The birth of William Ian Raven – Wangaratta.
It’s time to grab a cuppa because this one is long – just like my labour!
This is the second part of my homebirth story. Part one was all about choosing to birth at home and some of the challenges we experienced after making this decision at 37 weeks pregnant. You can read the first part of Homebirth – Our Story here.
On the night of Wednesday 29 April, at 39 + 1 weeks pregnant, I fell asleep on the couch at 7 pm (watching homebirth videos on YouTube). I was so exhausted that whole day and felt really different. I woke around 10 pm and moved into the bedroom, however I could not fall back to sleep. I was experiencing mild Braxton Hicks. I’d had these on and off for approx. the past two weeks and mostly at night, so I wasn’t thinking too much about it at this point. I also felt very restless and could not get comfortable. I eventually fell asleep after putting a movie on TV.
The next thing I knew was waking at 1 am when my waters had broken. I also started getting contractions which were quite frequent (about four minutes apart) and strong in intensity. I woke my husband Lachie who was in a deep sleep and took about five minutes to fully realise what was happening. There were a few giggles as I do think he was sleep walking initially! After a little while, we decided to call our doula Lou and midwife Claire to let them know my labour had started.
I had a nice warm shower and then we decided to go back to bed where I rode out each surge and got as much rest and sleep as I could. During this time, I also had more water releasing. I was really surprised by how much water was released.
At some point, I ate a mandarin and some porridge.
That morning our doula Lou arrived after my surges became around 1–2 minutes apart. I remember her initial presence by her soft whispers and the smell of her perfume.
Writing this now, it is really difficult to remember exactly what was happening at that point and how frequent my surges were is a blur to me. I was not focusing on how close together they were but rather I went into this place where I was working through each surge. I feel like I meditated through a lot of my labour, making it hard to now recall. I believe my eyes were closed for the majority of the time.
Over many hours that Thursday, what I do remember is focusing on each surge, breathing and then resting when it finished. I laboured mostly in our bedroom, at times using the fit ball, the bed, the ground and also Lachie for support during the first 24 hours.
At times, the surges were more intense which made me teary but having a cry helped to release some of the emotions I was feeling.
I really loved water during my labour. The shower provided some pain relief. It was the light sensation of the water on my back and the heat that felt amazing. Leaning up against the shower wall with my head in my hands riding more surges, each one bringing me closer to meeting our little Will.
I continued to labour around the house, moving from the lounge to the kitchen, bedroom and shower. I also took a short walk outside for some fresh air.
As the day turned into night things were progressing well and I got into the bath. I felt as though I went through a transition in the bath where things really changed and there was another level of intensity. After some time in the bath, I started to feel things slow down. I was thinking about the length of my labour, how challenging it had been and all I wanted at that point was for it to be over.
I continued labouring until I was exhausted. After speaking to my midwife Claire, I decided to rest and moved back into the bed. The contractions continued throughout the early hours of the morning.
Friday morning things had really stalled. I continued resting for the next 10 hours or so. We had lovely gentle music playing as I laid on the couch. My birthing team had decided to leave us for the day and Lachie and I chose to do some techniques from Spinning Babies to bring my labour back on. I also took more showers and tried nipple stimulation. I believe this all had an impact on helping the labour to pick up again.
It was during this day that I had to work through some BIG things. I was worried about the risk of infection at this point. I remember also switching into a different frame of mind, a negative one where I didn’t think I could do it. I was also frustrated that things had stalled as I knew I still had quite a while to go. It was my husband and my birthing team who assisted me to talk through what I was experiencing and helped me out of this mindset and put me back into the frame of mind that I needed to birth this baby.
My doula set up a beautiful atmosphere in our nursery, suggesting that I labour and spend some time in that room. I instantly felt so comfortable in there. I spent hours leaning over the change table riding out more surges. I also went through a transition in that room. The change table was the perfect height and I used a stack of baby blankets to rest my head on between surges.
I remember Lachie offering to put a pillow under my head at one point and me quickly, and slightly angrily, moving it out. Lachie also asked me a question here and I strongly told him to shush! I believe now this was me going through transition. I did not feel agitated at any point other than this and things were really ramping up at this stage.
I never knew how dilated I was. I never knew what the time was. These were two things I did not want to know. I didn’t want to find out and then become disheartened. I didn’t want these to be factors that stalled my labour.
The surges were not as intense or painful as the pain I had in my back. It was constant; it was intense; it was overwhelming. A friend had kindly let me borrow her TENS machine and it helped so much. I remember wearing this for hours and hours until it was time to get back in the bath again.
Once in the bath, things ramped up. There was so much progress and then, like the night before, things suddenly felt different again. I called Claire in and told her I felt like baby was stuck. I also had increasing amounts of pain in my back. I think it was then that she mentioned baby was mostly likely posterior and we could try moving into different birthing positions to help baby move down and around.
The thought of moving was terrifying to me. I didn’t want to move. Each time one of the midwives wanted me to move, it took the most amazing amount of mental and physical effort to do it. The pain in my back was incredible! I did it though. I trusted them so much. I think we did nearly every birthing/rotating position in the book. They gave me the space and time I needed to get into the positions and supported and guided me so much.
