When I first knew I was pregnant, I viewed labour as a marathon and something that I knew I wanted to mentally, physically and emotionally prepare for. Of course, labour is just one day out of the entire lifetime and journey of being a mother, but it was really important for me to take this time to really prepare for this entry into motherhood as I truly believe it to be a very sacred rite of passage. I also deeply believe that the way that we emotionally enter motherhood has a profound impact on the way that we mother and show up in this new identity over the years to come.
Because of that I wanted to ensure that my entry into motherhood felt empowered, grounded, calm, peaceful, secure and trusting – because that is the type of mother I wish to be for my child. And it was for this reason that quite early on, that we decided on a homebirth.
After buying and reading Natalie Meddings book “How to have a baby” in the early days of pregnancy, I knew that I wanted a doula with me during the birth and I connected so deeply with Natalie’s work that when I found out she was local to me I knew I had to ask her to be my doula.
Natalie was the single most valuable thing to me during labour! My birth story would not have been anything like it was without her and I CANNOT recommend her enough.
Before I share my birth story, I feel I need to add some disclaimers/trigger warnings for any birthing people who did not have the birth experience they hoped for. There are many beautiful ways to birth a baby and I believe that an empowered birth is less about the actual mechanics of how the baby enters this world and rather about how the mother/birther was made to feel throughout the process.
On the one hand we were blessed to have a very straightforward pregnancy with a very straightforward labour and birth process – (which are things that are of course out of our control) AND on the other hand I don’t want to discredit ALL the mental, physical and emotional preparation I did leading up to the birth – right from being extremely mindful of my own body position from mid way in pregnancy to encourage baby into the most optimal birthing position, to physically strengthening my body, to breathwork preparation, to pelvic floor relaxation techniques, to daily meditation and hypnobirthing practice, to absorbing positive birthing stories and releasing a lot of residual fear around birth and cultivating of deep trust in the physiology of the body and birth.
Because of how important the entry into motherhood was for me, I began preparing for it very early on. As I disclaimer I want to add that sometimes you can do ALL the preparation and ALL the “right things” and on the day, biology does not click and things don’t go according to your plan – this is the nature of birth. This is purely my story and our experience (and if I’m honest – things also didn’t really go according to the “plan” I had in my head either!)
In our case I truly just allowed birth to unfold and the experience was actually better than I could have planned for! (And ALSO I think the “planning” I did, helped the birth to be what it was.)
“Things not going according to plan” was actually something that I worked through with Natalie before the birth. One of the things I had in my head before the birth was that I may feel like a ‘failure’ if I ended up having to transfer into hospital or ended up with a caesarean birth. Natalie was really great at helping me unpack this for myself – with exactly the disclaimer that I mentioned above - that sometimes, despite our best efforts, biology just does not ‘click’. We talked through the idea that a home birth environment where you feel safe, secure, private and unobserved, is one of the best litmus tests for if medical intervention is truly necessary. It was through this process that I knew deeply that by choosing a home-birth and having Natalie as my support that whatever the birth mechanics ended up being, I would be at peace with the choices made to best support both me and the baby on the day.
During my labour planning phase I loved looking at the ‘roadmap to birth’ by Kicki Hansard– which we worked through in my pregnancy yoga teacher training with Katy Appleton. I knew that for first labours the latent or early phase of labour can last several hours sometimes even days – this is when it’s important to keep the feel good Oxytocin hormone high so I spent a lot of time thinking/ planning some things to do to help facilitate this – cuddling with Warren, snacking on yummy things, resting, playing our Wedding video, listening to my feel good high vibe birth playlist.
I also spent quite a bit of time thinking about how I might feel at each stage of labour – particularly those moments of peak adrenalin – I might feel panicked, nervous, afraid, like I can’t do it, like I want to run away. When I thought about how I might feel at these points during the process I also spoke with Warren about the kinds of things that might help to discharge or alleviate those feelings – and for me that was a lot about Warren being able to reassure me that I am safe, that this adrenalin spike is normal, that he is here to protect me.
I actually think that because of us really diving into these possible feelings that might come during the labour process- they never actually came!
