Heavenly Father, I give you all the glory and all the praise
for this incredible child growing within me.
What an honour and privilege, what an opportunity and
responsibility. As I approach their day
of birth, I thank you for your perfect timing and your perfect process. I thank you that you will start working with
and in me already now, preparing the way: body, mind and spirit.
May I enjoy great rest and precious times with my family and
friends in the days leading up to bubs’ arrival. May I enjoy a peace that only
you can prescribe and a joy that comes only from you.
I thank you for your incredible design of the woman’s body
and that I have within me everything I need to birth my baby peacefully,
naturally and joyfully. I thank you that
I will embrace every contraction and, in doing so, you will ensure bub is
positioned just perfectly for their arrival.
I ask that you will protect both baby and I throughout the entire
birthing journey and that it will be a smooth, seamless, complication-free
event. I call into being all the right
hormones at the right time to naturally work within my body and that I will
feel relaxed yet strong, confident and more than capable. Thank you for designing the very best path
and process and I trust that all will flow in the way you created it to.
Thank you that I will be surrounded by the very best support
and medical professionals at the right time – positive, encouraging and just as
excited to meet bub as I am.
I ask for your peace to fill me every moment and that I will
really walk with you, be led and guided by you, and truly be present and enjoy
this incredible time.
Thank you for the wonderful support of my partner and I pray
over them and their mighty role. Keep them
strong, excited, positive and supportive every step of the way. Draw us closer than we have ever been and
bless us abundantly as we step into this new season and into our new roles.
Lord, I thank you that the fruits of the Spirit will be in
abundance as this miracle baby makes their safe arrival into the world: love,
joy, peace, patience, gentleness… and I bind anything that is not from you – it
has no power and is not welcome.
I thank you for great bonding and connection between both bub
and I as they are welcomed into the family.
I thank you for excellent health for both of us and that feeding will be
established quickly and easily.
My beautiful baby, you are both blessed and a blessing. You
are cherished dearly with an incredible anointing on your life. Welcome to the world!!! I can’t wait to meet you!
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (ESV) Joshua 1:9
“Be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” (NIV) 2 Chronicles 15:7
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (ESV) Psalm 55:22
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (NIV) Psalm 56:3
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (ESV) Isaiah 26:3
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV) Isaiah 41:10
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (NKJV) John 14:27
“But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me.” (ESV) 1 John 4:18
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (ESV) 2 Timothy 4:17
When it comes to birthing, I believe it’s every woman’s hope to have the best possible birthing experience. That’s why you’ve found yourself here, to learn as much as possible in the hope of practically applying it when the time comes. One woman’s perception and expectation of the best possible experience differs to another.
What is an ‘intervention’?
To intervene is to get in the middle of something. But it’s more than just getting involved, it’s getting involved with intent. To change something. The intention is generally to change something for the better, according to the intervener’s opinion. Of course this opinion is based on their experience, education and training, personal beliefs and preferences. The act of ‘intervening’.
“Involvement in a difficult situation in order to improve it or prevent it from getting worse; the act or fact of becoming involved intentionally in a difficult situation.”
A ‘birth intervention’ is an action taken by a midwife or doctor that literally means that they intervene in the birthing process to assist in the delivery of your baby. An intervention occurs when it becomes clear that you will be unable to give birth without some kind of assistance or your baby is in distress and needs to be born more quickly.” (Source: Pregnancy Birth & Baby) At least, those are the reasons an intervention should be used… but this isn’t always the case. There are natural births without intervention and there are births with one or multiple interventions.
I’m not looking to get into any sort of a debate here because certainly at times interventions are absolutely necessary and save lives. There are women whose bodies simply don’t dilate sufficiently for a natural birth, babies who become distressed, women whose pelvises simply weren’t formed or can’t respond as needed, babies who have well over-stayed their time in utero etc.
If we didn’t have these interventions… well, we’d be back in the days of old where fatalities during childbirth, of both mother & baby, were all too common. We are so fortunate to be living in the age we are with technology, research, science, facilities, dedicated medical professionals etc.
I love how the class booklet for Calmbirth® by Peter Jackson puts it: “Despite the best intentions and thorough preparation couples will sometimes face pre-existing, unforeseen and/or unexpected challenges to deal with during pregnancy, labour and childbirth. There will be times when medical intervention is inevitable, in fact, it will be lifesaving. The knowledge, care and expertise provided by obstetricians, doctors, midwives and other health professionals is essential in the rescuing of some mothers and their babies who are experiencing medical problems during pregnancy and childbirth. Calmbirth® is not just about normal birth. It is about helping you prepare and deal with everything from the normal to the unexpected in childbirth.” (Pg. 27, 4th edition). Remember, even in this day and age, growing and bringing a child into this world is very risky business.
Yes, I am absolutely pro natural birth. But I realise this is not always possible. So I’m not disputing that interventions have a place and I certainly don’t want you rueing them should they be necessary in your birthing journey… hopefully you’ll be able to find yourself in a place of grateful acceptance and appreciation, perhaps relief. For some, a period of grieving may also be necessary and I encourage you to read my article on when all doesn’t go to plan. The most important thing you need to be confident in though is the fact that you have not failed. There is no failure here. Acknowledge and accept. Surrender. You are still about to, or you have, met your precious baby. That’s what this journey is all about.
There are times though when we interfere when it really isn’t necessary to do so and we actually negatively affect the birthing experience. That’s why I’ve written this article. There’s a sequence of events called the ‘cascade of intervention’ which I would never have known about if I hadn’t been informed prior. I’m sure I would have just gone with the ‘flow’, accepted everything and anything and done as I was told.
Various interventions can lead to such issues as labour being slowed hence taking longer (epidural), contractions may be intensified (due to Pitocin or Syntocinon), you may need to be less mobile & hence can’t use gravity as effectively (due to monitoring and/or pain-relief), you may be unable to feel the urge to push once fully dilated (epidural)… the list goes on. Every time we interfere, we add risks.
“As with all bodily processes, occasionally things might deviate from normal, and intervention becomes necessary. However, in the birth process, this is typically the exception and not the rule. Most births, when properly facilitated in a safe environment, will unfold without complication or need for intervention.” (Source: Belly Belly)
Let’s discuss just a couple common birthing interventions that take place regularly today – both planned and unplanned. (If you’d prefer to jump ahead, click here: ‘What can I do if faced with a birthing intervention?’).
“In natural, spontaneous labor your body, your baby and the placenta enact a series of complex changes in the days leading up to labor. The cervix shortens and softens, while the uterus develops sensitivity to the hormone oxytocin which your body will produce. Your brain’s hormone control center and the uterus engage in a complex feedback mechanism to control the length, strength and closeness of contractions.
During an induction, this mechanism is not engaged. Instead, the delivery of Pitocin (or Syntocinon, a synthetic form of oxytocin) is increased mechanically through an IV. The speed with which the contractions intensify varies according to each institution’s Pitocin administration policies and each labouring mother’s individual physical response.
Many women report these labors as being particularly painful. This may also be because their ability to move freely in response to the growing strength of labor is severely limited, since induced mothers will be connected to at least one IV pole as well as various monitoring devices. It is therefore not surprising that induced women commonly have epidurals. These, in turn, increase their chances of a vacuum or forceps delivery, which can cause injuries leading to long term problems such as urinary and fecal incontinence. Studies have also associated inductions with damage to the cervix and amniotic fluid embolism (a very rare but serious life threatening complication).”
Ideally, babies should be left to come at their own time, when they are fully ready. Inducing them before, unless it’s for either the mother or baby’s health, is not ideal. So whilst the temptation may be there: you might be ‘over it’ (be it due to discomfort for e.g. from your size or back pain, the heat in the middle of summer etc), or it may be convenient for yourself, your partner or your doctor that you schedule baby’s birthday, if you have it within you, it is strongly encouraged that you give bub every possible chance to kick things into motion themselves. Obviously there will come a time post your due date, usually between 7 – 14 days, where your medical team will insist on an induction. Speak openly and honestly with them and ask if they will leave it for as long as safely possible.
Drugs during childbirth
Whether or not you use any medical pain-relief during childbirth is a very personal decision and either way, I respect it. If you’ve read my story, you’ll know it was never a consideration for me quite simply because I didn’t remotely need it. My births weren’t painful and it never crossed my mind. There was nothing ‘heroic’ or ‘superhuman’ about it. Other women do make a very conscious decision to labour unmedicated believing it to be the best scenario for both themselves and their child. Doing so is often significantly challenging for them, though ultimately, also extremely rewarding. Still others are quite happy to accept any form of relief available to ‘assist’ them in their experience, as I thought I would be when I was still in my fearful, apprehensive state.
So again the information outlined below holds absolutely no judgement whatsoever. It is intended to be purely informative and factual, sourced from The Better Health Channel.
Medical pain relief options for childbirth
“The three main medical pain-relieving options for labour include:
Nitrous oxide, known as ‘laughing gas’, is mixed with oxygen and administered to the mother through a face mask or a tube held in the mouth. The gas takes a few seconds to work, so it is important to breathe from the mask as soon as a contraction starts.
