A Mother is Born
Dear friends, I am writing these in between the feedings and the soothings and the cooings and the suckings and the cries of a newborn. Yes, our little ‘Blueberry’ is finally with us. He is already going through a growth spurt which is causing much-dreaded sleep-deprivation and complete lack of socialization for this new-mum. But we’re experiencing, and learning from, this new adventure together. Besides, his birth was so extraordinarily beautiful, we worked so well together, as a team, that even on long, sleepless nights and exhausting days, I can’t help but think that we’ll be just fine in the end.
So yes, my baby boy decided to make his debut on his due date. This is unusual as is- I mean, who gives birth, “naturally”, on their due date? Also unusual, especially for a first-time mum, was the length of the whole process – from the first contractions to when I held Luka in my arms, was less
A joyful birth?!
But more important to me is this: If you told me a few months ago that my birthing experience (with all the contractions and the water breaking, all the intensity and the unknowns at home, and finally the pushing stage at the hospital) would be my most cherished and my most empowering memory, I would not have believed it. Three weeks after the birth date of my son, I am telling you that nothing has made me as proud. The thing is, I feel this way not because of some ‘pain’ I had to endure. There was intensity, but there was no ‘pain’ as such-I swear to you there was not. In fact, there was calmness, but also a thrill; a longing, and also joy. It is hard to explain, and today, I would rather like to talk about what, I think, have contributed to the joy and, yes, even the pleasure, of birth.
- Gentle Birth App. I mentioned the Gentle Birth App in a previous post. I used this app religiously- listened to the affirmations while washing the dishes, hypnosis while sleeping, meditated on a daily basis. The aim was to have a calm, peaceful birth. Did it work at all? Well, people could not believe that I was already in active
labourwhen I was trying to tell them that this was “the real thing”. Apparently, I was “too calm and focused”, I was able to communicate my situation with those who were with me at the time, so they thought that what I was experiencing could only be the very first contractions. Gentle Birth helped me throughout the labouras well. For months, I had used the “gentle birth music” and visualized my ideal birthing experience to welcome my baby as calmly, and peacefully, as possible. In those visualizations, my husband would be next to me, and I would be repeating to him, and our baby boy, one sentence only: “I love you. I love you. I love you”. On the day of my labour, when things intensified in only a few hours, nothing helped as much as this piece of music. I listened to it all the way until we finally left for the hospital, and after every intense contraction, keeping my eyes closed, and with a smile, I repeated out loud: I love you. I love you. I love you. Days after the labour, I still listen to it as a reminder of my blessings. I should also add that Tracy Duggan, the founder and President of Gentle Birth, is probably one of the most generous, humble people I have ever met. She responds to your questions, recommends solutions to relieve your concerns, provides you with articles and suggestions, and makes herself available for the Gentle Birthers, in and outside of the United States. I will be forever grateful to her, and I am sure that I am not alone.
- Affirmations. Someone had told me that once things start to get intense, one might not have the time, or the energy, for affirmations. She was right! Especially because my contractions started exactly at 3:18 pm, already 5 minutes apart, water broke at 5:44, and the baby was born at 6:37 pm, I could not have the luxury to repeat/listen to/ read through the affirmations I used to read to myself from time to time. That said, it helped me immensely to have posted on the walls some of these affirmations weeks before the birth. I
wasable to remember to “trust my body”, or to have a “relaxed jaw” to prepare the cervix, and to “dance that baby down”. All these moves, routines, repetitions helped enormously to fasten the process. We liked it so much to embellish the house with watercolourbirth affirmations that we are now thinking about decorating the walls with parenting and relationships affirmations!
- Birthing classes and educating ourselves about birth. I’ll give one example as to why education matters. Since things intensified pretty quickly, I felt this extreme need to push when we were still in the house! That was one of the hardest experiences in my life: I had to, had to, push, but I knew that I should not have. One, because I kiiiiind of did not want the baby to be born on the bathroom floor; and two, because we were not sure if the cervix was ready to allow the baby to come out. Thanks to the birthing class, and the readings we had done until then, I knew the breathing techniques I could use to prevent myself from pushing. Still, this short trip to the hospital was much harder than the contractions, which were a breeze compared to how I had imagined them to be. But I was able to deal with the urge to push immaturely, thanks to “blowing candles”-one of the breathing techniques they teach you. I am grateful that I had a great birthing “team” as
well,since both my doula (who herself was shocked at how quickly things were advancing) and my beloved husband were reminding me every time I told them I needed to push: “No! Don’t push, don’t push! Blow the candles! Blow the candles!”. While feeling that need to push, I was laughing at the whole scene, their reactions to my need to push, my being on all fours, trying to blow my baby’s birthday candles.
