One beautiful birth story
After having such a powerful home birth experience, I really wanted to share my wild and wonderful story in Lithuania, my home country. Home births in Lithuania are very rare because while women can choose to do that, it is illegal for medical professionals to assist them at home. That simply means that for most women home births are not an option. I had a wonderful conversation with a Lithuanian parenting blog which I am loosely translating below (the original post appeared here http://miestomamos.lt/2016/07/22/vieno-grazaus-gimdymo-istorija/).
One beautiful birth story
I am just immensely happy about this beginning and I keep coming back to those first hours after her birth. They were the most sacred hours of my life.
Born and raised in Alytus (Lithuania) and having succeeded with her parents support to go to the U.S. and study in high school as an adolescent, Asta Rudzinskaite has now been living near Madrid for nearly three years with her husband, and a baby daughter. She moved here from London where she finished her studies at the London School of Economics, worked with Non-Governmental Organizations and travelled to various countries in Africa and Asia, assisting in the field of informal housing.
She says her job was very interesting and exciting, because it allowed her to see much of the world and lots of different ways of living. However, she considers her current – mom’s – role a promotion. She diligently prepared for it together with her husband in advance and decided to choose a birth at home.
“There is no one who can do my child-rearing job better than me. Even before I got pregnant we talked with my husband about how important it was for us that one of us would always be with our baby. If not me, then him. Perhaps in the future we will decide to swap, but for now… Every woman has her needs and desires but I have been able to relax and dive into this completely new rhythm, completely new assignment. At the moment I am very happy that I have this possibility and I think I will not have any regrets in the future about not having travelled for a few years. I have a few project ideas and am beginning to think about the future – I am drawn by the topics of parenthood and healthy living. It is very interesting to connect with other people who are doing something similar but for now I am completely content being a full time mom”, – says Asta, whose daughter will soon celebrate her first birthday.
You chose to give birth to your first and – for now – only child at home. In Lithuania just this combination of words causes a storm. Even though it’s not forbidden to give birth at home, medical professionals cannot offer medical help.
Well, the desire of some women to give birth at home does not interfere with the desire of other women who would like to give birth at a hospital. I remember when I was pregnant and used to get asked at which hospital I was going to give birth, I would share that the intention was to do it at home. The response was – you are so brave, but my reply was always – you are so brave that you are not scared to go to a hospital. Whenever I have conversations with Lithuanian women and share that I gave birth at home, they are shocked. How could you do it? No, in my case that would not have been possible… Of course, we cannot tell for sure what would have happened had things happened in a different way. However, this attitude about needing to be rescued from pregnancy is very strong in Lithuania – at least judging from the comments online. I read them because I keep searching for information in Lithuanian about natural birth and preparation for it – it’s a very interesting topic for me.
I would like to talk about the fact that other options exist apart from the most common one. Frequently, I encounter a comment – you were lucky. I have no experience of giving birth at a hospital. My life, my choice and my path were completely different. However, they were not random – a lot of preparation went into it.
Saying “you were lucky” really diminishes the efforts that were put into it.
I spent ten months studying, working with my fears, expressing them through creativity, talking to the baby, keeping a journal about my feelings, together with my husband we attended weekly birth preparation group meetings, watched films, read books and magazines, participated in online video conferences. Perhaps we were just lucky, but I think that our intentions and conscious energy influences and creates our life events. There are many women who spend more time choosing a new phone than deciding in which hospital, where and how their baby will be born. If you don’t know your options, then the only ones that are left are those that someone else offers to you.
As I understand, you knew quite early on that you were going to give birth at home.
My first inspiration was the film “Orgasmic Birth”. I watched it before getting pregnant. The thought was already there that perhaps the new big event of the coming year would be waiting for our baby. I don’t remember how exactly but I stumbled upon that film online. I watched it glued to the screen and was left completely astounded. Because I could not understand why up until that point I had never heard that it was possible, that women were so strong and powerful, and that everything was so simple and natural, the body knew what to do. I was completely shocked. How come my mom had never told me such stories? Why do we never see that in films? Why is birth always just the screaming, flashing lights, rushing, women all red from screaming and it all ends when the doctors-experts hand in the baby to the mom?
