Birthing is a beautiful physical, emotional and spiritual journey. Delft MaMa Nina shares her birthing experiences and describes how being aware about the various options that you have during the birth makes it even more pleasurable and treasured.
By Dr. Nina Bogerd
As a doula and childbirth educator for expats, I always claim that it is a privilege to live in a country where we have the freedom to choose where and how we can birth. In the Netherlands we can choose to give birth at home, at a hospital or also at a nearby birthing centre. It took me two completely different birthing experiences to understand the importance of having this choice. I had a medicalized birth at a hospital in Slovenia. So later when I had a natural birth at a birthing house in Den Haag, I understood how our birthing experiences can impact our lives.
Like most of you, I come from a country where there is a limited (legal) choice other than
birthing at a hospital. Therefore, it does not always come natural to us to investigate and consider what other birthing options are available in the Netherlands. To be honest, when my Dutch sister in law told me that she birthed at home I was “Excuse me, are you serious! On a farm, in that little house, in your own bed?” At that time I was convinced that to give birth you needed a medical team including an obstetrician or a gynaecologist. I thought the Dutch system was way behind the modern times.
Preparing for my first birth
Let’s rewind to how I prepared for the birth of our first son in Slovenia. We bought a brand
new Ikea baby room in white, painted one of the walls grass-green, bought baby clothes
while visiting my husband’s family in the Netherlands. We filled the drawers with diapers, butt
and body creams, wipes etc. The baby’s room looked like that out of a magazine. Did I prepare
myself for the birth? Absolutely not! The old me never thought that one has to prepare for birth
or ponder about how to give birth in a hospital. I thought I will just walk into the hospital and
the team there will help me get my baby. Well, in the end that is how it was. But sadly the
memory of my first birth is that of disappointment, sadness, anger and feelings of self-doubt
about my body too.
My first birthing experience
After having irregular contractions through the night we went to the hospital where 1 cm
dilatation was established. I was then sent to the birthing room and with that unknowingly also
on the hospital’s expected birth progression scheme. My contractions were gone! Consequently,
the membranes were broken to start the contractions again. However, there were no contractions even
after an hour. According to the hospital’s scheme I got induced and that’s where the challenge started. I experienced stimulation of contractions as pain of unimaginable proportions. My husband doesn’t cry often, but on that day he did. He felt helpless. He experienced the birth as traumatic. My body was failing and the dilatation according to the hospital schemes was not progressing. Consequently, cascade of medical interventions followed. My first birth is not something that I want to remember.
Later I pondered; how did my body not know how to give birth and why did the medical team leave us
alone for most of the time while I was in so much of pain. All those questions were answered when the
Faculty for Health Studies, University of Ljubljana (where I was working as a lecturer) hosted Anna Verwaal.
Anna is a Dutch maternity nurse. Her lecture gave me eye opening insights about
the birthing body and experiences. The thought that specifically resonated with me was that the birthing body can shut down the birthing process when it experiences fear. This explained why I
stopped having contractions when I was in the hospital. I was scared, there were too many
sounds, bright lights, unknown people and procedures. And so my quest to understand the
physiology behind the birthing process started. I gained more knowledge through books and
articles. This helped me to make an important decision regarding my next birth.
Preparing for my second birth
We relocated to the Netherlands when I was pregnant for the second time. My pregnancy was now monitored by the midwives practice and not by gynaecologists. I met six midwives. I did not like all of them, but it was better than my previous birth where I didn’t know anyone who assisted the birth. There were less blood and urine tests, no comments on my weight gain and frequent hands on monitoring of the baby’s position. The midwives also showed me how I can determine the baby’s position. We invested more time in preparing for the birth rather than the baby’s room.
I also learned about HypnoBirthing® The Mongan Method. I did relaxation and breathing exercises daily. The midwife and I decided to give birth at the birthing house. This decision permitted me to have a natural birth, with the medical interventions if required, always at hand. I was fully briefed on what to expect. I clearly told the midwife’s practice that it is important for me to be able to experience my own contractions, as it would mean that I am capable to give birth on my own. Closer to my due date, I transformed our house into a little Zen temple.
My second birthing experience
When the contractions kicked in, I lit the candles and put on some soothing music that I had carefully selected. The smell of essential oils that helped me relax filled the house as I kept moving my hips on the birthing ball. Such an environment helped me to get in sync with my birthing body. We transitioned to the birthing house, where we recreated my home’s Zen temple and I immersed into the water. It took me a long time to give birth, but I birthed with my own contractions, roaring my baby out on the vibration of deep primal sounds. I finally learned that I could give birth on my own and my body is made for birthing. Thinking about my second birth makes me feel empowered and confident.
Birth Your Way
Since our brains are hardwired for survival, we tend to see the negative aspects of a situation prior to the positive ones. We tend to fear when there is often an opportunity to explore the unknown. Therefore, when choosing where to give birth I propose to you to be open minded and to investigate all your birthing options thoroughly. Explore the unfamiliar options too, such as a home birth. Visit the hospitals or birthing centres, scan your house for cozy corners and picture yourself birthing there. Ask yourself “Will birthing here make me feel good, will it make me feel safe?”
After deciding where to give birth, create a vision board on how you want to birth. You can simply make a collage of magazine cut outs of the birthing scenes that resonate with you or use Pinterest. Also, think of how your birthing room will look like, who would be present with you at birth, which music and fragrances will help you relax and bring out positive emotions. Create a birthing plan on the basis on this vision board that will also include your emotional needs and your responses to stress. Ask yourself “How do I react when I am scared and what do I need at that moment”. Do I need to hear reassurance or do I need to hear encouragement? Write it all down in your birthing plan.
Furthermore, investigate what way suits you the most to prepare yourself physically, mentally and spiritually for the birth that you have envisioned for you and your baby. If you want to improve flexibility, strength and mental focus then practice pregnancy Yoga. If you want to achieve deep relaxation during the birth then prepare with relaxation programs such as HypnoBirthing® The Mongan Method.
Invest the time in preparing yourself; it might lead you to the most beautiful destinations. Share your birthing plan with your birthing partner, your midwife’s practice, your doula and birth your way.
Born in Slovenia, Dr. Nina Bogerd lived and worked in Switzerland before moving to the Netherlands. She now lives in the Delft area with her sons, Neo and Njal, and her husband Niels. Nina has a curious mind and a compassionate heart. She is an outdoor enthusiast and philanthropist. Nina’s scientific research background is in physiotherapy, physiology and human movement science. She is the owner of Birth Your Way where she provides doula and birth education for expats. Visit her webpage to gain more information on how she can support you and your partner through pregnancy, birth and beyond in the Netherlands.
From DMM Blog Coordinator:
This post is from a series of 4 articles about birthing that Dr. Nina Bogerd is writing to DMM blog. If you liked it, I recommend reading her first Nina Bogerd: The remaking of my professional career and life in the Netherlands.
Also, keep following the blog for the next posts of the birthing series!