You know those stories of women who say, “I didn’t even know I was in labor!” They have to either be delusional or totally out of touch, right? Wrong! You can do it, too, and here’s how.
My first born was quite the experience. 18 hours of natural back labor (he finally turned from the sunny side up position after 14 hours of labor). I did it at the hospital with a midwife. I got to labor in the bathtub. But I also got family members I didn’t want there wandering in and out of my room. I got to have my son taken from me only minutes after birth to be “warmed” (because skin to skin contact with Mommy clearly isn’t the best way to stay warm...sigh). My family descended into the room as I was lying there naked, covered with blood and being stitched up, with no regard for how I was feeling. They passed my son around while I was laying there going, “Wait! I want to hold him!” The best part was a day later when they “pumped” my son’s stomach of amniotic fluid and told me about it afterwards. (Side note--babies swallow amniotic fluid in order to maintain blood sugar until Mom’s milk comes in. When nurses “pump” their stomach so they can eat better, you end up with a baby who loses too much weight.) So now it’s 1 am and they are trying to tell me I HAVE to give him a bottle or they won’t let me go home because of failure to thrive. I argued and argued, and they finally agreed to wake me every 2 hours to feed him. The next day a lactation consultant came in to weigh him before and after feeding. She said, “This baby is fine.” I said, “I told them that!!”
So with baby #2 we went home birth all the way. It was a good thing, too, because labor went so fast that I never would’ve been talked into getting into a car to go somewhere. My water broke, and 30 seconds later I was in full, active labor (and stuck on the toilet for the next 45 minutes!) My contractions were so close together that there was no let up in between. So for two straight hours I had a constant contraction. Midwife made it there by 3 minutes, and thank goodness she was there because his shoulders got stuck. She very calmly told me to stand up and did her little manuever (called the Wood Screw manuever after Dr. Wood) and out he came! Exactly 2 hours from beginning to end. I thought that was pretty darn remarkable. However, the memory of that intense pain stayed with me.
So for baby number three I was bound and determined to be one of those women who had an amazing birth story to tell. Near the end of the pregnancy my fear started getting the better of me. I remembered just how painful the last one was and I was scared! I’ll tell you in a minute how I worked through those fears and accomplished my goal!
But first, here’s what happened. The day before she was born I felt weird. I can’t really describe it better than that. She was sitting down low and I was losing a lot of cervical fluid. I felt almost altered. That afternoon I did a Shamanic journey (more on that later) with my mentor with the goal of clearing any energy that would prohibit a smooth birth. During that journey I meditated on “energetically” opening my cervix. I woke up the next morning to find I had lost my mucous plug. I was 38 weeks, 2 days. At noon we had a midwife appointment. She asked to check me to see how dilated I was because the last baby had come so fast. I was between 3 and 4 cm dilated and 90% effaced. She told me to call her immediately when labor started. Right then I had a contraction. Didn’t hurt at all. We figured I just had to pee. I had a few more gentle contractions--what I thought were Braxton hicks--and we started the 45 minute drive home (it was Memorial Day weekend and there was traffic). My husband was on a conference call, and he warned his colleagues that he might have to go soon because I might go into active labor at any moment. So we’re driving and I’m still having contractions that don’t hurt at all. I call the midwife to tell her it’s still happening, but it doesn’t feel like labor. She said to keep her posted. 10 minutes later I look down at my belly during another gentle contraction and it is totally flat!! Like full on, could’ve eaten breakfast off of the shelf of my belly! I whispered to my husband, “Look! That’s a real contraction!!” Still didn’t hurt--not even a little bit. So I start timing them--2 minutes apart. Then the “I HAVE to go to the bathroom” feeling kicked in!! We call the midwife back and tell her I have all the symptoms of labor EXCEPT it doesn’t hurt at all. At this point everything pointed to this was labor, but I still didn’t believe it. So we start to get the tub filled with water and I’m pacing and giggling out of excitement. Midwife arrives at our house at 2:05. At this point, everytime I have a contraction I start crying. Still didn’t hurt, I was just feeling emotional. Then the contractions got a little tighter, and I would say “Ouch!” because it would pinch slightly. At 2:14 my water broke (conveniently while I was standing on the plastic covering the pool was on.) I went from doesn’t hurt at all and not even totally convinced I’m in labor to OH MAN just like that (snaps fingers). I was sitting on the toilet bouncing up in down in excitement-- “She’s coming!!” After 6 contractions I told my husband, “I don’t want to do this anymore!!!!!!!” My midwife said, “I don’t think you’re going to have to.” I stood in the pool and suddenly the midwife is saying, “Her head is out.” WHAT???? I hadn’t even pushed. I consciously started pushing then and out she came---albeit with the chord around her neck 3 times. She was fine, I was fine, my 5 year old and husband were crying tears of joy and my 8 year old filmed the whole thing. It was amazing. An hour and 45 minutes from those first gentle contractions to birth.
