Empowered by Natural Birth
Olive, my older daughter, had an entry to the world that was highly medicalised and I had missed out on seeing her born due to a c-section under general anaesthetic. I saw her about 30 minutes after her birth. Steven had skin-to-skin with her until I got there, which was really wonderful. Interestingly she had started to squidge up his chest looking for the nipple!
Those first moments with Olive and I skin-to-skin were amazing. I immediately breastfed her and kept saying just how beautiful she was, but I was really whacked from the drugs and shock of the experience. Breastfeeding was really straightforward, Olive latched easily and the only thing I had trouble with was how sleepy she was from all the drugs and I had to wake her - sometimes undressing her completely and tickling her in funny spots like palms of hands and under the chin.
Looking back, I felt like I could have been so much better prepared, and I feel very sad that I was not there for Olive when she was first born. When I became pregnant for the 3rd time (after a miscarriage) I knew I wanted the option of a home birth. It was really important to me to avoid the "cascade of intervention" that happened with Olive's birth and I sought out a midwife who believed in natural birth. I had found that the best and most effective part of my first labour was when Steven and I were alone together, undisturbed by hospital routines and medical procedure.
I found a midwife who I really liked and who believed in birth as a natural process, but she did not want to be present at a home birth after c-section. About 16 weeks into my pregnancy I realised I really did want to have the option to birth at home, and changed to a midwife who would support that. My new midwife went through the hospital notes and her encouraging words; that I had been really strong in a situation that was out of my control – were really helpful. From this point on, Steven and I decided we definitely wanted a home birth and started to plan and actively prepare for it.
I read a lot during pregnancy to prepare my mind for the birth and found Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and Birthing from Within to be fantastic. I talked a lot to other mothers about their birth experiences and found support from my La Leche League friends. I also used some of the hypno-birthing affirmations. For my body, my midwife gave me homeopathic and traditional ways to prepare for labour, and I also walked and did yoga.
I experienced Braxton Hicks contractions for about two weeks before the birth and I saw a friend – an osteopath who had been treating me for pelvic pain, who did some acupressure on my shoulders. I started experiencing pre-labour that night and into the next morning. That night, Steven was sleeping in Olive's bed as she was with me in ours. I was up and down but did manage to nap a little. I phoned the midwife at 6 am as I was feeling strong contractions by then but they were still quite erratic. She reassured me and said that pre-labour could last all day and to try and rest as much as I could. My mum came to pick Olive up, and took her to her place.
Steven helped me to rest between contractions as I laboured throughout the day and he rubbed my back, brought me cold flannels and water. I was really tense after each contraction and he helped me to relax and breathe. He was always there, being strong for me.
In the early afternoon I told Steven that if, when the midwife arrived, I was only 1 cm dilated, then I wanted to go to the hospital. That was the only time I had those feelings during my whole labour. The rest of the time I didn't think of anything but my breathing and getting through each contraction. I kept telling myself that each one brought the baby closer and that there would be breaks in between. Reminding myself that the pain was not caused by injury really helped me, that it was a purposeful pain.
My midwife arrived mid-afternoon to find that all was well and that I was fully dilated. She rang the other midwife, (who had a student) to come and then she encouraged me to start walking and rocking.
From this point it was really hard work. Steven was by my side reminding me to breathe and my midwife was giving me confidence, saying that I was strong and doing great. I felt Evie's head coming down and felt the strongest urge to push. We moved into the bedroom and I started to push my baby out. It was intense and it took me a few tries to work with the contractions and effectively push. I clearly remember thinking how can I do this and then the thought disappearing because I was already doing it.
Evie's head came in and out for what seemed like ages and my midwife broke my waters. There was meconium in the water so there was some urgency, although the midwives checked her heartbeat after each contraction and she was doing fine. I pushed more on the bed and then on the toilet and back to the bed where I could rest more between contractions. Finally I felt Evie’s head come out, it was amazing but I kept thinking what about the rest of her body? But her body just seemed to slither out with the next contraction and finally I had my baby with me.
I felt so proud of myself. Everyone was elated. I was so happy Evie was okay despite the meconium, and glad to have Steven right there. Evie latched on immediately and had colostrum often as she wasn’t sleeping. Steven called mum and dad to bring Olive home and also called his parents to come. Olive was shy when she arrived, and also a bit shocked I think. She came in and went away again but I didn’t push her, and after a while she came in to met her new sister and cuddle with me.
Evie's birth was empowering and a wonderful experience for us in an environment we felt safe in. I chose to trust my body and everything turned out perfectly. During pregnancy, instead of thinking about what could go wrong, I focused on all the things that could go right, and that is just what happened.
Posted: Sunday 15 October 2017