My positive birth story begins two weeks past our due date.
After visiting the hospital that day to have monitoring, given we were now into the 42nd week of pregnancy with no sign of our munchkin gracing us with his presence, we returned home to continue to wait it out.
I was determined not to induce as I didn’t want to interfere with the the natural production of hormones that would help me in birthing my baby.
Thankfully we’d decided on a home birth and our private midwives supported us in waiting until bubba was ready to enter the world (as opposed to inducing the labour, which has become the norm in hospital).
I knew I wanted a home birth well before I even considered conceiving.
I’d done a lot of research – even completing a 10 day pregnancy and birth retreat – and simply didn’t want to feel the time and intervention pressures often placed on women who birth in hospital settings.
I also don’t like hospitals!
My home is my sacred space – that’s where I feel most safe – so that’s where I wanted to birth.
And if you look at the statistics, it’s actually the best place to birth for low risk women wanting a natural vaginal birth.
Hence, our decision.
Later that evening, having just returned home from a yummy walk in the Dandenong Ranges we sent off the agreement to our midwife team, stating that we understood the risks of going past 42 weeks.
No sooner than my husband pressed send, I felt a sensation in my lower abdomen that felt like I needed to poo out of my stomach.
Charming I know!
The sensation lasted maybe 40-seconds (I wasn’t timing it) and then it disappeared.
‘I think I might have just had a wave!’ I said to my husband excitedly.
We’d decided to use the word ‘wave’ as opposed to ‘contraction’ during our birthing to help keep the language more positive throughout labour.
I decided to go brush my teeth and get ready for bed so I was well rested when things began to ramp up.
Our birthing team had encouraged us to get as much sleep as possible once we knew baby was on his way, given that first births can be quite the marathon event!
As I was brushing my teeth I felt another one of those sensations, then a few minutes later another one.
I thought it rather strange to be feeling the contractions so close together so early, given that most women start out with them much further apart.
But they weren’t painful at all, so I just assumed that it was all part of pre-labour.
Within 15 or so minutes I’d had 6 contractions in total, so I sent my birthing team – our midwives and our doula – a text message saying things had started, so we’d head to bed and be in touch in the morning.
No sooner had I pressed send, contraction 7 happened.
The next one even more so.
My husband and I, surprised by how quickly the contractions were growing in intensity, began to time them.
They were lasting about 90-seconds, with less than a minute between them.
Confusion set in BIG time!
What was going on?
Should I call the midwives and get them to come now?
I didn’t want to waste their time in getting them to come prematurely, if this was just going to fade off, before ramping up again later the next day.
Within half an hour of everything starting I was howling through each contraction.
We decided to call our main midwife.
As soon a she heard me go through a contraction over the phone, she said: ‘I’m coming now’.
As the intensity grew at a rapid rate, fear set in.
If the contractions were this painful in pre-labour, how the hell was I going to survive active labour?
Our midwife arrived around one hour after the initial contraction.
We’d originally agreed there would be no vaginal examinations unless absolutely necessary, but I needed to know what was going on, so when she asked if I was open to doing one, I said ‘Yes!!!!’
I needed some clarity on what the heck was going on!
She managed to find just enough time between contractions to check my cervix.
As she withdraw her hand, with a surprised look on her face, she said: ’You’re 8 centimetres dilated!’
I was shocked to hear that I was almost fully dilated just one hour in, but at the same time relieved to know that this was active labour.
That’s why it hurt so much!
What had happened to my pre-labour?
Wasn’t I meant to get a warm-up, not get thrown in head first!!!
The next hour or so was spent with me on all fours leaning over my yoga bolster doing my best to survive each powerful contraction, as my husband did his best to comfort me through, while at the same time running about with our doula (who by now had arrived) trying to get the birth pool filled.
(Let’s just say we don’t have the best hot water system, so thank goodness for our borrowed urn, our kettle and water heating abilities of the stove!)
There was no time to read the birth affirmations I’d plastered all over the walls, I just kept reminding myself as each tumultuous wave set in, that I was about to meet my baby.
That became my mantra.
‘I’m about to meet my baby’.
It offered a hint of relief as I kept breathing long and deep, letting out huge sound on the exhale; relaxing my jaw and mouth as I knew it would invite my cervix and vagina to soften and open.
They were my tools.
In my earlier research, I’d also learnt how it was the time between the contractions that you can encourage the body to produce pleasure hormones that help ease the pain.
But with no respite between contractions, those pleasure hormones weren’t getting a chance to kick in.
There was no time to do all the things we’d practised.
It was just hang on for dear life and ride the wave lady!
Then the next, then the next…
It was all happening so fast, and completely different from what we had prepared for.
My husband and I had even created a cheat-sheet of all the things that we could do between contractions to help bring on those pleasure hormones; watch our wedding video, do specific yoga poses, receive massages from my team, use the rebozo, eat all the yummy organic dried fruit and snackies we had been told to buy to help keep my energy up so I had the endurance to go the distance.
But there was no time for any of it.
No time to even light our birth candle!
Shaking, I began to to bear down.
It wasn’t a conscious choice, my body led the way.
This shocked me, as it all seemed too quick.
