Update 17/3/12: The photos in this story were taken by our friend Xanthe from Froxy Photography. Please remember that Xanthe holds the copyright to these images and do not copy, repost, or pin to pinterest without permission. Thank you.
Update 24/4/12: I’ve now published the full story of Lillian’s birth and you might like to read that first as it helps to explain why we chose homebirth the second time around.
Edward took after his big sister and arrived 12 days after his due date. That’s about where the similarities end with their birth stories. Lillian’s birth followed premature rupture of membranes, contractions beginning 12 hours later, induction beginning 12 hours after that (due to labour not establishing within 24hrs of membranes rupturing,) and she was born 20 hours after the induction commenced. I had drugs and lots of them. Even though I felt I had good care during Lillian’s birth, and it ended well, I knew that this time around I wanted things to be different and that meant trying to avoid another induction.
We chose to receive midwife care through the pregnancy, just as we had in Scotland. We were planning to give birth at the hospital’s birth centre, but when home birth was presented as an option the more we thought about it the more it seemed like the best choice for us.
We’re lucky that we have a public home birth program locally. Our midwife (MW) is part of a team of midwives including those based at the birth centre and the hospital. They all work together and she would be with us if the birth was at home or if we needed to go to the hospital. We were free to change our mind at any point.
So, decision made, we started to prepare for the home birth. We did a lot of reading about birth and home birth. I read a lot of birth stories and watched a lot of You Tube videos of home births. We prepared the birth space, and we attended a Calmbirth course. Calmbirth is aimed at people wanting to “take control of their own birthing experience” and teaches practical relaxation, visualisation and breathing techniques. Doing this course helped give me the confidence that we could do things differently this time.
By 37 weeks we were feeling pretty ready. We had the birth pool and had tested it out, we’d been in full nesting mode and after a trip to IKEA had new blinds, some new furniture, and new light shades. I finished work and enjoyed the first few weeks of maternity leave pottering about. The due date came and went. I began to worry that we would be heading towards another induction. I had acupuncture twice.
At 41 weeks we had a monitoring ultrasound and CTG to check bub was still ok in there. He was. A friend’s husband offered me chiropractic treatments daily and would send me off after each one saying he didn’t expect to see me again. I walked a lot. I listened to the Calmbirth visualisations (usually falling asleep during them but I’m sure my subconscious got the messages.) An appointment was made for another check-up ultrasound and CTG, we would have to discuss induction options/timeframes with an OB, an induction time was tentatively booked for 42 weeks. I could see all our home birth plans slipping away.
During dinner the night before that appointment I began to feel what I thought might be contractions. I didn’t tell Dave until after Lillian was in bed and I was feeling more sure myself. We went to bed at 8:30pm in the hopes of getting some rest if it was the real deal. I slept on and off until 2:30am when the contractions ramped up. I began to time them on my iPhone contraction app. They were about 10 minutes apart and lasting just over a minute. I managed them by kneeling on all fours in bed every time one came and tried to doze between them.
Between about 4am and 6am they spread out a bit more and I got some more sleep. Lillian woke up at 6am and Dave got us all breakfast while I had a shower and gathered last minute things together. The shower felt great during contractions but I tried not to stay in for too long because I knew we would need the hot water for the pool later. It was an unusually cool Spring morning but the day was beautiful.
We told Lil that I had pains in my tummy and asked her if she knew what that meant. She said, “The baby’s ready!” Dave called his parents who came and collected Lil at about 8am and she went off happily with them.
I was dealing with the contractions by kneeling (on Lil’s travel tent mattress) and leaning over the coffee table and concentrating on breathing in and out through my nose. At about 9am I called MW and gave her a heads up and also called our friend Xanthe who was coming to take photos. MW lives 5 mins away and after a short chat told us to call again when we felt we needed her to come round. Dave and I carried on. I put on the CD I had made of songs to labour too. This song in particular sticks in my mind because it was the first song and I noticed it every time the CD repeated.
Each time I had a contraction Dave would press and rub on my back or hold the hot water bottle there. I was feeling the contractions mostly in my back and the pressure helped.
I ate some apple pieces and sipped water. I began to wonder how soon I could get into the pool. I didn’t want to get in too early in case it slowed things down. The contractions were coming less than 5 mins apart now and lasting up to 2 mins. Dave called MW back at 11:30am to ask about the pool and she said she would come around. We messaged Xanthe and told her to come when she was ready too.
