Renee’s Birth Story
I was more than ready. I was 40 weeks plus 6 days. I had tried all the natural remedies ‘they’ suggest to bring on labour; rubbing clary sage oil on specific pressure points, warm baths, spicy food, sex, nipple stimulation, writing to my baby, raspberry leaf tea, walking uphill particularly ‘gutter’ walking and I drew the line before ingesting castor oil. I decided my last attempt to bring on labour would be a ‘special pregnancy’ reflexology massage that promised to bring on labour within 42 hours. This was it. It was going to work. I was over the extra twenty kilos I was carrying, weighing me down and leaving me with a sore back and a duck waddle walk that left me miles behind my family on any given outing to the shopping centre. I couldn’t do anything I loved at this point. I was struggling with any kind of exercise, yoga, hikes and walks on the beach felt like a distant memory. I needed baby to join me on the outside, sharing my body was becoming too much and I desperately wanted a guilt-free beer. Something, I still wouldn’t get until I locked down the breastfeeding thing.
I had the massage. Did I say massage? It was more like a torture technique, and I sat wondering whether the Chinese lady inflicting the pain was some sadomasochist who enjoyed hurting pregnant women or was she an angel doing god’s work helping to bring babies into the world when their mums were ready. It didn’t matter. It hurt so much it prompted me to bring to practice the breathing strategies I had learned in my hypnobirthing course. Breathe into the belly, filling it up like a balloon and breathe out. The massage lady told me,
“It needs to hurt to send a strong message to baby that mum is ready!”
“No worries.” I replied through gritted teeth, winced eyes, clenched fists, and curled toes.
All day, I had been bursting with energy. I had been quite tired the past few days. I ticked off my ‘to do list’ cleaning the house top to bottom beating my mum to it, who had come to stay to help for when the baby arrived. We joked that the house was never more ready for this baby to come. Mitch had organized for the lawns were freshly mowed and edges tidied, baby’s room was set up and the family were all on board with our birth plans. The winter days had resulted in the ripening of a tree full of oranges in our backyard and at night the full moon was in bloom lighting up the dark sky. Everything was more than perfect for baby’s arrival. After feeling that I had done my best to overcome my fears of childbirth, I felt relaxed, happy, and excited to meet her. I couldn’t have prepared myself better for what was about to unfold.
At 1.45am, I woke with what I could only relate to as menstrual cramps. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pee or poo. I emptied my bowels and went back to bed. The cramping continued. And I quickly understood these were contractions by the continuous waves they came in. I emptied my bowels again and I knew it was time to wake Mitch.
“I think we’re on, babe.”
“Are you sure, do you want to try and sleep some more.” He replied, reluctant to face the unknown.
“I’ve tried. It’s too intense.” But I was filled with excitement like a child on Christmas morning. I knew she was coming, no false alarms. I began to set up my space in the living room by playing a birthing playlist of songs that filled my mind with happy memories as I sat on my grey pregnancy ball in the dim lights.
“Do I shower? What should I wear?” Mitch paced down the hallway, heading into the bathroom.
I could hear him shaving. Mum and I laughed that he was more concerned with looking his best to meet our baby than helping me to manage the surges. Mitch emerged looking like he was ready to hit the town. We all laughed together.
Quickly the surges came on strong, only a couple minutes relief in between. Nausea kicked in leaving me buckled next to the toilet bowl, enjoying the cold sensation of the tiles on the floor against my skin. It felt like food poisoning. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to open my bowels or vomit so I did both. I knew my body was emptying everything it didn’t need to birth my baby. I tried to lay down on the lounge but the back pain was increasing in intensity and my only relief came from sitting up straight on the lounge.
I ran a bath and asked Mitch to add the pink flower petals I had prepared during the day to create some content images for my book. I felt like an Egyptian queen preparing for birth, bathing in fragrant relaxation oils and herbs which brought some relief. The dreamy vision of this beautiful bath scene quickly changed to an inward, quiet state and I asked for my relaxation playlist.
As I closed my eyes and began to ride the surges with my breathe, filling up my belly and breathing out. In for 1, 2, 3, 4 and out for 1, 2, 3, 4 until it had passed. I repeated the affirmations in my head that I had learned in the hypnobirthing course, “Every surge brings me closer to meeting my baby. I am strong. I trust my body knows what to do.” Mum and Mitch helped me as much as they could with a hot wheat pack on my back and cold compresses on my head. Two hours had passed vomiting and riding surges, I felt like I was ready to push —a cue that I was ready for hospital.
“Let us know when you’re ready for hospital.” Mum offered slightly concerned.
