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How, where and with whom did you give birth and how has it impacted you?
I was born in the Netherlands, the 5th of 6 children who were all born at home. My parents engaged a midwife and a doctor for the birth. My father was present at all our births which were natural and without drugs.
The midwife stayed to care for my mother and help with the nursing of the child for 14 days after the birth.Our family doctor attended all the births and called on my mum regularly This was such a happy time for the family.
In 1970 I had my first daughter alone, in a room at the Royal Brisbane Womens Hospital, drugged by gas, which I had no idea how to use, nor instructed by a nurse or a doctor on how to use the mask. I screamed the place down(apparently) because a doctor came in and told me to "shut up for goodness sake"!
Hubby was not allowed in and was at home. I felt alone and terrified. My 2nd one was a similar story, but luckily I decided not to use gas. I considered having my next 2 at home but this was strongly discouraged by medical staff. I wished I could have had a choice.
Many years ago, my second baby was born at home in Gippsland with my husband, Midwife Sue and Dr John (now deceased) supporting me.
An obstetrician from the Latrobe Valley offered to support me at the hospital if there were any issues. I felt so empowered by the experience, no drugs, intact peri and almost pain free. An anterior lip made transition challenging for a couple of hours. I fully believe that with great antenatal education, support and the right environment that every woman can achieve the best possible outcome for her.
Collaboration in the current climate of litigation and power hierarchies is challenging, but I believe that it can be done. Midwifery care supported by obstetric care is a direction that I believe in. I had the benefit of this a long time ago, and I hope that other women can also have this support.
I had my son Marley at home with my midwives, my partner and older son and my mother around me. I felt so comfortable being in my own space and knowing my surroundings.
My older son was asleep in his bed and that was so special knowing he was absorbing this amazing energy in our house, he actually woke up just as Marley was being born which I thought was quite special and amazing.
I felt so safe with my midwives, especially my primary midwife whom I had gotten to know throughout my pregnancy, she had so much experience and confidence and I when I was labouring I felt like she knew exactly where I was with every contraction.
My family were comfortable because they were at home in their own space. The next day we didn't have to pack up and transfer and put our little baby into a car, we didn't have to go anywhere, it was purer bliss to be able to relax at home. I loved my home birth and I wish everywoman knew the truth about its safety and that every woman had access to it. xx
The story of Summer’s Birth
On the morning of Thursday the 6th of August I went to see Jane who had begun to have some mild contractions. We were sitting around the table outside when Jane felt another contraction begin. Sitting next to her I placed my hand on her belly to feel it tense up. Almost instantly I felt my own whole belly grow firm in a way that I hadn’t before. It was really strange because I wasn’t expecting it, but my Mum had told me that sometimes if you are close to your due date and you are around another labouring mum it can trigger the start of your labour. Not expecting that to be true we all laughed it off, but over the next two days I started to feel different and I began having irregular contractions, that I knew were the beginning of Summer’s arrival.
Thursday night and most of Friday was spent walking the headland and beach with Carlos and Diva. It was an emotional couple of days, not knowing whether or not I was definitely in labour or just being over reactive to my body. I remember walking and crying telling Carlos that I just wanted it to start properly already! But there was no rushing, my body and baby Summer had their own ideas. But excitement grew when I got my show that night.
On Friday morning I had what I thought was a hind leak, but wasn’t sure. So we went into the hospital to have a quick check up. The midwife did an internal exam to see if she could determine whether or not it had in fact been a leak or something else. She resolved that it most likely was a leak and considering my cervix was almost completely effaced, that I should go home and prepare for labour.
As the sun was going down on Friday afternoon Carlos, Dad, Mum and I sat on the back porch playing cards and having a laugh as my contractions established some regularity. It was nice to be surrounded by the people I love and trust the most. Knowing that each and every one of them would do anything for me if they had to, I just felt completely at ease. As the night wore on, the contractions of course grew more painful and closer together. Later in the evening I had another leak and Carlos convinced me to call the hospital just in case. So at around 9pm I called just to let the midwife know and as I was explaining what had happened another contraction had begun, painful enough to pass the phone to Carlos to continue the conversation. Just as I did I felt my waters break and a big gush soaked my shorts. Laughing my head off I ran to the bathroom to stand in the bath so I couldn’t make a mess. We decided with the midwife on the phone that we would come in to the hospital so I would feel more comfortable.
