Category Archives for "Birth Stories"
Read real birth from real women to get a better understanding of what birth looks and feels like.
Read real birth from real women to get a better understanding of what birth looks and feels like.
The pregnancy and birth of Tara is nothing short of a miracle.
At 45 years young and after a few early pregnancy losses along the way, I’d made peace our beautiful nine year old daughter Maya, would be an only child.
So in spring 2020 when I started feeling consistently nauseous I became concerned.
My inner hypochondriac wondered whether I had a serious illness.
I’d recently had a light period- and thought my nausea could be another sign of perimenopause, since my cycle had become irregular lately.
This led me down the rabbit hole of Dr Google, searching ‘does perimenopause make you nauseous?’
As the nausea increased over a few weeks I became more worried and decided to call my GP for some screening tests.
The day I’d intended to make the appointment, on a hunch I bought a pregnancy test.
I’d noticed a few other physical signs that I’d only ever felt with the pregnancy of Maya.
And besides, I rationalised, at least I could rule one thing out before the GP visit.
When I did the test I couldn’t believe it when I saw the two lines.
I instantly did a second test to double check. But it was true- I was pregnant.
What a miracle-surprise!
When I shared the news with Viv he was cautiously excited- three early pregnancy losses can have that effect…
We decided to keep it between the two of us and our midwife Janine O’Brien (Ibirth), for as long as we could.
And each day after that I became grateful for the nausea, knowing it was a good sign.
There were more surprises in store when we went for what we thought was our 12 week scan only to be told we were at least 14 weeks along- the light period I’d thought was the start of perimenopause was an implantation bleed!
Knowing there are no guarantees, we waited until we were 16 weeks along before we started sharing the news.
By this time the nausea had subsided and I was feeling great.
Most people were excited and pleased for us. Some shared their quiet concern about my age.
Others couldn’t hide their shock and fear when I answered their ‘where will you have the baby’ question with ‘at home’.
I was even told a few horror stories of over-40 births gone wrong and why hospital is the only place I should give birth (!).
Because I had enough of my own fears and concerns to overcome, Viv and I decided from then on we’d only inform those we’d be regularly seeing (and who we couldn’t hide the pregnancy from!).
Meanwhile I worked on my mental game- reading, researching, visualising, attending workshops with leaders like Rhea Dempsey, Min Mia and Jane Hardwicke-Collings plus curating our birth support team.
I worked on my physical game by continuing to teach and practice Japanese yoga combined with regular chiropractic and acupuncture sessions.
Feeling fantastic, I was so grateful my body could receive and grow a baby ‘at my age’.
Something I never forgot was how privileged I was to be able to consciously create my support team, which made such a difference to my level of care and self-belief.
I believe all birthing women deserve and should have government funded access to the same support and resources I did, as well as the option to homebirth if they’re healthy, low risk and willing.
It was only in the final month of the pregnancy that I paused my yoga practice- I felt more comfortable walking and I really enjoyed being out in nature.
At 37 weeks our midwife Janine organised a red thread ceremony to welcome in the baby.
Our doula, Kathryn Belle and birth photographer Anna Todd were there as well.
At this ceremony we shared our intentions and fears for the birth.
It was so comforting to hear Janine share she had no fears at all for me- she said she knew I’d put in the work, was physically strong and mentally ready.
I shared my only fear: that I wouldn’t believe in myself.
Then we burnt our fears and celebrated with chai and cake- it was the perfect blessingway- intimate and raw – just as I was hoping for my birth.
And so began the waiting and nesting game.
Ever since I’d learnt at Jane Hardwick-Collings’ The Shamanic Dimensions of Pregnancy workshop that babies are often born on full moons, new moons and in storms, I’d penned into the calendar the Super blood moon of May 26th as ‘Bubba’s birthday’. I had a strong sense she/he would arrive on this date.
You can imagine my excitement when, on May 25th at 10.30am, my waters broke.
I’d just arrived at Maya’s sports carnival and had briefly squatted to take some pressure off my back.
Without warning I felt a ‘pop’ sensation and my inner thighs became warm and wet.
I bolted to the bathrooms and also noticed the bloody show.
Discreetly I gave Maya the choice: she could stay at her carnival or come home with me.
I reassured her there were no waves yet so I didn’t think baby would come immediately.
She decided to stay so I evacuated the lively sports ground- grateful for the disguise of my dark coloured leggings and extra jacket around my waist.
On the way home I rang Viv at work but there was no answer.
Then I rang Janine and Kath, who gave me some tips and signs to be on the lookout for.
When I reached home I showered to freshen up, then lay outside in the sun while listening to a hypnobirthing track.
There were still no waves and I wondered whether this time tomorrow I’d have met my baby.
After a few calls and texts I was still unable to reach Viv- I started to worry what would happen if the waves started and I was all alone.
As if sensing my feelings, my cat Rana came and curled up next to my belly, something he never usually does.
It was so comforting to feel him purring and keeping me company- animals are so wise!
After what felt like ages (but was actually only about an hour and a half) Viv called me to let me know he was on his way- he’d left his phone in his bag at work and hadn’t heard my calls.
Finally I could relax and enjoy the sun with my cat cuddles.
When Viv arrived home we ate lunch, then he drove me to my routine acupuncture appointment with Sue Booth booked for 2pm.
Sue took my pulse and said my body was already primed for birthing action.
Almost as soon as the first needle went in I felt a light wave and could sense my baby was getting close.
It was a nurturing, nourishing session and when it ended Sue wished me the best with a knowing smile.
I felt regular, light waves on the drive home – enough to feel excited but not enough to need to drop everything and focus.
Once home I lay down for a nap and when I woke it was just getting dark.
The waves were still regular but not too intense- I put on the TENS machine so I could acclimatise to the different sensations.
Viv, Maya and I ate dinner together, lighting a candle to welcome in our new family member.