I also personally believe that, (apart from all the biology being in place) one of the things that facilitated such a smooth, quick and gentle birth for us was me really diving into any residual fears that I had around birth and clearing them. There is so much new It’s completely my personal belief that because I had zero fear regarding the labour process that it unfolded so quickly and smoothly. I had no mental (and therefore physical) resistance to the process. (This also makes sense to me as to why second time labours are often quicker than first time labours – it’s no longer the “unknown” which can be scary!).
The body/mind/fear connection is also something that I thought about a lot during pregnancy and heard a really interesting podcast from a women’s health physiotherapist – the most common question she gets asked from pregnant women is “What can I do to reduce the risk of tearing in labour?” And whilst people expect her response to be something mechanical like “do perineal massage/ release the pelvic floor tissue” – her response is “hire a doula”. This is because a doula reduces fear, and fear or tension in the body tightens the tissues and tight tissues in the body (particularly pelvic floor) is what can lead to tearing when something, like a baby, is trying to pass through it. Think about a dog feeling scared and curling it’s tail under it’s legs – essentially narrowing the pelvic outlet – this is the same response that happens in humans in response to fear!
The other emotional/mental component that I believe really helped me was building a very strong sense of trust. Trust in my body and the baby knowing how to birth, deep trust in my intuition (that if anything during the birth felt wrong that I would know), trust in the process of birth, trust in Natalie and her experience and trust in the physiology of nature itself – and basically that birth is a normal, natural, physiological experience!
Natalie had spoken to me about the early stage of labour and how it can take several hours (maybe even days!) and how as much as possible in the early stage – IGNORE the sensations you might be feeling! Carry on exactly as normal! Because she knew my parents were with us, she told me to entirely “keep it to yourself” for as long as you can, to avoid the expectant/waiting/performance type pressure that can creep in in this early phase. I actually had this as a little internal game with myself of how long I can go without having to tell anyone before it was not possible to keep it to myself any longer!
Around 5am on the morning I woke up in bed with the feeling of wanting to go to the loo with what felt like mild gas. I told myself that it was just wind and got back into bed and cuddled Warren for a bit. I could definitely feel a gas/ period cramp type feeling as I was lying in bed with him, but again told myself to completely ignore it and that this wasn’t it. We lay in bed for a while dozing and then at around 7am my mom came into the room and sat on the edge of the bed chatting with us.
While my mom was chatting with us in bed, I was doing my best to ignore the cramps/gas feeling that I was experiencing. It was actually funny to me how I felt both Warren and my mom had no idea that I was experiencing these increasing gas-like sensations as for some points of our conversation that morning I remember having to to look at the curtains and do some quiet focused breathing while they both happily chatted away. At this point the sensations I were feeling were irregular and I continued to tell myself that this was just gas – and even if it WAS labour – that this phase may last for a day or two so I may as well just get used to them! I do remember at this point feeling like I needed to be in the bathroom so was up and down between the bathroom and bedroom a few times.
Usually we have coffee in bed, but because I was already up and down to the bathroom, the day got started and we went downstairs to have coffee. Warr made me coffee and rusks and I remember leaving it on the counter and not being able to finish it. (It was another inadvertant clue for Warren which I think he began to pick up on!) I knew I would need some easily digestible and high cal food at this stage so I asked him to please make me a spinach/berry/nut butter smoothie for breakfast. The sensations I was experiencing were mild (but increasing) and didn’t have any regular rhythm.
Natalie had recommended a prenatal massage – this sounded like a fabulous idea and the day before I had booked a massage in for 10am with a wonderful woman named Imogen, who comes directly to your home. She had asked me to make sure I had a warm cozy space set up and plenty of blankets, pillows and cushions to use.
As I gathered the things I needed for the massage, I felt like I really needed to let Warren know about how things were going, but without actually acknowledging or announcing it as “THIS IS IT- I’M IN LABOUR”. So, once again, I pulled him over quietly, squeezed his hand and said, “I really need you to clear the camera SD cards and I need you to do it while I’m having this massage.” I never once told him that I was in labour or what I was feeling – but from this I feel he picked up that something was happening.
