We had had days of very smoky air from surrounding summer fires and I really needed to get out of the house to do something that would make me feel fresh and revived, – a swim at Trevallyn Dam and then out for dinner sounded perfect to me – and someone else apparently! When I got out of the water at the dam, my belly felt tighter than I expected after a relaxing swim, and when I walked in the door after dinner my belly squeezed rock hard for a few seconds! Ten minutes later, at 7pm and 37.5 wks pregnant, whilst leaning up against the window seat in the nursery, ready to watch my husband put the monkey tree sticker up (still not up) a heap of warm water ran down the inside of my legs! I raced to the toilet and sat there and thought for a moment and then calmly and steadily called out to my husband – “BBBBBBeeeeeennnnnnnnn”. Ben went in to ‘emergency’ mode, saying “I’ll call Anna” as he disappeared past the bathroom door! So sweet! I calmly reminded him that we weren’t meant to call Anna to come until we were very far through the labour. In disbelief still, maybe I had better call mum first, just to check that that is what was in fact happening. Surely not!
Yes – that’s what it was! The green licht was lit, and we couldn’t believe what an awesomely exciting gift we had started to ‘unwrap’. I LOVE unexpected surprises and bubba’s timing was perfect! I’d started getting frustrated with my big belly limiting what I could do, and was feeling a little useless. I’d made the most of school holiday time (I’m a teacher), had only a few more jobs to tick off, and was sooo ready. My mum and step dad were so VERY excited about the news, as mum hadn’t gone back to work yet (also a teacher) and taking time to be here with and for us would be much easier because of this – thanks again for the perfect timing little Bubba!! You champ!
Ben had to get leave organised extra quickly with his work. We madly told all and sundry (just family actually) that our waters had broken and so the next 34 hours was torture for all as they waiiiited and waaaiiitteed for our beautiful little bundle (gender unknown at the time) to arrive, which is great because it was pretty painful for me as well! So here’s how it happened – that path to THE BEST PRESENT IN THE UNIVERSE!!!
This whole home birth experience had many huge positives about it, some that come up immediately in this retelling are that there seems to be so many myths out there about things that can happen during childbirth. Myths that are so many miles from the truth. So much of what we are told is wrong! The home birth process resulted in so many worries being dispelled, it was so nice to learn the facts!
Myth 1 busted: I couldn’t believe the amniotic fluid just kept coming out and coming out. No one had ever explained that that can happen! And as that went on for about 2 hours, I had to ask Anna if that was OK or would my baby run out of water to be lolling about in? And would we have a dry birth? Anna explained that the body keeps on producing amniotic fluid and the old adage of a dry birth is another old wives tale – busted!!!
Wednesday night we headed off to bed as normal, knowing I had to rest as much as possible for what was ahead!
Thursday morning the excitement was still there and my mum was on the road from Hobart to Launceston – yay! She rolled in, cooked chicken soup, apricot sponge cake, zucchini slice etc etc!!! All the jobs that I was going to get done in the next two weeks, before this baby came. My husband rolled out and bought the things we needed for labour as recommended by Anna, plus food supplies including pate and soft cheese for the celebration at the end (of which, as it turned out, I didn’t feel like eating until days after ha!) We were on a high! This loooong awaited time had finally arrived!! None of us could believe it was here so soon!!
As planned, my mum stayed at my mother-in-law’s place just down the road so she could be on call if and when we felt we needed her. I’m very close to my mum and when people asked if she would be at the birth I just didn’t know how I would feel at the time. So this arrangement set up by mum was soo considerate, as there was no stress about making decisions ahead of time or regretting any decisions, etc.
My mother-in-law was going to the tennis in Melbourne for the weekend (thought it was good timing at the time of booking tickets) and came up at about 6pm to say goodbye. There was a party atmosphere in our house! Excited anticipation and not too much pain yet! We were placing bets on his/her birthday time, all predicting Friday morning some time – oh how optimistic and UNREALISTIC we were being about how long a first labour can take!
We asked mum to bring some CD’s (the soundtrack to my giving birth was just another job I hadn’t got around to doing), my order was for some powerful ‘woman’ music – perhaps Enya, Florence or Meg Mac and some instrumental orchestral music. It turned out that Bocelli made the perfect soundtrack, with powerful music and lyrics in Italian didn’t become distracting to me (because I couldn’t understand them!).
