And then what did Dr. Vijaya do? She did a ‘labour dance’ with me!!! She said “Come on … lets dance” and went all over the room ballroom dancing with me. I don’t know what effect that had on me but it lifted my spirits and also kick-started the labour… my guess is that the psychological effect triggered the physical labour process.All through active labour I decided to labour on the toilet seat and refused to get up and come out. Instead of forcing me to come out into the room Dr. Vijaya came into the bathroom, sat with me and held my hand through the contractions. Just knowing that someone is patiently sitting with you and quietly understanding the pain you are going through meant a lot !! Finally it was time to push and I went into some kind of trance. All I know is that I could hear only one voice encouraging me to push out my baby (Dr. Vijaya’s voice)… and finally there he was. Such a cute little being straight into my arms staring at me intently. A huge Thank you to the entire HM team for making my dream of a natural birth come true. I wish HM grows leaps and bounds and touches many more to-be moms with a wonderful birthing experience. Dr. Vijaya Krishnan is Midwife & Director at Healthy Mother Wellness & Care Birth Center in Hyderabad, India. Healthy Mother is part of the MBNets with the International MotherBaby Chilbirth Organization (IMBCI) and is also working to support the IMBCI India demo site.
Submitted by Benjamin’s mother, Selena
The Homebirth of Benjamin David, 15th March 2012
After the beautiful natural birth of my first baby, and then an awesome planned vaginal breech for my second, having a homebirth for my third was a no-brainer. I trust my body and knew that I needed to be in a comfortable, private, sacred space where my hormones could do their job undisturbed, so what better place than at home? I announced my plans to homebirth and even ‘pre- booked’ my midwife (Lisa Richards) before I was pregnant, I just couldn’t wait! I love giving birth, and as it was going to be my last baby I wanted it to be nothing short of perfect.
The pregnancy was easy and enjoyable. It was such a treat to stay home for all my antenatal appointments, which felt more like social catch-ups with a good friend. I organised for two other friends to attend the birth: Jane to take photos and Kate to be with my girls, aged 5 & 2, who we hoped would have the amazing experience of seeing their little brother or sister being born. The fact that both women also happen to be midwives was reassuring, even though I had total confidence in Lisa.
Because both my girls arrived at 39 weeks, I assumed that this Bub would follow suit, and I predicted (and announced to anyone who asked) that s/he would probably be born on the auspicious date of Feb 29. My EDD was March 7. From 38 weeks I started telling Lisa at each weekly visit that we didn’t need to make another appointment because I was so sure I’d be giving birth before then. And then the week would pass without event and I would greet her at our next appointment feeling a little deflated. I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t happening when I was so ready and so excited! I’d had a blessingway and a pregnancy photo-shoot, road-tested the birth pool, chosen music & aromatherapy oils, designed a mud-map of my birth space, painted a trust mandala onto canvas… even my stainless steel mixing bowl with plastic bag liner was ready and waiting on our loungeroom floor to catch a placenta. The bassinet was set up in our bedroom… but something was wrong. For some reason and try as I might, I couldn’t visualise a baby in it. I couldn’t even visualise myself in labour… it all felt so far off, despite the fact that I was ‘due’ and wanted it so badly. So what was I doing wrong? Why didn’t my baby want to be born?
It wasn’t a good headspace to be in, and knowing how powerful the mind is, I realised I had to let go of certain anxieties that I suspected were holding things up. I was finding it difficult to accept that some things weren’t happening according to plan. My Mum had come to stay, but she was supposed to arrive after the baby was born, not before, because even though I love her lots, I preferred not to have her in my birth space. And now that she was here I had to face that probability, and also tell Kate that I didn’t need her anymore, which was disappointing. I wasn’t used to being ‘overdue’, and because of my Feb 29 prediction everyone thought I was a week further along than I actually was, so I was feeling pressured and increasingly annoyed by all the comments I was receiving… “You still here?!”, “Hasn’t the baby arrived yet??!!”, “Is it safe to homebirth when you’re overdue?”, “When are you going to get induced?” etc. I’d lost my sense of excitement to a certain degree as Braxton Hicks kept amounting to nothing & the comments kept coming, and I started to wonder if Bubby was ever going to arrive. I’d also wanted to have lots of R&R time to meditate and connect with the baby in the lead up to the birth, but aside from one yoga class per week this wasn’t happening either. My husband David was working lots so I was still as busy as ever doing everything for the girls and the running of our household… needless to say I was feeling very frazzled!!!
So I made a momentous decision at my 41 week appointment on March 14. “Face of Birth” was screening locally that night, which I hadn’t been planning to attend (I’d already bought tickets to the next screening instead), but I decided that it was probably just the thing I needed… so I told Lisa I’d join her there. We joked that I would probably give birth in the theatre amongst my ‘village’ of like- minded women, and I felt my excitement returning as I gave myself a little stretch & sweep in the shower before heading out.
So many moments in the film really hit home for me and confirmed everything that I know to be true about birth. When the Aboriginal woman declared that “we are holy women when we give birth”, I had tears streaming down my face as I recalled telling David, my Mum & Lisa that my birth space was sacred – quiet, respectful & candlelit, where anyone present would behave as though in church or in the company of a higher presence. The film undoubtedly reconnected me with my birthing ‘mojo’ and inspired me to let go of everything that was weighing me down, and just let this birth unfold however it was meant to. I was back in tune with my baby and my instincts, and when I said goodbye to Lisa I knew I’d be seeing her again very soon…
I got home at 10:30pm and was in bed by 11pm listening to my Calmbirth CD, visualising the birth with lots more clarity now, when at 11:30pm Bubby kicked so hard that I felt an odd pop, realising soon after that I was very wet. I lay there quietly for several minutes in surreal disbelief, wondering what it was… urine, blood, semen, amniotic fluid?? Could it be??!!! I began to feel some regular tightenings so I tottered off to the bathroom, where I discovered that my membranes had indeed ruptured, and by midnight contractions were established and 10 mins apart. I let Lisa & Jane know and went back to bed full of delicious anticipation (like it was the night before Christmas!) whilst David quietly got to work setting up my birth space in the loungeroom. When I made my way out there an hour or so later I was blown away – it was bathed in candlelight with music & aromatherapy oils softly spilling into the room, the ‘purple pool’ full & inviting… such a warm, comfortable, sacred space, exactly as I had imagined! Mum and the girls slept soundly nearby in their beds – it couldn’t be more perfect.
