This podcast has been a loooong time in the making. In 2019, I gave birth to my daughter (who just turned 1 🥳). Last year while pregnant, I shared part one of my pregnancy journey here & today it’s time for (the long overdue) part 2…
In today’s solo podcast we’re talking about:
- Choosing a birth pathway – how we chose between hospital & home birth
- Trusting your body and why that’s sometimes so difficult
- The weight & responsibility of going against social norms & doing something different
- Our actual birth – the reminders & resources that fueled our beautiful experience
- The postnatal period – some practices that helped us flourish as a new family
- Why I don’t share my daughter online currently
During my pregnancy, it was so expansive to hear the stories of other women who had gone against the grain & had a beautiful experience. This is really the key reason I’m sharing this story today.
Yet at the same time, I know pregnancy/birth/labor can be a challenging, upsetting, disappointing, or traumatizing experience for so many women.
I don’t believe we change our culture (& hyper-medicalization of birth) by staying silent.
So know that I offer this podcast NOT as an expert (I’m not an authority on pregnancy, labor, or birth) – but as a fellow woman who’s going through a personal experience of making some ‘radical’ decisions – and is happy to talk about it.
Consider this a very intimate having-a-cup-of-tea-with-a-friend type podcast.
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FULL PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:
Welcome to the podcast. I’m Jenna Ward, and I’m very grateful that you’re joining me. We’re having a juicy conversation today around pregnancy. And I’m no pregnancy expert, as you know, I’m a feminine embodiment coach, but I’ve had a very interesting pregnancy and birth experience. And so this episode today is simply just sharing my experience around pregnancy. And I’m so excited to share this with you today, because just recently, my little babe, who I birthed, and we’re going to speak about the birth pathway that we chose for birthing this baby, she just turned one, which blows my mind. And when I cuddle her in the evening, she’s such a big hunk of chunk baby to hold onto these days. And the timing just felt really right for me to reflect back. Actually I can share the ritual that we used at her first birthday that our family did to reflect back, but it also felt really beautiful to share with you some reflections around pregnancy.
I’ve been, over the past 12 months since her birth, slowly and slowly emerging from this really very private cocoon with her. And with this marking of one year, feels like a great time to share. I’ve also had some very special women around me who have recently birthed and it’s reminded me how important it is that we have free and open conversations about birth, because it is a big event. It can be a beautiful event. It can be an unexpected event. It can be sometimes a challenging event. It can go how we expected and not how we expected. And so in sharing my experience on today’s podcast, I want to preface this up front by saying I’m not a pregnancy expert and I didn’t have the perfect birth. And I don’t actually think there is such thing as a perfect birth. I feel that what’s really important is that we as women are able to reclaim and to embody our full innate body’s capacities. Put another way, our bodies are literally built to birth.
And I feel like this is a really beautiful power, which has and continues to be medicalized quite a lot. And so in today’s podcast, I just want to share up front that no matter what your birth was, I celebrate the amazing power and beauty that you are as a woman to bring another human and another soul here. And I hope that this conversation is something that can be supportive and nourishing and healing, even if our journeys look different, which they will. Because every birth is unique and every beautiful baby has its own perfect way to be here, its own perfect way to show up and is perfect just as it is. So let’s start by… Where to start? Oh my gosh. So much to talk about. Well, let’s talk about choosing our birth pathway. So I already have shared in the part one of this blog, which was called my pregnancy blog, so if you’re really interested in going to read that part one, you can Google The Pregnancy Blog Jenna Ward and you’ll find it as the first Google result there.
Once we found out we were pregnant, we really quickly went to… We didn’t really know what to do. My husband and I kind of looked at each other and we were like, “Oh my God, this stick has just shown that we’re pregnant, what do we do?” So it just seemed like the natural and the organic next step was to go to our GP. And our GP, who was lovely, referred us to a local hospital who had a group midwife practice. And that seemed like a really great pathway for us. And to be honest, we didn’t really know what kind of pathways were available to us for birthing a babe. We knew you could do it at home or in a hospital, but we didn’t really realize the huge nuance in what that actually looks like. Our modern media and entertainment really depicts childbirth as this high-intensity event where your waters break and you have to rush to hospital, and then, whoosh, out comes this baby.
