Wild Birth

Birth Health Life


Monday, 24 September 2018

The Journey to Motherhood

Pregnant Woman Wearing Marled Gray Sweater Touching Her Stomach

I have worked as a birth doula for seven years or more, and my stories, unless specified, are anonymised and details changed to protect the privacy of my clients.

The journey you take to her can be a presentiment of the journey of the impending birth. 

 I learned this from a doula sister who works from her enormous heart, and we remain astonished at how often it proves true. Or it can just be that the brain seeks to find patterns in events, and of course fallen trees block entrances, tractors hold you up on winding roads, and cyclists and horses appear out of nowhere because this is the countryside. 

Anyway, I found their home quite easily in the end, although negotiating the uneven terrain of the long, unmade up drive in my little car was tricky. Brown scrabby hedgerow at the end of winter flanked the way, with pale downland rising up behind. I stalled twice before I was close enough to park, but no mind, for I like rural, especially with this wide view across my territory of Sussex downland farms and fields. Above me the wild afternoon sky is all heavy slate and liquid gold. It's cold, even for March. What direction is this weather headed?  Things could go either way. 

What will they be like, these first time parents, baby fairly imminent, who want a birth doula?  First contact was by text before Christmas, but life is busy for them and there were long and disconnecting gaps in our correspondence. I knew that a number of my colleagues had also made the bumpy journey down the farm track to the newly converted Sussex barn to be interviewed.  My path to their door has been disjointed and uneven in more ways than one.

The car stalls itself again on a muddy slope which is good enough parked for me, so I pull on the handbrake and reach into my bag to check and then mute my mobile. I pause in the driver's seat, to feel my body and centre my awareness, ready to leave my everyday concerns and my own story there in the vehicle.  Let me serve this woman and the incoming soul as best I can. My aching back, leaking bathroom and life problems have no place in their space. Let me go to them a clean slate, washed of presuppositions, an open heart, a hollow bone through which abundant, endless universal energy flows.

They are in the doorway to greet me, both late 20's I would say, as gorgeous a pregnant pair as you could imagine, welcoming me into their home.  It is the material manifestation of their love. The feel is expensive but not ostentatious. There is attention to the flow of energy, and to quality natural materials.  A feeling of the Waldorf education style of art and living is hinted by the homely simplicity and innocent quality of the canvases leaning against the wall. He, rugged in checked shirt, offers an array of herbal teas, and smiles when I ask for my builder's tea, no sugar. Finally looking into her smiling face is satisfying, and she looks familiar, she looks how I thought she would from her words.

They touch and look at one another with love as they speak at length and in great detail about their hopes for the day that their baby will be born.  There is an empty birth pool set up in the corner of a beautiful room with floor to ceiling windows looking directly onto the rising hill of the downs. There are cards with paintings in deep pinks and reds, and affirmations written on them, stuck to the walls around the pool.  They've read Michel Odent, they've read about using hypnosis, but haven't employed a practitioner. They ask detailed, well-researched questions about what I would do if this happened, or that. They knew I offered placenta encapsulation, and we spoke about the importance of chilling the organ as soon as possible. She didn't particularly connect with the thought of using her placenta for pills, tincture or ritual... not everyone does. 

The first meeting.  Both parties will pay some attention to the words said, but most weight will be given to the feel, the vibe, to how the energy flows between us.  Does being around her make my heart open? Do I feel expanded, with that warm glow in the gut of me?  Or do I feel anxiousness, contracted, heavy?

 I consciously create the space in the meeting to connect with how I'm feeling in my gut, although sometimes it's unmistakable, overwhelming.  When we hug goodbye, I will ask in my head a question to the baby.  Am I meant to be here with you for your birth?  This gem of a tip from my beautiful mentor. 

 My hand touches her arm as we laugh about something and I'm asking myself...how does this feel?  If touch is awkward now, how will it be between us during the epic journey that birthing a baby can be?  I have said no to some situations, and felt grateful, and yes to others with some trepidation, and been surprised.

