Preparing for birth by healing from the last.

June 10, 2019

I have gone through birth 6 times now, and you would think it is something that starts to get a little easier. However, as I approach my third trimester, I I feel the anxiety starting to creep in. It wasn’t until I read Sydney’s description of healing from a past birth experience in order to prepare for a more peaceful one that I knew I had some work to do. It was like a lightbulb moment of realization that I still hold onto so many what-ifs and memories from a few hard experiences that I haven’t fully faced and worked through. Let me back up a little bit…

I have 5 children and an angel baby who I lost at 10 weeks. 3 of those experiences were unmedicated, and the rest I had an epidural for. Writing about our birth experiences always feels very vulnerable to me as it is so deeply personal. This post is NOT about what type of birth is best. I don’t believe in advocating for one type of birth. We all have very different stories and circumstances. I will say though that because I was not mentally prepared for the unmedicated births, the pain and unexpectedness of it all was overwhelming, and a little traumatic for me.

Both Veronica and Max came too fast to even opt for pain medication, and I felt a little like a warrior without any weapons going into birthing battle. Gabe almost had to deliver Max in the hospital parking lot! He was my biggest baby at 9lbs 6oz, and all hopes for a water birth evaporated as I was wheeled through the hospital doors and straight onto the delivery table where he was born 10 minutes later. Hence the reason I welcomed the anesthesiologist for both Rocco and Azelie’s birth with open arms. Those births felt like a peaceful dream in comparison! Although I don’t see how Max’s birth could have been any other way considering the burst of energy and laughter he has been in our lives since day one.

When we lost our 6th baby, we chose a natural miscarriage over medication or DNC, but I was unaware at what that would fully entail. We knew our baby had died in the womb, but it took three weeks for my body to deliver. We were at home – just Gabe and I, and although we knew a little about what to expect, I still felt completely blindsided by how intense the delivery was. I know it isn’t the same for everyone, but for me, it was as intense as my unmedicated births. It was already a grief ridden time, and the whole experience also left some deep emotional pain that took a long time to heal from. The physical recovery took a few days, and I have spent every month since working on the emotional healing. However, I know I still carry anxiety around that experience as well as the fast and hard labors.

I would love for the coming labor of this little rainbow baby to be a peaceful one (as much as it can be), so I want to prepare myself should I face another fast labor and unmedicated birth. What really has opened my eyes is reading and listening to birth stories from other women. It feels like so many layers are being peeled back to reveal a deep truth….we are much more capable than we have been made to believe. In a culture of wonderful new medicines and scientific advancements, we have somehow also forgotten that for thousands of years, women have done this on their own. (I say this with the intention of giving birth in a hospital, with a doctor and a midwife, and maybe medication if I need it! All wonderful things!) I am just coming to understand though, that if we really had the confidence in our bodies ability to do what it was made for, our experiences may be very different. I know for a fact had I been better prepared mentally, my harder birth experiences wouldn’t have been met with so much resistance and confusion.

I would really like to do more research about hypno-birthing or healing from a tough birth experience, so if you have any recommendations for podcasts or books I can read please pass them along! Some of the things that have already helped me: Simply Sadie Jane’s Labor and Delivery Course material and her positive birth affirmations, prenatal exercise, and reading positive birth stories (like Ina May Gatskin’s Guide to Childbirth). My sister is studying to be a doula, so considering having her help during labor as well.

It is not lost on me what a gift it is to welcome this life into the world. It is a privilege and an honor to be this baby’s first home. In fact, I well up with tears every time I think about it. This baby has already brought so much gratitude and love into our lives. I hope in sharing this part of my story it also brings awareness that pregnancy and birth is not always as easy as observing from the outside can make it seem. The most beautiful experiences in life are often paralleled with pain. Many times it’s the harder moments that make way for the deeper gratitude of it all!

As always, thank you for reading and for being an uplifting community to share with. Much love to each of you going through your own very unique journeys of motherhood.

