Being Present During Labour – My Role As A Birthing Partner
You may remember a few months back, I mentioned that I was very fortunate to be present at the labour and birth of her daughter with one my regular pregnancy clients in January.
Emma had very kindly taken the time to write this about our journey working together through her pregnancy and assisting not only her but her husband on their amazing birth of their daughter.
I first visited Tania at Zenses Holistic Therapies during the 23rd week of my pregnancy, initially as I desperately needed a back massage to help relieve the tensions caused by my starting-to-show-bump. On my first visit I had a full body massage, and I knew immediately that I would be seeing Tania again soon! My visits were initially monthly and became fortnightly and then weekly as I became closer to my due date.
In my numerous sessions I had a range of treatments including back and shoulders massage, full body massage (who knew that having my pregnant knees and forearms rubbed would feel so good?!?) and almost every visit would include reflexology as part of the Zen Mama package. At the start of the session Tania would ask me my current pregnancy ailments (there were many) and she would work on the appropriate area of my foot – she covered issues such as sciatic pain, which was a complaint throughout my whole pregnancy, helping to keep my emotions balanced and giving me energy boosts (my work colleagues commented that they could always see a difference in me after a session as I was much more relaxed and positive about things), she focused on my digestive system to help with the joys of constipation, and finally when I was close to my due date she worked on my sinuses as I could feel a cold coming on and really didn’t want to be suffering from that when in labour!I
As well as being much more relaxed after each session, I also noticed the difference as a result of the reflexology too – without going into too much detail, I would have happy bowels by the next day, for example! After every session I always noted a difference in the baby too – she would immediately start moving around when I was having the treatment done (some of my first kicks were on Tania’s table), and then for the day or so after she would be really chilled out in the womb – I am sure my relaxed vibes passed onto her too.
During the sessions running up to my due date, Tania and I discussed the possibility of her treating me in the early stages of labour, as I had learnt that it is very important to have a relaxed atmosphere in order to keep the oxytocin hormone flowing and the adrenaline at bay. Having treatments with Tania were some of the more relaxing times of my pregnancy, so I was sure that I wanted her to be involved in some way. On the day of my daughters birth, my waters breaking early in the morning was my first indication of labour. The hospital said that if my contractions had not started in the next 24 hours then they would induce me – this is something that I did not want to happen. So I sent a message to Tania. She came round to my house and started doing some reflexology to help induce labour, release the oxytocin hormone, and reduce the amount of adrenaline which was starting to creep in with my nerves. It was quite amazing how quickly things kicked off once she arrived and started the reflexology – the feelings changed from fairly sore period-type pains to proper contractions within 30 minutes of her starting. After my contractions kicked in we then changed over to massage. This was when things became strangely enjoyable!!
Tania and I shut ourselves in my bedroom and made it my safe and cosy place. My husband would run in with cups of tea and cake for us. And we actually has a bit of a laugh in between contractions. I was sitting on a pregnancy ball leaning over the end of the bed, and with every contraction Tania would rub my lower back until the sensation went away. As well as helping to relax my lower back, the biggest benefit was that it focused my mind on something other than the contraction. Later on in the day, when the contractions became the strongest I would always be focusing on Tania rubbing my back and would be thinking of the different sensations I felt there as the contraction began to subside. I ended up staying at home for the first 8 hours of labour, until I was 4 cm dilated and in active labour. I really don’t think I would have lasted so long at home had Tania not been with me – I am quite sure that my husband and I would have panicked and gone to hospital much sooner – and I am so glad that we did stay at home as it was so relaxed and comfortable.
Tania actually came to the hospital with us, and stayed until the birth of my daughter. Again everything was relatively calm in the birthing suit, and Tania continued to rub my lower back with every contraction, even when I climbed into the birthing pool. Again, with each contraction I focused on both my breathing and the feeling of my back being rubbed – it still amazes me how such a small motion had such a beneficial effect. As a result, I managed to get through the birth using only gas and air as a painkiller and had my daughter in the birthing pool. Without Tania’s reassuring presence, I am not sure if it would have gone quite so calmly. I can honestly say that I had an amazing birth and could not have asked for anything different.
My husband also says that he benefited greatly from Tania’s presence throughout the day. When we were at home, the fact that she stayed with me in the bedroom and kept me calm through the first stage of labour meant that he could deal with the excitement and anxiety in his one way (cleaning the house from top to bottom), and he knew that I was in safe hands and feeling happy and comfortable. And as Tania rubbed my back during the contractions at the hospital (I can guarantee that I would have been yelling at my husband that he wasn’t doing it right, if that had been his job!) it meant that he could have other supportive roles during the final stages of labour.
Our first visit to Tania was the day after we left hospital: this time I took along both my daughter and husband, who also needed a quiet and relaxed space to gather himself together. I had some reflexology done and during that session and numerous subsequent ones Tania concentrated on stimulating my breast milk production, helping boost my energy levels, focusing on my bowels (which were still not happy!), and most importantly balancing out my hormones, which were all over the place. Since giving birth 3 months ago, I continue to see Tania every 2-4 weeks and will continue to get the Zen Mama package as I am still breastfeeding my daughter, and I like having reflexology to help with my milk production.
My daughter also loves visiting Tania in the Garden Room, and she always relaxes when she is there as the room is lovely and warm, smells of aromatherapy oils and has relaxing music in the background. I always strip her down and breastfeed her when I am having reflexology done, and she inevitably falls asleep a very contented baby. I do also see a big difference in my daughter after we have been for a session, as she is very relaxed and calm the evening of and the day after, and she sleeps really well for a few days. I am really excited to take her to one of Tania’s Baby Reflexology courses later this month, as I am keen for my daughter to benefit from the effects of reflexology, as I did.