George’s Birth Story
We bought a housebus, an 1954 Bedford SB3, off some family friends whose gypsy travelling days were behind them. It was set up with everything – bedroom, kitchen, bathroom – but it had been quietly rusting away, leaking in the rain, musty smelling with rat shit in the drawers and cupboards. The whole thing was about 20 different shades of 80s brown. Still, we could see the potential and bought it. I was a couple of months pregnant with our second baby. Plenty of time to do it up, we thought, and planned on! Not so slowly our plans for the bus changed from putting new curtains in and recovering the old squabs, to ripping everything out and starting again. Man, what a mission! Our weekends evenings and eventually work days were consumed with doing the bus. Luckily my husband Matt is so handy and with the help of family and friends, we could do most of it ourselves. Still, our time frame stretched from weeks to months. Of course we would be in there by Christmas, we told ourselves and everyone! Christmas came and went and we were still living in our converted shipping container and sleeping in Mum and Dad’s caravan. Not ideal, with a 3 and a half year old sharing our bed and being about 28 weeks pregnant. I wasn’t due until March 17th and that date certainly seemed to be staring us in the face as we came in to the new year. An understatement to say the whole situation was stressful! The bus threw up more problems than we ever thought possible and cost more and more precious time and money. There were many times we thought we wouldn’t make it, but we carried on.
We had been planning a homebirth, as we had done with our first boy Jamie in Perth. The homebirth was to take place on the bus. When it looked doubtful that the bus was going to be done in time, I explored my possibilities… have the baby in hospital? Go to mum and dad’s in Nelson and have baby there? My brother and sister in law even selflessly offered their own house, next door to use. But I realised it wasn’t so much where the birth took place, but the fact that I knew I couldn’t deal with a 3 year old and a newborn in a small caravan! So the bus NEEDED to be done. And there wasn’t going to be any time with a newborn baby for us to finish it off!
Back story told…. One Wednesday, 6 days before my due date, we had gone to playgroup as usual, and then around to Chris and Rosie’s so I could start making the curtains for the bus. Monday that week Jamie and I had gone for a walk at Milnthorpe. As we walked I had heaps of tight Braxton hicks constantly and I thought to myself I should probably carry my phone on me from now on! In hindsight I started to feel a bit “over” the pregnancy then… fat, sore, tired… all signs that baby was getting ready to come. But because Jamie was 2 weeks over I thought I had a wee while yet. Plus I thought baby would wait until the bus was ready and on site with the container! We planned to move the bus up to our place on Wednesday morning (had to be early morning – non-legal bus and we weren’t sure how it would drive…) but Matt had wanted to finish the trim around the windows so decided to do it Thursday instead. So, I was wading through metres and metres of curtains, went to the loo and found I had had a bit of a mucusy discharge. The cervical plug. Hmmm, I thought. Oh crap! And also quietly excited. Texted my midwife and told Matt when he came in for a break from the bus (but told him to keep quiet about it). So many emotions…excited but really needing to get the bus to our place!
I took Jamie home and we had dinner.. Matt had dinner with us and then raced back to do more on the bus. I started having mild contractions and put Jamie to bed in a bit of a state of shock and wonder. After Jamie was asleep I walked outside and up the hill because I didn’t know what else to do! I watched the evening grow darker and knew our baby was coming to meet us soon. I also checked the “birthing box” which I hadn’t really finished packing and picked out the baby a first outfit to wear – I decided on the same tiny merino onesie Jamie wore. (Hard to imagine he was once so small!) I also found my homeopathic labour drops and started using those.
Back inside I watched some homebirth/hypnobirthing videos on youtube. The contractions were a bit more powerful and requiring a bit more concentration. I went to bed, snuggled in with Jamie and tried to sleep. I managed to sleep even though they were intense enough for me to actively breathe through them. Still, they must have eased off enough for me to sleep. Matt came home at one am and I woke up… no more sleep for me. Went to the toilet and had more of a show, this time with a tinge of blood. Too excited to sleep/worrying about whether the bus would get there on time, just bouncing back and forth between those. Plus the increasingly painful contractions. I managed them by imagining riding a bike to the top of a hill – I visualized our steep driveway and breathed as if I was biking. My sister told me she did this when she had her baby 11 weeks earlier and I found it so helpful! With Jamie’s birth I found the contractions so painful from the word go, I think it shocked me and I tensed up… This time I actively tried to relax my mind and muscles and they were so so much easier to deal with.
I got up at 3am to pack a hospital bag, unsure whether I would need it or not. I think I managed to get a bit of sleep and then Matt’s alarm went off at 7am, to go down to Chris and Rosie’s and bring the bus back! Then have a baby! I told him to tell his parents that I was in labour, so they would hurry up… notoriously late family, I imagined they wouldn’t get there till the arvo unless I gave them a good excuse! I texted my sister in law Amy who lives next door, who wanted to see the bus on its journey to our place, and let her know I was in labour. Thought I should try and have a good brekkie so Jamie and I had porridge. I knew it was going to be the last breakfast just the two of us, I took some photos of him while he clowned around. Rang mum and dad and let them know – I had asked Mum to come for the birth. (they live 2 hours away).I texted my midwife again and said still unsure whether it’ll be at home or the hospital… she texted back and said she had her homebirth kit in the car, and the pool blown up at the hospital, ready for either scenario.
