Can you birth unassisted? A Winter Solstice birth story…
Women are hardwired to birth, in fact birth happens in the primal part of our brain, responsible for other primal functions of our body… sex, sleeping, flight or fight…We don’t think about these things our body just does it instinctively.
French Obstetrician Michel Odent, states that for women to birth efficiently and quickly they need to not think or more specifically shut off their neocortex, the part of the brain that inhibits instinctive behavior. When this occurs the exquisite hormone release necessary for our bodies to birth literally by itself becomes possible.
I know women can give birth unassisted, with joy, that birth is a normal physiological function of our bodies and that a women’s body is designed to birth. I know this from my education but also because on the Winter Solstice of 2013 I birthed my second baby with just my partner in the room.
Unassisted, wasn’t the way it was planned but as birth often happens, it occurred , exquisitely in quite an undramatic and quick fashion. Felix was welcomed into our arms, a mere 18 minutes, after my water released.
So this is my story…my second normal birth.
Felix’s birth began before that beautiful and magical solstice night in 2013.
I had an inkling things had started…early sensations and changes to my body that alerted me that it may be time … but I wasn’t sure, so keeping this delicious news to myself, I let the day and night be as normal as possible.
TIP #1 : Keep things as normal as long as possible (particularly if you are a first time birthing Mum – this first part takes time).
My son Max and I visited Ikea to get bits and pieces and that night I had my hair cut and coloured. While my hair was soaking up the colour, surges began finding their rhythm. I breathed my way through my peppermint tea and apricot chocolate. One of the haircutters gave me a lovely head massage and I took this time to relax and breath my body into relaxation and I visualised having a wonderful birth.
After my hair cut, I dropped into Woolworths to buy liquorish bullets (one of my favourites), a Summer Roll and Cherry Ripe for Sam and milk for Max. That night Sam laughed at me for pottering around the house but there were things I wanted to be just right for when we birthed our baby.…candles and photos to help create a really special place for our son to be welcomed into. The birth pool was up and the intention was to birth in water.
Tip #2: Babies often have completely different plans to your own
We went to bed that night with a feeling of anticipation and three times that night strong sensations awoke me. I breathed through them and each time I lulled us back to sleep with Rainbow Relaxation and birth affirmations. When I woke up, I was disappointed to note that I felt things had stopped but they soon started up again, in the shower. They were quite strong yet very manageable.
Sam left for work with his final comment being I’m in a meeting until 10 but call me if anything changes”. Max and I had breakfast and then we headed off to our Doctor appointment.
As we walked home I had a feeling the time was changing. I started to look at the clock and your surges were coming every 5-7 minutes but they were still really manageable, not regular yet.
The change would also be for Max so I decided to walk to the park with Max, one last time, just us. It was a very cold yet bright and sunny day. I had accidentally dropped Max’s jumper by the car and so we were at the park Max in two layers and a blue beanie his Great Granny had knitted for him.
It was the first time Max had ever kept the hat on so given the chill in the air, we only had a short swing. He loved it so much and I loved being with him so much too. We went home to our warm house and lunch for Max. At 11:24 I text my partner, Sam “ I think it may be a good idea to think about coming home…Surges about 5 mins apart. Cx”. I was also needing to concentrate on surges and being sole carer of 18 month old Max was beginning to be a distraction.
Surges were intensifying by the time Sam came home and we were both excited. We had a lovely afternoon. We played with Max and watched Wedding Crashers, a funny movie to keep things normal and bide our time. Sam was timing our surges which were between 3 and 5 minutes, but not really regular.
They began to get stronger. I was breathing up with the surge, expanding my lungs and using the surge to help my baby descend and move down. Sam did light touch massage on my back and hand, read a deep self- hypnosis that helped bring me into a deep state of calm and relaxation. After this, I just pottered around the house, closing my eyes and breathing through my surges… some were getting extremely strong but I was waiting for the intensity I had felt build in my first labour… ironically it never came…different labour, different preparation, different baby being birthed.
It was now late afternoon and I felt the surges had begun to ease off and I was wondering if things had slowed down (amazing what birthing women think). Both my partner and I were sure this was indeed labour but maybe we were going to continue into the evening. It was nearly 5pm so we decided to get Max dinner, give him a lovely warm bath and get him into bed so we could concentrate on amping up this labour again.
At 5pm I was actually on the phone to our neighbours ` explaining in a very long voice message that we thought we were in labour, but things had eased up and although we could probably come over for dinner, Sam and I thought it was best to keep in our zone. I was highly animated , starting to feel those hormones distort my feeling of reality and somehow both Sam and I had possibly missed my own subtle transition.
I was now feeling really tired.
TIP # 3: A lull doesn’t mean labour is off… and if you feel the need to sleep do so… when labour returns it comes back with a vengeance …Take it from me …YOU WILL NOT SLEEP THROUGH YOUR BIRTH !!!!!!
Over the next 50 minutes, Sam got Max his dinner, as I laid on the couch listening to a birth rehearsal/self hypnosis track.
Each surge I breathed through and it felt like I was so relaxed, breathing rhythmically with each surge. I was listening unconsciously and was so relaxed that I was nearly falling asleep. I was just about to doze off enjoying the peace and calm when …
…without much warning my water released. My eyes shot open and I felt my baby move down. It was a swift move into my pelvis, with a clunk. Do you the sound when you click your tongue? It was exactly like that and this movement and sound panicked me momentarily. I now felt very sick, very nauseous and my legs had an uncontrollable shake to them. It was difficult to get up onto my knees and I could feel the water running out of me.
I called to Sam that my water had released and it was only then that I realised that Max was now in the bath. I was definitely in my distorted , hormone infused reality.
