The Empowered Birth Story
How I Overcame Birth Fear And Became An Empowered Mom For Life
By Carly Bonderud
How It All Began...
It all started with a positive pregnancy test. I was 26 years old, had just moved out to Abbotsford with my then-fiancé, and hadn’t planned to have a baby until the following year.
Of course nature likes to surprise us and I found myself staring at 2 pink lines early in September of 2012.
I was in shock, and completely unprepared!
For most of my life I had wanted to be a mom but had also been absolutely TERRIFIED of birth! I would hide my eyes during any birth scenes on TV.
I tried, without much success, to get past that fear and I didn’t know where to look for the right information at first!
NONE of my family or friends had completely natural births without some level of intervention, and every woman in my family had been led to believe that birth just came with tearing and an episiotomy!
They said I wouldn’t care because labour itself would be so painful, and that the epidural wouldn’t be so scary in the moment, even though I am really not good with needles.
The first mistake I made was that I didn’t know anything about finding a care provider for pregnancy.
That first appointment with the maternity clinic my doctor had recommended was very impersonal, and there wasn’t a lot of time to ask questions.
The OB didn’t even bother asking what kind of birth I wanted to have!
I was handed the requisition form for the initial bloodwork, and again there was no discussion that this was optional.
I left that first appointment staring at the form with my name and where I was registered to give birth, and I just couldn’t see myself birthing in the hospital.
I wanted my own bed and I wanted a water birth.
I switched care to a midwife by 10 weeks and felt I was in good hands, but what I failed to realize was that because they were a “high-risk” midwifery clinic some of the routine practices and protocols didn’t fit with a low-risk pregnancy. The first sign of a deviation from “normal” growth in my pregnancy became a red flag and I soon learned what happens when you allow others to control your care.
I wound up spending the rest of my pregnancy going for non-stress tests, growth scans, and I was told I could no longer have a homebirth.
All these things were incredibly stressful and I had a lot of anxiety over having to go to the hospital for my birth. I kept asking if there had been any change in the follow-up scans, but I was told there wasn’t (this was a lie) and any attempts I made to bring up homebirth were shut down. I was told that first time moms usually transfer anyway, so I wasn’t really missing out on homebirth because I would likely change my mind too. I was told by family that I was making a big deal out of nothing.
Nobody seemed to support me. When one of the midwives who did believe in me finally called me up at 39 weeks to tell me that the scans were badly done and I could have the birth I wanted, I didn’t trust it could really happen.
I will regret that for the rest of my life.
Despite assurances that the hospital would support my desires for a natural birth without any interference, I found myself being pulled from the tub the second they thought I was pushing, then made to get on the bed, on my back to push.
It took 3 hours to push my son out, and the whole time I felt that if I didn’t birth on their timeline they would call for me to have a C-section.
I was terrified, anxious, and felt utterly powerless.
I left the hospital 12 hours later feeling like I had birthed in spite of everything, but that at the same time part of me was aware that what I had experienced was far from the natural birth experience I had dreamed of.
A Lesson Learned and a New Passion Born!
The more I thought about my birth, the angrier I started to feel.
I knew instinctively that it shouldn’t take shaking one’s head NO several times for a nurse to stop pestering a laboring mother about having a vaginal exam. No mother should be pulled from the tub against her will and made to get on the bed, on her back, despite protests.
No mother should have to stare at a clock for 3 hours while fearing that time will be “up” and the overseeing OBs will step in and call a Cesarean.
And yet, that’s what I experienced.
I thought I was alone in that until a few weeks later when I learned about birth trauma and how common it is in our system.
I was angry that I hadn’t been warned about this before I stepped into the hospital and trusted the system.
I was angry that I hadn’t been told the entire truth, just the bits that would lead to me agreeing with what the OB wanted me to do.
It was through learning that I wasn’t alone that I realized that someone needed to be out there warning new moms before they stepped into the system. Since I didn’t see anyone else in my community doing that, I took it upon myself to start the conversation.
My first introduction to advocacy was through Improving Birth.
I hosted my first rally in the park in September of 2014. It was just me and a mom friend standing in front of a table with a bunch of signs and handouts, but it had an impact all the same. Women stopped to talk with us about their own bad experiences and how what we were doing was so important. I kept the Facebook page updated with articles, blog posts, and my own flare and talent for writing became a valuable asset to building our audience.
I soon connected with other birth advocates in the Lower Mainland and those connections led to me truly understanding the politics and the limitations of the maternity care system. I also learned exactly how to navigate that system so I could get what I wanted the next time.
The Do-Over Homebirth and the Dream
The following year I was pregnant again, this time I got the birth I deserved the first time!
I labored in my pool, completely in tune with my own instincts, and I didn’t call the midwife until 10 minutes before my daughter was born.
In this way, I reclaimed my power and experienced what my body was really capable of.
After having finally experienced the power of an Empowered Birth I became even more passionate about my work. The vision for what would become Empowering Moms took root inside of me. And even through the fog of postpartum, into the first 2 years of motherhood with highly spirited children, I knew that my calling was to educate, advocate, and empower other mothers in their pregnancies and beyond postpartum.
I continued to gain traction in the birth community and doulas, midwives, nurses, and mothers all started messaging me on my page or through my email. Many told me that I needed to turn what I do into a business, that I needed to write a book, and that what I was doing was something they wish had been available when they were expecting their first baby.
Thankfully, I listened.
I took those words of encouragement to heart and in the fall of 2019 I announced my intentions to turn my passion into a business. There are so many things that I want to accomplish with Empowering Moms and this is only the beginning.
I have a passion for mothers who want to Take Charge in their births right from the start, and I believe that when moms are empowered they can apply the strategies to every part of their lives.
I want every woman and birthing person to know their own power and use it to become the best version of themselves possible. Imagine what we can accomplish when we know, without a doubt, that we can Take Charge of Our Birth!
Certified Doula & Childbirth Educator with The Wise Woman Way of Birth Training
Certified Mindset & Empowerment Coach with Virtual Coach Training Program
Birth Advocate since 2014
A coordinator for ImprovingBirth
Background in Psychology & Sociology