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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