Homebirth was a no brainier for me. Having been a doula for many years I saw much of women’s and babies autonomy and power stripped away and far too many interventions and interference to feel comfortable under hospital care unless medically necessary. It was also important for our baby to be born in a peaceful, gentle environment. Home ticked all our boxes.
Having also required the assistance of IVF to conceive we were very keen to gratefully step away from over-medicalised pathways and step into the natural flow and mystery of pregnancy and birth. I trusted my body’s ability to communicate what it needed and my capacity to listen to this, seeking additional medical support if required. Choosing to only have scans, tests and interventions during pregnancy if something presented to be further investigated, rather than routinely, gave space for my intuition to grow and strengthen and served me well through birth as I deeply trusted my body and my team.
As a doula I’ve supported many women across the threshold and hard work that is labour and birth. Yet in many ways nothing prepared me for the visceral experience and unique twists and turns of my own labour and birth. All I could do was show up and not give up.
It was a particularly challenging labour that slewed away more layers of who I thought I was to bring me face to face with the authenticity and beauty of my humanness. A humbling experience that to be honest at the time I can’t say I enjoyed, but I’m deeply grateful for because my birth became a transformational experience. Which I had hoped for as I wanted to come out feeling profoundly changed in my awareness of my self.
At 40 weeks and 1 day I went into labour. It was Saturday evening and that morning my father in law, who had been living with us while ill, died in hospital of cancer. I was overwhelmed that before we even had time to mourn his death, our baby was coming, so I did my best to trust all of this happening at once and all was asking of us physically and emotionally.
Starting labour my instincts knew it was going to take a while. I called my midwife to let her know things had begun but that I wouldn’t need her through the night as I could feel pre-labour was going to take a while. I didn’t call my friends who would come support so they could rest soundly knowing I wouldn’t need them that night.
I laboured solo so my partner, Kyle could rest after the huge day that had been. The contractions were sharp and commanding right from the get go. I couldn’t get comfortable nor sleep. So I did my best to embrace it even though I was thrown by the strength and intensity of these early contractions. The only way I could find to work with them was standing, so my legs held me strong throughout the night as I did my best to find a rhythm with it all. As everyone awoke Sunday morning my leg muscles were starting to seize so Kyle called Steph, my friend and doula, for some massage.
When Steph arrived around noon my labour had stalled. I felt cut off from my body and unable to drop in to my feelings. We talked it out and I realised I hadn’t mourned the death of my father in law yet. I also felt the enormity of all the strength it had taken to hold it together and be strong over the last few months as he declined, holding together for so long it had momentarily forgotten how to let go. So patiently I found my way to feel all of that. Kyle embraced me as I released grief and disbelief and softened into surrender. I went to the toilet and was overjoyed to now have bloody mucus! Everything ramped up. My labour was in full swing and stronger even though I was still very cognitive.
After riding this rhythm for a while, my labour stalled again in the late afternoon. We tried the shower for a change of scene and again I spoke out what was going on to try and shift it. All my inadequacy and self-doubt had arisen. I didn’t know if I was capable of seeing it the whole way through and was worried what everyone would think of me, the doula that couldn’t cut it. Steph listened wholeheartedly and responded with pure love and acceptance but I was still stuck as I couldn’t provide that for myself.
So I accepted my inability to accept myself in that moment and my thinking minds desire to analyse its way through to a solution and paced it out in the backyard, feeling a little lost. It was then that my midwife arrived to check on us. I shared what was occurring and she gently said, “Just let it go and keep moving forward.” It was like a riddle to me. I mulled it over again and again until finally I got it and I didn’t have to do anything with it, except acknowledge it had arisen then let it go! Literally. So I did, we all laughed and my labour ramped up in intensity once more.
They looked on patiently as I power napped in between contractions then shot up during them to labour standing. It was the only way I could handle them. It was fucking tough. I was so exhausted by this stage. It hurt like hell and was wearing me down. This was not how I envisioned my labour or myself handling my labour. I really wasn’t certain how and if I’d be able to do it. All I knew was I just had to keep going and focus on handling one contraction at a time letting go of any goal or time expectations. So I drew on every resource I had within myself and externally. One after another – memories, mantras, people I found inspiring, my team, the great mother, whatever I could think of as a resource I summoned to draw strength from and me take one step after another through this labyrinth. Doubt dissolved and was replaced by a commitment to ride it the whole way through, however long, and self-permission to do so however I needed.
Contractions were still quite paced apart and so my midwife left after a few hours and was set to return in the morning unless we called sooner. Sh’ana, my second friend arrived and settled in to help with the support and around this time my labour changed. It got a whole lot stronger and finally I dropped out of my thinking mind. Hallelujah! There was no room left for it as every ounce of my being focused on getting through contractions. Everything dropped away… fantasy’s, stories, emotions, giving a shit about anything as my being hurtled through this tunnel of labour. I could do nothing but surrender and go with it until I emerged out the other side. Labour had completely taken over and every ounce of energy was being channelled in getting through each contraction. Compelled by the force of my own body and baby to open.