Nitrous oxide doesn’t stop the pain entirely, but takes the ‘edge’ off the intensity of each contraction. Many women prefer nitrous oxide because it allows them direct control – you can hold the mask yourself and take deep breaths whenever you feel the need.
Nitrous oxide doesn’t interfere with contractions and it doesn’t linger in either the woman’s or the baby’s body.
Possible problems with using nitrous oxide include:
Nausea and vomiting
Confusion and disorientation
Claustrophobic sensations from the face mask
Lack of pain relief – in some cases, nitrous oxide doesn’t offer any pain relief at all (this applies to around one-third of women).
Pethidine is a strong pain reliever (related to morphine and heroin), usually injected directly into a muscle in the buttock. It may also be administered intravenously (directly into a vein). Depending on various factors, the effect of pethidine can last anywhere from two to four hours. Pethidine can make you feel sick, so anti-nausea medications are usually administered at the same time.
Possible problems with pethidine for the mother include:
Giddiness and nausea
Disorientation and altered perception
Respiratory depression (reduced breathing)
Lack of pain relief, in some cases.
Possible problems with pethidine for the baby include:
The unborn baby is exposed to the drug via the umbilical cord and may experience respiratory depression at birth, particularly if several doses are given or the baby delivers soon after a pethidine injection. This effect can be reversed by an injection given to the baby.
The baby’s sucking reflex may also be depressed, as well as other normal reflexes. Debate persists over the effects of pethidine on newborns.
Epidural injections are the most effective pain relief available. They are used for vaginal births and also for caesarean sections, because they allow the mother to stay awake and alert during the baby’s birth. Anaesthetic is injected into the lining of the spinal cord through the back, which makes the mother feel numb from the waist down. Your baby’s heart rate will be monitored continuously.
Possible side effects and complications of epidural anaesthesia include:
The anaesthesia may not be complete and you may still experience some pain. This may require the procedure to be repeated.
After the epidural has been inserted, your blood pressure may drop, causing you to feel faint and nauseated. This may also cause stress to your baby. This is treated by giving intravenous fluid.
An epidural often causes some muscle weakness in the legs, so women who have had an epidural anaesthetic may be confined to bed.
The lack of sensation in the lower body means that you will not be able to tell when you need to urinate. A urinary catheter will be inserted in most cases.
Epidurals can lengthen the second stage of labour.
The likelihood of having a normal vaginal delivery is reduced.
If you are unable to push effectively, due to altered sensation and reduced muscle strength, the baby may have to be delivered by forceps or vacuum cup.
Around one per cent of women experience headache immediately following the procedure.
Some women experience itchiness after having an epidural. This can usually be effectively treated using antihistamines.
Some women experience pain or tenderness where the epidural was injected.
Around one in 550 women experience ongoing patches of numbness on the back near the injection site.
Very rare complications include infection, blood clots and difficulty breathing.”
So you can see that sometimes the use of pain-relief medication can actually be quite unpleasant and have side effects for the mother, can lengthen labour, may lead to further interventions and bub may also be exposed. They are available, but be wise and make an informed decision if possible.
Caesarean or C-Section Births
Unless a mother is high risk, caesareans/c-sections are more risky than vaginal births. Not to mention that it’s major surgery, a longer hospital stay for yourself and a greater chance of your baby spending time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) plus a long and slow recovery for you (painful, restricted movement, no driving for 6 weeks, no carrying a load of washing or a toddler etc) and a significantly increased chance that subsequent births will also be via the same manner.
Even so, a large number of our medical professionals don’t seem to be too concerned about caesareans/c-sections. They are becoming more and more ‘common’, hence accepted and largely unquestioned. Approximately 1 in 3 mothers are giving birth by caesarean and scheduled caesareans for non-medical reasons have been rising. I believe it is important to note that the World Health Organisation believes that only 10-15% of births should be taking place via caesarean section (being for significant medical reasons – it is meant to be a life-saving procedure and is certainly very effective for this said purpose).
“Interventions in labor are closely linked with having unplanned caesareans. The phenomenon where one intervention increases the likelihood of others used to monitor, prevent, or treat side effects is known as the ‘cascade of intervention’. This cascade frequently ends in an unplanned caesarean section. Among first-time mothers with term births who experienced labor, those who had both labor induction and epidural analgesia were six times as likely to have a caesarean section (31%) as those who had neither intervention (5%).” Source
I find this just fascinating:
So now that we’ve looked at a few common interventions, let me remind you of what a cascade may look like:
Induction increases the likelihood of Pitocin or Syntocinon; which can cause contractions to be quick and intense which increases the likelihood of an epidural; which increases the chances of a vacuum or forceps delivery or risk of a c-section.
But I’m having a ‘big baby’…
I hear this all the time. And people comment on it all the time. They look at the size of a woman’s pregnant belly and comment that she must be having a large baby. Good on you, what a great way to concern an expectant mamma. Even though the physical size/appearance of the woman’s swollen stomach really provides next to no indication of what the baby’s size will be. Medical staff of course regularly monitor bubs in utero and may comment on whether a baby is tracking on the smaller or larger side, but even for them it is incredibly difficult to calculate how large a baby will be at birth.
I’ve heard that virtually all babies are born with a head circumference of within 1cm of each other. So that’s really no big deal (especially if you’ve been using the Epi-No). And yet that’s what everyone stresses about, the size of a baby’s head. Remember, the plates in their heads are flexible, and so is your pelvis.
If anything, it’s the width of the shoulders. The length and weight of the baby really don’t matter when it comes to a normal vaginal birth.
In all honesty, in my humble opinion, the issue of talking about the possibility of a big baby is that the mother can develop fears and it’s those fears that will hamper her labour efforts. Not necessarily the actual size of the baby. She will have been walking around with those fears, creating more and more self-doubt, possibly for weeks or months leading up to the birth. She panics about the ‘pain’ she may experience. Her confidence may take a massive hit as she starts doubting her ability.
Should you find yourself in this position, please apply everything you have learnt. Read this website from top to bottom. Stay calm. Be confident in the abilities of both yourself and your baby. Rest assured knowing that birthing is a natural process and your body is incredibly designed for it.
What can I do if faced with a birthing intervention?
If your medical team start talking about any form of intervention, be mindful enough to ask about it. You are completely entitled to – this is your birthing experience after all.
When faced with an intervention, use your brain!
The BRAIN Method empowers you to ask your medical professionals the following:
Benefits – what are they?
Risk – what is it?
Alternatives – are there any?
Intuition – how do you feel about this?
No or not now – what if I said?
So essentially you’re asking, why is this necessary? What are the benefits and risks involved? Do I have any other options? What is my gut telling me? And what if I were to say, “No I don’t want it. At least not yet…” What would their response be?
Now let me be clear, they’re not always going to like you asking questions. It very much depends on the style of professional they are, how inclusive or traditional they are, whether they take it personally and feel you are challenging or questioning them etc (so be careful/considerate with your wording and tone). They might try to dismiss you, fob you off, blindside you… but be persistent. It’s your body, and your baby.
I know first-hand this isn’t easy. I was surprised how willing I was to just go along with whatever the doctor said without even questioning why it was necessary. With my firstborn my contractions weren’t overly intense and didn’t last very long (and I also honestly didn’t realise how much you do physically need to bear down/push your baby out) so at one point he whispered in my ear that he was going to arrange a shot of Syntocinon (Pitocin) for me as things were taking a bit longer than he would have liked. I just nodded, not really comprehending or taking in what he was talking about. I never ended up having it (so obviously things really were progressing just fine) and it wasn’t until after-the-birth that my midwife confided how mad she was with him for even considering it because I was doing great and it wasn’t needed. That’s the point I realised I was going to be given an intervention that wasn’t necessary. And also how some midwives and other supporting staff can, in some situations and depending on who the overseeing doctor/obstetrician is, perhaps not be willing to voice their opinion even if they don’t agree with their superior. Which you can totally understand given they’re the ones who need to work with them day in and day out and, let’s face it, who likes their authority challenged? But you are not an employee. And you are more than a patient: you’re a client, a customer, and you have a right to ask and know. So make sure your support person/s know to enquire if you don’t. There is no harm in asking for more time or whether there is an alternative.
I’ll never forget my Calmbirth® facilitator saying that if it truly is an emergency, you’ll have no say anyway. They will do what needs to be done to keep both you and bub safe and your ‘control’ will be removed – understandably and thankfully so. Unless this eventuates though, you are well within your rights to query/decline. Please do remember that they are the professionals, and as such, do deserve our trust and respect. Even when things don’t go the way we’d hoped.
I can’t stress this enough: Always,always, of the utmost importance is the health and wellbeing of both mum and bub. In the end, it doesn’t matter how bub is born. If both you and your baby are safe, then that is a successful birth.
At my 6 week check-up my obstetrician (who was unavailable when I delivered my firstborn) advised that I had laboured longer than they ‘liked’, by all of 6 minutes! A ridiculously insignificant amount of time to me for someone who barely felt like she laboured at all. I didn’t know I was having a baby till about 7am and he was born at 9.07am. Two hours generally is their limit for the pushing phase but mine was so easy, I never broke a sweat, and initially I probably wasn’t pushing hard enough! So I’m very glad I was able to ‘do my thing’ and not have it interfered with – it truly was the most incredible experience of my life! Birthing is a very serious medical situation though and they are obviously concerned about bub becoming distressed etc so of course we are always thankful to be closely monitored and observed.
