Balancing Your Body and Mind

A Water Birth for Our Daughter

By Katya

This post may give you a bit of an idea why we haven’t been into making videos for almost a year, we’ve been a bit busy!

It’s with great pride that we introduce Soleil Ariya Struve. She was born at 7 lbs, 13 oz, and 22 inches. We filmed my birth experience as a memory, but also to support women considering giving birth outside the hospital. The article below is my thoughts about my pregnancy and birth experience.

I hope it inspires you.


Everyone recommended that I get an epidural to avoid the pain…

But after reading about all the benefits of natural birth, both in the short term and long term, I decided to give birth naturally.

It’s really easy to eliminate the pain of natural birthing with our hospital system. Doctors these days offer epidural shots to anyone who wants one. They offer to induce labor with pitocin. They offer to schedule cesarean operations so women don’t have to inconvenience themselves with an unknown time of delivery. Does it mean it’s safe? No. But so many of us readily go that direction and never ask if there are any consequences.

It seems from the time we were born into this culture, that everything is done for us, so we don’t have to think or struggle. But there are consequences. Avoiding life challenges over and over makes us not trust our own bodies and inner judgment. It builds bad habits of shifting responsibility onto others. After years of this, we almost never question anything.

Maybe this is why do so many of us women think we are physically limited and weak. Why we are intimidated by the thought of giving birth. Instead of acknowledging what we are truly capable of, historically, we would rather escape the effort of learning about ourselves, our strengths and our capability. Why do we keep running away from nature?

If you knew you were fit enough to run a marathon and you knew that you would finish no matter how tired you became, would you be more inclined to run it? I see the challenge of birthing in a similar way.

I decided against an epidural because I didn’t want to be stripped of my physical and psychological transformation into the strength of motherhood. The perseverance it takes to make it through birthing is essential to strong motherhood. It isn’t a nuisance to me.

During the first 7 months of my pregnancy, we lived in Florida. I went to the doctor twice. It was during my 1st trimester. It was an awful experience for me. The guy (I won’t even call him a doctor) scolded me for not having already completed routine tests that he recommended (like down syndrome testing, which is an invasive test, and should be left to a woman’s discretion). Both times I left the appointment I felt very discouraged, confused and emotional. Not the way a healthy mother should have to feel. But this told me how the healthcare system would treat giving birth too. Many times it seems doctors are more concerned with managing procedure than giving attentiveness to the emotional state of the woman and the impact it has on a healthy delivery. They just expect you to take their advice as gospel. It’s so much harder to communicate that way.

I didn’t want to give birth in an impersonal hospital environment. When I considered it, I imagined getting invaded, in one way or another, held captive, confined to a bed, with doctors coming in and out with prodding speculums, forceps, needles and chemicals. Then I imagined the paperwork, ‘red tape’ and the confusing manner they explain themselves, which makes me feel like something is always wrong with me . They always leave you guessing. Their ability to offer solid council has been compromised by the fear of malpractice lawsuits. Yes, they are justified as they are stuck in a healthcare machine, but where does that leave a woman like me?

water-birthI started looking into alternative methods. When I first watched a water birth video, it was so different. Beautiful, expressive, and powerful. The woman seemed like she was stable and knew what she was doing. The people around her looked very loving and attentive instead of cold and callous. It was a little strange to me. I used to believe that birthing without a doctor and instruments was only something when there was no other option, and of course I thought it was very risky and dangerous.

After reading more, I understood how important privacy and concentration is. Better to not have many distractions, to have the ability to move around as you wish, and have the option to be surrounded by people of your choosing. I learned that it takes preparing yourself and realized that it’s exactly the opposite from what we are conditioned to believe.

I’m not saying my birth was perfect or orgasmic like some women say. Despite all my preparation and learning, birth challenged me more than anything else. I couldn’t have predicted the way I reacted. I went from being super excited about my first contraction, to being worried, to panicking when they intensified, to absolutely doubting myself, to thinking about the disturbing indifference of nature, even though Matt and other supportive people were around me. During the peak contractions, I questioned my sanity for choosing to do this without drugs.

