It took me a while to get over the initial disbelieving thoughts about my absent period, strangely tender breasts and sudden hilarious childhood food cravings. But when I finally did, I decided against a pregnancy test, opting instead to ask my inner-wisdom (inner-knowing/soul/ spirit/ higher self//intuition/whatever resonates with you) if I was pregnant. I received clear NO’s, and having grown to trust this divine part of me above all else, I felt no need to investigate further.
A few weeks later I felt nudged to book an ultrasound scan to check up on my ovaries. After being diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) years before then spending the previous five diving deep into holistic wellbeing, I had journeyed to the point all my other symptoms dissipating! With the encouragement of my hormones finally coming into harmonized balance and having started a Holistic Hormonal Wellness Circle for women, I was curiously excited to see if my cysts had shrunk, lessened or disappeared as well!
Wand on my belly nervously awaiting the results, I was abruptly told my ovaries were not able to be seen due to the
8 WEEKS along blob they pointed to me on the screen.
In spite of the extraordinary healing I had experienced, I assumed when it came to fertility that there would be another EFFORT-FULL journey ahead of me a few years down the road when my husband and I foresaw growing our family.
So the news that I had conceived EFFORTLESSLY utterly floored me.
After processing the first wave of emotions in the bathroom stall, I flowed to a covered rooftop patio, which to my heart’s relief was completely unpopulated due to the present downpour. I connected to the most underlying part of me I had come to trust so infinitely and asked HOW COULD I HAVE BEEN LIED TO ABOUT THIS!!???!??
With the refreshing rain and wind chimes chiming around me, I received the words “We wanted you to be Delighted and Surprised.”
I cried and laughed. I felt simultaneous overwhelm, awe and joy and slowly allowed the shock of my delightful divine surprise to sink in.
Pleasant Pregnancy and Preparation Alignments
A few weeks before the ultrasound appointment, I had the timely interaction of meeting our neighbor who happened to be a midwife. Having already gained insights around the various risks and concerns associated with conventional birthing practices, I knew I would feel safest planning for a natural homebirth.
She shared with me sage advice that was profoundly supportive for my first trimester, lent me THE MOST ALIGNING childbirth book and gave me the insight that there was only one midwife in all of Nairobi doing homebirths (herself not being an option considering she was expecting too!)
My husband, J, and I considered going to Edmonton (my hometown) for the birth, but with the uncertainty around his visa permit approval, decided to stay in Kenya and what a gift that was!. Our midwife, Lucy, was AMAZING. She made me feel so safe and comfortable from our very first meeting and would come to our place for all the appointments. I remember catching myself smiling and laughing during one check up at how surreal and enchanting the moment was. I was laying down on a bench in our garden as she listened to the heartbeat of the Little Light growing inside of me while monkeys swung from the avocado tree above us.
I absolutely LOVED being pregnant and dream of being in East Africa again for a second pregnancy. [This also led to many a moment feeling confused and guilty about why I was thriving in my trimesters when a plethora of women (many of whom I knew closely), had gone through and/or were going through such deep hardships and deep pains in their motherhood journeys. Slowly I came to understand that there are many different facets that influence the vast spectrum of pregnancy experience but in my own case, I began to see numerous parallels between the new emerging approaches from trailblazers in the fertility space which emphasized the multifaceted aspects to prime for pregnancy before conceiving and they ways I had spent the previous half decade journeying towards healing naturally and holistically. Diving into deeper into fertility and hormonal wellness, I saw that as hard, confusing, frustrating, costly, lonely and time-consuming prioritizing my wellbeing was, all the different shifts I made towards more harmony (such as learning to nourish rather than deprive my body, balancing blood sugar, releasing stagnant feelings connected to stress and anxiety, improving sleep, reducing toxins…) were preparing me to be a more thriving host for a developing baby. I look back now on the past symptoms and challenges Life led me through with such fondness and deep gratitude, for giving rise to such a pleasant pregnancy and healthful foundation for my child-to-be.]
When I began to read the book lent to me by my neighbour, I was struck again by yet another inconceivable layer of how Life had been getting me ready for birth even before I conceived!
A couple of months before becoming pregnant, I completed an in-depth program becoming a certified instructor in Inner-Connection and Emotional Release, learning and experiencing how to support the unearthing and transmutation of suppressed emotions/stored energetic toxins/ childhood wounds/ the false-self.. (whatever resonates for you). It not only fostered deep shifts in my life; body and being, but SO closely paralleled the way in which Ina’s May’s Guide to Childbirth, shared about moving through contractions and having an unmedicated birth as well. I was shocked when I saw the noise-making, breathing and movement strategies written on the pages in front of me were the EXACT same as the ones I had become well acquainted with in my own experience.