I spent the next hour quietly breathing through the waves as I leaned over the lounge (kneeling on the floor), while David gave me a beautiful back massage. Sometime after 2am things had ramped up a gear, so despite feeling bad about waking Lisa & Jane, I texted them to let them know that they should probably come. Little did I know that ‘ramping up a gear’ was actually ‘transitioning’! Luckily Lisa lived only 10 minutes away because when she arrived I was in second stage, realising with some regret that I wasn’t going to make it into the pool – Bubby wasn’t far away! I was on my yoga mat leaning over my fitball now, rolling back and forth with each wave, feeling Bubby descend and my body open up whilst I was instinctively bearing down at the tail end of each exhalation… such an incredible sensation! I remember thinking that if Mum was awake and hearing my orgasmic “aaaaah”s, she would think David & I were makin’ whoopee in the loungeroom! It was definitely pleasure as opposed to pain.
Lisa wasn’t there long before I asked her to take my undies off – she hadn’t realised things had progressed so far and was surprised to see a head crowning. I reached down and felt it as David got into catching position, and after a couple of pushy exhalations through a ring of friendly fire, a little head was gently born… and then our precious Benjamin David slid beautifully into his Daddy’s hands at 3:09am. A boy!!! And in only three hours! David passed him back through my legs to me, and we had a lovely group hug, marveling at our perfect little man, before I moved onto the couch to get comfy for a nice long skin-to-skin breastfeed. After an hour or so I felt the need to sit up and realised that I was also feeling a bit ‘pushy’ again… my body was doing its job beautifully, and within minutes I birthed my placenta into the bowl and lay back down again. It sat beside us for another hour or so, still connected to Benjamin, until the cord had long-stopped pulsating and David cut it.
We all sipped champagne by candlelight and marveled at the whole experience, all high on oxytocin, until daybreak when Mum and the girls woke to meet our gorgeous new family member… none of them realising that he was being born as they slept! It was so surreal and SOOOO sublime. And I felt like a goddess.
Lisa was amazing. She cleaned everything up so quickly & efficiently and stayed with us well into the morning to give me a shower and tuck me into bed – such attentive TLC that one couldn’t possibly receive in hospital. Jane took some incredible photos. I hardly knew she was there as she captured all the miraculous moments that are etched in my memory forever. And my Mum was great too, feeding us all toasted hot cross buns and opening her arms for my girls as they slowly took in the surprise of waking up to a new little brother. She took care of them so David and I could snuggle up in bed together with Benjamin, which is where we remained cocooned all day, drinking him in.
The whole experience surpassed all my expectations in the end, and it taught me some valuable lessons… that too many expectations can result in too much anxiety; and that I needed to quiet my mind and let go of these expectations, and simply let the birth unfold in its own time and find its own perfection.
Thank you Selena and family, and Jane McCrae for sharing!
Readers, please consider sharing Your Birth Story with the O Birth Pod Cast. Join us Tuesday Nov 26 (with access all week) for eClass w/ Sex Coach Kim Anami.
These photos were submitted by: Chelsea Gehrken. Chelsea is a Momma, Doula, and Aromatherapist and “a lactivist, intactavist, and AP kinda gal!” Chelsea writes: “My journey with breastfeeding was at first a long and hard road. We used an SNS and donor milk quite often in the first year. Luckily we (my LO and I) both love nursing. We stuck to it! There are no words that can explain the pride I fill up with when I look at my 20 month old nursing. There were moments, even days when I didn’t think we would last much longer. But, here we are, despite all our troubles we did it and will continue to until he chooses to wean!!”
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Submitted by: Irina Otmakhova
Even before getting pregnant I knew I wanted the birth of my child to be highly conscious and on my terms. Back then I did not know much about the rising rates of Cesarian sections, and terms like epidural, pitocin injection, feotal monitoring, IV were still beyond the spectrum of my vocabulary. Soon after my pregnancy became an established fact of life I started researching my options and educating myself in general on childbirth.
I should say that my pregnancy was inspired by the idea of birthing in a company of dolphins. These intelligent and gentle mammals seem to have a natural affinity with pregnant women and babies. Women who gave birth assisted by dolphins report diminished levels of pain and anxiety. The birth occurs with ease and harmony. Knowing that such a different birth was possible compared to a usual picture of a woman in pain surrounded by bright lights and doctors in white gowns, I first conceived the desire to give birth and soon after actually conceived a child. It should not come as a surprise that conception happened after a wonderful occasion of swimming and interacting with the dolphins.
Later on in my pregnancy I had to tame my dream of physically birthing with dolphins as at this point in time there is no such a facility in the entire world that offers such a service. And birthing in a place where we interacted with dolphins during my pregnancy on a monthly basis seemed to be logistically challenging and plain risky. So, I had to consider other, less exotic options.
Gearing towards birthing outside of the hospital setting I came to read “Ina May’s guide to child birth” by Ina May Gaskin, “Orgasmic Birth Guide” by Elizabeth Davies and Debra Pascali-Bonaro and watch the films “Birth as We Know It” and ” and “Organic Birth“. This exposure opened my eyes on the world of birth and put me in the position to start seriously asking questions as to what kind of birth experience I envision for myself, my child and my partner. The clear answer for me was – an organic, harmonious, empowering birth for all participants. In a word I decided on a home birth attended by a midwife. A choice that provoked some jaw dropping in my surroundings. Home birth in Manila! A city congested with traffic jams! What if anything goes wrong, how sure are you to make it on time to the hospital? …Not sure indeed, it is a choice with some considerable risks, but it felt like the right choice.
Home birthing is usually for those who cannot afford to go to the hospital in the Philippines, often not attended by skillful personnel, hence a high rate of maternal and infant mortality. It is a prerogative in the Filipino society that woman of certain financial standard would go to a hospital, therefore giving birth at home out of choice and preference for comfort and intimacy is almost unheard of.
Being new to the land of pregnancy, birth and motherhood, I felt like I needed more guidance from the experienced people, who would preferably be on the same page with me regarding the preference for natural unmedicated birth. And this is where the information about the series of workshops “Birthing is a Blessing” came across my path. Just upon reading the flyer I knew this seminar is meant for me and will play in essential role in ensuring that the birth of my first baby would happen exactly the way I was envisioning it.