I put Maya to bed around 8.30pm, letting her know our doula, Kath would wake her up for the birth (we’d talked about it lots and Maya had said if it was a night labour she wanted to be left to sleep for the labour but woken for the birth)
The waves started to pick up around 9pm, where I needed to pause, move and breathe through them.
I was feeling a bit tired and considered trying to sleep- but I could tell by the waves I’d need to get up and move through each one so instead Viv and I listened to another hypnobirthing track.
After that we went outside and basked in the full moon light, taking a moment to pause and savour the moment- the moon was big, bright and close!
By now it was about 10.30pm and we decided we’d like our doula to come.
We called her and she asked to speak with me- I knew it was to gauge how far into my primal brain I’d gone.
We had a pretty standard conversation so she suggested she hold off coming over for about an hour to give the labour a chance to get established.
We said we’d stay in touch as I settled in to the waves.
I found it helpful being on my knees with Viv squeezing my hips through each surge.
I must have gone into the birthing zone around this time because what happened after that is a bit of a hazy blur in terms of time.
I remember noticing our doula arrive and hearing her say she’d called our midwife and birth photographer and they were on their way.
Meanwhile I stayed mostly on all fours, burying my face into a nest of pillows with each wave as Viv squeezed my hips.
I felt fully present, safe and trusting in my body and baby.
Having Viv by my side with each wave made all the difference.
At one point during a big surge my other cat Zen gently rubbed against me- I felt so held and supported- not only by my cats but by Viv and all my ancestors.
I moved into a phase where I felt very irritated.
Irritated at the discomfort in my body and the ‘slowness’ of the endorphins to kick in; irritated about the rustlings around me (my support team filling the pool); irritated at feeling abandoned when Viv wasn’t with me for one or two waves (I learned afterwards there was a ‘complication’ with the hose for the birthpool and he was desperately trying to help get it filled!); irritated my doula couldn’t read my mind and offer me my labouraid drink and specific essential oils at the precise moment I wanted them;-) (she was also helping with the pool debacle…)
Wise words from my friend and spiritual teacher Yantra came to me: ‘it’s not a choice between irritation or peace. Let the irritation be the doorway to peace’.
Letting the irritation be, I doubled down on my breathing and upped the setting on my TENS, which all seemed to help enormously.
Although I didn’t realise it at the time, I must have been getting close to transition because soon after that Janine gently suggested I get in the birthing pool.
‘Already?’ I thought to myself- remembering our birthing plan was that I’d ‘save up’ getting into the pool until the end and the birth was close.
I felt a combination of surprise we were at pool time, relief everything was still feeling ‘bearable’ and denial my baby would be coming soon. I had no idea was time it was – I learned later it was just after 2am.
I reluctantly removed the TENS machine –my new best friend- and slipped into the bath.
The warm water felt so soothing and warm.
From there it felt like a switch was flicked and things intensified very quickly.
I felt an uncontrollable pushing sensation and the waves started coming on thick and fast.
My breath become shorter and I started vocalising involuntarily.
I longed for the ‘rest and be grateful’ phase I’d read can happen between transition and second phase…
The pushing feeling intensified and felt overwhelming to the point where I cried out ‘help!!’.
While I clung to Viv for dear life, Janine reassured me I’d be meeting my baby soon and Kath suggested sending my breath down to the baby.
Despite the intensity I felt safe, present and connected to my baby.
I asked how she/he would like to be born and sensed it was the position I was in–on my knees, arms around Viv and legs apart.
An extra strong pushing surge rippled through my body- and with a few more breathes the head emerged, soon followed by the body ejecting. It was 2.54am.
I was sure I’d been torn from head to toe (I didn’t tear at all!) but I didn’t care.
I’d birthed my baby!
In a split second Janine whooshed baby and cord out from between my legs and I was holding my baby in my arms.
Words can never do justice to the feeling of holding your baby for the first time but I’ll try; it was a mixture of extreme joy, pride, relief, thankfulness and pure ecstasy all at once.
I held her up and Maya proudly announced she was a girl. A little sister!
After cuddle time in the bath I was helped to the couch where she latched on to my nipple like a seasoned pro and soon after I birthed the placenta.
The soft, jelly feeling of the placenta coming out felt so relieving and soothing.
Maya immediately jumped into her big sister role and was keen to decide on a name- our favourite two girl names were Aurora and Tara.
Kath mentioned some friends of hers had recently named their little girl Aurora and she was being called Rory for short.
We’re not really nickname people so that helped us decide.
Welcome to the world Tara!
We all celebrated with homemade fruit slice and bliss balls.
Soon afterwards the birth team tucked us up in bed and we were ready for our moon cycle birth bubble and gentle start as a family of four.
Karenna Reidy is wife to Viv and mother to Maya (10 years) and Tara (2 months), living on Cammerygal Country in Sydney. She is a high school teacher and Japanese yoga CEO/instructor where she runs her own outdoor boutique yoga studio and offers online courses. Karenna’s a fan of Aware Parenting and the Montessori approach. She is passionate about family, Eastern culture and philosophies of health, essential oils, piano, nature immersion, books, seasonal living and soulful conversations.
Brave! Crazy! Highly irresponsible! Controversial!
These were the themes of the many responses posted when I published my son’s birth story 15 years ago on a UK mums forum.
So, what was so inflammatory about his birth, my first child, what compelled me to share it, and why would anybody birth their baby in this way?
It was a warm, sunny August morning, even in the far north of England. I had been planning my birth for months- if not years- discovering what positive birth was, refusing anything that let my mind wonder into the “what if’s” and believing in the birth wisdom that had been passed down by the women in my own family.
But now, my baby was 10 long days “late”, even later by my calculations, and I was hot, itchy and fed up.
