This birth story starts back at our little starseed’s conception. When I gifted my blood back to Mamma Earth in October 2017 I was full moon bleeding and my prayer was for my body to show me when I would be ready to conceive again by realigning my cycle to the ‘blueprint’ of dark moon bleeding/full moon ovulation. I thought this would take a year or more. Never underestimate the power of a blood prayer and the master plans of the universe! Over the course of 4 cycles – from Nov to Feb, my cycle lengthened from 28-30 days to 32-35 days to push out my bleed time to the dark moon. I was aligned to ovulate bang on the full moon which is also my lunar return/natal moon – so double the fertile potency. I have been tracking my cycle for years now (synthetic hormonal birth control and I DO NOT mix well – but that’s a story for another day) and had used this method relatively successfully in the past to avoid or attempt conception. 3/4 days prior to the full moon I hadn’t noticed any fertile cervical mucus YET so I thought we would be safe… BUT sperm, the clever little fellas, if they are able to follow fertile cervical mucus channels to get to the fallopian tubes, they can wait patiently there for up to 5 days for the release of an egg. I guess that’s what happened.
There were so many signs that I flat out ignored suggesting that I was pregnant but I didn’t even go there as I did not feel ready for a multitude of reasons. The main one being that a month prior to us conceiving I had gotten my blood test results back from my integrative GP. I had been feeling completely exhausted and we discovered that I was anemic and severely lacking in quite a few essential vitamins and minerals. He had said to me when I got the results ‘I wouldn’t suggest getting pregnant until you’re back on track’, ‘Oh hell no!’ I replied. I was also still breastfeeding our almost two year old all through the night and we were planning on living in a caravan for 6-12 months on our recently purchased block of land while we built a home.
But life rarely goes as planned right?
Once we processed the initial shock and reassessed some life plans we felt completely blessed and giddy with excitement, which helped me get through the 24/7 incessant morning sickness that lasted for the first 3 ½ months of my pregnancy. The first trimester was a struggle and i wrote about that HERE for those interested. After the sickness passed I felt truly enlivened and so eager to experience the magic of birth again. We absolutely wanted to homebirth again which is where I feel safest to welcome our babes Earthside. I registered my interest very early on to be again accepted into our zoned hospitals Midwifery Group Practice who offered homebirth.
When I was 9 weeks pregnant I attended a 1 day workshop ran by The School of Shamanic Womancraft called ‘The Shamanic Dimensions of Pregnancy’. During the workshop I did a drum journey into my womb to connect with our baby. As I entered my womb there our baby was, surrounded by birds and monarch butterflies. She told me that she was here to help me find pleasure. She held me and told me that whenever things got tough or whenever any challenges arose – to find the pleasure, to always look for the pleasure. I came back to this message time and time again throughout my pregnancy which was by far ended up being my most challenging. I am endlessly thankful to my perinatal psychologist who provided me with true women centered care, alongside my Doula sisterhood. We had one scan at 20 weeks to check on the position of the placenta which looked great!
We were accepted into our zoned hospitals Midwifery Group Practice which enabled us to birth at home, but not without first having to compromise on some core values and beliefs, which I found a hell of a lot more challenging than I initially anticipated. Due to changes handed down from the hospitals insurer, it was now compulsory for women wishing to birth at home through the MGP, to undertake the Glucose Tolerance Test as well as the Group B Strep swab. This felt like a true violation of mine and our babies human rights. To have the option to decline testing that is not evidence based, and in my researched opinion could cause more harm than good to myself and our baby removed from me, was extremely frustrating and angering. The thought of having to ingest the equivalent of 18 teaspoons of glucose in a liquid also containing brominated vegetable oil (a flame retardant banned in Europe and Japan), synthetic food dyes and dextrose on an empty stomach, made my nausea flare up just at the thought. I was having to eat the second my eyes opened to avoid vomiting – I could not fathom having to drive to a clinic to sit in a waiting room having blood drawn multiple times over the course of hours, whilst having to ingest the questionable concoction mentioned above. Aside from this, a report has recently come out with findings that show there has been an annual increase of 74% in the diagnosis of gestational diabetes since the new testing has come out. Interesting. I was able to ‘compromise’ with the hospital, instead opting to monitor my blood sugar levels 4 x a day for 10 days by doing finger prick tests. The test strips cost me $80. But I found the pleasure and made art using the drops of blood on watercolour paper.
