Our second baby, a little girl, was born at 12.33 pm on Thursday 31 October 2019. Her labour and birth was everything I could have hoped for; I tear up when I think back to how everything unfolded!
I found this pregnancy a lot harder than my first in 2017 but am lucky to have remained relatively healthy and fit throughout, so we planned another home birth for our little ones arrival.
I went into spontaneous labour at 42 weeks last time (you can read my birth story here) and so I wasn’t expecting to be “early” or even on time. But of course, even with the positive affirmation on repeat of “my baby will come when my baby is ready”; our “due date” arrived and I suddenly felt very pregnant, sore, tired, over it and tearful.
With my first pregnancy, I used acupuncture at 41+ weeks as a means of natural induction and really loved the way it made me feel. It gave me something to do and was a very relaxing appointment!
I was advised to start regular treatments at 32 weeks and did this, along with eating medjool dates, drinking Raspberry Leaf tea, walking and from 39 weeks taking a herbal tincture (black and blue cohosh, raspberry leaf and some other ingredients) 3x daily.
I had a wonderful labour/birth experience with my first in 2017 (you can read his birth story here) but I always felt like I was a bystander looking in, kind of like an out of body experience. I didn’t really feel in control and felt as though it all just happened to me. I also have no recollection of the finer details of the birth. People talk about feeling the head move down and back up (and how frustrating this is) but I couldn’t remember anything.
This time I wanted things to be different. I wanted to feel in control and to be present in each moment.
Our little girl made such a speedy entrance into the world that I have no choice but to remember everything so clearly!
I had a few niggles on the Wednesday night (40 + 3) and actually thought I’d be going into labour that evening. My partner told me to go to bed and rest in case we were up all night. I woke up throughout the night to pee and didn’t notice any contractions or tightenings at all. I was really disappointed when I woke up on Thursday morning and wasn’t in labour.
Around 8.30am I drove my son to daycare as normal and had a contraction in the car park. It wasn’t overly strong or painful but had my speaking a little harshly to the toddler to “hurry up and get out of the car!” I had another tightening during the 2 min car ride home and had a feeling that yes, today was the day and we might have our baby this evening.
I got home and started pottering around, tidying things up and writing a list. Contractions were coming frequently now and I set about organising my sons overnight bag, someone to pick him up from daycare, getting the birth pool out of the spare room and into the dining room, and other bits and pieces.
At around 9.30 am I let my partner know that contractions were coming regularly and were already quite sore. I hadn’t yet started timing them but would soon. I popped an easy watch on Netflix and got on my hands and knees to time contractions. By 10.20 am the Freya app I was using (a hypnobirthing tool and contraction timer) said I was in established labour. I sent a screenshot to my partner – very 2019 ha! – and told him to potentially reschedule his afternoon meetings but no hurry to come home.
By 10.30 am I had vomited twice and was running a bath to provide some relief. At this point I still thought our timeline would be much the same as when my son was born i.e. first contractions in the morning and labour all day, with baby born before midnight.
Luckily my partner decided to come home and was able to chat to the midwife when she called. She said she was in the area so would pop around to see how things were going. This is the tricky thing with birth; you have no idea what’s really going on! Those of you who plan a hospital birth have to make a decision about when is the right time to go to hospital, and with a home birth you don’t want to call the midwife too early and have her with you for 12 hours or more! We also operate on a very hands-off approach so with both my births, I never knew how dilated I was at any point as I never had any vaginal examinations.
The midwife arrived at 11.50 am and at this point I’d got out of the bath and was coping with contractions by listening to the hypnobirthing tracks on the Freya app. I had been unwell and still couldn’t breathe properly through my nose but I still found it helpful to try and breathe deeply with the cues from the app.
My partner had started to fill the birth pool and at 12 pm my midwife asked me to lie on the couch so she could listen in to baby. This was hard as I’d been labouring standing up but managed to get through one or two contractions with deep breathing.
I went to use the toilet and found myself making some noise (the tell-tale “mooing” women make when they’ve reached the pushing stage). I honestly felt a bit silly for being so vocal as I was still unconvinced the baby was coming anytime soon. I then headed to the birth pool and attempted to get in, but it took a good few contractions before I could climb in. The contractions at this point were really long and strong and I wasn’t getting much break between. I also found myself relaxing my pelvic floor with each contraction, not actively pushing but just allowing myself to open and relax.
At 12.20 pm my notes say I was sounding “pushy/grunting” with each contraction and I definitely felt a shift at this point and finally came to the realisation that baby was coming soon. Sometime between 12.20 pm and 12.30 pm, I felt my waters go with a…shot? A lot of people describe feeling their waters “pop” but I remember being in the pool and suddenly something exploding out of my vagina (no other way to describe it!). This is the point I felt panicked and I guess this was transition as my body was flooded with adrenaline. Rather than saying “I can’t do this” (which is typical of transition), I just got really scared and said “something’s coming!”
My partner had been in the kitchen trying to get water for the pool as it was barely deep enough but he came over at this point to be with me. I held onto him for dear life and I think I was biting into his shoulder as baby started to crown.
I reached down to feel her head and I felt it move down and back up the birth canal. Rather than being frustrated I was so happy knowing that this was exactly what my baby needed to do to be born.
It took around 1-2 mins for her head to be born and honestly, this was so incredibly painful. The water didn’t seem to make a difference! My partner was reminding me to breathe and while I like to think I was fairly calm, I can’t say I’d be the poster girl for hypnobirthing! Another minute later and our little girl was born into the water. She was passed between my legs and I pulled her up out of the water and onto my chest.
From the moment my waters burst to when I lifted my baby into my arms, I was focused entirely on the inside of the birth pool. I didn’t know who was in the room or what was going on around me. After Ruby was born I looked up and our birth photographer had sat down on the lounge floor and the second midwife arrived shortly after. It was all so surreal.
After the birth of my first child I felt superhuman. I was so incredibly high but also experienced some really low lows in the days and weeks (and months and first year!) following his birth. This time, I felt amazing but not so superhuman. And subsequently, I haven’t experienced any major lows either.
The final stage
Ruby latched on in the pool for her first breastfeed and we stayed connected for 20 mins or so before I asked for the cord to be cut and we made our way out of the pool.
The placenta took 1.5 hours to be birthed and in the end I asked for the injection as I just wanted it out. I’d had lots of skin to skin but was on the toilet, trying to get the placenta to come out and missing my baby who was in the other room having skin to skin with Dad. When my son was born, the placenta was born within 20 mins so I think I was expecting much the same this time and got really fed up!
The events that followed will remain my happiest, most treasured memories. I had a quick shower in our ensuite and then jumped into bed with my baby, my partner in bed next to me, eating lollies and laughing and chatting with our midwife and birth photographer. Ruby was weighed and measured and given the Vitamin K injection (truly heartbreaking, right?) and then we snuggled in bed.
We pulled the TV into our room and watched Netflix, ate pizza and settled our baby into the bassinet beside us for the night.
Home birth is not for everyone but it is most definitely for us.