The Test of Endurance: Margo’s Birth Story

From the ever so wonderful Kate from Katesurfs, who I met at an attachment parenting playgroup..and am so darn thankful I did.

Today Margo is two days old.  One of the midwives told me to write down everything about the birth while I’m still in the hospital and all the memories are fresh in my mind. To start, Margo is THE cutest, most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, and I’m not just saying that because I’m her mother, all the midwives and doctors think she’s a good looking baby too!

I was 7 days past my due date, but that was ok.  There wasn’t much for me to do, I worked up until the 4th of March, and she was due on the 8th…  Everyone thought I was crazy to be working right up until my due date, but we really needed the money, and I was feeling fine. I was teaching in a school, which had air conditioning, where the kids were really well behaved, so it was okay.

Work was finished, my due date had come and gone,,, but no baby Baltrotsky!  Being late was a very good thing, though.  It gave me time to scrub the house and rest!  After the whole house was scrubbed (as much as you can clean when you have a belly the size of a watermelon and the occasional gumby legs from someone’s cute little head cutting of the circulation to the lower half of your body), there wasn’t much to do except sit around and wait.  So, we listened to music, we meditated, we did yoga, we slept and I just waited for her to come.  Even after nine months of carrying her around, it was hard to grasp just exactly what was waiting for me when she came out…  I couldn’t imagine what she would look like, or even that I would ever even go into labor.  I just had this feeling like I would be pregnant forever!!!

I wasn’t even really desperate to get her out, even at a week late. I was really enjoying the pregnancy and I knew that she would come out when she was ready.  I didn’t want to be induced, although the obstetrician said it was available.  And then finally… the inevitable started to happen…


I was up all night with mild contractions, no sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time.  I thought for sure I would be in the hospital the next morning and she would be born on the 15th of March, the Ides of March!  But, morning came and the contractions subsided a little, I called the maternity ward and they said that was normal and that it could be up to a few days before I went into labor…  Art had off that day so we went around town, did some food shopping, and I only had irregular contractions.  They were only bad enough that I had to just stop walking and breath a little.

We got home around noon and I made a huge pot of yummy tofu, tomato, bok choy and noodle soup… which we’ll get back to a little later.  Took a short nap (I could finally get some sleep!) Then woke up around two I noticed the contractions were getting more regular and more uncomfortable, but I was still suspecting it would be a while before anything happened.  The contractions did not subside and got stronger and stronger.  I could still walk around in between, but when they came, I had start rocking and completely stop what I was doing.  Right around 5pm I thought I would finish off the rest of the soup… big mistake…  The contractions kept coming and I went to go meditate to sooth the pain, but the contractions were coming really strong, so it wasn’t really what you would call a deep meditation.

Art was doing his best to make sure I was comfortable, but by around 7pm, I knew things were heating up.  I called the midwives and told her what was happening and she said she wouldn’t be surprised if she saw us before the morning.  So, I told Art to get in the shower, brush his teeth and pack the car.  We didn’t even make until 8pm and the contractions were getting really strong.  So, we jumped in the car,,, and Art did his best to hit ever single bump on the five minute journey to the hospital!  It was also dark and rainy and a little chilly (end of summer in Australia). There was so much pressure on my abdomen, even when we hit a crack in the road, it felt like we had hit a crater!  We got to the maternity ward and I could barely make it out of the elevator or even tell the midwife what was happening.  She walked me down the hallway to the birthing room and told me to wait.  The room was so big and it was dark out and the maternity ward was quiet and peaceful.  Except for the intense contractions, it seemed like I was checking into a high quality vacation… mmm…. sort of….