P.S. Have you had a caesarean before? Did you know that you don’t necessarily have to have one next time? You are able to request a VBAC – a vaginal birth after caesarean. This is not always possible and not all medical personnel will be open to the idea, but if it’s something you’re passionate about and would like to try, by all means ask (just be prepared that you may need to ask more than once or try a number of medical professionals until you find someone who is happy to support you in this).
P.P.S.Breech baby? This doesn’t necessarily have to mean a caesarean, though many doctors will automatically sign you up. If you’re interested in trying for a vaginal birth, ask around your area and see if there are any doctors who specialise in this and/or would be willing to work on this with you. There are never any guarantees, but you might like to enquire.
It’s time to move into the birthing suite! How exciting! The goal of course is to stay as calm, composed and confident as possible but, let’s face it, most birthing suites aren’t exactly the most lavish of places! Particularly if it’s your first time or if you’ve had previous less-than-desirable experiences, the sheer sight of the birthing suite could be enough to cause your heart rate to rise as the realisation that this is really happening sinks in. Embrace it! Take those nervous butterflies and channel excitement at the prospect that you are about to meet your precious bub!
It goes without saying that the environment around us either assists or hinders us in how we feel. As such, your birth environment can affect your experience of labour and birth. The ideal birthing environment is one where you feel safe, secure and supported. One where you are largely undisturbed with your privacy respected, and a comfortable temperature.
Oh, and quiet’s good too! True story, I kid you not: Whilst I was calmly breathing through my contractions in my hospital birthing suite with my firstborn I heard my fellow comrade birthing next door scream: “Get this thing out of meeeeeeeee!!!!” Thankfully moments later we heard their sweet baby’s glorious first cry and I was able to keep my head in the game. Thanks to my education & training (which she could have done with!) I didn’t let it phase me and went on to enjoy an incredible, pain-free birthing experience. But yes, quiet’s good!
Most births still take place in a hospital, but there are other options. Interestingly, “alternative settings for birth such as birth centres (or at home), are associated with reduced levels of intervention and a positive experience of labour and birth for women” (source). Both my children were born in hospital (although my second wanted to make her entrance on the drive there) and I’d love to see more and more women being supported to birth calmly, confidently and naturally in this setting. Regardless of where you plan to birth, think about how you can create the most supportive environment (including your period of labouring at home).
“A comfortable environment is going to help you stay relaxed and this is crucial in allowing the physiologic process of labor to occur. An intricate blend of hormones is released during labor – some are helpful, but others can be destructive and even slow things down. Fear and stress may ‘stall’ labor and create a need for medical interventions. If you do choose a birth environment other than your home, consider laboring at home as long as possible, and explore ways in which you can make the transition to the birth center or hospital as seamless as possible. Music, eye masks, and continuous labor support – such as a doula, family member, or friend – can be a great help.” (Source: Choices in Childbirth)
So think about this in advance – what do you love and what could significantly assist you in feeling as relaxed, calm and in control as possible?
Use such items as mats, beanbags, cushions, blankets and/or a birth ball to make yourself comfortable. Remember that upright positions will help your labour to progress. Keep moving as much as you can.
Ambience is more important to some than others. I was so internally focused on the task at hand that the look and feel of the hospital setting really didn’t bother me. Plus, my labours were fast. But you might prefer dim lighting, non-essential medical equipment moved out of the way, blinds opened or closed etc. If there’s anything bothering or distracting you, make it known and ask if something can be done about it.
Wear comfortable clothing! You’ve probably been living in them anyway these last few months and will most likely continue doing so moving into motherhood lol, so don’t stop now!
You might like your own pillow, robe, slippers etc.
Would you like any music playing? Perhaps you have songs with special significance? Perhaps you’ve already been meditating to something or there’s a particular tune or style of music that you just generally find soothing and reassuring? Or it can be fun! Think Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” or Cyndi Lauper’s “Girl’s Just Wanna Have Fun”! You call the shots! Jack Johnson’s ‘In Between Dreams’ album was just right for me. It could be classical, jazz, your favourite musical, pop, hip-hop, whatever! Prepare a playlist in advance with different styles for different times. The faster, livelier tunes may be helpful in the early stages, but as you start to need to focus more, breathe deeper etc I would recommend something slower and more rhythmic. “Ideally the perfect labour soundtrack will be composed of 60-70 beats per minute (BPM) – the same as a healthy resting pulse rate – which can help the brain enter into a relaxed state, also known as ‘alpha state’. It is possible to purchase special ‘alpha music’ – such as that by famous composer John Levine. This music needs to be conditioned, spend some quiet time each day relaxing with your music, condition it to relaxation and slow breathing, if you have a massage, facial or reflexology take it along with you and ask the therapist to play it whilst you relax. On the day a well-conditioned piece of alpha music can have strong relaxation results.” (Source: Sarah Ockwell-Smith)
What else would make you feel comfortable? Birthing is a whole body experience and your senses are heightened so use them to your advantage – they can also be a great distraction. Have you or could you explore some high quality pure essential oils that you could diffuse in your birthing suite (or place a few drops on to cotton balls)? Specifically relaxing ones, uplifting ones, or simply your favourite fragrance? “The important thing then is to use that oil, build up a connection with it (check it’s safe to use during pregnancy!), use it whenever you relax: in the bath, when you go to sleep, during a massage… and really build up that conditioning. So many forget the importance of this, expecting a ‘labour oil blend’ to work magic on the day, the real magic though comes from the conditioning of the oil before labour!” (Source: Sarah Ockwell-Smith)
Visuals such as positive birth affirmations (note: The Birthing Journey’s Instagram coming soon) or beautiful landscapes, a favourite place or wonderful memories of past adventures can provide a great focal point.
Even a favourite stuffed toy from your childhood or one you’ve got ready for your precious bub can provide reassuring comfort and help the oxytocin flow.
Find out if there’s a bath you can use and even if a water birth is an option if that’s something you’re interested in. Taking a shower can also be calming and relaxing, refreshing plus assist in reducing any discomfort you may be feeling, such as in your back.
Many of these tools to assist you in remaining calm and feeling confident can of course be used at any time in the lead-up to your birth – at home, in the car, wherever and whenever you feel you need them.
Then there’s your cheer squad. Your crew.
Greatly assisting in creating a calm and comfortable birthing environment is your support team. Think carefully about who you will have in the birthing suite with you. Obviously there will be your medical team, but it’s worth asking what their policy is re student doctors/midwives etc – the last thing you need is a whole tribe of strangers observing you and taking notes! In saying this, I did have one student midwife with me who followed my journey with my firstborn and she was absolutely wonderful. We developed a lovely relationship, I felt extremely comfortable with her, and it was so nice to see a familiar face when the time came.
Would you consider hiring a doula? Hugely increasing in popularity, a doulas role is to support and assist you and your partner and their stats are very impressive: significantly less chance of a c-section, less/no pain sensation and pain relief, greatly increased chance of spontaneous vaginal birth and being satisfied with the birth experience.
Then there’s your partner and perhaps a family member or friend that you feel completely comfortable with (this is key!). If you’re going to have someone other than your partner with you in the birthing suite, make sure they’re someone who will build you up in confidence, support and
encourage you and know and be respectful of your birthing wishes. A little word of advice: do your best to speak nicely to everyone involved in supporting you (staff, family and friends) no matter how you might be feeling – it will help keep the atmosphere a calm, loving one.
If someone has the ability or is likely to make you feel anxious, don’t have them present. And, in my humble opinion, no one forces their way in to your delivery space – you call the shots! This is an incredibly special time for the two people who created this precious baby and only you decide if anyone else shares this once-in-a-lifetime experience with you.
One final suggestion. When the time comes, think carefully about who you will let know that you’re in labour, if anyone. Of course it’s fine for you to tell as many people as you’d like, but make sure they’re trustworthy (i.e. will keep it hush-hush until you announce), supportive and won’t be bothersome. Parents can be wonderful. A sister or close girlfriend who’s barracking for you, potentially having experienced childbirth herself, perhaps praying for you, can be hugely encouraging and uplifting. But the last thing you want or need is a barrage of calls, texts etc from well-meaning others wondering how you’re going, whether you’ve had the baby yet etc. It’s your wonderful news to share when you’re ready.
I’m so excited for you!!! Believe in yourself and in your bub. Together, you are a phenomenal team!
The main concerns I receive in my quest to educate and empower women in calm, positive birthing relate to the what if’s:
What if things don’t run smoothly?
What if something goes wrong?
What if there are complications, interventions etc?
What if a woman has her heart and mind set on a calm, natural birth, and that dream isn’t realised…?
Let me start by saying that I have two friends, both trained nurses (one now a midwife) who have had 7 c-sections between them. So yes, it’s true. Sometimes things don’t go the way you’d hoped.
I’ve previously written an article on when things don’t go to plan… but I have decided to write this, which is quite different for me, for several reasons:
I’m not naive. I know very well that pregnancy and birth can be tough, overwhelming, frightening and even traumatic. It can be full of unknowns. There can be so many questions, some of which are never answered. You can feel a lack of control and way out of your depth.
