Updated: Jul 24, 2022
The day before my labour began was such a wonderful day. I spent the morning getting pampered with a facial, massage and 'belly facial' at the Bump Day Spa, then enjoyed a picnic with my hubby and son by the river. I went to bed feeling calm, relaxed and loved.
At midnight I was awoken by a surge. I realised immediately that these were the real deal. I got up at 1am to have a drink and stretch as I was becoming really uncomfortable in bed and worried that I would wake my toddler sleeping next to me. Hubby came out from his games room when he heard me moving around (I told him he was going to regret staying up - and he did) and massaged my back and put on a show in the background. He set up my TENS machine for me and I rested on the couch.
My surges became more frequent, lasting 40 seconds. At 4am we headed to bed knowing things would probably slow down come morning. I tried to rest as much as possible but every surge had me rocking and rotating my hips. And they continued.
I let my team know I'd likely be calling on them later that day. My friend Emily headed over to support myself and Josh, helping with our toddler, Teddy, and keeping me comfortable. I found I would often get a bit of rest while Teddy was playing. And when he would re-enter my space I'd get a few surges in a row, like he fuelled my oxytocin. A few times he would be mimicking my sounds and I would find myself giggling or smiling through the surges.
I jumped in the shower and breathed through my surges. Always conscious of water conservation (a habit from living through a drought my entire childhood, despite the recent flooding), I decided to hop out of the shower and put the TENS back on and Emily massaged my lower back. My surges were irregular, every 2 to 3 minutes, lasting 40 to 60 seconds. I was vocalising through each surge using low ahhhhhhhh sounds and returning to my surge breath towards the end of the surge. Relaxation breaths helped me to fully release after they ended.
I found the TENS really helpful. I pressed the boost button each time and rocked with the waves. The only thing I found a bit distracting was the temptation to 'check' the duration and frequency of the surges as it was always displayed on the screen.
Turn off the midwife/thinking brain.
Time is irrelevant.
I tried to keep my eyes closed and flipped the unit upside down so I couldn't see the numbers.
Emily would use light touch massage, sacral pressure, acupressure, aromatherapy and hip squeezes (all techniques I taught her in my caregivers course) through my surges while Josh would focus on Teddy. Teddy would often ask to be with Auntie Em so they would swap and I would bury my head into Josh's shoulder and he would hold me or use my anchor touch to ground me. It's so amazing to feel the difference in the feminine and masculine energy in the birth space. Both equally helpful but very different. Between them (and Teddy helping) they kept me fed, hydrated and calm. I felt so loved and safe.
Toward lunch time things definitely slowed down. I was getting longer periods of rest between surges and could feel my awareness inhibiting my ability to settle into labour. I felt frustrated knowing I could not control this. I kept reminding myself that everything would pick up when my body and baby were ready. I sat with the discomfort of surrender and allowed myself to let the emotions come and go as they needed to.
It was a lovely drizzly day and I leaned into the knowing that night would bring a shift.
I rested. A lot. As much as I could. It's something I teach mamas to do in early labour but it is so hard to do. I stacked pillows between my knees to open my pelvis and just closed my eyes down, holding my birth comb in one hand and TENS in the other. Sometimes I would sleep but mostly I would just float in between. I could hear Teddy playing, and he would frequently come in to check on me.
"You're OK mum. You can do hard things. Daddy can't do hard things"
He would hug me. He would press my TENS button. He brought me water.
Josh and Em would just sit quietly while I rested. And they would provide comfort when I stirred.
At 3pm I decided I wanted to walk. We slowly padded along the street for half an hour or so, doing some gutter walking. Then we returned home and I spent some time connecting with Teddy before dinner. My mum dropped over some nourishing chicken soup for us all to enjoy. Then I wanted to put Teddy to bed (we have co-slept since he was born and I had always known my labour would stop to allow this to happen). I snuggled down with my big baby, realising this was the last time we would do this with just us, and we slept. I only had one surge in 2 hours. While I was asleep Emily felt called to return to her home, knowing intuitively that privacy and rest was what I needed now. It was exactly as it needed to be. My body was waiting for the cover and quiet of night.
At 9pm I awoke to an intense surge.
Immediately I rolled onto my knees, called to work deeply with the surges. The TENS boost didn't feel right, it felt like too much energy surging through my lower back. I left it on the background setting and got out of bed thinking my vocalising would soon wake Teddy. I woke Josh and asked him to come to the lounge with me. Every surge I instinctively wrapped my arms around his neck and held on to my anchor as the waves peaked. I put one of my feet up on the couch next to me and leaned into the surge as I vocalised and breathed, opening my pelvis instinctively. I wasn't ashamed of the noise I was making even though part of my mind acknowledged how much louder I was being compared to Teddy's birth. It felt so right to let the noise out and I focused on keeping the sound deep and relaxing my throat and jaw.
I asked Josh to fill the pool as the TENS wasn't helping and I didn't feel comfortable sitting on the ball, kneeling, or standing. I wanted to float. And I suddenly really wanted the relief I knew the water would provide. I visualised sinking into the warm sanctuary and was able to relax a little more knowing that would be available to me soon.
Still, I was hesitant to call my birth team. Part of me thought things would slow down when I got in the pool. I thought "We will wait and see what happens then."
