Reclaiming Birth

Hopes of Healing dashed.

I had hoped that, this time my birth experience would be healing. I had envisaged having a powerful, natural birth experience which would empower me and help me to heal from the trauma of my previous, enforced cesarean.

Once I realised that this wasn’t meant to be (although it had been healing in lots of other ways) and that I was actually grieving for the birth I had hoped for, I began searching for ways to heal and recover, both physically and mentally.

Healing my Body

My healing began physically. I knew that I had to rest. I knew that after my previous ceasarean I had rushed and done too much, so this time I took things slowly. I did very little for the first week and then started to do things more and more as I felt able. I listened to my body.

I nourished my body. My amazing Doula, Anne brought me the most delicious groaning cake. I drank bone broth and made sure to get the best probiotics I could find to help both me and baby recover from the affects of the antibiotics used during the operation. I ate plenty of green leafy vegetables, took my vitamins and stayed hydrated.

Groaning Cake and a cup of tea

I was prepared to recover physically, no matter what birth my baby had. Mentally, however, although I had prepared for all birth scenarios, I hadn’t envisaged dealing with the emotion of grief for the birth I had hoped for, but not achieved.

Healing my Mind

My mental recovery is, and probably will be for some time, an ongoing process. I would say that the overarching theme of this recovery journey has been being open and honest about how I am feeling, with everyone, and asking for help, even before I am really sure I need it.

•My doula, once again, was a great source of strength for me. While she supported me practically at home, she also supported me mentally. We talked, and perhaps most importantly she listened.
•I spoke to my GP, and we agreed that I would check in with her every so often and we’d review how I was feeling and if I needed any additional support.
•I spoke, once more, to the wonderful Seána at BirthWise, who helped me make sense of what is been through, what I was feeling and what my options were going forward.
•I saw Anne Marie at Birth Afterthoughts for another Rewind session.

Me walking away from the Ulster Maternity Hospital for the very last time as a patient following my Rewind session with Anne Marie

I had all of these tools in my kit ahead of time and was thankful to be able to use them as early in my journey as possible. I think this made a huge difference and meant I didn’t become as ill as I could have done otherwise.

Searching For Something More

However, even after all of these things, there was still something nagging at me. I was still searching for something to bring me to peace with what I had been through.

I began searching online for other forms of healing experiences, something specific for the grief I was feeling. Surely I couldn’t be the first person to feel this way, surely there had been others who had been through this and come out the other side. I wanted to hear their stories, I wanted to know about their healing journeys and find out how I could help myself on mine.

Both myself and my doula came across the idea of “Rebirth”, or “Reclaiming Birth” rituals. We both stumbled across, and sent each other articles about these almost at exactly the same time. As with many little happenstances we had encountered along our path together, we took this as a sign, this was significant and so we both, independently looked into it more and came up with our own version. Something that would work for me and my family.

My Healing Ritual

I knew that I needed to have some peace and privacy, meaning that my older child would need to be out of the house, but I also had a strong feeling that this would also be about his birth as well as the more recent birth experience. I knew that I wanted it to be dark to mimic the dimly lit natural birth setting I had envisaged for both of their births. So we wen’t about coming up with a plan where my husband would take my eldest out of the house leaving me, the baby and my doula at home to set up the birthing room and begin the ritual and then have my husband bring my older son back home again to join in the ceremony with us.

So, a date was set for, coincidentally, the date when my baby turned 6 weeks old. Anne arrived late in the afternoon and my husband and toddler were dispatched for soft play and a McDonalds.

We busied ourselves with setting up the room, inflating and filling the birth pool, lighting candles, switching on fairly lights, reading the affirmations I had placed around the room, and playing my Hypnobirthing backing tracks, from the Comfort Zone album.

Reading The Mother’s Conversation with Unborn Child

Once the scene was set I climbed into the pool and took some time to just relax and listen to the relaxing music. Anne had printed off and brought with her a copy of the Marie Mongan hypnobirthing script, The Mother’s Conversation with Unborn Child. It was only as I read through this script that I realised how many things had gone well. The whole pregnancy had been so positive, I had felt really healthy, happy, positive and empowered. I cried, tears of joy, as I realised the significance of this. I had learnt so much, achieved so much, enjoyed so much throughout this pregnancy and that had had such a positive effect both physically and mentally on me and the baby. I was overwhelmed by how grateful I was for this. This took on such a huge new significance in my mind. While the birth had been important, it really was a small snapshot of the whole pregnancy and birth experience in totality. This somehow gave me a new perspective. I felt immensely glad that I had experienced labour this time. I had all that I had hoped for, in the circumstances I was met with. Everything had been my decision. I let things happen naturally. I let baby tell me when he was ready to come. I was so glad that I had stuck with my gut feeling on due dates and not been swayed to encourage his birth up to 3 weeks earlier as had been suggested. Me and my baby had, together, achieved the birth that was meant to be, in the right way, at the right time. I felt peace.

My doula and my baby

Through my tears, of many mixed emotions I signaled to Anne that I was ready to receive my baby, ready to bond with him in a new way, ready for us both to heal together in this sacred space. Anne brought baby to me in the pool. He had been beginning to fuss a bit just before Anne brought him to me, but as soon as he came into the pool he relaxed. He was gazing into my eyes like he never had before. Anne remarked that this gaze was exactly the newborn gaze she had seen at other births.

Gazing with love and wonder

I now felt like (apart from the actual birth) I had experience everything I had hoped to. I felt settled with our journey to this point. Baby then started to root, and I breastfed him I the pool, as I had imagined the first feed would have been. I just felt as though all anguish was melting away. This was the end result I had hoped for, we just got there via a different path.

After we had basked in this newborn bliss for a while my husband arrived home with my eldest and he climbed into the pool to be with us. At first he was excited at the paddling pool that seemed to have magically appeared in this living room and he was splashing around but then he became really still ( and he’s a child who is literally never still!) He just floated, supported by my hand and then he did the gaze! Then he breastfed too. I had hoped that he would self wean during pregnancy, but in this moment I was glad that he hadn’t. We had a real re-connection experience. It was healing for me and I hoped that it was healing for him too.

With both my babies

We packed up and got the children to sleep, Anne went home and my husband and I had a special meal together. I felt new, I felt stronger, I felt healed.

I would highly recommend this type of experience, and will forever be grateful to Anne, my calming presence, my doula for making it possible and for all of the support and healing she has given, and continues to give me on my journey.

Video capture by the amazing Anne, what a beautiful memory to have.

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