Beautiful mama-to-be. An inamorata, one who loves and is loved. Sensing this energy around a woman, the energy that flowed around the conception of this tiny being will help with their journey earth side when the time is right is wonderful.  I meet women in all stages of motherhood, looking anaemic, tired, tested, sometimes at this stage just plain fed-up, but she glows from within, her gleaming golden hazel eyes, her smooth olive skin has such a radiance, framed by thick rich long chestnut hair. There is that deep, contented self-containedness about her that pregnant women sometimes have, that kind of disconnection to everyday concerns, plugged in as they are to the bigger picture, doing the important work of growing a human.

How would it be, to be a part of this journey?

I am careful to not be carried away by the impressions I sense from people when I meet them, for we are all prone to interpreting things through the veil of our own experiences and feelings, but I acknowledge what information I receive by subtle means, and ask for guidance with whether and how to use it.

 I feel a gap where her own mother would be.  I sense this gap keenly, knowing from my own matrix how this presents in the subtle fields.  Again, careful to keep my field clear, my bones hollow. This is the unfolding of a new life story, and I am here to serve them.  With this clear intent, I will be given the information I need to do so.

She speaks about pain relief and her words resonate with my perception of her as needing to be seen by him and others who I don't yet know, maybe herself, to be courageous, independent and not needing of help. She proudly lets me know that she is physically capable, competitive and very fit.  Skiing, snowboarding and horse riding in early pregnancy, still running every day. There will be no resting in bed for her after the baby comes!

 Behind the words I sense that she might feel that physical prowess earned by her hard work will automatically grant an easier passage. Physical fitness and stamina is never a bad thing, but the ability to be soft, accepting and vulnerable is just as valuable in the paradox that is the ultimate surrender of birth.  

It's less about being strong enough in the body to push a baby out, more about being soft enough in the psyche to allow the body to expel the baby unhindered by tense, resistant muscles opposing the work of the uterus, fuelled by deep fear.

 Its about letting go.

Being able to allow your consciousness to retreat to the otherworlds often called 'labour land' so that the old brain can rule this ancient hormonal and visceral dance. This is an inner journey of the essence of a woman, travelling the labyrinth beyond the stars to collect her baby's soul and bring it in. If we understood the necessity of this journey we would protect the woman's space from intrusion with the utmost fervour.

Relinquishing control of everything, or anything, can be the biggest challenge some women face in life and labour.

  Softness is a quality we don't always favour as women in ourselves, fighting as we have had to all our lives in one way or another to be seen as equals in the world of men.  Softness, surrender, acceptance.  It's the ultimate con to have persuaded us that these are weaknesses when they are the exact opposite of weak.

We find a common connection, as I sensed we would;  her brother played rugby at the club I used to manage.  I remember liking this brother, a solid, good man, who when looked at with the open eye revealed a well concealed aura of seriousness and responsibility about him, for one so young. I guess she has chosen a partner with that similar, solid goodness. I hope this connection bodes well and that they will hire me. We hug goodbye on the step and I ask my question to the incoming one, who gives me no hint of an answer. The car slid hopelessly about as I set off on my way home, seeing them in the rear view mirror, framed like a painting in the doorway, waving me off.

She didn't hire me.  She left it almost two weeks to let me know that they had decided to be unaccompanied, except for her sister-in-law, and obviously the homebirth team.  I wished them well, but I was surprised, and even a little sad, for the prospect of seeing them achieve their birth in that lovely pool in the room with the view to the downs (how beautiful would that look with moonlight streaming in?) had excited me.

  It came to light over time that she had interviewed almost every doula I knew.  We sometimes get this, where the prospective client cleverly extricates information or whatever they feel they need from the interview without ever intending to hire anybody, and it leaves some doulas feeling cheated.  I take a different view, and if I have passed something on that assists the passage of the little one, I am more than happy for it, and I keep the interview short and my outlay minimal so I have no complaints.

