Hellena Post - Creatrix

I've tried on so many uniforms and badges that now I'm just me - mother of 8 children and all that entails, flowmad, and human animal parent. Writer of this living book of a blog, philosopher, and creatrix of hand dyed and spun crocheted wearable art. I gave up polite conversation years ago, and now I dive into the big one's.....birth, sex, great wellness, life, passion, death and rebirth.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How to work towards an empowered caesarean Part 3

This is the letter I wrote to Flinders Hospital, or more specifically, the people present at my caesarean.......

Friday, 5 December 2008

Flinders Medical Centre
Att:Names of the 11 people present are kept out for reasons of privacy

Dear people.

On the 28th of November, my partner, daughter, and 2 midwives came into Flinders after giving a homebirth a serious but safe go, and you all assisted us tremendously by performing an emergency Caesarean. As it happened, there was no way in the world that a homebirth could have happened, as my baby’s cord was around his neck, and he was ‘leashed’ high in my uterus by the placenta. If we were living in a place without medical facilities, the chances are that my baby and I would have died without this procedure. For which you have my deep and profound thanks. And I honour the work and study that you all have done, that enabled you to perform this process quickly, safely, and with such wonderful respect and people skills.

As you may have noticed from reading my birthing plan, I was a bit of a homebirthing nazi before this experience, and as with a lot of humans, I had to have a different experience that affected me directly, in order for me to change my judgements and opinions. Incidentally, I’m also in the process of writing a book about birth, sex, and death, that I now believe would have been seriously one eyed and unbalanced, had I not had this experience.

I don’t know whether you all would be aware of it or not, but there is a large body of information on homebirths, ‘freebirths’, and other birthing alternatives, coming from alternative midwives, blogs, the internet, and books. Believe it or not, ( I was quite surprised! ) some of the largest advocates of unassisted births are members of the religious right, who believe that doctors, midwives, and doula’s all get in the way of how God intended babies to be born, which is into their fathers hands, after the mother and father helped the baby come naturally into birth through sexual acts. And yes, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I stumbled on that particular sect of birthing lore as well!!

I also read a lot of Sarah J. Buckley, a Queensland doctor who has had 4 homebirths and 2 lotus births, and has published many essays on the natural hormonal process of birth. She highlights how as mammals, we have a cocktail of hormones within us that is released during the birth process, if we behave as other mammals behave, and find a dark, quiet, unobserved spot where we feel safe, and keep out of our logical brains and trust to our mammal instincts. And I read a book about Lotus birth by Shivam Rachana, a Melbourne midwife.

There’s also Grantly Dick-Read, the father of the ‘natural birthing’ movement, and Leboyer, who championed reverence around birth in relation to the baby’s needs, and Michel Odent who started the water birthing movement, and writes often about gentle birthing. Not to mention the more well known authors Sheila Kitzinger and Janet Balaskas, who write about active birthing and taking an empowered role in birth Deepak Chopra also has a lot to say about gentle natural births, and has even created a birthing centre in America, where lots of work is done pre birth, during the experience, and afterwards, to create a conscious, gentle experience.

And of course my beliefs have also been shaped by my personal experiences. My first daughter was born in Katoomba hospital with a midwife, my personal doctor and my mother, and was a birth reflecting my little amount of knowledge on natural birthing. My waters were broken, I had pethidine, and it was a shock. 9 years later after meeting the love of my life we decided to birth in a hospital because we didn't know much about the options. I lounged in the spa bath, had my partner, mum, 2 support friends and the midwife on duty, we played music and the midwife thought we were having a party more than a birth, I had a bit of gas, and when I was only 8 cms dilated the midwife went off to get her machines and prepare for a birth she thought was going to be a while longer, and while she was out of the room my son's head crowned (he was born in his sac) and was born before she got back in the room. The first thing I said was “That was so easy”. With my 3rd birth we decided to try a homebirth, had a totally easy and natural birth in a birthing pool in my mothers loungeroom, with 3 midwives and my other children around. Knowing now how well I birthed, when my 4th child was on the way, we bought a house in Peterborough and were going to have an unassisted birth, but before my 4th child was born I met Rosey, and she kept in touch and offered me support. Now Rosey is a magical midwife, and after her 30 years of experience she has a large amount of instinct and intuition, so when I went into labour she already knew, and was most of the way on the 250 km drive to our house. She came into our birthing space and made everything safe and had all contingencies catered for, calmly and knowledgeably held the space for us, and when my daughter was born into the birthing pool, she gave me the huge gift of letting me be the first person to collect my baby from the water, which was incredible. As I sat there just having birthed, holding my baby in my arms, it occurred to me that I was the one who would find out what gender my baby was, and I could take as little or as long as I liked. It was incredible. We didn't leave the house for a month as we had a 'baby moon', we performed a lotus birth, and the oxytocic wash of love and bonding that surrounded our family was one of the most amazing and transformative events of my life.

My birthing knowledge has also been influenced by the incredible dedication and advocacy of local midwives, notably Rosey Vaher and Lisa Barrett, who are constantly trying to make options, possibilities, and realities available for local women, that encompasses both medical and homebirthing options, depending on necessity, reality, desire, and ability. These two women more than anyone else I know, are trying to make the paths between the medical and homebirthing models easier for their clients and everyone else involved, and to bring the focus from what either the medical or homebirthing fraternities believe to be ‘true’, to what is right for the family, mother and child, in every individual situation. I was fortunate to have these two women at the homebirthing part of this birth, as well as with me at the hospital, and they ensured my safety, as well as informed me of my realistic options when it became clear that this baby wouldn’t be born at home. I originally only booked Rosey to be my midwife, but when it became clear that this baby was in a breech position, and may have even been two babies, we asked Lisa to be a part of our homebirth as well, to ensure complete care, safety, and two valuable opinions. To have the continuity of Rosey being at home with me, and then being allowed into theatre made the world of difference as well. As someone who understood what was happening medically as well as knowing me personally, she could translate the events in a way that kept me feeling informed and acknowledged, and continues to do so as part of my after birth care as well..

