Ask the midwife - Q&A with Rhiannon Wines
In the series of Ask the Midwife, Rhiannon Wines, from the Joys (@thejoys_au in instagram), shares her journey to midwifery and motherhood, as well as some very helpful tips for postpartum - enjoy!
How did you get into your profession?
I pretty much signed up for Uni while I was sitting in hospital snuggling with my first born hours after birth. I had been obsessed with learning anything and everything about birth and after experiencing it all for myself, I wanted to be a part of that world everyday.
The beauty of one body building a tiny new one from scratch, the raw power of a woman in labour, the high stakes emotions in the room, the adrenalin pumping as the head emerges and then getting to watch on as new life starts… It is an absolute rush.
My Mother in Law was a midwife at the time and present at my first birth and I just couldn’t believe all of that was what she called a day job. Once I started Uni and my placements, I was officially hooked.
What’s the best part of your job?
For me working in the hospital system left a lot to be desired. I didn’t feel women were really getting the care, support and freedom they deserve during what should be such a joyous chapter of their lives. The majority of births I witnessed were incredibly medicalised and while I do believe there is a time and place for most interventions, the rate we see them occurring at makes me feel like women are being ripped off.
My favourite moments ended up being the late night chats I’d have with women as they learn to breastfeed and bond with their babies. The wins of mother’s who would feel backed into corners but stand their ground and prove everybody wrong. The disbelief on their faces when they realised how amazing their body truly is… “I did it, I really did it!” It’s actually so cool… and really emotional to be a part of those kind of underdog stories.
It’s a big reason why I recently decided to not renew my midwifery registration and instead focus on educating women. In a lot of ways, we are all the underdog in birth and I fill my birth cup up to the fullest when I get the opportunity to help women build the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to define a positive birth on their own terms.
My own birth and postpartum experiences
I’ve been pregnant 6 times and birthed 4 babies. Among my experiences I’ve had an augmented labour (kind of like an induction), an epidural, ventouse or vacuum, episiotomy, 2 miscarriages, an accidental freebirth, an accidental hospital birth and a very intentional home birth.
My love of ice during the early postpartum period started with my first birth where I had an episiotomy. I relied on the chilly relief far more heavily than pain meds.
This was 12 years ago and products like the Noonie padsicles weren’t around yet, so the midwives showed me how to make a hole in a maternity pad and slide the ice pack inside.
It wasn’t an ideal arrangement.
My second baby was accidentally born at home and I was in a panic as I pushed and needed a little repair with a few stitches so the makeshift ice pack pads came out again. This time I also upcycled an old pump water bottle into a peri spray bottle, which worked but was also a bit tricky to manoeuvre.
There was a 7 year gap between my second and third baby, much of which I was deeply immersed in the world of birth and midwifery, so when it came to prep for my own birth- Noonie was a must try. I purchased one box of the Instant-Cooling Maternity Pack pads and was obsessed. I loved the convenience, shape, the wings and the softness of them. I had also bought another brand which was bigger and more of a rectangle shape, Noonie ran rings around them in terms of comfort. Comfort for you lady bit at that time of your life is such a non-negotiable.
My fourth baby was born at home and knowing this was my last birth I went all out on the postpartum goodies. I purchased 3 boxes of the cooling pads and the peri spray and wasn’t disappointed in the least.
Hospital bag packing tips
One of the best pieces of advice I can give for your hospital bag is to approach it in two parts. You want a birth bag and a hospital stay bag.
It’s almost comical the amount of stuff we see women roll up to the birth suite with. 3 suitcases worth is not all that uncommon.
My trick is you come to the birth suite with only your birth bag (and maybe your pillow). Inside it are all the tools you want for birth; tens machine, affirmation cards, fairy lights, massage oil, hair ties, lip balm, bathers, drink bottle… whatever you’ve decided you want to be able to access during birth. You leave everything else in the car.
What you also need to make sure you pack in your birth bag is a little post birth shower bag.
I’d recommend packing
Button up PJs (or whatever you want to wear with easy access)
A comfy bra (or none)
Cheap slippers (hospital floors are gross)
A hair turban for drying wet hair (you’ll brush and dry it back in your new room)
1 pair of disposable underwear (IYKYK)
1 Noonie instant cooling pad
A small bag with single serves of all your fave toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, unscented soap, unscented moisturiser, deo)
You roll it all up and put it in one of those random charity tote bags you have laying around and when you are ready to make that post birth waddle to the shower, you get your handy dandy baggy and go. No partner messing up your thoughtfully packed bags searching for your comfy bra or granny undies. Easy peasy.
Then you push your little babe around to your new room and delight in their glorious newborn scrunch while you eat your cold toast and drink your tea from a plastic cup.
Your partner can whizz out to the car and grab your big bag so you can get settled in.
My most commonly asked question?
It’s not a particular question, but more any question which starts with “Am I allowed…”
My usual response is to remind women that they are actually the one in charge. Most of us believe we are strong independent women and pregnancy isn't a time in our life where we need to dull that shine.
Medical professionals, like doctors and midwives do what they can to minimise risk but absolutely nothing in pregnancy or birth is risk free. Your doctor’s advice might not always align with what you want or need. You are unique and won’t always fit into the neat little boxes the system likes you to squeeze into.
Asking ‘Am I allowed’ assumes you need permission to make free choices. You don’t. You can decline anything and everything… outside of an immediate emergency, there is always an alternative option. It’s simply your responsibility to dig a little deeper and weigh up the risks, benefits and alternatives to decide what is best for you.
2023 is well and truly underway, what lies ahead of you?
I’m currently preparing to launch my little business baby into the world this July.
I have been busy putting together a birth preparation course with a fun subscription box twist.
It’s called Joyland and is a fun combination of must read books, masterclasses and products from some of Australia’s leading pregnancy, birth and postpartum brands. I’ve themed each unit around a different theme. Each month you go on a little Joyride of discovery like The Preg-O-Coaster or Milky Mountains express. I hope it will offer women the knowledge, tools and confidence they might need to navigate a really positive and empowering experience. We are all about unpacking fears, realising options and creating Joy. There may be some Noonie involved . I can’t wait.