We can never understand something fully unless we have experienced it ourselves. But we can do our absolute best to empathise. To be there. To support. To offer a listening ear, open arms, and a loving heart.
As much as I always like to focus on the positives and believe in the power of our mind and the words we speak, I thought I’d share some real life experiences purely from within my own circle of friends and family (anonymous, but all stories shared with permission). You’ll see just how incredibly diverse each of our experiences are and how pregnancy and birth affects us all differently. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll realise we don’t always have the control so many of us long for.
This is no place for competition or comparison. It’s not a case of who had it better or who had it worse. As I’ve said time and time again, a healthy mum and a healthy bub are the absolute priority and, in the end, all that matters.
I was able to deliver my babies calmly and naturally because we were healthy and well. We had no complications. Bubs were in the best position. I dilated well. I was full term with both: one born 8 days early and the other 13 days early. I believe I was able to birth pain-free because I had overcome all fear and apprehension, was educated and informed, and had prepared both my body and my mind very well. But that is still no magic formula.
I haven’t written this article to instil worry or fear. That’s the last thing I would ever want to do! More-so to illustrate how it isn’t always roses and no guarantees can be made, no matter how hard you try, prep, hope, pray etc. In many ways, count your blessings if you and your bub are healthy and well, no matter when, where or how they are born. Because even in this day and age, both pregnancy and birth are risky, sometimes extremely, for both mum & bub.
Within the last few months both my sister-in-law and one of my longest & dearest friends had their babies delivered via caesarean whilst they were under general anaesthetic and their husbands weren’t permitted in the room. Read that again slowly. C-section. Under general anaesthetic (meaning they were completely knocked out and didn’t witness the birth – nor did their husbands). If that’s not the opposite birthing experience to what I advocate here on The Birthing Journey then I don’t know what is. My sister-in-law was very sick her entire pregnancy and developed severe preeclampsia. She was monitored incredibly closely and, ultimately, after at least two very close brushes with death which frightened the life out of all of us, the decision was made that the safest option was for baby to be brought into the world. My very first niece… born prematurely at just 30 weeks old. A tiny 1.04kgs. She obviously had a very long stint in hospital and her dear mum spent all day with her from dusk till dawn but she is now home and settling in beautifully. This is the second friend I have had with preeclampsia who’s condition was incredibly serious.
My dear friend, well she checked in to hospital with suspected contractions only to, eventually, after much confusion and delay, be diagnosed with appendicitis of all things! So out came her baby & out came her appendix! Crazy!
Did either of these beautiful first-time mums-to-be have any control over their situation? Absolutely not.
Were their bubs born the way they’d envisaged? Not at all.
Are they both incredibly relieved that all ended well and that both they and their precious babies are safe & healthy? A resounding YES!
Another friend was so debilitatingly ill with hyperemesis gravidarum (think the absolute most severe case of morning sickness possible and even then you won’t come close to understanding) whilst pregnant that her and her husband discussed terminating the pregnancy… she literally couldn’t function, was violently ill ALL the time, felt as though her life wasn’t worth living, and all the while with a toddler at home. They didn’t, and of course they are incredibly thankful for his precious life, but it goes to show how chronic ‘morning sickness’ can be. These mere few lines can’t even come close to doing justice what she went through… I honestly can’t fathom it and am in absolute awe.
I know of another sweet girl right now who hasn’t left home in months, is on a drip every second day, also unable to function due to severe hyperemesis gravidarum… all this after having tried to conceive for years, enduring countless rounds of IVF, miscarriages and heartbreak… I tell you, I’ll be praying and believing for an incredible birth experience for her because she’s sure dealt with enough already!
Someone else I know gave birth to an anencephalic baby. (Anencephaly is the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp that occurs during embryonic development. It is a cephalic disorder that results from a neural tube defect that occurs when the rostral/head end of the neural tube fails to close.) She thought she was welcoming a healthy bub and only found out the situation less than 24 hours before he was born (at the time there were no routine scans). Concerns were raised when he engaged and then disengaged so only then was a scan performed and the grave situation realised. His mum was induced and he was born naturally, then the medical team whisked him away – she never held him or even saw him – but in many ways she is actually grateful of this. There was no counselling or support – the way to ‘get over it’ was to ‘get on with it’. “I mourned in private” she told me and again, I can’t even fathom and my heart breaks just thinking about it…
My longest friend, pregnant with her first, had group B strep (bacteria normally found in the vagina and/or rectum of about 25% of all healthy, adult women). Her baby was completely healthy and well in utero but contracted the infection during birth. This occurred in the UK where they no longer test pregnant women for strep B hence no antibiotics were administered during labour. Even so, this condition should absolutely not have led to the final outcome. To this day the situation is still surrounded in confusion and controversy but, most likely due to negligence with her immediate care, bub found herself in a dire situation and, ultimately, was diagnosed with HIE (hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy). From that, she had quadriplegic spastic cerebral palsy and a whole list of other ailments. A gorgeous girl with extremely complex needs who graced this earth for 5 years with a purity, strength and resilience not many possess before she gained her angel wings… love you sweet girl xoxo.
I’ve known friends to tear from the vagina to the rectum, friends with a uterus left paper-thin, and even one beautiful lass who heomarraged within weeks of delivering her firstborn via c-section and almost lost her life… she was thankful of course to have woken up from that ordeal but discovered she was the recipient of a hysterectomy… a decision her husband had to make in an intense situation where his wife was fighting for her life and one that she obviously had no say in… meaning no more biological children for them.
Life isn’t always fair. Heck, it’s often not fair. So yes, one of my ‘Top 10 Tips’ is to prepare for the birth you don’t want. How exactly you do this… well, it’s not easy. You don’t know the birth you’re going to have until you’ve had it. What we need to remember is this: that no matter what we do and how hard we try, there is only so much we can control and sometimes, we end up being able to control very little more than our attitude and our outlook. Whilst we’re positive, we’re also flexible. We work with, not against, the professionals looking after us. Together we work towards the best possible outcome: a healthy mamma, and a healthy bubba. And in the end, regardless of our experience, we have to trust that we’re meant to be exactly where we find ourselves.
I’m sorry. I know the mood of this post is a far cry from my usual positive, empowering, ‘you can do it’ beat. You wouldn’t wish any of these scenarios on any one. And yet they’re all real. Too real. Just from within my own immediate circle and I’m so humbled. We haven’t even really touched on the fertility issues, endometriosis, poly-cystic ovaries, miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies… the list goes on.
Please, amongst all this, take heart. In whatever place and stage you find yourself, it always helps to know you’re not alone. That someone else understands. That someone else has paved the way before you and made it through. No doubt they became stronger, wiser and more empathetic as a result.
I hope to have some women contribute to an article on how to come to terms with having a birth, or a pregnancy, that you didn’t want as this isn’t something I can comment on personally. Hopefully you won’t need it, but I’ll start working on it nonetheless.
Should you find yourself in one of the abovementioned situations, or in any other situation where you are concerned or feel alone, please, reach out! Thankfully in this day and age there is generally an abundance of support available: be it through clinics and support groups, counselling, online etc. Please, seek out someone you can confide in. Someone who understands. And always, always seek professional medical advice and assistance.
Some websites that may be of assistance include, but are not limited to, the following:
Before we start, I have a question for you. When you picture yourself giving birth, what position do you see yourself in…?
If you’re anything like me, I visualised myself propped up on my back, legs spread, screaming my lungs out. I also envisaged myself clawing my poor husband’s arms whilst simultaneously cursing him and screaming “What have you done to me!!!???” Is it any wonder that I made a concerted effort to research calm, positive birthing methods? If you’ve read my story, you’ll know that my birthing experiences were not only incredible and joyful, but pain-free. That’s not how I’d previously pictured birthing to be though. I certainly never knew a calm, positive birth experience was possible.
TV shows and movies are the source I blame for what was my interpretation and understanding of what birthing, or labour, looked like. But just like movie ‘love making’ isn’t always a reflection of what sex is like each and every time in the ‘real world’, you don’t need to accept their dramatized version of birthing and make it your own. They have normalised the drama, normalised the ‘pain’ and given us a picture of how to birth, and as a society we’ve accepted it…
Add to this the horror stories that are unfortunately far too common and also far too freely shared (be sure to read my article on how to avoid them) and again it’s understandable why so many of us sadly believe that birthing is something traumatic to be endured.
But I digress. Position. Position. Position. What if I told you there was a better way? That birthing your baby on your back is NOT the optimum way. Even though we’ve always been shown this as normal, an incredible statistic tells us that doing so can actually reduce your pelvic measurements by a staggering 30%!!!! (compared to other positions such as standing or squatting). Now I believe you’ve found yourself here because, like me, you are doing everything within your power to provide both yourself and your precious bub with the best possible birthing experience. So this is absolutely critical information! I don’t know about you, but I sure wanted my pelvis to be as wide as it could possibly get!!!
You may have heard the term “let gravity do the work”. Well, let me assure you that bub will not fall out and that you will indeed still need to do some ‘work’, but there is definitely merit in letting gravity do what gravity does (i.e. draws things down) and allowing it to assist you in the process, which it cannot do when you’re on your back. In fact, if you’re lying on your back when birthing your baby, you are quite literally pushing uphill, and we all know that’s never fun! When you’re lying down, the birth canal curves upwards so you’re actually going against gravity!
