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The Homebirth of Isaak

I had a talk with my husband sometime in about July of 2015 and said that I felt ready to start trying for another babe. I had just weaned our 2.2 year old who had finally started sleeping through the night and I felt that another little soul was ready to come through. He acknowledged my thoughts and feelings and also voiced his opinion of not liking to ‘plan’ these things too much, and communicated that he’d prefer if I didn’t tell him when I was ovulating so as to not create pressure or a feeling of ‘we’re only making love or having sex right now for the sole purpose of getting pregnant.’ 

I’m a cycle tracker from way back and the conception of our first child was unexpected – it was on our honeymoon when I decided for the first time not to ‘worry’ about being careful during my fertile period. I did not expect that we would conceive first ‘try’ – which wasn’t even a conscious try – more of a ‘not actively avoiding’ approach – and I think I just assumed that this time around would be similar.

We didn’t conceive in July or August and if I’m completely honest I was disappointed both times when I urinated on the early detection stick and it came up negative. And even more-so when my bleed actually arrived both times because I was holding onto the chance that the early detection test may have been wrong. In September my husband took our daughter on a Dad/daughter road trip across the Nullarbor to give me my first real parenting break and of course the three days we were apart fell over my fertile window.
I surrendered to this and welcomed a month of no pressure. I flew to WA (where I grew up) to meet them and was coincidentally also able to farewell my maternal Grandfather in the flesh before he crossed over. 

I am so very grateful that my Pop hung on until I got to say goodbye. He was in respite and was on day 9 of no eating or drinking. The whole family had said their goodbye’s a week earlier and no one thought he would still be on this earthly plane when I arrived. But he was – and I hastily drove the 3 hours South to hold his beautiful, old, strong workers hand one last time. I was able to spend an hour alone with him in the afternoon and that evening his soul left his body as my Aunty (his youngest daughter) sang him across. 

A little over a month later I was lying in bed back at home on a weekend morning. I always dream very lucidly in the mornings and this morning was no different. In my dream I was catching up with my beloved Pop. I hugged him goodbye and said;

‘Love you Poppy, see you soon’ he replied 

‘Love you too sweetheart, oh and congratulations!’ 

‘Congratulations for what Pop?’ 

‘You’re pregnant! You’re going to have a baby boy! You don’t know?’ 

I awoke somewhat startled and confused, yet excited. It had been a very busy, emotional cycle and I did not think that we would have conceived. Straight after my fertile window I had experienced a mild bout of gastro and said to my girlfriend jokingly ‘ain’t nothing going to implant with this epic purging!’ Apparently I was wrong. I bounded out of bed and urinated straight onto a stick and there they were – two pink lines. We were pregnant!

My pregnancy with Isaak was a lot different to my first pregnancy, which was a dream. This pregnancy I experienced constant nauseousness with occasional vomiting during the first trimester. Then throughout the remainder of the pregnancy I still had 1-2 days a week where it would return. I had terrible heartburn and reflux, painful SPD and my emotions were all over the place. At 32 weeks I further injured my pelvis which left me unable to move for 2 weeks – even standing to go to the toilet was agony. Being couch/bedridden definitely affected my mental health and I started to seriously doubt whether or not my pelvis would hold out for the remainder of the pregnancy. Thankfully it slowly improved and the pain returned to a far more manageable state. Throughout my pregnancy and leading up to the birth I guiltly felt like I hadn’t connected with my belly babe as I had with our daughter while she was in utero. 

I had completed my doula training in between having our daughter and conceiving our son and I had all these magical ideas that this pregnancy would consist of daily meditation, journaling and frolicking outside with sun flares bouncing across my swollen belly. Instead what eventuated during the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy was me actually stopping my daily meditation practice (which I had been doing for years), journaling from week 6-8 then stopping all together, feeling ill and being completely swept up in parenting our spirited then 2 3/4 year old. I definitely had moments of wondering whether I had it in me to bring another little soul earthside and then parent it in a nurturing way, the way every child deserves.

In the last trimester of my pregnancy fears started to arise which stemmed from my experience birthing our daughter. Her birth was an intense 24 hour posterior labour ending in a homebirth transfer. You can read that story HERE. We still managed no intervention and a water birth in the hospital… but not without a fight. It was the most empowering, amazing, life changing experience of my life, but I do feel like I only ‘survived’ it if that makes sense? As the impending birth of our son crept closer fears began to arise regarding whether or not this birth would be a similar experience and I was wondering if I had it in me to do it again. 

