A spontaneous, undisturbed, natural birth at home; postdates at 42 + 1 weeks.
Our birth journey began long before labour. I had decided even before conceiving that we would choose independent midwives as our primary caregivers.
Being an experienced midwife and Hypnobirthing practitioner myself, I knew exactly what I wanted from my birthing experience.
To be respected. To be heard. To be supported.
I knew that private midwives would be the best fit for us in working toward the beautiful home birth we had planned.
I used many tools throughout my pregnancy to prepare for labour and birth.
I taught Hypnobirthing techniques to my husband and recorded scripts, affirmations, and prompts for birthing that I would listen to every day. We frequently bonded using light touch massage, spending time relaxing and communicating with baby. I utilised aromatherapy, prenatal yoga, regular exercise, and complimentary therapies with a chiropractor, acupuncturist, and massage therapist.
One of the most important things I did, however, was to surround myself with a like-minded, passionate tribe of women who supported me in my journey toward home birth. We held full moon gatherings, went for walks along the beach, and held a #Blessingway full of abundant blessing for my pregnancy and birth.
I fully committed to the affirmations and visualisations focusing on the physiological, calm, undisturbed home birth I wanted; even when the journey presented obstacles requiring me to navigate my options, including
Low lying placenta at 20 weeks
Persistently posterior position
At 41 weeks and 4 days I sat in my midwife's office in tears.
I was so comfortable and enjoying my pregnancy, but I held deep rooted fears of induction, transfer to hospital, and of pressure to intervene. My midwife held space for me, and respected my choices, and after a long discussion we had made a plan for if my pregnancy did continue past 42 weeks.
Normal term pregnancy is anywhere from 37 to 42 weeks -
15 - 20% of first time mamas are still pregnant at 41 weeks
3 - 4% are still pregnant at 42 weeks
I had faith in my baby and my body, and understood all of the evidence and my options, but being is patient is challenging. My babe was determined to teach me a lesson in surrendering.
But I wouldn't have to wait long because at 1 am that night I began my labour journey.
My baby was posterior, on the right hand side, despite all of my consistent efforts throughout pregnancy to encourage optimal positioning. I knew my journey would most likely take longer as my body would have to help bub rotate "the long way around", so I settled into the mindset focusing on position over progress.
I spent each surge leaning forward, on my hands and knees, using my birth ball, and using Spinning Babies techniques like the forward leaning inversion, side lying release, and abdominal lift and tuck. My partner was so supportive in encouraging me to use these positions.
During the night hours my labour would intensify, with surges building and coming closer together, but with the sunrise things would slow down again.
This is #ProdromalLabour.
I spent most of the day resting with a TENS machine, or lying in the shower where I was able to get some sleep. In the evening we went for a walk to encourage baby down and get some fresh air.
This pattern would continue for three days, until finally at 42 weeks gestation, active labour began with the setting of the sun.
While we waited for my midwives to arrive we watched some Disney movies and my partner massaged my hips and back, keeping me relaxed and calm. At this stage I didn't feel like listening to my hypnobirthing tracks, but my subconscious was so conditioned to my affirmations I would find myself repeating them over in my mind during surges.
I can do this. I am doing this.
My body and baby are perfectly designed for birth.
Breath. Open. Release.
At 5pm my midwife declared I was able to enter my birth pool. FINALLY! The moment I had be waiting for. My surges were strong and regular. All of my efforts to rotate baby had worked, and we were in the optimal position for birth. I gratefully sank into the warm water and felt all tension simply melt away (especially from my knees which were aching from a previous injury and kneeling so much over the past three days).
Over the next 5 hours my midwife encouraged me in and out of the pool, suggesting side lunges, slow dancing with my husband, showering, and toilet sitting to encourage progress and descent. My team were incredible, keeping me hydrated, fed, and surrounded by loving support. We applied clary sage and lavender to cool face cloths, and had my favourite blend diffusing in the room. My birth playlist was put on in the background and I let each song wash over me. Despite feeling exhausted, and at times wondering how long it would take, I felt safe, secure, and sure that I could do it.
My membranes released all over my couch cushions during a strong surge, and I felt an overwhelming sense of relief as I looked down to see clear fluid - at 42 weeks! My baby was happy, with a steady heartbeat and beautiful clear waters. Following this my surges intensified. My hormones were working in harmony to bring my baby to me.
At 11pm, sitting in the shower, I looked up at my midwife and requested a VE. My birth plan had stated I wanted no VEs unless specifically necessary or requested by myself. I now know that the inner dialogue going on in my mind was my "I can't do this" moment - transition.
My midwife agreed to perform the VE, and found bub was perfectly positioned for birth, and I was 9cm dilated. I asked for an in-out catheter (a small tube to drain the bladder which is then removed immediately afterward) as I was having difficulty emptying my bladder with bub's head being so low. This helped to relieve the full bladder feeling I was experiencing.
My midwife then helped me into bed in a side lying release, snuggled with my partner. She fed me spoonfuls of raw honey for energy, applied clary sage, frankincense, and ylang ylang to acupressure point Kidney-1 on my feet, and began providing light touch on my back and legs. Not even 15 minutes later I was overcome with the uncontrollable involuntary bearing down that signalled my baby was ready. We made our way back into the birth pool where I wished to birth.
I felt amazing. I was filled with renewed energy and determination. I was smiling as I relaxed between each surge. I was just so excited to know that I would soon be meeting my baby.
My body took over with strong instinctive bearing down efforts with each surge. There was a lot of intense pressure but I wouldn't describe this as painful. I could feel baby moving a little with every push. I wanted to watch in a mirror as his head moved down, as this gave me a sense of control and reassurance. Over a period of an hour and a half we moved through squatting, kneeling, standing, and sitting on the toilet positions to help bub navigate through the birth path. After a few surges on the toilet bub moved down around the bend of my sacrum and we could see the head staying visible between surges. I walked (really funnily) through the house to return to the pool. As bub moved down my partner and I reached down to touch our baby for the very first time.
I focused on breathing down with each surge, watching my perineum stretch and open. I reminded myself that my body was designed to do this. With one final, huge surge, my body brought my baby from crowning to body out all at once. Bub was all wrapped up in the cord so we unravelled it under the water and brought him up to my chest. He was perfectly healthy and happy despite a 74 hour journey earthside, and being post-dates. I am so glad I held faith in my body and my baby, and was so prepared with the tools and techniques that helped us achieve the physiological birth I wanted. We worked hard for it, and it was so worth the effort. I had so much support from my partner and my midwives the entire way.
We moved to the bedroom to birth the placenta. I agreed to the Synthetic Oxytocin injection due to my longer labour and a small gush of blood that continued to trickle while I walked to the room. My bleeding was normal, but we wanted to avoid the potential for heavier loss. At this stage it was about 20 minutes after birth, so my baby had received his nourishing blood supply from the placenta, the cord had stopped pulsing, and my placenta was ready to birth. After the injection I stood up and the placenta was birthed easily on the toilet. I returned back to bed where we snuggled for a while before cutting the cord and separating bub from his placenta. We spent a few hours skin to skin just drinking our new baby in, wrapped up in warm blankets in bed, while my midwives prepared a delicious tea, toast, and celebratory chocolate, and cleaned up my house (you would never know I just birthed there!).
Giving birth was the most incredibly empowering, transformative, blissful experience for me. I look back on these days with so much joy, and get the most beautiful rush of endorphins and oxytocin when I visualise my birth. I am so grateful to be reliving this story in honour of my one year birthing day anniversary.