By Kate Clark
My first pregnancy with my daughter, Tara, now 3 years old, had gone well and I delivered her in a 36-hour drug free labour with a doula in a private hospital. The only intervention was breaking waters at 7cm. So when I fell pregnant the second time, I just imagined I would birth the same way and hopefully have no intervention.
I booked into the same OB as I had with my first pregnancy, but on the day we went in for our initial appointment, he smelled strongly of cigarette smoke. The next day I phoned to cancel his services and booked into another highly recommended OB.
This new OB greeted me with negativity and pushiness that did not sit well with me. I wasn’t pleased to be told that “big sweet-tooth, equals big baby, equals big forceps” and when my gestational diabetes test came back borderline I did not appreciate the suggestion that I be induced at 37 weeks. My pregnancy had no complications at all. But his early induction could have had something to do with my Dec 28 due date - wouldn't want to interrupt his Christmas vacation...
I had a meeting with my doula, Jan, and told her I had always been interested in homebirth, but at 33 weeks I thought it wouldn’t be possible to organize everything. She told me to look into it and if I came up against a brick wall, then I'd know it wasn't meant to be. But if it goes smoothly then I would know it is right. I rang a midwife who was happy to take me on even though I only had 7 weeks to go and was expecting a Christmas baby. My OB gave me a full refund after I told him I no longer wanted his service and s-l-o-w-l-y my husband, Garrett, came around to the idea of a homebirth after a few meetings with our midwife.
Christmas Day 2010 came along and I was woken at 2am with a few niggles and a dull ache in my lower back. I had a sense this was “It” but managed to push things to the back of my mind for most of the day so that I could enjoy Christmas with Tara. I was determined for my son not to be born on Christmas Day as I really wanted him to have his own special day.
Sensations were getting more intense during the day but I tried to stay relaxed and rested. I thought I may be in for a long night, as my first labour was 36 hours and started exactly the same. I lost a little of my mucous plug around 2pm and we had an early dinner with my parents. After, we went for a drive to show Tara the amazing Christmas lights until 9pm. When we arrived home Tara and I had a special moment when she, from out of nowhere, placed her head on my tummy and cuddled her little brother. "What are your favorite Christmas lights buddy?” she asked. "You want to come out and see them with us?”
We put Tara to bed after she pointed out that my tummy was “VERY HARD!” I agreed and told her that her baby brother was ready to come out tomorrow or the next day. I tucked myself into bed around 10pm and tried to get some rest, but couldn’t get comfortable. At midnight I decided to leave everyone asleep and head to our garage where I had set up a rug, beanbag, candles, music, and oils and walk around to ease the discomfort.
I walked around until I felt a contraction then swayed from side to side like I was dancing with my baby. I was using my iPhone contraction timer and although they were irregular, they were around 34 secs long every 2.5 minutes. I took a dose of Caulophyllum from my Ainsworths Homeopthy kit hoping to reduce the labour length.
At 2am I thought I was coping okay with conscious breathing, but I could feel the intensity of the sensations rise, so I messaged Jan and asked her to come join me for support. After a few more sensations, I woke Garrett up and told him Jan was coming over and could he start setting up the birth pool as I knew that process would take a while. He spoke to my parents and asked them to come over, but we figured if it was anything like my last labour we still had a good 24 hours to go.
My parents came over to watch Tara while she slept. Poppy slept in Tara’s queen bed with her, while Gran came into the garage with me and got heat packs ready for me. I told her I messaged the midwife Jacqui at 2am to give her notice, but wasn’t sure if I should get her to come just yet. She suggested I should as it is an hour drive from our place.
By 2:30 Jan arrived and gave me a big welcoming hug and told me this is where I’m suppose to be and to relax and let go. I told her my legs were tired from walking around, but I struggled to find a comfortable seated position. We simply sat down and with mum holding a heat pack on my back and using an endorphin release technique of scratching nails down my back and legs, and Jan in front of me talking me through each sensation, I sat - eyes closed - and I told myself to r-e-l-a-x every other muscle in my body. I'd practiced these relaxation techniques through powerbirth and now I was in the midst of my birthing day, focused on opening up. I imagined a cervix opening. And at the time, I really thought I was aiming for 3cm or so, but I must have been closer to 7-9cm at the moment. I spoke with Jan about my worries along the way, as I wanted to acknowledge them, and let them go, so I could be free. I told them I was worried I had called everyone out when it wasn’t actually the real thing... I was concerned that Jan and midwife would have to go back home. She reminded me that I needed to stop thinking (something I'm very good at!) and just relax and surrender to the labour.
