14 Mar How I had an empowered birth.
Every time I think about the birth of my son in March 2018, my whole body swells with pride. Not just because I found his birth incredibly empowering (and activating), but also because it punctuated my birth experiences so perfectly. You see, this is my last baby (if I have any say in the matter!) and if I was to cast an umbrella over all three of my births, I can see that my initiation into motherhood has followed a pattern not unlike that of the heroic journey. One of crisis and loss (my first birth – a traumatic miscarriage), one full of interventions (the second birth of my daughter) to finally, one of fully-fledged, feel it all, down right power and magic.
When I think back to how I managed to have the exact type of birth experience I wanted, I can clearly see a number of things I did (and did not do) that set me up for such an empowering experience. I’d love to share those with you now.
I consumed very little information
For my first and second births I read everything, watched everything and consumed all of the information about birth that I could get my hands on. Including watching episode after episode of ‘One born every minute’ where it seemed most births took place horizontal with an epidural (totally fine if that’s your empowered choice, BTW, but I wanted a spontaneous and natural birth). Curiously (or not), this is exactly how my second birth played out.
Consuming all of this info meant I was informed about my birth choices (important) but it did not really help me embody the experience of birth; in fact it was exactly the opposite. It kept me up in my head, thinking, analysing, discerning…. disconnecting from my body and my emotions and leaving me open to fear and a distrust of my body. I learnt a lot from this birth about how I do life in general and it was the exact type of experience I needed to have, especially considering the loss of my first pregnancy.
But birth is a primal act that does not require the use of intellectual faculties at all. So, by the time I came around to my third pregnancy, I was determined to not consume too much info and instead, practiced being in my body (both physical and energetic) as a priority. Which is a nice segue into…
I learnt how to be ‘in’ my body.
After the birth of my daughter I realised the hard way just how afraid I was to fully trust and give myself over to the primal power of birth. A big part of my healing journey afterwards included various embodiment techniques – using physical sensations, breath and movement to trust in the innate wisdom of my body to heal and function optimally. So many of us are caught up in our thoughts, avoiding uncomfortable emotions and sensations to truly inhabit our own body, myself included. I practiced as much as I could. Whenever I recognised I was feeling anxious or disconnected or ungrounded, I’d feel into the sensation in my body and used my breath to feel and release any tension held there. I did this multiple times a day.
I also took embodiment to a whole other level when I attended a women’s ReWilding Retreat at 20 weeks pregnant where we were guided to connect deeply to archetypal energies through movement, breath and sound. Turns out these are the three ingredients that are integral to birthing! It was the perfect preparation for me and as an added bonus the work I engaged in on this retreat helped me to permanently rewire my connection to my lower three chakras.
I used sound to channel energy during labour
At the ReWilding retreat I experienced first hand the power of sound in connecting to and channelling energy through the body. And as it turned out, sound was pretty much the only thing that got me through back-to-back, f*ck-off intense contractions when I was birthing our boy. Yes, breath was also key – I practiced Hypnobirthing – but when it got really, really hard, the breath only got me so far. The rest of the time I was channelling sound down into my womb and visualising my cervix opening with every contraction. I was determined to make every surge count and it really worked for me.
I visualised my ideal birth
Towards the end of my pregnancy, I started to visualise my ideal birth. Every other day, I’d lie down on my bed put my headphones on and listened to the Devi Prayer, a sublime and peaceful Hindu chant. Then I’d run through images of how I wanted my birth to go. I saw myself labouring though the night, bent over at our kitchen bench. I saw the labour going at a steady pace – not too fast and not too slow. I pictured how I would say goodbye to our daughter and how I’d arrive at the hospital in full-blown labour. And I saw myself birthing my boy standing up, leaning over the bed.
All of this happened. All of it!
I took up rest as a professional sport
This pregnancy I really allowed myself to fully stop and rest. As much as I could anyway, with a toddler to chase after! Whenever I had the chance I would take a moment to put my feet up. Journaling or reading in bed, playing with my girl on the couch, sitting while cooking or folding clothes and letting myself be cared for. This was in direct contrast to my previous pregnancy where I could be found weeding the garden at 40 weeks pregnant! In fact, if I could sum up the one thing that had the biggest impact on my empowered birth it would be r e l a x a t i o n. Attuning my body daily, hourly to what it feels like to be relaxed. Actively disengaging from tension and stress. It’s actually a great way to approach life in general, don’t you think?
I supported myself with healing and natural health modalities.
The way I approached this birth was no different to how I approach growth opportunities and uplevelling in general – I called upon some trusted practitioners of natural therapy and healing modalities. Such as:
Kinesiology – to help me clear residual fear and grief from past birthing experiences. This was so valuable and really helped me prepare emotionally for the incredibly primal act of giving birth. I also took prescribed flowers essences every day in the final few weeks.
Chiropractic – My hips have a tendency to twist, so it was super important for me to get my body physically into alignment as well as process any residual tension through my nervous system. I travelled 2 hours to Sydney for a while there to see this amazing Network Practitioner and when I couldn’t get there, I went to my local low-force Chiroprator.
Naturopathy – I saw a naturopath for the entire pregnancy to make sure both my baby and I had access to all of the nutrients we needed for a healthy pregnancy, birth and beyond. I’m convinced this is why my babies thrive so much after they’re born, putting on weight like little champions with great immunity. Naturopathy also helped me to manage a dip in iron during the second trimester too.
