Pete and I had a rare date afternoon out at party on the weekend. I met a woman there, pregnant with her first child and due to give birth in a few months. She was hungry. Not for party food, for information about how she could birth her babe without ending up having a caesarean. Sigh. What a shame the dominant culture of pregnancy and birth in Australia is so fear based. Right from the confirmation of pregnancy the testing and monitoring begins, the possibility of induction and caesarean looming.
I am not a midwife or doctor or expert in pregnancy and birth. This post is based on my own experience of giving birth to my two sons without drugs or medical intervention of any kind - no epidural, no gas, no episiotomy, no stitching. I count myself as blessed for having two beautiful very straight forward birth experiences. Also, I acknowledge that medical intervention is at times necessary and I do not discount in any way that there are times when delivery by caesarean is a life saving procedure.
What I want to share today is a list of things I did to prepare for birth that I found tremendously helpful and to share some links and references that may be of interest to women preparing for birth.
I believe in preparing for birth - physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
The points below are things that have worked for me. I would love you to add things that have worked for you in the comments section and your thoughts on giving birth, how to handle medicos, birth teams and preparation. Given that we live in times where some women have not even held a baby until they have one of their own, I think sharing stories about birth is vitally important.
Birth can be blissful and exhilarating.
I wrote this list for a friend who I am close to but only see a few times a year and we move in different friendship circles, she explained to me that her friends are 'all for epidurals', and like the woman I met at the party they both said "the main thing I don't want is a caesarean".
My friend who I sent this list to replied with "thanks for the vote of confidence that I can do it". While I don't think it is the total intention of the medical profession, I do think there is a lot of undermining women's confidence to birth naturally that happens.
Take or leave what resonates or doesn't for you on this list. And if making a comment please remember this is my personal experience.
Face your fears - write down or talk with a trusted friend, relative or midwife. Someone who will really hear you not brush you off. Another friend who had her first baby by emergency caesarean, when she was pregnant with her second baby which was also to be born by caesarean she told her obstetrician she was scared about the caesarean and the doctor's response was a curt "everybody's scared". Not good enough! I really believe it is so important to be heard. If you are really scared about something your body holds the fear. Birth is about letting go. Practice letting go while you are pregnant. Before Sol's birth I had a counseling session with a highly regarded and experienced midwife and counselor, Rhea Dempsey. I found it really helpful talking through with her in a very open way who I wanted to be at the birth. I let go of the fear about who would or wouldn't be there. The more we can let go of fear and move into trust the better.
Affirmations - hold a clear vision in your heart and mind daily that you believe in your body and in your baby to work together and have a beautiful birth. The birth is not all up to you, babies know how to be born trust your baby and talk to him/her.
Get to know your body - my biggest fear when I was pregnant with River was tearing and stitches! I now know a woman's body has an incredible ability to stretch well beyond what the mind can conceive, especially if we are relaxed enough. Perenial massage is recommended by a lot of midwives in the last couple of months of pregnancy to help soften and stretch the area for baby to come out. Some women find this confronting but again it is about facing fears and having the courage to do what needs to be done. Birth calls us to trust and go beyond the limitations of the conscious mind. Yoga and swimming were great for me, walking too all helped with good positioning for baby, with breathing, with relaxation and energy.
I also found chiropractic care during both of my pregnancies was fantastic for helping the baby position well and for taking care of my posture.
Hypnobirthing - mental preparation and relaxation. I listened to a hypnobirthing CD daily for about the last month of both my pregnancy's and I also had a hypnotherapy session during each pregnancy.
Spiritual preparation - this can take the form of meditation or journaling, prayers or letter writing. Taking time to connect with that which is greater than all of us, whatever that means to you.
Be brutally honest with yourself about who you want to support you during labour - this is really important because you have to feel completely safe, confident and inspired by the people with you that they believe in you and know what you want and are prepared to help you achieve it.
It's so important that you can be uninhibited with whoever you are with, that goes for feeling uninhibited about nudity and noise. Sound is a very important part of giving birth, particularly in the final stage while pushing. After two hours of pushing during River's birth, it wasn't until the midwife directed me to make deep guturral sounds from low down in my body did he begin to emerge.
I was so blessed to have my sister-in-law at River's birth. Davini gave birth to her four children, including twins, at home in water. I was also blessed to have my dear friend Mette, and my friend Renee who I have been friends since we were thirteen. Mette also had three wonderful natural births experiences with her daughters. I felt so inspired by Davini and Mette, between them they had birthed 7 children, if they could do it so could I! And I felt very supported and comforted by Renee's gentle and nurturing presence.
There is a saying that the baby chooses who will be there. For Sol's birth I was struggling to come up with my birth team, it wasn't as simple as choosing the same team again. The thought even crossed my mind that I would just do it myself! (Which is a typical thought of my independent nature). As it happened, I laboured for an hour on my own at home and then we headed to my friend Luci's to drop off River on the way to the hospital and Sol arrived rapidly in Luci's bathroom with Pete on the phone to 000 and Luci delivering the baby. My aunt was in the house with River, Luci's son Jack and our other dear friend Anthea and her son Tiarnach were there too. In my heart of hearts I wanted Luci and Pete to be at the birth and I wanted my aunt nearby but not actually in with me, so I had the birth team I truly wanted and having Anthea and all the children near was a joyful bonus. Trust and remain open.
Drugs and labour - both my labours were drug free - that is synthetic drug free. I was fascinated to learn when I was pregnant with River, that when you are in labor and you are truly in the zone your body releases its own 'drugs' that support you through the labor and at the other side of it you will be completely naturally high.
Rethinking pain - a friend who has had 3 straight forward natural births told me to think of contractions as 'pressure not pain'. It is the pressure of your baby's head on your cervix that brings on the contractions. I found this helpful.
Overdue? - if you are overdue and your doc is talking induction there are plenty of natural induction methods to try before booking in to be induced. I used acupuncture and with River who was 14 days 'overdue' the old school midwife gave me a dose of caster oil at lunchtime and I was in labour by midnight. With Sol I used acupuncture and homeopathy. Its my understanding that when women are medically induced the contractions come harder and faster than if you go into labor naturally and it makes it harder to handle.
And you may do all this and have a caesarean for whatever reason, I always remained open to the fact that it was a possibility that may end up out of my hands, all the while focusing strongly on natural birth and believing I could do it.
The natural way to better birth and bonding - by Francesca Naish & Jeanette Roberts (these women are naturopaths and mothers and have written a whole series of excellent books, The Natural way to Better Breastfeeding is the only book you need about breastfeeding in my humble opinion!)
Calmbirth workshops - are birth preparation classes that focus on providing skills and knowledge to have an empowering birth. My friend Lael Stone is a calmbirth instructor based in Melbourne. I did not do the calmbirth workshop but I have a number of friends who have and found them to be a very positive experience.
International College of Spiritual Midwifery - my beautiful sister-in-law Davini Malcolm is a Director of this organisation that is dedicated to providing information and programs to empower women in the birth process.
To all the pregnant mamas I wish you many many blessings on birthing your babes. Happy, healthy mamas and babies are the of course the outcome we want for every birth. Each baby and mother unique, as is each birth. X
(the photo is of our sweet baby Sol two hours in the world)