Contractions were still no closer than 5 minutes apart and Kyle asked Nashira, my sister in law, to come and do acupuncture. I’ll never forget my utter joy and surprise when she arrived as I’d forgotten Kyle was even checking if she could come. Needles in, contractions strengthened but I couldn’t cope and needed them out. Nashira stayed though and the team felt complete.
For a while I’d been burping heaps but now also shitting lots. I no longer had the energy to keep going to the toilet so someone would hold up a potty. It was all happening… shit, vomit, groans, burps. It was so raw in its messiness. There was no room left for inhibitions.
I repositioned myself kneeling over the daybed. My legs couldn’t stand any longer. Contractions would come and I’d shout instructions, “cold pack front, cold pack back, hip squeeze hold…. ok go, potty shit” and that’s how it would go with all hands on deck. At times of panic I’d lock eyes with Steph needing a trusted external anchor as my internal one was lost amongst this new-found peak in intensity. I remember too, as Sh’ana, held the potty up to my butt that that was real love right there, it didn’t get more loving than catching someone’s diarrhoea, wisking it away and returning with a fresh container at the ready to go again. (a muscle cramp drink I’d been taking had given me the runs!)
Getting into the birthpool
It was after midnight Sunday night and my legs could no longer hold me even kneeling. I needed the buoyancy of the birth pool. The request was made and everyone sprung into action. I was so grateful to immerse into the water and establish myself in these new surrounds.
The women gathered around the pool while Kyle rested. The contractions were still ramping up in intensity. I felt annihilated by them, I no longer existed as they completely took over. I would reach out for a hand, any hand, then squeeze for anchor and support, for dear life as the contractions obliterated my identity to reforge me anew.
I wanted to know I was dilating as I didn’t know how much more I could handle so having no idea what I was doing I did an internal. It was incredible feeling my cervix opening and the bulging waters! It was enough to give me a boost in moral that I was getting closer. But deep down I knew I was anyway. Even though my contractions never got any closer than 5 min apart they were definitely doing their job of opening me.
Starting to push…
I laboured like this a little longer and then POP! My waters burst with such gusto I was in awe. Then soon enough the bearing down began. I had already started pushing when Kyle reached my midwife. Knowing our baby was coming and my midwife was yet to arrive drove me deeper into connection with my body and baby to figure out how to birth her gently (for both of us). This was the most empowering experience working with my body and following my own birthing instincts!
It had been around 32 hours to get to this point where I had opened wide enough to clear the way for our baby to birth herself. In the first bearing down urges I could already feel her head and mop of hair. It was such a powerful, convulsive movement and I was struck by the strength and immensity of these urges. But with these contractions came a new pain. My clitoris. It felt with the stretching as though it was going to tear in half! I would grunt as my body bore down then shriek at the pain of my clitoris stretching. It forced me though to summons all my body awareness to work with the stretching of my tissues and with one hand pressed against my clitoris protecting it, the other would gently stretch my skin around my emerging babies head. Finally after approximately 30-40 min the final push was upon me and I knew in that moment I had to let go. I was either going to tear or not and there was nothing more I could do so I surrendered to what would be and out came my baby’s head! In this letting go I became a mother and another life came forth from my body. Our daughter was born at 4.22am, head then arm then body, into her fathers hands surrounded by a circle of women, holding us in their love, presence and care.
Birthing my daughter was the most memorable and empowering part as her and I did it together. No one told me how to do it, no one caught her for us, no one hurried that moment. Everyone was silent, everyone respectfully gave us space to be and bond and take it all in. That was a defining moment for me in my capabilities, strength and sense of self as a woman and I’ll forever be grateful to everyone, myself included, for how that unfolded.
My birth team were amazing and I know with complete certainty that I would not have reached my full birthing potential if not for the presence, trust and skill they brought. There was no fear or doubt in any of them, meaning any fear or doubt arising in me had nothing to latch on to making it easier to tell what was coming from my intuition and what was an irrational fear arising to let go.
I was also gifted through their trust and belief in Birth and myself, a wide held space to explore the capacity of my body’s abilities.
We settled in for a while as a new family and then it was time to birth the placenta, but unfortunately it didn’t come. We tried every tool possible at home and still no luck. So we performed a cord burning ceremony in place of cutting the cord and transferred to hospital for assistance in removing it manually. 6 hours after birth, somewhere around 10am, in hospital, and under the care of some fabulous staff, my placenta, which turns out was still attached to my uterus, was removed in a straightforward and short procedure. Later that night we returned home to snuggle up in bed together as a new family, the reality being we all passed out with exhaustion, but with full hearts and blissed smiles on our faces.
I am in awe having experienced the utter power of birth as it coursed through me, clearing and opening the way for my babe! Its force was so mighty it shattered all the internal obstacles placed in its way to continue forging forward. It’s power asked everything of me, pushing me far beyond my limits and comfort zone but it was in that challenge and commitment to see it the whole way through that who I am as a woman and how I experience myself in the world irreversibly transformed.