This birth story is submitted by Milena Dyankova who shared her personal birth story with us after organizing a screening of Orgasmic Birth in Bulgaria in 2014.
My Birth Journey – to the Bathroom and Back
About a month before my due date I could finally take the long expected leave and finally focus on birth preparation. After a few extremely busy months I wanted to do yoga and other exercises to get tuned to and fit for birth as much as I could for the short period I had. Since this was my second birth I thought I had the knowledge I needed from my previous experience (what I call a mainstream hospital birth). And here I was the second night on my leave browsing through the Internet to find exercises I would like when I came across the idea of gentle birth. From one click to another a whole new world opened to me. I could not go to sleep until the early morning hours soaking information and stories on the idea of out-of-hospital birth. And it clicked with me. Strongly.
My mind brought memories from six years earlier when I had read a story about a homebirth in the Eastern European country we were living in that had stunned me with the beauty, the calmness, the strength I had felt from the woman’s words. Now I was reading similar stories that had only recently taken place in my native Bulgaria. That gave me great courage – I thought if people in Bulgaria that was lagging behind on many areas were already doing it so could I.
The next thing I needed was to equip myself with the right reliable sources of knowledge and support. I didn’t need tons of information; I just needed something reliable and inspiring. And my research led me to Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, a book by Ina May Gaskin and Orgasmic Birth, a film by Debra Pascali-Bonaro. Ina May’s Guide gave to my husband and me a good understanding of birth physiology and the factors that inhibit or stimulate it. It convinced me that my body was perfectly capable of doing what it needed to birth a baby without artificial stimuli (no induction, thank you very much). The Orgasmic Birth film was truly transformative – not only labor and birth were a natural event but it was not meant to be an ordeal, something to put up with to have your baby. On the contrary I saw they were an important journey that could take a woman to a high, even give pleasure, and most of all give her a chance to experience her own power. So I “planned” for an orgasmic birth.
To me it was very important labor to begin when the baby was ready. My first baby was born after induction when two weeks past due date (defined without consideration for the length of my cycle and the conception date that I still remember to this day) I was no longer able to stand up to grandparents’ pressure. And even though I realized how lucky my baby and I had been to have had those two weeks, I was very sensitive to the topic, and it seemed to me the last couple of weeks everyone was calling to ask when I was going to give birth. The daily visits to the doctor’s office were the most troubling. My husband and I had decided we would keep the arrangement with the doctor who was very favorable to women’s active role in labor and birth. Yet, as due date passed he insisted on daily fetal monitoring as this was the protocol. Five days past due date he wanted us to do the monitoring at the hospital and I agreed to a vaginal check. It was rough.
In the late afternoon my palms started to itch and in the evening the mucus plug fell. I thought the reason was the harsh check and felt upset with the doctor for intervening, yet I decided to let this feeling go and enjoy the evening. Around midnight I woke up with quite intolerable itching on the palms and soles that was feeling better by touching cold surface. I found relief placing my hands and feet on different spots of a leather armchair and soon drifted off. In the morning the itching was gone. It was a weird phenomenon that I had not experienced before and I could not find any reasonable explanation.
It was Saturday. The day passed leisurely yet the cold weather prevented us from a much desired walk to refresh my mind so late afternoon we went shopping for the guests we were expecting the following day. Throughout the evening the memory of the previous night was recurring and I appreciated the itching gone so I could get a good sleep. Or so I thought…
At 1:30 AM I woke up with a feeling I had only taken a light nap as I remembered moving my palms and feet looking for a cold place on the bed linen in my sleep. I felt the itching pretty strong so I headed for the leather armchair to find the cure from the previous night. My husband also got up and went to arrange something in the bathroom but I urged him to go back to sleep as he had also stayed awake the night before.
This time the coldness of the leather did not bring the same effect. I also started to feel menstrual cramps and I became quite restless in the armchair. Soon it dawned on me – the time had come. I knew I had hours ahead and it was better to rest and gather energy so I went back to bed. Yet, pretty soon I found myself up again trying to find comfort on the birth ball. It didn’t work either. The bath tub seemed quite alluring at that point and with desperate hope to finally find my place I woke up my husband and asked him to fill it up. As he took to fulfilling my request I sensed the peace of mind one feels when the imminent and long expected is finally happening. Joy was there, too, as I was finally having the baby when he was ready to come. It was March 8th, Mothers’ Day in Bulgaria.
