Thinking back to 3months ago when my daughter arrived earth side and I am in awe of how her birth played out.
“You’re so brave” a family member exclaimed when they found out our baby girl was born at home. I remember feeling that the words didn’t sit right. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Sure I felt anxious in the lead up, wondering how it would all roll out – but I’d felt the same feelings of anticipation with my 2 previous hospital births too. I think it’s normal to feel those feelings in the void between pregnancy and birth kicking off.
I found myself pondering when did birthing at home (specifically in Australia) become something seen as risky in a low risk pregnancy? How did we get to the point when we feared such a natural process? Especially when home birth is actually encouraged and favoured in many other countries.
I didn’t see myself as brave for choosing to birth at home. Bravery in this context didn’t fit right. It wasn’t a decision i’d made lightly or without mental preparation but women have been birthing without medical interventions in the comfort of their homes since the beginning of time. If I am completely honest, I actually felt more fear of having a hospital birth due to the experience I had during my first birth.
Sure things rolled out a little differently than we had planned, but the experience of Leiras birth was one of the most empowering experiences I’d ever had.
Let’s roll back the clock a little
My first birth was mentally traumatising. At the time I had no idea how different the obstetric model is compared to a midwifery continuity of care model. My first experience of birth was with a highly recommended obstetrician. I had high hopes for a natural birth and basically started on mindset preparation as soon as I found out I was pregnant- I was obsessed with hypnobirthing and birthing affirmations. I had high hopes for a positive birth experience. My obstetrician had been recommended to me by quite a few people, so was feeling good when I managed to get a place under his care, but I soon realised that the model of care I had chosen didn’t match the birth I had envisaged. I found myself feeling trapped because I’d already paid the obstetric fees and therefore found myself in the cog of patriarchal obstetric medicine. I realised pretty quick that my obstetrician didn’t care too much for the mental well-being of a women preparing to birth for the first time. My entire pregnancy I was belittled, ignored, I was made to feel that I was just a number and that I had no choice in the way I wanted to birth. Intervention was pushed in at every chance.
There was so much pressure to induce me early. At 38 weeks I was forced to have a stretch and sweep without consent and as I screamed for the obstetrician to stop because I was in so much pain, I was ignored and he kept going resulting in me leaving the appt confused, violated and in tears- which looking back I realise now was straight up abuse. Throughout the pregnancy I was also given multiple unnecessary cervical checks.
During the birth I was given no choice but to have my waters broken, treated horribly by staff and when I tried to birth on all fours which felt most natural, I was forced to be rolled over and birth lying on my back (as it was the ONLY away this obstetrician ‘delivered’ babies) which caused bad tearing and my first born son to get stuck, leading to a much more painful birth. I didn’t realise at the time that so much of what I went through was unnecessary, damaging and downright wrong- I just thought that’s what birth was like. The saddest part is I am one of the “lucky” ones. So many women sadly experience unnecessary trauma caused under the guise of a medical necessity and often it is much worse than I had experienced.
In the years following the birth the more people I spoke to I started to realise that birth didn’t need to be like that and I swore I would never experience another birth that would cause me to feel so powerless.
Though due to my first experience I was terrified of birth and it took me quite some time to warm up to the thought of giving birth to another baby. The more I looked into it the more appealing a homebirth seemed.
With my second birth I had wanted to homebirth, but I was so fearful of birth and had lost all confidence and trust in my natural ability as a woman to birth. Luckily I found an incredible midwife called Christina Spence, through a public hospital midwife group program and she helped me to begin my healing journey. Although she was based in a hospital, she was heavily involved with the home birthing unit attached to the hospital and was a big advocate for natural birthing.
I was blessed to have a peaceful and calm hands off hospital birth.
The thing is, many people fear home birth because they think it is more dangerous, however that is an incorrect assumption.
The stats reveal that the risks in hospitals caused by the cascade of unnecessary interventions is astronomical.
Sure there is a time and a place for medical interventions and emergency care and I’m grateful that that is available when needed and necessary, however there is so much that has become routine that has caused many to forget the strength, uniqueness and the powerful mystic that is a birthing woman and ultimately left generations of women to work through a huge amount of birth trauma.
So as many of you know we live on a property and often my husband Chris is working away, so there was quite a bit of worry that he may not make the birth, if the baby came early. Luckily he was home full time from 39weeks so that was a huge relief. My midwives were also located 1.5 hours away, so we often joked that I would be birthing solo with my 2 older kids- especially after a scare at 25 weeks and having strong braxton hicks throughout.
