Beautiful birth of baby Sam at home into water captured in this amazing slide show by Hobart birth photographer Danielle Burrows.
Birth of Miles Richard Leo, 24 August 2009 – a Home Waterbirth.
During the whole pregnancy I had been having fairly intense Braxton Hicks. I’d never had even one with Ollie, so this was a new experience. From about 36 weeks, I’d been experiencing ‘pre-labour’, and had many nights where I was kept awake with the sensations. Irrespective of this, I strongly suspected I would go overdue, as I just didn’t feel ready.
The night before my due date, we went out for dinner with friends – for curry, of course! Unfortunately, the only person who ended up feeling any effects from it was Evan… My Mum had also come over and cleaned our house thoroughly for me – I had considered the idea I might have a mental block about birthing in an untidy house, so she offered to come get it up to scratch.
On my due date, I went to an acupuncture appointment in the morning. I felt absolutely normal, and not at all like birth was imminent. Peter, my acupuncturist, had stimulated my oxytocin points, and had laughed away my suggestion that we make another appointment for later in the week.
I wandered around the city for a bit, feeling quite energised. On the drive home, I was overcome with a craving for a KFC Zinger Burger (yes, really!). Once home I sat on the couch, and surfed the net for a while, as I was suddenly tired. About 4pm I had a loose bowel motion, but figured it was the grease from my KFC fest, or last night’s curry. At 4.30, I had this urgent desire to have a deep bath, but once I was in there, it felt wrong. I had a couple more Braxton Hicks contractions, fairly pain free, and told Evan I was going to bed for a while. He went out to collect Ollie from daycare, and also to pick up the camera from his parents’ house for later in the week.
At this point I laid in bed, watching Friends on the laptop. I remembered that Terry (our Independent Midwife) had said she had another woman overdue quite a distance away, and that I should ring her if I even had an inkling of things happening. I also remembered that Sam (my friend who was being my Doula) had mentioned that a midwife at her work told her that cold fronts bring babies. Given that Monday night a cold front was meant to pass, I thought I’d ring Terry and let her know that it wouldn’t be anytime tonight or tomorrow. She must have had some kind of intuition, because when I rang she told me that regardless of how I felt, she’d have her mobile with her and to call her as soon as I felt like I needed her.
After that I rang Sam to say report what Terry had said, but that my pains were nothing, and virtually pain free. She said she’d sleep with her phone next to her bed tonight anyway, because of the cold front thing.
As all this was happening, I had been absentmindedly tapping ContractionMaster on the computer – a program that measures your contractions and gives you timings etc. When Evan and Ollie got home at 7pm, he was surprised when I said my tightenings were happening every 3 minutes, lasting up to 90 seconds, but that they weren’t really hurting. I wandered around the house, chatting with Ollie and just doing ‘stuff’. I also replied to a text from my Mum, saying that I ‘felt a bit funny, just BH again, but maybe by Wednesday’.
Once I realised I was starting to concentrate through the contractions, Evan made me ring Terry again. She’d no sooner answered, when she said she’d be over straightaway. I urged her to stay at her son’s house – I felt bad I’d interrupted their dinner! Clearly Terry could hear something in my voice that I didn’t recognise.
I then rang Sam again, and said Terry was coming over, and tonight would be a good time to meet her before the birth, like we’d been planning. Sam was putting the kids to bed, I told her not to rush, and just come over whenever.
Terry arrived at 7.35pm. As soon as she got here, I had a big contraction, but it still wasn’t painful, more just hard work. When she asked Evan to get the oxygen tank from her car, and to start setting up the birth pool, I laughed and said it would be great if the baby arrived before midnight, as then he’d be a due date baby. Terry just smiled at me (in hindsight, in a very knowing manner).
I continued to wander around the house, chatting and laughing, and quietly vocalizing through contractions. Evan was setting up the birth pool. I remember Ollie asking me during one contraction if I could please make him a cup of tea. He was happily sitting down at the computer, watching a show, and eating. We’d practiced ‘mooing like a cow’ when talking about when Miles would be born. Ollie did a couple of ‘moo cow’ noises with me during my contractions, which was fun and made me laugh.
Sam arrived at 7.50pm. When she arrived I remember having a huge contraction, which seemed to last forever. Straightaway I needed to go to the toilet. When I got into the bathroom, it was cold and dark, and I lost my focus. The next contraction really hurt, and I felt a bit out of control. When I came back out, I told Terry that I thought I might have hit transition. Of course, I said this laughingly, as I still fully believed I wasn’t in properly in labour, and things were only just starting off. I continued chatting away to everyone, laughing and joking, broken only by the times I concentrated on my contractions.
