This is the first in a series of stories for The Natural Parent Magazine by Emily Holdaway of Raising Ziggy
Before I was pregnant, ‘positive’ and ‘birth’ were not words I expected to see in the same sentence. Not unless that sentence was ‘I am positive my birth is going to be terrible’. I had never attended a birth, never watched a birth video nor seen a birth photo. Not real ones anyway. I had seen movies and TV shows with their screaming, yelling and panicking. I knew the drill, you gripped your stomach, your waters broke, you rushed to the hospital and then you were being told to push. Push dammit, push!
When I fell pregnant, everyone was quick to share their stories with me. Stories that did nothing to allay my fears. Stories about labour lasting for days, emergency c-sections with dangerous blood loss, ripping, tearing, pain, unimaginable pain and so much blood.Â Lunchroom conversations became scarier and scarier as I was told about every possible eventuality under the sun. Except one.Â No one told me about birth as a positive experience.
So, for the first part of my pregnancy, the birth was something I tried not to focus on. It would happen, it would be terrible, and that would be that, right?
I was skimming through articles online at the end of a long day when a heading caught my eye: ‘Birth photography, gruesome or awesome‘. I clicked. Of course I clicked, you can’t be pregnant and not click on a heading like that. The first photo took my breath away.Â Raw emotion. The look on her face, it was indescribable. The emotions I could see were so far from what I was expecting. 5pm came and went and still I sat there, looking at these images over and over again. This was birth? No way. But they were smiling, there was joy on these women’s faces.
It was the turning point in my pregnancy.
I went home and found more of her work, slideshows that made me cry, birth blogs where women were excited to give birth. I saw women birthing the way they wanted to, where they wanted to. In one slideshow I saw a mother deliver her baby herself, in the water, while the midwife looked on. I was in awe. I didn’t know you were allowed to do that – were you allowed to do that?
I sent the link to my midwife. ‘This is what I want’, I told her. ‘I want to birth my baby, I want to be the first person to touch my baby, to see what gender he or she is. Can I do that?’
‘Yes’ she said to me, ‘you can.’
For the rest of my pregnancy I thought about our birth every day. I talked to our unborn baby and told him all about it. I visualised going into labour, I visualised guiding his head out of my body. I did this every morning as we walked to work. I didn’t know it then, but the daily walk to work was doing more than just helping me prepare mentally, it was getting my body into shape, ready for the physical task ahead of me.
A very good friend sent me a book of birth stories, the birth of her second child was in it, and I read it cover to cover, then I read it again.Â I learnt about skin to skin and how a mother’s body can regulate their newborn baby’s temperature. I read about delayed cord clamping and the importance of allowing my baby to get as much of the placental blood as possible. I read about the crawl babies do to the breast after birth. With every story my excitement grew. These births were inspiring. Â Why had I not seen this side to it before?
During one of our antenatal classes we learnt about inductions, available pain relief, and possible delivery aids such as episiotomies. Unlike the session where we learnt about lotus birth, birthing positions and the roles of hormones like oxytocin and adrenaline on our body, this one I struggled with. I hate needles, the thought of a needle and I start to panic, my breathing picks up and I feel ill.Â You hear about people at antenatal classes get queasy at the birth video, I had to put my head between my knees when the needle talk started. This session convinced me even more that I wanted our birth to be as intervention free as possible
My workmates thought I was nuts. Birth centre? Water birth? No drugs? What are you – a crazy hippie? ‘Take the drugs’ they told me, ‘it’s not like you get a trophy’. Â So I stopped telling people. But my partner and my midwife were 100% behind me and we talked about it often.
The day I felt contractions I was so excited. I had Braxton Hicks at the end of the pregnancy, but these were different, more intense. I rang our midwife ‘I think it’s happening’ I told her.Â But it was a false alarm.Â We were deflated.Â ‘Hurry up baby’ we would say to my belly ‘we want to meet you’.
A few nights later, I had pains in the evening, brief and intense. I called my midwife again and she told me to see how things went. They didn’t linger. I tossed and turned all night, willing our baby to come.
The night I went into labour the contractions started gently, but by bedtime I couldn’t get comfortable and I disappeared into the lounge. AJ woke to find me standing there, holding my belly and frowning at the ‘are you in labour?’ sheet of paper in my hand.
‘They’re only a few minutes apart’, I told him. ‘But they’re short, and my waters are intact, there’s no mucous and I can’t tick any of the boxes. This can’t be it.’Â Then I raced to the toilet and threw up.
He called our midwife.
Emily Holdaway is a New Zealand parenting blogger gaining local recognition. She is a first time mum, sharing her journey to natural parenting through her entertaining and surprisingly open blog Raising Ziggy . Emily is an active volunteer of Waikato Baby Carriers, she attends La Leche meetings and also Kangatraining; supporting local businesses and offering advice and the benefits of these groups to other kiwi parents. In her spare time, you’ll find her in the garden with Ziggy and the chooks.