When I found out I was pregnant I immediately felt partial to having a home birth.
I was born at home myself in the early 90s, as were many of my cousins and my brother four years later (which my mum encouraged a very excited me to be present for – my interest in pregnancy and birth started early).
However, being a first timer, I had some reservations about the logistics of it, as did my husband Kyle who was typically worried about having to leg it to the hospital at short notice. At 8 weeks pregnant, I applied to the Community Midwifery Program (CMP) with the view of having my baby at the KEMH Family Birth Centre. I think I subconsciously elected to go down that route because I knew they’d facilitate a home birth should we have a change of heart down the track, and I knew I wouldn’t have to switch care providers to do so.
At 21 weeks, Kyle and I began attending Hypnobirthing classes with Vicki and by the time we were finished, we both felt we were the full bottle on the physiology of birth and had everything we’d need in our toolkit for natural pain management and to tackle a home birth.
While I was booked at the FBC I still felt spooked by the idea of the cascade of intervention and knowing that my chances of avoiding it would be greatly improved by staying home was a huge selling point. Up until then, I’d also had a really easy, low risk pregnancy, so everything was on my side. We told my midwife at 26 weeks, who was happy to make arrangements for it to happen.
As is often the case the first time, my guess date of 10th June came and went without event. At 40+4, the discussion came about going into KEMH for mandatory monitoring at 41 weeks. I felt confident that any scans would show that my son was fine, and I didn’t have an alternative to sticking with the CMP by then, so I obliged. My instincts were correct – we had a perfect CTG, amniotic fluid levels were within the acceptable range and his estimated size was between 3.7-4.2kg. I was given the option of a stretch and sweep but my cervix was high and closed and unable to be reached, so I naturally felt somewhat deflated. However, a positive was the hospital was particularly busy, so I somehow escaped without talk of induction.
I got home from the hospital at 12pm, and at 3pm I started to have mild surges. I was unfazed as earlier in the week I’d had a similar thing happen for 7 hours, which amounted to nothing. We went about our evening as normal, going for a walk, having dinner, and I went to sleep at 11:30, only to be woken up at 12 by much more intense feelings.
I started messaging my mum, who arrived at 3:30am when I could no longer speak easily through surges. I still wasn’t convinced I was in labour though, because of the false start earlier in the week!
Not until 7:15am, when I finally had a bloody show. I let my midwife and student midwife know, and my mum and husband set about organising the house, cooking up avocado toast and hash browns for breakfast, and stopping to do acupressure points on me during surges. We’d learnt about this during our Hypnobirthing classes and it ended up being one of the greatest tools we had. I found the pressure on my hips / lower back most helpful while standing, and between my thumb and pointer finger while seated.
At 10:30am we sat down in our very dark living area, me with a TENS machine on my back and under a crocheted blanket I could knit my hands through, and I spent 3 hours humming through labour – I would hold a note for as long as I could during a surge and focusing on that would get me through it.
At 1:30pm my midwife and student midwife arrived, and they observed and cheered me on until 4:30, when the acupressure points and TENS were starting to cause discomfort. I agreed to have my first cervical check of the day. I expected to have not reached transition yet as my surges were still around 5 minutes apart and I didn’t feel like I’d reached the limit on my tolerance of them, but much to my surprise, I was 9cm dilated.
This meant there was a very empty birthing pool to fill!
I jumped in the shower while the team frantically ran around the house boiling kettles and pots on the stove and using every tap available. Every time they used the hot water elsewhere, I would crank the shower mixer down to cold – not an easy thing to do while you’re trying not to push a baby out, but I knew the pool would be ready quicker, so needs must!
It was at this point that I started to feel doubt creeping in, but I didn’t want to ask anyone to step away from filling the pool and talk me through, so I got Kyle to bring me my phone and begun listening to the Hypnobirthing affirmations track while still in the shower for some much-needed reinforcement.
At 5:40, the pool was ready and the relief of climbing in was like nothing else. It was 54 minutes of crouching on my hands and knees, and roaring later (seriously, the poor neighbours), at 6:34pm our beautiful boy Luca was here. I reached down and brought him to my chest myself. It was completely instinctual, and I didn’t even realise I’d done it until my mum told me later that evening.
He was perfect – 3.95kg, 49cm, with a full head of hair and slathered in vernix, so I suspect my guess date was quite far off the mark. I myself was nearly unscathed, with a small tear and estimated blood loss of only 100ml.
Eleven months on, I am still in shock that I had an idyllic first birth in such a safe and supportive space. I owe a huge thank you to Vicki for giving me the confidence I needed to have the birth I was after. The Hypnobirthing classes were completely invaluable and it’s my greatest wish for other women to have an experience as positive as this one.
Jasmine & Kyle