I was pretty confident I wanted to have a homebirth with my first child. I had attended a friends beautiful homebirth and knew of others that had had very positive experiences. It also just seemed like the best thing for me; I’ve never had to be admitted to hospital and have no strong aversion, but I’m a healthy woman and try to live a ‘natural’ life where possible.
We moved to the small rural town of Fairlie when I was 34 weeks pregnant and found a very supportive and experienced home birth midwife, Kathryn, willing to take us on at such a late stage. She is based in Geraldine, 35 minutes away but kindly came to us for appointments. I set about preparing for birth; making mats, creating music playlists, ordering a pool from the Canterbury Homebirth Association and a TENS machine, taking a pre birth arnica based supplement, listening to mindfulness/meditation tracks for some guidance and trying to stay relaxed.
Well, 40 weeks came and went and although not concerned the apprehension kind of wore off and after another week I wasn’t really as focused as much on the labour but on the wait! My midwife advised me to head in to Timaru (a 50 minute one way trip) daily for CTG monitoring at 41.5 weeks and we also had a scan at almost 42 weeks where the obstetrician blatantly said our dates were wrong, baby is not that old and we can continue to wait. That said we all agreed that if no baby by Tuesday, 43.5 weeks, we would induce.
Sunday afternoon came and we drove to Timaru for the CTG. I started to feel a bit crampy but didn’t want to jump to conclusions! The midwife at the hospital said the reading showed nice even, early contractions. After such a long time it seemed we were finally underway, it was quite hard to get back to thinking about actually delivering a baby! The midwife was great, and quite happily said “well, you might as well go home and get ready then!” and we left the hospital behind to drive back home. I had attached my TENS machine and used it as the contractions came and went, and we admired the stunning sunset on the way home. I walked in the door and almost instantly – bam – the contractions picked up a notch and I had to kneel down and concentrate.
My partner was on the phone to Kathryn and then I had a chat. Yes, finish your roast dinner and then be on your way, I’ve got this! I tried to walk about in between contractions but after a while I was bent over a chair and breathing through with help of the TENS machine and squeezing mens hair combs (advice from a friend) whilst partner frantically boiled water and filled the pool. I think I ate a bit of pasta in there somewhere too.
I was beginning to think the midwife must have been held up as it seemed like forever but she did arrive and I immediately relaxed a little. She checked my cervix and told me I was 6cm dilated and ¾ of the way through my labour, which were encouraging words indeed at that stage.
The pool was finally ready and I was helped in. The relief was instant. My lower back had been very sore with each contraction and the heat and buoyancy helped take the edge off.
I got in to the zone for what must have been a few hours, breathing and squeezing combs, vaguely aware of the people and conversations around me. With some escalation I cried out “I want to push” to which Kathryn replied to take it as slowly as possible. I tried but my breathing was getting more and more high pitched and intense, Kathryn came over to explain I could gently (!) begin to push with each contraction and that I would feel the head move down and retract again, I liked knowing what was going on and started to get in tune with her rhythm.
The second midwife arrived as I was transitioning and I recall catching the time – 11.40pm (as an aside I would recommend no clocks in the vicinity!). I was leaning over the edge of the pool and wriggling about to get any sort of comfort. I had my eyes closed most of the time at this point, it seemed to help and I guess my body was just doing what it needed to. Slowly and painfully, I won’t lie, the head came down and I was turned over on to my back, “push really really hard” I was told, my lower back was so sore but the head was out and with one last push came a sense of overwhelming relief and release. She was out and catapulted in to the waiting hands of her dad just in to ANZAC Day, 25th April at 12.59am.
She was brought up to my chest and we were helped out of the pool, I was in a daze I think as Kathryn had to say “talk to your baby!”. Lying on the floor it was soon time to deliver the placenta. “Push” they were saying but I had no sense of feeling at all in that region any longer. Not to go in to lots of detail here, but the umbilical cord was frayed and it wasn’t coming out. On their advise I had an injection of oxytocin and found some last ounce of strength to at last birth the placenta.
The upshot of this little challenge was that dad got lots of nice bonding time with Bella. We had already named her, and for us it was joyous to be able to talk to her by name from the beginning.
On to the bed and it was time to try the first feed. This seemed very alien and surreal and I was still running on all sorts of natural highs but Kathryn was a great help here. I looked down at my daughter and was completely blissful…. and exhausted.
As well as all that nice skin on skin and bonding with baby, I had to go try and pee – very tricky – and managed a shower, which I reflected seemed like such a normal activity to be doing! Kathryn finished up her notes, the pool was drained and we said goodbye to her at 4am to start out on our own as a family of three.
I always had the utmost confidence and respect for my midwifery team. I felt in safe, knowledgeable hands whilst my familiar surroundings, calm atmosphere and being empowered to birth under my terms I believe were huge factors in Bella having such a smooth and positive start to life.