During the final months of my pregnancy I did a lot of physical and mental preparation. I practiced mindfulness, returned to my meditation, did a calm birth course with my husband, listened to hypnobirthing tracks, did yoni mapping on myself, attended regular chiro and osteo appointments, continued my weekly pilates sessions, did drum journeys into my womb to connect with our baby and I researched ecstatic birth. I was also so blessed to have my dear friend and fellow birthworker Katherine Eden organise a Mother Blessing for me with my closest friends and I did a powerful fear release ceremony around a fire with my husband.

I had been having strong braxton hicks contractions for about a month and 5 days past my expected due date I went to bed at 9.30pm then woke at 10pm to a strong surge. I was really tired so ignored it and went back to sleep. After 3 more I realised I couldn’t ignore it anymore and felt the need to get up and move. I wandered around the house and took a few last minute things to the rumpus room (a separate room out the back of our house) where we were birthing. 

I woke up Charlie at 11.30pm and asked him to time some contractions to make sure I was having 3 in 10mins to call the hospital. We were both somewhat shocked at the regularity of my contractions. They were lasting between 50 seconds and 1 minute and coming every 3 minutes on the dot. I didn’t experience ‘regular’ contractions with our daughters labour as she was posterior. Throughout her labour they were very irregular and difficult to time, coming anywhere between 1 and 7 minutes apart with some double and triple rolling contractions, some lasting 90 seconds. These were like clockwork and I was still able to breathe through them. At midnight I called the hospital, our student midwife and our birth photographer. 

By this stage, during each surge I was shaking all over. Noone had arrived yet and it was just Charlie and I, our daughter asleep in bed. Despite doing a lot of inner work I assumed that I must still have some unresolved fear at the prospect of experiencing a repeat of our daughters long, painful, posterior labour – and I surmised that the shaking was from excess adrenaline as a result of this ‘unresolved fear’. 

Charlie and I went out to the rumpus room while we waited for everyone to arrive. At this point I decided quite adamantly that I was just going to lay down on the bed out there and go to sleep because I was super tired and would rather wait until the following day to have our baby (as if one can control these things – ha). I told Charlie that I didn’t think I was in established labour after all and asked him to tell everyone to just leave and go back home when they arrived. To which he responded ‘Do you think you might be having intermission babe?’ He meant transition – hahahahaha. I snapped at him that there was absolutely no way I was in transition and that even if I was in established labour it was still very early days and I probably had another 24 hours + to go. I repeated that I was just going to go to sleep and for him to tell everyone to leave when they arrived. 

Turns out I probably was in transition.

Our student midwife, Danni, arrived first. She is a dear friend and also happened to be my doula trainer who decided to switch to midwifery. She quickly took charge of the situation and gave me some rescue remedy which immediately stopped the shaking. She then gave me a gentle pep talk and stated that if I wanted to meet our baby sooner rather than later it was probably a good idea to stand up and get moving. I briefly remember telling her that the surges were much stronger when I was standing up and that I just wanted to go to sleep. She reassured me that I was made for this and was doing a great job and reminded me that the stronger surges were what we wanted.

Our midwife arrived at 12.45am and I was still in denial that I was in established labour despite the strong, regular surges. I was still breathing through the surges quite manageably and I think I may have been so convincing in my denial that even our midwife wondered if I was in established labour. She was very supportive and stated that if I wasn’t in established labour she would just take a nap in our Granny Flat for a bit. I mentioned that I hadn’t lost my mucous plug or had any bloody show or anything… then I went to do a wee. On the toilet paper there was some blood and this excited me immensely! I finally acknowledged that I must be in established labor after all. This was about 1am. 

I stood up resting my hands on a dining table that I had set up as our birth alter. During surges I would vocalise and look at the candles flickering. There were two affirmation stones that I felt drawn to. One simply said ‘breathe’ and the other ‘you are doing it’. There was also one affirmation flag that hung above the birth pool which said ‘every birth is different’ and I would often glance at this to remind myself that this was not our daughters birth on repeat, but instead a completely new experience. My beautiful friends created these stones and flags at my blessing – they knew exactly what I needed. Charlie and Danni took turns at squeezing my hips during surges which literally halved the intensity. It was so different to our daughters labor. I was talking and laughing between surges and I had no back pain. I was completely pain free in between surges and I had not experienced this with the labour and birth of our daughter. 

