I went to bed 8 days past our estimated due date on the night of the dark moon and was awoken at 11pm with my first surge. It was the beginning of the wildest 24 hours of my life. An epic dance between our child and I that connected me more deeply to myself, humankind and Mamma Earth than I thought was possible. An experience that truly landed me gloriously into my own body for the first time, whilst simultaneously catapulting me out into the multiverse.
I discovered I was pregnant after we returned home from our wedding and honeymoon in Fiji in August 2012. It came as a bit of a surprise but we were ecstatic. Knowing very little about pregnancy and childbirth, all I did know was that I wanted to birth our baby naturally and fully experience every facet of this magical rite of passage. I also wanted a water birth.
We have private health insurance so I just assumed we would birth through the private healthcare system. Why not use what you pay for right? However, after some conversations with friends who had gone through the private system, had miserable experiences and who had to pay a large sum of money to cover the ‘gap’, I decided to dig a little deeper. I discovered the rather horrifying statistics on natural birth in a private setting which was enough to have me run in the opposite direction.
I had been doing yoga for some years and when I was 16 weeks pregnant I switched into the prenatal yoga class at the centre I was attending. This was when a beautiful door opened for me. I learned through listening to others birth stories and the informative discussions before each class, that midwifery led care and continuity of care led to the best birthing outcomes for women. I decided that getting into the midwifery group practice (MGP) at my zoned public hospital was what I needed. I rang the birth centre quite a few times expressing my desire and wish to get into their program and finally at 22 weeks I received a call with the great news that we had been accepted. I had my first meeting with my amazing midwife and knew we had made the right decision.
Ina May’s ‘Spiritual Midwifery’ and Juju Sundins ‘Birth Skills’ became my bibles. I attended all of the hospital antenatal classes (which to be honest, left a lot to be desired) and I also took my husband along to an independently run couples birthing workshop at Coast Yoga which was invaluable. The more research I did, and the more birth stories I listened to and read, the more I became hesitant and somewhat fearful of a hospital birth. We all decided as a team (myself, my husband and our midwife) that a homebirth would work best for us.
I was 8 days past my guess date on Friday and had been feeling tightenings on and off for 3 weeks but still no action. We had been eating curries, having sex, I had been drinking raspberry leaf tea and beach walking everyday but still no joy. I had been told that the policy for homebirth stated that I would have to birth in hospital if I went past my estimated due date by 10 days. I was starting to feel the pressure and I was nervous that the option for homebirth was slipping through our fingers (clearly not the most conducive state for a woman to go into labour). I booked in for an induction acupuncture session Friday afternoon and had another booked for Sat morn, which I didn’t end up needing.
At about 11pm Fri night I had my first surge which woke me up. I fell back to sleep and kept contracting mildly about every 10-20 mins. At 12.30am my husband and I went for a walk along the beach to try and get things moving along. I was quite sure ‘this was it’ so went back to bed to try and get some rest between surges. I was able to go back to sleep in between the surges until 4am when I got up and went downstairs.
The surges were still quite mild and varying from 5 to 10mins apart. At 7.30am I rang my MGP midwife and got her partner as it was our midwifes rostered day off. Her partner was with another of my midwife’s clients who had also gone into labor (what are the odds of that?!), so they sent out another group practice midwife who we hadn’t met to check on me.
She arrived at about 9am and did an internal examination (I had stated that I didn’t want any internal examinations but I felt at this stage like I would like to know where I was at) and I was 3cm dilated. She left and I coped with the surges by deep breathing and keeping mobile. At about 11am my waters broke and the surges became a lot more intense. I hopped in the shower on all 4’s and had the water pressure on my back, I upped my vocalisation a great deal remembering to keep my jaw and mouth loose. Loose mouth = loose cervix.
After about 40mins our hot water ran out and we still needed to fill the birth pool so I got out of the shower and went on all 4’s in the bedroom. The midwife returned with our student midwife and she did another internal check of my cervix. It was about midday and I was 4cm. She also mentioned that she thought bub was posterior, which made sense as I was having a lot of back pain.
I hopped in the pool and lost all track of time, I was on all 4’s and vocalizing my way through each contraction whilst squeezing my Mum or my husband’s hands. I was having some double and triple surges which were extremely challenging. The student midwife was constantly checking bubs heart rate, which although faint and difficult to hear due to the posterior position, remained strong and didn’t falter throughout.
