I first found out I was pregnant in October 2015. As a first pregnancy, I didn’t have a dating scan since my cycles were quite regular. The first few weeks were tiring and stressful. I was emotional and not mentally well. I remember being terrified about childbirth and having anxiety and making myself sick thinking about it, and even wishing I wouldn’t have to go through it, that some miracle would happen so I wouldn’t have to.
At 12 and half weeks, on Christmas eve, 4 days before my first scan, I had a miscarriage and bled heavily for days. I was devastated and heartbroken. And I partly blamed myself for somewhat wishing my baby away subconsciously. The next couple of months were hard, the blood loss was irregular and would stop and start, after weeks and weeks of this the doctors ordered an ultrasound to see if there was any retained product, which there was. They wanted to put me on antibiotics and possibly have a procedure to remove it however I decided to wait it out and eventually the bleeding stopped. The toll the miscarriage took on my mind and body was terrible, after feeling really crappy for a long time I decided to seek help from a naturopath to help get my hormones balanced again so I could feel myself again.
May 2016- falling pregnant again
In May, after two regular cycles I found out I was pregnant again. I was ecstatic. Something had changed in me this time around though and I knew straight away that I wanted a homebirth. I had been doing lots of reading online and was much more confident in my body’s ability to birth naturally and I knew that I did not want any unnecessary interventions or drugs of any kind. This sort of birth was aligned with my ‘crunchy’ and natural way of life. I wanted the birth to be peaceful and intimate. I began searching online for private midwives and contacted my midwife immediately. I was only 6 weeks pregnant. We spoke over the phone a little bit and she advised me to contact her again when I was 12 weeks or so along.
I was unsure of how my partner Michael would react when I announced that I wanted a homebirth. I thought maybe he would be totally against it, but I was pleasantly surprised when he told me to do what I felt was the right thing for me. After talking a lot about it all, we were both very excited to welcome our baby earth side in our home – the perfect place to become a family of three. We didn’t share our homebirth plans with anybody.
14 weeks pregnant- meeting my midwife
When I was about 14 weeks pregnant, myself and Michael went to meet my midwife for the first time at her clinic. I knew straight away that I wanted her to be my midwife. She was so kind, loving and down to earth. We all got along well. At my upcoming appointments, we talked a lot about the birth, our preferences and my thoughts and feelings about it all. My midwife made the effort to get to know me and my strengths and weaknesses so she could figure out how to best encourage me when the time came to birth my baby.
My pregnancy was very straight forward and un-eventful. I declined all ‘routine’ tests, including ultrasound scans, the gestational diabetes glucose test and the vaginal swab for GBS. My midwife was very informative and also very respectful about my preferences and decisions regarding my pregnancy. Throughout my pregnancy I continued with my yoga practise and made sure to exercise and stretch daily. I read ‘Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth’ which was amazing, as well as ‘Birth with Confidence’ by Rhea Dempsey. I read what must have been hundreds of natural homebirth/hypnobirth stories online and watched many natural homebirth videos on youtube. I was unable to get to a hypnobirthing class, but myself and Michael did the online course which was fantastic. I listened to the affirmations and hypnosis tracks daily to prepare myself mentally and emotionally. They were also amazing for general relaxation and sleep. Affirmations were also hung up in our bedroom which was going to be set up as our birthing space.
35 weeks pregnant
From about 35 weeks pregnant, I started seeing Karen for pre-birth acupuncture. She helped ease some aches and pains, and in the following sessions worked on getting my body ready for birth. Michael also attended a session where Karen showed him some acupressure points that he could use on me for the remainder of my pregnancy and during labour. Karen also talked with me about some great positions I could use during labour to help my baby descend easily. I was also visiting a chiropractor to make sure my body was aligned and ready for birth.
Nearing 40 weeks
I stopped working at 38 weeks. Nearing 40 weeks, my back was a little sore and I was getting more and more uncomfortable. I was unable to take long trips in the car. My due ‘date’ was February 14th but I was really hoping my baby was not born on that day (being Valentines Day and my father-in-law’s birthday). Throughout my pregnancy I always had it in my mind that I would go a week or two ‘overdue’. On February the 14th I felt some tightening on my belly on and off during the day. I didn’t think anything of it as I knew that as a first time mother it was more likely that the baby may be still be a week or two away and I wasn’t attached to my due date – I thought of it more as a ‘due month’. I lost my mucus plug that day, but again I didn’t think much of it. We had my in-laws over for a birthday dinner that night and I told them I didn’t really feel any different. That night Michael and I spent some time together – we set up our birth space with candles, diffused some oils and practiced some relaxation techniques together. He also did some acupressure on me. I had an appointment scheduled with my midwife on Thursday the 16th of February but I was really dreading the car ride to her clinic.
15th of February- Labour
The next morning, February 15th, Michael left for work at 5.15am. I had my first surge at 5.20am. I was lying on my side and breathed through it. The next one came only 10 minutes later and I had to get out of bed and lean over it to get through it. The surges continued coming every 10-15 minutes. I hopped into the shower for a little bit hoping to get some relief. It did help but the surges were still coming quite often. I decided to hop out of the shower and I messaged my midwife around 6.45am saying that I had been having surges. She asked me to keep in contact and let her know when they are closer together.
I wasn’t sure whether I should ask Michael to come home or not as I didn’t know how long I would be in labor for. I messaged him saying ‘I think today is the day’. He was tossing up whether he should come home or not. I tried to make myself some breakfast but kept getting interrupted by surges – I eventually finished preparing some oats for myself and tried to eat them between surges. I told Michael he probably should come home to help me out as I felt like I couldn’t get much done by myself. I laboured for a while in the living room on my yoga mat on all fours and leaning over my birth ball – I practised ‘flopping’ over the ball, making sure my whole body was fully relaxed. I was listening to the hypnobirthing tracks out loud too. At this point I was timing my surges and also using a tens machine on my back. I found the TENS helpful. After some time I decided to stop timing my surges as I was unable to go within and switch my mind off while I was focusing on that.
