Pain-free child-bearing with the Method (continued).
1) Transfer to the delivery suite – also a ‘major problem’ it would seem.
2) “My darling little boy, it’s time for you to join the world” (I had already named him Konstantin, in honour of Dr Buteyko).
3) “God be with you!”, Igor Ershov encouraged me.
4) I lied that I could not give birth on my back, the position Dr Buteyko calls the ‘corpse pose’.
5) Using the Buteyko technique even delivery is pain-free.
6) They put me on a drip, unnecessarily.
7) They practically forced an oxygen mask on me. And then things went haywire...
8) “What a big boy! What a beautiful baby!”
9) The vernix prevents the baby from overbreathing through its skin for the first while.
10) “But think about it! These people need to cover their bodies with dirt before they can get well!”
“I then went back to my ward to wait for them to tell me where I was to go to give birth. Just to remind you, all this happened on Thursday, 19 October 1989. I got back to the ward at about two o’clock in the afternoon but at half past two I was still waiting for someone to come and tell me where to go. I was beginning to think that the Nesterites had forgotten about me again, when a nurse suddenly burst into the room. She immediately started shouting: ‘What are you doing still sitting here! They’ve been waiting for you for ages! Come on! Look lively! Get ready to go!’
“I hurriedly bustled about, getting myself together. But it soon became apparent it wasn’t going to be that simple. In Nester’s domain even leaving for the delivery suite was not something you could do quickly, not even in my seemingly urgent situation. They made me hand over all hospital property in strict order and wanted to record everything in some kind of register. In other words, they insisted on carrying out the whole discharge procedure, complying with the proper bureaucratic process to the very letter.
“Then, having left me with only my personal belongings, they took me and my bags downstairs to the prenatal ward, where they then went through the whole admissions procedure again, taking care not to overlook a single bureaucratic formality. The fact that my labour might stop at any moment or that my baby might just fall straight out on to the floor didn’t seem to interest any of the Head Doctor’s people in the slightest.
“They rigidly observed the French maternity hospital’s strict procedure”, Ludmila Sokolovskaya rested her cheek against her hand and lowered her eyes.
“Then, once I was actually on the prenatal ward itself, they of course spent ages tediously going through the routine for new patients again, making me have another bath, shave and enema!
“‘I already did all that five days ago’, I said, in a weak attempt to object.
“‘This is how it’s done!’, Nester’s staff retorted roughly and without sympathy.
“What was I to do?”, Dr Sokolovskaya looked around her silent group with a long, pensive gaze. “I had no choice but to submit. In an effort not to fly into a rage and harm myself or the baby, I tried the whole time to keep practising the Method. I tried with all my might to remain aloof from all this awful, soulless bureaucratic activity. I silently addressed my baby: ‘Kostya, my darling! It’s time for you to join the world. You’re nearly there, little one. Of course, you don’t want to come out into this dry, bureaucratic nonsense, but what can we do? There’s nothing for it, sweetheart...’
“Straight away I felt a kind of jolting in my belly. My son had evidently heard his mother and decided to do as she said. (I should mention that long before I gave birth my husband was convinced that we were going to have a boy, so I had already named him Konstantin – Kostya for short – in honour of Dr Buteyko.)
“The moment I felt that movement in my belly, I immediately told the staff who were taking so long with the admission formalities for the prenatal ward:
‘Look, look! It’s happening!’, I shouted to the nurse, supporting my enormous belly with both hands.
“‘Quick! Quick! Up to the first floor!’, the admissions nurse started to yell, finally frightened into action. So I walked up the stairs to the first floor, all the while clutching my belly to stop my baby falling out on to the stairs on the way.
“On the first floor I at last found myself in the labour ward. It was a huge great room with high trestle beds all around the edge. On the beds women lay in various stages of labour. The atmosphere was hardly pleasant, I can tell you, and the women could end up lying there for hours at a time.
“Now ‘admissions’ started again – even here, on the labour ward itself! A downtrodden-looking nurse unhurriedly started to put a clean sheet and new pillow case on the bed. It almost drove me over the edge. I found myself thinking, ‘If only Dr Nester gave birth a few times himself – I’d like to see then whether he’d put a stop to all these bureaucratic delays and nonsense or leave everything as it is.’
“Then, to my relief, the obstetrician appeared. In contrast to the brawny nurse, she looked like a sensible old girl. She was slim, somewhat withered and not particularly tall, but she appeared very business-like.