And I don’t know any woman who’s had that experience because even if we do decide to birth in hospital, we’re spending a huge amount of our pre labor and our actual labor at home before they even want to see us. So there was so much for us to navigate in actually choosing what our birth pathway was. And like many women, we got set onto a path, which was a bit of the default setting. This is the way you go, this is the current that you flow, this is how it works. And in a way for about the first 30 weeks of my pregnancy, we were just swept in a certain direction that was not necessarily of our choosing. It was just the current that we somehow found ourselves in. And so what this looked like was I was set up with a group of midwives who would be my primary care provider.
So it wasn’t obstetrician led. It was midwife led. And for me, that was important because I felt that an obstetrician is a medically trained professional. Obviously midwives are as well, but the primary mechanism that obstetricians have to deliver babies is through medicine, that is through intevention and cesareans. Whereas the primary method that midwives have in my worldview, to birth babies, is through working with the mother using, and this is what my experience end up being, using different pelvic manipulations and support. And it seemed to me to be a much more mother centered model, working with a midwife rather than a medical centered model, which was working with an obstetrician.
Now there’s so many factors here as well. Factors like my age and the risks associated with my pregnancy, factors like the resources that I had access to, financial accesses, locational accesses, economic accesses. There’s a huge constellation of unique factors that contributed to both the birth pathway current that we initially got swept up on, which was this group midwife practice, where we would be birthing in hospital. And at somewhere between 20 and 30 weeks, I started to say to my husband, “I just don’t know if this feels right.”
And there was a sense within me when I was showing up to meet with my health care professionals, who were professional lovely people, there was a sense that just my needs were not being met. Everything was progressing well with the pregnancy. They were doing all of the routine checks, it was all very procedural, but I was feeling that I needed more nourishment, more care, more nurture, more psychospiritual, emotional support in this journey. And I was not getting that from the birth pathway, the group midwife practice, that I had initially been referred to. And I also was becoming increasingly concerned about birthing in a hospital, simply because my reading… And one of the best books that I read was a book by Sarah Buckley, Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, I’ll put the link to that in the show notes. I was also at the time reading this book, which was really reminding me that birth is not a medical event. It is a very natural event.
Birth is not a problem that we need to solve. It is something that your body is designed to do. And so at around this 20 to 30 week mark I said to my husband, “I think we need to change our care pathway. I think I want to birth at home. I’m not feeling the support that I need from this current model of care. And I’m worried that the risk of intervention here is going to creep up and find its way into our birth. And I feel really confident in my body’s ability to birth this baby.”
Now, of course, all due diligence, we wanted to make sure we were close to the hospital and we wanted to make sure we had really experienced people in our team, but we decided at about the 30 week mark to change to a home birth. And it was a big decision. My husband was not sure, and I didn’t necessarily want to be in a place of convincing him, but I knew that there was going to be a lot of discussions to get him on board and get him supportive of this plan.
And there were a lot of other people around me who were in very divided camps. I had had some close friends who had home birthed before and had had really positive experiences. So this was great information. And then there were more conservative people around me, who just the word home birth was not a word that you could even speak. And so this information about our decision to home birth was something that I didn’t really share with many people because I didn’t want to have to manage other people’s anxieties and expectations around my body’s natural process. And that was a decision that my partner and I made together, because it’s his baby too.
So then we went searching for a midwife and we were so blessed to be referred to… I’ve only birth one baby, so I only have a one time experience, but we were referred to this woman called [Terry 00:00:10:07], And Terry was the most perfect fit for our family. We first met with her at about 32 weeks, which was kind of “late” in the pregnancy. And she was exactly what I felt my needs were. The emotional support, the physical support, beyond just checking my OBS, like the actual care of my body, showing me how to massage my body or stretch in this way or, “Here’s how you can feel your baby.” And it was just such a relief to find that this woman who had home birthed herself and who had birthed babies, had been a midwife for over four decades could come in to support us.