To risk sounding like Tom Cruise recounting the actions of Jack Nichiolsen in the court scene of A Few Good Men but Sam, in that 18 minutes, had handed me a towel, got Max out the bath, dried him, put pyjamas on, and in front of Playschool, had made three phonecalls (one to put his footy tips in and two to the midwife, just kidding ALL to the midwife), peeked in on me twice, then in time caught our son while doing a bit of light touch and birth prompting…Pretty impressive and resourceful birth partner.
During that time, as darkness fell on our home, I birthed a baby!
I was really having difficulty getting up and I really wanted to change my jeans ( note Neo- cortex is still firing). I also recall Sam telling me that the midwife wanted to know the colour of the liquid (note: neo cortex still firing due to said question). I waddled to my bedroom, which is what birthing mammals do. They retreat to a place they feel safe, private and can be undisturbed.
Surprisingly, I hadn’t yet realised that I was about to give birth , standing, legs shaking, feeling sick; I take my jeans and knickers off but before I can even think about finding new jeans I drop to my knees and crawl to my bed. I put my head to the left side and close my eyes, breathing with very intense surges. I wait feeling a bit panicked, gripping onto the quilt. I had momentarily forgotten what I should be doing with my breathing when Sam came in and asked if there was anything he could do…”Just get them [the midwives] here!” is my response, eyes closed, gripping to the bed. Surges are relentless. I hear him tell our midwife things had progressed threefold.
I felt a fullness pushing down and I remember feeling this with Max and the penny dropped only then that our baby was crowning. I circled my hips and tried to remember what to do. It was then that I let go. I was now in my body and my body just did what it needed to do. I relaxed, found my centre and consciously thought that my breathing needed to go down. I visualised an opening rose …let go of my fear and relaxed everything. I breathed the baby down with the surge…A low throaty noise came from my throat and I felt his head press down and back and then I felt my body stretch over his head. I remember the breath of relief that the hardest part was now done…my whole body relaxed.
Sam returns, tells me the midwives are on their way and I asked him where Max was. He was happy watching Play School. Satisfied with this, I whispered to him with a sense of calmness that the baby was coming and I thought I had birthed the head. Eyes are still closed, head to the side, Sam calmly, without missing a beat, said it was. Is he OK? I asked. Sam told me he was fine and I remember him telling me that I knew what to do … just wait for the next surge …so that was I did. I waited. In life and birth, the pace of a child must always be remembered.
My body convulsed and it felt like my whole inside opened strongly and with my head to the side I felt our baby leave my body, like a slippery long fish. Then I heard the footsteps of our midwife coming up the steps of our home, only the briefest of time after the first cry of our baby.
Sam said he had him and he put him on the towel where I had my first glimpse… and touched his chubby chest, he was slippery sweet, warm and he had a similar expression to Max. Sam kissed me and let the midwife in who said that sounded like a baby… and it was…another healthy beautiful baby.
Tip # 4: Always leave the front door open
Sam and I, not intentionally, had an undisturbed natural birth with intensity AND without pain, very different to my last normal birth. I looked up at our midwife with a feeling of look what we just did and bewilderment and she helped me pick our baby up from the floor and helped me onto the bed where Felix was placed skin to skin with a rug with bears on it (to keep him warm).
Felix entered our lives at 6:08pm. We had it all planned out but finally in the most fundamental way it was completely not what we planned…no late night, no candles, no playlist in the background, the blow up pool without a drop of water in it, and the sandwiches and cake not eaten.
It reaffirmed to me that the baby is in complete control and they come when they come. You do the preparation and then trust your body and the process, to calmly face whatever turn the birth takes. We did a refresher session in the UK with our much admired Hypnobirthing teacher Kat Berry, just weeks before Felix’s birth.
As we stood in that kitchen in London, Kat said leave your last birth behind, embrace birth as it happens and accept whatever your labour brings you. A surge comes and then the surge goes and don’t think too much about the future. Be in that moment. And that did make all the difference.
Tip #5: Allow your body to be as relaxed as you can, let go of fear, be in the moment, use your instinct…and let your body birth the baby.
I told Felix, with affirmations during my pregnancy that he would have an amazing and joyous birth and I think we achieved that for him. I hope it imprints on him for the remainder of his life.
We opted for a physiological third stage and the placenta was birthed exactly an hour later. Felix fed within the first two hours. We also chose to forego Vitamin K given his gentle, undisturbed birth.
Both Felix and I continued to recover well over the next few hours and our midwives left around 9:30pm .
So that is my deliciously, glorious normal birth story!
Would I plan to birth alone in the future? To be honest, No! That is my personal choice.
I believe women need to feel safe and for me home is my safe birthing space. I am free of time and hospital policy that can, unless navigated strongly can impact on healthy women birthing physiologically.
I feel safe with a midwife who is with absolute subtlety watching my progress, watching carefully how birth unfolds, expertly knowing if birth is progressing in a straightforward way and if it doesn’t they assist and help make the next decisions in order for a safe birth, a healthy baby and a healthy and empowered women.
That environment that brings that feeling of safety may be a hospital or a birth centre and that’s ok-women just need to feel safe so they can get into their instinctive birthing zone. They feel safe when they are supported by caregivers with a range of tools and techniques to keep them nice and relaxed throughout labour.
Our bodies are capable of simply and exquisitely, in ways we are only just beginning to understand, do the superb job of birthing our babies.
“Give yourself over to the inevitability of birth.
Soar with the powerful waves.
Rest in the calm waters.
Surrender to the wild ride.
Accept that birth will take you beyond this world, beyond time and space…Soar!
Cindy Fenn is a Hypnobirthing Australia Practitioner.
Her business, Big Hearted Birth teaches Hypnobirthing Australia courses in Caulfield, Melbourne.
For further information on courses please go to www.bigheartedbirth.com.au