10 Nov Preparation and Acceptance for the Birth of a Mama: Andrea’s Birth Experience
My son’s birth story started on the day I met my husband. Previously, I had no desire to be a mother. I never heard the ticking of a biological clock. I also had a great fear of making the same mistakes my parents did. In my 20s I wasn’t even sure marriage was part of my path. But after many years of working on myself and having chosen the right relationship, I came to the safe space of welcoming motherhood. Our child’s conception happened very easily and the pregnancy was a breeze: I spent 39 years taking excellent care of my body, and my body loved me back. My biggest challenge was healing the fears I had about childbirth. These were fears I either created or absorbed from other people; they involved bad concepts or experiences that I carried with me – some literally stored in my body, creating a story that wasn’t authentic. Shamanic healing sessions and ceremonies, acupuncture, and meditation helped me create the blank canvas on which I was to paint my own experience. I was then able to hear this juicy voice inside me, a voice of peace and wisdom, resonating with clear concepts about birth and childcare that I had no idea I had. And although I previously had so much fear about delivery, now I wanted with all my heart to have a natural, unmedicated birth with midwives!
The next big step was to mature my husband’s participation at the birth and accept that although I wished for the support of my grandmas and sisters, the reality was different. I also needed to accept my husband’s participation in this passage, since his heart was open to share as much of the experience as he possibly could. Together we wrote a beautiful Birth Plan asking, for example, that the baby hear our voices first.
When the birthing center required an ultrasound at 41 weeks and possibly an induction (in case they decided something was wrong), I was concerned. The tricky part of having a natural birth in a hospital is that we are still bound by hospital rules. Even though I knew my son was healthy and 42 weeks was normal, my age and small belly size were outside of “normal averages”, and the hospital could decide that something was unsafe for the baby. I opted for acupuncture treatment to help labor, if it was the time for that. That morning, at 1 AM my water broke while I was sleeping, and almost immediately the contractions started coming 3 minutes apart. They were mild but they didn’t let me go back to sleep, so I tried to distract myself for a few hours. Around 3:30 AM I woke my husband up to give me support, as the pain had intensified.
One of those “will be funny later” parts was that my doula passed out on her couch without her phone, and wasn’t available until 6 AM. But when she came she was ready and with her skilled hands she grabbed the sides of my hips, pulling them back and creating space in the front, which substantially eased the pain. I acknowledged it with a loud “ah… this feels good!”! By 7 AM we left for the hospital and at that point the contractions were strong but I still could occasionally smile and make a few jokes. I had no idea that the birth was so near. I arrived at the hospital’s birthing center 5 centimeter dilated with the baby’s head at a low position, leading the midwife to suspect that I would deliver in just 3 hours.
It was such a victory to be admitted by the Birthing Center. Due to the limited equipment, the hospital imposes several restrictions on deliveries: length of pregnancy, mother’s age, meconium in the water, etc. It’s a shame I was too distracted by the pain to fully appreciate the extra large room with the queen-size bed and the Jacuzzi (although I did use the Jacuzzi during labor and really enjoyed it). With the help of my doula and midwife, along with the nurse occasionally verifying a heartbeat, I spent the next 3 hours working on a full dilation. The tricky part was that I hadn’t had any sleep and my body was so tired that I started dozing off in between contractions. After hours of trying different positions and breathing techniques, the midwife decided that I had to save my energy for the delivery, and a reclining position would be the best for me. That really disappointed me. After all the preparation I had done, all the reading and research, I trusted that gravity would help and that squatting would have great benefits for opening the hips. Reclining on my back was not my wish, but it reminded me that birth is about preparation but also acceptance. Later I understood that it was the first strike: I felt that something I truly believed wasn’t available to me.
But my exhaustion grew to the point that I was sleeping deeply and snoring in between contractions. My energy level was extremely low, despite all the juice I had been given. As my body slowed down the contractions, the effort of pushing my son out into the world became greater. With every contraction the doula and midwife encouraged to me to push harder, but I had no urge to push. And that was the second strike: I had practiced J breathing and I believed that pushing was unnecessary. I intuitively knew that it would be possible to allow the body’s expelling movements to work by themselves. But that also wasn’t available to me, and for the next 2 hours I made a valiant effort to hold my legs open in the air, lift my head, hold my breath, and bore down. Again, that was not the experience I had wished for, and I felt more drained every time the midwife would massage my perineum in a painful and uncomfortable maneuver. I appreciated the benefit it could bring, but that pain was the second worse sensation of the whole birth, and regardless I still had first degree tearing.
The third strike came when my heart realized that I was not physically surrounded by the circle of loving women to which I belong, the sisterhood of wise women who support me. I instead had a nurse with whom I wasn’t comfortable, an unfamiliar midwife who had replaced mine at the last minute, my wonderful doula, and my sweet and fantastic husband who I forbade to look anywhere else but at my face. I felt medically supported but emotionally unfulfilled. I was too tired to remember that my spiritual family would always be by my side.
The fourth and last strike happened when I stopped believing I could do it. I had read about this phenomenon in multiple birth experiences and I knew it could happen to me. Suddenly all the words of encouragement sounded untrue, and I felt I was incapable of the task. I never said one word, but my doula read in my eyes the sign that I was about to give up. Pain, exhaustion, shame, abandonment, and disappointment all crushed me. I was vulnerable and raw. That was the moment I received Divine help, the something else I was waiting for to help me and my son. It was still my body, but now with Divine Love showering me with the strength to bring my baby into this word! After 12 hours of labor my healthy, 6 lb 13 oz son was born. It was the miracle of the birth beyond the physical delivery. My beautiful Starseed was placed immediately on my chest and soon sucking on my breasts.
My adventure hadn’t finished because the closing was traumatic. On the Birth Plan I had requested the umbilical cord to be kept uncut until the placenta had been delivered. We waited more than 30 minutes for my body to expel it while I received stitches, but finally they performed a procedure called controlled cord traction (CCT), which involves pulling on the umbilical cord to help deliver the placenta. With the placenta came a gush of about one liter of blood. The scary hemorrhage continued for several minutes, and the midwife and nurse frantically massaged my belly and administered an injection of pitocin. I felt fear travel down my spine as the nurse transferred our son to my husband’s arms, leaving me feeling empty and alone. Although things got under control quickly, the idea that something could happen to me and I wouldn’t be there to protect and nurture him almost devastated me. That was my first motherhood experience, my first instinct that his well-being was more important than mine!
My heart had opened wide and welcomed that old soul in a new body to his permanent residence. And soon the bad memories would vanish, leaving me with the sweet taste of unconditional love.