The prelude: My first pregnancy in 2009, I had planned a natural water birth in the hospital and we had completed a Calm Birth course. Unfortunately, my natural birth plans were not to be, and after a 30hr labour I agreed to an epidural and artificial induction. His birth was via emergency caesarean and what followed were a rather nasty infection, 2 further hospital stays and a follow-up operation. Needless to say, healing was hard and i still yearned for a natural birth experience.
The HBAC Story of Ruby Jane Ash
At 12 weeks pregnant i began planning my hospital vbac with the community midwives. I also enlisted a student Doula and began going to prenatal yoga with my doula as my teacher. I also started going to a vbac support group, where i met the wonderful homebirth midwife, Lisa, to whom i proclaimed i could never have a homebirth – how scary!
The hospital seemed very encouraging of my vbac plans so I was very confident that i would get the natural birth I wanted. Unfortunately after 2 borderline (and seriously only just borderline!) tests for gestational diabetes I was transferred to high-risk clinic ante-natal care. I was no longer allowed the care of the community midwives. I was also restricted by hospital policy regarding the use of water during the labour and birth and ‘compulsory’ use of a foetal monitor. I debated and debated my case to the midwives, the Doctors in the clinic and anyone who would listen but i simply wasn’t being heard and i knew my birth was slipping away from me.
At 33wks I could no longer fight for my natural birth, and I didn’t believe I should have to. Under the care and advice of my doula I meditated and asked my baby where she should be born, after a short nap I received a very obvious “at home” message. After lengthy discussions with my husband we decided to meet with Lisa to discuss our options and at 34 wks we began our homebirth planning. Yes, this is the same Lisa to whom i spoke with at only 12 weeks… i believe it was fate.
During the final 6 weeks of my pregnancy I had one appointment a week with Lisa; each one was as encouraging as the next. It felt natural, normal, and safe. I really started to believe that we’d have our baby naturally and at home. I had a mini-blessingway, belly henna, made placenta plans and got ambulance cover – just in case! We didn’t tell many people about our change of plans and it felt nice that it was private and just for us.
The Birth – June 14th (my actual due date) I was woken at 3am with mild contractions, I continued to doze until 6am when I sent a text to Lauren and Lisa saying that i was feeling mild contractions and that today seemed like a nice day to have a baby.
Later that morning we sent our 2.5yr old son to daycare as usual and I packed a bag for him to spend a day or two at Nana’s house. Then I had a good breakfast of eggs and toast. I knew my parents were returning home from their 2 week cruise today and that my Mum could stay at my Nana’s to help if need be. Subconsciously I think I was waiting for my Mum to get home before having our baby. I knew she was worried about the homebirth and I wanted her to know we were ok. I also wanted her to help my 81yr old Nana with our 2yr old!
I had been planning my post-birth meals for a few weeks, and at 10am I put the beef and red wine casserole in the slow cooker. I wanted this to be my first ‘real meal’ after the birth. At 11am I was tired of having contractions that didn’t seem to be doing anything and so I took a nap while listening to my Calm Birth CD.
I woke up and had left over chicken soup for lunch. I also cooked a groaning cake for post-birth ‘birth-day’ celebrations. All day I had been drinking water, walking, napping, eating, cooking… and contractions continued on and off, getting regular and then dropping off again so once again I went to bed and took a nap, this time listening to Shamanic Drums.
When I woke I was quite disheartened that I felt my contractions had stopped again and that I wasn’t progressing… the last remaining fears from my first birth were coming to the surface to be dealt with. My husband Matt had said he heard me have 2 contractions while I was sleeping but I didn’t believe him. Who sleeps through contractions?
About 4pm I spoke with Lauren and she helped me verbalise my fears about not progressing. I had a bit of a cry and she reminded me to trust myself and my baby. Then Lisa came for our 40wk check-up and I had another little cry. She checked the baby’s position and assured me that she was not posterior (another fear which stemmed from the first birth) and we were all perfectly prepared for the birth. During her visit my parents returned from their cruise and were at our place picking up their car. I could feel my contractions becoming more regular and a bit more intense but I was still not convinced, I was sure they would drop off again and that i’d be in pre-labour for days!!
Everyone left about 6ish, i think? And this is when my labour really kicked in. I recall having a few quite intense contractions and wondering why Matt was in the kitchen cooking sausages and chicken chippees… each contraction was obvious by my verbalisations and he would come running from the kitchen and put pressure on my lower back. The verbalisations I practised at yoga were amazing at helping me through each contraction and the counter pressure on my back reduced the intensity by about 50%.
