Friends of Belmont Birthing

Riding High at Home

My first son was born in a small rural hospital and, although this was also overall a positive experience for me, my memory of his birth has been clouded by the morphine and gas I required for high levels of pain and anxiety. It was not a calm birth. Having subsequently moved to Newcastle, it was early in my second pregnancy when my sister in law contacted me and suggested looking in to the Belmont Group Midwifery Practice. I knew after a quick glance at the website it was the right service to support me during this pregnancy and I self-referred at around 16 weeks gestation. I quickly received a call back and was booked in for my first appointment at 18 weeks. Meeting Ash, our midwife, was so reassuring. I loved that we could discuss the option of birthing at home without needing to come to a decision until much later in the pregnancy. At first I wasn’t keen on the idea of a home birth as I didn’t want to make the birth over complicated. Although I was born at home, I worried about the negative stigma unfairly attached to the practice and the judgement it might attract if I was to speak opening of my plans.
As the pregnancy progressed, I used the time to carefully weigh up my options. I liked the idea of using the birthing pools in the birthing suite and worried I would regret not having the option of gas for pain relief at home. I imagined myself in each scenario and as time passed began to feel confident that staying at home was the right thing to do. I prepared by buying some builders plastic and extra towels in the weeks leading up to the due date, but was comforted knowing I could still present to the hospital once labour started if I changed my mind.
Two days before my due date I was feeling emotionally and physically ready to birth my baby. While my toddler was at day care, I took a long warm bath and concentrated on relaxing whilst visualising myself in labour and having a complication free birth. After four hours I was noticing frequent but irregular Braxton Hicks contractions and felt a bit disheartened that my efforts didn’t seem to be working. But when I stood up from the bath I could feel that something had changed, almost as if the baby dropped after having spent so long floating in the tub. My mum happened to call 20 minutes later wanting an update. By that stage a rhythm to the contractions had formed, coming every 5 minutes, but they were only lasting 30 seconds and weren’t painful or difficult to tolerate. Mum was eager to attend the birth but lives several hours away so she asked me to call her back in 2 hours so she could make a decision as to whether she needed to come that night.
My husband and I went out to dinner with friends as planned. I used a contraction tracker app and from 6pm until 9pm recorded contractions which were on average 3.5 minutes apart, but still erratic and only 45 seconds long. We made a decision to go home and arranged for my sister to take our dog and toddler just in case things progressed overnight. I asked mum to make her way to Newcastle but warned her that I still wasn’t sure if he would arrive tonight or not.
They say try to sleep but I found it impossible. The contractions became more erratic by 11pm, not less! Sometimes they were 10 or 15 minutes apart. I knew it was silly but I felt sad thinking that my baby might not be born that night. I knew I should sleep and that he wasn’t far away but each contraction woke me from sleep and I was getting increasingly frustrated knowing that things weren’t progressing as I had hoped. I hopped back in the bath at 2am and tried to relax. By 3am my contractions were still irregular, usually 3-5 minutes apart but sometimes a 10 minute space between. I had lost hope and convinced myself I needed to prioritise sleep. When I got out of the bath, I felt the same sensation as earlier; a drop with the weight of the baby hanging heavily, followed by a very strong contraction. I had a sudden urge to open my bowels and I made my way to the toilet, where I stayed for the next hour. While I was in the bathroom my contractions rapidly increased in intensity and were consistently 2-3 minutes apart. My husband hovered in the hallway wondering what we should do. I was convinced by this stage that labour had begun so he went to the lounge room and set up a birthing area like we had discussed in the weeks beforehand. In front of our couch he layered yoga mats over the wooden floor boards, a thick doona, builders’ plastic, a large sheet and some towels. He turned on music, closed the curtains and put on soft lighting. Just after 4am he encouraged me call our midwife who arrived by 5am, as did mum.
Things slowed down a bit at this stage and I felt embarrassed that I had made the call too early. The contractions were intense and lasting 90 seconds but slowed to 3 minutely. Elyse was so reassuring and helped me to relax. She felt the baby was coming soon enough and called a second midwife, Holly, who arrived by 6:30am. I chose to labour in the kitchen where I could lean over an island bench. The height was perfect to hang my belly and to support my weight. Between contractions I sipped on water, paced the hallway and chatted with my wonderful birthing team. It felt so normal, and I felt so clear headed. Not cloudy in my mind like last time. I loved it.
By 9am things had really started to slow down and I wondered whether the baby was ever going to come. I was still handling the contractions using deep breathing, but they had spaced apart even more – perhaps around 5 minutes. I lay down for a nap and slept in 10-15 minute intervals between very strong contractions. Thanks to the hypnobirthing course I had done, I suspected I was entering transition. Hopes of this spurred me on to keep on going but, to be honest, the contractions at this stage had become extremely intense and I began to question my decision to be at home without any pain relief options! My body started to shake violently at around 10am and I knew that baby was on his way. I jumped off the couch and positioned myself on all fours on the soft birthing area my husband had prepared earlier in the night. A few more strong contractions followed and soon enough his head was showing. I so desperately wanted it to end. I felt like I was struggling to cope with the intensity of the stretching sensation and I feared I was tearing. I knew I was so close to the end so I focused on birthing him, knowing I could deal with any complications afterwards. His head was born with the next contraction, my waters broke and his body soon followed at 10:36am.
What an absolute joy. I held him. He cried and then began to feed; without doubt he was worth the pain of the last hour. I was able to birth the placenta without any problems and was so happy to hear I actually hadn’t had any tears at all. He was weighed, measured and examined. I sat on the couch eating toast and drinking tea. I took myself for a shower and basked in the surreal and wonderful feeling knowing I had given my baby the best chances I could for a healthy start to life. I’ll always be so grateful to the BMGP for giving me this opportunity. I feel like I’ll be riding this high for the rest of my life.