The pregnancy and birth of my second son was an experience full of learning and self discovery.
It was difficult, not only physically, but also emotionally as I was forced to face my self and my own fears. And yet, in reflecting upon the process, I can see that I have grown and found an inner strength and belief in myself that wasn’t there before.
I am a thinker. By day I am a counsellor, this is who I am not what I do. I have a heart of compassion alongside a very sharp mind that is fascinated by the human spirit. I believe in people, their strength, their resiliency, their capacity to go on when so much seems to be against them. I also believe in sitting still with people when they don’t feel like they can go any further. I believe in listening to stories without any hidden agenda, without any idea of what might be best for them. Sometimes all someone needs is some company while they are in a very dark place.
The reason I give this background is because in my own birth journey these parts of my self led me on a very treacherous journey. And yet, as I believe in my own practice, I knew where I needed to go and how to get there.
I had very definite ideas about birth throughout both my pregnancies. I wanted to give birth the way that God had created and intended. Without medical intervention, knowing and trusting my own body to follow the process of bringing my baby into the world. My first birth did not go this way. It was long, difficult and resulted in a cascade of medical intervention that began with breaking my waters after 26 hours of difficult labour. This led to an epidural, syntosin and finally an episotomy, vacumn extraction and significant tearing to finish it off. I came away with a beautiful baby boy, a sigh of relief that I had avoided a Caesarean but also some significant trauma from the some of the intervention that was given. Now I am fully aware that at times medical staff need to do what they believe is right for the health of all individuals concerned however, this doesn’t negate the fact that a person’s choices may be trampled in the process. This does have a lasting effect and in my case, it reared its head 36 weeks into my second pregnancy.
At that time I was on the committee for the planning of the first birth centre in my home town. It was an honor to be asked and a pleasure to give back to the midwives who had worked so hard and passionately to support me through my first pregnancy and birth. I felt a very strong bond to these women and believed passionately in the woman-focused change they were trying to bring about within the medical system.
It was at a meeting in the manager of the current birthing suites office where I, heavily pregnant, went into the birthing suites to talk about something as inconsequential as curtains. Moving from talking about what colour furnishings in the birthing centre would help a woman to feel comfortable and in a homely environment to standing in a stark, dark room filled with medical equipment gave me a shock that I was not prepared for. I silently went into panic mode, feeling deep within my soul that I could not have my baby in this place. It was this belief that carried me through the next few weeks of working against others who didn’t want to upset the status quo, to find a place to birth where I felt at home, at peace – able to draw upon my own inner resources to do an amazing thing – to have a baby.
At this point I recall two very significant people – my husband, who rode the wave with me. Who tried to keep up when I was changing my birth plan at the last minute, who sat patiently with me while I cried, who gave me space when I couldn’t bear to show him the face of my all encompassing fear of giving birth again. He was and is amazing. And also my midwife. She knew me from the moment I first called to tell her I was pregnant with my first son and she never let me down. She saw through the many complex layers that I put in place to test others and she pushed me again and again to be honest, to trust myself and my body to give birth the way we are designed. This is no small feat and not many people are trusted to come into the inner parts of my heart, but she did and was trustworthy.
I am most comfortable in my own space. My husband and I renovated our home when we were first married and I poured my heart and soul into the place. When I am there I don’t have to be anyone else, I leave my hats at the door and put my feet up. I relax. Why wouldn’t I want to give birth in a place where I am most at peace? Where I have the best chance of physically being ready for birth with no questions of what stage is the labour at? When do we have to leave for the hospital? To know within my heart that the baby will be born at home, into loving and competent arms that will do their best to do their job of bringing babies into the world safely while honouring the mother’s needs and wishes.vIf this all sounds rosy at this point, it was not. Unfortunately my pregnancies seem to last 42 and a bit weeks, which means that everyone in the western culture is saying “You should have that baby now. And if your body can’t make that happen, then we will make that happen”. Let me say that the temptation was there. The temptation to be in control, to say I want this pregnancy to be over and I want to meet my baby now. But, again, that deep resolve within me was stronger than all of those voices and I held onto trust and the belief that my baby and my body knew when we were ready.
It was at 5am on a Tuesday morning that my labor pains began. I was excited and nervous but got down to business with a peace in my heart. I was at home and I had three very experienced midwives on call to help when the time came. I used my voice through the contractions along with the shower and my husband for support. My 2 year old son went to his Grandma’s when the noise got to be a bit too much for him to understand. The midwives came to check on things about 9am and got a bit of a surprise at how quickly things were progressing. They got down to business filling up the birthing pool while I tried out the grossly inadequate and uncomfortable 3/4 size bath. As soon as I could I moved into the birthing pool and continued with my laboring. I was inside myself at this point, listening to my body, going with its own rhythm to bring my baby into the world. My water was yet to break and using their years of experience and intuition, the midwives encouraged me to stand up and move to the toilet. After a painful shuffle there, I sat down and went through a series of contractions. I then experienced the most amazing sensation of waters bulging and then they burst with such a force. Through the haze I remember being relieved that part of the birth was so well contained.
Back to the birthing pool and the final stages of my labor. The remnants of my first birth came to the fore here with the need for the previously damaged parts of my body to stretch pretty significantly. The urge to push is very overwhelming and yet I had to hold back and allow my damaged perineum to stretch in its own time. This was the point where I met myself, where I saw what I truly believed in and was capable of. I gathered every ounce of strength that I had, listened to voice of a woman that I trusted implicitly and went forward. Staring at the floor that I had sanded with my own hands and a digital clock saying 12:14, I felt my baby slide out of me and an emptiness in his place. Exhausted and spent I could do nothing, hardly even able to hold my child as the shock of birth set in. My older son arrived to meet his new brother and this caused a surge of emotion. To see the look of wonder on his face that ‘little bro’ had come out and here he was screaming his lungs out. It was a sacred moment.
Here is the wonder of home birth. There was no agenda and following the birth I recovered on my couch, feeding my son while the house went about its business quietly. We marveled at the wonder of our new son, spoke to family on the phone and cut the cord in our own time. It was restful and exactly where I wanted to be.
My son is 9 months old today and I trust in myself in a way that I never did before his birth. I believe in myself, deep down in that secret place, and what I am capable of in my life. And I know that it is a result of this journey of birth that I went on, where I dared to trust in myself and my body to accomplish a truly amazing event – the birth of a child.