This is the story of Madeleine’s birth – written by her mother Belinda. I had the honour to document this journey for them and I hope you are as inspired as I was by Belinda’s strength & courage and the support she got from her husband, Darren.
My labor and Madeleine’s Birth
It is hard to know where to start this story because it really begins with the birth of my first daughter Jemima. After laboring for 36hrs with Jemima, Darren and I exhausted, decided to have a cesarean birth. We were exhausted, shocked and had nothing left to give. Neither of us had it in us to fight the system.
After Jemima’s birth I realized some hard truths about our maternity system. Realized that I had spent my strength and courage trying to fight a system that didn’t support natural birth. I was no less courageous for her birth, but one only has so much energy to give at any time. I didn’t expect to take it so hard. I guess I had thought prior to birth that if it was necessary that I would deal with anything to get my healthy baby. I think that is where everything came unstuck.
You see when I looked back I didn’t think any of the interventions were necessary. Neither I, nor Jemima had ever been in distress, except for Jemima, when I was laid flat on my back with the syntocin going full blast. After she was born, with apgars of 9 and 10, instead of spending my time gazing at her lovingly, I spent my time in a haze of grief. I woke at nights to feed my beloved child and stayed awake wondering “what if”. What if I had known more. What if I hadn’t said yes. What if I had not let anyone worry me about going “over due”, after all my grand mother had gone to 43, 42 and 41 weeks with her pregnancies…… It just hurt so much. Mostly to realize that I felt totally betrayed by the system. I am a nurse. I thought I would be looked after by the system that had helped me look after so many others. Not mothers specifically, I wasn’t a midwife, but I believed in the system. I believed in what we did. After Jemima’s birth I realized that the system I believed in, didn’t believe in womens bodies like I did. I came to see how protocols interfered with birth in a substantial way. They interfered with Jemima and I, even though neither of us showed any signs of sickness….. My choices on how I birthed in the public health system were all taken away from me, because I didn’t hurry up and birth! In the end I had taken some herbs, which ended up in a home made intervention born of panic. I had given myself the induction that I was so scared of. It ended in a long and drawn out labor that tired us both out and achieved nothing. When I came out the other side, I realized some hard truths. There was a light bulb moment for me. How could the hospital support me in a birth in the future, that they didn’t actually believe in? I didn’t believe that they could. So began my journey. I researched and examined and came to the conclusion that they best chance I had of being supported in a VBAC birth was to do so at home with an independent MW.
Suffice to say Darren was terrified. Many nights of tears and outpourings of the heart over 2 years brought us to the realization that Darren was terrified of a home birth and I was terrified of a hospital birth. It was a really long road for us to face and hurt us and our marriage deeply. However I believe it was my husbands abiding love for me that helped him come to a place where he could accept my desicion, because I was immovable. Either we would do it my way next time, or we wouldn’t be doing it again. As I was the one to face the birth, Darren offered his love and support by facing his fears and offering his support of me at home. He said nothing to me that was negative during my pregnancy about home birth, at my request and only occasionally sought solace with me, for comfort of his fears. He truly expressed his love for me in this way.
During the previous yearr to my pregnancy I had come across a MW in our local area by the name of Rachel Reed (author of the fantastic blog Midwife Thinking). She was a UK trained MW and university lecturer. I knew that she “got” what it was that I believed in about birth. When I first got pregnant in early 2011 I contacted her at 5 weeks pregnant and asked to speak with her. She agreed. We lost that pregnancy and then were lucky enough to conceive within 6 weeks of the miscarriage. I had a due date of 4/01/2012. Once again I asked Rachel to see me during my pregnancy and she agreed. We started to meet when I was 16 weeks pregnant, I think after I had had a nt u/s scan and seen my gp for blood tests. I was happy to see that she brought along her iPad for appointments and seemed very normal! That might sound quite a funny thing to say, but I knew Darren would roll his eyes and struggle to trust a “typical hippy” home birth MW and Rachel gave him nothing to object about even though I know she is a hippy at heart. It might be useful to understand that DH is a Dr. He spent 3 yr doing anesthetics, 18months of that in obstetrics. He had a whole set of his own fears and experiences to give credence to them. He watched as a woman bled out on the table one time, with nothing that the hospital staff could do to save her. He had also witnessed many near misses. I believe that many of those problems occurred because of things done by staff to precipitate them, but it didn’t matter. For him it was very real. He talked about seeing me through a veil of blood when he thought about birth. It was a very unique challenge for my dear husband, as a man, as my husband and as a Dr to trust me in this birth and to give such wonderful support despite his own very real fears. We had agreed that he didn’t need to be in the birthing room during the birth if he was scared, because I knew I couldn’t look at his tear stained face if I was frightened myself. On the day, you will see he really stepped up and I only saw doubt on his face one time, when things started to hurt quite badly. I think that was less fear though and more empathy for me, his best friend and very cherished wife. My pregnancy was pretty uneventful all up. When people asked where we would birth we told them I had booked in to Caboolture hospital. Which was true. I didn’t mention I had only had the two appointments before stopping from going. Just didn’t need my whole pregnancy to be about one small risk of uterine rupture.