After everybody left Thursday night, Ben and I set up our lounge room ready for the special time. We created a private/intimate atmosphere, with all of my candles around the lounge creating a beautiful soft yellow glow (on advice from Anna) and furniture arranged around a space for the birthing pool in the centre of the room. By this time, Anna had been around a couple of times, listened to the baby’s heart beat and confirmed, “Happy Baby”. However, she also explained that with the chest/head still quiet high – this wasn’t even stage one of labour, it was PRE-labour – just getting the baby down, on to the cervix, and engaged! Oh how I became to HATE that word PRE-LABOUR! All that pain and time and I felt it wasn’t even counting towards what I was prepared for (labour) and for getting bubba out!!! MY GOLLY!
Pre labour took 21hours (my calculations) and was very stop-start!
At Anna’s last evening visit Thursday night, she explained that if things didn’t get moving tomorrow, she could bring some caster oil – which works as a natural inducement, by acting on the soft tissue of the stomach and more relevant for us – the uterus. “Some people may experience some diarrhoea but that is common before giving birth anyway, as the body prepares”! Anna had explained this inducement option very matter of factually, which, at a later time, when I got caught up in all of the fear mongering about taking Caster Oil, surprised me that she would recommend something that could have such terrible affects as “you and the baby having diarrhoea for three days” so easily. Moral of that story – don’t let sceptics of home birth or their misinformed ideas and opinions anywhere near you when going through a home birth labour!!! And ensure your husband isn’t communicating with sceptics and relaying that information back to you to worry about grrrrr! Myth 2 – caster oil is bad – BUSTED! It’s only bad if taken in too high quantities!
Thursday night, the contractions got really painful and close together and, I paced the floor and coped for a fair while. Then when I started to get a bit sick of it all at 8pm, Ben suggested I jump in the shower. Yes, that was LOVELY!
During the night, I had to jump out of bed on to the fit ball every 5 minutes to get myself through them. My poor hubby trying to sleep beside me!
Then… as per the previous day – they stopped! So on a mission to get this thing happening now, I asked Hubby if he would come for an 11pm walk outside, down our quiet couldesac street. I sure was making the most of him indulging my every whim 😉 In my dressing gown and crocks we rocked the neighbourhood in extreme style! It was soo beautiful outside under the stars! A few laps up and down the street and our inclined driveway and then back to bed in hope that the contractions would start again. It’s kind of weird wanting pain to resume!
The next day my husband and mum expressed their concerns to me about the labour going on for so long since my waters had broken and the risk for infection, and doubts about using Caster oil and they started to prepare me for going in to hospital. We checked the packed hospital bag (I had a cry that I might be having the baby in hospital and not at home!) and we made a deadline of 3pm today for no contractions = hospital. But nothing was set in stone until I had talked to Anna again and had some time to think about what she recommended. Anna came around in the morning. I felt I had betrayed her and she was walking in to a court room – having to justify that what was going on was ok. She was so calm and great. Acknowledging our worries she explained that everything was all still in the realms of ‘normal’ for a first time, at home labour, following ‘at home guidelines’ rather than medicalised hospital guidelines. There really was nothing to stress about yet! She wasn’t trying to convince us of anything, just laying out her process and facts Anna explained that if contractions hadn’t started by 12:00 today, we could attempt inducement using natural products and take 10ml of the caster oil, and if nothing changed in 3 hours, we could take another 10ml. That was all she could do and if ‘proper’ contractions and labour hadn’t started by 9pm we would have to go to hospital as it would have been 72 hours since my waters broke and the risk of infection would be too high.
I rang a friend and supportive step-mother-in-law (also trained midwife) to get some more info/opinions to ensure I felt happy with my final decision about the choice to wait at home longer and not go to hospital. My friend made me feel OK about going to hospital if I had to. She said her friend, who was in a similar situation, had to. My step-mother-in-law said if I wanted her opinion, she wouldn’t go longer than 24 hrs after waters broken and would be in hospital on antibiotics and induced!
I weighed up all the information and concerns of my supportive loved ones and agreed on a compromised deadline of 6pm for contractions or hospital.
We then got out of the house and went for a walk around Seaport.
We were prepared to try all things by this stage and went to get a curry for lunch, but Harri’s Curry was closed :-/
Then, Mr. Timely, at 2:30pm (half an hour before my husband and mum’s preferred hospital deadline), contractions got regular and real! :-))YaaaaaYYY! What a legend of a baby!
So the next part of the day involved me applying all I knew to get through the rising pain of the contractions. I tried to read the birthing skills book that I hadn’t got around to reading yet (had two more weeks remember) but couldn’t focus on anything with my addled brain. Ben and I did a few exercises that involved a lot of leg spreading and HOPEFULLY pelvis spreading, so things didn’t hurt quiet as much (a bit late for that I’m guessing) and so much walking that I had to adopt the crocs again! I’d worn out my feet on the floor boards with all the miles I’d walked! I should have had a pedometer on. Mind you, aching all over for two days after gave me a fair indication of how much exercise I’d done! By about 2pm, it was hard to find motivation, and we called mum in for some motivating help. She was great at changing up the mood and injecting some fresh energy and enthusiasm.
