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Ashies Homebirth


As it is now getting close to my dear daughters second birthday I realised it’s time I finished writing her birth story. This may have proved a challenge to my memories given that all that I had written up until now was lying in bits and pieces on my husbands computer lying on the floor around me. However it’s no challenge to remember the events of that day or leading up to that day – it still holds a lot of joy and euphoria for me.

I had never really planned for a homebirth and given that I am not unfamiliar with the hospital environment having been in and out of it at least once a year from age three it wouldn’t really have bothered me too much had I needed to give birth in those surrounds again.

But I would want to give birth in those surrounds only with the people I trusted and felt safe with and for it to be as much as on my terms as possible. Continuity of care with someone I liked as well as post natal care and not being treated like some sort of bovine baby maker in a production line, but as a person, were important to me.

Therein lay the dilemma to me as I really sat down and thought about things around 20 weeks into my second pregnancy… My requirements and the hospitals requirements for me to birth there probably weren’t going to match up!

I had known a few people that had home birthed, but only on the periphery of my circle of friends, and I didn’t think they were crazy or out there but didn’t see myself doing it. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder and thought why not just keep an open mind and explore all options? Given this was probably going to be our last baby it would be silly to have regrets in hindsight.

Glad to have given myself that little pep talk, I made the necessary phone calls and soon had a list of available homebirth midwives to contact. I didn’t at all consider lining them all up and interviewing them, I just believed whatever was meant to be would be and the first one that answered my call and was available was Lisa.

After scrubbing my house to within an inch of its life I was completely exhausted by the time she arrived for a chat (how silly!) When she arrived and got out of her big family van the first impression I had was that Catherine Zeta-Jones was moonlighting in Australia as a midwife. Cool.

I was so nervous and keen to impress her as I really hoped she take me on as one of her “ladies” I tried and failed at making her a coffee at the breville coffee machine (this was to become a common occurrence) and realised that despite my dorky endeavours to impress, she seemed to want to take neurotic old me on and I was more than relaxed from the get go to be in her confident and caring hands. Most importantly of all shock upon shock – she listened to me. Here was someone who passionately cared about what I wanted for my baby and my birth. Wow.

At this stage I still wasn’t even sure if I wanted a home birth, it was just having that familial contact, that relationship and knowing she was there for me. I was still going to antenatal checks at flinders wanting to keep my options open to have this bub in the birthing suite as I did her sister. I dreaded the pain of birth to my core and somewhere in my brain I was programmed to believe that hospital would be able to alleviate this, despite the fact that I never ever wanted an epidural.

In the end the drag of trekking all that way, hassling to find a park and then waiting half an hour past my appointment date to chat about the whys and wherefores of a birth that hadn’t even happened with a revolving door midwife roster got the better of me.

I really looked forward to Lisa’s visits and our chats no doubt more than she enjoyed my freshly made coffee boiled over and mopped up then re poured out from the breville coffee machine (her endurance really knows no bounds).

Time drew closer to the birth, and we were dealt the blow of my husband Dave’s dad dying of cancer and it put a sad cloud over our lives. But expecting our bub really did provide some light over those hard times and even though I was about 7 months at the time I think Dave was really hoping I would go early (eg extra early) as he was really looking for a focus of joy to relieve his pain. Ash and I must’ve really tuned in on this because then the niggles began… Braxton Hicks here, Braxton Hicks there. We were all soon starting to believe she would come early!

Then I had a very confronting moment when it was discovered that little Ash had decided she would rather have her head by my heart. What a test of my newfound beliefs – I was just dipping my toe in the waters of thought about homebirth, ready to plunge right in – but a breech homebirth? Now that was pushing it (Pardon the pun).

Fortunately with the exercises Lisa gave me plus some full on chats with Ash she agreed to go back around the other way. I don’t even want to entertain the thought of what might have happened had she not – despite the awesome stories and footage (again – pardon) of the breech births I’ve seen… Well I’m just so glad I didn’t have to consider it.

Another thought that dawned on me quite late was “Oh yeah – didn’t I try for a water birth and miss that the first time? I can consider that again”.

Lisa was pretty sure that once my labour began it would be all systems go and so around the 8.5 mark she committed a birth pool to me and I had it waiting in the wings for the moment. Just about every night by this time it was niggle, niggle, bloody niggle.

I was exhausted, particularly with looking after Velouria, our little diva, who treats the prospect of naptime like ordinary people would respond to a meteor shower or something. So it was on my feet all day, niggle, niggle, niggle all night. By this I mean I would wake up with that crampy diarrhoea feeling and I just knew what that felt like and meant last time. Then “The Hicks” would start on/off on/off. I mean, give me a break was it happening or not!? Arrgh! So tired. To add to that I was looking and feeling like I had the worlds biggest baby inside of me and no one seemed to believe me or so it felt.

