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Homebirth of Norah- 15/11/15

We have been married for almost 8 years. We knew we were complete without children. However, our heart was always open and I had a longing for a baby. I was told by a doctor after several investigations that I had polycystic ovarian syndrome and would definitely need assistance with falling pregnant. The doctor suggested we need to think seriously about IVF if we wanted to fall pregnant.

We surrendered not to try for a baby or pursue fertility treatment, instead just kept going on with life with a trust in God and the ability of my body to fall pregnant spontaneously. We believed it would happen in its own time. We did not prevent pregnancy for 6 years! Sometimes it was heartbreaking… missing my period for a significant number of days and then finding out there was no baby. I would cry every time even though I had tried my best not to get my hopes up.

Valentine’s Day 2015

I went to my Aunty’s house to spend the night. She quizzed me about what Jake did for Valentine’s Day for me and I told her ‘nothing’. I told her that every day with Jake is Valentine’s Day and I have much bigger things to hope for than a card or flowers…

Norah was conceived on the 15th February 2015 out of sheer pure blessing!

Finding out I was pregnant

I had just started my Post Graduate Diploma of Midwifery. I was only 2 days late for my period but something certainly felt different… I felt full in my pelvis and I just had a special inkling.

Jake needed a couple of days to process the thought of becoming a father. Waiting for him to be ready to test was difficult, I had a few sleepless nights wondering. When Jake was ready to do a test we went together to the pharmacy and as soon as we dropped the stick in the urine… it looked like a definite two purple lines! I remember starting to cry and saying “I have a baby inside me”!! It was such a miracle.

5 weeks pregnant- Group B Streptococcus (GBS) in my urine

I thought I should pop in to see my GP to confirm my pregnancy and get set up with my intention to peruse a public funded homebirth. I wanted to make sure I was going to get a place. My GP ordered some routine bloods and a urine test. Due to family history of twins my GP also thought it would be a good idea to do a 8 week dating scan.

My urine test came back positive, so I got a call from my GP asking me to repeat the urine test. I repeated the test but it came back positive again and she asked me to repeat it again. Frustrated… I did, but I told myself this was the last time! Sure enough the doctor called again saying she needed another sample. I said it was ridiculous but my doctor was insisting I come in to do another urine test. The doctor started telling me how if we cannot isolate the bacteria and treat it effectively I could loose the baby…. So of course I went in and did another urine test. Angrily I peed.

A few days later I got the devastating phone call from one of my doctors associate saying there was a script for antibiotics waiting for me at the office. The doctor told me they found Group B Streptococcus (GBS) in my urine, so I would need to go on at least 4 weeks of antibiotics.

I felt my world crumble! I was so happily pregnant and this GBS positive result so early on in my pregnancy had the potential to crush all of my natural birthing dreams. I was well aware of GBS. I am a Registered Nurse who had cared for many babies in the special care nursery as a result of early onset neonatal sepsis.

I didn’t want to risk my pregnancy nor my baby’s health at birth, but I really didn’t know all the facts about GBS. All I knew is that we must treat the infection with antibiotics and because it was found in my urine, the Centers for Disease Control recommend antibiotics during labour without a need to repeat further GBS testing.

8 weeks- First Ultrasound

We had a short abdominal ultrasound that confirmed one baby and we did get to hear her heartbeat.

I didn’t think to do any of my own research beforehand as to what I may be exposing my baby to or whether I wanted to have an ultrasound. I simply went along with the recommended pregnancy care but I’m glad that this didn’t set a trend for my whole pregnancy.

9 weeks- Sharing the news with my family

It was an awesome Easter surprise! We usually do an Easter egg hunt each year so this year we decided to blow the insides out of quail eggs and hide little scavenger hunt messages in them.

When it got to my parents clue they opened it together and it read “Guess what is hatching in November 2015”!!

My mum took a minute to get it but my dad cried immediately. It was the ultimate way to break the news after 6 years of hoping.

I started feeling the awful effects of taking the antibiotics. It was incredibly uncomfortable. I had an upset stomach (on top of some pregnancy related nausea) and I developed thrush. When my urine came up clear I was glad to be done with the antibiotics.

12 weeks

I received a call from the public homebirth program declining me as a candidate due to my positive GBS urine result. They said that they didn’t offer antibiotics at home as part of the program thus limited me to having a hospital birth. I was heart broken!

