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Jin & Gavin’s Homebirth Story- 01/10/14

Jin

Before falling pregnant I knew that I wanted to have a homebirth and a lotus birth. This was inspired by a couple of friends who had done the same.

Wanting to be in the best possible health while pregnant, I dealt with a few niggly health issues over 6 months. This was well worth it. I fell pregnant straight away and had an easy pregnancy. People tell me I’m lucky, but I believe that the efforts I made towards having a healthy pregnancy – eating well, staying active and staying away from stress – had a strong positive influence.

My husband and I both practice Vipassana meditation and during the pregnancy we sat two further courses. I found this helped me tune into the baby, not become fixated on a due date and I hoped it would help me in labour. We also planned to have a totally intervention free pregnancy and birth without ultrasounds or testing (bloods, glucose etc…) during pregnancy, no internals during labour, and no testing or treatment for the baby when it was born. We were prepared for nature to take its course. If we were to work together with a midwife we wanted someone who supported us and had a hands off approach. As I was working interstate I only met with our midwife three times.

I was convinced our baby would come early, around 37-38 weeks. As Gav’s guess date and my guess date passed we just let it go. Then, my mum predicted 1st October. My parents had just bought some chickens and she commented ‘wouldn’t it be funny if the chickens started laying eggs and you went into labour?!’

I was so curious as to how labour would feel. I heard a fair share of horror stories, which was balanced out with some positive ones. I waited for the ‘promised’ feeling of being ‘over it’ or pain in the pelvis… nothing… Then at 37 weeks and 6 days I woke up at 4am and thought my water’s had broken. I went back to sleep and we woke at 6.30 to meditate. During the hour I felt 3 gushes of fluid at what seemed like regular intervals. Other than that I didn’t feel anything. We called our midwife at 11am to tell her my water’s had broken but I felt no contractions. She advised that I should go into labour over the next 24-48 hours. Sure enough the chickens had laid their first egg on this day- October 1. At 2pm we decided to go for a walk. At 4pm we were watching Michel Odent’s Birth Reborn when we both heard a pop, and lots of fluid gushed out! I started to feel my tummy tighten at times but still no pain.

At 7pm we sat through a movie while I told Gav when I felt my tummy tighten and relax. I didn’t want to be made aware of times so he recorded everything. At this time they were 6-8 minutes apart lasting 30-60 seconds. At 9pm we decided to meditate again. I couldn’t sit still but continued through it. I could feel my legs shaking. After a while the meditation helped settle me. Gav decided to stop after half an hour and came over to do some acupressure on my back. Having him work on my back during contractions helped me relax. I didn’t feel that they were unbearable or lasted too long. Meditation continued to help me view everything as a sensation and not pain. At 9.45pm I decided I wanted to try relaxing in the water and asked Gav to fill the spa. I was unsure whether or not I would have a water birth but at least we had the option and I would do whatever felt right at the time. It was while Gav was getting the spa ready I realised how much better I felt when he was with me, working on my back. It was at this time I thought how I wouldn’t feel too good travelling to hospital, sitting in a car with him focusing on the road.

I had read Hypnobirthing while pregnant, I wasn’t entirely sure I would use any of the techniques and meditation felt more familiar to me. I did use one technique during this time. It was visualising the uterus contracting, opening the cervix over the baby’s head. At this stage Gav tells me my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart but I was still unsure if I really was in labour. At 10.45pm I felt sick and vomited. Straight away I asked Gav to call my midwife. She said she would come over and if it was a false alarm she could always go home.

My midwife arrived at 11.45pm. I asked her to wait while I got through a contraction, as I wouldn’t be able to speak to her. Because I was in labour 2 weeks early we never made it to our birth plan meeting. I had written that I wanted to be left alone with just Gav. My midwife respected our wishes and stayed in the room next door. For some reason I changed my mind at the time and just wanted her in the room with us. She was just there, sitting quietly.

I kept waiting for the sensation of transition to come up. The feeling of being over it, wanting pain relief or having some sort of anxiety attack. As none of this came up, I still thought I had a long way to go. At bout 1am I started to get an urge to bear down, but not push. Hesitantly I asked my midwife how she thought it was all going. She said ‘good I think your baby is almost here’. That was a good response to hear. I was concerned that I might lose my headspace if she thought I still hadn’t dilated enough. This was my main reason for refusing internal examinations, and my hesitation to ask how she thought it was all going. She offered to check for me but I refused so she said I check myself. I could feel our baby’s head less than a couple of centimetres away. On reflection I think I must have reached transition when I vomited. I also remember saying to Gav and my midwife that the bearing down wasn’t painful and actually felt really good! I talked to my body and the baby during contractions, and at this stage was falling asleep between contractions.

