All birth stories are different and we want to empower and support all kinds of births. We all have individual reactions to reading birth stories; some make us happy, laugh, cry or feel sad. Here at The Merge Journal we hope to give the mother who writes her birth story a sense of empowerment. A time for reflection. We respect all the different types of individual birthing stories.
Elli has bravely shared with us here, her birth story of daughter Ruby:
On Tuesday morning I woke up at 5.20 am, surprised by how much energy I had. I practically bounced out of bed into the shower. Three days before I had lost my mucus plug and started contracting on and off. Each evening I’d been waiting in anticipation for labour to really kick off but it just kept fizzling out. I was beginning to feel frustrated and even messaged my midwife asking if I was normal because what the heck was my body doing?! The past three days had been a struggle and I’d felt completely off. Oli had been irritating me more than usual and I felt in a complete rut.
Standing in the shower and it hits me…I’m having this baby tonight. It was sure as anything, I just knew I would be meeting my baby tonight, it was a full moon after all! That feeling gave me a little boost, I already felt better than the last few days but having this little secret felt extra special. I’m a huge believer in trusting my instincts so I was quite certain it wasn’t just a fantasy.
We spent the morning at Hyde Park with my mum and brother and ate yummy food from the bakery across the road. There was a little bit of walking involved and I was contracting on and off but they were quite mild at this point. My mum was asking about the contractions and I promptly snapped at her to stop asking about them – she says a sign she knew I was in labour! I’m usually not a snappy person!
Oli fell asleep in the car on the way home and I was relieved because it meant I could run into the baby shop and get a nappy bag. The last ‘thing’ on my to do list! It was a relief for me that everything was ready and I was fully prepared before the baby arrived. Not that I would NEED a nappy bag for a while but it was the concept of being ready that was important to me! When we got home I jumped in the bath with a book and cup of pregnancy tea from blissful herbs. I was contracting here and there but trying to focus on just relaxing and happily stared at my belly for ages knowing it wouldn’t be around for much longer!
When I got out of the bath I rubbed my belly with my usual oil and a few drops of clary sage oil. Would it help? I had no idea but at 39 weeks there’s no harm in trying. I think it did help a little, my contractions were warming up and I began to notice them a lot more. I took to my bed and rested for the afternoon. I had read all over the place to rest during early labour not to over do things but I had no desire to speed things along. I was like a cat, hiding alone in my dark nest!
At around 5pm we headed out for our usual walk around the neighbourhood and it didn’t take me long to realise that I was certainly in labour. Ian began timing my contractions and they were coming every five minutes. I was having to start breathing through them and slowing down my pace. We got home and I made Oli’s dinner because I wanted him in bed ASAP so I could focus. I had a bit to eat but didn’t want to overdo it as I remembered from last time that I suffer from bad nausea in labour. Possibly the worst feeling in the WORLD on top of contractions.
It’s about 7 when Oli and I are in the shower and my contractions are getting quite uncomfortable. I get in the comfiest position – on my hands and knees with the hot water on my lower back and start to breathe through them. Oli is so precious … he pats my shoulders and ‘shhs’ me before getting on all fours himself and making groaning noises!
Once Ol is safely tucked in bed I get out my birth ball and breathe my way through a few episodes of Sons of Anarchy. Ian is off in the other room because I haven’t really voiced to him that this is the real deal. While I knew I was in labour, I couldn’t actually verbalise it?! I didn’t want any fuss or to be ‘watched’ as I was coping pretty well. Well that was until Ian ignored me, I sent him a text ordering he get my heartburn tablets. After 15 mins I stomped out to get them myself. When he came in to see me awhile later I was angrily bouncing away and bit his head off! Apparently sending a text saying ‘heartburn!!!’ Doesn’t automatically shout out ‘could you please grab my tablets and bring them here darling husband?’ Poor Izzy, I had been contracting and fizzling out every night for the past week and without me specifically stating ‘I’m in labour! Fill the pool’ he was none the wiser!
I begin to find the contractions more intense and get back into the shower. Ian times my contractions again. In my mind that theres no way I could have a baby with 5 minutely contractions, I mean I’m probably just in early labour right?! Wrong! It’s about 9.30 and I’m feeling very uncomfortable, the shower is helping but I’m getting annoyed because the contractions are 5,6,7 mins apart. What is going onnnnn?! How long will this last?! I cannot do this, I must be the weakest woman in the world? Probably about 2cm and freaking the hell out already! I get out of the shower and back to my fit ball. Thats just not cutting it now and I remember I have a TENS machine. I decide to try to get some sleep and use that for relief.
