Nikau Grew Me

By Roxy Bretton

Being pregnant with our second child is as good a prompt as any to finally write Nikau’s birth story…

Our path to home birth
I’d had no previous birth experience. However, I had a friend who had had a home birth and spoke about it like it was the most normal thing. I thought, “If I have a healthy pregnancy, why can’t I do that?” I believe that hospitals are for treating sick people, and that you are more at risk of medical interventions being used in hospital. I really wanted a natural stress-free birth, and I felt that a home birth in my own cosy home was the most supportive way to do this.

I spoke to others who had had home births, read about home birth, attended homebirth antenatal classes, and had an amazing homebirth midwife; that all helped strengthen my belief in home birth and that this was the right option for me. I also thought a lot about the history around home birth and indigenous cultures birthing in their own natural environments; I did not want to buy into the disempowering modern medicalisation that is so imposing today.

Support and community
I could not do this on my own. My husband Wiremu was totally supportive and encouraging of me having a home birth. My sister was cautious at first, as she had little knowledge or education about home birth, but she trusted my decision and is now a homebirth advocate herself! I was not involved in the homebirth community when I made the decision to choose a homebirth midwife. I had heard of a couple of people I knew having home births but that was about the extent of it. My midwife offered me a lot of education and supported me to join the homebirth association and to attend the homebirth antenatal classes where I made friends who were part of the homebirth community. Since I lived out of town, I did not attend any events, but I could still feel like part of the community.

Home birth and me
Why have I not found the space in the past 18 months that the magnificent Nikau has been with us to write about such a meaningful event? It’s not because it wasn’t an amazing experience. In fact, having a natural birth at home has been the most wonderful, empowering, life-changing experience of my life. Maybe that’s it; it was so hugely significant and out of this world that I am possibly worried that I won’t be able to capture it in words.

I also wonder if it is strange for me to re-visit another version of me, a super Roxy that isn’t quite believable; a woman who endured three days of labour and 18 hours of active labour to follow her body’s natural process and deliver a healthy happy 6lb 11oz baby boy on Waitangi Day.

A strong, determined woman she was – connected to the earth and many generations of labouring women who have gone before. A woman who trusted the unfailing support of her husband, midwife, and sister. A woman who, using the techniques learned through hypno-birthing and pregnancy yoga, hardly spoke, and remained focused and calm during the many hours of the first stage of labour. A woman who, despite her waters not breaking independently, despite the slowing down of contractions, despite the use of painful positions to shift the baby, and despite not being able to birth in the pool, still knew that everything was as it should be and it would all be OK. A woman who was blessed to have her partner Wiremu’s acupressure and continual relief of hot towels, homeopathic remedies, dim lighting, candy canes, a 10 hour playlist (that looped through twice!), the knowing gentle midwife Margaret and her sister Gala who continued to fill the pool from the stove and keep it to temperature even after the jug broke!

This was a woman who, in the second stage of labour, shook, vomited, and cried but continued to breathe and believe her way through it. This woman became a lioness, fierce yet protective. She pushed and pushed, feeling her baby coming and birthing him into his father’s arms. She then cradled her little cub to her chest in shock, relief, love, and great honour.

Baby Nikau was a little shocked himself after the long journey and needed some oxygen to support his new breathing pattern. This woman spoke gently to him while his father offered karakia. She continued to hold the deep calm knowing that this baby was full of life and magnificence. He still is. This woman was connected to her conscious instinctual loving self. She still is. Yes, that woman is me! “I think I did quite well really, and come to think of it, I’m looking forward to doing it again.”

Helping home birth in New Zealand
We need more education around how safe and empowering home birth can be. There is a lot of unnecessary fear around birth, and it seems many women feel that going to hospital is the only sensible choice and that home birth is for ‘alternative people’. Home birth needs to be normalised and promoted as an option of choice for all women. Stories need to be shared more widely – for example, having the home birth magazine more readily available now, as well as having stories in pregnancy and baby magazines and publications, posters in family planning clinics etc.

We can do it!