But it’s not only gravity at play here. As mentioned, the actual size, shape and opening of the pelvis is fundamental. In the traditional, on your back, birthing position, the pelvis is essentially compressed. And when your baby is coming down through that birthing canal and your pelvis plays a hugely crucial role in seeing bub out, it makes perfect sense to want your pelvis to be as open as physically possible.
So, what do we encourage you to do? Remain upright, as mobile and as active as you can for as long as you can, provided you’re not being monitored or have any intravenous lines etc. Ina May Gaskin, in her ‘Guide to Childbirth’, suggests that labouring mother should move freely, letting gravity work for her. She says “movement greatly helps cervical dilation during the early part of labour and helps bring the baby into the most advantageous position for passage through the pelvis.”
Australian Calm Birth by Peter Jackson advises that “women in traditional societies all over the world almost always choose upright positions in labour. This worldwide consensus suggests that women don’t choose to lie down and give birth unless forces within the culture pressure them into doing so. The list of benefits of the upright position in labour include:
Better use of gravity
Maximum circulation between mother and baby (no compression caused by the baby’s weight on the mother’s major blood vessels which can cause mother & baby to not receive the optimum levels of blood & oxygen)
Better alignment of the baby to pass through the pelvis
Stronger rushes (waves or surges, i.e. Calm Birth speak for ‘contractions’)
Increased pelvic diameters when squatting or kneeling”
It is also commonly thought that tearing or the need for an episiotomy is more likely when in the traditional position.
I love these points from a Bellybelly article titled ‘Small Pelvis? Big Baby?’ which help answer my pre-birth education question of “how exactly does something that big fit out of there???!!!”
#1: Neither Your Pelvis Or Your Baby’s Head Is A Fixed Object
The pelvis is not one solid bone. It is made up of several bones held together by ligaments. During pregnancy your body releases the hormone relaxin. Its release causes your ligaments and joints to loosen to facilitate baby’s movement through the birth canal. This hormone is why you might experience joint weakness and discomfort towards the end of pregnancy. Baby’s skull is made up of separate bones that allow their head to mould and fit through the birth canal. These separate, not yet fused, bones is why babies have ‘soft spots’ known as fontanels.
#2: Your Position Makes A Big Difference
Being on your back or being in a semi reclined position during birth can narrow pelvic measurements by 30%! When you’re giving birth, 30% can make quite the difference. Squatting, side lying or being on all fours can create optimal space for baby to descend.
Of course, baby’s position is also very important and sometimes bub will just not be in the ideal position for a normal, vaginal birth. On occasion this can be rectified during labour, either bub does so of their own accord or with assistance, and other times a c-section or other forms of intervention may be required. Should this be the case, it is so important to remember that the health and wellbeing of both mum and bub is always of the utmost importance. Accept and embrace your unique birthing journey however it plays out – this journey is one we can prepare for as much as possible, but never predict.
Here on Fit Pregnancy you can view a selection of recommended birthing positions.
The birthing position I chose was on my knees, leaning over with my arms resting on the headboard (pretty much no. 9). So essentially I was facing the wall, not the medical team. Admittedly I wasn’t giving them the loveliest of sights but you know what, they’re the ones who chose what they do for a living, right?!
Interestingly, a quote made on the Fit Pregnancy site really resonated with me as I recall my own experiences and find it to be true: “Your body will let you know just what position is best at every point in your labor”. Choose the position that feels right for you. Once a comfortable position is found, use it until it is no longer helping you relax.
I had different obstetricians for both of my births and neither of them had an issue with the position or had ‘difficulty’ assisting with the birth (as the con states on the Fit Pregnancy site). The obstetrician who delivered my firstborn (who wasn’t my booked obstetrician but bub came 8 days early & my intended doctor was inter-state) did ask me at one point to move onto my back so that he could do an internal examination.
I know that for me personally, for the brief time that I was in the traditional position, I felt like a deer in the headlights. This certainly might not be the case for everyone, some of you may feel more supported this way. But for me, it was as if everything shut down. Contractions stopped. Everything that was progressing so nicely, just stopped. I felt like I was staring at them, and they were staring at me. The doctor, two midwives, my husband…
And as soon as my midwife said to the doctor, “I think you’d better let her turn back around again now” (he was old school/traditional), within a short time, my body kicked back in to gear, contractions started back up again, and we were back in our rhythm.
My intended obstetrician, when I spoke to him later, explained that possibly the doctor wasn’t confident performing the examination when I was in my preferred position. But to me, it makes sense why everything just stopped. The sphincter muscle can’t open if feeling embarrassed, observed etc. You need to create a calm environment where you feel comfortable, confident. Music, dim lighting, a closed door, the right support person or people can all assist… but I’ll save this for a post on creating the right birthing environment.
Ideally, you really want to open yourself up as much as possible. Already at home in pre-labour… straddle a chair or sit on the toilet. Don’t lie flat on your back if you can help it, it presses the coccyx in. Open up that pelvis so squat on all fours, leaning forward with your legs open. But do conserve your energy.
If labouring on your back is comfortable and preferable for you, then by all means go for it! But don’t feel pressured that it’s the ‘normal’ way or the ‘only’ way and the way you ‘have’ to do it. Alexia Leachman from www.fearfreechildbirth.com says it “makes labour longer, more painful, more difficult, more risky and less healthy.” I actually couldn’t find any positives for it, but the purpose of this article is purely to inform and educate you of a variety of options.
To finish with, let me leave you with and reiterate to you “some positive thoughts to take with you into labour:
During late pregnancy, hormones soften and relax the pelvic ligaments, making the bones elastic, rather than rigid, so the bones can stretch and open more easily for the birth of your baby.
Your pelvis is not fused and does stretch and open, expanding for the amazing process of birth.
Your baby’s skull bones are divided into five plates that cross over during labour, making their head smaller by moulding to fit the birth canal.
Your baby has an innate sense of crawling or burrowing, as they move down and out of the uterus and through your pelvis to be born. Gravity helps your pelvis open and aids the descent of your baby.”
Source: BIRTH: Conceiving, Nurturing and Giving Birth to your Baby – Catherine Price & Sandra Robinson
Knowledge is power. Forewarned is forearmed. Take this information, commit it to memory, discuss it with your medical team and let’s shake up the status quo.
You are calm.
You are confident.
You are more than capable.
You’ve got this girl!
“Birth isn’t something we suffer, but something we actively do and exalt in.”
An important aspect of our Calmbirth classes was preparing our birth preferences or intentions. These have also been known as birth plans but the word plan implies that everything will proceed in a particular, described order which we know with birthing isn’t necessarily the case, hence your birth preferences describes how you would ideally like for everything to proceed).
Now, I’ll be absolutely honest. In the weeks leading up to the birth of our firstborn, I presented this to my Doctor (let’s just say he wasn’t known for being particularly on-board with Calmbirth techniques) and, I kid you not, I swear I saw him roll his eyes. He merely glanced at it, he definitely didn’t read it, and I can’t recall now whether it made it’s way in to my file or whether it was handed back to me. In any case, he wasn’t giving it the time of day and it was clear he wasn’t interested. He was very much the old-school “I’m the Doctor and I’m in control” type. Now don’t get me wrong, I have a great deal of respect for both him and all medical professionals, but I’d spent a long time working on that document!
When the time came, it lay neatly folded in my hospital bag which was nicely left in the car as we didn’t think I was in labour (a must-read calm and pain-free birthing story if you haven’t already)!
So despite my physical birth preferences document being of very little help or importance to the medical team, I am still so glad I took the time to compile it. It really helped me condense what I had learnt and confirm the outcome I was hoping for. It helped me feel empowered and confident as I prepared to birth.
Here is my document. Can I encourage you to review and take some time to perhaps prepare your own based on your own personal preferences?
Birth Preferences of XXX & XXX
Estimated Due Date: XXX
Please find following our preferences for the birth of our 1st child. We ask that you please respect our wishes as much as possible in helping us have the birth we desire. We realise that as labour progresses we may choose to change our thinking and wish to feel free to do so. We trust that you will support us and respect our wishes to birth our baby as naturally as possible. We understand that these choices presume a normal pregnancy, labour and birth. Should a situation arise which constitutes a medical emergency, please know that you will have our complete co-operation.
Of the most importance to us of course is simply to birth a healthy baby, with XXX (mum)’s health also a priority.
We request that only the following be admitted into the birthing suite: Dr XXX & midwives, husband XXX and Student Midwife XXX, unless a medical emergency arises.
We would like to birth our baby as naturally as possible – we are planning to use the knowledge and skills acquired from the Calmbirth and hospital ante-natal classes as well as other sources.
Please don’t suggest the use of medical analgesia/anaesthesia or unnecessary interventions… we are aware these are available and will request medication if any is required.
We request that the birthing environment be kept as peaceful as possible including having the door closed, dim lighting and music of our choice.
We request a birthing suite with a bath and would like to use the bath once labour is established. As long as XXX is comfortable in the bath, we ask that she not be requested to move.