All of a sudden I felt an intense pressure in my bottom, causing me to grab the beanbag and lean over it. This brought a huge release of fluid and was shocked. I asked Jan if it was my waters breaking. My mum was behind me and she said it wasn’t a lot, but yes, it was. I was so surprised as I really wanted them to break naturally this time due to my first hospital birth having them artificially broken at 7cm.
After that release, I felt the intensity and couldn't resist asking Jan, "Is he coming?” They said they would help me over to the birth pool because it was quite a distance away. I have never been on such a mission - I had visualized having a morning waterbirth, so I was very determined to get to the pool before he was born. And I didn’t want to have a contraction outside on the way. I couldn't wait for Mum or Jan - I just got up, tried to keep my legs together, and waddled as fast as I could to the birth pool.
Garrett stood there continuing to fill the pool (now only half full) but I couldn't wait - got straight in and knelt down and felt between my legs. It was the softest hair I had ever felt waving gently in the pool water. His head is right there! I told them... I don’t think anyone (myself included) even believed all of this was happening so quickly.
Someone asked Garrett to ring our midwife to see how far away she was, and as I felt the next wave of sensation, I looked at Jan who was in front of me, and a fear broke out from within me. I’m not sure why, but I was fearful. My visualization of my homebirth included my midwife being right there in the background - but she was missing from this moment. Jan looked at me intensely and said, “Your okay. This is fine.” I felt an urge to push, but kept my hand flat across his head, as I wasn’t ready for him to come yet. I asked for Garrett, who was still outside talking with our midwife, to come back inside.
Mum went to get Garrett and Jan told him to take her place in front of me while Mum stood behind me. I looked strongly into Garrrett’s eyes while another urge to push came on. I birthed my son's head slowly this time - feeling the ring of fire, but not being afraid of it. I slowly pushed through it and said to Garrett, “His head is out!” With the next quick urge, I pushed out his shoulders slowly, without a tear, and pulled him up onto my chest and sat down in the pool... Amazing! This is exactly how I saw my waterbirth - but in fast forward as it all happened so quickly.
Mason Rook was born at 3:44am (luckily Jan asked Mum for the time)! Ten minutes later I heard my midwife’s car pull up.
An important part of my birth plan was to finish by birthing the placenta. With my first birth the OB used cord traction to release it, as it had already separated but I was so exhausted I couldn’t get up to birth it on my own. This time, Mason and I sat in the pool for an hour just cuddling and waiting for the placenta to detach on its own. Aside from my water breaking naturally, this was the only other unknown to me - the only part of birth I hadn't done before. Because of this I felt tension mounting that I needed to let go of. I needed to relax. But my brain was spinning... would I need to transfer to the hospital if it didn't detach? My midwife, Jan and Mum stepped outside to give me space. I melted into my new family ~ just Garrett, Mason and me.
And then, as I took Mason to my breast for the first time, I felt contractions intensify. I wasn’t sure what to do with them - if I needed to push or not. With gentle guidance, my midwife explained that just as my body knew how to birth Mason, it would know how to push out the placenta. All I had to do was listen to my own body's rhythm. She told me I'd see a little blood in the water when the placenta separates (it was still very clear with bits of vernix floating around). She told me I could clamp the cord and let Garrett hold Mason while I birthed the placenta if I wished, but in my birth image, I saw Mason still attached to it, so I wanted it to be birthed with him.
Jan knew I was contemplating a lotus birth and that this stage meant a lot to me. Soon, we could see it had separated and I handed Mason to Garrett at the side of the pool. I leaned over both Garrett's shoulder and the edge of the pool and finally felt the urge to push. It came out in one go and I lifted it up to the surface - full, complete and beautiful!
We decided it was time to clamp and cut about 1 1/2 hours after Mason was born - I bet a hospital wouldn’t let me wait that long! We estimated established labour was 1 1/2 hrs long. No interventions, internal exams, or fetal monitoring at all. My daughter, Tara, had slept through the whole thing so we woke her at 6:30am to meet her new brother! We sat around together eating breakfast and watching the sunrise as the gentle rain set in.
We planted Mason’s placenta under a bird of paradise tree as his middle name, Rook, is the name of a strong and intelligent bird of prey found in paradise. We often see the crows gather around this tree and like to think that they are his deceased loved ones protecting him. ❤