You read all the books, research all the options, and map out your perfect birth plan.
You eat right, exercise, and do all the things to ensure you’re growing a healthy baby and preparing your body for a healthy birth.
Then your Birth Day comes
and Nature takes the reins.
My water broke on a Tuesday at 11 in the morning. I was 37 weeks and 3 days pregnant with my first baby.
Still in bed, I was enjoying my last few weeks of solitary sleep when my baby boy kicked me and I felt a gush of water. I was so excited! The time had finally come! I called my husband, my midwife, and my doula. My husband met me at the midwives’ office and I was checked to see how far along I was in labor. Turns out I wasn’t in labor at all. I was 50% effaced and not even an inch dilated. So they sent me home with instructions to drink castor oil, take a walk, and be at the hospital by 8 that night if things didn’t progress sooner.
When we met our doula at the hospital that night, my contractions were getting stronger, but it still wasn’t active labor. I was frustrated, my hopes of a birth free of intervention was dwindling away. The midwife on call suggested we use a Foley bulb instead of a medicated induction. It was my only option. The bulb was put in at 11pm and my midwife left saying she’d see me in the morning. It would take hours for the bulb and my body to do their thing.
In the end our son’s birth was an emergency cesarean.
Ultimately he was not responding well during pushing contractions. We tried a few different position changes in hopes of bringing his heart rate back up. But when that didn’t help, I was rushed to the OR. The moments before I was put under anesthesia were a combination of panic and complete surrender. There was nothing I could do, the birth of my baby was no longer in my hands. One of my biggest fears had come true. I woke up groggy with my husband next to me and all I could get out was, “Does he have 10 fingers and 10 toes?” before falling back to sleep.
The first few days and weeks after he was born were a foggy mixture of bliss and pain, sleepless nights, and newborn snuggles.
As my body began to heal and we finally had breastfeeding figured out, my mind kept asking, “Why?” What happened that caused me to be unable to birth my baby boy the way I had so meticulously planned and hoped for months? My midwife gave no explanation except to disagree with the surgeon, who said my son’s head was stuck at an odd angle. When I tried voicing my feelings to others, I often got a response along the lines of “You have a healthy baby, that’s all that matters.” Which is of course true! I would give anything to ensure my baby was born safely. But I was still grieving the loss of the birth I had hoped for and processing the traumatic experience of an emergency situation.
Obviously there’s no way to know exactly what happened or why.
It took a long time for me to accept it, though, and I started by playing the blame game. I blamed my midwife and the interventions. I was angry that I wasn’t given more time to let my body work on its own before using any interventions. And I blamed my body for not being good enough. I felt so much shame and guilt.
Healing began with forgiveness.
My logical mind knew that both my body and my midwife did their best in the moment. Even if I wasn’t happy with certain decisions made, I was grateful we were both safe. Forgiving my body was an act of unconditional acceptance. I couldn’t change it now. Once I released the blame and shame I found what was really driving all of these feelings: fear.
My yoga teacher taught us that the root of all emotions is either love or fear.
I thought I went into my birth with a positive mindset. I had everything I needed. There was clary sage in a diffuser, crystals lined up on the window sill, the warm glow of a salt lamp was the only light in the room. The nurse even commented on how peaceful it was. My husband and doula were there to help me with anything I may have needed. But none of it mattered when, under these superficial attempts to bring surrender, I was terrified. I was so afraid that I would not be able to go through with it. That when push came to shove, my body was not capable of birthing my baby boy. I was terrified that the one thing I didn’t want was actually going to happen. I had written my fate when I wrote my birth plan.
Coming to this realization did not feel good but the only way out was through. I began to process the fear with meditation and body work.
The meditations focused on the pelvic bones. In the beginning it was hard to connect with them. With practice I became intimate with the anatomy of my pelvic bowl. I learned how to manipulate the pelvic bones and would connect with this space every night before bed.
Meditating on your bone structure allows the nervous system to relax as it understands where your body is in space and time.
It is a way of telling the brain that you are safe. It was incredibly grounding. Body work came in the form of massage. Initially, once my scar had healed I tried to pretend it didn’t exist. It was a reminder of my failure. Now though, as I massaged it with oil, feeling the lumps inside and out, I began to feel compassion towards my scar and towards the entire womb. This massage also became a daily practice.
As the scar tissue softened so did my fear of my body and its power.
As I became more intimate with my body, I was replacing the fear with acceptance, understanding, and most importantly, love.
The work I was doing didn’t become obvious until I became pregnant with my second baby. As my baby girl grew I stayed more present in my body, grounded in my bones. I visualized my body giving birth and how I would feel, rather than focusing on what I did not want to happen. As her birth approached I was fully open to the innate power and knowledge of my body. In the end, it was unconditional love and trust that let me have the birth I had hoped for all along. My mantra through the final stages of labor and pushing my baby Earthside was from a song by Alexa Sunshine Rose and it went,
I release control and surrender to the love that will heal me.
Kaitlyn Desider lives at the Jersey Shore with her husband, two young children and their dog. Food is her love language and she is happiest in the kitchen cooking nourishing food for loved ones. She is currently finishing an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Coach certificate and studying with the Center for Sacred Window Studies to be an Ayurvedic Postpartum Caregiver. She can’t wait to share her passion for living in tune with nature with women, and especially new moms.
Photo credit: Michelle Amy Photography