When I was pregnant and used to get asked at which hospital I was going to give birth, I would tell people I intended to give birth at home and the response was always the same – you are so brave. But my reply was always – I think you are so brave. To me hospital, where there was so little chance of me getting what I needed to give birth, felt like the more frightening option.
The other comment I’ve had is ‘you were lucky’. I’m not so sure. I have no experience of giving birth at a hospital. My life, my choice and my path were completely different. Bu I am sure our positive birth wasn’t just down to luck. We put a lot of preparation into it.
I spent ten months studying, working with my fears, expressing them through creativity, talking to the baby, keeping a journal about my feelings. Together with my husband we attended weekly birth preparation group meetings, watched films, read books. I think our intentions and conscious energy influences and creates our life events. If you don’t know your options, then the only ones that are left are those that someone else offers to you.
My first inspiration was the film “Orgasmic Birth”. I watched it before getting pregnant. I don’t remember how exactly but I stumbled upon that film online. I watched it glued to the screen and was left completely astounded. I could not understand why up until that point I had never heard that it was possible, that women were so strong and powerful, and that everything was so simple and natural, the body knew what to do.
I was completely shocked. How come my mum had never told me such stories? Why do we never see that in films? Why is birth always just the screaming, flashing lights, rushing, women all red from screaming and it all ends when the doctors-experts hand the baby to the mum?
That film for me was like the first awakening. I saw it and I realized that I also wanted this, just like those women. If they can do it, why couldn’t I create the same conditions, the same environment, the same team, and the same preparation as they did?
My husband was very supportive. Now, looking back on it, I am genuinely surprised that he told me without any doubt – all right, as you wish. Because I know women who would like to do it but have doubts, and then the husband says – absolutely not.
In such cases, even living in a country where women can choose where and how they want to give birth, it cannot happen. Support and the team are very important. If a husband is to participate in birth, his fears need to be reviewed as well. Concealed feelings will most certainly surface during the birth and can strongly interfere. Successful birth requires open connection and support from all participants. It was very beautiful and natural that he agreed to learn.
So we read, studied and listened to everything together. I completely immersed myself and was like an information sponge. There is so much of it. It is necessary to have strong filters because there is so much negative information which is useless – you end up acquiring someone else’s fears. It was very clear that we were looking for the information confirming that giving birth was possible, beautiful, positive, natural. And from there what you need appears - the books, the films, the people we needed.
We found a group of midwives in Madrid who work with families wanting to have home births. Every week we had meetings. And when we agreed with them that they would come to our home, we met for personal consultations, clarified our desires, expectations, and discussed what was acceptable and possible.
We did a birth plan, a very detailed one. We had agreed with the midwives that in an extreme case they would have gone together to the hospital. We had a list of our requests and important conditions and wanted to have our choices respected. How my body was treated, as well as the baby. If we had needed a Caesarean, I asked for that to be gentle as well, so that the transition would be a lesser shock to the baby and to us. The birth plan was an important detail of our preparation for birth – we thoroughly thought it through, discussed what and why was important to us.
Usually the midwives attend the birth in pairs, so in my labour, there were two women and my husband. During the last minutes of birth I hid from everyone. I didn’t want any people around. All mammals do this, cat giving birth to kitten, a dog to puppies – they hide from everyone. But I needed the support to help create the space.
My husband also really needed the support. Even though we have been together for five years, he had never seen me in such a state. This was a new experience. And being next to experienced, trusted women, I think made him calm.
It was very important to me when I was told that the end was very near. Such confirmation, that everything was well and that I will live through it from women who had seen it many times was reassuring.
My baby was born into my own hands. I hid in a dark shower cabin and the midwife couldn’t see anything. As it was the first birth for me, usually they try not to leave women on their own. But at one point in between contractions my husband came in and I told him I needed to be on my own, so they were trying to respect my request.
Only at the very end, one of the midwives very, very quietly snuck in between the contractions. I thought she would say, that’s it, Asta, we cannot wait anymore, it’s all getting so intense that we need to transfer to a hospital.
But I was full of this energy like a she-wolf – it seemed to me that had I heard that, I would have run off into the mountains, nobody would have been able to interrupt. But she came in and said – this is it, it’s so close, so near.
