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by Anne on August 3rd, 2011

After a few days of mild contractions, I awoke on the day my third baby was born with a strange sense that this was the day. I kept occupied: treated myself to a haircut (something I only get to about once a year), fetched my two kids from playschool, and took us all for an outing after lunch. At five we were still out and the tightening sensations seemed a little stronger and were coming regularly at 12 to 15 minute intervals. It was time to go home.

I felt calm and excited at the same time: the anticipation of something huge and special about to take place, and a strange sense that it was all totally normal. My first beautiful baby was born in a crowded hospital – a bewildering and traumatic experience. My second, my boy, was born at home, in the gentle hands of two midwives and my husband – a revelation, and a healing triumph. Both labours were quick and intense, one shocking, the other powerful. I’d learnt that a safe environment meant everything.

Anything can happen at a birth. But I felt at peace and confident in my body’s ability to do what it had to do, in my husband and midwife to provide the support my baby and I would want, and in my home to be the space I would need.

By 9.30 the kids were tucked up asleep in their room and Carl and I had eaten and were relaxing. The contractions were still completely bearable but now only four or five minutes apart. I decided to call my midwife and warn her that it might be happening soon. Then I went to bed to get some rest in case I needed my energy soon.

Only half an hour later, at ten pm, the change took place. In an instant, true labour had begun. This new kind of contraction was a wave of pressure that demanded total attention; getting through it was a challenge and a journey. As each one rose in power, my body felt like it was being carried deeper and deeper into some mysterious centre of intensity, before being safely delivered on the other side. In between, total calm, a few beautiful moments to recover and rest and gather strength for the next immersion. After a few of these, at 10.30, Carl called the midwife (I was now beyond speaking on the phone) and helped me into a warm bath.

Though it seemed hard during a sweet lull between contractions, to use up precious energy by moving to the bathroom, it was worth it. The soothing power of warm water is truly amazing, and pouring it over my belly during contractions is my sole, and wonderful, pain relief. Immediately, the sensations become smoother, less jagged, and easier to bear.

At five to eleven my midwife Glynnis arrived. The contractions continued to intensify, each one now a massive event, a herculean challenge. Images of water permeate labour and birth for me, and the contractions really are waves building in power and coming in their own relentless rhythm, interspersed with moments of peace. They seem to be insisting that they will carry me and my baby to a new world via their chosen, painful, riotous route, which there is no use resisting. I must surrender and be drowned, torn in two by the ravages of the storm if we are to be delivered, safely, onto a new shore.

The irresistible desire to push was beginning to form in my body and mind and I knew that very soon it would be impossible to ignore. Glynnis checked me as soon as she could, in the brief moment of calm after one contraction finished and found me practically fully dilated. As though reading my mind, she said I may want to push now, and that it was okay to do so. It was time to get out of the water (our bathroom is too small to manoeuvre in and the birth would be easier elsewhere).

I remembered from my previous birth at home that leaving the comfort of warm water had been a terrible wrench. It helped that I had known this was coming and was inevitable, but it was hard! Someone (Carl) helped me to our bedroom where Glynnis was preparing some plastic on the floor. I knelt at the foot of the bed as another tremendous contraction took over my body, now without the soothing support of warm water around me, and gave in to the need to push.

The world, already focused on my body and baby, now shrank so that it seemed nothing else existed at all. Water was replaced by fire. As though from a distant land, I heard Glynnis telling me that the baby was coming, that it must be burning like hell. I knew Carl was out there with her, that they were both waiting and supporting me. But where I was, my baby and I, we were alone. The burning “ring of fire” told me that my baby was ready to be born, and I knew that soon it would be over, I would see and hold my child in my arms. But first my body had to surrender completely to the pain and perform an impossible transformation. Surely, it was too much to ask. But the voices were encouraging me, Glynnis told me the head was coming, that I was doing well, that I must just breathe my baby out. For some reason, that helped. One more journey into the forge, one more push in time with the peak of the contraction, and my baby’s head was born!

One miracle of birth to me is that moment when my body finally submits to being destroyed, and receives instead a tremendous flood of light and relief and the discovery that the worst is over. Amazing! I had to take a moment to rest before the shoulders could be born. I was above water, past the flame, breathing sweet air in a lull between the waves, and I held the lonely peace of that moment for a few seconds before plunging back into the work. That part was harder than I remembered.

And then she was out, in the world, in a rush of warm seawater and tiny limbs. I looked down and saw her being lifted up for me to hold, my beautiful nymph, tiny and perfect. Totally astounding to see her, even though I’d been fully aware of her presence growing in my belly for those nine months; she looked totally perfect, even though bloody and wet and, I suppose, a mess. To me she glowed with the strange light of another world and it felt the greatest of honours to cradle her to me at last and coo at her miraculous beauty.

It was twenty past eleven. Less than an hour and a half had passed since ten o’ clock, yet the world was a different place.

From → Birthing, Labour

  • Robyn

    Absolutely beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing. With just three months or so to go before my first birth, at home, having the opportunity to share other birth experiences are like gold for me xx

  • Anne Spotless

    Such a pleasure Robyn! Writing it down helps hold it all more fully in the mind so it was great to do. How wonderful – I am so happy you’re planning to give birth at home. I think each birth where the mother is empowered (as is generally the case with a homebirth) is a cause for celebration for all of us :)