Planning a home birth
You plan to birth at home, knowing it will be an empowering experience and give your pēpe a great start to life. Explore our birthing information and resources to support your choice.
Our organisation, our people, our whanau. Home Birth Aotearoa informs and celebrates the home birth choice and supports the home birth community.
Whakawhānau, labour and birthing. Options for natural childbirth you can practice in your home birth.
5 Reasons to choose home birth
1. Fewer unnecessary interventions
Calm, peaceful, in control of your own environment and who or what is in your labouring/birthing space, less likely chance of having or needing any interventions and a more likely chance of having a normal delivery ~ Nell
I felt it gave me the best chance of a VBAC with minimal unnecessary intervention & the chance to really trust in my body knowing what to do….and that’s exactly what happened ~ Jo
2. Peaceful Birth
Birthing a child in your own home gives you security, calm, and control. It’s a peaceful place to bring a baby into. ~ Huia
Being at home is relaxing – I felt way calmer for longer during labour and was able to curl up in my own bed afterwards. ~ Rose
3. Autonomy and empowerment
Empowerment to birth my baby my way. – Linda
In the transition to motherhood, home would be where my intuition could be most easily listened to and responded to. This continues to be true.~ Emily
It’s an adrenaline rush to birth in your own surroundings, 7 months on I still feel that buzz of pride, adrenaline and empowerment of having the privilege to birth my baby in my home. ~ Lucy
4. Everything at hand
I chose home birth because it’s quiet, relaxing, no need to pack anything, no fear that you’ll forget anything and you have all your own things around you. ~ Sandra
My number one was simply being at home, the warmth of the fire, no unwanted visitors and no time frames what more could I ask for. ~ Jami
5. Bonding - family and baby
To be able to stay together as a family unit and to be relaxed in my own environment while giving birth.~ Sharlene
To be able to bring my baby into the world in my own space, surrounded by the people I love (including baby’s sibling) to sleep in my own bed and eat my own food afterwards, I love that we don’t have to arrange childcare and be away from our eldest Son, not to have to get into a car in labour and drive 2+hours….Plus why go to a hospital you’re not ill! ~ Lauren
I felt I was able to bond instantly with my daughter, more than the others, breastfeeding came more easily too. ~ Toni
Voices of Tane
A father’s perspective
Home birth storiesfrom New Zealand families
(click on image to open story)
Zachariah’s Birth Story
Like most birth stories, this story starts at conception but the unique circumstances of Zach’s conception need telling just as much as the story of the labour and birth. In February 2004, Steve and I had our wedding and we planned to have a child sometime in the year following the wedding. My menstrual cycle has a large impact on my life and when I had my last period before our wedding, I realised with dread that I was due to be at my premenstrual worst on the day of the wedding itself. This was a serious situation because I would be very likely to say ‘bug*** off’ rather than ‘I do’. So I came up with a solution – if we got pregnant there would be no PMT! I convinced Steve that this was an excellent idea and at the appropriate times I hauled Steve off to the bedroom to achieve my goal. My plan was a roaring success and on the day of our wedding I had about 10 days worth of baby cells inside me and I was a glowing bride instead of the green monster from the swamp. Poor Steve thought that he would have a few months of trying, but I had warned him that I come from a fertile family! Although this was a rather extreme solution to PMT, it was a very successful one except for the unfortunate side effect that I spent much of our honeymoon with my head down the toilet!
Once I found out I was pregnant, I set about planning for my antenatal care and the birth. My older sister had had a beautiful home birth with her first child and this example combined with my distrust of the medical establishment meant that I didn’t even consider hospital as a viable place to give birth to a baby. I interviewed several midwives who do home birth and chose Linda Shannon as my LMC and Julie Carlyon as my second midwife. My pregnancy progressed beautifully with no problems. I chose the course of least interventions and declined any scans or tests, and also insisted Linda use the pinard instead of the sonicaid when checking on the baby. Steve took a bit of convincing about the safety of homebirth and no interventions. He had attended the birth of his two children from a previous marriage and the birth of his grandson, all of which were medicalised hospital births and he was well-indoctrinated that this was the safest option for giving birth. Throughout the pregnancy, Steve attended most of the midwife visits and the antenatal classes and enjoyed learning about his baby in a way that he never had a chance to for his previous children. Through this process, he came to accept that my birth plan was right for all of us.
My due date of November 11 approached and I had insisted to Steve that I would produce him a baby at 11 minutes past 11 on the 11th day of the 11th month! As my due date passed, and no baby arrived, we decided that our child had inherited his time keeping genes from his father and was now on ‘Brown time’ (for which Steve is well-known!). Steve insisted that given the military precision with which I organised conception, if the baby had my genes it would have arrived when expected. By the time I was a week overdue, I was truly sick of being pregnant. I was very large, the weather was very hot and I found the whole process exhausting. I admired the design of pregnancy that ensures late pregnancy is so uncomfortable that labour is a very exciting prospect.
By this time, I had given up second-guessing the signals my body was giving – instead of thinking ‘is this it?’ with every niggle, I resigned myself each morning to waking up accepting that I was still pregnant. At 10 days overdue, I had a day of strong back ache and started to think that maybe something was going to happen. The next morning when I woke up, still with no baby, I decided it was time to start nudging this baby into being ready. I had an appointment with Linda that morning and I got her to stir up my cervix with some evening primrose oil. That afternoon, I went for a swim with a friend, did some shopping and arrived home ready for a well-earned rest at about 5pm. Steve was having a nap in bed so I curled up next to him. As I relaxed, I felt some contractions that were distinctly different from the constant Braxton-Hicks contractions that I usually had throughout each day. I started to count my breaths between contractions and realised they were very regular at about four and a half minutes apart. I lay there getting more and more excited, knowing that this was probably ‘it’. I wanted to wake Steve but I also knew that he needed to keep sleeping because he was probably in for a long night. Instead, I got up and made some dinner. I rang Linda to let her know she would be needed later in the night, and also rang my support team to put them on standby. My sister Jo and her partner Dave were my support team and they had to drive to Palmerston North from Wellington. I didn’t want them to start the trip until I knew for sure that things were happening. Then I woke Steve and broke the exciting news to him. We had dinner then took the dog for a walk down the river behind our place. It was a lovely evening and we took our time strolling along and pausing every four or five minutes for me to hang off Steve’s neck and breathe through the contraction. At about 9, I rang Linda wanting to know how I would know that it was all on and when to ring Jo and Dave. She suggested it was early stages yet and to try taking a couple of panadol and get into bed with some hot wheat packs on my back and belly. I lasted about an hour in bed but then became too uncomfortable to handle the contractions lying down. I left Steve sleeping and had a long hot shower, letting the water run on my lower back while I leaned on the wall and swayed with each contraction. By midnight, I knew that it was definitely for real. I rang Jo and told her I needed her. I woke Steve and told him I needed him too and got him to light the fire. The next couple of hours I spent sitting on my swiss ball leaning over the back of the couch. I had written a list of suggestions for my support team and had some print outs of pressure points that are useful in labour. Steve was a bit uncertain of how to help me and tried using the pressure points. Jo and Dave arrived at 2.30 and the relief on Steve’s face was obvious! Dave had been at my older sister’s home birth and had worked with all the pressure points before. I stayed on the ball and my team all naturally slotted into a routine of pushing on my shoulders and my lower back as each contraction came. I’m not sure how much the pressure points actually worked, but I know that being touched helped keep me grounded and focussed and let me know they were all there with me. In between contractions, I would rest my head on the cushions and Jo would massage my back or put a hot wheat pack on it. At 3am I had a show but when I stood up to go to the toilet, there was a gush of a couple of tablespoons of bright red blood. From what I had read, I thought this was a cause for concern. I got Steve to ring Linda who assured us that it was perfectly normal. I also got Steve to ask Linda how we would know when we needed to have her here. She just said that I would know. The next few hours I spent alternating between having hot showers, sitting on the ball or walking up and down and leaning against the wall with the contractions. At 6, I knew that I wanted Linda there. I had a slight sense of anxiety and wanted to know how I was doing, even if she turned up to check me and then leave again, I knew I needed her input. I asked Steve to ring her and he let out one of the comments that was an absolute classic for me. He said “but you’re not even in the second stage and I can’t see the head – why do you need her?” He said that as I went into a contraction, and before I even got my breath back at the end of the contraction I snarled at him “You’re not serious, are you?!!” He promptly rang her and asked her to come. We realised later that his comment came from his experience of hospital births. With his first two children, the doctor only turned up at the very end to actually deliver the baby and he was assuming that Linda would be taking the same approach.
