Our daughter ‘Aimi’ was born on Tuesday this week, the 5th of August. We walked in the hospital at 12.00, and our kiddo saw the world at 12.29. Before taking off to the mountain road to town, I’d been breathing, walking, dancing through my contractions for about nine hours.
As our first girl ‘Iita’ was born (2011 in Slovenia) without interventions, drugs, or time limits set by the hospital, I was keen to give the same type of safe, but natural landing to our second one.
Knowing the Bosnian hospital protocols differ hugely from the more gentle Slovenian ways, I had planned to go to Slovenia to give birth. I’d carefully organised it all: temporary home in Ljubljana, babysitter, doula etc. Then during the last check up with my gynecologist in Sarajevo, I decided otherwise. He assured me that my wishes of no IV, no episiotomy, no medication, no interventions, and full rooming with the baby after birth etc. would all be respected as long as it was safe for me and my baby.
I was happy to stay at home, in a safe and peaceful environment, saving tons of money and knowing my husband would be allowed to join me when it was time to give birth.
In the recent weeks I’ve been explaining numerous times about why I choose to give birth naturally, I think a list is in order:
- I need to be able to be active as quickly after the birth as possible. We have a three year old in the house and it’s the best tourist season, so my husband will be working a lot, I cannot stay in bed feeling sore (after an episiotomy for example)
- I don’t take drugs unless I really need to, I hate living by the clock (so in general I don’t), I eat when I’m hungry and rest when I feel tired – I want the same for my family, including that our kids come to the world in the time and order they choose, and they’re not hurried along the process
- In my own experience drugs result into more complications and more drugs, and as I’ve read extensively about the subject, I’ve understood the same applies for child birthing too. (For example the use of pitocin often results into such strong contractions and pain that epidural is needed, epidural on the other hand can slow down the process of labor so much that another dose of pitocin is needed.)
- Knowing how my body functions and how strongly it reacts to any outside (or inside) stimulation, I haven’t had the courage to experiment with drugs, especially during the birth process
- I believe in the body and its knowledge of what to do, I believe in natural hormones playing an important part in the laboring, and I believe in the power of mind in general, especially when it comes to handling pain
- I also believe that as long as the baby is attached to her mother via umbilical cord (and breastfeeding) some of the drugs the mother intakes are transmitted to the baby, again a risk I haven’t had the courage to take
My reasoning is purely a matter of ‘what is best for me and my baby‘. I’m not saying giving birth naturally is for everyone, I’m not taking sides with my personal choices, this is simply how I like it – kinda the way ‘I like my coffee with lots of hot milk and no sugar’.
So what did I do?
I read – again – Ina May Gaskin’s books, I watched numerous natural birth videos online, and then read some more. I picked the techniques that felt right for me: most of them physical, but also some visualisation and meditation techniques. I made visualisation cards for myself and listened to hypnobirth and meditation recordings.
I briefed my husband as to how to massage me and how to support me mentally along the way. I knew I’d like more firm pressure than actual massage, I asked him to back me up with whatever I happen to wish for, since he’d be my only support (perhaps even the only English speaking, once in the hospital setting).
During contractions I would:
- walk, sway and dance my hips from side to side or in the shape of an eight, squat, go down on all fours or on my knees, leaning on the sofa
- keep my mouth open, jaw relaxed, breathing deep into my stomach, and slowly out, like I was blowing soap bubbles
- stretch slowly the part that was hurting the most, either my stomach or lower back
- keep upright, rather leaning towards than backwards
- imagined and visualised being safe and loved, my tissues giving way to the baby, my hips widening, and cervix opening
- keep repeating Ina May’s words: ‘I’m going to be huge!‘
I stayed at home as long as it felt good and safe. When the contractions were about 4 minutes apart and I was no longer talkative even between contractions, I knew it was time to go.
During the car drive my contractions got a lot more strong. We have about 20 km drive to the hospital, first 15 on a bumpy mountain road and the rest driving through downtown Sarajevo with lots of traffic and many lights. Since I was limited to sitting down and not moving, I lifted my feet up, tried to keep my hips and bottom relaxed, and began murmuring and growling through contractions.
By the time I entered the examination room, I was 8 cm dilated. Minutes after the examination my waters broke and I was fully open. They stormed me into the delivery room, as our girl was making her way out so quickly we had no time to lose. (In fact I was holding my hand between my legs, almost sure the baby would pop out before we’d enter the delivery room.) Luckily we made it in time, I was moved to the birthing bed, and the whole staff was shouting ‘DO NOT PUSH, just breath!’.
So I focused all my energy on that, breathing. This was demanding and painful as my body was doing the pushing on its own, and going against that was extremely difficult, it felt like it was beyond my control. In the next moment the midwife allowed me to push, and what I really did was just release, let go and breath deep, letting my upper body bend over a little, and Aimi was born spontaneously with the first push.
I had no medication (even if they wanted to put me on an IV there was no time), I didn’t tear, and my first words after were ‘I can’t believe this!’, so sudden it all felt. We were both healthy and in good energy after the birth, and we got home the next day. (I have only praise for the delivery ward staff, unfortunately I can’t say anything like it of the maternity ward and its staff – perhaps more on that later.)
Of course I knew things might turn out differently, which is why I’m even more happy and grateful to the powers of universe that me and Aimi could work together so well. We’re a team, definitely. And since she was born we’ve been engaged in sleeping under the same blanket, nursing, looking into each others eyes, visiting our guesthouse, saying hello to goats, dogs, and cats, as well as some people in the village.
But most of the time we are simply relaxing and falling in love.