I woke up to a strange feeling, I couldn’t quite explain. There was excitement, mixed with adrenaline and some “braxton hicks” type contractions going on. I ran myself a bath, added a couple of drops of clary sage and breathed in the strong, energy boosting scent. Just as I did so, a pain seared through my uterus, like being stabbed with a huge knife! I felt the adrenaline rush and my heart start pumping hard as the beginnings of panic set in. No, Rachel! I settled myself. If that was labour I’d have to relax to handle it, and anyway nothing else was happening, perhaps it was a muscle spasm or trapped wind…
So with that I put on my hypnobirthing relaxations there in the bathroom, and breathed. After a while I got out of the bath. I felt emotional, and irritable. I went for a walk around our tiny flat. Anger, frustration and irritation flooded my brain as I stomped around. I still don’t know why! I was feeling contractions that I was all too used to after the trillions of braxton hicks my body had prepared me with. I stamped, marched, sat on the toilet and wondered when ”proper labour” would start. All the movement made me hot, and suddenly I had the urge to fill up the sink with cold water and dip my face in it.
By now it was about 8.30 am. It took a moment to recognise the wet face and wild hair in the mirror above the sink were mine. I sat on the toilet again and heard a growl emerge from somewhere deep within my soul. What was my body doing now? I wasn’t in agony, I didn’t need help, so a quick checklist of my rational brain confirmed that this must be very early stages, if anything.
At some point during the past 2 hours, my then husband had phoned the labour ward to say that he thought labour might be starting. The home birth kit (a huge suitcase full of terrifying objects from the hospital) was already in place in the hallway, and daddy had laid out a couple of plastic shower curtains to protect the cream carpet in the rented flat from any birth related mess. We were ready… baby was just coming gently, taking his time. More growls and then a sudden urge to get off the toilet…
Seconds later, I remember squatting down and watching in amazement as my son’s head was born, turning to face my left thigh, almost frozen in time, waiting for the next surge. His hair was red. I remember laughing! There was no pain. Instinctively I dropped to the ground on my hands and knees. Labour ward was on the phone, but we still had a phone with one of those curly wires, and as daddy dropped it, the receiver bounced into the other room. “The cord” I heard myself say, “loop it off his neck”. Now from my hands and knees position I had no idea my son’s cord was around his neck, but something enabled me to know and as his dad looped the cord loosely over his neck, our son was born straight into his hands.
I turned around to see my baby, startle like a star fish, on the blue towel we had ready to receive him on. He did a huge sneeze, and then his first poo! “Give me the baby” I said and held out my arms to reach for my meconium stained, red haired, loudly wailing, beautiful, perfect son. And there we sat, on the bathroom floor, staring in total amazement at this brand new human.
Though I had made up my mind to free birth my baby (that is to birth without any medical assistance or practitioner present which is a fully legal option in the UK) I just could not, in my wildest dreams, have imagined how peaceful, healing, and yet intensely powerful the experience could be. Until…
A midwife was banging on the door and bustled into the flat bringing with her disbelief and anger at what she saw. “How did this happen?” she demanded to know “oh, and congratulations”. She asked a load of questions, cut the cord (it was thin and white) swaddled the baby, and passed him to daddy. Then she pushed me to the floor and yanked on the cord in attempt to pull out his placenta. Luckily it came away easily, then I was whisked into the bath, baby was kept in the other room where another midwife had come, and I was scrubbed fiercely by the first midwife. Every second without my baby seemed like an eternity even though he was only in the next room. Strangers rummaged through my drawers and dressed him in the most mismatched outfit they could find, completely disregarding the little yellow suit with Simba on it, laid out and ready for the baby. The midwife was rough and rude, making derogatory comments when I refused her offer of stitches… the birth might have been straight forward but a world of pain was engulfing me by that point. All I wanted was to be snuggled in my bed with my baby, and something to eat would have been amazing too!
Once the fuss was over, and I lay cuddled with my son I took a moment to reflect on what had happened. I couldn’t believe how fast everything had happened and how even though I had believed birth could be this way… I also couldn’t believe it.
My longing for a simple, physiological birth had come about primarily from an intense fear of what I perceived labour and childbirth to be. That fear had led me on a quest for truth, to find out how women had ever survived such a terrible ordeal, whether all births more than 100 years ago really did result in mothers dying from the pain- as everyone seemed to say!
I secretly wondered: would triggers from my own past allow me to go through such an intimate event in front of strangers without warranting a panic attack the scale of which would have never been seen on a labour ward before and would have ended in my being sedated by general anaesthesia! Or by me, escaping the hospital setting, all gowned up, being chased by registrars wielding needles full of sedatives behind me!! The way the midwife behaved towards me after the birth further convinced me that could have actually been the case, had I gone into hospital!
Now, I’m not naive, and I had carefully kept my birth plans from anyone who knew me, so as not to be discouraged, or pressured into doing something that I didn’t feel comfortable with. Even after the birth, I was unable to share my experience with other mums for fear of causing upset. I expected an uproar when I decided to share my story on a mainstream forum a few months later, and I was not wrong.
Parents were outraged, and were suggesting that I was irresponsible with my baby’s life! A few used words like “brave” to describe what I had done and yet, I didn’t feel I had been brave at all. In fact in my mind, the idea of entering a hospital to have my child delivered by masked strangers would have required a type of bravery I imagine soldiers have to muster when being tortured in enemy prisons. If, at any point during my labour I had feared for my baby’s life or mine, I would have had to dig deep to find courage like that, and would, of course have handed over our care.
I chose to share my story because I believed there were women out there who felt like me. Women who were told that in hospital we would have no choice but to undergo examinations and monitoring that complied with the policy of the area. That our cervixes would be measured and our bodies expected to birth within a time frame that correlated to that measurement. That we’d be monitored on our backs, and if that caused us pain, we’d be quietened with medicines that took away our dignity and our ability to make decisions.
I chose to share my story because I believed there were women out there who needed to hear that they too, could birth their babies gently, in peace, fully conscious in whatever position they needed.