If midwives XXX or XXX are working (trained in Calmbirth techniques) we would request their presence if at all possible.
XXX (mum) would prefer not to have a cannula inserted upon admission as she would like the freedom to move around as much as possible and change positions as she desires. We would like to allow gravity to assist us in the birthing of our baby and would like to be free to walk and adopt appropriate positions.
We request not to have XXX’s membranes ruptured unless discussed with us first.
We request that labour be allowed to progress in the most natural way possible without unnecessary inducement or interventions to ‘hurry things along’.
Please discuss with us, time permitting, any intervention you feel may be required and allow us to be involved in any decisions that need to be made.
XXX (husband) would like to assist with the delivery of our baby if possible.
We don’t know the sex of our baby so please feel free to shout it out as soon as you know (if XXX can announce it, that would be wonderful)!!!
We also request that our baby be given immediate skin-to-skin contact by being placed on XXX (mum)’s stomach with the cord to be clamped only after pulsation has ceased and to be cut by XXX (dad). We request skin-to-skin time for at least an hour after birth providing mother and baby are well.
We fully support breast feeding and ask that our baby be offered the breast as early as possible and that our baby not be removed from mothers chest/arms (ie for weighing, measuring) unless medically necessary until after the first feed.
If felt necessary, XXX (mum) is happy to receive an injection of oxytocin to aid in the contraction of the uterus and delivery of the placenta but only after the baby’s cord has been cut.
We ask that no injections or medical procedure be performed on our baby without our consent.
Thank you so much for your co-operation! We are very much looking forward to this experience and thank you in advance for all of your assistance!
Forever will I be grateful for a lass I met about half way through my journey of trying to conceive. We were studying together for a short time and she was well in to her first pregnancy. A fellow class mate asked her how she was feeling about the birth, more specifically, was she frightened? Well, I tell you, the manner in which she responded, so calmly, and the fact that she was actually excited about the birth and looking forward to it is something I will never forget. That’s when I first heard about Calmbirth®. She had recently completed a course and I vowed, when my time came, I would look into this apparent Calmbirth® too! It was definitely a case of “I want what she’s got!” We never kept in touch so I have no idea of her birthing story, but I certainly believe she set me up beautifully for mine.
At long last I fell pregnant and then a whole new journey began. I was blessed with an incredible pregnancy, bub and my body were very kind to me, but if you’ve read my story you’ll know that I was terrified about the prospect of birth. I quote: “just how exactly does something that big fit out of there???!!!” Yes, I knew it was ‘natural’ and had been taking place for however many hundreds of thousands of years, yet I still could not comprehend it.
So I looked into this ‘Calmbirth®’ and discovered there were a number of facilitators in my local area.
What is Calmbirth®?
“Imagine a calm and joyful beginning to your baby’s life. It is possible. Calmbirth® is a simple yet effective childbirth education program which acknowledges the amazing ability of a mother’s body to work as one with her unborn child to give birth. Calmbirth® empowers the mother and her partner to experience birth with wonder and joy.
Most of us get our impressions of childbirth from Hollywood movies or the horror stories of family and friends, and while the outcome is usually good, the journey to get there seems long and dramatic. And hurts – a lot!
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
More and more Australian couples are signing up to learn Calmbirth® – a series of relaxation techniques designed to allow them to take control of their experience and make it something to look forward to, rather than fear.
Birth is a natural process which should be experienced fearlessly, calmly and with confidence. Calmbirth® teaches pregnant mothers, fathers or birthing companions the skills to accomplish such an experience. Calmbirth® encourages mothers to surrender to the process of their labour and birth no matter how it unfolds. If, for some reason intervention is needed couples can use the skills learnt in the Calmbirth® classes to meet any challenge they encounter calmly and without fear.”
Sounds pretty awesome right? There was a significant financial outlay but remember I was doing everything within my power to learn as much as I could and to set myself and bub up for the best possible birth. Honestly, I am so glad we spent the money. To think that, should I have shied away due to the cost, that my birthing experiences could have been completely different… well, it’s unthinkable really. If you were to ask me what I believed were my top two keys to an amazing birth, they would be Calmbirth® and the Epi-No. Without a doubt.
Further on I provide more information on the Calmbirth® program and how it works, but allow me to share with you a little of my experience.
It all started with hubby and I making our way down a long country driveway when I see a ‘tent’ appear. A huge tent. A Mongolian yurt to be exact. “What on earth is that!?” I blurt out. My husband says quite slowly and calmly: “That, I believe, is where our course is taking place…” Well you could’ve knocked me over, and I’m pretty sure I asked him to turn around and go home! He had already met our Calmbirth® facilitator previously in something along the lines of a ‘Beer & Bubs’ information night she had held for blokes soon to become Dads. And he had warned me that she was kind-of ‘hippy’ (in all honesty she really wasn’t, but he thought so enough that he wasn’t surprised by the yurt!) I don’t know of another Calmbirth® class that takes place within a yurt but I tell you what, it sure beats a boring meeting room, a hospital, or someone’s lounge room! It really was so quirky and beautifully laid out and she’d gone to great lengths to ensure that pregnant mummas were as comfortable as possible.
Then the learning began. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to hear birthing spoken of in such a positive, natural way. To learn about the intricacies of the woman’s body, it’s incredible design, and how even bub knows what to do – those aspects really stood out to me and really helped me when the time came. We received a great resource which covers such topics as ‘The Power of Beliefs, Thoughts and Emotions’, ‘The Inner Resources’, ‘The Stages of Labour’ and ‘Birth Intentions’. For my second birth, I again referred back to this resource. I didn’t feel the need to do a refresher course, which are available, as I’d had such a great experience first-time around and was in no way apprehensive, but the book was wonderful to look through again. We were also given a CD with meditations/visualisations and, as foreign as this concept was to me, I took it very seriously. Remember, anything that I could control, I did. So I sat in the bathtub, listening to the recordings, visualising the birthing process and myself ‘opening up’… kooky perhaps, but it sure paid off!
I believe that my amazing birthing experiences resulted largely from being both intentional and informed… two things that every expectant woman can be. I can’t recommend Calmbirth® enough and am so thankful for the path on which they placed me. I’m certain that, initially, both my husband and I thought that throughout my first labour I would be panicked, scared, worried that I couldn’t do it and afraid of the ‘pain’. I had visions of myself gauging my fingernails into him screaming: “What have you done to me???!!!” But, as you know, it was the exact opposite. Even when, as I lay there in hospital having contractions that I was barely aware of, we heard the lady birthing next door scream: “Get this thing out of meeeee!!!”… even through that, I remained calm and focused (and hearing their bub make it’s first cry only moments later was pretty incredible!) My husband is the first to admit: “If I hadn’t have seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed it was possible!”
Below is an extract from the thank you email I sent to our facilitator containing the birth story of our firstborn:
“So even though I had high hopes for Calmbirth, my labour was even better than I possibly could have hoped for! For days, every new midwife that came into my room talked about it, word had obviously spread! Even the pediatrician had heard about it! I’d done other preparation as well including using a tool called the ‘Epi-No’ and as a result had no tearing, I could have gone home that afternoon! The midwives couldn’t believe it when, after my skin-to-skin time with bub and a shower, I’d gone for a wander out of the birthing suite to orientate myself and let them know we were ready to have him weighed etc and go to our room… apparently they’re not used to women who’ve just had a baby coming to find them! The use of drugs never even crossed my mind during the birth and I haven’t even had a panadol since!
So I just wanted to share that with you! It was everything I’d hoped it would be and even better… I’d read so many real-life stories in the Calmbirth book about women who dilated so quickly and I was determined to be one of them – and it just happened!
It really was amazing and I’d do it again in a heartbeat! Not once did it cross my mind that this was too hard or that I couldn’t do it or that I hated my husband lol or anything like that! I still can’t believe it!
Thank you for your class – it must’ve helped me incredibly. Coming in, I’d heard so many horror stories and as a girl had grown up fearful of the labouring experience and was determined to change my outlook… even so, leading up to the day it was still such an ‘unknown’, what was it going to be like? Well, all of a sudden I found myself on the ‘other side’ oh so easily, and now life begins as a family!
So thank you again, you offer a remarkable and liberating ‘service’ I’ll be telling everyone about!”
The birthing journey is a very special time in a woman’s life. Whatever path your birth takes, your ability to make decisions that are right for you and your baby depend on you being an active participant.
Should you be interested in knowing more, I’ve obtained the following information from the website of Julie Clarke, a Calmbirth® facilitator.
What is Calmbirth?
Calmbirth is an antenatal education program developed to assist couples aiming for a natural birth. It’s based on the belief that severe pain is not a natural accompaniment to labour and if a woman is both mentally and physically prepared, her birth experience can be rewarding, comfortable and empowering.
Peter Jackson, founder of Calmbirth in Australia, says the techniques are based on the work of the late English obstetrician Grantly Dick-Reid (author of Childbirth Without Fear 1956), the pioneer of natural childbirth.
In his research, Dr Dick-Reid observed that some women were frightened of birth and had difficulty coping with labour and birth, whereas other women who were not frightened or were better prepared and had an understanding of what was happening, coped quite well.
