Back in May when I was 17 weeks pregnant, I had a vivid dream that our baby was going to be born on the 22nd of October at exactly 40 weeks. Even further back in 2012, shortly after our first daughter was born, my husband John had a dream that our next child would be another little girl nicknamed Alfie. And here we are three years later with our grown-up miss 3-year-old Melody Catherine (whose home birth story can be found here) and our new little Arianny Louisa Felstead, born at home on Thursday the 22nd of October 2015, bearing the initials A.L.F., inspired by her nickname in her daddy's dream.
It was late in the afternoon on Tuesday the 20th of October when I noticed a "bloody show", and I knew at that moment that our baby was going to be coming soon. Back in 2012 it took a number of days for my labour with Melody to really establish itself, and it turned out that many aspects of Melody's birth were similar throughout Arianny's, but I had an inkling that things would progress a little faster this time around.
I let my two midwives Deb and Emma know about the "show". Emma had a day shift at the hospital the next day, but we both felt confident from my dream that I wouldn't go into active labour until the following evening, and that our baby would be born in the early hours of the morning on the 22nd. I'm very thankful that we were right, as Emma, who is also a close friend, was such an important part of my birth team (as were Deb, John, and Melody), and also beautifully photographed the labour and birth for us.
Upon waking on Wednesday the 21st, I was grateful to be feeling quite well-rested, knowing that the birth was impending. I was experiencing very mild cramp-like contractions every 10 minutes or so. It was kindy day for Melody, so we got her sorted and John dropped her off on his way to work. When giving her a kiss goodbye, I told her that the baby might be coming tonight, and her face lit up with excitement. Despite the fact that we opted out of all ultrasound scans and therefore didn't find out the gender of the baby, Melody told us throughout the entire pregnancy that the baby was definitely a girl. When we asked her how she knew this, she'd always respond; "she just is". She had already come up with two extra nicknames for our Alfie; "Alfie Apple" and "Arinanny" (pronounced "nahnee", just like Melody's nickname for bananas. As you can probably tell, she likes fruit and also likes to nickname things).
John kept his phone close by at work so that I could let him know when my contractions started to progress. I spent the morning cleaning up the house and setting up the birth pool in between my contractions, which were gradually becoming stronger as the day went on. By around lunch time I called John to see if he was able to come home to keep me company and help me through them. He arrived home around half an hour later.
The afternoon was a relaxed one. The two of us ate lunch together, and then I continued to neaten up the house and get my last moments of "nesting" in, while John played NBA on the PlayStation, apparently for the sake of tradition (as he had during Melody's labour)!
John picked Melody up from kindy just before dinner. By this stage my contractions were at a point where I couldn't comfortably talk during them, which was a little confusing for Melody at first, who wanted to tell me all about her day as we ate. Eventually she realised that I wasn't able to talk with her. She instead started to gently rub my arm with each contraction in an effort to comfort me, which was very sweet. Being the chatterbox that she is, she'd then resume the conversation once it was clear that I was "back" again. Following dinner, she kept herself busy with colouring in and sticker books.
I was keeping both Emma and Deb updated via text message as the evening went on. Both were happy to come over once I felt I needed them here, which I started to feel was the case sometime around 9pm. Emma decided she'd come over to help me out and to take some photos of Melody before she went to bed, which also allowed Deb to get a few hours sleep before heading over to our place later on.
I was spending most of my time in our spare bedroom. It felt like the right place to be, as it is where I usually go to meditate and has become a bit of a "sacred space" where I keep my collection of crystals, candles, essential oils, photos of family and happy memories, positive affirmations, and images representing future goals and ambitions. I found comfort either leaning up against the table or on all fours leaning over the fitball.
Emma sat on the spare bed and we chatted in between my contractions. After taking Melody to bed, John came to join us. He rubbed my lower back as each wave of pressure came and left, which made them seem a lot easier to get through. After a little while, Emma checked the positioning of the baby. She suggested that I should try walking sideways up and down the stairs to get things happening a bit more and to optimise the baby's positioning. By the time I got to around the third-last stair each time, a contraction would come on and John would come down the stairs to rub my back again.
