Ella Kathleen

We decided on a home birth initially for practical reasons: newly back in the country from the UK, I was not covered by medical aid and the thought of being unwittingly forced into having a Caesarean was daunting. The more I explored the options, however the more I became convinced that a natural birth – and a home birth – was the right choice for us.  My mother had two difficult births and I grew up being told that a Caesar was the only sensible choice.  Making the decision to have a home birth wasn’t easy – particularly as we were living in my parents house at the time!

Fortunately my husband Steve was wonderfully supportive and fully endorsed the idea.  The more we read – particularly Ina May Gaskin and Michel Odent – the more we became excited at the idea of our child being born in the family home, the fifth generation to live in the house.  We were fortunate early on to meet Angela and Keryn, our wonderful midwife and doula respectively, who we worked with closely throughout the pregnancy.  We attended a hypnobirthing course run by Kim Young and went to Angela’s antenatal classes.  The preparation was key – we were working together as a team and we felt confident as the final weeks of pregnancy approached.  I insisted everything be ready by 37 weeks so early had our daughter ‘dropped’ but nothing much was happening at 40 weeks, not even after a sweep.

Finally on Tuesday the 5th of April at 10am, my waters broke – dramatically, all over the bathroom, just as you see in the movies.  Steve and I high fived each other. Today was the day! Unfortunately nothing much more happened, as no signs of labour were evident.  Angela and Keryn visited me at 5pm that afternoon and gently prepared me for the fact that – if labour did not start promptly – I would have to go to hospital the next morning at 6am due to the risk of infection.  We were told to walk ‘properly – no strolling’ around the village to try to get labour moving and Keryn was invaluable in helping recommend homeopathic remedies.  I went to bed at 10pm that night, setting my alarm for 5am.  Steve was confident the home birth would happen but I was quietly a teeny tiny bit relieved that maybe I wouldn’t have to be so brave after all.

At 10.30pm just as I drifted off, listening to the Rainbow Relaxation, I felt something.  A surge as it is described in Hypnobirthing was, I realised, an accurate word.  It felt like I was floating in the sea and a current had swept through me.  This was it!  Excitedly we lay in bed hoping it was our time.  By midnight I couldn’t lie down anymore and so got up to pace around the living room, Steve was lighting candles and preparing his notebook to time contractions.  Around this time I started to feel quite sick – as each contraction peaked, I found I was throwing up – my tummy was upset too but I knew this can be the body’s way of clearing out and so I wasn’t too worried.  It became harder to concentrate on my relaxation techniques and around 2.30am I begged Steve to ring Angela.  He was resolute: labour was not yet established and he was not going to ring before it was 4 min apart lasting a minute!  What I hadn’t realised was that at this stage, when labour is still fairly irregular, contractions can be 2 min apart but lasting only 15 seconds.  I am grateful to Steve for being so firm and calm.  At 3am we rang Angela.  Both Angela and Keryn appeared like guardian angels at our door at about 4am – I remember an overwhelming feeling of excitement in the room – these women were genuinely delighted I was in labour. After a very brief examination, Angela gave me an injection to stop the vomiting.  She instructed me to lie on the couch and ‘get in the zone’ – and sent Steve off to the bedroom for a lie down! Weirdly, I didn’t want him mopping my brow – I just needed to concentrate.  This period was a strange half lucid time where I fell deeply asleep to the hypnobirthing track between each contraction.  It seems hard to believe but I was fast sleep for 3 minutes, then awake for a minute.  And so on, until 7.30am.  I remember opening my eyes to see Angela reassuring me, I remember Keryn popping down the road to see her children off to school. It was all so very normal, quiet and calm.  No drama, no panic.

At 7.30am I sat up and said ‘something is different, I have to push!’  Despite all my best intentions to breathe the baby down, I felt strongly that I had to push.  I got into the birth pool at last – Steve was awake again and had got the temperature just right.  What we didn’t realise at the time (as Steve didn’t tell me) was that he had broken his collar bone two days before in a mountain biking accident. I can honestly say he must have been in more pain than me, trying to top up the pool and squeeze my hand and be brave!  I remember smiling through parts of this – it was in no way how I thought it would be. I remember thinking this is all entirely manageable – yes at times it was painful but not unbearable.  I felt excited and pleased to be able to test my body in this way – to have this incredible experience.

I couldn’t get in the positions I thought I would want because Ella’s head was pushing on my pelvis so my legs felt quite numb – I ended up in the pool sitting on the step – and I was eternally grateful to the breathing practice I had done because as the final stage approached, I could slow it down, easing Ella’s head out with no tearing.  One of the main issues with my mother’s birthing experience had been that both my brother and I had got our shoulders stuck.  We knew this was a slight risk.  As Ella’s head came out, the contractions stopped.  I felt no ability to push anymore.  I remember saying ‘just get the baby out please!’ and with that Angela leapt forward, practically into the bath with me, forcing my knees up on to my chest.  It dislodged Ella’s shoulders with no harm done and next thing there she was – our daughter.  I was so pleased Angela was there because I knew if something like that happened, she would have the training and experience to deal with it.

Ella Kathleen was born on Wednesday 06 April at 08.28am.  She weighed in at 3.6kg

She lay on my chest while the cord stopped pulsing, this tiny little thing with her eyes wide open and didn’t make a sound.  The experience could not have been more different from the movie images of screaming and drama.  I felt exhilarated – I had done it. We had done it.  Steve was sent off to find my parents who I was sure were panicking upstairs by this stage.  Turned out they hadn’t heard a thing – they were absolutely shocked to find me in the pool with a baby on my chest.   After Steve cut the cord (the hardest thing he said with a broken collar bone!) he held Ella skin to skin. I stayed in the pool until the placenta was delivered naturally (Angela is a dab hand at catching it with an ice cream container!) and then got out the bath for a shower and to get changed.  An hour later we were all upstairs, having breakfast and drinking champagne with my parents. That evening we all had dinner together while Ella napped on the couch.  What a relief not to be in a hospital with artificial visiting hours.  What a relief to sleep in our own bed, Ella safely tucked between us in a ‘snuggle nest’.   It could not have been more natural, normal and relaxed.  I felt proud of what we had achieved – working together, Ella, myself and Steve.

Grandparents in shock as they meet Ella for the first time – not having heard a thing!

Ella at 5 min

Angela The Midwife