So much for regular diary entries! Suddenly I find myself with a 10 week old baby and I have not had a chance to get back to my blogging. Holidays and settling into a new rhythm with two children have not helped but isn’t that just a real reflection of the parenting journey! I now aim to blog regularly as I continue this truly rich experience of being a parent.
Following my last blog entry and a couple more nights of false labour Tyler Jack Alastair Magnus was born on 2nd November at 4:15pm at Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town. Unlike my previous experience it was truly joyful and easy in comparison! From around 6am, after I realised this was the real deal this time, I continued to relax at home with my family eating ‘eggy bread’ and spiralling through fairly regular but not particularly painful surges. It was incredible how much less afraid I was and the huge difference was that I was largely free of expectations or ‘what ifs’ (although I was pretty sure it could be a fairly long process as even half of the last birth time would have been around 24 hours!). I was very surprised when the surges began to occur closer together and realised it was time to get to the hospital to set up the pool.
I was conscious of the fear that I felt about being in a hospital environment when I would have loved to stay at home for another home birth (not recommended following my last birth experience) and was also aware of how that fear slowed my surges right down again. I was not worried and understood why this had happened and once everything was set up and I was back into spiralling, listening to calming music and generally being very centred and present in my body everything began happening very quickly. The intensity and speed of the dilation process (3cm to 9cm in an hour!) was not easy but I had an incredible doula with me who continued to remind me to release and let go. I was able to breathe through each surge without tensing my body or clenching my jaw as I continued to focus on staying relaxed, loose and present. I was very surprised when I realised that I was ready to give birth and the midwife was even more surprised to find I was fully dilated! I hopped (or rather clambered awkwardly but with great relief) into the pool and my husband, who had settled in for a long haul and was wondering the hospital looking for lunch, made it back just in time to hear the midwife say – “right, you are ready to start pushing”!
Water is incredibly settling for birthing and, immersed in water and having water poured over my back, I continued to gently breathe my baby out at the pace he was ready to enter the world. I was surprised at my ability to not give into the urge to push but instead to honour my baby and body and doing so allowed for a huge sense of empowerment and a gentle and magical birth experience for myself and my baby. The only fear I experienced was when it was time to birth the placenta (given my previous experience). Fortunately, it was quick and easy and I dissolved into tears of relief and joy when the placenta was successfully delivered.
Looking back I have no doubt that the awareness of how my previous experience could impact on the next one and the work I did around releasing that enabled me to be present and experience the true joy I did giving birth to my son. Fear immediately causes one to become stuck, tense and all the things that make for a difficult birth. I was also aware that the fear could still happen and when it did I simply acknowledged it but did not get caught up in it and immediately it would pass. Breathing really helped to keep me relaxed and present and to release negativity. The prenatal yoga classes were also definitely beneficial in helping me remain mindful and also physically strong and able to birth naturally. I felt truly blessed to have the experience I had the second time as it was very healing following the first rather traumatic birth experience. Also, I felt truly empowered to have been able to apply awareness in the way I did in order to have the fully conscious birth experience I had.
Women are incredible. Our bodies create, nurture and give birth to life. Our bodies are designed to do this. Yet, over time as we have begun to live more sedentary lifestyles and experience more stress, thus eating poorly, not exercising enough and experiencing the fight/flight response regularly, births have not been as easy. Fear is created when we listen to the negative birth stories of others and to the scary forecasts of health professionals who find it more convenient to apply medical interventions (Please note there is certainly a time and place for medical interventions but I do believe many gynaes and obstetricians tend to too easily suggest medical intervention when it is not necessary and sometimes for their own convenience). That fear as well a lack of confidence in and knowledge about the amazing power of the female body, and awareness of alternative breathing and birthing techniques create the perfect recipe for a difficult and frightening birth experience for many. This is so unfortunate when birth is so exhilarating, joyful and beautiful. Saying that, it is also possible that a birth experience does not go as planned but staying present, free of fear and using the breathing and other mindfulness techniques can enable a mother to still experience the joy and empowerment of the birth experience regardless of how it it does turn out. No matter what happens and how the birth plays out don’t forget to honour your magnificence in creating and giving birth to life! You are incredible!