The workshops are conducted by the qualified birth educators – a husband and wife, parents of five children all born naturally. They offer a great curriculum that focuses on unraveling through creative means the inner most feelings, thoughts, reservations and hopes about the act of birthing and the processes surrounding birth. Of course it makes the most sense to participate in these seminars as a couple, although even for expecting moms alone taking part in the course will be a great confidence booster. My partner and me participated in the seminars as a couple, which allowed us to arrive to the actual delivery day as a strong birthing team equipped with knowledge, tools and most importantly with inner confidence that we can handle it.
One of the most magic moments in the days and weeks leading up to the birthing day was the baby shower/birthing blessing event. We decided that it would not be a regular baby shower format with so much focus on the baby and mother in their post-delivery state. Along with the jokes about diapers and baby bottles, we actually wanted an intentional focus on the birthing process itself by invocating a collective blessing for this unique rite of passage in the life of a woman as well as in the life of a couple. Yet again thanks to our coaches passionate facilitation we were blessed with the most wonderful birthing blessing ritual that touched the hearts of all friends present and sealed our hearts even stronger in the commitment towards natural, organic and harmonious home birth.
The actual birth did not happen up until almost the whole month after the birthing ritual. As it often happens in the first pregnancies I was going past my official “due date”. When I was seriously way into my forty first week I started getting quite serious remarks from my ob-gyne about the dangers of over-carrying the child. My midwife, instead, was relaxed all the time and encouraged me to carry on and wait for the labour to start naturally. I was given a deadline by my ob-gyne that if the birth did not happen by Saturday, I should be checking in the hospital by Sunday morning. I clearly understood what this implied – I would check in the hospital to be induced…and then who knows what would follow, I might end up experiencing the entire cascade of interventions with a C-section as the biggest reward for being a good patient. So, I ignored my Sunday deadline. Instead I showed up on Monday for a checkup to an utter dismay of my ob-gyne and demanded a referral to all the necessary tests to prove most importantly to myself that my body and my baby inside were doing just fine in the expectation of the nature’s call to kick off the birthing.
The tests indeed showed that by all parameters the baby was still thriving in the womb and my body was managing excellently. The only worrying sign in the eyes of my ob-gyne was the fact that the baby’s estimate weight was already reaching 4 kilos (9 pounds), meaning it was getting too big by the Filipino standards to pass through the birth canal, for which I was given a new deadline – Wednesday.
The evening of the same day a good friend came along declaring that he knew what was stalling the start of the labour – I had to release my own birthing trauma! According to him even though I was not aware of any in this life time, I might be lingering on the energy of some birth trauma from any of my past lives. He also pointed that the bedroom space was energetically congested and needed quite some cleansing. While he was doing the latter, I honestly dedicated an hour of my life to clearing of the birthing trauma using the theta brain waves method. Whatever the trigger might have been – another acupuncture session, energy clearing in our bedroom, processing of some hidden birth traumas or a simple stress in the face of the new deadline, the next morning upon waking up to a strong contraction I went straight into labour!!!
My midwife and her companions arrived around 11 am fully equipped with an oxygen tank, water warmers, birthing stool and so many other things that were there on standby during the entire happening. The labour lasted full twelve hours. Most of the active stage I spent in the bedroom in different positions managing my contractions with either my mom or my partner by my side, massaging my back or simply holding my hand. Near the pushing stage we moved to the pool positioned in the center of our living room, where my partner and me spent other two hours trying to push the baby out. It was a nice feeling to get in the water and have this soothing touch all over my body. However, after what seemed to be an endless amount of pushing contractions in the water and the rupture of membranes, the baby was still not out. I recall at some point my mom realizing that things were actually not going easy grabbed an icon of the Russian saints and stood in front of the pull with us in it passionately reciting a prayer. Thank you, mom, your prayers were answered sooner or later!
I remember some sort of cut off feeling regarding our stay in the pool – enough, it was getting to be exhausting to stay in the water and I requested my midwife to transfer back in the bedroom. There she asked me if I prepared the plastic sheets to which I only shrugged my shoulders. Next thing I remember she commanded to cover the floor with piles of newspapers. Soon she identified the problem, the baby flipped back to the posterior position after being anterior for the greater part of the active labour, and this made it more difficult to progress. In the meantime I was losing energy to keep pushing and was playing in my mind other not so desirable scenarios. Fortunately, all through the labour I was spoon fed pieces of fruit, honey, soaked chia seeds and had lots of water to drink. At the final stage I was pushing squatting on the floor, supported by my partner, who in his turn was supported by our household helper with midwives assuming their positions somewhere between my legs one with her hands in my vagina facilitating the exit, another monitoring baby’s heartbeat every minute and the third taking notes, while my mom was standing by in a state somewhere between fainting and praying.
It was an indescribable relief to feel baby’s head getting born, the rest of her body followed immediately. My baby girl was in my arms with her eyes open greeting the world. Never mind the pool of blood on the newspapers, never mind the twelve hours of labour, never mind the tears in my vagina – she was with us now, a new human being in this world for whom I am entirely responsible now. To name that feeling abliss is to say nothing. To have your newborn child in your arms is an exhilarating feeling for every new mother, but having a child in your arms followed a blissful birth feels double like heaven.
In retrospect I realize that my birth was not one of the easiest. Given that I was in the most comfortable possible surroundings with the respect and full collaborations from my midwives and my partner, I wonder how far I would have progressed be it a very different hospital environment. My inner guide prompts me – unfortunately not too far, the chain of interventions had a good chance to become a reality I was trying so hard to avoid. At the end I am very thankful to my midwife for keeping my courage upbeat, to my ob-gyne for being flexible and not coercing me to induction by all means, to my inner guide for helping me to keep my faith in my body and the forces of nature that will do the greatest share of the birthing work; to our birthing coaches for their introduction to and guidance in the world of birth, to my partner and to my mom for being amazing birthing team partners…and to the dolphins for their wonderful inspiration and presence with us in spirit. The baby-girl’s first name is Delphina, in honour of the dolphins.
