After homebirthing Melody in Melbourne in 2012, followed by Arianny in Brisbane in 2015, we now found our growing family living in Canberra, just in time for the birth of our third baby. Having moved to the ACT in December 2017, only 3 months before our baby’s “due” date, it was quite an eventful time to simultaneously be pregnant.
I’d also had morning sickness up until 18 weeks - a new experience for me, with the previous two pregnancies being relatively nausea-free - not made any easier by the fact that John happened to be on a work trip in Switzerland when the nausea first hit at 7 weeks. My poor girls were fed basically nothing but roast chicken with bland vegetables for the next two weeks; it was the only food that I could bring myself to cook and eat! They (and I!) were more than a bit excited when their Daddy got home and could provide them with a variety of different foods once again.
Before moving down to Canberra, I was regularly checking in with my integrative GP in Brisbane as my healthcare provider for the first two trimesters of the pregnancy, as well as having phone appointments with our midwife Marie Heath, who would later be attending our homebirth in Canberra.
With a personal history of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, gut health issues, and gut-related nutrient deficiencies, my GP kept a close eye on my blood work. As with the previous two pregnancies, John and I had weighed up the risks and benefits and had decided against having any routine ultrasounds unless a significant reason presented itself, so instead my GP checked on the baby’s heartbeat with a doppler and took note of my fundal measurements to ensure that everything was on track.
At around 26 weeks of the pregnancy, my fundal height was measuring 5 weeks ahead of schedule. Considering this alongside the prolonged morning sickness that I had experienced, my GP wondered out loud if I could perhaps be carrying twins. As this could significantly impact our birth plan if it were the case, John and I decided at this point that our first ever ultrasound was indeed warranted.
The next available appointment for a scan was three days away, so we spent those three days in a slight panic, thinking about the logistics of having twins, birthing options, and the adjustments that we’d possibly have to make as a family. In the end it turned out that we didn’t need to think through any of these things anyway, as only one little baby showed up on the sonographer’s screen - and very clearly a baby boy! He was also no larger than average for 26 weeks and no issues were found at all during the scan, leaving us to conclude that my belly must have been measuring larger simply due to this being my third pregnancy. Thankfully all was well; our baby’s development was on track and we were all very excited that we were having a boy!
By the time 2018 rolled around, this pregnancy in particular felt like it was dragging on forever and ever, and suffice to say, by the last month of the pregnancy I was feeling well and truly ready to not be pregnant anymore. So when I first started feeling contractions at 39 weeks, I was more than a little bit excited, thinking that our baby was going to arrive slightly early and that we’d finally get to meet him.
I’d been having mild, occasional contractions throughout the day, which then turned into more consistent contractions by nightfall, but at around 9.30pm I decided to try and get some sleep. I awoke the next morning with the bittersweet realisation that I’d had a really good sleep ( - a somewhat rare occurrence at this stage of pregnancy), but also that the contractions had completely stopped.
And then the mild contractions started again, building up gradually throughout the next day, and getting strong enough again by the evening that we even considered filling up the birth pool. But I decided once again to go to bed and rest and to wait and see what happened. And yet again, I woke up the next morning having had a restful sleep, with the contractions having stopped completely. I was experiencing prodromal labour, just as I had before Melody’s birth over five years ago.
After another couple of days of this same pattern, the contractions calmed down entirely, and our baby’s official “due” date, the 5th of March, came and went. I was left with the helpless, albeit irrational feeling that this baby was simply never going to come and that I was clearly going to be pregnant for the rest of my life!
Knowing full well that it is completely normal for a baby to arrive as late as 42 weeks, I tried my very best to be patient. But patience is not exactly a strength of mine. Despite my attempts at encouraging labour naturally ( - eating spicy food, walking for up to an hour daily, using acupressure points, doing hip circles on the birthing ball, rubbing a massage oil with lavender and clary sage on my belly, and an osteo appointment to make sure my pelvis was aligned), this baby was clearly determined to teach his mummy that good things really do come to those who wait. In the end, it wasn’t until I was 41 weeks and 1 day pregnant, on the 13th of March, that Freddy decided he was finally ready to come earthside.
My parents had organised to visit Canberra for the weekend on the 10th of March, staying in a hotel just down the road, with us all originally figuring that either the baby may have arrived by then ( - he hadn’t), or alternately that they could simply catch up with us all, and potentially help out if the baby decided to arrive while they were here.
