What are your initial thoughts when you hear the words “pregnancy and childbirth?” What words, or phrases spring to mind? For many, their minds will immediately go to the loud, raucous noises sometimes produced during contractions. Thoughts of ‘messy’ beds, the need for ‘towels and hot water,’ emergency buzzers or call bells, screaming babies, celebrating relatives, staff running through corridors, pushing beds, pulling wheelchairs. Maybe you think of a four bedded bay, the rattling wheels of a medication trolly, grizzly babies with full nappies behind closed curtains. The constant tapping of a fetal heart rate monitor, beeping as it fluctuates out of range, waters breaking, stillness?
Stillness may not be a word you associate with childbirth. Heavily edited versions of birth portrayed in the media on programmes such as One Born Every Minute, or horror stories handed down verbally through generations leave out the moments of stillness, silence in the commotion that often occurs around the moments of birth.
As a contraction fades, the noise of the gas and air ceases and the gap is filled with music that signifies a unified relationship. A carefully curated playlist of early relationship gig nights, 4am afterparties spent learning about each other, bands and artists from childhoods that have collided through Sunday morning dancing in the kitchen. The room is still, quiet, silent in its progress as the familiar music and comfort exude oxytocin.
Labour is approaching the end, one more contraction to go before mum, after hours of hard work, has her baby in her arms. The second midwife is quietly bustling around, scribbling notes and unfolding towels and one push later baby is lifted out of the water and onto mum’s chest, there’s a small but poignant pause as adjustments to the outside world are made, adult breaths are held as we await the first of the newborn. The stillness in that pause, as families see their newborn for the very first time, as the intensity of the labour disappears, the pause that is the bridge between pain and life.
Stories of sleepless nights, unsettled babies and pacing around in the early hours of the morning are shared over necessary coffee mornings, but as I knock gently on a postnatal room, with the intention of checking how the most recent feed went, enter to a silent, dim room. I notice a slight stir in the sleeping mother, swaddled baby by her side, and I slowly back out; the check can wait.
The world is a scary place to be right now, as Covid-19 has taken hold of our everyday lives, we must recognise these moments of stillness, the times where it feels the world stops turning, if only for a second, a time to stop, pause and reflect.