"I knew this baby wanted to come to us fast, but I didn't expect to go into labour before forty weeks. I felt a trickle just as I was falling asleep about 1 am on Saturday 7th May, exactly thirty nine weeks! I found it really hard to get to sleep. Where are the contractions, if this is it? And what about being Group B Strep positive?" This inspiring homebirth story of Isambard, gives a deep insight into what goes through a mother's mind when giving birth.
I knew this baby wanted to come to us fast, but I didn't expect to go into labour before forty weeks. I felt a trickle just as I was falling asleep about 1 am on Saturday 7th May, exactly thirty nine weeks! After mopping the bathroom floor, my mind was racing and I found it really hard to get to sleep. Where are the contractions, if this is it? And what about being Group B Strep positive?
Waking up on Saturday morning, I expected to feel contractions, but no, nothing. We bought a thermometer as Robyn asked that I monitor my temperature, given the GBS. I wasn't concerned about it, knowing my body and how it works. I rang my mum and she said the same thing had happened to her - waters broke. Nothing happened for ages. That was heartening.
After nearly twenty four hours without contractions, I didn't think I'd ever have one, l found myself wide awake about 6am, although this wasn't too unusual as I'd been waking up in the middle of the night for the past week. I finally began to feel contractions steadily six minutes apart. The contractions stayed steadily six minutes apart most of the day. We decided a walk might help get things going, and we went along the coastal cliff top walk to the Macquarie Lighthouse and back. I sat on a bench and looked out at the ocean, wondering if baby was ever going to come.
Contractions strengthened and got closer together at four minutes, and I became a little more serious, not wanting to talk through them but still being able to hold a conversation. My mum and friends arrived but nothing happened, we just chatted and the energy was a bit flat. The minute I laid down to sleep I had a massive contraction, followed by another, ongoing at four minutes apart. I spent the night in and out of the shower and eventually woke Andrew about 4:30am.
About 10am Andrew got the pool blown up and after a problem with the hose and running out of hot water, I got in. It was bliss and the contractions came and went in smooth waves rather than rough peaks. Skye and Jess arrived back, and Robyn arrived and immediately checked the baby's heart rate which was solid as usual. I wanted her to tell me, 'This is the way you should do it' or 'You're at this stage' or 'if you do this, the pain will go', but she was just there. This was the beginning of my fight against the contractions. I grabbed Andrew's arm during each pain, not in control in the slightest. He breathed and made noises with me, without coaching, I began to say, "No, no, no" as each one rose, Robyn was amazing, she'd say, "Yes, yes, yes" over the top of my ‘no's’. I was annoyed, thinking, 'But why would I say yes to this pain!', but she was right. Eventually Robyn said that given the GBS risk we needed to think about transfer for antibiotics, She talked as though I could just cruise over to the hospital, have an IV of antibiotics, and cruise back home to give birth, even changing position seemed insane, let alone getting out, dressed, into a car... But none of that was a consideration: I wasn't having antibiotics. I'd read and prepared: antibiotics would give me and baby thrush; they wouldn't kill all the bacteria anyway; and I naturally have lots of bacteria in my vagina, and I don't want to muck about with It. I didn't want to inhibit the formation of healthy gut flora in the baby, and I didn't want my baby to have antibiotics, especially when the risk of toxaemia from GBS is 1 in 1000. So I said, "No way in hell!" Robyn was genuinely concerned, and I heard her ring another midwife, and then Randwick hospital. I also heard her ask Andrew, who stuck by what I wanted.
Again Robyn mentioned transfer and by then I was thinking transfer myself, but not for GBS. I was thinking about drugs, the pain was all-consuming, and I wasn't getting breaks in the three to four minutes between contractions any more. There was pain In the front of my pelvis. I asked Robyn if I needed to transfer because the baby wouldn't come out and I couldn't handle the pain, and she said so firmly "Oh of course you can birth this baby here, there's no doubt about that." I was a bit annoyed; I wanted someone to tell me my escape from the pain was justified.
All sorts of crazy thoughts began to cross my mind. I had to get a break from the pain. How would I get drugs? No, not hospital! There are pain killers in the kitchen cupboard … I could just take lots. I pictured it. I wondered how I'd ask, how I'd get it, because I knew people might not take me seriously. I didn't voice any of this. Andrew had gone for a short walk to take a breather. I was roaring through contractions and Robyn was reminding me to keep noises low and guttural. I'd done no prenatal classes of any sort, and I'd found a lot of the birth preparation things I'd read, especially 'Birthing from Within', frustrating and 'not me'.
