I had the pleasure of teaching Jamila & Craig in the lead up to their planned homebirth. Here Jamila re-tells her experience of giving birth to their first child, the gorgeous Malakai….
“Birthing at home means not having access to the drugs at hospitals. My midwife came with a warning “Remember, I can’t give you any painkiller drugs you might want.” Good. I won’t want any! With this said, Cara recommended that Craig and I attend a birth course, so that we may learn some techniques to help us with the birth.
I dived into research of various courses and found that Hypnobirthing was one I resonated with most. After searching through a few instructors, I came across Kerry at the Hypnobirthing Mum.
It was a long two days ﬁlled with information. I remember sitting in the course thinking “Every couple needs to hear this stuﬀ!” I loved how the course empowered couples to make their own decisions in an environment where we might feel subservient. Although it was mostly hospital based, there was still plenty of useful content for our home birth.
Over the next few weeks I tried to give the hypnobirthing ‘stuﬀ’ a go. I would listen to the hypno tracks, but would always fall asleep. (Which is apparently ﬁne as it still seeps in to your consciousness). I’ll admit, I could’ve listened to them a lot more over the course of my pregnancy. It wasn’t until my ﬁnal few weeks that I listened to them mostly everyday. I can see how useful they would be if listened to regularly, as it brings you into a state of meditation. My mind kept wandering during the tracks, but practise made it wander a little less each time.
As well as the meditation tracks, each morning I would listen to the aﬃrmation track. This was a peaceful time spent leaning over my exercise ball (allowing baby to get into a good position) and letting positive energy ﬂow through my body.
When it actually came time for labour, mine was far too quick to even pull out any of the aﬃrmation/hypnobirthing tracks. The most useful tool I had was the breathing techniques. In particular, the “poo breath”. A breathing technique where you breathe your baby down and out. It’s called the poo breath because it’s best practised whilst doing a poop! It was this technique that would guide me through pushing. In fact, I didn’t even actively push (until the ﬁnal ﬁve minutes). My body pushed through each contraction all on it’s very own. I believe practising the poo breath helped me and my body know how to breathe properly, resulting in an eﬀortless birth.
My baby was born perfectly on time or what the medical world would call ‘post term’ or ‘late’. At 42 weeks and 1 day, he made our midwife nervous.
This part in the pregnancy was where my belief started to falter. Not because of my own fears or doubts, but because of all the external fear. People kept asking “is the baby here yet?”. When I responded with “No!” they would ask “Is everything okay with the baby?”.
I knew everything would be okay with the baby. No one has ever been pregnant forever, so my baby would come! He was just taking his time. Nonetheless, the constant pressure took its toll. (Deﬁnitely had a few “breakdowns” thinking I might have to go to hospital for an induction, but Craig was always there to calm me down.)
My midwife started sending me information about “late” babies, and highly recommended me to get scans to make sure everything was okay. Although I didn’t want the scans, I decided to get them just to ease everyone’s mind as well as my own.
At the beginning of the week, I knew my baby was arriving on the Friday. Even so, I decided to at least make some small eﬀort to naturally induce labour. On the Wednesday, I tried acupuncture. An uncomfortable but not painful experience. Probably won’t do it ever again. On Thursday, I went and bought castor oil. Thursday night, I asked Craig to blow the pool up because “tomorrow is the day and I don’t want to wake the neighbours up with the air pump at 3am”. I took the castor oil at 9pm and went to bed. At around 1am I woke up to what can be described as mild period pain. I jumped out of bed and sat on the toilet. Thanks to the castor oil, I pooped everything out. I then went to lay back in bed and the mild period pain was still there. “This must be it”, I thought.
My whole pregnancy I kept wondering what labour would feel like. I had always heard about “contractions” or “surges” or “waves” but I couldn’t actually imagine what that meant. I lay in bed thinking “Wow, this is so awesome. I understand now why they are called waves!” The sensation was quite literally a wave. I could feel the rise of the surge slowly building, reaching a peak, and then descending again into nothingness. It was the coolest sensation. I couldn’t lay in bed any longer. I knew labour was commencing and I had to get up and write!
I jumped out of bed and went into my living room. I took out a notepad and commenced writing. The time I noted down was 1.44am. I could only write two paragraphs before I couldn’t continue anymore. The waves had slightly increased but were still not painful, per se. I woke Craig up to tell him things had started and to come out in the living room with me. He helped me time the contractions and they were a few minutes apart. We called our midwife around 3am to let her know what was going on.
She groggily answered the phone and said “That’s great. Let me know when things ramp up!”
Having not experienced labour before and not knowing how long things would take, I thought I better try and rest because it could be a long day ahead. Craig laid down on one sofa and I laid on the other. I tried desperately to rest but had to get up every few minutes to lean forward and sway through the surges. They still weren’t painful but it just wasn’t comfortable lying down during them. This went on for perhaps an hour.
Suddenly, I couldn’t lay or sit down at all. This next part is the only time I felt any pain throughout the whole birth experience. My surges were no longer concentrated in my abdomen, but I was having a tight sensation in my lower back and pelvis. I felt like I needed to poo, but kept saying to Craig “It can’t be poo! I’ve already pooped everything out!”
I was trying to sway through the surges but it wasn’t helping. I kept thinking “Jesus, if this is how surges feel for the rest of labour I don’t think I can handle it.” Whilst standing and swaying during the next painful surge, I decided to try and push just a little bit. Oh my lord! Suddenly the pain was replaced by the most wonderful feeling. My body is ready for pushing?!