On the way to hospital my contractions slowed down a lot. On arrival the midwife had told me that she didn’t think I was in active labour and that we should all try and get some rest. And “rest” we did. Mum and Dad slept on lounges in the tea room, while Carlos slept in a beanbag on the floor with his legs up on an exercise ball. I still remember the glow of the heater and waking up to every contraction. The midwife came to check on me every hour, checking my blood pressure and Summer’s heart beat, things were still moving along slowly and I was grateful for the rest between contractions.
The contractions intensified from about 4am when I was no longer able to sleep between them. Knowing I wanted an active labour I was up moving around as much as possible. Leaning over the end of the bed and breathing deeply. Pacing the hall and breathing deeply, eating Glucose Jelly beans and breathing deeply. By 10.30am our obstetrician James Nicholson had arrived to check in on us. Possibly THE most relaxed man who ever graced the planet earth! After witnessing me walking around, still happy and joking around between contractions he arrived at the conclusion, like the other midwives that I still probably wasn’t in active labour. But, after performing an internal exam he was very happy to report that I was actually 5-6cm dilated. I was ecstatic; all that hard work wasn’t for nothing!
After receiving this news, we got even more excited and inspired. We were able to get in the bath or have a shower. Up until that point I didn’t really need anything else for the pain. In fact I could have kept going on dry land if necessary. But Carlos helped me in the shower, the warm water almost took the pain away completely! After experiencing the immense relief of the shower we decided it was time to get in to the bath.
I had originally planned to reserve my dignity and wear
swimmers in the birth pool but quickly forgot that idea when the serious
contractions had set in. Summer and I spent the next few hours working through
the contractions. I found extreme comfort being rocked in the water by Carlos,
he helped me focus on my breathing. Taking each breath with me and supporting
me completely. I clearly remember reaching transition, thinking that I had had
enough and that each time a contraction finished I would think to myself –
that’s it, no more contractions, I’m done! But they didn’t stop and as quickly
as I’d started transition i had finished and the urge to push began to build
with each contraction.
As the urge to push got stronger, I started to go with my body and push. Not seeing much progress, the midwife had me empty my bladder and once I was on the toilet I was very comfortable. It took a LOT of coaxing to get me back into the pool with a stop on the birthing stool in between. But when I was in the water I found the best position to give birth. I was clung to the edge of the pool to support myself and that is how Summer was born. As Summer’s head was born the midwife started talking about waiting for the next contraction to birth her shoulders, but after pushing for two hours I had lost patience and out she came. I reached down and pulled Summer out of the water with my own two hands. Carlos and I held our new baby and I distinctly remember thinking out loud “oh my god, I love her already”.
I went from being totally freaked out because I was so scared of labour, to feeling empowered and experiencing a pain-free childbirth.I remember that day so clearly because the doctors and midwives were shocked, but for me, it was the happiest day of my life!But to be honest, just 9 months prior, I NEVER thought I’d be one of those freaky birth-junkies that talked about "beautiful water-births" and "empowering labours" That was for hippies!
I was NOT going to try and be a hero. All I wanted was a healthy baby.I mean, it doesn’t matter how it comes out. Right?I couldn’t understand why I would want to have a natural childbirth when there were medical miracles called EPIDURALS that would block all the pain of childbirth. (Or so I thought!)Anyway … I had been talking to some friends, who seemed to think it was a great idea to tell me every detail of their traumatic birthing experience …Seriously, why do people do that?
So, I went home and tried to convince myself that it really wouldn’t be that bad. I buried myself in pregnancy books and magazines, but I just couldn’t stop thinking about all the pain I was going to have to endure. I started crying.
My husband came into the room and asked "What’s wrong?""How am I going to get through this and cope during labor?" I replied.He was lovely and comforting, saying encouraging things, but he just didn’t understand the PURE FEAR I was feeling! … then I cried out …"NATALIE TOLD ME SHE THOUGHT SHE WAS GOING TO DIE!!!!!!!!!!!"
Immediately, he started throwing all the books and magazines I had been reading out of the room.
He yelled, "NO MORE OF THESE BOOKS, NO MORE OF THESE MAGAZINES and NO MORE LISTENING TO STORIES FROM FRIENDS""You can do this!" he said as he comforted me. "We’ll figure out how to do this together." Immediately I felt safe and with a renewed purpose to find out how I can make childbirth a positive experience for my family.
The next few months consisted of research about different methods of coping with pain during labor … and as I educated myself about all the options including c-sections, drugs (including epidurals) and natural methods, it became clear that the safest option for me and my baby was "Al-Natural" … but what’s even stranger is that I also became aware that this was also going to possibly be the MOST PAIN-FREE option of them all!
