Hypnobirthing Australia’s Indigenous Childbirth Education Program is taught via aboriginal health services and through specialist Practitioners throughout Australia. This unique program supports and celebrates aboriginal mothers and birth partners, in their passage to parenthood.
Written by Heather Collins
This is where the journey started. A journey of healing, so powerful and sacred that to write about it almost seem sacrilege. I have this mother’s permission to put pen to paper and share this story. A healing for her and, for me, another milestone in birthing of my journey as a midwife.
“The birth of my first child was so traumatic that having a second is the most courageous act of my life”. These words are spoken in a soft voice by Laura who is 29 weeks pregnant and has come to me to complete the Hypnobirthing Australia indigenous program. “I won’t ask for much, I just want a midwife who is kind and understands the journey I wish to take for myself and my baby.”
As a midwife I feel responsibility for her pain and grief even though this is the first time we have met. Having the title “midwife” makes me part of a larger being that I am sometimes disappointed in, but still protective of. I can feel my excitement rising as I know I am to be trusted with the most sacred happening for this mother. Her desire is her right. Laura is an indigenous women and wants to feel empowered to embrace her culture and birth on country.
On a cool winter morning I am woken by the shrill ring of my telephone. “It’s happening”, an excited voice says in almost a whisper. Laura has been on the beach, at the start of her labour, collecting familiar “things” from her country to take to her birthing. She has decided to birth in a birth suite at a small local hospital which is built on the land of her ancestors and where staff are supportive of her birthing wishes.
We meet at the birth suite and hug warmly. Laura’s partner has come to help set up the birth environment and see her settled. He will not be staying for the birth. My face must show an inquiring look. With a smile he assures me that this birth, this time, is “women’s business.” He is very excited Laura is preparing to experience her deepest cultural wish to peacefully birth their child on country.
The birth environment is an explosion of sensory energy, set up with two green and yellow bean bags; ochre and black coloured doona; and a pure white shawl with beautiful aboriginal art of birthing motifs.
In a ceramic pot leaves from Australian native trees have been covered with essential oils and the aroma fills the room. In one corner two candles burn while little wisps of smoke curl towards the ceiling. A small mat lays in front of Laura’s nest with a piece of driftwood and three bowls. One has sand, another sea water and the last full of soil from country.
Laura’s mother and two aunties are dressed in bright coloured wraps and sit cross legged on seagrass mats on the floor. They take turns to nourish her using soft touch to release her birthing hormones and keep her comfortable with food and drink. At times they rub sand on her skin and cool her with sea water. One by one they keep up an almost constant chant which seems to keep Laura focused and calm. The room is quite dark and light from the candles illuminate the amber of Laura’s beautiful skin, as speaking softly to her baby, semi naked, she squats in her nest. She constantly repeats that she is safe, and to her baby, that he is safe and could move down and out when he is ready. She talks to her body. She is made for birthing. Birthing is natural and if she can grow her baby she can birth her baby. Her mother and aunties, in their role as support for her birthing, repeat the affirmations they have practiced from our Hypnobirthing Australia sessions; encouraging and supporting.
Laura labours in this way for three hours stopping for short periods to go to the bathroom and invite me to use a Doppler to listen to her baby. She is calm between surges, and vocal as her surges reach a peak then rush away. It reminds me of the ebb and flow of the sea that meets the land she loves. A land that is an essential spiritual connection for herself and the birthing of her baby boy.
With a change in her breathing she whispers, “It is time.” I catch a glimpse of the top of her baby boy’s head as it too ebbs and flows with each breath, then emerges in a gush of liquor as membranes released with birthing. He splutters and whimpers as Laura lifts him gently to her breast. Her mother and aunties laugh softly, cry openly, and clap their hands as they begin to sing what sounds to me like a lullaby in a language I do not understand. I feel a part of it, although, somewhat no part of it at all. It is a truly spiritual moment. Very deep; a feeling of inner peace, but also an emotional release.
My heart is full as a women and a mother, but also my role as midwife, Hypnobirthing Australia Practitioner and protector of birth, deepens my trust and understanding that birth is surely the most sacred experience a women can choose.
With baby suckling at her breast, Laura’s placenta, which has nourished her baby’s life in utero, slides out. She invites me into her space to place the placenta in a dish beside her. She runs her hand over the placenta feeling its likeness to a tree with vessels like branches giving nourishment and life. The baby and placenta are not separated until Laura feels she is ready to nourish her baby at her breast. Her mother rubs soil from country on the baby’s feet as she continues to sing. The placenta is to be buried later in a ceremony attended by family. Laura’s joy makes me cry as she laughs and repeats many times, “I knew I could birth my baby, here in my nest, on my land.”
Laura empowered herself with hypnobirthing tools, and a deep belief in culture, to have the birth on country she so desired. This was her healing. I know that the experience of Laura’s birth was a moment, as a midwife and Hypnobirthing Australia practitioner, that I again cast off all fear of birthing and gained renewed confidence in my own ability to trust birth.
There is a time in birth when a mother and her midwife experience birth as deeply empowering. This journey took me to a place within myself that guides me in the ever changing climate of my work as a midwife. I continue to search for balance, and have a deep need to return to be uplifted and inspired by the memory of Laura’s birth, where she embraced her culture; healed, and empowered herself to birth on country.
To learn more about the Hypnobirthing Australia Indigenous Program – please contact us directly HERE