On Monday, 28 October, 2019, when I was 39 weeks and 2 days pregnant, I laid down in the late afternoon for a nap and when I woke up I felt extra wet, like I had peed a little bit in my sleep. As I got up, I felt a bit of uncontrollable leaking and squishiness and I thought to myself “Hmm… I’m not peeing, so there must be something else happening here.” I had a chat with my midwife to let her know I was pretty sure my amniotic fluid was leaking and she said just to keep her informed about any changes. Chris and I went into hyper cleaning mode and gave the whole house a deep clean before bed.
Through that night I started having some mild surges that I was aware of in my sleep. Nothing too intense, but just the start of something happening. They began to get a bit more regular sometime before dawn and Chris and I woke up and cuddled in bed and whispered to each other for a while, realising that these were some of our last, sweet moments alone together before meeting our baby and our whole world changing. We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, so it was crazy to think that we would meet him or her and find out who they were soon.
We took the dog for a walk through the neighbourhood in the early morning. The surges weren’t too strong, but I would stop walking and close my eyes and focus on my breath when one came, mostly because I was enjoying focusing on the sensations and leaning into them. We ran into our neighbours who were out for a walk as well and told them I was in early labour and it felt like sharing a special secret. Our dogs got into a small fight which got my heart pounding and adrenaline pumping and I joked with Chris about how that was the opposite of what we needed to keep labour progressing. It was just a little blip, though, and we continued on our walk. I found a small branch that had fallen off a eucalyptus tree that had some blooms on it and I carried it with me to have in the house for baby’s arrival. This sign of spring and new life felt symbolic and beautiful.
Chris went to the shops to stock up on food so we wouldn’t have to go back for quite a while after the baby was born. While he was gone I laid in the sun on the grass in the front yard and journalled. From my journal:
“I’m sitting out on our front lawn in the sun right now, getting some solid time in with mama earth and grounding my energy. I’m quite grateful to be having a slow, gentle start to ease into this process and really enjoy it. The surges so far haven’t been too intense. I’m closing my eyes and breathing through some of them. I can see how they can be felt to be painful, but at this point I’m really actually enjoying the sensations. It’s very powerful that my body is doing this without me consciously telling it to. The surges are powerful and amazing. Baby is moving around inside me as I write this. I can’t wait to meet you, bub. I can’t believe how soon I’ll look into your eyes and we will begin the rest of our lives together. I love you. See you soon!”
Sometime in the morning my midwife came to check in on me and see how I was doing. Things were good, but still early labour so she just said to keep her updated and she’d probably be back that night. Things get a bit blurry around here. I remember eating a meal (was it lunch or dinner?) and bouncing on the birth ball, watching The Office and laughing. I think that was just before the midwife came, so it must have been lunch. Chris cooked up several meals to have in the fridge and to have there for our birth team to eat as well.
In the afternoon two of my beautiful, skilled friends came by to pamper me and spent 2 hours giving me massage and reiki, holding space for me to journey deeper into myself. This is when the journey became really internal. I had Trevor Hall playing on my phone and they were pouring so much love into me. Each time I had a surge they would stop moving and place their hands on my body, just holding me as the powerful energy moved through. I would take deep breaths into my belly and let them out through my open mouth with a relaxed jaw, making a low moaning sound. I think these hours were super crucial to getting the oxytocin flowing freely, and me feeling super safe and held. By the time they left my labour was definitely established, and Chris had texted my midwife that I wanted her to know I was feeling pressure in my bottom with each surge.
We weren’t quite sure when to have the midwife, doula and videographer come, but I was starting to feel that it should probably be soon. At the same time, I really wanted some alone time with Chris without any other energies in the house. Chris told our doula and videographer to start getting ready and slowly make their way over, but no rush and told the midwife that we would probably be having her come before too long.
At this point I was much less aware of everything external. I didn’t really know or care what he was saying to the birth team. Chris and I laid in bed cuddling for a long while and I had my eyes closed, breathing and moaning through the surges. I think at some point he got me to eat dinner, but I have no memory of that. Our doula arrived and got right into the energy of it. I was kneeling on the bed, leaning over the birth ball. Chris was in front of me, holding my hands and my doula was behind me, squeezing my hips. With each surge I would rise up onto my knees, rolling forward on the ball and squeezing Chris hands, hard. Between surges I sat back and rested on the ball. I don’t know how long this went on for. At some point the videographer snuck in during this stage – I know because she has this birth-ball on the bed scene in our birth video and there are photos.
I was in the shower at some point. My doula was trying to turn the water on for me but the nob to control the water temperature is really touchy and I was impatient to get it right before the next surge, so snapped at her to just let me do it (sorry for being snappy Laura!). We had cut a thick yoga mat to have on the shower floor and allow the water to drain, so I was on all fours on that. When I had a surge I hated the feeling of the water hitting my back. It was too distracting. Too much sensory input. I just wanted to focus and breathe. I didn’t stay in the shower very long.
Sometime in this blurry haze I threw up a few times and was shaking. My midwife had arrived, I’m not sure when, but I remember her asking me why I felt I was throwing up – were the surges feeling really intense or was I just nauseous and felt my body was clearing out. I didn’t know how to answer this. Yes, the surges were really intense, but I was riding them. I thought maybe since I was vomiting and shaking that I was nearing transition, but I didn’t say anything.