There was complacency in the room, another day was ending. I sensed that everyone had retreated, given up on me, like I was never going to get there. I was despairing. But I never voiced this, although I felt this way for so long. People had left the room. Robyn miraculously appeared at key moments like a fairy, and regularly checked the heart rate which remained strong and steady. She'd check my temperature, which never really varied, l got the sense my moaning was getting repetitive, it was not only tiring me out but I felt like it was draining on everyone else too. Everyone needed a break.
My mum was somehow next to me. I don't remember her coming there, she just was there. At first it was annoying. She has a very light touch and it can be irritating. But then she did something I don't think she's ever done. She began to tell me I could do it. And with each contraction she told me it was 'a good one'. She repeated the same things over and over, and in my head it was a bit annoying but I began to believe it after a while. She made the noises with me, in a really steady way, and it was just the two of us, breathing and making noises. She was the only one still sticking by me, and she wasn't going to let me get out of this. She's never done this; she's always let me get off scot free, give up halfway through, take the easy way out.
Everyone began to migrate back into the room, hanging around the edges watching and noticing the atmosphere changing. I was only vaguely aware of this, but everyone commented on it later. Twice I vomited pretty violently. Most of it went on Andrew! He took it all in his stride, didn't even change his shirt, just stayed with me. Robyn was excited by this, recognising it as a sign of transition. I'm not sure that it was, but things did change when it happened. Robyn wanted me to get out of the pool. Things were happening, but not enough, even I knew this. I wasn't getting a break between contractions because of the pelvic pain. Robyn suggested this might be the last bit of cervical dilation happening while the baby's head pushed against it. I managed to sit on the toilet then lie on the couch, then stand up for a few contractions, but it felt awful, and I begged to be let back in the pool.
I think standing up must have helped somehow, but eventually I began to feel my body push. It was overwhelming, like something taking me over, and my whole body convulsed. Despite the intensity, I was glad. I expected to feel the baby moving down the birth canal, getting closer, but nothing. It just felt like my body was pushing against a rock. After pushing a while, Robyn offered to check my dilation. I was silent, thinking to myself, what good is it? Let it just happen.
It seemed like so long that my body had been pushing, and Robyn had even said that I should try pushing on top of the involuntary push. Finally the pain in my pelvis eased, but was quickly replaced by another debilitating pain, all around my waist. Robyn said this was the uterus fatiguing, which made sense given I'd been having contractions for over thirty six hours now. I changed position to my knees, leaning forward over the edge of the pool and Andrew was there again. This gave me a bit of renewed energy, but I soon remembered I didn't want to birth on my hand and knees, so turned back round to semi-reclining.
Eventually Robyn said to try and feel for the head and it felt like a centimetre of silky smooth opening. I pushed so hard, it was very empowering! There was a moment of relief towards the end of each push. I remember Andrew saying to me I sounded like I was enjoying myself at one point (I wasn't, but I guess he was probably thinking of 'Orgasmic Birth'!). Robyn said I should feel for the head again and this time it felt a quarter to a third out. I thought about all those people who breathe their babies out and couldn't understand how that is possible. I felt the perineum stretch so easily. It didn't sting, just stretched like a piece of tight elastic. It did sting at the front, and I was convinced I was tearing around my clitoris and urethra but I didn't care, I was almost there!
At crowning, everyone was oohing and aahing, standing around the bottom of the pool. I think I waited for the next contraction before I pushed out the shoulders, and then the body slid out with a rush and everyone gasped and cheered and I heard Jess burst into tears. Someone said it was 7:57pm. It was an intensely emotional moment. Robyn lifted him from the water and began unravelling the cord which was twice around his neck and once around his body. I helped pull it away and held him as he cried almost straight away. His body was purplish, his head slightly paler because of the cord, but he cried robustly and loudly. I messaged his little hands as I remembered that might help stimulate him, not that he really needed it.
As I looked at him and said hi for the first time, I realised he was a complete stranger. I didn't know him, yet he had come from me. Andrew was overwhelmed, and we looked at him and he said how proud he was of me and all sorts of other things, it was amazing. We realised we didn’t know the sex – yes, a little boy, not what we expected but perfectly fine.
We could see that the top of his head had the imprint of the cervix on it, and also some lines that Robyn said could be my ribs. She speculated he had been breech and turned during labour, which would explain why it took so long from when the contractions ramped up.
The placenta was huge! We all checked it out, and Andrew cut the cord. Isambard fed about an hour after birth. He was 4kg exactly and measured 50cm long with big hands and feet. I had no tears. Not even a graze, which was amazing because I'd felt such stinging at the front. Everyone eventually headed off and I was finally tucked up in bed with my little boy and my amazing husband.
I don't remember much about that first night, I don’t know if we slept, having little sleep over the previous thirty six hours or more. I still can’t believe I did it, I actually had my baby at home with no intervention, I stood my ground, I know what was right, and I made it, perfectly.