Sometimes I have the honour of being present and documenting when a new baby is welcomed into their home. In May I was present to document the arrival of a little brother for Madeleine – one of the first babies I documented the birth of. There is a special honour to watch a family grow and be present for not one but two such life changing events. It is such an honour when I can now call these families friends. I have a beautiful birth video to share in a couple of days but for now, Belinda’s birth story in her words. You can read the last story she shared here.
This is the story of Edwards birth. Edward is our third child and first boy. Our eldest daughter was born via c/s, after a forced transfer of care from the birth centre at Townsville hospital due to me being post dates at 42+1 when I presented in labour. We never wanted to loose our choices of care giver again, so instead opted for independent midwifery care at home for the births of our second and third children. It goes almost without saying that we would have birth in hospital or anywhere really, if that had been necessary for our children, and taken our midwife with us, for that continuous support. I say almost, because many people don’t understand our choice to birth in the safety of one to one midwifery. There is no other model of care available to us, that guaranteed us the care giver of our choice, and it was too important a choice for us to allow it to be up to the fates of oncall rosters, something that my husband and I, as health care professional understand all to well
My pregnancy journey began in a flood of research, as I desperately swayed to try to conceive a little boy. My sister and I have six girls between us, so it was with great jubilation that we found out we were expecting a baby boy. Otherwise it was very uneventful. I enjoyed all of the visits with my midwife Rachel, as it was a time to connect and bond closer. We were friends already, but it was lovely to have an excuse to see Rachel once a month and spend a couple of hours chatting about all things birthy. Rachel asked me early on, if I minded having a student midwife along for the ride, and I consented. So Alina started to come along, and it was kinda fun teaching her all about birthing women. She was really lovely, and I was a little sad in the end that the university refuses to let the students of homebirth women come along, due to the ongoing lack of insurance issues.
Three days before I went I to labour, my hubby finished up from work for four weeks. We had a lovely weekend pottering about and doing last min things to get ready for the baby, including buying a rug for in front of the fire. The whole way thru Eddies pregnancy, the only thing that really came to mind, was that because I was due in May, I would be able to have a fire. Hurray! So we got the rug, and we had organised to do parent teacher interviews the Monday afternoon. We went to school, but the teacher had forgotten, and was away. I was a bit bummed, cos I was 41 weeks that Monday, and I was worried it would be a mental block if we didn’t do it. I had kept thinking that once that was done, I had everything organised and I would be free to have the baby. Anyway, it didn’t happen. I went to bed that night and really struggled to go to sleep. I kept in that twilight place of dreaming and being awake, imagining that I was going to replicate what a few of the women around me had recently done. One going to 43+5 and the other ten days before going to 43+6. I really didn’t want to do that, but we gestate long in my family. My MW was headed overseas when I would be 43, nearly 44 weeks pregnant and that weighed on my mind. So I don’t think I got much sleep. In reality it wasn’t to be much longer and it is a pattern of mine, just prior to labour, to loose what little sanity I have left.
I woke up that night at about 2:40 am to a contraction. It was different from my normal Braxton Hicks. It was deeper and more intense. It was bearable, but I knew I wouldn’t go back to sleep. That being said it was 3 am and I didn’t want to wake up my hubby. So I started to time some contractions to pass the time and got on fb. I also lit a fire. I was excited to do that, cos the only thing I had envisioned about the birth, was that I would have a fire when I laboured and I would sit on the rug in front of my fire during labour. It was very mild at that point. Still I knew it was labour and was certain enough that I got out a pad and put it on. About 4-4:30 I went to the toilet and there was fresh blood on the pad. No mucous or anything, just frank blood. Not lots, I wasn’t super concerned, but I did go and check my emails from my MW, about when she would want me to contact her regardless of the hour, and fresh blood was one of them. So about 4:45 I spoke to my hubby, having disturbed him with my fire lighting efforts and we agreed that I ought to call my midwife and just let her know about the blood. So I spoke with Rachel and she was glad I called, but unconcerned and just said she would get ready for my call later. I sent a facebook message to my friend and videographer/photographer Georgia and let her know that labour had started and got a big woohoo back from her. I called her later at about 5:30 along with Rachel to let them know that labour was getting stronger and could they please come.