I sat in the dark on the couch with Chris and the doula taking turns supporting me. The videographer put some electric candles around me to have some light for the camera to see, but I didn’t like the white coloured light. I only wanted soft yellow light. I was feeling annoyed. They keep making me drink water and it was such a huge effort.
My midwife came to me and told me and offered me a vaginal exam. I had been clear through my prenatal care that I didn’t want any vaginal exams and she said that was fine but she would still need to offer them. She said she didn’t really want to do one, but she needed to offer. If I said yes then it would give us something to compare to in a few hours to see how I was progressing. She said that she thought I was still quite early in my labour and it would really need to kick up a few more notches in intensity before baby came. She said she thought it would probably be the next morning before baby came. It was only midnight now.
My heart sank. If she did a vaginal exam and I was only a few centimetres dilated I would feel so discouraged. So I declined, and my midwife said she’d like to go lay down in the guest room for a while and give me some space since it was looking to be a long night. My doula left to run home quickly and help her husband get her baby to bed. The videographer laid down on the couch to take a nap. Chris and I went into our bedroom to have some calm, quiet alone time.
The next hour was completely surreal. I think going into this quiet, dark, safe space and being left alone with my love was exactly what I needed. We were on the bed, and each time I would surge I would get on my hands and knees and crawl in circles on the bed with Chris following behind on his knees, trying to keep pressure on my hips. Between surges we collapsed in a pile on the bed and even though the surges were very close together I was falling asleep in those tiny breaks. When I opened my eyes the room was dimly illuminated by flickering candlelight, but I wasn’t seeing it. I was seeing a different world that I have no words to describe. I was just somewhere else.
During this time I went to a difficult place mentally because things were SO intense, and yet I had just been told that I had so far left to go. I started doubting my ability, feeling like a failure, thinking I just couldn’t go on like this, especially if it was going to get MORE intense. I felt was going to have to go to the hospital to have pain medication. I felt was going to die. It’s so hard to describe what was going on in my mind during this time as it wasn’t rational. I was going through transition. As a birth worker I know all the signs, but I wasn’t trusting what my own body was telling me because of what my midwife had said.
I kept feeling like I needed to poop. In this hour I went to the toilet probably three times to try to poop with no luck but lots of pressure. I was falling asleep leaning on the toilet paper holder between surges. The surges were SO intense on the toilet so I never lasted long sitting there and would head back to the bed before long. The third time I went to the toilet, there was more blood on the pad in my underwear and with my first surge on the toilet I couldn’t help but push and I said to Chris, “I think I’m pushing,” which was pretty obvious because you could hear it. He went to wake the midwife and she was already sitting up in bed, listening.
She came out and brought me a wet cloth to clean my fingers and said she’d like me to reach up and see what I could feel. I reached just inside the opening of my birth canal and felt something maybe only one knuckle in. I told her so and she grabbed her gloves to have a feel herself. “Oh my gosh, your baby is right there almost ready to be born!” It was 1am, only one hour after she had told me she thought it would be all night.
She went and made a space for me to kneel on the floor of my bedroom with a bunch of cushions covered with a waterproof sheet and some towels, and then started trying to get the birth pool filled up. I made my way into the bedroom and began following my body’s urge to push with the surges.
After maybe 15 minutes she came and told me the pool was ready and I could get in if I wanted to. After the next surge I tried to stand up to move to the pool but another surge came right away so I leaned over the bed still on one knee, and the baby’s head came out!
Her head was out for a little while between surges and with the next surge her body slid out and Chris caught her. He immediately said, “We have a little girl!” and handed her to me between my legs. I sat back and held her cradled in my lap saying “It’s you Lua! I knew it was you! Hi, sweetheart.”
We had some beautiful time just sitting there staring at her in wonder for a few minutes until I felt some more surges and the placenta was ready to be born. I squatted over a colander in a big bowl and it slid right out, and then I crawled right up onto the bed and had Lua on my belly so she could do the breast crawl. She found her way up to my nipple and latched and started feeding very quickly. Chris and I sat there together marvelling at this tiny, beautiful creature I had just birthed. My memories of this part are still very fuzzy as I was still feeling like I was in a different world. I think I was very, very high on birth hormones. We eventually tied off her cord and Chris cut it, maybe an hour or an hour and a half after birth. My midwife gave me a few stitches on a small graze I had that didn’t need stitches but would have healed as two separate flaps without the stitches.
Chris had some skin-to-skin time with Lua while my doula helped me have a glorious hot shower that felt like heaven, and then I crawled back into bed with my baby and my love. Our birth team finished a few chores and left us on our own, a newly born family of three.
Lua’s skin was so soft, like velvet. The little sounds she made as she fed were so sweet. Her newborn baby smell. Her miniature fingers and toes. The swirl of her ear. Her tiny body, warm against mine. Our little, perfect Lua had arrived earthside and our lives were forever changed.
All photos were taken by my wonderful friend and professional collaborator, the incredible photographer/ videographer Laura Brink of Rewildher Birth.