Steph and I had always talked about starting a family and we knew our biggest challenge would be the “how”. Late in 2015 a close friend offered to make our dream of having a child a reality and with a lot of consideration we decided 2016 was the year we would try to fall pregnant.
We had a home insemination and whilst we did have to include a third person in this process we managed to conceive in an intimate and romantic way and without even testing I knew I was pregnant within days of conception.
At around 5 weeks I started seeing my regular GP for shared care and whilst this model of prenatal care seemed like a good option initially, I soon realised that being allocated to a public hospital and having my choices around prenatal screening questioned was making me feel disempowered.
I had mentioned to Steph that I would like to consider engaging with a private midwife and my preference would be for a home birth. She was supportive of my desires however apprehensive of the safety around homebirth as she had never considered this option for us especially as it was our first pregnancy. She trusted my gut feelings and was on board with meeting a private midwife to explore our options but remained unconvinced that it was going to be the best for us.
We met with Martina at 13 weeks to get a better understanding of what was involved in having a home birth and for Steph to ask some of the questions that had been proving to be a road block in us making a commitment to birthing our baby at home. By the end of the first appointment Steph was 100% on board. We both left feeling completely at ease and that this woman centered model of care was the best way for us moving forward.
My pregnancy continued along and was relatively uncomplicated apart from some low iron which I managed to get on top of with supplements and a few dietary changes.
We read books, watched DVD’s and tried to prepare ourselves for the birth.
At around 32 weeks we attended Hypnobirth classes which gave us both some valuable tools we could take into the coming weeks. We also made affirmation cards and put them around the house as a daily reminder of the beauty and power of birth and to help me cement these positive words so I could call on them throughout my labour.
In lieu of a traditional baby shower we chose to have a Mother Blessing. We asked our closest family and friends to bless our transition from pregnancy to motherhood through decorating prayer flags and stones with messages of support to be hung in our home during labour. We also did a group meditation and as each woman meditated on the thought of love and empowerment she held a crystal that would adorn the bottom of the birth pool and energize the water I was hoping to birth in.
Steph is a teacher and our baby was due to be born whilst she was on summer school holidays, our EDD gave us around 2 weeks together as a trio before she would have to return to work. In the lead up we were both convinced I wouldn’t make it to 40 weeks for no reason other than just a hunch. However, as 40 weeks inched nearer and nearer the anxiety of Steph having to return to work began creeping in.
As Steph and I are both mothers we both have anatomy that allows us to feed our child. Steph had decided she would try and induce lactation quite early on in the pregnancy and began to research this topic. We knew she would have to get into a routine of pumping regularly, taking herbs and eventually adding in a medication to increase her prolactin levels. Steph was eager to get started and began pumping 4-5 times a day and had drops of breast milk straight away. As the weeks went by the volume increased and once she added the medication we knew she would be able to cofeed our baby. It was important to Steph to be able to have this connection with our baby and we were both so excited to think that she could pass stem cells and beneficial microflora of her own to our baby and have an imprint on her development.
Monday 16.1.17 (our EDD)
I woke during the night at around 2am to use the bathroom. I noticed that I had saturated my panty liner and changed it with no further thought than the pressure on my bladder was obviously worse than I had realized. The next time I woke the same thing had happened. In the morning I told Steph and she suggested to let our midwife know just in case it was something indicative that labour was close. A few photos and a comedic moment of two lesbians trying to decide whether the panty liners has a “distinct smell of semen” lead us to realise that my waters had broken over night.
As it was our EDD, and we had decided we should have a due date “date” and I had planned a picnic at Werribee Mansion where we got married two years prior. As the day went on contractions were mild and irregular, only intensifying when walking quickly. We saw our midwife that evening and she did a CTG monitor on our baby and ensured us that everything was normal. We discussed the Groub-B Streptococcus (GBS) risk now that my waters had broken. I decided I didn’t want to do the vaginal swab or antibiotics and would rather wait and see how labour progressed and then closely monitor bubs once born. We decided to go home and get comfortable and try and sleep as much as possible as now that my waters had broken, we knew we’d be meeting our baby within the week.
After a fairly restful night’s sleep I woke up wanting to move, I suggested to Steph that we go for a big walk so we drove down to the beach and wandered up and down the foreshore. We called the acupuncturist I’d been seeing for prenatal acupuncture and told her that my waters had broken and that labour was quite slow at this point. She booked me in for an induction session that afternoon and asked that Steph come with me so we could “breathe the baby into the world together”.
We chatted at length about some of the fears that may be slowing the progression of labour and identified where they were coming from, by the end of the session Steph and I both agreed that my only job from that point forward was to birth the baby. I had some acupuncture and by the time the pins came out I was contracting every 6-7 minutes. We headed home, feeling confident that things would continue naturally from this point. We saw our midwife that night too for a check up, just to check how baby was going and her advice again was to go home and rest as things were progressing well.