“Orgasmic Birth” for me was like the first awakening. I saw it and I realized that I also wanted it, just like those women. If they can do it, why couldn’t I create the same conditions, the same environment, the same team, and the same preparation as they did? In addition to that, it has now been a while that I attempt to heal myself naturally and look after myself in many ways. And there are no longer reasons for me to go to the doctors. In my opinion, if something is happening, it’s because the body is giving a sign. Be it a headache or an indigestion – I don’t think that it’s just bad luck, some pain or an attack by some virus. I always ask myself: why am I in this situation? Maybe I haven’t rested or am angry for some reason, or am holding onto a thought without allowing myself to express it. So giving birth was the same – let’s try it naturally, if such a possibility exists. At the end of the day, babies are conceived at home, why should they arrive elsewhere?
And is your husband from such a background that this was not scary to him or did he simply follow you?
He was very supportive. Now, looking back on it, I am genuinely surprised that he told me without any doubt – all right, as you wish. Because I know women who would like to do it but have doubts, and then the husband says – absolutely not. In such case, even living in a country where women can choose where and how they want to give birth, it cannot happen. Support and the team are very important. If a husband is to participate in birth, his fears need to be reviewed as well. Concealed feelings will most certainly surface during the birth and can strongly interfere. Successful birth requires open connection and support from all participants. It was very beautiful and natural that he agreed to learn.
What did your husband do during your pregnancy? What was he learning?
We read, studied and listened everything together. I completely immersed myself and was like an information sponge. There is so much of it. It is necessary to have strong filters because there is so much negative information which is useless – you only acquire someone else’s fears. It was very clear that we were looking for the information confirming that giving birth was possible, beautiful, positive, natural. Then movies and books begin to attract, and people to appear. We found a group of midwives in Madrid who work with families wanting to have home births. Every week we had meetings. And when we agreed with them that they would come to our home, we met for personal consultations, clarified our desires, expectations, discussed what was acceptable and possible.
I’ve heard that no matter how life unfolds – sometimes women forget the names of their husbands, but the stories of how they gave birth remain.
How many people attended your birth?
Usually they attend in pairs. There were two women and my husband. And during the last minutes of birth I hid from everyone, I didn’t want any people around. Apparently, all kittens, puppies and other mammals are born this way, their moms hide from everyone. But I needed the support to help create the space. My husband really needed the support. Even though we have been together for five years, he had never seen me in such a state. This was a new experience. And being next to experienced, trusted women, I think made him calm. It was very important to me when I was told that the end was very near. Such confirmation, that everything was well and that I will live through it from women who had seen it many times was reassuring.
I don’t know if my daughter would be less calm had she been born differently – I don’t have any way to compare. But we have a very strong bond. She doesn’t speak yet but it’s very clear to me what she wants – babies can communicate their needs in other ways. I am just immensely happy about this beginning and I keep coming back to those first hours after her birth. They were the most sacred hours of my life. To be at our home, with our own food, tea… all of us lying down on big mattresses on the floor with my husband and the little one who was still attached to her placenta. We spent two or three hours like this. I had picked a name, we were looking at her and my husband told me – I think she really looks like Leila. It was like our very own baptism of our baby. No separation, no weighing no other intereferences – all of that can be done a few days later. I think it really shows in my daughter – she has no memories of being without us or with people who were insensitive or unattentive.
We chose to be on our own the first days. To understand our new routines, to look at the baby, and to spend time within our new changed family. My husband was completely devoted – he prepared for me all kinds of smoothies, food, and simply was by our side.
So your baby was born directly into your own hands?
Yes – at the end I hid in a dark shower cabin and the midwife couldn’t see anything. As it was the first birth for me, usually they try not to leave women on their own. But at one point in between contractions my husband came in and I told him I needed to be on my own, so they were trying to respect my request. Only at the very end, one of the midwives very very quietly snuck in between the contractions. I thought she would say, that’s it, Asta, we cannot wait anymore, it’s all getting so intense that we need to transfer to a hospital. But I was full of this energy like a she-wolf – it seemed to me that had I heard that, I would have run off into the mountains, nobody would have been able to interrupt. But she came in and said – this is it, it’s so close, so near. This was exactly the support that I needed. By the way, my waters had not broken before birth. And at one point I felt that I had to break them for the baby’s head to descend, the process to move on and complete itself. It was as if this knowing came from within that I had to do it. One can think that this is totally primitive, like in some swamps, but on the other hand the body truly knows what it needs in each moment.
I’ve heard that no matter how life unfolds – sometimes women forget the names of their husbands, but the stories of how they gave birth remain. If that story is difficult, they go own carrying this burden… and not because of the process itself but because of how they were treated in a hospital, how they got scared or pressured.
Even old women tell their stories like they are new. I think that often how we were treated and the birth itself blend into one and we do not see a difference. Then we write off the birth and even being a woman as hell.