Leave a Comment

  • I was obsessed with the Australian Birth Stories podcast when pregnant with my third. I had expectations for what I wanted my third birth to be like and so I did everything I could to prepare. I somehow stumbled on the podcast, and even though I live in the states, I loved it! The Australian model of care is so different from ours, and many of the women delivered with midwives. The podcast has so many different types of births and situations. There are several hypnobirthing discussions, but also many with epidurals and some on fourth, fifth, etc… kids, many discussions of birth after loss. For me, having a doula was the best thing I could have done in order to have the type of birth that I wanted. Having someone guide me and support me was amazing – my husband was also amazing but she was a great source of guidance for him as well. I’ve had a doula for both a medicated and unmedicated birth and it was so worth it both times. Best of luck!

    • Noelle, this is extremely helpful – thank you! I had a midwife assist my first birth, and she was one of the best women I have ever known. She retired sadly, and Gabe did a stellar job standing in as cheerleader and main support since. However, now that my sister has doula training I am thinking the coaching during the labor would be welcomed!

  • Jacee Tice

    Hi Anna,
    I don’t know if you remember me but I met you while you were in Beloit (long time ago)! I’m a dear friend of Maria’s and she let me know about your blog here. I’m reaching out bc I wanted to tell you how wonderful these are to read. I’m going to reach out to you personally on FB if that’s ok? Thank you!!

  • I think often about our third child we lost at 12weeks. My body wasn’t responding to miscarry and I didn’t feel I had the emotional capability to wait, so we opted for the DNC. It’s something I struggled deciding, and still over 2yrs later, and 2 more pregnancies later, continue processing through. My delivery of my 4th child was the smoothest and fastest. We blinked and had a baby. And now due with the 5th, (and likely final) I’m not sure what emotions will bubble up at this birth. Even just being aware there is processing and healing to be done is a step in the right direction. Looking forward to the responses you get. Enjoy that sweet family.

    • Alison, I am so sorry to hear you had to go though it. I think no matter if it was a DNC or natural miscarriage, they both leave deep emotional scars we have to heal from. To be honest, if I went through it again I don’t think I could emotionally handle another natural miscarriage. Also, I know what you mean – I don’t know what this birth will even bring up. I hope and pray you continue to find the healing and peace for this new baby!

  • I started practicing with hypnobirthing c.d.’s at around 4 months along with both children, which did give me something to fall back on when things got tough. By far the biggest help though was having my sister there to coach me through my first one. With my second, the delivery was so fast that my sister didn’t make it in time, and I didn’t have time to get into the hypnobirthing headspace, so I can definitely relate to the feeling of needing to heal from a hard labor and delivery experience. I do recommend that every woman take a hypnobirthing class and practice with the c.d.’s though, just because it does give you tools to use just in case your Plan A doesn’t work out.

    I wrote a post here more about it if you’re interested:

    https://www.toloveandtolearn.com/2018/03/13/why-every-pregnant-woman-should-take-a-hypnobirthing-class-even-if-she-wants-an-epidural/

    • Torrie- this was really helpful to read! I wish I would have read more surrounding hypnobirth before I even had my first baby, but I don’t think it is too late! Just in the little I have read has been eye opening. The more we understand about the birth process and what our minds are capable of, the greater power we have to see it from a positive light vs fear controlling the outcome.

  • Anna, I can’t imagine how heavy giving birth to baby Cecilia must have been. From where I stand, you have so beautifully navigated honoring that precious baby’s life. I’m praying that the emotional healing continues as you welcome a new life into the world. Children are our greatest teachers! I’m sure this baby will arrive and heal your heart in new and beautiful ways.

  • I have 7 kids and have had 1 epidural, 1 emergency C-section, and the rest have been natural childbirths. I think that it is SO important to be at peace with your birth experience. It absolutely makes a difference in how you feel postpardum. I hired a doula for my 7th pregnancy and I highly recommend having a doula! The midwife is primarily there for the baby. The doula is completely there for you, the mom. One thing I was surprised about with my experience with my doula was how much I mentally processed my labor as it was going on. In between contractions, my doula would ask me how I was doing and I was able to talk out how I was feeling and what I was thinking. The doula also supported me in my decision to try for a natural birth and was a go-between for the doctor, nurses and me. It was worth every penny to have a doula. I would never give birth without her again…if God blesses us with any more children 🙂

    • Anna Liesemeyer

      Eugenie, thank you for your story! Considering this is also my 7th pregnancy, I really appreciate your feedback on having a doula!