Around 8.30, Terry suggested after the next contraction I should go to the loo and then get in the birth pool. I protested, saying that I hadn’t yet used any of my birth skills, and that I wanted to save my best form of pain relief (the pool) for when I really needed it. Terry said ‘if you don’t get in now, you won’t be getting in’.
So I got in the pool. Sam was sitting outside the pool, right next to my head. I whinged to her about ‘using up my good pain relief now, and I’d probably have to go to the bloody hospital because I was only about 3cms at the most and I’d need an epidural’. Sam wondered out loud how Terry knew how far along I was, as she hadn’t done any internals. I thought we were both whispering, but it would appear that we weren’t, and every word was audible. Oops.
Once in the pool, everything seemed to slow down. It felt awesome to relax in there, and bob about in the warm water. Terry suggested that if I wanted Nina, our student midwife to attend the birth, someone should call her now. Sam did that for me, and I can remember hearing Terry say ‘tell her if she’s coming, she better come NOW’. Again, I couldn’t understand the urgency, as I though Miles would still be hours away. Evan was putting Oliver to bed.
From this point things are hazy. I floated in the water with my forehead on the side of the pool, Sam putting cold cloth nappies on my head to cool me down, and Evan returned, to place pressure on my lower back and give me sometime to work against. Nina arrived, and I remember her cold hands on my arm, and me growling ‘no’ at her and moving away.
Evan came around to my head, and held my hands. Terry’s hand were on my back, and then with a contraction I felt my waters go. I had another couple of contractions, and then I had this primal urge to gutturally roar ‘yeeeeeessssssss’. With that, the rest of my waters exploded, and I felt them come rushing out between my thighs. Lots of vernix floated up to the surface, and looking back I’m glad I didn’t realise how much there was, as it would have icked me out completely. I was still talking between contractions, and I remember saying at one point ‘whose bloody stupid idea was this homebirth thing anyway’.
I felt Miles’ head move down, and turn slightly as well. It was an odd feeling, but a welcome one, and not unpleasant. Just before he crowned I remember still thinking he’d be ages away. Once I realised his head was right there, I wanted to stop pushing because I was scared of the crowning pain. My body took over and pushed him out for me, only seconds later. There was no pain from crowning, and he stayed there, underwater with his head out for a little bit. Sam moved around to catch him, as Evan and I both wanted her to do this. I remember every single millimetre of his shoulders coming out, and even before I’d seen him I knew he’d inherited the extremely broad chest and shoulders of my brothers, rather than from his Father’s side.
Sam passed Miles up to me, and I think I was still in shock. This intensified when I looked at the clock and realised it was only 9.10pm. Only 40 minutes ago I had been sure I was only in the very early stages of labour, if at all. I’m glad we weren’t having a hospital birth, because I genuinely wouldn’t have made it, based on the low pain level of the contractions. It had been an 8 minute pushing stage this time.
Evan tried to wake Ollie up, but he was in a deep sleep (he was very annoyed the next day when he realised he missed – in his words – ‘the blood and the baby coming out’!). The placenta was delivered soon after, and we let it float besides Miles in the pool until the cord stopped pulsating.
Once I was out of the pool and sitting comfortably on our couch, I rang Mum. She asked why was Oliver crying, and when I explained it was actually her new grandson Miles, she dropped the phone in shock. Evan’s parents were equally as surprised to hear the news, considering Evan and Oliver had been over there just 2 hours earlier, with no sign anything was going to happen.
Miles Richard Leo was welcomed into our loving arms at 9.10pm on Monday 24th August 2009, his due date, in a birth that far exceeded our wildest expectations.
Editor’s note: while not a homebirth story, Amy’s story is a lovely one to read. – Joey
I always wanted to birth naturally but at the time I became pregnant I was had diagnostic surgery for ‘interstitial cystitis’ (otherwise known as ‘Bladder pain’) I was on some muscle relaxants and other naturopathic treatment. This made me nervous about my ability to handle pain, as my muscles would spasm when I had an attack. Some days my back and abdominal muscles would get so sore I would need to lie down for a full day.
It seemed however, that my symptoms had gone into remission when I got pregnant with my first child and Mercy Hospital for women in Melbourne had not given me a clear diagnosis anyway. My urology-gynaecologist wished me well and told me not to tell the doctors at the Royal Hobart Hospital about my condition, as pregnancy usually puts the symptoms into remission and there was no reason to complicate things. He was right, incidentally and I did not want to be considered ‘high-risk’ as I was keen to avoid intervention.