The compulsory GBS swab I actually rubbed behind my knee crack without telling my midwife because if I had have tested positive, I would not have been allowed to decline antibiotics during labour and still receive care to birth at home. With all of the research I have done on the gut microbiome and the lifelong benefits of healthy colonization at birth, the risks of being coerced into taking precautionary antibiotics were far greater than the benefits of closely monitoring our baby for signs after birth. This test isn’t even performed in many developed countries throughout the world and a recent study published in the BMJ called “Universal antenatal screening for group B streptococcus may cause more harm than good” by Farah Seedat found that;
* Selective maternal culture is not an accurate test to predict early onset GBS disease in neonates, and we don’t know why some colonised mothers have a neonate with early onset GBS and others don’t
* The current approach to screening would lead to 99.8% of screen positive women and their babies receiving unnecessary intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis
* Lack of high quality evidence on clinical outcomes makes it impossible to quantify whether universal GBS screening would have any benefit and assess whether large scale intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis is safe
* A universal antenatal culture screening programme cannot currently be recommended
I was confident that my vaginal microbiome was tickety boo and the chance of me having group b strep minimal. I was taking pregnancy specific probiotics, eating a well balanced diet including pre and pro biotic rich foods and I have never used any soaps or detergents on my genital region. I also didn’t plan on having any interventions during labour (which can increase the risk of infection) and knew what signs to look out for in both baby and I.
During my third trimester my lowered immune system struggled with colds and a relentless cough, which I had right up until the birth. At 35 weeks I slipped on wet concrete and injured my pelvis, reactivating an existing injury and tearing all of the ligaments in my pubic symphysis. I found myself on edge since then after my chiropractor mentioned that ‘this baby could come any day given the structural change and instability in my pelvis’. Isn’t it funny (or not) how one careless throw away comment from a care provider can impact a vulnerable pregnant woman so much.
Bub was also persistently posterior despite daily spinning babies exercises which was adding to my nervousness (a throwback to my first posterior 24 hour labour which you can read about HERE). On top of all of this, many incidents that had occured throughout my pregnancy led me to not feeling overly confident or trusting in my primary midwives. The pain from my injury was tricky to navigate also. The culmination of all of this made for the final weeks of my pregnancy to be rather anxiety filled. I kept the anxiety in check with a daily meditation and yoga nidra practice, regular pilates classes, I sent reiki to my future birthing self daily, I practiced more yoni mapping/clearing/connection, used visualisation, connected with our baby and worked on surrender; reminding myself that I could prepare as best as I could, but that ultimately our baby had a somewhat predetermined journey also.
At 37 weeks my best friend, fellow doula and threshold walker Katherine Eden facilitated the most magical Mother Blessing in my honour. A group of amazing women in my life gathered to bless my lucky self and our belly babe as we prepared to round out the journey that was our pregnancy and prepare for the rite of passage that is labour, birth and parenthood. These amazing women provided the most delectable spread of nourishing food! They lavished me with beads for my birthing necklace, candles that were blessed with individual wishes for a beautiful birth, affirmations, flowers that were woven into a beautiful crown just for me and… they FILLED my freezer!!! Nourishing lasagnes, sauces, cannelloni’s, muesli slices, lactation cookies… seriously… LUCKIEST WOMAN EVS! I was reminded of the power I hold within and through tears and laughter I was gifted courage, humour, strength, love, patience and trust… all of which I called on deeply whilst waiting for labour to begin, then whilst riding the surges and birthing our little Halcy Earthside. Sisterhood and connection truly are everything. I often feel awkward and uncomfortable being the center of attention. Let alone at 37 weeks pregnant. But by golly I’m so grateful that Katherine didn’t really give me a choice in having a blessing. It was just what I needed. To be safely held, seen, heard and supported.
It got to the morning of November 30th (7 days past my estimated due date on paper, but 9 days past my actual EDD) and I dropped our eldest two at Kindy and Childcare and headed to my Acupuncture appointment with Lea Papworth – Adelaide’s renowned fertility and pregnancy specialist. Being in her calming presence was lovely. We did some moxa to encourage bub to turn along with some induction points. Afterwards I felt very emotional and completely exhausted so I headed home for a welcome nap.
After the children were tucked up in bed that night I sat out the back with my cousin and husband and did another round of moxibustion. Then I headed inside to get ready for bed. I had a disagreement with my husband which sent me over the edge. My breathing increased and my palms started to sweat and I found myself engulfed in an anxiety attack. I used to experience somewhat regular anxiety attacks in my late teens and early 20’s but they were few and far between these days. In fact, the last one I had, had been more than two years prior when I was heavily pregnant with our son.
