Dancing With Wolves - My Birthing Story

Now how does one describe what labour feels like to a man or a woman who has never experienced it? I pondered this question soon after giving birth to my second child Marika.

I had two completely opposite birthing experiences. I gave birth to my first child Annika by elective caesarean, before labour started, because she was a breech baby. With Marika, determined to have a different experience, I gave birth to her naturally, with no drugs.

I believe that my natural birthing experience is the greatest accomplishment of my life. Nothing will ever match it. It was like winning a gold medal at the Olympics. The endorphin rush was incredible. I gave birth four days ago and I am still coming down from the high. I now understand how gold medallists feel. During the birth, I thought my body had reached its limit, but then amazingly, I kept on going through the contractions, and reached new limits, again and again. I knew I had won the race when I saw my child for the first time and she was so alive, so new to the world, taking her first breaths, her first sensations of the world. It was pure magic. The most magical experience I’ll ever have. I could feel every second of it lucidly.

Erica with her first baby Annika (left) and both Annika and Marika (right)

Saying labour was a marathon is an understatement. To me, it was like running up an icy mountain naked. The ice represents the pain. I had no idea how high the mountain was, or how treacherous. My baby was at the top. Initially I felt as though I was being chased by wild wolves (the contractions), but then I realised that I could become a wolf myself. I had to embrace the animal inside me, and go with nature. The intellectual mind is no match for a wild wolf on a mountain. Most of the time I walked, and rested with the wolves, other times I ran, wrestled with them, fought with them, even howled with them. The view as I was going up the mountain was as clear as a bright sunny day, getting bigger and brighter as I went up. Sometimes bigger than life itself. The view was overwhelming, and I felt like I was going to fall off the mountain. Without drugs I felt every sensation, every emotion and contraction. Nature was truly taking over my body with the baby moving downwards, and I couldn’t stop it.

I endured 3 days of pre-labour before established labour began. The contractions were very painful and intense and coming anything from 2 minutes apart to hours apart. I had 3 nights of broken sleep with lower back pain from the baby moving lower.

Initially I tried to carry on with normal life, doing the washing up and tidying up the house in between contractions. But…

As the hours wore on into the next day, I breathed through the contractions when they came. My doula, Margie massaged me, gave me mantras to listen to, and repeat to myself, ” My body was made to do this”, ” I am a birthing earth mother”. I lit candles and had the lava lamp flowing, and soft lights. Clary sage and Llang Llang oil wafted through the air. Sometimes I danced away the contractions, rolling my hips, and going with the spiritual music. Other times I did yoga stretches, rolled on the body ball, did yoga nidra meditation, and sat in the shower. My helpers, Margie, and Kate and Aaron, my husband brought me energy giving drinks and hot packs, and wiped my face with wet hot towels to keep me going.

That evening I was purging my emotions about the loss of the “magic moments” with Annika, my first child, with the caesarean. I sobbed how I couldn’t remember holding her or breastfeeding her for the first time because I was lost in the drugged haze.

Early the next morning as the contractions intensified, as baby moved further into my pelvis, I started growling and swaying between helpers, then growling on all fours, resting fully between each contraction. Yes, growling, hence the wolf metaphor. Occasionally I felt the baby kick so I was reassured that she was all right.

The phone rang at 8:30am. It was from the hospital. The midwife was wondering why I hadn’t turned up for my induction!

It took all my energy to keep calm during the car ride to the hospital. Having had a caesarean, I had been advised by the hospital not to labour at home. I felt like a naughty school child. Walking through the foyer, with the general public going past, I tried to keep myself calm.

I was examined, and my cervix was found to be 4 -5 cm dilated. I was crushed. Three days of labouring, and 5 cm to go?! Margie explained that I had gone through the hardest and longest part, and dilation could proceed quickly from this point. This gave me hope.

In the shower, I laboured quietly to conserve energy, while listening to the obstretician deliver a barrage of statistics about fetal death rates (during my birth!) and the risks of uterine rupture when labouring with a caesarean wound (1 in 200 – 300). He mentioned that fetal asphixia rates are lower with caesarean than VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). It was almost as if he was trying to convince me to have a caesarean and give up on the VBAC, even though there was no fetal distress! Then after getting out of the shower, the chief of obstetrics came in, in a navy suit and tie. When Kate put on my gown, I suddenly realised I was completely naked standing in front of him. He delivered the same kind of spiel, but he used the word “disaster”, meaning it could be a disaster. You see, I was defying hospital protocol by refusing to have a canula in my arm and refusing to be hooked up to a monitoring machine. The midwife repeated all his spiel about how I could bleed to death, and the baby could die with me. Then I had to read a form, which repeated the same things and sign it. All this in between increasingly intensifying contractions!

