I never thought I would be one of those women who homebirth. I didn’t think I was strong enough and I read too many scary stories and ‘advice’ columns with ‘5 reasons why you shouldn’t have a home birth.’
When I was pregnant with my third child we moved from our home town to Newcastle. In booking my first midwife appointment, I was met by a kind lady explaining to me that, considering I had two progressively fast labours it is worth considering a home birth. With how hesitant I initially felt, we began researching into how to best birth at home. My third child was my first home birth and it was the most beautiful, tender, bonding experience as a family.
Unbelievably, my first three births occurred on their actual due dates! Statistically, a 5% chance! So naturally I couldn’t help but wonder if my fourth would be the same. We planned for another home, however, this time we were a little more prepared with setting the room up to my liking; essential oils, candles, soft flooring and plenty of towels.
The 1st of May was our baby’s due date. It came by and went. After that date every day felt like ten days in one! On May the 7th at around 4am I was lying in bed just dozing when I felt a huge contraction.
I layed there, waiting for that second contraction. Once it happened I woke my husband, James, and told him I was in labour. I had given him a list of things to do; call the photographer, the midwife, put the essential oils on, etc. I downloaded a contractions app and glued my eyes to my phone screen, waiting to hit the button. They began at 6 minutes apart, and noticed that they got quicker and quicker rapidly, just like my first 3 labours. As we wanted the birth to be a family experience, I went to wake each of my other children during that small pocket of rest. I’ll never forget their faces when I told them “mummy is having the baby now. Take your time to wake up and come out”. They were out within two minutes. We spent 9 months talking openly about labour, what to expect, how to help mummy best and not to be anxious or afraid of anything. And it paid off!
I walked back into our bedroom into my little birthing corner awaiting the next contraction when James explained the midwife couldn’t make the birth. She was at hospital due to short staff and she said that our options were either, drive into hospital, or we call for an ambulance to take me there. So my dreams of a calm quiet birth suddenly changed due to unforeseen circumstances.
When I found out that my midwife was no longer able to be at my birth I became anxious, causing my contractions drastically changing from 3 minutes back to 6 minutes. I never thought about the what if’s. I didn’t want to be anywhere but in my home with my little family bringing my baby into the world together. The room was very quiet, but in my heart I felt uneasy. The children were rubbing my back and staying close to me. I needed to see my midwife’s face, I needed her to tell me it was going to be okay.
When the photographer arrived, James explained the situation and together they put our children into the car to head to hospital. While they were gone I had time to pray and focus. Essentially, I was preparing myself to birth without my midwife being there. When James came back upstairs I explained I didn’t want to sit in a car in labour. I didn’t want to birth in the car. James was worried the ambulance officers would arrive and take me right to hospital but I clearly remember stating “call them, they can’t take me anywhere. They can be here as back up”. So that was it, and we were both really happy with this decision. James called 000 and explained I was in labour. They sent out a ambulance, but the telephone attendant isn’t allowed to get off the phone until the ambos arrive. As I like to labour in complete silence, this didn’t help as I tried to stay in the zone and focus on my contractions. James had to politely ask the attendant to stop talking and ask him to just stay on the line, but leave the phone in the other room?’ In reflection this was a really funny moment we discovered, as the conversation went on, that the attendant was one of James’ mates.
Once the paramedics arrived, 15 minutes later they immediately tried to get me to stand and walk down the stairs to the ambulance. My contractions were only 2 minutes apart. (Now, I think it’s right in saying here that paramedics are trained in getting a person to hospital as quickly as possible for their safety.) The first of three, yes THREE ambulances arrived and a tall guy came in and proceeded to tell me ‘my wife gave birth to our first child three weeks ago, If you just get up and walk you’ll see.’ I was on all fours breathing deeply, I turned to him and said ‘No, you’ll see.’
I laugh when I remember that moment. He was really lovely trying to help, they all were but it became clear that paramedics are hardly ever called out for labour. When I heard the two guys outside my room calling for intensive care that’s when I really needed James. I couldn’t speak due to the intensity of the pain but my mind was incredibly distressed. I had a moment where I was thinking to myself is something wrong? But I know my body and I knew if I went to walk I would get no relief and judging by what happened with my firstborn, ultimately give birth away from my birthing space.
The kids were unbelievable during this whole time. They would rub my back, ask how I was and sit quietly. Noah (6) was enthralled by the photographer and how to take the perfect photo and the girls never left my side. Scarlet (4) and Aquila (20 months) sat and watched.
So, by now I’m sitting at 2 minutes apart. There was so much noise happening in our home. We had 11 adults and 3 children all in there! Five males and one female ambulance officers, two cell care people (quietly waiting downstairs to collect our baby’s placenta blood and cord to be stored), a photographer and my husband and I. The ambos were talking and asking each other who was going to deliver the baby. They all stayed because they had finished their shifts and explained later it was good for their training. Only one of the 6 has witnessed and helped at a birth. They were also trying to coax me into the ambulance. Ha.
Finally one of them convinced me to get up and walk. He proceeded to tell me I had been sitting at 2 minutes apart for some time and I might be like this for a while still. Something overcame me right at that moment. I thought I had failed. I thought I must of been labouring for hours and had held up so many people. I suddenly stood up. I could see my reflection in the shower mirror and I will never forget my face. It was the face of defeat. I felt I had let everyone down. And so I took literally four steps out into the hallway and fell on the floor with another huge contraction and my waters broke. The paramedics proceeded to roll a chair up in front of my face and said they could take me down in it so I don’t need to walk. I was thinking, ‘get that out of my face.’ But apparently I was much more polite… James had put the children in the car for a second time and my photographer kept quietly telling the paramedics that it’s best not to move me. My husband walked back up the stairs with the children and said to everyone “she’s birthing here. We aren’t going to hospital. We are staying here.” And that was that.
I was in the hallway, just two metres away from my little sanctuary and I turned onto my back to push. Two of the drivers were holding each of my hands so I could push against them. The woman was down the other end to catch the baby with others gathered around to, umm, cheer me on maybe? I pushed out the baby’s head. The girls were sitting by my side quietly and Noah was down with James watching the baby being born. My second push was to get the baby’s shoulders out, as I was pushing I could feel the pressure. I looked down to see the poor woman’s face, a lab coat, gloves and what looked like goggles to deliver my baby. She looked slightly freaked out. (I just hope this experience hasn’t put her off childbirth!) I whispered “turn the shoulders, turn the shoulders.” And at that moment James came in and turned our baby and delivered HER onto my chest. I cried out “my baby, my baby” and the children gushed over Selāh Jennifer. Aquila called out ‘yay, baby, baby, yay.’ and then proceeded to kiss her and ended up with a mouthful of mucus, to which we have a lovely photograph of her reaction to the mucus in her mouth.
James and Noah cut the umbilical cord together. We all had turns in holding our sweet baby girl. The girls kept sneaking moments to touch her skin while Noah took the initiative of bringing me a glass of water. My children displayed a maturity and boldness beyond their years.
Our homebirth was remarkable and truly a moment that brought our family unit closer with a lasting memory, only for our hearts to cherish.