Linda arrived at about 7am and found that I was 7 cm dilated. She listened for the heartbeat with the sonic aid and the baby was doing fine. I found this very emotional because I had not heard my baby’s heartbeat before so it was very special. We had filled the pool by this stage so I got in and with the first contraction in the water, my waters broke. The contractions became much stronger and faster, but still only about 3-4 minutes apart. Jo and Dave took turns working on my back with each contraction and Steve really came into his own as my coach. During each contraction he would keep telling me to focus on slowing my breath, relax my face, relax my hands and made me stay right in the present. If the contractions got too strong for me and my breathing started to quicken or my quiet groaning started to rise, he would raise his voice to penetrate and keep me focussed. In between contractions, he would first make me take three deep breaths to refocus myself, and then he would talk me through a yoga relaxation. Starting from my feet, he would talk up through my body getting me to relax each part that he passed. Although I could not talk to him by this stage, his voice was magic and so important to me. Jo started applying iced flannels to my forehead and the back of my neck between contractions, which was very soothing. At some stage in the pool, the baby started to go posterior and my back began to ache. Linda got me to lie on my left side to encourage the baby to turn properly. Shortly after this, I began to get contractions that had a pushing urge in the middle of them. This was the most intense part of labour because I couldn’t seem to get on top of those contractions. It was like this roar came up from inside me and would completely overtake me and take my breath away. By this stage I was very tired and was running out of energy. My uterus was also getting tired because my contractions had slowed to 10 minutes apart and were not always very strong. I remember saying to Linda that I didn’t think I could take much more, and thinking that if someone offered me a caesarean right then I would jump at the chance! Linda gave me a homeopathic remedy a couple of times that helped strengthen the contractions again. Eventually Steve could see that my breathing was trying to change and he encouraged me to begin panting through the contractions to control the pushing urge. I still had a band of pain around my abdomen that meant the cervix hadn’t dilated fully and that I should not be pushing. The panting was a godsend and I began to feel less out of control. Linda got me out of the pool shortly before 10 to examine me and found that I was only 8cm because the lip of the cervix had swollen up and was coming back over the baby’s head. That was really disheartening news to have worked hard for 3 hours and only gained 1cm. I also started to feel it was all a bit futile because I thought that once the lip of the cervix swelled up, it was unlikely to allow the baby out naturally. But I hadn’t counted on Linda’s witchcraft! She applied arnica and rescue remedy directly to my cervix and it moved straight back out the way. I was lying on my back on the floor and as the next contraction came, I started to push. Linda said that if I wanted I water birth I better get back in the pool! Feeling like a turtle cast on its back with everyone standing round staring at me, I shrieked at them to help me up and get me in the pool. With everyone laughing, they hauled me to my feet and helped me get in. At the next contraction I began to push in earnest. Linda had said all along that I can choose how long the second stage lasts for and if I want to get the baby out I just have to push it out. Steve said that at that first push, my face and chest went completely purple. Linda had to remind me to only push with the contractions because I was just pushing non-stop, determined to get the baby moving! I felt him moving down into my vagina but as the contractions ended I would feel him slip back up again. After a little while of this, Linda had a quick feel of my cervix and found the lip had slipped back over again. She got me out of the pool and tried the arnica treatment again, which worked a second time. This time I stayed out of the pool and on my hands and knees on the floor continued pushing. A couple of pushes later his head came out. Linda first thought the cord was wrapped around his neck but then realised it was just a roll of fat across the back of his neck! While we waited for the next contraction there was a bit of banter about how well I had been feeding him because he looked so chubby. With one more big push, his shoulders came out and the rest of him shot out. Linda did a very good catch because he chose to come out with the opposite shoulder first and shot away from Linda towards me! She passed him through to me and I cuddled him to my chest. I was so excited to meet him – I couldn’t stop gushing endearments at him and looking at him. I wanted to see what sex he was but Linda pointed out that it would be best to get him breathing first! She gave him a vigorous rubbing with the towel and he cried for a minute before becoming calm and began to open his eyes and look around. After a while, Steve cut the cord and then I delivered the placenta with a bit of management from Linda. Linda and Julie were guessing he weighed a good nine pounds because he seemed so large, but everyone was surprised when Julie weighed him and he was 10lb 11oz (4860g)! I had no idea I could produce such a large baby and to do so without tearing was even more amazing. I was also proud of myself for having pushed him out in 25 minutes, after close to 12 hours of hard labouring through the night.
It was wonderful to be able to clean up and snuggle into my own bed with my husband and baby and have all my family around. My mother turned up soon after the birth with strawberries and ice cream and helped clean up and do the washing. We all had a rest for the afternoon then sat around talking about the birth over dinner. I imagined if I had been in hospital how much more lonely it would have been to spend the night there by myself. Jo and Dave had taken turns videoing parts of the labour and all of the delivery and we watched the video that evening. I’ve watched the video many times since and can’t believe how lucky I was to have such a fantastic support team. Watching the video showed me they worked as hard as I did to make the birth a success. What stands out the most for me on the video was how much love was lavished on me during the labour. All three of them loved and supported me through the whole event and there was no way I could have done it without them. The energy in the room was so calm and peaceful and perfect for receiving a baby.
I also felt very lucky to have had a midwife as skilled as Linda. I am sure that if I had been in the hospital under the care of someone else, I would have ended up with either an epidural or caesarean or both, instead of the simple solution of arnica and rescue remedy. I am also very glad that I chose not to have any scans. Not knowing he was a big baby meant that no one could scare me by telling me it was unlikely I could deliver him naturally or that I was bound to have problems with his size. I’m sure many doctors would not have let me go past my due date if they had known what a large baby I was carrying and they would have insisted on a closely monitored induction. Instead, I had a beautiful birth and a gorgeous baby and memories that I will treasure forever.
From early on in my pregnancy my husband Ben and I had discussed having a homebirth. He was a bit cautious at first but after discussing it with our midwife Linda Shannon we decided as long as we had a trouble free pregnancy we would go ahead with a homebirth. We avoided telling many people about our plans to birth at home as we found a lot of people have very strong opinions and we got tired of hearing everyone’s horror stories.
I had a very smooth pregnancy and didn’t suffer from morning sickness but had low blood pressure and had to take it easy in the mornings to avoid feeling faint. I couldn’t believe how hungry I felt around 39-40 weeks. I finished work at 36 weeks our due date (29th July) came and went, although due to family history we didn’t expect to go into labour until after 41 weeks. We had a check-up at the hospital the day before going into labour just to check that the baby was ok and the placenta was still working well. Everything looked fine so we were just instructed to wait. Linda gave me some acupuncture and a stretch and sweep in hope that it might start off the labour.
Thankfully the next day I was having a lot of Braxton hicks contractions and by lunchtime I had a show followed by an increase in contractions. I was fairly sure we would be meeting our baby soon. We were at my parents house in fielding for dinner and I didn’t want to miss out on the roast. I managed to eat between contractions which were getting a lot stronger. I instructed Ben he would have to finish his dessert in the car because the baby was on its way and I really had to get home now! By the time we got home the contractions were two minutes apart. I called the midwife and Ben started filling the birthing pool. I was managing the pain by kicking my feet which helped to take my mind off the contractions. When Linda arrived she checked to find I was already 7cms dilated. What a relief I was able to get into the birthing pool. It felt great to be immersed in the warm water. I was able to move a lot more freely in the pool. Linda applied acupressure during my contractions to relieve back pain which worked really well.
When I felt ready to push Ben got into the birthing pool he was a great support and it helped to have something to lean back against. I concentrated on pushing through the pain of the contractions. Linda was monitoring the baby’s heart rate which was starting to drop and there was some meconium passing in the waters. So it felt best to get out and try some pushes on the couch. I leant up against Ben with my mum holding one foot against her hip and Siobhan (the student midwife) with the other. It made a huge difference to have them to bear down and push against. After an hour and 25 minutes of pushing I gave birth to Emily Rose Trask weighing 8lb 1oz. (12th August 2009 at 1.19am) A total labour of 7 1/2 hours. I was so thrilled to have finally met our new baby it wasn’t until a few days later that I read back over the birth notes that I thought to myself wow I did it! I achieved a natural home birth without pain relief and no stitches. There was one point during transition that I said to the midwife ‘Ouch, it hurts’ She just smiled and replied I know! This gave me the determination to push on and focus on the birth. I was extremely well looked after during the birth I had two midwives present and also a student midwife. They all did an amazing job. The aftercare and follow up visits were a huge help through the first days of breast feeding
Baby M’s Birth Story
From the time I first knew I was pregnant I wanted to give birth at home if I could. A hospital environment just didn’t sound attractive and my research in to home births showed that it was at least as safe as a hospital birth. I also didn’t really understand the idea of routinely ‘planning’ for epidurals and pain relief – giving birth just seemed like something my body should be able to do, and planning for pain relief felt like a bit of a cop-out and admitting defeat in advance.
We live in a small town so my only options were home, or hospital. No birth centre, and the maternity unit at the hospital only had one birthing suite with a pool – a water birth was something else I was really keen on. The only reason I could see that I might not be able to stay at home was my age – I was 35 and would be 36 when I gave birth.
I found an independent midwife who supported home births and talked to her about my options. She had no problem with me aiming for a home birth – saying that I was healthy, fit, and had no reason to expect problems in pregnancy or birth. Our approach was that I would stay at home if possible, but would transfer to hospital if anything was of concern at any stage – we were less than 2km from the hospital.
I got to my 39th week, and then my 40th. I had two due dates – one calculated on my LMP (3/9), and one from the 20 week scan (13/9). By the 13th, my midwife and I decided it was time to have an obstetrician check up to make sure everything was ok. Just a formality I thought. The outcome – concern that amniotic fluid levels were low, and that on the morning of 16/9 I would come in to hospital and be induced. My request to wait just one more day until the 17th – two weeks after ‘my’ due date – were declined as that was a Friday and they didn’t want to possibly have to call in specialists on the weekend!
This was the last thing I wanted, knowing that my chances of having a birth free of medication and intervention would be pretty low. Luckily on the evening of 15/9 I started to feel tightenings low down. Idly timing them while watching a movie, I saw they were quite far apart but very regular – 11 minutes – which made me hope that this was it and I wouldn’t need to make the trip to hospital in the morning.