And coincidence, she also happened to have Dutch heritage, which my husband had. And I felt like that was a sign reinforcing him that, yes, this is the right move to make. And so we decided to get out of that current that we were in, to move against the grain. And honestly, I feel like it would have been so much easier to just keep flowing with the current, because when we make decisions that are against the social norms and the social expectations, what happens is we can no longer put our power and our responsibility in a model that says, “I’m going to take that responsibility so you don’t have to carry it.” When we decide to go against the grain, when we decided to get out of those currents and to go out our own way, we have to shoulder the responsibility of that decision.
And that’s a very big weight to carry because if you, as a mother… Say, for example, if I had decided to home birth and something happened to myself or my baby as a result, that responsibility societaly would have been put all on my shoulders. Whereas if I had decided to go with the current and the social norm and to birth in hospital and still something happened to me or something happened to my baby, I actually wouldn’t have to be wearing that responsibility because I’ve placed that responsibility in the model and I’ve placed that power in the model. And so it is a big deal to go against the grain and any woman who has done it, I understand the weight of responsibility, the time, the inquiry into your own power, the decision making and the consideration that goes into doing it your way. It is a lot more work.
And I feel like in these modern times, a lot of us are so busy that we may not actually have the time or the space to give due consideration to that taking on of the responsibility. So what I mean by that is my husband and I spent a lot of time talking, a lot of emotional labor and emotional discussions. The time spent with our midwife, increased by a factor of 10. It took a lot more psychologically, relationally, time-wise, emotionally to take this power back and to take this responsibility and to wear it ourselves. And it obviously is the health of myself and the health of our child so it was not something that we did lightly, but when your body knows and your body always knows, we all have a body that is speaking to us currently through the language of our internal sensations and knowing.
When your body knows that your needs are not being met in the current model or the current system, and this is true, whether you’re birthing a baby or whether you’re in a particular job or whether you’re trying to trust a particular professional or you’re in a relationship. If we’re in a model and we feel that our needs are not being met, there is the first step of acknowledging that, which takes a lot of time, energy, labor consideration. And then there’s the next step of actually reclaiming our power and navigating a new path. And I really am so grateful to all the women who walked ahead of me on the path of, in this case, home birth and who shared their positive experiences with me because it was affirming to what my body deep down knew, that I could do this, that I was incredibly capable, that this was a natural and perfect experience that was destined to unfold. However it was destined to unfold. And that I was, and that I am, supported in this.
What really also helped me was not waiting until the day of the birth to be preparing my body. For many years prior to this, I have been practicing feminine embodiment and that looks like self-coaching with feminine embodiment coaching tools. And it also looks like movement practices using our primal feminine flow movement. And this has also been hugely positive in contributing to my ability to sense when my needs were not being met, my ability to trust that my body had this and that the power was within me. And I’ll speak really shortly about the actual birth and some other resources that I drew on, but these personal practices were essential in not only cognitively knowing that I could home birth, but really feeling it in my body as a sense of power, as a sense of possibility, as a sense of this is right.
As I love to say, the truth of something is in the feel of it. And I’ve been attuning this body as a super sensitive feeling instrument through feminine embodiment practices for many years. And so it didn’t surprise me, but it was still a big decision for us to make. And so this then brings us to actually going into the birth. So I went into labor. I was due on a Monday, and I had a feeling that I would be “overdue”. Interesting fact that my midwife shared with me in France, a full-time pregnancy is considered to be 41 weeks. So it’s so interesting, here in Australia, a full term pregnancy is considered to be 40 weeks and people start to freak out the day that you are over 40 weeks, but in France you just go a whole extra week and no one really minds or bats an eyelid. And I just find that so interesting.
