Jessica has bravely shared with us here, the birth story of her daughter Nell:
As far as pregnancies go, my fourth was fairly fantastically normal and “by the book” compared to the other three previous. Morning sickness abated by 12ish weeks, and things flowed fairly normally. I was relieved not to have Hyperemesis Gravardium this pregnancy. Despite being hospitalised for kidney stone removal surgery and also having three wisdom teeth out in the chair, the pregnancy and belly dweller within me kept growing safe and well, boringly normal.
Around the beginning of the second trimester I began to get serious about deciding who would be on my birth support team, to support me to birth at home. We had only moved up to the Sunshine Coast four months prior, and my previous births had been attended to by the same amazing midwife. So after much scrutiny and a lengthy interview to ensure we “meshed” with our ideals surrounding birth and pregnancy, I decided on my midwife. I felt she was a wise woman, who knew and trusted in birth and women, and I felt she was a good match for my needs.
At 32 weeks I gathered with much beloved women friends and was honoured during my Blessingway ceremony. I felt held and special.
I knew I would more than likely be faced with another long pregnancy (my previous spontaneous labours occurred at home without issue at 43 weeks 1 day, and also 42 weeks 5 days respectively; I was induced with my first for “post dates” (boy haven’t I learnt a lot since then?) but for some reason I still felt surprised. My 40th week rocked up right on the first lot of school holidays, so I was easily distracted by having to wrangle my three girls through two weeks of home-time; whilst also feeling the physical ache and heaviness of having to lumber my hugely ripe belly through plenty of outings with excited children, as well as the normal household day to day stuff. My husband was, as always, a massive support to me – but it’s easy to understand that I still felt exhausted. I didn’t see many friends this holidays, which usually is something that serves as a comfort and distraction for me from the chaos – this time I stayed close to home, and I hermited, with minimal contact. I was very conscious of shielding myself from outside pressures no matter how indirect they were. My head space remained crucially clutter-free.
I was having weekly appointments with my midwife by this stage and my chiropractor, baby was fully engaged and my pelvis felt full and ready. I had felt it warming up for weeks with random bursts of regular Braxton Hicks, some really good ones that were kicked off when my toddler would breast feed. I knew it was readying itself to birth, gradually. I joked to my midwife that I wouldn’t labour while the girls were at home – too much noise, and that I would likely go into labour on the days after they returned. Free moments of days were spent walking around the lighthouse, sitting on my favourite rock, meditating, talking to the baby dwelling inside me. I told her (we didn’t know the sex but I did know, instinctively, it was a “she”) that we were ready to meet her, and how much her sisters loved her. I told her all about the beautiful mountain we lived on, how you can smell the rain, how the sound of the waves sound as they crash against the rocks. How I was so excited to show her my favourite beach where pumice stones litter the sand, and the sand itself leaves your legs and skin feeling moisturised and supple. I spent a lot of time connecting with nature and allowing myself to be surrounded by its unfaltering repetition of impermanence and surrender. It soothed me. Despite me being quite an impatient woman by nature in most of life’s pursuits, previous pregnancies and births had taught me to have utter faith in my body and its ability to gestate for the perfect amount of time, unhindered. I trusted, and I felt all was well. My baby was active and very happy inside me.
Well, the holidays wound down and the big girls returned to school; met with a sigh of relief… and still baby stayed cocooned inside me. My husband had arranged to begin his leave from this point to take some of the pressure off too, a welcome decision. When the 43rd week came, I woke up and felt really sad and confused – I was *still* pregnant. Why wouldn’t this baby come? Why did longer pregnancies have to be my “normal”? Why were other women having their babies before me, why did I have to wait? I knew the answers deep down but this didn’t stop me from feeling completely frustrated and overwhelmed, and my mind would wonder and I would begin to envision myself at 46 weeks pregnant, and that upset me. Surely it couldn’t be much longer, surely? I was so utterly sick of people’s comments relating to their apparent impatience to meet my baby (which of course, seemed to supersede mine) and so I continued to lay low. I felt heavy, huge, uncomfortable. My bladder was being constantly tested and I couldn’t sleep comfortably. My poor husband endured cycle after cycle of emotional upheavals from me; some days I was fine, others – a crying mess. I tried my best to ride the waves of my emotions rather than fight them but it was exhausting. I was ready.