I’m sure Art hit every pot hole he could manage to find!
The first mid-wife was so cool.  Art put a picture of our guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, out on the windowsill and she instantly asked us if that was our guru and how good it was that we meditated, etc.  She did a quick check and told me that I was 4-5 cm dilated!  She was so proud that I had done so much hard work at home!  She said most women come in and are barely 1cm.  That made me feel good, like maybe this won’t be so bad after all.  We all chatted happily in between contractions and she made us feel really comfortable with our request to have a natural water birth, etc.  She filled the tub up, but her shift was about to end.

courtesy of
courtesy of

The contractions were getting really strong now, I had to start doing some breathing to get through them.  I had really bad heart burn too,,, that darn tofu, tomato soup!  The midwife suggested I get in the shower while the pool filled up so that my muscles could warm up…  Art  helped me  into the bathroom and the second I turned that water on, I barfed up the tofu soup!  Not even like I little bit, I mean, like every last drop!  It was full on exorcist barfing.  Just spewing till there was nothing left!  But, oh, did it feel so good to get that out.  Art and I laughed in between contractions, and I helped him spray the vomit chunks down the drain.  And, oh, the relief!  Without the heartburn, now I could really concentrate.

The shower was going okay, but it was getting hard for me to stand up.  So, I went to the pool.  But, the pool temperature was too hot, so after about 45 min in there, I had to get out because I was overheating and the the baby’s heart rate had jumped.  I felt her squirming around in there like crazy!  So, the midwife on duty, put me on this stupid monitoring machine.  By now it was about midnight and I was exhausted, hardly any sleep in two nights.  She then monitored me for something like 5 hours!

This part of the labor was the most intense.  I went between the bed and ball for hours, strapped to this stupid machine.  It told me the baby’s heart rate and it also showed the intensity of my contractions.  It seemed like I was there for an eternity.  Eventually, the baby’s heart rate returned to normal and so did my temperature.  Art and I were so exhausted, we were both actually falling asleep between contractions! I didn’t want to fall asleep because the sleep was so peaceful and then a huge contraction would come and snap me out of my dozing.

Even the midwife was falling asleep.  She was yawning and every once in a while would leave the room for up to an hour and come back smelling like she just had a cup of coffee. They checked my dilation sometime during these 5 hours of hell and said I was 7-8 cm and that they should break my waters to help the birth along.  I didn’t want any intervention at all, but I was also exhausted, after 30 or so hours of pre-labor and labor combined, I agreed.  After they broke my waters, the contractions changed, they were still as intense, but somehow seemed like they were doing more.

I was still strapped to that stupid machine and would rip off the heart monitor that was strapped to my finger, every time I had a contraction.  They also said I was dehydrated and would need an IV!  As soon as I heard that, I started drinking like a camel.  After each contraction I needed a huge gulp of water.  Art’s almost sole job for 5 hours was just to keep filling up my water bottle.  With each contraction, I was breathing so heavily, and that’s why I was getting so dehydrated!  Anyway, it was one way of keeping Art awake, he was the water boy!

Finally, around 5am, the midwife checked my dilation again, 10cm!  Now I could push if I felt the urge, although the midwife seemed reluctant to really let me give it a go.  I felt like she would be cheering me on or something.. but no.. she just sat there and did nothing… It seemed like she wasn’t sure if I was fully dilated and the doctor wouldn’t be around for several hours.  For some reason, I felt really pissed off at her because I felt like she was holding up my labor because she seemed uncertain.  I was probably feeling very unsure of what to do at this point and very very exhausted.  She was okay, but I didn’t really feel so comfortable with her, the whole night… (I’ve always heard that babies will not be born if certain unwanted people are in the room).

The pool was still warm from when they first filled it up.  After the initial over-heating, I had lost all interest in the pool.  To be honest, I couldn’t even imagine that this baby would ever be born!  I just thought I might sit there for the rest of my life in labor!  The whole experience was surreal.  I felt like I wasn’t even there.  I could feel the sensations, and I was coherent, but I was in this zone.  Who am I?  Am I even experience this pain?  What is happening?  Where am I?  It went on like this for hours.  Anyways, after they broke my waters, that feeling subsided slighty and I asked if I could go back in the pool because my legs were killing me.  My whole body ached.  Each contraction required 100% attention and strength from my entire body.

