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Home Water Birth in Ireland

Home Water Birth in Ireland

Birth really has been one of my biggest adventures and something I’ve become so passionate about. So, I personally have done it three times now, and ranging from horrific to brilliant, I reckon if I had a fourth go it could be pretty damn perfect! But, I’m not saying there’ll be a fourth!!! A positive birth is hands down one of the best gifts as a woman you can get. Positive comes in many, many forms and I believe it really comes down to what a great birth means to you!

The Background

So here’s the deal…..My first birth was traumatic, my second birth was better, but number three was, well, pretty amazing! My first birth took place in Holles Street as a semi-private patient, I didn’t have a clue! I thought birth was going to be horrendous. And guess what, that self prophecy came true. It was. Awful. But I got my baby girl at the end so I should be happy, right? Well yeah, but not actually. Of course I was happy with my beautiful child but the horrors of my labour really haunted me for quite sometime. Not long after I decided if I ever had another child it would be so different, and it was. I became really educated on birth and did a huge amount of reading and research.

On my second pregnancy, I booked in with the dominoes midwife-led care, in Holles Street. And this time I opted for a homebirth. I was low risk, so qualified for midwife led care and all going well I’d birth at home, in my own space. This REALLY excited me! Thankfully David was also fully on board. Like, we knew it would freak some people out and it does. But most people are interested, in my experience. We did the research, we knew the stats and they are really, really good and guess what, homebirth is safe! I know who knew?! Next part of the jigsaw was sorting out the fears that were still very much alive from birth number one.

That’s where Gentlebirth came in.

A friend mentioned it casually one day, well before I was pregnant. She kind of half muttered it, and later came clean that she was worried I’d think she was a hippie. Wrong. I thought she was a superhero! Birth number two, took place at home with the domino midwives. It was good, it was intense, more than it needed to be because I was afraid I wasn’t progressing quick enough and they had me squating. Yeah, not something I’d advocate! It got very intense, very quickly but overall was a good birth. What really was lacking for me was the continuity of care. That’s where I nailed it third time around.

As soon as we found out I was pregnant, I booked Liz from UK Birth Centres, also known as Private Midwives Ireland. The care I received was incredible from start to finish, and it was so hard to say goodbye to my midwife Liz, two weeks after Nathan’s birth. Liz did all my antenatal visits from 20 weeks at home, generally on a Sunday morning. When I say visit, it was more like a leisurely morning chat with a friend, who happened to really know her shit when it came to all things birth. She’d stay for two hours-ish at every visit and we discussed everything from my wishes for the birth, to my fears about the birth, to how all eventualities could be handled. I was involved with everything! We knew we were in the best hands, and that my friends is the best feeling, whoever your caregiver is. During the visits, Amelia got to play with the stethoscope and the whole family eagerly listened to the doppler echoing Nathan’s heartbeat. That sound is one I’d never tire of. Liz was able to recommend endless helpful things to me. One, amazing woman she introduced me to was Ros Drake from Drake Chiropractic. She works wonders with everything from SPD I had to optimal fetal positioning and has a very impressive rate of turning breach babies through her work. Definitely worth a visit pre labour to ensure you are all lined up for your best birth.

During Nathan’s pregnancy I listened to my Gentlebirth tracks, later did perennial massage whilst listening to my tracks (this really helped me relax and trust my body).

So, baby number three gave me a couple of false starts, I know you’d think you’d know it’s the real thing by your third but he was very convincing I swear! In the two weeks before Nathan’s birth I noticed a LOT of fears surfacing from big baby to fast birth to can I actually do this??! I went through the motions and listened to my tracks most evenings in bed, but worried was this enough! I did focus on some relaxation techniques and found counting down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 to bring me into a state of relaxation most effective! I did also this time use and practice a breathing technique called J breathing which worked for me amazingly in the second stage.

Finally, The Birth Story

On the afternoon of 18th October I started getting mild surges but put them down to strong braxton hicks and refused to think it could actually be happening this time. I was 40+2 and by 8pm I noticed they were coming every 3 minutes but still refused to even share the news with David! I was craving affection and love though and thankfully the toddler went down easy and we had some time chilling out together. At around 10pm he asked me if I’d been getting surges all evening. Turns out he can read me pretty well even when I’m trying to hide it! Anyway we went to bed but I wasn’t expecting to sleep as I was defintely uncomfortable by this stage but I put my Gentlebirth tracks on and I must have drifted off because I woke up in the middle of a dream timing my surges in my head lol! The surge that woke me gave me a fright as it just went on and on and another followed. I was a bit shaky and thought what the f@*# am I doing! I was freaking out as David fumbled with the TENS machine, and he timed surges. They were in fact coming every 3 minutes lasting 45 seconds just as I had been dreaming.. Weird eh! We decided we’d better call Liz but que in all the freaking out, I couldn’t remember where I’d left my phone. By this point my body was a bit shaky and in hindsight reckon active labour was kicking in although I feared transition for a moment. David found my phone which I had put into the wash basket. In my defence, It was 12am!

I spoke with Liz and she decided to make her way over, my mom was also en route in case the kids woke as my toddler regularly does and my youngest sister Sinead who was going to take pics for me.

We came downstairs & David started filling the pool. I put the TENS machine on too. So I noticed that I was going up the TENS notches quick and was at 5 (this is half way). This worried me, thankfully it was around this point I got my shit together and started breathing, and relaxing into it and generally calming down. This my friends made the biggest difference of all! I put the labour companion track from Gentlebirth on in the background, used my 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 relaxation technique and breathed. Now I was in control, now I was doing this, now I was enough!!

When Liz arrived I was settled and enjoying the surges, dropping my head and zoning out only for the “peaks.” I was enjoying the surges, feeling the power of birth wave through me. In previous labours I fought against this and that’s when I experienced pain. If you go with it, it’s completely different I swear! It’s really an incredible sensation and experience! We decided to do a cervical check and on first check she said I was 5cm, I then got a contraction and visualised my cervix opening (yup, full on hippy shit) and Liz said oh you’ve just gone to 6cm and it’s very stretchy could easily stretch to a 7.

This is the power of the mind I’ve no doubt!! Visualisation is an awesome tool to use.

For the next short while, I swayed my hips, leaned on David during surges, hugged and kissed and generally enjoyed the labour experience. I could sense things were changing and took a homeopathic remedy called aconite which was fantastic for keeping fear at bay. Liz told me if I’d been in Holles Street they wouldn’t have believed I was in active labour! Talk about empowering a woman, I believed I was going to rock this birth at this stage!! In between surges and sometimes during I was smiling and happy. One of my affirmations was to smile an David kept reminding me of this annoyingly, at times but it did refocus me.

The only sign of transition was a slight tear up in my eyes as I felt emotion rise up in me after a surge. Liz spotted it with her trained eye. There was a few surges at this point where I felt the energy change as it was directed downwards. This followed by that guttural birth sound at the second half of the surge, you’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve given birth before naturally. It’s a mad sound, the first time on Amelia, I almost looked around to see who’d made the noise lol! This time I instantly recognised it and felt excited knowing we were getting close.

It was 3.30am and I knew it was time to get into the pool. I was nervous taking the TENS off but I shouldn’t have been because oh. Wow. That water felt amazing around my body! The warmth and support was incredible. My second midwife, Ursula arrived and was a lovely addition to the birth space. Everything was so calm and I felt excited as the second stage began.

I find it hard to explain the second stage as the energy was very powerful, but very empowering at the same time. I felt I was working with the energy and it felt good! I know, slap me. I’d have wanted to slap me if someone told me this after my first birth experience. But I swear, it’s true. This was very different for me from my previous births and I believe it was the absence of fear and the support I had that made the difference. My waters bulged and I could feel them and the head with my hand, I found this very encouraging and then there was a pop; my waters released! Again, on my previous two births I’d have been terrified to feel the head, but this time I was so cool about it.

As the surges came I dropped my head and leant into David, breathing and telling myself to open to birth. I cherish those memories as it really felt like we moved through labour and brought our baby into the world together. It felt very intimate at times and I forgot there was anyone else around. This I will say was short lived and as much as I was disappointed, I’m also glad of what came next. Amelia woke, yep my just turned two year old decided that just as mommy was starting to show signs of crowning that she wanted to watch her baby bro being born! I felt calm and that it was best to let her in. I had shown her some waterbirth videos in case this happened and thank God I did! When she came into the room she kinda knew what was going on, she wanted to be close to me and said “you ok mommy?” and rubbed my arm! Bless her! I asked my mom to wake our 10 year old daughter for the occasion seeing as the birth was taking this turn. I’m glad I did as she found it amazing and calm and is full sure she’ll birth her babies at home. I’m actually so glad she got to experience this, as she has no fear now. What a gift that is!

I had turned onto my back and baby was almost crowning with each surge, but it was only when I mentally decided that I was doing it NOW that he was born. I turned into my husband and zoned out from all the people. With the next surge I felt the power of birth rushing through me and using my ‘j breathing’ brought baby Nathan to crowning. Liz told me after my perineum didn’t stretch as such, she said it opened which I’d read about in Ina May’s book but couldn’t believe it happened to me. Liz said she’d only seen it once before. It did however still sting like a LOT for like 20 seconds and then I felt his head born.

Soon after the next surge came and before I knew it baby Nathan was swimming up to me in the pool! What an incredible sight and feeling! He was covered in vernix and appeared to be sleeping as he was so calm Liz reckoned it was so calm a birth that he hadn’t even realised he’d been born! To our shock we discovered we’d a little boy! Amelia was thrilled saying “baby baby baby!” His big, big sister Alannah couldn’t believe her eyes.

It was a bit manic I’ll say that and myself and David had really wanted that first undisturbed hour together with our new baby but it just wasn’t to be. Amelia was stripping off and joining me in the pool and that was that!

Within a few minutes I got more surges and at 15 minutes felt the urge to push and out came the placenta all by itself! Was seriously loving this birth!

I stayed in the pool for almost an hour getting to know my little prince and he did the breast crawl and fed, but he was so sleepy still no crying at all! We got some pics of us as a family of five and then my mom tried to bring Amelia back to bed. That wasn’t happening, so unfortunately David had to leave me at this point which does make me a bit sad.

Nathan had his chord ready and waiting for his Daddy to cut on his return and to my shock he weighed 9lb 2 almost 2lb heavier than my last! And this pregnancy I was a vegetarian…stunned doesn’t come close! It was also my easiest birth, no perineal trauma, no fear and I mean you just can’t buy that!!