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Submitted by: Michael Cherise Robertson
I woke up at 5:00am that morning thinking, “Here we go again, another false alarm.” I had been having prodromal labor for a few weeks at this point and was getting frustrated and emotional by it. I just wanted things to be real already! I got up and went to the bathroom. Things felt a little differently from what I had been feeling over the past few weeks but I wasn’t going to put any merit to it yet. I went back to bed but couldn’t get comfortable so I decided to take a bath. The feeling didn’t go away. In fact, it became more wonderfully intense. Waves five minutes apart suddenly became two minutes apart. “Could this seriously be it?” My mom had flown in from Texas a week or so prior when we thought things were really going. She was asleep in my son’s room, so I let her know that I “thought” I might actually be in labor, but that she could stay asleep longer until I figured it out. I knew if I was truly in labor, I wanted to eat now instead of later, so I went downstairs and ate breakfast and drank some red raspberry leaf tea. Two minutes apart stayed two minutes apart for over an hour so I decided to call my midwife. Midwife Amy was on call that day and she’s an hour away so she started her trip to my home, not wanting to miss a potentially quick birth. I went ahead and called my support team, my friend Maria and my doula Emily and they headed over as well. I woke up my mom and told her things were “on” but I still wasn’t positive that this was “it” and needed lots of encouragement. I had been disappointed by two to three minute apart waves being nothing at all several times before. But thankfully things became more intense. Everything was going great! Intense, powerful, I was vocalizing and laughing my way through some of them. There’s a film called “Orgasmic Birth” and that’s what I felt almost. I felt wonderful, no pain at all. There was discomfort at times, but that was easily dealt with by getting on my hands and knees, rocking and rotating my hips and of course using my Hypnobabies. But what was so wonderful was after practicing for so long and for so often I didn’t feel the need yet to recite to myself my peace cue. I just knew things were working and they were! I was very aware during this birth and very active. I have video of me laughing through birthing waves and enjoying them. My friend Maria was laughing right along with me from behind the camera and you can see it shaking from it. This was very different from my son’s birth during which I chose to rest and sleep as much as possible. Even though I had eaten eggs and toast earlier that morning, my mom was making pancakes for everybody and it smelled so good. So I ate! And I drank more tea and lots of ice water, with lots of ICE. More ICE! Most of the birth went like this, with me on my hands and knees enjoying my very intense waves, vocalizing and feeling so good. My son, who is 15 months, snuggled and slept in with daddy. When he awoke, he played on the floor, and when I’d have a birthing wave I would instinctually drop to the floor drawing circles with my hand to help me “open” my cervix, then my son would come crawl over to me and laugh and play some more. It was exactly what I wanted during my birthing, to be with friends and family, and welcome our newest into a loving atmosphere. What I found funny was I had set up this birthing room to labor in and I found myself in the dining room by the table a lot because it was right by the bathroom and I was peeing a LOT. All that tea and ice water, but it was encouraging somewhat and I took it as a sign that my baby was moving down. I refused to be checked until I was emotionally ready, for fear I was a mere 3cm. And while 3cm means that things are moving along, I was fearful that it wasn’t real, and had to repeatedly tell myself, “Today is my birthing day, open, open, open.” The midwives kept telling me, “There’s no reason by what we’re seeing that this isn’t anything but VERY real”, which was very comforting to hear. They didn’t force me to be checked. Once it was mentioned it wasn’t mentioned again until muuuuch later. They could tell I was working hard. At 12:50pm or so I decided to get checked and I was 6cm dilated! Typing that even now brings the tears and joy I felt when I heard that. HOW GREAT! I was so amazed, and proud, and crying! I couldn’t believe I had gone this far and felt so good. I knew I could do it, but to actually DO it and be at that point was beyond words for me. “It’s real!! It’s real!! I’m having a baby!! Today is my day, FINALLY!” I soaked in the birthing tub for a few hours and enjoyed my waves there. There were lots of laughs and saying, “Oh my god”. It felt like sex from the inside out, if that makes any sense at all. Both Maria and the back up midwife (Vicki) that arrived were so relaxed from the Deepening CD that they both passed out on my couch. I didn’t even notice. I was in my own world enjoying the rest before the finale to come. My doula mentioned to me in our discussion about the birth that while I was relaxing in the tub, my midwife got her attention and asked her if I was still having contractions. She replied yes, but really the only way she could tell was because my breathing pattern would change. At around 2:00pm I started complaining of discomfort in my pubic area and it became hard to focus. I went through the usual transitional “I can’t do it. I don’t want to do this any more. It hurts, my god, it hurts!” Everyone was so great and so comforting. I decided to get back out of the tub and be checked again. I felt very, very hot and didn’t want the water any more. I wanted something cold. And when they checked me, boy was I surprised, “A very stretchy 8cms, possibly 9! Do you want to push a little and see what happens?” I responded with “Pop my waters!” So they thought they had actually popped my water because a spurt came out, but it was apparently only a little layer. A couple of practice pushes later from me and it popped for real with clear fluids. This part was very uncomfortable. I kept shaking my head no, saying, “I can’t” and “I’m done”, over and over again. I didn’t want to go on. I’m glad that I had surrounded myself with an encouraging birthing support team who knew how important it was for me to be told positive and encouraging words. My midwife, at one point where I started breathing in a manner as I can only describe at almost hyperventilating, put her head against mine and said, “Michael, breathe for your baby, long, deep, slow breaths.” And she showed me how to breathe again. The thing that helped the most was an ice-cold washcloth on my pubic area where the hair and belly meet. I had my Hypnobabies CD on in the background but pretty much phased it out at this point. I commented that everybody was acting like it was time and all I could think about was I was only at 8cms! I had 2cms left to go, what were they all bustling around about? Little did I know, thirty minutes later I’d have a baby in my arms! I was very uncomfortable laying on the futon so I commented how I really wish I had a birthing stool to sit on. My midwife said, “*gasp* I have one in my car! I’ll be right back.” When she came back, I labored a bit more until I was able to move. I said, “NOW!!!” and got on the stool. That was a whole change. It was uncomfortable at first because the pressure downward made more discomfort on my pubic bone, but I was getting through it and I *actually* felt the urge to push! I never felt that with my first home birth. I was just feeling so much pubic pressure at the end of that one that I pushed to get past it all and have my baby. But this time I actually had urges to push and it felt GREAT to push. There were no pushing prompts. I did it my own way with a combination of purple pushing at points just to move baby down a bit, then breathing through some and “ahhhhh” pushing when I just really felt the urge. I birthed my baby while sitting on the stool. I can’t even explain how good it felt to birth him that way. Sitting and birthing just felt so right, so easy. It was amazing. Not what I expected or even imagined, but exactly what I needed and somehow wanted. I wanted a squatting upright birth. I remember writing on my list of “wants” for this birth that I wanted to have Willem at around 3:00pm just so my son Roan would already have had a nap and could be there. He was born at 3:09pm. So yeah! Labor starting at 5:00am and not feeling any pain, only minor discomfort until an hour before birth. I’m so proud. My son Roan (15 months old) did VERY well throughout labor and birth. He cried when people picked him up and away from me at times because they thought he was bothering me. But the only time he bothered me was when he cried because he was picked up! There was one point during my laying on the futon after my being checked and found at 8cms and very much feeling the discomfort from laying on my back that I yelled out *very primal* and it scared him. I had been very vocal my entire labor, but he wasn’t prepared for a yelp and he cried. He soon got over it and wanted up by me again. I STILL can’t believe that Willem is 9lbs 5oz, 22inches long, with a head circumference of 36cm and body circumference of 38cm. “Not your average baby, he’s a bruiser,” said my midwife. But birthing him on the birthing stool, he didn’t FEEL 9lbs coming out. He felt like 7lbs coming out, which is what Roan was when he was born. Michael Cherise Robertson, Norwich, CT
Introduction: Many expectant mothers experience unsolicited advice and hurtful words from friends, family, even colleagues and providers- words that are well-intended but often insensitive, ill-informed, or lacking support. This is the story of one woman who listened to her instinct and diligently took steps, thru changing her birth language and practice, to create a positive VBA2C experience for the birth of her third child, after previously experiencing two traumatic births.
