How I loved to wake each morning and go into the spare room of our house, the special space we had created where our second daughter would soon be welcomed into the world.
The room had been lovingly prepared: the beautiful birth pool leant to us by our midwife was inflated and ready to go; candles and essential oils strategically placed; pillows and cushions in one corner; carefully chosen birth affirmations printed on beautiful paper adorning each wall; and my favourite family photographs of my fiancé Daniel and I, and our first born daughter Ava who was now almost 15 months old.
In the last few weeks leading up to the birth, Ava would join me each morning for my preparation as the sun was rising, when Daniel was heading off to work for the day. We would go into the room, play the music that I had chosen for the birth, and I would practise the breathing and visualisation that would be my main tools to focus in labor. Together we would chat to the new baby, let her know how excited we were to meet her soon, and Ava would busy herself relocating candles, books and pillows from one side of the room to the other.
I felt that I was as ready as I could be, but I had asked our baby to hold out for just one week longer for a couple of reasons, the main one of which was to enable our midwife to fully recover from recent sickness which had struck her in the preceding week. Thankfully our baby obliged, and so we were able to have the midwife whom we had grown to know and trust, attend us for this special occasion.
On a Saturday, driving in the car on the way back from a conference, I said to our baby: “Thanks so much for waiting Ashley (as with our first daughter we had made the decision to name her before she was born). I am happy that I have been able to do everything I wanted to. Our lovely midwife is ready now too. You are welcome to come any time. We can’t wait to meet you!”
Not more than fifteen minutes after relaying this message, I began to feel some very intense sharp pains, quite different to the frequent Braxton hicks contractions I had been experiencing for the past few weeks.
As planned, we stopped into the hardware store just in time before closing, to pick up a longer hose for filling the birth pool (we’d just discovered the one we’d already bought wouldn’t quite make the distance required). The pains subsided and we went to bed as normal that Saturday evening, but both Daniel and I just had this feeling of certainty that the baby was coming that night, or that weekend at least.
Sure enough, at 2:30am in the early hours of Sunday morning I awoke to what were subtle, but unmistakable contractions. Labor had started. I didn’t wake Daniel for the first 45 minutes or so, just to confirm for myself that this was really it. Yes, I was certain, so I awoke him with the news that we would soon be welcoming our baby.
How awesome it was to just enjoy this special time by ourselves, knowing that we were staying right here at home, without the anxiety of wondering just when we would need to hop in a car (our first daughter had been born in a hospital, and although still an amazing experience, the car ride to hospital in advanced labor, close to transition on arrival, had been something I would rather not repeat!).
We first phoned our midwife who was a couple of hours travel time away. Funnily enough she had been expecting the call! About an hour later we phoned our doula. Everyone was on their way to our home. No fuss. No extreme urgency. Just a beautiful sense of excitement and anticipation.
When our doula arrived it was about 6:30am. By this stage Ava had awoken, and while Daniel was kept busy with getting some breakfast for her and filling the birth pool, our doula assisted me with breathing through each contraction as I squeezed her hand tightly.
Our midwife arrived just after 7am, with her back-up: a nurse who also happened to be her best friend.
This was an extra person on the team we hadn’t been expecting until that morning, and as it turned out, it wouldn’t have been the same without her. As we had decided at the last minute to keep our daughter Ava with us for the birth, having both the nurse and the doula to assist with caring for Ava during was brilliant.
As though the baby and I had been waiting for the arrival of our midwife, contractions began to escalate in intensity soon after, and I decided then would be a good time to hop into the pool. Ah what relief and comfort that was! I had my little cocoon now and I wasn’t going anywhere! Daniel was doing an amazing job of helping me to focus on breathing through each contraction.
Soon our midwife suggested that Daniel could also hop into the pool if he felt like it, at which point (between contractions) we smiled at each other: we had discussed this and felt certain that both of us “just weren’t the type of people that would feel comfortable with that”. At her suggestion though, and in that moment, it suddenly seemed the best thing to do and the apparent “inappropriateness” of it instantly melted away. Daniel hopped in, sat on the little step, and I hugged him tightly, resting on my knees. This is where I would stay, and I could not, or would not move!
At one point I remember Ava sitting on the edge of the pool, supported by our doula, kicking her little feet in the water and now and then… gently patting me on the back of the head as though encouraging me: “there, there mum…. you’re tough”. She was such a little angel and not phased at all, alternating between getting up close, or kicking back on her little couch in the corner with a snack and a drink.
When I had been preparing for the birth, Daniel and I had discussed a visualisation that I had felt might help me to focus.
I recalled a time when, during my first pregnancy with Ava, we had beenaway in the mountains staying at an ‘eco-lodge’ and had ventured out the back of the property to enjoy the late afternoon sun amidst a field of pineapples and macadamia nut trees. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure if this type of visualisation would be a strong enough tool for me to keep focused and calm – I hadn’t used it at all really for my first birth at hospital – but I wanted to give it a go nonetheless and visualisation of a ‘safe place’ was a big part of the preparations I had learned in completing a ‘calmbirth’ course.
As it turned out, using this visualization in combination with focused rhythmic breathing, turned out to be so incredibly effective. Daniel’s guidance and prompting with this at the start of each contraction was invaluable. As I felt another surge approaching and threatening to overwhelm me, I would mumble loudly: “pineapples, pineapples!”. Shorthand to say Daniel: “please start telling me that story again so I can go there…. I need to go there RIGHT NOW!!!” He was so obliging and never let me down.
Just after 10am our baby girl was born into the water, her head on one surge, and… after a short time… her body on the next. The exhilaration and sense of achievement was unforgettable. I snuggled Ashley into my chest and just looked at her in awe. What else can you do?! So perfect. Ava joined us in the pool, and the three of us together relished in the moment of welcoming this new little person into our family. Wow.
At this point, Ashley decided to have a little power nap right there on my chest, recovering from the hard work she had just put in on her journey into the world. But it wasn’t long before she needed some nourishment and soon began to feed of her own accord.
There was no hurrying or clock-watching.
There was a long delay before the cord was clamped and cut and it was just do nice to not feel the need to be defensive and protective in guarding the whole process. The trust we had with our midwife was implicit and no discussion was even required. Everyone was on the same page. This is the beauty of home birth.
We all hopped out of the pool and Daniel held Ashley skin-to-skin, while the placenta was delivered, after which point the midwife assisted me with some homeopathics, uplifting essential oils, and then hopping into a nice rejuvenating shower in our very own bathroom!
The whole team, on a job well done, celebrated with cups of tea, plates of fruit and yummy energy balls. We sat around together reflecting on the morning’s events. It is not a common occurrence in our society, to experience birth in this way: undisturbed and without intervention as it was meant to be. And so it was that not only me, not only Daniel, but all of us present… felt blessed to have been a part of something special that beautiful sunny Sunday morning.
Danielle McMahon lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband Daniel and two daughters, Ana and Ashley. Danielle is an author, home birth activist and creator of the Home Birth Took Kit.
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