Ultimately, I am entirely grateful for being rejected- it opened up a world of answered dreams about my pregnancy and birth because it led me to Ten Moons.

After the phone call and quite a few tears I did a google search on the GBS debate and antibiotics. I wanted to have all options available to myself and my baby in case we needed antibiotics during labour, but I was NOT going to have a hospital birth.

I have a strong belief that a women should be allowed to birth wherever she feels the most safe. Birthing in hospital makes me feel the most unsafe. What I had seen so far in my hospital based midwifery education made me want to be as far far away from the hospital as I could. Yes I had seen many times when intervention was necessary- but mostly I had seen women’s desires and requests disregarded and the cascade of intervention inevitable. In fact during my midwifery education I had not seen a birth without intervention.

My first appointment with Ten Moons

My first appointment was very relaxed although I was quite uptight and upset about the GBS, I felt like it had sucked the joy out of my pregnancy and it wasn’t fair.

But at the same time, my world opened up with hope as my midwife informed me of the risks, but also the treatment options available to me during a homebirth. My midwife unwaveringly encouraged me that my dream to have a homebirth was not lost, that my baby and I could be safely monitored and I could have antibiotics at home if they were consented to. She suggested to monitor my temperature during labor and my baby’s heart rate to observe for any indications of infection. The hope would be that my water remain intact until birth was imminent.

My midwife suggested I make an appointment to see an Obstetrician for a consultation about the positive GBS result. My appointment with Ravi was incredibly encouraging. Ravi had such a fresh approach to obstetric care in my circumstances. I felt so supported in my pursuit to seek alternative methods in combating the GBS. Ravi agreed for me to repeat the urine and vaginal swab at 36 weeks. I came away excited about having a homebirth, empowered to make decisions about my pregnancy and birth and felt equipped with resources to make informed decisions.

20 weeks

We made an informed decision to decline any further ultrasounds including the morphology scan.

I declined the Glucose Tolerance Test to check for pregnancy diabetes as I did not have any risk factors. We just did a quick finger prick test to check my blood sugar and that was normal.

I also requested for my midwife to use a Pinnards Stethoscope over Doppler.

Week 35-36

My midwife came to our house with the second midwife. They brought the birth pool and we went over my birth plan, which we practically wrote “I do not consent” under every intervention category. Of course if the need arose we would discuss the interventions as they come up, but we needed to write it because we wanted to have full ownership over our experience.

We spoke about the plan for labour and birth if I were to test positive again for GBS at 36 weeks, which was to have antibiotics available and if I developed a temperature or any abnormalities were noted in baby’s heart rate we were to consent to having antibiotics during labor and more frequent observations. We spoke about the situations requiring transfer to hospital and felt good about this. We spoke about the need for close monitoring if my waters broke and I was not in labor.

Week 36- Repeat urine and vaginal swab

I tried not to have any expectations but of course I was hoping for a negative result on both.

My midwife gave me a call with the results- urine was free of GBS!!! The swab came back with a “light growth” of GBS. Unfortunately at that moment I was in a glass half empty mindset and focused only on the positive vaginal swab result. I was determined that maybe if I picked up on my alternative strategies I could get rid of it all together. I asked my midwife for a swab retest for 38 weeks.

Week 38

The vaginal swab was positive again- “light growth”. I was over it. I surrendered to the fact that I carried this bacteria and I had done everything within my knowledge and power to be free of it for birth.

I was prepared to do what was necessary for the safety of my child, but there was a giant question in my mind that the standard approach of antibiotics during labour was not based on sound evidence. I had read over and over the Cochrane review of this protocol and I was failing to see how this was the best approach for us. Nobody could provide me with evidence to say that antibiotic prophylaxis during labour was the only way to prevent early onset neonatal sepsis, and why in my case a watch and wait approach would not serve us better.

I was hard against stripping my baby of the delicate microbiome and starting them off with antibiotics. I wanted our baby to start life off as naturally and untouched as possible benefiting from all of our beneficial flora. I saw evidence of detrimental effects as a result of so many people being exposed to antibiotics from birth.

40 weeks and 3 days- Thursday

I trusted my body and my baby for the perfect timing, but the texts, calls and emails kept coming in… Even though I told very few people my ballpark guess date.

I had a show. I was soooooo excited! I started to have some light period pains through the night.

