My son was born into a birthing pool in the middle of the afternoon at the end of March. It was mostly silent; I could hear the sounds of the school kids walking past, the sound of my dogs barking at them as usual. Life was going on around us outside and here I was, about to give birth normally for the first time. My first birth was an emergency Caesarean — I hadn’t experienced a normal vaginal birth before. I never wanted to feel a baby taken out of my stomach ever again and now here I was, a total opposite experience for my second birth. No hospitals, no doctors, no interventions, no hospital rules, no limitations. Just myself, my partner, my doula and the midwives.
Here is the story of my labour and birth…
10.30am -11am. After an unusually decent night sleep (you know how it is when you are in those final days!), I grabbed some breakfast and sat down on the couch and jumped online. I had a funny feeling like a cramp and I went to the toilet. I sent my partner a text message telling him to stay close to the phone, I think something might happen today. After a few minutes, I needed to go to the toilet again and I had a bloody show. I rang my partner and told him, “Come home, I have a contraction. Ouch ouch OUCH.” I rang my independent midwife (IM), to let her know that something was happening. The pain is so bad I dropped the phone mid-conversation. I had this incredible urge to push. my IM told me she was still on the other end of town, but was on her way. I was scared she wouldn’t make it in time! I rang my doula and told her what’s happening. I described my contractions to her and she told me she would get to me within 30 minutes.
11am -11.45am. While I was waiting for everyone to come to my house, I laboured away up in my bedroom. I didn’t feel like there was much time between each contraction. Every one that surged through me was hard, intense, with the incredible urge to push. I was worried that I was pushing too early so I squatted with my head on the floor and bottom in the air as suggested by my doula over the phone. I called my partner again and almost yell, “You have to come home right now!”
11.50am. My partner got home and quickly came into our room to check on me.
12pm. My doula arrived and told my partner to start the pool now. She put soothing oils in the oil burner as soon as she arrived. She calmed me down and started helping me cope better with the pain. I felt more focused. I tried to breathe through each contraction as they intensified. After 30 minutes, my doula suggested I try the shower, so we moved to the bathroom and I spent some time in there with the hot water on my back, leaning into my partner during each contraction.
12.38pm. My IM arrived and started setting up. Someone suggested that I move back into the bedroom as we needed to use the hot water to fill up the rest of the pool. While the shower was helping, the urge to get into the birth pool was greater, so we went back to the bedroom and I knelt over the bed for the next hour. Every ten minutes or so my IM checked the foetal heart rate with the Doppler — all was perfectly normal.
1.40pm. After labouring away in my bedroom (and after a mishap where the hose filling the pool flies out and sprays water all over our TV), the pool was announced as full! I made my way down there and climbed in and it felt wonderful. I decided it was most comfortable to keep kneeling and to lean over the side of the pool, holding onto my partner’s or doula’s hands. Each contraction seemed to be getting more intense and longer. I began to get longer breaks between them where I was able to breathe slowly and recoup. I found the flickering lights of the electrical equipment around the TV something I could focus on. I asked out loud if this is real labour (and I get a few laughs.) The labour seemed to be settling down into a groove. I wondered what was going on. Everyone was telling me I was doing really well. I requested no internals, so I had no idea what my body was doing. I had been trying not to push, I asked if I could push now, I was told I could go with it. Looking back through my labour notes, I found that I was having a contraction once every two to three minutes and they each lasted for 60 seconds. It sure felt intense!
2.30pm. I started to feel a little bit of stinging at the end of each contraction. ‘WOW,’ I thought calmly to myself. ‘My baby is going to be arriving soon!’ So, this is where I get back to the start of this story. I remember thinking my hair was all over the place. That I was glad it wasn’t too hot as my air conditioner doesn’t work that well when it’s hot and humid. I even wanted my dogs to stop barking. But, I never once thought about that scar on my uterus!
2.56pm. I kept getting longer feelings of stinging. Then I felt a pop and a stretching sensation and his head was out. ‘Wow,’ I remember feeling, ‘That means the rest of him will follow!’ I can feel his head begin to rotate. It is the most awful feeling. Not painful, but it felt like someone was behind me pulling him around. I ask if someone was pushing down on him, but no, the midwives told me, that’s him turning all by himself. I was too scared to move and holding on in wait for the next contraction.
3.03pm. I felt one last push and whoosh! He slid out. My IM was behind me and told me to get my hands down and she pushed him under my legs. I reached down and pulled him up and out of the water. Oh my gosh, I stared down into his eyes, he stared up into my face and we gazed at each other. He was covered lightly in vernix, the rest floated around in the pool. He looked a little grey straight away but slowly started changing colour. I think, ‘Yep, just birthed my baby, as you do.’ I thought straight away that yes, it hurt, but it felt…. easy and normal. I sat down finally after four and a half hours and held him to my chest. I started to process what I had just done. I chatted away with my IM, doula and partner while we waited for the umbilical cord to stop pulsating and the placenta to come away. I offered the breast to our baby, but he was not really interested!
4pm. I started experiencing mild cramps, but no contractions. The backup midwife had a quick check and told me the next time I have a contraction to push through it like I did during labour. When it finally happens I pushed, and then – whoosh! – the placenta came out intact. By now the cord had stopped pulsating, so we clamped the cord and I asked my partner to cut it, which he did. The water was getting cold so I handed over our baby to my partner for his first cuddles while I headed to the shower. Best. Shower. Ever. I remembered standing in there thinking, ‘I have just birthed a baby and I am walking around having a shower!’ I felt pretty invincible right then. I went back to the lounge and got checked for tearing. We find a second degree labial tear as our son came out with his hand over his face. I didn’t care, though — I had an amazing and empowering birth experience.
4.30pm onwards. I cradled my baby on my chest and I started to call my family. I had already decided that I wasn’t going to let anyone know until after the birth, so it was wonderful to be able to call them up and say, “Hey Mum, Dad — I had my baby not long ago!” I moved back up to the bedroom and got comfortable in bed. We weighed and measured our baby. He was 3.3 kilograms, born at 3.03pm and was 54 centimetres long.
By 6.30pm, both our IM and doula had left. My partner’s parents brought our daughter back home to meet our new baby. She sat on the bed next to us and reached over to tickle his head and laughed. He fits seamlessly into our lives.