When did you realize you were really in labor?
When I was sitting on the sofa with my husband and I felt a powerful wave go across my stomach. The feeling was unrecognizable. I didn’t experience any Braxton Hicks during pregnancy and so had never felt this sensation before. I knew straight away that it was the start of labor. At that moment I felt wide awake. This was the moment we had been waiting for. There is so much power and force behind the surges and I was ready to make friends with the sensation and for my labor to begin.
What was the most challenging thing about going natural?
I always knew I wanted a natural birth. I wanted to experience the power of birth. The most challenging part was the transition phase. I labored at home until I was fully dilated and so only knew I was transitioning because of how my body was trembling and from how overwhelmed I felt. Suddenly, I was not in control but rather surrendering to each surge that was engulfing my body. I think back and if there was a feeling to encapsulate what I imagine God’s presence to feel like it would be that feeling. I later read in ‘Spiritual Midwifery’ that many birth professionals believed this to be the case. The transition was the moment God entered the body. I get shivers thinking about it.
What was the most helpful thing you did to prepare for childbirth?
By far the most crucial thing I did to prepare for birth was reframe my perspective on pain. If you are seeking to have a natural birth then you are working against a society that devalues pain in birth. Many people do not understand the value of going fully natural and quite frankly think it is a bit odd. We have lost touch with our primitive power. Because of this, I would say the most helpful thing to do is to question your motivations for a natural birth and check they are intrinsic enough - lived values that you uphold in your daily life. Because we are in a culture where birth is a medical event, and medical professionals (rightly so), are trained to alleviate pain and not work with it. Birth is a physiological event where pain is functional and unbelievably powerful. I think strength comes from believing this.
What surprised you about your birth?
I never thought that the birth of my daughter would be such a profound and awakening experience. I felt so powerful bringing new life into this world. I never thought that the experience would shake my foundation and awaken me to the work that needs to be done in order to spread the good news about childbirth. We live in a culture that views birth as an ordeal. In this view we miss the opportunity to tap into the potency and power of childbirth. Because of my experience, I have devoted all of my time to creating podcasts to help spread the message. My podcast name is ‘Pop that Mumma’ in case you would like to hear more.
I never thought that the birth of my daughter would be such a profound and awakening experience. I felt so powerful bringing new life into this world. I never thought that the experience would shake my foundation and awaken me to the work that needs to be done in order to spread the good news about childbirth.
What pain relief strategies worked best?
When I was pregnant, I naively thought I could breathe out my baby’. This was not the case. I needed to be an active participant. I needed to take charge of my labor. The pain management techniques I used were vocalization, being free and uninhibited, and making deep ‘Aaaaaaah’ sounds from within. I also took a warm shower and stomped my feet whilst watching the water splash against my toes, I loved the warm water on my body. I also remained naked as this helped me to be vulnerable. Stripped bare was the state I needed to be in, to birth my child.
Early on in the labor process, it became clear to me that although I had my husband's support, this was very much my experience on a physical level and nobody apart from me would be able to do this. I also felt intuitive that having my husband near me counting my breathing was not right, it was too distracting. I needed to focus and find my inner strength. I didn’t even need to explain this to my husband, after 11 years together he knows me well enough to know what I need without words. During the labor, he quietly made himself comfortable in bed. I took this as a sign of his belief in me.
How did it feel to hold your baby for the first time?
I had been pushing for two hours until it finally dawned on me. I am not letting go. I have held my baby close for 9 months and it was time to let go. I needed to open my heart and soul in order to birth my child. It wasn't a conscious thought but rather a feeling of knowing what I needed to do. The moment I let go with every ounce of my being was the moment Juniper was born. She was lifted up and put into my arms. At that moment it was as if, time stopped still.
The process of giving birth bought me back to my most primitive self. I tapped into a power I didn't know existed. Watching our baby come into this world, along with the bodily mess, was something that will never ever leave me. It was not the perfect picture we are sold, but rather a beautifully awkward moment. Two human beings meeting for the first time. I can’t say I felt the rush of love that everyone talks about but what I did feel was a sense of wonder.
What did you name your baby, and why?
Juniper. Because when my husband and I first spoke about having children (around 5 years ago) I asked him what girl's names he liked and he said Juniper. I said that’s the one. Say no more.
What advice can you give to other mamas who want to go natural?
The first thing I would say is to figure out your motivation for having a natural birth as that will be your anchor when you're in the swings and throws of labor. For me, I viewed natural birth as a rite of passage and I wanted to fully experience birth. I also saw it as a capacity-building opportunity: a test of determination, courage and endurance which are all character markers. Finally, I knew that a natural birth would enable me to grow as a person. It was transformational. I am definitely not the same woman I was before I gave birth.