A while later I had a gorgeous hot shower in my own bathroom and was tucked up with my two men soon after in our bed. My midwives were unreal and I honestly can’t thank them enough!

I’m trying to cherish the moments as you never know it could be my last but I’ve a sneaky suspicion with a birth that good it might not be…

Baby Nathan David Hamill born 19th October 2016 at 4:06 am in a room full of love

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Aisling Hamill

Cholestasis, a Change of Plans, and a Respectful Induction

Cholestasis, a Change of Plans, and a Respectful Induction

I’d planned a natural birth in a birth center from the second I found out I was pregnant with my third child. I’d had a dehumanizing induction with my oldest; my second baby’s birth was far better than my first but still not exactly what I wanted so I made huge changes during my third pregnancy in order to finally have the experience I desired. My pregnancy was wonderful and healthy and everything was perfect every step of the way, I received care from a wonderful practice of naturally-minded obstetricians and midwives and truly enjoyed every prenatal visit. Everything was going great and my husband and I were happily anticipating our impending daughter’s birth.

When I hit 37 weeks I started noticing that my skin was very itchy. I used a lot of lotion and didn’t think much of it at first but I quickly realized it was getting worse by the day. I was soon so miserable I was even willing to try anti-histamines despite being reluctant to take any medications while pregnant. Unfortunately neither anti-histamines or any lotion or cream helped at all. After six days it was so horrible I was becoming concerned, this just didn’t feel normal. I called my doctor’s office on a Sunday morning and asked for advice. The midwife I spoke to thought it would be a good idea to come into labor and delivery and have blood drawn to be tested for obstetric cholestasis. After examining me she was hopeful that it was just a miserable case of PUPPPS but felt that the tests were a good idea.

Unfortunately the tests took about a week to come back so we wouldn’t know for sure anytime soon.

The next day I noticed baby was moving a bit less than normal. By that evening movement was significantly less but I was still feeling her enough that I wasn’t panicking. I was up all night trying everything I could think of to get her to resume normal movement but had no luck. I got up in the morning, took our big kids to school and called my doctor’s office. They had me come in immediately for a non-stress test. After a few minutes on the monitors baby wasn’t moving so they brought me apple juice… and more apple juice… and cups of ice water. Attempts to buzz my stomach yielded no results. Baby’s heart rate was perfect but for some reason she was clearly not moving.

A few minutes later one of the doctors came to talk to me. My hands and feet were where the itching was the worst, he examined them carefully and found there was no rash or apparent cause to the itching and said that this was concerning. The timeline of my symptoms and the appearance of my skin were textbook signs of cholestasis, a condition where a build up of bile acids in the blood stream cause intense itching. Still birth is a potential risk of cholestasis and given my baby’s major decrease in movement he felt it would be best to induce labor. He could tell I was extremely upset and was willing to support me even if I disagreed with his recommendation. He told me to call my husband and discuss it with him but that if we decided it would be best to induce labor that he was going to schedule my induction immediately. It didn’t take my husband and I long to agree that this was the best option. Several months before I had attended a Birth Without Fear Meet Up where January described the birth of “Beard Baby”. Prior to her birth she had had decreased movement and January described this as feeling that her baby had “nudged” her. I had a brief moment of peace realizing that my baby was nudging me as well and that this was all a sign that it was time for her to be born.

My mother picked up our children, we packed our bags and in what seemed like seconds we were at the hospital starting the induction. I had a very hard time processing what was happening to me and barely spoke a word for hours. I couldn’t believe that in such a short time my plans for this birth were completely shattered. How could a pregnancy go from complication-free to this in a matter of minutes? I was three centimeters dilated and 50% effaced but I truly did not feel my body or baby were ready to be in labor and I was absolutely terrified to start down this road of interventions.

After getting settled into our hospital room, the midwife from my practice who was there that evening came in to talk. She had a student midwife with her and they were both extremely compassionate and willing to do whatever they could to try to give me as much of the birth center experience as they could. The induction plan was to use Pitocin very slowly and to bring in a portable birth pool for me to labor and birth in. After talking to them I felt a million times better, this wasn’t exactly the birth I wanted but it was going to be okay.

Pitocin was started and I quickly began having regular contractions. I tried to rest through the night but the itching was worse than ever and prevented me from resting at all. One thing I’d found that helped the tiniest bit was Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple cream and luckily the hospital used this brand. My midwife’s student brought me tons of packets of it and I passed the night applying nipple cream to my entire body. By morning I’d had little progress and was feeling discouraged. I felt sick to my stomach I was so worried that this was going to turn out badly. As the morning went by however, things finally started to pick up a bit and contractions became much more intense. I began having to actually breathe through them and was only comfortable standing up, rocking through them. My midwife Missy and her student Lila Rose thought it would be a good idea to check me and see if they could break my water. They thought that since this was my third baby that if they broke my water things would progress very quickly but I was absolutely convinced there was no way that would work. Regardless I agreed that it was worth a shot. They checked my cervix and found that I was five centimeters. They broke my water and left the room for a bit to be with another patient.

In a matter of minutes my contractions intensified. They went from very uncomfortable to actually painful and I continued standing up, rocking and swaying through them. I suddenly realized I’d been too upset to eat anything for almost twenty hours and became very worried that this would effect my ability to get through labor. My husband offered me several healthy snack options but the only thing that sounded good was a Kit Kat bar that he helped me eat in between contractions. I don’t remember Missy and Lila Rose coming back in the room but when they saw me they realized I was getting close. I didn’t realize this myself though and still truly felt that I was half a day away from giving birth.

I was in a lot of pain at this point and asked to get in the tub. Lila Rose got it ready for me and helped me get in. The warm water was an immediate relief in between contractions but during contractions I was in extreme pain. I remained sure that I was no where near giving birth and this began to alter my state of mind. I was so sure I was going to be in labor for hours upon hours and didn’t know if I could handle this pain for the rest of the day. Lila Rose helped me breathe and focus more during contractions, despite my being a total wreck her words of encouragement were extremely helpful. She was using a Doppler to check baby’s heartbeat frequently and realized her heart rate was going up and staying up and she asked me to get out of the tub. She and my husband helped me get out. As soon as I stepped out I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. Lila Rose told me that that was just the baby and I didn’t really need to use the bathroom. I remember thinking “I’m not an idiot! I know that feeling like you need to use the bathroom is actually the baby when you’re close to giving birth but I am NOT even close to giving birth so I must actually have to go.”

I labored on the toilet for a minute and Lila Rose draped a warm blanket over me. Baby’s heart rate was still high so Missy asked me to try to get on my hands and needs on the bed. I moved into this position pretty easily and the contractions suddenly became absolutely unbearable. Contractions were maybe 20 seconds apart so I wasn’t getting a break between them at all. I started saying there was no way I could do this and that I needed an epidural. Missy tried to calm me down and reminded me that I didn’t want an epidural and that I would most likely regret it. She and Lila Rose tried to get me to focus more on what my body was doing and how each contraction was getting me closer to meeting my baby. I was still sure that I wasn’t actually close to meeting my baby though and asked again for an epidural. They explained that this baby was going to be born before they would even have a chance to request an epidural and I was perplexed. I didn’t understand why they were so sure that I was very close to having a baby when I was beyond certain that I wasn’t close.

Suddenly I felt the urge to push. I slid down on my side and started pushing and instantly my entire mood and mindset changed. I could feel my baby descending and the urge to push made me realize that I really was very close to giving birth. The urge to push was such an immense relief compared to the contractions that I’d been feeling that they actually almost felt good. I could tell each push was extremely productive and she was coming fast. My midwives started telling me that they could see her hair. I could feel intense burning and felt like I was pushing too hard and too fast and I tried to slow down and breathe her out but my body was on auto pilot and I didn’t feel lik&e I had much control over pushing. Before I knew it I could feel her body sliding out and I reached down to touch her, suddenly she was on my chest, screaming, and I was in disbelief. I immediately asked my husband what time it was and found that it had only been about 40 minutes since my water broke.

I birthed the placenta painlessly but my midwives said there were still a lot of large clots in my uterus and working them out was extremely painful. I was bleeding more than they liked though and they wanted to make sure everything was okay. Once they were sure, they checked me for tears and found two very small tears and asked if I would like them to stitch them. They thought they would probably be fine either way but that they would heal a little faster if they were stitched and I agreed. As soon as they were finished they covered my naked baby and I with warm blankets, dimmed the lights and left my husband and I to bond with our baby girl. We were left completely alone for hours and it was absolutely wonderful. No one bothered us or tried to bathe our baby or mess with her at all. A pediatrician stopped in just as I was actually feeling ready to try to get up and use the bathroom and clean myself up a bit anyway so the timing worked out perfectly.

I felt immense relief knowing that our baby girl was earth side, safe and healthy. I had salvaged a pretty awesome birth out of a situation that terrified me. I had been induced with my first baby and had absolutely no control. Every decision was made for me, without me. Not only was I never consulted but I was so disconnected from how birth should be that I didn’t even realize that I had a right to be consulted. I remember feeling as though I was in the way during my own birth. I remember thinking everyone would have an easier time delivering this baby if I wasn’t there. This induction was a completely different and wonderful experience. My health and the health of my baby were the priorities of my doctor but they were not used against me. My choices were respected every step of the way. I received guidance from my health care providers and was allowed to make my own choices. This wasn’t the birth I had planned but it was exactly the birth my baby needed.

Submitted by Kate S. 

VBAC Despite Thrombocytopenia: The Birth of Elodie

VBAC Despite Thrombocytopenia: The Birth of Elodie

The birth of sweet little Elodie really begins with the birth of our son Huck. I had a normal and, dare I say, easy pregnancy with our first. Nothing was out of normal and I had no doubt I would be able to deliver this baby naturally until about 32 weeks when I was diagnosed with severe gestational thrombocytopenia. Basically my blood platelet levels were dropping rapidly, putting both me and the baby at risk for hemorrhaging during the delivery. At this time, we were living in Africa in a city where health care was limited and our doctor became so worried about my severe thrombocytopenia that she demanded a C-section at 36 weeks and 2 days. I ended up having a C-section under general anesthesia and didn’t even get to see my son until he was 3 hours old which left me feeling so removed from the whole birthing process. The whole experience was very traumatic for me and recovery from this C-section, which I never thought would happen, was harder than I ever thought possible. I almost didn’t want another baby until I started reading about VBACs.