The massage therapist arrived just before 10am, and as she knew it was the day before my due date – she walked in the door and said, “So – you’re right around the due date! Are you feeling anything? Any contractions? Sensations?” My family and Warren were all milling around the lounge/kitchen/ front door when she was asking me so I merrily (and rather quickly as I could feel another wave beginning) breezed a reply of “No! No sensations! Let’s go upstairs!” I hurried upstairs with her to our bedroom – which I had set up with a lavender candle, some yoga mats, blankets, bolsters, cushions and very dim lighting. As soon as I got into the room I said to Imogen, “Actually I am experiencing some pretty strong sensations right now but my family have no idea. Imogen was so reassuring and said she has had children so she knew exactly what stage I was in and that it was a good idea to keep it under wraps and she said that the massage she would do would help open up the energy lines of the body for labour and that if there was anything that didn’t feel right I should let her know. The massage ended up being an excellent distraction to what I was feeling and I remember at some points that I needed to put my hands on my stomach and breathe steadily through them. They still didn’t feel very regular to me but the intensity had increased a notch to a strong cramp like feeling.
Before the massage I remember saying to Imogen that if this was the latent/“ignore it” phase of labour then I wasn’t sure how I would cope with anything much more. She was extremely reassuring and told me that I would be able to cope and that I should focus on allowing the power of it to wash through me – which is what I did for the duration of the massage.
The massage was wonderful at getting my body to physically relax (which in turn allowed the sensations to keep coming) at one point towards the end of the massage I had to sit up and tell Imogen that I needed to leave and be in the bathroom. I must’ve stayed in the bathroom for a contraction/a few breaths and then returned back to finish the massage.
The massage finished just after 11:15am and I walked Imogen back down to the front door to say goodbye. At this point (I think largely due to the massage I had – both for the relaxation it brought me, and the specific energy line opening, the intensity of the contractions had notched up again. I was still determined to “ignore it/ keep it to myself” as I thought it’s possible that this (although intense!) may actually last for a full day or two! After getting downstairs I went to the bathroom and immediately vomited and it was around this point that I felt that the baby is either coming today or perhaps tomorrow. I was still able to WhatsApp at this point and remember messaging a friend to wish her happy birthday (secretly thinking that our baby might be her birthday twin!)
After vomiting, I tried to drink a little bit more smoothie and coffee that I had left in the kitchen and went into the lounge to “ignore it” some more and chat with my parents.
I then lay in bed for a while and was between the bathroom and bedroom for the next while trying to manage the sensations. The need to be in the bathroom and on the toilet was strong!
Time is really a blur during labour for me but from my phone records I texted Natalie at 12:10 to let her know that I was having some cramps that had become more intense over the morning. (I was very reluctant to use the word contraction at this point as I thought perhaps what I was experiencing was not even a “contraction” yet!) In my message to Natalie I wrote, “I’ve been sick once and just wondering I how I’m going to manage more intensity!!”. If there was ever any point during the labour process where I felt slightly nervous this was probably it! (And probably because at this stage the sensations were pretty strong but technically nobody knew I was in labour yet!). Natalie had also in the interim phoned Imogen – the massage therapist to get an idea of where I was from her perspective.
Natalie tried to phone me back but I was in the bathroom and missed the call. She phoned Warren and got an idea of where I was based on a general idea from Warren of how far apart the contractions were. I truly had no idea at this point of how fast they were coming, but I do remember saying to Warren, “I’m not sure but I don’t think I’m in active labour” and I really didn’t want to call Natalie or the midwives over to the house too early. Natalie reassured us via the phone but also said she would come for when I felt I needed her.
Natalie had suggested Warren fill up some hot water bottles for me and had placed one on my stomach and one on my back as I lay on the bed which was really great.
Around this time I also wanted to call the delivery suite to let the midwives know that things were starting so that we were on their radar. I called the delivery suite and remember half way through the call to the midwife needing to hand the phone over to Warren and be in the bathroom. The delivery suite also told us to let them know when the contractions were 3 in every 10 minutes. I had NO idea of the timing of contractions and didn’t want to think about it at all. I had no idea that Warren was quietly timing them either.
