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The Freebirth of Eliza

*To watch the birth video, click here*


I wasn’t due for another week and a half, and both of the boys had arrived on their due dates, so I was not expecting labour for at least another week. On Thursday the 2nd of August I woke up to my waters leaking, and they leaked a lot, all day long. I was a little bit concerned because we were moving house the next day, but I knew that it could still be days or even weeks away, and I was confident that Bubba would wait until we were settled. That night I got some very strong contractions. Okay so maybe it was going to happen soon.


Throughout Thursday night I was woken by about 7 or 8 very strong contractions that I needed to breathe and focus through. I knew these were labour contractions and not just Braxton Hicks. On Friday morning, the removalists showed up at 7am, Dan went to work, and the contractions pretty well stopped. I only had probably 4 or 5 all morning; my body knew I couldn’t birth with these people around. The boys and I went to the house with the removalists with their first load, so I could tell them where to put everything. I had two contractions on the way there that were very intense, and in hindsight I wonder if I should have been driving… After they unloaded the truck and left, and it was just the boys and me at the house, the contractions picked up straight away, to about 5 minutes apart, lasting about a minute, and very intense. I asked my sister-in-law to come over and play with the boys so I could do some unpacking, and I called Dan to come home from work. By the time he got home, contractions were about 2-3 minutes apart.

 

A bit of a back story is needed here: in December 2017, 6 days after we found out I was pregnant, two 35-meter trees fell on/through our roof during a freak storm. We had been in temporary accommodation ever since while insurance repaired our home.

It was the most stressful, strange, difficult 8 months of my life, but we were finally moving home, and just in time for the baby to arrive. We thought it would be once we were maybe a little bit more settled in…

During my pregnancy, I also had horrific pain in my groin and leg from varicose veins. I had it during my previous pregnancies, though far less severe, and I had gone through 3 surgeries to fix the issue, but they hadn’t worked, as I found out about seven weeks into pregnancy. Despite wearing a compression brace for my pelvis and full length compression stockings from the moment I got out of bed till the moment I went to bed every day, I couldn’t stand up for more than about 10 minutes at a time or it became too painful. If I didn’t wear the compression garments, about one minute was the limit. As you can imagine, it was very difficult to remain optimistic; we were out of our home, I was in debilitating pain, trying to be a good mum to my two and four year old boys, and trying to do the basics like washing, cooking and cleaning while not being able to stand up for pain. I was so thankful to a beautiful friend who came regularly to help me with washing and cooking, but it was still hard. Not to mention the countless hours of stress and paperwork and phone calls and research and emails that go with insurance claims. I think I was suffering depression; it was a huge struggle to get out of bed every day, knowing that I had a day of pain and stress ahead of me.

 

At 11 weeks I almost lost the baby. I started cramping, then bleeding, a lot. I held onto Dan and cried and cried and told him I didn’t want to lose the baby. He just responded with “I know” and held onto me. I laid down for a few hours and texted some dear friends, one of whom replied with photos of pages from the book “Supernatural Childbirth”, with scriptures and prayers to declare in case of threatened miscarriage. I laid still, tears streamed down my face and I whispered the prayers and declarations over and over and asked the baby to please stay in there and to please be okay. The next day I got an ultrasound. I am anti-ultrasounds, but in this case I believe that the stress of not knowing if my baby was alive or not would have done more damage than the ultrasound. I asked the sonographer if there was a heartbeat, and as soon as she replied “yes, your baby is fine”, I couldn’t stop the tears of gratitude from flowing. I still had my baby.

