The movement for natural physiological birth in Panama is irreversible.
This picture was taken by a very extraordinary American midwife. At that moment, we were in Arizona with the impressive Grand Canyon behind us. It was April of this year and we had been invited to participate at the Indie Birth national conference. The organisers were interested to hear first hand from us about our experiences attending mothers in Panama and promoting natural birth in both the hospital and home birth setting. We presented two lectures on our experience offering water and home births in our country. We were treated like royalty.
Last week, the private hospital where we have worked for the last 20 years, informed us that, as of that moment, we had lost our hospital privileges. We were effectively prohibited form continuing our work seeing patients and attending births in their establishment. In addition, the hospital administration contacted our patients individually and directed them to immediately change their doctor or hospital. The reason given was our non-compliance with hospital policy. In fact, they were not happy because our promotion of natural birth disrupts their 80% caesarean rate; an unacceptable number!
Who is being disrespected by the hospitals’ action? Us, no!
Thousands of women who are tired of being forced to birth by caesarean without legitimate reason, women who deserve the right to choose natural birth, who want to move freely and choose their own positions in labour and who are tired of being separated from their newborns’ at birth. Women who are tired of indiscriminate use of medications to accelerate and control their labour patterns, rather than trusting in the natural process. Women who deserve the right to have doulas to assist them in their labours and who deserve support breastfeeding. Women who are tired of having the sacred first 90 minutes after birth being disturbed. This essential bonding period is most important for the baby to smell the mother, to hear her mother and father’s voice, to look into each others eyes. These are only examples of a system that is not listening to what many women are asking for!
The natural physiological birth movement in Panama is irreversible!
What has been achieved in Panama so far is not our success, it is the achievement of women and their families to choose for themselves how they will birth. We have received hundreds of calls, texts and emails from women and their families supporting us and defending their rights.
Over 9 months ago we were excited to find out we would be having a baby. Immediately we knew there were things we wanted to do differently than my first pregnancy/birthing experience which lacked human connection, magic and spirit. Early on we agreed we wouldn’t find out the sex of the baby and would wait till the end. What restriction, but as time went by it became less important. We also chose to keep the pregnancy humble and sacred which allowed us intimacy and for time to fly by. Our birthing however was still undetermined, until the day we found Dr. Rodrigo Aybar, after spending hours researching and reading the testimonials from his site we found our missing link, we were going to do a natural home birth in water. And so our journey began, the meditating, the visualization, hypnosis all to prepare ourselves for this moment in time. Here I leave for you a very special moment shared by my family, and hope you are able to get a glimpse of our efforts in 2015 come full circle. This was only possible due to the 38 weeks of backrubs I received from Miguel Hermoso III, conversations to my belly from Logan Alejandro Villarreal, and support from FLora Lostalo & Kattia Villarreal on birthday. Of course I owe this lovely, intimate experience to my fearless leaders in all this Rodrigo Aybar and Graciela Aybar for helping us manifest this dream of ours. By no way was it the easiest path, but surely the most fufilling. Sincere thank you to Roby for capturing this memory for us perfectly. We present to you Ezra Hermoso born on September 20th, 2015 at 7:35pm at home.
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I had my 35 week check up today with Rodrigo @partonaturalpanama. It felt very special because I didn’t even meet him in person until I was 35 weeks pregnant with AnoraNisqua. So much has changed in the last 4 years and I find myself using moments like this to reflect on all we have experienced and learned. I am thankful for the work Rodrigo and Graciela are doing in Panamá, I’m thankful for Nathaniel and I’s journey to and in Panamá, I’m thankful for our experience with Anoras beautiful birth, for our lessons and experiences and joys in parenting, I’m excited for this next experience and this next baby and to be continuing our unfolding journey as parents, and as a family.
Feeling the sacredness of this sweet, fleeting time.
“I think she’ll be born next week,” said Dr. Graciela. At 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant, it wasn’t what I was hoping to hear. I had stopped working the week before, both my parents had flown in from Hawaii, baby’s room was clean and ready, and her newborn-sized onesies washed. My baby was prepared, too. Since week 20-something she had been in a head-down, anterior position.
To my surprise, I woke up the next morning, her due date, with bloody show. Not long after, I began to feel contractions. My husband and I started tracking them at 8:30 a.m. on December 6. At 11 a.m., we called our doctor to let her know they were consistently 10-12 minutes apart. I continued contracting into the afternoon, but continued my life as normal. I understood that contractions could stop, so I didn’t want to get too excited, but I asked my mom to take some pictures, just in case.