All I could do was trust that my body knew exactly what it was doing, and was doing it at the perfect time.
I finally reached the point where I wasn’t sure I could go on anymore (well when you’ve gone from zero to 100 in record time, that’s bound to happen, right?).
It was then that I heard the midwives say the pool was ready for me to get in.
Leading up to the birth, I wasn’t set on having a water birth.
It was more a case of ‘If I feel like it on the day, I’ll get in’.
I wasn’t going to try and guess how I might feel on my birth day.
But right now, it just seemed like the obvious thing to do, so amidst the intensity, I hiked a leg up and immersed my body into the water.
The warmth and buoyancy was profoundly calming.
And while I’d been told by numerous birth workers that water offered major pain relief – your ‘natural epidural’ they called it – I was amazed at the difference I felt, now I was in the water.
Yes, the contractions were still super intense, but the water brought down the intensity significantly, so that I could handle it as it continued to build.
Upon reflection, I don’t know how women give birth on dry land – seriously!!
My doula poured water on my back as I howled my way through each contraction.
My husband held the space, looking into my eyes, placing face-washers on my back; simply being there with his calming presence.
He was my rock, amid the storm of contractions, which by now were practically happening on top of each other.
The pushing became stronger.
As I put my hand down to my vagina I could feel my baby’s head just inside my vaginal opening.
He was so close!
In the brief moment between contractions I said to my husband: ‘Where was my transition?’
In most births there is a time between when you dilate to 10 centimetres and you begin to push that is known as ‘transition’.
Transition is where your uterus takes a little rest, for perhaps an hour or so, so that you can regain energy and baby can do a little turn in preparation for the final moments of labour.
Yet, there had been none of this ‘down time’ for me!
Clearly my baby didn’t need any of that, he was coming now.
In conversation with my doula weeks later, she said:‘I’ve never seen a second stage like it!’
We were about 3 hours in, when my baby’s head began to push in and out of my vaginal opening, gently stretching my perineum.
Women I’d spoken to had talked about the ‘burn’ as this happens, and while I could certainly feel it, thankfully it wasn’t near as intense as I had expected.
Maybe that was because I’d learnt through my personal practices pre-pregnancy, how to fully relax my vagina open.
My baby’s head came in and out a few more times, but I suddenly got this feeling that I wasn’t going to be able to get my baby out in this position on all fours.
I hiked up one leg so I was in a half squat and on the next contraction as I pushed, he flew out into the water.
As shocked as I was that he shot out in one go (wasn’t it meant to be head, then shoulders???) I dived down into the water and scooped up my baby.
Still in the sac I brought him to the surface where he took his first breath.
It was 1.04am, just 3 and half hours since the first contraction.
As I looked down at the baby in my arms, utter astonishment and amazement set in.
He was divine!
I was in complete awe of this little creature.
As I stared at him in pure admiration, my midwife exclaimed: ‘He probably feels like he’s been shot out of a canon!’
He’d certainly made us wait, but when he decided to come, boy did he come fast!
Our little boy was calm, making small contented sounds.
We named him Zen.
In the hour that followed my placenta easily fell out as I crouched over a bucket before my midwives inspected my lady parts.
Despite the super quick labour, my perineum didn’t tear at all, and while there was a tiny tear just inside my vaginal canal, I didn’t need stitches.
It would heal naturally.
Looking back now, I honestly believe that my Yoga for the Vagina practice was what helped prime my body for the birth, allowing me to melt open my vagina to let my baby out.
My practice had supported me in developing a really positive relationship with my lady parts so that I was able to naturally connect in with them in the most intense moments.
And as a result, I experienced a super quick recovery; my uterus completely back in place just 11 days after the birth.
After my vagina was given the post-birth tick of approval, we were left to spend the rest of the night bonding with our little Zen.
And while I was encouraged to have a sleep, I was way too wired for that!
I just kept replaying the past 3 and half hours in my head, amazed at what’d just happened.
The speed, the intensity and the beauty of it all.
The next day when our midwife returned, she weighed Zen, who came in at 3.31 kilos.
Just below average weight, yet taller than average, he’s wasn’t a day overcooked.
Despite being two weeks past his due date, he knew when the time was right to be born.
He came when he was ready.
It was perfect timing, like most things in life!
And that is my positive birth story.
I felt it important I share my positive birth story.
Because when a woman shares her positive birth story, it lets other women know ‘I did it and so can you!’
Yes, there are emergency situations that require medical intervention, and surgeons are great at helping where there is a very real emergency.
The problem is that birth has become medicalised and fearful, so much so, that most of the time women end up handing over their power to doctors who intervene unnecessarily.
When this happens, it messes with the release of hormones that facilitate birthing, thus lowering our ability to naturally birth a baby.
Our bodies are designed to birth babies.
All women have an innate wisdom, that if listened to, will guide them through the birthing experience.
If our body is capable of growing a baby on its own, it’s certainly capable of getting the baby out.
We just simply need to listen more, and be willing to learn from those who have experienced positive births.
So if you have a positive birth story, please share your positive birth story in the comments below, or leave a link to where your positive birth story can be read.
Let’s change the face of birth one positive birth story at a time!