Things really ramped up in the next half hour. I remember feeling the intense need to be completely private and unobserved in the bathroom. Warren had run down the road to the Tesco to get more stuff to make smoothies/labour snacks for me and had told my mom to keep an eye on me. (By now my parents had obviously figured out I was in labour!) The bathroom upstairs looks down towards the front door and I remember while I was on the toilet having a contraction the front doorbell going off with a package being delivered and at the same time my mom opening the bathroom door to check on how I was doing – and the combination of feeling like a random delivery man at the front door was somehow watching me and the bathroom door being open made me really pissed off!
I remember at some point saying someone needed to make a sign for the front door to tell people not to knock and that we needed to make sure the snacks I had gotten for the midwives snacks were all set up.
When Warren got back from the shops I told him that I really needed Natalie. Even though it had only been 20 mins or so since we spoken to her, Warren called her back and told her that things had changed (as physically things were ramping up) and more importantly that I felt I really needed her at that moment! It was SO reassuring to know that Natalie was on her way – which enabled my body to relax even more, which of course, ramped the contractions up even more.
I had been in our bedroom the whole time – (and it was still set up in the warm cozy environment with candles burning from the massage!). I was resting on the bed with the hot water bottles and breathing through the contractions. Warren spent a few contractions lying behind me with his arms around me and breathing with me and telling me how well I was doing, which was very helpful. By this stage I was definitely voicing my breath out with a long soft aaaaaah sound which really helped to keep my body relaxed.
A few days earlier I had set up a women’s circle WhatsApp group with some friends from around the world – I had told the group to get a candle ready and when I went into labour I would text the group to let them know I was in labour and then they could light their candle and send a blessing for the safe passageway for the baby to arrive. I thought about trying to send this message at this point – but I was also concerned that this was perhaps still the super early stage of labour (maybe this would last for several more days?!) and I didn’t want to “sound the alarm” too early and then get mentally ahead of myself thinking that the baby was coming soon!
Also the thought of picking up my phone felt like way too much energy – and I was trying to conserve all my energy at this point. I also remember thinking that I had a whole physical toolbox of “labour things” that I had made for myself including a TENS machine, oils, and combs to hold in my hand as a DNIC technique – but I also remember thinking that I didn’t want to use up all my labour tools right now if this was going to last several days – I needed to keep these things in reserve! So I just let myself relax into the sensations using my breath as much as I could.
At some point soon after this, Natalie must have arrived. I am not sure that I even registered her coming in to the bedroom. I just have a very strong memory of her sitting on the floor at the end of our bed and crocheting while I was lying on the bed and moaning through the contractions. It was SO reassuring to have her there and she made me camomile tea to sip on and brought different oils – lavender and frankincense, on a cloth to breathe into during the contractions which was incredibly soothing.
Once Natalie arrived, I asked if we should call the midwives again. She thought this was a good idea and Warren and Natalie went out to call them. Unbeknown to me, when Warren called the delivery suite to ask them to send a midwife round, they told Warren that there were no midwives available and that we should think about coming in to the birth centre or getting an ambulance. Warren and I had chatted during the pregnancy about one of his main roles during labour as being a kind of gatekeeper to my experience – not allowing anything unnecessary into my experience that could disrupt the flow of things (birth hormones/stress hormones) in any small (or big!) way. The news of there being no available midwives was a big thing they had to navigate and I am FOREVER grateful that Warren and Natalie made the decision not to tell me about it right then. Warren was also adamant with the delivery suite on call that I was in no position to move. I think any kind of transfer at this stage would have entirely disrupted the flow of everything and how it was all unfolding in such an easy and straightforward way.
I do remember vaguely my mom coming into the bedroom and packing a hospital bag for me (yes, that’s correct, my hospital bag was still not packed!) in the event that I may need to get an ambulance in.
I feel probably around this point I had an inkling that there was some kind of issue with the midwives and when I asked Natalie where the they were – she calmly replied “they are just organising themselves”.