When we found out we were pregnant with our second, I knew without a doubt that I wanted the opportunity to try for a VBAC. During this pregnancy we were living in another country overseas which was not the best place to try for a VBAC. After many conversations with my husband, we agreed we would temporarily move back to the States at the end of the pregnancy so I would have the best chance possible of delivering naturally. We emailed an OB/GYN who was a family friend and he was immediately on board and excited about helping me go for a VBAC.

Our pregnancy was pretty routine and easy like my first one but the whole time we questioned whether the thrombocytopenia would come back and what it would mean for my chances of a VBAC. Around my 30th week of pregnancy, we flew the long transatlantic flight back to America and settled into my in-laws’ house with our almost two year old to wait for baby girl’s arrival.

About the same time that we got to America, my platelets started dropping again which meant the thrombocytopenia of my first pregnancy had returned. Our OB/GYN was amazing and had many a long conversation with us about how my low platelets could lead to different outcomes including steroids, induction, and the inability to get an epidural in case of an emergency C-section. The whole time he never mentioned a repeat caesarian as an option for me and made us feel in control of our decisions which was such a different experience from our first pregnancy.

We were fortunate enough to be able to transfer our care to the midwives of his office while he still helped us navigate the thrombocytopenia. Still we were forced to wait to see what my platelets would do. Every week I had blood draws to check my platelet count and each week, from 30-35 weeks, they dropped more and more until they were around 90,000. At this number they are considered too low for epidural and were coming closer and closer to the number our doctor wanted to induce me at. I had many good cries about my platelets and about the idea of having to go on steroids and then have an induction as I had really wanted an intervention-free birth where I could labor at home as much as possible. There were moments I was convinced my dream of a VBAC was slipping away. I wanted so badly to avoid interventions or an induction. I had this overriding desire to see what my body could do because I felt like I was robbed of the chance of experiencing labor with my first. I knew my body could do it if only it was giving the chance but with the thrombocytopenia I was so scared I would not be given the opportunity to naturally labor. All this time, my husband was always there to encourage me to trust my body and believe that we could have the birth I wanted.

We asked all our friends to start praying for my platelets to miraculously go up, even though we were prepared for them to start drastically dropping as they did in my first pregnancy. We went in for my 36 week blood draw full of trepidation to see where my platelets had fallen to. My husband called for the results a few hours later and found out they had gone up to 105,000. That was the first time ever in either of my pregnancies that my platelets had gone up! Over the next two weeks they kept going up until they were at a really good level (121,000) when I entered my 38th week.

At this point I started knowing in my heart that this was the ideal time for baby girl to come as we didn’t know if and when my platelets would drop again. On Thursday we went to our chiropractor for an adjustment and then spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday walking a ton. Each night I told baby girl that then was a good time for her to come. Sunday night I went to bed asking God to bring baby girl in his timing but asking Him to allow me the natural VBAC we had worked so hard for.

Around 1:00am Monday morning (I was 38 weeks 4 days), I woke up for my nightly pee and noticed bloody show in the toilet. I got really excited and knew that this at least meant my body was getting ready. Almost immediately after that I started getting my first ever contractions (I never had one with my first pregnancy). My husband was sleeping in our two year old’s room because our son was sick with a cold and ear infection so I laid in bed timing my contractions. I ended up having contractions all night long every 5-7 minutes apart. In the morning they spread way out and my husband and I were both disappointed. I had contractions off and on all Monday then throughout the night again which left me exhausted by Tuesday. Tuesday we spent the day relaxing and napping as contractions came and went. I eventually told my husband I did not think I could do another night of these contractions and I really hoped active labor would start soon. My husband ran out Tuesday evening to get me some of my favorite soup for dinner while I bounced on my birthing ball and watched our two-year-old.

It was at this point that the contractions changed from being mildly annoying to being painful. I started having to concentrate on breathing more and really focus during them. My husband at this point didn’t realize that things were changing so he was going about doing dishes and laundry…at some point I snapped at him to stop leaving me alone because I needed him. He said it was at this moment he realized things were picking up. We sat together and watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy as contractions came every 7-10 minutes or so. It wasn’t until around 9pm that I think I really entered active labor. I moved into the shower and labored there as contractions started coming every 5 minutes or so. Eventually we ran out of hot water for the shower so I went into the bedroom. It was at this point the contractions became really intensely painful. My husband called our doula and she came by the house to check on us. It was about 11:15pm and she guessed I was probably 4.5-6 centimeters and said I should try to sleep between contractions as I was now on my third night without much sleep. She left around 11:45pm asking us to call her when we headed to the hospital, which she thought would be in about 2 or 3 hours. As soon as she left contractions picked up in both intensity and frequency. They started coming almost every 2 to 3 minutes and lasting almost a minute. I was a little shocked by how intense they got in such a short amount of time. I told my husband that we needed to head to the hospital then. He was hesitant to go to the hospital as the contractions had not been that consistent for a whole hour yet. After a few more minutes of me yelling about going to the hospital, he decided it was indeed time to go and we headed out. The drive to the hospital was only about 10 minutes but I was contracting every 2 to 3 minutes so it seemed much longer.

We got to the hospital around 12:20am and were checked around 12:30. The nurse said I was a stretchy 6.5 centimeters so I was immediately brought to a labor and delivery room. At this point I was exhausted and demanded some IV pain killers. I knew I didn’t want an epidural but I was beginning to panic between contractions and knew I needed something to calm down. The painkillers helped me relax and sleep a bit between contractions with me still waking up every 3 to 4 minutes to breathe, scream, and occasionally cuss through so wildly intense and painful contractions. All this time the nurses were struggling with monitors for fetal heart beat and contractions. I did not know what they were talking about but I kept hearing them say “the contractions aren’t being read on the monitor” which in my tired mind meant that they weren’t strong enough to be picked up yet. That totally freaked me out as I thought I must just be at the beginning of labor. I kept asking our doula and husband if all of this was just false labor, to which they kept assuring me that this was really labor and a baby was coming soon.

By around 1:45am the painkillers had worn off and I started asking (demanding) for an epidural during every contraction. Our doula knew in that moment that I would really regret that decision so she lovingly but strongly told me no. Our nurses were awesome in honoring our request that they not suggest or bring up epidural either. Our doula did suggest I get checked at 2:00am as a way to give me a goal. At 2:00am our midwife checked me and I was at 9cm and the baby was at a 0 station. It was then suggested by our doula, that our midwife should break my water to help speed things along. At 2:15am she broke my water and I immediately began to feel the baby moving down. After about 2 contractions where I felt baby moving down, I told everyone in the room that I was going to start pushing. Our midwife, thinking I was still at 9cm, told me to try not to push. I told her again I was pushing and pushed with the next contraction. She had me flip over onto my back (I had been on my knees up over the top of the bed the whole time) to check and saw that the baby was close. At that point she called the nurses in and told me that since pushing was working I should just keep going. At that point all I wanted in the world was to get that baby out. I started pushing at around 2:25am and baby was crowning after only 2 or 3 contractions. Even as the baby was crowning I was scared of messing up somehow and needing a repeat C-section. I think almost everyone in the room laughed as baby was crowning and I was asking if there was any way that I was still going to have a C-section and if I was really in labor. It all just happened so fast that I was in shock!

The moment I pushed my baby girl out was literally one of the best and most empowering moments of my life. Her head came out and the rest of her body followed immediately. Our midwife placed her right on my chest and that is where she stayed for over an hour. After having a general anesthesia C-section with our son, getting to spend the first hour of my daughter’s life just holding her was a gift that I could not possibly be more thankful for. It was only after my daughter’s arrival that our midwife told me that my platelets had indeed dropped again and were under the threshold for an epidural. My husband and I are both so thankful we did not know that going into the hospital as the fear of a general anesthesia C-section would have caused me to panic. We are just so thankful baby girl came right when she needed to and exactly how she needed to.

Overall, I felt like my husband and I really fought for this VBAC and it was so worth it. We felt educated, informed, and empowered during the whole pregnancy. Even when dealing with thrombocytopenia and the complications that came with that, we felt like all our providers were fighting alongside us for our VBAC. All I wanted was to give my body a chance to do what I knew it could do and what it was made for. Our amazing team never pushed any interventions on me and allowed me to labor how I wanted. Our midwife was absolutely amazing in completely following my lead and allowing me and my body to control the pace and feel of labor. One of my recovery nurses, while reading the notes on my labor and how fast it went, said, “It is just sad you ever had to have a C-section in the first place. It’s clear that your body was just made for this.” It was such a redemptive moment for me to once again believe in my body’s ability to birth.

Overall, God gifted us with a birth we only could have dreamed about with only 2 hours in the hospital from check-in to baby. We now are thrilled to have a beautiful, healthy baby girl that came into this world naturally, surrounded by a loving and supportive team.

Story and photographs submitted by Julia Van Scott. 

Starting Life as a Family of 3 in the Birth Center

Starting Life as a Family of 3 in the Birth Center

Thursday September 22nd 2011

I was 38 weeks pregnant with my first baby, had finished my last day at work on the previous Sunday as a midwife and was looking forward to relaxing for the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy. Most things were ready for the baby’s arrival, but I still needed the car seat put into the car and to finish packing my half packed hospital bag. But with no signs of this baby coming and knowing from experience at work that you usually go over your due date with your first child I wasn’t too concerned, and would finish up the last few things on the weekend.

It was my husband Ben’s day off, so we were enjoying our last few childfree weeks together and with friends. I had seen a friend for coffee that morning and Ben headed off to his mates place for an arvo catch up and few beers before life changed for us.

I hadn’t slept well the night before so once Ben left I decided to try to have a nap. While lying in bed I felt and heard a pop, my heart froze, was that my water breaking? I jumped out of bed and ran to the toilet, and as I sat down a large gush of clear fluid poured out of me. Ok, so that was my waters. My midwife mind kicked into gear, clear fluid is fine, and I wasn’t having contractions yet so I was just going to stay quiet about what had happened for a while and see if anything changed. I noted the time, 4pm, and knew that the baby was moving around in there so I wasn’t too concerned. Sometimes it can take hours to start getting contractions and first labours are usually long so I was just going to wait and see.

I messaged my friend who is also a midwife, letting her know that my waters had broken. She was going to come around to check on me before we made our way to the midwife lead birth centre in Perth, Western Australia (I didn’t want to rock up thinking I was in labour when I was only 1cm dilated!). She told me to keep her posted when things started happening, so I went out to sit on my fit ball and see if I could get some contractions started. I was probably rocking round for an hour when I did start to get some cramping. I thought I should let Ben know and tell him to head home, as I was planning on picking him up at 6pm and going to dinner at his parents place, and those plans were changed now!

