Empowering Home Birth - My Mom Job Journey
It all started in 1981, when my mother who had been malnourished and physically beaten as a child, was then strapped lying down on a bed for hours with an EMF monitor, forced to accept an epidural she never asked for, an episiotomy and forceps were used to deliver me, cone head and all, because they thought my heart had stopped while making my way through the birth canal. Little they they know back then, that EMF was a great new tool, but not necessarily accurate, plus, heart rates of babies are naturally lower when making it through a narrow passage. As a big enough baby, having to make my way through a passage that was probably stricken with rickets, it was hard to get by in an environment that was 27% constricted, less wide because of the bed lying, my mother was forced in…
Nonetheless, I was born alive, my mom survived, and my family were grateful for the Dr’s work, even though if left my mom scarred twice. Once down there, and the second scar because of all the confidence she could ever gain had been taken away. What would have happened if she would have been given a different birth environment? Instead, she had been given a clear opportunity for birth trauma, and what we could actually call today, Obstetrical violence… Rather than a wonderful first start of a journey into motherhood.
My mom finally got over most of the fear of being pregnant and giving birth 5 years later, and she was again expecting, my sister, for my 6th birthday. She used that experience as a learning opportunity and I was given the while shebang of sexual education…
Believe me, learning the whole works at such a young age did not make me promiscuous, as some political activist like to instill fear, but actually worked at doing just the opposite! I knew all to well what sex could end up doing, and was never too early at hoping to get pregnant…
My sister was born 4 days prior to my birthday, by c-section because she was breech. My mother always thought it was the way of Life, for not making her go through a bad vaginal birthing experience all over again. She was thankful at first, but then, she got gifted with after c-section complications. She never was explained what happened, and for a few days, they would tell her the after pain was normal, and that her thinking something was wrong, was all in her head… It took the medical team 5 days to realize that what she complained about, was a football size hematoma, that was forming in her abdomen, and she had to be opened again, to drain that excessive blood… She came out of the hospital three weeks later, after my sister, and was in bed rest at home for three months after that.
Maybe this experience was traumatic as the first one, only she knows. She might still be fearful of Doctors today, and I don’t blame her, would you? But still, she believes they saved her life, and birth should happen in a hospital.
To go a bit quicker through the middle part of my story; my mothers experiences and what she shared with me, actually got me passionate about birthing at a young age. For example, in my 7th grade science fair project, I exposed abortions and all the fœtus development in utero.
At 15 years old, I was diagnosed with a severe scoliosis at my lower back and was told I might never be able to bare children on my own. It couldn’t be explained, as I’d never had a bad physical accident. The other cause theorized was the probable interventions that sometimes cause scoliosis, my forcep extraction at birth…
I spent the next few years, sometimes a bit depressed at those news, but also stricken by lower back pains, advancing in my college studies and making my way, as a photographer and international development worker.
In 2001, after working with new moms at a refugee and immigration center in St John’s Newfound Land, or with the wife of a Gits’xan chief in Hazelton B.C., I met the traveling photographer-author-midwife Murielle Bonnet del Valle. With her book : ‘’La naissance, un voyage’’, she inspired me by explaining different ways of birthing across the world, but also introduced me to different theories such as Michel Odent’s, that fear is the biggest inhibitor to natural birthing, and also François Leboyer’s work on introducing water births. I was mesmerized. I certainly was hoping on being able to get pregnant and carry a child one day, but I also knew, I had a lot of work to do mentally, to overcome my own mothers’ fears about childbirth…
I continued on my journey, and ended up working in Sri Lanka for a while, where talking with the women of my life over there, made me realize that 2nd/3rd world nations were not all bad about how they treat women, compared to our feminist driven capitalist 1st world society’s agenda is, where women shall work as ‘hard’ as a man, to be respected, or just to hopefully one day, gain an equal amount of worth, compared to a man, doing an equal job. Their respect of women is shown in how they appreciate a women’s job as a Mom. How having and raising children is one of the most important job and if a mother chooses to work and have a career, the man will then take on that maternal role at home, for example. There is no day care centers, and the extended family is there for support, in doing the most important job out there… Raise the next generations of humans.
Then, I got to work in Chad, Africa, where educated women would try to raise awareness against excision to young girls, in the hopes of getting them confident enough to request not to have it done to them, once that time comes…
Ok, so not all moms and women out there, have it easy…
Finally, my time came, 2007, I was pregnant with my son. Midwife called and scheduled, I wanted time and education about birth on my side. My midwife was great, and I chose a hospital birth at Montford, because she didn’t have privileges in Hawkesbury General. So once the day came, we had to drive 1h30 in morning traffic, with the stress of delivering on the side of the road. I got there, and contrary to those fears, the road trip had kicked back my labour into slow mode.