Over the next few hours they continued, not very close together but still regular. Not painful, just uncomfortable. I sent a text to my midwife; ‘I think labour has started, I know you’ll just tell me to try and get some sleep so that’s what I’m off to do, will update you in the morning’.
The sensation got more and more like period pains, and closer together, till at around 3am with the pains 5-7 minutes apart lasting 45 to 60 seconds I gave up trying to sleep and starting wandering the house. Lying down was quite uncomfortable – walking around and then leaning against a wall or bench, swinging my hips, during each contraction was least uncomfortable. Sometimes there would be a bit of a break and I’d actually fall asleep sitting on the sofa, but this wasn’t often enough for my liking! I never felt any pain higher up – it was all very low down.
By around 7am I knew my midwife would be in the process of getting her kids ready to bring them in to school, so had a quick chat with her on the phone and she said she’d come in afterwards to visit and do an internal. We all thought it would be some time yet, but were very happy to be able to tell the hospital that I wouldn’t be coming in that day.
My midwife arrived around 9.00am, and told me that I’d better get the birthing pool filled up pretty quickly if I wanted to use it, because I was already 8cm! This was fantastic news as I didn’t think it had been that bad so far, and to know that I’d already gotten so far was very very encouraging. I’d been holding off on the pool, knowing that it could slow things down if I got in too early! If only I’d known.
Luckily we had borrowed an instant gas water heater, so the pool was full quickly, and I got in at about 10am. Bliss. The warm water, weightlessness and being able to move around on hands and knees so easily was wonderful. My midwife had gone to report to the hospital and run a few errands, and I spent the next couple of hours leaning my head against the side through contractions, with my partner beside me outside the pool, and in between running for snacks, or drinks, or whatever else I decided I needed! Closing my eyes during the contractions really helped me to focus on feeling them, and thinking of the pain as helpful and positive, rather than something to be suffered through. All this time, my contractions were still between 5 to 7 minutes apart.
By around 11.20, the sensations were definitely changing, and I was starting to feel strong pressure as well as the contractions. Each contraction was becoming more all-consuming – more like a strong spasm than just cramping and pain. I was about to suggest that if my midwife didn’t come back soon, we’d better find her – when she walked in the door, with her backup midwife following shortly behind her.
A check showed I was fully dilated, but that my waters still hadn’t broken. A few contractions later and as the urge to push became overwhelming, they burst with a rush. I guess I spent about the next 40 minutes pushing – it didn’t feel painful, just hard work and I could feel my baby’s head moving down slowly each time. My midwife was fantastic – I was getting frustrated with how long I felt it was taking, and she reassured me that this was a good way to be! Between each pushing contraction, she checked the baby’s heart rate and that was pretty much her only intervention. Eventually I could feel her head very low down, and then the only moment of real pain that I remember – my tailbone being pushed out by her head. Then she was crowning, and I felt a lot of pressure but not really pain, and after one final big push her head was out. I felt her shoulders as she twisted round, and she was born at 12.20 on 16/9. The weather had been awful all day, with thunder and lightning and lots of rain – and just as she was born we had a brief powercut, so her arrival obviously made an impression on the world!
My midwife caught her underwater and passed her back through my legs and up to me, so I could bring her up out of the water. I moved to lean back against the side and held her up so my partner could see, and she opened her eyes and quietly had a look around – she never cried, just stared. Her apgar was perfect (8 and then 10), and after about 20 minutes in the warm water we got out of the pool for the afterbirth and to clean and dry off. The only damage was one small graze.
After about 40 minutes the cord was still pulsing, so we decided to cut it anyway and my midwife gave me a bit of ‘help’ to get the placenta moving, which came out shortly afterwards. I felt a bit ‘tender’ but the placenta is so yielding, it wasn’t painful.
Some leftovers from last night’s dinner, a sweet strong hot chocolate, and a bit of a feed for baby M, and then she had a sleepy cuddle with her dad while I had a lovely long hot shower. It felt great to be at home with our new family.
Jasmin’s Birth Story
Born 2.05 pm on Thursday 19th April 2001.
Raglan was very conducive to a fantastic summer pregnancy. Most days were spent devouring every book from the Homebirth library on the deck of my house. If it was just too hot another expectant mum and I headed to the beach, dug holes in the cool sand to sink our beautiful bellies in and lay there looking normal!
Over the first few months Pete my husband was unsure about my desire for a home birth. He was concerned about the safety of his family. The more information and statistics we researched the more convinced we were that home was the right place for a fit, healthy, informed woman to have her baby as long as there were no complications.
In January we watched Bethany’s home water-birth from the homebirth library. Apart from the horror when he realised what the sieve was for this was a real turning point for Pete. He now realised that birth could be blood, mess and drama free. I was also completely sold on the water-birth idea.
By March I had a very clear idea what I did and didn’t want for my baby and me. A comprehensive birth plan for home and another for the unlikely event of a transfer to Hamilton was typed up. This made me feel very strong and in control.
In early April my blood pressure began creeping up and we started discussions about hypertension and pregnancy toxaemia. Hannah our mid-wife suggested I start focusing more on my diet and eating protein snacks every 2 hrs throughout the day.
For weeks the baby was in a posterior position and we discussed the implications and different birthing positions. Fortunately on my antenatal visit on 16th April she had rotated and was anterior and fully engaged ready for action…phew! By this time my blood pressure was nearly double what it normally is and I had a mild headache. It seems my body and baby knew it was time to get on with the job.
On Wednesday 18th April and Pete and I were to go to a weekly business meeting that I NEVER missed but I decided to stay home alone and have a candle lit herbal bath. When I got out I felt a bit ill and then had a few twinges. When Pete came home I told him I was having bad Braxton Hick’s so he’d better sleep in the spare room and turn up the hot water cylinder on the way. Do you think I had him fooled?
At 3am Pete woke up to hear me moaning through a contraction in the living room. I hadn’t been able to contemplate the idea of going back to bed or sleeping as right from the start at 11pm the contractions were very close together and strong. Besides it was far too exciting! I was tired of trying not to wake Pete and needed to stop being restrained and make some noise to try to help ride the waves.
Pete got up and got the fire going and started filling the birth pool. There was an air of hustle, bustle and dare I say stress for a while but then all the jobs were done and I obviously wasn’t going to have this baby in the next 5 mins so he dragged his lazy boy out on to the deck for some fresh air leaving me to get on with it quietly… in my noisy way.
As the morning wore on I started to get restless and bored so I made a few 4 minute phone calls between contractions and invited my mother in law out for the party. After a while the contractions spaced out and I slept for 15 mins solid between them. I was really spaced out on endorphins by this stage and I think my body was giving the baby and me a rest for the hard work just around the corner.
By not long after 11am I started to feel like I needed to go to the loo all the time and I just couldn’t get comfortable in any position. All I could think about was getting in the water. We rang Hannah again and she advised that I hold on and get in as a last resort so that I didn’t relax too much and go off the boil. Not very long later I decided it was last resort time and if I was getting in too early, tough I was doing it anyway! For a couple of minutes it was weightless bliss and then the contractions hit. Wham! Time to catch up on all the ones I missed when I was sleeping. I obviously had been holding back because I knew I wanted to be in the water and once I was there all inhibitions went and we were getting on with the job.
I had been so spaced out that I hadn’t realised I’d gone through the transition phase (which sounded so dramatic in all the books) and was in the pushing phase. At 12 noon Theresa the student arrived and assured me that I was doing a fantastic job. Having her smiling face looking calmly at me over the edge of the pool, when I actually had my eyes open was lovely.
12.20pm heralded the arrival of Hannah and I can recall her walking down the hall saying, “How long has she been making those noises?” Hannah observed for a little while making the odd empowering comment and then encouraged me to put less energy in to the noise and more in to my bum. On the video you can see me become more workman like after that.
At 12.39 my waters finally broke which was really encouraging. Made me feel like I’d actually achieved something. The labour stepped up a pace from there as I was feeling confident about pushing and knew that baby was well on the way. We all had a laugh when the head came out and I said, “It feels small”. Hannah reckoned no one had ever said that before. I meant it felt small when I touched it with my hand; it certainly was no mean feat getting it out. How women have babies falling into their stockings in the supermarket beats me! There was a lot of back pain as the baby’s shoulders moved but it was awesome to feel her helping and it brought me back to earth a bit and renewed my resolve to get the job done A.S.A.P.
At 2.05pm baby Jasmin was born. The cord was around her neck 3 times so I couldn’t pick her up or see her straight away but Pete and Theresa managed to bring her to the surface and untangle her without cutting the cord. Getting my leg over the cord from the kneeling position to sitting was a mission as I had gone all weak and wobbly. By 2.10pm Jasmin was happily breastfeeding and we just sat in the pool chilling out together until I birthed the placenta about 15 mins later. Pete clamped and cut the cord and we got out of the water and all went to bed together. A few hrs later after we’d had some lovely family time on our own Hannah weighed Jasmin and did all the tests but it was so nice to leave all that stuff until later. Thanks Hannah.
Thanks to Jasmin for making us feel so blessed. Thanks to Hannah for guiding us and educating us so thoroughly. Thanks to Theresa and Gwen for being at my beck and call with ice, hot water, more ice and more hot water! Thanks to my sister in law Jenny who made a video of the birth and thanks to Pete for being the main support person for his crazy wife from start to finish.
