By Amy, Australia
I had a fairly normal pregnancy with Mia, the usual throwing up and feeling queasy, but nothing too out of the ordinary (although she was delivered at 38 weeks as a breech presentation via caesarean section). My pregnancy with Chloe was horrible. Severe back pain from 10 weeks, big weight gain, exhaustion (well having a 13 month old at the same time as being pregnant will do that to a girl), and ultimately ante-natal depression. I had a VBAC with Chloe though and this awakened an interest in childbirth that I cannot describe, and I dream of one day studying to be a midwife.
This pregnancy however was amazing. I felt fantastic, had barely any morning sickness, was not too tired, and my back was holding up wonderfully. I even went back to the doctor at 9 weeks for a scan, convinced I wasn't pregnant anymore because I felt so great. The sickness had subsided, my energy was pretty good, no hormonal acne (which I got both times before). The scan showed a healthy little bubba, snuggled and safe inside my uterus. Hmm, maybe this is a boy? Totally different pregnancy, so that was my bet.
At 10 weeks we met our doula Erika, who I liked instantly. During our meeting, she asked if we had ever considered a home birth. Ahh, nope. That's for crazy people, and hippies, soooo not into it. She probed further and we discussed some of our concerns and pre-conceived thoughts about it (such as what if you bleed after? What if the baby is distressed, or comes out and is not breathing? Etc.) Erika answered those with ease, and for the first time, I actually thought about birthing at home as an option. Maybe. Probably not. Nah, that's nuts. I couldnt do that – Could I?
We left that meeting with the name and number of a company of private midwives, and a seed of curiosity in my mind. Onto the internet I got and started my research, and what I found was positive on the most part. I booked an appointment with a midwife called Karen and decided to ask every question and concern we had and if it felt right, we would consider it as an option.
Karen was lovely. So nice, and also professional, so not the crazy hippy I was picturing! She too answered our questions in depth and we decided that we would attempt a homebirth. I was very flexible in that I wanted to go to hospital if there was even an inkling of something being amiss during labour, I was not a “homebirth at all costs” kind of girl. Just as well, because neither was Karen.
All pre natal appointments were done in the comfort of our own home, with lots of things being discussed at each visit and leaving me feeling super relaxed about my pregnancy and baby. We choose to tell only those who we know will support our decision without judgement, so I tell both of my sisters and Hilmar tells a few people too. We don't tell our parents as I was worried that they would stress over it, and I was of the opinion that anything could happen- we may end up in hospital anyway. We would just tell people after the event if it happens at home, and not if it happens at hospital. I also did not want to hear any negativity about my upcoming labour and wanted to focus on being calm and relaxed about the whole thing.
We decided not to find out gender at our 20week scan, much to the dismay of most family and friends. Boy, some people can be impatient! We had a surprise with Mia, but found out with Chloe and I thought the experience, for me, was somewhat of an anticlimax when the baby is born. I really would have loved to find out from a planning perspective, but was determined to wait til our baby's B-day.
The pregnancy progressed at an alarming rate, I guess because I was so busy running around with the girls and working part time too. I trained for my labour, using the Calmbirth visualisations through my ipod, read thousands of positive birth stories, and repeated positive affirmations to myself. One that I used over and over was “It is my job just to breathe and relax, my body will do the rest.”
As my due date loomed near, I was reading the same birth stories over again, the ones that represented the way I wanted it to go and most of them were waterbirths. So we hired the birthing pool from the midwife Karen, and I prepared the tubs in my living room full of all the things I would need. I had all the plastic covers, heaps of towels, heat packs, and a pooper scooper just to name a few!
I was convinced I would go past my due date as I was 9 days over with Chloe, but I never considered I would go longer than that. Big mistake. On day 10 over due, I had a moment of tears with Karen over the phone and she was fantastic. Assured me I would not be pregnant forever, contrary to how I was feeling and that I was doing a good job at being patient.
On the whole, I was calm and relaxed about it, I think other people were more concerned about me being over due than I was! We had some monitoring done on day 10, which all showed a very healthy and happy baby in there, however my backup doctor (in case I ended up in hospital, someone who had my history, results of blood work and the rest) told me that he was going on holiday that afternoon and would no longer be able to support me. I was only comfortable with going up to 42 weeks before being induced (breaking the waters was my only means of induction due to previous c-section, so if that didn't work I would be caesared again).
Ok, so I am 41+3 weeks and have no doctor willing to support me going past 10 days over dates. Time to freak out? Nope, Karen suggests we go into the Royal Women's Hospital in the city for more monitoring, and if we get to 42 weeks that we go for the induction there. So we are happy, we have a plan, and everything is good. We do try castor oil that night, plus nipple stimulation via the breast pump. Yes, we get some intense contractions but by the morning they have eased. Shit.
In we go to the city and the staff there were awesome. Nobody batted an eyelid at being now 41+4 weeks, they see so many people with so many different issues that little old me with my post dates is nothing! The nurse doing my monitoring says she hopes I go home and go into labour that night and have my baby at home. A bit of a different attitude to the one we encountered at our local hospital to say the least. I see a doctor there who performs an internal examination and finds that I am 3-4cm dilated already and says I am favourable to having my waters broken. We schedule it for 2 days time, and hope to God that this baby comes of its own accord and there is no need. Come on baby, we really want to meet you. Did I mention NOW!!!! Or when you are ready. Whatever!