So the plan was perfect for us to be observed for any signs of infection and I felt 100% supported in our decision to decline antibiotics prophylactically. We would have antibiotics available if they were needed and I was agreeable if there was an indication for it.

Friday 13th

I had intermittent tightenings through the day.

By 7 pm I was having more frequent contractions. They seemed to amp up pretty quickly and by 10 pm I was having regular strong pressure waves that were every 5 minutes and lasting around a minute. By midnight they were every 2 minutes.

Jake was so awesome and started confidently supporting me. We kissed, he gave me snacks and drinks. I tried using the TENS but it seemed to be making the waves more intense.

By 2am I was in and out of the shower and not really able to respond to Jake. I was really trying to surrender to the pressure waves but nothing I could do would make me comfortable. I was having a wave every 1-2 minutes and lasting a minute and a half. Jake called my midwife for some direction and she suggested filling the birth pool.

When Jake told me this I was surprised and said “already”? I just felt like there was more to come… so he waited to fill the pool.

At 3 am I noticed Jake was having a lie down so I suggested he stay there and I was going to try and rest on the couch with my Hypnobabies tracks. These were incredibly helpful and I made it to 6am by waking every 5 minutes surrendering to the wave and falling back to sleep with the ‘first stage’ track. I should know that first stage track by heart I listened to it over and over. It kept me going through.

At 7 am I climbed into bed with Jake and lay on my side… It felt as though the labor was taking a break and cut back to a pressure wave every 10 minutes. I was sooooo disappointed. After all night and it feeling so intense I was sure by possibly that night I would have this baby. It made me start to question “how many days could I do this for”.

Jake was very encouraging. There was not one moment that heard or felt any doubt from him. He kept saying to me “This is what your body needs to do, you are made perfectly to do this- it is just going to take time”. I know there were so many times through my whole labor that his words were a pillar of strength but I was not in a place to give him feedback on just how awesome he was for me. He told me ” we are doing this together” and although I had a giant part… It truly was a joint effort. I felt as though he laboured alongside me. He may not have gone through the physical experience like I did but he sure journeyed mentally, emotionally, spiritually. And I would say it was a marathon for him as much as it was for me.

Saturday 14th

I laboured every 7 mins throughout the day and my midwife came over to check in on all of us.

It was agreed in our birth plan that we would not do any vaginal examinations as any vaginal examinations would have increased the chances of any bacteria getting closer to the baby. I also feel that the constant checking is counterproductive to a good mental state during labor. You may find out after a long time in early labor that you are 2 cm dilated and this would be discouraging. My midwife attached me to the CTG to check on my baby because I had been in early labor for 24 hours.

I was feeling incredibly uncomfortable with the CTG on and sitting on the fit ball. I just felt like I needed to sit on the toilet. We moved to the bathroom so I could have some relief. When I was sitting on the toilet it was like most of the pressure was relieved in my rear and I was able to really relax.

The CTG monitor was normal. My midwife suggested since I was still in early labor to try to get some sleep and see what my body does. I put the TENS on and this time found a great deal of relief.

I had consistent strong contractions through the night ever 5 minutes lasting a minute and a half. At some point through the night I went through a really full on wave after being sound asleep for a couple of minutes- I think it took me off guard and so I started to throw up. I had thrown up a little bit in the bed and quickly gotten up to find something to throw up in…

Sunday 15th- BIRTH DAY!!

By 4-6am I couldn’t tolerate being on my sides anymore… So I got up to the toilet and spent the next few hours standing, rocking my hips in between a wave and sitting during. These were super intense waves. I was using my voice way more than I liked. At times it felt like I was singing a low tone for a really really long time.

Jake was trying to help me but at one point I just held up my hand when he went to touch me. I couldn’t give him direction and for some reason his touch was not assertive enough for me to take direction from. I felt a little disconnected from Jake there out. I felt his tiredness and that worried me, I felt his frustration and concern for me and I couldn’t reassure him that I was still okay. So I had to just allow the disconnection because I had to use everything in me to get through the waves. I felt very selfish.

When Jake suggested calling Karen for acupuncture at 6:30am I’m  not sure what I said to Jake in reply but inside I was saying ‘yes please… Can we oh can we’?!? I knew if anyone could direct me back to the calm place I had hoped for she could.

At one point I was on all fours and leaning onto the bed and sometimes the pressure was too intense not to bear down a little.