Mud Hut Home Birth
“There were shepherds living out in the fields … An angel of the Lord appeared … and said to them, “…you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger”(Luke 2:8-12)
We are volunteer workers with an NGO in West Africa, Republic of Benin. I had 3 previous water births, and 2 of them were home births.
I was pregnant with my 4th child and felt I had a clear sense of what I wanted from birth, based in a belief in the importance of birth as being something sacred, private, and deeply powerful.
Grantly Dick Read in “Childbirth without fear” stated “we are not concerned with disease, but with healthy women carrying out a normal and natural function”.
Because we are working in Benin I knew it was unlikely that I would find a midwife that would be an advocate of physiological birth (or if they were, one that would also allow me the birthing choices I was wanting to make). I also knew that it is very expensive for anyone to travel this far to come out to visit. Within maternity wards here, most if not all will be trained in a medical model system that usually looks for the worst and unfortunately, more often than not, finds or creates it – we had just heard of a baby dying due to forceps injuries at the local Natti hospital.
So I prepared within myself that I would likely be birthing unattended. I did a lot of reading up (in the context of home births) on issues that brought up any questions or doubts within myself, and came away satisfied yet again that natural birth was achievable and desirable in the circumstances I was considering. After an ultrasound, I knew baby and I were in good health, and I was taking multivitamins and trying to eat well.
I spent many hours in prayer and felt again an assurance and a deep sense of peace before God that things were OK, that we were in his hands. I kept thinking of Mary birthing in the stable, what circumstances! – but the Nativity is a lasting image and emblem of something holy and sacred.
We were eventually blessed with Sharon, our Kiwi midwife who did a lot of independent fundraising and went to a huge amount of personal effort to come out. I was so thankful and pleased that she really wanted to be a support and help for us. She is an advocate of the midwifery guidelines that say you ensure the woman is informed and then give her the dignity of choice. What a blessing and relief to find.
However when I did go into labour before Sharon arrived, I was still well prepared to birth unattended because of my ongoing expectations and beliefs about birth. I see it as a privilege to be a healthy woman with a supportive husband and the option to birth in privacy and peace. “Birth is not an emergency but an emergence”.
When I went into labour it just felt like more practice contractions and I wasn’t fazed – I call them “Tightenings”. About the same time my youngest (who I was still breastfeeding) came and asked for a drink, and I got one of those “grab you” tightenings, and then I started saying to Jo, “Hmmm” – he thought they were just practice too, until he saw the way I was concentrating, leaning against the kitchen bench!
And that they were coming again, though I didn’t want to time anything.
I wasn’t really thinking I was in labour. I moved into our room and pottered around, opening the buckets of old sheets and towels that I had prepared and throwing them down next to my armchair and next to the toilet, and covering over a kids mattress. My mind and my body weren’t really paying attention to each other, but part of me back there was thinking it could move really quickly so I better have some things out just in case! (Before the birth I spoke out to Baby inside that when God called him, he was going to come quickly and easily.) So during a few tightenings I sat on my armchair, concentrating on relaxing into it all and letting my body take over. I instinctively felt that my body was naturally more open when I wasn’t wearing undies! So I took them off and said “I give my body permission to open”.
Then I moved to the toilet because it was the place where I felt most open. I had one intense tightening, which didn’t connect to my logical brain that this was transition! But I wanted Jo there and called out for him. He was moving around trying to get hot water into the pool, but he saw me and stayed nearby. I just had time to throw sheets and towels on the ground and I knelt on them, leaning on an overturned bucket. Then I had 2 intense tightenings which I only realised in retrospect were pushing, because of the way I was breathing – more exhaling through my open mouth rather than just breathing quietly like I had been before. During these I was listening briefly to worship music on my mp3, “Perfect love casts out fear, his name is Jesus”.
I stood up and asked Jo if the pool was ready and I thought he said it was (although it was still cold). So I got ready to get in, but I had a “grab you” and crouched down because I could feel the baby descending! I managed to say to Jo “the baby’s coming now” – it felt great to crouch and feel the head crowning with my hand there, as I went slow -it felt different to a water birth where I never really felt the stretching, but so powerful to crouch and feel the head myself as it was being born! Immediately it turned and then Baby’s whole body slipped out into my hands in front of me, face up, pink and crying vigorously! (Jo said I blew on his face and then he started but I don’t remember).
Jo said all up it took less than an hour. He brought the kids mattress over and I lay on that, baby on my belly, while he tidied up and cut the cord. I went and leaned over my armchair with baby lying against me and delivered the placenta. We settled on the nearby bed and broke out the traditional celebratory Peanut M & M’s, and baby had a nuzzle. We didn’t weigh or measure him because we had nothing to do it with! But he was pink-and-golden-healthy and making plenty of noise.
We were so glad Sharon still decided to come out, she found out the baby had been born just as she was getting ready to fly out! But when she came it was such a support and encouragement. She brought so many presents it was like several Christmases combined! And what anaffirmation to be able to share and feel understood. It’s stillcrazy to me that I didn’t even realise I was pushing at the end of the labour, but Sharon said it was because I am so comfortable with birth that I let my body just get on with the job!
Noah Ezekiel was born here at home in our mud hut, 22nd September at about 6.30 pm we think! We think he had a good agpar, we think he weighed about 3.5 kg, and we think he was about 53 cm long! However we do know that he’s wonderful and his 3 brothers agree.
“My soul glorifies the Lord” (Mary’s song)
Kristie Bayne, Natitingou, Benin.
Elsie’s Birth Story – October 2009
I was lying in bed, two days past my due date, awake after my husband Tony had gone to work. I was reading and suddenly got a really crippling gut cramp. I didn’t think much of this, because I’d had an upset tummy the night before, had spent a lot of time on the toilet, and had put it down to the pork we’d had for dinner not agreeing with my stomach (although Tony tells me that he had suspicions that it was more than that, even at that early point). I remember looking at the clock which read 8.38am, and thinking “I’m not getting out of bed, this will probably pass, and this book is really good”. A little later I got an even more urgently crippling gut cramp (like the worst sort of diarrhoea pain) and looked at the clock again – this time it said 8.46am. Interesting, I thought, that’s 8 minutes apart. Then I had to urgently go to the toilet and empty my bowels.
I sat on the toilet (still reading – I was determined to enjoy my book, and still didn’t think much of what was happening!) for ages, trying to focus on my book and rubbing my tummy. When the pain and diarrhoea passed, I decided that it was very important that I ate breakfast (although I don’t remember being particularly hungry). So I headed through to the kitchen to make porridge. I got some oats and water in the pot, then had to rush back to the bathroom with another bout of terrible tummy pains and diarrhoea. When that bout passed I thought perhaps I wouldn’t be able to manage actually cooking breakfast, so I poured a bowl of cereal, and then what-do-you-know, I headed back to the bathroom again. When that bout passed I felt a bit better, and actually got my porridge cooking. I thought I’d better ring Tony and get him to come home, so phoned him and said “You’d better come home, I’m feeling really unwell”. He said he’d come as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, just as my porridge came to the boil I had another horrible cramping gut pain, so turned the element off and headed back to the bathroom. After that bout of toilet-sitting, I went back to the kitchen and poured my porridge into a bowl, grabbed a glass of juice and took the lot back to the bathroom. My back was very sore by this stage, and I decided that I would feel better in the shower, but I was determined to eat my breakfast, so took it with me into the shower (which isn’t as wet and manky as it sounds, as our shower is over a big bath, so I could put my bowl and glass well out of the way of the water).
When Tony got home I was bent over in the shower, with the water on the small of my back. I had eaten half my porridge and drunk half my juice, which was all I managed to get down until after the birth. I refused to stand up, because I could deal with the searing pain in my back, which felt like I was being scraped out from the inside with a hot blunt spoon, but I couldn’t deal with the pain in my tummy at the same time, and bending over seemed to neutralise the pain in my stomach and only allow the pain in my back to be felt. Tony told me I had to get out of the shower so that he could fill the birth pool. I was quite rude in my refusal, but as he pointed out, once he started filling the pool, there wasn’t going to be any water for me in the shower, so I had to get out. He brought me my bath robe (which I never put on) and I turned off the shower and got out and got dry.
Tony came back from setting up the filling of the pool and asked if we should phone the midwife (Margaret) yet. I said that I thought we were supposed to time things first, so that we could give her an indication of where things were at. Tony got his cell phone (neither of us have watches with second hands) and set it on stop watch for me as I had a contraction (not that I had realised that I was actually having contractions – I still just thought that I was having bouts of pain). Then he left the bathroom (yes, I was still doubled up over the edge of the bath, just not under the shower any more). He said that he looked at the clock in the kitchen as he left the bathroom, and it said 10.36am. When he headed back into the bathroom (he’d been checking on the birth pool and associated set up) he looked at that clock again and it said 10.40am. He said to me as he came back into the bathroom “Tell me when you have the next one” I said “I’ve already had it”! I had timed it and it had lasted for a minute. Tony had also grabbed the sheet of stages of labour with the picture of the faces to try to figure out where we were up to. He asked where I thought we were, and I was very short with him, so I think he figured that we were well past the happy chatting face! He phoned Margaret, and told her that I was in labour with contractions that were 3 minutes apart lasting for a minute (all the while in the background I was saying “Tell her it’s probably nothing” – I still hadn’t clicked that I was actually in labour). Margaret’s response was “You’re kidding?!” because she was on her way to another birth! So she got Cecil to come around as the backup midwife instead (we knew her from our antenatal classes, so that was okay).
