey might be long, frustrating and painful but my message to all of women is to not give up, to be strong, to seek for help and to try over and over again because it is worth it… today, my dream of having a family with the man I love became reality and I am the luckiest mum of a little girl Chloe, she is 14 months today. 

Good luck everyone and please feel free to reach out to me. As women, we are here to support for each other. 

Virginie Vast 

About the author

Virginie Vast is a citizen of the world, she studied in the USA and Sweden, worked across 7 countries in Germany, France, Spain… to end up 10 years ago in beautiful Luxembourg – the place she calls home. This is where she met and married the love of her life, Laurens and after many years of trying to be parents, they are now a family with little Chloe who just turned 1 year. Virginie comes from Normandy in France, and she is a senior business executive in Supply Chain at Vodafone.

Virginie is passionate in life and loves to do things that make a difference to the world. Last year, she has created and is now heading the Vodafone Foundation in Luxembourg where she has the ambition to change the life of 5,000 people per year in the Grand Duche. She focuses on inclusion on disfavored communities, STEM education for girls and integration of disable people through sport…  a partnership with Ministry of Education, Script and the sponsorship from Princess Tessy De Nassau.

To help women going through the same challenges of infertility, she has created a support group in her workplace where she offers her support and advice to other women on the same journey or about to embark on it..share experience or simply offer a shoulder to lie on in tough times. The group now counts 7 women, they are no alone anymore and can hold on each other to go through this journey. She is also an active member on Luxmama.

What mothers say about their Births

In October 2016 – Strasbourg, the Luxmama Club & ParentPrep asbl attended the EU Human Rights in Childbirth conference with Initiativ Liewensufank, also an organisation supporting pregnancy and parenthood in Luxembourg.

Birth Rights or better explained as Human Rights in Childbirth is one of our awareness pillars and is a concept not very well understood by the mainstream as Human Rights is quite a recent phenomenon and extending that to childbirth, is sadly not common place yet. You can read more about what Human Rights in Childbirth means for Luxembourg here.

In preparation for the conference, all attending member states had to initiate surveys so we could all report on the status of certain Human Rights topics in practice in our individual states.

We worked together with Initiativ Liewensufank on the survey for Luxembourg which were aimed at investigating the exercise of “Informed Consent“, being fully informed of the risks, benefits and alternatives explained by medical care providers whenever any medical procedures are suggested.

Below you can see the results of our survey which was presented to the conference and published in the 3/2017 edition of Initiativ Liewensufank’s baby info magazine. All in all – Luxembourg has much to do in terms of improving the exercise of Informed Consent in practice, as do many of the other member states. With a Cesarean section rate of +30% (one of only seven other member states in the EU also exceeding 30%), a very high rate of artificial labour inductions, episiotomies and many other interventions questioned today by evidence based research when routinely performed/not consciously chosen by the birthing person, Informed Consent has never been more important. The aim is fully informed decision making.

Many families have wonderfully positive experiences of birth in Luxembourg and the birth facilities are state of the art, but our wish is for all families to have THEIR individual choices and rights respected, because birth is individual and families are unique.

Our wish is also for families in Luxembourg to have access to the full range of options in the modern birth world as well as the latest evidence based practice and to be treated with dignity and respect as explained in the Universal Human Right in Childbirth of “Privacy” and Art 8 of the EU Convention on Human Rights – Respect for Private & Family Life.

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IL Mag P5


More about the Author DSC_0554

As mother of two darling babies Holistic Maternity, Childbirth & Sleep Educator/Coach, Marise Hyman supports expecting/future/new parents worldwide through Marise Hyman Maternity Coaching – setting them up for success, so they can sail into their new lives with confidence!
She is also the founder of the Luxmama Club & ParentPrep asbl, an edgy non-profit organisation raising awareness for green, natural & holistic parenting alternatives, birth rights and postnatal mood disorders by offering a variety of inspiring social and educational events in Luxembourg.

