I’m no expert, but I’ve been asked to write a blog for women in labour. So I’ve decided to share my story with you. Hopefully it will contain a few useful tips for those of you pregnant for the first time. Bearing in mind of course, that labouring and birth is so different from woman to woman and birth to birth.
Anyway, here’s my story…
I’ve always had this thing about the full moon. I just love it. I love being under its light and staring up into it. So naturally the thought of giving birth to my baby on a full moon really appealed to me.
Three days after my due date, at 2:55am on the 7th of April, 2012, just two hours before the full moon, I had my first contraction. It woke me. 25 minutes later I had my second. I started recording the starting time of each one on my iPhone. I made a conscious decision to not wake Simon. I knew he had got to bed late the night before and I wanted him to get as much rest as possible so that he could be fresh and alert when I really needed him, ie. when I was in full labour and closer to birthing our baby. The tricky thing is you never really know how much time you have, but more women have a marathon and not a sprint, especially with their first baby, so I figured I had quite a bit of time to go still.
I’d heard that it’s a good idea to keep busy during the initial contractions. Some women cook, others clean. It’s often a matter of nesting. I decided to watch Ashtavakra Gita. During my pregnancy I wanted to watch the whole of the Ashtavakra Gita series – 33 dvd’s by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, discussing what is said to be the most profound conversation that has ever taken place on this planet. And I was up to number 27. So as my contractions continued I watched series 28 and 29. When the contractions got too strong I had to start moving. I knelt on the floor of the living room with my elbows on the couch and started spiraling my hips. (I spent a lot of time spiraling during my pregnancy … especially towards the end. It’s meant to be great for helping your baby move down, which is why belly dancing’s good too.) Feeling tired I went back to bed, but couldn’t lie down for more than a moment before another contraction came and I had to get up and move. I ran a warm bath, adding a few drops of jasmine and rose oil. Being in the water felt so good. It was at this time, at 5.12am that I sent a text to Korin, (my doula and very close friend), letting her know what was happening.
I really wanted to get out of that bath and down to Balmoral beach for 5:18am when the full moon was peaking, but I just couldn’t move. Once I’d missed it I thought I’d see if I could get there for sunrise. Sunrise came and went. And still I was in the bath. At 6:15am I mustered up enough will to leave the apartment and walk down to the beach. I thought it probably wasn’t a good idea for me to drive while having contractions! And also, if necessary, that way Simon could come and pick me up. What usually takes me 15 minutes to walk took me about half an hour that morning. Whenever a contraction came I stopped and breathed through the intensity.
The contractions got stronger, longer, and closer together as I walked and I started wondering if I’d made a good decision to leave the house alone. It was starting to sink in that today was probably going to be the day my baby was to be born.
When I got to Balmoral I sat on the sand, leaning against the wall. I was gazing out across the ocean contemplating whether to sleep or swim when on came another very strong contraction and then another shortly after. The way I got through those ones was to count how long they lasted for, recording the details on my phone, and reminding myself that they wouldn’t last. There was some comfort in knowing that I could rest between each one, that they were finite.
I remember a random woman walking past and greeting me with a very chirpy, “Morning!” Her very sweet and friendly greeting felt so jarring to me in that moment. I guess I’d begun my journey inwards. The more I withdrew, the less I wanted to be speaking, with anyone. My journey into ‘labour-land’ had started.
It was 8.30am when I called and woke Simon, told him I was having contractions on the beach and was about to go into the ocean in front of Bathers Pavillion and could he come and fetch me. When he arrived I was standing in the water breathing through another contraction.
I don’t remember very much from this point on except to say that the contractions kept on coming. When I got home I had a shower and got into my nighty … the massive one I’d recently bought, probably the only item of clothing I had which hung loosely over my belly. It was great to be having a home birth coz I didn’t need to think about going anywhere. Instead, I chilled out on the living room floor, played my guitar and sang through the contractions, not without a few tears. And then we took the phone off the hook and watched ‘Leelas Homebirth,’ a short and beautiful dvd which Robyn, one of our midwives, had lent us.
When the contractions got even stronger I moved to our bed and laboured there for some time while leaning forward over a huge pile of cushions. I remember making a huge amount of noise and just not caring who could hear or what they thought. I even let out a few very loud screams, but then I started to go inwards, rather suddenly, and started making much less noise. I vaguely remember thinking that if I was going to be making a lot of noise it would hugely diminish my energy levels, and I needed all the energy I could get.
Around 2pm Korin came over. Because I was too far gone to do anything but labour, Korin and Simon timed and recorded my contractions. In retrospect they wish they’d known about the apps you can buy to make this time-consuming process simpler and easier.
My support team where just fabulous. They were continuously attentive, yet unobtrusive. They were also incredibly still and respectful of the sanctity of the space, which was really great because I felt so incredibly sensitive to the sounds around me. Simon and Korin regularly came up to me with a glass of fresh coconut water or water and fed it to me through a straw. If it weren’t for them doing this I’m sure I could have dehydrated. Occasionally they fed me a teaspoon of honey to keep my energy levels up, but I refused the last teaspoon of honey by turning away from it. I just couldn’t speak. If I could I’d have told them that I’d love some honey, just not the one they were offering me, which was from the last bit of what was left in the jar and was all yukky and crystalised.
I can’t remember why, maybe it was because I needed the loo initially, but I moved to labour on the toilet and ended up spending a very long time there. During that time Korin stayed with me while Simon started setting up the water pool in the living room. After dark, around 5pm, Robyn, our midwife arrived. By then I was labouring in the pool, eyes closed and in a deeply meditative state. There was no room for polite hellos from either of us. Robyn entered in complete silence, totally aligned with the beautiful stillness that we were all in. She encouraged me to make low, deep sounds with the contractions rather than the high-pitched ones which were occasionally coming out of me.