After a few hours, the contractions increased in strength and frequency and I didn’t think I could bear it any longer. I asked Matt to take me to the hospital. Inwardly I hated that I was giving up, even for just mentioning it. I felt like i was letting him down, letting myself down. Matt knew that I wanted to do it naturally. He was so amazing. When I begged him to tell the midwives, he didn’t say he wouldn’t, but at the same time he told me that this is what I truly wanted and that hospitals were not the best choice and it could end up really bad in the long run.

He and Suzy (my midwife) finally calmed me down. Suzy offered to hold my hand through every contraction.She knew what I was going through, and trusting her authority made a big difference.

As time went on, I tried everything I could to force relief of the pain. I tried the water, I laid down on the bed, I stood in the shower, got on my hands and knees, I even sat on a toilet. My attitude gradually changed. When i realized that nothing could be done, and that it was MY responsibility to deliver my baby, I began surrendering to the force in my body that created the pain. I realized that hating each contraction wasn’t working. It gave no relief. I began mindlessly floating inside and breathing in a different way. Very long and drawn out exhalations. I figured out how to emotionally “flow.”

Matt stayed behind me, breathing with me and loving me, while my midwife was holding my hand and looking into my eyes silently telling me that I’m doing it fine, that I was progressing perfectly, that I was making it through the hardest part of the labor.

When it finally came time to push, the buoyancy of the water felt the best and I stayed in the bathtub. Resisting each contraction was long gone, I had nothing but total focus on the present moment, and just “went with it.” It was definitely brought me to a true self realization and a spiritual discovery of a strength I never thought I had in me for a million years. The experience gave birth to a more powerful version of myself.

And I was able to return home two hours after delivery.

ancient-doulaIn spite of how challenging it was, the entire process felt simple and pure. My body (without all the distractions and bright lights and beeping noises and doctors apprehensions in a hospital) instinctively knew what to do every step of the way. My midwife reminded me of that many times.

But it seems the hospital business of giving birth these days is built on building women’s fears. There are more cesareans than ever now. Why? Because there are more epidural procedures than ever now, messing up the delicate hormonal balance that ensures delivery. Why? Because the shot is so convenient. The doctor offers it freely so why wouldn’t you? If you are going through the greatest struggle you’ve ever felt, and some doctor offers you relief, you will probably take it! Hospitals and modern culture have enabled us from finding deep inner strength.

I would agree that epidurals are okay in some specific cases, but not for the majority. Cesareans, inductions, and heavy doses of pain medication shouldn’t be the norm, yet they are. If women were given proper education about both sides (the benefits of natural and hospital) and still choose to do it with an epidural, that’s fine. I’m all for freedom of choice. My REAL problem is that we aren’t told the true consequences from doctors. They only gave me information to be fearful and suspicious of.

Of course I prepared for the worst case senario, just in case. But that didn’t mean I had to “expect” complications. I knew there is always a risk with everything. You might get in a fatal car accident driving to the dry cleaners, but does that mean you should hide away in your house for the rest of your life? Throughout history women have given birth just fine. Yes there were fatalities, but there were no hospitals for back up plans either. Yes my pain was earth shattering at times, but I knew it was there for a reason. It’s supposed to be painful. Sometimes its good to be shattered.

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

But for me it wasn’t really about being brave or tough, or about being counter culture, or crunchy granola, or some other birth fad. It was about protecting myself and my baby from all the unnecessary interventions that get pushed on you inside a hospital setting. I’ve believed in nature for years, and felt it was my responsibility to give birth in the best natural way.

We must seek answers from each other, not from systems with hidden financial agendas for recommend procedures and medications. There is plenty of unbiased information and true facts across the internet. Bravely facing natural birth takes preparation and endurance – mentally and physically. It may be not for everyone.

Now more and more women are “choosing” to give birth outside of the hospital. This is wonderful. But so many still don’t even know they have an option. I feel a need to reach out to them, to offer my story and my compassion, to empower them to know they don’t have to make fear based decisions. That’s why Matt and I made this video.

I hope this article and video leaves you with inspiration to learn more about natural birth. Stay strong and know you can do it!

With love and sincerity,