Harriet’s birth story
On Sunday the 26th of June, I met my Mum Mary, sisters Sarah and Anna, and cousin Susie at café Barry in Northcote for a little pre-baby celebratory lunch. My due date was nine days away. It really was a pregnancy celebration as all four girls (excluding my Mum) were pregnant at the time! During our lunch I went to the bathroom and there I was happily surprised by my show. I returned to the table a bit excited and asked Sarah (who is a midwife) exactly what this meant. She told me that it was a sign that my cervix had begun to dilate and labour could begin soon. After lunch, I arrived home to my husband Tim who had been madly cleaning and tidying the house in preparation after receiving my text about things starting along. After encouragement from our lovely midwife Marita, we kept our plans for the night and went to a friend’s gig in Clifton Hill. Knowing that this was probably our last night out before the arrival of our baby, it was extra special spending the night with friends enjoying music and rubbing my pregnant belly that wouldn’t be pregnant by the morning.
We got home at around 9pm after the gig and I decided to have a little dance around the living room as I had heard that this could encourage labour to begin. I also walked up and down our stairs a few times. Not wanting to exhaust myself, Tim and I went to bed early. I began to feel very mild period-like cramps so I was too uncomfortable and excited to sleep properly, only managing to doze. At 2am my contractions began. They were very slight but very regular (3 minutes apart) from the very beginning. I was comfortable enough contracting in bed until 3am when I had to move on all fours and concentrate on my breathing to get through the contractions. It was then that I woke Tim as I was pretty sure things would only progress from there.
The first person I called at 3:30am was my close friend Rachael as she was to be one of my birthing partners and she lives in Shepparton, which is two hours away. I thought that she needed the most warning in order to arrive in time. Having had two babies of her own, and after telling her how regular my contractions were, she said, “yep you’re in labour, I’m leaving now!” Next we called Marita who after listening to me having a contraction was happy to let me labour a bit longer without her, which suited us fine. Tim and I went downstairs to our living room and I continued labouring there. Things kicked up a notch and my contractions became more intense. I had to start vocalising through them in order to cope. I jumped in the shower as I’d heard this can be a nice form of pain relief but I didn’t enjoy it as I wasn’t comfortable contracting whilst standing up. I moved back to the living room floor as my contractions intensified. After only half an hour after the last conversation, Tim called Marita back at 4:15am and asked her to come, as my contractions were significantly stronger than when I spoke to her. From this point on, everything is kind of a blur as those wonderful hormones were kicking in sending me into a dazed state. Marita arrived and she asked if I wanted the TENS machine put on which I was very happy about because I felt I needed something to help me cope with the contractions. I liked the TENS a lot. It helped with the pain and it set a rhythm to my labour that I was struggling to find before.
After setting me up with the TENS machine, Marita asked Tim to start inflating the pool (which we hadn’t already done like we should have). This took Tim a while because I couldn’t deal with the loud noise of the electric pump during contractions so he could only inflate it a minute or two at a time. At about 5:30am my other gorgeous midwife Jan arrived. She walked in during a contraction, came to me, grabbed my hands and told me to breathe and calm down, which helped me a lot as I was writhing about trying to cope with the intensity. Next to arrive were my good friends Rachael who had driven the two hours from Shepparton and Annabelle who had come from five minutes away. I was well and truly deep into the altered state of mind at this point and might have managed to acknowledge their presence but not really.
After a while, Jan asked if I wanted to get in the pool. She said it wasn’t full enough to birth in yet but I could get in for pain relief. This excited me as I knew that I must have been further along than I thought as they wouldn’t offer the pool until I was nearing the end of the first stage. It was so reassuring to know that I was that far along as the contractions were very strong and close together and I was worried that it was only the tip of the iceberg. It was nice to have the intensity validated at that point. As I had feared, our hot water system was not nearly big enough to fill the pool. Even though I knew this would be the case, I thought that being my first birth that we would have time to let the system reheat and that we’d be able to fill the pool this way. Everything was happening too quickly for that. I got into the pool but the water only just came up to the bottom of my belly if I was sitting down, so it didn’t provide a lot of relief. I found this very frustrating, as I’d been hanging out to get in the pool. My amazing team of five kept heating up kettles and pots to put in the pool, so it gradually and very slowly filled to a more comfortable level. Soon after getting into the pool at about 6:30am I had the urge to start pushing. After telling my midwives this, Jan said, “your waters will go soon”, and one second later they did! She told me I was in the second stage of labour now.
The second stage was when I needed the most support and encouragement from my team. In the first stage, I was so focused and in my own zone that I didn’t really notice anyone around me. During the pushing stage, my mind cleared up a little and I was more aware of my surroundings, which made my team so important. Tim got in the pool with me and massaged my back as this was causing me the most discomfort at the time. Rach and Annabelle were busy keeping ice-cold face washers on my head and neck, giving me sips of water and bites of icy poles. Jan and Marita were doing their amazing midwife thing and kept checking on baby and I, while keeping me in a calm and confident frame of mind. I loved that they were sitting there acting as though we were all there catching up over a cup of tea. Their relaxation was so appreciated and definitely affected my attitude to the whole experience. There was a lot of joking and laughing going on, and even though I wasn’t able to join in so much, I enjoyed the atmosphere it created.
Pushing was difficult for me. I was so exhausted from not having slept for 24 hours and felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. I couldn’t believe how hard I had to work. It sounds silly saying that because they don’t call it labour for nothing. I was burning hot and pushing as hard as I could but it was going very slowly. Marita and Jan reassured me that I was doing a great job and that it was going along well. One aspect of the pushing stage I was pleasantly surprised with was that I had longer breaks in between contractions to rest and the contractions were less painful than in the first stage. After an hour and a half to two hours of pushing, I birthed my baby’s head in the pool. What an amazing relief! All four women in the room, who had all given birth themselves, assured me that the hardest part was over. The next part took longer than Marita and Jan would have liked. No contraction came and they wanted me to birth my baby soon after the head was out, because complications can arise if it takes too long. Luckily because of their calm way of dealing with things I was completely unaware that they were worried. I was so grateful for that. They asked me to stand up and gravity was obviously what we needed to help the rest of my baby along and I birthed her standing up in the pool with Marita there to catch her. I grabbed her and sat back down in the pool so Tim and I could stare at the beauty that had just dropped into our arms. We weren’t in the pool for long as Jan asked me to get out to go to the couch. It was here that Tim told me it was a girl! I was completely shocked as my whole pregnancy I was convinced we were having a boy. I had even forgotten to check what she was so it was a good few minutes before I found out. I was so happy and surprised I burst into tears. It was a beautiful and exciting moment. Her cord was so short that I couldn’t get her up to my chest, so after Tim cut the cord, I could have a proper cuddle and start feeding. The atmosphere in our house for the next few hours was beautiful. I lay on the couch cuddling our new daughter skin to skin and we all had breakfast together. I was so grateful to be at home and to have this relaxing and comfortable environment to be in to get to know our baby.
The whole experience was amazing and I am so grateful to Marita and Jan for the care and support they provided throughout my pregnancy and birth. I also want to say thank you to another lovely midwife at MAMA, Sarah (aka Dutchy) who was going to be at the birth, but she couldn’t make it in the end unfortunately. I am so grateful to my beautiful friends Rachael and Annabelle for providing me with the exact loving nurture and encouragement I needed through the birth. Finally to my husband Tim, who kept me strong and safe throughout the whole night and who was beyond amazing during my pregnancy. What an incredible time to share with one another and what a gorgeous girl we have now. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.