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I had a conversation this morning which taught me a few “big lessons” – lessons in life that can translate across to birthing scenarios.  The caller has taught me much over the years, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t her aim today.  Today’s learnings were totally accidental – but really quite profound.

So just what was this profound conversation? Well, in reality, it was really quite an ordinary conversation.  A close friend and previous supervisor of mine called me up to say “We have a position becoming available here for 6 hours per day. Temp contract. Would you be interested in submitting an application”? In the town where I live this is actually a fairly common occurance and has happened a bit over the course of my career. The “profound” things come next.

This is the sort of thing I would normally say “OMG YES!” or “OMG NO!” and leave it at that. I hovered between the two and stopped and thought for a moment.  Would this be a good opportunity? Yes.  The cash would certainly come in handy and it would be a good chance to keep my admin skills current.  Would this add a bit of stress to our lives? Yes. With a business to build, study to complete, a breastfeeding baby, severe sleep deprivation and being conscious not to overload my parents with constant baby-sitting this could be quite a bit of added stress. Not to mention the fact that I’m on call for a birth. Everything could be worked around except the breastfeeding – having pumped at work before I was absolutely not up for that again. So did I say “No thanks”? No way. I advised my friend that 6 hours, plus travel time was too long between breastfeeds – was there room for negotiation? She said there might be. So I asked for a bit of time to discuss with the other relevant parties and have a think about it. I came back to my friend with the hours I felt I’d be able to work and she came back and advised that they really needed someone who could work more hours.

Sounds perfectly ordinary when put like that.  But here’s the lessons I learned:

Lesson #1: It’s okay for your goals to be different to the cultural norm.  I was able to tell my friend that breastfeeding my baby is a higher priority than work / money. And I felt no shame in doing this. I know that many women would have no issues with adjusting their breastfeeding routine or weaning altogether, especially at 13months, but that’s not what I want.  And this is an important lesson for birth.  It’s okay to have goals that are different to all your friends. Our current cultural norm is to go to hospital and do what the doctor or midwife tells you. Want a home water birth? Don’t feel shame in saying that’s important to you. You should never feel shame in any decision you make with loving intentions and the best interests of your family at heart – even if others think it’s weird.

Lesson #2: It’s okay to ask for time to think about things and discuss them.  I often have trouble with this. I have someone on the phone who has a really tempting offer, and I often just think “I could just say yes and then work out a way to make it work” or “I should just say no and move on”. It’s okay to say “I’m not sure. Do you mind if I have a think about it?” Same for decisions during your birthing journey.  If your care provider presents you with some information you hadn’t considered feel free to say “Thank you for that information. My partner and I would really appreciate a bit of time to discuss this. Would you mind popping back in 10minutes so we can ask questions and / or give our decision?” If a care provider says “no you can’t have some time” then I would wonder if they are hiding something. You can generally tell if it’s an absolute emergency – the whole vibe in the room will change and people won’t usually be stopping to ask questions.

Lesson #3: It’s okay to be non-negotiable in your response. As women we always seem to give our response and add “oh, but I’m flexible” as if being inflexible in our choices is the most horrible thing ever. I worked out the maximum hours that would fit in with my and my family’s life and I came back to my friend with “these are the hours I could do”.  I didn’t suggest that “oh if they don’t work for your organisation let me know and I’ll change them to suit”. Sometimes it’s good to simply make a choice and stick with it.  The idea of “flexibility” is something that I see a lot when talking birth.  Women don’t want to do birth plans in case they are seen as “inflexible”. Women given an answer with an “is that okay?” on the end.  They say things like “I’d like to have a vbac / waterbirth / no VEs etc…But I’m totally flexible and open to what my care giver suggests”.  Sometimes it’s okay to just say “This is the best option for us”.

Lesson #4:  The universe knows what I need.  As I hung up the phone after my friend advised that the hours I’d proposed were unsuitable I let out a sigh of relief.  I didn’t know until that moment that I’d actually been hoping she’d say that they weren’t suitable. But all of a sudden I felt good that I wouldn’t have to stress about being on call, or about whether I’m neglecting my business, or about whether I’m really giving my all to the job, or my children etc. The universe always provides what is needed. After much reflection over nearly 3 years I’ve come to believe that my traumatic experiences were the universe’s way of sending me in the direction of birthwork.  If I had had a “normal” run of the mill experience I would not have been motivated to find out how to have an AWESOME experience.  I wouldn’t have started exploring hypnobirthing as a method of preparing for a safe calm and positive birth. I would never have hired a doula. I wouldn’t have learned about birth and birthing rights. It doesn’t take away the hurt, but I wouldn’t have found the passion I have without my previous experiences.

So dear friend – thank you for taking an ordinary day and turning it into an opportunity for growth. I feel like the process I went through will lead to me exploring, rather than completely discounting, opportunities that arise in the future. The biggest lesson I learned today is just how comfortable I’ve become with myself and my choices.  I discovered that I no longer have trouble saying “this is what’s best for my family”. And so I will have the strength to do that more often – that is a priceless gift to not only me, but my whole family.