Today I welcome writer and law lecturer Dr Gulara Vincent to the BirthEssence Blog with a guest post about how completing unfinished business helped her transform her birth experience.
‘Unfinished business’ from the past can block your dreams. I learnt this lesson the hard-way through childbirth, and here’s how my journey began.
In November 2012, I was attending a Journey reunion in Birmingham. I was really into the Journey, a method of cellular healing developed by Brandon Bays, and these meetings gave me an opportunity to meet other people who knew this method too. We took turns to swap and give each other some free support. Each meeting had a practitioner who told us about their Journey path: what brought them here and how the Journey transformed their lives. As I sat on a chair listening to the speaker that day, I stroked my belly feeling slight movements of my baby. I was 18 weeks pregnant with a long-awaited baby. The speaker’s voice soothed me, and watching her face framed with long dark hair, I softened in response.
That speaker was Charlotte Kanyi.
I am not going to recount her story here because it’s hers to tell, but it touched me so much that I approached her during the break and started talking about her business. I had seen her business cards on the stalls during every re-union, and even took it home on one or two occasions, but never dared to speak to her before.
‘I have some anxiety around childbirth,’ I said. By then I’d been attending workshops in Stroud to do some ‘birth works’, a process which explored our own birth experience and also explained how birth impacts the child. It was in one of those workshops that the facilitator explained that women who have past sexual trauma may struggle giving birth naturally. The cells remember the invasion and may clamp up in response to the pain caused by a child trying to exit. To me, this was not the time to deal with past sexual trauma. My focus was on delivering my baby into the world, not dwelling on painful memories. It was better left untouched for now, I told myself, even though deep down I was still worried that past trauma can impact my chances of giving birth as naturally as possible.
‘I’d like to have a session before I give birth,’ I said to Charlotte tentatively.
‘If there’s anxiety, it’s best to clear it sooner than later. You don’t want to carry it throughout your pregnancy because the baby is aware of it too,’ she said.
Her words made sense, but I didn’t follow her advice on that day.
Soon enough though, life presented me with plenty more worries. I was classed as ‘high risk’ and a consultant at the Women’s Hospital saw me every two weeks. Each time, he looked for what was wrong. And of course, if you look hard enough, there’s always something to find.
‘Your baby’s head is quite big, and this is a big baby,’ the consultant said every time I met him. ‘You may need to deliver via C-section. And there seems to be too much liquid around the baby. We may need to pass tubes through his nose to make sure that his lungs are free and he can breathe properly.’
The idea of tubes being passed through the nose of my new-born baby was so distressing that I found Charlotte’s card and gave her a call. A few days later, I was sitting on a couch in her front room shaking uncontrollably as an avalanche of memories overwhelmed me. By the end of the session, I felt calmer and more at peace. Miraculously, the next time I saw the consultant, he said that the liquid levels around the baby were normal and there was no need for intervention.
I started seeing Charlotte regularly. Life kept throwing at me opportunities for
distress growth. I was severely traumatised by the intervention of midwives during the induction, and the emergency C-section left me reeling with disappointment. I cried for days after the birth, and all the stress and tension culminated in two painful episodes of mastitis. I worried about everything all the time. The more I worked with Charlotte, the lighter I felt.
A little over a year later, I was pregnant again. This time, I had no second thoughts about diving in at the deep end to clear any ‘unfinished business’ which could impact my pregnancy and delivery. We worked to clear my past sexual trauma; the trauma caused by my son’s birth; fears around speaking up and standing up for myself when I was at the Women’s Hospital – the list went on and on. I remember vividly the first time Charlotte suggested that I could refuse to follow medical advice and even have a homebirth. Horrified at the idea, I gawked at her ready to run for my life. It took one session to clear that fear, and I came to realise that a home birth was the best option for me. I hired a doula and the home birth team at the Women’s Hospital transformed my experience of the last pregnancy and childbirth – there were no invasive scans with consultants looking for faults. Instead, there was a team of gentle loving women who saw natural birth after C-section as absolutely normal and even desirable. I felt like I had a personal cheering squad and their love and support were healing and nourishing.
When the big day arrived and I went into labour on the due date, I had a birthing pool in my front room. The birth team came to support me and my husband was there to hold me in the water. My labour was beautiful, almost ecstatic, and although I ended up having another emergency C-section, the birth experience itself was at the opposite end of the spectrum to my son’s birth; I was calm, confident, supported and in control.
In short, I’m living testament that when we shed off our emotional baggage, our experiences transform. Childbirth is no exception.
Dr Gulara Vincent is a writer, university law lecturer and a Momentum Mentor for Writers. When not writing or teaching, she helps women writers to release their inner fears and emotional blocks so that they can have a successful writing career.
This post is a follow on to last week's post on reflections on the meaning of my birth stories. It details some of the deeper meaning for me behind my encounters with the breech position. I won't give any more away. I invite you instead to read on to discover how my son and his playful positioning supported me on my path to healing and growth.
Were you ready to give birth? I was asked gently, kindly.
The answer came in a flood of tears. 'No!' I wailed.