I retreated into the shower, seeking refuge from the monsters. I was at a low point, fighting myself mentally. Was I going to let them get to me? Could I do this without their intervention? Could I really take charge of my own birth with the medical establishment bearing down on me? I talked it over with Aaron how I felt, all the while sorting out my feelings. I could either let the barrage get to me, or I could build on my resources and continue my birthing journey. I kept repeating the birthing mantras over and over in my head. ” I am powerful”. ” I am a great birthing earth mother”. ” My body was made to do this”. I tried to tap into the power of all birthing women on the planet. I tried to visualise the baby moving down the birth canal.

Then there was the hope of a nice big bath as the private suite was empty. Lucky me, as I had thought of going private just to have the bath, but decided on public, as I didn’t want an obstetrician. The essential oils had been left at home, so I had to do without them. Aaron fetched the “Birth Power” CD, which held my mantras.

The bath was fabulous. I relaxed straight away. The contractions were getting stronger and extremely intense. At this point I started screaming, holding loud sustained high notes. Aaron later said he was impressed with my “high C” with perfect pitch. He didn’t realised I had such a good singing voice. It all got too much and I started screaming for help. Margie grounded me every time, getting me to growl softly. Margie encourage me to yell “Come on, baby!” So I did. Everyone on the floor must have heard it. I did not care in the slightest.

The midwife was worried I might give birth in the bath, as it was not allowed by protocol, so I mustered the energy to get out. It was impossible to move during contractions. Throughout labour at the hospital, the midwives were monitoring the baby’s heartbeat to make sure it wasn’t distressed. I tried to put fetal distress at the back of my mind. If I breathed deeply lots of oxygen, so would my baby. Thankfully the baby was fine all the way through.

I felt ready to push, but my cervix still had a tiny lip to go. I risked damage to my cervix, so I had to resist the urge to push. This was nearly impossible. We slid sideways and Margie and I lay face to face, lying under the bed, with Aaron behind me. I mustered every ounce of stamina I had to resist, all the while aware of the baby trying to push out. I can’t believe I actually did it. My cervix was clear!

I tried to push in a semi reclining position with a mirror for feedback. At this point I felt like I had reached the end of my tether and I wanted to give up. It seemed impossible. My biggest pushes just didn’t seem to go anywhere. The midwife was talking about a time limit for pushing. I changed to a squatting position, hanging off my helpers. This didn’t help either and I felt like I wanted out. “How about gas? Ventouse? Why can’t they just suck it out? ” I was ready to retreat. The doctor was waiting outside with the ventouse.

Had my body failed me? I clung to Margie’s words. She said that the problem for me with the ventouse was the same as with my cesearean. ( my feelings about it, later). I could push the baby out because it was mine, and I could do it. I clung to Aaron’s words, “I can almost see it! You’ve come this far! Don’t give up now!” I realised it was now or never. I pulled together with this encouragement and every last energy reserve I could possibly muster, stood up, squatted and crowned and delivered the entire baby in one gargantuan push.

The sense of release was incredible. I was stunned and my mood skyrocketed. It was the biggest rush I have ever experienced. Baby was crying her lungs out from the moment she slithered out. Aaron shed some tears. I had never seen him cry before. I took baby in my arms and was overwhelmed by nature’s miracle, the pure magic of it all. She was the most beautiful thing I have ever laid eyes on. I talked softly to her, ” Ohhh…It was hard for you too wasn’t it!? Oh look at you!” Aaron cut the cord, and she suckled strongly on my breasts for about an hour. It was amazing!

So there I was, at the top of the highest mountain in the world, with my baby, with the most incredible view. In other words, an incredible awareness of the capabilities and power of the female body. I felt like a queen of the Amazon, part of the mighty tribe of women around the world who take charge of their births.

My recovery I liken to the trip down the mountain. It was as if I became a bird, and flew with my baby down the mountain. Compared to the caesarean, recovery was easy. After breastfeeding my baby, I got up and walked to the bathroom and showered myself. I miraculously had no tears. From the very first day in hospital I was showering, changing linen, changing nappies, and getting myself cups of tea and snacks. I even walked downstairs, and went to the physiotherapy session less than 24 hours after the birth. It felt great.

