A couple of weeks ago, I was delivering a lecture to the Bliss Baby Yoga Teacher trainees. Bliss Baby trainees undergo a 10 day intensive on the art of pre- and post-natal yoga teaching. It’s the best training there is. I’ve taught on the training for several years now, covering my favourite topics – women’s pelvic physiology and empowering women in business for heart-centred women. I’ve always believed in the embodied link between our ability as women to stand in our physiology of excellence and to find our authentic voices in the world.
I was describing the power of the pelvic floor and related a story about my first son’s birth.
I’ve related the story briefly many times for the purpose of teaching physiology but this time was different.
Suddenly, a traumatic flashback had me right back in the delivery room at the Wesley Park Haven Hospital, Townsville, 6th December, 2000.
It was my 28th birthday and I was terrified as I went into labour and terrified about giving birth for the first time.
I had a rush of tears about the story and had to pause the lecture to try and stop the memories from flooding back. It took me several moments to compose myself to keep talking.
The trainees understood – many of them described similar flashbacks whilst doing the intense inner work the training immersions offer. Eventually I was able to get on with the lecture, but I knew that it was sign that the birth trauma hadn’t been properly processed. I’d worked on it over the years, but another layer was ready for peeling back.
So I’m circling back now to 6th December, 2000.
My partner had been posted to Townsville for a six month stint of work and I’d followed him there. But the truth was, I was scared and alone and feeling out of my depth facing the birth. I was excited about having a baby, but terrified about the labour.
No matter how much yoga, meditation, visualisation, swimming and other practices I’d engaged during my pregnancy, I still felt a continual sense of dread and fear around the birth. I knew I was carrying a big baby because I’d gained 22kg during my pregnancy. The specialist Obsterician I was seeing reassured me that I would have an average sized baby but somewhere deep inside, I knew it was going to be a hard road.
I wrote long letters to my baby and reassured myself constantly that it would be worth everything I’d been going through just to see my baby. And I was right – you can see in the picture he’s adorable right?
Labour started off just fine. I had my favourite meditation CDs playing, aromatherapy support, hot showers and lots of reassurance from my partner and mother. I was so reassured by the coincidence that my lovely midwife was also celebrating her daughter’s birthday that day.
So there I was on my birthday, with my new baby as my impending birthday gift, with my mother who had given birth to me 28 years prior and a midwife who was celebrating her own daughter’s birth. We were a circle of women bound by birthdays and everything was progressing the way a healthy labour should.
Then the midwife finished her shift. Our circle of women was broken. My partner was feeling increasingly helpless to assist. This was women’s business and somewhere inside, I’m sure my partner knew it and felt powerless.
Another midwife started her shift. She was less sure, younger and less reassuring. I couldn’t connect to her so I started to disconnect from my body.
My labour slowed right down and I felt intense fear descending like a grey, uneasy shroud.
When it came time to push, my energy had stalled. I did my best, but two hours of pushing after thirty-six hours of labour had me beaten.
‘They’ needed to give me an epidural so that they could intervene.
‘They’ were foreign to me, staff members whom I hadn’t met before.
I couldn’t get my baby out naturally and I felt completely helpless. I looked at my partner and knew he felt completely helpless too.
All we wanted was to see the little being we had been co-creating.
The epidural wasn’t successful and by now, the pain was unbearable, so ‘They’ tried again.
An aggressive female obstetrician was called in to intervene. She spoke with a gruff voice and lamented that she was in a hurry before she pushed me onto my side roughly and held me down in the middle of a contraction. Her cruelty is something I remember to this day, 15 years later. As soon as she pushed the needle into my lower back, a pain fiercer than any end stage labour pain shot through my spine and into my head.
I can’t describe the agony but it was louder than any labour pains had been until that moment. I felt like my head was going to explode.
I started to lose consciousness because of the pain. The last memory I have of that moment was wanting to die because the pain was so severe.
Apparently ‘They’ had decided I might be having a brain haemorrhage and needed an urgent caesarean under general anaesthetic to rescue my baby. It was touch and go as to whether I’d make it, and the priority was getting baby out.
I was unconscious for 24 hours.
I vaguely remember asking for my baby in the haze of awakening from the anaesthetic but I was told that I couldn’t see him.
As I began to wake up, my partner came and told me I’d had a baby boy, a whopping 10 pound baby who was too big to make it into the world naturally so he’d needed to be delivered by caesarian.
‘They’ had saved my life and the life of my baby.
He was wheeled in on a glass trolley. He had a little white hat on his head to hide the trauma he’d been through.
It was love at first sight.
‘They’ all say that you’re never the same again when you become a mother, and they’re right. Having a baby changes something, it pushes you across a threshold and into a different light.
I was inconsolably disappointed I hadn’t been the first to hold him, to feed him and to love him. That he had waited for hours for his first breastfeed and that they would have fed him some artificial formula while he waited for me to wake up.
It has been many years of unravelling the trauma of not having the birth I was hoping for.
It has been many years of forgiving the rough handling, the insensitivity, the bright lights and the lack of care and connection with the people who were just doing their jobs.
It has been many years of turning the pain and disappointment into gratitude that the imperfect medical system saved my baby’s life and my own.
It has taken hard effort to build the resilience to take responsibility for my fears and self doubts… and to realise that these caused some of the obstructions, the challenges, the disconnection from my own body.
Realising that the way I faced the birth, was the way I’ve faced a lot of things in life and business.
This week I’ve been so blessed to find a birth healer who can help me to face the unhealed pain around my birth trauma.
I would love to introduce you to my friend Angela Fitzgerald, birth healer and doula, midwife and soul coach. http://birthyourtruth.com/
I was so fortunate to spend a VIP day with Angela, laying out some of my deepest wounds around babies and birthing. Being nurtured and supported to see where we, as a collective, need healing around birth is a must if we are to create a better way for women.
So many layers of feminine wounding that need peeling back, so many stories that need to be retold. So many insights to be gained, because how we do birth, is often a reflection of how we do many things. We can all collectively tell a new story, an empowering way to move the paradigm of disempowerment and disembodiment for our daughters, our nieces and our sisters.
If you need to heal your birth story you can visit http://birthyourtruth.com/
I would so love to hear your birth story too in the comments below.
p.s. Last week’s ezine contained an error in the links to my wonderful client and friend Sali McIntyre’s gorgeous wellness clinic ‘Heart and Soul of Wellness’. The link should have been: https://www.facebook.com/Heart-and-Soul-of-Wellness-1041165282592473/
p.p.s The link again to Angela’s website is http://birthyourtruth.com/
EXCITING NEWS FOR MUMS
For the past couple of years, my esteemed colleague, Dr. Oscar Serrallach, and I have been co-writing a book on the topic of Postnatal Depletion. More and more mothers are giving birth at ever increasing ages. The truth is, our bodies need nutritional optimisation for each and every pregnancy and child we have. Dr. Oscar coined the phrase ‘Postnatal Depletion’ to describe a syndrome of worrying symptoms suffered by mothers who suffer from depletion symptoms, such as lethargy, insomnia and mood disturbances post childbirth.
I have been so delighted to be invited to contribute to a major section of the book about the heroine’s journey of motherhood. For those of you who have coached with me, you’ll know how passionately I feel about the metaphoric stages we go through on our heroine’s journey and how they help us to cross the thresholds to self-realisation. Our project is shaping up beautifully and I’d love to invite you to subscribe to the mailing list at http://www.OscarSerrallach.com for exciting future updates about the book.
Divine midwife, healing goddess, doula and birth healer Angela Fitzgerald can be found here http://birthyourtruth.com/
A selfie bathed in the light of goodness on my healing day with Angela