If you’re anything like me, you assumed your birth story would mirror the stories you’ve seen in movies.
I imagined my water breaking at a restaurant, followed by a crazy and entertaining taxi ride. I’d end up at a local hospital with a neurotic but loving doctor who would help me scream and quickly push out a rosy-cheeked baby, with whom I instantly fall in love. The whole ordeal would take 4 hours tops.
Except that in reality, my daughter arrived a week after her due date, so I was induced. My labor was painful and terrifying at times. I woke up in the middle of the night with a panic attack over losing feeling in my legs, due to my epidural. And with the help of an oxygen mask and a courageous partner, I navigated 12 hours of intense labor, finally pushing out my blue-ish looking baby who I took some time to warm up to.
The media stories we see rarely add up to the vulnerable reality of giving birth.
So you can imagine my relief and joy upon finding The Positive Birth Movement, a judgment-free zone for women to get real about childbirth and ask the questions many of us are afraid to share.
The Positive Birth Movement was founded in 2012 by UK mother-of-three Milli Hill. Hill created it as a vital tool for any and all pregnant women to come together and share their experiences and feelings about childbirth.
The idea began small for Hill, who tells Babble:
“I just thought I’d have a group of women round to my house to have tea and cake and talk about birth!” Hill expanded her idea to creating dozens of local groups linked to social media. “The idea just immediately snowballed and very quickly there were hundreds of groups! There are now about 450 globally,” Hill says.
The Positive Birth Movement groups are all unique to the women who frequent them, with the common thread of it being a “peer to peer” meet-up. Facilitated by antenatal teachers, midwives, and OB’s, the goal of the group is to simply sit and talk. There is always a monthly theme, which is the focus for discussion. “What women find who attend our groups is that they get a huge amount of support and information this way,” Hill says.
It’s this very style of communication that helps the women attending the groups feel connected beyond the pregnancy journey. For Hill, it’s the lifeblood of the movement.
“They build a support network, so that they have people to turn to if particular issues arise in their pregnancy, and a really lovely group to go back to when they have had their baby — all at a time when many women can feel quite isolated and in need of a ‘tribe,’” Hill says.
The Positive Birth Movement website boasts a ton of helpful resources for parents, including a blog, a list of local groups, and links to classes, products, and doula/midwife recommendations. One of the coolest perks? Anyone can apply to become a group facilitator.
Hill’s movement gives parents every chance to succeed at having an authentic, empowered birth experience, something she feels our culture is deeply in need of.
“What the evidence tells us is that personalized, humanized care, where women know and have built a relationship with the professionals who attend them in labour, is actually safer and more satisfying for everyone involved,” Hill explains.
Hill also notes how incredibly important the details were for her own personal birth stories and how much she wants to help women use her story as fuel to empower themselves about birth. She had one baby in the hospital in stirrups and two at home with water. Each time, the care she received varied.
“In each case, I can remember every person I came into contact with during my labour and births in great detail, and some of their words — the warm, kind, supportive words, and the indifferent words, will stay with me forever,” she says.
Hill receives messages every day from women who have found her movement enormously helpful to them. For some, just reading stories on the website and Facebook page help them feel more positive and less fearful; for others, the sense of community and solidarity found in the local groups feels amazing.
“Many report that it fills a gap that perhaps was missing for them, that person-to-person connection and listening to others that we don’t always have time for in our modern lives,” Hill tells Babble.
Jody Deacon-Viney, a mother in Nottingham, was so inspired by the Positive Birth Movement that she looked outside her own recommended hospital to find a doctor she bonded with. She underwent a “gentle C-section,” which she recorded and shared on Facebook to over 2.5 million views.
Hill recalls Jody’s touching story:
“I met her at a conference where she was speaking about the positive impact this birth had on her. It was very moving for me to hear how she had found the surgeon via Facebook and travelled some distance to have the birth she wanted. It was her third and final birth, and very healing for her.”
For mothers everywhere, Hill wants to remind them that information is power. “Learn about your options and rights. Hang on, make that — learn that you HAVE options and rights! Don’t take birth lying down,” advises Hill.
As if all of this weren’t awesome enough, Hill has also penned a book. The Positive Birth Book breaks down everything that a pregnant woman could possibly need to know, all told in an easy-going, hilarious way. Of course, just like her movement, Hill emboldens her readers with positive birth stories, vital resources, and even a chapter on the “4th Trimester,” the tender postpartum phase women are finally beginning to discuss and embrace.
I don’t know for sure if I’ll have another kid. But if I do, I know exactly where I will go for support. The Positive Birth Movement is everything I wish I could have known about childbirth before I experienced it. And the more community-driven, grassroots movements that exist for moms like me, the more positive birth stories we will be able to have and share.
Now that I’m aware of Hill’s extraordinary work, I know that, should I choose childbirth again, I won’t let fear keep me from embracing every part of the journey. I will also be shouting her praises from the rooftops to any mama-to-be who will listen. Because Hill is changing how we face one of humanity’s most life-altering and life-affirming experiences. And that is incredible news for families everywhere.
Rock on, Millie Hill!