He answered the phone with a joke “Hey love, are you in labour?” to which I replied, “Well not really yet but my water has broken…” He didn’t think I was serious at first, and then he realised I wasn’t joking, so he rang a taxi to get himself back home.

In the meantime my cramping was starting to ramp up in intensity, so I decided to get my TENs machine on while rocking on my fitball. I was kind of timing the contractions, they were coming every 5 minutes or so but not that regular yet. That maybe lasted half an hour before I started getting really strong contractions every 3 minutes or so. I decided to jump into the shower, and sat on the floor enjoying the hot water running over my back.

Ben arrived home to quite a shock- me in labour! I remember him saying to me I thought nothing was happening, and me replying that it all happened so quickly. I hadn’t called the birth centre to let the midwife know anything yet, so between contractions I was telling Ben what he needed to do, let the midwife know my waters had broken and I was contracting but happy to stay home for the time being.

Then he had to call my mum and let her know too, put the car seat in the car and finish packing my hospital bag. The poor guy, he went from a nice chilled out afternoon drinking beers in the sun to running around like a headless chook!

By 630pm I was contracting regularly and strongly, and Ben and my mum were pacing up and down the hallway while I sat in the bath. I asked Ben to call my midwife friend to come check on me, and I think that was the happiest he had felt all evening, he was going to have some backup and support as he felt out of his depth. I was in my own world and didn’t really notice how tense my husband and mum were, but my mum has told me afterwards that they were stressing out in that time!

My friend arrived soon after that, and she checked to see what was going on, I was 4cm but bubs was really low and in a great position. I remember being upset that I was only 4cm when I felt like I should have been further along because the contractions were so intense. She told me to go and hop back in the bath and that I was doing great, it was words I needed to hear.

The next hour was spent going back and forth between the bath and the toilet, (got to love labour) and my poor husband likens it to the exorcist, with me crawling around moaning and groaning.

At one stage sitting on the toilet I had a contraction and felt a heap of pressure and my body sort of started pushing at the peak of the contraction. As soon as my friend heard the change in my moans and the little push noise during that contraction she was telling me it was time to head to the birth centre.

My friend had to drive us in her car to the birth centre, because Ben had probably had too much to drink to legally drive. So my mum followed in my car and called my sister who was at work (she’s a hairdresser and it was late night trading) telling her to meet us at the birth centre. Everything seemed to be happening so fast!

The 20 minute drive felt like it lasted forever, with my contractions coming every couple of minutes. I was having a shorter contraction followed my a longer one, and my poor friend was trying to talk me through them, encouraging me to not push, warning me if I had a long or short contraction coming and to keep my head. I was in the back seat and remember looking at the speedo which would creep a little over the limit as I got a contraction and back to the limit as it finished. It must have been a stressful drive for her too!

We finally got to the birth centre around 845pm, with me squatting out the front involuntary pushing, and my poor husband banging on the door to let the midwife know we were there. We were quickly shown to a room and Belinda, the midwife that was on call, checked me and said I was 9cm dilated, and to try not to push, as I wasn’t quite ready. As a midwife I have told women to try not to push, but I didn’t realise how hard that actually is in reality!

My husband had called when we were on our way saying I wanted to get in the birth pool, so luckily it was full and ready for me to get into. I think I practically dove into the tub, water is amazing as a pain reliever. I also got given the gas to use to try to breath through the urge to push, and by then my mum and sister had both arrived.

I remember asking for the radio to be put on, and telling everyone in the room that the gas wasn’t working and they all laughed at me. The second time I told them that the gas wasn’t working, Belinda checked the bottle, I was right it was empty. Everyone had a little giggle about that; I knew I wasn’t going crazy!

It was around 9pm and there was no way I couldn’t push, my body was doing it without me even trying! Belinda asked me to feel inside myself to see if baby was right there, which I did. I could feel a squishy little head sitting there, so she told me to just go with my body, which is what I started to do. After half an hour of pushing there was a small amount of head on view but I felt like nothing else was happening, I remember telling them that the baby wasn’t coming. My mum told me to stop being so impatient; I had only been pushing for half an hour. But every time I felt the baby’s head it was the same amount that I could feel.

Another 15 minutes of pushing and with one almighty heave my baby’s head was out, and looking down I could see her fishy lips and eyes looking up at me under the water. The next contraction the body was out and along with the midwife I guided my baby out of the water! Oh the relief, except my coccyx bone in my bottom was really sore! My husband checked what we had, a girl, and told me I could call her whatever I liked! (After months of arguing about names!)

Once we had all calmed down, Belinda reminded me that I had pushed out a posterior baby, which is one of the hardest positions for a baby to be in when pushing. She must have turned right at the end of my labour, because I had no signs of a posterior labour, no back pain and no slow progress, which are two signs of a malpositioned baby.

My beautiful 2730g (6lb) baby girl Lydia Lee was just perfect! I had a physiological 3rd stage, my husband and I slept at the birth centre overnight and headed home the following morning to start life as a family of 3.

Story and photograph submitted by Sam M. 

Educated & Empowered: A Home Water Birth

Educated & Empowered: A Home Water Birth

My birth story begins a few years before my son was even conceived! While my husband, Jeff, and I were dating we discussed children multiple times. We both knew that we wanted to have kids but I remember clearly telling him that I thought I wanted to adopt since my fear of childbirth was too big. My husband is adopted and we’ve both always felt that it doesn’t take blood to make a family so that was our plan, we would adopt to spare me going through childbirth. Every time I thought about labor or giving birth my body would tense right up and I was filled with such anxiety about all of it. I’ve always thought that I had a very low pain tolerance and the thought of going through such agonizing pain from contractions was just too much for me! Not to mention that then there was getting that kid out – I’d either have to shove it out of my hoo-ha or get it taken out of me from surgery! No thank you! I knew that there was always the option of getting an epidural but I have severe scoliosis and was never quite sure if an epidural would work for me. Though I was confident I didn’t want to experience child birth, as my longing for a child grew, so did my interest in viewing birth photography.

I spent weeks looking at pictures of parents meeting their babies for the first time. My interest in birth photography then grew into an interest in birth stories. I read so many! Some stories of beautiful hospital births, some of brave women having cesarean’s (some by choice, some because of emergency), some of ecstatic parents meeting their adopted children for the first time, and some of peaceful home-births. Each story seemed to lessen my fear of childbirth a little bit more. My thinking slowly began to shift from this terrifying event to an empowering and beautiful process to be able to take part of. I decided that I wanted to be one of the “links in the endless chain of birthing women.”

When I found out that I was pregnant, I knew I wanted a midwife! Where I live it’s possible to get a midwife through the health region but it can be very tough to get into the program since there are only six midwives to cover all of the city and surrounding area! A few people had told me to call as soon as I found out I was pregnant so I called the very next day. I was incredibly lucky to be accepted into the program a month later.

I adored Alison, our midwife, the moment I met her! Alison took wonderful care of me throughout my pregnancy and answered all of my questions. Our midwife always made sure that we knew all of our options and what the pros and cons were to each. Even on her busiest days she took the time to explain things to me in great depth, I really began to trust her. We had been planning a hospital birth throughout our whole pregnancy but when I talked about the birth that I envisioned I always gravitated to home-births. I wasn’t sure how safe they were and I was also scared of the judgment that we would get once people found out that we had a home-birth. Unfortunately, a lot of the time home-births seem to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths because they aren’t educated on them. Alison showed us a lot of research that had been done on home-births to prove to me that they were just as safe as hospital births in low-risk pregnancies. I came to her with a list of possible hiccups during the birth and she explained to us what the procedure would be in each one. I really felt like we were making an educated decision that was best for us, so we decided to plan for our home-birth!

As mentioned previously, I have severe scoliosis. I have an ‘S’ curve with a small curve to the right in the middle of my back, and a large curve to the left in my lower back. Since I had read so many birth stories, I knew there was a slight, but rare, possibility that it could affect whether or not I was able to get an epidural. Because we were planning the home-birth my goal was for a natural labor and delivery, but Alison and I agreed that it was important to cover all grounds so she arranged for me to have an appointment with the head of the anesthesiology department at the hospital. I didn’t get the best news there unfortunately! They weren’t going to have a problem getting the epidural into my spine (which was my original concern) but there was a decent chance that the epidural would not properly administer the pain medication because of the smaller top curve of my spine. It might work – but he couldn’t guarantee it. The head of the department and I talked about what that looked like for me. He explained that if I wanted it, there would be other forms of pain management that I could take. Ultimately though if I needed to have a caesarean I would most likely be put right under with general anesthetic. Nothing changed about our birth plan, but I will say that I had a lot of anxiety about that and worried about who would be there to greet babe if I was put under since Jeff wouldn’t be allowed in the room either. There was nothing else we could do but wait and see what happened.

About a week later, just two days before my due date, Jeff had just finished working around 9:00PM we walked over to the drug store across the street and got a frozen pizza. We came home and watched a terrible show on Netflix then decided it was time for bed. Usually we are in bed by 10:00 but since he had worked much later than usual we ended up staying awake until midnight. Every night in the last two weeks of my pregnancy I had gone to bed a little anxious, I really didn’t want to be awoken by labor – I’m not sure why, but I liked the idea of being awake when the process began. I had just finished brushing my teeth and was sitting down to pee one last time before bed. I was sitting there and suddenly felt this pain in my back. It lasted around thirty seconds but the pain wasn’t super intense. I had back pain throughout my pregnancy so I thought it was probably just that – plus it was still two days before my due date and I had convinced myself that I was going to be overdue! I was getting up from the toilet when my water broke. I wasn’t entirely sure if it was my water or not, but it kept leaking so I had a fairly good idea. Jeff remembered our birth classes and Alison telling us to check for COAT (color, odor, amount, and time) and it seemed everything was normal so far. Jeff asked me if he should fill up the birth pool but I just couldn’t believe what was happening so I said no. Was I really in labor?

