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Secrets to a successful all-natural birth

13 Sep

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21st April 2015: after a 4 hour labour my second child arrived as an unassisted-lotus born baby.

No drugs, no medical intervention and no disturbances.

“You were lucky” people said first time round when I birthed in this manner,…..

“it was bound to be easier for your second baby” people commented when they were unaware that my first child was also an unassisted-lotus birth.

Truth is that neither luck nor amount of birth experience have anything to do with birthing totally naturally.

The secrets lie in the power of your strength of mind alongside a few other factors which only you can control:

  1. Unwavering faith and belief in your body’s capability to birth unimpeded, as nature designed it to be.
  2. Absolute and genuine support, trust and positivity from all those who you choose to involve with during your pregnancy and birth period.
  3. To switch from the rational frontal part of your brain (and the noise from anyone elses’) to your limbic, mammalian brain in order to enter into the birth zone where you will draw from intuition and wisdom stored in the DNA from generations of natural birthing women.
  4. An ability to completely surrender to the inevitable and intense sensations: relinquishing control, letting go and relaxing into the experience. This can be learnt through hypno-birthing.

“But it’s ok for you” I hear you cry….”you had no birth complications.’ Well no I did not have a breach baby, or multiples, or a particularly ‘large’ baby or the cord wrapped around the neck or Shoulder Dystocia or Placenta Previa.

Guess what though, I did my research and came across at least one women for each of these categories who still managed a natural birth in spite of these complications. In the process I found out all sorts of interesting information that’s not so widespread amongst the birth fear-mongerers. For example, the placenta continues to deliver oxygen to the baby for a whole 5 minutes after the birth leaving plenty of time to unwrap a nuchal cord without causing danger of suffocation. Furthermore I learnt that a lot of the problems that arise during the average medicalised birth are actually caused by the initial medical interventions and disturbances of the natural birth process. By forcing the birth process in a time pressured manner, the artificial induction of a birth can create stronger and more painful contractions amongst other interferences in the delicate hormonal balance.

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If you allow your body to naturally secrete the hormones in each stage of birth as it was designed to without the interference of man-made drugs then the female body will not risk putting the baby’s life at risk by rushing the delivery. Relax in a safe space and calm environment and your body will dilate as it needs to. Move and position yourself according to your body’s own signals and push only when your body tells you to and the baby will respond accordingly by moving into the correct position that it needs to take in order to arrive safely.

It really is that simple. SIMPLE but not easy. Natural birthing takes courage, the kind of courage you are going to need to get through parenthood and build a strong relationship with your children so don’t bail out on them now!

It all starts here with a peaceful, non-violent birth. Birth DOES matter as it sets the foundations of the baby’s trust in the world around them and colours all future experiences and interactions into childhood and beyond.

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Don’t cut the cord: A lotus, free birth story

3 Jun

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The words ‘natural birth’ often conjure up images of a relaxed home birth with a birthing pool, homeopathic remedies and few interventions from midwives, sometimes even a doula is present. To me natural birth means a whole lot more than just birthing in the comfort of your own home without forceps and drugs.

To truly understand how nature intended women to give birth we must look to the wild animals who are untouched by man. When animals are near the end of their pregnancy they instinctively know when to retreat and allow their offspring a safe passage into the outside world. They choose a quiet and peaceful place without too much stimulation from light or noise and begin their labor alone. Nothing else intervenes for this would cause the mother stress, contracting her birthing muscles which must remain relaxed in order for the labor to progress successfully. Once the offspring have arrived there is no weighing, measuring or wrapping in blankets; the young mammals simply find their way to the breast to suckle and to connect to the vital touch of the mother’s skin who will help regulate their body temperature and provide a feeling of safety and comfort. This closeness with a familiar smell and touch also provides a much-needed buffer against the shock of the transition from a warm, dark and quiet womb to a harshly over stimulating outside world.

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The placenta is the baby’s life source delivering oxygen, food and also expelling waste for a lengthy nine months in most cases. It has grown with the baby, constantly present. Even after birth the placenta continues pumping oxygen to the baby for at least five whole minutes whilst the baby learns to transition to breathing fully with it’s lungs. For as long as the cord pulses, not only oxygen but also other precious nutrients such as iron and stem cells are also being delivered to the baby’s stores, providing an optimal chance for survival and growth.

