A (Positive) Birth Story for a Change.
September 25, 2017
It's 7 months since the birth of my little man, Xavier. It never occurred to me to share my birth story, because a) it's a private experience and b) I didn't think people would really care. However, through The Brisbane Barre Studio I've been meeting more and more women who are either pregnant with their first, or are planning to have a family soon, and have shared with me that they are petrified of labour. I completely understand this. I felt exactly the same way, heck I didn't even want children for the most part (but that's a different story).
So to come out the other side and say that I will forever remember my birthing experience as one of the most awe-inspiring and positive experiences of my life. is a big call - but it's true. Here's the thing, there are lots and lots of women who have had positive experiences, and the more that I heard those stories the greater the belief that I had in myself leading up to my due date. Let me clarify - when I say a positive experience, I mean that you're not petrified, you believe that you can handle whatever happens and you feel supported and NEVER alone.
I went from petrified at the beginning of pregnancy, to having this unwavering belief that I could do this. The result? A spontaneous, quickish 6 hour (active phase) labour, with 20 minutes pushing, no complications, completely natural and no medicated pain relief. It was exactly as I had envisioned in my mind over and over, and over the 9 months prior. Don't get me wrong it was the most intense thing ever. Like nothing I've ever experienced, and it pushed me to my edge. In hindsight I loved that. I loved that I needed to step up and believe in myself and trust my body like never before. It was a fast and intense labour that towards the end had me on the shower floor, clinging onto every ounce of strength that I had left. It was hard, hard work in every possible way.
And then before I knew it, I had my little guy in my arms. It was surreal, and fast! My OB didn't even make it to the hospital in time and I can remember giving my birth team a high-five - yelling out "we did it team"...
I'm sharing my story to demonstrate that for every "bad" story you may hear; I think there are just as many "good" stories. And while every woman's experience is unique, and it's part luck/part preparation what happens on the day, if you're out there a little nervous (read scared shit less) about labour, below are the things that helped me the most:
1. Cheryl - my doula. Total game changer. If you don't know what a doula is, or you think they're all hippy then please check out this lady at Ideal Birth. Cheryl was my birth coach, that person in my corner who believed in me (long before I believed in myself), who had been present at hundreds of births before and who on the day intuitively knew what I needed. Over the course of my pregnancy my husband and I met Cheryl to talk things through and get emotionally and mentally prepared. Worth every penny. Truly.
2. This book - Birth Skills by Juju Sundin. This is the book that took me from, "maybe I can do this" to " bring it on - I've got this". It's practical, there's no bullshit and explains in simple language what your body is actually doing. As a fitness professional this book appealed to me as it explained why we experience pain and most importantly how the hell do we deal with it. It also explains what you need to do to rest between each contraction.If you're wanting to try for an active labour get this book.
3. Having a plan/s to "match the pain". There's no two ways about it, you have a muscle (your uterus) working incredibly hard during labour and it hurts. According to Juju's book you need to have a way to "channel the pain out". Plan A for me was to stomp, squat and walk around during each contraction, except that on the day my contractions were so intense that my legs would shake (yes -like in a barre class) uncontrollably during each contraction, there was no way I was walking anywhere. So I moved to Plan B. On all fours, punching like mad into a bean bag and yelling out in the weirdest primal, cave-woman noise I have ever heard. Kind of embarrassing at first, but you get over yourself pretty damn quickly.
4. My (simple) mantra. "I'm doing this, I'm doing this, I'm doing this" I repeated this over and over and over before, during and after each contraction. Labour is a mental battle with yourself for the most part. My fear kept telling me I couldn't do it, but I knew better. I don't know how I knew, but I just knew that if could hang on, stay present and trust the process that I could get through it without the need for any pain-relief.
5. Last but certainly not least, my husband. What a trooper, I never felt like I was doing it alone. Sure, I did the heavy lifting but I think back on my labour as a true team effort, with my husband with me every step of the way. I think it really set the benchmark for how well we co-parent now. Ladies, when it comes to this, ask for what you want from your partner (beforehand).
I've been very hesitant to share my story. I don't want any women to feel like giving birth has to be done a certain way to be "right". I don't want a woman to feel disappointed that their experience turned out differently or that if you do need pain relief that it's weak - not AT ALL. As I said, a positive experience in my view is one where you go into it believing that you can handle whatever happens, you feel supported, heard and NEVER alone. The more that you know that this can happen the better you'll feel, regardless of how that little person arrives in your arms.