Some of you wondered why I chose natural childbirth, how did I come to that choice, and how did I prepare for it?
Once again, dear readers, I ask you to read these few lines as a personal story and not as a user guide.
I keep on saying it, but I think we all have an incredible strength in us, and I think that taking challenges with simplicity and talk about certain subjects are enough to change a whole mindset.
Of course, I am also aware that I have had two extraordinary pregnancies and births and that we are not all in the same boat. I am simply talking here about my experience, and would obviously never go against a medical opinion.
My stories have nothing better than any other birth story, it’s just my story and I loved giving birth, and I just want to say it out.
I give a very important place to childbirth, both for the mother and the baby.
For the baby, obviously because it is his first contact with the world, but also for the mother because childbirth, beyond being challenging, is especially magical! And unfortunately, today, we hear about it in a rather negative way, with a lot of apprehension, taboos and doubts. It is ultimately this fear that takes us away from ourselves but especially from our instinctive abilities to give birth to a child. In any case, it's my way of approaching things.
Nine months to listen to one’s body
In our ultra-medicalized societies, we have been used to take medication for the smallest pain... If we have a headache, we will take an aspirin to reduce the pain instead of thinking that our body is dehydrated, or needs sleep, or just to be in a quiet place.
For birth, it's the same case: to minimize our fears, doubts but also pain, we decide to anesthetize it in order not to "feel anything", whereas it is surely this exact moment where we absolutely need to "feel"! By anesthetizing our body, we take away its responsibility by putting it to sleep, on "mute" position, as if it was not able to expel the baby. In its place, I would be upset.
But wait a minute, think and consider contractions in a practical and simple way: they are made to expel the baby (he needs it, it's his only way out). To relieve the pain of contractions, we need to push, the more we push, the more we help the baby to come out. Nature is well done, right?
In our previous article A pregnancy (not) like others, we talked about listening to one's body and try to read the signals it sends us. By slightly extrapolating our subject, I invite you to watch this short video of Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski :
But yes, those nine months are for our baby but also for us. The body is slowly changing, it carries us and accompanies us until D-Day (even afterwards), so let it carry you during childbirth, it clearly knows better than us what to do.
Nine months of pregnancy is nine months to make a baby, but it is also nine months to prepare for childbirth.
Childbirth #1, how I "chose" the epidural
My twin sister Caroline (@threesevenparis) and I, got pregnant at the same time. Only six weeks apart separated our two terms.
For her first birth, Caroline choose, I think by automatism, that she did not want to feel anything. That was her choice, she doesn't like pain, and she didn't want to have to deal with it. At this time, I was ignorant and I was like her, just following the trend, epidural is the way to go.
I will always remember my sister, who explained a few weeks before giving birth to her gynecologist: "Fortunately, women had given birth before me because if I was told today that this baby was going out through my vagina I would just tell you that there is no chance and that you are totally crazy!"
The birth of my sister was magical, probably my best preparation ever. However, I remember that she was struggling to know if she was pushing or not, so much her body was asleep from the drugs. As the beloved Muse took time to come out, it ended with episiotomy and forceps, and turned all of the sudden making childbirth a little more complicated.
Since that day, I am pretty convinced that if women gave birth naturally, that is to say, without epidurals, they would have, at the end, easier birthing. Why? Because after seeing my sister's pain for over 8 weeks that could barely seat down, I prefer to suffer for few hours.
Six weeks later, it was my turn.
I gave birth in the south of France, in Gassin precisely. My term was August 8 and I thought that after all, I would be better lying by the pool than in Paris.
I spent the last five weeks of my pregnancy chilling and learning with 5 weeks old Muse on how to change nappies, give a bath, and try to figure out how breastfeeding work.
During my appointment with the anesthesiologist, I told him about my hesitation to give birth with epidural. He stared at me with big round eyes, wondering why I would inflict myself such a thing. He quickly made me understand that no one was doing that nowadays, while an epidural was necessarily the right solution.
He also asked me if I went to the birthing classes. I told him no, because I did not want to get too prepared, I didn’t want to picture my birth before it actually happens, and moreover, I wanted to let my instinct guide me.
