I’m so proud of the steps we took, including hiring our wonderful doula Erika, and the preparation we put in which helped create the most intense, incredible, memorable, rewarding and magical 24 hours of our lives.
Our Birth Story
Going into this, we didn’t even know which ‘type of care’ box to tick. What we did know was that we wanted as natural a birth as possible. All the research we did from there on out confirmed our instincts so we began doing everything possible to give ourselves the best chance at this, including hiring our awesome doula, Erika. In addition, we covered hypno birthing with her which helped prepare us mentally for the big day, minimising our anxiety. She also helped Andrew prepare as a support person whichfurther led to a relaxedenvironment during labour and gave him the confidence to really support me throughout the entire journey.
So my labour went as follows. The day following my due date, I caught the worst cold I’d had in years and became terrified I’d go into labour feeling that exhausted and ill. All braxton hicks and labour prep feelings in my body completely stopped. I asked bub to hold off just a bit longer but by 8 days past my due date, a Friday, when I was starting to get on top of things, a birth centre midwife informed me that I was completely undilated and that our boy was still floating and unengaged – quite unusual for a first baby. She then went on to explain the process of induction and what the doctors would be pushing for ifnothing had happened by Monday. She also gave me the impression that she didn’t think much would happen over the weekend. Given how much we wanted to avoid medical intervention, we weren’t terribly overjoyed by this news and meeting.
But I had an acupuncture appointment at midday the next day so I held onto the hope that Kate, my acupuncturist might be able to move things along. As usual, it was a wonderful experience and dear Kate really helped put my mind at ease.
That afternoon, Andrew’s parents, who had been staying with us, went out for the afternoon so we spent some time working down a list of natural induction techniques. Immediately afterwards, I began getting small contractions for the first time since before my cold. These continued throughout the evening and night and by 5am, they were feeling much stronger than I’d yet felt and quite regular though still appeared to be movement activated so I remained calm and put it down to false labour, just happy that things were finally happening.
By 9am Sunday morning, they were getting too strong to fall back to sleep so I got up and joined the family for breakfast. Andrew’s parents who had become tired of waiting for their first grandchild to arrive, decided to go away for a few days so at 10:30, Andrew took them to pick up their hire care and I waxed my legs and did a little packing. Andrew came home and while he made lunch I washed my hair, feeling how much relief the hot water gave me made me realise just how much stronger the contractions were becoming. By this point they seemed to be only a few minutes apart and quite painful so I ate lunch on the swiss ball, maintaining movement in my hips for pain relief.
After lunch, we began timing the contractions and finalising all our packing. We also set up the living room as planed with a mattress on the floor, music, aromatherapy and of course my swiss ball, creating a beautiful and conformable space to labour in. Due to their strength, duration and frequency, I knew that this was it and called my parents, our doula and a bit later the birth centre. I was surprised that no one during the whole process (aside from my mother), really seemed to care about how close the contractions were given how much emphasis always seems to be put on them. Erika advised me to stop timing them and just get on with other things until I found myself needing to concentrate during each one.
By 4pm I was definitely needing to do that and found myself in a dreamy haze which I knew were result of labour hormones.
Around 5pm, Andrew ran me a shower and I spent some time in there until the water went cold. By that point, I wasn’t sure how I’d get out and back to the living room but of course I managed – the cold water was a REAL motivator to get out of there! I told Andrew that I now definitely needed Erika so he called her.
She arrived around 7pm and by this point, things, I felt were in full swing. She had some dinner and observed me for a bit whilst Andrew packed the car. Not long after that, I began feeling a strong pushing urge which alarmed me a little as I’d only ever heard that that meant the baby was coming.
By around 8pm I told Andrew and Erika that I wanted to go in. Andrew called the birth centre and we made our way there. Again, I wasn’t sure how I was going to walk out to the car but I just waited for the next contraction to finish and headed out. The walk wasn’t as bad as I had imagined but the contractions were so close together the entire car ride was extremely challenging and I remember making a lot of noise. Once there, I finished a contraction then quickly head in, had another on the front desk then was taken to our room. The midwife then felt my belly and it was a huge relief to hear our baby was finally, fully engaged and I had lots of bloody show which I was told indicated that I was dilating well. Due to this, no internal checks were done. Only my blood pressure and our baby’s heartbeat were checked from time to time but there were never any concerns there either.
