Calm birth at Christmas.

By Jo Corlett


Our expected due time fell right in the Christmas season. For about 3 weeks I had been having Braxton hicks, a building pressure in my hips and bum and I really struggled with sitting, particularly in the car. I had a feeling that our girl (gender confirmed at 20 week scan) could come early but since her brother had gone full term and was possibly overdue (still a mystery..), I just went with the symptoms and prepared excitedly instead to meet her when she did decide to arrive.

As it happened, she was 6 days early. Fortunately I was able to time my maternity leave to begin at the end of the school term on the 9th December so I had this great window of time ahead of me to get out of teaching mode and to ‘prepare’. In hindsight the best preparation was already done and proved to be the most perfect holistic approach for any potential parent to get emotionally, physically, and spiritually ready for childbirth.

One word…Calmbirth. If I do manage to pass on one thing with this birth story it has to be a firm and confident recommendation for everyone planning the birth of their child, that you consider giving Calmbirth a go. As the name would suggest, you will learn how to have a calm birth experience, or at the very least pick up on some very useful and effective relaxation, visualisation and breathing techniques to assist you with labour and childbirth. It is a great option for first time parents, or if like me you want a positive outcome for your subsequent birth. It was fabulous for me at the age of 40 having had a not¬so¬flash¬plan ¬hospital birth first time around.

I recall the week approaching Christmas as being relaxed and warm, involving a lot of bean bag ‘whaling’ on the deck at home. Again in hindsight, the idea of having a home birth at ‘home’ is now ironic as in the same week we received notice that the landlord of the house that we currently occupied was planning on returning in the new year and that, right on Christmas, with less than a month until our planned home birth was due to take place, we would have to start moving house. Quite a curveball which could have caused us a lot of stress, but we were now armed with relaxation techniques to help with this. We also had a fantastic midwife and from all ultrasound examination reports, a healthy baby girl with a great heart rate, excellent positioning albeit with an exceptionally bony bottom.

On reflection, the time that passed after Christmas was hectic and stressful, challenging both our mental and physical strength – almost to breaking point, but there was also immense joy, achievement and unbreakable love interspersed throughout. Due to the preparation we did with Calmbirth, Poppy Jane Pickford arrived as hoped, in a birthing pool at home with no medical interventions. I felt in control, with the unwavering strength of partner Brendan there to guide me throughout the whole experience.

Susi our wonderful midwife arrived following my call to announce the quickening of contractions at about 8.30pm. The contractions were intense to the point of having to steady myself with either the mantelpiece, Brendan, or the couch and on first observation by Susi, I was 4 centimetres dilated. I recall vomiting quite a lot which felt like a big wave of relief soon after. This pattern continued for about an hour and then I moved into the birthing pool which was so wonderfully relaxing that I was able to rest and breathe between surges. Assisting midwife Annie arrived and commented in admiration of the beautiful bush clad walk up to the house. The place, despite its approaching cessation, was the perfect setting for a homebirth, akin to a bird sanctuary with native bush surrounding a warm, sunny and very homely house.

During this time (second stage of labour) I felt so present and focused, moving between squats and deep lunges in the pool to keep my hips and pelvis open. I was visualising my body as a flower opening up gradually for birth, imagery, and technique courtesy of Calmbirth, which complemented the breathing and the constant loving touch and massage I was receiving from Brendan. My breathing was accompanied by humming and song¬like vocalising. I have done some singing musically and found myself revisiting the guttural vocal techniques I had learned and practiced before performances, recalling also that making vocal sounds had helped immensely for my first birth experience, 6 years prior.

Susi asked me to hop out of the pool for another observation of dilation and it had doubled in what seemed a short time. When I got back into the pool the surges were very intense, Brendan got in with me. I changed position in the water a lot, feeling the urgency of Poppy coming right down into the cervix. There was some pushing for about ten minutes, but the membranes were very persistently holding on strong, despite my efforts to exert more pressure with each push. Things slowed down a little and Susi consulted with assisting midwife Annie about a possible posterior positioning. She did an internal examination and found that Poppy’s head was angled slightly so that a small bit of cervix was stopping her from pushing through. This would require more extremely intense bearing down and pushing on my part to push her around and through the remainder of the cervix. To assist this process, Susi and Annie ingeniously made a loop with a towel that I then used for a tug¬o¬f war pulling device, with Susi, Annie and Brendan guiding and encouraging the bejesus out of me to get Poppy out.

I completely lost track of time and space here and was so intensely focussed that when poppy came out, I found myself coming out of a trance¬like state and was rapt when I remembered that, yes, that’s right. There is a baby at the end of this! At most, ten minutes had passed which I’ll say now makes me feel like superwoman. Poppy was lifted out of the water by Susi who had identified why there had been a reluctance to come, unwound the doubled umbilicus around the neck and then performed the APGAR test. At first it was only at 5/10 but a short time later, once the babe had some colour back in her face it was 10/10 and she was placed on my chest, held by Brendan who was positioned behind me in the pool so I could lean back onto him. It was nothing short of an incredible experience, that I will treasure forever.

Unfortunately the jubilation, bliss and superwoman status associated with the birth all came to an abrupt grinding halt in the first two weeks of her life, when Poppy presented with jaundice and latching difficulties, exacerbated by my low milk supply. A lactation consultant confirmed a posterior tongue and lip tie after we had persevered unsuccessfully to feed her back to her birth weight. We placed Poppy in the sun to naturally combat jaundice with UV light but not every day was sunny and then I copped a painful blocked duct which required brutal massage to unblock which felt like my whole breast was being ripped off my chest. All of this completely depleted the super womanly feelings that had kept me going until this and reducing me to a hysterical blubbing mess.

Fortunately when we hit the 6 week mark now and Poppy managed to successfully feed following the laser frenotomy release. We worked through the hard time, supplementing her feeds with wonderful donated expressed breast milk, some of my expressed breast milk and some formula milk. After doing all of the hard yards it felt it feels like our strong determined baby rose to the challenges with us, the is healthy and thriving now and is adored by her older brother Tristan and her wider family.