So, into the pool I went.  It felt much better and because of the reduced pressure from them breaking my water I felt like it might be over soon.  The idea of ‘over soon’ was so vague to me.  Would over soon mean that I would have a little baby soon?  They kept saying, ‘oh, just wait to you get to see your little treasure’.  I still couldn’t imagine holding a baby in my arms, or even picture what she would look like or that an actual baby was going to come out of me!  All I wanted to do was to go to sleep!  I kept having this thought, ‘I can’t wait till this is over and I can sleep’…. and then I realized what a stupid thought that was… I was going to have a newborn… how was I ever going to sleep?

I spent nearly another 3 hours in the pool doing this wimpy pushing.  The midwife told me, when you feel an overwhelming urge to push, do it hard…  Well, that didn’t really mean any thing to me, I had no idea what she meant!  I really didn’t like her that much, especially now.  The sun had come up and and at this point I hadn’t slept much in over 36 hours.  I was exhausted and so was Art.  In fact, second to dealing with the contractions, my second most strong thought was how bad I felt for Art!  He sat there through the whole thing, there for me ever second, whatever I needed.  One second he would help me to stand up, the next, I would swat him away when he tried to rub my shoulders…  poor thing… he was exhausted too and had to sit through me going through this insane experience!  He was really amazing, I can’t imagine having to go through that with anyone else.  He was just incredible… what a lucky baby to have a father like that

Anyways, 8am rolls around and we have a new midwife.  Thank GOD!  Her name was Margaret Mary, in her fifties, very stern, but really sweet looking and all business.  I liked her right away.  She seemed so in charge and I could tell she really knew what she was doing and someone-to-trust(as almost all woman in labor for the first time feel!)!  Well, I didn’t have my glasses on, so I couldn’t really see her too well, but I could tell that she was my savior!  Seriously!  I am so lucky that she came.  (In hindsight, now I know how incredibly important it is to have a midwife or duola present at your birth, one whom you can trust and whom you know!  I often wonder how much faster my labor would have gone if I had had someone there that I trusted).

Olympic sized birthing pool!
She watched me have one contraction and saw that I was not pushing hard enough.  I specifically told her that I needed her help and that I didn’t know what to do.  So, she told me that the baby was posterior and that I literally had to push you so hard that I turned you around to get you out!  She said, ‘Right, here’s what we’re going to do, you’re not going to like it, but it’s what you HAVE to do’.  You’re going to get out of that pool and go to the toilet.  You’re going to push like hell and on the toilet you don’t have to worry about anything coming out and you’ll be in a better position.  Get up now, take big steps and let’s get to the toilet.  So, drill sergeant Margaret gets me up and walks me to the toilet.

We get to the toilet and she sits down right next to me and starts bossing me around (and, I liked it).  Take a deep breath, hold it and you’re going to bear down like you have to take the biggest poo of your life.  You’re pushing your baby out literally with the muscles in your diaphragm.  As soon as she told what I had to do, I immediate got pissed off at the last midwife who might have been able to tell me that information a few hours ago!  Then, I thanked Margaret for telling me what to do, I pushed, and my God, I finally felt your head start to make it’s way down!  I was like ‘YEAH! This is it!  This is how I get my baby out!’  So, she kept talking me through each contraction. ‘Wait for it to build, now push, hold your breath, and push, like this, for ten minutes.’  Finally, I felt some progress.  It burned so bad, but I knew it was finally happening!  I reached and could just feel the top of your head.

Oh, and a little comic relief walked in at this point… here I was sitting on the toilet, naked as the day I was born, and in walks the OB, Dr. Doolabh, who was going to deliver the baby.  He was doing his morning rounds, all dressed nicely.  ‘Oh… hello’, I said, all smiley, in between bearing down with a contraction.  Margaret Mary said, ‘she’s doing awesome, she’s had no drugs and don’t go far because this baby is about to come out.’

