Women, Take Back Your Births.
I’ve had four babies, but the one I had an epidural for hurt the most. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true.
I’ve given birth vaginally to four beautiful daughters over the last nine years. The last three were drug-free home births and the first was a hospital birth, and that was the one that hurt the most out of them all. Yep, you heard me right.
My eldest daughter’s birth took place in a hospital after an excruciating 13-hour labor, the last four of which involved an epidural. Despite being numb from the waist down, I still felt a lot of pain and pressure, and pushing her out was not something I ever want to relive again.
It was fairly traumatic as far as births go: there was little empowerment on my behalf, I felt very awash in a sea of people I didn’t know who took turns at looking at my private parts, and the end result was me feeling very much like just a number in the system and a piece of meat on the bench.
After her birth, I went on to develop post-natal depression and also post-traumatic stress disorder. It took months of psychiatric counseling, along with some medication, to get me well enough to even contemplate going for a second child, and when I did, I made totally different choices regarding my birthing plans.
For my second daughter, after reading about the concept of birthing at home with a registered midwife, I set about immersing myself in information, researched what unhindered empowered birth looked like, and decided that was more my bag.
With my husband’s support, I interviewed a string of independent midwives, and settled on a care provider who I knew would support me to have the birth I wanted.
And when the time came to finally push my baby earth-side, I did so in the bedroom of my own house, in a candlelit room, with just my husband, midwife and doula present, and it was amazing. There were no drugs needed for my pain because the pain simply wasn’t there: it was what I would describe as just an intensity instead, not pain.
The things that got me through the labor were my body’s own set of amazing drugs: hormones! I rode the labor waves on oxytocin, and because I felt safe and secure, adrenaline stayed at bay. I then went on to birth at home twice more without any complications, and I would even regard the fourth birth to be ecstatic.
I would describe my fourth baby and my third drug-free birth at home as pure joy; I laughed my way through the contractions that I renamed waves and I soared high on my hormones pulling me through, and grunted low as I pushed my baby out into the birth pool, catching her in my own hands and bringing her to my chest.
Through these experiences as a woman, a few things became very clear to me. The first realization was that fear hinders birth. When a woman is scared or frightened, she isn’t going to labor or birth in an optimal way. Her labor may be prolonged, disjointed or halted entirely.
Think of it this way: you don’t often hear of women birthing in the middle of a supermarket, and that is because women’s bodies are innately intelligent and they know when a woman is at risk or scared, so labor does not begin.
When a woman feels supported, knows and trusts her care providers, and can work through any anxieties she may be having as she has them, her birth flows normally and beautifully.
The other important thing I learned was that no matter how many times people may tell a woman who is pregnant that she can’t plan everything or to take it as it comes, this is incorrect, and information really is power.
When you know about the type of birth you would like to have, and find out exactly how you can have it, you have a greater chance of having that type of birth.
I really believe it is important for a woman to remain at her utmost in terms of being informed. This means learning about delayed cord clamping, the benefits of skin on skin, what physiological third stage of labor means, and what type of birthing positions are the best to birth in.
Information really is power, and it is ignorant to assume otherwise.
The final thing I will say is this: consider your language closely. You can re-phrase birthing words to suit you. Contractions become waves, pain becomes opening and expanding, and I’m telling you that sure, pizzas may be delivered… but babies are born.
If you are pregnant and reading this, I implore you: women, take back your births. They are yours, and they will shape you or they will break you. It may sound trite to suggest that they are a sacred rite of passage, but this is very true.
Your experiences of birthing your baby will remained engrained in your being forever, so please do not take this lightly.
Jessica Offer lives on the Sunshine Coast with her wonderful husband and four spirited daughters. Two of her daughters and her husband have autism (ASD), but they’re all awesome. Jessica loves getting free therapy at the beach, eating salted caramel truffles, art, cooking, the TV show Miranda, reading and Yoga. She tries to make as much time as she can to do the things she enjoys, amidst the chaos that is life. Jessica is a straight shooter, and says it how it is, because she believes life is hectic and chaotic enough without having to muck about with words, and she appreciates the same from others. It’s Jessica’s aim to educate about girls with autism, normalize breastfeeding, embrace attachment-parenting and home birth, and empower girls to live up to their potential and be their true selves. You could contact Jessica via her website, Instagram or Facebook.