He rolled his eyes, then said it was not serious... In a word, he made me understand that it would be too complicated.
I remember telling him that I had attended live my sister's delivery and that I thought I understood what it was.
I also joked that I have very good resistance to pain. He told me that a delivery "is different", and asked me, of course, to sign the document for anesthesia.
I was shocked. He made me doubt, he won.
So, I had "decided" to give birth with an epidural.
The day I saw my own birth
D-day. I have contractions in the lower belly, we go to the maternity as a gang: my swimsuit is still wet, my husband is wearing shorts, a white t-shirt, and a straw hat screwed on his head, my sister Caroline and her husband Jonas are impatient to have a little cousin for Muse.
The contractions are there, but I manage them without much difficulty.
The anesthetist arrives, I reiterate my desire to try without epidural, he tells me that he sees that I'm in pain (well... yes), and promises me to make a very light one so I can feel my delivery.
Well, I slept for almost 2 hours as the monitor was showing contractions shooting up.
One contraction wakes me up, then another, then another one...
The doc offers me to put me more drugs, I refuse with a smile (I was almost afraid that I had to say yes).
I had the chance to give birth with a great midwife, whom I begged between two outbreaks not to do any episiotomy. She was laughing and telling me that she understood the message.
The atmosphere was very happy in this delivery room. Onur, who was supposed to be behind my shoulders, went back and forth each time the midwife said she could see the head (I let you imagine the scene, his straw hat still on his head!). I hear him raving, saying : "Oh my god, he has hair!" (We were convinced at that time that it was a boy). My twin sister was navigating with her iPhone in hand, filming every minute of this delivery, and as I was pushing, each time I opened my eyes, there was a new doctor or an intern, just watching, like a Saturday night in front of a soccer game.
After a while, the midwife stood up and said : "Wait, I'll get you a mirror so you can see!"
So, I attended live my own delivery, it was amazing.
At this exact moment, I realized how amazing “feeling” everything was, because as I could see, I could also understand exactly how to push, I could see when I was pushing well.
Yes, because every doc says, you have to push as if you were going to the toilet, but HELL no! The baby comes out from a vagina not a butt, so you have to push through the vagina. When do we do that in real life? Never, so unless you feel your body, there is no way you can do it properly.
Anyway, after two hours, Onur, who was actually seating on the midwife stool, caught our warm little fish and put it on my belly. It was so ecstatic that we forgot to ask for sex.
After a while the midwife asked us to check the sex of the baby, my god! It was a girl, my husband's face changed that day and forever! Ellis Bloom was the most precious thing in the world.
I asked the midwife if I had an episiotomy, she said "No! You would have felt it!"
But yes, I'm stupid. I had felt everything. I still remember the burning sensation as the head was coming out.
I thanked the midwife. She gave me time to birth without stressing me or the baby out, she had made this moment one of the most beautiful of my life, I thanked her and told her that I would like to give birth every day. She laughed.
After a moment, I walked back into my room. It was 8 pm, my mother and my aunt were waiting for us to discover this wonderful little girl.
From the moment I gave birth to Ellis, I knew that I would give birth naturally for my second baby, and that no one would stop me.
Onur supported me 100% in this decision, and told me that he can help me give birth in our bathtub. Hmm. Let’s see I said.
Pregnancy # 2, natural childbirth as evidence
For those who decide to give natural birth, my best advice would be not to consider epidural no matter what, like it cannot even be an option.
In April 2017, I am pregnant again, super excited and fulfilled throughout my pregnancy. I spent those 9 months looking after me and my baby , but also 9 months getting ready for natural birth.
As I explain in A Pregnancy (not) like others, I did a lot of yoga, my body was at its top, I felt healthy, confident, strong, and we were making one.
During my pregnancy, I had a lot of friends that were also pregnant with their first or second baby, and all of them were going for natural birth. I have collected some of their story for you, and I’d like to start with my friend Paloma, who gave birth in 2 hours on her bathroom floor.
