The Birth of Xavier John Cook
Xavier John Cook was born at 18:28pm on Sunday June 19th 2011. He was born into water at our home with midwife Julie Garrett, Daniel, Charlotte and my mum Judy in attendance. Weighing 10 pound 4 ounces (4.65kg) and measuring 53.5cm he was not small and his birth was not the easy experience that Charlotte’s was.
After giving in and having a hospital birth with Charlotte I was more determined than ever to have a home birth with our second child. There were several factors that we needed to take into consideration the main one being we were an hour from the closest delivering hospital and two and a half hours from a major hospital. Speaking to Julie early on, we were going to birth in a BandB in the Adelaide Hills that was only 20 minutes from Flinders Hospital but as the birth came closer and closer I became more uncomfortable with that plan. The logistics worried me (how would I know when to book, having to travel to Adelaide in labour, what about Charlotte) but more than anything I wanted to birth in MY home, not just away from a hospital. After talking it through with Julie we decided that she would come to our home, so long as Wallaroo were willing to take us if we needed to transfer. Now we just needed to hope that the baby didn’t decide to arrive in a hurry!!
I had been seeing the midwives at Wallaroo in their community midwifery program for the duration of my pregnancy, as well as keeping in touch with Julie. It was a more practical solution for us and meant that I was keeping my options open if I changed my mind and wanted to birth at the hospital. This was fine until I made it very clear that I was seriously considering a home birth. While the midwives themselves were incredibly supportive, the GP who was looking after me, panicked. I can see where he was coming from, if he was seen to be supporting me in a home birth and something went wrong the hospital could lose it’s delivery service, however it made for an incredibly stressful few weeks. At 35 weeks they went from being happy to deliver me there despite my BMI being high to refusing to deliver me at all and transferring my care to Flinders.
I became very distressed and told them that I would not be delivering in Adelaide. At this point I was so frustrated, I felt like all my options were being taken away from me. If they wouldn’t deliver my baby there, I couldn’t have my home birth in my home, therefore I needed to either totally transfer my care to Flinders or consider birthing in a hotel in Adelaide. Neither of these options felt right to me and at my next appointment I asked them to reconsider. I was again tested for GD (they didn’t believe I didn’t have it because I was so big and I was tested five times in all during the pregnancy) and had to have a growth scan to see how big the baby was. The GD test came back negative but the scan at 35 weeks was showing the baby was already 8 pound 8. The doctor wasn’t concerned at the size, as he said there was a margin of error with the scan and as the GD test was negative he was happy to continue to see me while he conferred with Adelaide about my care.
Mum had arrived to help out for a few days before the baby was born and by Saturday I was going crazy. I felt like everyone was sitting around watching me and waiting for me to do something. I had noticed my plug was starting to come away through the morning and I went for a big walk in the afternoon, which started contractions again. I went and sat at Lisa’s house for a few hours and I think the breakaway from the expectations was good as the contractions didn’t stop. When I got home the rest of my plug came away. By 9pm the contractions had settled into a pattern and were 10 minutes apart lasting 30-45 seconds. I rang Julie to let her know that things were starting and she said to keep in touch overnight. I went to bed around midnight not expecting too much.
I woke up at 4:30am with a painful contraction and noticed they were increasing in frequency. By 6:30am they were 7 minutes apart and I had to breathe through them. I rang Julie who decided she would get in the car and come over then went back to bed, dozing between contractions until about 9am. Once I got up I started to prepare my birthing space. I got our special items out of the birthing box, set up the table with the stuff we would need and generally tidied up the area I was going to birth in (well Mum tidied while I sat on the birth ball rocking through contractions). We lit the candle and oil burner and I sent up a prayer for a safe delivery that day.
Julie arrived about 11am and by then the contractions were about 5 minutes apart and I was needing support through them. With Charlotte my contractions were all in my hips, this time they were centred in my back and abdomen. I found the heat packs good on my front and Daniel massaged my back through each one. During all this Charlotte was wondering around watching what everyone was doing and playing with Nana, she was fascinated with the birth pool being put up and filled and kept saying “Mummy BIG bath”. We had no set plan on what we were going to do with Charlotte, just that if I was fine with it she would stay, if not Mum would take her elsewhere.
During all of this I sat in the corner on the birth ball, rocking and bouncing as I needed to. It was quite a surreal feeling watching everyone buzzing around while I was in labour in my own house. The normal things made me smile, and at the time I felt quite removed from the scene, as if I was watching it on a television. I quite enjoyed the sensation and it was a pleasant couple of hours.
Fortunately for me a Professor from Lyell McEwin hospital was visiting and my case was discussed in length. He gave approval for me to deliver in Wallaroo, considering that besides my high BMI I was incredibly healthy and had had a very uneventful pregnancy. So at 38 weeks all my options were back on the table. Now I had to make a final decision as to where I was going to birth. After a lot of soul searching and dealing with the fear associated with all the what ifs of a home birth I made peace with my decision to birth at home. Finally I was ready for my baby to arrive.
At 39 weeks 2 days (Thursday) I had an appointment with the midwives at Wallaroo and I asked them if they would do a stretch and sweep. They did and I was already 2 cm dilated starting to efface and my cervix was midline. Things were happening. We were having lots of sex, and I was eating eggplant parmesan and fresh pineapple as well as walking and driving over rough roads. Every night I would get niggles and pains for a few hours and then they would settle down and stop by morning.
By 12:30pm the contractions were getting more painful and the birth pool was ready so I jumped in. It was HEAVEN. The feeling of being in the water and so light was awesome. I floated on my back for awhile and breathed through each contraction and then Charlotte hopped in with me. She had a lovely time splashing around and pouring water on my belly to “help”.