My heart felt it would burst against my ribcage. The long suppressed pain now released was overwhelming in its intensity. I stayed with it. Waves of grief, loss, anger followed each other. I surrendered fully and lived the emotions as they poured through me. For a few long minutes the painful emotions were all I knew. They were all of my existence as I heard and experienced them fully. Then as they had come they subsided, spent at last.
I was 34 weeks pregnant and at my last antenatal appointment, a week earlier, my baby was lying breech. As I walked home I felt the red warning flags flying and alarm bells sounding.
What was I worried for?
Not as you may think because his choice of position was threatening my natural home birth plans. No! I knew that breech was a variation of normal, I had read Mary Cronk’s paper- Hands off the breech and devoured Ina May’s book Guide to childbirth several times over. I was determined to birth the way I wanted, it just felt so right.
I had time too. I mistakenly thought at the time that I had only 4 weeks for him to turn to a more favourable position.
I don’t quite know where I got the idea from but I was under the false impression that babies could no longer physically turn after 37 weeks due to their growing size. I have since heard all kinds of stories of babies turning just before and during labour. This was yet another myth that underestimates the capabilities of us women. Still I thought 4 weeks was a good amount of time in the grand scheme of things.
I did have a vague sense that I may have a job of persuasion to convince my midwife of that my choice was the right one. I think the way she rolled her eyes, bit her lip and pushed her unspoken words back down into her paperwork when I casually, unthinkingly mentioned that I would not automatically have a caesarean if I was breech that gave me some clue to her view of the subject…! But even this was not what was bothering me.
So why was I worried given that I knew it was ok for babies to be born topsy turvy, I had a month to turn, and wasn’t too daunted by the difference of opinion with my midwife?
‘He is lying breech and I was born breech… I was breech and now he is too…’
The phrases kept repeating themselves over and over in my mind. On the one hand part of my confidence that he could be born breech came from my own direct experience.
I totally knew it was possible to be born breech just fine because that was my experience.
I don’t remember my birth on the conscious every day level of reality but I knew that the memory of my lived experience was informing my confidence as it came to my turn to give birth. Which leads us neatly over to the other hand.
Had I inadvertently imprinted a bottom first approach and was now repeating history?
It was slightly confusing and contradictory. I knew it was possible but still wanted to try and change his position to a more usual head down position that I believed would be easier for him, me and my midwives. I didn't really want a fight with the system but I didn't want to push or force my baby if he was happy. The only way to resolve such conundrums for me is to go within. I needed to go within to find out and clear the imprinting. Free of the imprinting I would then be able to see clearly along the path of this birth. Then if he chose to be born breech I would know it was a free choice that was beneficial to him in some way.
Which brings us back to the question at the start of this post. I was half way through the kind of 1:1 session I take my BirthEssence clients through and this question was the breakthrough moment of that process.
My friend and colleague gently guided me through the process of discovering the cellular memories that were stored in my body and I spontaneously accessed the memory of my birth quite easily. It popped up in my awareness, strong and real. Some details were hazy but the general gist was crystal clear. I was not ready to be born when the doctors assisted my stuck head. I was resisting life with all my might but got pulled out anyway against my will.
These moments of heightened emotions at such a vulnerable time caused significant imprinting that affected how I related to the world. I saw all the times since that I didn’t feel ready for my life experiences. I saw how often I felt caught in a ‘tug of war’ over which direction to choose; How often I felt frustrated over outside circumstances that seemed to dictate what I should do that I had no control over; How often I felt pressured by others to do things a certain way or by a certain time.
I also saw the gifts in this birth experience. I had chosen a less common route to be born, one that was not so easy. I wanted to experience things my way, do things differently and explore how that felt. I was learning to be myself no matter what circumstances came my way. I was learning to stand tall and true to me no matter how unconventional that looked and no matter what obstacles I needed to overcome.
Did I have to experience disempowerment and separation during a birth I found deeply traumatic before I could feel empowered and connected?
I don’t know all the answers to that but I do know that I found peace that day with my choice and timing of birth circumstances. I healed the pain of not being ready or in control and in so doing two more gifts were revealed to me.
It is my hope that those reading this will be inspired to make peace with and heal the challenging aspects of their own birth. I hope that even as you realise that a difficult birth experience does indeed shape you just as a peaceful experience does, that it does not have to scar you for life. I hope to offer a pathway for you to appreciate all parts of your birth story and know that even the painful parts bring you gifts. Gifts that offer you comfort, peace and ultimately deep insights and wisdom that will serve you, your children and the long term future of humanity.
In case you are wondering, shortly after that process my son turned. I don’t even know when, it was almost an anti-climax. No drama of fanfare, but at my next appointment the midwife announced he was in the perfect position and there he stayed. You can read more about his birth story here
Resources for Breech Birth and texts mentioned in the post.
Here is a list of the resources I mention in the post plus a few extras. If you would like personalised support to clear energetic blocks to helping your baby into an optimal position for birth or to clear trauma from a previous birth experience including your own then please check out my 1:1 Transformation page. Thank you and enjoy your pregnancy and baby.