My contractions started out five minutes apart but only lasted about thirty seconds. I called a girlfriend of mine who is a labor and delivery nurse and she assured me that I was in labor! She told me to hang up the phone and call my midwife, so that’s exactly what we did. We explained to Alison what was happening and she told us that although my water broke, I could very well be in labor for another 24 hours. She asked me to take a Tylenol, get into the bath tub, and try to get some rest. She explained to us that the bath would probably space out my contractions but have them become longer. She asked me how the pain was and I said it was tough but manageable. At this point I was still able to move around and talk on the phone. Jeff had set up the birth pool while I was on the phone and asked if he should fill it up but I told him to hold off for now. I got into our bath tub and the water felt so nice but I didn’t like that I wasn’t able to move around much. After about half an hour in the tub my contractions sped up to 2-3 minutes apart but lasting between 30-45 seconds. The pain was getting intense! I got out of the tub but my body was not happy. I felt like I was having a terrible flu, I started throwing up that darn pizza! My contractions were getting more and more intense. I was still having mostly back pain but I remember being able to feel my hips literally separating so we decided to call Alison again.

We explained to Alison that my contractions were 2 minutes apart now or less, but they still weren’t lasting quite a minute. Some of them were as short as 30 seconds, and some were 50 seconds, but they didn’t last longer than that. Because of the strange pattern in my contractions she was fairly sure that I was in early labor still, but she asked if I would like her to come check me and I did. I told her that the pain was getting very intense and if I was in early labor then I wanted to talk about what my options were for pain management. She told me that it was going to get a lot more intense and I would really need to focus if I wanted to have the home-birth that I had hoped for. At this point I had decided that if this was early labor I was definitely going to the hospital for some kind of drug, so I once again told Jeff not to fill up the tub.

I labored on our bed while we waited for Alison. I didn’t feel like I could move around much at this point so I tried to just stay as calm and comfortable as possible. The contractions were still quite random but on average were 1.5 to 2 minutes apart. While I was laboring I felt a little chilled and said “socks” to Jeff. He ran out of the room and came back with the small bin of baby socks that we had purchased! Jeff and I are “How I Met Your Mother” fans and if you’re familiar with the show you’ll remember an episode where Lily decides she wants to have a baby because she sees some cute little baby socks. Throughout my pregnancy that was a little joke that we had when we bought baby clothes! At this point though I wanted socks for my feet, not to look at. I still laugh whenever I think about that!

Alison arrived around 3:00 A.M. We talked for a little bit about how I was feeling and she coached me through a few contractions. The pattern to them still wasn’t consistent, she explained that one of two things was happening: either the baby was in a strange position causing the irregular contractions or the baby was coming very quickly. My family has a history of fast deliveries so although in my head I was preparing for the worst, I was really, really hoping that I was fairly far along. I’ll never forget what Alison said when she checked me! “Tessa! Oh, Tessa! You’re having this baby at home.” I replied, “Yeah?! Really?” And she said, “You’re a 7!”

And that was it. If I had gotten to 7cm dilated with thinking that I was in early labor, surely I could see this through! That was the confidence boost that I needed. Since our baby was coming quickly, we needed to prepare! Jeff now had to hurry to fill up the pool since I kept telling him to hold off. Alison had to bring all of the birthing and emergency equipment into the house and set it up, and she needed to contact another midwife to come for the birth. I moved from our bed to the couch so I could soak in the hustle and bustle of the night. It was so exciting. I had read so many books on labor and written cue cards for myself to meditate on. I didn’t use the cards in labor but I had read them so many times beforehand that I was still able to think about them during contractions.

That time between 3:30 and 4:30AM are some of my fondest memories from my birthing experience. Our sweet dog, Timothy, came and snuggled up beside my leg. Since the baby was coming quickly Jeff and Alison were both busy and couldn’t spend much time with me but I never felt alone. As cheesy as this sounds, Timothy was the sweetest birth coach! One of the best notes that I had read was to really take time to enjoy the moments between the contractions. I thought about celebrating their birthday a year from then and how excited I was to plan the party. I thought about seeing their little face and holding them for the first time. I thought about all of the women around the world birthing with me at the same time and how incredible it was to be a part of the circle of life. Although the pain was intense when I was contracting it was just such a beautiful thing to be able to experience. My body knew what to do!

I started to feel the urge to push but the second midwife wasn’t at the house yet. Alison had tried to call the other two midwives on her team but neither of them were able to make it there quickly so she called a midwife on the other team who agreed to come right away. Alison told me that if I felt the urge to push not to resist it and asked if I was able to move into the tub. The tub was full enough to get in so I slowly made my way into it. The water felt phenomenal! I know everyone says that, but it’s true!

When I got into the water I remember thinking that labor is just so weird. At that moment I felt completely, 100% normal and was not experiencing any pain at all. It’s hard to believe that there are moments like that in labor but there really are! I started pushing shortly after 4:30AM. Pushing felt great. Pushing took away almost all of the pain from the contractions. I remember the other midwife coming into the house when I was in the middle of pushing. I hadn’t met her before and I didn’t want to be rude so I grumbled out “helloooo” to her! Jeff had pots of water boiling on the stove and between staying with me he would run to get a pot and dump it in to keep the water warm. At one point while I was pushing he dumped the pot of water partially on his hand but decided it was best not to mention that while his wife was in labor – smart guy! I pushed slowly and only during contractions. I put my hand down and felt lots of soft hair, the baby was getting closer. I had read about the “Ring of Fire” and I totally get why they call it that. There really is no better explanation for that pain. Our sweet babe was crowning and I was making sounds that I didn’t even know I could make. I kept my eyes shut the entire time I was pushing so I had no idea where anyone was. Jeff and I had talked about the birth numerous times before and he always said he didn’t think he would watch the baby coming out but, to my surprise, he did! At 5:20 AM I felt instant relief from the pain.

I looked down and there was this tiny little babe in the water. The chord was wrapped around his neck and as Alison unwrapped it she told us that that was actually very common. It made me so happy that she wasn’t concerned in the slightest about it. And there was our baby! After all of that: all of the hoping, dreaming, and praying – our baby was here. They placed the baby on my chest for immediate skin-to-skin. We looked down and saw that it was a sweet little boy. We did delayed chord clamping. Alison let us feel for the pulse in the chord to slowly disappear; while we waited, it was so cool watching the colour come into his body from the chord. When the pulse was gone, Jeff cut the chord. He says that it was firmer to cut than he had been anticipating. It was all so magical! In our birth plan I had agreed to a shot of oxytocin to speed up the birth of the placenta. After a few minutes, I was feeling ready to push again so I gave the baby to Jeff for skin-to-skin. Pushing out the placenta was a breeze compared to the baby.

Shortly after I slowly stood up out of the tub. What a weird feeling! It was almost as if my insides were all falling back into place. I distinctly remember feeling my organs shifting. I walked over to our bed where Alison had set up a cozy and clean area for all of us. She assessed me and determined that I had a second-degree tear. I snuggled our new babe while she stitched me up. They asked us what his name would be – Everett! After I was stitched, Everett found his way to the breast to nurse. He latched on right away and was happy to be eating. Alison then took Everett’s measurements, heart rate, and got his weight. He was 20.8” and weighed 8lbs, 6 oz. Jeff and I both thought that he looked so small when in reality he was a fairly big baby! The midwives stayed with us a while longer to examine Everett and I then they left us alone as a new family of three (four if you count Timothy). The experience of having a home birth was phenomenal. I loved the comfort of being in our own home. Our family came over the next few days to make sure we were well fed, our house was cleaned, and our garden was even planted for us!

Having a baby is strange – beautiful, but strange! When I saw Everett for the first time I knew that I loved him without a doubt, but I remember thinking that I loved my dog more than him. Yup! I remember lying in bed thinking, wow, I love my dog more than my baby, I probably shouldn’t have a kid! The first night we were getting ready to go to sleep and Everett started to scream at around 10 PM and all I could think was “what have we done?” It took time for me to fall deeply in love with him and that’s something I wasn’t prepared for. I felt somewhat disconnected from the whole thing, Alison assured me that that was normal, but I wish that as mothers we talked about that experience more! I think that’s why skin-to-skin is so important for parents and babies. The next few weeks were challenging, my hormones were somewhat everywhere and I was a little nervous to be responsible for a tiny human. Jeff took two weeks off of work when Everett was born and I’m so glad we had that time together as a family. Jeff took the lead with diaper changes and would walk with Everett in the night while I was healing from the birth. Jeff was the more patient parent right out of the gate, it all seemed to come really natural to him but it felt like a bit of a struggle for me. I had never been around baby’s much and even though we took a lot of classes, I still felt like I had a lot to learn.

Breastfeeding was hard! There was a lot of pain but I was determined to keep going with it. Everett had a tongue and a lip tie which at the time we decided to leave but in hindsight I think that was part of the reason we had such a battle finding a good latch. Luckily our midwives were great for showing us some different nursing positions and the lactation consultants were wonderful resources!

Everett is eight months old now and I really do love him more and more every day. Watching him grow and learn new things is so exciting. Birthing him was challenging, but by far my greatest accomplishment in life. I am so proud of what my body has done. Having a home-birth, for me, was the ultimate way of conquering my fear of childbirth. I absolutely loved the experience of it all. Before I had him, a friend of mine said that she wished she could birth a baby every day – I thought she was crazy! But I understand what she meant now as I, too, wish I could birth a baby every day. It is the most wonderful and empowering thing I have ever been a part of. What a beautiful gift, and honour, it is to be able to grow and birth a human being!

Story and photographs submitted by Tessa N. 

Surrender to the Ocean’s Tide: a Water Birth Story

Surrender to the Ocean’s Tide: a Water Birth Story

I had begun having Braxton Hicks contractions at regular intervals starting at 36 weeks. Every day I would contract at 5 minutes apart and end the day at 3 minutes apart. So on May 4th, 2017, which happened to be my due date, I didn’t think too much of my contractions, which now felt stronger. After picking up my daughter from school at 1:30 I came home and got in the bath tub, at which point the contractions slowed to 10 minutes apart. At 3 pm l decided to call my midwives to talk about my symptoms.

Once I got out of the tub the contractions picked back up at 5 minute intervals. This time they seemed crampier, more intense. They accelerated very quickly and within minutes I was making what my husband calls “tribal” sounds that signified it was real this time. However, I was still in denial that this was really “it”, and didn’t call my husband until 3:45pm. My 4-year-old daughter was watching a movie in the living room and periodically came to check on me back in my bedroom. Despite the noises that I was making, somehow, I was still in denial that this was really it. Thank goodness, I DID decide to inform everyone on my birth team, including my photographer. Little did I know how soon the baby would come.

The midwives arrived around 4:15pm and announced that I was fully dilated. I was so relieved! Soon after my husband walked in from work. If he would have left his office just 10 minutes later I’m quite sure he would have hit traffic and not made it to the birth.