The bond with the baby, the joy of being a mom, postpartum depression, problems with breastfeeding – I think that the disruption of the birth process disrupts everything that follows and affects the woman’s attitude towards herself, her child, towards motherhood and womanhood in general. Birthing woman is in a special state when she is very receptive of the influence of the environment – and it all really remains in her memory.
It should be a different feeling – to leave like a she-wolf who has successfully gone through a huge trial or like a sheep who was more or less successfully prepared and rescued. That feeling that you had not done something, had not successfully gone through a transformation might not come the first day or even the first year after giving birth. And how do you feel yourself as a woman after such an experience?
Completely differently. I really like the saying that when a baby is born, a mom is born. It feels as if a reset button has been pressed – completely new. There is nothing that I cannot do. Period. This process empowers so strongly – even for the motherhood itself. I have so much patience and a feeling that I know what happens with my daughter and how to help her. For example, one hot day she got some sort of a rash – and my first reaction was fear, moments later followed by knowing that this is my child and she is well, I will put some chamomile or calendula cream on. There is this trust in myself as a mom: I gave birth to this baby, therefore all other resources are within me. This knowing that all is possible.
I am not saying that all women should have home births, because every woman should give birth where she feels safest. First and foremost, all of us birthing mammals need the production of oxytocin, and that is only possible in an environment where you feel safe. When you are scared, lost, confused or afraid – the chemistry of the body is completely different, the processes are different. Doctors are often scared of what’s natural because many of them have not seen it. I really want for there to be one more choice because it seems that often we choose without knowing about other options. I think that many women could be witnesses to that a year or two later, looking back, one can think that not all of it was well. Although in the beginning many hear – the most important part is that the baby is here and you are alive.
This phrase – all that matters is that it ended well – is so deeply ingrained! But when you think about it, there is nothing positive in it – just the denial of emotions, attempt to block, forget and ignore another person’s feelings.
Obviously, it is important that the baby is fine. But only healthy nourished moms can have healthy nourished babies. Good mood, energy, milk – all of it is there when a mom feels well, is confident and has inner peace and strength.
When I worked in Nepal, I remember talking to one woman. She told me that after women give birth, they return back to their mother and for 40 days the mom and the baby receive daily massages. During this whole time they are looked after and they don’t have to do anything – just to feed the baby and eat. From our perspective it may seem like such a luxury, who can let themselves lie down and be massaged for 40 days! But those first weeks, when the woman is between the worlds, newly reborn, are so sacred. My heart aches listening to my friends or acquaintances who tell me three days after giving birth “oh well, I am already doing the shopping”. Even if it is the easiest birth in the world, there is nothing more important at that moment than simply being in that special space, being with the baby, resting, being pampered. I really think it is what is needed. Kitchen, laundry, going out can all wait, you will organise it all later. But in order to receive so much love, it is important to be supported by husband, mom, doula or anyone else close.
I think that birth is such a powerful process – there is nothing that can define you more as a woman. And the fact that we don’t value it, don’t put time and effort, shows that in our culture we don’t respect the very essence of femininity and its culmination.
After giving birth, I feel like a different woman. There is nothing that I cannot do. Period. This process empowers so strongly – even for the motherhood itself.
Did you have a birth plan?
We did and a very detailed one. We had agreed with the midwives that in an extreme case they would have gone together to the hospital. We had a list of our requests and important conditions and wanted to have our choices respected. How my body was treated, as well as the baby – after all, it is possible for the Cesarean to be gentle as well, that the transition would be a lesser shock to the baby and to us. Birth plan was an important detail of our preparation for birth – we thoroughly thought it through, discussed what and why was important to us.
Is it important for you to share your story?
We still keep in touch with some of the families with which we prepared for the birth. It was especially important to meet up during the first months after birth – we would gather all women to chat. Sharing the story is part of the ritual. There is a need to express it all, to join the mom club. It seems to me so important to know positive stories, especially before the first time! Because every pregnancy is an open door to everyone to share their horror stories. This way people relive their experience anew, cleanse. But if we never create space for positive stories, they begin to disappear – such moms nearly feel ashamed: it’s uncomfortable, this other mom suffered so much and I had it somehow easier. But how else can we hear these positive stories? For me the film “Orgasmic Birth” was an eye opener. I know women who had the biggest orgasms of their lives while giving birth. It is physiologically normal and easy to explain it because the baby enters in the same way as it leaves. It’s all very simple. But without knowing this option you could not even imagine it.