At Home with Ella

We welcomed our little dove into the world on a Wednesday morning at 3am. Although due to arrive on her father’s birthday, Ella was ten days early. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to share her birth story because it’s such an intimate experience, but at the same time transitioning into motherhood is a journey  worth documenting. So here it is….

I went into labor on Monday night. It started with diarrhea, which at the time I thought was from something I ate. Then mild stomach cramps started and continued throughout the night. Tuesday morning I thought maybe I am in labor, but didn’t take it seriously because you hear that mild contractions can last for a few days and in some cases it’s a false alarm.  As the day progressed, so did the intensity and frequency of my contractions.  Craig was sure we would have a baby very soon and  I was starting to believe it too.

I had no birth plan and had done very little research. Not because I had neglected to do my homework, but because the amount of advice and information is rather overwhelming. I chose to put my trust in the hands of my midwife and the Birthing Centre, which is conveniently next to the King Edwards Woman’s Hospital. The decision to give birth outside the hospital was made early into my pregnancy. Soon after finding out I was pregnant, my GP referred me to the Birthing Centre. I attended an orientation and was assigned a midwife. At the orientation, I found out they did not offer epidural. Rather, this would be as close as you can get to a home birth with the luxury of having the hospital next door in case of any complications. In some ways, the decision to have a low intervention birth was made for me and I was rather relieved that I wouldn’t have to navigate through hospital policies and hallways. I set out to have a natural birth, but had given myself the permission to opt out and use any intervention needed if that’s what was required for a safe delivery of our baby girl. I knew that birthing would be unlike anything else I had experienced and that yes it would be painful, but not having pain relief as an option made things simpler because in my mind the decision was made plus we had wonderful midwifery care.

We stayed home for as long as possible, but by 10pm contractions had intensified and it was time to notify the midwife we were coming in. When I got to the Birthing Centre, I was examined and was nearly four centimeters. This would be my only exam. As much as I tried to keep my pain contained, I was no silent mama bird. Contractions were coming in waves and so did my deafening screams and obtrusive grunts. I am not sure how much time had passed, but I remember asking how I would know when it was time to start pushing. My midwife asked what I was feeling and whether I felt pressure in my bottom. At this time, I started experiencing a strong urge to push with a lot of pressure in my bottom and feeling like I was going to throw up.  Even if there was a birthing plan, at this point, I would care very little whether there were fresh daisies or soft socks on my feet. I tried nitrous gas, but it felt slightly suffocating having to inhale something while trying to breathe and focus on the contractions.  The pain I felt intensified and things got a little foggy after this. I lost a sense of time and was becoming increasingly tired.

The entire time Craig was by my side holding my dead weight as I was doubled over on all fours moving side to side. It was the only thing that provided some relief. I tried placing a heat pad on my back, but no luck. Shower sounded like a great idea, if only, I had the energy to walk a few feet. Looking back, I realise that I was overly consumed by my contractions and did not know how best to handle or relax into each wave of contractions. I felt best when I was leaning over and eventually I rested on a bean bag while on all fours.

Every time the midwife checked Ella’s heart rate I was terrified that I would hear it dropping. Instead, her heart beats were steady as she continued on her journey to meet us Earthside. They assured me that I was doing great, but at one point I felt my body collapsing. I could no longer hold myself up. I was close and at this point we decided to try the spa. Initially, I thought water birth would be wonderful. In that moment though the dull ache in my back and lower abdomen with pressure in my pelvis had me somewhat immobilised.  Contractions continued coming in fast. I ended up staying in the room with my head in a bean bag. Hair matted, drool and all. I was a mess!

I was fully dilated and pushing, when the midwife broke my water. What a sense of relief as warm water ran down my legs. I had been actively pushing for nearly two hours fearing and not knowing whether I had made any progress with energy hitting an all time low. I had never felt this exhausted in my entire life. There was nothing left in me, but I knew I had to get her out and I did not want to be wheeled over to the hospital. During those final bouts of pain, I yelled “tell me what to do” and then it happened! She started to make her appearance and I felt the dreaded burning sensation aka the “ring of fire”.  I knew I had to listen to my midwife, who was increadebly calm the entire time reminding me when to push and when not to push. They could see the head crowning and within minutes she was born. At 3am, I was holding my baby on the other side. I was sobbing, completely consumed by her presence. Love pouring and pain completely dissappearing.

How does one describe such deeply human experience? I am still processing this myself while settling into the role of a new mom. For me, so much of pregnancy and now postpartum period has been instinctual.  Going with the flow, trusting my body and listing to those inner thoughts.  I am forever grateful that I was low risk from the beginning of my pregnancy and this carried till the very end. No complications, no tearing, healthy baby.

We had a very intimate experience at the Birthing Centre because we had the same midwife that looked after us throughout pregnancy and birthing took place in a home-like environment. During labour, I was encouraged to move around and find what was most comfortable for me essentially labouring, delivering and staying in the same room till we were ready to be discharged. I share my baby’s birth story because you might be going through something similar or perhaps you are anticipating the birth of your little one. Perhaps you are considering a birthing centre rather than a hospital. This, of course, was my experience. It’s a result of those inner thoughts, being low risk, wanting a minimal medical intervention, and having a wonderful midwife support.

Our little dove instantly took hold of our hearts. I hadn’t been aware that I could experience that kind of love that quickly. In just a short few weeks, she is already smiling and makes our hearts sing. Her high pitched cries make time stand still and all I can do is hold on tight to our mornings, cuddle and be grateful for this new reality.