Ruby’s Birth Story

Here I am on a Saturday afternoon, newborn asleep, toddler with Dad, and me actually drinking a hot cup of tea and getting to blog. Last Thursday we welcomed one beautiful little rainbow water babe into our world. I have been almost jumping out of my skin to write her birth story down. Once again I was blessed (GRIN) so here it is from me to you.

This story needs to begin 9 months ago on a glorious day in North Queensland. We are on our honeymoon after one incredibly epic weekend wedding, there’s gorgeous blue skies and clear tropical waters, we are spending the day floating and diving around the rainbow spectacle which is The Great Barrier Reef. As our boat heads back to Port Douglas I feel the familiar ache of ovulation (yes I am one of those people who feel it) and I smile…and know that we have a plan for this little egg, if only it is willing.

Back to present day, I am four days past due and wondering why these braxton hicks that have popped up sporadically for the past few days feel so intense. Surely they were not like this with Boston? I was so clear about labour starting with him and now I feel confused? Is it starting???? No, no rhythm or rhyme to these contractions but DAMN they aren’t tickles.

IMG_3261_fotorFinally around 1am on Thursday morning they come and wake me…I wait….yup there is another….yup and another. But still I am confused, they do not seem more intense so I wait. They bounce around between 5 minutes and 10 minute intervals but finally around 4am I decide this must be it and start letting my birth companions in on the secret. Steve has almost had a full night sleep so he bounces out of bed with a grin from ear to ear and makes some tea. I call Aurelia, my amazing bestie acupuncture extraordinaire, who answers with excitement and prepares to drive south “No rush” I assure her.

I jump in the shower for some warm water love, lighting a burner with birthing oils that smell so delicious, I have burnt them during meditation over the past months. Then all of a sudden contraction after contraction keep coming, and coming strong! I have a mini freak out..seriously…no no no… not yet I can’t give birth yet!! Then I take a few breaths and calm…let go, let it happen, all is well. I jump out of the shower, shoot Auie a message to…ahem…hurry, and tell Steve to ring Kirst.

Beautiful sunshine Kirsten, my bestie with positive vibes to boot, I have invited her along as another companion. It seems a little excessive but with our busy lives, children etc etc I wanted backup. I also wanted the chance to share birth with one of my friends who is yet to go down the road, I have spoken about how valuable this experience was for me and it is a tradition I wanted to continue.

Has anyone told you how your first labour messes with your expectation of your second? You think it won’t, you know they are all different, but my gosh do you think I could get out of my head?! Kirsten arrived 15 minutes after my freak out shower incident. As she sat with me and braided my hair my contractions all but stopped. Twenty minutes past and a few came but they were beyond mellow. Now I am worried the whole thing was a false start. This is nothing like my other labour! What is happening?

BirthAurelia arrives, phew…she pops some needles in and assures me that this baby is coming today and she will make sure of it. I smile, relax and we dig into some delicious birthing cake made and delivered by our gorgeous sister. Contractions are being shy.

Alright well I am getting back in that shower because we are all here now and I am ready for this gosh darn it. Ahhhh WOW there they are again and holy moly call the midwife I think it is time to go. I decide that I need to be where we will birth if I am to fully embrace these strong contractions and so we all pile into the car. I pop my head phones in and listen to a hypnobirthing rainbow relaxation while we drive along the highway.

As we stroll down the ever so long Tweed Hospital corridor I feel like a bad ass birthing posse. Passing doctors give us confused sideways glances. The contractions have eased and I shake my head but I am glad I can glide down this hallway looking oh so comfortable.

Our wonderful midwife from Murwillumbah Birthing Clinic arrives shortly after. I am so happy to see her and even more happy when she informs us I am 6cm dilated and the cervix is really soft. “Oh thank the heavens I am not crazy and this labour is as advanced as it feels…when I am in the shower”.

IMG_3268_fotorAt my belly blessing we did a binding ceremony with some pretty rainbow wool. The idea is that each woman leaves the band on until they hear mum is in labour. It is a really beautiful ritual and a great reminder for close friends to have you in their thoughts. Cutting the bands symbolises the separation of mother and child, and the beginning of a new stage of life. Two minutes after that text went out my labour exploded.

I was having contraction on contraction with barely a minutes rest. I was aware of the others and could feel their relaxed mood, they asked me questions…I didn’t bother answering. Before long I was feeling irritated and annoyed. The contractions were overwhelming. I braced against the bed, head in my hands, squatting like some mad cross fit demon.. resting on the birth ball for what seemed no time…then back to the bed…REPEAT!

