Empowered Birth: The Message in the Bathtub

I originally wrote this article for a local magazine, called “Birth. Play. Love”, on the 1 year anniversary of giving birth to my first baby girl (3 whole years ago!!! AGH! Where does the time go?!). I wanted to share it again as a resource for encouragement for expecting mama’s. Hope you enjoy!

DSC_0008Where do negative thoughts stem from? As a woman who has spent far too much time stewing with negative thoughts, I can say with confidence they stem from a monster created within our subconscious mind. Whether that monster was created from early childhood programming, an abusive relationship, abandonment or our modern media, most of us have allowed that monster to convince us we are less than the mighty, powerful, capable beings we were created to be. If we are lucky, we will experience a moment in life that finally puts that monster into the “THIS IS SPAM BLOCK ALL FUTURE MESSAGES FROM SENDER” file, and allows us to live in a state of empowerment never before experienced. Just one short year ago, I experienced that moment when I gave birth to the most life changing human being I believe I will ever meet.

From the time I learned I was pregnant, I made a bold decision and began challenging the monster within my subconscious. I set a goal to give birth without pain medication and I knew in order to accomplish this task, I was going to need some new mantras and a darn good support team. I spent a lot of time searching for quality information regarding birth. I watched movies like “The Business of Being Born.” I found blogs like “Midwife Thinking,” “Evidence Based Birth” and “Birthing Beautiful Ideas.” I then made the most important birth decision I believe any pregnant woman can make, and I hired a birth doula to take care of my husband and me as we ventured into the great unknown. Through Jennifer Ivans, from Beautiful Beginnings Birth Services, I was introduced to the Hypnobabies birth preparation method and I began reprogramming the negative messages I had adopted over the years regarding birth and, much to my surprise, my perception of who I was as a person. Pregnant Mamas: If you need a little self-image boost in your day, cue up “Joyful Pregnancy Affirmations” with Kerry Tuschhoff, founder of Hypnobabies and repeat with me “I love my beautiful pregnant body!” See if you don’t start looking at yourself a little differently in the mirror.

All of that to say, I prepared. I prepared myself mentally, emotionally and spiritually and during that time the monster within was becoming drowned out by all of the positivity that was flooding my subconscious mind. However, for me, the true test would come in the eleventh hour (doesn’t it always!). My birthing time did not begin as I imagined. My “tiny human,” as she (we didn’t know she was a she until she was born) was dubbed throughout pregnancy, loved the happy habitat I had created for her so much, she refused to abandon ship and join the world on the outside. At 41 weeks and six days I was scheduled for induction and I found myself regressing into some of the negative thought processes I had been working so hard to overcome. Induction was not part of my preparation. I certainly had not spent any time with Kerry Tuschoff talking me through my joyful (induced) birthing time. But I had a supportive birthing team who reminded me I was capable of accomplishing my goal and we started the ol’ drip line of Pitocin. I was doing it, my pressure waves were consistent, longer stronger more powerful but I made no progress and the time had come to drain the tiny human’s bath tub (aka my waters were ruptured).

The minutes that followed changed me forever. Within five minutes of my water being broken, everything became more intense. I was uncomfortable and I could do nothing to fix it. I experienced the “Goldilocks effect” with a variety of birthing balls—too big, too small, just right…not a chance. Jennifer, our doula, had the foresight to begin filling the bathtub and thank goodness for that thought. I spent the remainder of my birthing time in the tub still uncomfortable, but learning ways to cope. The first was with low note holding, for lack of a better description. Imagine if you will warm ups in high school choir class, but a little less pretty. It also helped to have my sweet husband sing along with me. Man, do I have a keeper or what? The second and most life changing was a suggestion made by Jennifer. She said to me, with the passing of each pressure wave, something along the lines of, “That one is over. Let it go. Do not focus on what is to come. Relax. Breathe.” This became a focal point for me. I remember thinking “Just focus on the now. Relax. Let it go. You can do this.” Any time I found myself starting to worry “Oh gosh, what if…” I consciously redirected my thoughts to the now. It became a test, and as I reflect it was ultimately the final push (no pun intended) I needed in reprogramming my unhealthy worrying ways of the past. I did not realize what I was overcoming during my birthing time, but it is so profound and empowering to who I have become today.

Here’s a little play by play of my thought process once I got my focus under control: Here comes a pressure wave. Stay focused on right now. Hold a low note with my hubby. Keep holding a low note with my hubby (I always envision Ursula from the Little Mermaid here “KEEP SINGING!!!”). Okay, that one is over, relax your body and rest. Here comes another one. Focus. Sing. Keep singing. That one is over. Drink some water. Change positions. Here comes another one. Oh wow, my body is pushing. Go with it. Focus. Sing. Keep singing. Oh man, that nurse is scolding me. I get it I can’t give birth in the tub. Ya’ll better drag this focused mama out. Oh, I’m on the bed now. Did she say 10 centimeters? Okay, time to push. I CAN DO THIS! Focus. Push. Relax. Breathe. Focus. Push. Relax. Breathe. Oh crap, maybe I can’t do this. Hubby says yes we can. Focus on him. Push. Push. Push. Oh my gosh! Head is out. That’s my baby. HOLY COW! WE DID IT! WE DID IT! WE DID IT!

The moments following my daughter’s birth were some of the most joyful of my life. From the time my waters were ruptured, to the time I embraced my sweet tiny human baby girl, three hours had passed. And in those three hours I had unknowingly taken giant steps to conquering a debilitating pattern of worry that I have struggled with my entire life. Giving birth helped me change my internal programming and defeat the monster within my subconscious forever.

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Today I feel more powerful than ever. I am confident in my ability to take on anything the world throws my way. When I find myself feeling worried about what the future holds, I tap into my birth knowledge and focus on what can be done right now and I stay there instead of working myself up over things that may never be. Birth can be beautiful and empowering and yes it will be intense, but it will change you for the better if you allow it. In order for this to be your story, you must educate, prepare and protect yourself. Find quality information that speaks to you and do all that you can to block the negative portrayal of birth in the media. Ask the woman sharing her less than positive birth story to kindly share her most favorite part about birth, or to please save her story for another day. Finally, assemble a rock star birth team. People who will tell you “YES YOU CAN!” when you feel like you have nothing left. And know that there is a sisterhood of women cheering you on from the other side. You can do it. Focus on the now. Relax. Breathe.

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