Contractions were a bit erratic at that point. Sometimes they were 4 mins apart for about 5 or 6 in a row and then they would space out to 8mins apart. I was starting to moan softly through them. Georgia arrived at about 6 I think and Rachel about 15 mins later. The girls both woke up about 6 and came out to greet me by the fire. Georgia took photos of them greeting me and I had lovely cuddles and snuggles and belly rubs from them. Labour slowed. I wasn’t overly concerned, I expected it to with the arrival of so many people into my space. I just went with it. Around this time I asked my hubby to try to contact our friend and doula for the children, Jacinta who had been intended to come. It turned out she couldn’t come when we called her, so on short notice, we called my sister who lived nearby. She dropped her kids off early to school, and came over at some point after 7. Sometime before she arrived, I asked my hubby to set up the pool and retreated to the bedroom. Rachel, Georgia and I hung out in the bedroom making inappropriate jokes and generally having a good time. I kept thinking it was all a little too jovial to be proper labour. To which Rachel replied that when it was the real deal, I would be falling asleep in between contractions like I had last time. Her words would be prophetic…. I think that might have precipitated me giving her the bird. :)
When my sister arrived I had hopped into the pool. I had been staring at it as it filled, wishing it faster. I called out a hello and got on with it knowing my children would be taken care of. My youngest was being a cheeky monkey, putting on a performance that was both adorable and insanely cute as well as cheeky, telling me to “be quiet mummy!”, to which she got told off for her cheek. Eventually I asked my hubby to take the children away, as they were becoming a distraction. My eldest came back in several times to rub my back and put cold cloths on my face.
Sometime maybe around 8-9 things really kicked up a gear. The pain started to really exceed my ability to cope. This was the point at which i was almost falling asleep between contractions. I vocalised thru as best I could, but started to fall apart. I did my own VE at some point, around 9 ish I guess. I wasn’t watching the clock at all at this point. I could feel babies head, but could also only feel lots of cervix too. It really disheartened me. I could also feel baby still kicking me out in front. I had known he was OP (back to back with me) all thru my pregnancy and had steadfastly refused to worry, knowing that he would turn in labour. But he wasn’t at that point. I wasn’t so worried that he wouldn’t turned, I was worried it would take ages for him to do so, as it had been a slow process with my last and I was starting to freak out that it was going to be another long labour. I had been psyching myself up for a 4-5 hr active labour. I think around this point I might have said to Rachel, well there goes my 5 hr labour and I began to spiral down into despair. My back hurt terribly. I tried getting out of the pool and laying down with hubby behind me on the bed pushing on my back, but I had lost all focus and really was beginning to panic. As the contractions came on, I would cry and begged someone to “help me please”. When my mw checked on my baby, in the back of my mind I hoped that something would be wrong, so I could hand my labour over to someone else and call an ambulance. Still in saying that, I had pain killers like panadiene forte available for my use, but I refused to ask for them, because I knew they would jeopardise my baby, and that was not something I was willing to risk. So on I went….. I was really loosing control now. I hopped out of bed and sobbed through some really powerful pains that hurt my back something fierce.
I think my hubby retreated about then, to go and check on the kids. Talking to him later, he was really starting to be upset by how distressed I had become. My sister stepped in. She was helpful in putting pressure on my back, but I was really coming apart.
I had joked about and also seriously discussed water injections with Rachel all through pregnancy. She was less than keen, as she had never used them in labour before. They had become a running joke between us. I stubbornly told her I wanted her to learn about them. My hubby had helped the MW to give them to me in my first labour with her directions, so he knew what to do (Darren is a doctor). Rachel had googled instructions in the weeks leading up to the birth with diagrams to illustrate where to give them. About 10:15 I think (from reading my notes) I asked my husband to go and get Rachel and tell her I wanted injections. He went off and I was alone in the en-suite. My sister realising I was on my own, came in to support me.
Rachel and Darren came back in about 10:30. It did give me a little laugh (internally) when I saw her and Darren approach me. Rachel with an iPad and pictures of where to inject on it and him with a texta, to draw the spots on my back. Anyway, they really stung, but compared to the previous back pain they weren’t so bad and at least it was done! I got back in the pool. My sister stayed with me, and as I came out of my trance at one point to have a contraction, I told her I was totally panicking and not coping at all! I don’t think it was necessarily apparent to everyone around me, I do think my sister and hubby were aware, being that they know me better than most people, but I don’t think Georgia and Rachel were as aware. Anyway having confessed that I would really like for my sister to finish the rest of the birth for me, she said to me as I finished a contraction, “why don’t we do the next one together?” I agreed and the next contraction, I looked into my sisters earnest and loving eyes, and I calmed down and breathed. I think that the injections had possibly just started to work by then, but it also think that she helped me to gather myself as well. I think Rachel was thinking that listening to where I was at, that I was transitioning and everything was progressing beautifully.