I was having quite intense pushing urges due to the rectal pressure of little one being posterior and at one point I couldn’t fight the urge to not push. Due to this, everyone suspected I was close and at 5pm my midwife did another internal check. I was 4.5-5cm at most and everyone was quite concerned.
The midwife explained to me that she thought it would be best if we transferred into hospital and recommended I have a syntocinon drip and a possible epidural to help me dilate. I stated that I definitely didn’t want drugs but agreed to transfer to hospital. At the time I felt really deflated that I had been laboring for what felt like an eternity with such little progress. I had a teary moment of self-doubt then pulled myself together.
We hadn’t packed a hospital bag (I know!) so my husband raced around grabbing a few things while the midwife and my Mum helped me get dried off, dressed and into the car. The car trip was extremely challenging, I was on all 4’s on the back seat leaning over the baby seat and vocalizing very loudly. I was talking to myself internally through each surge and willing my body to dilate.
As we were transferring from an attempted homebirth I had to be admitted to the labor ward as opposed to the birth centre. When we arrived at the hospital my student midwife, who left home before us, had managed to secure a room with a bath, which she had already filled. I endured the uncomfortable ‘mandatory’ 20 minutes of fetal heart monitoring upon arrival and bubs heart rate was fine.
The resident male doctor came in to the room to do an internal examination. He stated very matter-of-fact that I was 5.5-6cm at a stretch and that he would set up a drip and organise an epidural. I stated firmly that I didn’t want either and he asked why. I explained (between contractions – which no woman should ever have to do) that I didn’t feel I could deal with stronger surges than what I was experiencing and I knew the drip would make my contractions far more intense. I also explained that I didn’t want to be numbed by an epidural and lose mobility and feeling. I recalled a statistic that 9/10 posterior babies will turn before birth. All of the posterior birth stories I had heard and read about came flooding back and I remembered that it was quite common for dilation to be very slow initially, then progress quite quickly once bub turned.
The doctor stated that the baby was definitely posterior and that my ‘uterus wasn’t functioning effectively enough to push the baby down’. He said that if I was able to fully dilate by myself, which he didn’t think I could, I’d probably be too exhausted to push our baby out. He also said that after bub was out, my uterus would possibly be too tired to expel the placenta in which case I would ‘bleed out and end up upstairs having a hysterectomy’. He then looked at my husband and Mother and stated that it could be ‘life threatening to both Mum and baby.’
I could see that the doctors word had gotten to my husband and my Mother, but I also knew that we had been prepared for such occurrences in a hospital setting. Between surges I asked the doctor to please leave the room so I could discuss my options with my birth team (this was a great tip we learnt in the couples birth workshop we attended). I asked the midwife what she thought I should do and she recommended I have the drugs. I then asked the student midwife what she thought and she agreed with the midwife. I asked my husband who I could see was worried (no kidding – thanks doctor) and he said that he was concerned, but that I needed to do what I felt was right for me and our baby. Lastly I asked my Mother who agreed with my husband. They both did so remarkably well in this situation as I could understandably see the worry and concern on their faces.
I told everyone that I still felt strong, that baby was fine and I asked them to give me one more hour. If I had not progressed after an hour I would consider drugs. I went into the bathroom and hopped in the shower with the water pressure on my back again. This was a great distraction and relieved the sensations somewhat.
I vaguely remember my husband coming into the bathroom and trying to gently tell me that I wasn’t a failure if I needed help and that maybe having the drugs was going to be our safest, best option. Unfortunately for him I just couldn’t engage at that point, let a lone acknowledge him. The moment I hopped into the shower something inside me shifted and I went fully into my primal brain. He could see this so gave me space, left the bathroom and occupied himself with his deck of cards.
I closed my eyes, braced myself using the rails on either side of the shower and through each surge I instinctively leant forward, swung my hips and repeated the mantra ‘cervix open, baby down’. I spoke to our baby telepathically stating that we could do this, we were in it together, that we were a team. I asked our baby to please turn. I wasn’t vocalizing any longer, all of my energies were focused down in my womb space. I breathed deeply and focused on keeping my mouth soft. Every time I spiralled my hips the visual of the center of a sunflower appeared in my mind. The center seed pod spiralling in and out.