“We had a Birth Doula!” – Una

As part of our Birth Rights Awareness Campaign, Have a Choice 2 Have a Doula” at the Luxmama Club & ParentPrep asbl, we are interviewing families that had a Birth Doula in Luxembourg (or globally) to help illustrate the benefits they bring to the birth experience. Our approach is to raise awareness at the level of the strongest voice collectively, the consumers, so they understand the benefits. Furthermore, the aim is that consumers understand their Human Rights in Childbirth which provide them the right to “choose the circumstances of birth” according to their individual wishes, regardless of what care providers/birth facilities may claim – e.g. “ you will only be ‘allowed’ 1 support person (the dad) in the birth room”.  Read more here about our campaign, your rights, how to navigate around such misguided responses, hire a Doula, sponsor/support our campaign and more!


We had a Birth Doula blog cover

”We had a Birth Doula!” – Interview with Una Clifford, Luxembourg

Interviewed by Elfi Koufogeorgou

Elfi: When and where did you give birth?

Una: Luxembourg city, 2012, Clinique Bohler

Elfi: The support from women to women during labour is age old, but the term Doulas in Luxembourg especially is not yet well known. How did you find out about the role of a doula?

Una:  I started reading up a lot when I became pregnant a second time in 2012 to be able to manage the birth more independently. Ironically, the literature enlightened me on the role of the Doula and I realised that being alone was simply not necessary!

Elfi: Why were you interested in Doula support?

Una:  My husband was sure during my first pregnancy that birth was not for him – he finds a regular blood test a trial due to a phobia of blood. We tried and it didn’t work so for my first birth I was alone and it was a very unsettling experience.

Elfi:  How did you go about finding and hiring your Doula?

Una:  I asked around and no-one really seemed to know. One friend advised me to contact the Liewensufank in case they had any idea. It was there that I met my Doula, Maryse Arendt, who informed me that since the organisation was having a birthday that year I would have to attend their birthing classes and then the Doula service would be provided free of charge.

Elfi:  What kind of support did she offer prenatally?

Una:  We met a couple of times and at first I was not sure that we clicked – she spoke good English which was important to me. My languages are good, but English is the language of my heart and in such an intimate moment it was essential to me that I could speak freely.  I attended the birthing classes as required and we also talked through my birthing plan.

Elfi: During your labour and delivery, how did your Doula support you and your partner’s birth experience?

Una:  I called her when I was a few hours away from delivering. she turned up promptly and took over from my husband, supporting me physically, rubbing my back, making me feel comfortable and encouraging me to keep moving. I was pretty sure that I did not want any pain relief and I did not want anyone pushing on my stomach. She stuck to this firmly, reminding the doctor and midwives of this when I was too tired to on their suggestion. I could not have been more grateful afterwards! Her presence was so reassuring and she felt like a rock for me in this tough but wondrous moment.

Elfi: What kind of support did she offer postpartum?

Una:  I don’t remember Maryse disappearing from my birthing room – she must have called my husband after handing me my beautiful son and encouraging me to allow him to make his way slowly to the breast. Afterwards she visited us once to make sure we were doing well. I wrote to her and made a donation to the foundation later.

Elfi: Please share anything you feel other women should know about your birth experience with a Doula.

Una:  A doula can be a mother, a partner and a professional all in one. I cannot recommend it more wholeheartedly!

Elfi: In 1 sentence, how did it make you feel during labour, having an independent, knowledgeable support person, looking out for your best interest by your side, continuously?

Una:  The presence of a woman who has your back and supports you in this precious moment of birth is indescribable!


IMG_6431More about Una

Una is a mother of two energetic, independent and fun-filled children. She works as a strategy advisor at the European Investment Bank and runs a 500 strong women’s network in her ‘spare time’! Alongside her mission of supporting the rights of women and girls, Una indulges in her real passion – music – singing with the Choeur de Chambre de Luxembourg.


More about the Author

Professional headshot Elfi smile

Elfi joined Luxmama Club as a volunteer in 2015.  Along with her full time role in an international organization and raising her daughters, she is passionate about writing stories and helping other people share theirs. Stories that empower, inspire and create the ” you are not alone” feeling.  You can see more of her work in her recent blog koufelef.wixsite.com/elfiswritinglab but also in http://www.themamagers.gr (articles in greek) and http://www.newdiaspora.com (articles in english) 

Trust. Breathe. Wait.