My husband and I had been religiously doing the spinning babies exercises nightly since I fell and injured my pelvis at 35 weeks and I started to panic that we hadn’t done them this night. I felt like I didn’t have his full support and I was also concerned about which Midwife would arrive at our home when I went into labour and whether they would support our choices. I cried and cried struggling for rapid breaths. I had been on edge for close to 7 weeks thinking our baby could come at any moment and I was exhausted. I was ready. I feel like this anxiety attack was perhaps my body’s way of spontaneously shifting some of the cumulative stress and as unpleasant as it was, it enabled me to find some kind of equilibrium allowing labour to begin. This huge release brought me heavily into my body where I remained.
I drifted off into an exhausted slumber at about 11.30pm and was woken around midnight with what I thought was another Braxton Hicks contraction (I had been having intense Braxton Hicks since about week 20), but this time I felt a trickle of warm fluid. I had a cloth pad on because my persistent cough meant that if there was even a tiny bit of urine in my bladder, the pressure of my coughing fits pushing babies head onto my bladder meant a little wee escaped. I was feeling so tired that in my semi slumber state I told myself I’d imagined it and ignored it, only to have another one come with another gush of warm fluid 10 minutes later. Despite my wish for sleep I relinquished to the fact that my denial could serve me no longer so I got up, went to the toilet and checked the colour of the fluid on my pad to make sure it was clear. It was. It was about 12.30 and and I stepped outside, briefly planted my feet on the grass, looked up at the starry sky, took a big deep breath knowing this was it and headed back inside. I think I tried laying down in bed again but it wasn’t comfortable. I pottered around in the quiet of mid night and breathed through the sensations that were coming irregularly – between 3 and 10 minutes apart. I knew the irregularity was because baby was in a posterior position.
At 2am I decided to wake my husband who was snoring away next to our 5 and 2 year old. He started setting up the birth pool while I made the many required phone calls in between surges. The phone calls are my least favourite part of labour! The hospital whose midwifery group practice I was a part of, require you to call the hospital switch board, who then page your midwifery team, who then call you back. I’m not entirely sure why women can’t be trusted to call their midwifes work phone directly but it is what it is. So I called the hospital and while I was waiting for a midwife to call me back, I called our good friend and birth photographer and I called our student midwife – also a good friend. It was my primary midwifes day off, so one of her partners whom I had not met called me back, asked me about my progress and said she would send a midwife over who lived close to us, and also whom I had not met before. Once all of the phone calls were made I felt relieved to be able to put my phone down.
My comfortable spot was leaning over our kitchen counter with my head resting on a pillow. By this stage my contractions were regular, 2-3 minutes apart and lasting 50-60 seconds. It got to the point where just breathing through them no longer sufficed and I was using vocalisation as my main mechanism to help me ride the surges.
My husband was doing the ‘hip squeeze’ which he had done during my last labour and which had worked a treat. The midwife who was on duty arrived and was super respectful of our space which was awesome, and a huge relief. She asked where the homebirth kit was then left us to our own devices whilst she quietly set up and read through our birth plan. In between surges I remember her telling me that she had called my primary midwife who lived about 40-45 minutes away and that she was on her way.
At some stage our 2 1/2 year old son woke up and called out for his Dad. There was no way he was going back to sleep now that he knew his baby brother or sister was coming. My cousin was living out the back in our granny flat if we needed help with the children. I vaguely remember my husband asking me if I wanted him to take our son out to her but I said no. I liked having him around. He just did his 2 1/2 year old thing and I found it quite comforting.
When my primary midwife arrived I told her I thought baby was still posterior and I asked her to palpate my uterus to check. In between contractions I layed down on the couch and she checked. She said that baby was not direct OP and had started to rotate around which made me feel a lot better. She reassured me that my body had done this before and that I was doing great. I really needed that reassurance.
Birth is a deeply shamanic experience. This labour felt different to my other two. I felt far more in the present moment and fully embodied. During my other two labours I travelled to the lower and upper realms. I had wild visions and travelled to other places and times. During this birth I was IN the middle realm. The spiritual parallel to the reality in which we live – hyper aware of every cell in my body, deeply embodied, every sound that exited my being, amplified
Back up at the kitchen counter I got to the mid point of a surge and everything my husband had been doing that was comforting suddenly was not. His hands felt like they were not in the right position to do the hip squeeze adequately and his head resting on my back felt flaming hot. ‘Can you please move your hands up’ I stuttered, ‘Oh no no no move them back down.’ ‘Can you take your head off my back, it’s too hot.’
