One of the things I love best about blogging is how you get to know kindred spirits from all over the place that you otherwise wouldn't have had the occasion to meet. One of the blog buddies that I feel the strongest connection to is Anna Rummey, of Sydney Australia. Anna first contacted me right after the birth of W, and told me that my birth story had inspired her to have a home birth with the baby she was expecting. We've corresponded ever since, and I've become a huge fan of her amazing blog (which, during Anna's pregnancy, featured the most amazing Bump Series I've ever seen!) And now, about six months later, on March 5, little Rosemary Sassy Rummey entered the world just as Anna and her husband Chris had planned; in a beautiful and intense home water birth. I am so honored to be able to share Anna's birth story with you here. I am so proud of Anna and Chris, and I know that their journey is inspiring many more people to explore the possibility of natural/home birth. Thank you, dear Rummey Bears! -- Leigh
This story starts on Monday night; the first day of March, the first day of Autumn. I was 37 weeks and 5 days pregnant and beginning to experience some late pregnancy symptoms that were starting to bug me. They didn’t worry me too much as I had a feeling our baby would be arriving a little early, about a week or two before her due date.
We had an antenatal care appointment with our midwife Robyn in the afternoon, which we enjoyed as always. We both felt very honoured to have her as our midwife and over the course of my pregnancy grown to trust her completely. We left with a consistent Thumbs Up.
That night I slept uncomfortably as I noticed that with each Braxton Hicks I was also experiencing some mild cramping. I’ve had strong, regular Braxton Hicks throughout my whole pregnancy, so they weren’t a shock to me but the fact they were accompanied with a slight pain was news.
I woke the next morning and found myself leaking what seemed like water and continued to leak, very slowly, from that point on. I called to let Robyn know and she told me it was possible that my water bag had been slightly broken around the top, but to go about my day as normal.
The next few days continued like this. With intermittent period like cramps that worsened at night, hence stopping me from sleeping comfortably. I spent Wednesday at my friend’s house making a cloud mobile, and we all laughed that I could be popping out a baby soon!
On Wednesday night I told Chris that I was starting to feel a bit uncomfortable, and that it would be lovely if baby decided to come a bit earlier – I felt another fortnight of this might wear me out. We had written a list of jobs to do the week before that wasn’t finished, but we were ticking off steadily. There were still a few things that I was waiting on, nappies were due to arrive via courier on Wednesday and the oxygen was arriving Thursday morning. I felt confident that bub would wait until we had everything ready before she decided to come and join our little family.
Surely enough those last little bits got delivered and by Thursday my cramps were getting a little more frequent and stronger. I had an osteopath appointment that morning which I kept and I’m sure she worked me extra hard in case it was the last one before birth! That evening we went to a friend’s house and had a lovely chilled out dinner eating baked barramundi and poached peaches for dessert.
Thursday night I hardly got any sleep, as I was woken a few times each hour with strong cramps and spent most of the night at the microwave reheating my wheat-pack to help relieve some of my discomfort. Chris woke early to report a great nights sleep only to be greeted with my tired eyes. We went out for a walk to our favourite park and I felt better immediately. At this point my cramps were making me bend over on the side of the footpath and work through each one, but in between I was fine to walk along and laugh and play with the dogs running through the park. A few lovely locals stopped to see if I was okay and were excited to hear I could be in labour. One lady said “Oh I come here with my dog every day and I’ve never seen anyone labouring here!” Chris and I had a giggle and carried on, it was a beautiful morning and for the first time in a while it felt good to walk around.
On the way home we stopped by our favourite café for a smoothie. As I popped out to the loo I asked Chris to call Robyn and let her know what was happening. She suggested we time some of my cramps and that if I needed some relief I might find a nice bath relaxing. The only problem was that our flat doesn’t have a bath! So we asked our friend who we had been with the previous night if we could use her bathroom for an hour or two, and she was more than happy to help. She’s also pregnant with her first child so was very excited to have a labouring woman in her home!
The bath was a beautiful relief and provided a nice rest in between cramps. I was still calling them cramps at this stage as I wasn’t sure if they were contractions. I wanted to stay chilled and conserve as much energy as I could.
On the way home in the car it stepped up a level and I thought to myself – well this one must be a contraction! I had a friend coming over at 12.30pm for a business meeting which I was intent on keeping, but by this stage I had to call and cancel. Again – his partner is pregnant with their first baby so he was thrilled with the news!
Around 1pm I went to the toilet and saw my bloody show. I called out to Chris who came in to see me sitting there with a huge smile on my face and bloody knickers around my ankles. He let out a raucous laugh and we gave each other a big hug. Labour had officially begun.
We rang Robyn again and she suggested to get the pool ready and to call back in an hour. She was so calm and experienced; it was a blessing that she let us labour by ourselves for as long as we needed, calling her with any updates.
