In Spirit and in Flesh

I know I have written my birth story a few times on both of my blogs, but I recently came across a blog that invited mothers to share their birth stories with other women. I answered that invite by combining the two stories I have written together and I am going to post the “Final Draft” here. This is so that the story is easily linked to from Lindsay’s blog.(Lindsay is my midwife’s daughter who is expecting her second child very soon. )

If you are interested in reading a weeks worth of birth stories that other mothers have submitted to Lindsay, I encourage you to visit her blog and be empowered, shed some tears and explore the beautiful emotions that accompany visiting such memories.

Holly, Christopher and Natalie: Day 1 together, in spirit and in flesh

For as long as can remember, I knew that I would not ever birth in a hospital setting. I am not even sure where the idea came from. It was not like my mother had stories to tell me, or that I had seen some horrific birth somewhere. The notion seemed to be innate in me. I do recall witnessing many animals being born however, and looking back, I remember the peace and calm that was present in those instances. Birthing for those animals was in fact innate, just as it is for us women. Imagine that.

There is so much that has evolved in me to make me feel the way I do about birthing. In the beginning, it had nothing to do with me. I simply did not want anything injected into me that would also affect my baby. I wanted a 100% organic baby, no matter what. I had not thought about how I would deal with the birth. This desire was a springboard that begged the question, “How will I do this?” This led me to many discussions with other mothers who birthed naturally and to many, many books covering the same issue. One of the books I came across in the SLC library was one that changed my entire outlook. It is called “Childbirth Without Fear” by Grantly Dick Read. I was thrown for a loop when I read page after page about the “fear, tension, pain” triangle. Perhaps you have heard of it. Basically, if you eliminate the fear, you relax, and there is little or no pain. I highly recommend anyone read this book first and foremost. In fact, if you read no other book but this one, you will be miles ahead in your birthing experience.

So, that book was a starting point for me. I read many other books and got involved in a hypnobirthing class with my husband. There we learned how to relax and go within during surges (the word “contractions” conjures up negative feelings…) among other things. We listened nightly for about two months to positive affirmations regarding my body’s ability to birth safely and normal. And also that my baby would be strong and healthy and able to perform her task of getting out. I believed every word, and so did Chris.

Looking back, I don’t think it would have mattered who I spoke with or what book I read, or class I took. I just could not put it in my head to have a baby any other way than how I witnessed the animals doing. And what was what was right for me.

I firmly believe, given the time, space and encouragement, women do what I learned in Hypnobirthing naturally. I’ve read of women in Africa and the like who know when it is time, they labor by themselves, they find a quiet secluded spot in the brush, they squat down (not lay down on their backs!), receive their own child and then return to their village, babe in arms. Just like it ain’t no thang! Amazing

*****

I know that you along with others have indeed sacrificed yourself for the sake of your baby during labor. People in my own family have had to have cesarean births because of complications, and if that is not a sacrifice, I don’t what what is! Anyway it occurs, it is still a birth! Many women have died during labor, and for that reason, I know that doctors and hospitals are a god given. What I want to say to you and anyone reading this is that it is a blessing to be able to choose how you want to do things. But choose a birth plan that is not just convenience or the easiest way, because I fear so much can be lost in the way of life lessons by avoiding something that might be hard or difficult. Do it for your baby, and because you know that you will be a changed person with new insights as a mother forever.

I was lucky. Everything went perfectly smooth with my pregnancy. I was in massage therapy school during the course of my pregnancy and received massage about four days a week. I believe that my daughter today is a good natured and happy as she is due to the environment I was in during her growth in the womb. I LOVED being pregnant! I miss it at times still, and look forward to planting another seed to grow there soon.

