~We named Strong on his two week old birthday so throughout this story, which I wrote over his first 9 days, he is still called ‘bubba’ ~
We waited eight years to become pregnant again. When we did I knew bubba would be born at our home in Lonnavale. Star was born in our last home in Adelaide and Bear in the Flinders hospital birth centre, and apart from having my waters broken with Bear, both births were natural and without intervention or pain relief, I was active the whole time, and birthed on all fours. For this birth there was no other choice for me apart from homebirth. The idea of birthing in a hospital being very wrong for me (although I know at times and for some women it is right and necessary and the place they feel safest); things such as, the impersonal environment with a very high risk of intervention cascading into more intervention, pregnancy treated as an illness, the baby an invader in the woman’s body compromising her health, and women having their power and intuition taken away from them, would greatly concern me if I were to need to birth in a hospital.
I had some difficulties along the way. A blood test at around 28 weeks showing I had low Iron and B12 levels (I had low Iron levels with all my pregnancies) and mild thrombocytopenia (my platelet levels which are needed for blood clotting had dropped). I was pressured by my GP to see an obstetrician regarding my platelet levels (I did not do this) but was reassured and supported by my midwife, friends who researched platelet levels during pregnancy, and my own intuition that my levels were not too low to still have a homebirth.
I began supplementing Iron and B12 and continued having as healthy diet as possible (my levels subsequently rose to within the normal range) and repeat blood tests showed my platelets were hovering around the same level.
Then at about 34 weeks I developed shingles, which were very painful and meant after finally getting it diagnosed in hospital after a wrong diagnosis at the GP, I had to take antivirals, which although were proven to be safe during pregnancy were not something I wanted to be putting into my or bubba’s body. It also meant that my other two children could have contracted chicken pox from me (neither of them having had it yet), not a good time with bubba’s estimated due date only weeks away. Thankfully neither of them did get chicken pox and I recovered well, but my partner ended up with shingles several weeks later! We were onto this immediately though and he also recovered quickly, but it was all rather stressful and a great relief when we were both completely healthy again.
In the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy we finished our final preparations for the homebirth, and settled in for hibernation and the birth of our beautiful bubba in our bush home…..
On the 9th of April, 2015, I woke up at 7am feeling like something was happening. I felt that my underwear was a bit wet and got out of bed to go to the toilet thinking, could my waters be breaking? As soon as I stood up I felt water trickling down my leg and noticed some drops on the floor were pinkish. I went to the toilet and realising this was the day had mixed feelings of anxiety and excitement, and also a bit of disbelief that the day had arrived. I went back to the bedroom to wake up Scott and told him that ‘I think my water’s are breaking ’cause I’m leaking!’ (unless I had wet myself!)
I decided to have a shower and when I got out Scott got up and lit the fire. We let the children sleep until they woke up normally, all the time my waters continuing to leak slowly. Scott and I both pottered around the house, doing bits of cleaning up. When I could see that Bear had woken up and was reading in bed I called out good morning and told him that bubba was coming today. He was excited to hear this and I was excited to be telling him, having wondered for a long time how this would happen. After a while Star surfaced and said she had actually heard me telling Bear about bubba but hadn’t said anything, I had a feeling she had done this, taking it in quietly by herself.
We continued on with our morning and at about 9am I rang our midwife Anni to let her know that things were starting. She was very excited to hear this, we had been due to drop in and see her that morning if nothing had happened yet. We decided I would ring her later when things were more progressed.
As the morning continued I continued to leak! The children were rather amused by my ‘oh oh’s’ as more water trickled out, and by my dashes to the bathroom. We were all feeling a bit anxious, especially the children, and wondered when things would progress further. To help things along Star and I went for a walk together while Scott and Bear stayed at home together reading. We walked up the drive and wandered through the plantation that borders our property, our last walk just the two of us. It was an absolutely beautiful morning, we looked at the gorgeous blue sky and the trees reaching up, their leaves silouhetted against the blue. The birds were singing and the sun was shining with warmth. Star gave me a leaf which I found days later, dried in my jumper pocket.
As we returned Scott and Bear were sitting out on the verandah in the sun. Scott asked how I was going and I told him I was still feeling the same, no contractions yet, just pressure.
The hours passed and we got the lounge and kitchen more ready; swept the floors, got the tubs out of the bedroom that held the towels, heat packs, sheets, and my birth mat, Scott got a pot of water ready to boil for the heat packs, and he put on a pot of soup for lunch. Slowly I started to feel very mild, irregular contractions, and at about 10:30am I noticed my mucous plug when I went to the toilet. After this the contractions slowly got stronger.
