Welcome to the Empowered Birth Week Blog Carnival
This post is part of the Empowered Birth Week Blog Carnival hosted by Child of the Nature Isle and Betsy Dewey. For this special event the carnival participants have shared their perspective on Empowered Birth. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Whenever I see a pregnant woman I want to talk to her. I want to say something like ‘Do you know that birth can be magical and blissful? Do you know a peaceful, pain-free, natural birth is possible and in such an experience drugs and medical interventions will be the furthest thing from your mind? Do you know that homebirths are safe for the majority of women and it’s one of the happiest moments to have your baby in the sanctuary of your own home, surrounded by the elements of your choosing? Do you know giving birth can be one of the very best moments of your entire life?’
And I could go on…But, knowing I may sound like a crazy birth evangelist who has no business in her business, I don’t say these things. Instead I think these thoughts and offer them as silent gifts of empowerment and love. If it does so happen that we engage in a conversation I’ll happily share my joyful birthing experiences and the fact that I wish I could give birth more often just to savour the experience again and again!
It disappoints me is that conversations about amazing natural birth experiences are few and far between. The majority of birth tales revolve around drama, pain and medical treatments. And when a woman bucks this trend and recounts a story of an easy, gentle, quick, natural birth she is usually told it’s a fluke, she was lucky and that it’s just not possible for most people. But it is, really it is!
Everyone’s experience of pregnancy and birthing will be unique but I’ve thought about the steps I took to have two empowered births (one in hospital and one at home) and in the hope that someone may find something that works for them, I’m sharing them here. You may find all, some or none work for yourself and I’m sure other women have plenty additional tips to share. In my experiences I found these 12 steps were powerful preparations for an empowered natural birth.
Exercise & Active Lifestyle
I started my first pregnancy hiking in the wild mountain ranges of East Africa. At that time I was also attending several yoga classes a week and was generally so active it was hard to pin me down. I continued to be very energetic during my pregnancy – walking up and down the steep hills of Dominica, practicing squats, going to a prenatal yoga class, swimming and bouncing on a Birth Ball. My body felt good for the duration of the pregnancy and I was fit, strong and totally ready for the physical aspect of birthing. Oh and I also had lots of sex during pregnancy (sorry if that’s too much information people, but it helps – trust me!)
Hypnobirthing book and CD’s
The book HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method really focused my birthing expectations and attuned me to the type of birth that my inner being always knew was possible. I had so many ‘yes!’ moments when reading the book (read my review) and I have since shared my own copy of this amazing book with many others and I recommend it to everyone! Hypnobirthing really is about holding the expectation of a positive natural birth and preparing mind, body and spirit to work in harmony to achieve it. The techniques in the book are also great for other life situations where relaxation is necessary. I listened to the CD almost every night until the affirmations for peaceful birth were hardwired into my brain.
Meditation & positive visualization
I enjoyed the practice of meditation to quiet my mind and tune-in to my innermost being. Meditation practice of just sitting quietly and focusing on my breathing was calming and also allowed any thoughts that were not in alignment with my natural birth desires to arise and be resolved.
The positive visualization was part of the Hypnobirthing practice that I enjoyed. I saw my cervix opening like a rose to allow my baby to float out, I saw my baby traveling down the birth canal safely into my arms, I saw myself relaxed and at ease. This mental training was key in preparing me for the empowered natural birth I desired.
I also spoke with my baby and told her/him of my plans and desires. I engaged in peaceful cooperation with this growing being, knowing that our souls were communicating and in harmony for the birth experience.
Red Raspberry Leaf tea
I drank this herbal tea, which just happened to be growing in our back-yard, throughout both pregnancies. Honestly I can’t tell you about amount and frequency I consumed but I am convinced this herb helped my birthing process. According the American Pregnancy Association:
‘Medical studies have shown that red raspberry leaf can be consumed safely during pregnancy and can decrease the length of labor and decrease the number of interventions used such as artificial rupture of membranes (AROM), assisted delivery, and cesarean delivery. Red raspberry leaf also seems to help prevent pregnancies from pre-or post-term gestation (delivering too early or too late).’