As the months rolled by I forgot I even had I.C and enjoyed a nauseous but otherwise healthy first trimester, the second trimester I had some bleeding over several days, yet our baby was fine. I was advised to stop running, which I had been enjoying until this time – until week 22, by which time I had gained so much more weight that I found it difficult to take it up again. My overall weight gain didn’t concern anyone but me, perhaps it would have been good to get some medical help for my reflux, which was so severe that I had to eat every two hours or I felt terrible. This led to a higher than advised weight gain and made me very uncomfortable. My leg cramps were so bad I had trouble even walking for more than 5 minutes at a time. In hindsight, I should have seen my GP for this but I thought it was normal.
I was part of the RHH’s ‘KYM’ scheme ( know your midwife), this meant that I was able to attend a clinic near my home and only see a doctor if problems arose or if I felt that I needed more care. I thought that this still meant I could give birth in a birth suite but found out later that this affected my eligibility for a suite. If I had understood this properly I would have taken the extra time to go into the city for my appointments as I really wanted to give birth at the birth centre.
However, because of the KYM scheme it meant my visits were very laid back and consisted only of taking my blood pressure, measuring my belly and asking me if I had any questions. Although I was not promised the same midwife, I did end up with the same midwife, Paula for all my check-ups. I felt that most of my care was driven by my own reading, the weekly “pregnastics”physio classes at the RHH, advice from friends and my own intuition. I only stood on a scale once at my first hospital check in when they also checked my urine. I had one infection but noticed the symptoms myself and was treated quickly at the pregnancy assesment centre after a urine test.
Our 6 week parenting classes at RHH were the main source of my understanding of pain and pain management. It made me even more keen to avoid an epidural as from my reading it seemed that moving and hot water were more effective pain management treatments than numbing the pain with drugs. I was worried about slowing the labour too much through drugs and inactivity, which might lead to forceps or other intervention, caesarean or tearing.
I was not convinced that I could cope with the pain with just showers and gas, but I wrote out a birth plan which placed hot water, massage, position and vocalising as my first methods of pain management, with gas and epidural, following by caesarean as the final step if the others failed. I read a book called ‘active birth’ by Sarah McLaughlin but only skimmed it.
When I was about 39 weeks pregnant I had a surprisingly energetic day. I didn’t take my usual nap and achieved a lot. By 10 pm I was too keyed up to sleep and remember leaving my husband sleeping to walk up and down the stairs in my house, do pushups and do some stretches on my fitball. I must have been labouring without awareness of it for 4 hours but I did not feel any pain, just slightly stronger Braxton-Hicks, or so I thought. I felt excited, but wasn’t sure why. I didn’t want to get my hopes up that I was in labour so eventually I got into bed and tried to sleep.
I was lying there for about half an hour, my stomach all churned up and small strange aches running around my back. Then, just when I was dozing off, I felt Evangeline kick and heard a sudden ‘pop’, or maybe I just felt it. I got up quickly and fluid began to pour out of me. I told Luke, my husband that I was in labour and scurried to the bathroom and jumped straight under the shower in a bid to preserve the carpet of our rental house!
The pain kicked in straight away and the hot water was fantastic on my lower back. It felt like some severe period pain I had experienced when I was younger. Luke gathered together our bags and some towels to stuff into my trackpants as I was still leaking a lot of fluid. We attached a TENS machine to my back and Luke rang the hospital to let them know we were on our way.
The TENS was a Godsend, as even though we were only a 5 minute drive to RHH my contractions were very close together ( I think only 2-5 mins) and the pain was very intense. I managed to sit in the front seat for the drive but was arching in pain and turning the TENS on full when I had a contraction.
When we arrived at the hospital I remember striding ahead of Luke very purposefully and heading straight up to the birth centre. Another contraction hit me hard as I was walking down the hall and I fell on my knees. I looked up and saw Katherine, the midwife who delivered our baby as I moaned in pain. She smiled at me, I think I smiled back!
We went to the PAC to do an internal and found that I was already 5cm even though it had only been about half an hour since my waters had broken. I remember having a painful contraction here and pummeling the observation table to take my mind off the pain, perhaps the only trick I picked up from the ‘birth skills’ book and the only time I used it. There was some confusion about whether I would be allowed a birth suite as I was a KYM and not a birth centre patient. As I flatly refused to go into a delivery room (this has a raised bed and designed more for obstetrician led care) and demanded a birth suite I needed to wait a little while so that they could find me one.
Suddenly I squatted on the floor of the PAC and said I needed to do a pooh. I remember being confused as to why I said this out loud! My body was taking over and it was clear that I was already ready to push.
We arrived in the birth suite with a bath, which I was extremely thankful for. I immediately stripped my clothes off, jumped in and turned on the shower nozzle, telling my husband where to hold it. It was such a relief to have this but I had some terrible diarrhea which he needed to wash down the drain between contractions and so it was ultimately impossible to labour anywhere else, but I asked for a bean bag and a mat just in case I needed to shift locations later.