“Calmbirth promotes the use of the subconscious resources of deep relaxation which centre around the normal physiological relaxation responses within the body,” says Mr Jackson. Calmbirth is not the Australian version of hypnobirthing. Hypnobirthing teaches couples self hypnosis methods while Calmbirth is a number of special relaxation techniques (and education).
How does Calmbirth work?
Calmbirth teaches you how to enter a totally relaxed state, similar to when you daydream or become absorbed in a good book or movie. It is then used in the last few weeks or months of pregnancy and particularly throughout labour and the birthing process. The techniques can also be used any time calm focus is required when caring for your newborn.
The program, usually taught over a number of days or a weekend, encourages an understanding of how the female body works to deliver a baby and the way fear can impede labour. Couples also learn how to use tools of relaxation, visualisation, positive imagery and light-touch massage to help prepare for labour and during labour itself.
The program is led by a registered Calmbirth practitioner and taught through classes, CDs and books.
“People leave the classes with a greater understanding of the birth process, confidence in their own ability to work with the birth process and excitement about their approaching birth,” says Mr Jackson. After completing the program, the couple then practise regularly, at home, right up until the labour.
The aim of the Calmbirth techniques is to have the labouring woman alert but deeply relaxed. It is this ability to relax that enables the pelvic muscles to open and allow the baby to birth more comfortably and easily. “Anyone can do it,” says Calmbirth practitioner Julie Clarke.
Calmbirth is totally safe, she adds. “Being calm and relaxed cannot possibly do any harm. It reduces adrenaline – triggered by fear – in the mother’s system, which helps to maintain the normal labouring hormone oxytocin and keeps the labour progressing well.” It also reduces stress which keeps the maternal blood pressure normal.
Calm breathing maintains good levels of oxygen to both the mother’s and the baby’s system, and, by relying on their own inner resources, the women are less likely to need medication which increases the baby’s health and wellbeing after the birth. The baby is then likely to respond with strong reflexes and commence breastfeeding without delay or problems.
The language of labour
Language can really influence a woman’s perception of their experience both before and during the labour. The word “contractions” when spoken to a pregnant woman can be frightening and immediately thought of as “pain”.
Calmbirth couples are taught to think of contractions as “surges” or “waves” and to interpret birthing sensations as pressure, stretching or numbness rather than associate the feelings with pain.
“Attitude makes an enormous difference to our experiences and if we go into birth with very negative expectations, taken from horror stories, movies we’ve seen, articles we’ve read etc it will certainly influence the outcome,” says Ms Clarke. “What is thought psychologically will influence the physical bodily reactions – such as the release of hormones – and will influence the labour.”
Visualising also helps the woman imagine her growing baby and the impending birth and during labour imagining the contractions as waves coming into shore, or the dilation of the cervix as an opening flower are common themes.
So, is Calmbirth for you?
Calmbirthing is suitable for all pregnant women – from first-time mums to mothers having their second or subsequent babies – and their partners who would like to have a positive birth experience, in a calm, relaxed way free of fear and stress.
Ms Clarke, who has witnessed many “calmbirths”, says the women are serene and relaxed when using the technique. “Many are amazed at how focussed and self-directed they are,” she says. “Their partners often comment, after the birth, on how focussed her breathing was during the “waves”, too.”
Calmbirth uses the logic that preparing for a wonderful birth experience can help achieve it, although no amount of preparation can guarantee a perfect labour or the need for no medical intervention.
“It helps couples see labour as a natural process, something that a woman’s body is designed to achieve, not simply an ordeal which must be suffered as a means to an end,” says Sydney lawyer Claire Whitehead, who learned Calmbirth for the birth of her first child. “And it’s not about making women think they have failed if things do not go to plan.”
“Birth isn’t something we suffer, but something we actively do and exalt in.” Sheila Kitzinger
The partner’s role
While the labouring woman is intently focused on her breathing, the partner is aware to minimise distractions and any disturbance that might alter her focus and is supportive of her wishes.
“Underpinning the Calmbirth course is the philosophy of encouraging, supporting and guiding family bonding between a couple as they prepare for the birth of their baby”, says Ms Clarke. “It focuses on the role of the value of each parent, the importance of mothers and equally important fathers in the life of their unborn and newborn baby. Relaxation, joy, hope, courage, determination and togetherness create good strong and loving relationships. In a nutshell, that’s what Calmbirth is all about.”
Before commenting please stop & think: is it kind, caring, positive & beneficial? Please remember that on the other side of this screen, be it the author or your fellow readers, that we are all humans with our own stories: needs, hopes, experiences, opinions &, most importantly, feelings. This is a respectful & safe place. I, the author, am not a medical professional. I offer simply my personal experiences & information gleaned in the sincere hope that it may be of use to another. This does not mean that I am ‘right’, whatever that means, but it did work for me. I reserve the right to remove any comments I deem unnecessary, inappropriate or negative. Thanks for being here. xx
The Birthing Journey is all about sharing information and positive, incredible birth stories in the hope that others may experience the same joy and empowerment as I did. I have always found that, whenever I have had the privilege of speaking with an expectant mum one-on-one about how they’re feeling, and shared my experiences, they have been only too keen to know more. I have literally seen the fear and apprehension fade away in front of my eyes, replaced with excitement and empowerment.
When I first dared air this dream though, I was met on a number of occasions by comments from well-meaning friends indicating that I shouldn’t get women’s hopes up… i.e. what if it all doesn’t go to plan?
An old school friend, now a wonderful, passionate midwife, messaged me upon launching The Birthing Journey with words of encouragement but also, to be completely transparent with you, the following:
“I think it’s great to share positive experiences and I tell women in classes all the time to avoid horror stories. My only concern is that birth is a tricky situation that is more than attitude or planning. It’s biology and gene mix and I have seen women who think they are prepared for a calm birth not have one, for one reason or another, and their plan is shattered and it can lead down paths of post-natal depression etc.
I think it’s important to be happy with the care provider and have a basic plan in mind but be prepared to be flexible. And at the end of the day, be happy that you and your delicious newborn are safe and well.
It’s an incredible thing to be able to desire children, conceive and give birth. I learnt we don’t get pregnant to have a natural vaginal birth, we get pregnant to have a child and I hope whatever road gets us to our destination brings satisfaction.
I wish more women felt empowered and excited and confident in birth. Women are incredible! I have 4 gorgeous children all via natural vaginal birth and I loved every minute!”
I was so appreciative of her comments and am not naive enough to think that every single woman who reads my stories or follows my ‘tips’ will have an incredible birthing experience. It is absolutely my hope though. Sometimes it will be her own mind that prevents her from having the experience she so desires, sometimes her body. It may be circumstances and situations completely outside of her control. But I will say this. I will never support telling expectant women horror birth stories. And I 100% believe it is better to go into labour positive, excited, empowered and confident with clear intentions than it is to go in feeling fearful, anxious, worried, naive… even if things don’t end up going the way they were hoping. Is the ‘gap’ potentially larger, hence there is further to ‘fall’ and more disappointment to experience? Perhaps. But what about all of those who do experience incredible birth stories because of what they learned and applied, because of the peace and calm they allowed to guide them, because they drew upon their inner resources they never knew they possessed? The information I gained in my own research, and the experiences I had, are too great not to share.
Let me just share though that from within my own circle of friends I have known women to: tear from front to back, experience pre-eclampsia, have to fight for their own lives during and after birth, simply not dilate sufficiently for a natural birth, be left with a uterus paper-thin, go into premature labour… just to name a few. These women come from all different walks of life, some even themselves midwives/nurses. I know many women who have had traumatic birthing experiences and that’s one of the reasons I was so concerned myself before I took a proactive approach to learning about labour and made a decision to set myself up as best I could (again, I am so glad you’re here!). One of my closest friends even checked into hospital suspecting labour/contractions and it turned out that she had appendicitis… so out came both the appendix and her firstborn whilst she was under a general anesthetic… do you think that lined up with her ‘birth plan’? I mean, who could have even scripted that! Was she disappointed? Of course. But both her and her bub were safe and well.
I certainly don’t want you going into birth fearful but it is important to be open-minded enough to know that things can happen. Circumstances can change. “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” This saying is adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns and means that no matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it. It is impossible to prepare for every scenario. Reality is that we can prepare and plan so much, but we still never know what life might throw at us. We can only control so much.
In my yet-to-be-released post on Interventions you’ll learn about the BRAN Method and how we are empowered to ask our medical professionals the following, when faced with an intervention:
Benefits – what are they?
Risk – what is it?
Alternatives – are there any?
No or not now – what if I said?
I’ll never forget my Calmbirth facilitator telling our class though that if it truly is an emergency, you’ll have no say anyway. They will do what needs to be done to keep both you and bub safe. We must always remember that they are the professionals, and as such, do deserve our trust and respect. Even when things don’t go the way we’d hoped.
I can’t stress this enough: Always,always, of the utmost importance is the health and wellbeing of both mum and bub. In the end, it doesn’t ‘matter’ how bub is born. If both you and your baby are safe, then that is a successful birth. Allow yourself to experience all the joy and ecstasy that new baby can bring you. What a miracle! (regardless of the style of birth). If it all doesn’t go according to your plan, please, I beg you: be kind to yourself. Focus on that gorgeous new bub of yours and the blessing and miracle they are. You are safe. Your bub is safe. Even in this day and age, I think many people forget or quite simply don’t realise how incredibly risky both pregnancy and labour still are.