Then, drill-seargent Margaret Mary said, ‘Right, you’re not going to have this baby on the toilet, you’re going back to the pool!!!!!  The pool felt like it was three miles away.  How could I WALK to the toilet with a baby’s head practically hanging out of me!?  ‘I can’t do it!’. I said. ‘Oh yes you can,’ says Margaret Mary.  And, you’re going to take BIG steps to get there!  She was awesome.  She we walked to the pool and I got in and laid back.  Did I forget to mention how much it burns to have a baby’s head coming out of your vagina?!  She told another midwife to call back the OB because this baby was coming out!

I laid back in the pool so content, yet, in so much burning pain.  Then, Margaret Mary gets out this big flashlight and Art gets his camera out to take some illegal video.  She talked me through a few more contractions, telling me to listen to her, and not push all at once.  I could really feel her head now.  I just wanted to push her out, but I was listening to Margaret Mary.  One more gigantic push and her head came out and oh what a relief!  I could see the back of the little head with all of this goopy stuff floating on it.  She was submerged under water.  I was in bliss,,, don’t ask me how you can be in bliss with something the size of a melon hanging out of you,,, but I was.  The rest of the body had to come out though.

They said to wait for the next contraction.  It felt like 5 minutes went by, although, it was probably only 30 sec.  I really really wanted to push her out!  But, there was no contraction coming!  I kept asking, can I just push her out?  They said, to try and wait for one.  But, nothing was happening!  Finally, Dr. Doolabh, in his friendly Indian accent said, ‘just give a small push and see what happens….’  I gave a little push and she came flying out!

Dr. Doolabh just helped me a little to catch her and bring her above the water and there she was!  Right in my arms!  The cord was a little short and I wanted to bring her right up to my chest, but she was a little stuck at the water line.  And, she was soooooo beautiful.  Her eyes were wide open and she was looking all around, so alert!  I wanted to wait to delay the cord cutting, but it was so short, and I think they were a little concerned… so they clamped it and Art cut it. Then, we could really see her and I brought her up to my chest.  I couldn’t believe how perfect she looked!  I took a quick look at all her little body parts, and all I saw was this beautiful baby!  It was incredible.  I was just crying and laughing, the past 36 hours didn’t mean a thing!

I had so much energy right after.  I climbed out of the pool, not even using the stairs with the cord still hanging out and the placenta needed to come next.  I hoped on the bed where they put her on my chest, all covered in mucusy bloody stuff and she was just divine.  I did consent to getting a shot, which helps to deliver the placenta faster, and helps to stop bleeding… I was so over being all natural at this point!  She was so alert and so content.  We sat there for about an hour just staring at her… infact, at the time of writing this, she’s about 4 days old and we are still sitting around and staring at her… She did the whole breast crawl thing, that was amazing!  We took a good look at the placenta, that was really cool.  I was just smiling and crying, we were all doing great.  Even her little head, that had been squashed for hours to get through, was in perfect shape.  All the midwives later that day kept asking if you were a caesar, and proud me, said, ‘Nope, waterbirth’!

After all that, we had our little Margo and we were in love!  She was gorgeous and healthy.  My whole body was aching from hours and hours of labor and I had a little bit of grazing (think gravel rash… eww…), but no tearing.  But, no matter how long and crazy the labor had been, I would do all again if I had to.


A Homebirth with Heart, Part 2: Welcoming our Daughter

By first time mum Alex, who I met years ago climbing up some big rocks.

I went into labour 3 days past my due date. I woke up around 1 am with some cramping and back pain. Ironically, my midwife had seen me that morning and said the head was 4/5 engaged but I wasn’t showing any imminent signs of labour so it might be awhile. I got out of bed and went into the lounge room to rest and move around. I thought I contacted the midwife straight away but I didn’t text her until around 2 ½ hours later. The contractions were gentle and far apart for the first couple of hours. Mark came to check on me around 3.30 am as I must have been groaning a bit by then. At that point she suggested Mark time the contractions for 20 minutes and then call her back. They were between 3 -5 minutes apart so she said she’d be on her way and suggested jumping in the bath.