After 12 hours of labour, with an anterior lip of the cervix at 10 cm for a few hours, I birthed my 9lbs 1ounce son squatting. I teared a lot, but the hard work came to an end.
In a way, its what I wanted! My midwife had to advocate for me with the ward doctors, as they thought they should intervene. But as long as my life, and my baby’s life were safe, I didn’t want to be proposed any interventions.
But, throughout the pregnancy, I prepared so much for birth, that I never thought on preparing myself for after the birth. Plus, since I was giving birth in a hospital, even though labouring in the water was what worked best for me, to deal with the back pain, as soon as my water broke, my midwife emptied the bath, and all went downhill after that. But I’ll come back to this later!!!
So, back home, I went with my newborn and breastfeeding was the next challenge. I knew I was going to do it. But what a hard job it was! It took 3 weeks of no sleep, pumping around the clock, without ever being able to sit straight, as my tear needed healing. Falling asleep in the tub while pumping, while my sister or partner were finger feeding my son, until he finally decided to latch, 3 weeks after his birth.
YEAH! Finally, but the challenges were not at their end!
The epiglottis wasn’t closed properly. So my son would throw up on me, like a water hose, at every feeding, until he got to 8 months old… I couldn’t really go out of my house, as I’d always have to carry 2-3 bags of clothes changes, just to try to keep myself decent throughout my outings.
Depression set in, as isolation became the norm. My son being hyper sensitive, and every judgmental comments made towards my long term breastfeeding didn’t help… I often say it took me close to 5 years to catch up on the energy lost, of those first few months and years after my first born. You would ask me if I wanted another child? There was no hesitation; hell no!
But remember my 7th grade project? Abortion would always be out of the question…
So, a surprise 2nd pregnancy came about, in 2016. Finally, I had just settled in a great job I had always wanted!
After having survived, and seen my sister try for a home birth in the countryside with an emergency transfer for a much needed c-section, I decided I was capable of trying it.
Ten years later from my 1st pregnancy, I had wished things would have changed. Back then, my Midwife was working hard to gain privileges locally but seemed that her effort still didn’t end with positive results. Therefore, it was hard to find a Midwife that was willing to serve me all the way in Hawkesbury. It took me 32 weeks of patience, after persevering and calling every Midwife Office and Center, asking to be put on waiting lists everywhere, to finally get the call, offering me the care I was highly hoping for.
I read many books once again, and opted at all costs for a water birth… Made my partner work hard at preparing for this experience too. Came the eventful day, my partners birthday of all days, my contractions kicked in around 6 am. At 9:30, we were having coffee on the front porch with friends that were visiting from Quebec city. When my Doula friends arrived, my water broke. It took another hour of calming fun in the sun, to go from irregular contractions of 8-15 minutes to drop to a regular 2 minutes interval.
I called the back-up Midwife to ask what I should be doing. Since my appointed Midwife was off that day, she had warned me of having to go up to the Birth Center. But all of a sudden, at a regular 2 minutes in between contractions, there was no way I was going to get in my car and drive a 1h30 on highway 417, to get into the city. I really didn’t want to give birth on the way there either.
So she recommended I get into my birthing pool a bit, to see if things would calm down or speed up. Once in the tub, I knew there was no way I’d get out of there!!!
As the pains were getting tougher, in between 2 rushes I summoned the energy to express to my main Doula that I would accept whatever happens, but there’s no way I was heading up to Ottawa. Even if it meant delivering my baby with the local paramedics instead of a Midwife.
Half an hour later, the on-call Midwife gave us a call back to check. Since I was still pretty stable at 2 minutes, and there was no way I’d get out of there, she was on her way down from the city. An hour later, she was added to my labouring team on site, my partner said goodbye to the visiting crew, and jumped in the pool with me.
As soon as I explained to my newly met Midwife that I had a severe scoliosis, she showed my birthing partners how to do good back pelvic pushes... What a savior!!!
Remember when I said I’d get back to this?
What I came to understand later, my scoliosis created a type of paralyzing of my lower back while in labour and it probably didn’t help in the sterile hospital setting, when I was yanked out of the pool, from my secure and anti-gravity environment. This time around, pelvic pressures and the capacity to be moved around in the pool, is what made labour finally work for me.
Even if I had exercises and practiced many different postures and positions throughout my pregnancies, there is no way for me to be ready for such a paralyzing effect.
Instead of hating myself for not being able to move around, or fearful of what was happening, I embraced the opportunity of floating while my partner and Doula would rotate me in the water, to change positions once in a while. If my partner was busy during a contraction, I would be in agonizing pain. But someone else would pitch in at squeezing my lower back, and then I could breathe in and relax through my contractions once again…
I can now attest that if I was doubting for an instant, or any type of fear would get on my mind for just a few seconds, the wave would be 100X harder to ride through.
