I have given birth 5 times now, the first without understanding how a woman can be empowered in her birthing experience and not really understanding the term intervention. Intervention: to ‘speed things up,’ ‘get things moving,’ ‘stop the pain.’ Intervention: to make my birthing experience fit everyone’s needs – everyone that is except for my body and my baby. I ended up delivering a beautiful baby girl, 6 pound 11 ounces, but the experience left me with a negative view of birthing. I was induced because I was marginally “overdue” and the baby was “ready”. I had my waters broken, gel inserted, gas administered, pethadine offered, episiotomy performed and was to be prepared for a C-section. I was scared, I was frightened, I was in pain and I wanted the experience to be over. Fortunately, I was spared a C section when my baby made her entrance soon after it was suggested.
Nine months later I fell pregnant with my second baby. I began the pregnancy anxious about the upcoming birth and quickly decided to find out more about the “joys of pregnancy and labour.” I wanted to understand more than the information found in antenatal classes and other negative experiences I was privy to. This led me on the start of an amazing journey with a hypnotherapist who taught me about my body and techniques I could use to empower my birthing experience. I admit I was dubious as to whether these techniques would work in the real event but quickly my fear was alleviated and I was ready to give it a go. When my labour began, ten days past my due date, I was pleasantly surprised that my breathing, visualisation and relaxation techniques were working. In fact, I was honestly looking forward to each surge of my body to see if it were really that “easy.” I could picture what was happening inside me and was able to let my body do what it needed to. Baby girl, 7 pound 9 ounces, was born 45 minutes after arriving at the hospital. There was no fear, no pain and no unnecessary medical intervention. I was a part of the birthing process and had never felt so empowered in my life. It was truly a gift, a miracle, an achievement.
Baby number 3, a little boy weighing 8 pound 6 ounces, was a very similar experience. My first stage of labour was outside in the fresh air and sunshine, and once admitted to hospital I used my breathing, visualisation and relaxation techniques once more. I began to use my voice more, calmly but assuredly, to advocate for my own birthing experience. I was empowered and without fear.
Baby girl number 4 was 12 days over my due date. Things were not going so closely to plan. All natural methods of starting labour were attempted without success. Consequently, this led to a necessary medical induction. I began to feel the fear of birthing return as this meant intervention: being constantly attached to monitors, waters broken, syntocin administered and losing control of my own labour. With my husband’s encouragement, I quickly changed this negative view and took back what control I could. This time I was armed with knowledge, experience and strategy and I intended to use all three. I would compromise with the medical profession but I was not about to take the “back seat” in my birthing experience. I wouldn’t allow unnecessary intervention; constant communication ensured a rational approach to monitoring my progress was followed. The birth of my beautiful 9 pound 11 ounce baby girl surprised us all as she entered the world so peacefully and gently.
I am not an expert in birthing and do not pretend to be. I am open to suggestion and have a profound understanding that not all labours are smooth and uncomplicated. I know that intervention can be a necessary life saving measure which should be undertaken, no questions asked, when the life of the mother or child are at risk. But what I have also learned is that knowing and understanding your body, and trusting in its ability to bear and deliver children,alleviates fear and can result in an uplifting and empowering experience of new life. You can enjoy giving birth and be a part of it, not just follow what is asked of you, but work in conjunction with a medical model. One consideration however is that when you are relaxed in your birthing journey, be mindful that you may not realise how far advanced your labour actually is; as was the case with my baby girl, number 5, who entered this world before I could leave for the hospital! The miracle of an empowering birth.
Guest post kindly contributed by Christine Wellfare