At around 20 weeks I decided I wanted to freebirth, and Dan supported me 100%. I had been playing with the idea, but after reading and watching a lot of birth stories from women who had done it, I knew that’s what I wanted too. Freebirthing is about taking birth from being a medical procedure, and returning it to being a normal, completely instinctive, natural process. I had beautiful, natural, midwife-attended homebirths for the first two, but looking back on those births, for me, having a medical professional present was an interference / hindrance in itself. She didn’t do anything wrong at all; in fact she was a brilliant midwife and I would recommend her to anyone wanting a homebirth, but I found that having a medical professional there made me doubt my own instinct and I felt like I needed to run everything by her to make sure it was “okay”. I wasn’t in charge of my own birth. This time, I wanted my birth to be fully instinctual, fully un-medical and fully mine, the way it was designed to be and the way it was for centuries. I told my midwife I wanted to freebirth, and she was so supportive and gracious; she even checked over my research and lists to make sure I was fully prepared. I educated myself on what to do in any emergency situation, and I learned that situations that constitute a true emergency are extremely rare. I knew I could transfer to hospital if one of those super rare emergencies did happen, and I knew beyond a doubt that my birth was far more likely to be easy and straightforward at home than at hospital. I knew I was giving myself and my baby the best chance of a calm, beautiful, natural birth; completely unhindered and completely instinctive. We decided not to tell many people at all because I knew that most wouldn’t understand, and would try to talk me out of it. I was very excited.

 

We still didn’t know when we would be moving home, so I couldn’t do anything to prepare my “birth space” or do any nesting. I couldn’t visualise the birth because I didn’t know where it would be. I didn’t even do much physical exercise or meditation and breathing practise like I did last time, simply because I didn’t have time with everything we had going on, and I didn’t have motivation because of how I was emotionally. In the month leading up to moving back home, Dan was camping at the house so he could work on it full time, so I was playing single mum and taking meals over to him once or twice a day. It was a mad rush to try and get everything (renovating, finishing things that insurance didn’t do) done before we moved. We finally got the news from insurance that we would be moving home on the 3rd of August; just in time to move and get settled before the baby arrived. Or so we thought…

Halfway through moving day, just after Dan got home from work, we had to make a decision; stay at the house and just roll with whatever happened, or go to his parents’ place to birth the baby. We both really wanted to birth at home, and besides, we still had the rest of the day of moving to get done, so we decided I would try lying down rather than pottering and unpacking, to see if I could slow labour down. It’s important to understand the state of the house at this point; we were moving back into a completely empty, newly refurbished but only partially completed house. Dan had been converting our laundry into a bathroom and our bathroom into an ensuite, but the ensuite wasn’t even started yet and the bathroom was far from finished. It had our big bath in the corner, not even sealed yet. Some tiling was done, without the grout even cleaned off yet. Dan had literally done the grouting at midnight the night before. There was no vanity or bench or mirror or curtain or anything, and the washing machine was in the middle of the room. We were planning a water birth in the bath... There was also nothing else in the house; not a bed, not a sheet, not a towel. Everything was arriving dismantled or in boxes, and it was chaotic.

 

I laid down in the swag that Dan had been camping in, and the contractions slowed right down, to 10-15 minutes apart, but they were SO painful! I couldn’t believe the difference. It was agonising, laying there trying to sleep in between, but waiting for and dreading the next inevitable excruciating contraction. It was so strange working against labour and trying to stop it from happening, rather than working with the contractions as I had done last time. I realised that this must be what most women go through, simply because they are not educated on how to work with and surrender to the contractions, and they try to escape the pain. It was awful. I stayed like that for the next 5 hours; it was the longest day of my life. Every time I got up to the go to the toilet, the contractions were straight back to 2 minutes apart, so I would rush back to the swag to ward them off again. My sister-in-law had to go and my mother-in-law came and took over looking after the boys at 3pm. We had planned to have her at the house during the birth anyway to look after our 2 year old. As soon as the removalists brought our bed, Dan prioritised getting it assembled, and I moved onto the bed sometime in the afternoon. The removalists finally left at about 5:30pm, after chatting for AGES with Dan and taking their jolly time. They knew I was having contractions, but didn’t realise how far into labour I was. Dan didn’t realise either to be fair. I appeared calm most of the time, but the pain was so bad that I was struggling to stay in control. I called Dan into the bedroom just before they left and told him that lying down was starting to not work anymore; the contractions were getting closer together anyway. I had ordered Indian takeaway for dinner because I figured we would need to eat, and the delivery man showed up just after 5:30pm, and he also chatted to Dan for AGES. In my head I was screaming “JUST GO AWAY! I NEED TO GIVE BIRTH!”