- Kegels and squats. Labour is exhausting. I wanted to prepare like a champ! Joke aside, I have had taken good care of my health for years. Occasional cravings and overeating, sometimes emotional eating, or lack of exercise, did happen. But I am a firm believer in consistency: A healthy diet and exercise were consistently a part of my life. What is more, and perhaps partly thanks to this history, I was fortunate enough to have a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy, which allowed me to exercise on a regular basis through those months prior to birth. Most importantly, I did my squats (please don’t do any squat before reading this) and the pelvic floor exercises (there are moves you can do to strengthen and relax your pelvic floor muscles) to make the pushing stage as easy on my body as possible. These exercises are also supposed to help with the post-partum healing process. Thank goodness I have had no tearing, no complications, and within days after birth, I was feeling just fine. To me, this quick recovery was a happy surprise, since the pushing stage was extremely short (in less than ten minutes, I had pushed my angel out of my body) which could have been traumatic for the pelvic area. I believe that the consistent exercise “regime” has contributed to how the pushing stage went and to the quick recovery.
- Chiropractic and acupuncture. I mentioned these in the previous post as well, so I won’t get into the details here. Suffice it to say that the hormonal and structural
changesthroughout pregnancy can lead to spinal and pelvic misalignment – I cannot think of a more convenient and sure way to realign the body than chiropractic care, by a trusted expert .Acupuncture, too, can be beneficial throughout pregnancy. I especially recommend seeking someone specialized in working with pregnant women if you think of “ripening” the cervix, preparing your body for labour, and an “alternative” (to medical techniques) way to induce labour. If you are worried about acupuncture while pregnant, perhaps you can have a look at various studies summarized here. These studies reach the conclusion that acupuncture does not cause harm when used to “ripen the cervix in healthy, low-risk pregnant people, other than the potential of minor side effects that are not related to pregnancy”. Although there’s little evidence of benefit, “some evidence suggests that acupuncture at the end of pregnancy might help with your cervix becoming riper and ready to go into labor”. I have heard from many women that they did not have to be induced “thanks to acupuncture”. Acupuncture has helped me greatly to prepare the body for birth, and, again, I cannot prove either way, but I think it might have helped with my birth “timing” and ease. As always, doing your own research and staying open-minded is what I recommend anyone.
- Red raspberry leaf tea. I love Earth Mama Organics products. Whatever I purchased from them, I loved it. I used their Third Trimester Tea and the Red Raspberry Leaf Tea religiously. I started with one cup of tea a day at around 32 weeks of my pregnancy and increased the amount to three cups a day towards the end. Red raspberry leaf is supposed to tone the uterus to prepare for childbirth and postpartum healing. I was amazed that my uterus started to shrink right after the birth, and in only two weeks there was little sign of my once big bump! Look at this before and after photo, showing my 40-week-belly (a few hours before my boy was born!!), and two weeks postpartum.
make sure you celebrate yourself
Things do go awry sometimes, and complications could have happened. Thank goodness, they did not. I cannot prove that any of these above factors did really contribute to my wonderful experience. I cannot prove to what extent they have contributed to it, and which one had more input than the other. I do not deny the importance of chance, or genetics, either. But chance, and even your wonderful genes, go only so far. I have always believed that one attracts the best only if she gives her best. Make sure you maintain and increase your chances by constant care for yourself. Treat your future birthing experience as a treat for yourself! Giving birth can change your life forever, and for the better. It taught me to listen to and trust my body unconditionally. It showed me that I can do anything I put my heart into.
If you are concerned about your future birth, please, try not to be. You just need to give your best to your body, for yourself and for your baby. You might easily have a similar experience to mine (do a quick research online to see how common it is to have a gentle, calm, joyful birth!). But even if your experience ends up differently, do remember that regardless of the way you give birth, birth itself is “natural”, and a cause for celebration. Celebrate your power of giving life. Don’t let anyone take this power away from you. Whatever shape your birth experience takes is the best way for you and for your baby, for reasons sometimes unknown to us. Once you have given your best, you have the right to let go of control, trust the process, and celebrate yourself, mama. Whatever happens in the end, you have earned your power.