As for the caesarean, I guess it was like I was at the bottom of that icy mountain too. I didn’t see the wolves (contractions). I was naked, stranded, and the obstetrician offered me a lift to the top where my baby was in his high tech helicopter. I got in, but the ride was very turbulent (I was knocked about by the surgery) and foggy all the way (from the drugs). When we got to the top, the fog was so thick I only just caught a glimpse of my baby’s face. This is how I felt, as I have no recollection of holding or feeding her for the first time. I only remember when they showed me her for a few seconds after she was cut out, then we posed for photos when she was wrapped up tightly. I remember being whisked to the recovery room, without baby or husband, with a stranger looking after me, separated from the baby for what seemed like an eternity.

With the caesarean, it was like the obstetrician left me at the top of the mountain in the fog, with the baby. I had to climb down the mountain by myself, being carried by helpers (nurses, family, friends) through the dense fog and blizzards. I was incapacitated for days in hospital with my drips, epidural, drugs and catheter. I had a lot of problems breastfeeding, and spent a lot of the time being anxious, and somewhat depressed. I wasn’t allowed to drive a car for 6 weeks so I was dependent on people around me, living in a city (Perth) where I had no family. People were very supportive however, and got me through it.

The contrast between my two birth experiences and the aftermath is stark. Here I am writing this, just 4 days after giving birth. My breasts were engorged by the 4th night after giving birth, there was so much milk. Marika is feeding extremely well. She is so settled, half the time I have to wake her up for feeds. She sleeps almost all the time, and we haven’t had any settling problems at all.

My husband Aaron was extremely supportive throughout the birth despite his worry that something would go wrong. Also, special thanks to my doula, Margerite Perkins, and doula in training, Kate. Without them all, I think I would have taken that helicopter ride again……

Margie was wonderful during the birth. I would strongly recommend Margie’s services to anyone who is wishing for a natural birth, and especially to anyone attempting a VBAC in the hospital. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a support person who is experienced. She has a vast repertoire of techniques to draw upon. Margie took the time to get to know me during many visits before the birth so she was able to support me during the birth in a very personal way. This was the key to giving birth according to my plan. I found her rates extremely reasonable, even though I believe the success of my birth is truly priceless.

Erica

Dancing With Wolves - My Birthing Story

Now how does one describe what labour feels like to a man or a woman who has never experienced it? I pondered this question soon after giving birth to my second child Marika.

I had two completely opposite birthing experiences. I gave birth to my first child Annika by elective caesarean, before labour started, because she was a breech baby. With Marika, determined to have a different experience, I gave birth to her naturally, with no drugs.

I believe that my natural birthing experience is the greatest accomplishment of my life. Nothing will ever match it. It was like winning a gold medal at the Olympics. The endorphin rush was incredible. I gave birth four days ago and I am still coming down from the high. I now understand how gold medallists feel. During the birth, I thought my body had reached its limit, but then amazingly, I kept on going through the contractions, and reached new limits, again and again. I knew I had won the race when I saw my child for the first time and she was so alive, so new to the world, taking her first breaths, her first sensations of the world. It was pure magic. The most magical experience I’ll ever have. I could feel every second of it lucidly.

Erica with her first baby Annika (left) and both Annika and Marika (right)

Saying labour was a marathon is an understatement. To me, it was like running up an icy mountain naked. The ice represents the pain. I had no idea how high the mountain was, or how treacherous. My baby was at the top. Initially I felt as though I was being chased by wild wolves (the contractions), but then I realised that I could become a wolf myself. I had to embrace the animal inside me, and go with nature. The intellectual mind is no match for a wild wolf on a mountain. Most of the time I walked, and rested with the wolves, other times I ran, wrestled with them, fought with them, even howled with them. The view as I was going up the mountain was as clear as a bright sunny day, getting bigger and brighter as I went up. Sometimes bigger than life itself. The view was overwhelming, and I felt like I was going to fall off the mountain. Without drugs I felt every sensation, every emotion and contraction. Nature was truly taking over my body with the baby moving downwards, and I couldn’t stop it.

I endured 3 days of pre-labour before established labour began. The contractions were very painful and intense and coming anything from 2 minutes apart to hours apart. I had 3 nights of broken sleep with lower back pain from the baby moving lower.