I felt my pelvis open as our baby moved down. During the next contraction my body started to involuntarily bear down a little mid surge and my vocalising changed to a pushy grunt. As the surge passed my midwife asked if I would like to get into the pool. I was hesitant to get in too early (a throw back from my first labour) but we rationalised that if it was too early, I would just hop back out.
I didn’t want any internal examinations performed and this was stated in our birth plan. As soon as I hopped into the birth pool my instincts pulled me to gently insert two fingers into my vagina where I was the first person to make direct contact with our precious babe. My fingers made it about 1 1/2 inches inside my vagina where I felt her hard, beautifully slimy little noggin. It was the first intentional, gentle connecting touch that she received. Skin to skin energetic exchange. It was a very special moment for me and just the encouragement I needed to keep riding those waves to bring her Earthside. It’s a moment that I’ll never forget.
Then my surges really slowed right down. I had a couple of mild ones about 5 minutes apart with no more pushing urges and I began to wonder if I had in fact hopped into the pool too early and if my labour had stalled from the loss of gravity and the relaxing water. I think I voiced that concern and my midwife mentioned that my body could just be giving me a break and to not worry. She said that if things remained quiet for much longer I could always hop out.
It felt really comforting for me to have my hand over my vagina. Periodically I would touch our babies head. I also remember feeling my perineum and anus and being a bit shocked at how flared and protruding my anus was. I knew that my bum was flared like that because our babies head was resting right there. I sat in this quiet space physically feeling what was going on down there for what felt like an eternity when in reality it was probably only about 5 minutes. During the next surge my body just started bearing down and I had no choice but to ROAR to let the life force energy flow through me.
Our babies head started crowning and as I roared some more her head made its way out. There was a brief pause and I was holding our babies head in my hand. As the next surge came on I felt the fingers of a little hand wrap around my own index finger as I cradled her head. I had just enough time to think to myself – ‘oh my gosh, our baby’s hand has been born with its head… we’re holding hands!’ I started to say ‘There’s a hand…’ those words came out in a roar as the next surge took over and I felt her turn inside me and her shoulders be born.
In this moment time stood still for me. I looked down and she was half out. There was a very brief moment where we locked eyes and both paused then the rest of her body slid out. I reached down with both hands and slowly brought her up into the world of ‘oxygen and colour’ as my husband puts it. It was 4.17am, about 4 hours since my first surge. She moved straight away and I knew she was just perfect. I was ecstatic to finally have our baby earthside after what had felt like an eternity of waiting. I also knew that the midwives would want her to make a little more noise to let us know she was ok. They were rubbing her head with wet towels and she let out a little grunt. She gently and quietly transitioned.
We had a moment – my husband, myself and our new babe, then I asked one of the midwives to go and wake up our eldest daughter to meet her newest sibling. As our eldest daughter came out, we checked to confirm if we had a baby boy or girl… and as she had communicated to me at 9 weeks – it was a girl!
I wanted to deliver the placenta out of the pool so my midwives helped me out. The afterpains (my uterus contracting to expel the placenta) were intense and I had to vocalise to get through a couple. During one contraction there was a little gush of blood and one of the midwives mentioned that was probably the placenta fully coming away from the wall of the uterus. I had a few fears surrounding delivering the placenta which I think were somewhat blocking the process. For me it has been the most challenging part of all of my labour’s and births. I find it quite difficult to get my body to voluntarily ‘push’ after involuntarily pushing whilst birthing our babies. I tried a few different positions but didn’t feel comfortable. I was tired and wanted the placenta out so I could just enjoy our baby.
Sitting on the toilet can be a great position to deliver the placenta but I wanted to avoid this incase it accidentally touched or fell into the loo as I wanted to encapsulate, but my midwives assured me that they would catch it. They also thought that perhaps I had a full bladder which could be prohibiting it from fully descending into my vaginal canal. So I agreed. I tried to do a wee but nothing came out. We talked briefly about using the syntocinon I had in the fridge but everyone knew I wanted a fully physiological third stage as I’d had with our previous babies. One of our midwives got an ice cube out of the freezer and instructed me to rub it along my inner thigh as she had seen this done with success at another homebirth. I rubbed it up and down maybe 4 or 5 times then decided to insert my fingers into my vagina and see if I could feel the placenta. It was right there! Literally blocking my vaginal opening – all I had to do now was give a little push. I stood up a little and mustered up the courage to give a little push and put it plopped straight into the bowl. Phew! Relief! My birthing process was over, now I could just enjoy our baby.
