I was always fascinated by the woman’s body; its beauty and ability to create life. I wondered how I would handle childbirth. I knew I wanted a big family. My mind was set on having kids early to make sure I was at my healthiest. For reasons out of my control my plans fell through and probably for the better. So the dream to have children at the age of 23 was just that, a dream. Instead, six years later I matured, maintained good health, completed school, obtained life skills, travelled, met my best friend and married him.
I was curious to see what my body was capable of. I did a lot of self-reflection. How far can I push myself and train myself for this marathon they call childbirth? I figure we’re like athletes training physically and mentally before the big game. I believe this concept is similar for childbirth. For most of us we have nine months to learn and understand what our body can do. As we work our body in shape we condition ourselves for birth.
After getting pregnant I listened intently to every birth story told. It was the successful stories that motivated me to have an even better birth. I asked myself, how can I have a comfortable birth? Is it even possible to have those two words in the same sentence? I was scared and had fears of pregnancy. I needed something to help me build my confidence. My goal was to give birth without pain medication and with little interventions. So I researched to see if that were possible. I challenged my fear and danced with the idea of having a natural and quiet birth. To meet my expectations I chose to have midwives and to attempt to have my baby in the comfort of our home. And so my story begins.
With the three month mark passing we found out we were expecting a baby girl. We were relieved to know baby and I were well. To see her heartbeat was a great feeling and gave us a sense of excitement. I wanted to do my best to bring her safely into this world and as healthy as possible.
I began my plan for a successful birth by volunteering for a study on ‘pregnant mothers and how their nutrition affects pregnancy’. I thought it would be fun to see what it was all about. I was able to easily pick up on my nutritional habits and notice the areas that needed improvement. I was lucky to say that I experienced less nausea and vomiting after I changed my diet. Overall, my nutrition improved and I ate adequate amounts without overeating. The plan was to gain energy by decreasing the serving size at meal time but to include more snacks throughout the day.
I came across a book while waiting for a massage appointment; the title of the book itself caught my attention, “Gentle Birth Method: The Month by Month Programme to Help you: 1.) Carry your baby to full term 2.) Have a shorter, easier labour 3.) Feel happy, confident and in control” by Dr. Gowri Motha & Karen S. MacLeod, 2004. It listed exactly what I wanted in pregnancy, labour and birth.
My masseuse mentioned that frequent massage appointments will not only keep me relaxed but promote lymphatic drainage which is the removal of excess fluid and unwanted toxins from the body. I remembered reading something earlier that talked about lymphatic drainage and reducing tissue congestion. I signed out the book before I left and used it to build my birth plans. I followed the suggestions as much as possible and tailored a few things that didn’t work for me. It was interesting to see the different things I was able to do to help prepare my body.
I wasn’t gaining too much water weight yet. It was inevitable that I would eventually. I wanted to minimize the swelling before it started and therefore promote excellent blood circulation. Aside from raising my feet for a few hours a day, Dr. Motha’s book had instructions on how to apply Home Massage Treatments. ‘This is great,’ I thought, I can get my husband to massage me every night! This became one of our nightly routines. He worked on my feet, neck, back and tummy to improve circulation and reduce excess fluid around the tissues. My favourite technique he applied was the pelvic drainage massage. Its benefits were to decongest the pelvic area and eventually encourage baby’s head to engage.
I felt great! I was taking my vitamins, eating well, exercising and keeping up with my usual evening routine. Part of my exercise regime was prenatal yoga. I found it to be very spiritual, calming and a great way to work on my breathing. I meditated to the gentle music my instructor played during classes and borrowed it for the birth.
As the pregnancy progressed, I further explored one of Dr. Motha’s recommendations of reflexology, a therapeutic foot massage. It is said that the bottom of the foot is a map interconnecting to the rest of the body and its internal organs. Reflexology can do a lot in pregnancy, most importantly cleansing my body. I really found this enjoyable and safe. I also had acupuncture to help with relaxation and to decrease pain. I used both to treat sciatic (lower back) pain. The book and my practitioners told me that reflexology and acupuncture can initiate labour contractions. I kept this in mind in case I went beyond 40 to 42 week gestation.
Feeling relaxed and well at 36 weeks, I went to a party at my cousin’s house. We expected a large number of family and friends from Winnipeg. What I didn’t expect was an intense feeling from my belly, almost a feeling like my baby suddenly turned. I didn’t hesitate to tell my midwives of this odd feeling at the next appointment. They checked to see the position of my baby and couldn’t seem to differentiate baby’s head from bottom. They reassured me baby had time to turn around. It was past 38 weeks and I still felt nothing had changed. They checked me and still were not able to determine whether she had turned on her own. The midwife did a digital sweep and immediately knew it wasn’t a head she felt . It was confirmed through ultrasound early the next morning. “Oh no!” I thought. “Instead of a natural and quiet birth, it’s looking more like a caesarean section.”
I couldn’t help but get a sudden feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t want to surrender myself to this; I knew ultimately I wanted her delivered safely. I took the suggestion of my midwives to see the acupuncturist or chiropractor to assist in turning baby. We also decided to see the obstetrician early next day for a possible External Cephalic Version (ECV). I wanted to try anything to get baby turned.