“‘There’s no point putting her there’, she barked at the flustered nurse. She sat me down in a special chair and started on the interventions Professor Ershov had told me to expect. She poked through to the uterine cavity, before getting on with everything else. At that moment, just before he left for Novosibirsk, Igor Ershov came back down to the labour ward, which he had apparently only just left. He carefully made sure that everything was alright with me. It was after all only due to him that I had ended up in the labour ward that day at all.
“‘Look, the waters are greenish…’, the doctor said insinuatingly, as she continued to work away at my body.
“‘It’s fine’, the Professor reassured her. ‘It’s only a slight tinge – just a very small amount of meconium. And I can see there’s still vernix there, so everything should be fine’
“He patted my shoulder for the last time, said encouragingly, ‘God be with you’, and only then left for the city.
“I should explain that ‘meconium’ is the baby’s first stool. Expulsion of meconium into the amniotic fluid may indicate distress in the baby or that its gut is mature. Medical professionals monitor its presence carefully, as there is a risk that the baby could take meconium into its lungs before or during delivery. ‘Vernix’ is the white substance secreted in the womb by the baby’s skin and with which the newborn is usually coated.
“The moment the Professor had left, the doctor told me to go straight through to the delivery room, so they could proceed immediately with the delivery.
“I had arrived in the labour ward at exactly three o’clock and at three-thirty I was in the delivery room”, Ludmila Sokolovskaya filled in some of the details for her audience. “Also, when I had gone through all those prenatal procedures on the ground floor a young first-year student had come down with me. She was crying the whole time and kept saying over and over, ‘Oh, this is awful’.
“Naturally, none of this exactly helped to lift my spirits. In the mean time I was worrying about the fact that, in the delivery suite, women are made to lie on their backs. Ever since the time when I spent over two months flat out in a state of semi-paralysis I had had a mortal fear of lying on my back. What’s more, I had read all sorts of things about how you should give birth in a squatting position. Not to mention the fact that Dr Buteyko calls lying on your back the ‘corpse pose’! It’s the position in which you overbreathe the most and, as a result, suffer the worst consequences of deep breathing.
“But it would have been absolutely pointless to try and explain all that to the medical staff in the delivery room. It would have achieved nothing but to provoke irritation and anger against me. And so I quite simply lied to them. I told them I couldn’t give birth on my back because my spine was too painful.
“Pain… that was something the delivery room staff had no trouble getting their heads round. ‘OK’, they said. ‘You can lie on your side then. We don’t have the facilities here for you to give birth on all fours…’. So we ended up with a semi-compromise – not on my back but not squatting either. Squatting would have been more comfortable for me, but the delivery ward staff were used to arranging things to suit them rather than the patient.
“They put me on a special couch-cum-chair and promptly pretty much forgot about me. I kept practising the Method, accumulating CO2, and it had an anaesthetic effect. There was no pain, so I wasn’t screaming. Not far from me there was another woman in labour who bawled and yelled as was expected and all the doctors flocked to her. Meanwhile I was abandoned like a poor relation.
“‘Oh, no, folks’, I thought. ‘That won’t do. You don’t believe in the VEDB Method. You don’t know how to attend a pain-free birth. Clearly I’ll have to start crying and wailing hysterically, since you only seem to react to audible signals.’
“So, when I next felt that slight pulling, stretching sensation low down in my belly, which was completely painless with the Method, I deliberately began to yell. I even purposely overbreathed a bit, so that the sensations were stronger. Then, at last, the doctors took notice of me. ‘Looks as though she’s starting’, the obstetrician remarked and came over to me with her retinue of white coats.
“But the medical staff didn’t just start to take notice of me. They came and immediately began to give me injections. When I asked them why, the obstetrician virtually hissed: ‘You promised the Professor you’d do as you were told’.
“The delivery ward was gradually filling up with medical staff. Evidently they’d been summoned for the birth. A young student nurse pierced my vein in the wrong place several times. She was just too agitated to get it right. (Of course, in actual fact, any place would have been the wrong place to pierce the vein.)
“‘What are you doing?’, I cried in fright, as she advanced on me with her needle for the third time. She was replaced by an experienced midwife who didn’t just inject me in the vein, she put me on a drip as well. That was something there was definitely no need for whatsoever. You see, I was feeling fine. I’d just shouted a bit to get their attention. And a drip is not without its own dangers. We are all very wary of hormones and Doctor Buteyko moreover asserts that once you have been put on a drip, you’re liable to get all kinds of mixtures of things from it, including hormone preparations. He believes that they are present in one form or another in pretty much every drip. Although the doctors naturally don’t tell the patient that.
