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How, where and with whom did you give birth and how has it impacted you?
I like to say I have done one of each - an emergency section for breech, an elective section just because, a VBAC in hospital after 2 sections with no interventions whatsoever and finally, a home birth in a small town in northern British Columbia.
Considering I was 'diagnosed' with extreme CPD, I think I did quite well to go from a 6.10 first baby to a 9.6 4th baby, quite a jump in size.
I am also happy to report that I have attended the births of my 5 grandchildren and so far, no sections, just lots of squatting and long labours in the tub. My VBACs changed me profoundly in such a good way. I know I can do anything I set my mind to. If you want a more detailed birth story, I am happy to oblige ... I look forward to seeing the film!
Baby Marta’s Home Waterbirth ‘What do you mean there’s no sour cream??!’
The place was Wagga Wagga the date was the 27th of December and we were traveling home after Christmas spent with family in Queensland. I surprised myself by my absolute horror at the information that the restaurant we were eating at had run out of sour-cream… My husband Lorenzo, my 2 year old daughter Leila and I arrived back in Melbourne 2 days later and the ‘sour’ incident in Wagga Wagga had me wondering…so I bought a home pregnancy test…and a perfect set of matching lines came up! Baking a Baby had begun!
The joy and exhilaration of the news however was soon overshadowed by growing fear and anxiety and soon enough I had to face the reality that my PTSD that had eventuated after the traumatic birth of my first child was beginning to creep in as I thought ahead to the birth of our next baby. It had already been decided that I would not travel the same path as last time so as to avoid triggers for the PTSD, so quickly booked into a birth centre (last birth was in a private hospital and quite a medicalised environment). However, within 5 minutes of leaving the building after the information session I was having a full-blown panic attack. It was really frightening and left me, so I thought, with nowhere to go. Lorenzo, being the beautiful and supportive man he is called my psychologist whom I hadn’t seen for almost a year and we went in and saw her. She looked me straight in the face and told me that I needed to get out of the ‘hospital setting’. It took a few seconds to register what she meant, but the moment I realised what she was getting at it was as if a weight had been taken off my shoulders. And so the path was set to bring our baby into the world at home…
Around this same time we ended up at a BBQ with our new friend Sue and her husband and their lovely kids. We mentioned that we were thinking of a homebirth for this baby…and this is when we found out that Sue was a midwife and calmbirth instructor! Almost immediately we asked if we could attend one of her calmbirth courses as friends that had used the technique raved about its benefits. Lorenzo and I were determined to throw everything we could at this journey to bringing our baby into the world. The calmbirth course provided so much scope for healing from our previous birth trauma and, importantly empowerment for the one coming. Unlike the antenatal classes we had attended for our first birth, Lorenzo was an integral component of the course. And we practiced the breathing and visual exercises together long after the course had finished…although he found himself so relaxed from it all that I would often find him snoring away!!
The weeks leading up to the birth of baby Marta were spent nesting like crazy (watch out skirting boards!) and preparing our home for the birth. Post-it notes were stuck up around the house to remind us what to do in the flurry of labour (like, unlatch the door and put the dog outside before everyone arrives…she is 36kgs of pure love!). We had been laughing at how, no doubt our Virgo baby would like to be punctual and arrive on her due date. So when I woke at 4am feeling ‘different’ on the day I believed was her due date, I wasn’t too surprised. I Jumped in the shower, not thinking much of the early hour as I had been waking up at that time for weeks, but did take note of the fact that I had ENERGY to burn). It was 5.30am when I felt the first familiar ‘wave’ of a contraction. Again didn’t think much of it as it was incredibly mild and didn’t last long at all (maybe 15 seconds). I had also been having a fair amount of Braxton hicks in the last weeks and also had a bit of pre-labour a couple of weeks prior, so assumed that this was probably going to be another instance of that. Lorenzo woke up around 6am and asked me what I was doing up and about so early and I casually mentioned that maybe, just maybe, Marta was thinking about coming. I didn’t believe it myself, but the big grin on his face helped reassure me that it was all a bit exciting. Spent the day experiencing mild, intermittent waves of contractions. Most were coming at 12 minutes apart, but never lasting more than 30 seconds. Occasionally I would have a cluster of contractions, but yet again, nothing intense that couldn’t be overcome by the calm-breathing exercises that I had been practising since our course a couple of months prior (and my three year old was good at backrubs!). Called my two beautiful midwives Nicola and Sue (yes, also our Calmbirth instructor!!) around 10am to give them heads up, but reassured them that I felt too happy and energetic and well, not in labour so don’t expect to be needed until maybe that night, or even the next day…