The international best-seller laid out the importance of having the space to feel safe and using uninhibited deep free embodied movement, breathing and sounds to move through contractions, open throat and open the cervix (rather than resist them which creates further tension, prolongs labour and increases risk of complications and interventions).
I was in awe of how my dive into breath work, embodiment and somatic healing practices had unexpectedly blessed me with the ability to surrender to the intense waves of labour by all the practice I had been doing staying with, fully feeling and expressing waves of unprocessed emotions.
The last pivotal piece that prepared me was Connecting Within to my Inner-Knowing. I reached out to a fellow Inner Voice Facilitator and in the safe space held for me, let go of my lingering fears and attachments and received divine guidance, wisdom and clarity for the upcoming labour. I was filled with a deep felt sense of Strength, Peace and TrustFULLness that carried me through to the birth of my Little Light.
Here are a few of the experts of the Divine Wisdom that I received during the session:
“Birth comes from HERE [from withIN], more than anything else”“This [connection to deepest self ] will be with you no matter where you are, no matter the external, no matter the situation, no matter the setting, no matter the company…THIS is so deep. THIS is so strong. THIS is so big. All those external things are puny, puny, puny. Tiny, tiny, tiny. Oh you have this weight, Oh you have this depth, Oh you have this strength.
You know how to unlock it. It’s too deep to be contained. Will be with you in that moment, no matter where you are.”“You can minimize and soften the pain of the contractions by ALLOWING them. You’re not resisting the storm, not trying to refuse it or refuse it. Accepting that it’s there, accepting that this contraction is here, feeling it, being in it, while being deep, bringing the light into it. Of course not resisting, the resistance will only prolong, will only cause greater tension, will only cause more pain. Learning to accept and BE IN IT and WITH IT… comes back to PRESENCE and ACCEPTANCE.
TrustFULL Labour & Bare All Birth
On a Wednesday, one week before my guess date, J and I trekked up the steep sets of stairs for a morning stroll. I was only able to make it 5 minutes past the gate before a new level of soreness and tenderness in my pelvis forced us to turn back. As the day progressed, I climbed up and down two more rounds to grab a parcel and let in a masseuse.
Now I can’t say if it was all the stairs making baby really engaged, the feel-good hormones from my sore body finally getting some overdue relief during my first pregnancy massage, the reflexology during the appointment or a mix of these facets, but around 4/5pm I started to feel more and more pressure and oncoming cramp-like sensations.
It being my first pregnancy, I had no clue whether these new feelings were
The new sensations kept building. My mind had picked up somewhere that it was more common in first pregnancies for baby to arrive after the guess date and holding onto that notion I thought I had about 2 weeks to keep preparing. Having just wrapped up a collaborative webinar on PCOS & Fertility, I’d had only one day of shopping for necessities. I hadn’t nested or stocked up my freezer with bone broth and meals. I had not yet made my string of affirmations or hung up my fairy lights for the magical birthing ambience I was envisioning. We hadn’t even gotten any diapers or a change mat yet.
When J got home early that evening I told him about the heightening pressure but didn’t think I was going into labour and that I would still make the lunch date, shopping, food prep and pregnancy photoshoot plans I had over the next few days.
When the sensations continued to build, I felt a just-in-case nudge to start on the string affirmations. I wrote out
“I Trust You”
and sat with the daunting notion that I could very well be meeting my Little Light very soon despite not feeling at all ready.
I went down and inwards and as I felt into my concerns they began to ease and soften and I slowly sank into a space of acceptance, allowing and trusting the timing.
The waves kept increasing in duration and frequency so we called Lucy who advised me to take a shower and drink some cold water to see if the contractions might subside but they continued to build.
Finally around 11:30pm it became blatantly clear that C was the correct answer to my mind’s query. This had all been early labour and active labour was nearing. I texted my friends that our next day lunch date would need to be rescheduled then, upon Lucy’s advice, J and I went to bed to try and rest.
I slept a bit then began dozing in and out as the surges became more frequent and stronger until I had the urge to rush to the bathroom. I was having really intense contractions while on the toilet so we called Lucy again and while talking to her I remember getting a little longer window after a contraction and thinking- ‘yay! they are finally subsiding, I can go back to rest again!” but soon enough they picked right up again only a minute or two apart.
She told me to go back to bed until I UTTERLY couldn’t be in bed anymore.
I didn’t last long as the surges continued to intensify until around 2:45 am when my whole body and being was just screaming “NO!!” to lying down a second longer.
I got up and immediately had a clear deep inner-knowing and ordered J to tell Lucy it was time to come. I shifted into the living room where, bless my dear husband, a quadrant of blankets and pee pads had been laid out across the floor.