So my pregnancy continued normally. Christmas came and went, as did the renovation of our ensuite J. I think all pregnant women either move or renovate! I had gone to 42+2 weeks with Jemima and so was prepared to wait again. I didn’t let Daren book annual leave till I was due to be 41+2. I had had BH contractions from about 17 weeks and as I neared the end of pregnancy they could come all day or just sporadically. When I was 40+ 4 pregnant my dad and step mum took Jemima for the night and cared for her. Darren and I went to the movies and had sushi for dinner. It was just lovely. I had BH contractions 10mins apart for about 2 hrs that I timed and they continued thru the night. I began passing mucous plug on Sunday at 40 +4 and told my hubby and my little online community of homebirth mums, but no one else. Monday, BH’s continued regularly and I passed my mucous plug. I knew labor would start soon. Darren had to do an on call shift at work and I was under strict instructions not to go into labor until he had finished. He was off call at 7.30am Tuesday morning but had stayed down in the on call house near the hospital.
Tuesday morning I woke up to a contraction that was a little different. Just after I registered that, Jemima came in for her morning cuddle and then we got up. When I went to the toilet I could see that I had a bloody show of fresh blood. I kinda giggled to myself and realized that I was going to be in labor very soon. I called Rachel at 7:30 when I knew she was awake having read a status of hers on fb and then called Daren at 7:45 to tell him that he would need to be aware that I was probably going to call him home from work that day. Called Daycare and dropped off Jemima at about 9 and called Jacinta and Georgia who were going to care for Jemima and record the birth at about 9 to give them time to organize their child care. I also told them not to come but had called them both back by 10ish I think, to say, actually just come! I also called Darren back at 9 to say, “come home” as contractions were about 5 mins apart and getting more intense.
By 10:30 I was feeling pretty dopey between the contractions and realized I was getting high on endorphins :). Darren arrived home and started cleaning the kitchen. I tried to doze but it didn’t work. I ended up propped up on the couch with a cushion to lean into. I stopped timing contractions on the contraction master at 1054, when I realized I needed to really concentrate to cope. About that time Jacinta arrived and I asked Darren to set up the pool.
He called Rachel to tell her that I was definitely in labor, as I hadn’t spoken to her since early morning when I let her know it “might” be on today. She was at the uni and said she would come at 12:30 unless I needed her earlier.
So I got into the pool at about 11:30. Darren and Jacinta brought me cold water and held my hands. By now the contractions were really starting to hurt and I was having, to really breathe thru them. I remember looking at the clock at about 12:15pm and hoping that Rachel would get here soon. At some point I hear the floor boards along the hall leading to my bedroom give a telltale creak that someone was approaching and opened my eyes to see Rachel making her way slowly towards me. We spoke for a moment I think and I think she listened to me thru a contraction and made a comment about it all sounding very good. She moved back out to the lounge room to wait for me needing her and gave Darren and I privacy. I remember Darren telling me that Rachel was going to stay. Which seemed kinda strange at the time, until I realized that meant that they all thought it was progressing at a reasonable pace.
I had thoughts of requesting a VE, even though I didn’t really want to have any. I wanted to know that this was all moving things along after my last experience. I think that Darren went to be relieved by Jacinta at one point and I verbalized to her that I wanted to ask for a VE from Rachel and she asked my why and what would I feel if I didn’t hear what I wanted. I used her words to encourage me to not ask at that point, as I knew a disappointing exam would be both painful physically and emotionally. I had also asked Darren before he was relieved, so he tells me now; I was really hoping someone would agree that I should have one! I really did have lots of doubt that I could do it, or that my body was working. So I continued on. I was struggling now to cope with the pain and struggling to remember to breathe thru them. I got out of the bath for a while. I think because I felt so incredibly tired about then. I wanted to just lie down and was finding that to truly relax during contractions in the bath was very difficult. So I got onto the bed.
