Labouring naturally: nature’s gift

Welcome to the June 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Embracing Your Birth Experience

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about at least one part of their birth experience that they can hold up and cherish.

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It is the journey, not the destination that matters. Here I describe the most beautiful, spiritual aspect of my labour, the first stages along a bumpy road to giving birth. My firstborn child, a son, was born in June 2010. Ewan’s birth was far from the ‘perfect’, natural birth I had envisaged, prepared for and naively believed I would have. Instead, I gave birth by emergency caesarean under general anaesthetic. Lying unconscious, I missed the first three hours of my son’s life, and then spent the next few days too ill to care for my son, recovering in hospital.

My suffering, the pain, trauma and long period of postnatal recovery were far outweighed by the child standing before me. My son was born a very healthy little boy, who nursed like a dream. Our first meeting was indescribable, as I instantly felt overwhelmingly attached to my son, an outpouring of unconditional love which knew no bounds.

Now, almost two years on, I can reflect on and celebrate this profound experience, cherishing the joy of labouring naturally, even though I could not in the end birth naturally. In this post I share the period before the second stage of labour, holding these hours up with strength, pride and happiness for all to see.


First meeting of mother and son

First meeting of mother and son

Labouring actively

In the early stages of labour I felt calm and prepared, first swimming to help relieve the pain of my contractions, then listening to Buddhist chanting music at home while rhythmically swaying on the birthing ball. Reluctantly I travelled with my husband to hospital, where I laboured naturally in an active birthing suite for twelve or so hours. In those first hours in hospital I was allowed the freedom to roam the room, trusting my body to move where it pleased, in and out of yoga poses I’d practised for months. Those were pleasant, quiet hours, chatting softly to the midwife and my husband.

As my waters broke with traces of meconium, those hours of bodily freedom were suddenly curtailed. Instructed to move to the bed, I was strapped up to a foetal heart-rate monitor, the reason, in-case my baby was in distress. Dutifully I submitted to this practice, distressed and frustrated but adamant I would continue to labour as naturally and actively as possible.

In labour

Body consciousness

Kneeling on the bed, leaning on the birthing ball, I closed my eyes. They did not open for five or so hours. In this new found darkness I was able to shut-off the constant, unwelcome chatter that was my intellect. Like chattering monkeys my intellect doubted, questioned, panicked  and shouted. It told me this was the end, I was a failure, I could not birth my baby naturally in this restrictive position. For some time I wrestled with these thoughts, as the pain of my contractions worsened.

Nature then gave me a precious gift, the ability to close off this conscious mind, allowing me the space and time to retreat inwards into that other, more instinctive, body consciousness. In this new, welcome space I entered a new level, lifted out of the humdrum of everyday life for a few precious hours. This time became the longest, most profound of my life so far. They stand apart as my only true experienced period of meditation.

Riding the waves

Turning inwards allowed me to forget the outside world, the invasive, clinical, artificial room, bright lights and unfamiliar faces. This was my body talking, doing its work. I submitted and trusted it to work with my baby and the pain, to ride the contractions like waves, to accept and go with the pain as small steps towards the ultimate goal of giving birth. I felt each contraction building like a wave, reaching its peak, then crashing before dispersing into still waters. My voice and my body worked in unison together riding these waves, as from deep within me primitive sounds came unbidden, chanting as my body rocked from side to side. This music varied in pitch and tone alongside the contractions, offering relief and peace and an almost magical way to stay on top of the pain.

My protector

In this virtual cave my husband, Rich, stood by the entrance, guarding me from any wild predators that may at any moment may wrench me back into the everyday world, causing me to shut down my labour into defensive flight or fight mode. These wild predators were the medical staff who could unintentionally disrupt the flow and with it hours of focussed natural labouring. By massaging my lower back, the centre of my labour pains, Rich provided both physical relief and huge emotional support, his touch a reminder I was not alone.

His hands were the link to the outside world, to be alerted and called upon to act if and when necessary.

Like a tribal woman labouring in a familiar space, alone but with her midwife and family close by, or any other mammal finding a quiet, safe place in which to give birth, I laboured in my own space, the only one possible in this context, my inner world. Really living in the moment, questioning nothing, simply accepting the more frequent contractions and increasing pain, I worked on, communicating with my baby to move down the birth canal and out into the world to join me. We worked calmly together in this space, truly at one and in peace. The heart-rate monitor reflected this equilibrium; not until the cascade of interventions took place later on did either of our heart-rates alter or become a cause for concern. We felt no fear, we trusted our bodies, we knew this was right, we simply were.