When Cecil arrived I was back on the toilet with more diarrhoea, and what I thought might have been a show, as there was some thick mucus streaked with blood when I wiped. This time I couldn’t read my book (and I still haven’t finished it!!) as the pain was too intense. Tony told me I needed to come out of the bathroom so that Cecil could have a chat, so he got a t-shirt and pair of boxer shorts of his for me to wear. I struggled into the clothes, and dragged myself through to the lounge, where Tony had the fire going. I was still bent double to minimise the pain in my tummy. I bent over an office-style chair we had in the lounge, with my arms on the seat and my head mashed as hard as I could into the back of it, to deal with the pain, as I continued to feel as if I was being scraped out with that damn hot blunt spoon. I couldn’t do non-focused awareness as a relaxation technique, but I did focus on breathing through each contraction (or crippling bout of pain as I thought of them) and keeping my breathing out nice and slow as they finished. I managed to fill Cecil in a bit on what had been happening, and answer some questions between contractions, and then she asked the worst thing – for me to lie down on my back so she could listen to the baby. It was so hard to get unbent, and even harder to cope with the pain while lying flat on my back. Fortunately she was really quick about it, and the baby was fine, so up I got and back to the chair to bend over again.
Cecil phoned Margaret to update her at some point, and I heard her saying that “labour was just getting established” – all I could think was “OH MY GOD! Only JUST ESTABLISHED?!! I CAN’T do this for 18 – 20 hours! I CANNOT do this until tomorrow – it’s too sore!!”. Because of course I was thinking that first time labours usually go for that long for the first stage, and then more time for the rest! I remember thinking also that I knew why people went to the hospital, because if you didn’t know what was happening, you’d think you were dying, it felt so SORE and uncontrollable. Shortly after this I had to start making noise to cope with each contraction, so I started making this low-pitched moaning sound. At one point I remember saying “Oh god, I sound like a dying warthog”, to which Cecil responded “No, you sound like the scenario” (she had played the part of a very vocal pregnant woman in a birth scenario as part of our antenatal classes, and I was quite shocked – and said so! – at the amount of noise she made – turns out she was a VERY accurate actor!). I remember thinking “Why on EARTH did I want this to start – I just wish it would stop!” I was starting to regret all the jumping down the stairs I had done the day before, as it obviously got things moving!
At some point after this Margaret arrived – apparently the other lady was still up and wandering around chatting when she got to her house, so Margaret decided that she better come and see how I was getting on. She was quite surprised at how far along things had got.
I asked when I could get into the pool, and Cecil told me I should wait until massage on my back and hot towels weren’t helping anymore. Tony was diligently rubbing my back for me, and giving me sips of water between contractions. After I’d asked about the pool, they decided to try the hot towels on my back. Somehow I managed to communicate where the only pair of washing-up gloves that we own were to be located (in the camping gear for dish-washing) and Tony found them! I was right beside the fire in the lounge and had got too hot, so Tony went and got me a crop-top style bra to change into instead of his t-shirt. Then he put a hot towel on my back. I reacted VERY badly to this because it was too hot and felt horrible. I think I got really angry and accused him of trying to burn me.
All the while I kept making my low-pitched groans. I remembered reading somewhere that you have to keep the pitch low to stay relaxed, because if you get high-pitched you start to tense up, so I tried really hard to keep the groans low and deep. I also remembered reading that making your mouth into a smile shape helped relax you too, so I tried to do that as I groaned too. I suspect it was more of a grimace or a rictus than a smile, but I was trying! After each contraction I’d concentrate on blowing out and trying to relax again. I do remember trying to think of my cervix opening, and thinking “open, open” through some of the contractions (like it suggests in the book Mind Over Labour) but eventually it got too hard to do more than just focus on my breathing and groaning.
Finally they told me I could get into the pool, so I headed to the bathroom one last time, and when I was getting up there was a drop of dark red blood on the seat – I remember anxiously telling Tony that he should tell Margaret about it, in case it was a bad thing, then I forgot all about it. I stepped out of the boxer-shorts, and wearing only my bra, staggered through the kitchen into the sunroom/dining room where the pool was set up. It turned out that we had actually set the pool up wrong – there was a clear plastic liner, all brand spanking new, that we had thought we didn’t need to use, because Tony mended the other liner – as it happened, every person who uses the pool gets their own liner, so the brand new liner was for us to use. Whoops. So while I was in the bathroom, Tony, Margaret and Cecil were desperately struggling to put the new liner into the pool, which was already full of water! They did a pretty good job, it was a bit like having a bath in a plastic bag, but most of the water was inside the clear liner, and only a wee bit around the edges.
It was absolute bliss to get into the pool. It didn’t stop the pain, but my tummy didn’t weigh anything, and it seemed to just make things a bit more bearable. Margaret had checked my backside for that line that goes up as you labour while I was still bent over the chair, and hadn’t been sure about how far through I was, but when I got in the pool she said it went nearly all the way to the top – indicating I was pretty much all the way through. I was too scared to ask how I was doing, because I thought I wouldn’t be able to cope if they told me I still had hours to go, so I never asked how I was getting on. I never had any internal examinations either (not during my pregnancy, and not during the labour), which I was pleased about.
While I was in the pool, Margaret would occasionally check my temperature in my ear, and the pool temperature. She also listened to the baby occasionally with the wee hand held ultra sound thing (wrapped in a plastic bag I think). Tony kept mopping my head with a cool flannel and giving me sips of water , which was heavenly. Sometimes I leaned into his hand to keep the flannel on my face, and he would think I was pushing it away, and I didn’t have any energy to tell him that I wasn’t pushing it away. He was an absolute hero the whole way through (this is a guy who wasn’t that keen on home birth, or birth in general for that matter) and I just wish I could have expressed that at the time. I have told him how great he was since then, but I’m not sure he believes me! Every so often he’d tell me I was doing great, and that he was proud of me or that he loved me – pretty enormous stuff for a guy who doesn’t really convey his emotions verbally.
Also while I was in the pool, they kept pouring more water in – sometimes cold and sometimes hot. I think they were boiling 2 stock pots, 1 large pot and the jug pretty much constantly. I couldn’t work out why they couldn’t leave well alone if they kept having to put cold in after the hot, but apparently the pool wasn’t full enough. In between contractions I rested with my head down – sometimes on the edge of the pool, but more often with my nose almost in the water. I found that the edge of the pool was really good to grip during the contractions too (Tony wisely kept his hands well out of harm’s way!). At one stage, while I was labouring away, we heard the gate beside the house close. I said “Who the f**k’s that?!”, and Tony looked out the window and said “Oh God, it’s mum!”. My response was not nice – “Tell her to F**K off!” (this was pretty much all I said during labour, and pretty harsh, as I really like my mother-in-law!). He raced out the back door to head her off. She’d popped around to drop off some baby clothes, but he had to let her know that it was NOT a good time for a visit, as we were a bit busy!
After I’d been in the pool for a while, the contractions got more and more painful, to the extent that I was screaming through some of them, (even though I was trying really hard to keep my noises low so that I would stay relaxed). I flailed around so much during one really strong and painful contraction that I hit myself in the eye and burst some blood vessels. By this stage I really didn’t think I could do it for much longer, but I was trying really hard to keep that to myself. I was told later that I actually did say “I can’t do this any more”, but I had thought I hadn’t said that out loud! I’m not quite sure at what stage my waters broke, but I definitely felt them go – it was like a water balloon exploded out from between my legs. It still remains the coolest feeling of the entire labour – even at the time I remember thinking – “That felt really cool!”. When the contractions got really awful, Margaret applied pressure to some spots on my lower back, and when I got screamy, she would talk me back down as the contraction ended – reminding me to focus on my breathing, and to drop my shoulders so that I would relax.
Some time after those really horrible painful contractions, and after my waters breaking, I started to grunt involuntarily while contracting. Margaret said “If you can breathe instead of pushing, that would be good, but if you have to push that’s fine” – all I could think was “Oh my god, it’s too early, I’ve probably got an anterior lip or something!”. But I couldn’t resist the pushing. It was like a freight train rushing through my body – there was NO way I could have stopped what was happening. With each push I gave these horrible low grunts which really hurt my throat. Eventually I could start to feel the baby pressing against my cervix (I figure that was what it was pressing against, because it was very tight and sore when it pressed against it). The baby would come down and press against the tight sore bit with each contraction, and then as the contraction passed, the baby would slide back up inside. It hurt so much when the baby pressed against the tight area that when it slid back up I would think “Don’t come back down baby – just stay where you are”. Tony told me I had to move forward, because I was scooted so far back in the pool that he couldn’t reach me, and they couldn’t get behind me to see what was happening – it was SO hard to move forward, but I think I managed to a bit.