So through these experiences, here’s what I learned.
Baby’s who are sunny side up or breech get stuck on the mother’s contracted psoas muscle. A chiropractor or massage therapist can release that muscle so baby can position themselves correctly. This makes a HUGE difference in speed and comfort of labor. I saw my chiropractor once a week starting at 36 weeks with my last two births.
We have been trained to believe that labor hurts. Woman after woman has terrible birth pain stories. Society is in awe of women who have babies with no intervention. That belief system that is so ingrained in our society creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. We expect pain and the fear that comes along with that expectation is exactly what causes the pain. You see, a fear reaction causes adrenaline to be released. Our body goes into fight or flight mode and all the blood rushes to our limbs. The uterus is one gigantic muscle--it needs blood to work correctly. When blood flow is diverted to the limbs then the uterus doesn’t get everything it needs and OF COURSE it hurts. It’s no different than any other muscle cramp in the body. The key is to trust your body to do what it is designed to do. Relax into the contractions and trust yourself and your body to work correctly. Blood flow stays constant and contractions turn into pressure rather than pain.
Birth is a whole body experience. Simply put, the more in shape your whole body is, the easier it is to birth your child. Exercise and gentle stretching throughout pregnancy (my favorite was pre-natal yoga) is key to being in shape enough to have an easy birth. And I’m not talking lifting weights. For me, I simply walked a lot, and did gentle hikes.
You must be in a comfortable place to have birth. You need to trust your environment and the people in it fully to be able to relax your guard and allow your body to do it’s job. I hate hospitals. It’s not surprising at all that my first labor was so much longer, as my environment and the people in it were stressing me out and creating that flight or fight response. Conversely, being at home where I was comfortable and felt safe, and choosing a midwife who I trusted to keep me that way, clearly made a gigantic difference in my ability to allow.
You must deal with your fears BEFORE labor begins. As I mentioned earlier, by the end of my 3rd pregnancy I was TERRIFIED to go into labor. Every time I thought about it I practically hyper-ventilated. I remembered that pain and I didn’t want to go there again. I processed those fears through meditation. I couldn’t hold my own space, so going to a class was very helpful for me. I kept at it until I released those fears and trusted myself to create the birth I wanted.
Focus on what you want!! I can’t stress this enough. Your mind creates your reality. When you think about your birth, think about what you want to happen. I found making a vision board really helped me. I drew pictures and wrote down mantras that worked for me. They included: “Love put the baby in. Love gets the baby out.” “Be the Observer” “Flow” “Trust yourself” “Ride the wave” and my favorite “I AM A BIRTHING GODDESS!”
Cleanse your energetic field. I know this is out there for some people. When you break everything down to it’s lowest denominator, you find that everything is energy. When energy flow is blocked, pain or illness is the result. I finished my Shamanic training while I was pregnant with my third, in large part because I saw the huge benefits of Shamanic journey work in my life. (A Shamanic Journey is the most intense type of energy work you’ll ever experience!!) During my first labor, my mentor was there to help me stay grounded throughout the labor. Before my second birth, we did a Shamanic journey because in meditation the baby told me he was “stuck”. Turns out his shoulders got stuck at birth. I truly believe without that energy work it could’ve been life threatening, but we ended up having no problems at all. Before my third birth I had been training to release my fears (part of my Shamanic training) and we did the journeywork the day before she was born. It was an entirely different experience then the first two. Bottom line: By clearing any stuck energy from your space, you create smooth flow and easier birth.
Research, Research, Research! Read books. Two great ones are Birthing from Within by Pam England and Spiritual Miwdwifery by Ina May Gaskin. Just make sure they are books that empower you. Ask people who have had great birthing experiences about what they know. Be open to everything and then decide what works best for you.
Choose a midwife over an OB/Gyn if you can. In my opinion, western medicine tends to employ birthing parameters that benefit the physician over the birthing woman. In fact, not allowing a woman to eat is the biggest reason behind stalled labor. Induction makes it 50% more likely that the birth will end up in c-section. Epidurals also increase the likelihood of c-section. The majority of midwives are more Mom and baby centered and allow rather than trying to push birth. They are also more likely to understand how the body works in labor.
Take a supportive birthing class like the Bradley Method or Hypnobirthing. This will set a time for you to actually focus on creating the experience you want.
Now I need to get back to taking care of those 3 babies I just mentioned. Hope you all find this helpful!! And as always, enjoy your Higher Living Journey!