My experience of the deep underworld of birthing my babe
It’s been three weeks since the awe inspiring day of Matraya’s birth. I have a strong desire to share my experience of birthing my baby, firstly cos I loved it so much (!!) and secondly as I believe there is so much fear around the process of birth. I feel that by sharing more positive birth experiences, we will pave the way for women to feel empowered, rather than fearful, in their process of pregnancy, birth and motherhood.
As I reflect on the day of Matraya’s birth, I am filled with wonder, love, a sense of strength and whimsy. It was not an experience just of this world, there were many forces at play, innate and universal. It was timeless and spiritual.
Two phrases summed it up for me, both gifted to me in the weeks leading up to the birth… A Nepalese friend shared with me the mantra “Go beyond… Beyond the mind. Beyond the pain” how true that is and I reminded myself of this at various points of the labour. Secondly, my midwife reminded me at a pivotal moment in the labour (I had read this quote in the week prior to the birth), “women go to the stars to collect their babies” and that is exactly what it felt like.
My pregnancy yoga teacher (Suzanne at Yogababy) had also strongly suggested to let go of time, cover any clocks and darken the room, this was so important for me. Had time been a factor, I think the whole process would have taken a very different route. This journey is not of the man made world, time is not relevant here. And now with baby in the real world, again, time fades into the the distance, day and night blurring into one and moments stretching longer and longer as I watch her sleeping (or trying to settle the crying!!)
So in a nutshell Matraya’s birth went like this…
Friday early morning, cramping and Braxton Hicks begin in a somewhat irregular manner. This felt like period pain along with tightening of the uterus sensations. I was unsure if this was the start of labour, but did feel that something had shifted within me; my thought process was becoming less analytical, I was not good at making decisions and did not want to see or talk to anyone apart from my partner, Mike. No progression or real ramping up occurred over the course of the day. We had an appointment to meet a “back up” midwife in case my midwife (Debbie) was unable to make the labour. When I shared with her what I was experiencing, she called them ‘niggling pains’. Debbie said it was not labour. This was quite disheartening, I felt that after a full day of cramps and discomfort, that I would have liked it to be the real deal!! I baked a cake and watched a movie to keep myself distracted and calm. When my partner returned home from work, we went for a gentle walk along the river. I was having regular cramping, which meant I had to stop walking every few minutes to sway and dance through them. I felt frustrated that I had to endure this pain and it wasn’t even labour! Mike suggested to call his acupuncturist for a treatment. We went at 7pm. The acupuncturist activated some induction points and ligament release points and it did the trick!
That night contractions began and increased in intensity. I managed to sleep through them for as long as possible, dozing and waking depending on my body. It all felt so surreal as I was half asleep but also so aware that my body was opening and this process was really happening. There was a sense of excitement to meet my babe, but also still a sense of uncertainty that this was now the ‘real deal’!
By the early hours of Saturday morning, I was on all fours breathing through each contraction and needed to wake Mike to help me maintain my breathing and to apply pressure to my sacrum which eased the pain. We wanted to labour for as long as possible in the comfortable surrounds of our home, but when my contractions escalated to 4 every 10mins, we called Debbie and after chatting with us both, she decided it was time to meet at the Birth Centre.
We arrived at the hospital (RBWH Birth Centre) at around 6:30am. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the walk from the car to the birth centre. I had about four contractions and had to stop, moan and breath through each one. What a sight! I felt so strong and somehow special, like I was entering a zone I had not been into before. I knew I was in the midst of something quite special. Something I might only ever experience once in my life. I headed straight into the shower upon arrival, the warm water on my back felt amazing. Debbie filled the bath and then checked my dilation to make sure it was ok for me to go into the bath. The amazing feeling of ease and weightlessness as I entered the bath!! I can not imagine not being in the water for my labour. My whole body surrendered in the bath, enabling my mind to surrender also. We had music playing and aromatherapy burning. The lights were dim and it really did feel like our own safe sanctuary. I wish all women could birth in a safe space such as this birth centre room (or their own homes).
With each contraction my body was taking me further and further out of this world. The space between the contractions, I was floating around the stars looking for Matraya. It was divine. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard work (leaving Earth is never going to be easy!) but it was also pure and spacious. I was truly surprised at how pleasant the time between each contraction was. As I sat in the bath recovering from each contraction, a sense of timelessness swept around (right until the end when real world hospital pressures brought time back into the equation).
The contractions continued to escalate in intensity but not so much in duration. I focused on my brow and base chakras during each contraction. The vocal sound I was making through the contractions was low, earthy and grounded, I felt like it was opening and connecting my base chakra deep into Mother Earth. Mike pressed on my sacrum during every contraction until the pushing phase, I could not have done it without that pressure. I had what felt like a little nap in the water and then we moved into pushing phase. This was much harder than I expected. I put all my energy into pushing deep into my pelvis for over 2hrs when we decided to leave the bath as things were slowing down. The sac around Matraya was still intact. After trying many upright positions, I ended up pushing on my back, pressing my feet into Mike and Debbie’s shoulders. Eventually we had to get the OK from another midwife in the hospital to continue pushing over the standard hospital 2hr limit (this was the time factor that I mentioned). Had we been at a home birth, I could have kept pushing as long as bub was happy (Deb checked Matraya’s heartrate after every contraction) but as we were in a more formal setting, there was a time limit placed on the pushing phase, at which once reached, some sort of intervention was suggested for bub's safety. For me, that ended up being an episiotomy, which in the scheme of things, did not seem that big a deal. By this time (about 2.5hrs of pushing later) I was happy to do what ever was needed to help my babe out of the birth canal.
What a sight to to look down and see her little head emerge! One or two more contractions and she slid out into Mike's hands who guided her onto my belly. This tiny, slippery little human with a head full of jet black hair! I felt surprise, relief and joy at all once. I still didn’t know if she was a girl or boy, so had to pick her up and have a look; a little girl!!! She rested on my belly and chest for what felt like an eternity in a second. I could not see her eyes, but I could feel her soft skin and breath in her smell. I stroked her hair and gazed at Mike with amazement. Not many words were spoken. We left the chord connected until the placenta arrived, I held Matraya as I pushed it out. So much blood and mess, but I did not care, I had this little creature in my arms, so gentle and divine. Pure and precious.
Birth; Feminine power and strength. Nature at it’s best. The animal within unleashed.
It was time for us to return from the stars and begin our life together on planet Earth… we’ll see how it goes… updates to follow :)
A special thank you to Debbie from Family Midwives, I could not have done this without your support, trust and the space you offered me to step into my power.
To Mike, again, I could not have done this without your love and strength. Love you and our new little family!
To anyone about to embark on birthing their babe, I have lots of specific advice and tips that might be helpful for you. Feel free to shoot me and email and I'll send you some info.