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Natural Birth: Wow! How Amazing!!??

By Olivia Gleeson

“Wow! How amazing! You had a natural birth!!” is something I have heard repeated since we welcomed Clancy, William, and Tomas into the world on the 15th June, 2007.

Yes, we have triplets. Yes, I had a vaginal birth of all three.

I am extremely proud of myself: that I continued to question and reject the premise that my so called “high risk” pregnancy had to end in a caesarean delivery and grateful that we got the birth outcome I wanted for my babies and myself.

At 19 weeks we had our first ultrasound as we thought there was the chance of twins due to my rapid growth. I still thought there was only one baby as I had had very little nausea, no vomiting (don’t people with multiples get REALLY sick?), and the only symptom was the fatigue— which was considerable, but I was pregnant and that’s something I expected to go with the territory so I soldiered on. We had chosen not to have the earlier ultrasound, trusting that nature was taking its course. The sonographer immediately pointed out two heads; “Did you know you were having twins? There’s one head, there’s two. Hang on, count with me—there’s one baby, there’s two babies, there’s three babies…YOU’RE HAVING THREE BABIES!”

“OH MY GOD,” was about all I could say between bouts of laughter, Mick looked a bit pale and we were definitely shocked to say the least. When we told each of our family members it took about half an hour to convince them we weren’t joking. We were extremely excited right from the start, even amongst the shock and a few days of fear at the unknown of what we were in for.

The fear at whether all three of our babies would be healthy and whether I would be healthy was the first thing to hit after the initial buzz wore off. This was not helped by the labeling of my pregnancy as “high risk” in connection with my hospital appointments and checkups (I had been planning to birth in the family birth centre with midwives).

I was (and am) healthy and fit and I reflected on this after I had started worrying. Up until then I was working full time, running my business, adjusting patients regularly, keeping up my routine exercise regime (at a slightly lower intensity than pre-pregnancy) and maintaining an active social life. Anyone who knows me knows I like to be busy and am not one to sit around. It was at this point that I had a few stern words with myself, as I knew I had to be aware of the possible risks but that I was not in the “average” category and my journey would likely be different than what I was reading and being told: (a) that I would be lucky to carry my babies to 32–34 weeks at which point a c-section would be scheduled and (b) that it would be lucky if my babies were all similar weights and healthy and thriving and not hospitalised for some time after birth.

I chose to believe and trust in the innate health of my body and the growing, and so far thriving, bodies of all three of my babies and my ability to continue to be healthy and strong. I continued to get adjusted regularly (of course) to ensure my nervous system was communicating with and co-ordinating the function of my body and that of my unborn children at their highest level. I meditated daily, used affirmations as well as guided imagery and hypnobirthing CDs to keep my mind focused as well, and read and watched as many positive natural birth experiences as possible to mentally and emotionally prepare for the birth ahead. I continued exercising to my body’s ability, followed my naturopaths advice on diet and supplements, had massage, kinesiology, reflexology, facials, pedicures, and shopping sprees— not all necessarily essential but spoiling myself had health benefits too.

I was determined to have a healthy pregnancy, natural birth, and healthy babies and thankfully I did.

Once we knew it was triplets everyone assumed “so you’ll be having a c-section.” I was told by lay people, other parents of multiples and doctors that natural birth is a risk because the babies would be at risk of oxygen deprivation, brain damage and death. What about the risks associated with a caesarean delivery and the loss of benefits that a natural delivery affords the newborn?

One of my sisters is a nurse and a naturopath and she asked people in the medical field who the best specialist was for me to see. The ob/gyn maternal fetal specialist who I transferred to as a private patient was a big factor in us getting the birth we wanted. He is one of the best health professionals I have seen in any field. The first impression I had of him was his positivity and caring nature; I trusted him from day one. He listened to me, treated me as an individual—not a statistic, and recognised my above average health.

He also pointed out the pluses that were in any options we considered. He is an advocate for natural/vaginal delivery and is actively involved in research into women’s health. That’s not to say there wasn’t any difference of opinion in planning the birth: there was discussion and sometimes debate and give and take on both parts to reach a plan and ultimately an outcome we were all happy with. For the birth I also had a private doula (birth support person) who was an enormous help in staying relaxed and focussed.

It seems that the benefits of natural birth have been forgotten, or at least downplayed, and the effort involved seems too much for many who see a c-section as a ‘normal’ option without downsides. Certainly there are some cases where a c-section is warranted, and in emergency situations medicine is in its element: knowing I had the backup of some 15+ medical staff on standby for me and my babies if needed was wonderful. (I think also seeing a natural triplet birth was a drawcard for many of the staff who went out of their way to be there until after midnight.)

However, the fact that my natural birth is viewed as such an accomplishment and rarity is for me cause for concern. When did nature take such a backseat that by doing something my body is made to do it became such an occasion for fanfare?

My recipe for a positive, natural birth experience:

  • I was healthy prior to conception: I was adjusted regularly, ate well, exercised, meditated regularly, and was drug free.
  • I maintained my mental, physical, and emotional health during pregnancy
  • I educated myself to the point that I knew without a doubt that I could birth in a positive, natural, and healthy way and what exactly that looked like for me.
  • I surrounded myself with positive birth stories and experiences, and very importantly didn’t take on board other people’s negative opinions or outlooks.
  • I investigated and searched for health professionals for our birth that have a similar health philosophy as me, people that I trusted and felt safe with.
  • I embraced the process of pregnancy and birth was extremely grateful for the gift it is to create new life and the gift of giving birth naturally (which I almost didn’t have).