I then texted my photographer who lives close by. She arrived at my house at 4:45, just in time to photograph me working through a few contractions. The pool was quickly set up and I stepped into the warm water. It was so comforting. In between contractions I felt fine. I carried on conversation and even told the photographer to open the blinds so we could get better lighting. We smiled for a nice family picture, and then I resumed my work.

With the next contraction, I felt what I can only describe as a “pop” of a rubber band. It took me a moment to mentally register this feeling, and a few seconds later I announced that my water had broken. With the water breaking came an undeniable urge to push. I focused inwardly, pushed gently, and out came little Levi! I did not feel a “ring of fire” this time, instead I felt what can only be described as getting kicked in the crotch with cleats.

After that moment I felt his head, then his neck, then shoulders, then body, all squirm out of me. That part was not painful at all! It was such a neat feeling that I do not recall feeling with my first birth. It was such an “out of body” experience, pun intended! I birthed him on all fours, and he slid out behind me. My daughter whispered, “Look Mama, there’s the baby!” My midwife picked him up as I rolled over into a sitting position, resting my back against the side of the tub. He immediately let out a strong, loud cry. I rested him on my chest and took in all the wonder of what had just occurred. A few minutes later, I got out of the tub and crawled into bed with my family. I laid him on my chest and he found and latched onto my breast. Soon after I pushed the placenta out. I did not bleed very much, neither in the tub nor post-partum.

I was so much more “present” for this birth than my first water birth, which was also swift and peaceful, however, I must have mentally escaped to “labor land” with my first. For this birth, I felt so clear minded in between and even during contractions. This must be why I was in such denial that I was in labor until right at the end, because I partly expected that mental fog feeling of labor land to come over me if it was real labor. My first birth was nearly 4 hours long, and I hadn’t had even a twinge or a cramp until I went into obvious labor with her. With my second birth, I had so many contractions for many weeks leading up to the birth. I had become like the boy who cried wolf, thinking every single day that the baby was coming, and eventually doubting myself, feeling more confused than ever about what real labor even felt like.

This birth confirmed what I already knew to be true from my first: birth can be so very simple, if we just allow ourselves to surrender to the ocean’s tide, instead of swimming against it.

Story submitted by Mackenzie A. 

Photographs taken by Kat Reiser

Supported and Respected and Encouraged: Wiley’s Birth

Supported and Respected and Encouraged: Wiley’s Birth

My due date was Sunday January 22nd 2017 and on Thursday January 19th I woke up with a feeling that it may be my last day at work before maternity leave. My mucus plug fell out throughout the day and I was feeling different than I had during the rest of the pregnancy, but I didn’t want to get myself too excited because I knew the mucus plug could indicate birth within anywhere from hours to weeks. I got home from work and went to the gym to get a walk in and try to get the baby moving. Around 8:30 p.m. I had my first contraction. I was able to use breathing techniques to work through the pain. These contractions continued on and off until about 2:30 a.m.

On Friday January 20th I was exhausted from the contractions the night before and decided to take the day off work and spend time walking and relaxing in case the baby decided to make an early appearance. My husband Jason and I walked the mall all day and ran some errands to pass the time. I felt a few mild contractions throughout the day, but nothing compared to what I had felt the night before. I didn’t have much of an appetite, so we snacked a little for dinner, watched TV, and headed to bed. Around 12:30 a.m. on Saturday January 21st I woke up to contractions. These contractions were much more intense than those I felt on Thursday. I couldn’t just breathe through them, I had change positions frequently and needed Jason’s support. These contractions lasted all night and all day. Around 5 p.m. the contractions had become more regular, about 5 to 6 minutes apart and around a minute long. We called the birth center, and the midwife told us to wait until my contractions were 3 minutes apart and lasted at least a minute each. She said I would feel the difference when I was moving into active labor and that this could take a long time, possibly until the next morning. My motherly instinct told me that it would happen faster.

Between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. my contractions changed. I could no longer work through them by simply using breathing techniques and changing positions. I had to make loud, intense sounds from my gut. Jason was amazing. He played calming music, sprayed essential oils, rubbed my back, physically held me up, and encouraged me. I felt an extreme calm, as if I was inside myself. At some point during this time Jason called the birth center again. This time they told him to come in so they could check to see how I was progressing. He packed the car and we headed to the birth center. On the way there I had 5 contractions, and it was only a 15-minute drive.

We arrived and were met by my midwife Deb and our nurses Kendall and Silvia. We settled into our room and Deb came to check on my progress. I was 7cm dilated! I was so incredibly happy. My goal had been to labor at home as long as possible so that when I arrived at the birth center I would be close to transition. With Jason’s support I had done it! Deb encouraged me to sit backwards on the toilet with my head on a pillow for 9 to 10 contractions to get things moving along. This position was extremely intense, but Jason sat with me rubbing my back and giving me juice to keep my energy up. The nurses set up the tub and after my time on the toilet I moved into the water. It felt amazing! Such relief. I spent some time in a squat through contractions with Jason giving me juice, water, and fruit snacks. At some point, I remember saying “This feels different!” and turning onto my back. The nurses came in when they heard this and asked some questions about the pressure I felt in-between contractions. They listened to the baby and left Jason and I alone for some more time. I spent time laboring in a spread eagle position and the sounds coming from me continued to get louder and more intense.

In response to my changes, Deb, Kendall, and Silva came into the room and asked if I felt ready to push. I did! With some advice from them on how to do this, I began pushing. It was like nothing I had ever felt before and in my mind was taking a long time. I had an expectation that the pushing phase would move very quickly, but everyone encouraged me and told me that I was doing great, progressing very well. I trusted them and kept telling myself that I could do this, as millions of women had before me. At some point, Deb told me that my water had not broken yet and if I would like she could break it, but that it wasn’t necessary. If she did so, things would move along a little faster and with more intensity. I remembered that a good friend said she had her water broken and the pain was terrible. I decided I did not want this intervention and continued to push. I was so glad I made this decision, as the water ended up breaking on it’s own. When it broke we all screamed, I thought the baby had come out! It was not that easy, but I knew that my water breaking was a good sign that I would meet my baby soon. I kept pushing and at one point I turned over to push in a squatting position for several contractions, before returning to pushing on my back. I was feeling exhausted at this point, and all of the sudden Jason was looking down and they said they could see the head! Deb told me that using a mirror to see their progress often helps women at this point in labor. I was worried about how I would react, but I decided to give it a try. It helped! Seeing the progress was the encouragement I needed to keep going. Instinctively, I reached down and touched the head at the end of one intense contraction. After seeing me do this, Deb told me that it would help if I guided the baby’s head out. This is not something I thought I would be comfortable with, but I went for it. It burned, but out came the baby’s head. I was so excited and I just wanted to keep pushing to meet my baby, but Deb told me not to push unless I was having a contraction. She needed to check the location of the umbilical cord. She checked and told me the location was good. Then, on the next contraction out popped the body and I caught him! Immediately I brought him to my chest and held him tight. I was crying and kept repeating, “My baby is here. I love you”. There really are no words to describe what I was feeling at this point.

Baby Wiley Gregoire Smith was born at 1:35 am. I immediately held him skin-to-skin as I delivered the placenta. Then, Jason held him skin-to-skin as Kendall and Silva helped me out of the tub and Deb checked to make sure I was recovering well. Wiley never left our arms and we got to spend hours bonding with him. What an incredible experience!

I am so grateful for the support I received from Jason, Deb, Kendall, and Silvia. Jason supported me throughout labor and never let on that he felt nervous. He rubbed my back, responded to my needs, and provided words of encouragement. Deb took a hands-off approach that made me feel safe. If she wasn’t worried, there was no reason for me to be worried. She provided advice and encouragement when I needed it and respected my birth plan. Kendall and Silva provided words of encouragement, were relaxed, and made sure my baby was safe throughout labor. I could not have done it without this incredible group of people.

Seconds after I caught Wiley before delivering the placenta.
Seconds after I caught Wiley before delivering the placenta.
Wiley right after Jason cut the umbilical cord.
Wiley right after Jason cut the umbilical cord.

Story and photographs submitted by Meghan M. 

Resting & Soaking in Brand New Baby Cleo

Resting & Soaking in Brand New Baby Cleo

Cleo’s birth story begins in the middle of a February heatwave. My husband and I had escaped our 3 children (then aged 7, 4, and 2) for a rare date night, and during dinner he leans over the table and with a cheeky grin says “So, should we have another baby?” I laugh, because we both know that the answer is yes, and the real question is when. I tell him that having spent most of the last 8 years either pregnant or breastfeeding, I am utterly depleted and need to have some time to recharge my body and mind before we do it all again.

A couple of days later I wake up, expecting my period, but it hasn’t started, and I know. I just know. A pregnancy test later that day confirms it, and I sit on the bed and sob with shock. I want another baby with all my heart – but not now! I am gutted; I had wanted to feel ready, I had wanted to want to be pregnant. It takes me months to process this new reality, and I feel heavy with guilt over my ambivalence.

Our 4 year old daughter, desperate for a sister, wanted to know the sex of the baby, and we find out at the 20-week scan that we are expecting a girl. With two boys and a girl already, both my husband and I had also been quietly hoping for another daughter, and I finally begin to feel glimmers of hope and excitement.

But anxiety lurks. On paper I’d had dream births (including two home births), ranging from 2-4.5 hours, spontaneous labours around 39 weeks, no interventions, drugs or stitches. But the birth of my third child had been very difficult for me mentally; from the outside it seemed like a gentle home water birth, but in my head I had been in a war zone against pain, unwilling and unable to lose myself into ‘labour land’. My labour had stalled in response; I felt like I had failed, and struggled with worry that I might repeat the same mistakes. My son had also had long term and traumatic breastfeeding difficulties due to an undiagnosed tongue tie, and I was terrified of the possibility of facing that all over again.

As my pregnancy progressed, I found myself feeling increasingly listless. Unable to summon up interest for movies, TV, or books, most evenings I would end up simply taking a long bath before bed. It was only there, floating in the candle lit bathroom, that I felt safe enough to allow myself to dream and hope for this baby. As the months passed, I slowly worked through my fears and in my heart of hearts I knew that I was not going to be able to let them go – I had to feel the fear and birth anyway!

I realised that I had tried to have too much control over my previous labour, and because of that my mind had not surrendered my body to birth. I decided that I would not hire a birth pool or make any plans for where or how I would labour and birth, but rather let go and allow any possibility to happen. I surrounded myself with a birth team with whom I felt truly safe. I also planned for a month of postpartum rest, which would enable me not just to recover physically, but to have the time and space to focus on breastfeeding and deal with any potential issues as early as possible.