Homebirth was not thought about lightly especially living rurally, but we 100% knew it would be the best option for us.
40weeks came and went and at 40.5 weeks I had an acupuncture induction. This had kicked off labour with my first 2 births within12hours and that night I started having strong and painful labour pains, however after a few hours everything fizzled. Bub had also switched position and was sitting posterior so I believe everything stopped, because she needed more time to get in the right position.
Two days after this it seemed true labour was kicking off! I was having contractions that seemed to be building. Everything felt perfect, I felt ready, we had time to set up the room properly, light the fire and I called my midwife when my contractions were 5min apart and both our midwives Ange and Claire arrived at around 7pm. I laugh now because it was almost too perfect.
My contractions got to 2min apart, some painful and some not- though overall my contractions felt stronger then they did during my second birth with Lacie. We got the kids to bed with no trouble and I got back on the birth ball. However at 1am everything stopped again. My midwife Ange asked if I wanted to see how dilated I was and I was only 1cm. I cried as I felt so exhausted after being in what felt like labour for 12 hours. I also felt fears rising due to my conditioning from the hospital system. I thought that everything stopping meant I wasn’t progressing as normal and would end up needing a Caesarean as I was almost 41weeks. My midwife and also a friend who is a doula, assured me that this was not the case and explained that in homebirth you see what is called “prodromal” labours all the time. A prodromal labour is basically the body doing the work to get the body prepared for birth. But in the hospital system they don’t often give enough time for the body to naturally do it’s thing and push induction (which can turn to a diagnosis of failure to progress which then can lead to an emergency Caesarean) It’s crazy to think how many emergency C sections could be avoided if we just left the body alone to do it’s thing for at least another week? How many unnecessary Caesareans are there due to this process?
When I woke on Saturday I was exhausted, hormonal and teary. I crashed out and slept for 4 hours around lunchtime.
I find the final days of pregnancy are always so mentally challenging.
For the following 2 days I had no symptoms of labour except very mild braxton hicks. We had Mother’s Day on Sunday and we had family over for lunch and I had zero inkling of when things would kick off.
It was a huge test in patience but it was reassuring to know that prodromal labours are normal and often can happen on and off multiple times in the last few weeks.I felt more at ease once I knew that it was probably just bub trying to get into the most optimal position for birth.
I woke at 12:30 am in waves of intense pain (similar to the pain I felt after acupuncture) but this time I only managed to get through 2 contractions before needing to call out to Chris to come and help – he was sleeping in the spare room as I had the kids in my bed. I was surprised he heard me but he was with me almost instantly. He helped me out of bed and into the lounge room. I asked him to start setting up the birth pool just in case. I started timing the contractions as they were rolling in hard and fast, 5 min apart for the first two then immediately into 3.5minutes apart and each contraction lasting over a minute. Soon they were only 2.5minutes apart. I was leaning over the lounge struggling to find any comfort. I knew it was time to call the midwife, my body was screaming at me, things felt so much more intense than my second birth. I remember thinking that I wasn’t sure I could get through it. I said to Chris we need to call Ange, I could tell he wasn’t sure as it had all happened so fast, especially after the last false alarm.
I struggled to keep on top of the pain which was so unusual for me, the rushes were so intense (in hindsight I should have jumped in the shower but I think I was in a bit of denial that the birth of my baby was coming close)- in my two past births I had not felt out of control but with this one each wave almost sent me over the edge. It was like I’d been woken so suddenly that the adrenaline had not had a chance to kick in.
I felt the urge to go to the toilet so I hobbled up the hallway and managed to get some relief in between contractions and Chris helped me back to the lounge.
That would be the last time I would be able to leave the room.
We checked during the next pause in contractions and I was roughly 3cm dilated, I just said call the midwife as my next contraction rolled in. Talking to Ange she asked how I was doing and asked ïs it time for me to hit the road?” and I just remember groaning “yes please” as another contraction rolled on in. By this point they were so painful my whole body was shaking and shortly after I lost the ability to walk or move anywhere and through each contraction I was pinned to the position I was in. I was in a world of pain and I struggled to keep myself from
feeling out of control and to regulate my breathing.
Chris kept passing me my bottle to make sure I was drinking water. I only managed a sip here and there but he could tell it was taking everything out of me
When every contraction hit Chris stood with me, he would press the hot water bottle on my lower back and I would squeeze his hand while swearing under my breath as the intensity and pain grew. I wasn’t loud as I was conscious of not waking the kids. I was also using a tens machine on my lower back and was finding it so helpful to help with the pain.
