Nicole Whippy’s Beautiful Birth.

By Home Birth Aotearoa
Mar 2014

Nicole Whippy is one of our favourite New Zealand actors, she has character and acting skill in bags. The fact that she had a home birth is just icing on the top. She has well and truly made her mark on the New Zealand acting landscape and is most well known for her role as Kasey Mason (the buxom underwear designer married to Munter) from Outrageous Fortune though she has also appeared in other locals shows such as Jackson’s Wharf, The Strip, Mercy Peak, Being Eve and Orange Roughies. We’d go so far as to say she’s a kiwi icon. Her latest role has been in the acclaimed comedy drama ‘Nothing Trivial’ playing hardnosed Michele Hardcastle, a vengeful recently divorced wife who specializes in celebrity gossip.  Her career has been moving from strength to strength and while her personal life is a little more down to earth, she continues to take on challenges. She is passionate about animal welfare getting involved in adoption drives and has just recently completed a Marathon in 2012, but most excitingly for us, she gave birth to her daughter Pearl at home. She has very generously taken some time out of her busy life to answer our questions, and we find what she has to say is anything but trivial!

Nicole Whippy as her character Michelle Hardcastle

Tell us a little about your birth – your birth story.

At my family home. 26 intense hours from the get go. I went into labour at 9.30pm on the 7th of June 2011 and I gave birth to Pearl Aki at 11.45pm on the 8th of June. I spent the night of the 7th leading into the 8th in the bathroom with the shower running on and off. I love the sound of water it relaxes me. My Mum, Sis and I sat together and told stories and reminisced about our childhood. They were AH-mazing. I told Tom to sleep as I would need him the next day. I remember being really surprised when morning came, and my labour hadn’t progressed. So, I thought I would walk/march it on. We took the dogs around the local park stopping to breathe through contractions -which were still quite intense.

20 hours later and no sign of bubba I was exhausted. I called my Midwife (who had been regularly checking up on me) and asked if I could hop in to the birth pool. She said I could, to give me a break but she was worried it would slow down labour. She was right. I hated it, the heat made me feel sick. On the 25th hour when I was convinced bubs wouldn’t come and felt like we had done everything we could, my Midwife did some Acupuncture on my foot, and I felt a surge through my body. She took one look at me and said, “She’s ready”. We moved to the lounge where Tom helped deliver our beautiful baby girl Pearl Aki Genet Holden. Then we let the dogs out.Ha!

What prompted you to choose homebirth, nothing trivial, I hope? (haha)

HAHA. It was probably Tom’s (my partners) influence. He is one of 6 kids all born at home. I wasn’t. He suggested it, I looked into it, and I liked what I saw. At home, safe and surrounded by people who love you. Plus, I had a great homebirth midwife Glenda (can’t remember her last name) from The Midwives in Greenbay. She was well known to our whanau having delivered several of our nieces/nephews. It just seemed right and the more I looked into it the more I felt like it was the best decision for the type of labour I wanted.

Did you receive any criticism of your decision to homebirth? How did you deal with that?

Yes. Quite a bit. You have to put a bubble around yourself and be grounded in your decision. Everyone’s allowed an opinion. Although why you would want to tell a new expectant mother that she might kill her child is a bit beyond me and a real sign of someone else issues not your own. I had done the research. I was well read and talked to Toms sisters, my Mum, his Mum, and several friends who had had successful home births.

The support was great. Always best to surround yourself with like minded people when you are pregnant. No time for negative energy or people putting their own birth story issues on you.

 Did you ever have any doubts that you had made the right decision?

All the time. But doubting it wasn’t going to help me have the birth I knew I could have. Same thing with breastfeeding. I knew it might be hard. But with perseverance, a few tears (okay a lot) and lots of support it paid off in the end. I wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable and ask for help. That was a big thing. I didn’t want to try to be Supermum. It was ALL new to me. I never had younger siblings so everything about the experience was new.

 Did you use any resources to inform your decision, what were they?

Toms Mum. My sister in laws. My midwife. Books-specifically Birth Tools by Juju Sundin and Calm Birth. My Mum is a Maternal Mental Health Nurse, so she was an incredible support from dealing with general safety issues to postnatal care at home. I watched video clips of home births. I was well aware of how it might happen.

 How did you feel after your birth? How were those first few days at home with your family?

