Birth of a Boy
I was after the ‘full flash’ experience as a girlfriend of mine called it – the ecstatic, orgasmic, sensual birth. I knew it was possible without drugs, without intervention, as nature intended. I wanted that unique high; the oxytocin rush only childbirth can provoke. I wanted those bonding moments with my baby; the experience of pure love flowing immediately after birth, when mother and newborn are in an alert state of awareness. More than anything I wished for the baby to be born into this world gently. But as I say in my book, it’s best not to get stuck in your own script.
Birth can never be planned and we really allowed our baby to surprise us. We didn’t know the sex or name (unlike a yoga class I went to, where women were saying things like, “I’m 26 weeks pregnant and it’s a boy called Oscar”) and we took our chances by travelling to the town where the birthing clinic was one day before the ‘date’. Sure enough our little surprise decided to stick to Swiss time. On Saturday September 3rd – the baby’s due date – after a walk along the seafront, I felt mild contractions starting. And around midnight on the 3rd labour commenced.
I shut myself off from the world, as I knew was best for birth. I’d done all the research, read the books (and written one), interviewed the world’s childbirth experts and prepared well through yoga and meditation. And for most of my labour I found a kind of bliss. I laboured in the flat all night and then went to the clinic in the morning where I stayed in my room with the blinds down. I rolled out my yoga mat and did yoga, meditated, cat-napped and danced. Contractions were every 5 to 10 minutes and I was dilating, slowly but surely. The midwife was a gentle soul called Maria who left me alone and checked occasionally and shyly. My partner, Javier, was taking care of our three year-old so they only passed by every couple of hours.
I had moments of extreme happiness where I wept for joy, for love, beckoning the baby to come into this amazing world and help make it a better place. I had moments of ecstasy dancing, reminding me of the all-night summer parties in Ibiza where exhaustion and euphoria go hand in hand. And I pushed through the pain so that it didn’t feel like pain anymore.
Around 7 or 8pm on the evening of September 4th I was about 5-6 cm dilated and asked to enter the birthing pool to see if it could advance labour. The doctor came to check me on his rounds. The baby had still not engaged into the pelvis. He was sceptical as my last birth lasted two days and nights and ended with an in-labour C-section. This birth was not progressing any faster. Discussions were had and decisions were made. When you’re in a birthing clinic or hospital there is only so much arguing you can do with the staff. So far the baby had shown no signs of distress but another night of labour could be tough on both of us. Sometimes in life you have to let go of resistance. As my midwife Maria said; “Babies decide how they want to be born”. If you’re a baby coming to this world in 2011 in a high-tech environment maybe you’d choose a caesarean too.
It wasn’t the birth I had hoped for but every birth is magical in its own way. I have a small, dark brown birthmark on my lower belly. During my first caesarean the incision was made exactly through the birthmark. This time it was the same. And the baby was positioned exactly like its brother, head down but facing towards the navel – often problematic for natural delivery. But this time when I was cut open the baby moved in the womb, turning away from the doctors’ hands. I watched them shrugging shoulders at each other until eventually (and it felt like ages) the head OB caught hold of the baby and pull it out by the legs. This is when Javier saw that it was a boy. Our little boy may have wanted to stay inside a little longer. I guess he just didn’t want to be bothered in his oceanic bliss. Maybe it was this that led to complications. My uterus wouldn’t stop bleeding and I ended up having to stay in surgery another hour while the baby was with his father and brother. Eventually I got to hold my newborn son. They placed him naked on my chest and he stayed there, like that. All night.
The question I had to ask the OB was why are there so many caesareans today, even in his natural birth clinic? In my book I talk about the reasons which include personal choice, highly medicalised, techno-centric birth environments, fear of litigation and money. My OB is famous in Spain for his books and his forward-thinking clinic with the country’s first water births. He criticizes planned caesarians, saying they merely suit doctor’s schedules, not mothers or babies. In-labour caesarians are to be preferred because the baby is ready, his lungs are ripe and the mother’s uterus is softer. He reckons that around a third of C-sections are due to badly positioned babies. But why are there so many badly positioned babies? The main reason is that western women are far too sedentary. Women in the developing world who work in fields and squat to cook and eat don’t have this problem. Pygmies, for example, have proportionally the biggest babies in the world but easy, brief births. However, they don’t slump over computers at desks or lounge around on sofas watching TV (eating potato chips). Sitting like this tilts the pelvis back and encourages the baby to lie against your spine. I must admit I was rather lazy in the last months of pregnancy. Despite daily yoga I did a lot of sitting (at the computer…being a writer) and lying down. My reflexologist said during our last session that I needed to do more walking to get the baby to engage into the pelvis. But by then it may have been too late. My chilled-out baby was very happy hanging out where he was.
Who knows, if I ever have a third baby (all still possible, especially if I stick to the fertility advice in my book) maybe I will have the water birth I dreamt of (literally). But for now I count my blessings. We have two healthy sons; two beautiful boys – two special stargazers who came to the world through my birthmark.