In October 2017, I was 6 months pregnant, Onur, Ellis, my belly and I, left for a big 7 weeks trip, our first stop was NYC to celebrate with our New York friends our fresh wedding that was early October. This trip was our honey moon, but also the last trip just the three of us.
Our dear friend, Sarah Appleby was about to give birth to her first baby. While both pregnant, we used to chat a lot about how she was getting ready for natural birth, and how was I getting ready, well, I had no preparation, but Sarah did, and I was literally drinking her words.
Sarah was acompagnied by a Doula in New York (more common in the United States than in France, a doula is a woman who follows pregnant women during and after pregnancy. She's not a doctor, she's really a companion). She had in her eyes, the strength and determination that women would have before running their biggest marathon, she was strong, confident and I was loving learning from her “the American way of giving natural birth”.
The day before her delivery, we celebrated our wedding dinner in our favorite restaurant, Uncle Boons. She was standing there, as if nothing was about to happen, she was embracing her last pregnancy moments. Read her story and her vision on natural birth.
Sarah and I in NYC, october 31st 2017. Sarah gave birth three days after this picture was taken. I was 6 months pregnant with Panda.
Before I left for our trip, then 6 months pregnant, I decided to enroll in the physiological sector at the Necker maternity. Why Necker? Because I heard the maternity was brand new (remember, my firth birth was at Gassin…), they had special room for natural birth and it’s five minutes away from my house and my office.
The maternity is amazing, modern, clean, young midwives, I loved it.
But it has quite a strict protocole, you have to attend 10 delivery classes, you have meetings once a month with a midwife and other pregnant women, I really wanted to give birth at Necker, but their approach was so far from mine.
I really didn’t want to go through this system at all, plus I was going to be away for 7 weeks.
However, when I met with the midwife, I explained her why I wanted to have a natural birth, but also told her that I was not ready to attend any of those classes, why? Because I don’t feel I need them, I already gave birth once, assisted my sister’s birth, and to be honest, I don’t want to follow any rules, or have any society pressure. This is my pregnancy, my birth, my decision and my moment.
Why would she know better than me what I need to do? She was not happy with me, I felt like the bad student.
She finally understood, and I promised her to have 2 appointments with a liberal midwife to talk about breathing, but also, about the course of the natural childbirth because I knew it was happening in special rooms where you can move, with a bathtub, etc.
I made my two appointments as promised in December, six weeks before my delivery and that was it.
I felt my self preparation was the best for me, my preparation was my daily Ashtanga practice, my personal well-being and the precious advice of my friend Sarah!
Why would I need more?
"Send your breathing where it hurts"
The D-day was approaching fast and Onur, oftenly asked me how was I feeling about my natural birth, he would ask me if I was stressed out or anxious, but I was not. I was not at all, I had no clue how it would go (ignorance in certain situation is amazing), but I was too self-confident to even think about it, my body and my brain were getting ready since 9 months, and together we were strong.
I felt I already achieved a big part of the job, being prepared by not taking any medication, accustom my body to accept the little pains and discomforts, deciding that epidural was not an option. From here, I had no choice but to listen to my body to the fullest.
Onur was also asking me what shall he do, what do I want him to do while in labor. I responded, that I didn’t know, I really didn’t know, so I said: “My body will decide and let you know”. He laughed.
Then the D-day arrived, around noon as I am sending few emails from home, I can feel a “tension” in my lower belly that goes down to my lower back, I was unsure it was a contraction. Thirty minutes later, I’m meeting a friend for lunch, where I have 3 other contractions. I told her, this it! I’d better get back home soon and get organized, plus I have few emails to send before the baby comes.
At 6 pm, Onur comes back with Ellis from school, I prepared a warm bath for her and I.
We sat in there for a while, I was enjoying the last moments just with Ellis, that would scream to her dad: “Another one!”, Onur was timing how far apart my contractions were.
She would put her little octopus hand on my belly to try to feel the contractions, offer a back massage and I would tell her that she might wake up the next day and be a big sister.
I am not going to lie, contractions were very strong, long and painfull, it felt like a knife was destroying my entire body. I sent a text to my midwife at Necker: “This is it, are you at maternity tonight?”. Unfortunately she was off that day.