Then I could feel the baby crowning. I soon came to peace with allowing the head to come down, stretch me open a little then move back a little. I think I allowed this to happen through a few contractions, then all of a sudden I said ‘the heads out’ and then the body came out straight away. Apparently the baby shot out hand in front of head.

Gav was the first to touch our baby, and passed it to me through my legs. I couldn’t believe our baby was on the outside already!

My midwife left us alone to bond with our baby for some time. After 20 minutes I delivered the placenta. After 45 minutes we decided to check if we had a girl or a boy. Gav checked and said ‘it’s a girl, we have a Violet’. On October 1st 2014 our baby Violet was born at 1.50am. One minute after my own birth time. As we planned a lotus birth (keeping the placenta attached until it separates in its own time) we had it floating in a strainer. As I also wanted the benefits of consuming the placenta Gav cut a small section for me to have in smoothies over the next 6-7 days.

We never met or saw the second midwife (who was there), which means everything went well. She left knowing our wish was to have the bare minimum of people around. At 5.30am my midwife tucked us into bed and left.

After reading a few stories of painless birth I wondered if it really was possible. Honestly it is! I know I’m not great with pain generally, but I recognise the emotional aspect behind pain when I experience it. Fear of a tear was a concern that I had even before getting pregnant, but it largely disappeared once pregnant. Although it is difficult to eliminate all fear, I knew I had to let go of as much as possible. Despite my best efforts I did have a second-degree tear. It didn’t cause any physical pain and thankfully didn’t have to be stitched – it completely healed by itself.

IMG_4194We had planned 7-10 days ‘confinement’ after the birth. We knew visitors would disrupt our ability to give full attention to our new baby. My parents didn’t meet her until two days later. During this time Gav did everything for us and spent quality time with Violet. We feel that this time was incredibly valuable. Our baby was so calm and peaceful. We felt that we could really get in tune with the signals she was giving us. As she still had her placenta attached, we didn’t handle her too much, she fed laying down and slept without relying on us lulling her to sleep. After 5 days Violet’s placenta separated. We’ve saved it and plan to grind it up and disperse it over a mountaintop somewhere.

I’ve written this two weeks after Violet was born. Each day we introduce her to a new activity and test the waters. She’s still calm and peaceful and even sits with us to meditate morning and night with the odd squeak.

I’m grateful that we’re now holding a healthy baby. Our approach didn’t follow the conventional pregnancy and birth. As a consequence it was met by many other’s fears- ‘how do you know if the baby is normal?’, ‘how do you know if the baby is in the right position?’, ‘what if it is too big to fit?’, ‘do you really think you should be doing that?’ ‘don’t you think you should eat meat and dairy?’.

We took full responsibility for the choices we made, researching as best we could about how we would like our pregnancy and birth. We weighed up the risks vs. benefit. We didn’t want the unnecessary stress of ‘a possible abnormality’- we had made the decision to keep the baby no matter what.

IMG_4118My parents work as Sonographer and Nurse/ex-Midwife. My dad agreed that I was low risk and accepted my wish to not have any scans, however my mum still feared that I may have a baby that ‘wouldn’t fit’, I just ignored that as I knew my baby would ‘fit’. I decided to continue going to the sauna in early pregnancy but modified my duration there, hiked to 5,200m in Argentina at 6 weeks pregnant, skied in France at 8 weeks, rockclimbed till 16 weeks and only stopped due to the weather, continued hot yoga (low 30 degrees) till 27 weeks and only stopped as I went overseas, skied until 33 weeks- despite an unprompted warning that I could have a placental abruption (thanks), and did a mini-alpine climb at 34 weeks and camped overnight in the snow. I tried to look for other pregnant women out there who had healthy pregnancies and babies who had been to some altitude, climbed, been to the sauna etc… There weren’t many to be found, so in the end I just did what felt right, relying on one of the best tools we have – intuition – and it worked for me.

I’m glad to be able to share a positive homebirth story. I was always so inspired by the many positive pregnancy and birth stories available online. In sharing my own story I hope it inspires others, and for them to know they have a choice when it comes to their pregnancy and birth. I also hope it inspires the awareness for full and conscious support from those around, regardless of the path that pregnancy or birth may take. I feel that everything moved along at a steady and comfortable pace as I was in a familiar environment and I could trust Martina. With full support from Gav and his enduring calmness during the whole process I can’t imagine a more amazing experience.