Controversial though my story may be, I believe it is still as true and relevant today as it was in those days. Women have a right to know what our bodies are truly capable of.
Rachel is a Doula and Hypnobirthing Instructor at Creative Birth, sharing the message that birth can and should be a positive, empowering experience for mothers. Currently on maternity leave with her fourth child and with her two eldest children now teenagers on the autistic spectrum, she has a wealth of experience of parenting and supporting other parents. Her family life has taught her that with the loving support from those around us , our toughest challenges can become our greatest achievements and she is particularly passionate about supporting women who wish to regain confidence is themselves and their bodies.
After being told at previous births ‘you should have had a homebirth!’ ‘You’re a natural’ We decided to go for it with our 5th child. I felt a bit deflated when our child was measuring small, as has been the case with our previous children without any problems and I chose to have growth scans between weeks 30 -34. When I got the all clear all anxiety lifted. We were determined to have our homebirth and we were emotionally planning for the best experience of our lives.
T’was the night before Christmas Eve…. I alerted my husband, ‘Braxton hicks’ were beginning to feel a bit real after being on and off for two days. From experience, this was my fifth baby, I knew that this was baby’s way of prepping my body, letting us know they are coming soon. I knew it would be quick once it got going!
My husband is a photographer and with the help of an old net curtain and belt created the stunning photos you see here at 1 am during the slow latent phase of labour. I love to look at them and admire the beauty and strength of pregnancy, birth and motherhood. We overlook how important a sound mind can be, at times I do too. I feel amazing and highly favoured, most of the time. Whenever I don’t, I look and remind myself just how amazing I am!
But back to the birth! On Boxing Day I began to slow down, eat and talk less. My midwife was to come and visit but I put her off till the following day as I felt fine. I wanted us to get into a place of trust for each other and the natural happenings about to take place. I began visualising techniques to help relax my muscles. My surges were becoming more intense on the morning of the 27th. During a check up with my midwife;
‘Erm Becky, I think my waters have gone!’
Becky was still with us, she stayed for another hour or two in case things suddenly sped up.
I ran a bath, lit candles and soaked in it for hours. Topping up the water, eating dinner whilst watching Peter Kay live! Bliss! Always good to watch comedy when in labour. Relaxed, well fed and surges became more regular from around 6pm. I stayed in the bath so that I did not get the urge to start taking care of the children. My husband and our eldest daughter (16 at the time) had it all in hand. We had a back up plan in case for any reason We were admitted. However we didn’t pay much attention to it and focused on the plan we wanted
The children were extra hyper before they went to bed, I think they subconsciously knew the baby was coming very soon. They finally fell asleep at 10pm. That’s when it began to get intense. My body relaxed even more as the children fell asleep. I wasn’t worried about them I just think as parents there’s always a feeling of relief when the children fall asleep. I don’t take gas, air or drugs to assist. I drink gallons of water and it works everytime. The water fills my bladder and when I relieve myself the baby comes further down the birth canal, It works!
My husband played music, set up a video camera for some clips. He gave me the best body rub with warm coconut oil. He rubbed me down, in line with gravity. I was in my zone.
The snow was still quite high so we knew we had to give midwives time to travel. They called every so often anyway to see how we were doing. At 11pm I asked Mark to call the midwife on duty as she lived about 40 minutes away, 1 hour in the snow. Although she was on her way I felt so relaxed and things were happening fast. I started to crouch, I was quiet, this always means baby is coming. I just breath, hardly any noise. I was in my zone, connecting with my baby. Everytime I had a surge I would say ‘well done baby’ I programmed my mind to understand that the intensity meant the baby was closer to coming out. I visualised waterfalls, oceans and anything that took my mind to symbolise the process of delivery through gravity. I was closer to holding our 5th child, that thought felt amazing.
An hour passed so quickly. I heard the midwife parking up outside, our window was wide open, the heater was on in our room and I was upstairs. I wanted to be near our bed. What a great choice! Dimmed lights, soft classical music and water. It was 12 am on the 28/12 our baby’s due date.
I came out of silence and asked my husband ‘are you ready love? The baby is coming out now.’
He calmly said ‘yes I’m ready love’
The midwife came in and Mark helped her with her stuff, lots of stuff! I thought are you moving in Hun?
The midwife put her bags down and began to look at my notes, requested to check me for dialation and baby’s heart etc. My husband quite calmly said ‘it’s too late for all of that, she’s ready now and you do know I’m delivering?’ ‘No I didn’t know, wasn’t mentioned in the hand over!’ The midwife then checked our birth plan...She was fine. I think she knew we were set and she gracefully stood back. The midwife was with us for all of 5 minutes. Baby’s head was born safely, followed by the rest of its cute little body. Mark carefully checked for the cord and supported Nile whilst he entered the world. The midwife just said ‘wow!’ So calm, so focused. We did it!!
‘It’s a boy, we have another boy love.’ Like the others he was so cute. My husband delivered then, passed him straight to me. I held him on my warm chest and his cute cry sealed what had been an ideal birth. We sat on our bedroom floor for roughly an hour. Skin to skin, fed and latched straight away. My Placenta was born within good time too. We waited until the blood had drained from the cord before we allowed the clamp and cut by my husband of course. The midwife checked for any tears and again there were none. Skin to skin for a while longer before the weight was done. By this time the second midwife arrived and was so happy to be a part of our relaxed homebirth. She waited patiently to weigh our son whilst they filled out their notes. She offered to take care of us, tea and toast which was nice.
Nile was so punctual, he arrived 15 minutes into his due date. Weighing 7lb 14oz! Our heaviest of the 5, way above what was predicted...Again! Mark had delivered his Son, as planned. When I asked him how he felt he said ‘I delivered my son, I can do anything!’
I felt so proud of us both, we finally got our home birth.
If you have the option we would highly recommend it.
