After hearing many stories from friends who had given birth at home and in hospital, using a midwife and doula definitely seemed preferable to us and we also decided to explore home birth as an option. I was also very fortunate to attend a friend’s homebirth which was incredibly calm, quiet, peaceful, no fuss, no drama. It was actually quite difficult to believe that it was even possible for labour and birth to be that calm, after all of the scary imagery of hospital birth most of us have been shown through mainstream media in our lives. I feel that did a great job to convince me.
We didn’t stop there though, the more I found out about birth in SA, the more I realised we needed to know and so we did lots of reading, asked lots of questions, and then asked more questions from different people, we went to homebirth meetings, positive birth meetings, did the full hypnobirthing course, a couples preparation for birth course, I went to pregnancy yoga 2-3 times a week, practiced mindfulness and did my best to shut out any of the fear mongering stories that people seem to love to tell you while you’re pregnant.
The positive birth meetings and home birth meetings were a really wonderful opportunity to find a supportive circle of people who truly believe that birth is a normal, natural process rather than a medical emergency and I am so gleefully happy that all our hard work paid off. If you are pregnant or planning to be, I beg of you to do the same, birth can be one of the best or worst experiences of your life, it’s so worth doing your research to get the best possible experience for you. And so… onto my birth story.
Any outings were starting to get strenuous, walking slower than ever before and my belly was having bouts of non painful tightening which was probably Braxton Hicks contractions. Walking around the house was fine, just longer distances, like even a few blocks meant I start to feel uncomfortable and tight like the muscle clench of a stitch.
We had quite a busy Easter weekend with family and friends, then the day before my due date, I just pottered around the house & it was a much less strenuous day, physically. I was considering when I might start going for a challenging beach or mountain walk to encourage labour, not expecting my relaxing day would lead to it.
My husband had a last minute work deadline and I cooked supper while he worked. We then were watching some tv after supper when I felt something unusual. I went to the bathroom & there was a small trickle of liquid. I wasn’t controlling it but wasn’t sure that it wasn’t just my bladder leaking which I’d heard can happen at the end of a pregnancy with all that weight sitting on it. I stood in the bath for a few minutes to see if there was any more liquid & checked to see if it was clear, when my husband came to check on me as he was a bit concerned as to why I had been gone so long.
I was quite calm and jolly about it! I had hoped labour would start soon as I didn’t want to go too much overdue & risk being induced. There was only so long I could stand in the bath waiting with no contractions, so I grabbed a towel & we went back to watch the rest of Great British bake off! About 10 minutes later I felt a bit more water release and then I knew for sure, the show had begun! I stood up quickly holding the towel between my legs trying to avoid the couch & carpet as I didn’t know how much fluid there would be. My husband also jumped up ‘ready for action’ & started looking for a ‘container to catch it in’ – he tried to put the recently emptied casserole dish from supper on the floor beneath me. I was quite confused by this and thought it was hilarious, so had to stop and laugh at the ridiculousness as there was probably half a cup of ‘water’ at most. We then set to work getting our things together for labour. I hadn’t had a contraction yet but we knew it could start anytime or maybe even only in a few hours.
I sms’d my doula & midwife to tell them water had broken (10pm) so they had time to prepare themselves before going to sleep & my husband was running around clearing up. Soon after that I started to get erratic period type pains.(10h40) Doula said to rest, so I lay on the bed for a while and we started timing contractions. They were already 5 minutes apart (11pm) & so knowing my doula had to travel from about 45 minutes away we asked her to start making her way (11h17).
When she arrived, contractions were further apart at 7 minutes. She was very chilled, told me to sleep & she was going to sleep on the couch. I had mentioned to my husband that it was a pity we had just run out of bread, as now we wouldn’t have any for toast/breakfast/guests etc and so as it seemed that we had a bit of time on our hands and doula and I were both lying down, so he decided to bake some bread!