“All around me the medics started a flurry of activity, giving me commands such as, ‘Breathe. Don’t breathe.’ Then they said: ‘Breathe more deeply!’, but, of course, I didn’t breathe deeply. They said: ‘Push! Push harder!’. That instruction I’d have been happy to obey, but in order to really push I’d have needed to get hold with both hands of the special handles mounted above the couch, put there for just that purpose. How was I meant to hold on to the handles with injections being put into my left hand and the drip in my right? They were contradicting themselves with what they were doing. They just couldn’t deviate from their routine procedure: injection, drip, push harder and so on. Oh, these orthodox medical routines!
“I wasn’t in any pain at all, but I was groaning for form’s sake and to make sure they wouldn’t leave me on my own again. Initially, before the injections had started to have their befuddling effect, I had a completely clear head. I could see very clearly that the medics around me actually had a panicked fear themselves of every kind of birth – not just mine. I could see that every birth was like this one – with all its attendant difficulties and dangers. You see, whatever way you look at it, life and death are so closely intertwined during birth – they walk together, you could say.
“I felt particularly oppressed by the surgeon who, with a concentratedly stony face, paced up and down not far from the bed where I was lying. She was like a pendulum: back and forth, back and forth. No-one explained anything to me, but I suddenly realised that this was the Caesarean surgeon, the one who was going to be there just in case…
“After my first attempts to obey their instructions to push harder despite my hands being tied up with the needles, my ward doctor, Dr Toporkova, came hurrying in. She began to listen to my belly with the aid of a long, wooden stethoscope. She couldn’t hear anything untoward. Then I groaned a bit, just in homage to maternity hospital traditions, you understand.
“Then she had to demonstrate that she wasn’t there for nothing. ‘The baby’s in distress! The baby’s very distressed! We need oxygen! Quickly!’, Dr Toporkova shouted in blood-curdling tones, her bluish lips contorting. I realised straight away that this was her ‘demonstrating her professionalism’. What I really wanted to say was, ‘I’m fine now. And that means my baby’s fine too’, especially as I was well aware how disastrous it is for Buteyko practitioners to be given additional pure oxygen which they don’t need. I was just opening my mouth when I remembered, just in time, the promise I had made to the Professor – that I wouldn’t disrupt the medical staff with my remarks when I was on the obstetric couch.
“So instead of addressing rebukes to the doctors, I turned my thoughts to my baby, with a plea for a final bit of patience.
“‘Kostya!’, I beseeched him silently. ‘We’ve done so brilliantly getting through this pregnancy. We’ve spent nine months accumulating CO2. How can just five minutes of this dreadful oxygen harm us now?!’
“In short, I decided: never mind, what will be will be. Let them do whatever they want. So they put the oxygen mask on. And that was when things really went haywire…’”. Dr Sokolovskaya’s face wore a terrible expression.
“I’ve no idea who benefits from oxygen, but in my case the damage was done in just the first few minutes. Although I went deep into the Method as soon as they’d put the mask on, so as to barely inhale the oxygen they were forcing on me, its damaging effects nevertheless started straight away.
“It wasn’t the oxygen on its own, of course, it was the excess of it. You see, I already had all the oxygen I needed! I immediately felt my consciousness clouding, it was as though a greasy film was being drawn over my eyes. Moreover, overbreathing oxygen instantly caused me to experience these huge spasms. It was definitely the oxygen that provoked them. And my right leg, which hadn’t given me any trouble for so long, felt as though it was being crushed by great claws. It started to be affected by terrible cramps.
“‘My leg! My leg!’, I groaned, struggling to free myself from the mask. ‘I’ve got terrible cramps in my right leg’. But of course, none of the medics crowding round me understood that the spasms in my leg were due to the oxygen they were forcing on me.
“‘It’s coming, it’s coming, never mind your leg! Just get on with it, please’, Zinochka, the midwife, rebuked me crossly.
“‘Come on, concentrate on pushing instead…’, the obstetrician said, once more focusing on the pushing. Next, without stopping to ask me, they rolled me on to my back, despite the fact that I really didn’t want them to. That’s how the medical staff were used to doing things, you see… They weren’t having any truck with my whims.
“At that point I was surrounded on all sides by no fewer than eight members of hospital staff. There was the obstetrician, Zinochka the midwife, two nurses on each side and someone else at my head. And all the time, like a menacing warning on the horizon, the Caesarean surgeon loomed, silently waiting her turn.
“‘Right, you need to summon up all your strength now’, the obstetrician continued meanwhile. At that point I’d been in the delivery suite for about half an hour.
