Birth Story: Rachael’s homebirth in Wollongong

Healing Homebirth after Induced Hospital Birth
I was 42 weeks and 3 days pregnant and I had scheduled a catch up with a close friend, as a much needed dose of distraction and connection. The “where’s the bloody baby itch” was growing stronger with every hour that passed. I felt like I was losing my resolve and confidence and I had to draw on every ounce of trust and surrender that I had.
 
It was 8:30am and I texted my friend to cancel, feeling too vulnerable and open to venture far from home. It was my partners last day at work before his parental leave and I kissed him goodbye, went to the toilet and found my mucous plug on the paper. I was so happy I cried and did a dance, while my 3 year old kept asking what was going on from the breakfast table. I texted my friend to tell her and she sent me love and support.
 
With my first birth, my labour began in hospital with an induction at 42+2 for a post dates pregnancy. I had lots of pressure from the hospital system and the last days of my pregnancy were deeply distressing. I had a real mixed bag of care, an angel midwife for half of my labour, but was subject to disrespectful and abusive treatment by others. My birth had the common cascade of intervention. Induction – epidural – augmentation – postpartum haemorrhage. I worked extensively for the 3 years following to understand what happened on a deeper spiritual and emotional level, and to heal from this traumatic initiation into motherhood.
I became a doula, immersed myself in the world of birth and studied how physiological birth works, had psychotherapy, attended women’s circles, started embodiment practices like dancing and drumming and being in nature more.
I was determined to do things differently this time and to find a birth team that trusted my body and baby, and who I felt safe to speak my truth with, and come undone in front of. I was explicit in what I wanted and needed in the birth and allowed myself to truly be the centre of the experience, as I deserved.
 
I also called on the strength of my community of women friends and did my best during a covid pregnancy to have connection with likeminded women both online and in person. During lockdown I hosted a 12 week online pregnancy circle with women who all desired physiological births, which was powerful and positive, as well as received a mother blessing ceremony in person at 39 weeks. Facilitated by my doula, 10 women celebrated me and set me up to feel so supported.
The pregnancy was an honouring of the rite of passage of birth and despite the craziness of the world, I was able to have pockets of calm and beautiful connection. During crisis points of my labour, I recalled the unwavering belief in me from my wider community, many who had given birth without pain relief. Their trust that I could do it, helped so much.
 
In between pregnancies I had read Rachel Reed and Sara Wickham’s books on induction and felt confident and informed that the choice to wait for my baby to initiate labour, was the right one for us. All of the decision making was done even before I became pregnant. By 38 weeks, I had already signed a record of understanding with my midwife about the risks of post dates pregnancy. I knew this was a legal requirement. I did my best to shrug it off. I wouldn’t consider getting ultrasounds or monitoring until 43 weeks if it came to that. I’d chosen not to have any scans in my pregnancy for a number of reasons which suited my individual circumstances.
 
It was still psychologically challenging though, and one of the fears that kept arising was that I wouldn’t be able to go into labour spontaneously, and that I’d have another postpartum haemorrhage. My first birth made me feel like my body didn’t work.
 
The first sign of the birth process beginning was such sweet relief. I spent the rest of the morning losing more plug and going to the toilet. I let my birth team know and they sent me words of encouragement.
 
My partner came home at 2pm and he and my daughter made a birthday cake for the baby. I wasn’t having contractions but I sensed they would start soon.
 
After a drawn out bedtime and my daughter having the biggest meltdown of her little life, sensing the energy was changing in our family, I felt the first surge as she was crying in my arms. My baby was letting me know they were coming and it was a symbolic moment of preparing to become a mother of two, with my heart and attention forever split in half.
 
We all went to bed around 9pm, my daughter in between us. The contractions came on regularly from the beginning. I got a heat pack, texted my team and said I was going to try and sleep. I managed to do the first few laying down, breathing and flexing my feet but soon enough they required my attention and movement. I left my sleeping family and went into the living room, in the dark.
 
For the next few hours I laboured alone, swaying my hips and making circles. Feeling ecstatic and grateful that I was in spontaneous labour. I didn’t time contractions and I turned the clocks around. I took off my glasses so the world was hazy and I could ground myself. I stroked my belly and spoke to my baby. I went out on the deck and looked at the moon. It felt sacred and special to be entering the birth portal, just my baby and I.
 
I put on my birth playlist and leaned over a bolster on the floor, releasing the tension in my hips. I had little rests in between surges. They were gentle enough to begin with but I wasn’t getting huge breaks in between. My doula brain was trying its best not to guess where my labour was up to, or to think about what I was doing, although to be honest, I didn’t achieve that goal.
 
I had attended three home births during my pregnancy including at 37 weeks pregnant. All three of them had been relatively quick second births that revved up in intensity fast, and I thought that I might have a similar experience. I started to think about when I should call the birth team as they would be sleeping. I also wondered when we should get my dog to my brother in laws house. He’s very protective of me, anxious and barks loudly when anyone arrives. With a doula, two midwives, and a birth photographer to come, I had decided in pregnancy that I didn’t want him yapping during my birth. We were also finishing a major construction project in the backyard (such a cliche) and my mind wondered whether the builders would be arriving in the morning and if my partner would remember to cancel them.
 