I tried lying down for a few minutes but was finding it very difficult to lie down during the contractions. I felt very trapped, couldn’t move once a surge began. I decided to try find a better position by testing them out during contractions, very difficult to change positions during one, had to rather ride it out. Tried on the pilates ball & also on all fours on the yoga mat, but standing leaning forward against the wall seemed to work best for me.
My husband was there all of the time, massaging my lower back which helped through the tense sensation at the height of a contraction, and I breathed deeply through it. He managed to bake 2 loaves of bread and only missed 2 contractions!
The contractions started getting really hectic, not every one but a couple of them were really deep in my abdomen & my knees bent in response to the sensation. I started groaning involuntarily and pressing harder into the wall. (Although my husband thinks I hardly made any noise through the entire labour, I was definitely groaning in my head if he couldn’t hear it!)
They come like a wave, very steadily increase until they reach their height and then you can feel it receding away again. It’s much easier to deal with than other pain because you can feel the beginning, the middle and it ending. Not everyone has pain, but for me it felt like an intense cramp or stitch when you exercise.
We started timing again – 2 to 3 minutes apart, which was rather quick. I immediately asked my husband to tell the doula to tell the midwife to come (2h30) I was quite surprised how quickly things were moving along and how I was able to give very direct instructions about what I needed (between contractions there was no time to waste, I knew what my priorities were and I gave orders accordingly, even though I am rarely bossy like that outside of work. I think if the labour had been slower I would have acted quite differently)
Midwife arrived by 3.30am, checked the heartbeat, which I noticed was lower down my right side than during any of my midwife appointments, so obviously the baby was moving down. She did a dilation check in the bedroom and I was 5-6 cm and “about halfway” she told me. The contractions were very intense already so I tried to wrap my head around how I was going to get through another 5 hours! I didn’t dwell on that though, I knew I just needed to get through them one at a time and be in the moment, I was also looking forward to getting in the birth pool in the hope it would give me some relief. My doula was filling the pool but it was not ready yet so I had to wait through a couple of contractions, which was quite a challenge, just wanting the relief of the water. My midwife then gave me the go ahead and I couldn’t wait to get in the water but it was a bit too hot for me to get in. I waited a through another contraction or two while they lowered the temperature and I got in expecting some relief but then I just couldn’t find a comfortable position, I couldn’t sit for some reason so I ended up crawling around the bath on all fours like a groaning mama bear.
As my husband suddenly had his hands free from being massage assisstant, he picked up my camera and started taking a couple photos of me, but at that point I had absolutely no desire to have this moment captured so I gave him my best death stare & told him to stop. We realised later that I had been in transition at the time, and was probably the hardest part of the process.
The water still felt a bit hot but there was no way I was getting out so I hung the top of my body over the side and asked my husband to wipe my face with a cold wet facecloth. I say asked but I think I was giving very direct orders at this point, no time for niceties. He was dabbing my face and it wasn’t doing the trick so I breathlessly ordered him to the bathroom to get a hand towel and dunk that in cold water and to put the whole thing over my head! I felt like a boxer taking a break on the ropes of the ring.
My doula stepped in every time my husband left the room, massaging me or wiping my face. She stood aside when he was there though, allowing him to be the main caregiver. He was also feeding me small fruit juice ice cubes for energy. Doula and Midwife then left the room for us to get on with it & I could hear them touching base in the room next door when I started to feel this heavy mass pushing down, it felt like it was moving into my bum & the contractions felt quite different. I had no idea how to deal with this new sensation and it panicked me slightly so we called the midwife back in. She had just told me 10-15 min earlier that I was about halfway, so I was very confused as to how I was supposed to deal with this pushing sensation at this early point!
My midwife checked me again and I was very surprisingly fully dilated! Midwife said I could just go with the pushing sensation. I tried to wrap my head around this quickly with part relief and slight panic that I was going to have to deal with this body coming out of mine right now. She was talking to me in a whisper and I couldn’t hear what she was saying over the meditative yoga music we had playing and I snapped “What!?” at her and she repeated” breathe it down”, I got even more frustrated with that advice at that point because everything was actually happening too fast for my liking and I was trying to figure out how on earth to slow this baby down.