“‘Push as though you were trying to empty your bowels’, her assistants advised me. Excuse me for going into these details, but in my opinion that wasn’t the right thing to say”, Dr Sokolovskaya looked directly at little Irina, who was fidgeting in her seat. “You should push as though you need to pee, using the perineum muscles. If you’re pushing as you would for a bowel movement, then it’s the muscles of the anus which are being used, whereas the perineum is actually slightly closer to the bladder.
“Even better is to teach women antenatally to use the muscles of the perineum. This is why, when I began to follow the instructions of the medical staff and use the muscles in my anus, their response was to say, ‘What are you playing at?’, but I was just doing as I was told.”
Ludmila Sokolovskaya threw up her hands.
“And although the doctors had disrupted my ability to think clearly with all their injections and oxygen and it felt as though every thought had to push its way through wet cotton wool, I didn’t completely lose my judgement. I was still able to see what was what. I tried not to lose my composure. However, there was no way I could exert myself as I was meant to. In order to do that, I’d have needed to be able to get hold of the special handles, but as I’ve already said, my hands were occupied – one with the injections and the other with the drip.
“Seeing this, the four women in white coats who were standing at my side apparently sensed intuitively that they needed to help me in some way. They began to bring my knees towards my shoulders. This was the point when my girlhood enthusiasm for acrobatics proved useful. The further they brought my knees back, the more the internal pressure increased. Then suddenly it felt as though a football was being pushed out of me! It felt as if if it contracted before being expelled and then immediately upon exit instantly expanded back to its original size. At that moment I felt a tremendous sense of relief.
“At once all the medics surrounding me surged forward and grasped hold of the baby, who was wet and covered in a pink foam. Then they showered me with all manner of exclamations.
“‘Oh, what a big boy!’
‘What a fine boy!!’
‘Did you see how powerful her uterus is? Did you see how strongly it worked?!’
‘He burst out on a fountain!’
“The doctors, like me, were in a state of delighted exhilaration, like people who have invested heroic efforts that have ultimately been crowned with success.
“But Sergey Nester did not share their delight. He was not present in the delivery suite, insuring himself against any surprises. He shifted all the responsibility for my labour and delivery – and he understood very well how great that responsibility was – on to the shoulders of his subordinates. Of course, I’m not saying that the head of the medical establishment is obliged to attend every single birth – far from it. But in my case, which had driven him to the point of stamping his feet, I think it was absolutely essential. He should at least have been somewhere nearby. But no! He didn’t deign to be there. He said he wouldn’t come to my assistance in any circumstance and he kept his word.”
With a shrug of her shoulders, Ludmila Sokolovskaya, cast aside such foolish thoughts.
“A short time later, one of the doctors who had been carried away with enthusiasm about the baby remembered me: ‘Hey, Mum! Just look what a fine baby you have!!’
“They brought Kostya closer to me. But in my eyes, clouded as they were by the medication and oxygen I’d been given, the baby was hardly what I’d call a poppet.
When I scrutinised him more carefully, I saw that his hair was covered in blood. He looked like some sort of bloody little monster. There were no cries to be heard, admittedly. Kostya was a Method baby after all.
“I thought to myself: ‘Good heavens! What a little monster. What’s meant to be so fine about him…?’
“Not waiting for me to join them in their rapturous euphoria, the doctors took Kostya over to the sink to bathe him – despite the fact that everyone’s always saying and there’s lots written about the fact that the greasy film, the vernix, should not be wiped off the baby for a period of 24 hours.
“And my little son only appeared bloody because on Nester’s labour ward women in labour were almost without exception given an episiotomy, to prevent any possible complications. It was done regardless of the consequences, even when it was completely unnecessary. In my case, of course, there was no need whatsoever for it, since CO2 is very effective at relaxing all the muscles. It makes the tissues much more elastic than in people who overbreathe. However, the doctors had forced oxygen on me and the excess oxygen had instantly ‘flushed away’ the carbon dioxide I had accumulated, thereby causing the uterus to spasm and violent contractions to start. When this happened, the birth canal also started to go into spasm”, Dr Sokolovskaya tapped herself on the knee. “That’s why Nester’s people did the episiotomy without giving it much thought – to avoid any trouble”, a hint of sadness again passed across Ludmila Sokolovskaya’s green eyes.
“And so then they took the baby to the sink to wash off the blood, despite the fact that, as I’ve already said, even the Nikitins were writing at the time that in the case of a normal birth the baby should not be bathed for 24 hours, to avoid washing off the vernix. The Nikitins had written that, but they weren’t able to explain exactly why it’s better to preserve the vernix for at least the first 24 hours after birth. However, I can tell you why. It’s because the vernix prevents the baby from overbreathing through the skin during that early period!” Doctor Sokolovskaya cracked her knuckles.