The thought entered my mind “no no no, I can’t do this…it is too much” and seconds later a light bulb moment! “oh my god! if this is too much and I feel like I can’t do it that means I am in transition! That means I am nearly there!” and all of a sudden I turned a corner. Two contractions later I had that instinctive muscle contraction that pushes down 🙂 HOORAY

IMG_3298_fotorHypnobirthing advocates breathing the baby down so I was surprised to feel that insane all encompassing urge to push with Boston, and pushed I did. Boz flew out in one, so I wanted to make a real effort this time around to take it a little slower. They call it the Natural Explusive Reflex, that “urge to push”. For those who have not given birth or did so with an epidural it sort of feels like (sorry to gross you out) that uncontrollable response that happens when you vomit…yup…only it goes down not up and its more intense. So technically you don’t have to try to push, your body just does it. So I concentrated on relaxing my muscles as much as possible and letting that uncontrollable reflex just happen. It was pretty cool (she calmly types after grunting like a gorilla at the time).

So there I was standing up and feeling a familiar burn and knowing our baby would be here soon. Steve was in front of me holding my hands, I spotted Kirsten darting around taking photos while tearing up and muttering “oh my gosh”, Aurelia was whispering in my ear “you can do it, nearly there”, I assumed someone was catching my baby…surely…and then from behind I hear one of the midwifes excitedly exclaim “oh wow she is in caul!!”…I am thinking that sounds great whatever the hell it means.

IMG_3318_fotorThen with one last surge our baby is born and water splashes all around. I burst into tears as she is handed up to me. “In Caul” turns out to mean with membranes intact and so our little babe, who started her journey as a tiny egg travelling The Great Barrier Reef, was born surrounded by water till her legs entered the world. Ruby Jean, born 4th June 2:47pm…with absolute perfection.

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A day in the life of an unofficial doula

“The word ‘doula’ (pronounced ‘doo-la’) is a Greek word meaning ‘woman servant or caregiver’. More recently, it refers to someone who offers emotional and physical support to a woman and her partner before, during and after childbirth.”

Okay to be straight I know that I am not a doula. There is a lot more involved in the role of a trained and qualified doula, something I will cover more in another post. But I do like the way the word rolls off the tongue dooo-laaaaa My experience is better described as birth partner, birth support person, birth companion etc etc. In my last post I shared with you tid bits of the way I feel about being and having more then one birth companion. Whether that means your partner, a friend, family members or an official doula. But what exactly does that person do?

When I was preparing to give birth I came across many tools for birth companions, it was such an exciting discovery because I realised how involved my partner could be! It would not be a journey I had to travel alone, or one in which he felt like a helpless bystander. This is a break down of the day William was born which will hopefully give you a sneak peak at why so many women love having great birth companions.

Feb 11th

For the past few weeks my schedule has been “subject to birth”, absolutely everyone smiles at this answer. My parents are on standby for baby sitting and I have a little bag of clothes packed just in case. 

3:17am My phone starts ringing, my eyes shoot open… the caller ID says Aurelia and I can not help but grin. My memory is not good enough to recall exact words but lets say it went like this  (in whispers) nell “Hello darling” aurelia “Hello, so I think I am having a baby”

3:18am Sneak out of bed and wake up Steve who exclaims “yippee” I tell him to be aware of Boston who is sleeping next to us. I fit in a quick shower, grab my bag, some muffins, two apples and water. Heart racing…CHECK then it’s into the dark of early morning and onto the freeway.

4:20am I am still on the freeway, loving the fact it is rather isolated at this time in the morning and playing over in my head Boston’s birth as adrenalin pumps through my body…then I take a few breaths and remember I need to be the calm centred one for today

Leo lending a helping hand, Aurelia deep breathing  and me with the blessed hot water bottle
Leo lending a helping hand, Aurelia deep breathing and me with the blessed hot water bottle

4:40am My car pulls up outside Aurelia’s home, I am so excited to be there. I sneak up the front stairs and quietly let myself in. I am waiting to be accosted by their insanely loveable giant mastiff and I am not disappointed. Leo lumbers up with as much excitement as me, he ensures my dog is not in toe…I see his disappointment but it fades quickly. I find Chris in the kitchen and give him a massive hug as he tells me Auie is in the clinic (She is an amazing Acupuncturist who works from home).  I enter the darkened room, curtains drawn, no lights bar flickering candles, the perfect environment for mammals to birth just incase you’re wondering. The room smells devine and I know it will be the mixture of aromatherapy oils Aurelia has selected specifically for birth. In the centre of the room Aurelia rocks on a exercise ball, eyes closed focusing inwards and breathing slowly through a contraction. It stops as her eyes open up and she gives me a bliss filled smile. I can see she is doing amazing and she confirms my thoughts. Labour started a few hours ago and everything feels calm, the contractions are getting stronger but they are not too taxing. We celebrate the day with a big hug!