Simone is a professional housewife and homeschool coordinator and lives with her husband Mark and 5 children ranging from 18 years to 18 months. They are a plant based Vegan family on a journey to become more environmentally conscious. Simone believes in the power of direct action and enjoys connecting with her local community as she and her family litter pick with love. She loves music, the outdoors and being creative and loves to implement innovative new ideas together with her family.
You can find her on her family You Tube channel Thankfully True here. and instagram here.
Mark Roberts, is a professional photographer who took the beautiful photographs of Simone in labour. You can find his website here and follow him on instagram here
If you liked this story you may enjoy Zoe's heartwarming Vbac story of giving birth to Seren here.
Seren’s Birth Story really begins with her sister Clara’s, who was born two years earlier by emergency Caesarean section after a classic cascade of interventions; overdue induction, epidural, failure to progress, and ultimately surgery.
After three days and nights lying on my back being constantly monitored; feeling lonely, scared and isolated as my husband wasn’t allowed to stay with me at night; desparately hungry and weak because I'd been advised not to eat or drink… surgery seemed the only option. Through the numbness I felt terribly grateful to the hospital for saving my baby from her failed mother’s body. Yes, I felt I'd failed and I wasn't ready to process my disappointment, or the shock and trauma. I didn't even recognise that it was trauma for some time. It lay buried beneath the joy and relief of finally holding our beautiful baby daughter.
The surgeon found me on the ward afterwards to tell me that 75% of women who have Caesareans go on to give birth naturally - the first time I heard the term VBAC. “Why are you telling me this?” was all I could think. Reeling from major surgery and a mother for a matter of hours, another baby was not on my horizon, let alone her manner of birth.
But her words stayed with me and I became grateful for this snatched 20-second conversation that she had bothered to come back and have with me.
Fast forward a year and a half, and my husband and I are sitting in the hospital coffee shop after our 12 week scan. Seren is officially on the horizon. I am explaining to him with some force - people are looking - that I plan to do things differently this time. That there is no question I’ll be having a Caesarean or coming near this place again. He looks bewildered. His belief was, and to some extent remains, that the doctors saved our baby.
I am surprised myself by the force of my conviction. It is coming from deep inside me.
I get home and start Googling. I found an article about a beautiful home birth helping to heal the scars of a traumatic first birth and I just begin to cry and I don’t stop for some time. This is me beginning to understand. You see, I didn’t even realise I had experienced that hospitalisation as traumatic. It’s something I unpack over the six months that follow.
I throw myself into preparing for this birth in a very different way. I stand my ground when a consultant tells me “It would be safer if all babies were born by Caesarean”, that I am selfishly thinking of my own experience at the expense of my baby’s, and as a parting shot, “Well, I’m the one who sees women coming back with bladder problems in their fifties.” At the time I feel frightened to death that she might be right. She is the expert, isn’t she?
At this point, with terror dominating my experience I discover the work of Charlotte Kanyi whom I'd met recently at a baby signing class. I was inspired by how she birthed her two boys (three at the time of editing!) at home, the second without assistance as he came so fast and booked her Birth Confidence Package to unpick in depth what had gone wrong. She takes me on a deep dive and helps me to acknowledge and clear past experiences and welcome in new ones. I clear the all consuming fear, the trauma, and the underlying imprints and patterns that were actively preventing me from believing in myself and my body. I change my care providers, my birth place and I hire a doula, Jane Jennings. She listens with skill and without judgment to mine and my husbands very differing viewpoints. It helps - we’ve been at loggerheads for weeks with no progress. He now feels heard, and we realise we both want the same thing fundamentally.
On the advice of Charlotte and Jane, I surround myself with positive birth stories. I take up meditation. I read Ina May Gaskin. I eat healthily, borrow a birth pool, and arrange to go to the local midwife-led centre, Serenity, whose hands-off approach I am eternally grateful for.
On Seren’s due date, the day I expected her least, I laboured at home in the pool with the sunlight streaming in through the sunflowers on the table. Jane turned my occipital posterior baby with a Rebozo shawl in under a minute. I felt Seren turn, I could suddenly walk more easily, and the contractions changed. There was a pause while I breastfed my two year old in the pool - she still refers to this with a big smile.
Seren was keen to be born at home - I could feel her head before we embarked on the car journey to the midwife centre. I held her back till we got to Serenity and they filled a pool there. She was born seconds after I stepped in. The cord was wrapped twice around her neck, and was unhooked without drama. We were able to rest at Serenity before journeying home to be reunited with her sister, our now expanded family complete and feeling whole.
Seren’s birth has left me feeling not only healed but empowered. I hear and trust my instincts so much more. I realise that the meditation, breathing and being in the now exercises I used during birth, are vital to me in the daily challenge of parenting a toddler and newborn. I have tools including The NPA Process which I can use whenever I feel out of sorts, blocked or frightened. I feel less scared of dying. Some part of me has understood and confronted a place of inner strength where birth and death happens. This was without question the most wonderful experience of my life and taught me precious life lessons.
It makes me sad beyond words that this opportunity is becoming so hard to come by. As I reflect on why this is. I feel that our medical system is beyond wonderful when birth goes wrong, but it mostly runs on a model of intervention, and sometimes causes the emergencies it solves. I have seen so many women have similar experiences to me resulting in undermining of already fragile confidence; midwives measure bumps big, growth scans follow giving a “diagnosis” of a big baby. The seed of fear is sown, and often the woman is already well on her way to a Caesarean, believing she can’t possibly give birth to such a monster. Often there is much surprise when the enormous baby is born weighing a very average 7lb. Rather than encouragement and positivity at the moment she needs it most, a woman starts to encounter fear and an institution more concerned with covering its back than with helping her bring her baby into the world in the best possible way. “Safety” statistics don't even start to take into consideration effects on mother and baby, PND, delayed trauma, interrupted bonding, lack of transfer of beneficial bacteria and flora, and breastfeeding problems, caused by interfering with the process of birth.
