Birth memories stay vivid for a woman throughout her life. I have given birth twice and know this to be true. Research reinforces my personal experience, and so does talking with many other women. Additionally one of four major factors that contribute to a woman’s satisfaction in childbirth is being involved in decision making about care, and her memories of this life changing time. “Knowledge is empowering” could not be truer for a woman’s childbirth experience. The deeper the understanding of the birth process, the body, the breath, and the mind, the greater satisfaction with the ability to exercise informed choices made in pregnancy and labor.
At the time of my sons’ births, modified and specialized prenatal yoga practices for body and mind were simply not widely available or publicized. Doulas, who provide continuous and compassionate support for women and their partners, were not on my radar, either.
For this and a subsequent article, we are going to do some time travel. I’ll share abridged versions of my birth stories which will be illustrative of how learning and empowerment can impact experience.
IMPORTANT: These articles are not about regrets or shoulda coulda wouldas. There are as many paths to the miraculous outcome of a child being born as there are children. Instead I am illustrating choices I might have made-had they been introduced to me at the time. Now, the privilege of teaching prenatal yoga has been and continues to be a precious opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with women that will support them before, during and after giving birth. I am privileged!
What will follow over this and the next post are the stories of birthing my handsome and brilliant sons (of course!)
My first birth story: Caesarian Birth (the short version)
My labor started with excruciating unremitting back pain. If felt as if I was being constantly pushed and painfully pressed on the lower back and sacrum-from the inside. The pauses between contractions as described in books and classes simply did not exist in my experience. My husband dutifully and lovingly walked with me up and down the street as we were advised to do during early labor. No relief. After several hours, when we finally went to the hospital, I was exhausted and frustrated. The epidural offered by the staff on the night shift provided immediate relief. I was then in bed all evening, watching the monitor indicate contractions. Pitocin was also introduced to speed up my labor. I monitored the monitor the entire night, but didn’t feel a thing.
The birthing process was completely medical, and out of my hands.
By morning, when I was told it was time to push, and I did so for 3 hours; there was “no progress”. The decision was made to have major abdominal surgery: an ultimately successful caesarian birth. It is impossible to know if I had had the practices of yoga and support of a doula or midwife if I would have given birth vaginally. Ultimately and thankfully to all medical staff, the outcome was a healthy mom and baby. However, for the sake of empowerment and future birth memories of the women I teach, it is my mission to share the practices that might have helped me, and the knowledge that will empower my students (and did guide me somewhat for my second child).
Prenatal yoga practice minimally offers the following to pregnant women: Strengthening the legs , squat variations, shoulder relaxation, back and core strength appropriate for pregnancy and beyond, breathing practices, managing surges of anxiety, mindfulness, and self massage..and many more. Women are provided the physical and mental preparation for childbirth, and beyond. Additionally, a continuous labor supporter such as a doula or midwife can remind moms-to-be and their partners of choices in the midst of the challenges of the birth experience.