She stayed in the water with me until it was time for her to have a sleep. I have a gorgeous photo of Daniel giving her her bottle with me hanging over the edge of the birth pool having a contraction. It was so representative of what I wanted our home birth to be, just another thing happening in our normal lives, amazing but not something scary or medical.
I loved labouring in the water, I rocked on my hands and knees, or floated around moving however I felt I needed to. Daniel got in with me after a while and that was lovely, being able to cuddle with him while I was having a contraction, leaning on him for support if I needed it and being able to massage me to help.
At about 2pm things really started to ramp up and I felt like I needed to push. I got onto my hands and knees and began pushing but it felt like I was pushing against a brick wall. It appeared I was fully dilated but had a lip of cervix still and my waters were still intact. I asked Julie to break them and she said she would rather not, the baby was big and she didn’t want it coming out too fast. After about 45 minutes I was really tired and so Julie asked me to roll over and just relax, slow things down and let my body have a rest. I did this and felt much better.
At about 4pm the contractions ramped up again and became quite painful. I wanted to push again and in hindsight I knew I wasn’t really ready but I just wanted things to end. I was tired and didn’t want to do it anymore. This was where my mind started to take over a bit and derailed me for a little while. I was in pain and couldn’t get comfortable and I got quite scared that I wasn’t going to be able to do this, but couldn’t see how I was going to deliver the baby, because my other option was to travel in the car for an hour in full labour and I didn’t want to do that either. The pain was very different to Charlotte’s labour and hers had been so easy that I think I wasn’t really prepared for something so different. I was floundering to find a good head space to work in and during this time Daniel was absolutely incredibly. He was calm and supportive and gentle and didn’t ever doubt that we were going to be fine. He just spoke to me gently through each contraction reminding me to breathe and relax, keeping me focused. Looking back I realize that this was when I hit transition but at the time all I can remember was thinking that I was going to fail spectacularly at having a home birth. I began to hyperventilate and it was at that point that I knew I had to get things back under control or we were going to be in trouble.
Things slowed right down and I couldn’t even comprehend getting out of the pool and moving around, so we tried nipple stimulation. While we floated around I tried to forget why we were there and just enjoy relaxing with Daniel and after about half an hour the contractions were back and getting stronger again.
At this point I got really restless. I didn’t know what I wanted and I was frustrated and cross with myself. Daniel got out of the pool and I took the time on my own to give myself a stern talking to. I realized that things weren’t happening because I had given in to the fear and I was fighting the pain. I was too “present” and needed to go and find a space where I could just work with my body instead of against it. When Daniel got back I asked him to stay out of the water and just hold my hand, I needed things to be quiet and I went into my own space for about half an hour, just working through each contraction, visualizing baby’s head moving down and working with the pain of each contraction rather than fighting it. Once I got into a good rhythm, I could feel baby moving down and at 5:35pm my waters broke. It was such a relief and I literally felt baby slide down with a bang!! Contractions got closer together and stronger but I was working with them now and dealing well with the pain through guttural moaning. Charlotte was with me during this, rubbing my knee and asking me “Mummy you alright?” and when things got a bit louder “Mummy you sure you’re alright?” She wasn’t at all distressed though and wondered off to watch the Wiggles!!
An overwhelming urge to push hit me at 6pm, so Daniel got back into the pool and we began to work together to get the baby out. The pain at this point was incredible. The pressure of the baby moving through the birth canal was unbelievable and I was sure that I was literally going to break in half. Once he started to crown I gave up all control and just let my body do what it needed to which was push like crazy. Julie asked me to try and pant through the next contraction but I just couldn’t, so she used counter pressure to stop me pushing the baby out too quickly and tearing myself to pieces. After about 15 minutes I felt his head come out. It was a really bizarre feeling to have this head hanging between my legs!! Julie told me I needed to stand up and squat to get his shoulders out, so I got up and held on to Daniel. Two more contractions and I felt him come out, Daniel and I both reached down to grab him and for a second neither of us could find him!! But then there he was my perfect baby boy. And just like that the pain was over and Xavier John took his first breath.
I put Xavier on my chest and sat back with him. Charlotte had stripped off and jumped into the pool with us excited to meet the baby. The four of us sat there together for a few minutes and just soaked up being a family, while Xavier had his first feed. He fed for over an hour. During this time I was aware of the contractions happening to get my placenta out. After about an hour I could feel the urge to push again and birthed the placenta. Xavier’s cord was really, really long and his placenta was nice and healthy and all in one piece.
Julie passed Xavier from me to Daniel for some Daddy time while I went and showered, dressed and found some food. Xavier passed his newborn exam with flying colours and Julie packed up her gear and headed off. Finally we climbed into our own bed and settled in for the night, exhausted but very happy.
Looking back on it now I know that the success of my birth was largely due to the amazing support people I had around me. Julie was incredible, doing exactly what she needed to do to get Xavier here safely but at the same time she never appeared to be “working”. She left us to it for a large part of the time, just helping out when needed. Daniel was incredible. He was calm and in control the whole time, even when I wasn’t and it was this sense of peace that I drew my strength from when I couldn’t find it inside of me. To have Mum and Charlotte there was very special, it normalized everything that was happening, not just for Charlotte but for me as well. We were really aware that we didn’t want to go away and come back with a baby, that we made things as seamless as possible for Charlotte and being able to have her with us while I gave birth was just perfect.
It was not an easy birth for me, especially after Charlotte’s, and it was incredibly painful but I am so very proud of myself that I managed to find a way to work through the hard parts and find a way to deal with the pain to be able to bring Xavier into the world in a calm peaceful environment, just the way we had planned. At the time I thought that I wouldn’t have the next baby at home, that I had done that and felt no desire to do it again. But as the pain of the birth recedes and I am left with the experience itself I know that any future children we have will be born at home. It was so peaceful and such a bonding experience for us all.