I spent about 4 hours soaking in the tub. Mark mostly sat with me and just gently encouraged me. Our midwife came in occasionally to time contractions and check baby’s heartbeat but otherwise just let us be. When Mark needed a break, my friend or midwife would sit with me. went-somewhere-else I remember my midwife saying that it’s good to feel prepared for labour but at the end of the day, it’s a natural process, the body knows what to do and to trust it. That was definitely my experience. I found the contractions intense and would sometimes tense my shoulders but had gentle encouragement to relax. At one point, my friend came in and reminded me to try some of the breathing I’d learnt at yoga and we started doing that together. It really helped a lot.

My midwife encouraged me a few times to sit on the toilet, I think she wanted me to move around just to help the baby come down. After around 4 hours, I got out of the tub. My friend had prepared a few birth spaces for me and I decided I wanted to be in the bedroom. Mostly Mark and I were in there together with the door closed. Occasionally our midwife checked on us but mostly we were just in there together. At this point, my contractions sped up and I started to feel a pushing urge. Time passed with no real sense and I often felt a million miles away. I just breathed through contractions then rested between. I moved a lot – squatting, standing, sitting with Mark holding me. He was calm and gave me words of encouragement when I needed it.

My pushing stage actually lasted around 2 hours and stalled for a while so moving around helped it to start again. I always thought the hardest, most painful part of labour would be when the baby’s head crowns. I was actually surprised when she was ready to come. I had some backache but my midwife showed Mark how to massage my back and she applied warm washers which was heavenly. As the baby’s head crowned, she applied a warm washer to my perineum and it felt amazing. I just relaxed and pushed. I remember thinking it felt good?! A warm sensation and an excitement that I would soon meet my baby.

I looked over at my mum and friend and could see the trust they had in me, I felt Mark holding me and I listened to them all as they breathed with me. I knew I could do it and they knew I could do it. Our daughter came out in around 3 pushes I think and I was just in awe of what my body achieved.

I thought I would cry. All I could do was stare at her in disbelief that she was really with us.

I honestly didn’t find my contractions painful or scary. Each time I had one, I would tell my body to relax and that each one was bringing me closer to my baby.

I was fairly sure I wanted another women at my birth and wasn’t sure what Mark would think about that as it’s such as private experience. We were both so glad my mum and friend were there. They just hung out and did loads of practical stuff, which was an immense help for us both. My friend had done a baby blessing for me a few weeks before and used a red cord to tie around everyone’s wrist. When I went into labour, she contacted my friends and they all broke the red cords around their wrists. Afterwards, I read the facebook messages my friend had sent giving updates and it was so nice. All my close girlfriends were sending me love and thoughts while I was pushing!

I had asked my friend to take some pictures and I’m glad I did. I wasn’t even aware she was doing it. Afterwards, it was so good to look at the pictures because the birth passed so quickly and I didn’t even feel very present for most of it. I loved seeing the moments she captured, particularly the images of Mark holding me. They are so intimate and I felt very teary looking at those photos. It’s amazing to see the look on my face too.

After the initial checks, my midwife left us alone to be with our baby. My placenta took some time to pass – around 2 hours. In a hospital, there is no way they would have given me that time. My midwife had shots of syntocin ready but she suggested sitting on the toilet and having a shower. After the shower, it just came right out in the toilet. I felt my midwife really trusted me to deliver the placenta when my body was ready. I also took a long time to do a wee cos I was very swollen. Again, she gave me some time and then suggested a catheter. Nothing like that to scare the hell out of a woman and I promptly did a wee!