That is the first point where I remember being conscious of a great difficulty to regulate my temperature. Georgia had arrived by this time after a flat tire on the way to be with me from Brisbane. She was there to photograph and video the birth. She wrote in my diary, that at 1:22 (I had asked the girls who were there to document just the little things that went on during the day, as I knew that I would loose track in my labor land and wanted more than just clinical notes to help me remember the day. There are some delightful little antidotes about things that I know will always make me giggle.) I was on the bed saying I felt hot and shaky. Apparently I asked her to get me a thermometer! I got up off the bed after awhile and went into the shower. There at least I could turn the taps up and down to warm up and cool off as the urge took me. Jacinta was with me when I got out and helped dry me down. Or at least she tried to because I remember getting out and then running back into the shower again as a contraction came. As I did get out, a contraction took hold I was instinctively lifting my knees high and sort of striding on the spot. I went back over to the bed and leaned against it. Jacinta and Georgia were with me and I remember asking them if they ever just wanted it to stop? They said yes they both had. I remember Jacinta telling me that that was what made the baby come…
By 14:50 I was back in the pool. As contractions would come I would try not to fight them and just go with and relax through the sensations. I would grip, either J, Darren or Rachel’s hands thru them and push against them. I would internally get quite shirty with anyone who tried to let go of my hands before I was ready, or stop pushing against me. At one point Rachel reminded me that I could make noise if I wanted. I hadn’t been intentionally not making noise, but with the encouragement I started to really vocalize loudly to cope. A sort of prolonged “ahhhh” sound with my mouth wide open. When it got really bad I just plain yelled my head off!
When I was really struggling I would tell myself “I can do this, I can do this”. A girl friend of mine had given me the words “She thought she could, so she did”, which I would repeat to myself. I was really struggling to believe I could though. I have never been a fan of pain. Never been an exerciser cos it just hurt too much. I only did things if they were fun. This was def not fun! I remember telling Darren and Rachel that I just wasn’t good with pain. Hoping that they would agree and call an ambulance for me to go to hospital. They both sort of laughed at me and told me that I was obviously quite wrong about that. Darren told me that I hadn’t had a single contraction so far that I hadn’t coped with. He says I settled down quite a bit after being told that. Although I was quite convinced that they were humoring me at that point.
I remember looking at my watch not long after 4 and realizing that I hadn’t been conscious of the time since Rachel’s arrival at the promised 12:30. I realized I had been at this awhile now. Maybe it was because around that time according to the notes made by Jacinta that I made my first pushy noise with a contraction. According to J, at 16:15 I made a pushy noise that made both girls sit up and look at each other. I recall being aware that the sound was quite involuntary and remember hearing excited pattering up the hall as the girls came to check on me. They went away fairly soon I think, but I was aware of things progressing but also of being cynical, that it would just never end
By then I think I had started to fantasize about c/s and was working out what drugs I could get at hospital. As an emergency nurse I was very familiar with the “green whistles” that the ambulance carried and would often give to laboring women. I thought about them often during that time! I realized in the non-cynical part of my brain that I was probably close to fully dilated if my body was giving involuntary pushes. My problem was that my logical brain was not closely linked to the part of me that was living the experience. It was like there was a logical analytical observer sitting in the corner of my brain who couldn’t speak…. She just watched and made wry observations in the back of my mind…. So realizing that I was probably 9cm or more encouraged me but made me realize I couldn’t have pethadine if I was in hospital, LOL! It would either be gas, which sent me loopy last time, or an epidural, which would be terrible as far as I was concerned! All of this was going thru my brain whilst I continued to labor thru. The contractions were often double peaked or come in lots of two’s or threes. As my body began to push more often, they would consist of one intense contraction where I would bear down and grunt and then be followed by a contraction where I would moan thru and find much less intense.
At 5pm Jacinta went and picked our daughter Jemima up from Daycare. I had always had Jacinta in mind to care for her and we had prepared her for the birth by reading her the book “Hello Baby”.