The night of the interview, or maybe the following night, I found myself laying in bed, thinking again about how it would be to birth in that gorgeous room, with a big moon lighting the scene.  I must have dropped off for the next thing I knew I was moving through cold air over the downs until I found myself in their house in the darkness, in the beautiful room with the pool.

 The pool was full of water, but the house was empty. As I stood in the dark, chill air, the affirmations fluttered down from the wall into the cold inky black depths, centrifugal swirling of water as strong as vaginal wall muscles, head first, pressure, unbearable pressure, makes me wake with a start.  I thought of her now and again after that, and always with the wish for all to be well for them.

Some time later, when the moon had gone more than a course and brown scrabby hedges sported tiny plush new leaves, I received a text from her.  A little girl had been born in the night, an instrumental birth in hospital, following a long, exhausting labour at home.  She had remembered our conversation about placentas, and had decided to prepare to keep it, and freeze it, in case. Her brother (the one I remembered) had collected it from hospital and looked after it as instructed.  Could I prepare it for her?  

The placenta had a beautiful light.  Subtle dimensions of emotions from life stories in the ancestral line that I will never know the relevance or meaning of.

 We touch these lives so fleetingly, and yet so deep. Just a snapshot. I tripped out after preparing it, a migraine threatening all day, flashing lights at the edge of my vision and my period broke through four days early.

Processing, assimilating, life bursting through the membranes between worlds, we all have to move over for it, and I had to lay down and sleep for four hours straight before driving the capsules over to her.  On the way, the colours of new life seemed crazy intense in the setting sun, and a hare lept through the birch woods by the road.

I felt changed by the birth of this baby who I hadn't even met, from a woman I barely knew.

Seeing her that evening reminded me what a rite of passage it is to birth a baby. She rested up in bed, whilst family members padded around the house, cooking, looking after. I popped briefly upstairs at her insistence. I would have left them in peace but she wanted to see me...ah the mystery of it all.

Her eyes met mine and she knew that I knew she'd been brave, met the challenge, even though the terrain was so different from her wishes and expectations. I acknowledged that for her, speaking as I was guided, it wasn't even me, but whoever, working through my hollow bones, to give her the words that would support her as she journeys on, with her baby at her breast.


Tuesday, 4 September 2018

To Birth. "A fresh, perfect gift; closing & opening a chapter in a lifetime."

Helen has allowed me to share her beautiful and intense birth story and pictures. If you would like to share your story here, drop me a line at Wildbirth@outlook.com.

Two days away from 42 weeks pregnant I had that ‘fully baked’ feel. Manoeuvring around had taken on a whole new pace and there was very little I could do in a hurry. Pieces of pineapple, plates of curry, long walks along rough, shingled beaches, even a taste of acupuncture with the moxa scent and vibes after….nothing seemed to inspire this little baby into life on the other side. He was clearly comfortable.

 Knowing the call to induction was fast approaching I called on a doula friend with vast experience and a solid track record of helping women start labour naturally. I knew I had to put my full trust in her as I was keen to avoid any nudges or manufactured ‘starts’ from the hospital. So I dived in; full mind, body & spirit, to the session with her.

 Autumn felt like it was truly closing up….I had watched the leaves change tones all the weeks before, a fresh experience after years of living abroad and missing the seasons. But this was it, a morning late in November that she arrived at our door, ready to bring on the alchemy of inviting the child in & breaking through any last defences or shields to the process that I might have been carrying.

 That afternoon I felt lighter, as though a load had lifted and there was a ‘bring it on’ feeling as I fell into a deep sleep. Not long after midnight I woke up with a sharp feeling in my abdomen, like menstrual cramps, it felt intense but was quickly over. I even went back to bed, in the dead of night, hazy minded…after so many months it was almost disbelief that my baby might really be on his way. But in minutes there was another one, then another, strong enough to pull me to the bathroom somehow thinking I might manage things better in there. I called out across the corridor, finally realising this could well be the beginning.

