This birth story is by birthing Mama, Emily Parks and shared via The Balanced Mama Project.
I know the majority of babies don’t come on their due date so I always said Olly would be born on Sunday June 11 – the day after his due date. This was never something I felt intuitively; I just thought I could handle waiting one extra night for our baby to arrive! June 10 came and went, then June 11 and suddenly we were one week, then nearly two weeks overdue.
I had a pretty carefree attitude throughout my pregnancy but that all changed once we were 40 weeks and counting. Every morning I woke up felt like groundhog day – still pregnant, still no baby. I was suddenly so bored at home and becoming more emotional and anxious with every passing day. What made the situation worse was that my midwife was planning a 7 week trip around Europe and would be flying out of the country on the 22nd. I always knew I’d have another midwife for our postnatal care but I hadn’t prepared myself to go through labour with anyone other than my midwife (who I had built a relationship with over the past 9 months). I became fixated on this ‘final’ deadline and started to feel like my body was failing me as we started discussing the possibility of an induction.
I tried every natural method possible to encourage our baby to begin his journey earthside. My midwife attempted a stretch and sweep four times before she left for her holiday (seriously unpleasant!), as well as giving me a concoction of homeopathic remedies to drink, clary sage to rub on my stomach, and encouraged plenty of sex and vigorous walking daily – I seriously tried it all – and more.
On Wednesday 21 June I cried as I agreed to an induction for that coming Saturday and we were told to arrive at the hospital on Saturday 24 June at 7 pm. Writing these details out now makes me realise I was being a bit dramatic about the whole thing but I had my heart set on a fuss-free home birth. And while I always said I’d do whatever was best for the baby, I never thought I’d actually have to follow through with that and accept some level of intervention. I’d given up hope that labour would start spontaneously but went ahead and booked in for my second and final round of acupuncture on the Friday afternoon. If anything, I figured it would give me something to do.
Early on Saturday morning I woke up feeling uncomfortable and figured I was having some strong Braxton Hicks. I went downstairs to lie on the couch but soon became uncomfortable in a lying position. I decided to time the ‘Braxtons’ at 6.50am and realised they were coming every 10 min. My partner came downstairs at 8am and I told him I’d been timing the contractions and they were coming pretty regularly. We both didn’t think anything was actually happening as we had the induction booked for that evening. I booked a midday appointment to get my eyebrows done and my partner left for the office to tidy up a few loose ends. I called the backup midwife to let her know our situation and told her I was having contractions every 10 mins but I remember hanging up and thinking I was definitely having 2-3 within 10 mins. As long as I was standing or moving around, the contractions were manageable. It was only when I sat down that I struggled with them. Something about being seated made me feel like I was trapped by the pain.
Just as I was about to head to my appointment, my partner came home and said that he realised it probably wasn’t a good idea for me to be driving while having contractions – at this point I still didn’t think I was actually in labour but appreciated his thoughtfulness! We went to Plant Barn and bought some indoor plants while timing contractions. The app was telling us to go to the hospital but I still wasn’t convinced. All I kept thinking was “surely it should be worse than this?”
All I kept thinking was “surely it should be worse than this?”
At 11.30 am my partner called to cancel my appointment as we were walking around Takapuna. I suddenly wasn’t able to keep walking through the contractions and we decided it was best to head home. In the car ride I felt like everything suddenly amped up and by the time we got home I was pretty sure this was the real thing.
Sometime between 2-3 pm we called the midwife to let her know my progress and asked about filling the pool. I remember being so anxious about getting in too early and slowing everything down but feeling like I really needed to get in the water. My partner rushed around filling the pool and laying plastic across our carpet while I went through the motions. The contractions came in surges and were so powerful. I didn’t have any of the ‘period-like’ pain they talk about rather, it was all in my back. I didn’t want to get too caught up in what I was feeling but did worry that the baby wasn’t in the right position because I’d read that posterior babies cause painful back labour. It took a while to get the pool set up and I got frustrated at my partner a few times for it taking so long. It might have been a good idea to practice this but we’d both got to a point where we thought we wouldn’t end up using it.
It’s all a bit of a blur now but throughout the afternoon, before getting in the pool around 5 pm, labour was intense. The contractions would build up and I felt like I was being gripped around my hips – it was a pain I felt deep in my bones. A few times I desperately called out to my partner to push on my lower back and kept saying “push harder” even after my legs were shaking and I was struggling to stay standing against him pushing. But honestly, I never thought that I couldn’t do it and I truly believe you need to go into labour without any preconceived ideas about how painful it will be. I understand not everyone is able, or wants, to have a home birth but there’s something to be said for creating an environment you’re comfortable to labour in.
While I was pregnant I read an article that explains how only a small percentage of labour is actually painful; the majority of labour is not painful at all yet the pain is all we talk about. This was such a revelation to me and I kept this in mind throughout the afternoon. Instead of dwelling on the pain and becoming fearful of the next contraction, I tried to focus on the rest I was experiencing between contractions – in those moments there is no pain!
Around 5 pm I got in the pool and had about three very strong contractions which seemed slightly further apart than before. I was worried I’d got in the pool too soon but then almost immediately started experiencing contractions that had me involuntarily bearing down and desperately breathing through them. From my midwives notes, apparently we didn’t call her until 7 pm to ask her to come to the house. I had no sense of time throughout my labour and never checked my phone or looked at the clock so it makes sense that we took our time calling the midwife. I also think we both naively thought the baby wasn’t really coming so soon – he was two weeks late after all, surely he’d be a long time coming?!
At 8 pm the midwife arrived and within 20 mins she’d called the backup midwife to ask her to come to the house. When I heard her say this on the phone I thought “maybe it’s nearly over?” because I knew the second midwife only comes for the actual birth, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up and went back to preparing myself for hours of labour.
I was made to get out of the pool at 9 pm to attempt to pass urine (which didn’t happen on its own) and ended up labouring on the toilet for an hour. I could hear my partner and the second midwife chatting and both rushing around trying to keep the pool at the right temperature. However, once I got out of the pool I had no desire to get back in so their efforts were wasted. Just before 10 pm my midwife performed my first vaginal exam and was able to break the waters and push an anterior lip away. Apparently, this was what was preventing the labour to progress. At 10 pm I was in the lounge on my hands and knees and stayed this way until just before Olly was born, when I got into a squatting position to birth him. I didn’t actively decide to change positions but just remember suddenly feeling like I needed to get off my knees and onto my toes into a squat. It’s amazing how natural the labour and birth process is; no matter how much you know or don’t know about the whole thing, your body will do what it needs to do.*
I feel incredibly lucky to have ended up with the birth I hoped for. I can’t believe how smoothly and ‘enjoyable’ the experience was. After giving birth, I was on a high for the first couple of days…until the dreaded night #2 hit and sleep deprivation killed my buzz! I felt so empowered at what I’d achieved and so amazed at this little person who emerged unscathed and thriving.
* I was half a day away from needing an induction so I know that many births do not go to plan and sometimes our body’s do not do what they need to do. We are incredibly fortunate to live in a world with access to modern medicine and I appreciate the many ways in which we are able to give birth.