On February 25th, the day before my due date, my water broke as Chris walked in the door from work around 6pm. I had been home nesting for the past month or so and had made a delicious dinner of spicy teryaki chicken with rice and fresh green beans. I remember that I was strangely calm and relaxed and kept on with getting dinner on the table. Chris was trying to be calm, but I could tell he was freaking out inside. The next few hours would allow the surges of active labor to induce. My contractions were no more than 5 minutes apart right from the get-go, but since I was feeling OK and calm, we stayed home until 9:30pm. I really wanted my toenails painted this bright pink polish I had gotten and so Chris painted them while we relaxed on the couch…waiting. After talking to my midwife a few times throughout the evening, she thought it would be best to make our way down to the birthing center so we would be a little closer than an hour away. Luckily, we made it without incident on the February wintery night. We got to the center, appropriately called Bella Natal, at 10:30pm. I was checked and learned that I was only dilated to 2cm, although my contractions were still about 3 minutes apart. We drove to my grandmothers house in Pleasant Grove to try to get some sleep before the active labor kicked in. Chris was able to get some sleep, while I was up pacing, trying to relax in the shower, laying down, and pacing again, ALL night…again, surges came about every 3 minutes, so it was impossible to sleep. This was seriously the hardest part of the entire experience. I waited for as long as I could possibly wait, and what I thought would have given my midwife, Cathy, and my husband enough sleep and finally decided at about 6:30 am that I needed to get into the birthing tub- the planned place of relaxation for my labor. My midwife met us at the center at about 7:45 am…and here is where it gets blurry! I immediately slipped into the warm tub of water and was relieved SO much by the water’s buoyancy and anti gravity effect. Ahhh. From then on out, I was in the water except for the few times to get out and walk around, its amazing how just changing positions helped me to dilate and labor progress.
During all of this, I was able to use the skills I learned in a Hypnobirthing class to cope with the new, shall we say, “sensations”, associated with labor. Chris was an amazing support for me, reminding me to relax, breath and telling me what a Wonder Woman I was. Cathy told us she was impressed because it was like she was just there to make sure nothing went wrong. It was Chris and I that were in the zone together and we worked through the time in labor as a team. Looking back, I realize how bored Chris and Cathy must have been. It was just the three of us there, me being the focal point. I was completely comatose and unaware of what was going on around me…completely aware of what was going on inside of me. It was like my baby and I were in a special spiritual meeting place gearing up for the big moment. Next time I will bring games or a book for the attending people! Before I knew it, I was declared complete and the intense urge to push came. I gently pushed for about an hour and our little baby girl was received by her daddy in the tub at 12:59 pm on my actual due date- Feb 26th. We had waited to find out the gender of our baby, so this moment was especially amazing, hearing Chris say, “Its a girl!” I seriously cannot imagine laboring again without the water. Wow. Gravity and I are not friends! I think there is a reason that I learned how to swim proficiently by the time I was three and have loved being in the water ever since. It is definitely my element! I’m pretty sure it is our little girl’s element as well! (She’s a Pisces!)
When our little girl came, Chris received her, pulled her up out of the water and immediately put her on my chest where we rubbed her purple body, cooed her and she was just as alert- her eyes were wide open and she just stared at us in awe…probably trying to figure out how to make those lungs work! It didn’t take long for her to take her first breath and Chris cut the cord about 10 minutes later. We ended up staying over night at Bella Natal so that I could recover a little longer. I was a little faint from loss of blood, and from such hard work. We just slept and bonded as a new little family for the first 5 hours. It was so good to just be in our own place together with little interruption. Family began visiting at about 6pm and our little girl did a good job at staying awake to say hello to them.
We really could not have asked or planned on a more perfect birthing experience. I feel so incredibly blessed to have had such a great support- my husband, a wonderful flexible midwife whom I will forever be loyal to, my loving family, and of course a loving Heavenly Father who was gracious in answering many prayers.

The following is the lesson that I pulled from my experience. It is very sacred to me:

*****

I don’t pride myself on having done much to grow my testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ. It has not been easy for me to have the faith necessary to understand His sacrifice for me when he suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and later died on the cross. I don’t fully understand, nor do I think I ever will until I bow at His feet in the days to come. But I do know this: Never in my life have I been closer to understanding the Atonement than when I paced the halls all night long in labor. Never have I been closer to getting a glimpse of the suffering our Savior endured than when I lay deep within myself floating in that birthing tub praying that it would be over with. Yet knowing that the only way out was through. I don’t think it is supposed to be easy for that very reason. Sacrificing myself for the sake of my child, is without a doubt, the most humbling, gut wrenching, and beautiful experience I could have asked for. And I am not talking about the “oh, I’m a martyr” kind of sacrifice. I don’t claim to have gone through quite like what Christ did when he suffered in the garden, but I think I have a better idea of what it must have been like for him. Think of the tears, the sweat, the blood and water- all of it. I feel like I have a better handle on the Atonement and what it means in my life now. And for that, I will ever be grateful. It was a wonderful gift to receive the strength needed to get my daughter here. It is an even greater gift to have the confirmation that it was the right choice for me, and ever will be. Christ knew he would have to die, so it seems he spent his entire life preparing for that one moment. So it was with me. I knew I would birth a certain way, and so I spent the entire pregnancy and more preparing for that moment.

All things denote that there is a god. I know He is real and would not have designed our bodies any other way. Our bodies were built to birth. And without the aid of external means, if we are given- or rather, if we TAKE the opportunity, along with our babies, Mothers are born.

Whatever your experience is, remember, it is YOURS. Own it. Love it. Above all, YOU’VE GOT THIS!

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2 thoughts on “In Spirit and in Flesh

  1. Holly – I loved reading the final version! It feels like my stories as well – so many similarities it’s remarkable – and such a shared passion for the sacred process. The second time was equally miraculous. It was different and beautiful in all its unique ways. So amazing…

  2. Holly-
    Your post came at just the right time for me. I’m nearly have way through my pregnancy, and I haven’t even taken the time to think about my birthing plan… trying to keep up with a toddler while being pregnant leaves me physically exhausted and somewhat mentally drained. Bringing a baby into the world is such a special experience, and our bodies were made for this purpose. I need to make the time to prepare and you’ve sparked some thought to create a birthing plan that will be right for me. Mothers are blessed with 40 weeks to mentally and physically prepare. I know for a fact I didn’t prepare mentally for the arrival of Jed. In nursing school I had seen the process several times in several situations and understood the level of mental preparation needed to bring a baby into the world but, unlike you, that’s about as far as my mental preparation went. I used the excuse that my brain was too tired and stressed to think about my own plan (…a natural birth… possibly?) because of the long hours I had to spend working to save money for the bills that came along with the baby; we had horrible insurance. Physically my body was just about ready. Besides work, the rest of my time was left for me to rest and exercise (in the pool of course… ahh, there is no better place to be when your pregnant). Unfortunately some complications came in my 39th week that forced me to be induced and as unnatural as it felt to force my body into the birthing process, I’m grateful Jed arrived when he needed to, healthy and strong. This time round I have time to mentally prepare but physically, I’ll just have to get by. Thanks for sharing your complete story. You continue to inspire me!
    Ree

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