Acupuncture – from 35 weeks onwards, I went for acupuncture at least twice a week, and then three times a week once I was post-date. This was the best decision ever as more than anything else, the treatments helped me to deeply, deeply relax, even when I was being poked and prodded to beyond and was under intense pressure from the hospital to induce. Going to acupuncture was my safe little haven where I could relax and breath and have practitioners who reassured me and believed in my ability to give birth spontaneously.
Not only that, when I did go into labour, my body was like a well oiled machine, completely primed to do what it needed to do in the most efficient manner possible. I suffered very little blood loss, had no stitches and went home 5 hours after birth.
I trusted my body and my baby above all else
Being close to 40 and giving birth in the hospital system really sucks because you are in the age bracket where statistics show there’s more likelihood of things going wrong. In my case, my record incorrectly showed that I had shoulder dystocia with my daughter (where the baby’s shoulder gets stuck on the pubic bone – a legitimate obstetric emergency) PLUS my baby was measuring big. As such, I was considered ‘high risk’. So when I started to go post-date, I was monitored everyday, repeatedly put under pressure from the hospital obstetrician to be induced.
‘I don’t think you understand how serious this is’ the obstetrician barked down the phone at me one day.
The incredibly upsetting subtext was of course – ‘your baby could die’. Cue fear and adrenaline flooding my nervous system. Exactly what a women about to go into labour needs.
But something within me that was deeper and stronger than fear knew that it would all be OK. And I trusted that. I knew my body could and would go into labour spontaneously. I knew my baby would let me know when he was ready. So I held my ground and each day we were booked in for an induction, I pushed it out an extra day, then one day more, and another. Until I finally or exactly ‘on time’ I spontaneously went into labour 13 days post date.
If I’m giving you the impression I was some kind of warrior woman battling it out with the obstetrician for my right to birth the way I wanted, I assure you I was not. It was a daily (hourly) battle to avoid transcending into fear and most of the time I was lost in a puddle of pregnant emotions. Which is why I was so glad my man stepped in and spoke for me on a number of occasions and that the hospital midwives were so amazing in supporting my wishes.
In the end I was right! My baby was an average size and birthed with zero complications. I’m so glad a stood my ground and protected my right to birth naturally.
I invoked the goddess
During this pregnancy I was drawn to working with the Hindu Goddess Durga who I learnt about mostly via Sally Kempton’s book Awakening Shakti. Durga spoke to me because of her supreme strength and power – mental, emotional and physical – that I knew I needed to invoke to birth our baby. So on our way to the hospital, crouched in the back seat on all fours, awkwardly leaning on the new baby’s car seat, I began chanting her invocation mantra.
It was actually the best thing for me to do. Chanting helped me to focus on something other than the fact I was so freaking uncomfortable! It helped me to invoke the strength I needed to get through the seemingly endless car ride to the hospital and intentionally empowered me with the mental, emotional and physical endurance I needed for the act of birth.
By the time we arrived at the hospital, I was in full-blown labour.
I had an incredible Doula
Oh my heart! This woman.
We first met Trish Fagnano when we were preparing for our first birth (which, as I mentioned, did not go to full-term). So it felt appropriate and full-circle to work with her again for our final birth.
I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a woman so openhearted and loving, so supportive and reassuring, so empowering and respectful, then Trish. She was 100% in partnership with me to experience the kind of empowering birth I wanted and I honestly don’t know if I could have done it without her.
In the final throes of labour, when I was in despair with the intensity and frequency of the contractions, Trish physically held me up, my arms hanging around her neck during every excruciating surge. Whilst she held me, she coached me calmly to take my breath and sound down as low in my body as I could. Although my partner was there to provide support, he rightly called it – ‘women’s work’ – and it is so true. Having a woman who was so completely ‘with’ me during the birth made all the difference. She was bloody amazing and I’m so, SO grateful to her.
We called on the support of our ancestors
My partners Father passed away while our son was a bundle of dividing cells in my womb. In a moving gesture the night before were were booked in for an induction, my man lit a candle on his Dad’s altar and began to silently pray. He asked for help, guidance and protection to bring our baby into the world.
The next day we reluctantly rolled up to the hospital, 12 days post-date for an induction. The midwives were scrambling all over the place and we could hear women in the throes of labour up and down the hall.
The obstetrician bustles in. ‘We’re so sorry, but we don’t have any birthing suites available today. We don’t normally do inductions on the weekend, but we’ll make an exception for you. Any chance you could come back tomorrow?’
We happily bounced out of there grateful for some extra time. That night my waters broke whilst walking the dog and our baby was born 11 hours later.
It was the spontaneous, natural and empowering birth of my dreams.
So there you have it! The ingredients that made my last (and final) birth such an empowering experience. I will be forever grateful for birthing our boy in this way and for the many ways in which it activated so many dormant parts of me, some of which I am still integrating, tbh.
What about you? I’d love to hear from you if you had an empowering experience giving birth and if so, what were your magic ingredients? Share the love below so other pregnant Mamas can be inspired.
Special Note: I know what its like to feel a sense of loss and disappointment when a birth does not go as hoped. So if this post activates any difficult emotions, please reach out and talk to someone you trust. I offer free 20 minute mentoring sessions if you’d like some support with navigating your healing journey. With love. Rachel