At this point, I really needed guided/coached pushing. It had been nearly 47 hours of labour and I was exhausted but determined. We could now see baby’s head and being able to see it myself helped a lot. It gave me the encouragement to keep pushing as I knew I was so close.
Claire suggested I move back into bed, laying on my back to try and push to help take the pressure off my back. This position was so comfortable. Interestingly, it was the position I didn’t want to birth in as I knew there was an increased risk of tearing when birthing laying on your back. However, I surrendered and just went with what felt right for my body in that moment.
I could hear the birds outside our bedroom window so I knew it was the early hours of the morning (Saturday). Baby’s head was making more progress. These birds are now a constant reminder of birthing our beautiful William. Often I am up early feeding William in our bed with these birds singing us songs.
I continued to push. Nudie fruit juice was my saviour, sipping on many glasses gave me the energy I needed to keep going. I couldn’t and didn’t eat much during the days of my labour. I did not feel sick, I just wasn’t hungry.
Two things kept me going mentally. A friend of mine, who I was in contact with during my labour and knew things were taking a long time, told me I was Wonder Woman and that I could do anything. When things were tough or hurting, I would literally image myself dressed in a Wonder Woman outfit and would say to myself, ‘I am f@#%ing Wonder Woman. I can do this!’
I was also hanging out for the moment baby crowned and I experienced that ring of fire. I had heard and read that the ring of fire was really painful. I found I was so keen to feel this burning pain as I knew that if I was feeling it, I was nearly there. What was interesting was that when I did experience that sensation, I didn’t think it was extremely painful because I was just so happy and relieved for the feeling. (What an amazing example of the power of the mind.)
In the final stage, I received the most amazing support from my midwives, with guidance on resting rather than pushing, along with the amount of pressure to use to push, plus help to reduce potential perineal injury. With one more big push our beautiful little baby boy was born.
That feeling is simply indescribable. Here is a photo to show you all the feelings I was feeling. I couldn’t stop crying. The whole room was full of incredible oxytocin love. Smiles, celebrations, kisses and hugs. We were so wrapped up in this feeling it was some time before we even knew the gender. Then Lachie announced, ‘It’s a boy’ and the celebrations continued.
As we attempted the breast crawl with William, while doing delayed cord clamping, a delicious plate of sourdough toast with avocado and fetta along with a cup of tea in my brand new ‘Mum’ mug was handed to me while laying in my own bed. Thanks Doula Lou, you incredible woman. She knew this was my favourite breakfast without even asking me!
Wrapped up in bed with my new baby boy and now sleeping husband (he was just as exhausted as I was) was pure bliss. I just remember feeling overwhelmed with happiness, while around me the midwives were doing the checks on baby.
Meanwhile, my placenta still had not been delivered. I was aiming for a natural physiological third stage. After two hours and numerous occasions of pushing, the placenta had still not released. After discussing the risks and gaining full information about the Syntocinon injection, I decided it was time to do it. It did nothing. There was silence. I was starting to get worried.
I was told that if the placenta was not going to come away, I would need to transfer to hospital where a procedure would occur which would involve an epidural. Holy moly! I was still silent but in my mind I was thinking there is no f@#%ing way I have laboured for this long and given birth free of intervention and pain relief to now have to have these things for my placenta.
I noticed both Claire and Lou remove themselves from the room. I was still processing it all. Louise, my second midwife, was doing further checks on Will, helping him latch in the hope it would also help the placenta come away.
I then rolled onto my side where I felt a change in my body. After communicating this to Louise we decided to push again. At this stage, I remember so clearly thinking it is one last big push. This is it; you can do it. Then the placenta finally came away.
More tears rolled down my face, that feeling of doing it again. Women really are amazing. Pure achievement, empowerment and strength. I was so proud of myself and so relieved. I had just needed more time; I just needed to be mentally ready again. My body was exhausted, it did not want to push. This was another lesson in surrender and trusting that you are more capable than you realise.
Louise called out, ‘Claire we have a placenta’. Next thing we had everyone in the room again, Lachie woke up and it was like there was a second birth celebration – more tears!
I could rest now. I could cuddle my baby boy now. Wrapped up in bed as a family of three for the first time ever, in the comfort of our own home, is how we spent our first moments together and what we did for many hours that day. We were in our own little love bubble that lasted for weeks.
I am beyond grateful for choosing to birth at home. I know now for a fact that I would have been writing a very different birth story and experience if I had birthed within the hospital setting. Numerous factors, the main one being not being given/allowed enough time, would have seen a cascade of intervention occur. Time was my most precious thing and it was never taken away from me.
Perhaps more time is what is needed for many other women. More time to work through the incredible journey that the body has to go through in order to bring our babies to us.
I can’t wait for homebirth number two. I only hope the issues we faced as mentioned in part one of our story are sorted out by then.
Thank you so much to my birthing team in Claire from Your birth Midwifery, midwife Louise Thornton, Doula Lou and most importantly the love of my life, Lachie, who was the most incredible support partner.
Lots of love, Karly x
Doula Lou – Albury Wodonga.