 

As soon as the Indian man left, I got up out of bed and started walking through the house. The contractions were suddenly on top of each other, with sometimes a minute in between, sometimes 10 seconds in between. Dan was putting sheets one the boys’ beds so they could go to sleep, but I went and grabbed him and told him that it was going to be soon and that we needed to get things ready. We both started rushing around; the bath didn’t even have a spout on it, so Dan was finding and attaching the spout, I was filling my water bottle and digging through boxes to try and find a bowl to birth the placenta into. Dan watched me for a second and told me I was “transitioning”; he could tell I was going into the zone. He frantically told me “we haven’t picked a boy’s name!” and I told him it didn’t matter. I went into the boys’ bedroom and told Reuben that Bubba would be coming out soon. Dan’s mum was putting Levi to bed, Dan was setting up the go-pro and I was getting out all the towels and a little chair for Reuben to sit on and the handheld mirror and a bucket… in between contractions of course. During contractions I was swaying, walking, rotating my hips; I ended up swinging from the rafters on our back veranda to take the pressure off. I had never been this far into labour without being in water before, and I was surprised at how intense the pain was. While I was on the back veranda I got my first pushing contraction. I called out “Hey Dan… I’m pushing”. He thought I was literally pushing the baby out right then and there. He asked what I wanted him to do, so I told him to fill the bath. I thought, based on my previous births that I had about 15 minutes left, and I still wanted a water birth.

He started filling the bath, I went and got Reuben, then hopped in the ankle-deep water. It was cold. Dan flicked it to hot and it started warming up. I gave Reuben a pep talk, reminding him of all the birth videos we had watched, and that there would be blood and that it would probably hurt me, and reminding him to stay quiet. I had a pushing contraction and Dan tried the hip squeeze that had been such a help in my last birth, but it was awkward because he wasn’t in the bath, and it didn’t really help anyway. Reuben loudly asked if we had remembered the scissors (he was very excited to cut the cord). We reminded him to stay quiet. Dan changed the lightbulb from a fluoro to a soft white. I had another pushing contraction, what was left of my waters broke, and then the water that was filling the bath started coming out yellow. We hadn’t been living there for eight months so the water had just been sitting in the pipes and had turned yellow. I asked Dan if that mattered for Bubba, and he confidently said it didn’t, even though he didn’t actually know. He knew I needed to stay calm and confident, and he knew I would be doubting whether I should stay in the bath if he gave me any reason to question it. I asked Dan if the water was still getting warm. It wasn’t; the hot water system had chosen that moment to die. So the water was tepid, it was yellow, and it was shallow, but there was no turning back now. Dan had caught the baby at the last birth, but because of the position I found myself in, I told him I was going to catch it myself. I reached down and I could feel the baby’s head, only about an inch inside. It was amazing; I could feel its hair, and I could actually feel the little tectonic plates of its head overlapping. Another contraction, then another rest. Dan rubbed my back. I said “No. Actually yes”. I told Reuben he’s a good boy. We all looked at the camera and smiled for a labour selfie...


