Believe it or not, it is over a decade since I collected my son’s spirit and bought him Earth side and while it was an amazing time to birth him into the world, the birth experience was not as it should have been. I have since learnt otherwise and wow it was a bitter pill to swallow.
I had opted for a private, hospital birth under an obstetrician as I believed at that time that this was the safest and best option for me and my baby. I now know, this choice was made from a place of fear of birth, distrust in my body, but trust in a system that sadly did not have my best interests at heart.
I do what I do as a birth-keeper now because I had a disempowered birth – where I made choices, I didn’t truly know the consequences of. I gave away my body sovereignty to a system that is all about mitigating risk, not trusting women’s ability to birth, making money, and moving a woman out of hospital as quickly as they can post birth because after all – time is money. The system, which I thought was the safest and ‘best’ option for me and my baby was not about my welfare, it was not about what was best for me, my body, or my mental health. It was simply about getting the baby out as quickly as possible with whatever medical intervention needed, with little regard for the trauma that the process may have triggered in me or my baby.
What I have learnt since, from my personal journey is, as we birth, we are entering into one of the most sacred and precious moments in our life, a rite of passage for women but we are doing it without knowing the true implications of what certain decisions entail. We are handing over our bodies, not knowing how it might be affected because we have trusted the system through repetitively being told, hospital is where we MUST birth to be safe, and DOCTORS know best. Since my journey and witnessing birth, this simply isn’t true.
Before I share my birth story, I want you to know, I’m not anti the system. This isn’t a rant to take down (what is a dying) system, I believe. It is just my observations based on my journey and witnessing women time after time lining up for a tale of trauma, unwittingly. So I share my story, so that, if you’re listening and pregnant, I, just maybe, might give you some food for thought, a nugget of information that you might learn from so that you can make some different choices or at least, choices with informed consent and retain your body sovereignty, knowing that what you say ‘yes’ to is in line with your beliefs, your gut intuition and with a ton of information to back it up. So that when you sit, holding your baby in those sacred 6 weeks post birth, you can feel satisfied that you did what YOU could to keep you and your baby safe rather than handing over your power to a system you don’t really know – thus by passing post-natal depression and a whole host of trauma.
In brief, I went into spontaneous labour at home around 5am the day after my due date. I called the hospital after taking a bath (a good early labour activity) and then having a big old poo (a clear sign labour is ensuing- I mean after all who poos at 5am???). When I called at around 7am, I was told to chill and have a cup of tea – to which I did. By 9am excitement got the better of me and I took myself along to the hospital at the end of my road.
As I arrived in my hospital room and as the sensation of labour became stronger, I kept vomiting in between contractions so there was little let up to meditate, breathe and generally converse. (I will go into why I think I was vomiting later in the podcast).
Anyway, they do their whole check in routine, listening to my blood pressure, taking my temperature, checking the baby is moving and its heart rate and of course the famous Vaginal exams began, on to the bed I went, legs akimbo, in she went – just so that she could tell me how dilated I was. It turns out I was 5cm, but my son had not descended into my pelvis and his head wasn’t engaged.
I was encouraged to walk around to help him drop in. Time was ticking though and sensations getting stronger. My waters hadn’t broken naturally so I was guided to having my membrane ruptured. Back in came the obstertrican with a knitting needle type instrument. I lay on the bed, propped up while she pushed and prodded this sharp instrument with a hook on the end through my vagina, cervix, and the sac in which my baby was snuggled.
It was, believe it or not hefty work, the doctor had my legs behind my head, with her shoulder dug into my glutes as she heaved and hoed. Eventually the flood of warm, flowing waters arrived – the sensation of the flood was dreamy, the way I got there was anything but.
And just a note on this – I’m telling you this story so that you don’t have this happen, so that you can safely sit there and go, ‘nope not for me. I have a different plan and it involves my very clever body, baby and empowered self to birth differently so that I have tell a story of positive birth’.
