I can still remember clearly the day my husband Pete and I found out we were pregnant. After eighteen months of trying to conceive, we were in shock when we saw the two lines on the pregnancy test. It was real!
In the early weeks of my pregnancy I read many books and articles to help me make a decision about where to have our baby. I had attended my best friend’s second home birth nine years earlier and this experience rested in the back of my mind. When I began to mention to my family that I was reading about ‘natural’ birth they laughed and reminded me that I couldn’t handle pain and that there was no way I should be considering such a thing. Even though I knew I was a ‘wuss’ when it came to pain. Something inside told me homebirth was the right choice for us.
Preparing for our homebirth meant that l needed to be physically, emotionally and mentally prepared. We enrolled In Calmbirth and Active Birth workshops, did prenatal yoga from 12 weeks, meditated and wrote positive affirmations about my birth, read and listened to only inspiring and uplifting birth stories, saw a chiropractor weekly, continued to work out and ensured my diet was super healthy.
One of the most memorable and powerful experiences on my preparation for my birth was the Blessing Way held for me by my high school girlfriends. At thirty six weeks pregnant my friends flew into Sydney from all around Australia for a ceremony to honour and give me strength for my upcoming birth. The ceremony included candle lighting, bead threading, string tying, singing and sharing readings and inspiring quotes, poems and words from the heart. I felt so calm and ready and remained in this state throughout the final weeks of my pregnancy.
On Wednesday morning, four days past my due date, I woke with mild period pain and a slight ‘show’. After going to bed that night I woke around midnight unable to sleep through the sensations I was feeling. I decoded that rather than make the ‘birth’ cake I had always planned I would make in pre-labour, that I would watch a movie and try to rest and reserve my energy. I remember my amazing midwife explaining that if we wasted all our energy in pre-labour, we would have no reserves left for the real thing.
During the day on Thursday I remained on my feet as I worked through my contractions. Later in the afternoon the contractions had become more intense. I had resorted to a strange standing position against a wall to work through each one, but during the ‘rest’ period my lower back was not giving me much relief. My patient husband rubbed and massaged my lower back, and other times I rested while doing the cat and cow pose.
In the early hours of Friday morning I could tell things were vamping up. My contractions were lasting longer, peaking for a longer period of time and were much closer together. My back continued to ache and I began to feel more irritable and like I was having difficulty managing the situation. l had to focus more intently on my breathing, which took on a voice of its own. Using mainly the horse out-breath to try and relax my face and hops. I visualised myself riding waves and used a freestyle motion with my arms to help with the images I was creating. At around 3am I begged Pete to call our midwife.
I soon became irritable with the sunroom, which was the room I had spent the most of my time in, I moved to the dining room and lent against the buffet, rocking and lunging to move my hips. Saraca, my amazing birth support person was busy preparing food and helping Pete with the birth pool.
At times my midwife came over to remind me to relax my face, but for the most part she remained in the distance. It felt good knowing she was there, but I also felt empowered as I worked through the contractions on my own I moved from the buffet to the taller bookshelf and used a visualisation of clinging to the top of a cliff and moving across the top edge. As I moved from one side of the shelf to the other, I counted twenty long breaths and tried to breathe the pain away.
I used the shower early Friday morning which was like a dream. The heat on my back gave me so much relief that on coming out the contractions seemed to bite a little harder. Pete was amazing, often reminding me of my ‘cooling soup’ breath, handing me an icy pole or just holding me during a contraction.
Around mid-morning I distinctly remember a strange kind of lull between my contractions. I was able to enjoy the broth of some miso soup Saraca had made, and take some photos with Pete. I also put on my necklace that we had made at my Blessing Way. I was ready.
When I entered the birth pool the water was bliss. The contractions were still strong, but the water surrounding me helped to ease their sting. I leant over the birth pool and looked directly at the beautiful bowl of candles that we had lit at my Blessing Way. The sun was shining outside and there was a slight breeze which blew the blessing flags that were hung in the room. My birth space Pete had created for me was perfect. After finding the right position in the birth pool, I rode the wave of each contraction. I found that I was able to go inside myself more easily and being in the pool seemed to make me feel safe and secure. After about an hour in the pool, my midwife offered me a VE. The minute I lay down my midwife could see my bladder was very full and possibly in the way of the baby’s path. After an intense contraction lying on the mattress, I relieved myself and my midwife confirmed that I was 10cm dilated and that she could feel my baby’s head. How exciting!
When we returned to the birth room, there was an exhilarating energy surrounding us. I overheard my midwife talking to Saraca, saying something about how to time when the baby was born I was really about to have this baby!
By now it was around 1 pm and during each contraction I tried hard to breathe the baby down, sometimes resisting the urge to push. Time passed, but still no baby. My midwife coached me on how to push and to breathe deep onto my uterus rather than out like I had been doing. I concentrated intently, trying to visualise the breath moving into my uterus to help push baby out. My midwife used a mirror to see my progress, and although small, she could see part of my baby’s head.
After about 2 hours I was physically and mentally exhausted. Although I never once allowed myself to give up, I was feeling tired and really looking to my midwife for advice and a plan B. I felt as though the contractions weren’t long enough for me to get a good go at pushing. When I would finally make some progress, my contraction would subside and I could no longer push.
I decided to get out of the water. We moved back onto the room where we did the VE and I lay on my side. After a few contractions I wasn’t getting far. My legs were cramping and I just wanted to get back to the water.
When we returned to the birth pool, my midwife showed Pete how to support me on a supported squat and we stood in the birth pool, with my bottom lowered just into the water. Even though I knew I was making progress. I began to feel some anxiety creeping in. I knew I had been on second stage for almost three hours and I had a fleeting thought about the hospital, so turned to my midwife to ask about her plan C. She talked to me about the old fashion way to push: holding my breath and bearing down without breathing out. The idea of not breathing was extremely foreign to me, so this, although seemingly simple, was harder than I anticipated Pete continu