5:00am okay time for me to be of service. Chris needs to sort some work out so I take over duties while he orchestrates business. Water…CHECK, Tea … Yes please (camomile), Hot water bottle…just keep it on the lower back it is doing wonders, Contractions…Timer is here please take note. I sort out our tea and sit with Aurelia holding the hot water bottle and monitoring length of/between contractions. We decide it is time to let her midwife know birth has begun but there is no great urgency to leave the comfort of home.

8:00am Three hours fly by. We chat between contractions, readying hospital bags, checking lists, keeping the midwife informed of progress. The contractions have gained in intensity. With each one Aurelia closes her eyes and concentrates on long slow breaths, delivering vital oxygen to the uteurous as it squeezes and pushes, tightening and relaxing…down down down. Chris or I sit near each time running our finger tips up her back, over her shoulders and down her arms….then back again. Light touch massage, dim lighting and deep breathing stimulates the release of oxytocin, known as the love hormone, it reduces anxiety and helps one feel more relaxed, content and secure. The hot water bottle is not abandoned, this is a constant.

Another contraction comes and Aurelia’s reaction says it all, yes time to go to hospital.

We scoop up belongings, blow candles out and hand Aurelia some headphones which she promptly stuffs into her ears. They are playing her birth sound track, a mix of songs that make her happy, it had been floating from speakers until now. We all shuffle outside and into the car, Chris does the heavy lifting while I support mumma bear.

I am aware Aurelia was worried about the transition from home to hospital, often it can stall labour. Bright lights, strange noises, hospital smells and questions from health professionals are all elements that take focus off the task at hand. But we had strategies in place and like a pro Aurelia stays centred, immersed in the music from her headphones, eyes closed, deep breaths. As Chris drives I rest my hand on her back and try to keep her informed gently of where we are, adding positive affirmations “you are doing amazing, all is perfect”.

9:30am We are shown to the birthing suite after being admitted. I brim like a proud mum at the nurses exclamations “She is so calm and doing great”. We go to work as Aurelia heads to the wicked three headed shower. Lights off, close curtains, scatter LED candles around the room, put iPod in music dock, switch on electric oil burner and add birthing concoction. Chris heads off to move the car while I sit with Aurelia in the shower running warm water up and down her spine, a new and awesome version of soft touch massage. It is pitch black apart from the flickering candles glowing in each corner. I am so relaxed I nearly fall asleep, hopefully Aurelia felt the same… perfect hospital transition.

After returning from a coffee run I spotted this sign on our door LOVE IT
After returning from a coffee run I spotted this sign on our door LOVE IT

10:00am I run to the cafe to fetch coffee and refreshments for us birth companions and midwives. MMMMmmmm…espresso!!!

10:30am From here things get pretty repetitive. It is all about responding to Aurelia’s needs and instincts. The water bottle is still a constant that is held on her lower back 100% of the time (sitting, standing, squatting, childs pose…yup water bottle…and make sure its WARM). Light touch massage comes with each contraction, sometimes continuing through the breaks. We offer her water and food almost constantly, someone has to refill the water jug from the kitchen all too often. When Chris, I or the midwives see Aurelia looking discontented we suggest moving to another position, the midwives have awesome suggestions (such a great team!).

The mix of hormones and physical strain of labour brings mums into an almost hypnotic state, they are very open to suggestion (in other words will believe almost anything), which is why it is PARAMOUNT to keep language as positive as possible. There is plenty of time for silence but it is dotted with affirmations “you are doing amazing, trust your body, everything is well, everything is perfect, trust yourself, deep breaths, relax your muscles…melting like butter”.

2:00pm All of us can see the light at the end of the tunnel now, even Aurelia has rounded the corner through transition and is hell bent on triumphantly holding her baby. It was not all smooth sailing but Aurelia is a warrior and with the expert guidance of her midwives mixed with her own determination has found the natural home stretch she dreamed of. At times of trepidation or slight concern Chris and I stood by like alert pit bulls not entirely sure of what we were doing but knowing that whatever needed to be done to protect this woman and babe was seriously going to happen.

2:49pm William is born and scooped into the arms of his mum while we stand by her side gobbsmacked as any witness to birth should be.

Little William all curled up just before I head home.
Little William all curled up just before I head home.

3:15pm Like a light switching on Aurelia emerges from the birthing trance. Her presence flows out from her body and into her little boy and the whole darn universe. “Food please!” I head to the cafe to get toasted turkish rolls and fresh peppermint tea while Aurelia and Chris get to know their son. The warm food brings more life to Aurelia and you would hardly guess she had just run a physical marathon.

7pm The day has been long and though elated I was not gifted with all the euphoric hormones Aurelia has coursing through her veins. Chris drops me back to my car and I blissfully drive home to bed.