The term ‘Empowered Birth’ has become a catch phrase of the birthing world… more often associated with natural birth, active birth, orgasmic birth, home birth and less likely to refer to a more medical ‘cascade of intervention’ style birth.
Let’s reflect on how a birthing mother could feel remotely ‘Empowered’ when she is faced with a very different birth scenario than the one she imagined – a long labour that results in a change of birth place, change of birth vision, change of carers and change of birth experience. It’s a familiar story for many new mothers in today’s medical world of ‘active management of labour’ which is dramatically different to ‘active birth’!
Here new mother and doula, Gaby Tudor, shares her intimate birth story and some of her insights from the Empowered Birth of her daughter, Aura Ocean:
During my pregnancy I spent some time coming terms with my own birth and healing myself from the stories I had heard from my mother that birth would be a painful hardship that I would just have to endure. I planned a home birth with midwives from the local Birthing Centre, knowing that I was going to trust my body and baby. I had also organised to have a doula, as well as Joel’s mother to assist us.
Labor started at home, early on Saturday morning with a bit of my water breaking and contractions starting at 3am. They were going well and Joel and I had an amazing full moon beach walk with me stopping to labor beside the ocean. The immense empty beach which was lit up with moonlight made me feel as though we were the first people to walk the earth.
Contractions continued going well and I can remember Joel and his mother whispering that we should call the midwives and start filling up the pool, we thought we would have our baby by lunch. Then things stalled for several hours. Then it picked back up around lunchtime, after Joel and I had some time alone to get refocused and talk through some of my fears.
It was a psychedelic journey as Joel and I chanting and rocking together through contractions, reinforcing positive affirmations which went on for hours at home. Looking back, I just let go and went so deep, exposing everything in my whole being. It was so amazing and I am so in love with Joel for how much energy he gave me.
Around midnight that following night (about 20 hours in) the midwives decided to check to see how far I had progressed and I had only opened to 4 centimetres, but I was almost fully effaced and the midwives said that I had done most of the hard work and the birth could be very close. I can remember hearing the midwives say, “Wow you are a birth goddess Gaby, you are looking amazing”. I was working so hard and doing a good job, but they were still hopeful that I would be able to dilate.
Around 6am we made the call to go to the Birthing Centre for a change of scenery in hope finding renewed inner strength. It was here that the midwives discovered an additional water membrane and decided to break it the in hope that it would help labor to pick up.
I had a quite a few more strong contractions, but nothing rhythmic enough. I stood in the shower for a few hours visualising my cervix opening and asking the baby to move down. Around lunchtime (36 hours in), the casework doctor checked my dilation again and concluded, that because it had been so long and I was becoming exhausted, it would be wise to transfer to Tweed Hospital after I had been in labor for almost 36 hours.
At Tweed they gave me epidural and syntocin to help accelerate labor along, relieve some of the contractions and give me a temporary rest. After an additional examination several hours later, I was still only 4 centimetres. At this point the staff recommended that I have caesarean birth
I trusted my own intuition and with the guidance of my husband, doula and mother in law, I was able to come to a beautiful place of acceptance. Every moment until this point had been my own decision, I had felt so grateful to never have been coerced or pressured into any situation. I knew that I had owned this birth in every way possible. I felt so proud of what my body had been able to achieve and the gift that this birth gave to me. Which was tuning into my own strength and realising the beauty in my divine feminine.
I am eternally grateful to the midwives who assisted me and never doubted my capabilities. Because of all the incredible support I received I felt that I was able to have the birth that I had truly wanted: An empowered birth. A birth experience that was special to me and my child’s journey. And so our beautiful daughter was born at 10:02pm on Sunday 15 June 2014, 43 hours after my water had broken, by caesarean section.