It was such a lovely sunny day (totally unusual for Melbourne that week!!), so Lorenzo and I took the chance to take the dog for a walk around the streets, both of us smirking like cats that got the milk as people passed us by, knowing that ‘cool’ things potentially were happening. At about 1.30pm I headed out the backyard to prune some flowers and hang out a load of washing…so domestic of me. I did quietly note to myself how I was leaning a bit heavier than normal on the wall during a contraction. But, using some deep calm breaths it would pass and the thought left my mind. At 2pm I found myself lying on the bed reading a tacky mag (thanks mum for the supply!). And every-time a contraction would come I would roll over onto all fours and breath through them. Lorenzo and Leila were lying on the bed with me all reading our various ‘literature’ (Leila had ‘diary of a wombat’ haha). Lorenzo told me that he thought I should call Nic our midwife again as he felt that things were ramping up. I told him to stop panicking that it was all good and that I can’t be close as I felt fine and the contractions weren’t strong or long and that this was too easy breezy and nowhere near ‘real’ labour. At 3pm I rolled up onto my fours for a contraction and when it passed I told Lorenzo that I needed to wee (I know, too much information he he!) and as I threw my leg off the bed…POP! My waters broke!!! Leila’s eyes just bulged when I yelled out to Lorenzo to get some towels before the bed is ruined. So, with the delicacy only seen in the best ballet schools of Russia, I heaved my 40 week pregnant self off the futon (ohhh gotta get a Big Person bed someday lol) and waddled with towels towards the shower with my Mum and a very excited 3 year old in tow. Lorenzo called our midwives Sue and Nic immediately as I remembered them clearly stating that I shouldn’t wait until my waters broke to call them lol. Nic was up in the mountains somewhere and I was told that it would be half an hour before they got there. It was a good thing in the end as my adrenalin had kicked in (again, I credit this with the calmbirth course as we had learnt the signs of fear and the adrenalin response) and I needed some time before people arrived to get myself re-focused and to finally realise that this was the Real Deal. My baby, Our baby was coming!
Both our midwives arrived within minutes of each-other 3.40pm. By this stage I was in the birth pool (thanks to Lorenzo for speedily filling that baby up!) and Leila was sent with my Mum to the neighbours for a playdate (we had organised it so they would be back for the ‘exciting’ bit of seeing Marta being born). My first real realisation that Nic and Sue had arrived was a lovely chilled washer put on my head smelling faintly of lavender (Ahhhh bliss!)…I looked up to see them both sitting there with smiles on their faces. Oh what a beautiful sight!
Lorenzo was flitting around trying to get things in order and burn off his excitement, but within 10 minutes of them arriving he had the chance to sit down beside me and hold my hand while I floated around in the birth pool. When I started to make the familiar noises of a woman getting close to birth (low deep moans), Sue helped ‘guide’ my conscious mind back into relaxation and focus. All this time I had been using my calm-breathing and in between contractions felt completely ‘normal’ and jovial. During the contractions, I would turn away from everyone and stare at one of my affirmations that I had stuck up on the wall that read: ‘breathe with the pressure’. It seemed that out of all of them it was the one that was resonating with me. I also had a picture of my Oma on the wall who, loved babies and sadly passed away only a couple of months beforehand, but I knew that she would of loved to be there holding my hand, so her picture was my best attempt at having her there and it really helped during this stage. To be honest, I didn’t realise that those contractions were the ‘gruesome’ transition stage…I remember so vividly with my first birth experience with Leila that this stage was full of fear and agony, and the fact that I found myself this time laughing (yes! Laughing!) as we all discussed our favourite jellybean flavours didn’t give me a heads up that Marta was close to birth. Apparently I went quiet for a minute or two and Sue later told me that I declared that Marta was coming down. Instinctively my hand reached down to see ‘where’ she was. Nic saw me do this and realised that I was A LOT closer than we had had thought! (well it was news to me haha!). Lorenzo tried to run next door to get Leila and Mum, but I looked up and with the primal roar of a woman NOT to be messed with demanded that he stay and not move as I realised right then that it was only going to be a matter of moments before Marta was going to be earthside.