 I had enjoyed the gap and absence of my menstrual cycles and I felt excited that these hits of feeling were at a whole new level. By the time I had got downstairs though, literally a few minutes later, another wave came but this one had me bent over. There was a sense of ‘fast and fury’, as though the little one had finally had enough of waiting. I called the midwives on shift just to help get a sense of where we were at. Things has started pretty suddenly and were moving so quickly they were keen we made our way there straight away. The next part was a blur, I saw the splashes of blood run down my leg & just collapsed into the softness of the sofa, knowing that my doula was on her way, later telling me that there was no way she would miss this. She arrived at the same time as two paramedics. It was already so far away from the home birth by the fireside I had envisaged & I hadn’t encouraged their arrival, but all my inhibitions had already dissolved & barely dressed we moved out in to the night.

 It took me by surprise how resolute I was, but feeling I had waited a fair while, holding off on interventions & the hospital’s suggestions, nothing in me was going to back down now. From my first refusal of the gas & air, to my firm decline of a scalp electrode, it always felt clear on the inside that we wouldn’t need meddling with. All my energy seemed engulfed by the rolling contractions but somehow in between I managed to fix on pieces of clarity, gleams of information I could hear from the midwife, that made firm my faith to decline extra suggestions from the doctor.

 I had energy for the waves that pulled through me, to stand off interventions, speak out against them, & ultimately to drop into the music, but nothing else, nothing extra. It was as though life was crystallised, into now, the moment, just the vital pieces that would spur us on, but anything unfinalized, still yet undecided, fell to the wayside. It was me, my doulas, the kindness in my midwife’s voice, the shiny glow she brought to the room and my baby, warm & determined, on his way.

 Some describe labour as a labyrinth & much of it is, as it turns and weaves in its own directive. Mostly I remember the stillness of the pool, its peace. It had taken so much to get there; reading from months ago, knowing which drugs to avoid, what I needed to refuse so that we could make connection with the water. To feel the free float. To drop into submersion.

 Apparently we were in there nearly six hours but to me it just felt like a timeless zone. By then all the fear had melted away….As the midwife fretted that the CTG had lost connection I could already feel him and I knew all was well. I started to refuse the other things she wished to measure & record. Once I felt him in me like that, so calm, so ready, so at peace, that was stronger than all the labels, the uniforms, the readings. They all fell away. I kept reassuring the staff that all was fine, that he had his own timing. As though his voice from within.

 It was an epic journey from start to finish, the initial shooting feeling in my bed at home, like an internal firework, to the euphoria of feeling him wriggle & squirm inside, then rush down my birth canal on his way out. Drug-free, I felt present for all of it, every twist and turn. My desert baby. All the way from the Empty Quarter, the largest contiguous sand desert on Earth, he came through safely with a proud cry as he rested on my breast. A fresh, perfect gift; closing & opening a chapter in a lifetime


Monday, 20 November 2017

'We'll keep you safe, you keep us wild' ~ The birth of Indio Wild

I am so privileged to share with you the birth story of Indio Wild. Thank you Holly Vincent for your beautiful words and pictures. If you would like to share your birth story in a guest post drop me a line on wildbirth@outlook.com

Indio Wild, this is for you, so when you grow up you will know exactly how you came into this world and how insanely proud I am of you, of us, our journey. It is magic.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

The Road to IVF Abroad

White Bear Plush Toy on Baby Mobile

October's guest blog is by Dr Caroline Phillips, a former senior embryologist and founder of Fertility Clinics Abroad, which is a free information portal for people who are considering travelling abroad for fertility treatment.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Question. I'm Breastfeeding,..is the food I'm eating affecting my baby? Answer. Very probably not.

Free stock photo of food, person, hands, woman

After nine months of avoiding soft cheeses, rare steaks, chorizo, sushi, a glass of wine or a beer with your dinner,

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Cultural Barriers to the Initiation of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding peer support on the post natal ward is different to supporting new families in the community clinics. Here in the ward I

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Menopause and Me.

This is my story.  I totally get that it may not be like this for other women.  I believe in the power of stories, which is why I want to tell this one.
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