As my due date approached, I felt myself begin to pull away from the world, inwards towards my baby. I became so sick of pregnancy that I found myself no longer caring about what my labour might be like, and a slow and patient calm descended over me like a fog. At around 37 weeks I began experiencing gentle and occasional pre-labour contractions, mainly overnight, but nothing serious.

At 39 weeks, my mother-in-law visited for a few days, which was a special time of relaxing and enjoying the older children together. On her last morning with us, we both felt the urge to clean the house – she scrubbed the shower, while I dusted like a madwoman. We dropped her off at the airport on Friday morning, joking that now she was leaving, the baby would be born and she would have to come straight back.

That night, lying in a deep, hot bath, I had a long conversation with my baby. I told her all my hopes and fears, that I was ready to do my part in the work of birth, and gave her my blessing to be born whenever she was ready. I had a few mild contractions here and there, but went to bed feeling calm and relaxed. Still, I was unable to fall asleep easily, but tried not to let it bother me, and after listening to some relaxation practices I dozed off around midnight.

I awoke to a strong contraction, far deeper than the niggles I’d been experiencing over the past few weeks. I glanced at the clock: 4:25AM. My husband wasn’t in bed next to me, and neither was his pillow; he must have gone in to be with our almost-three-year-old. I lay back down, knowing that either things would settle down and I’d go back to sleep, or that if things became more intense it was worth getting some rest while I could! It wasn’t long until I felt another strong surge, followed by another – and lying down was not feeling like a reasonable option any longer!

I quietly tiptoed in to our younger childrens’ bedroom, where I found my husband in the bottom bunk, and woke him with “I think I might need you”. At 5am I texted my friend Diana (who was acting as my student midwife and support person) to let her know that I was beginning to have some contractions that felt like they meant business, but that for the time being we’d sit tight and let her know as soon as things were really on the move.

The contractions I was experiencing were quickly evolving from irregular pains to a continuous deep cramping, which intensified in waves, some strong enough to draw my full concentration, but others that I could talk and move through. I heated a wheat bag and held it to my lower belly, which was comforting. As my husband moved quietly through the house, bringing the birth boxes and towels into our main living area, I paced the length of the house through the living room and kitchen. Back and forth, back and forth. I found that I could not stop moving – If I paused, even momentarily, the pain became unbearable.

As water had been my refuge during my pregnancy, I had imagined myself labouring in either the bath or shower. Instead, I found myself seeking the darkest and quietest corner of the house, which at that time of night happened to be the lounge room. Anything brighter than the faintest light seemed overwhelming. Pacing back and forth, the pain remained consistent, strengthening on and off irregularly, but with no real breaks or pattern. I had a sense that things were moving quickly, and that my baby was at the helm and all I had to do was hang on for the ride! The pain was strong – but I felt stronger. I knew I could handle this for as long as I needed to.

At 5:45, even though there was no real rhythm to my contractions, we decided that we should call our midwifery team, just to let them know what was happening, and see what they thought about it all. During the seven-minute call to the triage midwife I had three good strong surges, and as she listened to me work through them, she decided it was time to send backup to be with us until my primary midwife arrived. My husband called Diana just before 6am to fill her in on things and let her know to come over also.

With sunrise approaching, our other children had begun to awaken, and one by one came out to see what was happening. Our oldest son quietly brought me a fresh bottle of water and reheated my wheat bag before retreating to his dad, brother & sister in the adjacent kitchen as I continued to pace the darkened living room. The deep cramping pain between surges relented, but they became longer and more intense, and I noticed the beginning of a slight ‘pushiness’ to my vocalisations. I instinctively reached down and could feel my waters bulging – I felt that it was almost time to abandon myself to pushing, and asked my husband to lay down the oversized plastic-backed picnic rug we had bought to cover the floor.

I could feel the baby moving lower and lower and knew that it was time to gather my strength to bring her into this world.

With my eyes closed in my darkened birth space, it seemed like it was in another world that footsteps were running up our driveway… a calm and friendly voice introduced herself as Shirley… the baby’s heartbeat pulsed through the fetal monitor… and then the urge to push took over completely. As I stood in the middle of the lounge room floor, I braced my hands on my knees and began to push. My waters broke with a huge pop and mid-contraction Shirley told me that she wanted to help me on to my hands and knees. It seemed impossible to move my limbs – “How… I can’t…” I gasped as she gently took my hand and told me I needed to lower myself to the floor. It was almost insurmountably hard, but I’m so glad she made me do it – I could actually feel my pelvis opening wider as I moved down on to my knees.

As my baby’s head began to crown, Shirley reminded me to breathe gently and just allow the next contraction to do the work. I felt the familiar burning as my body was stretched to its absolute limit, but only for a moment; as soon as her head was born, the rest of her body followed with soft slippery relief. Shirley calmly unwrapped the cord from around our baby’s neck as I took off my pyjama top and reached down to bring her up to my chest, just as the other midwives walked in the door! It was 6:31am – barely two hours since I had woken up, just ten minutes from when Shirley had arrived, and sixty seconds from waters breaking to baby in my arms!

My midwives fetched blankets and helped me lean back against the couch as my husband and the older children gathered around to meet the newest member of our family. I slowly began to emerge from ‘labour land’, becoming aware again of the world around me: the morning birdsong, light beginning to creep through the windows as the sun rose, the rich loamy iron smell of birth. I looked down to the baby quietly mewling against me, truly noticing her for the first time since her had emerged, and checked – really, yes really, the girl we had dared to hope for! My husband and I looked at each other; he nodded, and I said out loud for the first time, holding her up for all to marvel at, “This is Cleo!”

I brought my brand new daughter back to my chest and, knowing exactly where she had been born to be, she bobbed her head straight for my nipple and latched herself on. She stayed there, firmly attached and suckling contentedly, for the next two hours. We sat on the lounge room floor for a while, the midwives filling out paperwork and the children happily admiring their baby sister as we all chatted about the birth, filling each other in on what had happened from our perspective. I couldn’t quite believe that our little girl was here, how quick and smooth her birth had been, or how calm I had felt the whole time; I was high on oxytocin and everything felt full of light and love.

The placenta took its time, but once it had been birthed, all there was left to do was rest and soak in the baby! My older three children had been born overnight, however Cleo’s early morning arrival gave us the whole day ahead to spend getting to know each other as a family. Cleo and I spent her entire first day skin-to-skin, lying in bed together while the older children came and went. There were cups of tea in my favourite mug, joyous phone calls to family, and a beautiful blue sky to gaze at out the window. The world could wait for a while – it wasn’t the year I had planned, but now that Cleo was in my arms, I knew that everything was going to be just fine.

home birth, birth without fear

Birth story and photos submitted by Nicole J. 

Dorian’s Birth Story

Dorian’s Birth Story

Dominika shares the beautifully moving story of her son Dorian’s birth. 

Dorian’s due date was on September 17th, so I decided to start my maternity leave a little earlier to give myself some downtime. My last day of work was on Friday, September 5th. Little did I know that Dorian would be taking his sweet time! The days passed, and my due date came and went. I became increasingly bored at home, but couldn’t do much about it as my mobility was steadily decreasing due to my ever-growing belly. I was also suffering from nightly insomnia caused by heartburn, which made me very tired; so I spent my days on brief social outings and naps. The novelty slowly wore off as people kept asking me over Facebook when my baby is coming. Finally, I snapped at one person’s questioning me and said, “October, clearly.” If only I had known how right I would be!

As the days went by, Ivan and I tried more and more methods to induce labor. I got an induction massage, tried numerous walks, had awkward pregnant sex, and got several stretch-and-sweeps from my midwife, which were rather painful, and although they reverberated through my entire uterus, they did not begin contractions.

Every night before bed, I wondered if I would wake up with contractions, and every day I would wake up disappointed. Finally on the morning of October 5th, I got so frustrated I began crying. My midwife had told me that 98% of women go into labor on their own if left alone between 41 and 42 weeks, and here I was at 42 and 4 and nothing was happening. I was starting to get really worried that after fighting so hard against being induced, that my body would betray me and I would have to go to the hospital and be forced into induction – or worse, a C-section.

Ivan assured me that there was nothing wrong with me, and that no matter what happens, the end result will be having a beautiful baby boy. We decided to move on with our lives and go out for lunch to an Indian restaurant to try spicy food as one last-ditch effort. All it accomplished was giving me extremely uncomfortable indigestion. I called my midwife at 10:30 p.m., and she advised me to take some Tums and a Tylenol. I did so, and went to bed.

Two hours after falling asleep, on October 6th at 42 weeks 5 days pregnant, I finally had some water leaking at 12:30 a.m. I wasn’t entirely sure if that’s what it was, but it appeared in small puddles in different sections of my bed sheet. I figured it wasn’t enough fluid to signify anything and happily just went back to sleep, once again hoping to wake up with contractions.

The following morning I was once again disappointed. My midwife Jen was supposed to come over at 9 a.m. to check on me, but called me at 8:30 to say that she was attending another birth and had to reschedule. I was scheduled to go back to the hospital at 1 p.m. for more fetal monitoring, and Jen called me back at 11 and asked me if I’d prefer to have her come see me before or after going to the hospital. I told her that I would much prefer to see her beforehand, as the hospital would stress me out and elevate my blood pressure and bully me into induction again. I also told her about my water leaking, which I had completely forgotten to mention when she had called me earlier.

Jen did a great job of acting like that wasn’t a big deal. She came over at noon and asked me whether I would prefer to try inducing naturally at home and skipping the hospital, as they would definitely bully me into staying if I told them that my water had leaked. I was more than happy to go along with this plan because it meant I didn’t have to go to the hospital. I had no idea how effective it would be and that it would actually send me into labor!

Jen called up the receptionist at the midwifery clinic, and with a wink at me, asked her to cancel my appointment at the hospital because I was “in early labor.” Then we went upstairs to my bedroom and Jen did a sterile speculum exam and confirmed that I was having a hind leak of waters. She then did another stretch-and-sweep and confirmed that I was already 5-6 cm dilated and about 75% effaced – now we were just missing the contractions!

At 1 p.m. I started taking some homeopathic medication, alternating two different ones every 15 minutes for two hours. Jen also had me hook myself up to a breast pump to see if that would also stimulate labor. She also wanted to break my water at 3 o’clock, but I managed to stall her for an hour. She kept asking me if I was feeling anything, and I kept telling her that I think so, but really I think up to that point in time it was just in my head.