Around 6 p.m. Dr. Graciela came by to see how I was doing. “You’re at 1 cm,” she said. “I’ll be back later.” From the beginning, I loved Dr. Graciela’s calm yet confident nature. When my husband and I were window shopping for obstetricians, she was the first we met. I had found her website when we were just a few weeks pregnant with the search terms “home birth Panama”. In a country where the c-section rate in private hospitals is 8/10, I was determined to have a vaginal birth, and it seemed like a home birth was just the ticket, and Dr. Graciela was just the person for the job. Actually, she was the only person for the job. She and her husband are the only doctors in Panama who do home births.
At 11 p.m. Dr. G came back. “You’re 6.5 cm. I’ll set up the pool.” I was elated. 6.5! That’s practically 7! I’m almost there. When the pool was set up, Dr. Graciela invited me in. I was in darkness, in my daughter’s room, contracting in the warm water. In the living room, my mom and Dr. Graciela, along with her husband, Dr. Rodrigo, talked and looked at family photos. For the most part, my husband and I were alone in our little girl’s room, in the dark, waiting for her to come.
I was camped on the edge of the pool, arms hanging over the side, resting on my knees. When I got the urge to push, I told my husband, who alerted Dr. Graciela. “Push if you want to push,” she said. So I did. I pushed when I felt the urge to. I didn’t feel like I was making any progress, so I thought that maybe I was misreading my body’s cues. Still, I pushed when I felt the urge to. I pushed with my whole body.
Dr. Graciela came to check me and said that there was something preventing me from being fully dilated, and that it was preventing my baby from being able to come down the birth canal. I’m actually not completely sure what she said, as Spanish is my second language and I was in labor, but that’s what I understood. She finished breaking my water, which had partially broken while I was on the bed earlier.
Though I was not aware of the time, it seemed hours passed. The sun began to light up the room. “December 7th,” I thought, “My daughter’s birthday will be December 7th.” Dr. Graciela insisted that I drink some juice. “You need energy,” she said, “Take a sip.” I refused. “Take one sip. Now another. And another. OK, finish the cup now.” I didn’t want any of it. All I wanted was to finish the job. Dr. Graciela was right, I lacked energy. But I did not lack determination.
Dr. Graciela encouraged me to feel for my baby. “How many knuckles in?” she asked. I love that instead of checking me herself, she empowered me and made me feel in charge of my labor. “Two,” I responded. After several pushes, we were still at two knuckles. What am I doing wrong, I wondered. I’m doing everything I can.
At the insistence of my mom, my husband Jose got in the pool with me. My tired body rested in the arms of my husband, who sat behind me. With each contraction we pushed together, his hands gripping my legs and giving me strength. Soon some black hair emerged. It was at this point that the pain of the contractions were matched by the pain of my daughter’s head grinding my tailbone as it curled back inside me post-contraction. I don’t know what was worse, the pain during a contraction or after a contraction.
I remember my contractions pausing for some time. When they came back, I pushed with everything I had while my cheerleaders coached me in English and Spanish. I was so caught up in pushing that I hadn’t realized the progress that I had made. “Look down,” my husband said, “Look at her face!” As soon as I looked down she was already swimming out of me like a little fish. Dr. Graciela got her, unwrapped her umbilical cord from her waist and leg, and handed her to me.
Lilia Marie was born with her eyes wide open at 8:30 a.m. on December 7th. 7 lbs, 2 oz and 19 inches long.
I didn’t think much of the unicorn shape of her head then. I knew babies’ heads were funny-shaped when born, and I was more taken by her beautiful face, her precious hands, and her full head of hair than the shape of her head.
When Dr. Graciela came back the following day to check on Lilia and me, she mentioned the obstetrician books say Lilia’s type of birth, brow presentation, is not possible vaginally. I didn’t understand then what I understand now. The diagram below is helpful. The most common presentation is A. Lilia’s brow presentation .
I had quite a long recovery due to Lilia’s presentation, however I cherish the opportunity I had to labor in the comfort of my home, surrounded by my family and two extraordinary doctors, Dr. Graciela Anhel de Aybar and Dr. Rodrigo Aybar.