For a woman to labour most effectively, she should be undisturbed, in a dark and quiet place and feel safe. I had all of these elements, but unfortunately my logical thinking brain couldn’t switch off. If we give birth how we live, this isn’t surprising for me. My mind never stops.
 
I was recently in a workshop with former homebirth midwife Jane Hardwicke Collings. She said “it’s impossible to think your way through labour and birth.” Hmmm, No actually, you can”, she corrected. “But it will be a lot longer and heaps more painful.”
 
Oh yes, that rings true.
 
Around 1am I woke my partner up to take the dog around the corner.
 
He supported me when he came back and gave me some water and snacks. We’d spoken a lot about his role in this birth. He was very hands on in my hospital birth, lots of touching and protecting my space which I wanted and needed. This time I sensed I would just want energetic support, so we agreed he wouldn’t try and do or fix, he would try and “be”. He meditated nearby a lot during my labour.
 
At this stage he asked if he should fill up the birth pool and I freaked out, thinking “oh no, he doesn’t know what’s happening. It’s too early for the pool”. I was still running logistics in my brain and wanted to shut that side off, so when he asked if we should call our doula to come, I said yes, even though I knew my surges weren’t quite strong enough yet. I wanted to hand the full decision making control over to someone else.
 
My doula arrived at 3am and in the 15 minutes of her getting here, my labour stalled and then stopped completely. This isn’t uncommon in labour. Even though I trusted her explicitly, my mammal body still registered a new person in my space. It pressed the pause button.
 
I cried and felt awful, and yet it was a great opportunity for me to receive unconditional loving care, something that is hard for me to do. My doula was gentle and reassuring and after tucking me into a pillow fort in the corner, she went and had a sleep in our spare bed.
 
The contractions gently started again while I was alone and I did my best to prepare physically for the next part. I was exhausted, having not had any sleep.
 
7am rolled around and it was suggested I watch a comedic show and take my mind off everything. Try and forget I just laboured all night. My doula reminded me that my body and baby were working in unison, and it wasn’t taking too long. There was no timeline, I was free to take the time it took to birth my baby.
 
My daughter was taken to preschool after she woke up, I thought she’d be too distracting and I was emotionally wrecked. I had a few contractions while she stole my honey toast for her breakfast and my partner told her “mummy is just practicing labour” because we knew she’d want to stay if she thought it was the real deal. She laughed at me and told me to stop moaning so loudly, she was trying to watch Schitts Creek (the show i had put on).
 
My doula went home after kissing my forehead and telling me I was amazing. My labour progressed steadily once I was on my own again. My baby trusted that I could do this.
 
I had been hopping in and out of the birth pool overnight and then in the day following, trying to find some relief. The water felt good and I felt safe in there, although it was winter and the temperature never felt quite right. Icy on the outside, too hot on the inside. Getting out I would be naked underneath a jumper, with the air con on. I’d get goosebumps or be sweaty.
 
I used the shower multiple times too, and laboured on the toilet, doing poos every few hours. It was always really intense and painful on the toilet, although now looking back I know this was where my baby was finding the best position for descending, it felt too strong for me so I would retreat after a few contractions, back to the cocoon of the water where everything was much gentler.
 
I was labouring upright and hanging over our staircase rail, cabinet and lounge, pacing around trying to find comfort when my doula came back around midday. Things were definitely moving again, but despite the intensity – I still felt very cerebral and alert in my surroundings. Again, this makes sense for me and my history. I grew up needing to very aware of what was going on around me. I carry that through life, always.
 
In my birth plan I had asked to be left alone as much as possible during my labour. I didn’t want any cervical checks, no fetal monitoring and no talking to me unless I requested it. I wanted to reclaim my power and autonomy in this birth. I didn’t want to be touched.
 
I had also requested not to be rescued from my feelings. I knew birth could be the opportunity to let go of a lot of emotions.
 
It was very challenging at times, I did a lot of sobbing heavy tears while my support team were in the living room nearby, holding space but not physically comforting me. My doula thought my baby was giving me a slow and steady labour so that it could all come out.
 
I cried rivers, wailing in the birth pool, releasing awful memories. I told my partner that I didn’t want him to call the birth photographer. I felt so vulnerable and child-like and couldn’t imagine being observed with a camera. I was also worried my labour would stop again. Thankfully, he knew I’d regret not having her there at all, so he did invite her to come but she sat elsewhere in the house without me knowing, for at least an hour. I’m so grateful I have the photos, which she took just before I entered transition.
 
The pain was unbearable at times and I was physically tired and also mentally drained. I thought it was taking too long (the catch 22 is that all this thinking was not helping!)
 
I used vocalisations, moaning, groaning, ahhhhhhing. If my voice would go high it meant I was resisting the contraction and the pain. I wanted to avoid it and yet that caused it to triple and spike all the way up and down my body and I’d cry out like an animal being kicked.
 
