My daughter Lucy was due to be born on the 24th April (thereabouts) but
she decided she was ready way before that date.
My husband (Tony) and I decided on a home birth early in the piece.
Until I was pregnant I kept an open mind about home births. Tonyís sister
and a close friend of mine had had their babies at home so I was a little
familiar with the idea.
Soon after I found out I was pregnant I found a doctor and an
independent midwife who were happy to support me in a home birth. Their
practice is totally supportive of birth choices and they run information
nights and seminars to inform prospective parents of their choices. Both
of us instantly felt at ease with these lovely people and the relaxed and
comfortable atmosphere. Throughout the pregnancy they gave us their
undivided attention at our regular appointments and we built up a familiar
and comfortable relationship with both over the ensuing months. This
rapport was crucial to us as "home birthers". In order for us to take
responsibility for this pregnancy and the birthing process, it really
helped to be able to trust in their professional expertise and guidance.
This trust was to become crucial as Lucy arrived early and important
decisions had to be made on the spur of the moment.
It was wonderful to have such continuity of care. It meant we felt free
to express ourselves openly during our visits. Hearing the babyís heart
beat for the first time was an intensely emotional experience for me and I
could let that wash out of me in the form of so many tears. I also
treasure the first feelings of "quickening". After discussions with my
caregivers we decided that routine ultrasound was unnecessary. I had to
come to terms with this decision. At first I really wanted an ultrasound.
I really wanted to "see" the baby, to know it was really there. However
once there was the suggestion that a) routine ultrasound is unnecessary
and does not improve outcomes and b) there may even be questions as to its
complete safety, I was open to not doing it. It made the first feelings of
quickening so much more important to me. That was my first experience of
my baby, not a video or piece of technological wizardry.
I can appreciate now, in retrospect, how valuable that was in bonding
with Lucy, both in utero and post birth. It also meant I had to come to
terms with the possibility of birth defects. We tend to assume that tests
such as ultrasound or amniocentesis will give us a definitive "the baby is
OK". I had to come to a place in my heart where I could accept my baby as
she was. That if she wasn't perfect in a biological or medical sense, that
she was still meant to be and had a right to her life. This was very
powerful because it is an illusion to believe that the technology will
save us from ever having to come to terms with these things.
At about 11.30 on the 18th March, five weeks before Lucy was due, I
climbed into bed feeling completely normal if not a little tired. Tony had
a rotten cold so we were looking forward to a good nights sleep. Not so!!
As soon as I got into bed, I felt the unfamiliar trickle of amniotic fluid
as my waters broke and leaked out over the sheets. I instantaneously knew
in my heart what this was, however intellectually I tried to reason that
it was something else. This was five weeks too soon!! I calmly trotted
down to the bathroom leaving a trail of amniotic fluid behind me and a
decent puddle of it once in the bathroom. I called to Tony, not really
knowing how to explain this. "Something is happening" I said, and Tony got
out of bed, equally as calmly as I, to examine the "fluid". Almost
immediately I started having mild contractions, just like ordinary period
pain in my tummy. The pains were about two minutes apart.
With the onset of this, we became a bit more anxious that something
really was happening. Tony put the kettle on, I put a CD on, we both
walked around a bit, then we kept suggesting to each other what this could
be and what we should do until finally I decided to ring Jacquie my close
friend and a support person for the birth. I explained what was happening
and without hesitation she said, "ring the midwife!". So I did, and she
was there within the hour.
By the time our she got there the labour had progressed beautifully. My
labour was really active. We moved around the house a lot - trying the bed
(not very useful for me); the bathroom - great on the toilet and mostly
the lounge room where there was enough variety of furniture to enable a
multitude of positions. Mostly I flopped over a small mountain of cushions
built up against the couch. Sometimes I stood, leaning over the dining
room table with a support person on either side of me, swaying and rocking
my hips with the contractions. I remember feeling that to sway and give in
to the contraction made it hurt more, but I could feel that that was what
I needed to do in order to maximise the effectiveness of the contraction.
It was tempting to squeeze everything in, to hold on in a deluded effort
to reduce the pain, however that wasn't going to get Lucy out and as best
I could, I gave in and went with it. This is why screaming and yelling
helped so much. I was very loud during my contractions. I had to be. It
was a way of being able to let go and not hold on - the energy had to come
What I did must have worked anyway because I dilated nice and steadily
from the start. By 2.00am the contractions were much stronger and I had
dilated 2-3 cm. My strategy for pain relief was to be a hot tub that we
had booked and were to pick up in two weeks time. I declined the use of
any drugs and instead used piping hot wet nappies heated in plastic bags
in the microwave. These were actually very useful. However they kept the
team working pretty solidly as the contractions were fairly frequent
(between 2 and four minutes). I needed them right on my abdomen as the
contraction began. But I couldn't stand any pressure. So the helper,
usually Tony, had to develop the skill of getting the nappy, which had to
be as hot as I could stand it, on there just as the contraction began, and
holding it there without applying any pressure. Meanwhile my midwife or
Jacqui would massage my lower back firmly; I was as slippery as an eel
with all the oil. Sips of energy drink were a must after the contractions.
