In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Sophie Mei Lan, 30, shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve been belly dancing since I was 14 and carried on throughout pregnancy, even up until I was eight months. I didn’t realise, however, that belly dancing would be what would get me through my second labour.
My first birth wasn’t great. I was induced, it was long, very painful – you know, one of those. So, like many women going into their second birth, I wanted to do something different. For me, that meant moving through the pain rather than just laying down on a bed like an ill person.
Picture me, belly dancing at home in my living room during contractions, while watching ‘Knocked Up’ (relevant, I know). It eased the pain, and when my husband told me he was tired and going for a nap, I took it as an opportunity to put my “crap” music on – Sean Paul (“Shake that thing Miss Kana Kana,
shake that thing Miss Annabella”). Now this was the type of music to calm me down, not whale songs or white noise.
I’d already been to the hospital that night, early evening, when I felt my first contractions. We’d shipped my other daughter off to her grandparents and I thought this was it, I was ready! Frustratingly, when we got there I was told my contractions were too irregular, and to come back later. Not the best start.
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This was three years ago, early February 2015. On the way home from hospital, without a baby, we decided to veg out on the sofa with a massive takeout – and I mean serious junk food, chips, scraps, the lot. It was post-takeout that I started to get up to dance.
I kept it going for about an hour, FaceTiming my sister in New York to distract me when the pain increased. But when it got to the point that my contractions were getting closer together, I woke up my husband – “we need to go back”.
Belly dancing had worked. When I was checked at hospital they were shocked how far along I was, and I was pretty smug I’d managed to last that long at home (cheers, Sean Paul). I’d planned for a water birth so got changed into my bikini, but when they filled the pool up, gunk from the pipes poured out. Slight change of plan – I was shipped into a normal birthing room, albeit still in my bikini, looking like a numpty.
I thought I’d carry on the same vibe I had at home in my living room, so I put music on. I was prepared, you see, and brought speakers in my birth bag that plugged into my phone. Not only that, I’d made a birthing playlist, basically the music I listened to anyway – Sean Paul, Blue Cantrell, Shakira, that kinda thing.
The best part about it? After having gas and air, I felt like I was in a night club. I was properly spaced out, but enjoyed it to be honest because I don’t get to go out much as a mum... My husband, on the other hand, wasn’t a fan of the music, but he wasn’t pushing a baby out so he put up with it.
It turned into a party celebration – to me anyway. I wish I remembered the other songs, but it’s become a bit like one of those drunken blurs you get when you’re out clubbing, where everything merges together. I remember wiggling my hips during each contraction. When you’re a mum, you lose bits of yourself. For me, it was important to have my chavvy music on and be me.
The midwives were good fun too – they had a bit of banter. I think they were dancing, but I can’t remember for sure. Looking back, it felt like Arianna-Mei’s birth was basically a party into the world. I was only pushing for a few minutes, before she was born. It all happened so fast. She popped out! I know women will grit their teeth at me saying that, but it was nowhere near as painful as my first birth.
After the birth I was on the ward with my baby when a Bounty rep came in – she encouraged me to get photos with my newborn. I was alone, I’d just given birth and I was in a daze. She made me feel as if I didn’t get photos, it would be a wasted opportunity. I obliged, then she said if I didn’t pay for them, they’d be deleted.
A lot of tears, stress, complaints and £200 later, we managed to get a refund and the photos were given back. It tainted those first few hours but apart from that, it was a party I’ll never forget.
My birth advice?
To be confident in your own body and its ability to give birth. I started to trust my own body and that it knew what it was doing. And I think just do it your own way – if you like RnB music and belly dancing, do that. If you prefer whale music and mediation, try that. It’s no one size fits all.