Not long after arriving at the birth centre, I spent some time in the shower before going back to the bed where I spent the rest of the time, mostly draped over an exercise ball. For the rest of the labour, I was fighting an unbelievably intense pushing urge which I think was possibly worse than the pain of the contractions.
While this entire time frame seems a little warped thinking back on it, I do know that it seemed to go very fast but somehow at the same time stand still. I just remember wondering over and over, just how much longer I could do this. The contractions were so close and felt so rolling and relentless for so long, I remember feeling desperate for a break and to know how much longer… if only I knew how much longer I could cope so much better. That fear of needing to endure such for possibly another 10+ hours kept eating away at me though and of course no one could give me any answers, only that things seemed to be progressing well. I kept asking when I would be able push and I kept being told, “you’ll know”, something which I had NEVER heard of before. On TV and films, labouring women are always told when they can push and never seem to need to for hours before the baby arrives. This combined with not really knowing if I was even dilating really screwed with my head and I know made the process much more difficult for me mentally.
But we had prepped ourselves as much as possible and this was just the result of going through the birthing process for the first time. Never during the entire time however, did feel afraid for the safety of myself or my baby. I was worried I wouldn’t have the mental stamina but never for our well bein
I know I asked for pain relief several times but as I was breathing well (I believe due to my knowledge of breath through singing) Erika said the gas wouldn’t really benefit me at all and as I didn’t have back labour, the sterile water injections would also have been pointless. Then, at about 10:30pm I mentioned an epidural, Erika (thank God for her!) had already asked the midwife to run the bath and told me I needed to try that before going down the epidural road. It wasn’t long later that we learned that I was feeling that tired and defeated because I was in fact transitioning.
Just before I attempted to get off the bed to head to the big bath down the hallway, I remember feeling something large, right there near the opening and quickly saying, “I can feel him!!!” I’m not sure anyone paid that much attention to me but I knew it was almost time. Sure enough, once I got into the bath, it felt like no more than a minute before I proclaimed that he was coming. The midwife then told me I’d need to get out and I clearly remember stating, “I’m not going anywhere!” There was then some discussion between Erika and the midwife about whether or not she’d had any experience with water births but she said she had and that was that. I think I knew before we left our room that I would end up with my dream water birth. I had read in forums that it wasn’t authorised at the FBC however it did happen from time to time which I think gave me the confidence to stay put, not that I physically, at that point felt like moving!
Whilst pushing, I remember thinking that I could barely feel any progress. Everyone told me to reach down and touch his head but when I did, all I felt was what I thought was squishy flesh. Turned out it was the amniotic sac covering his head as my waters had never broken.
And so our darling Phoenix James was born in his own waters, via a water birth. It was such a mix of physical relief, confusion and excitement when he shot out into the water. I reached down and grabbed him and the midwife quickly leaned over to brush the amniotic sac off his face and in an instant he was on my chest, in my arms. The whole experience was so overwhelming, it is difficult to put into words how I felt at that moment. I was aware of Andrew’s arms around me from outside the bath, crying as we welcomed our beautiful little guy into the world. While I know I was in quite a bit of shock, it wasn’t enough to prevent me from feeling absolutely mesmerised by the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. He was so calm, I remember being surprised there wasn’t any crying, just lovely little sounds and very inquisitive, alert eyes. I didn’t expect so much eye contact in those first seconds which made it all the magical.
The placenta came easily 15 minutes later. Andrew then cut the cord and we carried our baby back to our room. Apparently I was bleeding everywhere which would be why I fainted later in the shower, but it stopped shortly after lying down. On the bed with our baby, I felt so elated and relieved, I barely even noticed as they gave me 5 stitches for my “grazes”.
We made calls to our parents and Erika left around midnight. By the time I was showered and the bed cleaned up it was around 2am but despite being tired, I barely slept. I wasn’t worried, but I just wanted to lie there listening to all our baby’s funny little noises. He did begin throwing up bloody mucus though so the midwife offered to take him away so I could get some rest. I think I got an hour after that and for once, I didn’t care in the slightest.
Though I certainly didn’t think so at the time, the whole labour went as well as we could have hoped for and I feel so fortunate to have been able to bring our baby into the world in the exact way we had planned… well, except for the water part which was such a beautiful surprise. I’m also proud of the steps we took, including hiring our wonderful doula Erika, and the preparation we put in which helped create the most intense, incredible, memorable, rewarding and magical 24 hours of our lives.
Casselle and Andrew