Leading up to Rosie’s birth, I was in a bit of a bad head space. She had swung herself into the ROA (right occipital anterior) position during a long car trip, when we went away for our last ‘hoora’ at 34 weeks. I was feeling pretty anxious about her not being in the ‘optimal’ position for labour and birth and despite all my efforts of trying to move her – she wasn’t budging. I even had a chiropractic appointment booked for the Monday Rose was actually born, to see if she would swing over to the left.
We had planned a homebirth and I was petrified of ending up in hospital. I was determined to achieve the birth I wanted and did everything I could to endeavour that we would not need to transfer our care at any point during the pregnancy or labour. I was very conscious of the food I put into my body, and I exercised until just a few days before Rose was born. Optimal fetal positioning became a lifestyle. Phill and I attended the Calmbirth program, and both got so much out of it. I practised my breathing and relaxation to the audio scripts religiously. I read birth books that had given me the belief that I could do this and watched plenty of positive birth videos. I used the ‘pink kit’ and practiced the exercises that would help me to ‘open up’. Given my anxious tendencies, I had acupuncture throughout the pregnancy to help me relax.
I had picked the model of care that was going to give me the best shot at getting this right. And I had an amazing support team ready to go. My two midwives; Mal’s reassuring, yet ‘tell’s it how it is’ nature, coupled with Nicola’s easygoing presence. And of coarse, my husband who had prepared himself emotionally to support me through the labour and birth; it was going to be like supporting me through a really tough netball game or getting me over the wall running that race. I knew I would be severely disappointed if things didn’t go to plan, but I also knew I had done everything in my power to give my baby a peaceful entry into this world. And if it didn’t work out…well sometimes Mother Nature just takes over and you need to ‘let it unfold’.
So of course it all started on Sunday the 2nd of March…the Sunday that Nicola had off. I started having waves that morning which continued throughout the day, but they only came once every hour, lasted for 15-20sec, and didn’t require much of my attention. I had a feeling things would kick off the next day, so I spent the whole day cooking up a storm so we would have food to fuel my body, Phill and our midwives. I was contemplating whether to go coach netball that night as the waves were more than manageable, but I figured if things did kick off the next day, I should probably rest…so I stayed home. Phill was on night shift that night but I asked him to come home early. If it all happened the next day I couldn’t have him trying to support me sleep deprived. So he made it home by 10pm and we decided to get an early night.
The waves woke me at 3:30am that Monday morning. I took myself out to the living room and laboured on my own for the next couple of hours, leaning over a beanbag, just breathing through. They got down to 5 minutely and were starting to require some focus. Phill woke at 7am and helped me get the TENS machine on….and then everything fizzled out!
I called Nicola just to let her know I had been in pre-labour for the last 24 hours. She kindly reminded me that this could go on for days and to go rest, eat, drink, sleep etc. So Phill and I had breakfast and decided to have a nap together.
I was having 3-4 waves in an hour, and by now they had a bit of ‘bite’ but I managed to nap in between them. Things kicked off at about midday and by 2pm I was in established labour. The problem was I had my midwife brain ticking over and analysing things – and had myself convinced that I wasn’t yet in established labour.
Phill called the chiropractor and let her know I had gone into labour and wasn’t going to be able to make my appointment after all. She texted me not long after letting me know that if I still needed, she would get in touch with Nicola and make a home visit to adjust me in labour when she had finished up at her clinic. Little did I know, that wouldn’t be needed.
I laboured in our bedroom, mainly leaning over the beanbag on our bed, just breathing through, but I would alternate between this and the birth ball and the occasional hip swinging dance, gripping onto our chest of draws. The TENS machine was amazing, and the breathing I had spent so long practicing helped tremendously. I was able to get into a zone and really work with my body.
I’m not sure what time it would have been, but it got to a point where the waves became pretty intense. Phill had been updating Nicola the whole afternoon and she had said she would come whenever I wanted her there. The last thing I wanted however, was for her to come and check me, only to say I was 2cm dilated and to go home again. So I was reluctant to have her there. She suggested I eat some carbs to avoid vomiting (as I hadn’t eaten anything sufficient since breakfast) and to try the shower or get the birth pool going.
I remember clearly dancing and stomping, gripping onto the back of the computer chair as Phill fed me the spaghetti bolognaise I had cooked the day before. Phill mentioned filling the pool and getting me in but I refused as I didn’t want to get in too early, have it all fizzle out, and be left with a pool full of water that had cooled down.
