Sometimes you meet people and the love and bond between them is just visible, you just know that when they work together to birth their baby it will be absolute magic!
This was certainly the case with Amy and Mitch – they’re just the loveliest people and our time spent together during our private Calmbirth classes was SO much fun and an absolute pleasure for me… to be invited into their home and space was a privilege, as they prepared for the birth of their second little love.
Harley turned One a few weeks ago, so I thought it was the perfect time to share the story of both his and his big sister Lilly’s birth!
Thank you with all my heart to Amy for her generousity in allowing me to share – Harley’s birth shows how knowledge, preparation and incredible team work can support you in having a beautiful, empowering birth – just look at that photo of Amy with Harley in her arms! It speaks volumes to that overwhelming elation and ‘I did it’ moment, hope you all enjoy!
“I’ll never forget that first cuddle and the way she peacefully looked into my eyes as though we’d known each other for a lifetime. I couldn’t believe the person I had felt growing inside me for over nine months was now laying on my chest. I was a mum! She was so the most amazing thing I had ever seen. The elation, excitement, exhaustion, and empowerment I felt in that moment is unlike anything I had ever felt before.”
Story by Amy
The birth of our beautiful daughter Lilly
My beautiful husband and I started dating in high school, got married at 22 and everyone expected us to begin popping kids out straight away, but we spent five years travelling and enjoying our time together first.⠀
The realisation we were ready to start a family hit us out of the blue. We went from thinking about our next project to wondering why we didn’t start trying years ago! Luckily, we were incredibly blessed and fell pregnant fairly quickly.⠀
My pregnancy was beautiful. I was nauseated for around the first 14 weeks, but after that I was able to thoroughly enjoy it! I was counting down to the birth with nervous anticipation. Like all new mothers- I had no idea what to expect! I didn’t have a birth plan but knew that I would like to avoid an epidural or intravenous pain relief as I am a bit of a light weight when it comes to medications. I had absolute trust in my beautiful obstetrician and knew the midwives would guide me through.⠀
I was 40 + 3 weeks when I had my final obstetrician appointment and subsequent stretch and sweep.Everyone kept telling me in the final weeks how low I was looking, and how close I must be.
“You’ll go early” they’d say! And I believed them. So, making it past my due date was frustrating and I was impatient to get the baby out!
My contractions started two hours later, building in intensity very quickly. This was at 12pm, and by 6pm I was sure I must be at least 5cm dilated and on my way. I made it to midnight at home before the contractions became too intense. I had sent Mitch to bed a few hours earlier, and I had been laying in a warm bath. I woke him up and he helped me to get dressed and put the bags in the car. My waters broke on the way to hospital, and I was sure the baby was coming!
When we made it to hospital, I was placed into a birthing suite with a midwife popping her head in occasionally for the first two hours. I think this is when I lost my groove. I had already used any resources I had at home and was ready for some guidance! At 2am a beautiful midwife was called in and put me in the shower- bliss! However, when she did an inspection, I was horrified to hear I was only 3-4cm dilated!!!
This is when the oxytocin drip was started- and boy- didn’t that cause the contractions to increase in intensity! I wasn’t getting a break between them and was losing control. I had to stay on the bed for monitoring and could no longer move around. I laid over a beanbag on the bed, rocking back and forward on my knees to ease the pain. I decided to have the gas, which didn’t seem to lessen the pain, but rather distract me from it and allow me to drift elsewhere mentally.
I don’t know what I would have done without my beautiful Mitch, he did not leave my side from the moment I woke him. He held the water in the shower, rubbed my back and always seemed to be exactly where I needed him to be. Even through the haze of the gas I could hear his voice as he whispered encouragement to me, pushing me on.
A gruelling eight hours later I felt the urge to push. I started on all fours, pushing as hard as I could despite the exhaustion, but just couldn’t get anywhere. My Obstetrician came in at this point and realised I still had some fluid blocking the baby from coming out. I rolled onto my back with my feet in stirrups and the waters were broken. The baby started to get a little distressed at this point, so I was given some local and an extended episiotomy. She explained everything to me so calmly, I didn’t worry because she didn’t seem worried.