 

Gavin

IMG_0751When we first started planning for a baby I voiced a strong determination for the birthing not to happen in a hospital. The images that sprang to mind encompassed all the senses and triggered them in a negative way. Bright lights, vinyl corridors sanitized into submission, businesslike instructions being dealt to mother and staff laid over the sound of critical beeps and suction apparatus, drafty swinging doors, and a sense of urgency and schedule. None of this felt conducive to welcoming a newborn.

I was keen that the moment of birth would have the same intimacy as the moment of conception. Quiet and calm would prevail, with warm low light and as much privacy as we could create.

The earliest major influence on our birthing plan came through a friend of friends. We all congregated to celebrate a Birthday and I began to chat to her about her birth story. She described how much more confident and focused she felt with the birth of her second child after a distressing first. This time around she had a homebirth with a hand picked midwife and once she began labour they shut out all intrusion for seven days. No visits, no well-wishers, not even family. In order to facilitate a lotus birth they would stay isolated in a small bubble of Mother, Father and Newborn. The more she talked, the more I hung on every word. Jin was out of earshot but I was excited for her to hear this story. This was far closer to the vision I had than anything I’d heard before. It sounded like a book I’d read, or an experience I’d had. It was too familiar to ignore, so we set about piecing together how it would all come together.

Firstly, if we couldn’t get pregnant naturally we would go no further. Secondly, we felt that scans and all the associated checkups were intrusive and contrary to a stress free pregnancy. We didn’t care to know what sex the child was until it arrived and if it wasn’t growing normally for any reason we would keep it and let nature run its course.

We felt that being in the right frame of mind to conceive was also a key part in the whole experience. During a meditation course, almost a year prior to conception, I had a vision of how and when it would happen. It meant that certain obstacles and hindrances would need to be offloaded. I was very keen for us to be in a good space and a great frame of mind so I set about making some changes to my planned course of study and my work situation so that I could be focused on bringing a child into the world.

As the time of conception approached we instinctively felt that we needed another few months to get our body and mind ready, so the process began in earnest in the New Year. Shortly after that we began some travels to South America and Europe. By the time we’d climbed to 5200m in Argentina and skied the slopes in France Jin thought it would be worth checking to see if she was carrying a child. We were in Chamonix when she gave me the privilege of reading the double red line on the pregnancy tester indicating that the seed was sown. We could start picking names!

Neither of us had ever changed a nappy before but now we were embracing our future. We felt a well of excitement and anticipation. We began educating ourselves on the various styles of birthing, gathering as much information and insight as we could. It was important that our midwife supported our vision and inspire us to take it to the next level. After a few failed attempts we found an independent midwife who communicated with love, care and attention. After our first meeting it occurred to us that we had been talking for over three hours. We would learn soon enough that a hugely important skill to take into the birthing place was patience, and our midwife seemed to have this in abundance. She left us with some DVD’s of homebirths and these helped to establish a picture and a pathway to a stress free birth.

Whatever books came Jin’s way I gladly took the time to read too. We absorbed the extra understanding and gained confidence in their perspective and it always ensured there was ongoing debate. Right up until the last days before Jin went into labour, I was still finding my way through mountains of evidence supporting the natural homebirth process. ‘Hypnobirthing’ contains a particularly profound perspective on the history of birthing and an insight into what too much intervention has done to the health and wellbeing of our mothers and children. Even with complications, the stress free environment of a homebirth seemed to be helpful in promoting a shorter, less painful labour due to a relaxed mother. Michel Odent is also an inspiring advocate for homebirth. Every word he says is steeped in wisdom, and on labour day I kept a few of his words like a mantra: don’t ask the birthing mother questions, keep mother warm, and away from observation.

As the birth date came closer a major factor in our ability to stay focused and attentive was meditation. Although our practice fell easily out of routine, we were still determined to do as much as possible. Whilst 16 weeks pregnant we sat a 3 day course of Vipassana meditation in Hobart, and then another 10 day course in Melbourne that ended just as Jin approached 36 weeks. The courses were excellent charges of positive energy for all of us including baby. This meditation technique aims to make us kinder, more loving human beings in our daily lives and similarly, it was a dose of stillness and presence that we hoped our baby would remember in the outside world.

