Since finding out that I was pregnant with my first child, Kristjan, who is now a busy toddler, I dreamed of having a natural, or unmedicated, vaginal birth. Not at home, because that sort of scared both my husband and I (who would want to be reminded on a daily basis that the couch, or kitchen, or bathroom, was where everything eventually happened?), but at a birthing centre, in an environment most closely resembling the comforts of home.
Well........I didn't get my dream with either of my two children, however what I did get was a lot of internal growth and a realization that it is not always about having an unmedicated birth, it is about having an empowered one!
My first birth, with my son Kristjan, was in Brooklyn NY and was somewhat of a traumatic birth. Trauma is defined as "a deeply distressing or disturbing experience". So a birth that leaves us feeling distressed or disturbed is essentially a traumatic birth. What I had hoped and planned to be an unmedicated labour and birth at a birthing centre turned into a stressful, unsupported birth at a hospital that we had never visited, with no familiar medical practitioners (midwives or otherwise) there to support me, and where I felt stressed, pressured, and eventually somewhat forced into a C-section. My experience left me feeling sad, guilty, and cheated.
I felt lost and confused, wondering things like - How did this happen? How did I let myself get bullied into something that I really didn't want? Why didn't I choose a different path of intervention?
After my son's birth, I had well-meaning people telling me things like "the most important thing is that you and the baby are healthy" and commiserating along with me that they had also had c-sections and that is wasn't the end of the world. I know they meant well, but I still felt empty...
I felt like I had been let down by my midwives, by the nurses and doctors at the hospital, by myself, and that I had let my son down as well. I felt guilty that I didn't give my son all the benefits of an unmedicated vaginal birth, and that guilt stayed with me for a long time. Writing out my son's birth story helped, but I still felt cheated and sad.
As a result, I vowed to be better prepared and put into place better and more supports for the birth of my daughter, Eevi. I was still hoping for that ever elusive unmedicated, vaginal birth....you know the one that people dream of - where your body goes into natural labour and the dance between you and the baby is blissful as you breathe through the contractions and get into your 'zone'? That birth that is written about in books like Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth and that you think you should naturally do because 'women's bodies know how to give birth' given the time and space?
I hired a doula, Marj Wong, a friend and fellow essential oiler, who I was confident would help me through labour and delivery using the powerful therapeutic and calming effects of essential oils, along with the various other pain relieving strategies she had in her back pocket. I chose midwifery care and had an amazing and supportive team that followed me throughout my pregnancy - who listened to all my desires and dreams and advocated for me right until the end. I had a husband who supported me in each of these decisions 100%.
This time, my husband and I chose to give birth at a hospital close to home, as we were adamant about being prepared and knowing what we were getting in to, and being comfortable with the environment we would eventually give birth in.
I wanted this labour to be different so as my due date approached (and then came and went), I did everything in the book to prepare for it. You name it, I basically did it; chiropractic care, osteopathy, acupuncture, pelvic floor physical therapy, yoga, meditation, visualization, affirmation, manifestation, release and let go, forbidden concoctions and tinctures from the local dispensary — everything. AND, of course oils, oils, OILS. I did everything possible to have my baby safely, smoothly and MUCH differently than my first.
Well, my second birth did not go as planned....something that I am coming to realize is more the norm than the exception.
I am happy to say, that got my successful and powerful VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and my birth experience in Canada was night and day from that of our first birth in NYC! My body apparently likes to carry my babes past 42 weeks, and thus I did not go into spontaneous labour, but was induced at 42.2 weeks.
Since we were going the induction route, my care was transferred to OB (but I still had my midwife there - here in Canada we have one for mom and one for baby - so I had one present ‘for baby’). The OB on call Tuesday December 19, 2017, was VBAC friendly which is why we chose that day - and we discussed all options for the induction and and that if things got hairy we might still end up with c-section. I knew I was going to do everything possible to make sure I got a fair trial of labour for my much desired VBAC.
It was important for me to use essential oils, to labour with them, to try them and see what worked for me at various stages. Everything was on hand and labeled. I have a label maker and went to town! I decorated my labour room with affirmations that resonated with me, that were powerful, gave a sense of calm and ultimately made me feel like I was meant to birth. This experience was going to be different for me and I was adamant and intentional about it.
It was a gentle induction (foley, breaking of waters, time, and slow progression of Pitocin, which eventually led to an epidural due to the intensity of the Pitocin induced contractions). We (as in my hubby, my doula, and I) diffused essential oils, we laughed, we ate pretzels and hummus, we slept and then we chatted some more. We applied oils when needed and when the thought struck we applied some more. We did acupressure, we recited affirmations and calmed with breath work and visualizations. We applied more oils. We laughed and laughed some more.
When I was fully dilated, the OB mentioned baby was facing up (sunnyside up) and she tried twice to turn her unsuccessfully. Thankfully I was given more time to wait and see if baby would turn on her own and the OB allowed me to try pushing the baby this way. There was the chance that it might end with emergency c-section if baby's heart-rate was affected at any point during pushing phase.
All in all, I gave birth 10 hours after having my waters broken, feeling very supported and calm due to my amazing team of nurses, midwives, doula, a supportive OB, and super awesome husband.
I had essential oils diffusing in my room the whole day to put us all at ease and it really was a peaceful and calm atmosphere as we waited for things to get going.
My body laboured smoothly and efficiently the entire time.
I felt supported with every decision we made, and really felt heard by my team.
I had people present at my labour that I trusted, loved, and who really cared for me and my dreams.
I pushed for 15 minutes (yup, the doc had to come running in to catch the baby she came so fast), and out came my perfect little baby girl, Eevi Marika Ets, weighing 7 lbs 14 ounces. We all anointed sweet baby Eevi using essential oils along with love and good intentions, loving hearts and open minds. And then of course, we happy cried. It was beautiful and I'm so grateful....
And though it was a medicated birth with various medical interventions, it was an EMPOWERED birth. It was the healing birth that I needed and it proved that yes, my body CAN do this!!!