For myself I needed a lot of support and education to overcome the fear and trauma from the first time, and to reassure me that it was safe to ignore the “experts” without being a potential baby murderer. I put a lot of resources into birth preparation, to clear the trauma and the roots of the imprinting and patterns that had led to me experiencing a very disemowering birth where I felt out of control and ignored, isolated and not able to voice my own desires. I also hired a doula. The healing experience of my second child has transformed me in a deep and long lasting way and I wish that all women would take heart and inspiration from this story and find their own inner strength and joyful place.
Zoe Challenor is a mother with many hats. She is also a workshop leader for Welsh National Opera, An Artist in Residence af Ark Schools, Founder and Director Of B'Opera Baby Opera which makes beautiful music for tiny ears.
You can catch up with her on Facebook at Zoe Challenor singing and Alexander Technique and B'opera.
My youngest boy with his wit, his clear direct communication, and outrageous laughter, surprises me every day. Perhaps this should be no surprise to me, given his birth story which was full of surprise. Here is the story in full for you to enjoy.
For this, my third pregnancy and third home birth, I determined to really take care of me, honouring myself in the most thorough and joyful ways possible. I hired an independent midwife, booked massage, a mother blessing ceremony and carried on with my usual practice of clearing out fears and conditioning if and as they arose
I had the happiest, most relaxed pregnancy of all three. Antenatal appointments were a joy. All my wishes were heard and supported, my questions answered fully. It was all such fun, relaxing in the warm summer sunshine, connecting with my baby and imagining the calm cosy corner of my bedroom, lit only by candles, labour starting in the night whilst others were asleep, my husband joining me first in an atmosphere or quiet sacredness to be joined by my awestruck children and midwife.
HA. I imagine his cheeky grin in the womb as he considered my ideas then went about things his own way. He was on board with the general energy of my vision but not so much the finer (imagined) details.
Surprise number one was the timing. I woke in the early hours of the night with contractions. Knowing I wasn’t in full labour I slept on between the sporadic but insistent tightenings.
However, in the morning a question formed as I shuffled my way through breakfast and getting my two older children ready for school. Will this be a super long labour then because it’s a long time until dark comes back…? As my kids disappeared off to school with my husband I knew different but wasn’t ready to admit it just then.
I felt excited and curious. I think my son was trying to tell me ‘wake up mum, I’m coming now, in the day and sunshine.’ My head was trying to fit this into the dark night time, cosy corner image and largely failing. My minds habit of trying to work things out, to pin everything down was thwarted by the growing energy of labour. I was fading from this rational ordered world and entering the fluid organic energy of birth where the ordinary timing no longer made sense..
Kids safely in school courtesy of my husband I decided lying down resting in bed as he stroked my back would be a good idea. Surprise number two. Enjoyable though it was, it did not work as I thought it would and had in the past, Although good advice from my thinking self it was not what my inner midwife was prescribing for me at that moment. Which was to fulfil my restlessness and head for the toilet…
I threw back the covers and strode, slightly agitated. to the toilet. I had hoped to reexperience the comfort and total pain relief I had from his touch during the birth of my first child… I should know better of course than to try and recreate the past rather than live in the moment.
The toilet was just the job. The toilet was fun. I could hear my mind thinking this is kind of crazy but it felt right. Labouring in our small bathroom I could hold onto the sink with one hand and the bath with the other and focus all my attention on relaxing my body through the now powerful contractions with gentle sighs. Using the sink and bath as counter pressure and letting the instinctive loosening and letting go of being on the toilet happen, really worked for me. Still my mind kept popping in with the suggestion that lying down for a bit would take less effort and be even more restful.
Cue what felt like hours, but was probably like fifteen minutes or even less, (time was totally kooky by now.) of me trying to leave the bathroom. I would get half way down the approximately 5 metre corridor to our bedroom only to go, ‘oh here comes another one’ and to turn round and sit back on the toilet where I felt most comfortable and drawn despite myself. It was as if my feet and body had a mind and consciousness of their own.
Frustrating until I got the message and gave up and succumbed to the toilet position. During one of these contractions I found myself gazing at the bath. Yes, I though,t lets try that. A part of me really did want to lie down just not in the bed. I ran the bath and got in and yes this was good. Warm, cosy, and safe. I felt light and free, peaceful here.
My husband at this point called my midwife, for him he said even if I didn’t want her yet. Though I think he knew it was time even if I wasn’t admitting it still. I was too busy enjoying the water and noticing with interest that I could feel every muscle as it moved inside my body. I breathed and floated and felt my side muscles pulling my cervix up and away. The contractions were strong, powerful and purposeful. (just like my son is now) I was home and relaxed and still slightly in denial that it was day time.
My midwife came, smiling at me she listened silently to my contractions. I felt a change. I felt the end of the contraction change. It went from an outward, expanding pull up of the muscles to a slight bearing down and tucking of my tummy on the very last second of my outbreath.
Now I am a birthworker and my midwife is highly experienced. We both knew where I was up to and what was shortly going to happen. I could feel it beyond the words or rational ideas. My boundaries with normal reality were fluid. I could sense the timeline of where I was and had come through and what was to come in my labour. If I had been asked and capable of answering I could have told you how dilated I was and where I was up to as if I could see with x-ray eyes. My lovely midwife just smiled and listened. Then said ‘Would you like me to go to Tesco and come back in a bit?’’ We sat in silence for a few moments me gazing at her. My slightly vacant smile almost became a giggle. My mind was thinking something like – ‘She knows… She knows if she does that she will miss it. I am sure she knows? why is she saying that? –(She told me later she it was a kind of test to see my response- we know each other well after all our antenatal appointments so strange question though it may sound she knew just what to do and say that was prefect for me to know what I wanted.)
My verbal answer as far as I can remember was to say I want to get out of the bath now. I need the toilet.
I needed it because I was ready to push.
