Birth looks different for everyone. Here’s one mother’s journey with an empowered, beautiful, and positive home birth.
At 40 weeks + 8 days, swollen, drowning in raspberry leaf tea, and stuffed to the brim with pineapple and dates, I was well and truly over being pregnant.
My husband, Ross, and I decided to go for a rainforest walk in the hope that it may get things moving. I waddled up the hill – with my shoelaces as loose as possible to accommodate my swollen feet – wondering if it was possible to be pregnant forever.
On our bouncy drive home, I started to feel Braxton Hicks-type tightenings that were uncomfortable in a moving car. They were happening every few minutes on the drive home, making me think that our little love was getting ready to enter the world.
Once we arrived home, they seemed to disappear. I went to bed early and woke up around midnight with what must have been my first surge (contraction) as it was more of a profound period of pain and lasted around 60 seconds before fading out.
These would happen every 20 minutes or so, waking me up, and then I would drift back to sleep.
Braxton Hicks turns to something more
I woke up early the following day and went down to the beach to watch the sunrise. My surges started flowing every 15 to 20 minutes and were uncomfortable enough that I had to brace myself and breathe through them.
By around 9 am, they were flowing every 10 minutes, and we called the midwife to let her know that our baby was getting ready to arrive earthside.
I was calm and relaxed and chatting with Ross, stopping to breathe through each wave every 10 minutes or so.
Around midday, I decided to start using my TENS machine and called my birth photographer Laura. At about 2:30, Laura arrived, and I had regular contractions every 3-5 minutes.
I had envisioned being on the birthing ball or all fours enjoying back squeezes from my husband. When my surges intensified, I could only manage them by standing and leaning against a wall. I would rest between surges on the ball and have to stand instantly as one approached.
My surges began to build with a few so intense and all-consuming that they caused me to be sick. I continued to breathe through each one and kept my midwife, Maria, updated. At around 6 pm, Maria arrived. She checked on babe and me and was happy with how we were progressing.
Labour, for me, was such an out-of-body experience. It honestly felt like my baby and body were working together, and I was hovering above, holding space and keeping them safe.
We prepare so much for birth. We have a vision and expectation, but your body and baby guide you through at the moment of birth. Sometimes what they need isn’t what you hoped for or expected.
At around 8 pm, I climbed into the birth pool, and oh my, was it the sweetest relief. After about an hour of laboring in the water, Maria was a little concerned with my temperature and baby’s heart rate. She told me to drink a few glasses of coconut water to help me rehydrate.
Changing the birth strategy
At 9 pm Maria said that she would like to get me out of the water. We discussed a few options moving forwards to help settle Bub down. It was essential to bring the heart rate into a range Maria was happy and comfortable with.
We discussed the option of breaking my waters and the possible need for IV fluids.
I decided I was ready for her to break my waters, knowing that if they contained meconium, I would have to transfer to the hospital (as per their policy). Maria made me feel so safe that I trusted her guidance wholeheartedly and believed this was the best decision for this point in my labor.
I got out of the birth pool and lay on my bed, where Maria released my waters. I was thrilled to hear that there was no meconium present, and I quickly stood up to brace myself through an intense surge.
They began coming on top of another with very little space to breathe. Maria checked Bub’s heart rate following the release of waters, and all had settled down.
I started to feel pressure around 10:30 pm, and I climbed back into the birth pool. It felt so incredible; I lay on my side and dozed off for a few minutes before the next surge woke me up.
Backup arrives just in time
At this point, my beautiful second midwife Rosie arrived. In Australia, homebirth midwives are legally required to have a backup midwife come for the second stage of labor.
It was edging closer to midnight, and I started to feel a much stronger urge to bear down. It is such a wild feeling when your body involuntarily pushes for you.
I can only liken it to the sensation of being sick, where your body takes over, and there is nothing you can do to hold back. My midwife held a mirror into the water and said she could see her head at 12:10 am.
Ross held my hands tightly, and Rosie asked if he wanted to see his baby enter the world. He hesitated, and then Rosie shared something that quickly changed his mind.
“Come and watch; this is our favorite part of being a midwife, watching a little human enter the world for the first time.”
Rosie came and held my hands. Ross and Maria watched her head slowly emerge into the water at around 12:19 am. After another involuntary push, I birthed her body and pulled her up into my arms.
Only seconds after her arrival earthside, we checked to discover that she was a beautiful, big baby girl.
Billie was born at 12:21 am, weighing 10.3 lbs (4.7kg), was 59cm long, and had a head of dark brown hair.
We lay in the water together, staring into her big alert eyes for about 20 minutes. There is something magic about homebirth when you can hop straight into your bed. I climbed out of the pool and into our bed.
Billie breast crawled her way up for her first feed. Ross cut the cord, and we waited for my surges to help deliver the placenta. Maria checked me over and assessed whether I required stitches.
Unbelievably I hadn’t torn during the birth despite Billie’s size.
My placenta took a while to arrive, and Maria was a little concerned about my blood loss. We decided to have the Pitocin shot in my leg to help deliver the placenta and reduce my bleeding.
At 1:20 am, I delivered the placenta, which was also rather large, and my midwives examined it. Then they measured and weighed Billie and made sure we were happy and settled. By 3 am, we were curled up in bed, alone, as a new family of three.
Final thoughts on birth
Birth is an extraordinary and transformative experience. I am beyond grateful to have had such a wonderful home birth with my daughter. I am also so thankful to have had my birth captured, including a birth video.
Photography credit: Laura Brink of Rewild Her
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Leila Armour is a Postpartum Doula, Holistic Nutrition Consultant, Mother and Author of Village for Mama - Nourishment for the FourthTrimester. This postpartum recipe book is designed to help new mothers experience a well-nourished and supported postpartum experience. Leila is dedicated to helping new mothers feel held and supported through nourishing food and a village. You can find out more about Leila and her book by following her on Instagram or visiting her website.