I remember Margaret saying something about feeling the baby come through “that ring of fire”, so of course the Johnny Cash song started going round and round in my head! Margaret kept checking how the baby was doing with the wee hand held ultrasound thingy, and at one point she said “you need to push your baby out now” – I’m not sure whether they were getting concerned about the baby’s heartbeat, or me, or what – certainly no panic was ever passed on to me – if anything it felt more like encouragement to move on to the next step. I pushed harder and harder when the baby pressed against the sore tight bit – at first I was thinking “Breathe through it, you don’t want to tear” but then I got frustrated at how much it hurt and how hard it was to push the baby out and thought “Bugger it, I don’t care if I tear, I want this baby OUT!”. I pushed and pushed and it felt as if I was tearing in half. I had my legs as wide apart as I could, and would have quite liked an extra set of legs at right angles to my actual legs, so I could open them wide out too – it felt like I was making a long narrow opening, not a nice wide one! I think Margaret got Tony round behind me to catch the baby (I had my eyes shut pretty much the entire time I was in the pool, so I’m not sure) and eventually, the head started to come out. Margaret told me to put my hand down and I could feel the head. I had a wee feel, but what I felt was so small, soft and spongy feeling that I thought I was just feeling some part of my vagina all swollen up, so I stopped in case people thought I was just copping a feel! Margaret told me later I was actually feeling the baby’s head. I did do a couple of wee poos as I was pushing, but I didn’t say anything about them, because I didn’t want Tony to hassle me about pooing in the pool (which he had been doing while I was pregnant).
After what felt like heaps of pushing, and agonising stretchy, burning-feeling pain that felt like I was tearing apart, the head came out a bit, and Margaret said I needed to keep pushing to get the chin out. So I pushed and pushed some more. Once the head was out the baby started wiggling around inside me as it eagerly tried to get the rest of itself born. It was the weirdest feeling – like swallowing a live fish (only up your vagina!). I just wanted the baby to hold still – it felt so strange. I pushed and pushed some more, and the baby came all the way out. I think Tony caught it, then Margaret passed it up between my legs to me, and Tony came round to sit beside my head again. I think I probably said some nutty stuff like “Oh, it’s a baby!”. I do remember that it was like a switch had been shut off from the labour, and I didn’t think or care about all the pain and pushing, all I could focus on was the wee pink squirming thing in my arms (I did remember all the pain and hideousness later, but at that time, it really just disappeared).
The baby gave a little cry which made everyone very happy, and Tony went and got a hat for it’s head so it wouldn’t get cold. The cord was quite short, so I couldn’t lift the baby up very high. I asked “Is it an Ethan or an Elsie?” (those were the names we’d picked for a boy or a girl) and Margaret said “Why don’t you have a look”. It was hard to lift the baby up to see because of the short cord, and at first I saw a wee wrinkled heel and thought it was a scrotum, and that we’d had a boy, but when I actually looked properly, I realised we’d had a girl. She looked up at us, blinked, looked distinctly unimpressed and then stopped breathing, and began to turn blue-grey around her face. Margaret and Cecil got out the oxygen and gave her some for a couple of minutes until she started breathing again. At no time was I stressed out or concerned for Elsie, as they were so calm and matter of fact about what they were doing – I didn’t really even realise there was a problem. Soon she was all nicely pink again, and we had some photos, then I was helped out of the pool and through into the lounge which they’d set up all ready for me.
I lay down on the couch, and Elsie was put skin to skin with me and started rooting around looking for a bit of bosom. I had to keep asking if she was really a girl, because we’d been convinced we were having a boy, and I had had such a fleeting look when I checked, but was reassured that she was very definitely a girl. While Elsie was having a look for the bosom, Margaret and Cecil checked to see if the placenta was coming free, as I had opted for an un-managed third stage. I remember at one stage being quite shocked and almost shrieking “Margaret!” as she gave the cord a wee tug which confirmed that the placenta was still attached – it HURT! Now that we were all settled, I had enough brain to think of other things, and all I could think was “MAN I’m HUNGRY!”, so Cecil went and made me some jam sandwiches – what a hero! At this point we also made some phone calls to let family know that Elsie had arrived safely.
After a while Elsie was sucking happily away on a bosom, and a bit later Margaret and Cecil got me to squat off the edge of the couch and give some pushes to deliver the placenta. While I did this, Tony cleaned Elsie up, put her in her first nappy and gave her a cuddle. Pushing out the placenta was really hard, because I didn’t really have any push left in me, and also, the same urge wasn’t there that I’d had when pushing Elsie out, and the placenta was a much less tangible thing to push out. After a couple of pushes it fell out into the bowl that Margaret was holding ready for it – it felt like pushing out a big dinner-plate sized piece of liver – quite gross, but I was pleased to be rid of it. What I wasn’t expecting was the continued contractions as Elsie was sucking – I couldn’t believe it, it was like getting a really bad period immediately after giving birth – and I thought my body had earned a rest!
Once she had her nappy on, and the placenta was delivered, Elsie went back skin to skin with me, and Margaret and Cecil had a look at my tail end to see if there was any damage. I had a bit of a nick up by my clitoris, and a tear inside my vagina. Margaret was happy to leave the nick alone to heal by itself (she knew my horror of having any sort of interventions “down there”) but the vaginal tear while not really bad, was such that she felt that it would be best to suture it. After a bit of consultation, I eventually decided that she knew my abhorrence of stitches in that region, so if she was saying that it needed to be done, it wasn’t for no reason, so I gave her the go ahead. Tony held my hand while they put in the injections, which were the worst bit, then they put in 5 or so stitches. The tear only went a tiny way into my perineum, which I was very glad about, so it didn’t need to be stitched. The worst part of all, was when Margaret had to check that the stitches hadn’t gone through the rectal wall (because the tear was on the side of my vagina that faces the rectum) and there was only one way for her to check that – think man’s prostate check and you’ll know what she had to do – NOT pleasant.
After making sure I was all sorted, Margaret had to rush away to the other lady who she’d been to first (whom I had beaten to the finish line), so Cecil, who had gone home, had to come back. She cleaned me up, helped me get into a clean t-shirt and then helped me to bed (which they had made up with waterproof sheets in case I bled badly – I didn’t, I think altogether I only lost 200ml). Cecil got us settled in the bedroom, helped me dress Elsie for the first time (I didn’t want her to get cold) and then headed away. Tony’s mum came around with dinner for us all, which was fantastic, then everyone left and it was just the three of us.
Later in the evening, Margaret came back to do the weighing and measuring. Elsie weighed 7lb 7oz and was 51cm long. The entire labour took 6 hours until her delivery – she was born just after 2.30pm, and then another hour for the delivery of the placenta. Although it was painful and really intense, I couldn’t have asked for a more straight-forward labour and birth, or for better midwives or support person. Tony, Margaret and Cecil were just fantastic.
We hadn’t planned for me to give birth in the pool, although it was always an option – we’d more been going to use it as pain relief – however now that I’ve been through labour and birth, I wouldn’t change a thing. I also know that there is no way anyone could have got me out of that pool once I was in it – the house could have burnt down around me and I would NOT have gotten out! I did find my memories of the birth quite overwhelming initially, but with time their intensity has faded and they’ve become more bearable. As I write this, Elsie is only just 3 weeks old, so it’s definitely far too early to say whether we’d do it all again and have another baby (although if we did, it would DEFINITELY be a home birth). However, Elsie is just wonderful, and certainly her birth has profoundly changed me and my life.
Hugo’s Birth Story
Birth story of Hugo Sebastian James Davidson, born to Katy and Glenn Davidson on December 23, 2003 at 2.40am, Summer Solstice
We were sitting in the lounge eating pizza for tea when I first realised Hugo was definitely on the way. I was eight days “overdue” and starting to get worried. Ending up in hospital for an induction was the last thing I wanted.
We were planning a homebirth in the belief that childbirth is a natural, normal event in a woman’s life and not something that needs to be medicalised. I wanted to be able to labour at home, uninterrupted, surrounded by people close to me. I wanted to avoid medical intervention. And most of all, after it was all over I wanted to be able to go to sleep, my baby beside me, in my own bed.
I started feeling regular pains at about 7pm but they were short and very close together, only about one minute apart. Not at all like slow progression of labour I was expecting from the books I’d read.
I told Glenn he had better start filling the birth pool. He didn’t quite believe things were happening and instead asked me to help him stake up our tomato plants. So there we were out in the garden staking the tomatoes in between contractions as if it were the most natural thing in the world to be doing.
My contractions became longer and stronger and I needed Glenn or my mum with me. They stroked my back and talked to me. Early in the labour I found sitting on a large Swiss ball and leaning forward on a bean bag the best positions. I tried keep in positions which kept my pelvis “open” and concentrated on breathing through each contraction.
At 10pm my midwife Mary Anne arrived and as she walked in the door I did a huge pizza spew in the sink. She gave me the good news I was 6cm dilated. It was time for the birthing pool. It felt wonderful to submerge into the water. The pain relief was amazing.
I could kneel forwards and put all my weight on a floating cushion. During contractions I gripped the side of the pool for support. Glenn was in the pool with me rubbing my back.
As the contractions got stronger and stronger I felt as if I was in another place – floating in and out of the present. In between contractions I felt calm and quiet, my body totally relaxed, resting for the next effort.
The strength I got from my support people including a friend and my sister-in-law was amazing. At one point during transition I called out “I can’t do this”, and I remember strong hands and voices reassuring me that yes I could. They gave me sips of water and put hot towels on my back which felt heavenly.
It was a relief to feel the bearing down urge and know my baby was almost here. Things seemed to speed up. I remember feeling a strong burning sensation as his head started crowning. Then before I knew it I was holding my beautiful brand new son in my arms.
To touch him and watch him as he took in his new world was the most magical experience. I was on the hugest high ever afterwards that nothing, including a trip to hospital to stitch a tear, could dampen. When we got home at about 6am dawn had arrived. The birds were singing and we were new parents. The three of us tucked up in bed and enjoyed our first day together as a new family.