I tried the least invasive route first and went with the acupuncturist. I found it a good way to calm myself down from the tension. Acupuncture gets the body to move freely and thus get baby moving to a better position for birth. Second, I saw a chiropractor. I was a little hesitant at first because I had never gone to one until then. We scheduled a consultation right after my acupuncture treatment. We talked about my general health and a small complaint related to my right hip. He didn’t exactly focus on the baby. He focused on me and my body. He realigned my pelvis and believed that this may help baby find her way. After the readjustment I felt a slight change in my hips and even the way I walked felt better.
I went home and began to open myself to the idea of a caesarean section delivery. My bag was packed and I was NPO (nothing per mouth) at midnight in case I had to go into surgery. I managed to remain relaxed all evening and slept very well. I woke up Saturday morning feeling nervous, but otherwise well rested.
We arrived at the hospital at noon. My midwife at my bedside was inserting an intravenous catheter for fluid and medication. As we waited for the obstetrician (OB) I distracted myself by listening to my iPod. It keeps me focused and calm.
As I sat with my husband and waited for the doctor to perform the ECV there was a sudden rush of things I remembered from our ‘Birthing from Within’ prenatal classes. I thought this would be a great time to try out pain management techniques we learned from class. As the OB explained how the procedure is done an anaesthesiologist gave me medication to soften my uterus and to slow my heart rate a little. Guided by ultrasound the OB manually turned baby. I focused on my breathing, imagery, and focused on my husband rubbing my feet. By the end of it, I had tears in my eyes. The tears were both from the discomfort but mostly the joy that my baby was finally turned.
It was a very happy and surreal moment. I looked over to my midwife with great relief and noticed that we shared a true connection of trust. We both smiled at each other and she was the first to break the silence. It was music to my ears when she said “it looks like you can have a home birth again!”
I went home with a sense of achievement and confidence. I felt a complete change in my body. Baby girl was happier where she was and most importantly my body never felt better. I continued with yoga, went for walks with my mom, ate well, drank a lot of raspberry tea and I had a lot of relaxing baths.
The following Thursday, five days after the ECV, baby significantly ‘dropped down’ into my pelvis. It was the morning of June 3rd when I lost my mucous plug. I went on with my usual day, my husband went to work and I decided to bake some chocolate chip cookies. I had a feeling she was arriving really soon.
That night I started to have discomfort similar to menstrual cramps. I slept through it and got up at about 4 a.m.. The intensity of the cramps increased after emptying my bladder. It was manageable and so I returned to bed and didn’t wake my husband. We got up just past 8am and I finally told him of the night cramps which progressed to contractions that morning. We decided he would need to stay home. I knew it was a little early to page the midwives; I didn’t want to seem overly excited. But I wanted to page the midwives anyway to see whether they were working late the night before. Finding out they were well rested gave me one less thing to worry about.
It was 10 a.m. and the contractions were getting stronger to the point where I had to stop and work through them. Yoga helped move the labour along. I went on my hands and knees doing the cat/cow pose. I used the birthing ball for support when I no longer tolerated yoga. I didn’t want the contractions to slow. We had a good rhythm going. By 11:30 a.m. my contractions were consistently three minutes apart and lasting 55 seconds to almost two minutes. I felt it was time to update the midwives again. I remained relaxed and in tune with my body. I needed my husband more than ever for support and it was a great partnership.
We got the midwife on the phone shortly after. She was confident that I was doing well and suggested that I hop into the tub and they’d be on their way. My husband drew me one of my regular baths with candles on the counter tops and music playing in the background. It was a familiar place. I used this time to try self-hypnosis to induce deep muscle relaxation through visualization. Closing my eyes I imagine the sun beaming down on my face as I look into the Agean Sea. I’m sitting in a Jacuzzi tub outside our one bedroom villa overlooking the caldera in Santorini, Greece. I can almost smell the saltiness of the sea as I lay quietly. Ah! What a feeling it was to go back in time to revisit our honeymoon. I open my eyes and feel the warm water touch my skin and I’m reminded of the beauty of the woman’s body. I am beautiful.
The warm bath helped speed up the contractions. I laboured in the water twice when we got a call informing us the midwife was on her way. She was happy to hear that I was managing and progressing well. It was about 1:30 p.m. when she arrived. I was checked to see how far along I was. I was about four to five centimetres dilated. My hard work so far had paid off.
While I worked through the contractions the midwife settled herself in. I swayed back and forth and changed my labour position constantly. My husband would apply warm packs to my lower back and give me the occasional back rub. At about 3 p.m. I found myself on the birthing ball when I suddenly had the urge to empty my bladder. When I got to the toilet I remained there and worked through a few contractions. My midwife checked on me again and noticed that my water was almost ready to rupture. On the next contraction she instructed me to push and with a gush, my water broke.
Straight away she checked me and to my surprise my cervix was nine centimetres dilated. It was approximately 3:30 p.m. when I got into the tub to give birth. It was a place of comfort and familiarity with the candles lit, music and husband by my side. I heard him quietly hum in my ear through every push. I felt the pressure of his hands on my lower back. I heard my midwife coaching and telling me what to expect. I relied on this pattern to keep me focused and I was at peace.
Next thing I can remember was the second midwife arriving as the next contraction began. There was not much of a “hello” but a search to find my pattern and breath. Before baby was fully out we checked her heart rate which was strong and normal. Happy to hear this I got a sudden flood of energy. And there she was out of the womb into the water and immediately in my arms. I couldn’t believe how quiet this experience had been. I was so proud to have delivered Mailyn Morgan at 4:45 p.m. and weighing six pounds and 15 ounces.