I think at this point, I was already in so deep in the labour process that I was already making peace with the fact that this baby was coming with or without a midwife.
It was never my intention to birth without a midwife, BUT I will say that in my “labour preparation work” I had listened to many different podcasts and I had no fear of this happening. I think it says a lot about where I was mentally and how much trust I had around the natural physiological process of birth.
1 – 2ish: Time is completely a blur but I was managing the sensations alone with Warren and Natalie in our bedroom – breathing through them and using the oils that Natalie had on her clothes.
I spent most of the labour breathing through the contractions lying on my side on the bed – the contractions were coming in strongly and regularly at this point and I was very much deep in my body on each one – there was no mental processing or thinking space at all. In some way the contractions and the intensity began kind of plateauing. Natalie suggested that I try kneeling on all fours on the bed. I told her I felt that if I were to be on all fours that the contractions would really intensify and she calmly replied with, “well maybe that is what you need.” I remember thinking and voicing that I didn’t think I was ready to handle more intensity and she was so reassuring and just said – well you could always just try it for one or two contractions and then come back to lying on your side if you needed.
Something that was very powerful for me during my labour prep and pregnancy was something I picked up from one of Natalie’s pregnancy yoga classes. She spoke about the idea that often in labour women tend to not breathe fully to the end of their exhales because that full release of breath creates a full and deep relaxation in the body – a kind of dropping down – and during labour, women can become fearful of dropping down to that depth because of what they might feel (the intensity of the contraction) at the bottom when they do. What was so powerful for me was hearing the phrase ‘you have to be willing to meet the sensations. You have to be willing to meet the intensity and that no one else is going to do it – it has to be YOU, because YOU are the mother.’ This idea of ME being the MOTHER and stepping fully into this, was something that was extremely powerful for me.
So although I did not really feel like getting onto my hands and knees on the bed- knowing it would escalate what was already rather intense, I kept repeating to myself in my head “I am willing to meet these sensations. I am willing to meet this intensity. I am willing to meet this.” Over and over. It created a very powerful mental-physical softening and so in spite of not really wanting to, I got up on all fours and allowed the power and intensity of the contractions to pass through my body – being pulled through by the depth of my breath.
By this point in time things were now ramping up physically – I was kneeling on the bed with my arms holding on to the headboard and sometimes Warren was beside me breathing with me through the contractions. What felt really good was a deep guttural “gaaaah”/moaning sound. While I was working through these contractions I didn’t realise that my parents and Warren had been setting up the birth pool downstairs .They’d also lit all the tea light candles and switched on fairy lights and made sure the water was to temperature and kept adjusting the temperature in the pool with boiling pots and pool covers to make sure it stayed optimal!
I had no idea about any of this as I breathing through the contractions hanging over the headboard in the bedroom.
I also at this point remember thinking that maybe this would be a good time to use the TENS machine I had, but then decided that trying to strap sticky pads and wires to me now would just irritate me and really with Natalie being so reassuring I honestly felt that I was coping really well.
Warren had also brought up a giant bowl of ice cubes – which I had sucked on between contractions – whilst Natalie put a cool cloth over my face and neck. I remember sucking on a piece of ice and then as I felt a contraction coming, I spat the ice into Warren’s hand so that I could breathe through it and I remember him, not knowing quite what to do with a melting ice cube – putting the ice cube into his mouth and then when the contraction was finished him passing the ice cube back to me to suck. Thankfully we are into sharing germs. There is a lot of the birth story for me (timing/what was going on outside my ‘bubble’ etc) that I don’t really remember but then there are very distinct moments like this that I clearly remember and thinking back on them makes me laugh.
In Natalie’s book she talks about the idea of there being two distinct “rooms” of labour – room 1, which is the early phase of labour and then room 2 which is more the active stage of labour – these rooms are very different in feeling. From my understanding I imagined in room 2 for there to be absolutely no pause from the contractions and for it to feel like the contractions were just coming one on top of the other with no space for anything else in between, I always imagined in my head that this room 2 might feel like you are drowning or overwhelmed in contractions and the feeling of not able to come up for air.
