I was anxious about giving birth again. My first birth was challenging, and not what I expected. After 38 hours and two long nights labouring at home, we were admitted to hospital, and administered a cascade of intervention. Looking back, the entire labour was overwhelming for me. I was silent through the whole process, suffering with each contraction. Birth was happening to me, and I was afraid.
At 40 weeks and 11 days into my second pregnancy, I awoke with a start at 10pm feeling a little ‘pop’ and then a gush of water. Turning on the light, to my surprise, my entire bed sheets were covered in dark green amniotic fluid. I knew straight away that this was meconium stained waters, and that it could mean the baby was in distress. My mind flew into old patterns of anxiety, and panic struck me. Fearful thoughts were running through my mind. Arriving at the hospital, I couldn’t talk or look at anybody. The room felt small and suffocating.
It was at this point that I knew I had to collect myself and shift my thought patterns. Using my breath as an anchor I slowly calmed my anxious mind. I observed my fearful thoughts and practiced acceptance, gently bringing my awareness back to my breath. I made a promise to myself that I would surrender to the labour process and listen to whatever my mind and body needed to do to birth this baby.
After a few hours labouring on the fit-ball, I moved into the shower. The sensation of the water on my back gave me immense relief as I worked through each contraction. One breath at a time, one contraction at a time, rising to a crest then slowly fading away. The sound of the running water was like waves in my ears, drowning out the sound of the hospital around me. Growing up as a surfer, indelibly immersed in the ocean, water has always been a powerful source of calm for me, a place of release and deep comfort. During the most intense contractions I was sure I couldn’t cope with the pain any longer. But when the wave subsided I would bring myself back to the breath. At the peak of transition I leant back and put my face under the water. I visualised being immersed in the balmy ocean in front of our house on a calm rainy afternoon, holding the hands of my two children, with rainwater cascading down our faces.
After transition came the intense sensation of pressure. All 10.2 pounds of my baby pressing down, urging to come out. The midwives came rushing in, and guided me through pushing. After just 5 minutes she was out, and a wave of relief washed over me. But what I didn’t see was that she white, floppy and not breathing. Rushed to the table she was administered CPR and oxygen. Within a couple of minutes, we heard her sweet cry for the first time. She was here, and she was safe. Our girl.
Childbirth can be intense, messy and frightening. But however it unfolds, childbirth can also be profoundly empowering and transformative. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where you birth or how you birth but what is revealed to you through the process. Birth demands the courage to work with your fears, allowing them to just be, rising and falling like a wave. Birth shows you that you are stronger than you ever imagined, and it reveals to you an inner strength that is found at every woman’s core. With a powerful birth cry you are not only birthing your baby but you are also birthing a divine feminine strength, in messy, bloody, primal, and yet perfect, synchronicity.
“Again and again motherhood demands that we break through our limitations, that we split our hearts open to make room for something that may be more than we thought we could bear. In that sense, the labour with which we give birth is simply a rehearsal for something mothers must do over and over: turn ourselves inside out, and then let go.” — SUSAN PIVER, The Mindful Way Through Pregnancy