By Lynlee Wallace
I am writing Maisie’s birth story as she lies in my arms; she’s six weeks old today and going through a growth spurt, meaning she won’t settle to sleep during the day unless I’m holding her. We had friends over to lunch yesterday – the first time we had seen them since Maisie was born. They looked after our son Flynn (three and a half) while we gave birth on a sunny Monday morning on the 1st March 2010, six days before our due date.
During lunch our friends had wanted to know how our homebirth had gone. I said without hesitation that it was wonderful and that the day after giving birth I had told my husband that I wanted another baby just so I could experience a similar labour again. The surprised look on their faces made me realise how lucky we had been to experience such a wonderful birth, enough to contemplate going through morning sickness and all those other aches and pains of pregnancy just to relish a few hours of labour at the end of it. I have come to realise that the pain of labour, especially the pushing part and the few special moments after the baby emerges are addictive!
On Sunday, the day before Maisie was born, I started having a show and thought it could possibly be the start of labour. That evening I had more show so realised labour would be starting sometime though it could be up to two weeks away. But at least something was going to happen. It wasn’t until that night just as we went to bed that I started to get contractions. For the previous 2-3 weeks I had been experiencing pains in the lower stomach/cervix area, especially when I stood up. They were uncomfortable enough for me to have to stop and breathe slowly until they passed some minutes later. I wondered whether the pains I was now experiencing were those or something more serious. I didn’t bother to time them but they were coming about every 10 minutes throughout the night. In my semi-sleep state I dreamed the contractions were parade floats, approaching, reaching us then going past, ready for the next float in line. They did however ease off later for a couple of hours, enough for me to actually fall asleep. That night I went to the toilet several times, normally it was twice but I was sure enough that this was labour that I turned the light on each time to check for more show. Sure enough it was labour. The time sped by and at about one o’clock I told my husband Wayne that I was in labour. He told me later that he hadn’t believed me because the next minute I was snoring!
When the alarm went at 6am, Wayne started getting up for work, I asked him what he was doing. He still didn’t believe I was in labour as I had managed to stay in bed all night throughout the contractions. We stayed in bed until 7am; our friends had said we could ring them day or night to bring Flynn over if we went into labour but I still felt glad we were able to wait until a reasonable hour to do so.
I managed to eat a piece of toast and texted mum and a few friends telling them I was in labour. We woke our son and Wayne started making his breakfast. By this time my contractions were about 5 minutes apart although they varied to 2 minutes apart at times. I was leaning against the kitchen bench and realised that I was going to have the baby soon. Flynn would not have time to eat his breakfast so I told Wayne to take him to our friends’ house straight away. I used the only acupressure point I could remember, squeezing the web of skin between thumb and forefinger as hard as I could. I moved into the lounge and felt the urge to push. I thought for a brief moment that I would have the baby on my own, so quickly took the ‘bum in the air’ position to stop the pushing urge. By the time Wayne came back 20 minutes later, I knew we needed to contact our midwife and get the birthing pool filled up fast. Wayne proceeded to sit down on the couch, start watching TV and eat his breakfast, thinking we had hours to go before the baby arrived. Once I let him know that his coffee would have to wait, he rang Linda and I talked to her saying she needed to come now and not later when things had moved along as she suggested. The whole time, I moved my pelvis in a figure of eight movement which I had also used during our previous labour.
It wasn’t until we started to fill the birthing pool from the laundry tap that we realised how long it was going to take to fill it deep enough. Having used the pool during our previous labour, we thought it would only take 20 minutes, however the house we now lived in had very low water pressure. As soon as the water was warm enough I got into the pool even though it was only about 40 cm deep by that stage. I remember thinking about what Linda had said, that I should wait to get into the pool until the end of the first stage. I wondered if I should try and wait, then realised of course I was at that stage already! Unfortunately the pool began to leak into the bottom chamber, despite our best efforts to fix it days earlier. This time it didn’t worry me though. Linda turned up at 9am and settled down at the dining room table to watch. It took her a while to find the baby’s heartbeat and it was such a relief to finally hear it; as the time dragged on I feared she would say we needed to go to the hospital.