While J called the ambulance to come be on standby and investigated the birthing pool setup, I was deep within myself, riding the surges.
The contractions escalated insanely quick and the painful pressure bearing down in my pelvis felt INTENSE and RELENTLESS with only a brief pause between each wave.
At first it was hard to not want to run away and resist the pain but in that time on my own I began to learn how to soften and surrender to the surges, allowing them to overtake me and be fully felt. I deepened in not holding back, leaned into deep breathing and made a lot of wild free sounds to move through them- sighing, moaning, groaning, quivering and humming.The gift of having done the same before many times with intensely uncomfortable emotions had truly paved the way.
Proclaiming words I had written out also helped me to not get pummeled by the waves.
When another strong surging force pierced within me, I would repeat over and over and over again in my mind:
“Allow Allow Allow”
“Surrender Surrender Surrender”
“I Trust You, I Trust You, I Trust You” (saying both to baby, trusting my Little Light was working with me to move down into position and to my body, trusting it knew exactly what to do in each moment to build up to and foster the birth).
In other moments when the painful pressure bore down, I visualized the head being pushed down on the cervix (like in the image below) to remind myself that the painfully intense contraction was SERVING US through brilliant divine design, each one bringing baby down into position and shrinking my cervix from being a thick plug holding baby in for the past 9 whole months, to a paper thin pathway for my Little Light to come through!
By the time Lucy and our doula, Esther, arrived my active labour had already progressed fast and far along.
We refrained from checking dilation. I so deeply trusted and could feel that my free noises and movements were allowing me to keep opening up and sensed examining such an intimate part of my body at such an intimate moment would feel incredibly invasive and intrusive, make me tense up and come into a mental state away from the deep connection to my body’s divine wise guidance and just entirely disrupt and prolong labour.
Being surrounded by my support began dancing in and out of being in my own world during the surges then having present, sharp and clear awareness of our interactions and the space around me during the minute pauses.
During this window I remember:
• Getting unbearably hot and ripping off my housecoat to be gloriously fully naked at every contraction and shouting “HOW DO WOMEN DO THIS IF THEY ARE BEING FORCED TO WEAR CLOTHES!!??” (referring to a birth story I had heard of a labouring women trying to undress and staff insisting she had to stay covered and feeling such deep empathy in that moment for all those who shared a similar experience).
• Suddenly noticing and being shocked at how cute and tiny Esther’s hands were.
• Becoming aware of the sound of rainfall and it whisking me back to that downpouring afternoon when I first found out I was expecting, immediately filling me with a blissful joy and gratitude beyond words.
• And an unexpected urge of needing to poop… again. I hesitated, feeling embarrassed about pooping in front of them (it had not reached my previous awareness that pooping during labour is common, normal and a good sign of things progressing!), but I quickly surrendered to it, forgoing the tension and screamed “I need to poop… BUT I DON’T CARE!!!”
It felt really strange to poop on all 4’s like an animal then Lucy sweetly chimed in with “may I wipe you” and made me feel like it was totally fine, normal and no big deal.
Next thing I knew, another bolting surge came and I felt like a balloon had popped and burst between my legs! It felt AMAZING, a sweet and empowering victory like sensation and my water breaking (only half an hour after Esther and Lucy had arrived) bestowing to me a brief moment of well-earned rest from the relentless contractions.
I pivoted to a dry corner of the pee pad quadrant where my body guided me into an exaggerated Child’s Pose- legs opened as wide as could be, raised head and torso with my palms pushing into the ground against the next set of waves.
Soon thereafter, I felt the head was so down and close to emerging, followed by an immediate awareness that J was not there! I yelled “Where is J!? WHERE IS HE!?” worried he would miss the birth of our child!
Ironically, baby’s head arrived at the same time as the standby ambulance and J had just ran up to open the gate and made it back well in time.
Then preparing to crown, my body took over to a whole new level. It was in total override mode, pushing for me.
I had zero mental effort of ‘trying to push’; I COULD NOT NOT PUSH.
The contractions had peaked to their highest level and my entire body was surging and heaving with strong, intense, insanely powerful, forceful energy. Similar to the sensation of having a sudden strong sneeze overtake you, or how the body begins to coil and charge up to push vomit out, my whole body was powerfully expelling baby’s head out of me (which I later realized is referred to as the ‘Fetal Ejection Reflux’ and ‘Physiological Birth’).
During one of these involuntary surges I howled “HOW DO WOMEN DO THIS WHO DON’T DO YOGA!?” feeling genuinely it was SO HARD AND SO INTENSE even with all the care and preparation I was able to do and could not fathom the even greater levels of extremity experienced by other labouring women.
And in one of the brief moments between the forceful pushes I remember touching baby’s head and thinking it felt so wet, slimy, hairy, bumpy and weird! Then I experienced what is commonly referred to as “the ring of fire”.