If your birth experience was less than desirable, traumatic even, I’m so sorry. Allow yourself time to grieve. Acknowledge it and accept it. Like anything, of course it takes time. But try to focus on your bub, helping them to flourish, whilst being kind to and looking after yourself. Try not to dwell on what you didn’t get, but rather, what you did.
Seek professional support. Please don’t say everything’s fine if it’s not. There are people who will listen, walk through it with you, know what steps to help you take to move on successfully etc.
Never, ever compare. I couldn’t believe it when stepping into my first mother’s group, a room filled with 40 new mums and their bubs, and all anyone was talking about was their labour stories. Most of them competing about whose was worse than whose. For myself, given my birthing story, it was embarrassing and I largely kept quiet because a) it didn’t feel ‘grand’ enough but b) more importantly, I didn’t want anyone to feel less than or upset because they didn’t have the same experience as me. On the contrary though, if your experience wasn’t pleasant, the last thing you need is to be re-hashing it or having people say theirs was worse.
Perhaps there will be another opportunity for you to potentially have the birthing experience you so hoped for. That can be incredibly healing. But also, perhaps not (e.g. medically you may only be permitted C-sections for future births… but please note this is certainly not always a requirement just because your firstborn came via caesarean… more and more women are requesting a V-bac, vaginal birth after caesarean, and if this is safe for you then by all means go for it, working with your medical team). And as mentioned earlier, some of my friends just quite simply didn’t seem to be capable of dilating the necessary amount, even though they tried their hardest multiple times, and for this I have no explanation. We certainly won’t always have all the answers. Life is all about how we handle what it throws at us. Not always fair, but life nonetheless.
Have you heard about taking raspberry leaf tea whilst pregnant? Is it an old wives tale, or does it actually work?
Upon announcing at my work place that I was pregnant for the first time, a colleague immediately recommended raspberry leaf tea. Another colleague wholeheartedly agreed with this recommendation, swearing great results. I have never been a herbal tea drinker and had never heard of it but as with anything related to a positive birth, I was only too pleased to take it on board!
If you’ve read my birth stories you’ll know that both of my labours were absolutely wonderful… after the first incredible experience, I made sure that I repeated everything exactly the same the second time around! Raspberry leaf tea was a part of my protocol but, much to my delight, a friend told me you could also buy it in capsule form, so I must admit to preferring that option as opposed to drinking the tea.
See what you think about these amazing claims and decide for yourself.
“It is believed that raspberry leaf, if taken regularly through pregnancy and labour can:
Ease the symptoms of morning sickness.
Sooth and prevent bleeding gums which many pregnant women often experience.
Relax the smooth muscles of the uterus when it is contracting (Burn & Withell, 1941).
Assist with the birth of the baby and the placenta.
Calm cramping of the uterus.
Provide a rich source of iron, calcium, manganese and magnesium. The magnesium content is especially helpful in strengthening the uterine muscles. Raspberry leaf also contains vitamins B1, B3 and E which are valuable in pregnancy.
Raspberry leaf was found to cause a relaxant effect on the uterus. It was believed that this relaxant effect caused the uterine contractions of labour to become better coordinated and more efficient, thus shortening the length of labour.” (Source: www.pregnancy.com.au)
“When taken during pregnancy, red raspberry leaf is said to aid the mother’s immune system, ease morning sickness and promote better circulation. Taking raspberry leaf is believed to help strengthen uterine muscles and tone the pelvic floor in preparation for childbirth, as well as assist with breastmilk supply.” (Source: www.bellybelly.com.au)
“The purpose of this study was to examine the safety and efficacy of raspberry leaf products consumed by a group of mothers during their pregnancy, by comparison with a group of mothers who did not. A retrospective observational design was used. Subjects were women who birth their babies at Westmead Hospital between January 1998-July 1998. The sample consisted of 108 mothers; 57 (52.8%) consumed raspberry leaf products while 51 (47.2%) were in the control group. The findings suggest that the raspberry leaf herb can be consumed by women during their pregnancy for the purpose for which it is taken, that is, to shorten labour with no identified side effects for the women or their babies. The findings also suggest ingestion of the drug might decrease the likelihood of pre and post-term gestation. An unexpected finding in this study seems to indicate that women who ingest raspberry leaf might be less likely to receive an artificial rupture of their membranes, or require a caesarean section, forceps or vacuum birth than the women in the control group.”
To be absolutely honest, I can’t remember at what stage I started taking it, nor the amount I consumed. I believe it was a case of starting at say one cup of tea or 2 capsules per day and then you could work up if you wanted to. Of course, this article is for information purposes only. As always, I encourage you to do your own research to decide if you feel it’s right for you and please consult your health care practitioner before taking raspberry leaf, the type of preparation, what dosage to take and when to commence.
Please note if you are not a first-time mum: It has been said to not take raspberry leaf tea if a previous labour lasted three hours or less. For me personally, seeings as I barely reached the hospital bed with bub no. 2, if there is a third I would consider not taking it!
No doubt by now you’ve heard them. Well-meaning friends, even strangers, who can’t help but share with you their traumatic birth story in all the R rated gory detail. As you listen, your heart rate increases, it becomes harder to swallow, your body responds in panic to what you are hearing and your mind, unfortunately, is taking it all in, filing it for use down the track.
Now, please hear me out, as I speak with all love and respect. If you are reading this and have experienced a traumatic birth, I am so incredibly sorry. My heart truly breaks for you and with all that I am I wish your outcome had been different. A horror birth story should never be wished upon anyone and I hope you can find the healing you need. There is a time and place to grieve, to speak openly and rawly about how you feel and professionals who can guide you through. Inadvertently though, when these horror stories are shared, more often than not with a first-time mum-to-be, these stories multiply to now become, potentially, a part of her story. It was never hers to begin with, but now she has taken it on board, whether she wants to or not. Why is it in our society that we so freely share negative experiences, and yet the positives are so much harder to find? We are quite literally surrounded by negativity in so many ways and pregnancy, birth and parenting are by no means exempt.
What good is it going to do to share with someone just how awful your experience was, I ask from my high-horse? Do you think it’s going to be helpful or hindering? No, it doesn’t ‘prepare’ them. It freaks them out! As if they’re probably not freaking out enough already! Do you really want to make someone more fearful? More anxious? More concerned? More confused?
I don’t know what it is, whether by sharing the trauma and the horror they feel they are preparing you for how ‘bad’ it’s going to be, or whether it somehow, subconsciously even, validates or vindicates them and what they went through? It’s human nature for us to get a little competitive about who had something ‘the worst’, but I’m putting my hand up and declaring that it’s time to stop. Our words are so incredibly powerful. Let’s use them to encourage, inspire and motivate. To empower and build confidence. To be their biggest cheerleader and confirm: “You got this girl!”
And for you, gorgeous pregnant mumma, if you hear a negative story coming your way, here are some suggestions to (politely) stop them in their tracks:
“Sorry, can I interrupt for a moment? I think I can see where this story is headed and I’m so sorry for your experience, but I am doing my absolute best to put myself and bub in the best possible position for a positive birth and that means not listening to the horror stories.”
“I’m sorry, I want to be respectful but I just can’t hear about traumatic birth experiences.”
“Thank you for wanting to share but if it’s not positive and encouraging, I’m going to ask you to please not.”
These sound very formal when written and they need to be conversational, so have a think for yourself and of course put it into your own words in a way that you feel comfortable. But do prepare your own spiel and please don’t be afraid to use it.
At the very least, it may cause the wannabe sharer to consider the power of their words and hopefully think twice about spouting off to the next unsuspecting pregnant woman they meet.
I’m believing that you, like me, will be one of those who freely & excitedly shares their incredibly positive birth story. That it will change outcomes and that it will help break the stigma of birthing being this awful, traumatic ordeal.
Should you find yourself having heard an unpleasant story, either accidentally or intentionally, Catherine Price & Sandra Robinson in their book ‘BIRTH: Conceiving, Nurturing and Giving Birth to your Baby’ give some excellent advice (pg 322):
“Hearing other women’s birth stores may create fears (or add to them), perhaps leaving you upset, bewildered, angry or anxious about the impending labour. However, listening to a variety of birth stories, even scary ones, can help you gather ideas so you can explore different support tools that might be useful.
For all the positive birth stories you hear, perhaps ask: ‘What worked for you?’ or ‘What made a difference?’ For all the negative stories, perhaps ask ‘How did that make you feel?’ or ‘What would you do differently next time?’
Things to remember with birth stories are:
Each woman’s experience is unique. While most women describe their labour as painful, this does not necessarily mean it was unpleasant.
Labours vary immensely. Other women’s stories cannot bring you to a full understanding of what your labour will be like. You need to remain open and just wait and see.
If feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself that this was their experience. You are not this woman and your birth will be different. You and your baby will have your own unique story.
Good birth stories can have a positive and powerful effect, so listen out for them. Some women find they are a great source of relief and motivation when preparing for their own labour and birth.” (which is why I do what I do!!!)