The fear of labour and the associated pain was looming – last time I had been driven in the car at 10cms dilated with the cannonball feeling to flinders and then it seemed that things stalled for 2 hours before I got Velouria out. Despite asking for some sort of pain relief (by that I mean a nice bath or some gas/air) they wouldn’t let me have it and there was a lot of concern because there was meconium coming out. So yes, my memories of that experience were starting to come to the fore quite a lot – the pain, the panic of it all.

Every night I read and re-read every available birthing account and medical book I had to hand. I studied the anatomical drawings inside and out, I looked at how the cervix would/should stretch, what it looked like at 2, 5, 10 cms dilation. How it fitted over the baby’s head, how much pressure the baby would put on my rectum (that was one particular feeling I dreaded again) I was in a state and it wasn’t just South Australia put it that way!

I thought the best way to overcome this was to orchestrate everything I could around pain relief during the labour. I got out the big exercise ball, the wheat pack, some aromatherapy oils, a list of what I would like during the labour, contemplated whether I would like music or not, what parts of my back Dave would rub etc etc.

Lisa laughed when she next came over and saw the ‘labour pile’. “The labours not going to be bloomin’ long enough for all of that!!” she laughed. This was interesting for me to think about- was it worth all this much stress and worry if it was all going to be over so quickly? My pessimistic brain dismissed that – what would Lisa know? – after all she only had 20 years experience under her belt!

Due date came and went. I started leaking but it wasn’t a definite gush. Lisa offered to have a look and get things moving along but I was then thinking “Well, we are getting so close to the Cancerian birth date I would like to see how long I can hold out and get over the line into a “Crab Baby”. Dave and I are both Crabs, it takes a special kind of person to understand and endure all that moody-ness- frankly I think only other Crabs can.

I was still just bumbling around the rest of the day – but if memory serves I got Dave to come home early anyway. I was hoping my mother would come and take Velouria for the night so if nothing else I could have the space to tune into myself and Ash and work out what was really happening. However, she didn’t seem to want the huge commitment of taking her grand-daughter for one night without being ABSOLUTELY sure I was going to have the baby that night. I replied as I had for many weeks I wouldn’t know for sure until the head was coming out, but that didn’t seem to satisfy her so I just said yes I was in labour so she would get out of my hair and stop being a pain, frankly.

Lisa came back – we topped up the pool but the problem with where we were living at the time was the primitive hot water system and the very cold house were making it look unlikely that it would be warm enough for any action. I didn’t really worry about that too much yet because I still didn’t seem to be in definite labour.

We had the world cup on TV which being the Poms/wannabe Poms we are was very enjoyable- Dave made yummy pasta, we ate it, I played some Tetris on the laptop and Dave and Lisa watched the game. Also we had a very nice fire raging thanks to Lisa “I’m not bloody freezing!!’” Barrett. That’s another thing I will forever be grateful to Lisa for – feeling the cold as much if not more than me (if that’s possible).

Lisa got some essential oils burning and dare I say it for the first time in 9 months I felt relaxed. Kumbayah my lord, Kumbayah!

So then Dave says “I just have to go lie down for a bit, I’m tired” (Yeah-staying up until 3am watching world cup matches the night before as well will do that to you) Anyway off he went to lie down, I’m sure by now convinced I had been making this whole pregnancy situation up.

Lisa was very quiet by now and I think there may have been some music playing. The oil burner was emanating this great smell and the fire was raging in the open fireplace – it was atmosphere galore…

My back started to ache so Lisa says in this very subdued tone “just lie down on your side for a bit” (do you think she might’ve known what was happening?). No I decided this back ache was Dave’s problem not mine so I went down to the bedroom to wake up Dave and he says “Just lie on the bed and I’ll rub it for you”. I lie down for two seconds and “POP” the loudest pop and gush I’ve ever had – I never got that with Velouria and so it completely freaked me out. It made Dave wake up and take notice too! Then I started freaking out – this was definitely it – it was like the tidal wave descended… I was shaking violently and saying “oh my god, oh my god” I was definitely in shock, thinking “hold onto your hat woman, this is it”.

Now the memory becomes a bit disordered – I would say no doubt because of the pain and its swift progress. Imagine being forced to get into one of those drag racing jet fuelled cars with no parachute that goes at hundreds of kilometres an hour over a very short distance and you’ve never driven one before. Okay maybe you’ve driven it once before and you know how to stop it but you know what a wild ride it is and you’re not sure you’re ready for it again.

I walked to the toilet and back again with Dave. I stared at my feet and watched them getting flecked and then splattered with blood. Dave locked eyes with me, “Breathe Em, breathe”. His reassurance was my absolute pillar of strength.

I glanced at the pool, I yearned for it, I ached for it, but it was too cold and that was nobody’s fault and nothing could be done about it. Let the pool go I told myself. I crouched down by the lounge on the floor. I couldn’t stay still but it was agony to walk. I just wanted to be out of my body, out of this pain, out of this experience. Thank god for the gas that Lisa was open to getting for me. This time I really needed it and I am ever so thankful I had it. No water, but at least gas. I am eternally grateful.