He managed to convince me to at least try our bath….which I absolutely HATED. I felt sooo constricted in our small tub. I was feeling the waves in my flanks and as I’d lost the TENS machine they felt so much more intense in the bath. At that point I decided to check inside to at least have a feel of where baby’s head was at. I couldn’t feel a thing, which just gutted me, and that’s when I lost my head. “I can’t do this anymore”, “there’s no break”, “I can’t go on like this for much longer”. There was my crisis of confidence that Rhea Dempsey writes so indepthly about.
I couldn’t stand to be in the bath any longer and so Phill got me out, dried me, put the TENS back on and I sat on the toilet whilst he gave Nicola a call. He said it might be a good idea for her to come down and see what was going on as it was getting to a point where we needed to know where we were at. She said she was just finishing up dinner and she’d be on her way.
He came back by my side and within a few waves that overwhelming urge to push came over me. Phill looked at me asking “What are you doing!?”, and I replied “I can’t help it!! Call Nicola!!”. Looking back, I was probably transitioning while I was in the bath. I still wasn’t 100% convinced it was all happening. The pushing wasn’t making any sense because I thought I still had a long way to go. I stuck my finger inside again only to be met with my bag of membranes sitting there ready to pop! I called out to Phill updating him whilst he was on the phone, and Nicola had said she was on her way, to get me off the toilet as this was only going to speed things up, to try not to push with the waves and to start filling that pool!
The next part got a bit frantic. Phill had to leave me to fill the pool up at a time where I probably needed him most. I needed him there by my side helping me breathe through, but I just couldn’t help pushing. We were both in abit of a ‘state’ internally. Phill stayed very cool, calm, and collected but later had mentioned he was thinking ‘I did not sign up to be catching this kid’. And all I thought was ‘I signed up for a home birth, but not flying solo!’. My waters broke about 10min before Nicola got there and again we were calling her asking how far away she was.
When she arrived, she was calm as anything – she came and said hello to me, grabbed her equipment from the car and then listened into bub. I burst into tears when I saw her. It was at that point that it had occurred to me that I had gone practically the whole labour without having baby monitored. I could constantly feel her moving inside of me throughout the day though, so I knew she was well oxygenated, but regardless it was a relief to hear that heart beat and know she was absolutely fine.
Nicola helped me into the pool, and I got the all clear to just listen to what my body was telling me to do and go with it. It was wonderful and INTENSE all at the same time! That’s the only way I can describe it. And so overwhelming! I had no control but to go with my body and bear down. I could literally feel my bones shifting as Rose made her way through my pelvis. I asked the girls to guide me through the last stages as her head was being born. There’s no way to describe the stretching and burning that I felt as her head got closer and closer. Her head crowned and she slowly started making her way out. The girls asked for me to give a little push as I hadn’t yet cleared her nose. The rest of her face she helped with herself! She literally was wriggling her little head about trying to enter the world. There was that break in waves once her head was completely born and with the final push I could feel her limbs moving, still inside of me, as if she was trying to kick her way out.
It was just magical. She was born at 8:55pm on Monday the 3rd of March, in our living room, in the dark, with our favourite music playing in the background. We got such a surprise that she was a girl!! She was soooo calm when she came up through the water. Of course I was asking ‘Is she ok!!?’, whereas everyone else could see her pinking up, moving her little arms and legs and her lips. I stayed in the water for a while enjoying my skin-to-skin cuddle. Phill and I were just beside ourselves. I couldn’t believe she was finally here….and we did it! We welcomed her into the world exactly how we had hoped.
After a while, Nicola thought she could see a separation bleed and suggested trying to birth the placenta. I sat on my knees, pushed and after a few tries – nothing. So the girls suggested I stand. I was worried the cord would snap (as it was still attached to Rose) so Nicola held onto it while Mal had the icecream tub ready to catch. A big push and plonk! Out it came. I then started to feel pretty light headed, so Phill grabbed the tub and helped Mal get me out of the pool and we quickly moved into the bedroom so I could lie down on the bed.
It didn’t take long before I felt ok again and we had our first breastfeed. Phill cut the cord, she was weighed, and we enjoyed cuddles as a family of 3, whilst the girls kept checking both Rose and I were stable. The girls made sure we were settled in and comfortable before heading home. We then called our parents to announce Rosie’s arrival.
Looking back at it all, although there was that slight moment of panic, the whole day was just amazing. We just about went through the labour on our own, with a bit of help at the end.
It was honestly the most empowering experience of my life. I felt like a superwoman. And Phill was an amazing support. He didn’t leave me side. It was such an intimate experience for the both of us. We were a team. We worked together. And it set us up for how we went into parenthood together.