This was exactly the support that I needed. By the way, my waters had not broken before birth. And at one point I felt that I had to break them for the baby’s head to descend, the process to move on and complete itself. It was as if this knowing came from within that I had to do it. One can think that this is totally primitive, like in some swamps, but on the other hand the body truly knows what it needs in each moment.
I don’t know if my daughter would be less calm had she been born differently – I don’t have any way to compare. But we have a very strong bond. She doesn’t speak yet but it’s very clear to me what she wants – babies can communicate their needs in other ways.
I am just immensely happy about this beginning and I keep coming back to those first hours after her birth. They were the most sacred hours of my life. To be at our home, with our own food, tea… all of us lying down on big mattresses on the floor with my husband and the little one who was still attached to her placenta. We spent two or three hours like this. I had picked a name, we were looking at her and my husband told me – I think she really looks like Leila. It was like our very own baptism of our baby. No separation, no weighing no other interferences – all of that can be done a few days later. I think it really shows in my daughter – she has no memories of being without us or with people who were insensitive or inattentive. We chose to be on our own the first days. To understand our new routines, to look at the baby, and to spend time within our new changed family. My husband was completely devoted – he prepared for me all kinds of smoothies, food, and simply was by our side.
I’ve heard that no matter how life unfolds – sometimes women forget the names of their husbands, but the stories of how they gave birth remain. If that story is difficult, they go own carrying this burden… and not because of the process itself but because of how they were treated in a hospital, how they got scared or pressured.
Even old women tell their stories like they are new. I think that often how we were treated and the birth itself blend into one and we do not see a difference. Then we write off the birth and even being a woman as hell.
The bond with the baby, the joy of being a mum, postpartum depression, problems with breastfeeding – I think that the disruption of the birth process disrupts everything that follows and affects the woman’s attitude towards herself, her child, motherhood and womanhood in general. A birthing woman is in a special state when she is very receptive of the influence of the environment – and it all remains very strong in her memory.
I really like the saying that when a baby is born, a mum is born. It feels as if a reset button has been pressed – completely new. There is nothing that I cannot do. Period. This process empowers so strongly – even for the motherhood itself.
I have so much patience and a feeling that I know what happens with my daughter and how to help her. For example, one hot day she got some sort of a rash – and my first reaction was fear, moments later followed by knowing that this is my child and she is well, I will put some chamomile or calendula cream on.
There is this trust in myself as a mum: I gave birth to this baby, therefore all other resources are within me. This knowing that all is possible.
I am not saying that all women should have home births, because every woman should give birth where she feels safest. First and foremost, all of us birthing mammals need the production of oxytocin, and that is only possible in an environment where you feel safe. When you are scared, lost, confused or afraid – the chemistry of the body is completely different, the processes are different. Doctors are often scared of what’s natural because many of them have not seen it. I really want for there to be one more choice because it seems that often we choose without knowing about other options. I think that many women could be witnesses to that a year or two later, looking back, one can think that not all of it was well. Although in the beginning many hear – the most important part is that the baby is here and you are alive.
This phrase – all that matters is that it ended well – is so deeply ingrained! But when you think about it, there is nothing positive in it – just the denial of emotions, attempt to block, forget and ignore another person’s feelings.
Obviously, it is important that the baby is fine. But what about good mood, energy, milk – all of it is there when a mum feels well, is confident and has inner peace and strength.
When I worked in Nepal, I remember talking to one woman. She told me that after women give birth, they return back to their mother and for 40 days the mum and the baby receive daily massages. During this whole time they are looked after and they don’t have to do anything – just to feed the baby and eat. From our perspective it may seem like such a luxury. Who can let themselves lie down and be massaged for 40 days? But those first weeks, when the woman is between the worlds, newly reborn, are so sacred and in need of nurture.
My heart aches listening to my friends or acquaintances who tell me three days after giving birth “oh well, I am already doing the shopping”. Even if it is the easiest birth in the world, there is nothing more important at that moment than simply being in that special space, being with the baby, resting, being pampered. I really think it is what is needed. Kitchen, laundry, going out can all wait, you will organise it all later. But in order to receive so much love, it is important to be supported by husband, mum, doula or anyone else close.