Kerry Clarkson Valdivia

When I go back in my mind and recall the magical day my daughter was born, it is so easy to remember every detail…and I wonder what is the most important, after the fact: what happened or what I took away from that experience? Birthing at home (in the home of a friend) in a country far away from the place I was born, was as natural as breathing. I know now that I can trust in what I do not know. Before this, I had no idea what to expect of childbirth. I knew I wanted it to be natural, and after seeing innumerable birthing videos I decided my birth would be simple, painless, and even tranquil. I obviously had no idea what a contraction felt like. I can easily remember that day, which started off with light contractions from the moment I woke up. By lunchtime I was probably dialated by 3 or 4 cm, and was feeling fine. By 4pm, things started to get serious. I was told I was halfway dialated, and the early birth-day meant a whirlwind preparations had to be made at Jane´s house. Ugh, those annoying pains. All I wanted was back massage. By 7 or 8 cm dilation, I was in serious pain. I remember laying in Jane´s bathtub as many women poured hot water over me. After each contraction, I could laugh and joke until the next one. At this point, as they felt more and more unbearable, Leonie placed me in a shallow bassinet with herbs. The relaxation was incredible. I even have photos that show the bliss on my face …the heat, herbs and special tea she was giving me was such a welcome relief…and that small break let me recoup, and have the strength to go on. She showed me how to breath….deeply, like a theatre actor who needs to project his voice… and through the out breath I shooed out the painful intensity of that contraction. Suddenly I was ready:10 cm! The magic number! I immediately felt the urge to sit. In the whole process of childbirth, I am amazed at how powerfully instinct takes over. You know exactly what to do. I had to sit upright. And the pains changed, from a bad period pain to a physical bearing down on my tailbone. This girl wanted out. They brought me a birthing chair, with a hole in the middle. My mum stood behind me and massaged my lower back. I remember wanting to push, but Leonie said, not yet, not yet. I breathed through it. Breath is so important to transform the pain into the energy that channels you through the stages. I remember yelling with the intesity of the pain, and Leonie advised me to yell with a low voice, from my depths, and not from my chest. At this point my arms were upraised, being sustained by my mum, who was standing behind me. I had felt that this position would help me. But she said that I was sending my energy upwards—-and I needed to send it down, to push Azure out. The message clicked with me instantly. such simple, straighforward guidance had such an instant, powerful effect. I immediately gained more control of the situation. Looking back, it feels like athletic coaching. I remember in between those powerful contractions loosing my sense of consciousnes…of slipping into this dreamworld until the next contraction woke me up. In the middle of that lucidity I was told that I was ready to push. Pushing felt GREAT. I could finally DO something! And not just bear it. But I could feel that I had to measure my strength, and not push too hard, or I was not going to expand in time, and I would rip. I could feel it! I remember being told to reach down and touch my daughter´s head. Her wet fuzzy head startled me! I needed to concentrate. I remember the popping sound as her head came out (the hardest part) and then the rest of her sliding out like a slippery fish. My partner Rodolfo was sitting at the base of the chair next to Leonie. He was going to catch her as she tumbled out, but Leonie ended up having to manuever her head as her head was turned to one side (as I found out later). There is no feeling comparable to having your first child laid on your chest, while still connected to you through the cord. I felt overwhelmed by hysterical emotion, I didnt know to laugh or cry. But I was so happy. This was it, she was out, that was all it took, what no video could tell me. But I felt exhausted. I didn´t want to push anything again for a couple of days, and much less my placenta. But when the pulse had stopped beating in the cord, Rodolfo cut it (about 40 min later). Leonie put a feather into my mouth and I gagged and coughed out the placenta. It was over. Half an hour later I was eating my placenta, which she had cooked up with some light herbs. A life-long vegetarian, I felt I had never eaten anything so delicious or nutritious. I was exhausted and starved. And with a lot of extra space in my belly! That meal gave me the stregth to sit up and converse with all the family and friends that came tumbling in to see Azure. Even my sister in law, who was completely grotesqued by the idea of eating your own body organ, commented on how eating the placenta gave my back some strength and let me sit up strongly. After all that blood and gore, not to mention pooing through contractions into my husband´s hands, how can THAT part be the gross part??
Giving birth was raw, gutteral, visceral, and so much more. But what I took away was a sense of power and trust that if I could do this… I could do anything. The knowledge is there. A midwife aids in this knowlege, she acknowleges that birth is a natural intuitive process and guides the mother through the stages. Leonie´s strength and deep sense of care of the mother and child gave me a security throughout the birthing process…she knew what herbs to administer when, when to change the breath, or when to push….it made it seem so easy. There was no point that I felt scared, or I doubted my ability to get though this. I cannot wait to have another child….and it excites me that this time I will have a bit more of an idea of how to go about it! I wanted to share this experience to inspire any other woman who would like to have an at-home or natural birth. I wish this was an option more readily available mainstream, especially here in Peru, where natural birth is deemed neanderthal and most women are feed the idea that they are «too posh to push» -! This experience was amazing and I have Leonie to thank. Thank you Leonie!

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