“A woman, as long as she lives, will remember how she was made to feel at her birth.” -Anna Verwaal
This is one of my favorite quotes about birth. I don’t remember when I first heard it, probably in my Doula training, but I just recently learned that Anna Verwaal is a Dutch midwife!
My other favorite quote is by the legendary midwife, Ina May Gaskin.
“If a woman doesn’t look like a Goddess during labor, then someone isn’t treating her right.”
These quotes sum up the reason why I believe I had such a positive birth experience. My midwife and my husband were my main supports, and dare I say, they made me feel like a Goddess. I actually don’t think I really understood Ina May’s quote till now. I thought it was a bit much. But after looking at the photos of me from during birth, they really do capture how I felt.
I felt beautiful in the same way as when you’re on a mountain top after a hard hike and you feel beautiful with the sun shining on you and the wind in your hair. It doesn’t matter that you’re all sweaty, or wearing ugly hiking boots, or that your hair is a mess from the wind – you still feel beautiful in that moment. That’s how I felt. I could feel my midwife’s and Brooks’ complete trust and confidence in me, my body, and the birth process. Because of this, I never once doubted that I could do it. I never once said “I can’t do this.”
Don’t get me wrong, I realize that laboring for just 10 hours, all during daytime hours, and after a good night’s sleep is extremely lucky. I think so much of your birth experience has to do with the circumstances you’re dealt with, which are out of your control. I’ve always said from the beginning, if my labor goes longer than 20 hours and I’m utterly exhausted and need to sleep, you bet your ass I’m going to the hospital to get that epidural.
But I do believe my preparations and birth provider choices also had a huge part in why I had a positive birth experience.
The two “scarier” parts of my birth – the meconium in the amniotic fluid and the blood loss, didn’t feel scary in the moment because I knew what the risks were and what my options were. I also had 100% trust in my midwife. My midwife was calm and skilled in both situations and I trusted that if something really was an emergency, she would swiftly make the call to transfer to the hospital or to call an ambulance.
It’s funny to reflect on what actually helped me the most with the pain. Brooks and I took a hypnobirthing class together, and I read the hypnobirthing book, but I already knew right after the course and book, that it wasn’t for me. I somehow knew that the things I learned in my doula training were going to be much more helpful to me.
The hypnobirthing stuff felt like a nice goal, whereas the doula stuff I learned was for the reality of birth. Don’t get me wrong, the power of our breath and visualization are super helpful, but it was more my years of yoga practice and breathing that helped me, rather than any hypnobirthing breathing technique or guided meditation.
I had told Brooks before the birth that what I needed the most from him was to be by my side – to hold my hand, give me drinks of water, feed me, and encourage me. That is exactly what he did and I am so grateful. I only ate once during labor and my food of choice in the moment was cherries and plain yogurt with honey.
My midwife was the one who did counter pressure and hip squeezes, as well as held my hand and coached my breathing. As much as I love my husband, there really is no replacement for the counter pressure and hip squeezes of a woman who has done it a million times before.
We played music softly in the background, lit candles, and diffused essential oils, but honestly I didn’t notice any of it. I was so far inward that I barely opened my eyes. But then there were moments when I would come out of it just for a brief moment and feel totally alert and aware. For example, I don’t remember seeing my birth photographer a single time, but I surprised everyone in the room when I “came to” and fixed my hair and asked Brooks if it looked good, because I wanted it to look good in the photos – ha! There were also times where I was “with it” enough to ask for specific essential oils I wanted in the moment.
Immediately after delivering Koa, I remember feeling really disappointed that I didn’t get that natural birth oxytocin high. I had heard many women describe a flood of love beyond anything they’d ever felt, but I didn’t feel that. I think the blood loss may have had something to do with that, which ultimately negatively affected my milk supply.
My breastfeeding journey was extremely challenging for those first two months, which I will share in more detail soon, but I’ll stop here for now. Thanks for coming along the journey with me!
Photography by Biggy Tooth