· By Tiny Hearts Education
My birth journey started with the plan to go to the birthing centre. I knew that I didn't want an epidural or unnecessary interventions. It seemed like a happy middle ground where I could still be close to help if required but would be left to my own birth. I did a hypnobirthing Australia course while pregnant and felt like I had found the right path for me using such positive and affirming language. I previously had done some extreme things like an Ironman race and hiked a mountain in -20oC weather in shorts, so I was excited for the challenge of birth and being able to push my body. I knew I wanted to breastfeed so I signed up to do the birth centre breastfeeding class (and another privately run one) but they accidentally got the dates wrong! It was a class about all the reasons you could be transferred from the birth centre to the hospital. In the class, the midwives said transition felt like you were being ripped in half, and it seemed like it was all focused on how bad birth could be. I left the class and cried in my car. I knew I didn't want to birth at the centre anymore, but I didn't really have any options as I was over 30 weeks, and the birth was going to happen whether I liked it or not. I pushed down the feelings and decided I had to trust the midwife I was assigned to. She knew I wanted a physiological birth, and I would make it happen. My cousin was also going to be my birth partner, and she had had 2 home births, so I was sure she could advocate for me.
Then at about 34 weeks, my midwife went on extended sick leave with a back injury. I met a new midwife at that appointment, and then when I went back again, I was assigned to yet another person. I was 36 weeks by then, and the new midwife happened to be one of the demonstrators acting out the being-torn-in-half scene from the birth class. This was when I knew I had to see if there was even a possibility I could change my birth plan at 37 weeks pregnant. My next appointment wasn't even made for 2 more weeks, so I wasn't sure if I would even get to discuss the birth with her before I showed up in labour. Luckily, my cousin knew people in the private midwife circle. I happened to have some incredible luck. One of the midwives was having March off to go on holiday and would be back in a week. She also had a teaching cancellation, so she could take me on as a client as she was actually looking for something to do.
I met the backup midwife as my primary midwife was still on holidays. Then met her when I was about 38 weeks. I cautiously signed on, not returning my birth centre paperwork for a week as I was still apprehensive about giving birth at home but knew I had to commit to it 100%. I gathered all the supplies quickly and happened to own an inflatable bath, which I used for ice baths when helping my friend run breathing and cold exposure courses, so the birth pool was sorted. At about 7:30am, when I was 39 weeks and a few days, I felt my first contraction. I figured it was just the start of going into labour and that it would be a long time, so I got out my tens machine, iPad with Netflix ready and figured I would fill out my postal vote. I put a number 1 on my postal vote, and then the contractions were full on, and I couldn't continue. My tens machine was next to me, it never made it around my stomach, and I was on all fours, slightly startled by the intensity.
I fumbled around to download a contraction timing app and messaged my cousin, who was my support person and my midwife. 30 minutes later, I was in tears and called my cousin to come and help me, and she was there 10 mins later. I didn't really move from my hands and knees, my waters were still intact, and it didn't feel like I got a break between contractions, although I've been told those less intense periods were the 'breaks'. I'm not sure of the order of everything happening, but the birth pool was set up, my midwife came and her back up at some stage, who then left and came later. I listened to music, laboured facing backwards on the toilet with my head on a pillow and then the birth pool. Every time I had to pee, I would insist on going back to sit on the toilet as I just couldn't do it in the water.
I found the pool way too warm, so they set the aircon to 18 degrees, and everyone else had to wear jumpers to stay warm. I loved sitting on the toilet, but my contractions would slow, and I would have to move to get it going again. Around 11am, they thought I might give birth after throwing up a bit, but there was still a while to go. My midwife got her sound bowl, and I moaned to it with each contraction. They put on my hypno tracks, but it was the last thing I wanted to hear, so it was back to music and the sound bowl. I moaned super loud in my head, but when I watched some back, it was very low and controlled.
At about 5pm, I started getting ready to push. I felt shudders through my body and tried to just go with the flow, my waters broke around this time, and the shudders started to turn into proper pushing. I am tight on one side of my pelvis (from doing handstands and kicking up with the same leg), and my baby got a bit stuck in there. I had to push so hard to get him out. I remember feeling him go down and up so many times. It was frustrating, but I knew I had it in me. We tried a few different positions, and he finally got over the bump, and I was ready for crowning. My midwife guided me through it, doing tiny, tiny pushes with short sharp breaths when all I wanted to do was one big push, but it worked, no tearing and bubs head was out. She took a heart rate reading of the baby, and I flipped over to get his body out. After another few contractions, his body was out. As I brought him out of the water, he was floppier than he was meant to be, which I didn't know at the time. The midwives were onto it within seconds. He scored a 3 on the APGAR scale, and they started CPR immediately. An ambulance was called immediately too. He was still attached to me, and I held his hand. I hadn't found out the sex and was sure I was having a girl, so I said multiple times, "he has a penis," while my midwife was thinking yeah, I know that while also giving CPR and oxygen (she also didn't know but had guessed boy.)
