My expectations of childbirth were influenced by the stories of family members, friends and social indoctrinations- I grew up believing the process of having a baby would be clinical and submissive; both painful and petrifying. Reflective of a complete loss of control, coupled with the greatest fear and agony I would ever experience in my life. It wasn’t until I fell pregnant that I felt compelled to explore my preconceptions of the labour process. I have always had a strong belief in the subjectivity of experiences and especially of pain, and thus I began to look into how I could go about approaching the birth of my first child more positively than my preconceived fears should allow. I had a friend who had done a similar birthing course several years ago and her stories had an impact on me listening back then, possibly because it was the first time I’d ever heard somebody reflect on the birth of their children positively; recounting stories of power, confidence, contentment and love.
I looked into my options locally and came across Tracey’s website. I had my reservations, particularly when it came to filling out the enrolment paperwork, as this forced me early on to identify my explicit fears regarding not only the birth process, but also in becoming a parent. I guess in identifying these early it forced me to reconcile them as best I could in the lead up to the arrival of our baby. I convinced Jase that it would be a positive thing for us to do, and thankfully he didn’t protest.
I found the course to be hugely informative, particularly with respect to the physiological processes of birth, and tips and tricks to assist me through labour. Despite not being the most diligent at practicing the skills in the weeks leading up to Dash’s arrival, I did feel better equipped for what was to come as we approached the birth of our first child. I was tentatively committed to trying to birth with as little clinical assistance or intervention as possible. I hoped to try to birth in the bath at the hospital, but was committed to keeping an open mind should my expectations need to alter. I didn’t write a birth plan early on for this reason- I felt comfortable enough in keeping in mind my preferences, but going with the flow and accepting whatever needed to happen on the day.
After a relatively straightforward pregnancy, I was diagnosed with cholestasis and gestational hypertension at 34 weeks, after a fortnight of persistent itching. All of a sudden I was on medication to clear the bile salts from my blood, and I was seeing the doctors at the hospital, rather than the midwives. I was advised of the risks associated with allowing my pregnancy to go to term, and became immediately stressed and anxious regarding the health of our baby. I was told that I was to be induced at 38 weeks, and this in itself heightened my anxiety as I couldn’t help but think back to all of the negative stories I’d heard about induction. I felt like my loose plans for a simple and lovely birth were slipping from my grasp, so contacted Tracey seeking advice for how to make sure my body was as ready as it could be for labour to be kick started on my behalf. We agreed that I would write two birth plans, one for if the induction went ahead, and another in case I went into spontaneous labour prior.
I ceased work a week earlier than planned and booked an acupuncture session to assist with stress, lack of sleep due to the cholestasis and fears about being induced. My wonderful practitioner suggested we try to get my body ready to birth my baby on its own, and I agreed. I was astounded when the following night I had some pre-labour signs, but was convinced it would be a false start.
The following day, the stirrings of what I now recognise as early contractions had me baffled and I began to acknowledge that my little boy might be coming of his own accord. By 4pm, the pains were different, but I was still not convinced. By 9pm, I was very clearly in labour. I sent Jase to bed and got to work on using Calmbirth teachings to get through the hours ahead at home. By 3am, I knew I needed to get to hospital to have our baby. I found the breathing techniques helpful in dealing with the waves, and used these pretty effectively up until our arrival at hospital. Upon admission, I was 6cm dilated and fully effaced. I had been petrified of being sent home again, so it was a relief to hear that things were progressing. The first stage of my labour lasted 12 hours and 45 minutes, but my waters had not broken. An AROM was performed to try to hasten up the process. As my contractions intensified, I used gas to assist me up until my body took over and I felt the involuntary urge to start to push.
To be honest, I struggled in the transition stage of labour, and was not fully committed to pushing with the view of birthing our baby. Reflecting back, I was still scared about some things, and probably could have done a lot more work to reconcile my own fears prior to our little man deciding it was time to enter the world. Two hours of pushing and simultaneously negotiating my fears, and a few stern words from the midwifery team leader on duty, and I finally felt ready and committed to birthing our baby. A short time (and some more effective pushes) later, our son Dash entered the world at 36 weeks and 1 day, weighing 6 pound exact. He was healthy and perfect despite his early arrival, and we have never been more in love.
Calmbirth was amazing not only because it equipped me with tangible skills to use during labour, but it also provided Jase with an idea of what to expect and how to assist me throughout. He was so amazingly supportive the whole time and I’m certain I wouldn’t have had as positive an experience had he not been completely involved in the process. We would both recommend both Tracey and the course to anyone- and have started to loudly do so! I reflect positively on both my pregnancy and birth despite the unexpected challenges both presented. I plan to tell the positives of my story to anyone who will listen in the hope it can help some women to disengage from the dialogue of disempowerment and fear, and enjoy the process of birthing their beautiful babies.