Kristina Listens to her Inner Wisdom: The Birth of Johanna Helena Marie
Submitted by: Kristina Wierzba-Bloedorn, Germany
Translation by: Cathrine Mc Namara-Gaertig
When I became pregnant again in April 2012, I started intensely looking for a midwife. I held my pregnancy a secret until the fourth month. It was clear that to me this birth could only happen in the hospital. Despite my wish to deliver at home, after having had two cesarean sections, I wanted this birth to be closely monitored. During this time I spoke to a midwife who told me that my only chance to deliver this baby vaginally was to deliver at home. I could have also done an unassisted birth or labored at home long enough until I was fully dilated, this way no one could stand in my way of a vaginal birth. However, I listened to my gut feeling and I knew that delivering in my hospital would be a place where I would feel comfortable. I don’t hate the modern medicine. I liked the hospital very much where I wanted to birth my baby. It offers a special kind of medical environment. In any other hospital, my baby would have been delivered two weeks before my due date via cesarean.
I took my time finding a midwife and met with several of them from the list I had. One midwife I met with, told me that a vaginal birth after two cesareans hardly ever happens. I could feel her doubt in me and lack of support for my goal. And so I kept looking. One midwife told me she wasn’t comfortable with another part, a Doula, being present at the birth besides myself and my husband. It wasn’t important to her what was important to me at my birth. She did however have a lot of experience with vaginal birth after more than one cesarean. Several of my friends suggested to me that I shouldn’t focus on likeable while interviewing, but rather on the experience of a midwife in this area. I on the other hand focused my gut feeling and I till this day I have no regrets. After having already had two birth experiences, two of which taught me what would be important to me the next time, likeable and respect for my wishes were key requirements in choosing my midwife. Or rather better said: I knew, that loving, warm-hearted, attentive and sensitive care would be the key to a good birth. The support of my last midwife was cold and hostile. I found a new midwife, who really supported me. I received all of my prenatal care through my midwife and agreed to only one of the three routine ultrasounds suggested during pregnancy. I refused and stayed clear of all unnecessary procedures and tests that would bring any doubt to my mind, i.e. the estimated weight of the baby, etc. And I wonder if in the situation of High Fetal Station if the relationship of the head to the pelvis is the only factor that plays a role? Why is modern medicine then not able to find other causes for this this? One thing I knew for sure, was that my body had enough room to birth my baby vaginally.
My midwife mentioned to me that since my previous cesarean had been 6 years ago that my scar was well healed and that she had no fear of a rupture. That gave me so much strength. She told me later, the more the pregnancy advanced the more confident she was that I would deliver vaginally.
I had heavy bleeding until the end of the fourth month of the pregnancy. I was so scared during this time. Although my friends and family were just as concerned as I was and hoped just as much as we did, that the pregnancy would continue, what they said during this time was still quite hurtful. They told me that maybe I wasn’t sure if I want this child and that my body was subconsciously ending the pregnancy. My child and I wanted this pregnancy very much. We grew together and as I felt the first movements inside of me I was very happy! I have a doula friend from the USA, who helped me a lot with homeopathy medicine in this situation.
I began to write a detailed birth plan as early as five months into the pregnancy and I shared with my midwife, my husband and my Doula. My midwife thought my birth plan was so great that she asked if she could show it to other midwives. Even the hospital welcomed a vaginal birth and the doctor who assisted my birth read my birth plan attentively and with respect.
I hung pictures up of pregnancy, birth and the postpartum and looked at these powerful pictures everyday. I painted uterus and vaginas ready to delivery with bright colors and glued felt pictures and garland to it.
In the 7th month I celebrated my Blessings Way ceremony with good friends. This art of the blessing was a special experience for me that gave me so much strength. A dance was done around me in a circle, pearls were threaded into necklaces, pictures and collages were made, and with good wishes, the women sang birth songs and prayed for me.
In the 7th month I also started undergoing hypnosis with a hypnotherapist who specializes in birth preparation. She was also a midwife and she always encouraged and believed in me. With hypnosis I could process and resolve other experiences. I listened to my hypnosis CD regularly on my own and occupied myself with stories concerning birth as much as possible. I must emphasize that it was the hypnosis that helped me on this journey. Creating pictures without using big words also helped very much.
My Doula massaged me regularly starting the 20th week of pregnancy and we talked about my fears and thoughts. She was always there for me.
Two months before the birth I took a childbirth education course, which was taught also by my midwife. It was a course specifically for mothers who had already had children. My sons were also allowed to be there. They would paint me pictures on my belly of a baby in an amniotic sack with an umbilical cord and placenta.