Mitch looked me in the eye at this point and told me that the baby needed to come out now, and that I could do it. He said that he could see her beautiful dark hair and I read the excitement mixed with fear on his face. With him right beside me, we birthed our beautiful daughter Lilly into the world. She swallowed some meconium on the way out, so after a little snuggle on my chest was taken away to be suctioned and assessed by a paediatrician.
I’ll never forget that first cuddle and the way she peacefully looked into my eyes as though we’d known each other for a lifetime. I couldn’t believe the person I had felt growing inside me for over nine months was now laying on my chest. I was a mum! She was so the most amazing thing I had ever seen. The elation, excitement, exhaustion, and empowerment I felt in that moment is unlike anything I had ever felt before. (The four e’s!) The pushing took two hours in total.
The thing I found most disturbing about my labour was the hallucinations. During labour, I truly believed I was Rayna James and that my drug use was seriously letting my band down. (I may have spent the hours leading up to going to hospital watching Nashville). After Lilly was born, they didn’t stop. In fact, they got worse. From old ladies sitting in the chair next to my hospital bed, to creepy figures leaning over her bassinet, they continued for over two weeks. I was scared to sleep, scared of the dark, exhausted- and too afraid to tell anyone for fear they’d take Lilly away from me. Ridiculous, I know.
The birth of my beautiful son Harley Mark Dower
When I fell pregnant again, I felt anxious about the labour. Not because of the pain- but because I was terrified I would hallucinate again. I was sure they were caused by the gas, but there was also a chance it was due to a post-natal delirium- something I would have no control over. I decided to do some research to find out how I could gain more control, and hopefully lessen my anxiety.
I started reading some books but found it difficult to concentrate in my pregnant state, and couldn’t seem to put anything I was reading into practice. That’s when my masseuse recommended Lauretta from Ballarat Born – Calm Birth. I liked that she was a midwife and decided to invest in her private sessions.
Luckily my husband was completely on board, and over three weekends we learnt the principles of Calmbirth and tools to help us achieve our dream labour, from the comfort of our own home. For me, that meant trying to avoid all pain relief- and hopefully the hallucinations. For Mitch, it was to support me to achieve the same. We also wanted more control over how it progressed. I wanted to delay going to hospital for as long as possible- I truly feel it slowed my labour first time around. We have always been the most incredible team, and I knew we could do it together.
I gratefully made it to the 40-week mark after another beautiful and uneventful pregnancy, and had my last appt when I was 40 + 2. I agreed to an internal and was disappointed to hear that baby’s head was not pushing on my cervix due to fluid being in the way. Our Obstetrician suggested an induction the following day, however I requested another week to allow the baby to come on its own. Thankfully, she had been very accepting of my calm birth intentions and agreed to waiting.
The following day I went for induction acupuncture at 7pm.I had been walking all day and doing everything I could to bring on labour. By 10pm I was having regular contractions. We began timing them, and then decided not to focus on them and went to bed instead. We listened to some relaxing music we practiced our calm breathing to, and as we had spent the previous months practicing, we went to sleep. At this point the contractions were around 6 minutes apart.
I was awoken at 4am with strong contractions and was unable to go back to sleep. Instead, we laid together, Mitch massaged my back and we continued our calm breath. We stayed here until the contractions were too intense, and around 3 minutes apart. I got up and started moving around at 8am. This is when Lilly woke up and Mitch left me to look after her. I stayed in our bedroom- I had the blinds down and our salt lamp on. I had our music playing in the background and spent a long time swaying around. I put the TENS machine on shortly after, which provided great relief with each contraction. The working breath distracted me from each surge. I felt calm. I felt in control of the pain.
I spent some time leaning over a medicine ball talking and drawing with Lilly. When the contractions became too intense to manage on my own, at around 10.30am a good friend came and took Lilly so Mitch and I could work together. I was uncomfortable at this point and was unable to lay and could only sit leaning right back on the end of the bed or stand. Unlike Lilly’s labour I couldn’t handle massage or being held, I wanted to move constantly, and it was becoming exhausting. It was here that I started panicking. I didn’t think I could do it and felt I was not handling things well at all. I kept apologising to Mitch for being a sook and for failing in our attempt at a calm birth. I wanted to go to hospital! Thankfully, he was able to get me back on track with my breathing, and I found a comfortable position leaning over my rocking chair and leaning on Mitch. In retrospect, I think this is when I was in transition.
