I wanted to share with you some of the highlights from the birth of my beautiful daughter, Piper. But more importantly, I want to recommend some strategies, tips and tools that I found to be extremely helpful when preparing for child birth.
Part Three – My Birthing Guide
How to Bust Through Birthing Fear
The biggest key to a natural birth is to trust the wisdom of your body. Busting through fear was the biggest hurdle in my birthing preparation. I was really scared of all the things that could go “wrong”, but mostly of the pain.
Fear can elicit the stress response, and stress has been found to delay or even stop the birthing process. When a woman was giving birth in the wild, if a tiger was to appear in the distance, the stress response delays labour to enable the woman to move to a safe location. But when we are unnecessarily stressed during labour, a woman’s cervix can even reduce dilation! So by reducing fear, we can reduce the likelihood of eliciting the stress response. And here’s how:
- Birthing affirmations – I recited these whenever I was worried about the risk of caesarean or scared about the “pain”. These were things like “I put all fear aside as I prepare to meet my baby”; “The more I relax and surrender, the more gentle the birthing process”. The Hypnobirthing book contained many suggested affirmations.
- Read positive birthing stories – This helps to reinforce that a natural birth is possible, and that women do this every single day. The book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth is full of positive stories, plus the testimonials included in the She Births Online Program also helped. If you have a positive birth story of your own, please feel free to share in the comments below.
- Fear Releasing Ceremony – I actually decided to perform my own fear releasing ceremony the week before I gave birth. I created a crystal mandala and meditated using this guided meditation from The Little Sage. I put my faith into my body, my baby and the power of nature. Through this process, I was able to recognise that having fear over something I can’t really control isn’t actually helpful. Following the ceremony, every time a fear-based thought popped into my mind, I thought back to this ceremony.
- Reframe pain – For me, pain was the scariest part about giving birth. Firstly, let me say that it wasn’t actually as bad as I had thought. Don’t get me wrong, it was pretty intense and exhausting but I thought it would be excruciatingly unbearable. But in the lead up, I didn’t know this. I was fortunate to listen to a talk by Rhea Dempsey, which helped me to reframe pain in my mind. She has also written a wonderful article here.
Hire a Doula
A Doula is a birth support person that has is there for you and your partner during the birthing process. My lovely midwife was very busy throughout the whole birth checking measurements and documenting each stage (hospital policy), so having my Doula there to coach me through each surge and encourage me when I was feeling overwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, my husband was wonderful too, but he didn’t have any experience with labour either, so it could have easily been the blind leading the blind.
My husband was so impressed with our Doula, he has recommended to his friends and colleagues to look into it. We chose a package that provided us with care after giving birth which was also very valuable. I continued to text my doula with questions months after giving birth.
For those in Melbourne who are interested, my wonderful Doula is Fleur from Your Baby, Your Birth.
Knowledge is Power
Even though my aim was to birth naturally and drug-free, I became familiar with most of the medical interventions that may be required. I had a Natural Birth Plan that I shared with my Doula, the hospital and the midwives on duty when we arrived. But I also had a Plan B, in the event of a caesarean birth. The book that best prepared me for the possibility of medical interventions was the Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Dr Sarah Buckley (see Part Two for more information).
What to Pack in Mummy’s “Holistic Hospital Bag”
In addition to the usual list you see online or provided by the hospital, consider adding the following items.
- Coconut water and a reusable straw* (a bent one is easier if you are using the birthing pool!). The electrolytes will assist to bring your body into balance after a such an intense workout.
- Bite-sized healthy snacks, like bliss balls (I didn’t feel like any of these during labour, but afterwards it was great to get something into my tummy). A banana is also great as it’s packed full of magnesium.
- If your hospital allows it, or before you leave for the hospital, a diffuser with essential oils can be very calming. If you are starting to feel anxious, a few drops of lavender or vetiver on wrists and temples can be very useful. (I buy my essential oils here*).
- Lots of maternity pads! (I thought one packet would be enough, but I needed a couple extra). I highly recommend purchasing organic ones, like these from TOM Organics.
- A natural lip balm, as your lips can dry out a quite easily. I like the Hurrah brand.
A Word on Nappies and Baby Wipes
If you haven’t yet considered modern cloth nappies, please do. They are so much easier than you may think – as there is no folding or pinning! We love the Designer Bums brand, as they use a cotton outer shell in the most adorable prints. The inners are made from bamboo and are great quality.
Whether you decide to use cloth nappies or disposables, you could consider reusable baby wipes. These are much better for the environment, but also for your baby’s bum as you avoid the preservatives that are found in almost all disposable wipes. We purchased a Baby Wipe Kit from Cheeky Wipes, which comes with cloth wipes that you wet with water and essential oils.
A Word on Breastfeeding
I had many difficulties with breastfeeding throughout Piper’s first year. It was difficult from Day One, following a very busy night in the birthing suite, I did not receive as much support as I needed, and Piper had been incorrectly latched. I was bruised and grazed making feeding extremely painful. A nipple shield relieved the pain the second day, however it did no favours for my supply, and Piper became very dehydrated and developed jaundice, so we were admitted into the Special Care Nursery on day three. We spent 3 days in the SCN, in which I received an abundance of breastfeeding support.
Unfortunately, it was still not smooth sailing, as we experienced 4 weeks of breast refusal (also known as a nursing strike) when she was 4 months old. It was a very challenging time. We then faced another bout of breast refusal when she was 8 months old. Unfortunately, this time we could not overcome it, so I continued to express and bottle feed breast milk to her from 8 months to date (she is now 14 months). This was such a devastating blow, as I had hoped to breastfeed until she was at least 2 years old. I felt like a failure and had to seek counselling to reconcile with it. But it happens, and there so many other positives that I needed to focus on.
I can’t remember where I read it (I have a feeling it was Pinky McKay), but breastfeeding is very natural. Natural like learning to walk, not natural like breathing. It takes patience, practice and perseverance, and SO much support. My advice is to look into a membership with the Australian Breast Feeding Association, use the lactation consultants provided by your hospital or local council, and regularly communicate with your partner about how you feel.
I couldn’t have been happier with my birthing experience and want to share this blog series to any pregnant or want-to-be pregnant women who are interesting in learning to trust the wisdom of their bodies and aim for natural birth. Find out more below.
*Please note, in the spirit of honesty, I am an affiliate for Biome and Twenty8. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your costs will be the same but Coach Kate will receive a small commission. This helps cover some of the costs for this site. I really appreciate your support!