If I had known at the beginning of my pregnancy that I would be in labour for 7 nights before giving birth, my story may have been a little different. But I didn’t have a crystal ball, so I moved through my pregnancy in ignorant bliss. 😉
I knew I was pregnant within two days of my period being late, but it took me another few days to take a test. We weren’t planning on a baby; and my partner Harry kept saying ‘it’s just pms!’. I knew it wasn’t…
I saw the GP, got a blood test to confirm the pregnancy and got the standard blood work done, which was all normal. He said my baby would be due on April 1st, 2017. April Fool’s Day… For the next nine months, I would repeat the phrase over and over to people “Yes, due on April Fool’s Day, making me laugh already!” I was referred to the local hospital by the GP and because at 36 years old, I was still considered ‘low risk’, the GP did not discouraged me from refusing the Down’s syndrome screening.
Starting to think about homebirth…
My plans at that stage, ignorant of my options, were to give birth in a birthing centre as naturally as possible, without my partner present. A chance conversation with someone at work changed that. After hearing my plans she asked me to reconsider as she had attended the home births of three of her friends. She said it was a beautiful experience and a unique bonding opportunity for the couple.
I started researching that day and my mind was made up very quickly. I wanted a home birth! I started looking for a midwife and the Ten Moon’s website popped out at me straight away, but Ten Moons would end up being the third homebirth company I would meet with. The stories of homebirth on the Ten Moons website intrigued and inspired me.
Meanwhile, I was booked in for my first scan at 20 weeks. When I rang my midwife to make an appointment, I told her about the scan and she informed me that some mothers choose not to have any scan at all. I remembered reading this in one of the birth stories, so I decided to do more research. After looking into it further, I decided to decline scans and so made a decision that would be indicative of the flavour of my pregnancy.
I didn’t know it yet, but I was forming my own philosophy of birth and at its core was the principle of pure natural birth. As close to the wild as possible. Harry was supportive from the beginning. He understood my reasons and trusted me. He was to have a wobbly moment that Christmas however after being bailed up by his family, extolling the dangers of birth, but after meeting my midwife his fears were put to rest and we were a team from that point on.
Meeting 2 other midwives
I met with two midwives before my midwife, but was not quite happy with choosing them for various reasons, I sensed they would not be able to connect with the esoteric in me enough to support me through natural birth. Something was missing, but I didn’t know what that was until I met with my midwife. She made me feel like I was at the centre of the process from the start. She asked me lots of questions about myself. Deep questions. Some of the questions seemed directly related to the physiology of birth, like about my health and blood results. But other questions like “how do you deal with a crisis of confidence?” and “what is your relationship with your mother like?” were more obtuse and made me confident that she understood the deeper nature of birth and would be able to take the journey with me in a way that would truly support me. She also asked me questions about my reasons for choosing homebirth and other personal questions. This made me feel as though I mattered, and that my midwife knew the value of getting to know me in order to support my journey.
It was what my midwife told me about labour’s ability for healing and transformation that really got me hooked. She said it would put my relationship into focus and bring up stuff from my maternal line. It would ‘show me my shit’, in other words. Being the sucker that I am, this got me even more excited. My mother, sister and maternal cousin had all given birth via caesarean, so I was up for the challenge. My midwife provided me with helpful and inspiring resources. I especially loved watching ‘The Big Stretch’ with Harry, and beginning to visualise my ideal birth.
My commitment to pure birth
My commitment to pure birth would be tested by the uncertainty and fear of some people close to me. I stayed strong, although the claim that it was selfish and egoic was the only objection that ever got to me. I never questioned the safety of it myself, and trusted myself, my baby and my midwife.
I don’t think I realised how attached I was to having a homebirth until it was almost taken away from me at 30 weeks. My partner and I arrived for a prenatal appointment with my midwife a little early so we headed up to go to a local cafe. I’d only ever drunk one coffee a day before pregnancy so that hadn’t changed. I was planning to get a chai latte, but when we got to the cafe, they had a special iced coffee, without thinking I ordered it and had my second coffee for the day just before my appointment.