“I’m ready now. Let’s go.”
Mitch prepared the car. I managed to sit in the back. Mum and Mitch in the front. I had four surges on the six-minute drive to the hospital. I asked to be taken straight to emergency. There wasn’t a chance in hell I could walk to the birthing suites on level five. Hunched over due to the intensity of the back pain, ER took one look at me riding a surge in the waiting room and found me a bed straight away. The midwife asked to take my pyjama pants off to see if we had time to get to the birthing suites before the baby arrived. I agreed. Suddenly, I experienced the rupture of membranes—a large bleed. She said, we had time, but this baby was definitely coming today.
They wheeled me up on the hospital bed to the birthing suites as I continued to ride the surges, reminding myself to stay relaxed and surrender to whatever was about to unfold. I arrived, my eyes still squeezed shut, determined not to allow the clinical hospital setting to hinder my progress and dilation. As we arrived, I could hear the bath running and it sounded like a gushing waterfall. I imagined I was swimming under a waterfall with Mitch. Smiling, relaxed and in love.
“You’re in birthing sweet number one babe, only the best for you and baby!” Mitch said lovingly.
The midwife introduced herself as Daniella who reassured me, she had given my birth plan a good look and loved it and was confident that she could help me have the most natural water birth she could. I was grateful. I felt instant relief as I was helped into the large warm bath. The room was dimly lit with a few electric candles and an oil diffuser set up. Mum continued to play my relaxation playlist. The surges didn’t stop. It wasn’t long after, Amy, my Doula arrived who straight away asked if I was ok and where I was feeling the sensations, she asked for my permission to massage my lower back in between surges. It was a huge relief. To keep me hydrated, she offered me ice to chew on, the last thing I could think about, but I accepted after Amy gently reminded me I needed it for strength.
I laboured in the water until the midwife felt we might need to change positions to help move things along. I tried to sit under the shower on a chair but the back pain was too intense so I returned to the bath, the only relief I could find now was floating on my back in between surges with Mitch holding my head for support.
After 3 hours, and Mitch never leaving my side, I was ready to push. I bore down for an hour. I had a few attempts at pushing out her head but the sheer fear of the reality of the situation I needed to push my babies head out of my vagina engulfed me. I wanted to give up. I wanted someone else to pull her from my body. I wanted drugs. I wanted to go to sleep. I doubted myself that I had what it took. With the support of my Doula, Amy and my midwife they reminded me of the many women over centuries who had done this before and I was just as strong as them, my baby was happy, and my body was capable of doing this. I just had to trust, surrender and harness the power of the surge to hold onto it long enough to push her entire head out. I remembered my mother blessing ceremony and the beautiful, brave, brilliant women I chose as my close friends and family and their supportive words. They were with me.
Changing from kneeling over the bath, squatting in the bath until moving into my final position, on both knees, holding on to the side of the bath and leaning back, I lifted one knee up, to kneel in. The same position Mitch proposed marriage under a waterfall eighteen months prior with a ring in his hand. In return, in the same position, I offered a baby.
I breathed in deeply, collecting my thoughts, finding some peace inside my mind and as the surge rose in intensity, I let out a roar, lifting myself high into the air, back arched back as if making love in ecstasy, holding onto the power of the surge long enough to stretch myself wide enough apart to push out her head, filling my mind with the image of a lotus flower blooming. I was in shock as I reached down, I didn’t hesitate afraid to have her under water for long and finally with the next surge, I let out another powerful roar and came her entire body into my hands as I lifted her out of the water and onto my wet rolling stones t-shirt that covered my chest. The only thing I could manage to say was,
“Oh my god.” Repetitively.
Because that really was the only explanation for the experience. I was in complete awe. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. She was perfect. I was filled with adrenaline. WTF had we just managed to do! My baby was safely in my arms and ready to breastfeed.
I had joined all the women I admired so much in that moment. I had accomplished the biggest, scariest goal of my life, I had birthed my own baby naturally with no medical intervention with the support of my doula, midwife, Mitch and my mum. WE did it. My body and mind did the work but there were so many people that helped me get there and for that I was and will forever be so grateful.
I walked out of the hospital 6 hours later, ready to go home and feeling like a fucking cheetah! Fear couldn’t keep me contained, I was a wild force of nature and my birth experience was just another example of my power. The same power all women possess but are taught to fear. No one could take away that power. I would always have my birth story. The story of my death as a woman and my rebirth as a mother. And the birth of my daughter, Sofia Lily Hall.
And we will always have each other.
Sending you lots of love and healing wherever this finds you!