Just before 11am I decided to get into the shower. This is when I realised I was losing some fluid- my waters were breaking! On the next contraction I lost my mucus plug. We called the midwives who informed us it was most likely my hind waters, and to stay home until we had a greater gush of fluid- if we wanted to.
By this point my contractions were endless. One would begin as the previous one ended. I decided to move out onto the exercise ball, where I had a huge contraction and broke the rest of my waters. It was amazing the amount of fluid that came! Mitch stayed with me in the bathroom timing my contractions, helping me stand through the more intense contractions, and giving me some beautiful encouragement.
I started pushing with the next contraction. In a panic, I asked Mitch to call an ambulance. He refused- and I am thankful. I truly believe I would have had the baby then and there with no assistance!
Instead, I got dressed and walked out to the car. We drove the 5 minutes to hospital with me sitting in the front seat, arching my head back over the head rest letting out a high-pitched moan. It was the only way I could not push. Every part of my being was urging me to push- it was incredibly exhausting to not do it.
We parked in the car park and I began the walk in- stopping regularly for contractions and stop pushing. Mitch offered me a wheelchair when we arrived, but there was no way I could sit down!
I made it to the lift and bent over hanging onto the bar. I was still making the same noise! I will never forget the face of the poor lady who got in the lift with us. She had a coffee in both hands and didn’t know whether to help or look away! Once the lift arrived in the foyer, I leant with my hands against the wall, and let out another wail. This attracted the attention of the ward clerk, who quickly got me some midwives to help!
I walked down to the birthing suite, and they asked me to hop on the bed for an assessment. But I couldn’t move! I needed to push. I was facing Mitch and our forearms were interlocked. The midwives removed my pants and said I was crowning! The relief was so incredibly intense- as was the pain. I was quickly losing control. I don’t think Mitch believed I was as close as I said I was on the way in- he looked me in the eyes and said “babe this is happening RIGHT NOW!”. No shit. He sensed that I was losing focus and was at the mercy of the contractions. He made me focus and work on my recovery breath and working breath. I started going with the surges- not fighting them. I reached down and could feel the top of his beautiful head. It gave me a sense of calm to know everything was happening as it should be. My body knew what to do. On the third contraction after we arrived, with my beautiful Mitch supporting almost all of my body weight and my head resting against his chest, our baby was born.
This time around, we didn’t know what we were having, so Mitch looked down and told me we had a boy. Our beautiful son Harley Mark Dower was born at 12.10pm, weighing in at 4.5kg. I was still standing, having only arrived at hospital seven minutes before. The poor midwives below me did a wonderful job catching him! He was passed up to me straight away. I had to bend over to hold him as the umbilical cord was fairly short.
The delicious feeling of his warm body against mine will stay with me forever. Like his sister, he looked around the room and was calm from the beginning. Once again, I could not believe I was holding my own precious baby in my arms. I was now a boy mum! I was so shocked it was all over- I thought I still had a marathon ahead of me, and it took some time to sink in.
I then moved over to the bed to have a proper nurse. I requested delayed cord clamping and laid with Harley on my chest, he found his own way to my breast and with some help from our beautiful midwife, he latched for his first feed. I had experienced some severe nipple damage feeding Lilly, and even though I was able to feed her for almost 18 months on one side, I was anxious to go through it again. Harley had a beautiful latch, the most wonderful gift, and from that first feed things were already more positive.
It took another 15 or so minutes for the placenta to be born- and it was very uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, I had a fairly large tear and required suturing, which was done by my Obstetrician when she arrived. There would have been no chance of her making it for the birth! She was not on call but came in anyway and I was so happy to see her. She was so happy that I had achieved my dream birth!
I was up and in the shower within an hour. I felt great- exhilarated by what my body had done and what we had achieved together. I am so beyond grateful to have birthed two healthy, happy babies, and neither experience is one that I will forget! Best of all I had no hallucinations, which made my fourth trimester far more enjoyable the second time around.
Calmbirth principals not only helped me achieve an amazing labour, but it continues to help me cope with life as a busy mother of two. It’s amazing how much better you can feel if you just allow yourself the time to breathe!