I now realised I was pretty much going to do it all on the toilet, a place I had hardly visited with the other two except for its actual intended use. I sat on the toilet and roared my way through my contractions, surprised by the location I found myself comfortable in, surprised by the volume and pitch of my voice and surprised by the sheer power running through my body. My body responded to this energy. It shuddered, and shook. I hardly knew who or where I was, all that was real was this raw, untamed energy rising and falling within me, coming and going from deep inside, or from some place else. A place known and not known, strange and new yet familiar. A place of pure wordless experience. I knew not if I was it or it was me. I opened up and allowed it in, and through and on. I felt the energy bearing down, pushing my baby down. It thundered. Then it would disappear for a short eternity. To return with even greater intensity. Excitement was growing. I couldn’t have controlled this even if I wanted to but in trust of my body and the process I surrendered totally focused only on relaxing, particularly as I felt so much strong pressure in my bottom, more than ever before. I was astonished by myself in a kind of excited way. Emotions rolled through me. I cried weeping and whimpering like a small child. I allowed myself to do this even as my mind wondered at this oddness. I wanted to laugh too. To throw back my head and howl. And I know I roared at the height of each contraction.
Once my husband tried to touch me to massage me or comfort me and I pushed him away. My midwife understood my needs and gently patted the floor beside her. ‘Come and sit with me.’ She smiled calmly and reassuringly. They sat at arm’s length from me just outside the bathroom smiling their love and encouragement towards me. I loved that they were there, just enjoying with me. My midwife I could tell was happy and in her element.
My midwife gently wondered if it might be time to get off the toilet. I agreed and knelt in front of it instead. Resting my forearms on a stool I was able to drop my head and relax in a new position. The pressure on my bottom was incredible. The contractions were the strongest I had ever felt. My baby felt powerful, a larger than life purposeful presence, yet kind and sweet too.
I felt more emotions coming through. Anger was one. My mind was a little bit in judgment of this as not the correct emotion to be feeling at such a wonderful time. Rather than argue with my mind and try and explain that this judgment is just a story that doesn’t make the anger go away , or try to work out what it meant, I took the anger through a quick NPA process. The anger passed. Impatience came. In an intense moment I shouted out ‘ I want this baby out now’ whilst simultaneously instructing my body to remain relaxed, to have patience. I didn’t add any conscious pushing on top of the work my body was aready doing, though I was tempted at times. My impatience was tempered by my desire to allow him to come in his own time, with the flow of energy.
He and my body responded to my call of ‘NOW please.’ I felt the most amazing sensation of opening in one big flow around his head. I sat upright and held his head as he slipped smoothly out in one go as all of my children have. I was overjoyed, I had done it!
This moment of opening and him flowing through was just the biggest thrill. I can’t really do justice to the sensations with any words. I just opened up effortlessly like magic. My midwife commented too that she saw this happen. It was totally amazing to feel. I sat back laughing, as my husband and midwife wrapped me in our best towels warmed by the radiator.
A quick peek and a knowing grin exchanged with my midwife- A boy!
My 4th or is it 5h or even 6th surprise was a messy one that I was ill prepared for. My other two showed no signs of meconium for a full 24 hours after birth, whereas he came out pooing and popped out more poo every time there was a quiet or clean moment for a few hours to come!
I wanted to move to my bed to rest. We must have been a merry little procession, me the tiger mother holding tightly to her new baby, my husband supporting me, my midwife holding the bowl in case the placenta made an appearance as we trotted down our narrow little corridor to the bed.
This time the bed was bliss. Warm, cosy and filled with morning light. I love my bedroom. When the sun shines it reflects off a throw with sequins on and makes glitter sparkles all over the ceiling and walls. I felt so happy as I laid back and let everyone look after me. My midwife cleaned up the bathroom –I rested and gazed at his puffy newborn eyes, his soft movements of hands and legs grasping at me, as he made cute suckling noises. He fed and slept as we all continued to enjoy his presence.
After an hour or two I felt I might stand up to see if the placenta wanted to come.
In another surprise the placenta wanted me back on the toilet- maybe it didn’t want to be left out of the bathroom party. So off our merry little procession went in reverse. Husband supporting the mother carrying the child. Midwife bringing up the rear with the bowl, supporting us all.
I sat on the toilet and they left me and baby alone for a while. I didn’t actually need the toilet. Instead out of nowhere came an enormous roar and another shuddering, shaking contraction of the same intensity I had experienced giving birth. I didn’t expect that. I could not have controlled or suppressed this if I had wanted to. Whoosh out came my placenta, almost an anti-climax after the energy of the contraction. It slithered, easily out, landed on the toilet rim, even though I had anticipated its arrival and stood up, teetered for a moment and yes you guessed it- plop into the (luckily clean) toilet!
My midwife came to the rescue again. She hauled the placenta with both hands round the cord back over the rim into its rightful new home of my baking bowl. I was extremely impressed at the strength of my cord and size of my placenta.
Back we all went to the bed for the final time where I made us comfortable and my husband finally got to cut the cord. I arranged the limp white and surprisingly small cord in a spiral on his stomach, and entrusted the placenta to the care of my friend who had come to make me smoothies.
My final surprise of the day was his size. Matching his personality, he was a larger than life or than expected 9 lb 6. I should say larger than I expected as my midwife confided in me that she had on her final antenatal appointment a few days earlier predicted 9lb7 which he may well have been if we had been able to weigh him with the meconium inside…
There ends the main story but not the joy. Revelling in my newest baby boy and all his surprises, my heart full, my body spent yet still buzzing with energy I drank in the love of my family and my home. These first few hours meeting a newborn baby are something quite sacred and special and lying in my luxurious bed in the quiet peace, my son draped contentedly over my belly and chest I felt more alive, loved and at home than ever.
See my Birth Confidence page for in formation on my practice for clearing fears.
My independent midwife, Janie Al Alawi, can be found here along with nformation about her services.