By this stage it was getting quite late into the night. After repeating the up-and-down the stairs for a while, we all headed back into the spare bedroom, where John continued to rub my back and then doze off until I woke him once again for another back rub ( - much in the same way that I had repeatedly woken him to pour water on my back during Melody's birth)! Emma was also catching up on some sleep, and in between my contractions I'd lean against the fitball on all fours and rest.
It must have been sometime around midnight when Deb came over, and after she arrived my contractions began to increase in both intensity and frequency. I remained on the fitball and Deb checked the baby's heartbeat. Everything was going fine, but I was really starting to feel pressure build up inside of me. My waters still hadn't broken, and it gotten to a point where I was feeling a bulging sensation inside. Deb asked if I minded my waters potentially breaking in the spare room where I was, or if I wanted to get into the birth pool. At first I wanted to stay where I was, but then I remembered just how quickly Melody was born following my waters breaking, and decided that it would be best for me to get into the pool in case the same thing happened this time.
John helped me into the birth pool and without thinking I knelt on all fours, leaning over the edge - just as I had done when birthing Melody as well. Emma knelt in front of me and calmly reminded me that I didn't have to rush through this part. (With Melody I was so excited for the long labour to be finally drawing to a close that I was actually pushing with too much force, to the point where my midwife Helen (politely) told me I actually needed to push less! And I had told Emma earlier on that I felt that that was the main reason why I ended up with a second degree tear from Melody's birth, which I wanted to avoid this time around).
After only one or two contractions in the pool, I had my strongest contraction yet and felt the need to quickly reposition myself and jiggle my hips. I felt my waters finally break and the bulging sensation instantly disappeared. Within seconds I felt my baby's head slide down very suddenly, and I heard Deb say that they could see the baby's head crowning. She then told me to "breathe my baby down", which was exactly what I needed to hear as a reminder to relax as best as I could and to let my body do what it needed to do.
I focused on breathing in and out, in and out, over and over again, knowing that the discomfort I was feeling was almost over and that I'd soon be holding my baby in my arms. At some point during all of this, John quickly woke Melody up (as he'd promised her he would do once the baby was almost here) and then got into the pool behind me to help catch the baby. It was 3.38am when Arianny was caught by her daddy and lifted out of the water into my arms. Melody excitedly watched it all in her half-asleep state, and still loves to retell the story of how she saw her little sister's head come out of me!
I sat in the birth pool in awe of our new baby girl for around twenty minutes or so. John had hopped out to sit by the side of the pool with Melody, who was so intrigued by Arianny's tiny little hands. The water in the pool was starting to get cool and the placenta still didn't seem ready to be birthed, so we decided it would be best that I get out of the pool and get rugged up in the spare bed for the third stage of labour. Once we were all settled there, John popped a bottle of celebratory champagne for Deb, Emma and himself to drink, and a homemade water kefir for Melody's champagne glass.
The morning sunshine was starting to peek in through the windows and we could hear the birds begin to chirp. I birthed Arianny's placenta, and once it had stopped pulsating completely, John cut the cord. I was very pleased that I had managed to birth without tearing at all. Deb went ahead with weighing and measuring our bub, then handed little Alfie back to me for her first breastfeed. Emma headed home for some much-needed rest, and John took Melody off to bed so that she could have a couple more hours of sleep too, while Deb kindly emptied and packed away the pool and all of the gear from the birth. John came back to hold Arianny while Deb helped me into the shower to freshen up, then once our family of four were all settled and tucked into bed, Deb too headed home to get some rest herself.
I had already been fortunate enough to have had a beautiful experience birthing Melody, and I feel overwhelmed with joy and gratitude to have been able to have such a loving, wonderful birthing experience the second time around with Arianny as well. I cannot express how thankful I am to John, Deb, Emma, Melody, and Arianny herself for allowing the experience to be such a special one that I will continue to treasure and remember with fondness for the rest of my life.
Birth is an experience that demonstrates that life is not merely function and utility,
but form and beauty.
- Christopher Largen
Photography by Emma Jean Photography
Formerly known as Paleo Pregnancy & Parenting,
Mikaela's personal blog explores topics relating to ancestral-based nutrition, pregnancy, undisturbed birth, and natural parenting.