As you may well imagine, in a lot of the books I’ve read about birth, Caesareans are described as traumatic and often damaging to both mother and child, as well as vastly over performed by a litigation fearing medical establishment. There’s much made of the possible complications and negative side effects, as well as a medical institution that only considers the birth in it’s medical terminology, and not the spirituality, confidence, attitudes and well being of the mother and child before, during and after the event.

And also as you may well imagine, as I was on my way to Flinders for what I guessed was going to be a Caesarean, having painful contractions out of the water that I love to birth in, into the ‘den of iniquity’ as described by much of my reading, I was absolutely terrified. It seemed all my fears had been wrapped up into one experience, and I was to face them all at the same time.

Imagine how incredibly grateful and overjoyed I was to encounter people smiling at me from the minute I came to Flinders, and how thrilled I was at how quickly the whole process was enacted. At the professional, informative, and respectful attitudes I came across in all the health professionals we dealt with, and how incredibly relieved I felt when the pain was stopped and it was nowhere near as bad as I’d thought it would be, in fact, not bad at all. Everyone of you who was in the room was friendly, told me exactly what you’d be doing, treated me gently, respected my wishes in all the details, helped me to have a lotus birth, told me all the details I needed to make an informed decision, and were graceful as you went about your jobs. For which I again want to offer the hugest gratitude I can muster.

And I’m also profoundly thankful that this experience happened before I went about publishing my book, as there is obviously a huge role and place for western medicine in birthing emergencies, and I realise now I had huge judgements about it, that would have been damaging to many women who went through similar situations to mine, and who would have been hurt and felt judged by my hardline attitudes. I was a homebirthing nazi, and now I believe I have a more well rounded opinion about all birthing options, and how we can access them and remain empowered, informed, and conscious.

I’m deeply grateful that my son and I are alive, and it’s thanks to you all that we are. And I realise now that I did get the perfect birth that I was after, but just not in the way that I thought it would be before it happened. I feel empowered not belittled by my experience, and I’m finding it interesting bumping up against attitudes similar to what mine were about Caesareans in the broader community. I intend to continue to tell my story to any who are interested, and describe the process and all of your actions in glowing terms. In my circles, Caesareans are often described as failures, horrific events, and in saddened tones. People don’t quite know what to do when I say that I had a perfect birth, and that the experience was amazing and empowering. As an unexpected and wonderful side effect, a few women who previously thought there must have been something wrong with them for their need to have a Caesarean, are reconsidering that notion, now that an ‘earth mother’ homebirther like me on her 5th birth had one!

As you're probably aware, there's a lot of debate at the moment about midwives and homebirthing, and I hope that you'll all keep in mind this story, as you enter discussions and decisions about homebirthing midwives and women's and families choices in birth. Having the continuous care of my homebirthing midwife also coming into the hospital with me, definitely eased my mind and helped me feel safer. And I'm certain that being left to a naturally induced labour, and spending a large amount of the birthing time at home, helped this experience to be a positive one, rather than the disempowered and horrific experience that many women feel on having a caesarean.

Also, in the year since my caesarean, I've found out some interesting things, mainly because for the first few months I experienced a mild form of post natal depression. Now I'm aware that what I'm about to talk about may be a very different paradigm of reality than what you all work within, but with the advancements of Quantum Physics and all the information coming to light about how much a person's thought affects their reality and physical health, I ask you to suspend cynicism and just go with me on this one for a minute. When I got sick of fighting with my partner and feeling perpetually angry and wondering why I'd birthed babies for years and never experienced an after period like this before, I self diagnosed Post Natal Depression from the Edinburgh Scale, and then started seeking treatment by alternative practitioners. I was fortunate to find Russel Smith, and Ayurvedic masseuse, and Andrea Hart, an accupuncturist, who between them pieced together the story for me. As Russel informed me caesareans by the very nature of the cut (there's no judgement in this by the way, I understand that it's the only safe place to cut, and I KNOW that this operation is neccesary and life saving), cut through a major meridian in the body, and the results of this, produce symptoms incredibly close to post natal depression. And I found this information further fleshed out by Andrea Hart, who told me that where the spinal goes in, is a place that accupuncturists never go near, as that point is one that locks off all power to the lower body. Again, no judgement in that statement, as power and sensation in the lower body need to be dulled to perform the operation, but the effects last longer than those of the anasthetic. And again, the effect on the body and psyche of these points being cut and having needles in them, are the same as the effects of postnatal depression.

I felt instantly relieved on finding this all out, as I could stop blaming myself for being an lesser mother than I had been, and realised why it was all happening. I also found their treatments helped me tremendously on the path to healing, and am now completely recovered. As accupuncturists are now covered by medicare to be present at births, (funny that this comes at a time when homebirthing midwives may not), this information may be handy for you when dealing with women who are having or have had caesareans and aren't feeling tip top.

Incidentally, I've also recently discovered Ethnopediatrics, and am supported in my beliefs of co-sleeping and attachment parenting as being biologically kind on my babies since reading about it. Some of the nurses in my convalescence in hospital had a bit of a hard time with me not letting my baby go or putting him in a cot It's worth a look at this new science, and very fascinating reading....

I'd best stop before this letter becomes too much of an epic, but I just want to say again, thank you all for being there, and for your thoughfullness, respect, and for giving me and empowered caesarean. From the bottom of my heart, thanks.

Hellena Post, Currawong and family.