I’m not that woman who has walked the path and now tells the gory story, no, I tell this so that you are fully knowledged up with the reality of birthing in the system, without knowing a thing about it and reasons why this isn’t your reality. There is a whole other plan for you and it’s not this one!!
Anyway, back to my birth story, several hours later, he was still not engaging (their words) so I was given an epidural to reduce the strength of contractions – I remember thinking as I bent my spine forward to have the epidural needle stuck between my vertebrae that this was a better option than what I was experiencing. And in many ways, it was, as I could then sit there watching Wimbledon (this was June time) and reading the paper (this was before I was awake the mass media toxicity of course!). I hadn’t been given any tools to ride the wave of contractions, which I call surges. I had been given no optimal positions or exercises to support my baby’s journey or my body’s expansion. I was just left, on my own, in a medicalised setting to somehow find the tap of oxytocin to help my body open and baby drop down but my gosh, hospital is anything, but the oxytocin rich set up we so need for a successful birth.
As soon as I had the epidural, I was no longer mobile and my birth took a very different route. Unknowingly, epidurals often slow things down, it is after all an intervention in the natural process of labour, as was the ruptured membrane, as was the vaginal examinations, the bright lights, the unfamiliar faces and everything else that my hospital admittance entailed.
Remember time is money. So next up, after another vaginal examination, I was offered a drip of Pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin to help bring on stronger contractions to move things along (I’m taking up a bed, the longer I’m in it!). As soon as you enter the hospital system you are on the clock, they check your progress every 4 hours and if you’re not ‘progressing’ as they wish then they’ll offer you something that will put you back on their schedule (and there is little nuance to the individual – one size fits all apparently when it comes to birth!).
Again, I had no idea what I really had signed up for. As soon as you have synthetic oxytocin, it cuts your ability to produce your own – so that love hormone, that we naturally release during the birth to help bond and connect you and your baby gets sabotaged. Yep, you heard me! Making breastfeeding and bonding a whole lot harder (not impossible) when this beautiful hormone isn’t present.
With this being a very unnatural intervention, as they all are of course, bringing on contractions thick and fast, too quick for most bodies including mine, and way too fast for my body to comprehend what on earth was happening, not least my baby’s ability to understand what the heck was happening and thus, quite obviously triggered foetal distress. Alarm bells are on, nurses are running around like headless chickens and I’m sat in my bed, powerless, unable to walk, and thinking this is because I had failed, because he wasn’t moving down into my pelvis.
The truth was, I hadn’t failed. The system failed me.
They tried another synthetic hormone to see ‘if the baby’ was better with another toxic chemical and of course he wasn’t. Foetal distressed ensured again and the headless nurses ran riot once again.
Eventually the obstertrican returned and said, I quote her, ‘we could be here for another 12 hours waiting for your baby to descend but more exhausted and with little results. You need an emergency caesarean. Now.’
I was rushed into surgery, shocked, shaken and very stirred. They cut my womb open, they took my baby boy out, rubbed him with a rough towel, cut his cord immediately and eventually placed him on me – and so our journey began. My son and that birth triggered a tsunami of emotions of overwhelm of life, underwhelm of ‘is this it?’ and all the suppressed emotions that I had pack in for 35 years (hence why labour triggered vomiting as I believe I was so numb to feeling emotions in my body that when I had these birthing sensations, my body couldn’t take the force of it). It’s said, your birth is the story of your life to date, you’re given the birth you need. I was given one that was all about fear, disempowerment and suppression of sensations and emotions and that mirrored the first 35 years of my life on Planet Earth – you can read more about this in my book ‘Born to Shine’.
Post-natal and breastfeeding is another podcast or blog to come but that my friends was my birth story. And yes, I did have post-natal depression and yes, I truly do believe that my body knew the trauma of the birth even though my brain didn’t. I thought the doctors had saved me and my baby. That’s what they lead you to believe. ‘If we hadn’t done X, Y would have happened’ and let’s face, as women we will do ANYTHING to protect our young.