“On this subject, there is a very interesting account by Canadian scientists who made an unexpected discovery during experiments they were conducting. Their research was into the protective properties of the skin of Canadian Inuits. It turned out that in truly natural conditions, where they are uncorrupted by modern civilisation, Inuits actually wash just twice a year. The reason they wash so infrequently is apparently because their skin has become specially adapted. In autumn it develops a special, extremely thin dielectric film which protects their bodies throughout the winter. In spring this winter film is replaced by a summer version, which possesses certain different electric, magnetic, heat-conducting and other properties which are specially adapted to summer conditions in the Arctic.”
Ludmila Sokolovskaya gave her audience time to take in what they had heard.
“The Canadian scientists conducted what was doubtless very important scientific research. Nevertheless, they didn’t understand the Great Secret of how this winter protective film works – they only noticed its physical and chemical properties. But anyone who is familiar with Buteyko’s theory will immediately understand the true significance of the action of this coating: it protects the individual from losing CO2 through the skin!”, Dr Sokolovskaya triumphantly summed up her explanation.
“So the Inuits don’t wash just twice a year out of ignorance and backwardness. Meanwhile, the Europeans have learnt over the last 200 years to wash once a week – their love of washing has taken them to the other extreme. Some of them have reached the point where they wash twice a day – with soap and sponges!
“Yet we should surely take into account the fact that, in normal circumstances, the skin’s reaction is slightly acid, which also prevents loss of CO2. In contrast, soap produces an alkaline reaction. This creates the effect of ‘cleansing all the pores’, which the Europeans so energetically strive for. Thus this fiendish civilisation achieves an effect which is diametrically opposed to the one it was aiming for – in seeking health, so-called ‘civilised’ people over-cleanse their skin so that the pores are fully opened and CO2 is washed out!”, Dr Sokolovskaya clapped her hands together.
“This leads to a situation where people don’t merely fail to attain better health, they damage the health they do have. They start to get lots of colds, they develop neurodermatitis and psoriasis and other serious skin conditions. Then these cleanliness fanatics go to the most well-known and expensive spas and health resorts to seek a cure. If only it occurred to these poor unfortunates that all the treatments and cures at these spas and health resorts have just one goal – to close their pores which have been opened too much! That’s why you have all these salt and mud baths. Just think about it for a moment”, Dr Sokolovskaya briefly half rose from her seat. “In order to cure themselves, these people have to cover their bodies in mud!! Was it really worth washing their bodies twice a day with soap, only to end up with this as the treatment?”
“Well, really, now you come to think of it”, exclaimed Larisa Suvorova in astonishment. “You see the boundless stupidity of human beings!”
“So, to sum up: washing with soap is appropriate when the skin is really dirty. For normal people, in most cases, it is sufficient just to perform regular ablutions in pure water, without always having to use warm water and soaping the skin. This was the norm in all ancient civilisations, daily ablutions in the morning when the sun rose and in the evening when it set.”
At this point Viktor Vorontsov put a full stop in his notebook and gave his wife a subtle signal that it was time to finish for the day. They were impatiently awaited by that very same little boy whose appearance in the world Dr Sokolovskaya had described to her listeners at such length and in such detail.
“In the end, a wonderful baby was born…”, seeing the signal from her husband, Ludmila Sokolovskaya began to wind things up quickly. “Of course, I could have told you a bit more about this unusual birth using the Method and some distinctive details about the period immediately after the birth, but…”, Dr Sokolovskaya glanced apprehensively at her husband who was already gathering his things together, “…I think we’ve already covered quite a lot on this subject today.”
“Yes, indeed”, Mrs Suvorova quickly backed her up, rather tired from sitting in one place for a long time.
“Especially, as many of you here are not likely to be troubled by giving birth, either normally or with complications…”, Dr Sokolovskaya continued, slightly put out by Mrs Suvorova’s response.
“So let’s finish there for now. And for anyone who wants to find out more and in greater detail, I heartily recommend reading Viktor Vorontsov’s book”, now she looked sternly at her husband who appeared embarrassed. “The book which I hope he will one day write and eventually bring to a successful conclusion.”
“We’ll look forward to it! We’ll look forward to your book!”, the actress teased the flustered Vorontsov, standing up in her place. Lidia Kolchugina’s example was soon followed by the other participants in this somewhat extended session. In five minutes the pleasant green space had emptied until the next and what would be almost the final session.