As a quick bit of background, I wrote this as a reflection of the birth of my second son in 2010, and am publishing it to my blog as it is a really relevant post for those attending my upcoming Pregnancy Yoga Classes and for those attending my Birth Rehearsal Workshops.
My first son (Jacob) was born 2 ½ years ago, 2 weeks overdue, a 72 hour labour ending by induction at hospital which naturally leant itself to a whole host of intervention including everything on offer bar a c-section. After his birth I dealt with the after effects of a highly medicalised birth as best I could with a fractious baby, exhausted mummy, breast-feeding issues and a damaged pelvic floor.
I am a Steiner /Waldorf early years and primary school teacher by profession and after Jacob decided that I would like to work on a part-time basis and so re-trained with ‘Birthlight’ as a baby yoga teacher. I found their practices and techniques invaluable with my son and went onto train in pregnancy, birth and post-natal yoga too. Having been running my business ‘Love Baby Yoga’ for the past 18 months, when I became pregnant again I was determined to have a low intervention home birth. Especially after all the beautiful birth stories that my pregnancy yoga and birth rehearsal course mums had shared with me, I longed to experience a normal birth too. So when Jacob’s little brother Solomon was born this summer in water in our bedroom on the 21st July (two days before his due date), I felt compelled to write my experience in the hope of inspiring anyone intending the same.
I had finished teaching classes 4 days before and had been whizzing around Co-Op that afternoon, came home bathed Jacob put him to bed, made and eat dinner for my husband and I then at 7pm stood up to take our plates out and my waters broke. I was so in denial of things going smoothly from my past experience that I didn’t get excited right away, fearing that if my labour didn’t start within 24 hours then I would be taken into hospital again as is customary due to midwives fearing infection for the baby. Calmly I went upstairs, had a shower, and started the practice of ‘full yogic breathing’ in order to maximise my oxygen levels and production of endorphins to help labour along. By the time I stepped out of the shower my contractions were well under way, and in-between them I hastily put together a hospital bag in case of transfer. During each contraction I slipped into the practice of ‘the golden thread breath’ extending my exhale for the duration of the contraction through soft lips and relaxed jaw. At first standing supported by the sash window in our bedroom eased the intensity of my cervix dilating, and moving my hips in a crescent moon or figure of eight to keep the energy fluid and not blocked prevented any pain. I asked my husband (Chris) to fill up the already inflated birth pool in our bedroom and I rang our doula (Kylie Pattnaik – Positive Birth Choices, Lostwithiel, Cornwall). This first stage of my labour seemed to be moving very quickly and after moving to all fours over our bed and rocking my pelvis I decided to lye on the bed on my left hand side to conserve energy and better focus on my breathing.
Chris called the midwife and was told that there were none available for a homebirth and that we would have go into hospital. Chris stuck by his guns and simply kept repeating that we were having a home birth and finally a midwife was allocated and sent out within 20 minutes. Meanwhile I began to feel Solomon’s head begin to descend and a mild urge to push. So stepped into the comfort of the warm water pool and switched my practice to ‘the birthing breath’ playing around with positions and movement to aid his descent. It was quite an incredible experience to totally surrender to my body and to of the guidance of my little boy making his journey to meet me. By 8.30pm the midwife arrived shortly followed by Kylie the doula. The environment was very serene, candlelit with beautiful Indian chanting on the iPlayer and I have to say that so unlike my first experience with Jacob, I was fully in control, in the zone, able to be fully focused on my body (and dear baby Solomon directing me how to move) and although intense felt no pain at all. The midwife read my birth plan downstairs with my husband before coming into the bedroom. She tried to engage me in conversation and take the routine blood pressure and vaginal examination but my contractions were now every minute and so simply used the underwater monitor to check Solomon’s heart rate and sat back. I was quite clear on my birth plan that I didn’t want to engage in conversation unless initiated by myself as I knew how this activated the opposite sides of the brain needed for birthing. In fact found myself becoming very vocal with the practice of ‘horse lips’ as suggested by Ina May Gaskin to keep the jaw and palette soft and to help punctuate the birthing breath exhale.
Because I felt unobserved and able to maintain my birthing environment by the time I was at the second stage of labour and actually birthing Solomon I was in a different world fully flooded with hormones and the loving support of Chris and Kylie. Leaning forwards over the birth pool with one hand held by my husband and the other by my doula I felt Solomon pass through the three openings of my pelvis. He tested the elasticity of my birth canal twice on two separate contractions popping his head partially out then back in again. Then on the next contraction his head was out looking up at the midwife with eyes open. He then tested his ‘asymmetrical tonic neck reflex’ with a vengeance wiggling his head back and forth to turn his body, which was quite an experience! Then at 10.45pm (just 3 3/4hrs from my waters breaking) I caught Solomon under the water and brought him up to take his first breath. He didn’t cry just looked me in the eye and we sat back in the pool while I entered the third stage of labour and delivered the placenta. Chris cut the cord after it had stopped pulsating and by he early hours we were alone, able to sleep and look forward to Jacob coming in in the morning to meet his little brother.
I couldn’t believe that I had no pelvic damage that it had been so short (and frankly enjoyable) and that Jacob had slept through it all!!!! Not so little Solomon weighed in at a healthy 9lb 4 ½ oz and now 2 weeks later as I write is a bonny 10lbs boy and already out of his newborn clothes! My post-natal recovery has been remarkably smooth and the post-natal yoga exercises for pelvic floor, pelvis and spinal re-alignment a pleasure to do. I feel extremely empowered by the whole experience and Solomon is a very calm and contented baby too.