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The Homebirth of Reuben

After a straightforward and easy first pregnancy I woke up on my due date (1st July 2014) to a contraction that was strong and slightly painful, not like Braxton Hicks ones. They continued throughout the day every 5-10 mins, but they were totally manageable and I could talk through them. Dan didn’t have work, and we had to go to the church office to fill in some paperwork anyway, so we went and did that. I didn’t tell anyone there I was starting labour, and Dan was secretly timing my contractions the whole time. I would just give him a little nod whenever one started and he would press the timer. I can’t remember what we did in the afternoon, but contractions continued, I cooked massive steaks and vegetables for dinner, and by the time we finished eating, contractions were so painful that I needed to be leaning over the couch for them. I remember Dan saying “oh babe! Are you okay?” and I was like “This really hurts!”. For some reason I had felt like I had to pretend they weren’t really hurting, like it wasn’t really happening. We never got the dishes done after dinner, because I was definitely in labour.

 

Whenever I had a contraction I would put a heat pack on my tummy and Dan would put one on my back. I started vocalising through the contractions as I had read to do in one of my birth books, a low aaaaaaaah sound. Dan started trying to get his homemade water heater working to heat the water in the birth pool so I could get in, but he was having trouble getting it to work, so in between putting heat packs on my back every few minutes, he was racing around and ducking outside trying to get it working. We called the

backup midwife (my primary midwife was out of town due to personal crisis) at about 10pm, and she didn’t seem to believe that I was in labour because Dan wasn’t panicking. We called again at around 2am to tell her to come but she still didn’t believe she was needed until she heard me vocalising in the background on the phone. She came soon after, listened to the baby’s heartbeat and set up at the dining table at around 4am. She didn’t really do much, just worked away at her laptop. Throughout every contraction I was tensing my muscles, trying to escape the pain, and then trying to avoid the next contraction coming. I dreaded the pain I knew was about to come so much and I wanted to escape, but there was no escape. I was very scared. I didn’t understand that I needed to work with the contractions, and I just wanted to stop the pain. I refused to sit on the birth ball or walk around because it made the pain worse (not realising that that would also mean it’d be over with faster), so I spent around 10 hours kneeling on a mattress on the floor, leaning over a beanbag and yelling into the beanbag through each contraction, squeezing stress balls in my hands. I fell asleep briefly between contractions. I ended up with chaffing on my chin from spending so long with my face pressed into the bean bag, but I couldn’t change what I was doing.

 

I needed to go to the toilet at one point, and I was so scared of having contractions while I was up. I had one on the toilet and another on my way back, and I had to drop to my hands and knees from the pain. Dan finally gave up on his hot water heater, and he and the midwife started filling the pool with water they were boiling in pots on the stove. It seemed to take forever to be warm enough, and I kept asking if I could get in yet. Finally at around 6:30am I got in the pool, just as the sun was rising. The warmth and the water felt amazing, but it immediately made the contractions come one on top of another with hardly any break in between. I felt so out of control, and I felt like I was thrashing around in the pool like a fish out of water, trying to find a comfortable position. Dan says I was actually very calm, so it must have been my mind that was thrashing around. I asked the midwife if there is meant to be a break between contractions, and I told Dan I don’t know if I could ever do this again (which I now know means I was in transition).


I spent a while leaning back on the edge of the pool with Dan supporting me from outside the pool by holding under my arms.


Then I changed so that I was kneeling in the pool and leaning over the edge, grasping onto his arms. I must have gotten some breaks between contractions because I kept dozing off leaning on the edge of the pool. Dan took a labour selfie in one of the brief breaks I got.

I started feeling the urge to push after being in the pool for around half an hour, and I tried so hard to not push, until I literally couldn’t hold off any longer, and I started bearing down with the contractions. My water broke and it felt like a giant water balloon popping inside me. It was a satisfying feeling but intensified the pain and the need to push even more and I felt like I was being torn in half. I think I said something about it hurting; the midwife thought I was crowning so she told me to pant. I tried panting but it reduced oxygen and my arms, hands and lips went numb. She said to go back to breathing normally and that I would have to get out of the pool if I was going numb. I couldn’t even fathom the thought of getting out of the pool at this stage, so I lied and said I could feel my hands and lips again, even though I couldn’t.