Because I was still mentally able to register things between contractions and I felt like I was coping really well I remember thinking that this must still be early labour. I remember at this point asking Natalie, “Natalie am I in room 2 yet?” – and her laughing and saying “Yes! Yes! Of Course are!.’
Hearing her say this, I again asked about where the midwives were and at this point Natalie calmly said, “the midwives will come as soon as they can. ” Strangely, hearing her say this did not cause me any panic or stress at all. I had absolute trust in the birth process and how smoothly it was all unfolding. It was something that I think subconsciously I had already made peace with earlier on in the labour. The delivery suite had said we could call an ambulance if we wanted/felt we needed and I’m really glad that we didn’t. I think any external disturbance at this point would likely have slowed the whole process down or disrupted the natural flow of things in some way.
I was still kneeling on the bed, holding onto the headboards and told Natalie that it felt like my body was already involuntarily pushing downward but that I felt I wasn’t ready to push yet. Natalie just reassured me to completely trust my body and to follow it – doing nothing more and nothing less than what it was asking. So I allowed my breath to follow to the very end of the contractions which now felt like a very downward force
At this point Natalie had tasked Warren with making sure that the pool was at temp and that everything downstairs was set up in a cozy way and she said to me, “the birth pool is ready, if you need it”. This was a really interesting juncture in the birth for me! I had bought a birth pool as had always intended to have a water birth. I think because I was coping so well, I just imagined the actual birth to still be hours (days!?!) away and I remember telling Natalie “I don’t want to get into the pool too soon!” And again she reassured me with “you must listen to what you body is telling you, it is there if you need it”.
In my head, the pool was set up downstairs in the very bright-light living area space. Our bedroom (where I had been the whole time) was extremely dark with blackout curtains, a candle burning and it just really felt like a cozy little sanctuary. I was mentally thinking about moving from that small dark cozy space into a bigger brighter more open space and just felt intuitively that even that transfer from our bedroom to the lounge would have disrupted the flow of what was unfolding. I can totally see how moving from home to hospital in a regular birth centre/hospital birth could totally disrupt the flow of labour if it was not something that you had mentally prepared for! (One of the reasons we opted for a home birth in the first place!)
I think Natalie could sense my hesitation in moving downstairs and she quietly said something along the lines of “you can also stay right here if you want to”. It kind of gave me permission let go of the birth pool plan and just listen to what my body wanted to do (which was “HAVE A BABY!!” and not “walk down the stairs and find a new place to settle yourself”). It also in some ways validated exactly what I was feeling, which was “I’m coping really well and actually – if I’m intending to use the birth pool as pain relief – I don’t need it!” So with all of these things the thought of moving downstairs felt like it wasn’t the right thing for me – so when Warren came back up into the bedroom (after madly hustling downstairs with setting everything up in the pool) Natalie turned to him and brightly said “change of plans – we are staying here!”
The one thing that I hadn’t really thought about in my home birth preparation was “all the mess” that home birth can bring. So whilst this wasn’t something that had really crossed my mind in the preparation for labour – in the thick of it, it now felt like a very important thing to me! (Ha!) I was of course, kneeling on our brand new (white) mattress on our brand new (white) sheets, under our brand new (white) duvet and I remember saying to Natalie “I can’t be on these white sheets!” (Even though we had put a mattress protector sheet on the bed a few days earlier and unbeknown to me, Natalie had already gathered a whole mountain of towels to put on the bed). I knew I wanted to be down on the ground.
I managed to get down onto the ground beside our bed on a doubled up pile of yoga mats, towels and blankets. I remember really having to breathe deeply through each contraction with a deep guttural moaning sound. I also felt a lot of sensation in my outer hip on one side and Natalie recommended I come into a low lunge position with one leg out to the side to try and work with the sensation. I felt like things were really ramping up and again I asked Natalie about where the midwives were and at this point she said calmly that the midwives were unable to make it and they would be here as soon as they could but that we were going to do this together and that I could trust my body.