At this point I was on my knees kneeling in the water and Lorenzo sat directly in front of me and gave me a big phat kiss and put his hand on my shoulder… I don’t remember where my midwives were standing or doing, all I remember is feeling Marta slowly move down and after two big moves I put my hand down and felt the familiar bulge of a baby’s head…and what appeared to be a vast amount of long, long hair floating in the water…Nic had a look and said, ‘wow, she’s got a head full of hair!’. Nic then told me that I could lift one leg up to help guide baby out. Both of my midwives gently reminded me to breathe her out rather than push and to use my calm-breathing to achieve that. But it was so instinctual (the best way for me to describe it really) that pushing hadn’t actually crossed my mind. I remember that at one point I started to laugh as Marta had taken to nodding her head…a rather, interesting sensation lol! It didn’t hurt but gosh almighty it felt w.e.i.r.d. The next thing that I knew another wave of a contraction came and her head gently slipped out into my hand (I had my hand there holding her head from the last contraction). The next contraction and the rest of her body slipped out and into the water and into my arms: this was amazing and totally unexpected as we hadn’t decided either way whether I would be ‘unassisted’ with catching her (or if for that matter that I was catching her at all lol!). But again, it felt like the natural, normal thing to do at that moment and my midwives just let me go with that. I brought her up to my body, but soon we all realised that the cord was short and she had a loop tightly wrapped around her neck. Nic, calmly told me to lower her close to the water and she scooped the cord up and over and finally I was able to bring her up to me and cuddle her close.
Lorenzo ran out and got Leila and Mum and they came running in with big wide grins. We were on cloud 9! We had a physiological third stage and I was shown how to guide the placenta out and wow, they are HUGE! It has almost been a year since she was born and our little family has been on a post birth high ever since. What a magical way to welcome your baby and start this amazing journey with a new human being! We are all so happy and joyous of her arrival and since this experience, having our baby at home has brought so much healing and love that we couldn’t of asked for better or imagined a more ideal way to bring our baby earthside… So, the official stats were all up: Established labour: 2.5 hours. Second stage: 9 minutes. Marta was 3.43kgs and 52cms long.
I’m sharing this story here because when I fell pregnant I’d never heard a positive birth experience. Not one. I’d heard all about forceps, and pain, and emergencies, and pain, and stitches, and pain, and lots of interventions and generally a lot of drama. I hope you get something from reading it, and that afterwards you’ll be inspired to see how beautiful and empowering childbirth can be.
The birth of our bub eight months ago was the greatest experience of my life.
Definitely my biggest achievement. Hands down the most exhilarating and spiritual thing I’ve ever gone through and the closest I’ve ever felt to my husband Rowan.
Row and I always knew we wanted to be parents. Even before getting engaged we’d talked about how many kids we wanted (the magic number still remains at five – even numbers are boring and three is not enough).
It’d been somewhat of a journey to get to our birth. After experiencing a miscarriage for our first pregnancy we were even more grateful for the gift of new life, and were looking forward to the due date with responsibility-laden expectancy. Our baby would be the first grandchild on both sides and you can imagine how much our families were bursting with excitement.
When we’d found out we were pregnant, we knew very little about childbirth. I thought you just went to the hospital and had to have a big needle in your back and someone kind of helped pull the baby out. My husband’s knowledge was even worse. At one point he said to me “Babe, there’s no way I’m touching the baby until someone cleans it up, and I’m going to be north of the blue sheet the whole time so I don’t have to see a thing!”
This naivety and ignorance got me thinking…..there must be a better way.
A lot of women in developing countries don’t have access to hospitals, drugs, technologies and interventions, and they are finding ways to cope with the pain associated with childbirth. You only have to think of an African woman who is walking along a road throughout her labour, only to squat, push the baby out, cut the cord, tie the baby to her back, and then keep on walking.
We hear of Cambodian women out in the fields or rice paddies who do much the same, and then there are the Ju/’huan women who, upon entering labour, simply get up and walk to a place they’ve prepared earlier. They birth their babies on to a mound of grass to soften the fall. Once born, the women saw the cord with a stick, clean the baby with grass and cover the placenta with sand, keeping a mound so that no man will destroy that place or walk directly over it. It all sounds very ‘un-Hollywood’ like and it led me to believe that perhaps we overcomplicate things.
I’m not suggesting that hospitals, drugs, technology and interventions aren’t required at times. Of course they have saved the lives of many women and many babies. But I do believe that as technology has increased, our confidence to birth has decreased – we are teaching women that they don’t know how to birth and to rely on the medical system, which is one reason why we’re so caesarean happy. The World Health Organisation says that the caesarean rate should be at 15% – in some western hospitals the rate is up at 70%.
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I started on a journey of intense research, delving into historical accounts of childbirth, and learning how the medical model has evolved. I watched evey birth DVD I could get my hands on, attended many courses, and read over 30 books on the subject.
During my study I found out about a course called Calmbirth. At only 16 weeks (and with no belly in sight) Row and I found ourselves among a room full of heavily pregnant ladies and their partners. I remember the first thing the facilitator asked at the start of the course was “Why are you here?” When it got to my turn I was sure of my answer. “I want to be surrounded by positive people who view birth in a positive way. I don’t want to hear any more horror stories and I don’t want to be frightened any more”.
