This weekend I had the good fortune to be asked to assist at a birth for my client (age 36) whom I have known for several years. She was recently married and expecting her first child and wanted to have a natural child birth or, at the very least, a vaginal birth and thought having her shiatsu therapist (me : -)) at her side would be the most supportive and comfortable for her.
Over the years I have assisted at four other births; one was a home birth with a midwife and the others were at hospitals with either midwives or obstetricians. This birth turned out to be induced 10 days earlier than her due date due to various complications, one of them being a fall during the icy conditions of January.
By the time I got to the hospital she had been administered an epidural for her pain and was at risk for seizures but was still confident she could deliver her baby. I practiced shiatsu after arriving to help calm and sooth the mother-to-be and help her adapt to her new environment of monitors and IV’s of medications and fluids. When I left one hour and half later she was four cm dilated.
After I returned four hours later and she was still at four cm. At this point I put ear seeds on auricular points in the right ear. I used a probe to identify some tender points and also to check in with my patient about what seemed like the “resonate point” for her. In auricular therapy each ear shape is unique and so the anatomical points are not as precise as some acu-points on the body. They work, however, much like reflexology as the points correspond to different places on the body, both internal and external. At various times I would press on the seeds to stimulate the points on the ear while feeling the vibrational response. My patient reported that she could not feel the seeds, just the pressure of my finger. She said at times it was euphoric and made her feel so relaxed. This is important to note as this mother-to-be was getting fatigued as she had been in labor for quite some time and had not slept or eaten anything since she had been admitted to the hospital the previous day.
She remained confident about getting to the point of pushing the baby out. After one and half hours she dilated fully and the staff began getting her ready for delivery by administering Pitocin (a protein to stimulate contractions) and donning surgical gowns and gloves for a messier process to begin.
To support a woman who is actively pushing requires a person to hold each leg bent while she takes a breath and directs her efforts to propel the baby out. The doctor was helping her to understand that this is a process of moving beyond the pain and focusing on the momentum that begins with strong contractions. I can honestly say I witnessed this happening. It was as if the ancient-prehistoric- goddess, Venus of Willendorf, emerged and guided the process. The exhausted new mother, with her last resources, enabled her new baby to enter the world and take her first breaths while the baby’s father cut the umbilical chord.
I have not focused on the efforts and wisdom of the medical staff at the hospital as this article was not about them but I do want to recognize that everyone worked skillfully as a team. I am grateful I was able to be included in what might be called the beginnings of integrated medicine and childbirth.