I was raised in Sydney, Australia where I did nurse training, then based in hospital, as a means to later travel the world. My training at 3 hospitals; Prince of Wales, Prince Henry and Eastern Suburbs, gave me a wide variety of nursing experiences. A few years later, I “hopped” across the Pacific from New Zealand to South America, where I back-packed around that amazing continent for 7 months before flying to Spain. In London did hospital-based midwifery training then worked ‘agency’ interspersed with tripping through parts of Europe for another year going home. After time as a hospital midwife in Sydney, I got a job through Save the Children Fund as a ”Midwifery Tutor’ in Dogura, Milne Bay Province Papua New Guinea.
On returning to Australia I moved to Perth and started a degree in nursing education as well as a family. Australia is a country which encourages women to have private medical insurance and obstetric managed maternity care. At 31 I was labelled an ‘elderly’ first time mother and scanned many times. The scans said my baby was”too big”, then ‘overdue’ so ‘my’ obstetrician offered me either an induction or elective caesarean section. I chose surgical delivery thinking it would be safer and easier. However my baby was neither over-sized nor over-due so I feel mine was an ‘unnecaesarean’. I breastfed him for over a year and as a consequence of this experience I became a lactation consultant, and later the first WA convener of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, when I returned to working outside the home.
Years later, under the guidance of very experienced homebirth midwives I learnt how to support women to birth naturally. On the Community Midwifery Program I gained Australian College of Midwives accreditation doing community-based, one-on-one continuous midwifery care of home-birthing families.
Most of my nursing and midwifery career has been in Australian hospitals; about half as a clinical educator of student nurses doing maternity placements. In 1998 a US couple took me to Singapore for the home birth of their third child, a rare event there. During this time I also became politically active, lobbying for women-friendly and informed maternity services across Australia with groups like the Maternity Coalition. I have been in Aotearoa/New Zealand since May 2008, working as a hospital midwife till January 2012 when I began self-employed practice as a Lead Maternity Carer. The New Zealand maternity system and hospitals, like most all over the world, are not the most appropriate environment for natural birth, as shown by local and international research. Thus I am involved with local maternity consumer groups, who assisted me to create the Maternity Manifesto and the vision of an innovative Community-Managed, Birth-Parenting Centre.
My son and family live in Australia so this remains my heartland, however as New Zealand is where midwives are supported to practice autonomously, I work and live here! As a resident of Earthsong I am living and gardening in a unique sustainable neighbourhood of environmentally conscious neighbours and friends.
My midwifery education and experiences in England, then Papua New Guinea, Australia and now Aotearoa/New Zealand have shown me that moving the labour of healthy women from home to hospital, though done with the best intentions lacks an understanding of why and how humans, like other animals need to ‘nest’ to have gentle and healthy births. Natural childbirth is a process evolved over millions of years, which needs to be encouraged and protected. However all cultures have interfered with what women can do so now pregnancy and birth have become something to be feared. Through my experiences and studies I have learnt, like Dr Sarah Buckley that “Ecstatic birth is every woman’s birth-right”. I believe that midwives should promote, support and protect care that is physiological or natural. Low intervention natural pregnancy and birth are the healthiest path for women, their babies, our communities and planet.
For example; a mature baby in the womb starts labour and actively works to be born, so the bond between mother and baby needs to be encouraged from conception onwards so the mother learns to be aware and responsive to her baby’s behaviours and welfare. A mother who is connected to her baby and trusts her body is most likely to “surrender” to the rhythm of her labour or birth urges, so both mother and baby are bathed in hormones culminating in an out-of-the-ordinary or “ecstatic” birth. The most significant labour hormone is oxytocin; it initiates, maintains and completes the birth of baby and placenta. Oxytocin is the “Love Hormone” as it makes humans seek close, co-operative interactions with others. The oxytocin level in a mother who has laboured and birthed spontaneously is the highest level possible in life and helps stop any excessive bleeding after expelling the placenta. Thus the processes of birth are nature’s way to help create healthy and harmonious families, as well as to protect the mother and baby through labour and to start the best early parenting experiences possible.
Home Birth women have shown me, and evidence strongly suggests that the majority of women can naturally nourish their baby, both in the womb and out, as well as spontaneously birth them when they are appropriately supported and nurtured themselves. This knowledge and experiences motivated my practice and activism. I stopped practice as a midiwfe at the end of March 2017.
I created this website as a means to share evidence and experiences about the most loving and evidence-based beginnings needed for the future health of our communities and the planet. In addition in 2012 I launched the Maternity Manifesto which 30 New Zealand organisations endorsed, it has now morphed into an online petition.