I was very happy to wait with my babe. I thought all of our indicators were really solid, so I thought I would go overdue and I did. And it was getting close to a Thursday, and interestingly, Thursday is my favorite day of the week. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I was born on a Thursday myself, but Thursday came around and I was really feeling huge, my belly was huge. And I had been through the whole angst of, “I just want this pregnancy to be over.” And that real void that women go through before we birth. And so I took myself for a vigorous walk in the beautiful national park near where I live, it’s called Noosa National Park, and it is stunning. And then I took myself to a beautiful lunch.
And as I was sitting at lunch, I began to feel these niggles, these surges, very mild. And as I was beginning to feel them, this really beautiful interior decorating store that is in the area, they drove past. And the name of this interior decorating store was the name that we had picked out for baby girl. I thought I was having a boy, I had a girl. Spoiler alert. And the name that we had picked out for a girl was the name of this interior design store. And so as that truck drove past and my surges began, I thought, “Oh, that’s really interesting. Okay.”
And so then over the next few hours things progressed, we saw our midwife, she came to our home where everything happened and she said, “Jenna, this could be something, it could be nothing. I think it’s something, but let’s wait and see.” And at about 5:00 PM that afternoon, I texted my husband, “Get home.” And then I sent one more text, and I said, “Now,” Because we had started. And from five o’clock in the afternoon, as the surges really began to get more intense, I was very much in an internal world of turning in. I had very little awareness or time or interest in anything else that was going on.
And I called my midwife to let her know, about four or five o’clock I called her. And I said, “I really feel like things are happening here.” And honestly, at that point I was in so much pain, and I don’t use the word pain lightly. Pain is a label that describes a specific sensation that we’re actually having in the body. And I was feeling acutely painful sensations in my body at that really early stage of labor. And I said to my midwife, “It is so painful. What was I thinking? I can’t have a home birth. This is way too intense.”
And I was really freaking out because it was so intense. My midwife, who’s actually a very soft soul, said something along the lines to me of, “Jenna, it’s too late now. You’re going to have to make it work.”
And I was a bit like, “What, Oh my God, that’s your advice?” And what I didn’t realize, in retrospect I now realize, is that that very first few… It was kind of like the first 30 minutes of really intense surges. And I’m deliberately using the word surge instead of contraction. Contraction to me, the image that to mind in my body when I use the word contraction is that my body is tightening and that’s actually not what I wanted my body to do in birth. I wanted my body to move like a wave to just let this baby move down and out. And so the language that reminded me of a wave was surge. And so surge is the word that I will use to describe what is commonly called contractions. So I didn’t realize, but I now know, that that first 30 minutes was so intense because my birth hormones were only just getting started. And within an hour into our labor, I was feeling so much more mellow.
There was still super intensity during those periods of surges, but that intensity had a soft edge. It had a floaty edge, it had a fluid melty edge to it that I could be with and move through. And to any woman who has not had those birth hormones move through them, so that might be you if you’ve had, say, a cesarean or an induction or an emergency event and whose body hasn’t had the time, the fullness of time needed to actually get those hormones going. And I understand that those hormones are actually triggered first by baby. So if you’ve been through a pregnancy without those hormones then I just deeply take my hat off to you because I only had half an hour of it at the start of my pregnancy and it was intense and it made me question, “Can I do this? I don’t know if I can.”
And I can see why women absolutely need support and pain meds and analgesia when we’re in those situations, because it is intense. I was really lucky in that my birth hormones kicked in really quickly and throughout the rest of the labor, I didn’t need any analgesia. My main mechanism of sensation relief was my husband who worked hard with compressions and support and pressure on my lower back and the back of my hips, which just made all the difference. And these were some skills that we learned… We went and did a calm birth course to increase our oxytocin and have a weekend where we just really devoted to what do we want this birth to be like? And it was a good course.
There were a lot of things in there that I already knew. There were a lot of things in there that weren’t maybe as super relevant to us, but there was also a lot of good stuff in that, my husband and I really enjoyed doing it. So birth continues, the waters break. My husband starts freaking out increasingly, midnight, the midwives begin to arrive and they amazing. So they were really happy for me to lead in the movement that I wanted. And a lot of the movements that I wanted were on my knees on a yoga mat, kind of half folded over a low sofa. Oh my God, that felt so good.
