Welcome, to a series of conversations with birth professionals.
These short and mighty interviews are full of inspiration. Learn from people who’ve dedicated their whole lives to supporting women through the powerful transition of childbirth. These astonishing people understand the physiological birth process and have supported hundreds of women to give birth.
Today I’m speaking with Teresa Walsh, the director of New Life Midwifery in Australia. New Life Midwifery is a private midwifery practice providing family-centered pregnancy, birth, and postnatal services.
Teresa met with James and me for our initial consultation back in 2016 when we were pregnant with my first baby, Willow. Teresa was also present at my first birth (as the secondary midwife).
It gives me shivers to think about the greatness of this woman.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that she is one of Australia’s most qualified and experienced birth professionals. She’s attended hundreds of births, lots of home births, she’s worked in hospitals in the UK and Australia, she does advocacy work with parliament, she meets with women (though her caseload is smaller these days), Teresa mentors student midwives, and so generously and easily made time to sit with me for two and a half hours to chat. She is incredibly humble.
In her words, she says that “being ‘with women’ as a midwife has been her privilege and honour for many years”.
Here’s my conversation with Teresa:
“Every birth you see is amazing. Every women’s experience of birth is really important. I know women can do anything if have belief in themselves. For a lot of women, it’s the first opportunity they have to get that feeling. I don’t know why that is. But lots of women haven’t developed self-confidence—they don’t have much belief in themselves.
But once had a physiological birth, many women have more respect for themselves. You don’t have to have a physiological birth, but you need to experience a birth where you’re involved and well informed. Women can still have complications, and [get that feeling of self-confidence]. Most women, if they come out of [their] birth feeling that they were part of the decision-making process and that they were powerful [then they will get that feeling of empowerment]. It’s all about accessing personal power. Most women don’t even realise they’ve got that until they have a baby.
I know that when I had my first baby—I was already a midwife, I thought I was a good midwife—I knew that I could do anything. [My first birth] was really…well, I can’t even describe [the feeling of confidence it gave me]. Very many women experience that if they’re given the opportunity.
So the thing that worries me is the amount of untapped potential in women because I think an awful lot of women are never allowed to see that because their power is taken away from them. That is the bit that worries me, more than anything. Do you know?
Interventions are sometimes needed. The problem with so much of it is that it’s used routinely as if it doesn’t matter. But what’s happening when you’re doing all of these inductions just because it’s convenient for a hospital… and essentially [hospital convenience is the only reason why it’s done] because there’s no evidence to do most of them. Although, [evidence is] what they always [say that they] rely on… but you can read evidence however you like.
What worries me is that those women are being cheated. They’re being cheated out of finding out what their potential is.
If a woman is well-informed and chooses to have an induction of labour and epidural, they okay, [a physiological birth] is not a priority for her. Maybe she well aware of her power and she doesn’t need that.
Quite a lot of women do need that, I think, and it gives them to quiet confidence to go on to do the mothering stuff—the hard stuff.
That’s the one thing…if I could do some research, that’s the thing I would do it about. That’s what interests me.
I had that ‘penny dropping’ moment [in my first labour]. I had to say “no” to interventions—’No, I don’t want that. No, I don’t want that’—and had a normal birth. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done—but I knew, then, I could do anything I wanted.
It’s about being aware of the power you have, and being aware of how amazing your body is. Most women spend their whole life thinking their body is flawed, instead of being in awe of the power and strength (physical and emotion).
Imagine what society would be like if even half the women had an awareness of that!”