Birth of Carsten Ochre
I loved the idea of having a natural home birth, it was always what I pictured my birth to be like but I didn’t really consider it a serious possibility for my first child, especially in Adelaide where no help or support is offered by insurance or the government; however after missing out on a spot at the Flinders Birthing Centre, my husband Roger and I decided that home birth was the way to go.
I had been doing a lot of research on home birth in Adelaide and came across the Homebirth Network website which contained useful information, wonderful birth stories and a list of independent midwives and doulas in South Australia. After contacting a couple of the local midwives with some basic enquiries, we decided to meet with one of the midwives, Kat for a more in-depth discussion. Kat answered all our questions and ticked all our boxes making it clear that she supports women 100% in their desire to birth naturally in their own home, their own way so we hired Kat and that began our home birth journey.
I started to feel it at 40 weeks and 5 days, the feeling that I had never thought I’d feel, OVERDUE. I thoroughly enjoyed the pregnancy overall, thankfully absent of any kind of morning sickness or discomfort apart from mild back pain in the last couple of months which stopped when I finished work at 37 weeks. I wasn’t in a hurry to have the baby and didn’t understand this fed-up feeling that most women seemed to get towards the end of their pregnancies, I figured that once the baby was out, it was out and there was no putting it back where it came from, so I continued to enjoy spending time by myself knowing the days of ‘me-time’ were numbered.
On my guess-date, June 29th, my Mum and 11 year old sister Ellie arrived from Perth for the impending birth which lined up conveniently with school holidays. It took me 5 days into their stay to start to feel the desire to birth this baby. I felt like time was being wasted as each day ticked by and ate into Mum’s three week stay, three weeks which should have been spent with the new baby. I can’t say the thought of downing a few tablespoons of castor oil didn’t cross my mind.
I told my midwife Kat how I was feeling and she showed me some acupressure points on my ankles that I could try, so before bed on the 5th of July, Roger had a go at pressing the points Kat had shown me. Sure enough at 3:30 the next morning I woke with a rock hard stomach. I had never felt any Braxton Hicks the entire pregnancy so was a bit unsure of what I was feeling; I went to the toilet and noticed more mucus than usual but nothing that looked like a show, Roger woke when I got back into bed knowing that something was happening so I let him know what I was feeling and said he should try and get some more sleep (he was going to need it). Not wanting to jump to conclusions too early, I lay in bed for the next 3 hours timing each tightening at 10 minutes apart before I sent Kat a text message letting her know what was happening; I also messaged mum and two sisters in law, Sarah and Charlie who we wanted to be at the birth and they made their way over (Charlie hopped on the next flight over from Sydney to be here for the birth).
I noticed the show at about 9:30am, we got up had breakfast and Roger began inflating the birth pool. When Mum, Sarah and Ellie arrived, my sensations were about 6 minutes apart and so we decided to go to the shops so that I could stay upright and mobile to help the birth process along so we spent the next few hours walking around the stores, slowing and sometimes stopping to experience each sensation. Ellie had been keeping busy by writing down the time of each ‘squeeze’ as she called it, and at about 3 minutes apart we headed home to have some lunch.
Charlie arrived from Sydney at around 3pm when the sensations were becoming slightly more intense, it was so amazing to have my mum and sisters there to support me and witness the birth. Everyone busied themselves setting up the room with candles, playing soothing music, giving me food and drink. I had a route around the living area that I paced, stopping and leaning over the kitchen bench every few minutes and whoever was closest rubbed my lower back with almond oil or massaged my head.
I absolutely loved being in my own home, familiar and safe surroundings with people I loved to share the experience with. The candles and music helped relax me and my necklace of beads and pendants which was made for me at my Blessingway hung around my neck so that I could recall the prayers and well wishes of each woman who threaded a bead for me.
We had been keeping Kat informed with my progress throughout the day and at 7:45pm she arrived. I was still able to hold a conversation and join the others watching Master Chef between sensations until about 8:30 when Kat noted “Amy appears in established birth process – regular, strong sensations”. Kat listened to the baby’s heartbeat with her wooden pinard horn and said all sounded fine.
As the sensations became stronger and more regular I was amazed that the birth of my baby didn’t feel closer; it helped to remember what my mum had said, that with each sensation my uterus was smaller and the baby was always one step closer to being born, but it didn’t stop the few tears I had as I told Kat how I felt. The sensations were getting so strong but I still didn’t feel like the baby was near. I went to the toilet hoping the position change would speed things up and I checked to see if I could feel the baby but couldn’t so that was disheartening. Before I got into the pool I tried lying down on my side for two sensations but this was absolute agony.