  • Thank you for sharing so vulnerably and honestly about your process of healing and experience of childbirth! I particularly appreciate your honesty about the process of miscarriage-it seems like no one ever talks about what that entails, and I appreciate how you have opened my eyes.
    Have you read Mary Haseltine’s book on childbirth (“Made for This”)? When I was pregnant with my second child, reading that book is what helped me get to the point where I felt mentally and spiritually prepared.

  • After having a birth and the following birth after also 10 weeks of pregnancy, both unmedicated aa is the prachtige here my mothers of 3 finally reached out with the best advice. So my third birth was the best one.
    The advice sounds rotten, sorry, but it works.
    To get the good endorfines you need to set yourself up for succes. To embrace the pain.
    Everytime the pain gets to much you must welcome it, choose to relax into it. Not fight or flee. The pain will open the birth canal so you can meet your baby.
    Pretty rotten eh. It does work. You’ll need cheerleaders in the form of a great midwive, your Gabe as always and good posture. A physical therapist tought my husband and i good birthing postures. My husband helped me to assume the right positions and movements( bouncing does the trick) and it Made all the difference.
    So sorry to hear about your pain for the bube that wasn’t meant to stay. The living are there for you.

  • Meghan Cavanaugh

    I clung to the “Hypnobirthing : Mongan Method” before all 3 of my labors. The exercises, visualizations, and meditations really helped to calm my anxiety about labor. I was able to do 3 natural births. I do think I got lucky that my labors were never too too long. Praying for you and your birth experience!

  • Alexandra Thomas

    I love reading birth stories. My husband is an OB so I get to hear lots of them. I’ve had them all— a crash c-section and subsequent loss of babe, the V-bac’s with epidurals, a miscarriage at 14 weeks with a d&c, and a natural in the hallway didn’t make it to the delivery room in time delivery! I’m interested in your natural miscarriage experience though. I’ve always felt a lot of loss with the d&c because I went to sleep and woke up without the baby and I hated it. Wished I’d had some sort of grieving process. Probably just no easy way to get through it. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Wishing you all the best with this next delivery. ❤️

    • Wow Alexandra – you are a true warrior! I am so sorry you had to experience the pain of losing a baby. I think no matter if it is a D&C or natural miscarriage, those feelings of emptiness are a very difficult part of it all. I experienced the same. I do think the natural miscarriage helps with the brain’s chemical release and mental connection with loss and grief, but I also don’t know if I could go through it again. I wrote more about my experience and the memorial we did for our baby here:

      https://inhonorofdesign.com/2018/04/a-brief-but-beautiful-song-cecilia-rose/#more-16544

      Thank you for your kind wishes! x

  • Hello and congratulations on your rainbow baby! I went through infertility, including two miscarriages. Therapy saved me, and it’s not something I’ve seen anyone else suggest so I thought I would chime in. I live in a big city so was lucky enough to find a psychologist who specializes in maternal/fertility concerns, and she helped me process my trauma so I could get through my pregnancy. It was life changing. Something to consider! Good luck!

  • Hello!
    First of all, I think you are very brave for putting yourself out there with such a vulnerable topic. Now, I “only” have 3 kids, and all 3 of their births were unmedicated. It was my choice because I couldn’t bear the thought of a needle in my back (I still shudder when I think of it). The only thing I did to prepare for my first birth was a lot of meditation and yoga. I tried to find that space inside of me that I could go to in the middle of labour. It was intense, but I felt prepared. The other two births were a little different. Nobody understood why I would not want medication and it was tough having to explain myself to everybody. But the toughest part was that my babies did not want to come. Both were in there for an excruciating amount of time (41+5 and 41+6!!) and I felt my body was betraying me for not doing its part and go into labour. But I learned from that that every birth is as different as every baby. You expect them to have different personalities and that starts with the way they come into the world. Make space for a new, different baby. Open your heart to a space where both of you can be WHILE you’re in labour. Consider your labour part of your baby’s “relationship” with you. No expectations, no pressure. I found that if you’re willing to go with the flow or go into a headspace where you “turn into water” everything is easier, happier, calmer. I know, I explain myself terribly, but I hope my experience helps you somehow. I’m rooting for you! You have a beautiful family and you are a great mom! Go you!