Karen arrived at about 8:30am. I was in the bedroom with the birth pool leaning over the couch in the dark when Karen arrived. A bit beside myself not knowing where to be or what to do next and after a small greeting she had me come out to the kitchen.

I leaned on the counter and she placed one hand on my lower belly and one gently but firmly on my back as a pressure wave came on. I instantly was reminded that I just used my breath to go through and surrender to the pressure.

I have felt pain before… This was different. This was intense purposeful pressure. Not at any point during my labor or birth did I want or seek pain relieving drugs, though the counter pressure was awesome at alleviating the pressure during really strong waves. There was also no point during the labor I felt I couldn’t do it anymore though I wondered how much longer it would be before I could push my baby out.

Karen had me lie on my side and did some massage which immediately made me go limp into the pillow. I think I actually fell into a deep sleep for 10-20 mins. Karen put in some acupuncture pins and I just kept breathing through the waves. The pins stayed in a while until I needed to move about.

While Karen was with me Jake was released to go and take a nap.  Karen encouraged me through some different labor positions at the bench, by the bedside and with the fit ball on the bed. All made me really want to bear down but I was resisting the urge.

Karen then worked on the other side- this time the labor was really amping up and I was finding it hard to breathe deeply down to baby. It was the deepest I have ever breathed through each wave.

Karen left about noon to have some lunch and meet up with a friend. I was travelling really well with each wave but I had hoped she would have time to come back afterwards.

When Karen was gone I felt a flood of accomplishment and honour when Jake came near me. I remember trying to express this with a hug and an attentive ear to his voice. He was so encouraging and he spoke of how proud he was of me, and how amazing he thought I was. Even hearing these words in my head now brings me to tears. I felt so loved by Jake and so supported by his presence.

I went through a series of positions and ended up on the bed most of the time on all fours with the fitball. Karen returned and she put some Acupuncture pins in the other side.

By now it was getting very hard to remain on my side but I pushed through it for a bit for the benefit of the acupuncture. When I couldn’t handle the side any more I got up on all fours again with an urge to bear down with each wave. I wasn’t sure if I was feeling pushy or whether it was just me wanting to get a wriggle on. I didn’t want to call my midwife just yet.

Jake was in the other room trying to rest but by this stage it was getting more intense so he couldn’t any longer. Karen suggested maybe he take a walk. He went outside and tried to call my sister in law- anything to have a bit of a normal outside conversation but she didn’t pick up. He called my parents and gave them an update, and just as he was leaving our apartment building, he got a call from Karen “well there has been some progress…. Her waters just broke”.

I was on all fours on the bed and bearing down a little with one of the waves and my waters went. Luckily I had covered the mattress with plastic but there was no hope for the sheets… Not like a little trickle but a huge pop….. Everywhere!

Suddenly there was none of that crazy bottom pressure I had. I headed for the bathroom. Karen handed me the bed sheets and in between a wave I put a load of washing on. Then a new kind of pressure began.

Jake returned and helped Karen, then he knew it was time to fill the birth pool.

My midwife arrived about 30 mins after my water had broken. I was still in the bathroom going between sitting on the toilet and standing to rock my hips. When she came in to see me I wasn’t saying much. I was leaning back taking a break between waves and I saw her out of the corner of my eye. I so badly wanted to acknowledge her… But all I could muster was to roll my eyes into the back of my head! I think I came out of that and said hi and gave her an arm for a hug… I think?!? …

She checked my baby and my temperature- everyone was perfect. After she left the bathroom I couldn’t help but to moan through some waves. I then needed to get down on all fours. I felt bubby’s head rocking back and forth and on what felt like my tailbone.

I got into the hallway onto towels and Karen did some acupressure on my lower back and sacral area with her elbows. I remember agreeing with what she was doing and actually feeling bubby’s head move further down. So now there was my midwife, Karen and I in the hallway as Jake was tip toeing by filling the birth pool. I was bearing down…

I could sense that something was not quite ready with the pool but I had no idea that it was not filled all the way. I was holding back a little bit on the pushing because I hadn’t been told to get into the pool yet.

One of the most beautiful memories I have was when I was in the hallway and my baby’s head was coming closer. I don’t know what prompted them to do this but all of a sudden in between a wave Karen and my midwife lent in on either side of me in an embrace. I remember getting a flood of encouragement. An incredibly intimate moment that will stay with me every time I think of Norah’s beautiful birth.

