Archive for the 'Birth Story' Category

Malachi’s Birth Story

by Suzanne Duker

What an AWESOME experience our home birth was! It did come as a surprise as baby decided to come 10 days early.

I started with contractions at 4am on the 2nd of October (my birthday!) so got up and left Isaac to sleep. He came into the lounge at 7am and said “should I be worried or excited?” I said “I think we are having our baby today!” The contractions were getting really strong and only a couple of mins apart but by 7:30am they slowed right down to 6 mins apart and not very strong at all. I thought “damn” it must be just practice contractions. However, we later learned it could have been because baby was lying on the right side where he had been for the last two weeks. He must have decided he would help me out, as he shifted to the left side which is apparently the preferred side for birth, and by 11:30am it was all on again. The contractions were really strong and I couldn’t talk through them.
I got Isaac to ring the midwife Annie (who was the second in charge since my LMC was on holiday in Italy) and she arrived 10 mins later with Mum and Dad arriving just after her. I was thinking – Man if this is just the beginning I’m not going to make it!! But when she checked me out I was already 8cm dilated and she said “wow this baby is coming quick”. I got into the pool just after that which eased the pain a little bit during the contractions, but then my waters broke and it got really really intense!!
I don’t really remember much of what was going on around me after that as I went into “concentration” mode and didn’t really talk to people. I listened to Annie and Anna the two midwives and breathed through the contractions. The pain then changed and I could tell I wanted to push. I pushed a few times and could feel him moving down but he didn’t seem to be getting any further. Annie checked and my cervix was lipped over his head. I had to breathe through the next 3 contractions while Annie helped the cervix out of the way. After that it wasn’t much longer before he was born. I ended up pushing for 26mins which felt like a long time but Annie told me later first time mums can push for about 2hrs!! My mum said the midwives had looked at her when I was pushing and mouthed “did you push for long?” she replied “no” and they said “shes taking after you”.
Isaac had moved to catch baby and when his head was out he held it waiting for the rest of him to follow. By this stage I decided I’m not waiting for the next contraction, I’m finishing this now! So I pushed again and he came flying out straight through Isaac’s hands, the next thing I can feel all these arms around my legs trying to scoop him up out of the water hehehe. Then Isaac announced – it’s a boy!! It was such a great feeling to finally see and hold him – our little boy Malachi had arrived safe and sound.

We are so proud that we chose to have Malachi at home, and found it a fantastic experience. The midwives were both awesome and I felt completely at ease with them and their abilities. I would definitely have more children at home as it was such a calm and relaxed environment to bring a child into.

My Dad had spent most of the birth in the other room but once Malachi was born he came into the lounge and had tears in his eyes. He told Mum on the way home “that was so special”. He was stoked that we had Malachi at home and was saying how its great you can choose to have home births nowadays.


Maisie’s birth story

by Lynlee Wallace

I’m writing Maisie’s birth story as she lies in my arms; she’s six weeks old today and going through a growth spurt, meaning she won’t settle to sleep during the day unless I’m holding her.  We had friends over to lunch yesterday – the first time we had seen them since the day six weeks ago when Maisie was born.  They looked after our son Flynn (three and a half) while we gave birth on a sunny Monday morning 1 March 2010, six days before our due date. 

During lunch our friends had wanted to know how our homebirth had gone.  I said without hesitation that it was awesome and that the day after giving birth I had told my husband that I wanted another baby just so I could experience a similar labour again.  The surprised look on their faces made me realise how lucky we had been to experience such a wonderful birth, enough to contemplate going through morning sickness and all those other aches and pains of pregnancy just to relish a few hours of labour at the end of it.  I have come to realise that the pain of labour, especially the pushing part and the few special moments after the baby emerges are addictive!

On Sunday, the day before Maisie was born, I started having a show and thought it could possibly be the start of labour.  That evening I had more show so realised labour would be starting sometime though it could be up to two weeks away.  But at least something was going to happen.  It wasn’t until that night just as we went to bed that I started to get contractions.  For the previous 2-3 weeks I had been experiencing pains in the lower stomach/cervix area, especially when I stood up.  They were uncomfortable enough for me to have to stop and breathe slowly until they passed some minutes later.  I wondered whether the pains I was now experiencing were those or something more serious.  I didn’t bother to time them but they were coming about every 10 minutes throughout the night.  In my semi-sleep state I dreamed the contractions were parade floats, approaching, reaching us then going past, ready for the next float in line.  They did however ease off later for a couple of hours, enough for me to actually fall asleep.  That night I went to the toilet several times, normally it was twice but I was sure enough that this was labour that I turned the light on each time to check for more show.  Sure enough it was labour.  The time sped by and at about 1am I told my husband Wayne that I was in labour.  He told me later that he hadn’t believed me because the next minute I was snoring! 

When the alarm went at 6am and Wayne started getting up for work, I asked him what he was doing.  He still didn’t believe I was in labour as I had managed to stay in bed all night throughout the contractions.  We stayed in bed until 7am; our friends had said we could ring them day or night to bring Flynn over if we went into labour but I still felt glad we were able to wait until a reasonable hour to do so.

