My first birth with Birth Companions was supporting a young American woman who already had one child. I arrived at the Whittington hospital having never met her before and feeling quite nervous. In the room were two officers, one of whom was male, with the expectant mother as well as the birth companion I was taking over from. The woman had been induced and was having mild contractions so we had time to talk through her previous birth experience and discuss her wishes for this birth, including breastfeeding. As the contractions were mild to begin with, we had time to get to know one another and share a few laughs. This put us both at ease.
When a contraction came we fell silent and she breathed through it. As the contractions intensified, she asked me to massage her. We worked well together. She clung to me and asked me not to leave her as the contractions became more intense. There was no way I would leave her!
As her baby head was born we held each other tightly and I whispered words of encouragement into her ear as his body entered the world. This was a very powerful and positive experience for me. I know from feedback from the prison that she is very thankful for this support, not just from me, but from the whole group who supported her in the days prior to the birth and afterwards. The woman had been a complete stranger but together we achieved the birth she had wanted.
Research shows that support during labour and childbirth is beneficial as it can shorten the process and even lessen the chance for unnecessary intervention. This experience reinforced this for me. To share a birth in that environment was very difficult and challenging but extremely uplifting. It feels good to know that this baby was born into a caring and supported environment and it would be great if all babies and mums giving birth from prison could have this support.