Initially I tried to carry on with normal life, doing the washing up and tidying up the house in between contractions. But…

As the hours wore on into the next day, I breathed through the contractions when they came. My doula, Margie massaged me, gave me mantras to listen to, and repeat to myself, ” My body was made to do this”, ” I am a birthing earth mother”. I lit candles and had the lava lamp flowing, and soft lights. Clary sage and Llang Llang oil wafted through the air. Sometimes I danced away the contractions, rolling my hips, and going with the spiritual music. Other times I did yoga stretches, rolled on the body ball, did yoga nidra meditation, and sat in the shower. My helpers, Margie, and Kate and Aaron, my husband brought me energy giving drinks and hot packs, and wiped my face with wet hot towels to keep me going.

That evening I was purging my emotions about the loss of the “magic moments” with Annika, my first child, with the caesarean. I sobbed how I couldn’t remember holding her or breastfeeding her for the first time because I was lost in the drugged haze.

Early the next morning as the contractions intensified, as baby moved further into my pelvis, I started growling and swaying between helpers, then growling on all fours, resting fully between each contraction. Yes, growling, hence the wolf metaphor. Occasionally I felt the baby kick so I was reassured that she was all right.

The phone rang at 8:30am. It was from the hospital. The midwife was wondering why I hadn’t turned up for my induction!

It took all my energy to keep calm during the car ride to the hospital. Having had a caesarean, I had been advised by the hospital not to labour at home. I felt like a naughty school child. Walking through the foyer, with the general public going past, I tried to keep myself calm.

I was examined, and my cervix was found to be 4 -5 cm dilated. I was crushed. Three days of labouring, and 5 cm to go?! Margie explained that I had gone through the hardest and longest part, and dilation could proceed quickly from this point. This gave me hope.

In the shower, I laboured quietly to conserve energy, while listening to the obstretician deliver a barrage of statistics about fetal death rates (during my birth!) and the risks of uterine rupture when labouring with a caesarean wound (1 in 200 – 300). He mentioned that fetal asphixia rates are lower with caesarean than VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). It was almost as if he was trying to convince me to have a caesarean and give up on the VBAC, even though there was no fetal distress! Then after getting out of the shower, the chief of obstetrics came in, in a navy suit and tie. When Kate put on my gown, I suddenly realised I was completely naked standing in front of him. He delivered the same kind of spiel, but he used the word “disaster”, meaning it could be a disaster. You see, I was defying hospital protocol by refusing to have a canula in my arm and refusing to be hooked up to a monitoring machine. The midwife repeated all his spiel about how I could bleed to death, and the baby could die with me. Then I had to read a form, which repeated the same things and sign it. All this in between increasingly intensifying contractions!

I retreated into the shower, seeking refuge from the monsters. I was at a low point, fighting myself mentally. Was I going to let them get to me? Could I do this without their intervention? Could I really take charge of my own birth with the medical establishment bearing down on me? I talked it over with Aaron how I felt, all the while sorting out my feelings. I could either let the barrage get to me, or I could build on my resources and continue my birthing journey. I kept repeating the birthing mantras over and over in my head. ” I am powerful”. ” I am a great birthing earth mother”. ” My body was made to do this”. I tried to tap into the power of all birthing women on the planet. I tried to visualise the baby moving down the birth canal.

Then there was the hope of a nice big bath as the private suite was empty. Lucky me, as I had thought of going private just to have the bath, but decided on public, as I didn’t want an obstetrician. The essential oils had been left at home, so I had to do without them. Aaron fetched the “Birth Power” CD, which held my mantras.

The bath was fabulous. I relaxed straight away. The contractions were getting stronger and extremely intense. At this point I started screaming, holding loud sustained high notes. Aaron later said he was impressed with my “high C” with perfect pitch. He didn’t realised I had such a good singing voice. It all got too much and I started screaming for help. Margie grounded me every time, getting me to growl softly. Margie encourage me to yell “Come on, baby!” So I did. Everyone on the floor must have heard it. I did not care in the slightest.

The midwife was worried I might give birth in the bath, as it was not allowed by protocol, so I mustered the energy to get out. It was impossible to move during contractions. Throughout labour at the hospital, the midwives were monitoring the baby’s heartbeat to make sure it wasn’t distressed. I tried to put fetal distress at the back of my mind. If I breathed deeply lots of oxygen, so would my baby. Thankfully the baby was fine all the way through.

I felt ready to push, but my cervix still had a tiny lip to go. I risked damage to my cervix, so I had to resist the urge to push. This was nearly impossible. We slid sideways and Margie and I lay face to face, lying under the bed, with Aaron behind me. I mustered every ounce of stamina I had to resist, all the while aware of the baby trying to push out. I can’t believe I actually did it. My cervix was clear!