By this stage the contractions, although not yet excruciating, were
well established and my midwife talked us through the possibility of
transferring to hospital given that Lucy was five weeks early. I remember
at that point, realising that this was it and there was no escaping this
experience, that I didnít want this home birth. I wanted to get in the car
and go to the hospital where they could take over, remove the pain and
extract Lucy from me. Then I wouldnít have to suffer this. I was really
quite scared. It was at this crisis point that the value of my
relationship with my midwife was evident. I was scared, I was in pain and
I was concerned about the health of my baby. But I trusted what she said,
that in her opinion everything was going beautifully, however 5 weeks is
considered early and does increase the risk of complications. Luckily for
me my labour was relatively short and I didnít have a lot of time to dwell
on this sudden panic attack. Our doctor had been called and was on his way
to give his assessment of the situation. I was dilating steadily and given
that there was no distress of either mother or baby, it was decided that
it was safe to stay at home provided things progressed along this line.
But the decision was ultimately Tonyís and mine. There was no pressure on
either of us either to go to hospital or to stay at home. There was just
our doctor and midwife being honest about the situation and offering their
professional assessment of it. It was up to me to make a decision. My
crisis of confidence now gone, I decided to stay. I was confident enough
in my body to birth Lucy and in my caregiversí ability to recognise a
problem if it arose. For now, it was progressing as it should. My midwife
kept monitoring Lucy's heart beat and she'd say "happy baby" and that
meant the world to me.
By the time I might have made a decision either way, it was sort of
made for me because the labour stepped up and I started having those toe
curling contractions of a really well established labour. By that stage,
wild horses could not have dragged me out of the house. The pain alone was
so bad that there was no way I was going to move. I had also become used
to the contractions and I felt safe with my team (husband Tony, friend
Jacquie and my midwife). Our doctor left at 5.00 am. He said he thought
the baby would arrive about lunch time and he would return when needed. I
remember thinking, "you've got to be kidding - I've got to endure this
until lunch time!". Luckily for me, he was wrong.
By 5.50 am the midwife knew things were hotting up and she called the
backup midwife to come. Then she started preparing for Lucy's arrival.
Jacquie was taking a well earned rest in the bedroom and Tony was sitting
with me in the bathroom. I quite liked the toilet as the familiar
environment assisted with the "letting go". Instantaneously I felt an
incredible urge to push. Again I couldn't believe it, but inside I knew I
was about to push my baby out. "Gotta push" was all I could voice. Our
midwife was out in the street at her car grabbing the oxygen equipment at
this stage and Tony yelled to Jacquie in the bedroom, "she's gotta push".
Jacquie was up instantaneously and yelled out the front door , "she's
gotta push". God knows what the neighbours thought. The next thing I heard
was the midwife's footsteps down the hall. She strode into the bathroom
and looking very serious, grabbed me by the shoulders. "Robin, look at me
- ooh ooh aaaaah", she said, then repeated, "ooh ooh aaaaah. Now you do
it". I knew she meant business and that I had to follow her. By now I
trusted her so implicitly that when I saw the look on her face I knew it
was important and what ever I was doing, this was going to help. "ooh ooh
aaaaaah, ooh ooh aaaaah, ooh ooh aaaaoooowwww". The breathing was helping
me to avoid pushing before I was completely dilated. In between urges,
Jacquie and Tony helped me into the lounge room. I was about to give
birth. I leant over the mountain of cushions again, face into the back of
the couch and with Tony and Jacquie either side of me pushing my hands
back into theirs. The midwife did another exam and I was now 8 cm dilated.
Jacquie kept doing the ooh ooh aaaaahs with me. It was really hard to
concentrate on them because I just wanted to let go and push my insides
out and it hurt too. Meanwhile the doctor was called and was on his way.
By 6.40 I was unable to stop pushing because the urge was so great. I
was examined again and I was fully dilated. This was it. My memory of this
is a little hazy. I was going to have a baby but all I could concentrate
on was the most powerful pushing that you could imagine. Every ounce of
energy went into every push. The midwife monitored Lucy's heart rate at 2
minute intervals and advised me to go for it - PUSH. I pushed and pushed
and pushed. She applied pressure around my perenium to reduce tearing and
for the last push I turned around and squatted on the mat with Tony and
Jacquie supporting me either side. At 6.53 am Out she came - what an
exquisite feeling. Lucy did not yell or scream. She breathed immediately
and we all gazed down at her. Jacquie said itís a boy. I looked at her
genitals and thought, "my God, what is it" and the midwife sounded
dumbfounded when she put us right saying "Itís a girl!" I brought her up
onto my stomach. I couldn't get her to my breast because her cord was too
short. The placenta was delivered about 15 minutes later and we cut the
cord and she came up onto my breast where she started sucking straight
The back up midwife arrived at 7.00 am and the doctor 5 minutes later.
They missed it! But it was reassuring to have him examine Lucy and know
that all was well with her. He also stitched up a small perineal tear that
I sustained as well as a graze on my labia. At this time, I felt enormous
pain in my vagina and I was exhausted. But I had delivered my baby girl
naturally and without complication. And now looking back on my story, I am
so proud that I did that. I am also extremely thankful to all those
involved in Lucy's birth. Their support and encouragement got me through
the toughest challenge of my life.
So why do I think it was so successful:
Without a doubt the
relationship I had with my midwife was paramount. In the throes of labour
I was able to make that decision and birth the way I wanted, even though
at the time I was so far removed from what I wanted. I trusted her
emotionally and professionally and I believed in myself.
The labour was
very active. I was quite fit physically and I was in touch with my body
and how it works.
I was comfortable and relaxed emotionally in the home
Lucy was ready - it was her time.
Support - husband,
friend, carers - they were all there for me and respected my wishes. They
didn't dissolve into pity when the going got tough. They acknowledged the
pain but supported me to move through it.
* * *