The bus came up the driveway in a cloud of smoke, in reverse, with Dave (Matt’s brother) hanging off the back, and Chris and Rosie (Matt’s parents) in separate spotter cars, and Amy who had walked over with her 2 kids. I was SOOOO relieved the bus was finally here! It took a while to get it into place and on to blocks etc… meanwhile I’m having to stop and lean over something (the trampoline, a car, the caravan, a chair) have a contraction and then resume normal conversation. I played it down a bit but they were regular and often and increasing in intensity. The whole excitement of the bus was a good distraction though. Amy was going to have Jamie for the day and she sensed it was time to go, so off they went… Rosie went to work and Matt, Chris and Dave fiddled around with the bus. It was a beautiful morning and I was quite enjoying just walking around in the sunshine, so pleased to finally have the bus there and laughing with everyone about the timing of it all.
Chris left at about 10.30 and Dave had gone but popped back to bring Matt something, that was about 11 and by then I was thinking “OK, I really don’t want my brother in law here anymore!”. A friend came round as we had planned a catch up a few days earlier… We laughed and both apologized “ sorry I’m in labour will have to do it another time” “sorry I can’t believe I’m here, here’s some frozen meals and baking see ya!”. Mum arrived at around 11 as well, I was in great spirits although the contractions were definitely quite intense by this stage, but I was still up and about, talking and organizing/directing things for the birth. The only thing in the whole bus was our brand new kind size bed, plastic cover still on… it made us laugh to take it off and then make the bed with a special plastic sheet underneath. (The bus is basically just one big bedroom, the only built in furniture is our bed). I instructed Matt to make me a mountain of pillows and from this point I was basically just labouring on the bed. Matt vacuumed, mum mopped, I asked them to somehow cover the windows (as the curtains hadn’t been finished!) and Matt started setting up the pool.
My midwife Celia arrived and she came in in the middle of a strong contraction which I was concentrating breathing through, eyes closed. That was about 12.15. She offered to check me to see if she thought there would be enough time to fill the pool up. I agreed and was happy with this although initially I didn’t want any VEs. However I was curious, excited and felt empowered and in control so I didn’t mind. She thought I was about 5cm, and thought there would be enough time to get the pool filled. She said she was going to pop out and be back in about an hour. The second she stepped out of the bus I had a really intense, back to back contraction. So she didn’t end up going anywhere! Mum was with me at this stage so I could squeeze her hand, her giving me water and cold flannels on my head. (It was hot in the bus!) Matt was busy filling the pool. Increasingly I wanted him there with me. I knew in myself the pool wasn’t going to get filled up in time (our water pressure is crap!)
All the time I could feel the baby moving about, kicking in between contractions, and as I neared transition, I had some really strong, intense contractions when I could feel him turning (he was posterior). It was crazy to feel! I felt the need to do a poo and told mum, she shouted out to Celia as she knew what that could mean! But really, I just needed to do a poo. They helped me out to the loo, and mum was freaking out because we have a composting toilet and my sister in law’s baby was born on the toilet 6 months earlier. So she made me get off and go in a bucket, haha, and then we decided if it was to be a bucket it might as well be on the bus, so back in we went. I knew I needed to empty my bowels before I could have the baby, so I did, and then I hit the 2nd stage running (or should I say screaming)… it was so intense! Matt gave up trying to fill the pool.
My body did basically all the pushing for me and I could feel my baby moving down. The breaks were longer between contractions and I was so grateful for this! I was totally present and felt in control but also surrendered to my body, if that makes sense. So different to Jamie’s birth where I totally entered that “labour land” they talk about… totally exhausted and actively pushing for an hour, I felt the urge but it was all me, not my body.
The baby’s head was big and it was sitting just inside not wanting to come out, with a combined effort of me and my body we pushed it out. A welcome break between contractions, me panting and sore but waiting for the next big one to get the baby’s body out. However Mum, Celia and Matt all said PUSH!! At the same time, I panicked and thought something must be wrong so I gave a big push and a big, screaming baby flopped on to the bed in front of me! The relief of labour over was instant, as well as the overwhelming rush of love and gratitude and just an absolute high and I picked my baby up and held him to my body. I noticed straight away he was a boy and said “two little boys!” We all commented on how big he was and how intense the last part of the labour was. It was only about 20 minutes of pushing though. Later when checking his fontanelles Celia noted they were quite small and that could account for the intensity of getting his head out (as it didn’t mould as much as normal) and also because he was posterior he didn’t quite turn fully and both his shoulders came out at once. A second degree tear for that. Still, I found the recovery less painful than with Jamie and I just had grazes. Our wee (big) boy weighed in at 9 lb 5 and came with a set of lungs to power the most ear splitting cry!
He made his way to the breast and latched on like a champ. The second midwife arrived just after he was born and I birthed the placenta and got stitched up. We all laughed and marveled at the timing of it all. The bus was finally finally at our place that morning and wee George born at 2pm. We let family know, Mum walked down and brought Jamie back up to meet his new brother, who he has been so amazing with since their first meeting. Matt’s family came to meet him. We celebrated! Funnily, a friend of ours had heard we were moving the bus that day, so he stopped by after work (not knowing I’d had the baby) with a housewarming present. He stepped into the bus, said hi and it took him a few moments to notice me sitting up in bed feeding my new babe. It was so funny! The whole thing was just such a joyful and glorious day! In fact I would even say the labour and birth of my George was enjoyable.
So our first night in our new (old) housebus which had been an absolute labour of love, the most stressful thing ever which felt like was never going to be finished, was also our first night with our newest babe and as a family of four. So so so so in love and so happy!