It is now six weeks since the birth of my daughter. She was a week later than her expected due date, which – of course – had me wondering whether this would be yet another induction – as happened five years ago with the birth of my son. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case and the labour started naturally and progressed fast.
This labour and birth were very different to last time, convincing me that giving birth is indeed a natural process for most women without needing special medical care. I also found it wonderful to give birth at home and be in relaxing and familiar environment, allowing me to do things that I found the most useful at any given time. For the delight of my dancing colleagues, I am pleased to tell that I danced through the early part of my labour whilst my husband played some records. This helped us pass time, speed up the labour and enjoy the process. Who says labour can’t be fun?
Why don’t more women give birth at home in our Western society then? I guess this might be linked with our ingrained fear of pain and/or our fear of something going wrong in labour. Yes, giving birth is an intense experience, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t get through it without being numbed with toxic medicines. I feel that more consideration or support needs to be made available in our healthcare system to prepare women for labour without pain relief. According to statistics women who labour at home are less likely to need pain relief. I guess there are many reasons why this might be. Pain is an inevitable part of giving birth, but there are also many ways we can naturally manage it. Feeling relaxed is one. Probably because we have moved further and further away from being in tune with our bodies in our society, we also don’t seem to know how to deal with pain – apart from trying to avoid it as much as possible. As a professional dancer, pain is familiar to me. I recognise different types of pain and know how serious they might be and what kind of response is needed. Our typical response to pain is to tense up, which can be a useful mechanism at times. Tensing your muscles is not always useful. Sometimes it is better to relax into the pain in order to encourage blood circulation in the area of pain, which on the other hand can speed up a recovery or improve how we feel. In terms of labour, relaxing into the pain enables the cervix to stretch and allows the baby to move through the birth canal more easily. It is often our mental side that can slow down or even grind the labour into a halt. Managing to give birth without pain relief can be very empowering experience for a woman and can have a fundamental and long-term positive influence on her life. Similarly a bad experience of labour and birth can be traumatising and even devastating for a mother and her family.
During this labour, my husband and I established a simple routine that helped me relax and breathe through each contraction. We were accompanied by two midwives who gently guided us through and supported the process. This time I was also wiser and did not close my eyes during contractions and sink into the pain. I maintained eye contact with my husband, who continuously encouraged me and helped me focus my mind on breathing and relaxing. This helped me to stay fully aware of my body and confident that I could do it. I found the birthing pool a wonderful aid when I had reached the point that I couldn’t relax any longer. Having previous experience of giving birth helped me judge the different stages of labour, providing me with knowledge of where I was at and how I was progressing.
Although this time my pregnancy was smooth and the labour was fast, resulting to an easy birth, it is wrong to assume that my daughter wasn’t affected by the event and not needing cranio-sacral help to deal with the birth trauma. I will write more about her first weeks shortly.