I know that almost doesn’t make sense, but let me explain it like this:
C-SECTION: When you understand the risks and complications involved, plus the painful and long recovery process, no one in their right mind would choose this voluntarily.
EPIDURAL: When you learn the risks and complications involved for you AND your baby in using any cocktail of drugs, you’ll want to steer clear of them too if possible.
Figures also show, once you start introducing drugs in the labor process your chance of having to have an emergency c-section is greatly increased! Terrifying!
NATURAL CHILDBIRTH: I would personally never tell anyone to just "wing it" and have a natural birth because it’s the "RIGHT" thing to do, but I would definitely encourage you and your birth partner to enrol in a childbirth education course (NOT a hospital one).
And .. that’s just what we did! We researched and found an amazing course that taught us everything about natural childbirth.
During the classes each week, I became more and more confident that I was doing the best thing for my baby. Plus it was a great bonding experience for my husband and I too.I practiced my relaxation techniques and also got more in-tune with my body.I know it may sound crazy (because it did to me) but during my classes I discovered that we actually have these hormones in our body to ease all kinds of pain. Most of us just don’t know how to access it!
But even while I was learning, practicing my relaxation techniques and preparing everything, I still had my doubts. One night in class, I asked my teacher … "Can I REALLY do this?"
She reassured me I was doing absolutely everything to prepare for the birth I had always dreamed of.
She was right. I had done the prep work and practiced daily. I was watching and listening to positive birth stories and I was just convinced that this was going to be the most beautiful experience. And … GUESS WHAT? … It was the BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!
After the planned hospital birth of my son, i was left terribly traumatised, depressed and completely detached from my little baby. So detached that we are still building a delicate relationship 5 and a half years later.
After dealing with a miscarriage and lots of tears and soul searching, i was feeling that my mind and body were healed enough to go through pregnancy and birth again, we were pregnant with son #2!
This pregnancy was so, so healing to me, I was in control this time, I made the choices, I was empowered. I had the most wonderful midwife, Gaye Demanuele, who has been with us for all 3 homebirths, this beautiful woman has changed my life!
Fast forward a trouble free pregnancy to 12 days past my EDD and I was literally pulling my hair out, IT WAS LABOUR DAY!! This was a very gentle birth, physically and emotionally. This birth healed those wounds, all was well in my world again. And I got a beautifully chubby 9lb,9oz baby boy Hamish. We have had 2 more beautiful homeirths since!
INDI’S STORY Indi’s birth unfolded, mainly due to the trauma I had journeyed with her brother’s birth. Experience and naivety lead you in many directions and I will firstly say that I am so very happy that I had the traumatic birth I did with Ky. Because without it, I would never would have discovered the beauty of homebirth and all that it holds.
Ky’s birth, 3 years earlier was a highly interventionist hospital birth, that left me very traumatized and scared from the experience. Second time around I knew it had to be different. So after many discussions and meeting just the right people at the right time, we decided to have a home birth. When I first met my home birth doctor, Peter, I couldn’t believe how warm, nurturing and caring her was. He spent nearly an hour with us, discussing Kys birth and talked about our hopes and wishes for this next baby.
When I met Jenny, our midwife, I instantly fell in love. Two beautiful care providers that were committed to natural, empowering birth and wanted for us what we hoped for. The pregnancy was amazing. I felt strong and agile; I had acupuncture weekly and felt so positive about the up coming birth. I was still very naïve as to what natural birth involved, but I asked two of my friends to be present, to be my guide. Both of them had birthed naturally with all their children and represented to me what I wanted to achieve. My mum was to be there to look after Ky and I had also asked my acupuncturist to come and put needles in if I needed them. AS the weeks drew closer to my due date I started to experience a never-ending pre labour. It began around 38 weeks and each night I would have contractions as the sun went down. They would last for a few hours or so and eventually I would get tired and go to bed. I would fall asleep and wake up in the morning to nothing going on at all. Sometimes they were really strong and others time very mild. We had quite a few false starts where I would assure my husband this was the real deal, only for it to stop. It was a great exercise in patience and trust and knowing that nothing was wrong. It was just my body preparing itself.
Eventually, around 12 days past my due date, I woke up around 6am to strong contractions. As I got up out of bed I felt a trickle of water come from me. It was like I was weeing, but I couldn’t stop it. The contractions felt stronger and more consistent and I knew that this time it really was the real deal.