Finally at 4 o’clock she convinced me to do it, and it was the last painful check she had to do as my cervix was still tilted towards my back with the baby’s head in front of it. Every time she checked me, Jen could feel the baby’s head moving and knew he was right there, ready to go! Ivan squeezed my hand as she broke my waters on my bed, and we were all very happy to learn that there was no meconium present, despite Dorian being almost three weeks late.

The effects of having my water broken were immediate, and by 4:30 I was already in active labor. However I had no idea this was happening, because I felt the same way I felt after every other time I got a stretch-and-sweep done. I thought my uterus was just reacting to being disturbed and that the sensations would go away soon. I decided to have a shower to alleviate the discomfort, and stayed there for about half an hour. Eventually I decided that I had been in there too long and should probably get out and rejoin Ivan and Jen.

Initially, Jen told me that my contractions were about 5-6 minutes apart. She updated me at first, but then stopped letting me know as my body took over, however in her notes she said that they went from 6 minutes apart to 3 minutes apart between 4:15 and 5 p.m.

After getting out of the shower, the hormones must have kicked in because I suddenly felt incredibly, horribly cold. I was covered in a towel and climbed into bed, and having a towel, two blankets, two bathrobes and a space heater on still wasn’t enough to make me feel warm and stop shivering. Jen took my temperature and discovered that it was actually elevated, and warned me that if it stayed high I would have to consider taking intravenous antibiotics to prevent a possible infection.

Ever so slowly I began warming up and peeling back layer after layer. Eventually it became extremely hot in the bedroom and I ended up completely naked, laboring on the bed with Ivan. At first dealing with the contractions was fairly manageable, but what bothered me was a constant feeling of nausea. I kept a bucket by the bed but never threw up. Jen suggested that I have a popsicle, and although I didn’t really want one, she got one for me and Ivan fed it to me one bite at a time, which actually felt wonderful.

At 6 p.m. Jen let me know that we reached the point where my waters had been broken for 18 hours, and asked if I wanted to get antibiotics in case of infection. I declined, as statistically I knew that it was unlikely.

Ivan was rubbing my back and helping me switch positions and lean over my yoga ball on the bed, and somehow eventually I made it to 7 o’clock, when Jen told me she would have to check me again to see if the dilation was progressing. I was very disappointed to hear that I was only at 7 cm after laboring what felt like eternity, but Jen assured me that this was great progress and Ivan told her not to tell me any more numbers as I have a tendency to latch onto things like that. Jen also asked me later on if I noticed that being checked that time didn’t hurt anymore – but I hadn’t.

Jen said that I could get into my bathtub after the check, and I was ecstatic to get in and turn on the jets. I sat in the bathtub sideways and had one jet on my back and another on my crotch, and it felt wonderful! I don’t know how long I stayed in there, but eventually I felt that I was staying too long and got out and back onto my bed.

Somewhere along the way, my body gave me a wonderful contraction-free break, for what felt like about five minutes. Jen told me to lean into Ivan, and while having my back to his chest I leaned into his neck and relaxed and it felt wonderful. When the contractions started again, without having planned it beforehand, we both began to breathe deeply and make synchronized “Ommm” noises with each exhalation. Each one got longer and longer, and I couldn’t tell whether I was the one leading them or whether it was Ivan. I leaned my ear into his neck and I could feel his voice reverberating through me. We did all this to the sound of a yoga-inspired soundtrack that I mostly did not hear, but all in all it was peaceful and serene and I felt safe and secure.

Unfortunately I soon reached the point of feeling unable to keep up with the constant contractions, which felt like they were right on top of each other. I started crying and saying that I can’t do this, and I desperately felt the need to escape the pain but couldn’t. Jen suggested that I try lying down sideways to see if I could actually sleep between contractions, but when I tried it the pain actually felt more intense, so I got back up on all fours and leaned over the ball again. Ivan coached me to keep up my deep breathing and began the “om” pattern again.

Jen quietly left the room and told us that she was going to get her supplies from her car. Somewhere at the very back of my mind, a thought occurred that this meant that we were actually doing it, that we were actually going to stay home and have a baby, but the thought was swept away by the contractions before I could connect the dots.

Eventually I decided to use the bathroom, and ended up laboring on the toilet briefly. I “om-ed” by myself and wondered why Jen and Ivan weren’t coming to check on me, but then decided that I must be okay since they were doing so. I then decided to get back into the bathtub and try the water jets again.

Somewhere along the way it got dark and Ivan must have lit the candles we had in the bathroom, because the room was in total darkness except for the candlelight.

Jen and Ivan soon quietly joined me and both sat on the floor in the bathroom. Wordlessly they became a team, and Jen let Ivan lead the encouragement and only occasionally interjected with her support. The jets provided a lot of relief but unfortunately couldn’t keep up with the contractions. Ivan and I were still “omming,” but suddenly I had had enough and started begging to be transferred to the hospital to get an epidural. I was crying that I can’t do it and although in my head I could hear how pathetic I sounded, I felt like I was willing to do anything to make the pain stop. I felt like time was standing still and in my mind I figured that I could endure a terrible 20-minute ambulance ride to the hospital and then have the hospital give me an epidural or cut the baby out of me. I cried and repeatedly told Ivan and Jen that I can’t do it and that they need to call the ambulance for me.

Ivan very firmly disagreed. “Look at me. Look at me,” he ordered. I struggled to open one eye at a time and make eye contact. Ivan confidently told me that I can do it and that I’m really close. Jen told me to just think about that beautiful baby in my arms. I closed my eyes again and told them that I don’t even want the baby anymore. After I said that I literally could hear the awkward looks they exchanged.

Jen took a different tactic than Ivan and said we can transfer to the hospital if I really want to, but I would have to get out of the bathtub for her to check me to see how far along I am to make sure transferring was still a safe option. I told myself that it was really stupid to have wanted a home birth when epidurals were invented for a reason. I started willing myself to get out of the tub so that Jen could check me again. “Right after this one,” I would think. Then the next one would hit me right away and again I would think, “…After this one.” Finally, I just couldn’t bring myself to get out of the tub, partially because I didn’t want to feel the pain of having Jen check me again.

Jen told me to reach inside myself to see if I could feel the baby. I cautiously did so, and to my great surprise I could feel something that was different. I was incredibly shocked and really ecstatic to realize that the pain was actually working and that the baby was there where I could feel him.

Then I lost my composure and again started crying and saying that I can’t do it, when suddenly the feelings inside me changed. With the same breath I was using to say, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t,” suddenly I changed my whine to “I have an urge to push.”

The change was really, really sudden and intense. I think when they say “urge to push” it’s a nice euphemism for “there is no way in hell that I could avoid pushing if my life depended on it!” My insides felt as if I had terrible diarrhea, yet pushing was like straining from constipation. My vocalization changed from “omming,” deep exhaling and whining that I can’t do it to a deep, primal, guttural grunt. In my head I felt embarrassed about being unable to control the sound, so I felt like I had to keep on my tub’s jets to create enough noise to give me the privacy to continue making the sounds, which allowed me to push. Jen told me to try and focus my energy on pushing instead of the vocalization, but I felt like I had to keep making the noise to be able to do it.

At some point in time, Jen said that she was texting the other midwives to come help with the birth. In a deep, far region of my brain it occurred to me that that meant that I was actually going to have the baby in the bathtub, but again I couldn’t connect the dots. Diane and Sara appeared very quietly and stood in the recess of the bathroom.

With each push I kept telling myself that I would get huge, and that maybe this push was it to get his head out. I ended up on my knees in the bathtub, and used my hands to stretch myself apart.

Jen told me to try to push longer with each urge, or to push twice within the same contraction. I kept pushing, then taking breaks, then pushing and telling myself, “This one is it. This one is it.”

Sara kept attempting to use a Doppler on me to measure Dorian’s heartbeat, but she had to turn off the bathtub’s jets to listen for it, which bothered me and interrupted my pushing so I kept apologizing and turning them back on.

Eventually I became aware of the sensation of his head crowning. It felt like a gigantic, gelatinous bubble between my legs. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever felt.

Jen told me that when I begin to feel the sensation of the ring of fire, I need to stop pushing and let my body take over by itself to avoid tearing. I agreed, but with each contraction in my head I was all, “F*** that. I want this baby out of me!” Finally, I felt the ring of fire, but it wasn’t quite as intense of a sensation as I had imagined it would be – it was more like a slight stinging sensation.

I pushed against the sensation and felt the “pop” of his head being born. Jen told me to lean back against the bathtub as she shined a flashlight between my legs and quickly unwrapped his umbilical cord which was loosely around his neck. She gave me the signal to push again, and Dorian somehow slithered right out – I have no recollection of feeling his body coming out!

Jen told me to reach down and catch my baby, but I told her that I can’t. I was worried about slipping in the bathtub because I was propped up on my elbows. Jen caught him in the palms of her hands and passed him right over to Ivan, who jumped in the tub fully-clothed, then picked him up and plunked him on my chest.

Dorian felt really warm, rubbery and squishy, and looked perfectly clean and pink in the dim candlelight. The first thing I said was, “I can’t believe he’s real!” as I had completely given up on ever having him come out. The midwives dried him off with a towel and he went “Meh…meh” very quietly, then suddenly gave us a startling “Wehhhh!” as I held him tightly.

Dorian was born at 8lbs 6 oz, 21″ length at 12:31 a.m. on October 7th, after 7 hours of labor and 45 minutes of pushing.

He had no meconium and zero signs of being post-term, suggesting that my normal gestation period is simply longer than average, despite the hospital’s bullying. He also had great timing; if we had made it one more day we would no longer have been allowed to have a home birth.

The midwives allowed me to hold him there while we were in the bathtub, just long enough to feel him pee on me! Then they helped me get out of the bathtub and carry him over to my bed, with his umbilical cord still attached and hanging out of me.

Ivan got to cut his cord, and while I held him on my chest, he pooped on me! I then passed him over to Ivan as the midwives helped me pass the placenta. I found it very difficult to deliver the placenta on my back and wondered how women can possibly deliver babies that way.

Afterwards I unfortunately had some complications and the midwives had a difficult time controlling the bleeding. I had very minimal tearing, but the internal bleeding was so severe they were debating transferring me to the hospital for observation. I was really determined to stay out of there and luckily prevailed!

The midwives stayed with us until I was stable and left at 4 a.m. I was ecstatic to finally be able to go to sleep, but couldn’t fall asleep right away. We slept till 7 a.m. before Dorian woke us up with a banshee-like scream, and our journey of parenthood had officially begun.

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