Wise Woman Herbalist Susun Weed gives an excellent overview of the many benefits of Red Raspberry Leaf and other herbs in pregnancy here
Watching natural birth experiences (over and over again)
I became a You Tube junkie! I had actually never seen a woman give birth in real life so I chose to familiarize both myself and partner with the reality of what natural birth looks like by watching birth videos online. Once I watched a few I was hooked! It was joyful to watch other women birth with ease and my eyes filled with tears every time a baby was born peacefully into the world. After watching a selection of natural births I then tuned in to Hypnobirth’s, which raised my expectations even further (see one of the most inspiring ones on my post here). The Business of Being Born and What Babies Want were also birth movies that I found highly informative and inspiring.
Reading natural birth stories.
I also read all the natural birth stories I could get my hands on – especially in Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin, The Mother magazine, Hypnobirthing Birth stories and the Bornfree! Unassisted Birth website as well as on many other blogs. I loved each special story and felt as though I belonged in a world-wide collective of women who were creating their birthing experiences with empowerment and joy.
Screening out negative conversations
I’m generally not into watching or listening to things that are not in tune with what feels good to me. I just don’t have room in my brain to entertain it. This is very important during pregnancy when everyone and their Aunt Jemima seem to want to tell you their agonizing birth stories. Hypnobirthing recommends to avoid letting others recount their negative birth experiences as a way to keep your mind focused on your desire. I don’t want to negate the experience of anyone else as even women who have had emergency caesarean sections can still have created an empowering birth experience. However if you wanted to talk any doom and gloom to me during my pregnancy I really wasn’t taking it on.
Researching the physiology of birth
I like to be informed and felt it important to know what physiological changes to expect as I progressed in pregnancy, went into labour and gave birth. In lieu of any prenatal classes, (I showed up for a schedule session but no-one else came), I found it valuable to seek out information that helped me understand my body and know what to expect. (Yes I did read ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ – it’s not the best or most positive pregnancy book, but it has some gems)
Some of the information I gathered was all at the last minute – for instance in my first birth when my water broke and experienced no contractions I went straight to Google to find out how common this was, what to do to naturally activate contractions, how long I could wait with my waters broken before seeking medical attention etc.
When my labour did kick in and advance I laboured peacefully at home. As we left to go to the hospital I experienced an intense surge of physical discomfort and emotional uncertainty as I suddenly felt the baby drop. Because I had researched, I quickly realised that I was in transition which is often reported to be the most difficult part of birth. Being aware of this fact, I was able to regain my composure and focus and know that I would be just fine!
For my second birth I learned more about breathing the baby down rather than pushing and read up on the natural expulsion reflex of the body that has enabled even women in comas to birth. This allowed me to have the confidence to relax totally and birth my baby gently with just one push at the end.
It felt good to learn more about the incredible body female body and rejoice in the profound changes I went through in pregnancy and birth.
Creating a Birth Plan
Writing my birth plan helped me get focused on my expectations and communicate these in a coherent way to others. I let my care providers know I was active I the process of my pregnancy and birth and made sure I was given clear answers and explanations for everything! I was well aware that having a birth plan does not mean everything goes according to that plan but the process of researching and writing it was highly valuable in creating the feelings of what I wanted to experience while in pre-labour, active labour, transition, birth and immediately afterwards for both the baby and myself. You can read more details about why and how I created a birth plan in my previous post here.
Finding a health care provider that really supports the choice for natural birth
For my first birth I wanted a midwife who would deliver my baby at home and yet could not find one. My Ob/Gyn was not highly supportive of natural birth and gave me quite a few suggestions that I would need pain relief and that there would be a reason to accept medical intervention. However after reading my birth plan, she did refer me to speak to one midwife to discuss my plans with in advance and see what could be accommodated within the hospital environment. It was a positive discussion but when I refused to come to the hospital to be medically induced immediately after my waters broke, that midwife then decided that she would not attend my birth at all! Thankfully I had ‘angels’ in the form of medical student and assistant midwife, Karina, my Doula-friend Sari and a host of other supportive individuals that enabled me to stay focused and informed. As Karina wisely told me ‘it doesn’t matter where you give birth. Your birth will be beautiful because you will make it so.’ And it was. In the end I had maybe 10 nurses and midwives in the room just watching as I gave birth the first time and I loved every one of them.
For my second homebirth and water birth I found an excellent midwife who totally aligned with my plan and was 100% supportive and encouraging. This made my entire pregnancy and birth preparation a whole lot easier and relaxing.