I was also lucky enough to have a friend, who was ready to come to my birth even though she lived very far away. She is also a fellow Doula. We spoke very often over the phone and exchanged thoughts. She also visited me twice. And even my hypnotherapist would have been ready to come to my birth. In the 7th month another doula friend who comes from the Ruhrgebiet came to my home and painted my belly with Henna. We sat in the livingroom and chatted. It was such a good feeling to have so many people involved in my pregnancy and for that I am very thankful.
I never told any one my due date. It was like a secret and it actually didn’t matter when I was due. Babies come when they want to. I actually felt safer and protected with this frame of mind. I dreamed again and again that I birthed my daughter vaginally. In the dream I saw her coming out of me and everything was quick and uncomplicated.
I asked friends of mine to pray for me. That was a very good feeling. I also prayed myself and would recite Psalm 23 over and over again. This became soon there after a steady ritual for me. These lines were my mantra and reciting them would send me into a meditative state. Whenever I was scared or unsure, these words would come easier fand easier over my lips.
Before my due date I wrote a letter to my little daughter in hopes of giving her encouragement.
Two weeks before my due date I started to panic. I could hardly sleep anymore I was so worried and afraid, what this birth would bring. Will I have pain? Would it be a vaginal birth? Would they have to cut me open again?
My doula said, that my fears were normal, because I am taking a special path instead of taking the easy way out by scheduling a cesarean. This remark made me proud. I dreamed that I had a planned section and was there after very sad.
When I wanted to deliver my first son at a birthing center, not many people were very understanding. My decision was considered irresponsible. Years later I attended a Doula seminar where I described the epidurals I received for both of labors as being a blessing. In response to my confession my fellow doula colleagues just looked to the floor. Their response left me feeling misunderstood from both sides. I then began to speak to my husband, midwife and doula about the option of an epidural for this coming birth. I expressed to them that I wanted, at all costs, to avoid any further trauma through the experience of pain. I wanted an epidural immediately after I asked for it and I did not want to have to explain myself or be given any guilt about it. It wasn’t my goal to get the epidural no matter what. I know very well what side affects an epidural has. However I wanted it, WHEN I asked for it and I did not want to have to wait. As soon as I received the assurance that I would receive what I asked for, I would become calmer and could sleep again. The fear then stopped and I believe to this day, that the key to all this was solving all of my fears before the birth began. This left me feeling prepared and ready to open up.
On January 22, 2013 I woke with contractions. I was however not sure if these were in fact labor contractions. I walked through the hallway and the bathroom for a while and then took a warm bath. However, the contractions continued. They felt relatively strong, but I still wasn’t sure if this was a false alarm, because the pain was not dominant. After about two hours I woke my husband up. We decided to call the midwife. It was during our conversation that I had to lay the phone to the side at least twice, because the contractions were not allowing me to continue our conversation. My midwife then said that we should come straight to the hospital. I was very afraid of the ride there. Luckily I only had three contractions during the twenty-minute drive to the hospital. We arrived at 7 am at the entrance of the hospital. My midwife had already been waiting for me at the entrance. I was moaning loudly, but some how I was still not sure, if these were real labor contractions. In the birthing room my midwife examined me. She said that my cervix was very soft and that I was 7 cm dilated and that the head was engaged. I was stunned! Was it possible that the contractions I experienced with the last two births more painful at an earlier point than I had thought? I was so thankful that I had made it this far. I really didn’t have a lot of pain, but this unbelievably life-giving force was overwhelming. After a while the contractions became more intense.
I asked for the epidural. Not because I thought that it was so painful that I absolutely had to have it. I kept thinking (imprinted from my second birth experience), that the contractions are only going to get stronger and this is something you want to avoid. I know that I could have done it with out it. It was an epidural for my mind. I stand behind my decision and I am very happy with this decision.
My favorite doctor was there! He was planned for the walk in clinic, but switched his shift just for me. At this point I needed close body contact. My husband and Doula held my hands and told me positive things. I leaned against my midwife. She always smiled and was loving and friendly. I had very cold feet and my midwife brought me a hot water bottle and lit a fragrance burner. The smell created a wonderful atmosphere that was celebratory and peaceful. My husband and my doula massaged my feet and held them warm. Everyone gave me the feeling that I was the quefen. It was a great feeling. I felt special.
I had to think of my mother ape and her baby ape, my mantra and the colors that I imagined for a “good birth” while hypnotized. The mother ape and her child were sitting very close to me and were silently watching me. All the while I repeated quietly Psalm 23.
The cervix opened further very quickly. I could clearly feel the pressure of the head. My midwife examined me and asked my husband and I if we would like to feel the head. It was so motivating for me to feel the head with my fngers and to feel a “complete” cervix. I almost cried from the feeling of joy that went through me. My husband was fascinated. I stood next to the rope and rotated my pelvis. I squatted and hung over the ball on the bed. My husband stayed behind me the whole time massaging me. His touch grounded me and gave me strength. This warmth that I needed gave me strength to birth this child. My Doula told me to speak to my daughter and tell her to come deeper into my pelvis and that it was time to be born.
I spoke so deeply inside myself with her that she can come, come out of me, come into this world, you can come, we can do this together, I am looking forward to meeting you. My husband whispered into my ear that we can do this and we can make everything right. He caressed my neck and throat and kissed me. I purred like a cat. A low dose of Pitocin drip was given to me and the epidural was lightly topped off. Because I was afraid of this, the doctor held my hand and comforted me.
After the epidural started to take affect, I went back into the upright position. I could now feel the contractions much better, as well as the pressure of baby´s head in my pelvis. I could walk around and felt otherwise very good. The atmosphere in the birthing room was wonderful. I was in my favorite birthing room and my favorite doctor was on call. The contractions were now coming more often. I could feel them. However, it was not the pain that stood in the forefront, but rather the desire to birth this child vaginally. My midwife told me, that I could also push with the urge if I liked. And I wanted to. Soon the amniotic sack could be seen, bulging out of my vagina like a balloon.