But as labor began to progress, and it got later and later and later into the night, and I had tried many, many, many different positions, and unbeknownst to me, I had this beautiful alter. My girlfriends from a blessingway had created me a candle and sent their intentions into this beautiful candle, which was lovely. And I had some beautiful tulips to acknowledge my baby’s beautiful Dutch heritage, as well as a few other trinkets on our altar and my husband kept that going throughout the night. But as we were moving into the early hours of the morning, I was beginning to feel really exhausted and my body was beginning to say to me, “I don’t have anything left. I don’t have any moves left. I don’t know how to move next. I’m not sure what position to be in.” And so I turned to my midwives. I had two really beautifully skilled midwives at home and I said to them, “Tell me what to do. I’m really open to your advice now.”
Now what I said was not that coherent. It was probably more like, “Tell me what to do,” Because I was just this big huge, round, naked woman waiting around in her lounge room with the lights really dim and really turned down low. And my midwives were beautiful. They then began to step in and begin to support me with exploring some different postures and movements and positions that might support this baby to move down. Because baby was a little bit slow in my case to move down. I wasn’t sure in my body exactly why that was. And so we had support from the midwives and they did some really beautiful manipulations around my pelvis in terms of some different positioning to open things up. And that really got it going.
The internal process through all of this was profound. And the two things that stand out to share with you were at the beginning of the pregnancy, I felt that my breath, as I was breathing, I felt I’m breathing my baby down, I’m breathing my baby down. But as my birth progressed, I began to feel that hmm, this is actually so much more than me breathing a baby down. This is the entire current of life moving down and out through me.
And so instead of drawing on my own breath and my own body as a resource, I felt like my body became this funnel for the life force energy of everything to move through me and to move this baby down and out. And that internal orientation, which came as a feeling that I could experience inside my body, but also an image I could hold in my mind and remind myself of was profound and shifted things. And the second thing that really was so beautiful at some point late in the birth, my midwife said to me, “At this time exact point, there are at least 300,000 other women birthing their babies.”
Now I was pretty in my birth daze at that moment. So I actually don’t know if that figure is exactly correct, but in my memory, 300,000 other women are birthing their baby at this exact moment. And when she shared that with me, it opened this channel of life force, moving through me and being connected to something so much bigger than my experience and my one baby, life creating itself and the experience of life as sensation, which is exactly what embodiment is about. And that just did everything to me. And it was a really, really potent for my labor and to sustain the energy and the focus and the relaxation for these surges to keep moving like waves down through my body.
Then the next morning as the sun began to rise and I thought, “I’m not available for a daytime pregnancy, this baby really needs to come,” We welcomed a little bundle of joy, who I thought was going to be a boy that actually turned out to be a girl. And it was the most exquisite labor. Looking back on it, I am a little bit lost for words and a little bit in awe that I was just able to bring another human into the world, just blows my circuits. And so postnatally, we had our little bubble of bliss. We decided to just stay in bed for the morning, skin to skin cuddles, nuzzling, our midwives were amazing. They made us cups of tea and put the laundry on and took care of us for the morning. And we had decided beforehand how we wanted this phase to go. And our initial plan was to give a call to our parents respectively and just let them know the baby has arrived, to keep the news really quiet and to ourselves, as we really settled in.
My plan was to stay in bed. I gave myself the challenge of wearing pajamas for two weeks, which was so fabulous. Every new mom should do this, pajamas for two weeks. No one’s going to expect you to clean or cook if you just living in your pajamas. And we had a beautiful service here where I live that came and collected our placenta, and I had placenta capsules that I took following the pregnancy. I always have a lowish iron levels so they were amazing for keeping my iron on track. And I’m sure there’s a whole host of other huge benefits in taking them.