A ravishing rendition of her birth story in Luxembourg, by Anna Chieppa from Barcelona…


It is mid-August, 10 pm and Greg and I step out into the street, dragging a little bag.  I have thrown in some books, my laptop, pink baby pajamas, organic cotton bodies and my journal.

The starry night is cool and clear.  The moon is pale and flat as a coin.  At the Maternité Grande-Duchess Charlotte hospital, Sophie the midwife speaks French and we look at her with hope.  But after a quick visit she shakes her head and tells me that I am only 3 cm dilated, maybe 4.  I cannot hide my disappointment.

“Go have a walk”, she says.  “Take the stairs.  Come back in two hours”.

We go up to the terrace and watch the silent night, the stars cut in ice, the dark shapes of the cars abandoned in the parking lot.  Over the last few days I have been scared, but tonight I feel strong and I trust my body.  The contractions are becoming painful and when they surge, I grab Greg’s shoulders and breathe deeply while shutting my eyes.  What proved impossible during my first labor, is coming much easier today.

Trust.  Breathe.  Wait.

Greg and I make a joke and a man appears at a window, hissing at us to be quiet.  We leave and go to “climb the stairs” as instructed.  We return two hours later.  The pain is now sharp and I can’t believe it when Sophie says that I’m now only 5 cm dilated.

Your baby will be here within five to six hours, she says.  I feel like swearing.  I can not imagine spending another six hours feeling like this.  I’m going to ask for an epidural, and sink into the oblivion of anesthesia, like I did with the first baby.

But Sophie knows better.  She asks me about my first labor and my ideal birth.  I tell her about my wishes to have a home birth that I missed out on the previous time due to my lack of pain management.  I tell her about all the reading and meditation I’ve been doing, as well as the hypnosis classes I’ve attended in Barcelona.

She listens without a word and then says: “I have a good CD, do you want to listen to it”?

Before I can even object, she turns off all the lights except a salt lamp casting pink shadows.  She leaves with Greg after popping in a CD.  I quickly enter a deep state of relaxation.  The pain disappears like foam.  Waves and waves of pain lift me up and drop me off on the seashore of peace that widens between contractions.  I have to surf those waves each time they come, I rise and rise and when the contraction stops I return to water level, floating in a sea of peace.  I do it once and then again and again, I lose any sense of time until the pressure makes me so sick that I start to vomit When Sophie enters the room my legs are soaked.  My waters have broken and the trance is suddenly over. Sophie bends over me and announces that I am seven cm dilated.

Only seven centimeter!  Still three to go!  The pain grabs at my throat and I am about to ask for anesthesia.  I’ve lost my strength and my trust.  But Sophie just smiles again.  She is a small woman, with ashy hair and a bony face, pale blue eyes behind the glasses.  Her face, I will never forget as I will always remember what she did for me that night.

She turns over and says, with her soft voice and firm smile: “Now you can go to the bathtub”.

There is a round bathtub in the room next to us, with a rope hanging from the ceiling, above the water.  Sophie tells me to grab the rope each time a contraction kicks off.

I enter the water.  It is warm.  I sit down letting the water rise up to my neck.  I let the warmth and the pleasure fill me up.  It is bliss.  I shut my eyes and float in another state of peace.  The pain arrives.  By now, I can sense it long before it comes.  It’s so strong, I cannot cry or move.  I pull the rope and wait and the entire time Sophie’s voice whispers in my ear:  “Laisse le bébé descendre.”  (Let the baby descend).

The pain stops.  Again, there is peace… and water.  I hear Greg asking something, and then Sophie’s voice:  “She’s high on endorphins”.

Time becomes water, and silence.  The world is reduced to the warm water that embraces me, to the soaked hair that somebody is brushing, the blue water, the hard bottom of the bathtub, the sound of my breathing broken by the pain, Sophie’s face next to mine and her soft voice, “Laisse le bébé descendre”.  Then it comes again, so I grab the rope, my body rises with all its heaviness and there is more whispering, more moaning, my body up and down.  Then I leave the rope, go back to the water, breathe.  It feels so good to float like this.  With each contraction this little girl is coming closer but when will this finish?