We were planning for every eventuality, including hospital, but our aim was to have a homebirth. We happily accepted the risk of not being next to painkillers or an operating theatre. I recognize how the ‘cotton wool’ effect has crept into every aspect of our lives these days. We want guarantees that nothing will go wrong, we wont make mistakes, everything will be perfect, and if it’s not then someone is to blame. Childbirth is suffering the same fate. It looks to me as though in the pursuit of these guarantees we have overlooked all the stress that has been inherited in its place. In the pursuit of perfection we are burdening ourselves with countless checkups and interventions.

I prepared some birthing music that would create calming, familiar sounds and would encompass songs of relevance to our relationship. In the last weeks before birth we listened to it regularly. Our bedroom was prepared, as was the large spa bath. Jin hadn’t decided fully if a water birth was for her and baby. That would be left until such time that instinct drew her to the water.

I woke on the morning of the last day of September after more dreams of conversations with our unborn child. Jin announced that her waters had broken. Not suddenly, but slowly. We started our day with meditation so we could remain present and unalarmed, albeit with a tinge of excitement. We continued our daily routine and incorporated some more Acupressure. Recommended by a traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncturist as a great hands on tool for Dads to use, I had started focusing on the Acupressure points associated with ripening the mother for childbirth and incorporating these into general massage. There are easy to locate points on the body that help with labour pains and I had diligently prepared some notes to refer to during the birthing.

As the day progressed the baby showed stronger signs of stirring as contractions became more frequent. We sat to meditate at 9pm and Jin began to breathe more audibly. After about half an hour I joined her and started applying pressure at the Acupressure points. Contractions were now about 2 minutes apart and Jin was behaving very peacefully and relaxed. I checked the baby’s heart again to see if there was any change. I had tracked it during the pregnancy with my ear against Jin’s belly and noticed that it was still ticking away at about 120 beats per minute. At 10.15pm Jin requested to set up the spa bath/ birthing pool. I lit the candles and moved the mood lighting into the bathroom and we continued the massage/ Acupressure in the pool. Things really started to ramp up when she vomited and asked me to call our midwife.

Our midwife arrived and within 2 hours our baby made an entrance hand first. I never anticipated that the feeling of unconditional love would hit me so suddenly. Here was a totally unknown human to us, and yet so anticipated and so familiar. After some time it occurred to us to check our little bundle of joy. Our parcel had arrived but we hadn’t fully checked the contents yet. Our little girl would be called Violet.

I now have two people to adore. I am ever so grateful that Jin is so aware of her body and mind, and proactive in her approach to getting it in shape for life as much as birthing. In taking the home birthing approach she removed so many of the obstacles to natural, painless birth and allowed her body to do what it needs to do.

Being present and supportive can have a hugely positive effect on the mother and this presence doesn’t have to start or end on the day she gives birth. Daddy can help every step of the way. Daddy can make time a priority first and foremost.

I feel grateful that Violet chose us as her parents. In the days following her birth I realized that Jin said ‘I love you’ a lot, but this time it sounded different. It was steeped in admiration and adoration that could never be achieved without having experienced first hand what our love for each other could bring to the world. This was what I had been looking forward to more than anything else. I had no idea what relationship I would have with our newborn, but with my wife I hoped that this life-changing event would draw us closer and make us stronger in every sense. Our contribution to the human race was a symbol of our love for each other, but is purer in form and far bigger than each of our individual parts.

I found these books, DVD’s, techniques and associations to be inspiring and even crucial (especially as a Dad):

Vipassana Meditation – http://www.dhamma.org.au
A practical way to achieve peace of mind and live a happy, productive life

http://midwifethinking.com – Rachel Reed
The blog of an independent midwife with mountains of insightful research communicated in an understandable and confidence building way.

Hypnobirthing – Marie Mongan
A delightful first hand experience of how one woman tapped into her strength and wisdom to develop what is now known as hypnobirthing. Some of the chapters tugged at my heartstrings, enlightening me to the fact that the story of my birth is probably more engrained in me than I realize.

Microbirth and Microbiome – http://microbirth.com
Highlights the positive effect that vaginal birth can have on our health, as opposed to elective caesarians, and what to do if a caesarian is unavoidable. If you are interested in your own health or have allergies or symptoms of modern diseases then this will interest you.

Australian Breastfeeding Association – https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au
This volunteer association fully embraces the role of Dad. You are most welcome to join Mum and learn about the benefits of breastfeeding and how you can support her to do it for as long as possible.

Acupressure, Debra Betts – http://acupuncture.rhizome.net.nz/downloads/Acupressure.pdf
Promoting a natural labour and partner involvement. Invaluable for your hands on involvement

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