She asked me how I was dealing with contractions so far, and I answered “I am surfing the contraction”, we laughed.
I decided not to have dinner that night, I felt that my body was feeling good as it was, meaning empty (if we can call it empty!) I was afraid that having food would make me feel heavy and sleepy.
At 9 pm, my contractions were every 3 minutes, and they were STRONG, so strong that I am standing up and holding myself up on the bedroom door to go through them. They are also every 2 minutes apart.
At this time, two thoughts came to me: my midwife that told me start the breathing technique as soon as the first contraction comes, she said birth is like a marathon, you don’t want to be puffed out after 5 minutes of running.
The second one was my Ashtanga teacher (@cyrillagel), that always says when we get into painful postures “Send the breathing where it hurts”.
That’s all I did.
At this moment my whole body was in pain, I couldn’t even remember what kind of breathing I was supposed to do, I just did what naturally came to me.
Once again, this why I keep on saying, listen to yourself, your body knows better.
For the next hour, I had no contractions, I decided to lie down in bed, Onur was arranging few things in the apartment and he was ready to come to bed as well.
Another contraction came, it burned me from the inside. They were now only 1 or 2 minutes apart and very long. I felt I could literally give birth on my floors. I told Onur that we needed to go NOW. At this moment I was relaying on two things: my husband, to drive me to maternity, and my body, to drive me through birth. It really felt like my brain checked out, I totally let go of myself.
Onur always has an amazing sense of humour, in any situation, he manages to bring something up to make it unforgettable, I wanted to share with you this little personnal video of him driving us to maternity, driving in the wrong line.
Arriving at maternity, I felt that I was in good hands, I had no clue how it was going to go, but I was feeling amazing. I texted my twin sister Caroline that we just got to maternity, I told her that, as usual, she would have to negociate to be in the birthing room with us. I told Onur, if for some reason I can’t talk or whatever, make sure Caroline is here, I need her to be here.
Few minutes after I was in so much pain, I almost through up, and I couldn’t talk, contractions way too strong, too long, too exhausting, I needed to focus.
I have no visual memories of this birth because my eyes were closed all the time, I can feel my husband rubbing my back, Caroline petting my head, the midwife talking to me but this is it. I was literally out of my body and so focused at the same time.
I tried several positions, my favourite one was standing up holding on to a bar.
I was still wearing my t-shirt and my socks (thanks to my sister that recorded the whole birth).
I was in pain, and I was afraid not to make it through, but at any time the epidural crossed my mind. I was trying to think strategically: "Maybe I need to find a position where I can somehow rest?" I tried all fours, hated it. Then I lie down on my side, and the midewife said, that in one push I could take this baby out, I said “What? One push, are you...”, I couldn’t even finish my sentence that the next contraction was shooting up and I pushed so hard, I felt every millimiter of the head coming out, it was amazing, there is no word to describe such an amazing feeling.
The midwife let the baby take its time to come out as the head was already out, I regret I didn’t look down at it, but at this moment I was so exhausted I couldn’t even open my eyes. Onur as for Ellis, grabbed the baby and put it on my belly, I saw as he lift it up that it was a girl. She looked so amazingly peaceful, she was so calm.
We called her Panda “the quiet force”.
Please read the series of interviews, we all have our own stories and experiences, and they are all amazing and unique in our own eyes, and this is what matters.
Once again, we have all our fears, our apprehensions, our strengths, but they are not static, they can evolve and we must (each) on our scale, make them evolve. We have to learn to confront them, talk about them and challenge them. I surprised myself in some of my decisions, which were not always successful, but they allowed me to understand something else about me and explore other tracks.
The important thing is the mindset, it's all about thinking that we will get there, somehow. I am talking about childbirth here, but our mindsets drives our decisions and by extension our life.
Just like pregnancy, childbirth is an extraordinary moment in a woman's life because it brings together challenges, emotions, patients and it teaches you how to let go of yourself in the most simple way.
And to me this is where happiness is.
Next week we will be launching another part of this article (surprise), so please don’t go to far, comment and share!