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Birth Story: Matthew

by Sarah on October 21st, 2013

The time leading up to Matthew’s birth was a rather emotional one for me. I had been extremely stressed because of the event I organise being 4 days before his due date, and then going 10 days passed his due date definitely pushed my buttons too. Eventually, my midwife Mandi suggested that I take castor oil on Wednesday 17th July, but when the two doses of  it started labour and the labour fizzled out, she said it was time to see the gynae. Mandi booked me an appointment for Friday the 19th at 9am. Even Mandi was concerned that I was going to be told to have a c-section because the odds seemed to be against me. We could tell the baby was really big and was lying posterior (extremely painful births especially with a big baby). My cervix was still really high, which generally means you’re not close to going into labour, and our natural induction hadn’t worked.

Both Mandi and I were feeling desperate. As a very last resort on the Thursday she gave me one last dose of castor oil and told me to do a pose with my bum in the air and shoulders on the ground. Her plan was to slightly disengage the baby so that if the contractions did kick in, the baby would have more chance of being pulled into an anterior position. I did this at 13:00, cried the entire way through the pose, and phoned some family and friends to tell them that I was probably going to have a c-section. My sister-in-law talked me through a hospital plan, I pictured the entire process and in some way came to terms with it. After all, I knew the most important thing was for my baby to be born safely.

About an hour after the pose, I felt a contraction. A lot more painful than the ones that had fizzled out the day before. And then another. And another. I called Mandi, who came over as soon as she could. Because I was saying they seemed more intense than the ones I’d had yesterday and were actually quite painful, she was pleased. She massaged me for a little bit, showed Graeme how to massage me in the same way, and then went off to have something to eat, saying I should call her when the contractions were about 1 minute 10 seconds long. Ha! Pretty much as soon as she drove away, my labour kicked into second gear. The contractions started coming one after each other, just a couple minutes break in between, and they got longer and longer very quickly. Within half an hour, I told Graeme to call her back, and asked him to start getting the pool ready. I was in a lot of pain, but at the same time, was completely overjoyed. Our baby was coming. At home, naturally.

Mandi arrived back at 16:30, and she could tell that I was in active labour. She doesn’t believe in doing a lot of internal exams and thank goodness for that. She just let me wander about my bedroom, lean on the massage table and make all the noise I wanted, reading my body for signals as to how everything was progressing. I’ll be honest, it was an incredibly painful time for me, a lot more intense than Lily’s labour. I’m guessing it was because of both the castor oil and his size! But every time I had the thought that I wasn’t sure I could handle it, I just said to myself, “Sarah, remember yourself crying a couple of hours ago? This is what you wanted!”

It took them quite a while to get the pool filled and the water temperature right. I will never be able to fully explain the relief that I felt when climbing in. I’ve read that birthing pools are the second best pain relief after an epidural and it totally makes sense to me. The warmth relaxes your muscles, the water surrounds and holds you. A calm, safe place.

I had a strange urge to push after a few hours of being in active labour. By now the second midwife, Anneri had arrived, but both her and Mandi asked me to try not to push because they felt it was too early. They left me in the pool for a little longer, and then asked if they could do an internal. I climbed out the pool and lay on the bed. I was fully dilated! This was around 19:00.

I could tell that the contractions were a lot stronger and closer together when I was out of the water, so tried to stay out for as long as I could, just to move things along more quickly. I leaned against the massage table a lot, mostly tilting forward and moving my hips. I loved that whenever Mandi took the baby’s heartbeat, we could see that the position had moved from the side of my belly, all the way around to the front and was getting lower and lower. This meant that the baby was no longer posterior and was so much closer to being born! Everything flowed just perfectly.

My darling little Lily came into the room every now and then. I can clearly remember lying on the bed at one point with Mandi rubbing my back, hearing some whispering and then feeling this tiny little hand also beginning to rub. I wasn’t able to talk to Lily or focus on her at all, but just having her presence in the room gave me so much strength.

Around 21:45 the urge to push returned, in full force. There’s something about this stage of labour that I quite enjoy. It’s because I know that we’re nearing the end, but also because I’m able to exert energy, instead of purely absorbing it. Up until the pushing phase, I’d been doing a lot of rocking back and forth on my knees, and a lot of swaying or spiralling my hips.  But with the pushing, I can actually use the pain to move things along more quickly.

We were hoping that Graeme could catch the baby when it was born, but Mandi had warned him that because it was big, it’s quite common that their shoulders get stuck. She explained to him what he’d need to do to help them if this happened. Thank goodness she had! After a few pushes it suddenly dawned on me that we were finally going to find out if we were having a boy or a girl, and so I was suddenly filled with renewed energy. Mandi went to the bathroom, expecting things to take a while longer, but the next thing, I could feel the head coming out. Anneri asked me to hold it there until both Mandi and her were ready. Not an easy task! Once Mandi was out, and their gloves were on, I was allowed to slowly push with the next surge. The rest of the head came out easily, but as they had worried, his shoulders got stuck.

In a heartbeat, Graeme had lifted me up out of the water onto my feet. Mandi and Anneri lifted my one leg onto the side of the bath, but the baby didn’t budge. So they put that one down and the other up. It worked, and out the baby came. Next thing they had me right out of the bath and on my back on the bed, with the baby still attached in between my legs. He wasn’t breathing. They suctioned his nose, he gave a little cry, but still no breath, so they had to give him oxygen. It was only a couple of minutes since his head had popped out, but it felt as if time had stopped. And then he cried!

The amazing thing was that during those last couple of minutes, although everything slowed down, I didn’t panic at all. I suppose I was too high on hormones and too tired after the labour. Plus, I just had this deep sense of knowing that there was no way after all the emotions I’d experienced and how smoothly the birth had gone, that anything would happen to our baby.

I think it took another five minutes before we even asked whether it was a boy or a girl! The funniest thing was that when Anneri said she’d go fetch my parents so they could meet our little man, and opened the door, the two of them practically fell into our bedroom. They’d heard the cries and were waiting right outside! It was so special to be able to have them join us for the weighing and tests of our little man, another reason why I love homebirths so much.

I absolutely could not believe that Matthew weighed 4.78kg. I couldn’t believe that it was actually possible to give birth to such a large baby without pain medication, but there you go. It totally is. And after all of that, I am more passionate about the natural birthing process, and about having a baby at home, than ever before.

From → Birthing, Labour