My daughter was now in the middle of my pelvis. In order to see the progress of my pushing, I asked for a mirror. With this visual aid I could finally see some of my daughter coming closer and closer through my vagina. The doctor then mentioned, that we would no longer be going to the OP. I looked at him in disbelief! I could not believe it! The heart tones of the baby were reacting to the pushing. The doctor said, that maybe he would have to use a vacuum. Here and there the amniotic sack would leak. The water was warm and clear. I observed my midwife and the doctor as they sat on the floor. Their faces were so calm. From this point on I stood between the contractions, hung from the rope and sank deep in to a squat position when the contractions came. My husband sat behind me and held me under my arms. We were a team and I felt so close to him. I wanted to birth my daughter vaginally. I was not afraid of the vacuum, but I wanted to just keep going in order to realize a vaginal birth for the both of us.
Yes, come out of me!….
It was such a powerful feeling. Like a volcano, like a storm, a gigantic wave that pulled me and I was the surfer. I felt so useful and wild and strong all at the same time. I will never forget this feeling as long as I live. I was sweating and everything was so hot in the room. I wanted her to finally be born. “Pull her out,” I cried. My midwife laughed and said, “the head has already been born” and asked me if I would like to feel it. I touched her head with my hand and could hardly believe it. I was having a vaginal delivery! And then the rest of her body came out of me with the next contraction. I could feel her arms and legs sliding out of me.
And when I am old and grey I will still look back on this birth with feelings of joy and satisfaction that I gave my daughter life on this day. It was so wonderful to feel her coming deeper and to feel the feeling of birthing her. I was what gave birth to her! And then at 13:10 she was on the floor between my legs.
It was like time stood still. I had to check immediately if she was really a girl. I then picked up my little girl and hugged her tiny body. That was such a high! The hormones swirled between us and I cried loud, “my baby!” I was so proud and so happy. I was so thankful. I do not recall her birth being a series of minutes, but rather hours of pure joy, to be able to pick her up and hold her myself. It gave me the feeling as if I could do anything in this world!
Kristina Wierzba-Bloedorn is a mother and doula in Germany.
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My fascination with childbirth began when I was a young girl, listening to the birth stories of my great-grandmother, grandmother and mother. I share these stories and my first birth experience and how I was able to have a safe, satisfying birth in the midst of a technological medical model, in our book Orgasmic Birth: Your Guide to a Safe, Satisfying and Pleasurable Birth Experience as well as in our new Pleasurable Birth films. Each of my three births provided me with many lessons and awakened more of my intuitive wisdom. It was during my third pregnancy when I was already a childbirth educator that I researched and knew that birth could be so much more than I had been able to experience in my two previous births. Although my births had been positive, healthy and empowering, I knew there was more.
I discovered an amazing midwife, Lonnie Morris, who at that time had a birth center in New Jersey. Having had two births already that had both elements that I treasure and aspects I knew I wanted to change, I was excited to be with such a strong midwife, whose confidence and wisdom in birth, gave me the freedom I had been yearning for to believe birth could be something incredible, joyous and yes Ecstatic, Blissful and Orgasmic!
With Lonnie strong yet gentle guidance, each visit I found new strengths and insights into childbirth and myself. She touched and rubbed my growing belly, listened to my concerns, feelings and my wishes. Lonnie helped me connect with my baby’s movements in a way that other caregivers had not done. I would no longer have to fight to move around in labor, she encourage me to find positions I was comfortable with. Labor would begin on its own, when my baby was ready, no fear tactics to begin labor before we were ready. I could eat and drink in labor, all these seem like obvious rights, yet laboring women give these up every day around the world, when science shows these simple acts make labor safer and easier for both MotherBaby. Why had I had to fight for these in my past pregnancies? A midwifery model of care, not only honored my voice, my rights and treated me with dignity, but her encouragement instead of a fear-based model, nourished me in confidence.
I will never forget arriving to the birth center in labor knowing I could surrender to the power of labor. Feeling nurtured and supported by a circle of women, midwives, a nurse and my partner. I did not have to negotiate to protect myself or my baby from standard practices that did not meet our needs. I showered, moved and gave birth upright on a birth stool. I was never told to do anything. I was nurtured and encouraged to do what I had to do. To listen to my body, my baby, my “inner wisdom”. As my baby slid from my body, the sense of accomplishment, the orgasmic, blissful feeling that came over me, the release, I did it! I had remained calm, confident and upright. There are never enough words to express those feelings that are contained in the moment of ecstasy. I am filled with gratitude each time I remember my birth. I am so grateful to Lonnie and the other midwives who believed in me. They were like guardian angels, nurturing me safely thru these sacred gates. Lonnie and I have attended many births together in the past 25 years as midwife and doula. She caught my grandson. With tears in our eyes as he was born, my eyes catching hers – I smiled knowing the circle of life goes on as Lonnie continues to advocate for every woman, man, baby’s right to give Birth Your Way!
What does Birth Your Way mean to you? Please share your thoughts, your quotes, your comments as I will gather them and weave them into my upcoming teachings.
Lonnie attended Debra’s daughter’s birth too – read her story.
Submitted by: Rachel Elise Lockwood
Our birth story is a little complicated. My husband and I are British, and we had only just moved to France when we found out I was pregnant. Literally – we’d been there a week.
On top of that, we already had a three month holiday planned in the New Year for our wedding and honeymoon in New Zealand. It all went fine, right up until the end. We were actually staying in Sequoia National Park in California on our way home. We were in the mountains, the road was closed most of the day, it was snowing, and it was night time – when my water broke.
I didn’t know this is what it was. I always only 26 weeks pregnant. It didn’t come all at once, but every now and then, all night. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep. In fact I burst out crying in the early hours of the morning and my husband had to comfort me. I knew this wasn’t normal. I knew, from researching on the internet, that it was amniotic fluid. But I didn’t know what would happen next.
The next day we left the mountain. The fluid stopped coming, so we assumed that whatever had allowed it to come out had closed up. Our flight was booked for the following day from LA, so we decided that once we got home, we would check in at a hospital to make sure everything was ok. I was later told by my doctor that it was a miracle I didn’t go into labour, and if it had happened on the plane, it would have been disastrous. But it didn’t. In fact I was very upset by his words, which were by then unnecessary, but that’s something else.