Driving back from the course, filled with a new level of confidence and knowledge about the birthing process I turned to Row and said “Hey, I think we can have a natural birth. I think we can do it”. He agreed so our thinking turned toward having our baby in a birth centre at a hospital as opposed to a delivery suite. We wanted to be away from the temptation of drugs and be able to have as beautiful a birth as possible.
We went and did a tour of the hospital and I’ll be honest. I was disappointed. Although the midwife who ran the tour was lovely and patient, when we got to the birthing centre, I still knew I was in a hospital. It had fluorescent lights and it was cold and you can tell they had done their best to simulate a home environment with a double bed and bath but it still had that hospital smell and feel. Don’t get me wrong – the midwife was very accommodating and told all the expecting couples that they were welcome to bring in their own music and anything else they may need, but it just didn’t feel right to me.
So, without letting Row in on my thinking (I wanted to really to research my idea first) I started learning about homebirths. I loved what I found! It made so much sense to me. Birth is a private, intimate experience and it made sense to me that I could birth in a place that I felt safe and comfortable. I could choose whom I wanted at the birth and I could control the environment. I’d have no strangers walking in to the room, I’d have no unnecessary interventions, and I’d be able to call the shots.
Another caveat here. Homebirth is not for everyone and I’d never suggest that it is.
Women must birth where they feel most safe and most comfortable. For a lot of people that’ll be in hospital. But for me, I felt most safe and most comfortable at home. I just want to see women doing their research and not just doing what everyone else is doing because that’s what everyone else does.
On the Saturday night we were seven days overdue, and although I wasn’t at all frustrated (I never got to that ‘get it out of me’ stage – I loved the privilege of being pregnant) I was ready to get the birth on. So Row and I lit a candle and talked to the baby, letting it know that we were ready. Saturday night and all of Sunday passed with no action and I went to bed on the Sunday evening at midnight, now eight days past our due date. Two hours later I woke with a sensation in my lower back. I thought ‘this could be it, but try and get some sleep’ and about ten minutes later I felt the same feeling.
It was 2am and Row was still sleeping. I decided not to wake him but I couldn’t sleep so every time a contraction came on I’d just get up and walk about. I had to move with the energy in my body. By about 5am I couldn’t keep my excitement in, and Row (finally sensing that I wasn’t in bed) sat up and I told him ‘we’re on!’ He got up and we just set about our day very normally. We ate breakfast (although I could only stomach two mouthfuls of muesli) and had a shower together. All the while I was experiencing contractions, but they surprised me as the sensation was only ever in my lower back. Nowhere else. I felt nothing at all in the front of my body. Row was amazing. Each time a rush came he’d put his hands on my back and I’d say to him “Lower! Higher! Push harder! Push softer!” and he obliged every time.
We watched our wedding DVD and I got on the computer and googled lower back pain in labour. I made banana muffins, sent flowers to a girlfriend for her birthday, and put a load of washing on. By early afternoon we’d called our doula (a birth support person) and then our midwife arrived soon after.
Then we just let in unfold.
I surrendered to my body and guess what? It knew what to do. After 23 hours of labour, I birthed a nine-pound, one ounce baby girl in the water. Row caught her and passed her through to me. She was nine days past her due date but no one forced me to have an induction. I required no drugs during the whole labour and I had no interventions (apart from the midwife checking dilation at one point).
The whole experience defies words, and the emotions were overwhelming. What was more overwhelming was the instant bond we shared with Milla. She didn’t cry – she just cleared her throat gently and looked straight into my eyes. She knew exactly who I was and exactly who Row was. We didn’t have to share those precious moments with anyone wanting to clean her up (she was perfectly clean anyway with thanks to the water) and no one was hurrying us to weigh and measure her (babies don’t put on weight or grow in a couple of hours!!!!). That time (that you can never get back) was, for us, perfect.
Her entry into the world was gentle, loving and beautiful.
It was intimate and caring. We had our music playing gently and candles flickering by the birthing pool. We slept in our own bed as a family that night and did all we could to make Milla’s first couple of days as quiet and gentle as we could. No fluorescent lights. No other crying babies. No cranky nurses (and please, I’m not for one second saying all nurses/midwives are cranky – most are absolutely incredible, but you’ll always get one or two around you which is the last thing you want to deal with days after giving birth). No one telling us what to do.
Birthing this way, for me, was how I try and live in all of my life. My rules. My intuition. My power.
Please feel free to share our experience with anyone who may be fearful about childbirth – I’d love to encourage all women (and men) to expect their birth to be incredible, no matter how it unfolds.