Chris started filling the birth pool (via a hose connected to the kitchen tap) he ran back in the room but the connection came loose and water was going everywhere so he had to rush back into the kitchen.
I could feel the adrenaline rushing through my veins and was doing my best to hold on through the chaos. Everything felt so different to my last birth, faster paced and like I was getting swept up in a whirlwind.
I’d randomly put together a playlist of songs the day before that brought me good memories and at some point I remember hearing a Missy Higgins song coming on that I hadn’t listened to in years and it somehow calmed me.
In between the next contractions Chris rushed to get a mattress for the floor as no position was helping me get comfortable during a contraction unless I was on my knees on the couch and my whole body draped over the back of the lounge. But I was getting to the point when I could not get my body up on the couch and still felt the need to move around between contractions and was finding myself getting stuck when I couldn’t get back on the lounge quick enough.
Chris by this point announced that the pool was ready and I began to make my way over to the pool. We disconnected the tens machine off my back and I tried to get in but it was way too hot. Chris ran to the kitchen to add more cold water.
Somewhere in between we heard Lacie cry. Chris rushed off to try and settle her and I found myself stuck kneeling on the floor feeling completely vulnerable to the full whack of pain. I’d taken off the tens machine so I could get in the water and I couldn’t reach my hot water bottle as Chris had put it down somewhere to rush off to settle lacie and I couldn’t get to it in time before the contraction hit.
She wasn’t settling so I yelled out “just bring her out” as I needed the support through another contraction.
He brought her out and helped get her sorted with her favourite show on the iPad, she was surprisingly quiet as she watched on. I think she could sense the seriousness and knew mama was in pain. She sat watching the iPad on the other lounge glancing over every so often asking “you alright mama?”
A few moments after Lacie was settled on the lounge, I attempted to get in the birth pool again and I found myself stuck standing while another roaring contraction rolled in, luckily this time Chris came and held me as I felt a huge rush of pressure push down. I knew the baby was close by this point. I remember I was standing in this awkward standing cross legged position trying to calm the shaking and pain but my brain just told me to relax. I looked at Chris and said this baby is close (we didn’t realise how close).
I remember around this point getting a huge flashback of being in hospital with asher. I remembered the bright lights, nothing to help with the pain and just feeling open and vulnerable. A hospital room is literally the last place you can feel comfortable to allow nature to do its thing. I remember feeling so glad that I was at home and in my safe space even though things felt wild in that moment.
Finally the pool temp felt perfect and Chris helped me in, the water washed over my body and I felt so much relief.
In my mind I was still only 3 cms but I had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to start pushing. I said to Chris “I feel like I need to push” but I was a bit scared as I couldn’t feel how far dilated I was and was worried I’d tear if I pushed too soon.
He asked if I wanted to call the midwife- I said no, but he said I’ll just call and find out where she is which I agreed to. I remember Ange answering the call and mentioning she was still 28km out and Chris responded with “oh shit”. By this point I was in my own world and I just wanted silence, the water had such a grounding effect on me. I’d finally found my comfortable safe space in the water and instincts took over. I knew the baby was coming, the pain became manageable and I could regulate my breathing. I knew everything was going to be ok and it became a dance between only my baby and I.
In one of my midwife check ups in the months leading up to the birth I remember Ange had told me that as the head is descending if I feel the head with my hand and helped to guide it out there is less chance of tearing. My hand did not leave that area the entire time and really allowed me to track where things were at with my birth.
The next contraction my body pushed involuntarily, I tried to just breathe but my body took over and pushed. I could feel my waters bulging as the head was coming down and I could feel that my waters had not yet broken. As the contraction finished the head retreated back and it was the worst feeling. With the next contraction the same thing happened and it was painful. I remember thinking to myself I am not letting that happen again. I knew this baby was minutes away from being born.
I said to Chris the head is coming and in the next contraction I beared down and the head came further down and as the contraction stopped the baby’s head was crowning and was part in and part out -but I felt 100% calm and had zero pain. I felt relieved that the head didn’t retreat back again. The only way I can describe this moment was a beautiful pause. Our baby between two worlds, I remember just after this Chris freaked a little asking “do you need to push?” But my instincts had fully taken over and I knew I did not need to push and to just wait for the next contraction. I knew our baby was coming with the next contraction.