I tried to push in a semi reclining position with a mirror for feedback. At this point I felt like I had reached the end of my tether and I wanted to give up. It seemed impossible. My biggest pushes just didn’t seem to go anywhere. The midwife was talking about a time limit for pushing. I changed to a squatting position, hanging off my helpers. This didn’t help either and I felt like I wanted out. “How about gas? Ventouse? Why can’t they just suck it out? ” I was ready to retreat. The doctor was waiting outside with the ventouse.

Had my body failed me? I clung to Margie’s words. She said that the problem for me with the ventouse was the same as with my cesearean. ( my feelings about it, later). I could push the baby out because it was mine, and I could do it. I clung to Aaron’s words, “I can almost see it! You’ve come this far! Don’t give up now!” I realised it was now or never. I pulled together with this encouragement and every last energy reserve I could possibly muster, stood up, squatted and crowned and delivered the entire baby in one gargantuan push.

The sense of release was incredible. I was stunned and my mood skyrocketed. It was the biggest rush I have ever experienced. Baby was crying her lungs out from the moment she slithered out. Aaron shed some tears. I had never seen him cry before. I took baby in my arms and was overwhelmed by nature’s miracle, the pure magic of it all. She was the most beautiful thing I have ever laid eyes on. I talked softly to her, ” Ohhh…It was hard for you too wasn’t it!? Oh look at you!” Aaron cut the cord, and she suckled strongly on my breasts for about an hour. It was amazing!

So there I was, at the top of the highest mountain in the world, with my baby, with the most incredible view. In other words, an incredible awareness of the capabilities and power of the female body. I felt like a queen of the Amazon, part of the mighty tribe of women around the world who take charge of their births.

My recovery I liken to the trip down the mountain. It was as if I became a bird, and flew with my baby down the mountain. Compared to the caesarean, recovery was easy. After breastfeeding my baby, I got up and walked to the bathroom and showered myself. I miraculously had no tears. From the very first day in hospital I was showering, changing linen, changing nappies, and getting myself cups of tea and snacks. I even walked downstairs, and went to the physiotherapy session less than 24 hours after the birth. It felt great.

As for the caesarean, I guess it was like I was at the bottom of that icy mountain too. I didn’t see the wolves (contractions). I was naked, stranded, and the obstetrician offered me a lift to the top where my baby was in his high tech helicopter. I got in, but the ride was very turbulent (I was knocked about by the surgery) and foggy all the way (from the drugs). When we got to the top, the fog was so thick I only just caught a glimpse of my baby’s face. This is how I felt, as I have no recollection of holding or feeding her for the first time. I only remember when they showed me her for a few seconds after she was cut out, then we posed for photos when she was wrapped up tightly. I remember being whisked to the recovery room, without baby or husband, with a stranger looking after me, separated from the baby for what seemed like an eternity.

With the caesarean, it was like the obstetrician left me at the top of the mountain in the fog, with the baby. I had to climb down the mountain by myself, being carried by helpers (nurses, family, friends) through the dense fog and blizzards. I was incapacitated for days in hospital with my drips, epidural, drugs and catheter. I had a lot of problems breastfeeding, and spent a lot of the time being anxious, and somewhat depressed. I wasn’t allowed to drive a car for 6 weeks so I was dependent on people around me, living in a city (Perth) where I had no family. People were very supportive however, and got me through it.

The contrast between my two birth experiences and the aftermath is stark. Here I am writing this, just 4 days after giving birth. My breasts were engorged by the 4th night after giving birth, there was so much milk. Marika is feeding extremely well. She is so settled, half the time I have to wake her up for feeds. She sleeps almost all the time, and we haven’t had any settling problems at all.

My husband Aaron was extremely supportive throughout the birth despite his worry that something would go wrong. Also, special thanks to my doula, Margerite Perkins, and doula in training, Kate. Without them all, I think I would have taken that helicopter ride again……

Margie was wonderful during the birth. I would strongly recommend Margie’s services to anyone who is wishing for a natural birth, and especially to anyone attempting a VBAC in the hospital. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a support person who is experienced. She has a vast repertoire of techniques to draw upon. Margie took the time to get to know me during many visits before the birth so she was able to support me during the birth in a very personal way. This was the key to giving birth according to my plan. I found her rates extremely reasonable, even though I believe the success of my birth is truly priceless.

Erica