The pool filled to the minimum line and I turned off all of our fairy lights, put a book in front of our salt lamp, and asked for the kitchen light to be turned off. I needed darkness. I sunk into the water - which was realistically much too hot for a birth pool. I figured it would cool down fairly quickly and again thought it was too early to worry about the temperature of the water. I was able to fully relax between the surges, floating in the water not having to hold my weight at all. As the surges would build I would find myself moving around the pool, instinctively changing positions as I opened my pelvis side to side. After about 20 minutes in the pool I started feeling really hot. Thinking it was the temperature of the water I asked for more cold washers and stood between surges to allow the fan to cool my body. I sipped cool water and snacked on grapes.
I began to feel nauseous during surges. Again, I thought it was because of the temperature the water. I asked for an emesis bag, but the sensation would pass with the surge.
I began voicing "I can do this... but I really don't want to do this. I want it to stop."
Josh said to me "This is transition. You can do it. You are doing it."
I didn't believe him. It couldn't be transition so soon. I was just tired.
But maybe I should call the team?
I needed to trust that he would recognise what he was seeing. He was prepared. So I told him he could call them all now.
At 11:50pm he contacted my midwife, photographer, and Em. They all started getting ready.
I suddenly realised I was much closer to birth than I had thought. Perhaps I should have communicated in that moment that I had felt inside and I could feel just the smallest amount of cervix in front of his head. I'm not sure when my membranes released - I didn't feel it happen. But I removed my underwear and there were membranes on the fabric, and when I looked down the water was opaque like amniotic fluid, and it clicked in my brain that I hadn't felt membranes in front of his head.
I mentally noted all of these things but didn't say it aloud.
Communication isn't quite as logical in labour as you think it is.
My midwife let Josh know her ETA - 00:52am.
At 00:30am I felt a massive change in the sensation I was feeling. The best way I could describe it is instead of feeling a pulling up of my cervix opening, it was now an enormous ball of white hot energy emanating from my womb space.
At the peak of the surge I started bearing down. It was completely involuntary. The sound changed.
This baby was coming. I knew my team weren't going to make it. I knew I could do it.
I opened my eyes and told Josh to start recording on his phone. Turn on the fairy lights. Open the front door.
He was prepared and he was calm.
This really wasn't too far outside our birth plan anyway. I wanted to be in the pool. I wanted to receive my own baby. I wanted quiet. I was the only person required to birth this baby.
I closed my eyes down.
I connected with my baby and we communicated as he moved down.
I really wanted to watch his crowning with a mirror like I did in my first birth, but that wasn't available so instead I used touch to visualise what was happening. I could feel my perineum stretching under my fingertips. I could feel his head descend and then retract as the surge eased. I could feel that my body was working and this helped me to slow my breath and ease him down. I would open my mouth and stick out my tongue to slow the all encompassing bearing down reflex instinctively. It is so awesome how much your primal birthing wisdom just takes over without needing to consciously decide to do anything.
I cradled his head in my hands as he slowly emerged, and waited for the next surge that would bring my baby to me. Slowly and calmly I allowed my body to move him down as his body was born gently into my hands in the water. I brought him to the surface where he let out a small cry and cleared his lungs. He was here.
00:44am on the 10th of April our beautiful boy Renly arrived earthside.
Josh left to wake Teddy who immediately wanted to get into the birth pool with mama. He came over and inspected Renly in awe. Seeing the glisten of tears in his eyes made me feel so proud that our son could witness such an amazing journey. He checked out the umbilical cord and wondered where the placenta was. We snuggled in the water until our team arrived 10 minutes later.
My third stage surges started again about 20 minutes after Renly was born. They really actually took me by surprise because I hadn't felt that in my first birth. My midwife reminded me that I had to choose this, to sink back into that labour space.
I asked them to take Teddy out of the pool so I could focus on the surges. My midwife would cool my face with cloths and offer me sips of No Bleed Tea. I felt a lot of lower back cramping and asked to move to sitting on the toilet to birth my placenta. Carrying Renly to the bathroom was awkward due to his short cord - I couldn't lift him above my belly. But once there I was able to bear down comfortably with some lower back counter pressure. My midwife had slung a towel under the seat to 'catch' the placenta so I didn't have to focus on that at all. I held Renly skin to skin and just enjoyed looking at this new little person. About an hour after his birth, I birthed our placenta. We lifted the placenta into a bowl and moved onto the couch for more skin to skin.
My birth team spent the next 2 hours loving on us, massaging balm into my belly, massaging magnesium into my legs and feet, feeding me dates and toast and a smoothie and tea, taking photos and reflecting on the incredible birth that had just unfolded. Renly fed and snuggled while the birth space was tidied and packed down around us. When we felt ready we tied his cord and Teddy helped me to cut it. He then sat and helped examine the placenta as our midwives checked that it was complete. We chose to encapsulate this placenta as well as have a beautiful print made to honour it.
We snuggled into bed at 4am as a new family of four, blissed out from the most incredible, intense, connected experience. It was everything we could have dreamed of despite freebirth not being a part of the plan. I am so grateful to have been surrounded by so much love and support, to have had complete and utter faith in my ability to birth my baby and to know that everyone we welcomed into our space shared that same trust in me. I would invest in the same team a hundred times over even if they missed the birth every single time. They are worth their weight in gold to be held so dearly in such a sacred and vulnerable space. My husband felt so empowered by having the Hypnobirthing tools and preparation that he was able to fully embrace the turns our labour took and stayed so calm and present throughout. It was so wonderful to see his trust in me reflected at every moment.
Most of all I am so proud of myself. I did it!
Watch our birth video below (lots of third stage footage, which is often overlooked!)
TENS Hire @bliss.birth
Labour and Birth herbal teas and tinctures @blissfulherbs