Our daughter, Elise came into the world calmly and has been a very content baby. I would choose my home birth experience again in a heartbeat. I felt trusted and empowered. There was not one moment when I doubted my body’s ability.

positive-experienceFor someone it might be a home birth like I had, for the next person it might be the comfort of medical help being close by and for others maybe an elective c-section. I’m just so glad I followed my intuition and that my birth ended up being beyond anything I could hope for.

The body is capable of amazing things if we let go and trust! I wouldn’t change a thing.

A Homebirth with Heart, Part 1: Planning and preparing

By first time mum Alex, who I met years ago climbing up some big rocks.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted a home birth. I was there for the birth of both my brothers, one at home and one at hospital. My mum had a great natural birth with both.natural-process I hate hospitals and because I don’t see birth as a medical condition (though understand that at times medical intervention is needed), I knew home birth was the right choice for me. I set out to find a midwife and was lucky to find someone who provided home births in our small town.

I saw my GP early on and she followed me until week 20 then I would usually have transferred to the midwife clinic. The appointments with my GP were honestly about 5 minutes. She took blood pressure, weight and got blood tests. In and out. No way was there any opportunity to discuss anything that was really on my mind.

I met my midwife, Gail for an initial appointment and just knew I’d made the right choice. She spent about 1 ½ hours with me. I did a lot of reading about natural child birth and had a lot of questions I wanted to ask. I felt comfortable asking her about her experience, her birth statistics and just generally getting a feel for her. We decided to hire her and she followed us up from about week 13. We both feel it has been the absolute best decision we’ve made. She wanted me to book in to the hospital which I did just in case things changed and I required a hospital birth or transfer late in pregnancy.

So my midwife would come for home visits roughly monthly then fortnightly and weekly when pregnancy progressed. She had an awesome library of books and dvds which she lent us and of course just answered our questions. She was really flexible with timing visits so from around week 20, we often saw her after work hours or Saturdays so Mark could attend. I really loved that he got to know her and was comfortable asking her questions. She did all the regular checks on me (blood pressure, baby’s heart beat, fundal height etc.) but she would also just spend time chatting to me. I was able to talk to her a lot about my fear around becoming a mother, letting go of my independence, giving up work for a while, the changes we would experience in our relationship. I found that stuff so much more important to talk about than baby development and birth preparation in general as it played a lot on my mind.

Of course, it was also great being able to ask questions we had around body changes, birth and various tests. I did a lot of reading and discussed tests with my midwife. We opted not to have the gestational diabetes or strep b testing and I was really comfortable with that decision. My midwife gave a lot of information, let us decide and never judged our decisions. I felt so respected with my decision making throughout the pregnancy. She suggested things to help prepare for the birth too, some of which I had never heard of – hello perineal stretching! Yes, that would be stretching the perineum! A scary thought! However, we psyched ourselves up for preparing that area and it was actually pretty funny! I think it helped too for me to become familiar and relax into the sensations I would feel at birth.

I didn’t really know how I wanted my labour to be. Mostly I just knew I wanted a calm, quiet, dark and private environment. Apart from that I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to birth in the house, if I wanted some soft music or candles, if I wanted to be in the shower etc. so we didn’t really plan anything. We debated attending a course like calm birth or hypno-birthing but the timing wasn’t good. In the end the yoga I did was one of the best preparations for me. In the third trimester, my energy levels waned and a friend recommended Satyananda pregnancy yoga. It focussed a lot more on breathing, meditation, visualisation and gentle physical practice. This was new to me but I found it such a good way to connect to my baby and body. I started doing a bit of the breathing and visualisation everyday towards the end of the pregnancy. Even just 10 minutes a day really made a difference. I also used affirmations daily from the 3rd trimester.

We chose to have our midwife at the birth. We also asked a close friend who kind of acted like a doula and my mum.respect-me

I also knew they wouldn’t be offended if I changed my mind and didn’t want anyone there.

Part Two: Welcoming our Daughter…coming soon