Personally, where we live it’s a really reasonable cost. I know in different parts of the world… I have some girlfriends who have birthed in Holland and the cost is very different to have placenta encapsulation done there, but it’s something that I would recommend if you have access to it. And the postnatal period was bliss. A lot of people were surprised when we told them we had a home birth. And being in the new mum phase, I couldn’t be involved in anyone else’s processing or emotional response to that. So I just left that with them to sort out for themselves because my job was to rest and to recover and to go slow and to love up this little babe, who has turned into this totally sassy one year old.
So you don’t see a lot of my daughter online and I don’t really share a lot of her through my work. I don’t do this because I want to keep her separate from my business. I think historically women haven’t brought their children to the forefront of their professions because it has been seen as “unprofessional”. That’s certainly not why my daughter is not front and center in my work. I am very happy for her to be around. Sometimes you might even hear her on the back of this podcast because I’m her primary carer still. And I work part time in my work, but I’m still her primary carer. And I think it’s really acceptable as a modern working mom for my child to sometimes be around.
But at the same time, she’s a very precious and sacred little thing to me, and I don’t desire to derive any profit from her or expose her or diminish the sacred preciousness of this phase of her life. And so she just has the option to keep to herself until such time that she tells me she wants things to be different. And so that’s why you don’t see a lot of her, but she’s with me constantly and all the time.
And so a few final things to share. Oh, I mentioned at the start that I would share the little ritual that we did. So for my daughter’s first birthday, my husband and I decided that we wanted it to be a little bit of a ritual of our journey as well. And the day after my daughter’s birth, I recorded a detailed version of her birth story. It was about 25 minutes of an audio recording, really going through in much finer detail all of the specific aspects of our labor.
And so my husband and I listened back to that. It was the first time he had heard it, it was amazing. And also he took a few snaps during our home birth. So we also went back through the ares, looking at how tiny and precious little one was. And that was that little morning ritual before we all had (foreign language) which is cheese pancakes, Dutch style, and let her celebrate her first birthday. And that’s a ritual that I hope we keep doing because she came into the world in a very beautiful and unique way, and I’m really proud of what my body did. And I think it’s just so incredibly natural that our bodies can do these things. It’s what we are designed for. That’s why ultimately I felt called to share this experience today because it is natural, our bodies are built for it, and I’m so excited for a culture that increasingly centers the power and knowing of women back into their own bodies.
It’s something that I irrevocably stand for in every single thing that I do professionally and personally, and in my experience, we had an exquisite birth and I just so wish that for every other woman. And I wish for that option to be a celebrated one, so that we don’t feel like we have to go against the grain in reclaiming our power, but that it’s actually something that we’re encouraged to do from the moment that we’re born. So thank you so much for joining me for this very special and personal podcast ep. There are a few resources that I’ve mentioned during this episode and I’ll pop the links to them in the show notes for this podcast. You can also find this podcast over on our blog at jennaward.co/blog. And as we wrap up today, I’d also like to say, thank you for listening. And if you enjoy this podcast and what we have to share, please jump over to iTunes and leave us a review so that more people can find this and join our conversation about living as a embodied feminine woman.
So, so grateful for your time. Oh, and one final thing that I wanted to mention, we actually have a few past graduates of the feminine embodiment coaching certification, who specialize in birth prep, labor, postpartum, and mothering work. So we actually have some amazingly qualified women in the whole… From conceiving all the way through to birth, labor, traumatic labor, healing from labors, moving into the early childhood period, redefining yourself as mothers. We’ve got some graduates that work in all of these areas. So if you’re interested in finding out some of those women, you can head to feminineembodimentcoaching.com, and you’ll see that there’s a link there to find a coach and you’ll see some of the areas of specialty. Some really amazing practitioners that are doing beautiful, beautiful work in this space. And it’s so beautiful to see the feminine embodiment coaching work going into this space. So a final, thank you for joining me today.
Some of the resources mentioned in this podcast:
- Part 1 of the Pregnancy Blog by Jenna
- Gentle Mothering, Gentle Birth book
- Primal Feminine Flow – Feminine Embodiment Movement Practice
- Feminine Embodiment Coaching Certification