I panic, as it doesn’t seem to be working – Dave shows me how, I get the hang of it. It helps, really helps. I don’t want to be talked out of using it or need to feel like a hero for not using it, I’ll say it again. It really helped. The mouthpiece for it was also just the thing to bite on through the pain.

Then – the descent. The biggest heaviest bowling ball inside me I could ever imagine – just drops. I scream and step outside myself to hear the scream. It is horrifying to hear myself in so much pain “Help me, Help me” where to from here? I wonder. “Just push through” I tell myself. I hear Lisa saying “ I can’t help you” but she is helping me by being there – her knowledge, her presence. But it is definitely a higher power I am beseeching to help me through this incredible, unbelievable pain.

I have to push. I just have to. I can feel where it is working and now I realise this is the quickest way through- Dave is in front , holding me as I kneel and Lisa is… all around. First at the front then underneath looking. I can hear them both saying “oh my god!” I think: “ha – told you I was having a big baby”. “Ok Dave you’ve got to go behind her so she can open up the pelvis a bit more” says Lisa.

All this happens without me realising and I am thinking “ Christ this is big, gotta get this big thing OUT” Not even thinking about a beautiful soft sweet little baby, its just become this enormous pressure, a thing of pain. The pain is just unbelievably, indescribably “out of body” (and also “get out of my body”). I remember Lisa telling me at certain times NOT to push but I have never run with an urge like that before so I ignore her and do what compels me more than ever to get through this.

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Before I know it our beautiful baby is born and lying on my chest as I am collapsed on a heap on the lounge room floor. Too shocked and exhausted to really be a good welcoming party to our beautiful huge baby whom we haven’t even checked the sex of. I am stunned, shocked, and weak. What just happened? I wonder if Asherah thinks the same?

Soon enough though I start to feel grounded and euphoric and I embrace this beautiful little baby who sounds like she is doing some Tibetan monk throat singing. I think the other two might be worried or thrown by this – Lisa gives her some oxygen and a gentle prod but I knew she was fine – just our latest unusual addition to our unusual family. She just seems so relaxed!

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Soon I make it to the couch to recline feeling weak as a kitten, completely and utterly smashed. Asherah Mirayd is my anchor, already attaching to my breast and sucking like a profesh. Probably the most favourite photo I will ever own in my life is of this moment, I can’t tell you how much it means to me but I feel it every day in the love I connect in with this beautiful child.

We are all about speechless about her size and all that hair! Lisa can barely fit her in a green bag to weigh her and she comes in at a whopping 10lbs 6.5 oz. A number I will forever quote and never forget because boy did I feel it in the hour and fifteen minutes it took to birth her from when my waters broke. She looks incredibly squashed too – just as well we didn’t go longer that term plus four because she was pretty vacuum sealed by the looks!

I start to get this dreadful pain from my uterus contracting and then I realise I haven’t birthed the placenta. I was not prepared for nor expecting this and it came as a very unpleasant surprise.

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I got a bit impatient and hopped off the couch whilst Dave held his newbie, grabbed the bucket Lisa had, squatted over it and pushed and ordered: “get out” I was surprised it was taking so long (I mean come on- the baby took an hour so I expected it to take a minute or something!!) Anyway I think if nothing else Lisa and Dave were quite amused to see me getting so bossy with my placenta. It seemed to work – a few pushes and plop it went into the bucket. Unfortunately that wasn’t the end of the pain for me, I had quite considerable contraction pains for a few days after. It’s like I did part of the labour pains after the fact.

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After a while Lisa subtly took her leave to let us spend time together but I have to say we were all to cold and stuffed and all just climbed into bed. Dave passed out immediately as is his way- but Ash did her throat singing all through the night as I stagged to and fro the bathroom. Talk about fluid retention.

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And so it was, another “beached whale birth” (The great big moaning creature can see the water but can’t get into it).

I can’t pretend or deny that it was an incredibly painful and shocking experience, I mean one hour really doesn’t give you much time to get into or out of any particular thought process or zone. Not that I would want to swap it with a longer labour though.

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Despite this, given all the contexts I could have had such an experience I am extremely grateful I got to have it in comfortable surrounds, with everything I could have wanted around me, with two very special people with another one to join us at the end. There was no-one I didn’t know or trust barging in and out, getting in a flap, no bright lights or strange loud noises, and no interference with my body. And that is what makes Asherah’s birth at home so special, awesome and unforgettable.

Thank you Lisa for enabling us to have such a special, intimate experience. Happy second birthday Ashie (Our honourary Crab).

One response to “Ashies Homebirth”

  1. kate

    what a beautifully entertaining birth story…who needs videos with words like that.