Fæðing Áslaugar Emmu

My birth experience

I was due for the 31st of August, a very special day as it was coincidently the birthday of my sister. So
I was looking very much forward to this day. I had also asked my sister to come from Germany and be
with me during birth. Her flight was supposed to land on the 3rd of September. The previous weeks
had been very unstable for me as I had broken up with my boyfriend, the father of the child. He did
not give me the support and security I needed, and disappointed me constantly.
I was worrying for who would be with me during birth, should the baby come before my sister arrived.
My dear mother had passed away the year before. My father could certainly not do it as he would be too
stressed out and could not be the calm helper I wished to have by my side. And the child´s father? Maybe.
At least I had asked him and he had said yes. But I knew that I couldn´t rely too much on him.

One day when I was at the pregnancy yoga class from Auður, I heard a woman talking about a
“doula”, who would be with her during birth. I had never heard that word before and asked her
curiously about it. She explained to me that a doula is like your private midwife. You book her service
and she comes with you to the hospital. The advantage is that she is with you all the time, whereas
the midwifes in the hospital work in shifts, and it can easily happen that you get a new midwife when
you are in heavy labour. The thought of maybe having to give birth alone and then having to cope
with new midwifes, who are complete strangers to me, made me feel really insecure. So I thought
that it would be a very good solution for me to ask a doula for help.
And this is how I met Soffía. She was very sweet from the very first moment we met. We had several
meetings before I gave birth. There we talked about birth and breastfeeding, and she gave me always
a lovely foot massage. I was very relieved, as with her a huge problem had been solved for me. Now I
could look forward to birth, being much more relaxed and peaceful in my mind.
I was so sure that my child would come before the 31st of August, as everything had been so unstable
in my life the previous weeks. But now that I could relax much better and started to enjoy every day
of the pregnancy in beautiful sunny weather, it turned out that the baby would take its time. The due
date passed by and my sister arrived, but nothing had happened yet. Besides that my belly did get
bigger and bigger. In order to get the labour started we tried all kinds of things. We went for long
walks on the beach every morning, swimming at noon and drank red wine in the evening (just one
glass for me). I even danced wildly in my last yoga class with Auður and the other girls. The days
passed by and eventually my sister had to change her flight back and add some more days to her stay
in Iceland.

My midwife then suggested that I would have to be induced before I got 2 weeks overdue, but she
also said that labour might be more painful then. So I was a little bit scared and looked for other
remedies to get me started. Some homeopaths might have a remedy that helps. But I
was not lucky, the two women I called were both busy and could not help me. They rather
recommended me to wait a little bit more. But I was under pressure because I wanted my sister to be
with in the hospital and her flight back would be on the 14th, the last possible date for her. This really
stressed me and I was torn between two options, a) to be induced and b) to wait for a natural
beginning of the labour with the risk that my sister would be gone by then. In the end I chose option
a) and we went to the hospital on a Thursday evening where I received the first pill which was placed
in front of my cervix. We went home and I had a quiet night. Then we returned on the next morning
at 7 am, where I received the second pill. We got a nice room with a huge bathtub, as I wanted to
give birth in water, if possible. The morning passed and I still felt nothing. Although the midwife
could measure some labour activities in a four minute rhythm. I was in contact with Soffía, but I
decided to call her in when the real labour started. And the waiting continued. We went outside in
the sunshine and I started to run and hop around on the parking lot to help the baby to come out.
(I would not recommend doing that again because I had problems in my pelvic floor many montsh
after giving birth). But nothing really worked. So I got a third pill at about 5pm. By then I met my third
midwife as there had already two working shifts passed. She was older than the others and much
more open and kind. She was the first one who actually stayed longer in the room and talked to me,
hold my hand. She was like a mother to me. Her name was Þórdís Klara, and I told her that if my baby
was a girl I wanted to name her Elva Klara. What a coincidence. With Þórdís Klara I could eventually
open up and by 9pm the real labour started – quite suddenly and quickly evolving in more and more
painful waves. I soon kneeled on the floor, leaning over the gymnastic ball with my eyes closed,
surrendering to the labour pain. In every break I used the yoga breath which immediately calmed
and relaxed me. The CD “Grace” was playing in the background on repeat. As it turned 11pm Þórdís Klara
had to leave us –sadly so as she had given me so much security and warmth.