I wish I could tell all expectant mothers that birth doesn’t have to be a scary and painful experience. It can be one of the most empowering and positive experiences in a woman’s life. It was for me.
Kahu’s Birth Story
In March a positive pregnancy test confirmed that we were expecting. I was really nervous throughout the first 3 months because I had had a miscarriage at around 8 weeks just 2 months earlier. We found out the sex early at our 15 week scan and were told we were having a boy, which Clyde was especially happy about. I had a really good pregnancy. I had some nausea and tiredness in the first 3 months, the second and third trimester were fine apart from constantly rushing to the toilet and heartburn. I continued to work at my two part time jobs as a homecare worker and pharmacy technician. I worked until four days before I had Kahu.
I read a lot about pregnancy and birth throughout my pregnancy and had decided that a home birth in water would be a really amazing way to bring our baby into the world. My midwives were very pro homebirth so it was always understood we would have baby at home as long as everything went well.
At my 38 week check I had high blood pressure which was unusual for me, two days later at 39 weeks on a Saturday night I went to the toilet and realized I had had a “show”. I was really shocked, I had told everyone I would have my baby early and not be overdue as is expected of first time mothers, since my own mum had all of us 2 weeks early. After showing Clyde I called my mum who told me to just wait, things will take awhile. I managed to get to sleep but couldn’t believe it was all finally happening. The next day I spent with Clyde and was getting period like cramps on and off most of the day. I thought I would go into real labour anytime. We went up to mum and dads for dinner and my two best friends Tui and Juanessa came for tea too and we went for a long walk together to try and bring on my labour. I had decided I wanted Tui and Juanessa as well as Clyde and the midwives there to support me during labour. After all that excitement, the contractions died away and I managed to get to sleep Sunday night. I woke up a few times with really sore stomach pains which faded away.
On Monday morning I was sure that today would be the day. I had decided I wanted to cook to pass the time so I baked cookies, a cake and made a huge lasagne for my support team. Juanessa and Tui arrived around noon and I was getting cramps every 5 or 6 minutes by this time. We went for a really long slow walk and I had to stop every 3 minutes and wait for the contractions to pass. When we got back Clyde put on the movie Boy for us to watch and it helped pass the time as the contractions got stronger. Mum came round a few times during this time; she was so excited to meet her grandson.
The midwife knew I was in labour but she was trying to hold off coming to see me until I really needed her, and I knew this was in my best interest. I didn’t want to be disappointed and find out I was only 1 cm along when she came. By 7 o’clock the contractions were really painful and I had convinced myself I was in transition. Juanessa kept convincing me to wait to call the midwife for a bit longer; she got there around 8 o’clock and did an internal which did not hurt at all. Betty was really happy with my progress and said the longest part of labour was over and I was over 3 cm. She also said my cervix was really spongy and my hips were really wide so there was lots of space for baby. She was so positive that it made me feel better, even though I thought it would nearly be over! She left and said the other midwife Milenna would be around later on once she had finished with someone else and to call her if I needed to. I went and had a bath and that really helped when the contractions got really sore. I didn’t make a lot of noise but breathed my way through the contractions. The pain was really intense and the contractions felt like a horrible pain in my back and across my lower stomach and thighs. I was starting to get a bit crazy around midnight, pacing the house and crouching and leaning and hanging of the furniture. I couldn’t get comfortable at all, and the contractions were so painful.
Milenna finally arrived around 12.30 and as soon as she arrived I asked her for an internal. I was relieved to find out I was 8 – 9 cm dilated, and baby would hopefully be here soon. As soon as she got there she took charge of the situation she had me standing up holding on to kahu’s cot and moving my hips in slow figure 8 motion which really helped, and she taught me how to breath through them properly. It was so good having someone to coach you through the contraction as it became unbearable she would say “it’s nearly, over. You’re doing so well.” The coaching helped me so much. I took off my nightdress and all worries of being naked in front of my friends were gone. I couldn’t care less. Milenna got Clyde to sit behind me and support me and I leant against the wall of the pool. The contractions were really strong and I pushed as hard as I could. Milenna got Clyde to come and hold my hand as he lay on the bed and I knelt in front of it for about an hour and Milenna massaged my back, which felt really, really good.
The contractions felt really horribly painful and intense and I found myself concentrating really hard to get through them. Milenna told me to rest on the bed and propped me up with pillows and Clyde lay beside me. I tried my hardest but I couldn’t handle the contractions laying down it was much too painful. Milenna got me to walk around while they filled up the birthing pool. The water hot water ran out and they had to boil pots on the stove. Milenna made me brace myself on the couch and continue the figure eight with my hips and breathe through the contractions but they were getting so painful I would sob a bit and they would take my breath away but I would get my breathing rhythm back. I remember thinking it was just so painful and it was so intense. I really wanted to hop into the water so badly and I remember feeling a bit of hatred towards Milenna for not letting me get in. I told her I felt like I really wanted to go for a pee, which I had been feeling for awhile but every time I went to the toilet nothing would come out. She told me to go and labour on the toilet for awhile with Juanessa. My vagina felt really weird like something was coming down and Milenna told me to see if I could feel anything and I was shocked when I could feel a rubbery ball like skin. She told me it would be my waters which were still intact. She told me to see if I could feel anything hard behind it, and I could only a little way up and it was his head. We all went into the room and she checked me again and said I was fully dilated and babies head had come down. Straight after I stood up I ran as good as I could to the toilet and had the urge to push which was really different from the contractions. I made grunting noises which came so naturally and I knew that this was what pushing was. Milenna told me I could hop into the pool which was warm and deep enough and I was so happy to climb in. I had laboured in the bath twice earlier and the water was such a good pain relief.
Pushing was so much better than the contractions before, because I could do something to stop the pain! I was sitting with my back against the pool side with Clyde supporting me from behind and I could see the waters coming out of my vagina and slipping back in through each contraction. Seeing that really motivated me to push extra hard. I remember how I would begin to push and then my body would take over. It went on for about an hour but it didn’t seem that long to me at all. Soon Milenna was saying baby will be here in the next contraction or two and I couldn’t believe it. I pushed really, r eally hard and I felt him crown. It was not nearly as bad as what I thought it would be and I knew I hadn’t torn when his head finally popped out. My contraction was still going and Milenna said I could push his body out if I could and I did. It was relief when he was out and I said “My baby!” and he was put onto my chest. He was covered in white goo and had bright red lips and purple skin. He cried for a few seconds then just looked at me. Juanessa told me later that at that moment her, Tui and Clyde all tried really hard to hold back tears. I felt really overwhelmed and slightly in shock. I couldn’t believe I had done it. The pool must have filled with blood and I had to get out but they didn’t want to cut the cord yet so I had to stand up while Clyde held Kahu and I pushed out the placenta with the first contraction I felt, it didn’t hurt. I looked down and blood was running down my thighs, and I felt a bit worried something was wrong. By this time Betty had arrived and I had to lie down on towels and they pushed my stomach and massaged it to get the rest of the blood out and then I had two injections to stop the bleeding. I am really afraid of needles and they didn’t hurt at all. I felt quite light headed and remember being really jealous I couldn’t hold the baby. My mum arrived sometime during my bleeding and everyone was just pouring over Kahu.
After maybe 20 minutes I was able to sit on the couch and try to breastfeed him. I felt really, really tired. He latched on well after a few attempts and after a shower and a pee which didn’t hurt at all I was wrapped up in bed with a new baby and Clyde at 6am. Looking back on my birth experience I feel really lucky to have had such a problem free birth and was able to do it my way. I am so glad I had a healthy baby which is really all you can ask for. I felt really strong and proud of myself for doing it the way nature intended without pain relief and amazed my body pulled it off! It was such an amazing and beautiful thing giving birth to my son, but at the time I was totally absorbed by the pain of each contraction.
Kahu is now 5 weeks old and weighs over 12 pound. The midwives are amazed at his huge weight gain and he is a really big boy. He is really active and loves doing his exercises, and sometimes blesses us with a smile! We love him so much and look forward to the rest of our lives spent with our special little man.
Ruby’s Birth Story
Ruby Mae was born at home, early, in fact. I had an appointment with my midwife that day to finalise the birthing plan (we had roughly planned it but today was the pen to paper day) and was going to make a playlist on my ipod!! I’m not much of a diary person, but kept notes throughout my pregnancy, I was lucky enough to be able to add entries while in labour, and finished it off the following day (everything from getting in the birthing pool was written the following day). The following is a mix of notes straight from the diary, and added notes, I apologise in advance for being a little disjointed for reading, it is real, raw, and wonderful!
28 April 2010 – Have you decided to arrive early??!!! (due date was 15 May) Its a full moon, dark and stormy night, interesting!!!!!!
1.50am – Ouch! I think this contraction might be a bit intense for a Braxton Hicks!?? Am I in labour??
2am – 2.40am – Yowzer, contractions are 5 minutes apart, your dad and I are starting to think this might be the real deal, should we ring our midwife? I’m walking around, trying to ease this and figure out if I’m actually in labour
4am – Asked Marty to text the Midwife, contractions were steady till 4am when they started coming every 2 minutes and lasting about a minute, Midwife responded that it sounds like the real deal, let her know when to come over (she lives on our street!! such luck!!) Midwife turned up after Marty text saying ‘come over, no rush, sooner the better’ LOL text of the century from nervous and excited dad to be… Internal was much easier than I expected, such absolute elation to find out I was near 5cm!!!! MW was very impressed at how lucid I was, joking and laughing between contractions. Advice to us? ‘Keep doin what you’re doin!!’
