Rhea Dempsey: Guidance in My Hands
Experiences of the latihan in childbirth
Rhea lives in Melbourne. For many years she has been a childbirth
educator. She runs pre-natal workshops for women and couples and
attends births. She is often aware of the guidance of the latihan
coming to her in a very direct and physical way during the intimate
and sacred process of childbirth.
My experience of the latihan at births is that it is extremely practical.
Well, it is far more than that, but at the time it is very practical.
Move here, move there, do this. It unlocks something and allows
some flow to happen. Sometimes I feel I'm not even there for the
mother and the father, but for the baby. As if baby has manipulated
it so that I, or someone who carries some element of spirituality,
will be at the birth. There are some births where I've felt this
Often it's a birth where, on one level, I feel superfluous. Perhaps
something is happening that deeply saddens me. A difficult birth,
a caesarean, the situation is being dealt with in a way that's alien
to me. I hold the woman's hand and feel the latihan. Though I seem
to be having no effect, I know this baby needs to feel whatever
is here because I'm here. Perhaps it will be something that will
be valuable for them later in life.
I feel like I'm coming to the end of a stage with my work. So far
I've been very much involved in the emotional side of things. Now
I feel a need to learn more specific medical skills. I'm not sure
exactly how I'm going to go about acquiring them yet. There is the
possibility of a direct entry midwifery course where you don't have
to do all the prior years of nursing training. I am also involved
in the political side of things because there is very powerful opposition
to the natural childbirth and home birth movements from some sections
of the medical establishment and we really have to fight politically
to defend women's right to these things.
I remember one particular experience in which the latihan had an
objective reality that I recognised and other people did too. I'd
been at a birth and it was going on for a long time. The birth wasn't
developing. The doctor had gone to sleep and the midwife was half
asleep. I felt I still had a little energy left and I explained
to the woman that soon she'd have to go to hospital. She asked me
if I could see what was stopping the birth, or if I could suggest
what she might do. When she was coming to classes we had already
discussed the fact that she was physically constipated and that
this corresponded to an emotional condition of always holding her
feelings in. Now she was holding back the birth. We talked about
this and she began to cry and that changed everything. The birth
developed and the doctor and the midwife woke up. But then it got
stuck again for a long time and the doctor found out that the baby's
heartbeat was getting weaker. He said, "We'll have to help it",
and he went to get the forceps. He and the midwife were setting
up, pulling on surgical gloves. The baby had about a minute to come
out or they would use the forceps.
I was kneeling in front of the woman who was squatting, being supported
by her husband. I saw the stepped computer image and at the end
of it was the woman holding her baby. I was praying and talking
to the woman. Something I never do is touch women around the genitals.
I've seen women touched there wrongly and insensitively and so I
never do it, but without thinking about it, my hand moved and touched
the women's perineum. It was just a very light touch, but the baby
came just like that. The woman didn't even tear and everyone was
amazed. Including me.
But since then I've had this experience with touch many times at
births. It feels that if my hands are really "alive" with the feeling
of the latihan then the babies often respond.