I was a bit shaky (oh hi adrenaline!) so I sat down on the couch and fed Halcyon while the midwives warmed us both up and took my blood pressure etc. Once I felt up to it, I had a shower to wash off while Charlie had skin to skin with Halcyon. Then we decided the time was right to separate Halcyon from her placenta via cord burning. Cord burning is a tradition that enables all of the goodies meant for baby to transfer via full placental transfusion. It is used instead of clamping & cutting the umbilical cord. Once the baby & placenta are born the cord is slowly burned through, most commonly with candles. It is a far gentler separation of the placenta/cord/baby triad than clamping and cutting. As long as the whole process is completed within 2 hours of the placenta being born it is still safe to encapsulate providing correct storage protocols are followed after. The practice of cord burning has been around as long as humans have been giving birth. The ritual is still practiced today in areas that cant acquire sanitary cutting equipment. It has also saved many lives in natural disaster zones that don’t have access to clean running water or clamps & scissors. Fire cauterizes the cord stump making it sterile, lowering infection & bleeding after birth.
From Robin Lim — ‘Cord burning was practiced in old China and was believed to help the Qi (Chi), latent in the placenta, move into the baby. Midwives have witnessed babies with dusky blue complexions & low APGAR scores pink right up as the cord is burned. According to Bobbie Aqua, Doctor of Chinese Medicine, “Cord burning brings the element of fire to the birth. Warmth is essential for a baby’s well-being & mother’s recovery to full strength & ample milk supply.”’
From Dr. Joseph Kassal — ‘The flame brings the yang qi from the placenta & fire energy into the baby. It has an ethereal & remarkable effect on the baby. It is the core. The umbilicus is the entry place to all abdominal organs. By heating the cord & driving the last of the blood through there you are giving a profoundly tonic treatment for the baby who has just run a marathon…. Cord burning reduces the risk of bleeding & entry of infections. You are warming digestion which will reduce the tendency for jaundice, besides just creating a strong baby which means a good nurser.
Halcyon’s cord took about 10 minutes to burn through, it was a really slow, relaxing process and she happily breastfed the whole way through. We did a few of the newborn measurements and checks while she was still on me, then I tied a cord tie around her remaining cord, snipped off the excess and we weighed her… 3.44kg of pure perfection!
The clean up began happening around me and at 7am as Charlie was trying to settle the two big kids down for a rest (considering they’d been up since 2am and 4am) our online food shop arrived – haha. The delivery man side-eyed the birth pool in the middle of the lounge room as he loaded our groceries onto the kitchen bench as I said “oh, it’s ok, I just had this baby in there 2 ½ hours ago.” haha. I quickly and one handedly put all the groceries away whilst holding our fresh babe in the other arm (at this very moment wishing I had a doula) then tucked myself into bed with our new bundle of joy. Pure ecstatic love washed over me and I was overcome with relief and gratitude that she was finally here.
Our immediate postpartum was delicious, despite some feeding issues I was so well supported. The midwife who provided our postpartum care was beyond amazing, truly women centred. I encapsulated my own placenta. I had my Mum, Step-Dad, bro, SIL and nephew stay (thank gosh we have a granny flat and rumpus room – haha) and had the perfect mixture of quiet time and company. They all ensured I was fed and watered, they kept the big kids entertained and kept my house so clean and tidy. Halcyon and I snuggled up in our little nest on the couch getting to know each other and watched life unfold around us. Seriously – every woman should feel this held during her immediate postpartum.
This labour and birth was by far my most grounded and primal… I literally ROARED our daughter out. One of my teacher’s Jane Hardwicke Collings says that the major attributes you need to draw on during the labour and birth of a child are the major attributes you need to bring into parenting them, as well as what you need to learn to enter the next phase of your life. My first labour and birth taught me strength and stamina and was an intense activation of my intuition. My second labour and birth (which you can read about HERE) taught me total trust and surrender. And this, my third labour and birth taught me pure embodiment and present moment awareness. For this I am so very grateful.