Now was the time to call for Soffía, who was with us the next half an hour. This was good because I
could tell that the new midwife was not exactly the person I had hoped for. Already the sound of her
chewing a chewing gum got on my nerves. By then I had my eyes closed all the time, too busy with
the labour. So basically sound, touch and smell was all I perceived. But I decided to just let go and
surrender to whatever would happen. As the pain got too strong, Soffía suggested that I could go
into the bathtub, because the warm water would usually have a soothing effect. Also there I had to
kneel on four feet. In one hand squeezing the little healing ball very hard, and in the other hand
holding the hand of my sister or Soffía. All three women were really busy with giving me all kinds of
help. The labour was so strong and rapid, there were just very short breaks in between. Soffía was
wonderful. Her deep soothing voice whispered constant motivations in my ear: „Vel gert!“, „You can
do it!“ or „There is a lot of power in you.“. And her warm hands pressed my lower back down and
helped to ease the pain. I cannot say how thankful I was to have her with me during birth. Greatful
also for the peaceful and feminine energy that surrounded me.
In the bathtub my cervix slowly had opened up and I thought that I would give birth soon. The
midwife prepared herself and put on armlong plastic gloves. Actually she put them on and off several
times after each contraction. Which irritated me, as I only heard the sound of it and it always made
me feel that I was expected to deliver immediately. But somehow the opening process stopped and
what remained was just the unbelieveable strong pain. I had been labouring and screaming loudly
since hours. I was exhausted and did not know how I possibly could go on like this. Would this never
end? In this moment I suddenly remembered what my friend Nana had told me about the children‘s
doctor and scientist Frédérick Leboyer who had researched in tribal communities and found out that
many women sing or yell words with the vowel A like “Ba, Ma, Ka,…” to open up the cervix. So I
started to do the same shouting out loud “BA, MA, KA, BA, MA, KA…!!!” and moving my hips in a
circular motion. Later on my sister told me that the midwife must have looked quite irritated at me.
This was nothing she did understand. Or maybe I am unfair towards her by judging her like this.
Because she also did a good job, just more in the technical aspects rather than in terms of warm
hearty care.
After more than two hours in the bath the water had gotten cold and I was really exhausted. I
thought I couldn´t do it anymore. I was totally out of energy. I only wanted to lie down and rest.
Nonetheless the labour continued and the midwife urged me to push. She did not give me a rest. And
I just said “I cannot anymore”. Then Soffía said to me “This is good, because when women say that
they cannot anymore then they have almost reached the point of birth.” I then laid down on the bed
again, on the back, one leg bent. Now the contractions weren´t that strong anymore but I had to
push as much as possible, pressing out my baby. The others could already see the hair on its head.
Pushing and pressing with each contraction was not as easy, because I felt so weak. The midwife had
already called for help and seemed to want to give me an epidural. Meanwhile I already thought of
the option of a caesarean. I actually had thought about all options of pain relief during the whole
labour process. The laughing gas, an epidural, the caesarean, etc. But somehow I and we all were too
busy with the labour that it just went on and on without having mentioned one of those. Somehow it
was always bearable, although utterly painful and overwhelmingly strong.

Soffía gave me strength by whispering in my ear that I still have a lot of power somewhere hidden inside of me. And so I
imagined myself being a strong and powerful mountain woman, standing on top of Esja. I had power!
I could do it! And the pushing and pressing continued.
My stomach had gotten so irritated that I had to puke in the same rhythm as I pushed down there.
My sister could not cope with this any longer. She had a greener face than me and withdrew to the
open window. Eventually I reached the point of no return, the point I believed I would never reach,
the point where I really got the right push and pressed out my baby in one-two-three short waves. All
of a sudden a warm and wet little body landed on my belly. And I hold my baby in my arm. “What is
it?” I asked, and the midwife said “Feel it yourself.” “A girl. And she is beautiful.” I stumbled. I was
overwhelmed by happiness. If my smile was a lamp, it would have illuminated the whole room. My
little daughter, my angel, there she was. Incredibly accomplished and beautiful. Everything before,
when she was still in my womb, felt just like an abstract idea. Now she was there with curious eyes
and long, delicate fingers. My Elva Klara. She was heavy and tall. 4500 gr and 55 cm, born at 3:54 am
on a Saturday morning, 13th of September.
My sister meanwhile collapsed on the armchair being utterly tired. She told me afterwards that it
took her at least one week to recover and digest this big experience. Of seeing someone you love
with so much pain and you cannot help. It was an overwhelming experience for her. Even though she
had given birth to three children.
Elva and I stayed in the hospital for the night, sleeping closely together in one bed. Her crying
sounded sweet to me. And the enchantment of looking at her, holding and kissing her has not
stopped ever since.