An hour later the midwife asked me to hop out of the shower so she could check me again (so many internals!) and the great news was I was 8cm. The whole dynamic in the room changed. Everyone became very positive and told me excitedly to jump back in the shower.
During my pregnancy I googled that UNICEF estimates that 350,000 babies are born in the world each day. Say that an average labour lasts 10-12 hours, that would mean that approximately 175,000 women would be experiencing labour and childbirth at exactly the same time as me. Throughout my labour I flashed on this and felt great solace in the collective energies of the women around the world experiencing what I was at that moment in time.
I hopped back in the shower and at this point I easily slipped into a state that I can only describe as a deeply shamanic dimension of labour and birth. It was one of the most primal experiences of my life. With my eyes closed I was catapulted back through time and I found myself in a dark cave, sitting amongst a circle of naked women with our arms intertwined. We were chanting and swaying in unison around a central raging fire. Then I found myself alone on the dirt of this same cave writhing primitively through my surges. I could feel and smell the damp, cool earth below my limbs and sense the heat of the fire on my skin.
About 20mins later when my student midwife was again using the doppler to check bubs heart rate it was extremely loud, which meant baby had turned! 20 minutes later again I was having pushing urges I couldn’t fight. My student midwife was telling me to breathe through them which I was trying to do but it was the most challenging thing I’ve ever attempted. I would get half way through a contraction without pushing then my body would take over. I was experiencing the fetal ejection reflex and my body was involuntarily bearing down. This went on for a further taxing and testing 20 minutes or so, at which point the midwife asked me to get out of the shower and onto the bed for one final check.
I was finding it difficult to speak and I was extremely overwhelmed by the intensity of the surges and pushing urges so I just did what I was told. She said to me ‘on the next contraction I want you to push!’ This was such a relief and immediately bubs head started descending and she said “where do you want to have this baby?’ I managed to splutter out “the bath!’ and they helped me off the bed and into the bath. I was in the bath on all 4’s and 15 minutes later over the course of 3 contractions our beautiful baby was earthside.
That final pushing stage for me was intense. At one point I became quite overwhelmed and lost contact with my body. I started pushing while I wasn’t contracting and found it very difficult to sit in the space of stillness between surges. I remember thinking ‘I need to get my knees wider to make more space’ but the bath was too narrow to allow for this to happen. The water level was also quite shallow so I had someone’s hand on my lower back pushing me down the couple of times I instinctively raised my hips up. I recall the midwife saying that I could reach down and feel my babies head at one point but I was too overwhelmed. I was ready for my experience to be over.
Once our wee babe slid out the midwife guided our little creation through my legs and asked me to reach down and pick up our baby. Our little one took about 1 minute to take that first breath and didn’t cry but just looked around inquisitively. I remember feeling a bit concerned and unprepared for this but the midwife said reassuringly ‘it’s ok, baby’s breathing off the cord still and just transitioning.’
Throughout my whole pregnancy I felt quite a masculine energy in my womb and was quite sure our baby was a boy, but we left the sex a surprise. After about 3-5 mins of simply cuddling in the bath and allowing myself to land back in my body, the midwife said ‘lift up your baby and see what you’ve got!’ I had become so overwhelmed with the whole experience of labour and birth that I had completely forgotten to check the sex. In my hormonal cocktail daze I lifted our babe up and my first thought was ‘Oh my gosh, our baby is missing a penis!’ I just kind of stared dumbfounded for what felt like an eternity until the midwife said ‘Oh, a little girl! Congratulations!’ Phew – not a boy missing a penis after all but a little girl – hahahaha. I couldn’t believe it! We had a baby girl.
We got to the hospital at about 7pm and at 10.15pm, 23 1/4 hours after my first surge and 9 days past her guess date Lotus Dylan Black entered the world. On her Dad’s birthday.
My blood loss was minimal and we got out of the bath and dried off then hopped on the bed for skin to skin. Our daughters cord pulsed for a long time post birth. After about 20 minutes we clamped and my husband cut the cord. Upon request we had a physiological third stage (no shot of synthetic oxytocin) and a further 25 minutes after cutting the cord I birthed the placenta. I had a minor tear that required two stitches and some grazing. While I received my stitches Charlie had skin to skin with Lotus until she started rooting around looking for his breast, hahaha.