I woke up again around 2am with what felt like bad period pain, I couldn’t get comfortable in bed so got up and started moving around the bedroom. I woke Steph up and she called our midwife. After listening in for a few minutes, she said there was a long way to go yet and to try and get some more rest.
I tossed and turned until about 6am and then I couldn’t stay in bed anymore as the contractions were intensifying and getting closer together. The next few hours are a bit of a blur as time was kind of irrelevant at this point. I mostly spent this time rocking bent over on the kitchen bench, bouncing and circling my hips on a fit ball and bent over the back of a chair. I was practicing my “surge” breathing and trying to keep focused on the task at hand.
We had a videographer present for the birth, he arrived around midday but to be honest, I barely noticed he was even there after the initial niceties.
Steph and I had talked about baking the baby a birthday cake during labour, so she took to the kitchen and baked whilst I continued to move and work with my breathing. At some point in the afternoon fatigue started to well and truly set in, the contractions were about three in ten minutes and the pressure and pain in my lower back and hips was very strong. I felt completely tense in the low half of my body and knew that if I was feeling like this early on I would struggle to bring my baby down. Steph suggested we call the acupuncturist and see if she was available to give me a treatment, within half an hour she was at our home. The treatment involved putting pins down one side of my lower body at a time and doing some massage to try and release some of the tension I was carrying in my hips and pelvis. During this time she also gave Steph a refresher on the acupressure points she could use to help me manage my pain. They both used these points (especially the ones on my hands) during contractions and it really did make a difference to the intensity of each surge.
By the time the acupuncturist left my surges were so intense all I could think about was wanting to get into the water. Steph had called the midwife who said she would be arriving shortly and that Steph could start filling the birth l pool.
The midwife arrived, did a CTG monitor on the baby and then I was free to settle into the birthing pool. Being in the water was such a relief, it seemed to just take enough of the edge off the contractions that I was able to regain some of my energy and refocus on my breathing. Steph did some light touch massage and effleurage which helped pass the time between contractions.
After some time in the water I felt strong pressure into my lower back and bum, I felt my body push into it with one strong contraction and then experienced a quick “pop” as the remainder of my waters released. Contractions seemed to intensify quickly after this happened and the pressure in my bum was getting stronger. I laboured in the water for a while longer trying to bear down into that pressure but found it quite hard to focus my energy in the right spot, I was fatiguing so it was suggested that I move from the birthing pool to the bathroom to try and bear down sitting on the toilet. With each contraction I could feel my baby moving down further, the pressure was almost unbearable. It was sometime around here that the expletives started, I was proud of my ability to maintain my sense of humour even when I thought I couldn’t go on.
At this point I was moved to the bedroom as there wasn’t enough room to birth our baby in the bathroom. I worked with all fours on the bed, to a squat over the floor but my body was so tired at this point that I couldn’t support myself and push effectively.
Eventually I moved onto all fours on the floor and as my baby’s head started to crown it was obvious why there had been some difficulty with getting her down. Her head was sideways- in the transverse position , which meant there was about 2cm extra stretch required by my body to accommodate for her head coming through on the less than ideal angle.
I was unaware of this at the time but I do remember the energy of the space changing and I could feel fear start to creep in, I was all of a sudden scared that either I or my baby wouldn’t make it through this birth. My midwife reminded me that our baby had been crowning for some time and that its time for our baby to come out now. I was having to let go of the fear and dig deep into my energy reserve to get my baby out. I felt down to my opening, touching my baby’s head, reconnecting in with what my body was made to do. I refocused and with a couple of big breaths and at 22.38 she was out.
Steph caught her and passed her through where she was placed in front of me on a pillow. I couldn’t believe it, I’d done it.
We didn’t know the sex of our baby before she was born, but as soon as she landed in front of us, we looked at each other and with tearful eyes said “our girl”. She was there, she was perfect, our daughter. LJ weighed 4400gr!
I picked her up and moved onto the bed where she snuffled around my breast and began feeding almost instantly. Within a short period of time contractions began again and I moved back to the bathroom to birth my placenta. LJ stayed attached to her placenta for around an hour, time went by so quickly and eventually Steph cut her cord and my placenta was put into a container for the midwife to take away and encapsulate.
Due to the positioning of LJ’s head during her birth, I had torn my perineum, although thankfully I didn’t require stitching and my midwife explained that due to the nature of the tear it would heal in time with rest and epsom salt sitzbaths.
As my waters had broken a few days before birth, it was also important for us to monitor LJ’s temperature for any signs of GBS. We monitored her closely and after 48 hours we were assured that she was fine and the GBS risk had passed.
For the next 6 weeks we saw our private midwife regularly for postnatal care. She helped us establish our cofeeding schedule so that my milk came in with no issues.
We felt so cared for throughout the entire pregnancy and birth process and we are so beyond grateful for the loving care we received in the early weeks of LJ’s life.