Absolutely Wasted! 26 long hard hours had taken it out of me. I don’t really remember much afterwards. In retrospect I would have asked for more privacy at home to help establish breastfeeding and just take time to bond and find our feet as a new whanau of 3.

I guess people thought they were helping by being there and cooking and helping out. But really after such an intense labour we just needed our space.

 What was your partner Tom’s role in the birth? How did he support you?

He was great. He was fully present but could sense that all I wanted was my Mum and Sister. They just knew all the tricks of the trade to distract me from any intense contractions and help me breathe through them too.

Tom had all the tools ready for me to use. He set me up a sling in the hallway that he hung off the staircase so I could lie back and breath into my contractions.

Plus, we set up the birth pool in the kitchen which was quite a big build. But Tom just took care of it all. He gave me my space and let me find my way.

 You had quite a long labour, what techniques did you use to cope during your birth?

Sung, danced, meditated, hopped in the birth pool, voice exercises I had learnt at Drama School, yoga, walked the dogs several times over the 26 hours, stress balls, Swiss Balls. Homeopathic remedies. You name it I did it! In retrospect I probably should have just stayed calm and still. You live and learn. Ha!

 Were your family supportive of homebirth? How did they influence your decision?

It was a hard decision to come to for my Mum. She is a Nurse with a medical background. We were all born in hospital in Fiji. She was worried about mine and babies’ safety. HOWEVER, she came on board and did her research with me, and she was brilliant leading up to the birth and during my labour. Dad on the other hand made himself scarce. Think he was at the pub.

You’ve also run a half marathon, would you consider it to be a similar challenge to home birth?

VERY SIMILAR. In fact, I used my birth experience to get me over that bloody Auckland Harbour Bridge. My marathon mantra was this ‘If you can survive through 26 hours of labour with no drugs you can run this”.

And it worked.

 How did you feel in those first moments when you first held pearl after you birthed her?

Not much. I was too wasted. That’s honesty for you. Everyone else seemed stoked though.

In other countries homebirth is being criminalised, how important do you think it is that homebirth be protected?

Wow that’s horrible. I think a woman should have the right to give birth wherever she feels the safest. If that’s at a hospital-so be it. If it’s at home-so be it.

That should be a basic human right.

You’ve played some strong female roles in your acting career, would you consider those qualities a part of who you are and a part of your decision to take ownership of your birth?

Absolutely. Motherhood is life changing. Every part of me has changed. My body, my spirituality, my whole perspective of the world. I embrace the new roles that will (hopefully) come with this new territory.

 Did having a homebirth give you a new understanding of your body, how did this manifest?

It’s amazing isn’t it. I still wonder how the hell Pearl got out of me! It’s funny my mother in law told me it took her 5 births to only really understand when Number 6 was born at how her body actually worked during labour. She said she never felt so connected to the whole process until then. I hope one day that Number 2 bubba puts all that practice from Baby number 1 to work. I’m still getting my head around it. I mean how the hell did she…?!

 Was homebirth always on the radar for you? Or is it something that you decided on while you were pregnant? I had thought about it before as

I’ve always tried to take a holistic natural approach to my life. But yes, it was only when I became pregnant that I actually went “OK lets do this”.

 How has having a homebirth influenced your parenting?

Start as you intend to finish! We have adopted a semi holistic lifestyle with Pearl. She is treated with homeopathic-which I used in my homebirth and during pregnancy. We try to take a natural organic approach to all parts of our parenting where we can and if it suits our lifestyle.

“I think a woman should have the right to give birth wherever she feels the safest. If that’s at a hospital-so be it. If it’s at home-so be it. That should be a basic human right.”

This story sums up a now 4 year old Pearl and Homebirth:

I walked into her preschool class and the teachers were picking children to go and wash their hands for lunch by calling out the month you were born.

Teacher: ‘If you were born in May go and wash your hands’. The kids all look at each other confused trying to figure this out and then one or two get up and go and wash their hands.

I was standing at the door watching them do this and watching Pearl look more and more worried. Eventually she put her hand up and went and whispered something in the Teachers ear. The Teacher looks at me and trying not to laugh says,” Well Pearl has said something very interesting. She wasn’t born in any of those months. She was born in her lounge’.

I nearly fell on the floor laughing.

Nicole Whippy and daughter Pearl

Nicole Whippy and her lovely family. Partner Tom and Daughter Pearl.