The contractions became more frequent and stronger. I immersed in the water and my whole body relaxed as I sensed this was my place, my zone. Suddenly the light was too much and I asked my husband to dim it. He took a seat next to the tub and held my hand. Every now and then he was handing me a bottle with water. I started to drift away in my own world, my own dimension. I was aware of all that was happening to and around me, yet I was in my own distant space where I could surrender to the sensations and enjoy the deep gratitude for actually experiencing labor in its pure power.
When contractions came my body changed its posture and arched, and I was diving somewhere deep while some strong alt sounds were emerging from within my womb. Later my husband called them moose mooing. The sensations were very strong and although my work with the Sedona Method had clearly shown me that ‘pain’ was only a label we attach to a group of sensations, it was difficult to deal with the ones I was experiencing. I tried the welcoming and allowing techniques that had done a great job for me many times, yet I could not keep my focus on anything. I was riding strong waves and the mental efforts somehow made the pain tougher. Contractions were becoming more and more intense and doubt crept into me “Oh, my Goodness, am I able to do this?”
- I can’t. I cannot do it, – a wail escaped my lips.
- Yes, you can, – a comforting voice came across and when I looked up I met a warming smile.
Around 2:30 AM our daughter appeared in the bathroom, sat down next to the tub and started asking questions. I made an effort to respond, yet speaking was beyond my power. My answer was concise and I left it to her father to explain. However speech was disturbing and soon I asked for quiet. She stayed for a while, then went back to bed.
My husband was providing great support. Every now and then he would hand me over the water bottle reminding me to drink. I would take a couple of sips motivated by discipline rather than thirst. Soon I felt and urge to throw up. As if strictly following “the rules” my body started to cleanse itself. Although I was still in the tub with the original water, I was not feeling cold. After a few efforts my stomach was empty of its content and the urge to throw up disappeared as suddenly as it came.
Some time later I felt my face muscles contracting making my lips form an “O” and I realized this had accompanied orgasms sometimes. A slight regret crept in my mind, and then I smiled. As much as it was possible. Even though I was not having the orgasmic birth in the way I had envisaged it, my body was producing a similar reaction.
Each contraction was making my body arch and bringing some mooing sounds from deep inside. The pauses were short. I felt compelled to get out of the bathtub so I went out, put on a shirt and found my place of comfort on the toilet. My husband sat down on a small chair in front of me and held my hands. That was of great help as if him holding tightly my hands gave me additional strength. I felt his presence so comforting and solid, exactly what I needed to keep my focus on my job knowing there is someone there for me to take care of everything else.
Contractions intensified further and I started having bowel movements – apparently my body needed to cleanse some more. I was looking forward to the “rest and be thankful” phase so that I could take a little break, contractions were becoming stronger and stronger straining my whole body. And while I was thinking I’d finally found a way to ride the waves they started to grow into something different. The end of each contraction turned into a burning sensation that I could bear only screaming. The screams were tearing from my throat and I was thinking about the neighbors (we were living in a 6-storey building and the bathrooms underneath and above us had windows to a common space). Our daughter was sleeping in a distant room and the noise would not reach her. I was screaming at the end of the contractions squeezing my husband’s hands. He kept reminding me to drink yet I was already oblivious to the world around me.
“These are pushes,” a lightning thought cut through my mind. But there was supposed to be a break. “Where is my break?” I grunted in my mind in a miniscule pause between contractions. A few minutes later an impulse made me get up from the toilet and take all-fours position on the bathroom floor. While kneeling down my water broke. My husband asked what was going on and I responded that was it. I felt tired already. Pushes were becoming stronger and stronger and I screamed at the peak. I needed to push myself. The next one I joined and I felt the head moving down. My body seemed to have been stretched to the limit like a fully-bloated balloon.
I reached down to feel for the head yet it seemed my arm was not long enough. My husband realized birth was imminent and prepared himself. The head was slowly making its way downward. Energy surged all over me. Then the little body turned slowly and gently inside without any effort on my side, just like we had seen it on YouTube. I was strongly aware of the sliding inside, I felt as if electricity was going through me – my senses were acutely open and all perceptions came very powerful. Just a few seconds later the little body slipped out right into daddy’s palms. I turned around and sat down to embrace our baby who had been conceived with love and came to this world in an intimate environment where his dad and I were a team, one whole. My husband and I looked into each other’s eyes and I could see the same incredible happiness I felt. When I cuddled the little body the bathroom filled up with love as if coming from an invisible hidden spring. The incredible feeling of my own power and the grand power of Nature were going hand in hand with deep satisfaction. I was in awe with the wonders of Nature that had manifested through my body and I realized there was nothing I could not do. I had women’s power and strength.