When we clamp and cut the cord too soon we risk loosing this precious fluid and gas exchange. Some wild animals such as our closest relatives, the chimpanzees must know this instinctively as most of them continue to carry around the placenta with the cord attached to their babies until it naturally drops off and is returned to the earth; what we otherwise refer to as a ‘lotus birth’.  Other animals do chew the cord off shortly after birth but as a vegan this option did not appeal to me.

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Just recently there has been much concern amongst the medical profession of Obstetricians regarding the potential danger of cord non-severance possibility of causing Septicemia. Interestingly even though this subject is talked about with much concern there does not exist any evidence/cases of actual Septicemia or deaths of newborns caused by a mother opting not to sever the cord. There does however, exist many cases of Septicemia in instances of cord severance.

The physical benefits of not cutting the cord include optimum immune protection and reduced risk of infection as no open wound is created. Other benefits are, in my opinion, of a more spiritual nature.

I decided to opt for an unassisted birth without any intervention. I felt strongly to allow my baby to be born at the exact time and in the way that I felt most comfortable. Even though I had emergency numbers on hand, I chose not to have any midwives or medical professionals present as I felt I could not trust them to respect my wishes and follow through on my birth plan. After hearing numerous stories from other women who had birthed with the medical profession I did not feel reassured that I would be fully supported. For these reasons I chose to only have my husband present at the birth.

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We adopted a child-led parenting approach to raise Ulysses, which allows the child to take more control of what happens in their life. Child-led parenting involves raising the child with freedom alongside guidance, without force and punishment. In allowing children to take life at their own pace they learn to trust their own instincts and develop a set of morals and values based on their own experiences rather than the parents interpretation of the world. Such practices as baby-led weaning, non-violent communication and unstructured play form part of a non-forceful approach, much like lotus birthing where the baby’s body decides when to let go of the placenta rather than a third-party.

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Growing up as a conventionally parented child I often felt a sense of powerlessness that in turn created a dependency on others and lack of self-confidence. Natural birth and child-led parenting provides ways you can show the most precious person in your life that you respect, trust and honor their innate wisdom.

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The lotus flower is a symbol most widely recognized from India. Many times I get asked from where does lotus birth originate? I am not entirely sure how it became named, but I would guess it has something to do with the placenta resembling the flower. If you have ever observed a placenta with the cord attached it has a beautiful network of veins running through it as the leaves on a flower have, the cord also bears resemblance to the stem.

Central to all spiritual paths is the concept of ‘letting go’; everything in nature takes its cycle and in it’s own time transforms into the next phase. Just as the mother’s body knows instinctively to release the placenta after it has received the chemical messages released from the baby suckling on the breast, so does the baby’s body know exactly when to release the cord from it’s point of attachment without any intervention.

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During my lotus birth, a lovely six-day period of bonding and closeness was established. We washed and wrapped the placenta everyday to keep it clean and placed it in a waterproof pouch. As the placenta did not release until five hours after the birth this provided for a special bonding period in a close embrace, without separation. During this vital period of bonding between us I felt strongly that it was important that no one else take the baby away and having the placenta still attached to the cord helped to ensure this.

Shortly after the birth, the cord dried quickly into the texture of an electric cable. During the nights we slept with the baby on the bed and the placenta was placed next to the bed. Transporting the placenta with baby around the house was made convenient by using a stretchy wrap, which had a pocket in the front to hold the placenta.

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After six days of healing and bonding we woke up one morning to find baby Ulysses had gripped hold of the cord and detached it by himself, leaving a neat and healthy looking belly button. For the 6 days the placenta was still attached he was very peaceful and slept extremely well. Due to the damp environment where we lived and also choosing to wrap plastic around the cloth, the placenta did not dry out as well as it should have and did leave a musty smell for the last few days however, as the cord had already sealed off and we kept the rooms well aired, I didn’t feel this posed any threat to Ulysses. Despite the minor inconvenience of learning to maneuver around the cord for 6 days and dealing with the cleaning of the placenta I feel the potential benefits of lotus birthing far outweigh any cons and will definitely be having a lotus birth for my next child. With regards to the unassisted part of the birth I’d like to say most likely yes.

In cultures where they maintain their placenta after cutting the cord, a tradition exists for the placenta to be buried to the right side of the front door for a male and the left side for a female. We lived in a block of flats at the time so did not have this option and decided we much preferred the idea of returning the placenta back to the land through the sea rather than burying it. As we love to travel, the sea is a symbol of adventure and freedom, a life I hope Ulysses has the opportunity to experience.

