I had always dreamed of having one more labour and birth experience. After training as a doula, and supporting other women through their labour and births, and having had my own wonderful birth experiences I was compelled to do it one more time. I always said I’d love to wait to go into labour naturally and have a home water-birth. That was, for me, the pinnacle birth experience.
As a single mom (for the past 6+ years though) having another child was not something I wanted or needed.
After 2+ years of discussions, deliberations and planning though I decided to carry a baby as a ‘surrogate’ for A. Who wanted a baby of his own. And so I embarked on this journey of a life-time. Me to have the pregnancy and birth I always dreamed of, and him to get his baby.
It was an incredible journey and one I feel so privileged to have been given the opportunity to travel. I also turned 40 this year and so I called this year, ‘my year of 40’ to commemorate my age and the 40-week life-changing project I was part of.
The pregnancy went very smoothly with no issues at all beyond the usual morning sickness and heartburn unpleasantness. But I stayed active, fit and healthy throughout doing yoga, walking, doing POP FIT pregnancy classes etc. I also reconnected with the ‘birthing world’ attending the Midwifery & Birth Conference, a fabulous antenatal retreat, and reading and watching anything birth related I could get my hands on.
I really enjoyed savouring the special and unique time that is pregnancy. Enjoying that feeling of being ‘full’. Full of life, full of spirit and soul, and just ‘whole’. That’s the only way I can describe how I feel when I am pregnant.
I finished working at 38.5 weeks, and the boys, pets and I moved over to A’s house thereafter to settle into the birth space for the last few weeks. Since we were planning a home birth at A’s house. So we needed to be ‘at home’ there.
40 weeks came and went with no sign of labour or a baby… and then 41 weeks came and went.
I was starting to feel a bit impatient for the big event to happen. And even though I knew it would, it was frustrating not knowing whether there were still hours, days or weeks to go. It was also annoying having constant inquiries and demands from all and sundry about where was the baby already and could I hurry up please!?
But despite staying up and active as much as possible, including going to the gym and walking at pace and incline for 40+minutes almost every day in the last 2 weeks, and bouncing on the birth ball every evening. Nothing definite was happening. I knew things were nudging in the right direction but there was no sign of labour yet.
On Thursday 28 Aug at 41 weeks +1 day I went to sleep just after 23:00. I was aware of contractions a few times in the next few hours, but that was normal, I’d often feel braxton-hicks contractions during the night. These did seem a bit more intense. I dozed in between though. After a while it seemed like they were coming quite regularly and were also feeling fairly strong. After lying quietly feeling them coming in a rhythm I decided to turn on my phone and see what the time was and also to time the contractions to see if there was a rhythm to them. It was 01:45. They were between 3-5 mins apart lasting 45-75 seconds or so.
After timing for 20-25 minutes I started to suspect this might be IT, also I was finding lying in bed not the most comfortable position, so I got up quietly. I timed some more in the bathroom and while wandering around upstairs and was fairly sure this was the real deal.
I went downstairs to make tea. I also thought about maybe making brownies or something to pass the time. I thought we could do that after I woke A. I didn’t want to wake him too soon though so I left him to sleep and sipped my lemon & honey tea while posting on-line that I ‘may be in labour’ at 02:40.
At 03:10 I posted again that I wasn’t sure whether to call the ‘birth team’ since I was contracting every 3 mins for about 1 min, fairly intensely. At this point I had to stand up, and breathe through each contraction, but was still in denial that it was full-on labour. I thought there’d still be many hours ahead…
An on-line friend said something like, ‘Those are good contractions, and I think you know it. Tell the team.’. That was the validation I needed that this WAS real labour (remember both my boys were gel-induced and took 8 hours of slowly building labour to birth).
I went upstairs and carried on labouring there, by now having to really concentrate and breathe through contractions. I got my trusty stress balls to squeeze through the peak of each contraction (I always recommend this to people, it’s great to be able to squeeze a ball and channel any tension into that so you can keep the rest of your body relaxed) and found the best way to labour was standing. Swaying hips, or leaning forward onto something and sort of bounce-squatting through them, or pacing around. A heard me low-moaning through some contractions and got up. He asked whether it was time to call ‘the team’. I still wasn’t sure (!? denial much?), but said, ‘I think so…’ since they were all between 45 mins and 2-hours drive away. So the midwives and photographer were called at about 3:40 or so. I spoke to my mid-wife Marianne (in between contractions) and I think I sounded calm and fine, so I think she suspected there was still good time too, because she decided to take a shower before heading over.