  • I love hearing this discussion. I don’t have advice to add just wanted to say that I agree with you, we are meant to do give birth, we can do it! That was my take away after birthing class. I think having someone there to support you who knows how to support a woman trying to have a peaceful childbirth is critical. With my first both my husband and I were naïve and didn’t really know what to do. The hospital we were at was excellent and they took very good care of us however they were not there to coach me through a peaceful natural birth. I have a long history with anxiety and I could have used more support mentally through the whole pregnancy and delivery. I ended up getting my epidural at 1 cm as I had already been in labor for 15 hours and I was throwing up every contraction. I think if I had better prepared myself mentally and had someone like I do live there perhaps my body wouldn’t of been fighting? It took 24 hours to fully dilate and I needed a c section at 27 hours. Following deliveries were all c sections. Having a planned C-section was definitely dreamy! And as you acknowledge the medical profession is incredible in the care they can give and what they can accomplish. I joke that people should be choosing an excellent surgeon when they look for their OB because that’s what I ended up needing all three. I don’t have any regrets per se but I do still think or wonder what I would’ve been able to do and I had a Doula or someone similar.

  • I loved this post-you are such an inspiration to me. I have had three unmedicated births and what I’ve experienced is that it’s not the pain level, but the level of control, or connectedness with what’s going on that made the difference in a beautiful peaceful birth and a traumatizing one! My second birth was only 1 hour from start to finish but it was definitely the most physically and emotionally difficult and took a long time to process and heal from. I believe it was because I was not mentally able to catch up with the intensity and it left me feeling like something traumatizing happened to me rather than an active participant in the birth. My last birth was the most peaceful and healing because i was able to stay in the present and integrate each contraction as something I/my body was doing rather than something coming over me and pushing me down. My top book recommendation besides Ina May is Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way.

  • Nathalie

    Thank you for sharing your story! I have become obsessed with reading about rainbow babies after we lost our first pregnancy at 18 weeks (a little boy). I was pushed to have a D&E rather than go into labor and delivery to give birth… I will always regret that decision. I wish I would have birthed him so I could have held him in my arms. They did give me his little footprints which i cherish and had engraved into a necklace. We recently lost our second baby at 7 weeks and I opted to miscarry at home. I am trying to remain hopeful that we will get our rainbow!

    • Nathalie, breaks my heart to read. I can only imagine the sorrow you carry for your babies. How beautiful you get to have those little foot prints. I love that so much. Hoping and praying with you.

  • Wow! Thank you so much for writing this post! Just reading this has had a healing effect for my heart. Especially the part where you wrote that sometimes the most beautiful moments are paralleled with pain. ❤️ All three of my births were wildly different from one another and especially in one case very scary and traumatic. Preparing for my last birth I found it healing to follow the Instagram account @birthwithoutfear. They are a positive account supporting all birthing experiences and highlight the physical and emotional strength women have.

    • Erin, thank you so much for reading! I appreciate you sharing this account. I have a feeling I am going to get lost in reading captions from the images:) Much love!

  • After four back to back miscarriages, I was worried that the birth of my next child would be too emotionally taxing (in part because miscarrying felt exactly like labor!). So I prayed a ton that my birth would be peaceful. And my son was born in the car after labor lasting less than an hour! It was not the “perfect” birth I imagined and was weird and chaotic but honestly was really emotionally peaceful, probably the perfect answer to my prayer. It happened so fast, I didn’t have the chance to think about the babies I lost (or think about anything honestly!). Sometimes things work out wonderfully in ways you can’t ever have even imagined. Not that I am wishing you a car birth, but I am hoping your prayers for a peaceful birth are answered, even if in very unexpected ways!

    • Wow, Mandi that is incredible. I imagine you are a women of fierce internal strength after what you have been through, and I so appreciate your comment and words of encouragement. I am dedicating time more consistently to prayer for this specific intention!

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