HOW IT COULD HAVE BEEN
Truth is, no one can honestly predict how my birth would have unfolded without intervention BUT what I do know is. I needed more time. I needed a safe and sheltered environment to birth, for my baby to descend, for my cervix to fully open. My body knew this wasn’t a safe place but my ego and mind plus deep conditioning told me otherwise.
I’m not saying there is never a need for an intervention or a caesarean but not in the numbers we are seeing. We are losing natural birth because we are handing our bodies over to an industrialised process. If you haven’t read about the cascade of intervention, I suggest you do (or purchase my birth preparation course obvs). The moment one form of induction is given a cascade of procedures follows, in almost all cases – mine started with my waters being broken and ended in a c-section. When we upset the natural rhythm of birth it invites in a different rhythm and one that the natural, human body rejects and this comes out in the birth trauma and post-natal depression in the following days, weeks and months, if not years, if our trauma goes unresolved.
WHAT I NEEDED
I just needed time. With hospitals on a conveyor belt of birth and the industrialisation of the birthing experience, allowing me time to bring my baby Earth side is money wasted – in their opinion. While I’m keeping a bed full, I’m stopping another woman come through the system where pharmaceutical drugs are a premium, while the cost of a caesarean is big money income.
As I said, I’m not here to fight the system, I’m here to reimagine birth and create a new birthing experience and one that honours and preserves the natural and beautiful, powerful and sacred process that is human birth. A woman in her birthing power is like nothing that you have seen before.
I was not broken. My body was not ‘failing’ to engage. My baby wasn’t failing to move down. The system failed us. I need not have been cut open. I didn’t need my sacred womb sliced (twice – as I opted for a planned c section for my second birth to avoid the emergency, I had endured the first time around). I did not need to have my sacred waters broken, I did not need synthetic drugs to speed things up or mute my surges. I just needed time and in this broken society, time is money. I just needed some loving words to reassure me that my body, my baby and me all knew exactly how to birth. I just needed a dimly lit, soft and warm space to bring my beautiful boy earth side. That’s what I needed.
When I trained as a doula, I had to understand my birth and process the unnecessary traumas so that I can show up for you without baggage, judgement, or a biased point of view.
You know your body; your birth story is different to mine. I am not anti-hospital birth. I’m for empowered choices and sovereign consent. If you choose a caesarean, I support you – there are ways to make this choice personal to you such as, receipt of your baby immediately, skin to skin, the vernix left on, delayed cord clamping, lotus birth, natural 3rd stage labour. If you choose a hospital birth, you can do this as a sovereign being, making inform choices with firm boundaries of what you are willing to receive in care on your terms. BUT you must know the implications of decisions made, potential and probable outcomes and KNOW the physiology of birth.
Here is where doulas come in: first through continuity of care and having a woman by your side to advocate for your choices. The gift of my experience is I see how a medical system industrialises the process out of fear of litigation and a price tag on time. With this awareness I assist women in ensuring they aren’t another unnecessary statistic that went through the birth mill. I advocate for the birth that you choose and I support you in creating a space either at home or in hospital that is in line with your wishes and desires.
I shared with you my story as a trail blazer of the future of birth. Let’s reimagine birth – one of natural celebration of the immense power a woman must house new life and then birth new life into the world. What a gift and one that must be held in the highest regard. Let’s celebrate your ability to choose your birth in this modern world and one that supports you and your baby thriving through motherhood.
LET’S REIMAGINE BIRTH – TOGETHER
WALK THE PATH HAND IN HAND.
We are here to show our children the way.
Let’s create that new and beautiful path towards birth.
Afterall, peace on Earth begins at birth.
Thank you for reading this, I hope you take away a nugget of empowerment to see you through your beautiful birth journey, however it unfolds.