I rang Anni again at about 12pm to let her know how things were going and I said I would ring her again when the contractions were more regular and intense. We also rang family and friends to let them know bubba was coming today.
We ate some of the lentil soup Scott had made for lunch. I had to eat mine standing up and in between contractions as sitting was starting to become uncomfortable. Over the morning and early afternoon the children busied themselves by playing outside on the trampoline and then crafting at the kitchen table.
As the contractions became more intense I walked around the lounge and kitchen and occasionally outside on the verandah. My feet began to ache so I tried sitting in between contractions, first on Star’s little lounge chair, and then on a chair Scott put near the fire for me. I stopped doing this after not long though as when a contraction came on standing up was really unpleasant. We lit my birth candle and put on some essential oil to burn. The children and Scott began to worry about me and started saying perhaps I should ring Anni again now. I didn’t want to ring her too early though, but at the same time she was nearly an hour away and my previous two births had not been that long once contractions started regularly. I told them not to worry and we’d ring Anni soon, all the time walking around. At one point while out on the verandah Star said to me, ‘mum, I’m not hassling you but I really think you should ring Anni now’ – so sweet.
I began needing to breath through the contractions, stopping and leaning on the lounge and the back of the chair near the fire. Then at 2:30pm I felt like the contractions had become more intense and required more of my concentration, and it was time to ring Anni. Scott rang for me and she said she would mosey on down.
After this Star went around and lit all the tea light candles and we put the curtain down to reduce the light. I continued breathing through my contractions leaning on the back of the chair, and I also had another shower. This eased some of the intensity. I leaned against the bathroom wall, breathing and rocking from side to side and looked out our bathroom window at a beautiful big gum tree thinking of Mother Earth’s power to grow and the tree’s unfurling growth towards the sky. At times during my labour I also thought of and pictured my cervix as an unfolding, opening flower.
Anni and Liz (Anni’s support/our Doula) arrived at about 3:30pm. Anni got set up and I found out later that Bear and Star helped Anni set up the oxygen tank on the verandah. After the initial excitement of their arrival things settled down. Bear who is such a vibrant and excitable boy really quietened down as the atmosphere became more peaceful and concentrated. Anni, Liz, and the children sat around the kitchen table as I laboured, Anni checked on me periodically, taking my blood pressure and checking bubba’s heartbeat with a pinard, all was going great.
I began getting very hot so Liz and Scott got me a cold face washer which I found very helpful, and I cooled my face and chest, putting it on the back of my neck during contractions. Around this time I also started to feel a bit queasy and like I wasn’t getting enough air during contractions. I had some of the juice ice blocks Star and I had made and this helped to cool me down and give me a bit more energy.
As the contractions became more and more intense I needed the support of Scott to help me get through them. I leaned on him with my arms around his neck and shoulders and he helped me with his loving words and strength. I got close to transition and felt I couldn’t stand anymore. We had loosely planned that I would birth kneeling on the floor, leaning over the lounge with the fireplace behind me. Scott and Anni got everything ready for the birth, placing a sheet over the lounge and a blanket, towel, and my birth mat on the floor. I knelt down and stripped off my clothes and after breathing through a couple of contractions felt I needed to be a bit more upright. We piled the two big lounge cushions up for me to lean on and Scott sat next to these holding my hands and supporting me through the contractions.
Anni asked if I wanted her to use the heat packs on my lower front. I remember saying ‘maybe’ not quite able to think enough to decide, so she got them ready to give them a try. The heat packs really helped, dispersing the building pressure and intensity of the contractions. Liz also got me some water at this point as I was feeling thirsty.
It wasn’t long before I could feel the enormous pressure of bubba’s head as he started to move down the birth canal. I remember needing to calm myself at this point, telling myself that I could get through each contraction, one at a time. I would rest in between each contraction without fearing the next. As the pressure increased, bubba’s head moving down and my body opening, I rocked back and forth through each contraction, leaning back and down with Scott supporting my weight by holding my hands tightly.
As I labour I am silent, I turn inwards, close my eyes, and concentrate on breathing through the contractions. The second stage is the only time that I make any noise at all, and as the pressure of bubba’s head pushed down, the urge to push became irresistable, and I grunted and groaned through the contractions to help bubba out. Anni continued using the heat packs and as I began pushing she placed them from front to back on my vagina and perineum. This was extremely soothing and really helped me through the last contractions. I also remember her telling me I was doing beautifully and encouraging me through this stage.