 

At last it was time for the baby to be born, I could feel the head stretching me to my limit and it stung so much as I felt the head crowning, but I think I was silent because I was concentrating so hard. I was so far in the zone that I was barely aware of what I was doing, instinct had completely taken over and pushed me aside, and I certainly wasn’t feeling or watching what was going on. The head slowly emerged and then rather than waiting for another contraction I pushed the body out as well straight away, so keen to be done, and the baby was out! I was done!


I have never felt such a feeling of relief in all my life. We had thought that Dan would catch the baby but as it turned out, he was outside of the pool and I was clutching his arms, so the baby floated off on its own for a few moments, before the midwife scooped it up, unwrapped the cord from around the chest and handed the ba


by to me as I flipped over to sitting. The moment I held my firstborn child on my chest for the first time was the most surreal, amazing moment I had ever experienced.


There were no words, just utter disbelief and relief. The baby was bright purple, had a cone head, and was crying straight away. Daniel and I looked at each other in amazement, looked back at the baby, and just tried to take it all in. Daniel was crying but I was still off in weird, surreal labour land, and I couldn’t really take in what had just happened. I had just given birth; we had just become parents.


 

We finally thought to look and see the gender and were delighted and unsurprised to discover that it was a boy! We had a son. I stayed in the pool for a while and just cuddled him and breathed out all the pain and fear I had just endured. It was all over. We had our baby. He was here and he was perfect. I got out of the pool and sat on the couch (which was covered in plastic and towels) and started trying to breastfeed. When he latched for the first time it was the strangest sensation! The backup midwife arrived at about that time (the midwife called her late because she didn’t think I was as close to birthing as I was) and I excitedly told her we had a little boy.

After-pains began and after a while I felt the urge to push out the placenta. It was a bit stubborn, but I squatted over a bowl and pushed a few times and it splatted out eventually. After about an hour, Dan cut the cord, the midwives weighed and assessed the baby and me, and thankfully I had no tearing at all. They left, then I kept trying to breastfeed him for a while. We confirmed the name we had already chosen: Reuben Daniel. We let our family know the happy news, then we all got into bed, Dan told me how proud he was of me, and we all slept for a solid 6 hours, Reuben in the bassinet beside me. I was so exhausted from being awake and labouring all night!


 


That afternoon we had plenty of family come to visit and it was so fun to show him off and tell them about the birth, though it was difficult trying to get breastfeeding right with people around.

We didn’t realise but Reuben had a severe tongue tie and he couldn’t latch properly, which lead to weight loss and jaundice, and a lot of damage to me. It was so painful to feed, that I resented feeding him and even being around him, because every feed was associated with so much pain. Dan spent a lot of time with him in those first few days and weeks, with Reuben sleeping on his chest and sucking on his finger. By day three or four we gave him a dummy because we desperately needed rest. We got his tongue tie snipped on day four or five, and we cried with relief when he stuck his tongue out straight away after. Breastfeeding got better from there, but it still took a lot of time for me to heal, and I spent quite a few weeks expressing and bottle feeding. It affected our bonding as well, and it took months for me to feel true warmth and love towards him.

 

Looking back, Reuben’s birth was incredible, beautiful, empowering. I trusted the process and I knew that I could do it because I was designed to do it. It was so much more painful and scary than I expected, and it took me a while to feel like I could do it again someday, but I am so thankful for his birth and how it introduced me to motherhood, birthing and feminine empowerment. I was completely naïve and uneducated, I had no idea about relaxing and letting go, surrendering and breathing deeply, but somehow I endured through it anyway, and birthed my baby the way I wanted to. I am so thankful I had a home birth, that I never had to endure the trauma of birthing in a hospital, and I am proud that I didn’t need the midwife even though she was there. I did it all by myself, with the support of my amazing husband. We shared the amazing moment we became parents together, in the peace and comfort of our home.

 

Reuben 2nd July 2014, 7:10am 7lb, 7oz. 51cm


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