:: This is a letter I received from a dear, dedicated prenatal yoga student who gave me permission to share it in its entirety and with her name. I have received many moving, meaningful letters over the years, but this one touched me deeply because of the way she said her yoga practice served her during her birth–“the biggest gift my practice gave me was flexibility and resilience in the face of changing conditions”. Really, that’s all one can hope for when plans begin to veer from our desired intentions. And that’s the true yoga–staying present, practicing self-awareness and above all, extending compassion to one’s self and others. ::
Our daughter finally arrived (over a week late) on October 1st! We are absolutely head over heels in love. I wanted to share my birth story with you not only because I know you find these stories interesting, but also because I wanted to share a few ways (some I anticipated and some I didn’t) in which your yoga instruction and my yoga practice helped us through the process.
I started having contractions on September 29th around noon. I had been up the past few nights with contractions that disappeared by morning, so I was hesitant to say I was in early labor. The contractions were anywhere from 12 minutes to 7 minutes apart, slowly getting closer together. I labored at home with the support of my husband Blake until around 7pm on the 30th. During our labor at home time, Blake and I used a lot of the comfort techniques you taught us- visualizations, massage, positions on the yoga ball, etc. We walked around the block several times, using the curb to help move things along.
When we got to the hospital they checked me and I was only 2 centimeters dilated. However, because of the strength of my contractions they decided to check me in. Blake and I spent the next 14 hours laboring in the hospital, and the techniques you taught us were amazing! The rice sock felt incredible, as did the hip compression. I labored in the tub for a bit and tried to stay in the moment through each contraction, visualizing it as a wave.
In the morning I was dilated to seven centimeters, and the nurse said things usually progressed fairly quickly at this point. Two hours later (at nearly two days of labor), I had progressed to only 8 centimeters. I was exhausted mentally and physically, having not slept in several days (I wasn’t sleeping before labor due to the contractions during the night). I felt like I could have kept working for six or eight more hours, but then when our daughter arrived I knew I wouldn’t have the energy to appreciate her. At this point, even though it wasn’t in our birth plan, my husband and I made the decision that I would get an epidural so I could sleep before the pushing stage.
The epidural helped me nap, and six hours later I was dilated to 10 centimeters! My doctor and I decided to break the water bag to stimulate more frequent contractions, and a few hours later, my contractions still hadn’t picked up, and we decided to try a VERY low dose of pitocin to keep things moving. With that, I felt the strong urge to push, and we got to work. Pushing felt GREAT, and I worked at it for two and a half hours. I cannot imagine doing that work without my yoga practice. My body felt flexible and strong, and like I could have done it for hours more.
However, it became clear that her head was stuck and not progressing through the pelvis no matter how productively I was pushing. My doctor said I could push for a half hour more, but that she was growing concerned about the baby’s health and position, and recommended a c-section. She said she really wanted vaginal delivery for me because she knew how much i wanted it, but that she really thought a c section was best at this point.
I felt incredibly supported by her and the staff and didn’t feel at all pressured. I entered this process very much hoping to not have a c-section, but in the moment it felt like the best choice to protect our daughter. We agreed to the c-section.
About 10 minutes later my husband went out to tell my family in the waiting room. During this time, the babies heart rate dropped dangerously low. The room was swarmed with nurses who immediately put me on oxygen and tried switching my position to get her heart rate back up. When my husband walked back in the room, he was greeted by that site with no other information- very scary for him I can imagine.
We were in the OR within 20 minutes, and 15 minutes later, our daughter Amelie was born! It turns out she had turned her head while coming through the pelvis, and she was unable to tuck her chin to make it through. It took two doctors to pry her head out of my pelvis where it had become lodged, and she had the deformed skull to prove it.
I entered this birth wanting to deliver all naturally so badly. When I started prenatal yoga, I really thought that I was taking it with the aim of supporting my natural birth goals. While the practice certainly prepared me for the physical and mental rigors that come with a natural birth, I was surprised to find that the biggest gift my practice gave me was flexibility and resilience in the face of changing conditions. I was able to accept that an epidural and c-section made the most sense for us, even though it wasn’t the birth I had envisioned, and that acceptance has been such a gift. As a habitual over planner and control freak, I know it is the work we put into my practice that helped me stay in the moment and accept the things beyond my control.
Additionally, I have always had a tendency to be hot headed when I feel stressed or backed into a corner. Because of my yoga practice, and because of our experience in Labor with Love, my husband described our entire labor and delivery process as incredibly intimate. He said all the books he read warned that I would eventually lash out at him, and given my temperament he expected it. Instead, I felt like my practice put me in the mindset to approach labor with love and openness. I am so grateful that we will look back on Amelie’s birth as an experience filled with love and intimacy.