What was I doing? Through the contractions I was visualising a flower opening, and every so often Marty was pressing down on the pressure points in my lower back, I would lean back into them, amazing pressure counteracting the contraction pressure. I also counted to 20, up and back down , breathing in on the upward count, and out on the downward. I stayed in the same spot on the couch, with a chair in front of me to lean on if need be, I just closed my eyes, and focused on the breaks, not the contractions. It is intense, but amazing how quickly it becomes ‘the norm’ – you have these contractions, and back to normal during the breaks!!
Marty had been in full ‘action dad’ mode, laying the painters drop sheets over the entire lounge (he had read it can get messy haha) and towels on top, filling the pool that had been set up in the lounge, and getting everything prepared while rushing over and helping me focus through the contractions, he was also laughing at my facials, apparently I looked absolutely wasted, completely high on life and the natural chemicals that were being released with the labour.
Pool is ready to go, my mum has been over to see how I’m going, it was wonderful having her here seeing me do this, and sharing the experience!!
11am-ish… Marty let our Midwife know that I was getting a bit ‘over it’ … just a bit bored and restless, you just have no idea of what will happen next, and after sitting around chilling out, letting the contractions take their course for the last 10 or so hours, I was ready!! She suggested getting in the pool. WOW oh WOW oh WOW
AMAZING, Weightless relief!! Contractions were a bit easier floating in the pool. After an hour of ‘mucking about’ in the pool, our MW suggested ‘why don’t you try a wee push on your next contraction?’ A few contractions later, my waters broke! Midwife said ‘its going to get a little more intense from now on’ Oh game ON!!!!!!!! She was not wrong…. All I could do was try and get comfortable, Marty was feeding me ice cubes, which I would chomp and spit everywhere, I’d get the odd word in between sighs and groans and gasps, then I realised…. You are really going to be born!! We’re having a baby!!! (d’uhhhh!). I was excited, scared, my thoughts were twisting each way, and my how the voice of reason rings through in the eleventh hour!
Pushing Ruby out was the single most difficult thing I have ever done, I won’t lie, I wanted to give up, I wanted to transport myself somewhere else, nothing can prepare you for this, but the inner monologue kept me going, that voice of reason saying ‘well its not like you can go anywhere!! just get on with it!!’
It is funny how a part of your brain tries to ‘psyche you out’ and the other part is pushing you through giving you the rational thoughts
I do remember our lovely midwife taking my hands, and telling me how strong I am, and that I can do this, I sure can!!!!
It felt like you were a lot bigger, and that it would take a lot longer, so I was pretty scared (how the brain plays tricks on you!!!!) Marty was absolutely amazing, more than amazing, there isn’t a word that describes what he was like, amazing doesn’t do it any justice, the word amazing is just a drop in the ocean…..
When the time came, I gave an almighty push, in fact, I didn’t, my body was pushing involuntarily, I was just along for the ride by this stage. The midwife went down the end of the pool (facing me and able to see ‘down there’), she motioned Marty to the end of the pool so I knew we were nearing the finish line, I was worried about tearing (how on earth did that get in my head!) but thought ‘frig it’ and decided then and there to give an almighty push, push puuuuush!!! and your head popped out!! I remember thinking they say the rest slithers out, after another almighty push, that’s exactly what happened! Marty caught our beautiful wee baby, popped her onto my chest, and cut the cord once it was empty.
Ruby Mae Harrison arrived. 8lb 4 oz 1.22pm. My first words holding you.,.. ‘Its a baby!!’ haha deliriously happy and talking nonsense! After a few minutes I realised we hadn’t even checked to see if it was a boy or a girl!! I was intact which was a big worry for me, why was I worried!!!! Ruby let out an almighty cry just as the new nanas arrived, everyone was crying and laughing.
Wonderful wonderful experience, I can’t wait to do it all again!!!!!
First at home – Corban’s Story
I discovered I was pregnant at Christmas 2005. Being only 23, single and unsure what I was doing in life, a baby was a totally unexpected surprise. I am a firm believer in the fact that everything happens for a reason and never contemplated having an abortion.
When I was 4 months, I moved into a new house in Birkdale with Dan, the father of the baby in a situation most would describe as unusual – needless to say we are no longer together, and probably shouldn’t have gotten together at all. I needed support and chose the worst person thinking he would give it.
But anyway… my pregnancy was great. No morning sickness, I was totally positive about the whole experience, and had a great midwife – Creaghan Mitchell from Albany Midwives Collective. I hadn’t thought about the birth being anywhere in particular, I didn’t know anyone who had had a home birth, but when I started going to antenatal classes my views on everything changed. They were run by the North Shore Hospital and instead of it being a positive experience – which I instinctively thought child birth was – it was angled so negatively that I lasted 2 classes and never went back. We were told outright no one having a first baby could have it at home, this was simply “too dangerous.” Birth was a painful experience in which too much could go wrong to “risk your baby” anywhere but hospital. We visited the maternity wards, which I found barren, sterile and a horrible place to bring someone into the world. Hospital is where you go when you are sick, and babies aren’t sick. The attitude of the other mothers shocked me as well, some already convincing themselves caesarean was the only option to avoid the horror, and to be pumped full of as many and much drugs as possible.
I went straight home and investigated the other options, coming across the HBA website and several books, such as ’Home Birth Bound’ by Maggie Banks.This convinced me what I was doing was natural, and to trust my body – not a horde of strange doctors placing a time limit on how long I should have to do something a man never even can. I spoke with Creaghan for the first time about home birth at 32 weeks. I had already made my mind up. I wrote a birth plan she described as a bit staunch, but there was no way I was going to hospital. I knew I didn’t need to.
I was due Tuesday the 22nd August, and woke up that morning to what I thought might have been my show coming away. Wasn’t sure, and luckily had a midwife appointment that morning anyhow. Creaghan did an internal to see how things were, baby was descending well and she told me he would be born by Friday at the latest depending on how things progressed. I was excited! I went shopping, went to my Grandmas house for lunch, and then headed home to rest in case things happened that night.
By 4pm I was sure something was happening. Beginning to get a weird feeling in my stomach like period pain was coming, but I didn’t want to get excited about it, so told myself it wasn’t happening. Called Emma, my labour partner at 5pm and she came over at 5.30 with Robbie (who is Dans other son.) Called Dan at about 5.45 who was still at work, but thinking as it was a first baby that things wouldn’t happen too fast, didn’t get him to race home. When he still wasn’t home by 6.30, told him perhaps to get here a bit quicker. The contractions were about 30 seconds long and coming every 7-10 minutes .
Had a bath at 8.30 which was nice, and from 9pm everything was pretty full on. We didn’t know when to call the midwife, had been in contact with her via text message but she was happy with how things were going to told us to wait to call her as late as possible. Emma said we would call her when my waters broke, but by 10pm I was feeling pressure on my back passage and told her to make the call. The contractions were coming so fast I don’t remember much about the next hour, it was about 10.30ish when we called Creaghan but she too didn’t rush over, thinking first baby, hours to go.
Emma was awesome, I was just leaning on her on my knees, as she sat on the couch, and I was steadying my breathing by focusing on the curtain pattern. Dan was not much help, and left the room to play computer games after I snapped at him that he wasn’t helping. (What a catch…) Creaghan arrived at 11.30, when my body starting wanting to desperately push. She told me to wait, as she set up her stuff and I moved onto my hands and knees. I had a massive contraction, pushed and as she began to examine me for the first time, could see the babies head – I was crowning, 10cm dilated and good to go. She said it was ok to push, so I did and out popped a head. Dan was called and walked into the lounge to see a babies head. On the next contraction, his body slithered out, with just enough time to put a drop-cloth underneath me. His birth sack was unbroken, so if Emma and I had waited for the waters to go before calling the midwife, she wouldn’t have made it at all!
I stared down at this little person on the floor and I think I said something along the lines of, Wow, is that my baby? He looks like an alien. And thus Corban James was born, Tuesday 22nd August, 2006 at 11.40pm. The placenta came away 2 minutes later, no tearing, no stitches. The second midwife arrived five minutes after he was born, declaring it the easiest birth she had been to.
Thinking back, it was so fast, I get excited all over again when I think about it. I wish we taped it! It couldn’t have happened easier if we tried. I was so glad I had Corban at home, he turns one in a month, I cant believe how fast time has gone. I am also 8 weeks pregnant with my second (to John, my fiance, the man I adore and who respects me in ways Dan couldn’t imagine). I wouldn’t even contemplate having the new baby anywhere but home. John is a first time dad and very nervous, but having the great experience with Corban has given me the most resounding evidence that hospital births are not for me – I just wish other mums, doctors and midwives were as open to a more natural form of childbirth rather than believing all the scare tactics used upon society when it comes to having a baby.
Investigate all the options, trust yourself, your body and your baby and don’t let anyone scare you into having a birth dictated by rules and regulations if that’s not what you want. I suppose I’m thankful at the end of the day for being positive, opinionated and independent, couldn’t have done it without that!
A deeper dive
into the world of home birth in
New Zealand; our magazine.
Slider ~ Tree planting/ Planning a home birth: Nadia Kersal. Fan/News: Emily Searle. Baby in pool/Birthing techniques: Alice Trask
5 Reasons ~ Isalella Harrex
Voices of Tane ~ Dad supporting mum: Rachel & Ranui Herangi. Whole family: Jorinde Robbers