Michael arrived home around 9am, he sat and caressed me for a moment while I laboured, helping me to fully relax and get the oxytocin flowing. He called my midwife to update her and she listened to me labouring for a while over the phone to get a gage of where I was at. Michael kept offering me sips of water. Then he went off to inflate and fill the birth pool. I continued labouring for some time on the lounge room floor and I could hear that he was getting frustrated and having lots of trouble with the hose and tap adapter to fill the pool with hot water. Eventually he got it to fit on the laundry tap and began filling the pool.
I really wanted to get into the water, but didn’t want to take the TENS machine off. Eventually I got enough courage to remove it and got in at around 12pm. The water was heavenly. It made me feel so much lighter and took the pressure off my belly and back. I was also able to change positions and move much more easily. During surges, I would float on my back with Michael holding up my neck and back, reminding me to breath down to our baby. My back was a little sore.
Michael was keeping in contact with my midwife and she would occasionally call to listen in. I started to be more vocal with the surges, making sure to only make deep, low-toned sounds. It seemed to help relax me and distract from the intensity of my surges. Michael was offering me snacks and I tried to eat some dates but I couldn’t keep anything down and vomited. Things were starting to get really intense. My back started to become excruciatingly sore during surges and I kept mentioning Karen (the acupuncturist) so Michael organised to have her attend. I started feeling some slight pressure around 2pm and by 2.30pm there was more pressure. Michael let my midwife know and she was on her way over to our house.
Karen (the acupuncturist) must have arrived around 3pm. She let Michael have a much needed break and she took over for him. She tried to apply counter pressure to my back but that was excruciating (surprisingly!). I realise now that I was going through transition at this stage – it was very intense and I was exhausted. My surges were coming one after the other. I remember saying “I need a break!” I had to be brave and change positions as I had been in the same position for a while with not much progress. I changed to all fours for a while and then to my knees leaning over the edge of the birth pool. Karen was applying acupressure to my wrists, which felt really good and was a distraction from the intensity of my surges.
My midwife arrived around 3.30pm. During surges I was making ‘horse lips’ sounds which I found to be really helpful – a tip I learned from Ina May Gaskin. I made sure that my face was always relaxed and never strained or ‘scrunched up’. During transition there were a few times where I nearly broke out into a high pitched scream but had to refrain and bring my voice back down to low tones to keep my cervix relaxed. I remember asking my midwife how much longer until my baby would be born – and she replied “How long is a piece of string?” which made me smile and giggle a little. Part of my waters broke into the pool.
The pain in my lower back was still bad, and I was finding it hard to untuck my tailbone – my back was very arched especially during surges. My body started pushing on its own during surges which was a surprise. Karen asked me if I would consider getting out of the pool. I didn’t really want to, but eventually I agreed. Karen and Michael helped me out of the pool and into the ensuite bathroom where I sat on the toilet to try and untuck my lower back and relax down into my pelvis. The second midwife had creeped into the room at some point around this time. The surges had slowed down a lot which was nice because I was able to have more of a break in-between. I also found that the surges were not painful anymore now that I was in the second stage of labour.
Birth @ 17.28
The pressure was intense now though and I felt as though I had a bowling ball between my legs. My body was still pushing by itself and my midwife asked me to reach down and see if I could feel anything. I was hesitant. A little while later she said she could see my baby’s head and told me to feel. I felt something warm and squishy but I was in disbelief that it was my baby’s head. I kept saying “are you sure?”
In no time at all my baby’s head was crowning and I was helped onto the floor where I positioned myself on all fours. It was dark in the bathroom but somebody had a torch. I was in front of the shower screen and I was able to see my reflection in it due to the torch. It was incredible seeing my baby’s head be born in the reflection. It felt like forever that I was waiting for the next surge so that I could push out the rest of my baby’s body. Finally, at 17.28 I had another surge and the rest of his body slid out easily with a big gush of the remaining waters. Michael and my midwife caught my baby and passed it through my legs to me. I was sobbing and couldn’t stop saying ‘oh my god, oh my god’. I was in disbelief and shock at what had just happened. My baby started crying immediately. We didn’t know the sex so my midwife asked if it was a boy or a girl. I looked between the legs and exclaimed, “It’s a boy, I can’t believe it’s a boy!”
The umbilical cord was very short and I could only hold him to my belly. I was helped to the bed where he lay on my stomach for some time. I was unable to breastfeed yet as he couldn’t reach my breast. After a while, my midwife said that it’s time to push the placenta out. I wasn’t having many contractions so was finding it very hard. I tried to squat and stand on the bed to encourage it out and after quite a while of pushing it still wasn’t budging. Karen did some acupuncture down my legs and ankles to try to get the placenta to come down. Eventually, after 45minutes, my midwife suggested cutting the cord so I could move into the ensuite to continue trying to birth the placenta. Michael cut the cord, and had skin to skin with our baby. Back onto the toilet I went, and with a lot of effort, it finally came out. It was almost harder than my baby’s birth! I couldn’t feel anything which is probably what made it so difficult.
Our baby was unnamed for a few days, but finally we named him Rylie Leonardo Albendea. He was born 3.3kg and 48cm long. I am so grateful to my midwife for allowing us to have the most amazing birth experience I could have ever wished for. It was perfect!