We recently caught up with Heidi to talk about her work as a Lead Maternity Carer (LMC). Originally from Brighton, UK, Heidi has been a Midwife since 1996. Here Heidi shares her story and many beautiful words about why she recommends birthing at Helensville Birthing Centre (HBC).
What inspired you to become a Midwife?
I first trained as a Nurse and really enjoyed my maternity placement. I was still young, so I hadn’t really thought about being a Midwife before that. With nursing, there can be a lot of doom and gloom. So that placement helped me realise that my interest lay in Midwifery.
What was it about the placement that had such an impact on you?
Watching the joy on people’s faces when they met their baby for the first time and then transform into parents – that’s when I thought this was such an incredible job. I thought, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
How would you describe the role of a Midwife?
It’s a real privilege getting to work so closely with a family, and it’s amazing to help a woman transition into being a mum. As a Midwife, you help support mums to believe they can become the parents they want to be.
Every single part of the job is a gift, and it’s wonderful that we can be present during this time in people’s lives. To be invited into that process when new life comes into the world, it’s awesome.
What motivated you to move from the UK to New Zealand?
I wanted my kids to have the kind of childhood I had – to go outside and play and just enjoy themselves. In the UK, school testing starts when they’re six years old. I didn’t want my kids to go through that, I wanted them to have a childhood where they could just be kids.
All my children went to Helensville Primary, which is a really cool school. I worked out recently that I’ve had kids attending that school continuously for 17 years!
What makes birthing at the Centre such a great option?
I recommend HBC to every woman I support. Even if they live 50 kilometres away, I tell them it’s worth every second. I’ve never had anyone regret going. Because you’re not in a hospital, you’re not listening to someone else next door who’s quite loud, or hearing emergency bells going off, which makes you automatically go into fight or flight mode.
At HBC, you can hear the birds outside, you can choose to have the lights dimmed, or put the fairy lights on. It’s a calmer environment to have a baby.
You’re also not on a time limit. As long as everyone is happy and safe, it doesn’t matter how long anything takes. At a hospital, you can feel like you’re on a deadline.
And at the Centre, you can just move down the corridor for your postnatal stay.
Exactly, you don’t have to leave in the middle of the night to drive home or somewhere else. Women can make themselves comfortable, they can go and make snacks in the middle of the night! You just can’t do this at a hospital.
Research shows there’s a much greater chance of having a normal birth if you deliver at a birthing centre, or at least start your labour there. The calm environment with the dim lights and quiet surrounding is good for oxytocin.
Do you think partners can be more involved at the Centre than at a hospital?
Definitely. I think at a hospital, everyone feels like they must abide by hospital rules, and often partners end up just waiting in the corner. HBC is more like being at home. Partners feel more relaxed because it feels like a safe space.
Often partners will get in the birthing pool and help. The Centre also has double beds, so after the baby is born, they can all lie down and tuck up in bed together. In a hospital, the partner is often just on a plastic chair for some skin-to-skin contact.
How is the postnatal experience different at HBC?
The staff have more time to offer 1:1 care. At the Centre we have time to support women breastfeeding and show them they can do it by themselves. We encourage women during this time and are there to help when needed. A big part is giving women that confidence that they can do it themselves.
There’s also more wraparound services, like the lactation clinic. Whānau can access knitted clothes available if they need some warm layers for your newborn. They have a really good coffee group that all the women get invited to afterwards, so at the Centre they really encourage new mothers supporting each other too.
Helensville is an amazing place for community support. I only have to post on the Facebook page that I need to borrow a breast pump for one of the women I’m helping, and numerous people will say yes, I can help.
And there’s pregnancy classes at the Centre too.
Yes, I highly recommend the classes at the Centre. Women really enjoy them, and they are given a lot of information so they’re better prepared when they go into labour.
What do you in your spare time?
I like walking my dog, we have an English Staffy. I’m also learning Te Reo – it’s great to learn more about Māori culture and language so I can integrate this when I’m looking after women at the Centre.
I enjoy spending time with friends, as well as having time with my kids. I don’t always get to spend time with them because of work, so when I’m off it’s really important I do something with the kids.