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Amy’s Birth Story

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.

Bonnie’s Birth Story

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.

Mel’s Birth Story

I have had 5 children born at home and am currently expecting our 6th child.  Our 1st four children were born in Western Australia at, the only state that I know off that has a government funded home birth programme.  I found it a challenge to find out about home births in Tasmania.  Fortunately I was directed to the right people in the end.  One reason our family has chosen to have our babies at home was continuity of care that home births offered, the midwives I have had attending us have always given us the options of care & let us make a lot of decisions.  I have often had friends who have chosen other birthing options comment about how great it is that we get to make so many choices for ourselves.   As our family has grown it has been wonderful to be at home & have the other children be able to meet the new baby soon after its birth & for me to be comfortable in my own home to recover. 

My last birth was a very brief affair.  Lasting only 1 and a half hours.  I called my midwife & she was ready with all her gear & at our home a short time later. As we have had water births my main goal was to make it to the birthing pool in time, which my husband & midwife were quickly getting ready as this baby wasn’t going to wait!  I am sure being at home helps going into labour more relaxing & peaceful knowing that there is no pressure to hurry or different people coming & going checking on things.  I recall our last birth with good memories!  In fact I have wonderful stories to share with all of our children about their births.

Joey’s Birth Story

I remember very well the snow that we had the day that my waters broke when I was pregnant with my second baby.  It snowed down to sea level which is very unusual in Hobart.  It didn’t settle much but it was really cold.  That day I went to the toilet and heard a faint popping sound and a rush of water came out into the toilet which I thought had to be more than wee!  When I got up from the loo I needed a towel between my legs for the amount of water that was coming out. 

I had been very “big” this pregnancy, after spending the first one with all my friends and relatives telling me how small the baby was and that I only looked 3 months pregnant at term!  This time everyone asked me if I was having twins…  I felt big and not very comfortable in the last part of my pregnancy.  When my waters broke and such a lot of fluid came out, I felt sooo much better!  My belly reduced to what felt like half and I felt much more mobile and agile.  But no contractions ensued, except for the odd one.  That went on for quite a while and I remember my younger sister and mother came to visit and watched me touch my belly and breathe a bit harder and got concerned, saying “well! Are you going to call the midwife?”

My husband laughed at them and said if we had called the midwife when I had been like this she would have been here for the last few days!  They left and took our daughter over to play at their house round the corner for a while and slowly over the evening those odd few contractions seemed to be happening annoyingly frequently.  I kept thinking I wished these “false” ones would stop because they were making me pause in what I was doing so often, it was starting to get irritating!  I told my husband I really felt like roast beef for dinner, which was hilarious, because I was a vegetarian for years, and though I was eating meat at that time, I didn’t eat much and never would have normally wanted a really “meaty” dinner like that.  He had to check that I was serious, but he sweetly put on some roast beef to cook anyway, while I dealt with all these annoying “brackston hicks”.

Not long after, I was noticing these belly tightening more and more and they seemed stronger than before and I mentioned to Marc, who had the roast in the oven by then, that just maybe, this could be labour starting….  We didn’t want to get our hopes up so we just hung out in the lounge room while they kept coming and I thought, I really do think this might be the real thing!  We called our midwife and told her I was having contractions, but they might stop and go away again, because I’d been having them on and off for a while.  She said she would come and while she was on her way they got much much stronger and I really knew I was in labour.  By the time she arrived I was vocalising and crouching down with each contraction in the lounge room and feeling them as really strong and intense.

We thought we’d call and see if my mum could keep my daughter for the evening as I wasn’t sure if I could handle having her there, even though we had planned for her to be present at the birth.  While I was kneeling by the couch I began to have these sharp pains right above my pubic bone and my contractions were so strong I didn’t feel I knew what to do anymore.  My midwife pressed into my back and this relieved the pressure so much I asked her to keep doing it.  But it wasn’t long before I was in an absolute quandary, I felt my labour was so strong and painful, I just couldn’t manage any position.  I really wanted to get into the birth pool, but we had left it filling while we were awaiting our midwife and I hadn’t wanted Marc to leave me to go down to check it – so alas, it was cold as cold and not really redeemable. 

We all thought, maybe at least I could get in the shower, which was down one flight of stairs.  My contractions were so thick and fast and felt so debilitating, moving even a couple of steps was ridiculously slow.  I had at least two contractions on the staircase which lent heavily into my midwife and husband for.  I tried to crawl to see if that would get me to the shower quicker, but I just couldn’t move.  Finally, after the second or third contraction, I told myself to “MOVE” and managed to walk down the last few steps and across the bit of hallway that lead to the ensuite with the shower.  It felt like my body was not my own.
I had a painter’s kneeling board in the shower, because I remembered in my last labour getting rubbed raw in the knees from kneeling in the shower for hours and hours.  So I got down on my hands and knees in the shower and got the hot spray right on my lower back.  The difference was unbelievable!  I really felt I could manage these contractions now – ahh the relief!  Unfortunately, it was only a few contractions before my midwife noticed that our baby was going to be there very very soon, and there was no way for her to get into the shower with me!  So I got out onto our bed kneeling over a beanbag. 

Even though my midwife knew our baby was about to be born, I really never had an urge to push, I just felt awful strong contractions and wanted to get back in the shower.  But it was only a short time and I finally felt something between my legs, but alas, when the contraction ended I felt it go back in a bit.  I was heart-broken I had to have another contraction to get this baby out, but also finally felt an urge to push and with the next contraction I managed to push her all the way out.  I was worried our neighbours were going to call the domestic violence police with all the screaming!!!  I found out later they weren’t home that weekend!

One day old

When our baby was born I took her in my arms, but she wouldn’t quite reach as the cord was short.  I immediately forgot all the tumultuous pains and feeling like I “why did I do this again” – this little person was amazing!  We called my mother who brought my daughter over straight away.  It was her job to tell us the sex of the baby and I’ll never forget those shining eyes when she looked at her sister and said, “its a girl!!”.

Our daughters, two months later

We all had the roast beef for dinner (we had the oven timer on!) which was a quite nice really considering it had been in the oven for a couple of hours!  Getting up the stairs after was amazingly easier than it had been going down!  That night we all wanted to sleep together in our room and it was so peaceful not to have to go anywhere and to have everyone at home.  My older daughter was a bit razzed up and took a while to go to sleep, but it was such a nice way to begin our life as a family of four.