By about 5pm I felt sooo exhausted. Perched myself on the end of our sofa and slept, with each 5min contraction waking me up, yes thats right, I was so exhausted that I actually fell asleep between 5 minute contractions. After about 20 minutes there, I started to wonder if I would have the strength to go the whole length of this marathon, as it seemed that I had already used up so much on just moving this bubba down And when mum came back I asked “do normal people really survive this!?” Through later discussion, she told me that this is when she was wondering if I would be able to get through the labour and the pain. With the tiredness wearing me down by this stage, I had started to get a little scared of the pain accompanying each contraction and it was a horrible feeling wanting to ‘run in front of’ the pain! I got more and more worked up and started to dread each contraction. I knew this wasn’t sustainable and I definitely couldn’t do it if this is how I continued, so, I lectured myself. I walked around the house and outside talking to myself. “All those people who suffer in war, lay in the battle field with a leg blown off or faces severely burnt etc. Those people survived, with power and strength of mind! Animals have babies all the time without any learning or people there to help them! They just do it!”
I apologised to my husband for appearing to have gone mad and assured him I hadn’t but just needed to do this to get through. He totally understood and never once made me feel embarrassed or doubtful! Even if he did think it.
Later that evening things slowed down again a little. In realising how hasty our first lounge room move was, we moved it back – to ‘normal’ lounge again (a sad reality for me) and my dear husband cooked my mum and I a lovely dinner and the night preceded as normal as possible, with dinner on the couch and a movie.
This was another time that I realised just what a different place my brain was in, as I just couldn’t focus on the movie and storyline. Similar to the many times in pre labour over the past three days when I considered that I could be using this time to read the great book Id started but I just knew my brain couldn’t handle it!
I didn’t know when Anna was going to arrive, and didn’t want to as it meant things were finally serious and if her arrival was hours away, it would have just brought more doubt to my mind. She was obviously in touch with Mum and or Ben and at 10:00pm she came. Yay!
She was sooo quiet, calm and her presence was so gentle! It was just gorgeous. Feeling these lovely people were here to support me through this, to do what ever I needed, I felt so comfortable around them… thoughts through a smokey, hormone induced (natural) haze….
And then, the feeling of the contractions changed. Rather than just a clamping, sharp pain, I felt like pushing down during each contraction. I found being on all fours for this was great but after a while, my back started to hurt and my legs were sooooo fatigued! Apparently this is when Anna suggested we run the bath and I felt sooooooo excited about the prospect of floating in warm water… mmmmmmm! Relief! It seemed to take ages for it to fill with hot water, but wasn’t long really, for 700L. I was worried our hot water cylinder wouldn’t do it and Id be ripped off in a shallow or not warm enough bath, but with my husband running the kettle on rapid boil, and the hot water cylinder, we made it. And I got to immerse myself in to the most luxurious pool ever! Beautiful and warm, all soft and flexible (its a blow up pool). My golly it was fab!! I don’t think I was in there very long before big pushing urges started. It was so great to lean over the soft side of the pool for the contractions.
Apparently I was in the pool for about 4 hrs, with a top up of hot water to keep me going. During this time, the second midwife that Anna had called (Jean) arrived. Another signal to me that things were getting closer. Yay! Even the way Jean came in the door indicated her beautiful soft, caring nature and although I didn’t have much to do with her personally, I could tell she was SUCH a lovely lady. Another wonderful mentor and support person to help us through!
The push contractions were so different to the previous ones and although my mum found it harder to see me working through these ones as she thought they seemed more painful for me, I told her they were way less painful and I guess I felt I was getting somewhere for the effort I was putting in! This was up until a certain point and then I felt progress had stopped again, and I needed gravity to help with this stage, so I got out of the pool and after a few pushes on all fours, I then sat on the toilet to get a comfy and effective position.