At some point i allowed a chicken chippee into my mouth and immediately regretted it; then i remember thinking “why did i let Lisa go home… and why haven’t i called Lauren yet?!” My labour was real and it was in full swing.
My husband called Lauren and she was at our place within 20mins. It was about 7pm and things were getting serious. I was labouring in the bathroom, which came in handy when i had to use the toilet! Lauren made me a labour aid drink but I think I was already too deep in my labour to appreciate it. I kept sipping water but only because someone kept shoving a straw in my mouth, thank you ‘someone’.
I was in transition and I felt completely out of control, yet completely in control at the same time. I had previously given myself permission to let-go and just surrender to the process so essentially i did not need to be in control … and this is kind of where my memory gets hazy and i thank the birth gods for all those lovely labour hormones…
I hopped in the shower and put my head right in the corner against the tiles and as i verbalised my “Ohms”,” Haa’s” and “Ohhh’s” I could feel the humming vibrations all around me. I remember thinking “yay for wall to wall tiling and its wonderful acoustics” although I’m sure my neighbours disagreed.
Somewhere around this point Lisa came back… although i have no recollection of who called her, or when. I knew she had arrived, but her arrival was so peaceful and quiet that I barely noticed. She was simply listening to me labour. I’m sure she also came and checked the baby’s heart rate at some point… but I don’t recall. I do know that in the midst of transition when I almost lost my mind completely she laid a quiet hand on me and made me feel like everything was going to be alright.
It was about 9.20pm when my water broke with a very distinct “pop” and amongst the labour haze I was able to stop and say “my water just broke”. It was a very exciting moment for me as it didn’t happen in my first birth and it made my experience feel different and positive and uplifting.
I knew the birth pool was full and Matt had suggested we go to it a couple of times but during transition this just felt like too much. I wasn’t sure I could have a contraction in the hallway without having a complete meltdown… so I waited. During each contraction Matt had stayed by my side and now during transition he stayed by my side, using counter pressure, encouragement and breathing with me to help me stay focused. His unwavering support is etched in my mind forever.
Although I didn’t know it at the time my contractions had changed and i was getting ‘pushy’. It was at this point I felt ready to get in the pool. So I did the walk, and as soon as i got one leg in the pool I pretty much jumped in. Lauren had done the most wonderful job of completing our birth space with aromatherapy, music, candles and most of all her divine presence and belief in me.
As soon as my body was immersed in water I felt the haze lift, transition was over and I was pushing. Each contraction was an opportunity to help bring my baby into the world and I wasn’t going to waste a single one. My yogic chanting had its time and was now gone. In its place was a raw and powerful noise that came from deep within. I felt like a lioness roaring for her cub.
After a few pushes I realised that I had no idea how dilated I was… another fear creeping in… I stopped and said something along the lines of “I’m pushing. Am I pushing? I think I’m pushing. Should I be pushing yet?” A simple nod from Lisa was enough to help me realise that this was going to happen and that i simply needed to trust my body and go with it… and so, back to being a Lioness!
I don’t recall the pushing being painful at all. I remember the pool being replenished with hot water from the pots on the stove… the smoke alarm going off from having too many pots on the stove… not letting Matt go to fix the alarm because i would not let him out of my bear grip… then one tiny little sting – one little tear – and she began to descend.
Slowly during each contraction i felt the head of my little girl move down and back up again, slowly stretching the space. My pushes got stronger as her head moved further down. I even felt my pelvic bones readjust to make more room and I roared “Open” to encourage this movement.
I also remember stopping at some point to say “I can so totally do this!” To which everyone smiled and agreed.
A short, or long, time later (time had no meaning) her head emerged, and I took a little break. Then in a couple more pushes her body was born. Although we had planned for Matt to catch her I was reluctant to release him from my grip and so our wonderful midwife Lisa brought her to my chest and I breathed her in, taking in everything I could.
Ruby Jane Ash was born at home into water at 10.34pm 14th June 2012 weighing 3.9kgs (8 pound 8 ounces) and 52cms long.
The placenta followed about 45 minutes later and Lauren made a few simple prints onto paper. We followed that up with some lovely skin to skin time, breastfeeding, a huge glass of milk and a piece of groaning cake. Happy Birthday Baby!
By 2am we were all tucked safely into our bed and our house was quiet again… it was truly amazing.