But as soon as the techniques to control my back pain, while my breathing imposed trust and confidence, the pain would become bearable!
So, yes, first and foremost, I say fear is the worst enemy in childbirth! And when you have a respectful team, awesome music in the background, in a space that is your own, everything is mostly possible!!!
Three hours later, second stage labour was up. For some, this means breathing in like crazy and pushing like in the movies.
I had done my own research and by wishing to avoid a 3rd degree tear like with my first, I chose to trust my body for this phase and passively push accordingly. I didn’t push logically, or strategically. I simply followed my own rhythm, my own body’s urge to push, little by little. It took 10 minutes for the whole crowning to happen to the birth of my daughter. I’ve got everything on film, that my son videotaped… I even got to a point where I appreciated the feeling of the ring of fire. Instead of rushing through this part, I embraced the opportunity of feeling my daughters cranium as it made its way through. It feels like a walnut! Did you know?
My partner had previously been the one to catch his kids. And that is his only regret this time, as I was the one, who caught her, and held that wonderful responsibility!
And its okay, like he says, its the first time he actually felt like he partook in the actual labour, rather than just be a helpless passive observer of the delivery…
At 3:37, the hour of my birth, on the 20th of August, my partners’ birth date, our 8lbs 14 ounces daughter was born, latching pretty much right away, in the comfort of our own home. Two hours later, I was being fed a nourishing meal, my baby was sleeping, everything and myself were cleaned, and we were left in our bed to cuddle…
I didn’t cry at this birth, I felt too empowered! This, a home birth, was possible! And I was the one who had done it!!!
Thanks again to my Midwife, and the Birthing Center, for making this a reality! My reality!
As I needed this experience to remind me of the innate passion I always had surrounding birth. I also needed this positive birth experience to make it okay, to make it real, and instill in me, the confidence needed to get back into it. It permitted me to steer away from postpartum depression and gave me the gift of trusting myself once again.
I now know that I can encourage, guide and support other moms, in this process.
The empowering feeling the birth of my daughter gave me, inspired me to go back to school, as I am now undergoing Childbirth Education and a Dual Stream Doula Certification.
Understanding that this opportunity is not given to all low-risk moms that wish it, especially in my rural community, has obliged me to stand up and speak up for this type of care and services, to be accessible to everyone who wishes it, as all women deserve it!
It got me to question why so many new mom’s feel like a failure, once complications arise, as they are too often recommended simple interventions, that leads to more challenges, in a hospital environment.
The isolation that promoted a pospartum depression for me the first time around, has pushed me to initiate a community project that focuses on empowering the moms that chooses the Mom Job’s role fully, as it is one of the most important responsibility we will ever have to do, while being alive, as a women, even though our society now thrives at only recognizing women who fight long and hard for their careers and glass ceiling, compared to the ones who chooses to invest a good chunk of their whole time and energy, in the next generations of humans…
And at the same time, I wish to develop local initiatives that offer opportunities for new moms (and dads when it applies), to continue to be intellectually motivated even though they are with young ones at home, for a few years…
Because I know, that for our communities to grow, to become something better, we need to facilitate the Mom and Dad’s phases of our lives, by providing the village we all so miss in our culture, when raising young ones…
I also know that its only when we’ll permit the Mom Job to be respected for what it is, and give back the credit that is deserved to all it takes for usual moms to achieve this, will we permit women of having goals and to continue to play an active role, and often take on leadership roles in our communities, as birthing itself, will become an empowering experience, rather what it currently is for most, a discouraging moment, full of guilt and shame…
It is only when:
All hospitals give privileges to Midwives, that young girls, especially Franco-ontarians, will be inspired to study midwifery and be able to return to their communities to practice, that we will have more practicing Midwives, that the demand for home births will be higher as it will be more accessible…
Hospitals change their policies to accept water birthing, especially since the current studies and evidence-based research is proving that this positive intervention facilitates and helps better birth outcomes, for moms who have it, on all fronts!
Doula’s will be covered by our National/provincial OHIP and Health benefits, that we will reduce costs of birth by avoiding certain interventions and redistributing nurses in more medical emergencies, especially in hospital settings. Having adequate support shouldn't be a luxury item.
Postpartum Doula’s will be added to the Health Unit spectrum of services, as nurse follow-up options, to make sure we offer services to help the postpartum facilities where they need help, rather than just medical follow-up with judgmental reports.
That our communities will become more resilient, as we will engage everyone by supporting each’s transition into motherhood and parenthood, accordingly, rather than simply saying; ‘’we’ve been through it and survived, what are they complaining about’’… as I often hear grandmothers saying...