My baby started rousing fairly quickly, and by the time the ambulance arrived, he was happily crying. 3 ambulances were sent, and they were there in under 5 mins - one for me, one for the baby and one for the support person. Two left as soon as they saw we were fine, and the last one hung around for us. I got out of the bath with the placenta still attached and agreed to go to the hospital to get bub checked as they saw his head was quite swollen from where I was pushing. I wanted to pee but had to get the placenta out, and with all the drama, no one could find sterile scissors to cut it. I handed my baby to my cousin and said, "hold my baby", flipped onto my hands and knees, then pushed it out. Then got up and went to the toilet quickly to grab a few things for my hospital bag.
We went to the hospital with my midwife in the ambulance (the ambos were amazing!), and my cousin followed behind in the car. My cousin went with bub to get checked while my midwife checked me. I was all good, just a little tired and shocked to have a baby. He had a bump on his head from where I had been pushing, and they wanted to monitor him in case it was a subgaleal hematoma. I held him as much as I could, and my midwife told me he was my baby and to pick him up when I wanted. It was great advice as they kept wanting to stick a gloved finger in his mouth instead of my own finger or my nipple. They didn't have the things they needed in the emergency section to do the tests, and people had to keep looking for things. My midwife had to find pads for me, and I had to tie a blanket around my tummy as there was nothing to hold it. It was great for emergencies but really unorganised for the doctors and nurses just to be able to do their jobs.
There was no bed for me to be checked into, so he went to the nursery and I sat next to him in a chair. My cousin and I had to say we were dating for her to be allowed in the room to support me. I sent her home as it was getting late and sat holding my bub. I was told I wasn't allowed to sleep while sitting there, and they tried to find somewhere I could nap. There was no food available, and I had to get some brought to me at 10pm as I hadn't eaten all day and had thrown up a lot. I had snacks on me but not anything more substantial packed. They wanted to give my bub formula or sugar water which I declined. I put him on and off the nipple while cuddling and I hand expressed in the middle of the nursery with cleaners passing by (who were lovely while I had my boobs out trying to get colostrum into a tiny syringe). I left some colostrum and got to a bed at about 1am and told the nurse I would be back at 4am to feed. She said they would wait or use the colostrum if they needed to and call me if there were any problems. I finally had a shower and lay down exhausted for an hour. At 4am, we gave him the colostrum and more practice on the nipple while I made more colostrum to have ready, I went back to the room, and they had organised breakfast for me. I got my stuff and went back to see him to do as much skin-to-skin as I could. His head was fine and had gone back down, the first doctor wanted an ultrasound, but the one that came in said he looked fine and just needed to pass the heal prick glucose test, then we could go home. He had the rest of the expressed colostrum and passed the test. Then we finally got to go home and relax.
2 days later, I got a call saying the first blood test showed up with bacteria, and I had to go back in. They said I would have to stay 72 hours while I waited for results, and my bub could be septic and die any minute or… it could just be contaminated. I said I would go back in and do the blood test but wasn't going to stay as he was fine. I also had my private midwife visiting me daily, and she was happy to come more or stay the night with me if required. The same kerfuffle with the needles happened, and no one knew what part of the hospital we should be in. We went to emergency, but the supplies were in a different part of the hospital. It took around 2 hours to do a simple blood test, and I'm surprised this lot didn't get contaminated, considering how it was done. They also agreed that he looked fine and didn't need to stay. I didn't hear back from them and had to call back 4 days later to check the results were fine. I didn't receive any discharge paperwork for my midwife, and I had no record of them giving my child a vitamin K shot, although he did get one. The paperwork was sent to my GP a month later, and I had to get a copy to give to my midwife. I was so glad I birthed at home and barely had to stay there. It is amazing for emergencies, and I met some lovely nurses, but it was a real mess with no spots to put people.
I had 6 weeks of postpartum care with my midwife, where we debriefed the birth, and I was so supported through everything. It was the most amazing postpartum experience and worth everything I spent on my amazing midwife to turn what could have been super traumatic into a beautiful experience. I'm so grateful that she was there to guide me and hold my hand, and the backup midwife who had my whole house clean when I got back from the hospital. Every time my midwife saw me and my baby, she would say, 'he's perfect, just perfect.' If I worried about anything (like he was in the 5th percentile and still is years later), she would just say, 'he's happy and amazing and perfect. You are doing amazing'. She gave me the confidence to head out of the house, and we started mini adventures like going to the beach at 3 days postpartum, and the adventures have never stopped.
Photography by: Cat Timms Photography
Birth & newborn course
The Bump, Birth & Beyond course will educate you and your co-pilot (support person) on what to expect during pregnancy, birth and the first trimester with your new little love.