They say that when a women gives birth to her baby, it is also the birth of herself as a mother
Today I spoke to a doula client who gave birth about a couple of months ago. She is doing great! Healthy, happy baby and a rested and balanced new mother. We spoke about questions concerning consultatiebureau, breastfeeding etc. The usual things that keep new mums busy.
As I sat at home after dinner I felt a deep feeling of warmth and joy coming from within. I thought about it for a minute and realized how happy it makes me feel when I see a new mother doing so well. Especially as it was not an easy process to start out with.
She contacted me at the end of her pregnancy, after having interviewed a number of doulas and being unable to decide on one. She was at the point where she knew she needed support but trusting someone to be the right person to give her that support was hard. After a couple of long phone conversations and a live meeting of a few hours, she decided to let me in. We only had a few weeks to get to know one another and prepare for her birth. This woman told me she had gone through quite a transformation during her pregnancy, starting out wishing to get over the ordeal of birth by entrusting her birth to the ‘professionals’ who know it all. Along the way she got educated, prepared and gained insight into her body’s capacity, feeling ready to trust in her body’s ability to give birth naturally with herself as the expert.
I was lucky to be a witness to the birth of this strong mama. As she faced challenge after challenge when her baby didn’t come until that imaginary boundary of 42 weeks was just around the corner. With on and off contractions going for days, she stayed in her trust. She defined and redefined her boundaries clearly when she was told she needed to induce immediately according to some tests which meant her baby ‘might’ be at risk, she evaluated the information, listened to her own instinctive knowledge of what was right and set her boundaries of what was right for her. She waited a little more, letting her body slowly enter the birth process. She trusted that her baby was safe and could handle the natural process unfolding in her body. She faced exhaustion, external pressure that she was putting her baby in danger, and she listened to herself.
God knows how hard it was for her.
When all a woman really needs is support in her and trust that she knows what is best for her baby, she had to find the strength to stand against those threats and follow herself.
She birthed slowly, in the hospital for a night. We walked the halls, walked up and down hospital stairs, bounced on a birth ball. By morning, this warrior woman, tired but hopeful, accepted to have a first internal exam to evaluate ‘progress’. The verdict was 1 cm dilation. This news was crushing, as if it wasn’t enough what her body was doing, feeling she couldn’t make it. Every time I witness this happen (and believe me it happens a lot) I ask myself what the point of this information is to a woman who is in her center, finding the strength and the power to stay present with the process of her body. This news plus the exhaustion of a (few) sleepless night(s) created a stop in the process.
Sleep was needed. After a few hours rest, she awoke to a quiet uterus, no longer contracting.
We reached a pit, despair. Does this mean that after all of this hard work we will have to go for an induction after all?
The medical midwife and team who came into the room were a breath of fresh air in the midst of despair. She suggested my client go home and rest. And come back the next morning to induce if birth hadn’t continued on its own. This suggestion was met with such a sense of relief! The humanity of the situation was heartwarming. A tired mama, who needed rest, her home, her bed was being advised to go home and rest by the same medical institution who two days earlier had tried to convince her that her baby was in life threatening danger if she didn’t induce immediately. Mmm, something to think about – how dangerous is it really to wait for nature to run its course?
After a proper meal and a good nap, tucked into her bed, contractions started to come again. This mama was amazing as she managed to stay calm, breath, cope and rest for the few minutes in between contractions. After a full night of this she returned to the hospital as agreed with renewed trust in her body’s ability to birth her baby.
Arriving at 6:30 AM, she was prepped for the usual induction routine – breaking the waters, IV, oxytocine drip… My arrival at 7 AM was just in time for her to find the courage to tell the gynecologist that she wanted more time! Once again though, the breaking of morning with the hustle and bustle of the hospital acted like the breaking of a night trance bringing her uterus pulses almost to a standstill.
Still dilation was at 3 cm. The nights work was not for nothing. But it didn’t fit the protocol and after 2+ sleepless nights of contractions and the struggle to find her own way she was starting to reach her limit.
After some dancing, singing karaoke together with her partner and her which immediately brought on a massive contraction (you open your mouth and the mouth of your uterus opens!) the patience of the hospital was up. What to do? It was time to flow with the system, to use the last of the resources she had left to focus on birthing this baby instead of standing her ground and going against the flow. It was with reluctance, feeling somewhat like a cornered deer, that she accepted to break her waters. This was followed within an hour by the oxytocin drip. This mama was ferocious, breathing through the ever growing waves of oxytocin induced contractions. The machine was increased according to protocol, every 20 minutes until she had the satisfactory 4 contractions per 10 minutes. She was brave, she was strong. And she was also exhausted and overwhelmed by this force being generated by something alien to her body. The next hours were passed in a survival trance with breath and acupressure as her only salvation.
The scheduled check was done. 4 cm.
Once again, this news came into a rational mind as bad news. If it took 3 days to get to 4 cm, how will I manage to stand this long enough to reach full dilation? There seems to be no end in sight. The epidural offered some much needed respite from this storm. Although it only worked on half the body leaving some sensations which over the next hour increased again to an unbearable level. Two hours after the 4 cm diagnosis a midwife came to check again. She silently finished and with a straight face looked at my client and showed her 10 fingers. This mama let out a scream of joy! Her partner who had just stepped out of the room for a minute was behind the door and rushed in to hear what the commotion was about. She couldn’t believe that she was already yet finally almost ready to push out her baby.
Silence came over the room again as all staff went on their way and we were left alone to let the urge to push grow. A few hours later, after some quiet time and an hour and a half of intense active pushing work as first babies tend to need their time to journey down the birth canal, I witnessed the birth of a beautiful baby girl and the birth of a lioness mama and a relieved and elated father. It was almost 6 pm on the day she was 42 weeks pregnant, after three days of birth. What a journey it was!
Becoming a mother is something she will never forget. The question of what would have happened if she had been left to birth at her own pace, without tests to make sure there is in no ‘danger’, pressure to take action instead of letting the process unfold, will never be answered. But whatever the circumstances I witnessed the birth of a strong, powerful mother who knew how to stand for herself and her baby, who stayed true to herself and who let her voice be heard. Her message was – I am the boss over my own body, I decide what you can and can’t do. Although she also wished to birth under different circumstances and some things that happened were not what she wished for, she gave it her everything.
I feel humbled and honored to have been witness to this birth and to have been able to hold the space for the birth of this new family.
Siri Amrit Khalsa – January 2017