We all had a great weekend together, taking the girls for walks to the local playground, watching some of the AFL preseason, and going out for dinner for some amazing Thai food. My mum was particularly empathetic towards my constant half-joking-half-serious whinging and moaning - having had three kids herself, she sympathised with how uncomfortable this stage of pregnancy could be. Each night, Mum and Dad would return to their hotel, telling us to give them a call any time during the night if I went into labour and wanted them to come back.
On the morning that my parents were scheduled to head back home to Melbourne, I woke up to find that I had a hind water leak. Being an indicator that labour was probably imminent, my folks decided to book in for one extra night at their hotel, just in case this was actually the real deal! And as it turned out, it was finally the night that I would end up in active labour.
The house was calm and quiet by the evening. Mum and Dad had returned to their hotel once again, and our girls had already been asleep for a few hours when John and I went to bed at 10pm. John fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, but I couldn’t sleep myself - I was having mild contractions again, and they were quite consistent. I lay in bed, resting as much as I could for the next two or so hours, before suddenly feeling a “pop” and realising that my waters had actually broken!
When I gave birth to my girls, my waters didn’t break either time until hours and hours into labour, just before I started pushing in fact - but this time, they’d broken just as active labour was starting. I felt a sense of relief, due to knowing that I was actually, finally in labour and was soon going to meet our baby boy, as well as knowing that I probably wasn’t going to have to experience the extreme pressure during contractions that I had felt when my waters stayed intact for the majority of Melody’s and Arianny’s births.
I woke John up, and he gave our midwife Marie a call to let her know that I was in labour, followed by a call to my parents to invite them to come back over. It was just after midnight, and my contractions were still relatively mild and short, but had now become very consistent; between 2 - 3 minutes apart. I lit some beeswax candles in our front room, the same room in which the birth pool had been patiently waiting, inflated and ready to go for over a week, with it now finally being filled up with water via a hose that John had attached to our ensuite shower.
Mum and Dad arrived at around 12.30am, coffees in hand. We all chatted quietly in the lounge room for a little while with some classical music playing in the background, until my contractions started to get slightly more intense. I took myself back into the front room to kneel and lean against the birth ball, rocking side to side until each contraction passed. Mum came and sat near me to keep me company, while John and Dad continued to chat quietly in the lounge room, creating an ambient humming background noise that I found quite calming. In between contractions, Mum and I chatted too, and she shared some memories of her own experiences of giving birth.
Marie arrived around 2.30am. I was still kneeling against the birth ball when I saw John let Marie in the front door; helping her to bring in a suitcase of medical supplies and a tank of gas ( - with all midwife-assisted homebirths, medical equipment is always brought just in case, for example, there is a need to resuscitate the baby or inject the mother with syntocinon to slow any haemorrhaging following the birth). Our second midwife Alana arrived soon after.
My labouring continued in much the same way over the next two hours, with the contractions very gradually increasing in intensity each time. Marie checked on the baby and I every so often to make sure that we were doing okay, occasionally checking the baby's heartbeat with the doppler, but she mostly stayed in the lounge room taking medical notes from there, as by this stage I still had Mum and now John keeping me company. As a midwife, Marie allowed me the perfect combination of both space and security; never intruding on my labouring nor distracting me from my concentration on the job at hand, but also providing me with a reassuring sense of safety by closely but quietly monitoring the labour from afar.
Everyone had become significantly more tired by around 4.30am, as was to be expected. My dad was having a sleep in the guest room, and Mum had set up a makeshift bed on the floor so that she could camp out near me. John had been massaging my lower back with each contraction for the last couple of hours, which had helped immensely. He now asked if I felt ready to get into the birth pool.
I was initially hesitant to get in so soon, as my labour with Melody had slowed down once I’d relaxed into the warm water. Because of this, for Arianny’s birth I had intentionally waited until I was close to pushing before I got into the pool. But because my waters had already broken this time and I wasn’t feeling the intense pressure that I remembered from the other births, I was finding it much harder to gauge how far off I was from feeling the urge to push. I decided to get into the pool anyway, figuring that I could get out again if it did seem to slow down the frequency of the contractions.
It was so comforting and relaxing to get into the pool, with the buoyancy of the warm water taking away some of the heaviness of my big belly. Thankfully the contractions simply continued as they already were; increasing in intensity ever so gradually each time. In a very similar fashion to the previous two births, I leaned on all fours against the side of the birth pool while John used a jug to pour warm water onto my lower back during each contraction.