At about 1.45am I experienced a surge that had a different intensity. I closed my eyes and was hurtled through time and space and found myself standing barefoot on wet grass in a valley below a starry sky. A huge owl flew up behind me and using its beak it flicked me onto its back. For the duration of this surge we flew at great speed through the valley, the grassy hills rolling out from beneath us on each side. During this surge I had risen up onto the balls of my feet and my vocalisation changed. Danni reminded me to relax my feet down. At this point I felt pressure.

Charlie and Danni were telling me to hop in the pool but I was worried about getting in too early, another throwback to our daughters labour. I asked my midwife to check me. She reminded me that I didn’t want any internals and reassured me that if labour stalled when I got in I could simply hop back out again. I asked where our birth photographer was and as Danni went to check she walked in the door. At this point I had another surge and my body started bearing down. I stripped off quickly and hopped in the pool. The relief was instant, the delicious warm water enveloping me in what felt like most soothing, supportive hug. I am a water sign and find great solace in taking baths, showers, swimming in the ocean etc. Water is grounding for me.

It was 1.55am when I hopped in the pool. I gently inserted two fingers into my vagina as soon as I hit the relief of the water and I could feel his head! Over the course of 10 mins and 3 surges, at 2.05am he emerged. I had to apply some counter pressure as it all happened very quickly. I was on all fours and with the help of our student I brought him through my legs and lifted him up. He had the cord loosely around his neck so I our midwife helped me unloop it and I scooped him up. We had kept the sex a surprise but I was quite sure he was a boy (especially after the dream I had where my Grandfather visited and also during the drum journeys I took into my womb). We checked together and yup – we had a baby boy. 

He was so chilled out. He was not floppy at all, he was very pink and his arms and legs were responsive but it was like he was legitimately asleep – transitioning very gently. It was magical! I knew he was fine but our midwife wanted a little more from him. I intuitively put three fingers over his heart and felt his cord and both were powerfully pulsing. I knew he was getting all the oxygen he needed from the cord. After some light prodding and some foot stimulation we got a little groan out of him which kind of sounded like a ‘leave me alone I’m sleeping’. Haha. At 1 min his APGAR was 8, and at 5 mins it was 9.

My husband went inside to wake up our daughter to come and meet her brother. We spent about 20 mins in the pool snuggling then I hopped out to birth the placenta. He wasn’t interested in feeding at this stage so my husband had skin to skin whilst I had a shower (bliss). He did his first meconium poo on my husband while I was showering, hehe. It was about 1 hour post birth and we decided the time felt right to cut the cord. I tied the cord tie then we thanked the placenta and myself, my husband and our daughter all held the scissors and cut the cord together. Isaak didn’t cry and it felt very peaceful. 

We then sat down and had our first feed as I breathed through some afterpains. Charlie made me a placenta smoothie and I sipped on that as well as some coconut water. We did the weighing and measuring about 2 hours post birth, then dressed Isaak and I felt ready to curl up in bed with our newest addition. 

I felt blessed beyond belief and couldn’t believe that it was all over within 4 1/2 hours from my first surge to having our baby safely in my arms. What a very different experience an anterior labour was to a posterior. I encapsulated my own placenta on day 3 and our postpartum period was just so dreamy (with a few hormonal moments thrown in for good measure, to be expected – ha). Isaak was such a chilled out newborn. He would just so comfortably completely relax and sleep on my chest for hours.

One of my teachers, Shamanic midwife – 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. Isaaks labour and birth required me to fully surrender to the experience and trust that we would be totally fine and that we would do it together. During the drum journeys I did into my womb he would tell me just that – ‘Don’t worry, everything is going to be so fine, trust me.’

Today on his 3rd birthday I am finding myself reflecting on our journey. Parenting Isaak has been so very different to parenting his older sister. His name Isaak means ‘he will laugh’ and laugh he does. He is such a friendly little character and has approximately 74000 ‘best friends’ – including his toy farm animals, the across the road neighbour and our dog (although it’s a little more of a love/hate relationship with our dog – ha). He loves a good chat with a stranger and is constantly approaching people saying ‘Hi, my name is Isaak Walker Black, what’s your name?’ – a bit like his father really.

His happy-go-lucky nature is just what this family needed to tip the scales back in the direction of chill. I’m quite sure his Dad is relieved to have another co-conspirator at the tranquil table.

Little fella – You make our lives so much richer and more joyful and you have us in fits of laughter every day. Even when I want to be cross you make me laugh. Thank you for showing me a completely different side to Motherhood. Your cuddles are the delight of my day.

Photography and video by my dear friend Kirsten Klemasz <3

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