This pregnancy has changed my outlook on life, on birth, and on the hospital system.
I was fully expecting to give birth in the hospital. In my early 20s, I would jokingly say “bring on the drugs,” and probably welcome a C-section to avoid any pain. Now, my mindset is completely different. I know better.
The first book I read that gave me a clue was Mindful Birthing. I read about how important our mindset is through birth—how it doesn’t have to be a painful experience. Actually, we can ride the waves of oxytocin through birth and experience the ecstasy of birth in between the surges or expansions (their positive language for contractions).
I had never thought of birth like this before, and they also noted that during birth, we only experience 10 minutes out of an hour in contractions, and through the most intense portion (transition/active labor), we may experience 20 minutes during the hour, which seems way more manageable than thinking we will be experiencing pain nonstop (like they portray in the movies).
Next, I read Hypnobirthing and learned about the importance of visualizations and relaxation, along with the breathing techniques, mindfulness, and meditation taught in Mindful Birthing. The goal in self-hypnosis during birthing or hypnobirthing is to be able to completely relax our bodies on command.
Through deep breathing and visualizing during guided meditations and hypnosis audio, I think I have accomplished this practice. And that’s the most important part: practice! Practicing “Rainbow Relaxation,” a meditation focused on the colors of the rainbow bringing strength (this is really just association with the colors of our chakras and the strength we draw from each one), and listening to positive birth affirmations daily is essential to the practice.
Another weekly practice encouraged in Hypnobirthing is watching videos or listening to positive birth stories. Too often, we are exposed to horror stories about birth. This causes fear and tension to build and worry, which only hinders and stalls the process of birth. Our mindset really is the most important part of our birth experience, so these stories can really impact our mindset.
One particularly beautiful birth story I watched was of a woman in the UK. She had some nitrous during her birth and was giving birth in the tub. I could tell she was focused, breathing deeply and relaxed, drawing from the strength she had learned in her hypnobirthing practices. And in between contractions, she laughed with the midwife. And that blew my mind! Could birth actually be a fun experience? Have we been lied to this whole time? Shamed into thinking another female experience is something to be ashamed of, something to fear?
Honestly, I would be a little more fearful if I was not giving birth in the birthing center. I didn’t realize that by going into the hospital and not educating myself on birth and the alternatives, I was giving up my choice. I was giving in to how the western medical practices think I should birth, which includes intervention more often than not and has a 25 percent rate of C-sections. I’m not gambling with that.
I have read stories of women experiencing trauma in the hospital because their rights to choose were taken away from them. They were given unnecessary episiotomies and anesthetized, with their babies taken away from them before they had a chance to bond or see their face or receive skin-to-skin.
Of course, not every hospital gives this experience, but I am glad I won’t be gambling with the chances there. And if I do, for some reason, need to go to the hospital, I will have the midwives with me to fight for my rights to have the birth experience I want.
In our birthing class, we learned about the epidural and how confined we become after we receive one. We receive a catheter and are then confined to our bed, as we will be unable to walk (our legs will likely be totally numb), and hopefully, we’ll be numb, otherwise as that’s the whole point. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t fully work, and we feel everything, despite the possible risks we’ve taken having a needle inserted into our spine.
Gravity is no longer working for us, as we are confined to our bed from this point on. And we can’t feel ourselves push, so we have taken a disassociated approach to labor now. Also, babies who have received medication often take longer to latch and are out of it when mothers try to breastfeed. This makes the bonding process quite difficult.
And lastly, tonight, I picked up Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I haven’t gotten far into it, but it has made me feel really settled with my decision to give birth naturally (and yes, all births are natural, so I am not judging anyone for their choice to get an epidural). The first half of the book is all positive birth stories (exactly what I’ve been searching on YouTube the last week), countering all the horrible scenes from movies I’ve witnessed my entire life. These stories show just how strong women are and how natural this process is.
I am going into my birth, fearless, fully embracing my strength, knowing I was built for this process. I expect an exhilarating experience, like no other, and as I relax and breathe, I know it won’t be easy, but I know, in the end, I will meet our beautiful baby, and rather than anticipating the birthing process with fear, I now look forward to entering the world of motherhood with the most incredible experience of my life.
(Note: I gave birth to my daughter, Olivia Rose, two weeks after writing this journal entry. She was delivered without an epidural—although I have to admit I did beg for it at one point but it was not available. For pain management, we used a tens machine for back labor, breathing techniques from hypnobirthing, and hot water in the birthing tub.
For anxiety, I used nitrous oxide during transition/active labor. It was the most beautiful/difficult experience I’ve ever had in my life, and now I feel invincible. I would recommend a birthing center birth hands down. If I was in the hospital, the midwives said I would have had a C-section. After five hours of pushing, I was given an episiotomy, but it should heal faster than a tear.
I feel great and am breastfeeding my little one after a couple of days of her figuring out how to latch. I highly recommend the holistic approach to birthing.)