At this point I message my midwife and to give her a heads up that I’m contracting but everything is fine. I even cringe messaging her because I hate to be a bother! I think this is something about being a midwife? Being worried about being ‘that woman’ who overreacts and thinks she is in labour when she clearly isn’t!
I get into bed with the TENS machine on and the contractions have almost disappeared. They are every 8 to 10 mins but my god they have DOUBLED in intensity! The TENS machine is ticking away on my back adding to my nausea and I just can’t take it! I jump out of bed and pull the thing straight off. As I do this it gives my finger an electric shock and it goes completely numb! Almost four weeks on and I still don’t have the feeling back in my finger!
I feel like I’m unravelling at this point. I begin to cry and doubt myself and I’m at such a loose end…I just don’t know what to do with my body. I pace from one side of my bedroom to the other an absolute wreck. I apologise to Ian as I know I’m being a crazy woman but I just cant help it. Hello! Clearly I was in transition but at the time I was just too deep in it to really note what was going on. I head back to the shower and tell Ian to stay in bed and rest because whats the use in timing these contractions when they are what like 10 mins APART?! I told him to stay but what I meant was check on me in 5? I mean I’m losing my marbles! Surely you would come check on the crazy lady??! Ian on the other hand took it as ‘just stay here and rest’ as…better get some sleep coz I’ve got work in the morning!’
Fast forward to half an hour later and its around 10.30 when I’m on all fours in the shower as my waters break. I feel a pop and see the clear waters and heaps of vernix flowing down the drain. I begin yelling out to Ian … over and over I call his name and no response. I start to freak out. I feel like I’m stuck in this spot and can’t move. I’m sure the baby will fall out at any minute! I bang on the walls and yell out to Ian so loudly that I’m sure it will wake Oli! A few minutes later he stumbles in the door looking all sleepy! “MY WATERS HAVE BROKEN!!” I cry. I begin bawling as I was so scared! He springs into action and messages Mel and starts to pump up the pool.
We have quite a small house and the pumping of the pool in our lounge room wakes Oli up. I hear him start to yell out and its an odd sensation because usually I can respond to him instantly. To be physically unable to comfort him was weird and unnatural. After my waters break my contractions increase in intensity. I have to keep my eyes tightly shut through them and I just keep telling myself “Its 60 seconds Ell, just 60 seconds” and “My baby and body know what to do” over and over in my head. I also found it comforting to think of the contraction as a wave…starting small then increasing to the point where it peaks and then breaks and peters off. Before I know it Mel is in the bathroom and I feel an intense feeling of relief. I was really holding myself together until she arrived and I feel myself just relax and let go. This obviously had an effect on my entire body because after a few intense contractions with her there I felt the baby turn towards my back and from nowhere I start to grunt and push. Up until this point I had been completely silent throughout, to hear a noise come out of my mouth startles me a little.
‘Mel?! I think I’m pushing?!!’
‘Yep, I think you are too’
It was the most bizarre sensation to have my body take over and push without my control. One part of my mind thought PUSHING?! thats at the end?? I thought I was in early labour! I hear Oli continue to scream and I just want to shout to Ian ‘SHUT HIM UP!’ His screams are pulling my focus from coping with these insane contractions because I want to comfort him so badly! I don’t say anything and just keep my eyes tightly shut and wait for the next wave. Before long Mel asks if I want to hop in the pool because it’s almost full enough. I tell her I CANNOT move from this shower. With her gentle encouragement I quickly run from the shower to the pool where I start pushing about half way. I just remember yelling “Shiiiiiiiiit!!!!!” running through the house. Poor Oli was in Ian’s arms waiting for my sister to come and collect him, his eyes were probably wide as saucers but I didn’t look because I was too busy practically DIVING into the pool.
Jumping into the pool was the most divine feeling in the world. The water was so warm and it felt as if I was completely supported. The next little while is a blur and I just remember shouting a lot as I was pushing and feeling the intense pressure of the baby moving down. This was all new to me as I’d had an epidural with Oli. The only word I can use to describe this whole experience is INTENSE. It’s like I was taken to the very edge of my ability to cope and then it abruptly stopped. Just when I felt like I was going to die … I didn’t?! Again it was an odd feeling to hear this shouting and growling and know it was coming from my mouth but I had no control over it.