A few days past 43 weeks (the longest I had remained pregnant yet) I arrange on the advice and agreement of my midwife to have a biophysical profile ultrasound done, to check on the cord flow, placenta functioning, fluid levels and a general check on the baby. I was apprehensive about this scan; thoughts flowed through my head: what if it showed something wrong, what if the people doing it pressured me to get induced or gave me a hard time for “still” being pregnant? Armed with the support of my husband, and the distraction of my utterly gorgeous toddler – we went to the scan. I was happily surprised and relieved to the maximum amount to have a fantastic, gently spoken, respectful sonographer to do my scan. And as I lay back and let my very large bulbous belly be scanned I was reassured by what I already knew, intuitively: everything was perfect. The sonographer asked if I’d like a close up of my baby’s face, and I excitedly agreed: she printed this photo out for me, and I stuck it to the wall beside my bed near my birthing pool. This baby’s chubby, adorable face served as a comfort for me over the next few days as I continued to wait. My baby was healthy and happy, and everything was functioning as so. I got commended by letting my body choose when to labour by the beautiful receptionist too. I felt heartened, and content. And more importantly: validated. Here we live in a society so intent on the “magic 40 week” point, and warned of the apparent large dangers in going beyond this; yet here was my beautiful baby, healthy, growing and perfect – at 43 weeks. We left and I felt a few of the clouds of doubt in my mind shift. I told my midwife the results of the scan and she was happy to keep on keeping on.
As I was still pregnant, and quite emotionally over it, my midwife suggested a stretch and sweep to kick start the Braxton Hicks contractions along that I was having. Despite my first experience of such a thing being with my first daughter under non-consensual circumstances and in very different settings – I agreed to two rigorous sweeps, both of which gave me shows and ramped up a bit; but then died down. These sweeps were done by my midwife – a woman highly educated on normal birth, someone who I trusted. I was being challenged… my baby was clearly snug and not ready to be born yet. On the second evening of labour that fizzled out after I decided to rest and go to bed after bouncing on the optiball and willing my body to be ready to birth. I fell asleep and woke up at 1am, and text my midwife. She had one more trick in her book: a homeopathic tincture. I took the required dosage over 3 hours and my body didn’t even react to the medicine. I fell asleep; listening to the sound of my husband snoring.
I woke up on Friday morning feeling incredibly tired and frustrated. My body was randomly surging but with no regularity. I made an appointment to visit the chiropractor again, and my midwife said she had a full day planned and would visit in the afternoon. I spent the day resting on the couch, alternating between a “surrender” state of mind and one of completely ignoring the fact that I was still pregnant, and in a grump. I visited the chiropractor who said that my pelvis and hips were in perfect alignment. I went home, continuing to have random surges which I paid minimal attention to. I sort of felt like my body was teasing me. I felt under pressure – but not sure by who: my husband and midwife were fully supportive. I felt like I wasn’t performing according to expectations, and then this made me feel confused. What was going on? My husband suggested that maybe there was some sort of mental block preventing me from entering labour land – a suggestion of which I disputed, and loudly. I had done everything! I had worked on any emotional blocks, I’d been in nature, I’d meditated on surrender… I had done it all. It was not me. That evening I went to bed.
The following morning my body woke me with a rock hard belly (as usual) and I gently surged every ten minutes or so. My midwife messaged me and told me because I was still pregnant, we’d need to consult with the hospital. I knew in my mind at this stage that I was completely over being pregnant – something I’d never fully reached before, surprising given my long gestations. I knew that I wouldn’t consent to any form of chemical induction – my first induction with my eldest daughter still remains one of the most traumatic experiences of my life – an experience that left me feeling powerless, like meat on a table for public display; I suffered post natal depression and post traumatic stress disorder for six months after it, and I don’t even remember my first daughter’s six months: it was a blur, of crying, dark, depression and hurt. There was no way I was going there again.
