In my hands I am holding a waxy, alien-like body. I can see its eyes blinking at me from under the water. I know that this is my child. I know that despite its legs and bum still waiting to be delivered my son or daughter is here. Our dining room has been converted skilfully and quickly by my husband into an incredible birthing suite including inflatable pool, birthing ball, mood lighting and some generic relaxation music ready for our baby to enter the world. I can hear the midwife saying one more breath and they will be here, as I have my hands surrounding its tiny ribcage, and despite totally knowing what I needed to do I could not, for the life of me, understand what she was saying. What do you mean? One more breath. What? I don't understand. Just a little push. I look to my husband, bewildered. Just like you're doing a lovely poo. Ah, I get it and there HE was. Up through the water to join us in our dining room, altering our life and our sense of love, self and belonging forever. Of course he wasn't aware of that. He had his first breath to take.
I am very, very happy that I had a Hypnobirth. Now, when you say Hypnobirth most people are like, what the hell is that? Does Paul McKenna come round and help you pretend you're a chicken to distract you from the birth experience? Well, no, not for me (Paul was busy). Basically I was drawn to it because I love all things esoteric anyway and if I learnt anything from drama school it was that breathing is very important (money well spent, as you can see). I knew that I wanted as natural a birth as possible, as calm and gentle as it could be. This was from a woman that years ago had said, "You wouldn't have teeth extracted without pain relief so why not take all you can get during labour!" It wasn't until I came to wanting to have a baby that I started to look into the way I could have a present and empowering experience. I'm not saying that using drugs means you can't, but I wanted to experience it as fully as possible and really enter into the profundity of it. I also thought, if a sheep can do it, I blinking well can!
In fact, it was when I started thinking and reading around the subject that I started to realise that in our culture we have moved so far from the natural order of birth that we now anticipate, view, and deal with it like a medical problem to be solved. I started to understand where and why we had begun lying down in the most unhelpful position for birth (thank you Louis XIV who wanted to see his mistress give birth so insisted she lie flat on her back) and why we associate it with such pain and shame (thank you the Victorians). I learnt that fear encourages the production of adrenalin, which consequently tightens our muscles ready for a fight, flight or freeze response, which then rather inevitably causes pain, more fear, more adre...you get the point (thank you overly cautious instinctive response). I realised that if you learn techniques that encourage production of the love and relaxation drug, oxytocin, you are far more likely to keep relaxed, go with your body's rhythm, and have a calm, natural birth.
So many people said to me before I gave birth, "That's all well and good, but when you're in labour you'll want every drug they're offering."
Firstly, piss off. Never ever in my life have more people told me how I will or won't feel than when I was pregnant. Apparently having a bump gives people free reign to be dicks.
Secondly, piss off. Other people said, oh yes my mum said she wanted a natural birth and when it came to it the pain was too horrific. Hmmm, thanks for that. The question I always wanted to ask was how much did she practice? The reason for this question is that wanting to have a "natural" birth without having any relaxation and breathing techniques, or without having done any fear release work, is like turning up at the start line of the marathon without having done any training and expecting to come in under 4 hours. In truth. I practiced. We practiced. My husband was a hugely integral, powerful and inspiring part of our birthing experience. Hypnobirthing gives your birth partner such an important role, which is far from the image I had before of screaming "F*£k of you Ba@s%ard! You did this to me!"
Saying I had a calm, gentle birth does not mean it wasn't an epic challenge. Bloody hell. Imagine if you will (many of you reading this won't need to) the energy of the entire Universe moving through and out of your body. Every surge (that's a contraction for any non-hypno people out there - language is very important) is like the foundations of your physical body being taken for a ride into the realm of Oblivion. The experience of crowning is so intense you think that your retinas may pop out. That's why I don't talk about pain. It doesn't even come close to what is actually felt, experienced, and endured by a birthing mutha.
I can absolutely see why so many women are scared of giving birth and so many men fear for their wives and girlfriends, but until we start having the deepest, open and honest conversations about our visions, fears, and hopes how can we ever dream of cultivating a culture of empowered, brave and kickass women?
So. Let's talk.
Love and labial grazes
Mutha Courage x