And now the actual BIRTH Story!
After camping, swimming, meeting and then relaxing…..my body was obviously ready. At 13h40 my water broke. And after about 1.5 hours I was in established labour. I started off actively involved and just being aware of the growing twinges until I ended up rolled into a fetal position ooohhhiiingg…and aaaahhhhiiiinnngggg in my room alone. That is where my midwife found me and escorted me down to the bath, which my husband and son had set up.
My baby and I guided my whole labour. From when my water broke and I resumed resting in bed – waiting and wondering when the contractions would start. My first baby also started like this but it was night time and the contractions built slowly as we slept in bed in between (a bit in denial).
Now after delivering and witnessing many hospital deliveries as a doctor, observing and doing several homebirths, reading, learning and educating people about natural conscious gentle birth – I was waiting for my own to begin. The huge organic event that occurs ending each pregnancy – the birth of my second child that would forever from that time – change our family to 4, my 7 year old son to older brother.
There was no conscious boundary or change but the contractions had become more consuming and I was within them as they were within me.
The thing about giving birth is that you have to be very open. The energy is very powerful and opens you up. And we need to let that energy flow through and open us. This takes a huge surrender. Surrender your body and mind as the energy overtakes and drives your body. Anything tense or withholding causes a blockage. It also causes pain as the natural driving energy is to be soft and open and flowing.
I screamed in my labour. The contractions were opening me and my baby was navigating his own descent. I could feel it from the inside out. I started off with harmonic deep basal “ooooooohhhhhssss”. These felt very good and natural and helped to guide the energy through and out of me. I closed my eyes most of the time as I let the energy flow in and through and then relax in between contractions. My closed eyes allowed me to be in my own cocoon. I was this energy and we were dancing together. The energy of the primal Mother Birth dance.
After about 45 minutes of this I got into the water. And when I was in the water I opened my eyes only to reposition myself, to grasp the handle, to hang over the side. And at one point I opened my eyes as my midwife said “Look at me. You can do this.” Other than that my eyes stayed closed and I was in this dance.
The pains rose and my voice rose – carrying the pain of the contractions through me and out. And then when the intensity increased and I felt pain I started shouting or screaming. I had to get it out and it was so intense I had to be more intense and forceful.
My mother died suddenly during my pregnancy. She was too young to die and she got sick and we visited her for 10 days in hospital knowing she would never recover from her disabling stroke leaving her unable to move or communicate besides eye movement. It was three weeks after we had returned from India. My baby was finishing his first trimester. He was 12 weeks in utero when she died. And we mourned together and went to the funeral together and continued the grieving together as he was within me.
I screamed in my labor to release this terrible emotional pain, grief and loss. I finally let it out as my baby had to move through my blockages to enter this world. And this pain had definitely nestled in some blockages in my system. So I screamed at the unfairness of it and I screamed that my son would never experience his grandmother who was the most loving, caring, wonderful grandmother to his brother. But it probably looked like I was screaming with each contraction that was opening me up and moving huge energies past all these blockages.
And in doing so – healing me too. This same surrender we find in spiritual truths. Surrendering to something much bigger and awesome than you….is what we have to do in birth. You really can’t hold onto anything. This perfect natural most powerful pure raw energy moves you and demands you move with it.
Closing my eyes helped me to stay in a sheltered, personal space that was mine – secure and sacred and whole.
But the most amazing part for me was pushing my baby out. My body started pushing so we knew it was time. There had been no examinations at all. I could feel I was opening up. And then when the pushing started I knew that was time. They pain of the contractions changed. My body surged with the pushes and I could feel my baby’s head crowning.
With my breath and hand (two senses – touch and my inner sense of pain and burning) I controlled the crowning of my baby’s head. In this way the stretching was gradual – and I birthed intact. I felt his head rotate. I caught him as his body slipped out of mine. I raised him to my chest. And then I enjoyed the huge relief and release of birth. And he cried as we held each other. Accepting and embracing our meeting. The meeting of my second child that I have been dreaming of for years, that I have been praying for and meditating on for so long and that I have been nurturing for months.
I had been convinced I was carrying a girl! And my hands holding him felt – “He’s a BOY!”
The Lotus Birth
I never thought or planned a lotus birth. I first heard of it 2 years ago when I was visiting a South African friend in India. He was married to a Russian lady and they told me about the lotus birth of her first child. Since then I have noticed more placenta and lotus birth awareness on the internet. But it was never something that particularly appealed to me. Probably as a vegetarian and a medical doctor! I didn’t want to hang onto the placenta and I needed a bit more “evidence/ reason” to keep it attached.
Delayed cord clamping made sense. When I saw my same friend last week he spoke about his third child born recently at home with whom they also did a lotus birth. And he said it wasn’t really a hassle at all.
On asking my midwife the reasons as it is no longer nutritive or physically supportive. The reply also made sense. “It is spiritual.” It symbolises the natural separation of the baby as separate from its life source – marking the fourth stage.
”Lotus Birth is a call to pay attention to the natural physiological process. It’s practice, through witnessing, restores faith in the natural order. Lotus Birth extends the birth time into the sacred days that follow and enables baby, mother and father and all family members to pause, reflect and engage in nature’s conduct. Lotus birth is a call to return to the rhythms of nature, to witness the natural order and to the experience of not doing, just being.”
Lotus Birth by Rachana Shivam
So I thought I would see how we felt at the time. After a quick and intense but wonderful and beautiful and empowering waterbirth of Shyam Kirtan Lian Lowe and after delivering the placenta it seemed right to keep it attached. I remember feeling the cord pulsating at one point – before the placenta was delivered. While holding onto my baby and feeling the cord still pulsating – quite a thought!
And then we kept it attached. It continued to seem right. Actually very right. I could see how this little one was interacting with it, used to it and part of it. His hand would fall on it. His foot would rest on it. We just moved it left or right of him to feed or care for him. We bathed him and put the plastic bucket with placenta in in the bath too. We emptied out the fluid everyday and added more salt to cover it. It never smelled. And we kept the umbilicus clean as normal (with coconut oil (disinfectant) and homeopathic wecesin powder.)
And we watched the cord become hardened overnight and then harder and brittle.
The way Shyam interacted and held, and moved with his cord was so wonderful to watch. It had been a part of him for so long….and still was.
So many sweet interactions.
And on the morning of day 5 – the cord separated naturally. On 21.12.2012. And it was a special moment! It did feel like the time had come and today was his separation day or independence day! It felt momentous and it happened when he was ready.
We dug a hole for it, planted the placenta with the cord stretching upwards in a spiral and placed our plant on top of it.
I am so happy we spontaneously did the lotus birth. It has felt very right, organic and part of a natural birth process that I hadn’t been so aware of before.
My baby has been calm, content, quiet and very peaceful with the first few days of his life with his placenta still attached.
A long version of this in combination with my own lotus and water birth story appears in the wonderful book Water Birth: Stories to Inspire and Inform by Milli Hill at http://www.waterbirthbook.com .