I was definitely in NO position to move at all (even the idea of moving down the stairs had been too much!) I really did feel incredible trust and knowing the midwives were not going to make it in time did not stress me out or make me anxious at all. I did sometime around this time say out loud, “I hope the baby is doing ok” – having not had any internal examinations, or fetal heart monitoring at all throughout the process. Natalie was incredibly reassuring and again calmly said, “you are a healthy woman, with a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby and there is no reason to believe that anything is wrong.” This was incredibly reassuring to me and instinctively I also felt this to be true – and it was this trust that really enabled the final moments of birth to unfold so peacefully.
At that point I remember thinking that the baby was coming pretty soon – and for some reason Warren was out the room I think either getting more camomile tea for me or doing something else (maybe again trying to get in touch with the midwives!) and I remember thinking “this baby is coming soon and Warren is not here.” As if Natalie read my mind – she told me she was going to get Warren.
When Warren came back into the room Natalie guided him to sit in front of me and to the side so that he could breathe with me. At some point both Warren and Natalie were applying counter pressure to my pelvis at the back as I was kneeling with my arms leaning onto the bed – even to the point where the counter pressure felt too much!
I felt that the baby was pretty close to coming and I asked Warren to come up high onto his knees so that I could put my arms around his neck. When I tried this out I immediately felt it wasn’t the right position for me and then told him to come back down to be seated/kneeling next to me as I was on all fours next to the bed, with my knees slightly inwards and ankles outwards.
As contractions were increasing in intensity I was making deep and low sounds and could hear Warren breathing and making similar sounds next to me which was so reassuring.
As I started to feel the feeling of fullness and pressure building – (which was a familiar sensation to me as I had been practicing with the Aniball during pregnancy!) I was focusing on completely relaxing the pelvic floor and then using my out breath to help guide and push the baby down.
Although it didn’t feel like “pushing” but rather like an exhale with power to it – It was something that I felt my body was completely leading on it’s own.
I was in the middle of a contraction when Natalie reminded me to breathe to the very end of my breath – and not hold my breath or stop it short on the exhale. As I could feel the contraction ending, I remember asking Natalie if I needed to “push”/breathe down to the end of my breath right now or if I could wait and rest a bit to wait for the next contraction. She told me that if my body was telling me to rest then listen to my body. I waited in that moment and could feel the intensity of tissues stretching as she was crowning – Warren was right next to me and I remember saying pretty quietly “it’s sore!”.
Something that was also really powerful to me during my pregnancy/labour planning was something I picked up from a zoom yoga class I attended led by Nadia Raafat. She spoke about “The Mother” archetype and how sometimes birth can be slightly derailed by either “The Victim” (It’s sore! it’s all happening to me! Woe! Etc) or “The Child” archetype. I again called on this very simple mantra that I’d made mine, from something Natalie mentioned way earlier, “You’re the MOTHER. You’re the MOTHER.”
I changed my breathing to a soft panting sound as I stayed in the intensity of the crowning, reminding myself that I am willing to meet these sensations because “I’m the mother”.
Dropping into this Mother archetype gave me some kind of inner strength to move through the final stage of birthing our baby. I think it was in the next contraction that I used the full range of my exhale breath to power the baby down and the baby slipped out – it really did feel like a wet-slippery slipping out/release and Warren still remarks today about the slurping sound the baby made as it entered the world! It was such an incredible moment of absolute elation and I remember exclaiming, “I did it! I DID it!!”
It was an incredibly surreal moment kneeling on our bedroom floor, wrapped in a blanket in the dark, looking down at this tiny little baby lying between my knees with the darkest little eyes and this mop of dark black hair looking up at me. I wiped off the baby’s head and just remember spending several minutes just staring at it – looking at it and marvelling at this new little creature that had just entered the world. It was such an incredibly powerful moment with Warren and I both in tears at the magnitude of it all. What was so strange to me was how it felt like I was really meeting a whole new distinct and individual little person.
I’m not sure of how many minutes passed, but pretty shortly after this, around 16:50, Natalie quietly asked, “should I go and call your parents?”. I turned to her and with absolute shock said, “Are they still here?!”