Anna came up to offer support and then left us for private time. She explained that “very few first babies are born in to the toilet” so not to worry about that. My reply to Ben was that I didn’t care if it came out in the toilet, it was just time to get out (with a few more expletives thrown in)!!! I was beginning to feel that this last stage was impossible. It had been ages. I felt it was 2mm forward and 1 back for each push! I pictured what was actually happening with the size of the birth canal and babies head and started thinking about how it just wasn’t possible. Then I started to worry that it might be some kind of deformity with babies legs being a strange shape that could be anchoring it in there (my husbands family had a history with this). Anna suggested I insert my finger to feel the babies head as a motivator but when it was a whole fingers length up. That was way further than I would have like. Then I GOT ANGRY! I think it was the only way I could muster any more energy to make this happen. I yelled “Get out” and Ben started running, until I yelled at him “Not you! This bloody baby”. The pain was very extreme now! At one stage I squeezed Ben’s arm so hard during a contraction I nearly pulled it off! I didn’t even realise I was doing it! Anna could obviously tell baby was getting close (from the kitchen – she is amazing) and came up again and suggest we move in to the lounge room on to the birthing stool which is just like the toilet but lower. I asked Anna if it was bad for bubba to be stuck in the birth canal with the crap squeezed out of it for hours, remembering the massive cone head a friend’s baby came out with and wondered what could be happening to its brain being squeezed and squished. She reassured me that this amount of time in the canal was normal and everything would be fine. When ever I had worries like this, Anna would use the doppler to listen to the bubba’s heart beat (she did in the bath as well) and it was NEVER in the stressed zone. This helped me soon much! As babies health was all that mattered to me. Hearing the healthy heart beat also helped Mum and Ben immensely, they later told me.
Things had now moved in to extreme sting mode that Anna had prepared me for. My golly, that sting! But there was one good thing about it – I knew it was the last hump to work through before we had a bubba! There was so much positive encouragement and excitement from everyone. Stingy Stingy and out his head started to come. I didn’t have the energy to push between contractions and Anna explained that I was to just wait for the contractions and give it my all then, waiting in between. To encourage me at this stage, we used the mirror (as we had discussed prior) so I could see the tip of the babies head. Seeing that with the sprinkling of hair really did help!
When babies head was half way out and that contraction was over, I did not want to wait for the next contraction with that stretch happening and in a moment of panic, I asked Anna if she could just “pull it out for me?” Anna ever so kindly and calmly informed me that she couldn’t do that, and I just had to wait for the next contraction and push with that! So I did, it felt just like it looks in all the documentaries I’ve seen, where the head is the hardest bit to push and once the shoulders are out, the rest just slid out! Anna laid bubba on a sterile towel for a little and there was no cry or anything, which I loved because my high levels of empathy make me think that entering our world must be so traumatic for these liquid surrounded beauties and no wonder they scream!
It was sooooo amazing when Anna gave him to me to hold, this slippery, slimy, little bundle!!! I didn’t even think about whether it was a boy or girl, one of the main queries when pregnant really didn’t matter one bit! It was just so exhilarating to have our baby in our arms! What a miracle! I think it was Ben who said – it’s a boy! We had done it! He was alive, he was out, and he was so so amazingly perfect.
And that was it. My life was NEVER to be the same ever again. So much purpose and importance to the most beautiful bundle on the planet!! In the days following, I couldn’t believe how much love you can have for someone. It was intensity that Id never experienced before. AND it grew each day, even when I’d been up to him heaps during the night.
Back to to story…. Ben helped cut his chord (which Mum said was quiet short!) and the placenta just came out yay! Then a fair bit of blood came out to follow. Anna kept pushing on my belly button and the blood kept coming. Anna asked Jean to bring the Oxytocin injection from the fridge and I looked away as they jabbed it in my thigh – still all very calm and relaxed!
I felt like I was going to faint so they laid me down with feet up. Then helped me to the toilet and to bed. Anna set up her scales on the floor near the bed where I could see what was going on with my little cherub. When I thought about it later, I think I would have gone mad like a cow separated from her calf if stuff was happening to him and I couldn’t see. There was so much thought in Anna’s every action we aren’t even aware of, which contributed to everything being calm and peaceful.
After all his measurements were done and a few checks, his beanie was put on and the cutest baby in the world, I’m sure of this, was laid between Ben and myself in our bed. Anna put him to my breast and he sucked immediately – the beginning of a problem free breastfeeding career for these two, lucky us. The next thing I knew, I woke up in the morning, about 10am, with my back to him (I think) remembering that I’d had a bubba, turned over and there was the special little parcel!!!
The subsequent week was visitor after visitor, and often overlapping! Lots of cuddles for our little Llewyn Owen and pics of him meeting all the family. I think Ben and I ran on adrenalin for the two weeks until he went back to work. And then we hit the big brick wall of tiredness for a few weeks as reality kick in, when less natural highs became an exhausting existence. It was all very, very worth it as my heart swells larger than I ever imagined possible, and so does my photo bank, ha!