My midwife arrived quietly and came and sat near me. I complained and said it was too hard and taking too long. It was around 2:30pm at this point. She said it was all unfolding perfectly. I asked if there was anything I should be doing, she said no, I was doing it. I asked for a fetal heart rate check, in all the pain and challenge I was finding it harder to connect with my baby. The sound reassured me and gave me another burst of energy. Oh yeah, I remembered. That’s why I am doing this. There’s a baby in there. I’m not actually dying.
 
I used single pointed focus and travelled into the pain of the contractions which were now all centred in my bum. For an hour or so I was silently breathing. Travelling into my butthole, visualising a dark cave, staying there and then retreating for a rest. My daughter had been collected from preschool as i wanted her back. She sat by the pool quietly for half an hour, holding my hand and telling me I was doing a good job. She ran to get a mirror and told me to look for the baby in my vagina. When I said it wasn’t time for that she got bored and played with our second midwife. I could hear her telling stories and it was the sweetest backdrop of noises. Her presence gave me a renewed strength to go on. I wanted to do it for her.
 
Because I had stopped making noises after crying so loudly and moaning and groaning, my partner assumed my labour had stalled again. In fact, I was feeling the natural urge to push during contractions, using counter pressure to get relief from the pain in my bum. I put my fingers inside myself and thought I could feel a head. I sensed I was fully open. But my mind couldn’t compute this, because I was still very much worrying it was taking too long, thinking about how tired I was and how much I wanted to go to the hospital, which ironically, I could see through the window from my position in the birth pool.
 
I moved from the pool to the bathroom to try the toilet again, as that intensity was what I needed to get this baby out of me. I was done, I needed it over.
 
It was terrifying though, knowing I would be facing so much pain by going back there. I really didn’t want to do it. I spoke very seriously about the hospital but then started crying upon realising what would probably happen if I went there.
My doula acknowledged my fear of the toilet and validated it would be the most painful thing I’d ever done but that it was how I was going to meet my baby. I knew I had to die to be reborn but ah, couldn’t I get the peaceful and pleasurable birth I was working towards?
 
I started to beg my birth team for options. What could I have for pain relief? Sterile water injections? Could I go get a caesarean? Someone surely had to make it stop. I was saying I hadn’t signed up for this, I knew birth could be painful but this was fucked, women are liars, there’s no way you can have an orgasmic birth (something I had hoped for haha). Obviously looking back this was transition but at the time it felt like it was hours and hours away, so I had no idea what was happening and it took my partner by surprise too. He was so trusting of me and my relationship with my baby and body he actually thought we might need to transfer to hospital. He kept this to himself but I was very convincing. Thankfully my birth team held strong and were willing and able to see me break down and witness me be obliterated by birth, without needing to fix me or take my pain away. They knew it was all normal, there was no where else to be but there with me, in the intensity.
 
I had several really strong contractions on the toilet, screaming through them, and then my body started to involuntarily push. I was grunting and with an agonising stretch which I thought meant it was over, I felt my baby’s head. Oh shit, I thought, there’s still a body? How could I possibly split any further. Surely I would rip apart?
 
I couldn’t believe it was finally happening. I closed my eyes, I held onto the bathroom cabinet. I was shaking. I roared and roared and felt it all. My baby twisting and turning, completing their rotation. Gurgling with their head out of my vagina. My waters releasing during one more contraction. My baby’s slippery body propelling out, fast and furious into the hands of my partner after such a gentle build up. 10 minutes of pushing. It was done.
My daughter was watching the whole time. Seeing her lioness mother roar her brother into this world. Seeing the strength and power and awe of birth, happening in her tiny bathroom on an average Friday afternoon.
 
My baby was finally here. We discovered he was a boy and melted into each other. His cord was wrapped around his neck and I was too shellshocked from the birth to manage it myself, so I asked my midwife to help. She stepped in quietly and calmly, unwrapped the cord and then retreated back out of the bathroom, honouring our space.
My daughter ran off to get a crystal and a toy pig to show him. You know, all the important things!
 
I was shocked. Elated. Ecstatic. High. Full of adrenaline and oxytocin.
 
I fucking did it.
 
21 hours from first contraction to birthing my baby.
 
At home.
 
Surrounded by nothing but love and support and trust.
 
I wanted to use birth as a vehicle to feel it all. I got what I wished for.
My placenta birthed ease fully while I was breastfeeding in bed, 45 minutes later. Our golden hour was protected and cosy, despite feeling shellshocked and working through afterbirth pains.
 
There was barely a drop of blood lost.
 
We burned my sons cord in a closing ritual, thanking the placenta that kept him safe for 42+4 weeks.
 
He was a healthy 4.2kg.
My family and the birth team and I ate birthday cake, laughed and cried together for a few hours and then we were tucked into bed where I didn’t sleep all night.
Still shocked and in awe.
 
He breastfed beautifully from the first feed and 4 months later I am still landing in my body from this transformative, redemptive and healing birth which showed me I am more powerful than my thoughts.
 
And you know what’s mind-blowing to me?
 
I want to do it again!
Doula – Trudy Legaudi
Midwife – Louise David
Second Midwife Anne Carstairs
Pregnancy photographer – Dida Sundet
Birth photographer – Serina Crinis

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