It talked about how the mum made lots of noise thru the labor to give birth and when asked where the baby in mummies tummy would come from, Jemima would reply “from her bottom” very earnestly. And turn around and pock out her bum whilst patting it. I think because of a picture in the book showing the mother from the side when the head was out. . I remember Darren asking me what I wanted done for her when she got home. I remember being worried that she would be freaked out by the noises I was making, cos I was literally yelling my head off by this point! I suggested taking her to the neighbors and told Darren that I was worried she would be scared. He disagreed and said she would be fine. I was too deep into labour to argue with him and left it in his hands. She is a particularly fearless little soul. So he bought her into me to say hello after having big hugs when she got home with Daddy. She looked at me and asked if “mummy sore?”. I said yes I was sore…. “Mummy ok?”, she asked “Yes, mummy ok” I replied. She stroked my cheek I think and then she was gone back out to be with Jacinta, but not before spying Rachel and to our amusement announcing loudly and enthusiastically “Rachel!!” Jacinta wrote at 6pm that during one particularly noisy contraction where I yelled “It hurts, It hurts!!” she asked Jacinta, “mummy sore?” and then told her, “Daddy help”. J wrote, “she understands”….
6pm- Jacinta also wrote that about then that I am laboring well. “It is honest and earnest and powerful. You are questioning yourself, but we all around you can easily see you are progressing well and quite capable of birthing this baby”.
I was really freaking out about this time. Things were really intense and I often wasn’t getting a break in between contractions from back pain and pain in my cervix, right down the front. Rachel stepped up the fetal monitoring because I kept complaining of the lower abdo pain that wouldn’t stop between contractions. I knew she would worry about a rupture and whilst I actually wasn’t worried about that, part of me secretly hoped she would send me to hospital and make all the pain stop. She would question me about it, but everything else about what I was doing looked perfect. At this point I was on my knees over the side of the tub for contractions and pushing thru more contractions than not. I was also getting desperate. I was desperate for someone to tell me what to do. I asked Rachel what to do and she asked me what I wanted to do. I replied I wanted to panic! She said, “Well if you want panic, go ahead”. So I did!! I think I may have had a little cry and said, “Shit this hurts, it hurts!!” But panicking didn’t work for me, LOL. So I stopped pretty quickly. It hadn’t helped, so I didn’t do it again and got back to what did and tried once again to work with my bodies increasing power. Thru that point of my labor I remember popping my head up sporadically during the breaks and confiding my fears out loud. It really helped to let them go. Rachel and Darren listened and would either reassure me or shoot holes thru my fears. It helped to let them go. It helped to feel like I was so safe with them that I could admit some of the more ridiculous fears. One of which was that I had been told by women of my family that we had “small hips” and that if I didn’t have babies before I turned 30, my pelvis wouldn’t “flex” and I wouldn’t be able to get my baby thru. I was 32 at this point ;)
I asked to be checked sometime around 6-7pm and was encouraged to check myself. I told them I could feel baby’s head which elicited smiles and when I showed them a measurement on my finger with my thumb how far in I had felt baby they told me I was almost there. I only found out later that they had been looking at the distance I held my fingers open rather than the distance down my finger I was marking with my thumb. But either way, their obvious delight at my progress gave me hope and with my courage renewed I continued. I remember at some point in there during a pretty horrific contraction looking up to see Georgia beaming with a huge smile from behind her camera. I remember taking courage from that too… But once again I lost courage and asked Rachel to check me again as I had inserted a finger and could no longer feel the head hard without something soft and squishy over the top. There was also this weird strip of flesh that seemed to float away inside me like a little finger…. So Rachel checked me whilst I was contracting and told me that she could feel baby’s head less than an inch inside. I began to get excited in a disbelieving sort of way. I was so hopeful and yet so scared I couldn’t do it. It was so hard. I was pushing quite a lot at this point and really wanted to bite down on something at this point. I began to eye off my husband’s fingers in front of me LOL. I was kind enough to warn him that he ought to be aware that I wanted to bite him quite badly! He would encourage me thru my contractions till I got to the point where I couldn’t stand him talking to me during them. I quite firmly told him to “shut up” despite the fact that it had helped earlier to have his encouragement. I remember hearing Rachel tell Darren that this was “a good sign”. He left me for a small while to get some food, but I remember asking Jacinta not long after he had gone “where is my damn husband?!” He returned to me pretty quickly and I don’t know what I would have done without him. He was my anchor.