I arranged to meet a girlfriend (still surging) for breakfast at my local favourite cafe and then do some op-shopping. My beautiful in laws were due to come up and take my two older daughters to their swimming lessons, and my husband would go off and do the fortnightly grocery trip with our toddler. I met my friend at the cafe and promptly got teary. I began to unload and tell her that I didn’t care anymore about how the baby came out: I just wanted it out; safe and healthy. I told her that I had done everything I could possibly think of within my realm of comfort to encourage the baby to come but she clearly wasn’t. So it wasn’t about me anymore: my baby wasn’t coming due to a lack of what I was doing or something that I was. Clearly my baby had her own agenda. It was their journey for whatever reason to stay inside me and it was not mine. I told my friend I just wanted to book a caesarian so that I could have an end-date in mind: some certainty, some control. I felt calm and emotionally ready to birth my baby this way. My dear friend was a fantastic sounding board and was a great listener for me as I unloaded. We ate our delicious breakfasts, did a spot of op-shopping and then after she enveloped me in a warm hug I said goodbye to my friend and got in the car to drive home.
I’d realised I had missed a phone call from my my midwife so I rang her back. She told me she had consulted with the registrar at the hospital and they wanted me to come in for some CTG monitoring. My midwife said she would come in with me, and that they wanted me around 4ish. She also told me that due to my previous 3 vaginal births, that the hospital would not agree to an elective caesarian and instead wanted to break my waters and induce me. I expressed my vehement disagreement to my midwife at this suggestion: there is no way I would consent to an induction, not after the experience of my first one with my eldest daughter 7 years earlier. I told her that even if I did just get my water’s broken there is no guarantee that I would go into a labour that wouldn’t end in a caesarian anyway, and I didn’t want to go through the traumatic snow-balling cycle of monitoring, and doubtless intervention that would come in a hospital setting. I wanted certainty and control, for once. So no I did NOT consent to that, I told my midwife. She pretty much took my answer on the chin, and told me she wanted to come over in a few hours to give me a massage with some Clary Sage oil as she had been talking to another midwife at a morning tea that morning who suggested those and its effectiveness. I scoffed at her at the suggestion, and said fine, I would see her at 1pm. I drove home.
On the drive home I spoke to my belly dweller. I told her that she really should choose to be born at home in the next few hours, and that the baby moon we would share together would be far more restorative and nurturing if she chose to be born at home. I told her that it didn’t matter to me really how she came, but that if she didn’t come in the next few hours – that I’d be getting her out. I told her I had reached my absolute limit, I had been patient – but the time was now. I told her of the delightful milkiness that we would be able to share in our own bed, with her sisters around and how there’d be no separation or pain – a very different story to that if she chose not to come at home, and instead in hospital. I pleaded with my belly dweller that she should choose today. I closed my eyes, my hands holding my ripe belly – and I breathed light and love into her.
When I got home I greeted my husband, told him of the plans to go to hospital. He told me he was tired and wanted to rest in case we were in for a long night – I said that was fine. I went and put our toddler to bed, and I snuggled her around my belly for what would be the last time… (but I didn’t know that yet!). She soon drifted off to sleep, and I enjoyed feeling the weight of her limbs curled around my belly, and the smell of her sweet breath in my face; at the same time feeling the little belly dweller tumbling around inside my belly. I extracted myself from underneath her limbs and I went into our bedroom where the birth pool was all set up – and I began packing my bag for hospital. I had laid out about 6 changes of tiny clothes for our baby, pyjamas for me and blankets… all the necessities, along with toiletries.
My older daughters arrived home from swimming lessons and going to the craft shop with my wonderful in laws and just before 1pm my midwife arrived as well. I’m very close with my mother in law and she was visiting today along with my father in law because tomorrow morning at 7am age would have to fly down to Hobart again to help support her mother who was unwell from an accident and trying to make it back home to the Sunshine Coast.