Another contraction. I knew it would be very soon. During this one, I suddenly had the irrational thought and feeling that the baby couldn’t fit out. It didn’t seem possible, and it was happening so fast that I had a moment of fear. I freaked out that I was going to tear. I told Dan I didn’t want to tear, and he reminded me to just relax. Logically I knew I wouldn’t, but in that moment I was sure I just couldn’t do it; it wasn’t physically possible. The feeling passed with the contraction. Another brief break. I talked to the baby: “hey Bubba, see you in a minute”. This was the first birth where I have been mentally present enough to even think of talking to the baby. The next contraction, I swore. I felt for a moment like a train with no breaks, like I had no control over what was happening and where I was going, and to be honest I felt like I was going to be torn apart. I didn’t understand how the baby could fit through the birth canal and I felt stretched to my absolute limit. I deliberately and consciously submitted to the birthing process and trusted that my body knew what it was doing, even if my mind was having a bit of a flip-out. There was nothing I could do but let my body do what it needed to. It turns out that was the final contraction. I had my hand on the baby’s head as it emerged from me. It was so amazing. There was no “ring of fire”, just a lot of pressure. As soon as the head was out there was so much relief but still so much pressure. I told Dan and Reuben “head’s out”, waited for a few seconds, then I felt the whole body rotate inside of me as it emerged all at once into the tepid, yellow water and its mama’s waiting hands. It was 6:15pm, only 45 minutes after the removalists and delivery driver had left!






I scooped the baby up out of the water, exclaimed “oh my goodness, I just did it!” the baby started crying straight away, (probably because the water wasn’t exactly a welcoming temperature!) Dan reached over and unwrapped the cord from the neck, and I held the little body against mine while I breathed out my relief and triumph and disbelief. I had done it. I had birthed my baby myself. It was such a wonderful, beautiful moment. I made a comment about the hair being brunette (after my two blondies, it was quite a surprise), then said “Hello Bubba, what are you?” Lifted and saw; it’s a girl!


I had a feeling when I was pregnant that she was a girl, and while I would have been equally happy with another boy, my heart swelled with so much incomparable love when I realised I had a daughter. I was so overwhelmed that I cried and sobbed, and then double checked. She was definitely a girl. A daughter. She had a big cake of vernix on her forehead and she was totally perfect. We named her Eliza May straight away. We had her name picked since before we even got married.

 

We sent Reuben to go get his little brother, and a very sleepy Levi came in and checked her out, and a very happy grandma with tears streaming down her face. She took Levi back to bed and we let the yellow water out of the bath and wrapped ourselves up with towels. Eliza started breastfeeding straight away. I went into a bit of shock and started shaking and shivering uncontrollably.

I think it just happened so fast and it was so intense and it had been such a big, overwhelming day that I just couldn’t process it all and my body reacted. I knew what to do though because I had educated myself. Dan wrapped me up in more towels and put a few drops of rescue remedy under my tongue and I was fine within a few minutes. He helped me out of the bath and the placenta came easily within about 40 minutes. I took some homeopathic drops for the contraction pain and it seemed to help. There was hardly any blood at all, and I hadn’t torn or even grazed. I gave Eliza to Dan for some skin to skin while I got dressed, then we all headed to bed for more skin on skin and breastfeeding. After an hour or two, Dan tied the cord, and Reuben cut it with his craft scissors. Nothing was sterilised and everything was perfect.

Even though the birth was nothing like what I had imagined it would be, I had followed my instinct, I knew we were both safe every step of the way, and I never once wished I had a medical professional there. I was confident in my knowledge of birth and its variations, and in my innate ability to do what God designed me to do.

 

Reuben went to bed, Grandma went home and Dan and I sat and revelled in the wonder of our new daughter and our amazing birth. We had done it; we had freebirthed our baby, in our home. I birthed and caught my own daughter, on my own terms, completely following my own instinct. It was the most amazing, empowering moment of my life. After everything we had been through in the last 8 months; all of the pain, all of the stress, all of the trauma, she was our reward. She was the light at the end of our tunnel, our new beginning. Dan told me how immensely proud of me he was, we relived every moment of the day, pinched ourselves because it all felt like a dream, let our friends and family know she had arrived, weighed her on our kitchen scales, balancing on an esky lid, and measured her with my sewing tape. We were all tucked up ready to sleep by about 9:30pm, surrounded by unpacked boxes, chaos and peace.

 

Eliza 3rd August 2018. 6:15pm. 7lb, 2oz. 50cm.





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