My birth story – the ultimate mindset challenge.
Birth is a mystery, reflected my Doula Leah during the debrief of my experience.
While we couldn’t predict how or when our son-shine would arrive Earth side, I knew I could control my mindset to be as Rhea Dempsey calls it, a “savvy birthing woman”.
Plan A in my extremely comprehensive birth plan was to have a home birth. In a birthing pool in what is now our son’s nursery, with the support of my birthing team (more on that below).
Our “vision” for the safe delivery of our miracle baby was twofold: We view birth as a natural event; not a medical event (unless absolutely necessary). We wish it to be calm, joyful and divine, natural and unmedicated.
While not quite to plan, here’s how it unfolded.
My birth lasted for some 71 hours. Three whole days.
My waters broke on a Thursday evening after bubs’ “tenth moon” ultimately culminating in the arrival of our son-shine on a Sunday evening. I had a two-day pre-labour, and about a day of active labour. “Little legend” I’d say after each Doppler check of his always steady heartbeat.
While labouring at home, I took no pain or other medication.
Instead, I embraced all the natural ways to “trick” my pain receptors: two separate water injections into my back, using a TENS machine, time in the bath aka water therapy, meditation, repeating birthing affirmations, as well as squeezing a hairdressing comb in each hand during each surge (I liked that word better than contraction).
We tried every active birth position under the sun. Side note, Peleton bikes make for great pushing stations – I almost ended up giving birth on one!
This included unexpectedly enlisting the help from real life angel and chiropractor Dr Michelle Ronan. Despite being fully dilated and bubs being in seemingly optimal position, our little guy couldn’t quite get deep enough down in my pelvis, without medical intervention.
In the end, I chose to be ambulanced to hospital.
My uterus was conking out and by that stage I had given it my absolute all. On advice and intuition, it was time to invoke Plan B. At 40 weeks + 2 days, bubs was delivered naturally with the assistance of a vacuum operated by our private obstetrician, and a bonus episiotomy for me. Bubs achieved an AGPAR score of 9.
So here are some tips on how I nurtured a ripper mindset for what ended up being an extraordinary birth experience:
1 – Assemble a birth team that’s right for you.
They say it takes a village, right?
In addition to my incredible husband being right by my side the entire time, at home we also had a Doula (appointed during first trimester), a primary midwife (appointed during second trimester), then a secondary midwife during active labour (as required under law), and as mentioned above unexpectedly a chiropractor. All pregnancy, we also saw a private obstetrician for tandem medical checks and in case we had to enact Plan B, being a hospital birth.
Being birthing first timers and after a rocky fertility journey and this our sixth pregnancy, we invested in ensuring we were fully supported every labouring step of the way.
2 – Face Everything And Rise.
Do you know that we are the only mammals to immediately associate “pain” with birth, and fear it?
Whilst my pain tolerance track record wasn’t great going into labour, I wasn’t a pain relief pill popper either. The cascading interventions that come with a hospital birth scared me more. Instead, I aspired to let go of labour pain fears and redirected the energy towards rewiring my mindset about labour pain.
“Pain is a gateway, and the part of the natural process that leads us to the altered states of consciousness where there is no pain, just birth and ecstasy”, writes home birth guru Jane Hardwicke Collings.
From about 18 weeks, I religiously engaged in a daily practice to get me comfortable with the uncomfortable. In my pregnancy safe mindset training toolkit I had breathwork, short cold showers, holding ice cubes in my hand until they melted, yoga, massage, prenatal strength classes, reformer pilates and performing an inordinate number of squats as well as active birth movements.
I left no birth fear unresolved or undiscussed, studying birth like a PhD: reading all the books, pouring over the research, attending classes, workshops and listening to podcasts.
3 – Make Informed Choices.
Having earned a high level of health literacy and having a low risk-high risk pregnancy (mainly because of my age and miscarriage history), as mentioned above, home birth was our “Plan A”.
In an age where care providers recommend medical intervention for an increasingly wide swath of possibilities, our cultural lens of normal [birth] has significantly narrowed, write Meredith & Alicia of Intentional Birth.
In Australia, home births still remain unconventional: in 2020 the national homebirth rate was 0.5% up from 0.3% in 2019. It’s 2% in the UK and the option is covered by the NHS, whereas it’s all out of pocket in Australia.
From my mother-in-law to some of my closest friends, my decision to have a home birth – as an informed choice – ignited a strong fear response and some tense conversations. While not always easy, I became adept at managing others’ projections of their own birth trauma and fear knowing that their story was not going to be mine.
Indeed, the length of mine was an outlier by all medical accounts.
Birth may be a mystery but one thing’s for sure: I met my ferocious inner personal power and true inner knowing climbing the equivalent of Mt Everest across those three days of labouring. And although it was utterly wild being a savvy birthing woman, I’m enjoying the most precious view as his Mama.
This working Mum is still on a mission to helping law and business adapt to the digital age. FYI, I’m slowly returning to work at the moment – freelance remote General Counsel work, some legal tech consulting via Anna Lozynski Advisory, and helping to run inCite Legal Tech. Let’s connect if I can help.