FullSizeRender-1I got the uncontrollable urge to push and my midwife announced “I can see the head”. I was then compelled to feel. Feeling her head was so helpful to tell me just how far I had to go in stretching. But more importantly to me… I got to be the first person to touch her. Finally my midwife invited me to get in the birth pool. It was not filled all the way but enough to birth safely in it.

I could feel each wave getting stronger pushing her head out.. I knew I just had to breathe. Here she comes. I put my hand down to feel for her head and I could only feel a little bit, and I remember feeling the soft sutures of her head thinking how incredible it was to feel.

I knew I had a bit to go by feeling her head. The waves were so strong that I had to hold back any urge to push, hold everything in and pant.

Then in between a wave I would push to hold her head there. I was waiting for the burn people talked about but it never came. At one point I felt just a sharp sting when I was pushing right at the top of my opening. I took a step back and told myself I didn’t need to push… Just breathe her out. I was panting but I couldn’t control the rhythm… At one point when I tried… I held my breath by accident.

I could feel her head was almost out. I felt it just sweep the perineum and her head was out. I loved that feeling! My perineum was intact! I still had my hand there on her head and I was just moving my fingers slowly on her head.

It felt like a long time until the next wave came but I was just enjoying the rest and wondered what the next part would be like. I’m sure it was only a few seconds though. Then I felt what I had seen so many times from the outside. I knew what this moment meant… I was going to meet my baby!!

I have very little recollection of what happened next, I had to quiz people afterwards. I gave one last little push and she just slipped out. I whipped around in a flash and brought her up out of the water into my arms.

IMG_2433There are no words to describe that feeling…. When you are looking in the face of a new human being that you just brought forth. I didn’t know what gender this baby was but for the longest time it was the furthest thing from my mind. I was just staring… And watching her transition. Speaking to her “I know…. This is tough…” She was strong… I had no worries. For quite some time… It was just me and her, I forgot that there were others in the room.

Later I made reflection of how respectful my midwives and Karen were of that moment. It was just me and her with beautiful music playing. Of course they were doing all the necessary assessments but I had no idea because they were so gentle and soft spoken about everything.

I finally acknowledged Jake who had found my phone to take some video… Something I will always be grateful for…. Seeing her first moments again when I felt like the world was rushing by. I said to him “do you want to know what it is”? I then was captivated again by her and not wanting to move her I delayed for a bit longer. Then I reached down and felt instead. I could have been wrong but I was very certain “it’s a girl”! Jake said back “it’s a girl”! From then the only name circling my head was Norah. She looked like a Norah! I started to cry a little bit… It was just such a beautiful incredible moment. I didn’t feel anything else physically any more and I was reminded that right after she was out Jake asked me if I would go through that again and I immediately said “heck yes”! I said give me a day or so… But yes!!

My midwife was monitoring us closely and suggested that it was time to leave the pool to birth the placenta. The couch was set up just a pivot away from the pool so it wasn’t hard to get over there. The placenta was birthed 12 minutes after Norah. I moved forward to the edge of the couch but I felt it would be more effective to stand. I was so mesmerised by my baby that I didn’t notice that time had gone by. The next thing I noticed was my midwives getting ready to instruct Jake with cutting the cord.

IMG_2434Norah was still snuffling out some mucous as I put her to my breast. There was absolutely no hurry to do any weight or checks. I was just allowed to enjoy a few hours with Norah. She did suckle and I was impressed with how alert she was. She stared back at me. Then she heard Jakes voice and turned her head and eyes to look for him.

Incredible the connection you have when your baby is not drowsy from pain killers.

FullSizeRenderI took a cool shower and settled into bed. We weighed her- 3800g, 52 cm long, head circumference 37 cm. She was perfect!

My parents and sister in law came over to meet Norah and helped clean up a bit. My midwife stayed for a bit over four hours after birth to ensure everyone was well.

I monitored Norah closely after my midwife left through the night. I took regular temperatures and all remained well. After 48 hours of observations I proclaimed to my midwife “screw you GBS”. I was very blessed that my waters broke so soon to when she was born.

For the next 6 weeks we saw my midwife regularly for postnatal care.

Never in my life have I felt so cared for and even loved by a professional service.

Jake, I and Norah will be forever grateful for the care we received and the relationships we have built.

We have now moved to the USA. Norah is 9 weeks old and simply perfect! IMG_2435


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