'I found my second birth so empowering because I trusted myself enough to resist unnecessary medical intervention and found the process healed emotional scars from my first birth.'
My First Birth
On 3 November 2008 I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Ariel. I fell immediately in love with him, but the experience of his birth was traumatic for me and left me feeling disempowered and disillusioned. There were some things that were entirely beyond my control, for example the fact that he was in a posterior position and that he had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, which caused him distress and necessitated use of a vacuum extractor to help him out. I also haemorrhaged post-partum, and he was taken to Neonatal ICU straight after the birth, so I did not get to see or hold my baby until the next day. But there were many things that I could have done differently, had I had the right mindset and the courage of conviction to follow through on my requests. I bowed to the doctor’s recommendation of an induction even though there was no medical urgency, and had my membranes ruptured artificially, which was unexpected and invasive. I called for an epidural because I couldn’t cope with the imposed pace, but afterwards I felt totally disempowered being restricted to the bed with my legs in stirrups and my arms connected to tubes and machines. I also couldn’t feel my muscles properly so I wasn’t able to push effectively, denying both myself and my baby the experience of naturally descending down the birth canal. Medical intervention is vital when necessary – and I am grateful that I was able to benefit from it when I needed it – but I think that sometimes doctors rush into intervention more often and more quickly than is necessary. When I look back at my first birth experience as a whole, I feel anxious, disempowered and put off.My Second Birth
For the birth of my second child, I still decided to give birth in a hospital, because the last-minute complications in my first labour were easily handled with the right expertise and equipment, minimizing a very real medical risk to myself and my baby. But within the hospital setting, I wanted to have as natural and undisturbed an experience as possible. First stage: Is this it?
At 38 weeks I lost my mucous plug, but since it was two weeks early I didn’t really think too much of it. That afternoon I started experiencing (what I thought were) quite intense Braxton Hicks contractions. I took a long, hot bath, which soothed – but did not stop – the contractions. When they started getting a little sore, I kept in touch with Christine, our doula. The contractions were coming every two-three minutes but only lasting a few seconds each, so I was advised to wait until they lasted 45 seconds. I practiced the breathing exercises I’d learnt at yoga, and used a warm wheat bag to try to soothe the pain in my lower back. I spent a while in bed, crouching on all-fours under the duvet, and then moved through to the lounge where I sat on the birthing ball and leant over the arm of the couch. Second stage: Active labour
By 20h00 the contractions were becoming quite intense and I was having a bit of trouble coping, so we called the Christine to the house. She arrived at 20h30 and by 21h10 we were heading for the hospital. I was getting very short-tempered and shouting at Warren a lot. It turns out that I was in transition, because when we got to the labour ward I was nearly fully dilated.
Third stage: Pushing and birth
My waters broke spontaneously and we didn’t even have time to fill the birthing pool before I was ready to push. I’m told I only pushed for about ten minutes but it felt like hours! It was the closest my labour came to a scene from the movies – I remember screaming, howling, grunting and yelling. I felt like I was about to explode, and as much as I pushed there felt like such a resistance it was almost debilitating. I needed a lot of encouragement – and a small snip – to help me push the baby out. But then suddenly it was over. The moment was surreal. Yishai was born. I wasn’t pregnant anymore! We had a second son! Ariel had a younger brother! Those first few moments after the birth were incredible. The baby was given straight to me and I was in total shock. I could barely believe I’d just given natural birth to my own child. Words cannot express the feeling of joy and pride I felt at seeing “NVD” (Natural Vaginal Delivery) scrawled on the hospital card. I had done it. By myself. It felt so right. I felt so empowered, and powerful. Post-birth
Physically, I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. I was shaking, dizzy, and swinging between endorphin highs and exhaustion lows. My whole body felt stiff and crampy, especially from the waist down. But the next morning, with no aftereffects of an epidural to deal with, I was able to get out of bed and stretch, walk around, and go to the bathroom by myself. I could certainly feel the effects of what had happened to my body the night before, but I was not in pain. And even despite the night of broken sleep feeding my newborn, I didn’t feel weak with exhaustion, as I had for days after Ariel’s birth. This reinforced for me that birth is a natural process, and not an illness to be medicated. Although I was in a hospital setting, this time I did not feel like a patient. I felt like a whole, strong, powerful woman, in control of myself and able to care for my new baby. Healing
The most healing process for me was being able to hold my baby directly after the birth. With my first birth, the baby was immediately whisked away from me, and I had to rely on reports from his father and grandparents as to what he looked, sounded and felt like. This time Baby was handed to me straight away and I held him so tightly. I was shaking a little and saying, “Oh my God, oh my God,” over and over in disbelief. It took me a few minutes to take in what had just happened, and holding my baby close made it all the more real and meaningful for me. I didn’t feel rushed, so I had time to begin bonding with him, whispering softly to him, holding his little hands and examining his tiny, cream-covered face. I was able to feed him within the first hour, which felt so natural and right. I felt so much more grounded after this birth experience and I feel that it's made me a better mother - to both of my boys. By Lauren Shapiro