I was still on my knees with my arms & head leaning over the top edge of the bath and now that I knew she was coming out & midwife had told me she could feel the head, I decided to also feel for the head to give myself incentive as well as an idea of how she was progressing. I just felt some wrinkly skin, no hair and wasn’t even quite sure if that was her head! I kept my fingers touching the top of her head, the next contraction came & the head came down a little more, a couple of cms at most. I wasn’t sure if it would stay where it was or retract again as I had read sometimes that happens to stretch the skin. At that moment I just wanted to push the pause button, I didn’t want her to retract but was also a little scared of her pushing out more. The skin (mine) around her head felt stretched to capacity & I couldn’t fathom how it would stretch anymore. It was quite sore that, a different and overriding feeling to contractions. The best way I could describe it is if you were at the dentist and you are having your mouth pulled open in all directions, as wide as it could go.
At this point. I just had a feeling that my midwife & I weren’t on the same page so I said “it’s stretching” & she did seem a little surprised and quickly sprung into action, said I must move into a sitting position on the opposite side of the bath (I was still kneeling) & told me that the baby is going to come out now. I think they helped me move and I sat against the wall of the pool with my knees bent and on the very next contraction, the head came out.
I was expecting it to pause at the shoulders but then her whole body just slid right into the water in one go which took me by surprise. My husband said that I reached down & caught her but i don’t remember, I think it was just an automatic reflex like when you drop something unexpectedly!
My midwife helped me put her on my chest. I remember checking to confirm if the baby was a girl and my midwife told me not to lift her too high ” because she was still attached” which I was aware of as I could feel the umbilical cord coming out of me between my legs.
It all happened so fast, I had expected to be at least a little emotional in this incredible moment but I think I was still trying to get my mind up to speed with my body, it was over already? A few seconds later, they helped me out of the bath onto the single bed to wait for the placenta. The baby lay curled up on my chest and my hand was covered in vernix (which feels and looks like Fissan paste – great moisturiser!).
The midwife said she needed to give me an injection because she was concerned that I was losing blood too fast & they went about putting up a drip for me, hanging it from the door of the bedroom.
I thought I was going to have to go through more contractions and birth the placenta, as I had seen that before but I didn’t have to, the placenta felt like it just slipped out with assistance from the midwife. I suggested giving the baby to my husband next to me, at that point, as I felt slightly overwhelmed and wanted him to be more a part of the experience. It also freed me up to deal with what was happening between my legs without worrying about the baby at the same time. He held her skin to skin while my midwife dealt with the placenta delivery. I didn’t feel any pain. She kept asking if I felt okay because they were expecting me to be light headed. Surprisingly I felt totally fine, even though I usually feel faint just donating blood.My midwife gave me 3 stitches, 2 on the outside and 1 on the inside & that was a bit sore but similar to getting an injection type of pain.
The baby started rooting for a nipple on my husband (breast crawl that we had learnt about during our hypnobirthing course), so we let her progress with that on my chest, as his hairy nipple wouldn’t cut it. Once she’d latched, they walked me to our bedroom, put some towels & linen savers down & let me settle into bed.
The doula and midwife tidied up the labour room and we started calling & messaging family and friends. I couldn’t get hold of my parents. It was 7h30 am & they had probably gone for a walk. When my Mom finally returned my call an hour later, she didn’t believe the news. She had thought I was phoning to say I was going into labour.
My midwife weighed and measured the baby, 2.79kg & 50cm long. (My gynae had measured 3kg at 36 weeks). A very punctual and perfect poppet was born very quickly for a first baby at 4h43am on her due date. And we all had lovely fresh homemade birthday bread for breakfast to celebrate!