The girls went about showering off the chlorine and getting changed, and I woke my husband from his sleep to let him know my midwife was here. She greeted me with a hug and showed me the oils, and wanted to start the massage. So we went into the birthing room, and I knelt down on my knees and she began vigorously rubbing handfuls of undiluted Clary Sage oil into the sacrum of my back. Within about 7 minutes I got a very lovely surprise by feeling my first real surge – one that required me to breathe through it. My midwife kept the massage up and sure enough, 3 minutes on the dot later – another surge hit. And then I called out for a bucket because I needed to vomit. My husband, who was still walking around in a bit of a daze after being woken from his nap – shot up to action. This being his fourth birth, and third home birth to be present for meant that he knew fully well that a definite sign of labour for me was vomiting, so he immediately began conferring with my midwife who was also in a bit of disbelief and intent to keep rubbing my back – about filling up the pool. I remember my mother in law walking past as I vomited, and she was a bit unsure of what was going on – to which I quickly managed “I’m in labour!” to her face of disbelief. Sure enough, 3 minutes passed and BAM another surge hit! My midwife scrambled to find her phone and after much “where is my phone? where is it? oh it’s in the car!” she let her partner midwife know that I was evidently in labour, and she also rang the hospital to let them know the same.
Over the next two hours I laboured leaning over the hard wooden frame of my bed on my knees – eventually with a pillow under my knees. I was laughing, and joyful. The second midwife arrived and my toddler soon after stumbled out from her nap – a little dazed and confused upon seeing me doing “breathing” and settled on the bed in front of me. She acted like my little Doula, mimicking my breaths and eventually as my noises got more guttural and low – those too. She enjoyed sitting beside the second midwife, dictating drawings to be done (but not shared!). Her presence didn’t irritate me or annoy me or distract me. I enjoyed having her around. I felt free to labour, knowing my big girls were out the back with their beloved grandparents, and my husband and toddler were with me – all the people that I loved the most were surrounding me. My husband offered me ice-chips at one point, to which I gratefully accepted and my midwife suggested I take off my harem pants to which I said “what? why?” and her reply of “because you’ll be meeting your baby soon!”. She told me she could see the line lengthening up my buttocks (indicating dilation), and I laughed saying “talk about timing! this baby!”. I continued to breathe between surges, rocking on my knees forward over the end of the bed whilst still having my back rubbed, sometimes being reminded to keep my sounds low. I sporadically vomited into the bucket as well but this didn’t bother me – it felt good, cathartic, cleansing. As the intensity grew my noises got louder but lower… the pool was almost filled, and I wanted to get in. I asked my midwife if it was much longer, and she reassured me it wouldn’t be.
As I got into the pool, I whipped off my knickers and I leaned over the edge, into my husband’s arms. The pool felt warm, safe… cradling me. Similar to how my husband’s arms made me feel. He held me (and the weight of the pool, apparently, because I was leaning so hard into him that I was making water pour out over the edge… I’d later find out that he was completely saturated and needed a change of clothes!) and I asked my midwife to shut the bedroom door – the toddler was outside with her sisters and grandparents, and I could hear them play fighting and I didn’t want their noise to stagger my labour. Soon after I exclaimed to my midwife that I was “done! I can’t do this much longer, am I going to be done soon? this bit sucks!” and she reassured me it wouldn’t be long at all, and that I was doing beautifully. Sure enough she was right and I soon began grunting “I need to poo… I need to poo!” I said. My right leg was propped up right and I made a few more grunty noises. I recognised this as the baby moving into the birthing canal, and I was encouraged to feel between myself and see if I could feel the head. At the first feel, I couldn’t feel anything, but soon after another surge hit and after I grunted my way through it – I could feel something. It felt smooth, but it wasn’t a head – it felt like a bubble! “It’s a bubble! I can feel a bubble” I told my midwife. She told me that it was the baby’s head inside the sac of waters. It felt amazing. I got into a squat position as the next surge hit and I grunted and breathed my way through it – feeling absolutely everything about it to manage – the tightness in my belly, my back, the way it shivered up my belly and peaked, and then as it petered out. It was amazing. Soon I felt the familiar “ring of fire” and exclaimed “ouch! ouch! the head is coming!” and instinctively I leaned backwards, with my hands on the base of the pool and my feet apart. As the head was born I felt her waters break simultaneously and her shoulders were then born too… my body then ever so generously gave me a minute or so reprieve from surges, and I was able to sit back and watch as my baby was half womb-side and also half earth-side, floating between my legs… until another surge hit, and I pushed her out entirely into my hands, and pulled her immediately onto her chest. She was slippery, blue – and covered in vernix! I quickly yelled out for my girls to come in, and then they were there – watching as I exclaimed “I did it! It’s over! The baby’s here, the baby decided to come, finally! It’s done! I did it!”. My midwives marvelled at her vernix coated head, back, arms and neck and also at the pool’s water – there was not a trace of meconium present. They congratulated me warmly, and my midwife quickly rang the hospital to tell them I had birthed (only to be met with disbelief on the other end of the phone… “already?!”) Meanwhile I was absolutely euphoric, and within seconds my gorgeous husband, three beautiful daughters and mother in law were all beside me as I sat in the pool, holding my new baby – eyes all wide with amazement and awe.