Eating Nutritious Natural Foods
I was taught once in a health seminar that the reason women experience pain in their menstrual cycles is because of an overload of toxic foods and nutritional deficiencies. They said that these toxins tried to escape the body each menstrual cycle and additional pain was caused by the body being deficient in vitamins and minerals. When a woman is eating junk foods and does not have this menstrual release for 9 months, the birth can then become an outlet for intense pain. True or not, these thoughts rang loudly in my head as I was pregnant and I focused on eating right.
I maintained a vegan diet before, throughout and after both pregnancies. This is by no means the only way to healthy eating, (indeed there are many ways to be an unhealthy vegans and a healthy meat eaters) and many would not advocate such a diet. However I thrived on it and made sure I ate often and consumed foods that I felt were as richly nutritious as possible. I drank a lot of water, including coconut water. I also took the Rainbow Light Complete Prenatal System which I believe boosted my body’s nutrient levels for pregnancy and subsequent breastfeeding.
Having a Blessing Ceremony
A blessing ceremony is the celebration of pregnancy and the rite of passage into Motherhood. The blessing ceremony I had for my first pregnancy was organized by my dear friend Trudy Prevost and conducted by two Kalinago women; the indigenous people of Dominica. It was a magical ceremony of chanting, singing, praying, sharing, eating and laughing. The collective energy of these women provided a source of strength, encouragement and inspiration that I was able to take into my birthing experience. You can read the full story of my blessing ceremony here. If you are interested in creating a modern day blessing ceremony, read this post where Betsy Dewey shares her process of organizing one for a friend and offers an inspiring how-to guide.
During my second pregnancy I didn’t get the chance to have a blessing ceremony. But, I did make a belly cast with a group of my friends just a few days prior to the birth and the collective energy of women gathering together, sharing food, touching the baby belly and bringing beautiful vibrations into my home was indeed a true blessing.
I believe that doing these things, and likely a few more, I was able to enjoy two beautiful births that I would repeat over again in an instant! Even if only one is useful for you, I’ll feel good knowing that I passed on my experiences. Empowering, natural, easy birth is a joy and, if you are pregnant right now or anytime in the future, I wish one for you.
Disclaimer: It’s very important for women to be informed of their unique situation and to never compromise the health and safety of themselves and their baby for any goal. Of course you knew that already but I’m just saying that none of these recommendations constitutes medical advice. Onelove
We invite you to sit, relax and take time to read the excellent and empowering posts by the other carnival participants:
Empowered Birthing – Amy at Anktangle shares a simple list of things that support an empowered birth experience.
Little Miss Green’s Home, Water Birth Story – Mrs Green at Little Green Blog shares her (home, water) birth story. Even though it happened 10 years ago, the empowering feelings are the same to this day (and yep, it STILL makes her cry!). This post is also a tribute to her husband who was there mind, body and soul throughout.
Save Birth, Change The World – Toni Harman, mum and film-maker talks about the highs and lows of creating the ONE WORLD BIRTH film project dedicated to helping more women around the world have empowered births.
12 Steps to an Empowered Natural Birth – Terri at Child of the Nature Isle wants to talk to all pregnant women and tell them YES they can have an Empowered Birth! This is her personal 12 step guide.
The Blessingway: a sacred blessing for birth – The Blessingway is a sacred ceremonial circle of women gathered with the intention of blessing and preparing a pregnant woman and her child to give birth. Betsy Dewey describes the beauty and the how-to of a modern Blessingway.
Informed Birth is Empowered Birth – Darcel at The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe tells us why it’s important to take control and be responsible for our own births. She says Informed Birth is Empowered Birth.
Empowering Birth in the Trenches – Over at Belly Tales the Midwife explores what empowered birth looks like in an urban hospital with a vulnerable population.
An Empowered First Birth – Zoie at TouchstoneZ follows the path she took to her first homebirth and finds she may not have started out as the best candidate for an empowered birth.
And these to be published on
Why Hasn’t the World Stopped? – Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares the emotional story of the empowered and unassisted stillbirth of her daughter.
Empowered Birth: From the Personal to the Universal – Zoie at TouchstoneZ questions the criteria for what makes an empowered birth and finds she has to let them all go.