Mary Cronk's wisdom about Breech Birth: http://www.aims.org.uk/Journal/Vol10No3/handOffbreech.htm and
Some Beautiful photographs of Breech Birth: http://londonbirthpractice.co.uk/index.php/educational-info/36-home-breech-birth-photo-series.html?start=1
For optimal positioning: http://spinningbabies.com/
Uk based Facebook Support Group for Breech Birth: https://www.facebook.com/groups/371624862918154/
Inspirational Reading, the book I started with:
My second son Idrisa at three days old.
This post was first published on 27th July 2015 as a submission for The Birth Story Project where you can still read it and many other inspiring stories.
Calm, Serene and blissful; my first son was born still sleeping into a pool and gave a gentle sigh for his first breath, to a delighted audience of four, myself, my husband and two lovely midwives.
Loud, raucous and exhilarating; my second was born in a hurry on the floor of my shower, crying on arrival for his first breath, to a delighted audience of one, me.
I began to wonder about these hugely contrasting experiences in a similar starting environment. Was it simply their different personalities shaping the way they came into the world? Their birth, their chosen start to life and me a willing co-creative partner. Certainly each entrance was a perfect fit for what each of my children needed and desired to experience. Still, I felt there was more, I felt that there was also a message for me. What I wondered was my side of the bargain? What was the gift for me in their birth stories?
A stark contrast, according to baby me's perception. Born breech, with my mum in the unfortunately all too common recumbent beetle position, pushing against gravity was never going to be easy. My mum and me, we did brilliantly, right until the end when my stuck head needed to be eased out with forceps and I was immediately whisked off to a temporary abode by a sunny window in an incubator.
Gentle as the doctor was in his assistance, I found the experience to be deeply traumatic. Birth and the first hours immediately after are a potent time for imprinting
I constructed my version of reality around an unfriendly universe, separation, and abandonment. Stripped of my power and any say in what happened to me, I felt truly worthless, unheard and unseen. I doubted my ability to complete any task by myself.
Of course this was only a short blip in a happy, loving environment. But my expectations were set: Life is hard, People take over against your will, maybe you couldn't have done it anyway. Better not try.
As free as I became, on the approach to my second son's birth I felt my foundations shaking. I was terrified. I didn't know if I could do it. It didn't matter that I knew consciously that women are made for birth, that it is an entirely natural physiological function performed without drama by every other mammal in the animal kingdom. Or even that I had already done it once. There remained a persistent doubt.
Hold on a minute I hear you question? You've skipped to your second? Shouldn't the terror have come up with the first?
Well it did to a point. But as I have discovered the universe is pretty friendly, especially when you ask for help. During my first pregnancy fears surfaced and were released. I dug deep and cleared out all the blocks and conditioning I could find. I felt confident. I was rewarded by a delightful birth experience. I was on top of the world. I had done it!
So why the extreme terror during my second pregnancy?
The answer was revealed to me in my ongoing growth and transformation as a confident woman that threads through my adult life and two birth stories. My first birth experience was my first opportunity to really embody confidence deeply into my cells. The first visceral, lived in the body proof that I was not worthless and a failure as a woman. That actually I was an amazing and powerful woman.
However, having achieved one birth with assistance, (albeit rather hands off assistance, limited to one respectful and consented to vaginal examination and two giggling midwifes lit up by their head torch peering through the ripples of the pool to tell me of my progress.) I still didn't know if I could do anything on my own.
And I needed a different experience to fulfil that. One I could not foresee or second guess. My second son's birth perfectly met that need and put paid to the remnants of lingering doubt of capabilities as a woman.
I can pinpoint the shift in my being, to the last stages of the birth. At the time I was still, with some delusion, telling myself the labour journey had only just begun. We had planned a water birth for him too and the pool was to be my husband's main responsibility...
"I want the pool and there is no pool" I roared. Dimly aware that trotting off to move furniture and make space for the pool was no longer the best use of my husband's loving support at that moment, I was already too far gone for ordinary communication. But that roar of frustration released my agenda for the pool and something else took over. I knew and finally admitted to myself what my husband was as yet sweetly unaware. This baby was coming right now.
I retreated to the shower with a vague thought; warm water, nice. All my focus and energy was on the task at hand. Just me and my baby, cocooned in the shower cubicle and all else ceased to exist. I was no longer focused outwards, checking externally if what I was doing was correct. I was no longer handing over responsibility blindly to someone I perceived as more qualified and competent than me. Failure wasn't an option. Of course I was not thinking in these terms. I was barely even thinking at all in fact. I was living my experience of birth in communion with my son. And in the crucial final stages I did it alone.
I brought him smoothly round through my legs and sat down laughing in total euphoria at the enormity of the moment and at the expression on my husband's surprised face as he came running to my summons.
I did it alone. No assistance needed. Nothing.
There is still a delighted young girl skipping around inside me going, "Look, look everyone, look at what I did, you didn't know I could do that, did you?" and, "See, see," she says to the doctors who helped me be born, "I can do it after all."
My next step on the road? Well I don't know if there will be a third child or not, but I do know that my exploration of personal confidence is leading me to a place where I am so confident that even though I know I can do it alone, I no longer need to. That place is filled with laughing women in community and support, and in that place I am truly home.