Just like the bath the pool was such a relief. It took away any existing aches in between contractions and I was able to bob around and giggle with my husband until I felt another rush coming, during which I would get onto all fours and moan through. I focused on keeping all my limbs as loose as possible to keep my energy in my uterus, which is where it was needed most. I also focussed on Ina May’s advice to keep my face and jaw really soft, so every time I exhaled I made my mouth soft and round and imagined my cervix mimicking this. Any noises I kept to low moans, so they sounded more like pleasure than pain. I let go of my body and allowed it do what it needed to birth my baby. I surrendered.
The next few hours I spent working through my rushes and chatting in between. I alternated my time between the pool and a small space just next to the pool in front of the bathroom door. I didn’t want to get too comfortable in the pool because the rushes were stronger when I was out of the water, so every now and then I’d climb over the edge onto the living room floor and after a few contractions there, throw myself back into bliss.
At about 5pm the intensity grew stronger and I needed Robyn there. It was as if my body wouldn’t continue without knowing her safe and assuring presence was nearby. Robyn arrived just before 6pm to see me red faced in the water and straight away knew it was too hot. She was right, as when she checked bub’s heart rate – it was too high. I got out of the pool and after a little while it was back down to 150, and all was well.
Chris ducked out for half an hour to get some food and coffee, whilst Robyn stayed with me in the awkward little space between the pool and the wall I had decided to claim. She rubbed my back as the sensations through my belly grew stronger and stronger. By this stage I was so focussed that in between each rush I used all of my efforts to prepare myself for the next one.
Chris returned shortly after and I’m sure he noticed that things had grown more intense. He came over to me straight away and as another rush came we heard and felt a huge POP! My waters had broken, held off just in time so he could be there.
The next thing I remember was Robyn telling me “The next one is going to be a whizzbanger!” and indeed it was. I held on tightly to my husband as we looked into each others eyes. I moaned loudly and asked to get back into the pool but was told to do 3 more contractions where I was first. (I later found out I did about 5 there – cheeky!) The power and pain running through my body was so intense that I couldn’t do anything except concentrate on getting through each surge. I felt Robyn’s hand pushing my hips together, which felt like heaven. Anything to help my body open was welcome at this stage.
Around 7pm I heaved myself back into the pool and within a few minutes felt the biggest rush yet. Yes, it was pain. But it was more than that. It was power and life running through every part of my body. I felt my pelvis, hips and back open and turn inside out. It was at that point I decided I’d rather not continue. I started sobbing like a frightened little girl. I turned to Robyn and apologised and said I didn’t want to do this any more. I couldn’t do this any more. I apologised to my husband for not being able to go on. I wailed and wailed and wailed.
Because I didn’t want to be examined at any point (Robyn doesn’t carry out examinations unless necessary), I had no idea I was fully dilated. I had no idea that I was in transition. I had no idea how long this feeling would last for. Robyn reassured me that I could go on, that I had to go on. She asked if I felt like pushing. I said yes, and asked if I was dilated. She smiled and said “Yes, you’re at the pushing part.”
Well then! This gave me the confidence to go on. We would meet our baby soon. My contractions were getting shorter now but with each one I would kneel down and roar as I pushed that little person through my body. I’ve heard women say that during childbirth they produced loud animalistic sounds they never knew they had in them. This felt so natural I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. In between rushes I would rest and look at Chris whilst he dabbed my forehead with iced water. When I felt another one coming I would grab the handles in the pool and roar from the bottom of my stomach. Robyn asked me to let go of the handles as I was tensing my arms too much which was using up energy that should go towards pushing. I stretched them out in front of me so I was almost in child’s pose, with my head just above the water. I reached down and could feel baby’s head. I sobbed again – I was so overwhelmed. Robyn instructed me to find the point of my pain, and push past it. I had to push past it to get the baby out. With the next rush I put my face in the water, held my breath and pushed with every last morsel of energy I had. I could feel the head coming through and as that contraction ended it stopped at what felt like the widest point! I joked that this was a very awkward place to decide to take a pause. Another rush came and I pushed again. I think there were probably a couple of more pushes and little Rosie’s head came out, very quickly followed by the rest of her. Robyn scooped her out of the water as I manoeuvred myself around the cord to sit up. A teeny tiny crying person was placed on my chest. I cried tears of joy and tears of relief. It was over, she was healthy, we had done it. Chris came over and held us. She had settled and was looking around alertly. We both instinctively knew that my belly housed a little girl, and when I checked we were right. Our little Rosemary was born at 7:55pm on Friday 5th March, 2010.
The placenta came out soon after and it was time to get out of the pool. I was a little dizzy and when I tried standing up I passed out face first into the water. Robyn wrenched little Rosie out of my arms and put her down. Together with Chris they lifted me out of the water and flung me over the side. I felt like I had slept in bubbles for ten hours and when I opened my eyes I had a beautiful little girl crying for me.
Soon after I managed to scramble out of the pool and onto the sofa, was fed some muesli and yoghurt, had a few stitches and nursed my child. By midnight we were all tucked into bed together to dream our first night as a family. Bliss.