The moment I listened to my body and worked with it, the feeling of pain was gone. I realised that yes, my body was telling me to PUSH! Not a poo, but my baby.
We called our midwife to let her know things have ramped up and are progressing and she said she’ll jump in the shower and head over.
After calling the midwife, I called my mum to tell her to head on over. I had tasked her with bringing over snacks for us all. (She, too, didn’t realise how quick my labour would be and went on her merry way to the shops before heading over, taking her sweet time. Luckily she arrived in time).
It was now 6.15am and I went and sat on the toilet. Sitting in my undies was my mucus plug. Yum. Whilst Craig went ahead and started ﬁlling up the pool, all my practicing of the ‘poo breath’ came naturally while sitting on the toilet. My body automatically kicked into gear and was breathing down through each surge, all on it’s own! I didn’t even have to consciously “push”, my body was doing it for me. So cool.
I’m not sure how long the pool took to ﬁll up but maybe around 7am I jumped into the deliciously warm water. I can’t tell you just how amazing it felt in there. The warmth was so comforting and my body ﬂoated eﬀortlessly. I was worried pre-birth with how my dodgy knee would hold up, but in the pool it caused no problems at all! I was able to move around freely into whatever position I felt like.
I leaned over the sides for most the time, breathing down through each wave. Cara arrived around 8am and I said to her “Cara, I’ve been pushing but I don’t even know if I can be?! Can you check me please.” Cara checked and conﬁrmed “Yep, I can’t feel any cervix.” Awesome. It was all go ahead from here. Cara melted into the background and let Craig and I do our thing. My mum arrived not long after Cara and later told me she didn’t even know Cara was there at ﬁrst, because Cara disappeared into the background lol! Having a home birth really means having control over your space. The wonderful midwives let you do your thing and only jump in when necessary.
Pushing a baby out was interesting. Every time I would push a little, baby would move down a bit. After I stopped pushing, baby would move back up. It felt somewhat frustrating, as if all that progress was doing nothing. Midwife Jo (my backup midwife) assured me that during each push, baby’s head was expanding the canal even more.
When Cara thought it was getting closer, Craig jumped into the pool with me. The plan was for Craig to catch the baby, but it turned out better for Craig to be sitting directly behind me, supporting my body. It felt like we both kinda gave birth because of the position we were in.
My body pushed on in this peaceful way for perhaps an hour and a half. Every now and again, Cara would check baby’s heartbeat and we could hear the healthy beating sound. But then, on one of the checks, something was diﬀerent. Unmistakably, baby’s heartbeat was slower. We all heard it.
Cara said “He’s getting tired. We have to get him out now.” Although the panic raised a little in the room, Craig and I were able to still remain super calm. The words were what I needed to hear to muster up all the strength within me to actively push baby out. I now took control of my pushes and really had to puuuussshhh with all my might. After perhaps 5-10minutes of intense pushing, out popped my baby’s head.
Time stood still in this moment. I remember staring down at his little head between my legs. His body then started rotating and moments later the rest of his body slid out. I think Cara held him under the water for me to reach down and pick him up. As I pulled him out of the water and onto my lap, I had a moment of de ja vu, thinking “I’ve seen this before.” My brain was freaking out, not sure why it would think it had seen my baby before. Cara had to tell me to hold the baby against my chest, because I was frozen, my mind tripping.
My mum started letting out some tribal cry only a grandmother can do, and I could see Craig’s fat tear drops ﬂowing into the pool. I had no tears as I was just in pure shock seeing my baby’s little squishy face and body. Craig and I held our baby in the water, soaking up the moment.
17 minutes later I felt a minor contraction build up inside me again and with one small push, out came the placenta. Craig cut the cord and then we eventually got out the pool. I went straight over to my sofa and was able to lay there with my baby on my chest. He started doing the ‘boob crawl’, which my mum was absolutely amazed about as she had never seen that before.
I gave him his ﬁrst suckle (or at least I thought so. Turns out he wasn’t attached properly. Took a while getting the hang of latching on properly but we both got there in the end.) Cara was patient and calm, allowing me to get used to it and get it right.
After our ﬁrst initial bonding time, I then handed baby over to Craig for some skin-to-skin time. I didn’t have any external tears but apparently had an internal graze that needed a few stitches. I laid there on my sofa, next to my partner and baby, whilst the midwives put a couple of stitches in. After this, while Craig, my mum and I all admired and awed at our little one, Cara and Jo went ahead and started cleaning up the birthing space. They emptied the pool, deﬂated it, threw the towels in the wash and had the place clean within no time at all.
Cara also showed us the placenta, allowing us to really admire and check out the beauty of this organ that my body grew and which kept our baby alive! So cool.
I never realised just how much birth takes a toll on you. Even with a quick labor, I had no energy and got out of breath just going to the toilet! However, it felt good being in the comfort of my own home. Laying on the sofa for days with my baby was bliss 😀
On top of that, midwife Cara came to our home for all checkups for the ﬁrst 6 weeks. I really never had to leave that sofa and could fully recover, lol!
Homebirthing really is a wonderful experience that I will always recommend to people. The dedicated care and attention you receive is next to none. Not disrupting the labour process by making your way to a hospital, creating your desired birthing space, being surrounded by people you know and chose to be there, tucking up into your own bed with your new baby – all these things and more.
I keep saying to people that if I had to re-live giving birth for the rest of my life, I would. It truly was a magical, peaceful, intuitive, calm, divine and loving experience. My body and baby knew what they were doing, all I had to do was show up!