It had always been our plan that, knowing we were aiming for a home birth, that when I went into labour my parents would move to my friends house down the road which was vacant over the holiday period. I was so much in my own bubble that I had no idea they were still in the house – they had been sitting downstairs in the lounge watching tv the whole time!
Natalie went downstairs to them and sneakily just said, “Ché wants to see you”. Neither my mom or dad had heard anything from upstairs (I have no idea how!) and knowing our plan that they were going to move to a friend’s house when birth “really got going” – they imagined that this was now the time that they would be heading off (or that perhaps something in the birth had gone wrong!).
My parents opened the door to our bedroom which was completely dark and candlelit to see Warren and I huddled together on the floor under a blanket. It took a few seconds for my folks eyes to adjust to the darkness and for things to register for them and the next thing my dad exclaimed as he saw this tiny bundle was, “SHIT! A BABY!!”
They came and huddled down with us on the ground and my mom asked me, “What did you have?!” And, since we had been so absorbed with just staring at this little being – we hadn’t even checked to see the gender! We all looked together and it was my mom who said, “It’s a girl! A Girl!”
This was SO unbelievably shocking to me as for the ENTIRE pregnancy I had been absolutely CONVINCED I was having a boy! I just kept repeating, “A girl? A GIRL?? A girl?!? Warren – it’s a GIRL?!”. My immediate reaction was to turn to Warren and say “I’m SORRY!” I think because for so long I was so convinced it was a boy that in some ways I had already planned out our lives for the next 18 years with this little boy in our lives! I’m absolutely DELIGHTED to have a little girl, but in those initial moments there was definitely some grieving that we had to do for the son we thought we were having! It was a true moment of absolute shock for me – and I remember feeling in that instant how this little being was an entirely separate PERSON from me, and all the expectations I may have had. An entirely new personality. It was so wonderful to be able to share this incredibly special moment with my parents and I’m so glad they hadn’t left the house! It was such a super emotional and wonderful experience for everyone – something we will all remember forever – that is for sure!
My parents and Natalie left the room and within minutes I could feel another contraction coming (this contraction felt like absolute nothing to me! I think probably from all the birth baby-high hormones that was flooding my system!). I turned to Warren and told him I think the placenta is coming and the next thing it was out on the towel beneath me! (I had imagined the placenta taking at least an hour to come out – but this was out within minutes!)
With the placenta in the bowl, I put the baby to my chest and she crawled up and began feeding instantly. In the end, we decided to wait until the midwives were there for them to direct Warren in clamping and cutting the cord!
After getting back into bed with our new baby, I called Gloria one of the home birth midwives on a private number I had for her. Natalie spoke to her and she said she had just finished a birth and would be over as soon as possible. My mom and dad made me some peanut butter and strawberry jam toast (best toast of my life!) and Warren and I lay cuddled up cozy in our own bed with our new baby waiting for Gloria to arrive.
When Gloria arrived, probably an hour or so after our baby had landed, she clamped the cord for us and directed Warren to cutting the cord – which by now had definitely stopped pulsing. Gloria also took me for a shower and did some check ups on me. She established that I had a small superficial graze that she felt didn’t need any stitches and would heal on it’s own. I’m convinced that the moment of pause/waiting that I had in the pushing stage (listening to my body) was what gave time for my tissue to adjust to the stretch and that had I rushed this pushing stage in one go that I may have torn!
My transition into motherhood has been absolutely incredible (but that’s a whole new blog post!) and I honestly believe that the calm, gentle and truly empowered birth that I had, had a lot to do with it. Having this experience (which left me feeling like a superwoman-warrior!), has given me a feeling of “I can TRULY do anything!” And that is something that no one will ever be able to take away from me. What a wonderful gift to be able to transition into motherhood with this feeling.
I feel so grateful to have felt confident enough to make the choices I did around my birth and to have had the support to be able to do so. It will be an incredibly empowered and positive experience that I will truly treasure forever.
So grateful to Warren, Natalie and my parents for being with me in this incredible experience, and to Gloria and the home-birth midwives team at St George’s who have been the most wonderful support throughout. Logan and I are so grateful to have such a wonderful transition into our beautiful new life!