We wanted to share this beautiful Birth Story as it reflects all that is wonderful about home birth and taking the power back from an alienated medical situation.
For the birth of my third baby, I had support from a midwife who was based at a birth centre in our local, newly built hospital. It also happened to be the hospital I worked in, so it was quite familiar. I had delivered my first two babies in birth centres in hospital, so had planned to do the same again this time around. But after another straightforward pregnancy, I surprised myself by starting to envisage having our baby at home, labouring on our deck with the sounds of the ocean in the background. I was reading birth story after birth story, lots of them about home births, and was generally feeling confident about going into the labour. I also felt like I had a great, supportive team around me, so I talked it over with my husband, Ryan. He had some gentle reservations but was happy to support whatever decision I made. So I confirmed it with my midwife, Ti, booked the Birth Afloat birth pool and the emergency oxygen cylinder and within a week, had all the things I needed to be ready to go into labour.
It was a Wednesday evening when things began. I was 39 + 5 days and had been gently trying all the natural remedies to get my labour started for a few days. My sister was arriving from interstate to stay with us on the Saturday, and while I was looking forward to her visit, I really wanted to have had my home birth and had some precious time with him with Ryan, and our two girls aged 10 and 7, before we were ready to share him! We knew we were having a boy.
That day I had had my third session of acupuncture in the morning, followed by a hot bath and had done some colostrum expressing. Ryan and I went for a beach walk (I climbed up and down the sand dunes a few times!!!) had a glass of red wine with dinner, and to leave no stone unturned, dutifully had sex! I fell asleep by 8:30 pm and was woken at 9:30 pm with strange long contractions. I knew immediately that this was the start of labour. The contractions were 1 min duration from the start but the frequency was inconsistent, some 2 mins apart, some 5. Over the next hour and a half, they became more consistent, 45secs long, 2 mins between each. I called our midwife, Ti, at 11:30 pm to let her know where things were up to, but told her I didn’t feel like I needed her just yet. The contractions weren’t getting increasingly harder just yet. Ti went to the hospital to pick up homebirth bags and called back at 12:30 am to check on me, but nothing had changed much. I was just walking thru the contractions, breathing into a lavender soaked tissue and putting a heat bag on my belly, singing to the playlist we had made. Ryan was busy filling the birth pool. I lost my mucous plug at 1:30 am, which gave me some encouragement that things were progressing!
By that time, the birth pool was full and Ryan hadn’t been to sleep yet so had a nap. I noticed the gaps between my contractions get a bit inconsistent again from 2 am. I tried watching a bit of Netflix and sitting/bouncing on fitball between contractions to keep things going, but the breaks between contractions widened to 5 mins. I moved into the shower at 3:30 am but the water didn’t feel hot enough, we’d used it all filling the birth pool! I got out and tried getting into bed. I managed to sleep for a bit, waking now and then for a contraction. I got out of bed again at 4:30 am, and resumed walking around. I tried to do some nipple stimulation and acupressure massage to my hands and topped up the birth pool with hot water again. At 5:30am the contractions were still 5 mins apart, but it all came to a grinding halt at 6 am. I was torn between feeling disappointed that I wasn’t in active labour, and glad to get some rest! I called my midwife to discuss my progress, and she suggested go to sleep. I got back into bed to sleep for an hour. Contractions came every 15 mins while I slept – I noticed them but was still able to sleep.
Got out of bed around 7:30 am. Ryan stayed home from work, and we decided to keep the girls home from school as although I knew I wasn’t in active labour, I hoped that things would pick up again later in the day.
Contractions never went away entirely during the day but were up to 30 mins apart. We went about the day as normal and baked a ‘birthday cake’ for the baby. I text my acupuncturist who suggested I have a really hot bath and massage acupressure points in my shoulders.
By 1:30 pm Ryan dropped the girls off to be with their grandparents as they were starting to distract me from the labour zone. We wandered around our large, sloped garden and I made sure to do lots of squatting to pull some weeds!
At 4:30 pm Ti the midwife came to check on me. She asked if I wanted an internal and a stretch and sweep. I happily agreed to it, saying ‘I don’t want to be pregnant forever!’ I was 6-7cm dilated which I found really encouraging – all that pre-labour the night before wasn’t for nothing. Ti said she’d stay long enough to set up all her things then might go again to let me get on with it. I had been timing my contractions on an app, working with Ryan to pour kettles and pots full of boiling water into the pool to warm it back up. Ti said it’s time to stop working and move out of an ‘intellectual mind’ to focus inwards on the labour. From that point on, contractions became regular and quickly increased in intensity and Ti never left our house, she could see it wouldn’t be long til baby arrived. At some point, she joked that she wanted the baby to be born by tea time because she’d had very little sleep the night before being woken by my phone call and then ending up staying at the hospital all night to attend another woman’s labour. That encouraged me that it wouldn’t be long now til I met my son.
I moved between leaning over the kitchen bench, to outside leaning over the deck railing to breathe through contractions, using a heat bag on my belly. As the surges increased in intensity, I ‘ahhhhh’ed my way through them. Ryan finished adding hot water to the birth pool and I got in. The relief between contractions was immeasurable, I was so happy to be in there and stayed in for at least half an hour.
My student midwife and back up midwife both arrived, silently slipping in to lend Ti support if required but were careful not to distract me.
After a time I could feel that the relaxation of the pool was slowing down my contractions and I asked Ti if she thought I should get out and walk around for a while to speed things up again. She agreed and suggested a shower. Ryan helped me to slowly shuffle off and could feel the intensity of the contractions picking up standing in the shower – I knew I was in transition. The hot water was running out in the shower again and the contractions were so intense so I slowly waddled back to the birth pool. I remember having one huge contraction that literally brought me to my knees as I stood waiting to step into the pool. The feeling of wanting to push had arrived. Ryan helped me get back into the pool. It must have been about 7:20 pm by then.
I had to really focus on keeping my self-talk positive for the last few contractions before it was time to push. They were incredibly intense, and I was starting to think ‘this is taking too long’. I remember gripping Ti’s hand like a vice and saying ‘I don’t want any more of these’, and ‘I’ve had ENOUGH!’ She simply urged me not to resist the contractions and pushing urges, but to go with them. I listened and tried to welcome the surges. I deliberately started saying ‘yes….’ and ‘down Sandy, down’ during contractions to try and encourage his descent. His head crowned, and my waters finally broke, which felt like a relief! A couple of almighty pushes later and he was born. Reaching down to pick Sandy up from the bottom of the birth pool was a surreal experience. Bringing him to my chest, I felt so triumphant, absolutely euphoric!!
Our girls and the grandparents arrived mere moments after Sandy was born. It must have been an incredible sight for our daughters to see me, their mother completely elated, and grinning like I’d won a gold medal, holding their new brother covered in vernix on my chest.
The rest of the night was just beautiful. After birthing the placenta and having a quick shower, I was straight back into the lounge room with the family to marvel over our perfect baby, give him his first breastfeed, and share food & wine with the midwives. To get straight into our own bed with our baby just hours after his birth was incredible. The whole experience was, without a doubt, my greatest achievement.
– Jo – August 2018.