I called my midwife and she said she would come on over and check me out and I rang my mum who was in the country to drive down to be with Ky. This real labour was very different to the pre labour. The contractions at this stage were quite mild, but were very consistently every 5 minutes. Throughout the morning my birth team arrived, and there was a bit of a theory, that with all my pre labour and being a second baby that it would happen pretty fast. Well – I think that theory was a bit off the mark. Slow, seems to be the pace for me!!!
As my team filled up the birth pool and as my doctor arrived for a cup of tea and see how I was going, we began to discover that the birth pool was flooding. My husband had turned off the taps, but my mum thought he hadn’t and well the result was a flood in the lounge room of now very cold water. I stood in the door way with Peter, having mild contractions and laughing that you just cant get good birth help these days!! They then had to drain all the water out and start to refill it. Our plants got a good soaking that day! Peter left with a promise to come back later and I decided to go out into the back yard for some air. It was the middle of winter, but a divine sunny day, so I was rugged up and stood in the sunshine. I remember leaning over my husband with the sun on my face, feeling calm and relaxed and excited. We went back in side as the contractions started to pick up and the next few hours seemed to be a blur.
I leant over a bean bag for what felt like hours, each time I would have a contraction I would have to be upright on my knees. The contractions stayed at 5 minutes apart, but started to get stronger in their intensity. Jenny my midwife was there, my mum, and my two beautiful friends, Kari and Rachel. The day seemed to pass in a haze (thanks oxytocin ), but I remember pivotal moments that added to this amazing journey. I asked if my son could leave, because I was finding him very distracting. My mum took him to my mother in laws and I was quite concerned for a while that he was all right. After much re assuring I went back to concentrate on me. At one point I was standing up against the birth pool and I felt so overwhelmed with a wave of emotion. I called for my mum, who stood beside me and I held her hand and couldn’t stop blubbering, “ You’re my mother, and I’m your daughter and I’m having a daughter and I’m her mother and you’re my mother” and my mother and I held each other as we cried and cried. I was so struck with the generational legacy that was being passed. I felt incredibly connected in that moment to where I had come from and where I was going. The women in my family continuing on. I must add at this point that I really do believe in the saying that you birth how you live.
I am a very emotional person that feels things deeply and often has to process everything emotionally before I can move on. So my births are very much the same. There is a lot of emotion that comes out in me in birth and a great deal of the time I was in tears. Happy tears and painful tears and tears of joy and elation. It was beautiful being surrounded by a team that was so accepting of my process. As it started to get towards night time, I remember my birth team in the kitchen eating and me feeling like I was getting nowhere. The contractions were still 5 minutes apart and very strong and I was getting incredibly tired. At one point Jenny (my midwife) came in to the lounge room where I was and closed the blinds. I thought this was a rather strange thing to do and then I realized why. All of a sudden out of nowhere I heard these angels singing. For a minute I thought I had died and I actually looked up to the roof and all around me. My whole birth team looked back at me, with beaming smiles. It took me a minute to twig and then I realized what was going on. My dear friend who lived across the road and who had a baby 5 weeks earlier was part of a gospel choir. I was blessed enough to have been at her birth and she was very aware of me being in labour. That night the gospel choir was rehearsing at her house. They came and stood in my back room and sang me a birthing song. The sound was unlike anything I have ever heard. Of course, tears rolled down my face as they sang and the contractions kept coming. It truly was one of the most magnificent experiences. I think every labouring woman should have a gospel choir sing to them!