Everyone else was napping by this point, including the midwives, and the house was very still, dark, and quiet - besides my low humming with each wave of pressure that came and went. John and I both started to drift off ourselves until the next contraction arrived, at which point I’d grab his hand and squeeze it as hard as I could while he simultaneously used his other hand to continue with pouring more water on my back.
Roughly another hour or so passed, and I was starting to feel a lot more pressure, and the contractions were now quite long and intense. I was exhausted and becoming pretty uncomfortable, but kept reminding myself that every contraction brought me closer to finally meeting our baby.
By around 6.20am, I could feel it was time to push. The length and loudness of the sounds I was now making must’ve made this pretty clear to the midwives and my parents too, for they had all appeared around the birth pool.
Still kneeling on all fours against the edge of the pool, I was very much in my own world; almost in a state of trance at this point, although I do remember mentally reminding myself to simply breathe and to allow my body to do the majority of the pushing itself. After pushing a bit too hard during Melody’s birth, which had resulted in a second degree tear, I had gone on to birth Arianny without any tearing at all, and knew that I could do the same again if I remained as relaxed as possible - not exactly an easy feat under the circumstances! But I just kept on focusing on my breathing as I felt the baby’s head crown, and by the end of what felt like the longest contraction ever, the baby’s head was out!
The rest of the baby’s body remaining inside me was not a comfortable feeling at all, and I must have still been attempting to push, as Marie reminded me to wait for the next contraction. John was in the birth pool behind me, ready to catch our baby boy. For the next couple of minutes of pretty extreme discomfort, all I could do was wait. I was mentally telling myself that this was it, I was almost done, our baby was almost, actually, finally here!
And then finally, the last contraction came - but I could feel some resistance from the baby, despite my body’s urge to really push. I heard Marie calmly mention that his shoulders were a little stuck, then felt her presence near me as she gently used her hands to help the baby twist and rotate into the correct position while I was still mid-contraction. All of a sudden I found myself reaching down into the water in front of me and scooping our baby up into my arms - our perfect little boy, all purpley and squishy and covered in vernix, with dark brown hair and a little face not dissimilar to his sisters’ as newborns. Marie gently used a towel to rub his tiny chest while he was still in my arms, and after a few seconds he took in a deep breath then let out a healthy cry.
John went to wake up the girls, and told me later on that Melody had leapt out of bed in excitement when he’d told her that Freddy was finally here. Arianny was not as keen to wake up - she toddled into the front room still half asleep, holding John’s hand and looking around in a daze when she noticed the crowd of people gathered in the front room, just as the sun was rising. When Arianny eventually noticed me still sitting in the birth pool with her new baby brother snuggled against my chest, everything seemed to click into place for her - all of the months of talking about a baby being in Mummy’s tummy, and now he was finally here! And upon seeing Freddy’s tiny feet, Arianny had an epiphany, and a very exciting one at that for a 2.5 year old who was no longer the ‘baby’ of the family - “I got big feet Mummy!”
After a short time, I was carefully helped out of the pool by John and Marie; Freddy still in my arms with his cord still attached to the placenta that I was yet to birth. I sat down on some towels beside the pool and leant against John to support my back, while we waited for my body to deliver the placenta itself (a physiological third stage of labour). After Freddy’s umbilical cord had stopped pulsating entirely, allowing him to receive all of the placental blood full of nutrients and stem cells intended just for him, John cut the cord. Freddy then had his first breastfeed of colostrum.
By now the morning sunlight was starting to shine through our windows. Mum and Alana helped me to the shower while John held Freddy skin-to-skin and called his parents to tell them the news. Once I returned from my shower, Marie weighed and measured Freddy. Meanwhile, everyone else had helped get the girls dressed and fed, and my mum and dad were getting sorted to walk Melody to school after each having a quick hold of their very first grandson. Freddy and I relaxed on the couch while he breastfed, both of us naturally high on oxytocin, while John cooked Marie and I some bacon and eggs for breakfast. I could hear the distant bird songs of rosellas, magpies and currawongs against the backdrop of screeching cockatoos.
A new day had dawned, and just like that, our family was complete.
Formerly known as Paleo Pregnancy & Parenting,
Mikaela's personal blog explores topics relating to ancestral-based nutrition, pregnancy, undisturbed birth, and natural parenting.