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At 44, when I lined up at the maternity ward check-in for a scheduled C-section—just like one of the herd of shaking midlife-mother-sheep, fatted up on a 9-month diet of risk-factor fear—the very notion of a home water birth was a fool’s fancy.
After all, we were the old ladies—or gals of “advanced maternal age”—who’d played our fertility hand, cheated the stork, and won the gamble.
There was an inherent sense of potential retribution, a haunting fear that somehow he’d return to take his ‘pound of baby’—and we’d urgently require some sort of unforeseen medical intervention to save the day, and perhaps our lives.
It’s an angst-ridden specter with which most over-40 mothers must contend.
Maha Al Musa—47-year old Lebanese mother and founder of Belly Dance For Birth (http://www NULL.bellydanceforbirth NULL.com) and now an expert in our Over-40 Mom Squad, who lives in Byron Bay, Australia—likes to do things her own way, and proceeded to shock her doctor by insisting on a home water birth at 46.
“He was very alarmed” recalls Maha Al Musa, “and kept asking me if I realized I was an older woman and many things could go wrong.”
Determined to stay the course, Al Musa was firm. “Thank you, but I know what I am doing” she told the doctor, and left.
“I can see how some women” she says, “especially first time moms over 40, could feel disempowered.
She bases much of her earthy approach to childbirth to her cultural heritage. “Traditionally, in Middle Eastern culture, women start having children young, often giving birth until the mother is 40 or more.”
Conceiving and bearing children in her culture of origin is revered and there isn’t really a stigma attached to age.
Al Musa’s journey to unconventional childbirth found its originating seed in learning to belly dance as member of a women’s-only group in Jordan when she was 21.
Little did she realize that twenty-five years later, her journey from dancing to seeking a more spiritual path to childbirth would culminate in a book and DVD (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/0646487051?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0646487051)for teaching belly dancing for pregnancy and, ultimately, to midlife motherhood.
Now a doula, writer and teacher, Maha Al Musa had her awakening when she attended a midwife’s class after the birth of her first son.
“I felt deep within my womb a longing to connect to my cultural roots, my ‘motherland’” she says.
“I loved the way the dance physically complimented my growing shape and belly and helped restore a sense of calm, tranquility and softness in my overall well being.”
Al Musa has first-hand knowledge of the health benefits of belly dancing for over-40 expectant mothers. Her teaching also has appeal for women who are veterans of corporate life, whose bodies must transition from cerebral office executive to midlife birthing mother.
“I think for pregnant women over 40 the belly dance, as a prenatal exercise, is very alluring because it is a dance of improvisation—an exploration without too much technique.
“Also as we are a more sedentary society and many women have had desk jobs and the belly dance movements can assist in getting the baby down into the pelvis and into an optimum fetal position for birthing.”
Maha Al Musa also likes to say she is “dancing the talk” when, at 46, her journey through belly dancing for pregnancy lead to now 18-month-old Aminah’s profoundly moving home water birth—an event which has made her something of a celebrity in the local birthing community.
It looks as though she did know what she was talking about, after all.
According to Florida-based midwife, childbirth educator and former OB nurse Barbara Harper—who founded Waterbirth International (http://www NULL.waterbirth NULL.org) in 1988—conventional stereotypes of over-40 women being unable to birth without medical intervention is all in the mind.
Harper, after a lifetime of counseling expectant mothers and training childbirth professionals in water birth in 41 countries, says that “Western medicine presumes that the body with age, especially the reproductive organs, is somehow less physically adaptable.”
And that it is the subsequent “fear creates many forms of physical and emotional responses to the birth event.”
Given that her life’s mission—through Waterbirth International (http://www NULL.waterbirth NULL.org)—has been to ensure that water birth is an “available option for all women”, Harper has had a plethora of experience with the angst-ridden perceptions of older expectant mothers.
“The ‘precious baby’ syndrome of women conceiving their first baby over 40 often leads them to rely more on a Western medical approach and play it ‘safe’ for the baby’s sake.
Despite this, Harper says she’s encountered “hundreds of women who were over 40 preparing for water births or home births”.
However, the consensus amongst midwives is that first-time older mothers usually “need stronger and more consistent emotional and mental support and de-programming” because they have been longer exposed to “cultural and societal expectations about birth and parenting”.
“The big hurdle in helping women over 40 is their notion of ‘getting back ‘ to their lives after the baby is born.”
Is water birthing for every woman, including mid-lifers?
Maha Al Musa believes it should be a definite possibility, provided you first consult an independent home birth midwife.
“If you are healthy, low risk and a properly informed over-40 mother” she says “I cannot see why you could not choose a home water birth.”
The worldly-wise Barbara Harper has a simple, but poignant take on it:
“An East Indian guru once told me that pregnancy and birth alone were equivalent to sitting and meditating for 20 years.
“The successful home water births that I have been able to witness with women over 40 were those who took the time to slow down, talk to the baby, examine their lives, become introspective…and let go and let God lead the way for their baby to be born.”
Note to readers:
Maha Al Musa’s website, book/DVD and contact info:
http://www.bellydanceforbirth.com (http://www NULL.bellydanceforbirth NULL.com/)
firstname.lastname@example.org (maha null@null bellydanceforbirth NULL.com)
Book: Dance Of The Womb – The Essential Guide To Belly Dance For Pregnancy and Birth (http://www NULL.bellydanceforbirth NULL.com/)
DVD: Dance Of The Womb – A Gentle Guide To Belly Dance For Pregnancy And Birth, ISBN 9 780646 517872
Barbara Harper’s website and contact info:
http://www.waterbirth.org (http://www NULL.waterbirth NULL.org/)
Barbara@waterbirth.org (Barbara null@null waterbirth NULL.org)
Book: Gentle Birth Choices (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/1594770670?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1594770670)
DVD: Gentle Birth Choices (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/B00274O8GE?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00274O8GE)
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