There are so many ways that birth can happen, but growing up many of us only saw one version of it played out again and again in movies and television. There's a woman in a hospital bed, screaming. And while many moms do certainly experience birth in a hospital bed, many don't. And many times the act of giving birth is very different from how it's been portrayed in popular media.
That's why we started our This is: Birth film series—to give representation to the many varied ways women give birth. That's also why we love how former Bachelor star Bekah Martinez shared video of her water birth with her followers and with Motherly. Unlike the versions of birth we often see on television, Bekah's wasn't quick and it didn't happen in a maternity ward. She laboured for at home for 28 hours before heading to the birthing centre to welcome baby Ruth into the world.
We applaud Bekah for sharing this experience with her followers, because a recent survey published in the journal Reproductive Health journal found one out of six moms in the United States experience things like "loss of autonomy; being shouted at, scolded, or threatened; and being ignored, refused, or receiving no response to requests for help." while giving birth, and Bekah's video shows moms (and care providers) that there is another way to do this. And it is beautiful.
Watch Bekah's birth film here:
While we always say that birth plans can change, it is good to know what you want and don't want, and to prepare in ways that make sense to you. Bekah did a lot of prep for her birth, she basically trained for it (which makes sense, giving birth is harder on the body than running a marathon!) so when the hard parts came, she was ready.
"Strangely enough my favorite part of the birth experience was the long hours on contractions. I had 'trained' so hard — hypnobirthing classes, meditating, reading TONS of Ina May's writing — that when the time came I was able to fully relax and surrender my body to do its job," Bekah tells Motherly. "People have commented on how in-control I appear, but it was quite the opposite. I surrendered all my control and it made the experience so much more peaceful."
For Bekah, this beautiful birth was the result of many hours of contemplation and. even more importantly, conversation with those who could support and advocate for her when the time came.
"I do encourage other women to be VERY straightforward with their doulas about their expectations— at what point do want them to arrive? How hands-on do you want them to be? Draw up a specific plan with your doula about the extent and timing of their involvement."
Mom stepped in to be Bekah's doula
Like we said, we always say that birth plans can change, and Bekah's did. Her own mother ended up taking a more active role in Ruth's birth than originally planned, and Bekah was so grateful to have here there.
"I always knew I wanted my mother there, though I had no idea how involved she would end up being. We had initially hired a doula, but unfortunately she was far less present at the birth than we anticipated, so my mother became my doula instantly and I couldn't have asked for better support. Her presence was so comforting and reassuring. I found so much strength through her."
At the moment of Ruth's birth, three generations of women shared an experience that represents the beginning of a new life, not just for Ruth but also for her mama and grandmother.
You can advocate for yourself at any age
There's been a demographic shift in the United States in recent years when it comes to motherhood. The average age of first-time mothers in America is now older than 26, and Bekah was just shy of 24 when Ruth was born. This obviously did not stop Bekah from advocating for herself and her baby, but some younger moms do find that people don't take them seriously, which is all the more reason to understand that you are in charge of your body and birth and that medical care providers need to respect and listen to you.
Bekah suggests that moms know what they want going into birth, because that makes a woman less vulnerable to interventions or treatment she doesn't want.
"I think it's so important that women are aware of their options and the situations they're going into. Know the possible risks and outcomes of 'routine' procedures. Educate yourself on your provider's policies. Listen to your gut. Always remember that YOU have the final say in what happens to your body and child. You are powerful and more capable than you think!"
Bekah's power is so evident in this video.
Check out more inspiring birth films in our curated "This is: Birth" film series.