As the next contraction rolled in, I pushed and the head was out and the body came seconds after. It took me a few moments to work out that my waters had broken in that final push and to work out what position the baby was in so I could bring it up on my chest. Ange was still on the phone and she asked Chris to check if the cord was around the neck.
What happened next Chris described as a spiritual experience, as we brought the baby out of the water and up to my chest, bub opened her eyes and looked directly at him as she took her first breath and cried her first cry. Chris immediately burst into tears. I was high on adrenaline- I just birthed my baby. I lifted her up and realised we had had another baby girl. What a high!
We stayed in the pool wrapping a warm wet towel over the both of us to keep warm and waited for the midwives to arrive.
Lacie came over to the pool to meet her little sister.
I had started to bleed and Chris was a bit worried. I took some of my no bleed tincture and also the placenta release tincture that I had purchased from Blissful herbs.
After about 25 min Ange and Claire arrived I felt calm and composed and was just on the biggest oxytocin high. Did that just happen??
Ange and Claire walked in and checked my bleeding. It was minimal. I sat for a while longer and felt the urge to push and I lost a large clot and started getting after birth pains. I felt a little worried but Ange assured me that I had lost less than a cup of blood and had minimal blood loss.
Ange guided me to stand up and she said I would be ready to birth my placenta. With one small push my placenta released.
I’d done it! Woah! Our baby was here. This was the first time I’d been given the chance to birth without intervention. No syntocinon. This was officially the first time I had been given the chance to go through pregnancy and birth completely without intervention. No body violating stretch and sweeps, no unnecessary checks, just a beautiful birth just as all women should be given the opportunity to have.
Overall it was such an incredible experience. We didn’t have to rush off anywhere or try to get in the car. Chris was such an amazing support through the entire birth and having Lacie there watching over the whole thing was so special. Plus it was so great that we were able to rug up together after the birth in the comfort of our own home. We had everything we needed, we ate wholesome homecooked food and could just rest comfortably. Asher slept through the whole thing but woke to walk out and meet his new baby sister in the morning.
I never planned a freebirth, but the gift of one brought me so many lessons.
It showed me that our bodies are capable of magnificent things when allowed the time to do it
It allowed me to trust my body again
It showed me that it is possible to have a completely physiological birth with zero intervention.
It showed me that it is possible to safely birth at home with zero intervention
It proved to me that so many of the interventions that are routine in hospital are completely unnecessary
I truly believe that we need to normalise homebirth. It should be something incorporated into our funding like it is in other countries like England. Women should not have to pay huge costs out of pocket to be able to birth with qualified midwives at home, I cannot even imagine what would have happened if I tried to travel to hospital once my labour started.
One thing I know for sure is that I would not have made it to the hospital and with the hospital being more than an hour away I would have ended up giving birth on the side of the road in the middle of the night. How often does this happen? Especially with subsequent labour’s. Imagine if we empowered more women to be set up to give birth at home.
The thing I’ve loved most about choosing to birth under the care of a midwife is the continuity of care and I’ve found that the midwives I chose to birth with for both my second birth(hospital with a midwife group program) and third birth (homebirth turned freebirth due to living rurally and not giving the midwives enough time to make the birth) they were incredibly respectful of my decisions and beliefs.
There was no push for unnecessary interventions and with my third birth it was entirely a physiological birth with zero intervention. I only had one cervical check and that was after I’d been in pre labour for 12 hours and I wanted to know how far along I was)
Birthing at home allowed me to take my power back, to feel 100% in control of my birthing process, I’d never felt more connected to my body. It reminded me of what I was capable of as a woman-we are made to give birth, it’s not something to be feared and I only hope that more women get to experience a true physiological birth (without intervention) in the years to come.
Sometimes there is a need for intervention but so many of the interventions are unnecessary and the stats show that interventions often lead to unwanted outcomes and a higher caesarean rate.
Also how amazing would it be if the modern obstetric model allowed the birthing mother (in a low risk pregnancy) enough time to birth without intervention. It is totally normal for a woman to go into labour at any time from 37weeks up until 42 weeks. The whole concept of a due date puts so much unnecessary pressure on a birthing woman. The baby chooses when it is ready to be born.
When you look into the comparative stats – home birth is so much less invasive and the rates of a healthy physiological birth are so much higher. Check out some of the stats HERE.
I hope you have enjoyed reading our birth story and I hope you have found it helpful.
Please share with anyone who you think this could help and if you would like to know what I did to prepare for my homebirth check out THIS blogpost for some helpful tips.