After the choir left I started to vomit, a good sign that things were moving. We also made the decision to call my acupuncturist to come and put in needles to try and speed up the contractions and help a bit with pain relief. I got in the birth pool. What divine relief that was and continued to contract. As the hours went on, I slipped more and more into an endorphined state. Feeling very sleepy and relaxed but each time a contraction hit, I would tense my whole body and resist it. I couldn’t let go and allow, but instead tightened my whole body. It is here that I started to hit my crisis of confidence. My head was going crazy with lots of self-talk. “ I can’t do this anymore, I just want a break. I am so tired “. I could barely speak in my endorphined state, but I kept looking at my birth team, just wishing I can change places with them. By this time I had some acupuncture needles in and I was really off in labour land. Jenny suggested I get out of the pool and my dear friend Kari, took me by the hand and said we are going to walk. In my dressing gown and slippers she made me walk around my backyard. Around and around we walked, not stopping for a contraction. I was complaining and moaning and more tears. Bless her heart, she kept me walking, no matter how much I complained. I hated her at that moment for making me do that, but it was what was needed. My birth team was so strong and so amazing. Mike, my husband was often doing jobs, but so much of the time I wanted him near by. I remember quite often just needing to feel his body next to me and call on his strength. He was so solid in his support and belief. As more time passed and we are getting closer to midnight, Peter returned to see how I am going. Around this time I really want to give up. Jenny suggests an internal examination to see what is happening. Of course throughout the day, Jennie regularly checks babies heart rate, and she is always completely happy in there. I have an internal and I am around 6 – 7cms dilated. My waters are still intact so we decide to break them. As Peter does it I feel this great release. I will never forget as I had that internal, Jenny sat beside me, holding my hand so tenderly, reminding me to breath. So different from my first experience in hospital. Peter was so gentle and respectful. When my waters were broken, I was worried if there was meconium. My son had meconium in his waters and we had many issues with that, but my waters this time were all clear. Mike and I were left alone for a while to talk. I wanted to go to hospital. My beautiful husband kept saying to me “ are you sure – I know you, if you give in, you will be disappointed afterwards “ At that point I didn’t care, I wanted out and the only way I thought that would happen was to get drugs. As we were talking I had an almighty contraction. It was so strong, I stood up and howled. It was a double contraction and so powerful. We told the team, we want to go to hospital. I didn’t even have a bag packed, so my team is running around, trying to find things to put in to it to take to hospital. As I am waiting in the hallway, Peter says to me jokingly, ‘ We will just drive behind you, sometimes these babies make their entrance in the car” I laugh and say, “ I wish! “ I tell everyone I have to go to the toilet before we go and my husband comes with me. I try to sit on the toilet and I am all agitated and just keep saying “ I don’t know how to poo” Mike calls Jennie and she comes running down the hallway, takes one look at me and puts her hand between my legs and says “ that’s you babies head” I say “ I can’t move, I’m having the baby on the toilet “ “ No your not “ she says and literally drags me out of the toilet and into the lounge where the birth pool is. I quickly try and rip my clothes off before the next contraction hits, so I can get in the water. Jennie yells to Peter, “ Quick Pete, get the equipment “ which has since been packed up and put back in the car when we decided to go to hospital. I remember her laughing that she’s never seen Peter move so quickly.
The energy in the room, started to tingle, there were excited claps from my friends and a surge of adrenalin through the room. My body stared to push and I went with it. The feeling was very intense, and I couldn’t quite believe she was coming. 5 minutes ago I was going to hospital. With the next push, Peter held his hand on my perineum and Jennie gently felt her head come out. Mike was behind me, holding me in the water. Out came her head and I touched it and said to Jenny “ what do I do?” She said, “ Are you having a contraction? “ “ I don’t know I said “ There was laughter and she told me to just pant and wait. The cord was wrapped around her neck 3 times and I wasn’t even aware till later that that was the case. Jennie so gently unwound it, without any fuss. “ Do you want to catch you baby? “ Jennie asked me. I was leaning back on Mike so I couldn’t hold myself to catch her and Mike wanted to, but I couldn’t let him move. I told Mike to stay behind me; I needed his strength and holding. On the next contraction Indigo Elm, slipped in to Jennie’s hands and then she placed my daughter into my arms. 1.07am. I looked around in shock and asked Jenny if she was ok. She was covered in vernix and looked like a little white elf. Jenny assured me she was just fine as she became pink and vocal and I sat there in an exhausted, shocked, blissful state.
I did it – I gave birth at home, in the water, just like I wanted to. Indi had her first feed in the water and we delivered her placenta in the water about 2o minutes later. We floated her placenta in a bowl next to her and placed flowers on it. Mike cut the cord and eventually I needed to get out of the water. I was incredibly exhausted and a little dehydrated, so cups of tea and toast were very welcomed. We climbed into our bed and Jenny checked over little Indi. She asked Peter “ What weight do you think Pete?” In his wise voice he said, “ oh I think about 6pounds 14 ounces. “ Jennie weighs Indi and looks at Pete and says, “ You are unbelievable! 6’ 14.” Even though it was the middle of the night we were all completely buzzed.
My mother in law arrived about an hour later. She was very fearful about a homebirth, so when she saw her granddaughter she burst into tears. She stayed for a quick cuddle and then about 4 hours later returned with our son Ky. Meeting his little sister was a blessed moment.
Indi’s birth completely changed my life. It made me realize my strength, power, determination and courage. Her birth so profoundly healed me and set me on my new career path of becoming a birth attendant and a childbirth educator. Her journey showed me that birth can be blissful, beautiful and a supported experience. I want to inspire and share with other woman what I had experienced. I will always be grateful to my beautiful daughter, who awoke in me a deep passion to empower and educate women and families.
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.