A wintery morning in May found us driving to the hills in deep contemplation of the news that we were to become first time parents. We were amazed, happy, nervous, and unsure but excited about what the future for us held. So we had decided to take the day off together to walk amongst nature and talk it all through. We hugged some trees, listened to the sharp wind rustling through the golden leaves and spoiled ourselves with some delicious tea and scones. By the time we were returning home we felt ready to dive on in!
As a first time mother I was overwhelmed and very confused about all the options (and lack thereof) available to birth our baby. Initially, I believed that we had to have our baby in a hospital with an obstetrician so had organised to do shared care with a GP. But with a gentle nudge from our wonderful chiropractor Simon who graciously gave me the book ‘well-adjusted babies’, a passion for natural pregnancy and the desire for an empowered birth was ignited within me. Both Simon and a very close midwife friend of mine told me about the wonderful work of the midwives at MAMA in Kensington. As soon as I walked in I was welcomed by Jan with open arms and a vivacious sense of humour that captured my heart and assured me that this was someone I wanted to bring along on my birthing journey. My research encouraged me to question the medical model of pregnancy and birth, and seek out other options that were more in line with my philosophy of wanting an uninterrupted, natural labour. I strongly believe that birth is not a medical procedure, it should not be bound by time nor its greatness be reduced to a series of procedures. My partner and I saw birth as a spiritual occasion, where the power of love and the warmth of home should welcome our baby into this world. A homebirth sounded wonderful to us but my initial reaction was to believe that this is something women do for their second or third births, and not their first. My midwives gave me the confidence to think otherwise and encouraged me to believe that I could achieve a peaceful and perfectly safe natural birth at home. I rang the hospital the next day and cancelled my booking.
I saw my nine months of pregnancy as time and space to prepare my mind and my body for the endurance event that is birth. I regularly saw my naturopath for supplements and tonics to provide essential nutrients for my growing baby and to boost my energy, while preparing my body and priming my uterus for the birth. Every few weeks I had chiropractic adjustments which helped me avoid back pain and pelvic instability, while ensuring I was in perfect alignment to allow my baby to descend. I regularly practiced yoga, pilates and meditation. I also nourished my body with good food and plenty of rest (which is hard when you have so much to organise). I read books about gentle birthing methods and my partner Matt and I attended Calmbirthing classes (which I highly recommend) at which we learned valuable visualization and breathing techniques to help during our baby’s upcoming birthday. We also came away from these classes with the integral understanding of birth as a team effort. Although the woman is the ship that must ride over the rolling ocean, she can go nowhere without her sails, her captain and her crew.
On the day of Bodhi’s birth it was 44 degrees and the end of a long January heatwave. I woke up at 7am with an abundance of energy after a superbly restful sleep. I went about the house fixated upon strange chores such as that ice cube drawer in the freezer that had to be defrosted! Soon I started noticing some cramping and thought woah…this could be the day!! Matt and I were trying to work out whether he should go to work or not, if this actually was the start of the early stage of labour, when hoorah… I had my show! Trying not to get too over excited I called my midwife who advised us to come in and have a look over, she said that our little baby was definitely on his way. We drove home so excited, seeing the world as if it were bathed in a rose light. We were going to meet our baby so very soon!!! We went and visited a friend who performed some acupuncture to direct my chi downwards which prepared the path for our baby to descend. Arriving back at home about 1pm I had been experiencing fairly regular 6 minutely surges for a couple of hours, however they were easily tolerated and did not take too much of my attention. By 2:30pm the waves started getting stronger and required more focus. I needed to concentrate on my slow breathing and moving my body with the rhythm of each wave. When pregnant I was constantly wondering what labour pains would feel like but once it began the sensation was strangely familiar, like I had been through this before. This familiarity was very comforting, I was not afraid and I knew that I needed to surrender; to work with them and not against them. It all seemed to be happening so quickly though, getting more powerful by the minute, I wanted it to slow down so I could catch up with what was actually happening. I hadn’t wanted to message my midwife because I didn’t want to be overreacting assuming that my labour was going to go for many more hours, but at 3pm when the surges were coming harder, more frequent and lasting longer Matt decided that things were definitely were getting more intense. My midwife said she would be here at 4pm.
She arrived to see me on all fours in our front living room groaning through very strong contractions that were coming so frequently I barely had time to rest in between. At this stage I needed to focus completely on my breathing because if I was not ready for that next surge it took me by surprise and the loss of control made it hurt so much more. Matt was my compass in the storm, helping me through each wave by slowly breathing with me and pulling me back onto course if I strayed. My wonderful friend Jaclyn arrived shortly after my midwife and with her presence my confidence and strength was boosted. By 4:30pm, my midwife decided to perform an examination after which she looked at me and said “we are about to have a baby”. I could not believe how fast things were going. I desperately wanted to be in the pool when I started to feel the incredibly powerful surges as Bodhi started to descend, but because we had not anticipated that I would be moving so fast it had not been yet been filled. My midwife was a wonderful presence with a calm, positive attitude and smooth words that softened each moment and helped me to stay relaxed. Her years of experience was clearly evident in how she supported me to birth my way rather than direct me in what to do; because she trusted my body I did too. I was in awe of the whole process, how naturally it all happened and how I instinctively knew what to do. When my body started to push it initially was quite a shock to me but my midwife and Jaclyn both supported me by giving encouragement to surrender to these urges. Everyone helped me get up and walk to the pool once it was filled, I remember as I sunk into the warm water how the pain and intensity seemed to melt away, and I was given a short respite for a minute or two. I worked with the rolling waves of muscle activity by repeating my mantra; “breathe in love, breathe in calm, breathe my baby down”. As the head was crowning I had a glimmer of disbelief, unsure of how exactly I was going to get this little one out. But again my support crew came to the rescue with confidence and love, so that I was able to accept the pain and move forward. In no time at all, Bodhi swam out into the water! As I turned around my midwife lifted him into my arms and all of a sudden we were a family of three! The relief was instantaneous and everything was completely surreal, I had actually birthed my baby, then a scrunchy little face looked up towards us and we saw those beautiful eyes for the very first time. We were in shock, it was like we were feeling every single fabulously happy emotion all at once and didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Then Matt thought to have a look…it’s a boy!! I will never forget that moment as long as I live. We played with his little hands and looked at his face, this little creature that we had made together out of love.