I started feeling sick and a bit shaky and Wayne plopped Flynn’s potty into the water for me to use if I needed it. I threw it out again as the thought of it in the water repulsed me. With every contraction I pressed my forehead into the side of the pool and breathed through the pain, trying to relax and help the baby come out. Linda suggested Wayne fill up a bowl of ice water so he could place a wet flannel around my neck. It was then we realised we had placed the birthing pool, now half full of water and weighing a ton, in front of the freezer. Fortunately just cold water felt frigid to me as Wayne threw flannel after flannel onto my back.
Linda wanted to know if I still felt pain across my lower stomach, indicating whether I was fully dilated or not. I couldn’t seem to formulate answers to her questions. She said later that she hadn’t thought my labour was as advanced as it was, as I wasn’t making much noise and my contractions were irregular and didn’t last very long. She checked the line on my butt and saw it was all the way up which was a sign that I was fully dilated. She then asked if she could do an internal exam so I shuffled over to the side of the pool and she smiled saying I was ready and the baby’s head was right there. She quickly went out of the room to ring Cheryl then set up the linen in the lounge. I started pushing while I stood up in the pool. There was a pop and my waters exploded into the water. Linda came back and asked whether I wanted a water birth as they would need to use pots to fill the pool up quicker as the baby would drown at the level it was at. I decided against it and climbed out and went into the lounge to push. I heard Linda tell Liz to put the jug on so they could use some hot flannels in an effort to stop any tearing but things were happening too fast. I kneeled against the couch, Linda told me to put my knees further apart and I started pushing. I remember vaguely hearing Liz our student midwife asking Wayne how to operate our camera as the photos she had taken so far were blurry. I heard Wayne talking to her about the flash and felt a little disappointed that apparently we wouldn’t have any decent photos of the birth. Soon enough though I decided I didn’t care about that. I heard Linda and Wayne telling me to push harder and I did, though each time I didn’t think I could push any harder. The burning pain started and I remember (much to my embarrassment) whimpering in between pushes and it kept getting worse and worse. I put my hand down and felt Maisie’s head, hard and slimy. It was amazing to feel her just there. The stretching increased then all of a sudden I felt a release as the rest of her body slipped out. That feeling was the most amazing feeling ever! I remember Wayne crying out with emotion at that moment. Linda passed her through my legs and I knelt down, wiping her face with my hand. I got onto the couch and cuddled Maisie to my chest. Linda put some warm towels over her. Cheryl arrived not long after, telling us how she had only taken ten minutes to get from Feilding to Palmerston North! She made us some coffee and toast and we brought out the chocolates which was a nice treat for morning tea. Eventually Wayne cut the cord although he was a bit eager and had to be told to stop a couple of times while Linda and Liz clamped it.
We sat around and Maisie breastfed – it was a relief to see that she seemed to know what to do. Lizzie showed me how they were taught to latch a baby on. After about half an hour I passed Maisie to Wayne and sat back down on the floor to push the placenta out. I couldn’t believe that I would have to push as hard as I had to get the baby out, all over again! After a few pushes though it came out and the midwives were surprised at how little blood there had been. We looked at the placenta and Linda remarked on how small it was. She also said that I had torn as soon as I started pushing but Cheryl said it was nice and straight and wouldn’t need any stitches. I had a shower with Linda’s assistance and I said to Linda that I could stay in there all day. She replied succinctly “Don’t” which I thought was funny. We talked and ate and drank for another couple of hours then Wayne went and got Flynn. The first thing Flynn said when he saw Maisie was ‘wow’. He cuddled up with her on the couch.
It wasn’t until later that it dawned on us how amazing our birth had been. We hadn’t had a chance to dwell on it much but the more that time goes on, the more I have come to appreciate how ‘easy’ and straightforward the birth was. And how ‘normal’ it was to birth at home. No stopping part way through to get in a car and travel to a strange hospital but it was just a normal part of our lives. Get up, have breakfast, have a baby, have morning tea! Yes it was as painful as Flynn’s birth, but every time I think about it and look at photos I am filled with warm feelings and a lot of that is thanks to our midwife who helped us birth at home.