By Erica Wright-Stow
Our second baby is due in less than a week. In the gentle excitement and anticipation, I am aware of how different it all feels this time around. Our new baby is arriving into a ready-made family, one that started over two years ago with the birth of our beautiful boy Jordi.
My husband Pippin and I knew we wanted a homebirth from the start. Pip was born at home and being a dancer by profession I felt confident in pushing my body to any limit. I don’t remember a specific birth plan, but I know that when we ended up in hospital, things felt very far removed from our romantic ideal.
Jordi was keen to come into the world. Pip and I had decided that we had renovated our house as much as we could manage for now, and Jordi decided this was his window of opportunity. I had given up the nightly toilet runs in exchange for a large pot as a potty beside the bed. At two in the morning, ten days before my due date, I was surprised by a small pee followed by a large gush. No second guessing, this was it. So Pip wisely went back to sleep while my mind went a million miles an hour as the first contractions started.
The contractions were gentle enough to potter around, but not comfortable enough to lie down and sleep, so I was so happy once morning finally arrived and things seemed to get moving around me. Pip called our midwife Julie to bring the pool and close family came to help prepare the house and bring food and laughter. I remember feeling relaxed, still sitting on my potty like a throne as each wave of contractions bought a gush of fluid.
When Julie came back around midday I was still on the pot with Pippin steady in front of me and my sister Amanda supporting me from behind. Julie described this as active labour, so far so good. It was pain that I could move with and get lost in. Then things started getting a little hazy, I remember only snippets as my labour took its own unique course.
I am in the pool chanting and moaning, moving and swaying. I am trying to examine myself, feeling a hard bit very high up, but it all feels stuck. I am trying to push through longer and longer contractions and it feels a little different, but it keeps going. Hot towels, walking. I have an unnerving feeling – there is no change and no end in sight.
First vaginal examination – 3pm. Its been over twelve hours since my contractions started and so good to know where I am: 6-7cm dilated. I can do this. But I slip back into a void, rocking, moving rooms, leaning on people, taking homeopathic remedies, breathing and panting. Back in the pool, get dozy. I am tossed around in a choppy sea of contractions. I am struggling – I really wanted to be one of those women on the videos popping the baby out serenely, not a chance. But I am still in there, I am rising to meet this and everyone is with me.
Second v.e. 4pm 2cm lip around cervix. Surrender, surrender, surrender. Am I trying too hard? What am I doing wrong? Long, close contractions. All the time Julie is a reassuring observer, my family fully behind me.
Third v.e. – 5pm – 1cm anterior lip of cervix present. I will do anything to get this baby out. Julie tries to hold back the lip during a contraction, so painful.
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth v.e. – thin lip pushed back during contractions, still no change. This is not how this should be, where is my baby?
Seventh v.e. – 8.30pm – thin lip but baby starting to descend. I don’t know who made the decision. I looked at Julie and we knew it was time, I had pushed myself to the limit.
Hospital 9pm. – I arrive like a crazy cave woman, totally out of my mind, the car ride too much to bear, I am screaming for help. Want pain relief but apparently the anaesthetist is about to leave for the night.
My large support crew of husband, sister, mother, mother in-law, father in-law, sister in-law, two midwives, and student midwife must be pulling their weight. Things are arranged as I need them, something on the floor to kneel on, lights dimmed, people supporting me as I get more lost than ever before. I am in another world, its more painful than I can describe but I am so alive. And finally, it changes…
9.30pm eighth and final v.e. – I am fully dilated.
The pushing is so extremely physical, but pain with reward as Jordi finally becomes part of the story. It’s been so long. I am calling him to come out and forty minutes later his head is born and he takes his first breath right there, just before his body slithers out in the best moment of my life and the first moment of his.
My strong, healthy, baby boy. He was always there, I had lost sight of him, but he was there, we are a family. The hard labour is just testimony to our strength, to the love of our whanau –who experienced every aching moment with us. We can’t thank Julie enough, our amazing midwife, who had the courage to plunge into unknown territory with us.
Two years later, I can feel proud of what we achieved that day. But it has taken time to say goodbye to the fantasy home birth and the guilty feeling that I must have done something wrong.
Now that I am the confident mother of a beautiful two year old, I can see we had the perfect hospital homebirth: a real, gritty, beautifully challenging experience that pushed us all to our limits. Looking back and preparing for a new arrival, I can finally say I would not change a thing.
Note: Our second boy, Rafi Alexander Wright-Stow was born on the 30th May, 2008, only a day after completing Jordi’s birth story. We had a gentle and intimate home birth.