Giving birth. It’s a big deal. A life-changing moment. Something you will do only a few times in your life. Something transforming, and powerful and… bloody.
But if delivering babies is your job, does it ever feel like just another day at the office?
According to Fiona MacArthur, who’s been a midwife in Kempsey in northern NSW for 30 years, no, it doesn’t. She insists the magic never fades. “I love birth and babies, I love the women, I love all of it…” she says.
Listen to Fiona tell Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo everything you’ve ever wondered about birth, here (post continues after audio):
We asked Fiona all of the things we have wanted to know about how birth looks from the other side.
Do good midwives have to be mothers?
“That’s a bit of a myth. You can have very empathetic women who’ve never had babies, and then women who’ve had lots but don’t have an empathetic bone in their body. Although usually, they are not midwives…”
Fiona has five sons, by the way.
The enemy of a trouble-free birth is one word: Fear.
“Fear is your worst enemy… You really need to stop looking at [birth] like an exam and look at it like you’re designed to do it. You just have to have faith… women need to know that if they don’t get scared their hormones are going to run and their labour’s going to go faster.”
The person you want in the room with you is the calm one.
“Having the husband in the room and using the husband as the main means of support is the biggest change in 30 years… That’s changed everything. He needs to be there, he needs to be the person looking into your eyes and telling you you’re amazing.”
And if not a ‘husband’, here’s who you want: “The person to choose is the one who will make you feel calm. You don’t want the person sitting in the corner going ‘Oh my God where’s the doctor? This is all going to go bad…’. To them we’re like, ‘Please put that person outside and give them a cup of coffee’.
“Mother in laws are a bit problematic… You need someone who will make you feel calm. Someone who’s there for you and not for themselves.”
The childbirth questions you were too afraid to ask…(Post continues after video.)
Your midwife won’t remember you for ever, but they will do a great job of pretending they do.
“You have to listen to what [former clients] say. I was at Big W the other day and this woman came up and said ‘You were there when I had her’, and pointed to her adult daughter, ‘And there when she had this one’, and pointed to the baby in her daughter’s arms… And I just said: ‘It’s so lovely to see you’. And it was lovely to see them. But I’m hopeless at names.”
Don’t listen to the horror stories.
“We say, ‘Don’t let what they’re saying get stuck in your uterus’. It’s their little moment of glory, their little moment of fame. Just think about whether they’re telling you this [story] to help you, or because they are still dealing with it.”
Midwives really do care. A lot.
"We make a fuss of our babies, we absolutely love them. We have pictures of them everywhere..." And when the unthinkable happens, the midwives feel it deeply. "I feel very privileged to help people who are with their babies for such a short time... It's really, really important that we do everything we can to help them create moments they can take home with them, because they're not taking their baby home with them. And we go to funerals. It's important."
Fiona MacArthur has written a book, Aussie Midwives, which is published by Penguin, and available now.
You can listen to the whole episode of This Glorious Mess, including conversations about whether it's okay for other people to give your kids money, and what Andrew Daddo nailed on a recent family holiday, here:
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