Nothing more happened. We got back home to the UK and reached my brother-in-law’s house, where we were staying for a while before heading home to France. Within a couple of hours, I had some bleeding, so we went to the hospital. It was confirmed that I had no amniotic fluid. I had to have two steroid injections – OUCH! – and got transferred to another hospital with a Neonatal Unit. I spent 10 days in there but didn’t go into labour. I found out that she was lying sideways, and the placenta was so low that I would need to have a classical caesarean, which I was told would mean I could never have a vaginal birth, ever. I was devastated by it all. I had planned to have a homebirth, all natural. It was my greatest desire. And this was the opposite of it all. They showed us the Neonatal Unit, and it was the first time I’d ever seen a premature baby. They looked so small and fragile, I burst into tears. It was horrible beyond words.
They were happy to leave baby inside, as long as I didn’t get an infection. I was let out of hospital and we went to stay with friends. Throughout this time I had to wear large pregnancy pads because I was constantly losing fluid, which is a very uncomfortable feeling, like being incontinent – and always tinged with fear, as one time a blood clot came out, so I was always having to run and check whether there was any blood. A week later, I went into labour – on my husband’s birthday. I spent a couple of days in light labour – baby was actually enjoying it, or so they told me – when one evening I had a serious amount of bleeding. The placenta – problematic throughout the whole pregnancy – had come away. That was it. I was wheeled into the delivery suite, where I was examined by the doctor. Immediately after that I was taken to the operating room. My husband couldn’t come in because I was having general anaesthetic. I felt so alone.
There were so many people in there, rushing around. I have no idea what half of them were doing. I was crying and shaking like a leaf, I was terrified, for myself and for the baby. I’ve never spent much time in hospital before, let alone had an operation. Funnily enough, I’ve always wondered what it’s like to have general anaesthetic! People were prodding things into me, inserting cannulas, plus a catheter, and I had to drink this nasty liquid as I had just eaten dinner. Not long after that – probably one of the worst times of my life – I was out like a light.
I woke up in a different room, and my mum and husband came in. Apparently I was very dozy and saying odd things. That would be the morphine. Later in the night, a nurse delivered a picture of my baby to me, on request, but I didn’t see her till about 9am the next day. My mum is still furious that they took so long about it. I was a bit too out of it on drugs to realise. Even when I saw her, I was nervous, but I didn’t feel too much. It was all just very strange. I was exhausted and spaced out. It wasn’t until the next day, when I was off the morphine, that I crashed. I cried on and off all day. I cried when I watched her wailing in her incubator – a strange, premature baby mewl that I had never heard before, that just sounded so wrong to my ears. She looked so tiny and fragile, I just wanted to pick her up and put her back in. I was in shock I think. I was horrified that she was outside of me now, when she wasn’t supposed to be. I felt like I had failed as a mother somehow, not being a safe place to be inside. I don’t blame myself anymore, but it’s how I felt then. I felt grief and anger over the homebirth that I had lost, and also suddenly not being pregnant anymore, when I had only had seven months of it. I was also scared of my caesarean wound; I didn’t want to look at it. And on top of all that, I was sure my milk wasn’t coming in as I was struggling to express anything (stress, my mother tells me – she’s a midwife).
Anyway, this was probably the worst day. After that, I was able to leave the hospital, which was a relief, although we had to leave our baby behind. Over the next seven weeks our lives were driving back and forth from the hospital, which thankfully wasn’t far away. Ava did amazingly from the beginning; she was a fighter. She had a bit of jaundice and reflux, but that was it. She was born at 3llbs, 7oz, at 29+4 weeks gestation, which is a good size. I healed from the caesarean and buried all the pain for a while. A couple of weeks after she was born I got sick and had to stay away from the Special Care unit for about 7 days, which was awful, but also a blessing – I desperately needed rest. To be honest, I don’t know how c-section mums cope with a baby at home!
My husband was my rock the whole way through. He always kept calm while I was an emotional wreck, crying all the time. He was gentle, strong and loving for me and Ava. He never faltered and I love him for that. He looked after me well while I was recovering.
Breastfeeding was a challenge. It turned out I had more than enough milk. Through double-pumping, I ended up with an entire (large) freezer-full that I was able to donate to a nearby hospital, which was lovely. Ava was too young for a long time to manage breastfeeding. She also had tongue-tie, which we discovered after a couple of weeks of trying. They clipped it and not long after she got it. We had a lot of support from the nurses and lactation consultant, but we were one of the only couples trying to exclusively breastfeed a premature baby. Most other preemies are breast and bottle, or just bottle. It did mean staying in there a little longer while she got the hang of it, but we didn’t mind. We also had to say no to a pacifier several times, as they are widely used in the Unit.
We couldn’t have been more blessed with the staff. The nurses were so friendly, and so were the other parents. There was a kind of camaraderie between us – we were all here for the same reason, for our premature or unwell babies. When Ava was a bit older, were actually allowed to take her out in the pram for a while. The other plus was that his hospital practiced Kangaroo Care with preemies, as do most hospitals I think now. So we got to hold her all the time. We’d spend hours there taking turns with her asleep on our chests, skin to skin. She spent nearly the first two months of her life sound asleep. Also, as a parent you could visit the Unit 24 hours a day, they always welcomed you.
Finally, Ava got the breastfeeding. They moved us into a Transitional Care Unit, which is usually for new mums and babies, but they made an exception for us. A few days in there and we were ready to go! We finally took her home, three weeks before her due date, weighing just about 6 lbs. She is now a healthy ten-month-old, she is bouncy, not far off crawling, and still loves nursing, although now she loves other food too! She has no medical problems, and I have worked through much of my grief and trauma and come out smiling on the other side. I hope to have a VBAC someday. Right now, I am happy to have a nice healthy, normal baby. It might sound strange, but one of the difficult things I found with a premature baby is waiting for the interaction. With most babies, it’s about six weeks for that first smile – with Ava, it was almost four months. I was so desperate for it by then! Now, she smiles and shouts and plays and wriggles, it’s lovely. It makes all that terrible time sink into the past.
I’m sharing this story for any other mums out there who have been through difficulties in their births (which is many). Partly, because it helps to read about similar experiences – I have done it a lot! – and also to remind those who may be struggling that – “this too shall pass”. That’s a saying that has got me through many things, because it’s true. There is light at the end of the tunnel. If you can just get through the difficult bit, it will one day be over, and you can take a deep breath and smile. Once you’re on that other side, you are a survivor, and you’re stronger for it – even if it doesn’t always feel that way!