My midwife listened to the baby’s heartbeat as usual and all three of us could hear on the doppler that it sounded irregular. It was stopping, and changing cadence. My midwife went to get the CTG while Harry and I smiled nervously at each other, exchanging encouragement and holding hands. My midwife hooked me up to the CTG for an hour and stated that an arrhythmia was detected.
She said we had to go to the hospital that night for further monitoring, possibly a scan to check baby’s organs and to speak with an obstetrician. She also said, depending on the outcome, I may not be able to have a homebirth and my baby may have to be under the care of a cardiologist. I got nervous.
While my midwife was preparing paperwork for us to take to the hospital with us, I Googled fetal arrhythmia on my phone. One resource said it can be caused by caffeine and not pathology. I remembered my second coffee and instinctively knew what caused it. On the way home we Googled how to get caffeine out of your system. I drank lots of water and ate toast before heading to the emergency department at the local hospital. My midwife had called ahead, so they were expecting us and we were taken upstairs quite quickly.
I was hooked up to their CTG and monitored for an hour. All completely normal. We spoke to a lovely young female obstetrician before leaving. She asked about the whole no scans thing. I said, “I was always willing to have a scan if it was medically indicated. If an arrhythmia had been detected here, and the heart rate had not improved as a result of water and toast, I would be happy to have a scan, but as it is I think it was the second coffee, I’d like to stick with the plan” She agreed and was satisfied with my intention to be mindful of caffeine and continue seeing my midwife exclusively. I walked out of there very grateful that my baby was healthy and my plans for a homebirth were intact.
The rest of my pregnancy
I sailed through the rest of my pregnancy without any further issues. I am a negative blood type, but declined the Anti-D while pregnant and instead had regular blood tests to check for antibodies, they were always negative (my baby ended up having a positive blood type so I had Anti-D after). I declined the Glucose test and vaginal swab for GBS screening and instead took lots of probiotics and ate kefir almost everyday.
I really enjoyed being pregnant, people said it suited me and I loved the attention. I didn’t get any stretch marks and loved my growing womb. I spent a lot of time researching natural birth, birth culture and ‘pain’ management. I watched scores of calm homebirths on YouTube, read books and talked about natural birth with anyone who would listen. Ina May Gaskin was added to my list of personal heroes. I took pre-natal yoga classes at Kundalini House from about 20 weeks on and these were gloriously relaxing and helped me centre.
Pre-birth acupuncture & Hypnobirthing
I had several appointments with Karen, the acupuncturist during my pregnancy and leading up to the birth. We worked through a lot of personal issues ranging from clearing up fears around the birth itself, to relationship hurdles, to old wounds. Harry attended an appointment with me at 36 weeks to learn acupressure points and birth positions. I feel as though these sessions and Karen’s presence during my early labour was the nurturing energy I needed to help usher me through the transformation from maiden to mother.
I started taking hypnobirthing classes with Harry a bit late in the piece at around 32 weeks. Our teacher Candace was amazing. Because we were the only ones’ booked in, we had her all to ourselves, which meant the content was tailored to us. These sessions, along with my research and acupuncture treatments with Karen, helped me release fears and build confidence. I also learned lots of techniques for managing my comfort during labour. This information made Harry feel more in control as well, as he had some practical tips to work with. We listened to the hypnobirthing tracks several times a week and did perineal massage every couple of days for the last couple of months of my pregnancy.
My Due Date
My due date sailed by and my control issues began to be tested. Everyone was calling and texting… “Where’s the baby?!?” It drove me a bit mad actually. My baby was happy where it was and would come when ready. It took a lot of energy just to communicate with people along with preparing practically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually for the birth. I felt as though I was on a roller coaster. I really wanted to meet my baby, but I had to accept what was. I believe natural birth prepares you for life with a newborn. Surrendering to the process forces you to relinquish control and go with the flow, which is excellent training for being a Mumma.
Labour- Day 1
I had my first surge in the early evening of the pink full moon, Tuesday 11th April. There was love and excitement in the air. Harry and I connected and managed the unknown well together. We flowed and we smiled. I moved and moaned. We connected in love. If I had given birth that night, my ego would have had it’s perfect birth. As it turned out, my soul and my baby had different ideas on perfect, which involved another six nights of labour. I think the word journeying describes it better than ‘labour’. Because to me, labour implies staying in the same place and a repetitive action. During the process, I moved and I was transformed and the work happened in spite of and through my labour.