I continued to complain about all of the pain I had after a contraction. Rachel ascertained that the pain was decreasing without the contractions. She told me she suspected that I had a cervical lip pinched between my pelvis and babies head and suggested that I float on my back for a few contractions, to allow my uterus to pull that lip out of the way. She warned me it would make contractions more intense but thought it may relieve my pain. As I did the contractions definitely picked up another notch. I found myself bearing down very hard and lifting my knees up to be in a floating squat as I did so. Soon I started to feel massive pressure in my bottom. My body was so powerful at that point. Nothing I could have done would have stopped my body pushing that baby down at that point. Over a few contractions I remember hearing Rachel telling Darren she could see the head. My waters still hadn’t broken but she began talking about the baby’s hair and got a mirror so Darren could see. He was sat behind me on the bed whilst I held onto his hands above my head. I really got excited hearing that! I thought, “OMG I am really going to have a baby”.
I began to feel a burning pain in my vagina during contractions but the baby’s head would retract back in-between. Rachel reminded me to not hurry thru this and told me that the baby was stretching things slowly and that would help me. I was marveling as I felt down between my legs that I could feel the sack inflated with fluids and the hardness of the head just behind. At one point as the burning got intense as my body pushed my baby out, and I panicked again. I decided it was WAY too intense and tried to push the babies head back inside! I laugh about it now because it was so irrational, but I just decided that I just couldn’t do it. It was too much and I wasn’t gonna do it! That being said my body had completely taken over and was pushing this baby out! At this rather absurd point during pushing my calf would cramp. So I was yelling at Rachel to shake my calf mid contraction! I was on one knee by this stage and had the other knee cocked. Suddenly her head was out…. Mostly. She stopped just about when my peri got past her nose and I hurt like all hell when I realized she had stopped prior to her neck where I expected some relief and so I pushed my peri down over her chin with my hands. My waters were still intact but burst on the next contraction. Rachel told me later that she had seen a bit of mec in the waters. A contraction came and all it seemed to push out, was the waters. The baby didn’t move at all and I was a bit scared. I asked Rachel if she was stuck so on the next contraction Rachel helped me and pulled her from my body where I grabbed her and brought her onto my chest. She later told me that the baby hadn’t been stuck but thought I would have gotten her out on my own if I had shifted position. I didn’t mind to be honest. I wanted help and she gave me what I needed at that time. I had just kinda frozen with sensory overload. Anyway more importantly….
OMG!!! I just had a baby!!! I couldn’t believe it I was completely overwhelmed. I hugged her to me and she breathed a bit moist for a moment but pinked up straight away and breathed on her own in seconds. I think I may have asked for Jemima and so she was brought in and gave both me and the…. (OMG we have another little baby girl!) ….. a kiss within a min of her being born. I needed to get out of the pool pretty quick, just because I had refused to let them fill it with any warmer water. So I gave the baby to Rachel as I climbed out of the pool straight up onto my bed. I asked Rachel how did I go about pushing out the placenta and she told me “well you have listened to your body up till now, so just do what it tells you”. So I pushed out the placenta within about 5-10 mins of birthing my baby. I was still so completely overwhelmed. I just couldn’t believe I had done it!! I bagged rights after the baby was born to make the first phone call to my sister and we both just cried to each other over the phone that I had done it.
So there you go, my HBAC of a baby girl born in the caul.
First contraction till birth of baby 12.5 hrs
Active labor was probably from about 11am till 7.15
I reached transition I think about 6ish, but had had involuntary pushing from about 4.15-715 but only consistently from about 6
I had two minor labia tears, either side, which now 7 days post partum don’t hurt.
My toosh is still bruised and I am taking it easy, but I had my first outing at day 3 and have had the most amazing recovery so far.
I can honestly say it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but by the same token It was soo worth it and I am incredibly proud of myself!!! There has been a healing of my relationship with my husband, in areas that I sensed were broken, but didn’t know how to fix till now. I think it was just about trust. Ours had been bruised, but having our trust in each other tested and come through stronger has been a great healing for us both and I have fallen in love with my man all over again. I couldn’t ask for a better birth, or to have been supported in a more full way. I was completely trusted by everyone around me. I wonder sometimes now, whether my whole life has been changed, by the massive rush of oxytocin, that I got when I birthed Madeleine. Everything just seems brighter.
Thank you for reading my story. I wish for every mother the support and love I received when I was pregnant and gave birth. I hope that this inspires you to believe in yourself and surround yourself with others who believe in the strength of your body.
From Georgia – I hope you loved this birth story and next week I will share the film of Madeleine’s beautiful home birth! You can watch it here If you were inspired by Belinda’s story – please comment and let her know x