Breaking the spell

What came next in this birthing journey is still massively painful to write about. Suffering birth trauma and huge feelings of failure for not achieving a natural birth live with me still. The new midwife on shift rudely interrupted me by saying;

‘You’re being very musical aren’t you?’

She violently broke this spell, somersaulting me back into the hospital room, with it a return of fear. The need for drugs hovered at the edges of my intellectual consciousness, falsely believing, as society has taught me to do, that they would ‘help help help’ this horrendous pain I cannot deal with anymore alone. As my husband wept I asked for drug after drug, all of which my body rejected, all of which failed to have any positive effect on me whatsoever, as did forceps which failed to wrench my baby out. Only general anaesthetic, and with it being unconscious, out of time and space, inert on a hospital bed, would my baby then join this world, motherless for the first three hours of his life as he nuzzled his father’s skin, searching for nourishment.

Nature’s gift

This medicalised, interventionist birth was a traumatic end to a part peaceful labour. However, dwelling on the negative overshadows the joy which hours of natural labour gave me. This time was nature’s gift; she afforded me hours of natural labour which I reflect upon with pride. She taught me one of life’s greatest lessons, that as women we must trust our bodies; unearth our instincts, simply go with the flow. This period has deeply affected me, the catalyst for a way of parenting and living which I never would have envisaged, a continuum, attachment style of parenting, connecting me more acutely with myself, my son and the earth we share.

From these beautiful beginnings, hampered by a violent but ultimately necessary second stage, I learnt to trust my mothering instincts, to keep my baby with me, to breastfeed, to sleep, to grow out into the world. He is still, twenty-four months later, a child who receives nourishment from my breast, comfort from my skin each night, security from my presence through each of his days and a dawning consciousness about his place in the natural world, one where I am teaching him to tread lightly and in peace.

Ewan and Mummy March 2012

Ewan and Mummy March 2012

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon June 12 with all the carnival links.)

10 thoughts on “Labouring naturally: nature’s gift”

  1. You have *got* to focus on and celebrate those hours you spent laboring – what an awe-inspiring description of how we can work with our bodies to overcome the fear that the pains of childbirth can incite in us.

  2. Oh my goodness, your story brought gave me chills. Such a wonderful description of labor. You handled it beautifully! You are not a failure!

  3. I identified with you in that I wanted to be left alone, with my eyes closed, swaying, breathing deeply and exhaling in low tones. Nobody touching me! Anything other than that was pure torture. I’m so sorry for what eventually happened, but so inspired by how you handled it! By what you wrote, it has changed you for the better. I think that if we let it, birth does that to all of us.

  4. Aw, you did beautifully. Even though I hadn’t planned it, I was glad to have our second birth unattended in that it allowed me to labor completely unrestricted — moving the baby down and out on our own timeline, without interruptions. I felt like in my first birth there was so much derailment and doubt injected. I’m sorry you had that experience as well and am glad you’ve found healing in remembering how strong and patient you were when allowed to birth unhindered.

  5. Your story really moved me, I write this though a watery film, as I feel I can relate to so much of your experience. Mostly that after labouring (also 2.5 years ago!) for many hours beautifully and naturally at home, I was also led to mistrust the process and my own ability, relenting to the will of others which finally resulted in… hospital, drugs, mechanical intervention and finally surgery and separation from my newborn. It was nearly a year before I stopped reliving that nightmare everyday and was finally able to draw out the positives and feel empowered by the knowledge that while I laboured uninterrupted I was more than capable, rather than focusing on feelings of defeat and failure.
    I would wish a peaceful beginning for every mother and child if it were possible, but for those like us I am at least glad that we have the opportunity to grow and become ever stronger and wiser through such experiences.
    Love and Blessings on you, your son and your lovely Husband- he sound like a gem :)

  6. Thank you for all your comments and support. It is wonderful to share my birth story and have such a supportive response.
    Gentle Mama Moon; yes, I have a wonderful husband who really is the gatekeeper at my illusory cave, he defends and protects me everyday in my parenting choices, many of which are outside of the norm. Thanks for sharing your experiences on my blog, they sound similar, especially the ongoing nightmares.

  7. I had totally missed the fact that I chose a similar theme this week for my blog to the one you also have.
    Whatever our birthing experiences, a healthy child is such a blessing, and as mothers it is down to us to process our experiences and use them to make ourselves stronger. I hope you are finding this blog as theraputic as it seems from your writing.
    I’ve plugged you and the Carnival on Ctrl.Alt.Parent
    xx
    (PS happy birthday to Rich for yesterday!)

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