The first stage of my labour happened over seven nights. The surges were powerful day and night however were far less frequent during the day. The only way I can describe how they felt was this – it was like the feeling you get through your body on a roller coaster, but concentrated in your lower abdomen. The surges were powerful, but not necessarily always painful and I actually had 3 or 4 that were very pleasurable. The pressure on my cervix in between at certain points was more difficult for me to manage.
At night the surges would ramp up when the sun went down and would vary between 4 and 15 minutes apart until around 3 or 4am. Then I would sleep, waking up to breathe through the odd surge. I would wake around noon and go about my day with surges between 20 minutes to two hours apart. Then it would start all over again. My midwife came everyday to monitor bub’s heart rate and check on me. The second and fifth nights were the hardest.
Labour- Day 2
Karen, the acupuncturist came over the next day, April 12th, and brought herbs to encourage labour that I took every three hours. She also suggested some different positions, gave me a treatment and put acupuncture pins in my ears to help the pain. I was more accepting on the third night. I rolled with the surges and had no expectation of birthing that night so it was business as usual, another night of labour. Karen later told me as she left my home that day, she had the thought, “she’s not ready”.
The second night, April 12th, brought up all my frustration and disappointment and my ego was in full swing trying to gain control and failing miserably. I was pacing around frustrated and at the same time trying to ‘let go’, trying to analyse and make sense of what was happening. I felt robbed of the birth I had been trying to manifest and didn’t know how to integrate what was happening.
Labour- Day 3 & 4, 42 weeks
On April 13th I went for an appointment at my midwife’s office, the car ride was not fun and I had a few surges on the way. My midwife convinced me to try the TENS machine and I was pleased that it seemed to help with the intensity of the surges.
On Friday the 14th April I went to see the obstetrician that works with Ten Moons as it was suspected my waters were leaking. He did an external abdominal exam and said that the fluid levels felt good. I declined a scan to confirm this as I was satisfied with his opinion. I told him I felt sure I would give birth over the weekend.
I woke up the next morning and immediately stripped the bed and threw the sheets in the washing machine. A little while later I was searching for my phone and heard banging coming from the washing machine. I had thrown it in there along with the sheets. That solved the problem of people contacting me and my energy being directed outside the home to others. It was a strange relief.
The fifth night was challenging because of the pressure on my cervix and pelvis. Thus far I had been able to relieve this pressure by changing positions or lying down, but not that night, nothing helped. So Harry filled the birth pool and I hung out in there for a few hours. We had been hesitant to fill it previously as we had been told that it can slow down labour. It helped a lot and I couldn’t wait to give birth in that space. I had motivating images and affirmations pinned up around the space to hopefully help during tough moments. I had set the pool up in the lounge because my bedroom was at the front of the house, far removed from a bathroom. My midwife said the location wasn’t ideal as the room was too ‘public’.
The next day when my midwife visited I told her that if I didn’t give birth that night I would be going to the hospital for an induction. She called my bluff and said “OK!”. I didn’t expect this, and immediately smiled and said, “No, I won’t” 🙂 The sixth night was wonderful, Harry and I came to a new level of clarity together. We broke through blocks and the oxytocin flowed again. I still didn’t progress to established labour.
Labour- Day 8, 42 weeks and 4 days…
The next day, April 18th, my midwife visited to monitor bub’s heart rate and check on me. She told me I needed to do whatever I needed to do to relax, “Drink a glass of wine, get a pizza, watch a movie”. “Wine and pizza?!?”, I said, “I need a joint and some tequila!!!!”. After my midwife left I did what I needed to relax and realised I was holding on. I had been tensing up and resisting the surges but I didn’t know how to else to cope.
My midwife called an hour or so later and said that she had consulted with the obstetrician and advised me that since my waters had been leaking for so long, she recommends I go to hospital for a check up and discuss the possibility of induction the next day if I did not give birth that night. I agreed and accepted this.
