Tag Archives: contractions

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.

Continue reading Labouring naturally: nature’s gift

Mothering Through Breastfeeding: Part One, birth to ten months

This article was first published in La Leche League GB  ‘Breastfeeding Matters’ magazine, number 185, September/October 2011.

When I was pregnant I was asked whether I would breast or bottle-feeding. This puzzled me because there was never a question, to me breastfeeding is simply how you feed your baby. Luckily, I come from a family who support breastfeeding, including my Nanna who fed twins at a time it was ‘normal’ to bottle-feed, my Aunty who fed her children until they naturally weaned, and my mother who breastfed me and my brothers. I therefore felt supported in embarking on feeding my own baby.
Continue reading Mothering Through Breastfeeding: Part One, birth to ten months

Part Four: Emergency caesarean

First meeting of mother and son

Emergency caesarean

No pregnant woman imagines having an emergency caesarean, yet around 60% of caesareans are unplanned. Of these only around 6% are real emergencies. Mine was one of these. My Mum kissed my cheek as my husband squeezed my hand tightly. They were left alone in a suddenly empty room, their concern almost palpable.

Feet running, alarms and lights blaring. Frantic voices. A cold room. One last huge contraction. Breathing in, then nothing. Awakening, shaking uncontrollably, numb, rising pain and panic. Had my baby survived? Where was he? Disorientated and confused no one had cut the umbilical cord. Was this because although I knew my baby had left my body I had not been awake to experience his leaving it?

My baby was found to be in the back to back position, which is why I had laboured slowly and experienced so much back pain. I will forever wonder whether if I had been more mobile in labour I could have helped Ewan to turn to a more optimal position for birth.

First hours of life

Equally, no new mum imagines not seeing her baby in those precious early hours. Yet this situation is quite common. I didn’t see Ewan for the first three hours of his life. The thought never occurred to me that I would not share his first hours on earth. He was born perfectly healthy, at 2.29am on Friday June 11th 2010. There is a video of my husband, Rich, holding and soothing our newborn, as he nuzzles and cries, trying to nurse. Each time I see this video I try not to cry.

Hospital policy

Rich was told off by a nurse for walking with Ewan instead of placing him in his cot, because he might drop him! This beggar’s belief. At what point in humanity have we arrived if we cannot hold our most vulnerable members of society to our skin to ease their transition into the world, simply for fear of litigation? Rich felt angry and humiliated at this admonition having simply followed his instincts. The sound of his Daddy’s voice must have been comfortable and familiar to Ewan when all about him was cold, bright and harsh. He wondered where his Mummy was. To leave him alone, even for a second, would have been wrong.

Meeting of mother and son

Eventually we met. A totally indescribable feeling, etched on my mind as my life’s most memorable moment. I was utterly amazed; he was perfect, so beautiful. Love at first sight. He gave me a look of knowing, he reached for me. He fed immediately, hungrily from both breasts. He had been denied this nourishment for what must have felt an eternity to him in this startlingly new, scary world. He made sure he wasn’t denied it again!

Statistics found in: Caesarian section

Part Three: Labour pains and failed drugs

Labour is about managing the pain. When this is lost, we turn to others. My contractions suddenly felt on top of each other. I was acutely aware of their pain. My mental attitude had broken. I hit a wall The pain had not intensified by my interpretation of it had. This was fear from the pain instead of acceptance of and moving through the pain. Into my mind the words ‘pain killer’ blazed, like a saviour.

The names of drugs learnt about in NCT classes crossed through my mind. I couldn’t cope any longer. Feeling a failure, I shakily asked for diamorphine. Inside I was screaming, I wept.  My baby sensed and shared my anxiety, his heart rate quickening in response to mine. Plans for a natural birth flew out of the window as the likelihood of a caesarean increased. Diamorphine did nothing. Desperate for anything to ease the escalating pain, I asked for an epidural. Administered too late it had no effect. My body was in turmoil from the sudden surge of drugs. It rejected them all. I was violently projectile sick all over the room.

More drugs were pumped into my system. I was given syntocinon, a hormone drip which increased the pain and frequency of the contractions. My panic reached new heights. I needed my mother. She arrived in the night, sensing there was something seriously wrong. Later she described the horrific scene before her of a woman trying to wrench a foetus out of her daughter with huge forceps. I gripped onto my mum’s hands on my left, my husband’s on my right.

I sensed crowds of people hovering around my bedside. I tried in vain to follow the doctor’s instructions to push, opening my eyes for a moment to focus. Twice the doctor tried and failed to deliver Ewan using forceps. His heart rate dropped as the forceps delivery was abandoned. I cried as I was informed I had to have a caesarean section under general anaesthetic. Devastation I couldn’t give birth naturally. Relief the pain would end. I had been in active labour for thirteen hours, a long labour even by the doctor’s standards.

Part Two: Labouring in the zone and the approach of fear

Contractions are like labour, at first calm, then a few ripples, before gathering in strength and size, then reaching a crescendo, ending in the calm again, just like the waves on this beach in Fetlar, which we experienced in all of natures offerings!

Labouring in the zone and the approach of fear

Sheila Kitzinger talks of indigenous women labouring alone in a private but familiar place, whilst the midwife waits at a safe distance, ready if she is needed. In a high-tech hospital I too turned inwards to this place, just like other mammals do and pregnant woman have done for millennia. Hours passed. Labour advanced slowly. I remained focused and calm. I hummed a Buddhist chant continuously for hours, varying the tones as the contractions came and went like waves. My late Nanna had described contractions this way, an appropriate analogy in that the pain starts slowly, worsens, reaches its crescendo, before subsiding; then the whole process repeats itself.

I made sounds from deep within me I never knew existed, instinctive sound vibrations which moved and worked with the contractions. My husband massaged my lower back with aromatherapy oils continuously for countless hours; in my own zone his touch was an indication I wasn’t alone. I remained totally in control by focusing on the deep humming sounds my voice made as my body moved in unison to the sounds. My eyes remained closed almost continuously for five hours.  I sought a quiet, non-verbal, private plate in which to labour, away from sights, sounds and lights. It was me and my baby, in our own space together. I knew my husband and the midwife were close by, so I could call them, if I needed to. I trusted and read my own body.

This special zone was rudely interrupted as I heard one of the midwives suddenly exclaim directly to me;

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

Almost violently this human voice pulled me back into that other world I had laboured hard to mentally retreat from. I could have hit her. Although unintentional she had broken the spell, the peaceful zone shattered.

Back to the machines, bright lights and human conversation. And with it the pain.

Rediscovering Birth by Sheila Kitzinger