Happy Baby Feet: How Yoga helped my pregnancy and unassisted birth

15 Dec

ImageAt the time I fell pregnant I had just embarked on a life changing decision, I had been managing a children’s Yoga franchise along with my husband using a business loan and the dream was not all it had promised to be.

More money was coming out than coming in and not enough teachers could be found to help me share the work load.

I had just returned from a magical trip to Goa where I had my beautiful wedding following four intense weeks of Yoga and I found that I was ready to move out of the parental home and find my feet in the world shortly after landing back in England.

It was at this time that some friends of ours were looking at renting so we decided to pull our resources together and go for a house share, unaware that the universe had different ideas.

Plan A to move out never materialized and left my husband suggesting a dramatic plan B to sell up everything and go to sunny Australia on a working holiday visa to see what would await us there.

Weighed down by far too much luggage and fear, home with all it’s unfinished business and lose ends dragged us back again after 3 months at which time the baby bump was well and truly apparent.

During the early phases of pregnancy I mostly travelled around Australia and New Zealand so I armed myself with Tara Lee’s Pregnancy in Health DVD and practiced whenever I was not exploring and hiking through nature.

As I had only been practicing yoga for two years on an irregular basis I often found the full 70 minute routine too challenging to complete and furthermore all of the poses which satisfied my ego’s need to achieve such as inversions and binding poses were now disallowed, knocking my motivation even further.

I did however, delight in the partner sessions which were a wonderful way to involve and connect my husband in to my pregnancy experience.

I also regularly took part in the amazing visualization and restorative practice which always without fail left me feeling re-energized and re-vitalized.

My pregnancy treated me well, or perhaps you could say that I treated pregnancy well, eating a vegetarian diet and keeping stretched and on the move I’m sure helped me avoid most common pregnancy ailments.

Towards the final trimester I could thankfully still balance in tree on one leg and was as supple as ever. The only downside was having to get up and have my sleep disturbed every night to keep using the toilet…little did I know that this would prepare me well for the arrival of baby!

At the beginning of my pregnancy I was debating on whether to tell close family my choice of birth.

Having always been an alternative and non-conformist type I knew that others liked to question me and did not always understand my choices.

I could never have for seen the amount of fear that my decision to have an unassisted home birth would create amongst so many people, perhaps because it questioned our culture of letting others take responsibility for our own actions and their consequences?

No amount of research or re-assurance that I understood my own body would convince those around me that I was sane and not endangering the life of myself and my child.

Knowing that mind always conquers matter it was difficult dealing with others negativity and lack of support for the choices I had made and I thank god for my amazing husband who was with me every step of the way, even to catch the baby as he arrived!

It was at this stage of pregnancy and birth where pranyama (breathing techniques to mange pain), mantras (using sound to control emotions) and positive visualizations came into their own.

These are aspects of Yoga that many people who step on to their mats often forget about but which were a vital part of any successful active pregnancy and birth.

My birth was approximately 12 hours long and was by no means easy although anything worth doing rarely is!

My son Ulysses was born at 2.25am weighing approximately 7lbs with no complications. He arrived on a very chilly Sunday 5th December 2010 in the bath tub in our small one bedroom flat in Brighton.

I had not undergone any scans or antenatal care only blood tests so had no idea what was coming my way. I had a trust in the ability of my body being able to perform exactly what it was designed to do.

We had the hospital number in case of emergency but did not wish to invite in any interference with midwives or anyone else who I did not trust in 100%.

I do not claim to be a midwife, just to have the same right to give birth the best way I see fit for me and my child as women do all over the world everyday.

This is my human right and is not illegal as many health care practitioners often proclaim it to be. My child didn’t need a doctor to get in the womb and did not need anyone to help him out either.

Yoga helped me to understand and connect with my body so well that it gave me the confidence to manage my own sensations and trust my own instincts about how the birth was progressing.

The whole experience was the most intense and amazing time of my life and I wouldn’t have changed a moment of it.

Letting go has been a big aspect of my life since my pregnancy and birth. I’ve let go of material possessions, money, people, work and most importantly my fear…when you come face to face with the responsibility of bringing a new life in to the world without intervention or direct guidance it really is the closest a women can come to facing her own fear of death.

I have learnt that the fear of birth and death go together hand in hand and it is at times like these when a spiritual practice such as yoga can be your best guide and source of support.

Furthermore, I chose to have a lotus birth and leave the umbilical cord to detach from the placenta naturally. I believed this would give the best physical and spiritual start for the baby.

There were just two things I needed for my birthing experience, my supportive birth partner, my husband and my Yoga.