The next day still nothing and that night Karen checks in on us via phone and suggests we break the waters at home, if the liquid has meconium in it then we go straight to the hospital, and if they are clear but no contractions follow then we turn up for our induction the next morning minus my waters! We agree, and make a time for 2:30pm the following day. I will be exactly 42 weeks. I sleep as well as a hugely gigantic, waddling, peeing, groaning, pregnant woman can and wake up feeling surprisingly good and positive.
The girls are picked up by Hilmar's mum, and he tells her on the way out to the car that we are having a homebirth. She leaves probably a bit stressed over this revelation, but doesn't say much, and when he tells me what he told her I get him to call her and explain the situation and all our precautions and research ect, to put her mind at ease.
2:30pm. Karen arrives and we chat for a while, check bubs heartbeat, take my bp and it all looks good.
3:30pm. We go upstairs and spread the waterproof mats over the bed. This is to be the “examination table,” and Karen sets up her sterile environment with her gloves, and amnihook, and gets out the equipment to check on baby's heartbeat after the rupture. She does her thing, which I didn't find too uncomfortable, I think being nearly 4cm dilated helped, and a small trickle of clear fluid comes out. Great! Clear liquor means we are set to wait it out at home for these contractions to hit.
Niggles start almost immediately and Karen says this is normal, but keep up and moving to let gravity do its job. We chat again for a while and then Karens leaves saying she will come back to check baby and I again at about 7pm. The niggles turn into definite contractions and I get excited, this is finally the beginning of my labour!
4:00pm. I am sitting on the fit ball about to get on the breast pump again to encourage things even more when a stronger contraction comes and with it my waters absolutely gush everywhere. This has me in fits of giggles, trying to yell out to Hilmar for some towels as he is on the phone to his boss. Oh yes, it's all fun and games now, actually .Owwwch. That one was a bit on the strong side. Our doula Erika calls and asks to speak to me, I don't want to but get on the phone and she knows from the way I am talking (or not talking) that this is it. We leave the conversation with her saying she will call back in an hour and see where we are at.
4:30pm. I have stuffed a nappy down my undies as the amount of amniotic fluid that keeps gushing out with each contraction is insane. It is a good look, but I am beyond caring as the force of my contractions really pick up. I find myself thinking “shit, if it's this strong already how long is it going to be like this?” I had a 24hr labour last time, so I was assuming I would be at this for at least 12hours or more. Ha. Hardy ha ha. Little did I know.
5:00pm. I am now walking around and around the kitchen island bench with my headphones on listening to relaxation music and moaning ahhhh and owwww with each contraction. I try to keep my breathing calm and slow and steady, but it is hard. Contractions are about 5 minutes apart. Erika calls back, and doesn't need to talk with me, she can hear me on the other end of the phone and tells Hilmar she will be right over! I tell him to fill up the pool as I think this is all going a lot quicker than last time. He gets out the roll of black plastic to keep our carpet protected and proceeds to set up our birth place.
5:20pm Erika arrives and gets straight on to massaging my back and holding the heat bag in place whilst I lean over the bench, moaning and groaning with increasing intensity. Contractions are about 3 minutes apart, and I focus on keeping my mouth open, and my fists unclenched, and my shoulders down and relaxed. I start bending my knees with each contraction as my baby moves down lower, and my vocalising becomes lower pitched too.
6:20pm Erika keeps counterpressure applied to my hips, pure bliss, and suggests that if I want to have my baby in the water I had better get into the pool now. Someone calls the midwife but I have no idea who, as I am a little busy. I get into the pool between contractions, which are coming every minute now, and it is wonderful. The feeling of the warmth helps me relax my muscles in between the surges and I just go with it.
6:30pm No more than 10 minutes after getting into the pool, I start vocalising so deep down, I am surprised by myself. It is such a growl and grunt that I cannot control as my body starts pushing my baby out. I could not have stopped even if I wanted to. Hilmar jumps into the pool with me (something he didn't really think he would do, but in the moment he changed his mind). I am surprised and a little frightened by the intensity of the sensations, it feels like I am pushing myself inside out, and I have a small panicky moment.
Karen comforts me and reminds me to keep my voice low, and my breathing slow. I am on my knees with my arms over the edge of the pool, Hilmar is behind me applying pressure to my hips and encouraging me. It feels like a huge ball or log is inside me that I am trying to push out, and I feel the moment when the head is born up to the eyebrows. I try to let it stretch me so that I don't tear, and take loads of little panting breaths and reach down to feel for my progress. I can feel the baby's spongy top of the head! Wow, I am really having a baby! With the next contraction the head is all the way out.
6:45pm With the next contraction, I give a final push and my baby is born into my husband's waiting hands, under the water. Oh my God, I have done it. Hilmar passes the baby through my legs and I lift it out of the water onto my chest. I don't even think to check what the gender is, I am too thrilled, and shocked that I have pushed this baby out by myself. We sit, the three of us in the pool and Hilmar and I just look at this little pink peaceful baby, just laughing in disbelief.
Finally I have a feel under the baby's bottom, and discover I have given birth to a boy! I am so happy, and it is the best moment of my life. After a labour that is just under 3 hours, Will Alexander is born, weighing in at 8lb 14oz/ 4.040kg, is 51cm long, and has a head circumference of 34cm. I gave birth to our little boy at home, with no interventions, no drugs, no stress. I laboured the way that felt right for me, and birthed in the position that came naturally. My husband caught his own son, and it is an experience that we will never forget in a million years.