Contractions were coming every 2-3 mins lasting over a min at this point. I started feeling cold and shivery, and then my bowels worked. and then had to go vomit in the bathroom. (In retrospect, hello transition!). Meanwhile I was still thinking I had hours to go…
After a while the contractions felt pretty intense and sore with hardly a break in between. I was still calm and in control but felt I needed a change. No other position felt better though. I decided I wanted to be in the bath, even if it was perhaps a bit soon so we ran the bath.
A was great at calling the team, and tried to offer support and assistance to me, but as I suspected I ‘go inside myself’ when I labour, so I was fairly uncommunicative and was quietly inwardly focused and just breathing and low-moaning when I needed to. He was very good at just being quietly there with me without distracting me or seeming unsettled or panicked at all.
I think I got into the bath at about 04:15 or so. The water was great, it really works for me. It slowed things down a little so I could catch my breath and center myself and changed the feeling from pain to pressure… A made himself some tea and came to sit next to the bath. We were trying to decide which essential oils to use, and he was looking them up on his ipad…
After 20-30 mins in the water, the contractions started to get really strong again and and the pressure down low was intense. I said ‘I think I need to push soon,…’and next thing I was pushing!
It’s amazing how while pushing is intensely focused hard work it feels so empowering, because before that you are ‘coping’, just trying to stay calm, relaxed and focused through contractions. Basically trying to keep yourself out of the way so they can do the work, whereas when you are pushing you suddenly become the active driver and are in control doing it. Even though the urge and impulse are automatic.
I wasn’t sure I should be pushing though. I mean I had no idea how dilated I was! I felt inside and there was the sac and head just a few centimeters inside me. I decided if it was already all the way down there it must be good to push!
His head moved down with each push and with in just 2 or 3 he was crowning. With the next contraction the ‘ring of fire started’. So while my body impulse was just to PUSH, I remembered that I had wanted to hold back and ‘breathe’ baby out this time, giving myself a chance to stretch more slowly and be less likely to tear. So I tried not to push and panted and breathed. I remember saying ‘holy crap’ and ‘this baby is coming now’ at this point.
I applied counter pressure with my hands where the burning was the worst and the head slowly eased out into my hands. I remember saying to A ‘the head is out!.. but it’s ok’. I felt pretty calm and in control, and wanted to make sure he wasn’t panicking or thinking anything was wrong. I asked him to take a photo. It was pretty weird looking down and seeing a head coming out of me!
I tried to feel which way his head was facing but I couldn’t feel his face. I think he was face down or slightly facing the left…
I pushed again with the next 2-3 contractions but the shoulders weren’t quite coming. I wasn’t sure how long would be ok to wait and keep trying, or whether I needed to get up and out the bath and get re-positioned and to get him out fast.
I decided to give a hearty push with the next contraction and pulled his head gently and with that his shoulder eased out and then the other came too and he slipped out into my hands. In his sac. I have no idea when the waters broke but I think it was as his head was born, as the rest of his body was still in the sac. I peeled it off him and brought him to the surface of the water. I felt his neck and the cord was wrapped around it, so I slipped it off his head.
His head was a bit purple, but his body was quite white. He was very still and quiet and not breathing immediately so I patted and rubbed him until he responded. It took a minute or 2 for him to really wake up. I still felt calm and in control and like I knew what I was doing, but I was still holding my breath waiting for him to visibly breathe and ‘wake up’. I think we were both very relieved when he did splutter and start breathing! It was only then that it occurred to me that we should check the time. It was about 05:00am, so we estimate he was born at about 04:57am.
The midwife called from down the road and I just heard A say ‘Marianne this baby is here already’.
She arrived about 10 mins later. I stayed in the bath with baby held close and covered with cloths to keep him warm. It was very calm and peaceful just felt right.
So I had an spontaneous unassisted home water birth!!!
A was calm and quietly and gently supportive, watching but giving me space to do my thing uninterrupted and with no fear or panic. It was really amazing. Beyond even what I had imagined. I could not think of a better birth experience actually.
Once the midwife arrived she assisted with the placenta delivery, which was quick and easy. When midwife/doula Debby arrived, A cut the cord and finally got to take his long awaited baby. I got out the bath and we went to lie on the bed to get checked over. I didn’t tear this time (YAY), but am a little tender, so I think there’s a minor ‘skid mark’ but other wise it really was a pretty easy,quick and uneventful birth!
Baby Nathaniel was checked over and found to be all in good shape. Born at 04:57 on Friday 29 August 2014. Weighing just shy of 4kgs, 53.5cm long and head circumference of 35.5cm.
What an incredible journey and experience. I am so blessed and grateful to have been included in this.
This story originally appeared here