During one contraction, I gave a little voluntary push and it felt good! In the next contraction at the end, my body took over and I began to give little grunts as I started to push. I was really surprised, I honestly thought I was a long way from that point. Somewhere around then, I did another VE. I could feel a bulging waters and head there, but I could also feel a large amount of cervix at the front. It felt just like what I had felt during maddies labour. I began to think I needed to get on my back again to let my body pull that cervix out of the way. I spoke to Rach, and asked her to do a VE. She quite grudgingly put on her gloves, and told me that she wasn’t doing it for herself, cos she knew that it wouldn’t tell her anything she needed to know, as she knew my body was working perfectly. Funny for me too, was that reading her notes later you can tell by the way she wrote them that she only did it for my benefit. I told her I knew all that, but I wanted it and I needed to know. She refused to tell me at that point my amount of dilation(later guessing I was about 6cm, she hadn’t wanted to really do a thorough one that would have discomforted me, plus I was still in the bath!) because she knew it meant nothing, but did affirm what I knew already about the anterior lip being there. She again suggested as she had with Maddies birth, that I float on my back.
Hubby was back in with me by now, and so I floated onto my back, and he anchored me to the side of the bath, as he anchors me in life and with the next contraction my body took over and I began to push properly, not just little grunty pushes at the end of a contraction. First contraction and push on my back I felt a gentle burn at the top of my birth canal/cervix and downward momentum, I felt two pops internally and knew my waters had gone, then a second later heard Rachel comment that my waters had broken and that there was light mec. There was no urgency to her voice, and I was completely unworried. Second contraction I felt baby begin to bulge into my perineum. When the contraction finished, I said to Rachel (quite calmly I’m told) to go and get the children, cos the baby was coming. I remember opening my eyes as the children and my sister entered the room. I told my eldest daughter to jump up onto the bed so she could see and have an image of my sister holding my baby daughter in her arms with tears in her eyes, explaining what she could see very quietly to her, stood at the foot of the birth pool. I closed my eyes again…. The third contraction, I reached down and could feel the head bulging into my tissues and I could feel the burn. Out loud I said “slowly now, take it slowly” or words to that effect and tried to really pant him down slowly to avoid tearing, but he was coming fast! His head was born in that third contraction… Between the third and fourth contraction I called out to Rachel ” can you catch the baby?”. And she basically told me “no you can catch your baby!” I remember the overwhelming sensation of holding his head and then feeling my body bearing down as I pushed on him. Immediately I felt him beginning to turn and move, and felt one shoulder and arm and then the next pop from my body. I don’t know if I was stunned into not moving, cos it was crazy fast, but I remember Rachel telling me to reach down and get my baby. And then it was done! I was opening my eyes and pulling my baby boy, my son! Onto my chest and welcoming him into our family…. He was beautiful! And so tiny!
So my baby boy, our tiny little man was born. He was 3400g born at 11:35am. Our smallest baby by 400g. He was so beautiful and so lovely and my tears were turned to smiles and joy! The whole family has been in a beautiful bubble of love. We are all so in love with him! The girls have been so lovely and call him “cutie tiny baby”.
When looking back at my labour pattern you could see it was somewhat typical of an OP labour. My contractions were erratic in nature. Sometimes they came 3 or 4 mins apart, other times 8 mins apart. I would never have been classed by many people’s definition of labour, as actually being in labour until the last twenty minutess, as my contractions were only 2 in ten until then. Still my body knew its job and Eddy was born pretty speedily really after probably 3 maybe 4 hours of active labour.
Special thanks to Rachel, Georgia and my sister Philippa. You all made the journey that much more bearable, and even joyful and fun at times.
Thank you for reading my story, and I hope you enjoy the video when Georgia posts it :)
(If you wanted to watch a video while you wait. Here is the first birth video I made, of Belinda’s last birth, a beautiful vaginal birth after a caesarian.)