MW arrived about 12 followed closely by Xanthe. MW checked the baby’s heartbeat and felt my belly to see what position the baby was in. She checked my blood pressure and all looked good. Dave began to fill the pool up and when it was ready I got in.
I lose track of time around this point. I laboured kneeling/squatting and leaning on the side of the pool. At some point Dave got in too so he could better reach my back for pressing during contractions.
Xanthe took photos. MW did paperwork and checked the baby’s heartbeat every now and then. At some point Xanthe changed the CD and happened to put on the one I had made to use for Lil’s birth and never did. The contractions were getting quite strong but I was remaining almost silent through them by concentrating on the nose breathing.
All of a sudden I felt a pop and my waters broke. Dave said he heard a crack and thought he’d pressed on something too hard! MW checked the colour of the waters, which looked fine, and warned me that the contractions could get more intense now. I was no longer silent through them and it was hard to focus on breathing.
I writhed around trying to find a comfortable position. I told MW I couldn’t get comfortable and she said, “You won’t now until your baby gets here.” She suggested leaning against Dave and this was the most comfortable I could get. MW called the back-up midwife (BM) who arrived shortly after but I have no recollection of his arrival just that he was now there.
I began to feel a pushing/pressure sensation during the contractions and MW reminded me to stay open and not fight it. During each contraction she would say, “Open, open, breathe, bring the baby down.” I was pretty loud at this point and really had no idea how close I was to the end.
I was squeezing Dave’s hand with one hand and Xanthe’s with the other but I honestly didn’t know whose hand it was. It seemed pretty soon after that that they could see the head coming out and I remember Xanthe commenting on his black hair. The head came part way out during one contraction and then went back in again. I’m not sure how many times this happened and at the time wasn’t really aware that that’s what was happening. Eventually the head stayed out and MW told me I could reach down and feel it which I did briefly before the next contraction came and I pushed out the rest of his body.
MW and BM caught him, unwrapped his cord, and brought him up onto my chest. Relief! It was 3.06pm. He was making little grunting noises and MW told us to blow on his face to get him to cry. He began to cry and didn’t stop for some time.
I asked if he was a boy and we had a look and saw that he was. Lillian had been so adamant that the baby would be a boy that I would have been surprised to have a girl.
I held him in the pool while I delivered the placenta which came about 10 minutes later. Dave cut the cord. Edward had a bit of a go at breastfeeding but was still crying a lot. We were getting cool in the pool so MW and BM helped us get out. They set up the bed for us and checked to see if I would need stitches. I had a small but deep tear and MW started to get me set up for stitching. BM weighed and measured the baby and checked the placenta over. (Dave took this photo – 4.27kg.)
While repositioning me on the bed for MW to stitch me, BM noticed that I was losing blood. When he massaged my stomach I haemorrhaged almost a litre of blood. He tried to get me to the bathroom to empty my bladder. I fainted halfway there and came to on the floor in the lounge room. BM gave me an injection of syntocinon to contract the uterus and MW put a canula in my hand in case I needed fluids. I lay on the floor for a while and MW stitched me while I was there and I held Edward. I then moved to the couch, ate a crumpet with jam and had some juice while holding Edward some more.
I was feeling pretty good now and attempted a trip to the bathroom with help from the midwives. I made it there and was going to take a shower when I again felt faint and had to lie down on the floor next to the birth pool. They decided to give me the saline drip and set it up right there. The pool had had the valve knocked open at some point and had begun to deflate. While I was lying next to it it was bumped and a wave of water filled the back room and bathroom all around me. Dave and Xanthe began to mop out the water and quickly emptied the pool with buckets. The midwives decided I would be better off crawling back to the bedroom in case I felt faint standing up. The drip came with us.
Things calmed down after this. I hung out on the bed with Xanthe who was holding Edward while I had the drip. The midwives bustled around doing their things and Dave made snacks and did some washing. He took it next door to ask if we could use their dryer and our neighbour gave him some biscuits she had baked when she heard me in labour at 3pm.
The drip finished, I fed Edward some more. MW and BM left and we ordered pizza to be delivered from the place just around the corner. Xanthe left after pizza and Dave and I settled in for our first (rather unsettled) night with the little man.
The labour and birth were everything I had hoped for, right down to the time of day and weather that I had visualised during the Calmbirth exercises. The haemorrhage drama was unexpected but it was handled quickly, I felt safe at all times and I recovered quickly.
I’d like to especially thank Xanthe for the amazing photos and for all her help.
Edward is 10 days old today and we’re getting used to being a family of four and getting to know this new little person.