The pool had been filled with all the hot water we had so pots were on the stove slowly heating for when we needed top ups. At 9pm I got into the pool, the warm water was amazing and helped relax me a lot but after an hour in the pool I still felt there was a long way to go and it was hurting more as I got more tired. I tried sitting on the toilet again where my waters finally released. I was coping with the sensations as best as I could but it was frustrating feeling like the baby wasn’t moving down so when the waters released it reminded me that we were making progress. It helped immensely having pressure on my hips and lower back during the sensations so when I signalled, everyone took turns in pressing as hard as they could.
I became so exhausted and the sensations were so intense, between them all I could do was lay back against the wall of the pool and zone out. I had no recollection of what was happening around me, where anyone was, what they were doing, I hear they call it labour-land but I needed to save every ounce of energy. I remember saying to Kat that I didn’t want to do the last part; thinking about the possible hours to come was a definite morale killer.
At midnight I got out of the pool for half an hour; Kat suggested I try a few different positions so over the next few sensations I tried kneeling with one leg up, squatting and leaning over a chair. By now the sensations were really painful and I just wanted to get back in the pool where I remember saying “this is ridiculous” and “don’t want to do it Charlie”.
Sometimes I felt like I was going to be sick but thankfully I never was; I kept a bucket nearby just in case. I knew my baby wasn’t far away when I got back in the pool at 12:30am because I could feel the head just a few centimetres higher; this was such a relief knowing that I had been making progress and that all the pain wasn’t in vain. I felt really hot so Roger, Sarah and Charlie washed my face and neck with ice cold cloths and fed me ice blocks which felt so good!
Since I had been back in the pool, the most comfortable position was up on my knees leaning over the side of the pool and during the last few tightenings I held on around Roger’s neck to push. I don’t know why, but pushing was such a different feeling to the sensations just on their own, the change was a welcome relief and the first few pushes until the head crowned seemed to hurt less and almost give me a break.
One of my fears in pregnancy was that I would tear while giving birth and when the baby’s head was crowning I felt sure I would. The burning sensations I felt while the skin stretched convinced me to keep baby inside for a while longer and maybe wait until the next contraction to get it out. “It hurts too much” I cried and was reassured by Kat that it was almost over. It took me a couple more contractions though to finally resolve to push the head out; I remember thinking “OK, I don’t care what happens to me anymore I’m going to push with all my might and get this baby out” and so when I next felt the urge to push I went for it! Once the head came out, I used the next push to finish the job. The baby came out in front of me so I reached down and picked him up out of the water. He immediately grabbed hold of the hair on either side of my face and held on before letting out a little cry.
It was an amazing feeling, not only having the pain stop immediately but to have this little baby in my arms. Roger and I just stared at this little miracle, I was so proud of myself for accomplishing such an amazing thing and having this beautiful baby to show for it; I felt so relieved. After a little while Roger and I decided it was time to introduce our little boy Carsten Ochre to everyone there. He was born at 1:06am on 7-7-11, a pretty cool birthday.
About half an hour later, I got out of the pool and sat on the couch which Kat had prepared with towels. When I next felt some cramps I stood up and Kat caught the placenta in a container and sat it next to us until we were ready to cut the cord. Carsten happily started feeding while we were on the couch and I was surprised by how natural and easy it felt.
The hours flew by as we all sat around admiring this amazing baby and Kat helped clean me up with a warm cloth. We all joined hands and said a prayer of thankfulness that all had gone so well. A few hours later, after we were sure the cord had stopped pulsing, Kat tied the cord and Roger cut through it.
Once Carsten had been separated from the placenta Kat was then able to measure and weigh him. We were all surprised when he tipped the scale at 4.65 kilos (10 pounds 4 ounces) and measured 54 centimetres long with a 38.5 centimetre head – no wonder he took a long time coming down! We all looked on as Kat inspected the placenta and showed us how it would have been positioned inside the womb – fascinating!
It was time for Carsten to put some clothes on and have a cuddle with Roger while I got settled in bed and Kat checked me to make sure everything was ok. I was thrilled to hear that I didn’t tear even though I felt like I was going to split in half when I was birthing his head. Once everything was all cleaned up and the pool was emptied onto the garden Kat headed home and we all went to bed. It was an amazing and intense experience, not one I want to do again in a hurry but we’re so happy everything went the way we wanted thanks to the amazing expertise and support of Kat our midwife and my wonderful mum and sisters who were so hard working and supportive throughout the whole birth process and beyond!