Over the next three hours I moved back and forth between the pool, the toilet and the living room. At one stage they got me to move off the toilet because they were all desperate to use it. By the time I got into the pool for the second time the water had cooled and I had to get out so that they could add more hot water. (And it’s not easy getting in and out of those pools with a huge pregnant belly). Korin must have boiled almost a hundred kettles and pots of water that afternoon after our hot water supply ran out.
When Robyn suggested I get off the toilet and lie down on the couch for what would be my first and only internal examination, my waters still hadn’t broken. I walked through to the living room, very slowly, with this bag hanging out of me. I remember reaching down and taking hold of it as I stood near the cupboard in the centre of our apartment. At that point it still didn’t burst, but started leaking.
Before Robyn examined me, the lights were dimmed. The bees-wax candles and essential oils that I ‘d bought for the birth were burning close to a picture of my Guru. And Bhanudidi’s sacred sanskrit mantras were playing. Well, I must have been fully dilated because at that point Robyn told me I was ready to push my baby out. I moved onto the floor at the end of the couch where I sat on my heels with my knees wide. The weight of my body on my ankles was so sore that Simon had to put cushions under them. I wasn’t going to push unless a contraction came, and they seemed to subside for a while. When that position clearly wasn’t really working for me, I moved into the water and Simon climbed in behind me. I was so hyper-sensitive to everything. I remember feeling the smallest ripple of water and very sternly telling Simon not to move. Apparently he hadn’t and it was merely an after ripple from my own movements.
Robyn suggested I lean back into Simon, and that when a contraction came, to draw my knees up to my chest and push into where it hurts … and to then rest fully between contractions.
When the next contraction came I pulled my knees up and pushed. When it really started to sting I started repeating the words ‘om namah shivaya.’ I hadn’t planned to, they just kept coming. And then Joshua’s head came out. I rested, fully. Residing deeply in the present moment. Robyn was there, leaning over the side of the water-pool, holding her hand mirror in the water so that I could see what was going on downstairs, but I couldn’t see much because that bag was in the way. (During this time Korin was very unobtrusively taking pictures, which was fantastic because we now have the most amazing record of those incredible moments). The stinging was intense. I just kept repeating ‘om namah shivaya.’ Robyn said that on the next contraction I could push my baby out. And so I did. With a huge heave and another ‘om nama shivaya’ Joshi entered the world. It was 8.31pm. As he came out Robyn caught him, gracefully lifted him up out of the water, placed him on my chest and covered him with a wet towel. Bhanudidi was singing in the background, ‘om amitabaya … Buddaya, sangaya, damaya.’ It was surreally beautiful. The three of us stayed there for ages, just looking at each other. I couldn’t stop gazing at this little miracle lying on my chest with his eyes half closed. He didn’t cry. He just looked at us and moved his little hands a bit. It was incredibly still and peaceful.
After sometime I felt another contraction coming on, during which I gave a big push and birthed the placenta, which was placed in our wooden fruit bowl and left to float on the water. I was open to the idea of having a lotus birth, but we decided to play it by ear and to decide in the moment. (In the end we cut the cord after it had stopped pulsating).
Then came the challenge of getting out of the pool, which we did very slowly. The cord had not yet been cut, so as I held Joshi someone else lifted and carried the placenta bowl out. Joshua and I lay on the couch while Robyn covered us with a few towels to keep warm. She then sat down beside me and showed me the placenta. It was incredible to see it there in her hands. This fleshy, meaty, bloody pulp which had delivered nourishment to my baby for so many months. Our plan was for Robyn to take it home and make homoeopathic medicine for Joshi, which she did. Then everyone had a cup of tea, except Joshi, who had some colostrum instead.
All in all, it was 17 and a half hours from the very first contraction until the time Joshi was born. Not bad for this first time mamma!
Tips For Woman In Labour
There are a few tips I’d like to share which I feel could be useful…
- If you’re planning a hospital birth, don’t rush to hospital as soon as your contractions start.
- If you are planning a homebirth don’t call your support team over too early. You want them to be rested so that they can support you as best as possible.
- Keep hydrated. Coconut water is great. If you can’t get fresh coconuts then do test the boxed coconut juice before you go into labour to see if you like the taste.
- Keep your support team fed so that they have enough energy to support you. A couple of weeks before the birth I made a huge plate of bliss balls for my support team, whcih they loved and finished. (To make Bliss Balls, mix the following ingredients in a bowl to a firm consistency and then roll them into balls and roll in desiccated coconut: 1/2 cup tahini, 3/8 cup honey,1/2 cup desiccated coconut, 1/2 cup mixed pre-soaked chopped nuts of your choice (eg. macadamia, almonds, brazil nuts), 1 cup finely chopped mixed dry fruits (eg. apricots, figs and currents). Keep in the fridge.
- Find yourself a doula to support you. Having a doula in addition to Simon and my midlife, was really fabulous. I feel very fortunate to have had a doula who is also a very close friend and Dr.
- Don’t be too concerned with the three stages of labour.
- Know that it’s totally possible to give birth without intervention of any sort. Women have been doing it for hundreds and thousands of years. And you can too. And if it’s important to you, know that it is entirely possible to get through the journey of labour and birth without a single pill for pain relief. A couple of times during my labour Korin gave me a few drops of Rescue Remedy, but apart from that I took nothing for the pain.
And lastly, I’d like to share with you an excerpt which Korin sent me during my pregnancy …
BE with the pain in labour.
BE with it 100%.
Dissolve into it.
Ride it like a wave.
Don’t resist ANYTHING.
Let the sensations transform your body… to enable your beautiful baby to come into this world.