We were able to take home our bundle of joy at 2am, 4 hours after she born. To say that Lotus’s birth was a life changing experience would be an understatement. I was completely ecstatic, proud, empowered and felt like a warrior.
Over the course of the past 5 years reflecting on Lotus’s birth has been a journey in and of itself. Despite feeling completely empowered, for the first week post birth I simultaneously remember a little part of me wondering if I was capable of going through an experience that physically, mentally and emotionally intense again.
My initial feelings of complete joy and empowerment surrounding our labour and birth lasted about 6 months or so, at which point I slowly began unpacking, reflecting and digging a little deeper into our experience. Over the years as I have dissected all of the aspects of Lotus’s birth, I have felt the whole plethora of emotions. After debriefing with our primary midwife at our postnatal appointments I did feel sad that she wasn’t there for our labour and birth. Having had continuity of care with her prenatally and forming a close relationship we felt that she perhaps would have been able to gauge where I was at and what I needed a little more accurately.
I went through a stage of feeling resentment that the midwife we ended up with did not suggest me getting out of the pool and trying position changes to encourage Lotus to get into a better position before transferring to hospital. I felt a bit cross that I pushed prematurely at 4cm which caused a very painful separation of my pubic bone which took years to heal. I felt total rage towards the male doctor for his scare tactics and complete insensitivity and disregard for a birthing woman.
I now feel nothing but gratitude towards both of them for playing their parts in what turned out to be one of the most significant growth experiences of my life to date. I truly feel that the midwife who was sent to us on the day was the midwife we were supposed to have. I understand that the doctor was following hospital protocol and practicing from a place of fear. I feel grateful to both the midwife and the doctor for providing me with the opportunity to stand up for myself and our unborn baby. I have gratitude for the roles they each played in our birth story and their contribution to the events which led to me, probably for the first time in my life, communicating my unwavering trust in my intuition.
One of my teachers, Jane Hardwicke Collins, talks about the girl who you meet at the alter of menarche (your first period), being the same woman who you meet at the birth alter. She also talks about how the experiences of menarche and birth can often mirror each other, particularly if there is a big lesson to be learnt. This was particularly true in my case. My experience of my menarche was not pleasant. My first bleed was long (3 weeks), extremely painful and ended in hospitalization, heavy medication and being put on the contraceptive pill at 13 – which I agreed to, but which felt very wrong and went against everything my intuition was telling me at the time. Being on the contraceptive pill for many years as a teenager led to a whole plethora of other issues but that’s for another time.
This scenario played out almost completely again in my labour; it was long, extremely painful and ended in unexpected hospitalization – except this time I was able to dig deep and find the strength and trust in my intuition to rewrite the ending which catapulted me firmly on my souls path. All of my life experiences, the soul work and research I had done since my menarche; and particularly the preparation I had done throughout my pregnancy, provided me with the inner confidence I needed to listen to and trust my intuition. In this particular instance I just knew I could do it on my own. And not only that, there was a deep knowing somewhere inside that I needed to do it on my own. I needed to experience the labour and birth of our baby without the use of intervention and drugs to cement my learnings on this physical plane.
I believe that children choose their parents. Lotus’s and my soul had an unknown agreement prior to conception. She wanted to be born in the hospital and I needed to be given the opportunity to exercise my strength and intuition. Jane 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. This most definitely rings true for Lotus and I. Her labour and birth saw me dig deep for a strength and stamina I didn’t know I had and to wholly and solely trust my intuition.
Strength, stamina and trusting my intuition are the main attributes I bring into parenting her daily, and it stared from day 1. Our postpartum period was a challenge to say the least and had we not experienced the labour and birth journey that we did, our postpartum would have played out very differently.
I am forever grateful to the fierce little soul who was the first being to grow in my womb for the teachings she presents me with on a daily basis. I am full moon born, she is dark/new moon born. Our personalities are exactly the same in so many aspects yet polar opposite in a few and we trigger each other endlessly.
She is spirited, stubborn, remarkably clever, beauty-full, artistic, determined, particular, loving, hilarious, such a kind, gentle big sister and I feel so blessed that she chose us.
We clash like nothing else and I constantly feel like I am failing her but she has singlehandedly taught me more about life and myself than any other human I’ve come in contact with. For her I strive to evolve, learn and grow to be the absolute best person I can be.