Bubba’s head crowned and was birthed. As I birthed his head I pushed, groaned, and grunted, and slowed it down by panting rapidly through an open mouth. It was instinctual and his head was born with no grazing or tearing. With my previous births my midwives told me when to slow down and stop pushing as to not overstretch or tear but this time I followed my instincts and Anni was wonderful, supporting me as I was guided by my body. It’s a wonderful feeling to follow your body’s instincts, with trust and without fear, in the footsteps of generations of birthing women.
I remember either Anni or Liz telling me I could reach down and feel bubba’s head. I had not done this with my previous births, unable to move at this point, but I did this time. I can remember the feeling of his little head, a soft and wet covering of hair and beautifully soft skin. It was so lovely and I remember saying ‘Oh!’ I left my hand on bubba’s head until the next contraction came, then holding Scott’s hand again, pushed and grunted and saying ‘Ow’ birthed bubba’s body.
This photo is a photo of when I had my hand on bubba’s head before his body was born – a very special moment
Anni caught bubba, turning him as he came out to remove his cord from around his neck (it was wrapped once around his neck). She passed him to me through my legs and Scott said, ‘it’s a boy!’ Bubba gave one cry and was breathing. The cord was still wrapped over his shoulders and around the back of his neck. Scott unwrapped it for me and then I lifted our amazing little boy up to my belly. I then turned around and sat down with him, it was 4:42pm.
Star and Bear had been not far away in the kitchen and now came over to see their new baby brother, marvelling at him. They both told me afterwards that they had found the second stage as I birthed bubba a bit distressing and upsetting, not liking to see their mama experiencing pain but once their brother arrived they were in awe and couldn’t wait to have a hold of him. Throughout the earlier parts of labour Bear and Star were absolutley wonderful, Bear took all of the photos for me (apart from the ones of bubba emerging which Liz took), and checked up on me every now and then to see if I was okay. It was so lovely to have their reassuring, loving faces and smiles around during the labour. Liz was a fantastic support, sitting and talking with them at the kitchen table; they both appreciated that as well, and told me they chatted to Liz about family, friends, and books.
After bubba was born we cuddled and adored him, and I introduced him to my breast. We waited for the cord to stop pulsing and I had a couple of attempts at birthing the placenta. We left it a bit longer while bubba had his first feed, waiting for contractions to begin again. Then at about 6:05pm we decided to cut the cord (Anni clamping it with a peg first then replacing it with cotton and I cutting it), I birthed the placenta onto a mat, and then Anni placed it in my placenta bowl. Despite having mild thrombocytopenia I only lost about 50ml of blood, a very minimal amount. Anni showed the placenta to the children, explainging all it’s details. Star thought it was cool, Bear thought it was rather disgusting (he’s not one for seeing other people’s blood, let alone organs!).
After this we settled on the lounge, I got dressed, Anni did some basic checks on bubba and me, and we weighed bubba. He was a very healthy 3.550kg. Eventually we got bubba dressed and sat around near the fire with cups of tea, and Anni and Liz left around 7:30pm. That night and for several after we all slept as a family in the lounge by the fire wanting to be close together as we started our journey as a family of five with our adorable baby boy.
Now as I finish this it is 9 days after bubba’s birth. We are all totally in love with this perfect little boy and still adjusting to the changes he has brought to our life. We have all gone through times of sadness and grief over the loss of our previous life as just the four of us and Scott and I have also experienced pangs of guilt over now needing to spread our love and attention around three beautiful children, even though we know bubba is a blessed gift for Bear and Star, and they are already so loving and caring, and have exceeded our expectations of how helpful they would be. We are slowly adjusting and taking one day at a time.
I have had some difficulties with feeding as bubba was not latching on properly. Soon after he was born we noticed with amusement that he was a very vigorous and noisy hand sucker, sucking on the side of his hands and fingers. This meant he was not opening his mouth wide enough and was sucking on my nipples too close to the front of his mouth. Over the first few days my nipples became very sore and blistered but with the help of Anni’s advice and using a nipple shield for about half of his feeds, my nipples have healed and bubba is feeding much better.
As yet I have not left the house as we cocoon ourselves in our little home for this very special, emotional, and magical time. I am so thankful and blessed to have had the homebirth I envisioned and to have had two amazing ladies, Anni and Liz, there to support us. It is such a natural and sacred time to share with your family in your own home and I am so grateful to have birthed our precious, healthy baby as nature intended.