It only took us 4 month to fall pregnant. I went to see my GP who referred me to the next closest public hospital and I had my first midwife appointment at the hospital when I was 18 weeks pregnant. Everything went well.
I started with pregnancy Yoga and it helped me a lot.
At 25 weeks I decided to start thinking about labour and birth and by miracle found a seminar about choices in maternity care. A major focus of the seminar was hospital policies and procedures. One woman that attended the seminar told me that she had a caesarean section in the hospital without a real reason, purely based on not meeting arbitary time limits that are in line with the hospital’s protocols. This was scary news for me and I started thinking that perhaps the hospital system is not the perfect place for me to give birth in.
During my next antenatal visit in the hospital I asked to sight some of the hospitals protocols on labour and birth. I felt terrified! These protocols were standard documents that apply to everybody in labour or giving birth and do not cater for individual wishes or personal needs that a woman might have. Afterall, despite being diagnosed with diet-controlled gestational diabtetes I was experiencing a normal pregnancy and expecting a healthy baby.
I started reading Rhea Dempsey’s book ‚Birth with Confidence’. Again, I was shaken by the hospital statistics. In particular the high rate of labour inductions and caesarean sections.
I knew within my heart that I wanted a natural labour and calm birth and questioned my choice of having a hospital birth yet again. When thinking about giving birth in the hospital, I actually felt quite nervous!
It was important for me to know the midwives that will be attending for my labour and birth. I did not want to be in a situation of multiple shift changeovers and getting introduced to new and unfamiliar faces every 8 hours during labour.
To be exposed to the possibility of intervention, based on rigid hospital protocols also concerned me greatly.
I wanted to have some control over who will be present during my labour and birth and decided to hire a private midwife. A known midwife that I will get to know and that can come to hospital with me for independent support and advocacy. My husband thought that it was too expensive to hire a private midwife, considering that there are already plenty of midwives working in the hospital system providing free ‚care’. I explained to him that this is money well spend- on our baby, not a holiday!
I started feeling unable to see myself labouring freely in the hospital environment and was already aware of how that might effect my body’s ability to not labour. I decided that I need to be in a place for birth where I feel secure. I love my home and it felt so good imagining labour and birth at home. My intention had changed to having a homebirth. Hospitals are great places for when you feel sick but my pregnancy was not sickness.
The hardest part was talking to my husband
My husband was shocked by my news of planning a homebirth and could not understand the logic behind not going to the hospital. All his friends had their babies in the hospital and he told me that I was crazy. He was worried about the safety of homebirth, in particular in case of emergency. He told me that he has too much responsibility of looking after both of us- me and his unborn son. He would not agree with me on having a homebirth.
Following for the next couple of weeks was a constant fight. I was even crying. I explained my feelings and concerns about having the baby in the hospital to him but he told me ‚NO’.
This was hard but nevertheless I was not prepared to give up. It was very important for me to get a ‚yes’ for homebirth from my husband and to get his support. I formulated a 2 step plan:
Step 1: I took my husband along to a labour and birthing class at my Yoga place. I told him that irrespectively of where I give birth, he will need some education and preparation. So he came along and I felt that this class stimulated some changes in his thinking. My Yoga teacher was explaining the natural processes of labour and birth and how our body is designed for childbirth. My husband was interested in what he was hearing and it became clear to him how to best support me during our labour and birth.
Step 2: I started educating him more about the differences between hospital birth and homebirth. I showed him the statistics for giving birth in hospital, in particular the ceasarean section rate. We also watched a DVD together of a homebirth with midwives in attendance. Then, after 3 months of hard work, he finally accepted and supported my choice of having a homebirth!
We decided to have a birth preparation meeting in our home at 36 weeks with my husband and my midwife to answer any of my husband’s questions in regards to homebirth. I wanted him to exactly know the plan for our birth at home and that all possible situations are covered.
I started expressing my breastmilk from 36 weeks
At 36 weeks my midwife also recommended that I start expressing my breastmilk in case my baby’s blood sugars drop after birth because of the gestational diabetes. By the time Daniel was born I had collected about 700mls of my own breastmilk! By the way, his blood sugars were checked by my midwife after birth and never dropped so I did not have to use any of my expressed milk.