A lot of time has passed and my resistance becomes weak.  Each time that I now sense a contraction coming, panic fills my throat.  I can hardly breathe, my body is stiff from pain.  No words come out of my cracked lips.

Suddenly it is cold.  A yellow light is covering the tiles of the walls.  It is five in the morning and Sophie says. “That’s it, we are there, almost ten cm.  Only half an hour more and then your baby will be here.”  And then it hits me that there will be no epidural.  There is no going back and my body is at its limit. Now what?  I turn to Greg, I want to cry, what am am I going to do?  Sophie calmly says: “Get up and walk back to the room.  Can you do that?”

They drag me outside.  “Do you feel like pushing?” she asks.  I don’t feel like freaking pushing.  I feel like screaming.

I am lying on a bed.  For a very long time the pressure stops and I look at myself.  At the big mirror attached to the ceiling I see a fat woman.  She is naked, with wet hair, black rimmed glasses and a tired man by her side.  Outside it’s still dark, and quiet.  Then it comes.  I hear the woman howl.

I expected to feel more contractions but this new feeling is far more powerful – an intense pressure against my behind, a tension to the point of breaking.  I am clinging to Greg’s shirt, wailing.

A doctor rushes to my side.

The pressure stops.  Somebody is talking but I do not understand.  And then the pressure returns…like a tsunami.  I am afraid of pushing, but I have to. I cannot keep this pressure inside.  I push and scream and push….and  when I feel a burning sensation, a sudden surge of panic hits me.  Then I remember they say that when you feel the fire ring, it means the end is in sight.  There is no turning back anymore.  I have to push now.  I gather all my strength and push again, screaming as my pelvis turns into fire and my baby slips out like a bullet.  Everything changes suddenly.  The pressure is gone and I can only feel a numb pain.  They put something long and slippery in my arms and I look down.  It’s a wet baby.   It is six in the morning and dawn is breaking.

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The baby is at my breast but I cannot look at her.  I feel nothing.  I just want this pain to end.

Looking back:

The first few months after birth is a roller coaster for any mother. The fatigue of labor, sleepless nights and challenges of breastfeeding made me wonder if I really wanted this baby.  But this baby ignored my inner voice and kept holding on to me as if I was her only safety, her only love.  I started watching her.  How she shut her eyes like seashells at night, her trembling lips while sucking, her wrinkled little hands intertwined with mine.  Little by little and day by day, my fear of not being capable of loving her crumbled like dried leaves.

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For my first labor I really wanted a natural home birth but ended up having a hospital birth with an epidural.  For my second I wanted an epidural and ended up with a natural birth.

I am proud of how I managed the pain this time.  I am truly happy that I had the chance to experience this intense journey of the women’s innate strength.

If I had a third baby, I would certainly like to practice hypnosis more, as I know it is the way to a more manageable, less painful and more conscious natural birth.

The day after that night, Sophie came to see me.  “I wanted to give you the opportunity to experience just how strong you can be” she told me.

Eighteen months have passed since that day.  I’d like to tell all women out there that it does not matter how their births turn out in the end.  Each of us should look in the mirror and congratulate herself for the mere fact of having gone through this. And then you should congratulate yourself again.  And again. We should carry on for a whole day and keep on doing it for years to come.

We all have to treasure the magic experience of birth, the struggle and the fear and the excitement of labor.  What an incredible powerful event to witness. The beginning of life. Such a miracle and mystery…


More about Anna Chieppa

Anna Chieppa is a freelance writer who has been living in Luxembourg for two years.  She used to live in Barcelona and it took her a year to get over the shock of the weather.


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More about Luxmama

DSC_0538As mother of two, Certified International Maternity Institute Baby Planner Consultant and Maternity & Child Sleep Consultant student, Luxmama provides personalised baby planning consultation services (maternity coaching) for future/new parents & parents-to-be – setting them up for success, so they can sail into their new lives with confidence!  Also on offer is a variety of social and educational events through the Luxmama Club designed so you can make the most of becoming and being a new parent in the modern world today.