I shrieked ”IT BURNS!!” and a lot of swear words as the width of his head emerged through.
When the innate power of my body pushed out baby’s head, he/she released a quick cry and hearing Little Light for the first time filled me with relief and delight.
The head coming out felt slow (even though it was only about 10 mins) then all of a sudden the body slipped out so rapidly. I blacked out for a quick second and next thing I recall, I was in a new quadrant section with my back resting against the couch between J’s legs as we met our baby (only 33 mins after my water had broke).
It was such a blissful beautiful flow to that sacred moment of our new family curled up together, J behind me and around me and holding Z tightly over my heart. After what felt like such a quick build up and intense experience there was such deep divine satisfaction to be finally resting with the love we had created and I had just birthed.
Guest Post Jenelle Katrine is mama to little Zakai and facilitator for Inner connection and hormonal harmony through her business "For Goodness Sake"
For a variety of reasons, 29% of pregnant Albertans will give birth via Cesarean section. While this number is unfortunately much higher than the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 10-15%, it’s important that we as a birthing community support those who require a c-section to safely birth their baby. At the end of the day, there will always be cases of individuals who require this medical intervention to preserve both them and their child’s health and safety.
How Birth Effects the Infant Gut Microbiome
One of the biggest concerns for those who give birth via cesarean is that it will impact the development of their infant’s gut microbiome. During a vaginal delivery, as the infant makes their way through the birth canal they are exposed to a large number of healthy bacteria that will assist in the development of the uniquely vast and important bodily system known as the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is responsible for a number of important bodily functions including immune and metabolic function. According to evidence, there are many chronic inflammatory conditions that are present in infants who were born via c-section and it is thought that these conditions are microbiome-mediated - meaning a reduction in the proper development of the microbiome could have caused such conditions. There have been tests done on infant feces from both of those born vaginally and surgically, and these tests show a variety of positive bacterial cultures in the vaginally-born infants and very little variety (including some negative bacteria) in those born via belly birth. So how do we help those babies who had to come earth-side via c-section? This is where Vaginal Seeding comes in!
What is Vaginal Seeding and How Do You Do It?
What does the evidence say?
Despite this practice going against most hospital guidelines (more on this below), a number of studies suggest that vaginal seeding alters the infants microbiome to more closely resemble that of an infant born vaginally. Of course there needs to be more randomized placebo- controlled trials to fully demonstrate said benefits. Fun fact, there are currently 2 US-based studies on this currently taking place and one more worldwide!
What the previous meta-analysis and large observational studies have shown is that babies born via cesrean who were seeded with the process listed above had an increase in Bacteroides and Bifidobacterium spp. in their gut which are important strains of bacteria for priming the microbiome. Lacking the former bacteria strain in a microbiome has been associated with a microbial imbalance that could lead to being overweight later on in childhood. While some studies were done by administering a diluted form of these bacteria orally to the infant, these studies did not have the same beneficial impact as the studies where the infant was seeded with the gauze method.
Controversy around Vaginal Seeding
Like many other physiological practices that birth-givers seek out in a hospital setting, many who work in the health care field and even many health care institutions frown upon or forbid this practice under their care. There are a variety of reasons behind this resistance. The biggest one is the fear that these vaginal secretions could also contain harmful infections such as Group B Streptococcus, HIV, herpes simplex virus (HSV), and human papillomavirus, and therefore seeding the infant could increase the chance of the infant being exposed to this. Many people undergo planned c-sections due to a known infection and therefore seeding would increase the infection risk. However, it is important to note that of all of the controlled studies currently done on vaginal seeding, there has never been a reported transmission of infection. Another issue brought up by skeptics is that infants receive their first exposure to maternal microbiome in the womb, so seeding is unnecessary. It is important to note that this claim has also been studied, and in the most recent studies no resident microbiota were present in the placenta of a term pregnancy before birth.
Wrapping Up: Should You Try Vaginal Seeding?
As a birth doula and childbirth educator, my role is not to push you in the direction of any procedure and rather encourage you to make the decision that is right for you. However, as evidence suggests, the risks of vaginal seeding are low and the benefits are massive. Consideration must also be put into whether your current care provider or birthing institution would support this practice, and how comfortable you are with advocating for yourself and negotiating this practice to occur. I encourage anyone who is considering vaginal seeding to read the linked resources below and be mindful of claims made of the dangers of this practice without coinciding, high-quality evidence to back this claim. At the end of the day, your infant deserves to be exposed to your unique microbiome to ensure the proper development of this important function of the gut. Be sure to use BRAIN to effectively weigh the pros and cons to this practice and be sure you are making the right decision for you!
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