Karen, the acupuncturist called soon after and said that this was possibly my last chance to give birth at home, she would come over to give me a treatment to try and help get labour established. She arrived around 10.30pm, I was on the couch shaking, almost convulsing at the end of a surge. She waited quietly, then we chatted.
Karen moved me into the bedroom and on the way down the hall helped me do some hip circles. The pressure on my cervix was so intense, it was hard to relax and let go. Karen put some needles in my hips on one side of my body, then the other. She told me I needed to go inside myself and try and approach the surges differently. I layed there in the dark, almost meditating and visualising my cervix opening in a few different ways.
During this process I experienced the surges differently. Previously they felt like a huge wave washing over me, picking me up and dumping me, giving me no choice but to try and hold on when I should have been letting go. Now they were smaller, diffused and my consciousness felt more powerful than they did. At 4 am, my labour had still not established, surges were irregular and between 4 and 7 minutes apart. Karen told me she needed to go home and rest, but she would meet me in the hospital the day to help with some acupressure. Half an hour after she left I transitioned!!
At around 4:30am I had this surge of frustrated determination and told Harry to get my midwife on the phone. I was telling her in no uncertain terms that I would be filling the birth pool, getting in and having the baby that night. I then told her a surge was coming and put the phone next to me on the bed. Harry picked up the phone to talk to her. My midwife told Harry to call her back when my surges were regular and 4 minutes apart. My midwife told me she then went back to bed, but the thought popped into her head that my surge sounded like deeper more gutteral sound, like pushing. She had the thought she should come and check on me. She texted Harry that she was coming over in ten minutes. At this point I told Harry I didn’t want him in the room, I wanted to be alone.
By the time my midwife arrived she could see the baby’s head. Everyone was so shocked that it was actually happening, no-one thought to fill the birth pool. The pushing phase felt amazing to me. It was like all the build up and tension of the previous week was being released and relaxed. I was on the end of the bed and during surges I would get up on all fours, in between I would lay down on my front and rest. I was exhausted and had to dig deep for the energy to keep going. But I knew it was finally happening and felt so relieved I was doing it at home. At one point I looked up at Harry and said, “We did it!”. The second midwife arrived at some point during this time and sat quietly with my midwife on the floor of my bedroom waiting for bub to come. Harry was in and out of the room, bringing me drinks, but just letting me get on with it. I didn’t actively push at any point, I just let my body do what it did. I could feel the power of it and had nothing to add but my determination. I was able to breathe through the ‘ring of fire’ and the second midwife said I did really well in that part.
Eve was born at 8:12am, my midwife caught her. It took a second for me to gather my senses and turn around to sit on the end of the bed and hold my baby. It was an indescribable feeling. The perfection of that moment cannot be put into words. It took a minute or so before I thought to check her gender. I couldn’t stop saying how pretty and perfect she was. We sat there for a long time, just staring at each other. She smiled three times and the second midwife said she saw it too, so I could tell everyone I wasn’t just imagining it. Little Eve looked bright and alert from her first breath, her eyes were wide open as she looked around the room. There was an almost eerie calm in the room after the drama of birth.
After about 20 minutes, my midwife asked me to stand and deliver the placenta. I immediately refused 🙂 I was so exhausted after the past week, I did not want to do ANYTHING! Then I realised what I was saying and stood up with my midwife and the second midwife holding each of my arms to help steady me. The placenta was delivered in one push.
I went to shower while Harry had some skin to skin time. I took a long shower, I took my time, it felt amazing! When I came back all the checks had been done and the midwives had cleaned up and changed the sheets. I got into bed for some more cuddles. Harry opened a bottle of champagne and we each had a glass. It tasted so good! We then cut the cord and my midwife took the placenta for encapsulation. I tried to feed Eve for the first time, but it felt awkward, she wouldn’t latch on and she cried. My midwife said she had a tongue tie, but that’s a whole other story!
While Eve’s birth, my birth as a mother, wasn’t the calm linear experience I envisioned, it was the birth we were meant to have. It was a good birth, an honest birth and I felt triumphant and proud of myself that I was able to last the distance and not lose sight of my values along the way.