I did not cancel my hospital booking even though we were planning to have a homebirth, which my midwife encouraged due to having the gestational diabetes diagnoses. I knew that because of the gestational diabetes there might be consequences and implications for labour and birth. But luckily my diabetes was well controlled on diet and I never ended up on Insulin.
At 40 weeks I had a routine pregnancy appointment at the hospital with the doctor. The doctor hadn’t even do a health check on me before asking me when to book me in for induction. I was so shocked! The doctor told me that I have gestational diabetes and will not be allowed to go over 41 weeks and scared me with the consequences.
At 41 weeks I was really anxious because of the pressure from the hospital for induction. I was crying and eventually went in for a CTG and ultrasound to measure the fluid levels at 41+3 weeks pregnant. My husband was very supportive at this stage and even reassured me that everything is fine and I can still have my homebirth.
At 41+4, early labour started and I was so happy! The contractions started at 3.30am. I was on the bedroom floor on all fours, breathing through the contractions thinking it’s not that bad. We rang our midwife and she came to visit us at 6 in the morning.
At 7am I was 3 cm dilated and was very relieved about the work that my body had already done. I was feeling so good! Smiling and talking to my mum. Sometimes my husband would come in the room and talk to me and my mum was sitting with me and telling me jokes.
My husband did not spend much time with me in labour which was our intended plan. I completely trusted my midwife and had great support. I knew my husband was close and nearby, which was comforting to know but he would not have known how to support me in labour. So we were both happy to leave it to the midwife.
I asked my midwife when to go into the birthpool. My midwife just told me that I will have an internal knowing of when the time is right. And that is exactly what happened. At 11am I went into the birthpool which my husband had already filled hours ago. It was such a relief. The contractions were strong and it felt great to be in the birthpool.
Transition & Birth
Suddenly I could feel the head dropping deeper into the pelvis and I got a bit scared about the next step. I had the urge to push but had bad heartburn and was unable to focus my energy down into the pelvis. I could not concentrate! The pushing was hard. I was prepared for all part of the labour but really didn’t pay attention to pushing.
After 2 hours of pushing my midwife got me out of the birthpool. I too felt that I had to change something. I was a little bit worried why I had not given birth yet and thought that maybe my baby was too big. My midwife just reassured me that everything is fine and suggested to use a mirror or to touch my baby’s head. But I did not want to do it. At the end I understood why my midwife suggested the mirror and agreed. It helped me focus and I could see the progress. It was very helpful!
Finally my baby’s head was crowning and my husband came into the room and took my hand. I gave birth to Daniel at 16.44. It was such a miracle! Everybody was happy. The atmosphere was filled with happiness. My baby was calm and not crying at all, just resting skin to skin on me for the next couple of hours.
The placenta was born naturally within 30 minutes of the birth, then the cord was clamped and cut and my baby started to look for the breast having his first feed.
What was to come over the next couple of months was a very difficult breastfeeding experience. I had not prepared for the breastfeeding as much as I had prepared myself for labour and birth. In hindsight I should have done at least a little bit of breastfeeding education before birth.
I had terrible nipple pain whilst feeding but told myself to be patient. On day 7 I had bleeding nipples and felt unwell because I had Mastitis. I started expressing my milk from both breasts and giving my baby bottles. Formula was not going to be an option at all.
1 month after birth I got Mastitis again and then nipple thrush. I was still only expressing from both breasts and giving bottles, but would occasionally try to put my baby back to the breast with a nipple shield. Daniel would go to the breast sometimes but it still caused a lot of pain.
I had regular contact and support from my midwife who is also a Lactation Consultant and another Lactation Consultant who provided Laser treatment to heal my nipples.
Eventually Daniel refused to go to the breast because he was used to the bottles. The experience of the breastfeeding made me so sad that I felt depressed for a little while. I could not understand why it would be so difficult, even though Daniel’s attachment to my breast was perfect. I just started to accept it for what it was and was greatful that I had at least a great milk supply and that I could give my baby my own breast milk.
After another couple of weeks I tried again to transition Daniel back to the breast and had succes. Daniel is now always feeding from one breast with the nipple shield and the other side I only express from (because still have a bit of thrush which I’m treating). Despite I have such difficulties in breastfeeding I understodd that I have to fight for breastmilk till the end, and I am now enjoying the breastfeeding experience