For information about The NPA Process and a free Process sheet click here. Its a superb way to stay in flow and let things pass through.
For information on my independent celebrant, Awen Clement for a mother blessing, click here
I love Christmas time and especially the family festivities and sharing of gifts. It is a time that really warms my heart. This year my heart is warmed and positively thrilled to bits with one of my Christmas presents to myself: the new book edited by Milli Hill just published called Water Birth: Stories to inspire and inform. I am ever so excited because the birth of my first child is one of the featured stories. To celebrate my first published piece of writing I have written a post about my personal experience of water birth including some of the details of the birth story that is found in full in the book. I do hope you enjoy reading.
I have always loved water. Holidaying in France as a young child I learnt to swim with the help of my mum in the shallows of a serene lake. I remember feeling so proud, brave and free as I let my feet lift off the sand and float and began to move through the water unaided.
Growing up many happy days were spent playing with my brother and friends in rivers and oceans. We would leap and dive under crashing waves in Wales, daring the surf to catch us as we ran away. We would shout with raucous laughter, racing, chasing and splashing. We would spend hours making damns, creating pools to soak in. We would alternate pushing against the rivers’ currents with allowing ourselves to be carried tranquilly downstream to the sound of accompanying birdsong.
As an adult I am still instantly soothed and relaxed by the trickling sound of a river meandering along its path and the regular rhythm of crashing surf followed by its gentle tinkling return through shells and shingle.
I continued to swim regularly throughout this pregnancy, getting a taste of how I might feel during a water birth. I enjoyed the weightlessness and ease of movement in the water. I even enjoyed the contrast as I climbed back out onto land, the sudden heaviness pulling me down into the earth, solid and stable beneath my feet. I appreciated the strong grounded feeling with a secret inner glee at the delightful memory of the floating freedom, a sense of power and possibility and the connection with my baby, whom I sensed enjoyed these sensations as much as I did.
My reading revealed fascinating history and surprising facts and ultimately allayed any concerns I may have had over safety.
I read of petroglyphs in Egypt depicting births of Pharaohs approximately 8000 years ago and accounts from the oral traditions of indigenous people who gave birth in shallow sea water or pools. There are examples both old and in modern day times right across the globe, from the Maoris to the Indians of Central America to the Hawaiian islands. These are glorious tales of women supporting women using the warm water to aid relaxation and for pain relief, that really warmed my heart.
In the Western world documented water birth is much more recent and until the latter part of the last century very sporadic. Water birth remained largely unknown until the 1970’s and the pioneering work of two obstetricians, Michel Odent in France and Igor Tjarkovsky in Russia.
Igor’s initial interest in water was sparked by a desire to help his premature daughter by immersing her in warm water in order to create an environment akin to the womb that she’d departed two months early. Seeing her rapid progress he went onto develop glass tanks and to experiment with the use of water during childbirth itself.
Michel Odent set up a Birthing Centre in Pithviers which focused on creating a home like environment with minimal intervention. The birthing rooms included baths for relaxation and pain relief. Inevitably as women enjoyed the benefits of the soothing warm water some women didn’t want to get out again and babies started to be born in the water. By 1983 he had attended over 100 of these water births and was able to publish a medical research paper.
From here on in the popularity of water birth blossomed and bloomed. Supportive studies were published demonstrating the safety, women and midwives were vocal supporters and the opportunity to experience a water birth became more accessible and common as word spread. Today most maternity units in the UK are able to offer water birth to their women.
I was also inspired by positive stories on the internet and the birth of a friend’s baby, nearly 10lbs in water with ease and grace and no tearing.
I bit the bullet and bought my own pool that took up the whole of my living room.
And I was also a little bit nervous. And sometimes just a tiny little bit impatient…
But, eventually my turn came. In my living room, gently into the dark waters of my birth pool, my baby boy was born. The atmosphere was serene and still, apart from some urgent clamouring from the midwives to get my husband back in the room before he missed it! He shot out across the pool like a shooting star across the night sky. His body, dimly lit by the head torch carried by the midwife, could be seen curled and glistening through the ripples caused by my undulating body as it arced into position. Lifted out by myself and my husband together in calm tranquillity, he appeared to be still sleep. The only noise was his sudden, surprising intake of breath followed by a deep satisfied sigh of happiness as he nestled against my chest, legs still floating in the water.
This story, my first birth experience is etched into my heart and transformed me deeply. I have loved telling and retelling my story hoping to inspire other women the way I was helped by hearing their positive stories. The telling of personal stories is a weaving of magic that transforms and teaches. The sharing of positive and empowering stories is a powerful support especially in our culture which tends to share the horror stories far too often. Giving birth awakened a passion in me to support other women on their journeys to mother hood and I am delighted and touched that the story of my first son’s birth will be available to more women than I could personally reach with the publication of the book Water Birth: Stories to inspire and inform
This delightful book is a compilation of women’s birth stories covering a wide range of situations – hospital, home, birthcentre, twins… All with the use of water. All the stories are intended, as the title implies, to inspire and inform of the wonderful possibilities of using water in childbirth. It is packed full of information within the stories themselves and in the commentary by Milli Hill who has herself experienced the delights of water birth and whose story also features.
It is my hope that women reading these stories are uplifted and guided into their own power to choose and create their own positive and transformative birth experience. I hope you have enjoyed reading this and would love to hear from you in the comments below.
You can buy ‘Water Birth: Stories to inspire and inform’ from Amazon here:
Water Birth: Stories to inspire and inform
The definitive book on water birth and the source of the historical data quoted is called The Waterbirth Book and is by Janet Balaskas.
For more about water birth and a taste of Milli Hill’s excellent writing click here to read one of her articles for Best Daily . Milli Hill is a freelance writer and weekly columnist for BestDaily.co.uk. She is the founder of the The Positive Birth Movement You can follow her on Twitter: @millihill
The book is also available to buy from wordery and direct from Milli Hill here