I opened my eyes between pushes and I saw Ian popping in and out the door with Oli, Mel sitting calmly at the table and my salt lamp and candle glowing. It was the most relaxing, lovely environment. My environment, the place I’m completely comfortable, where every night in my pregnancy I had imagined giving birth in. It was HAPPENING, my baby would be here soon. Ian leaves the house with Oli as my sister arrives. I hear Mel tell him to hurry because he will miss the birth if he’s not careful! I reach down and I can feel a full head of hair! I know the head is coming and I remember saying ‘Nooo, another contraction is coming’ I was so so scared to push out her head, all I could think of was all the stitches and pain from Oli’s birth! Before long I don’t have a choice and I’m yelling and yelling then panting and her head is born. ‘IS IT OKAY!?’ I ask. Mel and Ian reassure me that everything is fine. I can’t stop touching all this hair and I guess I’m stimulating the baby because I begin to feel it moving. Such a surreal sensation. moving between two worlds!
My next contraction comes and I push out my baby. It’s all a blur as I grab her and scoop her into my arms. “I DID IT!!!!” ‘I DID IT!!!!’ I exclaim! “Ian I DID IT!” I’m quite shocked as I look at her face. Mel says to me ‘talk to your baby’ and all I can muster is… ‘you look like an alien!’ Ian says to me ‘what is it?!’ I forgot to check! I was just so proud of myself for actually just giving birth in my LOUNGEROOM for goodness sake! I pull up the baby and look ‘IT’S A GIRL! IT’S A GIRL IAN IT’S A GIRL!’ I was so sure it was another boy! This made the birth so much more special, the perfect surprise after all the hard work. And it was hard work, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m so incredibly proud of myself and feel SO empowered after this experience. Everything about my labour and birth has made me a stronger, happier and more loving woman, mum, wife, PERSON in general. I know I can do anything at all. I have an insane respect and love for my body that I have never felt before.
Ruby went to the boob straight away and began feeding like a monster immediately! Before long I delivered my placenta and hopped out of the pool onto the couch. I breastfed Ruby, had a cup of tea and a snack. I chatted away to Ian and Mel and felt as high as a kite! I didn’t need ANY stitches wooohoo! and apart from being a little tender everything was FINE! So different to my last experience. I get up and change into my pjs then hop into bed with Ruby. It’s raining, thunder and lightning. I can’t believe I’ve just had a baby in my own home and now I’m in my own bed and PJ’s cuddling my newborn! This is absolute HEAVEN, why don’t people tell you about this?! Why isn’t everyone doing it? This is exactly how birth should be! The most natural thing in the world, in your own environment. I just feel SO SO happy that I could experience this after last time. After a pregnancy full of fear and mourning, a scary birth then my being separated from my little Oli for almost five whole weeks I cannot begin to describe to you the pain and heartbreak I felt I fell into motherhood the first time round. This experience made up for all of that. I am normal, I can have a baby, my body isn’t broken, my babies won’t all be unwell, I can be truly happy with my birthing experience.
The birth of Oli was the most life changing, joyful, challenging and confronting experiences of my life. Regardless of all the medical problems, I had GIVEN BIRTH! I felt a million bucks. Ruby’s birth was the most empowering, healing, and happy experience of my life. It was beautiful, raw and intense. It took me to the edge of my abilities and showed me that I’m stronger than I could ever have imagined. I feel so lucky to have experienced this. Every night of my pregnancy I lay in my bed thinking of how I would give birth at home, how it would be the most amazing experience. I fully believe in the power of positive thinking and that our thoughts have a direct impact on how we cope during pregnancy and birth.
This all wouldn’t have been possible without my midwife, Mel. Her gentle approach was exactly what I needed. Just knowing she was there was enough comfort and support to allow me to concentrate on what I needed to do. There was no ‘PUSH PUSH PUSH’ like I have witnessed and been taught to do at every birth! Just gentle reassurance and encouragement that I was doing exactly what I needed to so in the end I could say I DID it. Because I did do it! Mel was the exact definition of a midwife…’with woman’ Just her being there was enough. I can only wish to be as wonderful as her one day. I cannot speak HIGHLY enough of midwifery care and continuity of care from a midwife. While I know a homebirth is not everyones cup of tea I will continue to tell anyone that will listen that having ‘your own’ midwife throughout pregnancy, birth and postpartum regardless of place of birth is absolutely essential.
Everything happens for a reason, I think Oli picked us to be his parents because he knew we could take care of him. To go through the hard yards in the early days and come out the other end still smiling. I feel like Ruby is my reward for all those hard days. To show me that I’m a strong woman and mother. That my body is amazing and that I deserve to be happy. Ruby’s birth has healed wounds for Ian and I that we thought were long forgotten. Life is amazing, Rubes is the perfect addition to our family … it’s like she has always been here. To say we are loved up is a complete understatement. Head over heels, completely smitten. My heart is bursting with happiness.
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