A few minutes passed and I decided to get out of the pool to birth my placenta (as I had done with all my previous homebirths) due to a sore backside and wanting to get warm. I carried my beautiful vernixy baby a few steps onto my bed where I was boosted with pillows and covered in a towel to keep me warm. My baby was pinking up quickly – by now only her feet were a little blue. My midwife suggested I check the sex and I quickly moved her cord out of the way and exclaimed “it’s a girl, I knew it was!” and snuggled my baby to my chest. My toddler sat beside me in bed, stroking my arm and cooing over her new “baby stister”. Within a few more minutes I felt the familiar urge to push and I birthed my placenta in one big gush – and it was beautiful. Perfectly formed, absolutely no grit or calcification, ripe. The cord had stopped pulsating by now and my husband cut it.
I lay in bed with my beautiful new baby for the next hour or so where she had her first few breast feeds as my birth support team went about tidying up – siphoning out the birth pool water into the garden, putting towels into the washing machine, dimming the lights. My mother in law got the big girls fed dinner and bathed and into their adorable flannelette pyjamas. We rewarded my amazing midwives with tea and carrot cake which they were very thankful for – but I declined any food, I wasn’t hungry and I could feel after pains coming on. So I took some panadeine and got a heat pack and was supported by my mother in law to have a shower which felt fantastic. I felt quite weak though, it had been a quick labour – but at the same time not too quick. Turns out it only took 12 minutes for the Clary Sage to kick in, and my active labour was 2 and a half hours – 7 minutes of which from when I was fully dilated to when I had birthed my baby. My beautiful mother in law helped me into fresh pyjamas while my husband had his first cuddle of Nell, along with my midwife, and they dressed her and wrapped her and passed her to me after I had made my way back to bed. They also weighed Nell and she was a perfect 9lb exactly.
I bid farewell to my Midwives then, and my husband and I said goodbye to his parents and thanked them so much for everything they had done. We would see them tomorrow, but for now we were keen to get the big girls into bed and asleep so that we could snuggle in bed together with our newest addition. Once they were asleep, my husband joined me and Nell in bed and we just chatted and ogled her in absolute awe. Our last baby, our youngest daughter was finally here. She was just so beautiful. We chatted about the birth and my husband told me how utterly proud and amazed he was of me.
Eventually he drifted off to sleep but I couldn’t sleep much that night – I stay awake, just staring in absolute bewilderment at my new baby, watching as she suckled my breast and slept against my chest. I sniffed her in – she smelt amazing, so fresh and new, so wonderful. The journey that this baby had taken me on throughout my pregnancy and right up to her birth – it was like no other. Right when I had given up all hopes of birthing at home again, in a loving supported environment – right when I had completely surrendered to whatever will be will be – she decided then, to be born. She was born at 1 day shy of 44 weeks, against so many odds – covered in vernix, with clear waters. She was born at home surrounded by all the people that loved her the most. My baby clearly knew all along the exact perfect moment to be born, despite me even doubting her (and myself). Oh, how much she taught me – even at a few hours old. I really thought that by the fourth pregnancy I couldn’t gain much more wisdom and understanding about pregnancy, birth and what it means to be a woman.
It just goes to show that we as humans never stop learning, ever, and so often the best lessons are hidden in places that we are often too fearful or busy or hesitant to explore. But when we do go there, and tread carefully in unchartered waters, with faith and belief in our bodies – we emerge from the depths wholly new, empowered, enlightened.
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.
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