I was offered gas and as I was freaking out a bit from the pain and the messy diarrhea I accepted. It was just what I needed to lift my mind away from my body for a time and just feel the pain, breathe and go with it. I was already pushing at this point as my midwife was urging me to and did not ask to do any more internals. Luke was reminding me to vocalise deep and not scream which really helped me engage my diaphragm and focus my effort on pushing. This was a direction we remembered from our parenting class.
Eventually my midwife asked to see better and as I could not crouch in the bath in a way where she could see I got out of the bath and stood up in shower. My mother-in-law had arrived a bit before this and I was now pushing continually and not taking breaks! I remember getting very frustrated at this point as I wanted to stop but knew that the pain would continue anyway, so I pushed hard, during and between contractions!
Suddenly Katherine reached up and put her fingers around the head of the baby and pulled her out. The pain as she came out was sharp but over quickly. She handed her up to me and I lifted my baby up from between my legs, waddled to the bed and lay down to take a well deserved rest! I couldn’t believe I was holding my baby in my arms already but was elated with my achievement. It was probably the best moment of my life, after a time of intense pain, I now held my darling daughter in my arms.
Evangeline was born at 3:30 am, one hour and 45 minutes after my waters broke at 1:45 am. I did have a 2nd degree tear, which required several stitches, and I think in the future it would have been good to have a midwife who I could have talked about my fears with before the birth and who would also guide me through my labour in a way that minimised the tearing. Ultimately the experience was far better than I hoped for, it was painful, but quick. I had control of my choices, had minimal intervention and my birth partner, my husband, was the best person possible to have there!
We had discussed many times my birth plan and he was was keen to actively help me and to follow my directions. I’m glad I read so much, read so many birth stories, spoke to friends and aquaintances about what they would do and change and how they achieved what they did. Most of all, I am extremely thankful for my daughter and how perfect she was. Perhaps it was because she was only 6 pounds 2 or maybe it was the loose ligaments I inherited from my mother, but her head was perfect too, and not at all misshapen.
I began having more serious Braxton Hicks a week before Esther arrived so was expecting an early labour. The waiting was hard as I had hurt my lower back and found moving around painful, I wanted to go for long walks but couldn’t even walk to the gate!
Regular contractions started on Friday night (3rd October) and were exactly 30 mins apart all night long. I managed to sleep in between but the excitement was also there preventing deep sleep. My midwife had scheduled an appointment with me on Saturday morning and he arrived to do all the necessary checks. We decided that established labour was not far off but he still went back home as the contractions were 30 mins apart and not too painful. As soon as he drove out the gate, the contractions dropped to 20 mins apart. By 2pm, bored and wanting something to happen, I rang my mum for some company and distraction. I hobbled down the hill and back again. Contractions still 20 minutes exactly. Mum left at 5.30pm and my sister Ness arrived to provide more distraction. We spent an hour designing her husband a business card in between contractions (getting quite strong!)
At 6.30pm I rang the midwife with news that the last 3 contractions were 10 mins apart, he said he was on his way immediately, I was in denial as I thought that was a bit rash but didn’t argue (I could always send him home) As soon as I hung up they dropped to 5 minutes and were very strong. Rang my mum and asked her back and organised for Ness to stay on to look after the other 3 children as planned.
Started washing dishes and cleaning up (this was a home birth!) Got into the birthing pool at 7pm only to find my next contraction dissappeared which confirmed to me that I wasn’t in labour! Liam (6) found his Lego boat and we played boats together in the birthing pool for a while.
Back with gusto at 7.10pm and within a few contractions I’d settled into a serious 3 minutely pattern with contractions lasting 1.5mins and really strong. The water bath was amazing relief, and I was completely fear and stress free dealing with each contraction by concentrated breathing. My husband, David, was an incredibly strong tower of strength to me as he held me and kissed my shoulders and prayed through every contraction. It was a beautiful time of closeness for us. I’ll treasure the memory. Mum was kept busy boiling water and keeping the bath at 37*C and bringing hot washers for my lower back. Matilda (8) was buzzing with excitement and expectancy. My dad arrived just 15 minutes before the birth and all three of our children were nearby when our baby was delivered into the water at 8.30pm. I scooped her up into my arms and we all erupted with tears of joy when I said “it’s a girl”
The next couple of hours evaporated as we all adored her and thanked God for such a blessing. The nicest thing for me was going to sleep in my own bed knowing all my children were safely tucked in bed without a care in the world and that I didn’t have to go anywhere. Blissful sleep followed.