I managed to eat a piece of toast and texted mum and a few friends telling them I was in labour.  We woke our son and Wayne started making his breakfast.  By this time my contractions were about 5 minutes apart although they varied to 2 minutes apart at times.  I was leaning against the kitchen bench and realised that I was going to have the baby soon.  Flynn would not have time to eat his breakfast so I told Wayne to take him to our friends’ house straight away.  I used the only acupressure point I could remember, squeezing the web of skin between thumb and forefinger as hard as I could.  I moved into the lounge and felt the urge to push.  I thought for a brief moment that I would have the baby on my own, so quickly took the ‘bum in the air’ position to stop the pushing urge.  By the time Wayne came back 20 minutes later, I knew we needed to contact our midwife and get the birthing pool filled up fast.  He proceeded to sit down on the couch, start watching tv and eat his breakfast, thinking we had hours to go before the baby arrived.  Once I let him know that his coffee would have to wait, he rang Linda and I talked to her saying she needed to come now and not later when things had moved along as she suggested.  The whole time, I moved my pelvis in a figure of eight movement which I had also used during our previous labour. 

It wasn’t until we started to fill the birthing pool from the laundry tap that we realised how long it was going to take to fill it deep enough.  Having used the pool during our previous labour, we thought it would only take 20 minutes, however the house we now lived in had very low water pressure.  As soon as the water was warm enough I got into the pool even though it was only about 40 cm deep by that stage.  I remember thinking about what Linda had said, that I should wait to get into the pool until the end of the first stage.  I wondered if I should try and wait, then realised of course I was at that stage already!  Unfortunately the pool began to leak into the bottom chamber again, despite our best efforts to fix it days earlier.  This time it didn’t worry me though.  Linda turned up at 9am and settled down at the dining room table to watch. It took her a while to find the baby’s heartbeat and it was such a relief to finally hear it; as the time dragged on I feared she would say we needed to go to the hospital. I started feeling sick and a bit shaky and Wayne plopped Flynn’s potty into the water for me to use if I needed it.  I threw it out again as the thought of it in the water repulsed me.  With every contraction I pressed my forehead into the side of the pool and breathed through the pain, trying to relax and help the baby come out.  Linda suggested Wayne fill up a bowl of ice water so he could place a wet flannel around my neck.  It was then we realised we had placed the birthing pool, now half full of water and weighing a ton, in front of the freezer.  Fortunately just cold water felt frigid to me as Wayne threw flannel after flannel onto my back.   

Linda wanted to know if I still felt pain across my lower stomach, indicating whether I was fully dilated or not.  I couldn’t seem to formulate answers to her questions.  She said later that she hadn’t thought my labour was as advanced as it was, as I wasn’t making much noise and my contractions were irregular and didn’t last very long.  She checked the line on my butt and saw it was all the way up which was a sign that I was fully dilated.  She then asked if she could do an internal exam so I shuffled over to the side of the pool and she smiled saying I was ready and the baby’s head was right there.  She quickly went out of the room to ring Cheryl then set up the linen in the lounge.  I started pushing while I stood up in the pool.  There was a pop and my waters exploded into the water.  Linda came back and asked whether I wanted a water birth as they would need to use pots to fill the pool up quicker as the baby would drown at the level it was at.  I decided against it and climbed out and went into the lounge to push.  I heard Linda tell Liz to put the jug on so they could use some hot flannels in an effort to stop any tearing but things were happening too fast.  I kneeled against the couch, Linda told me to put my knees further apart and I started pushing.  I remember vaguely hearing Liz our student midwife asking Wayne how to operate our camera as the photos she had taken so far were blurry.  I heard Wayne talking to her about the flash and felt a little disappointed that apparently we wouldn’t have any decent photos of the birth.  Soon enough though I decided I didn’t care about that.  I heard Linda and Wayne telling me to push harder and I did, though each time I didn’t think I could push any harder.  The burning pain started and I remember (much to my embarrassment) whimpering in between pushes and it kept getting worse and worse.  I put my hand down and felt Maisie’s head, hard and slimy.  It was amazing to feel her just there.  The stretching increased then all of a sudden I felt a release as the rest of her body slipped out.  That feeling was the most amazing feeling ever!  I remember Wayne crying out with emotion at that moment.  Linda passed her through my legs and I knelt down, wiping her face with my hand.  I got onto the couch and cuddled Maisie to my chest.  Linda put some warm towels over her.  Cheryl arrived not long after, telling us how she had only taken ten minutes to get from Feilding to Palmerston North!  She made us some coffee and toast and we brought out the chocolates which was a nice treat for morning tea.  Eventually Wayne cut the cord although he was a bit eager and had to be told to stop a couple of times while Linda and Liz clamped it.

We sat around and I got Maisie to breastfeed – it was a relief to see that she seemed to know what to do.  Lizzie showed me how they were taught to latch a baby on.  After about half an hour I passed Maisie to Wayne and sat back down on the floor to push the placenta out.  I couldn’t believe that I would have to push as hard as I had to get the baby out, all over again!  After a few pushes though it came out and the midwives were surprised at how little blood there had been.  We looked at the placenta and Linda remarked on how small it was.  She also said that I had torn as soon as I started pushing but Cheryl said it was nice and straight and wouldn’t need any stitches.  I had a shower with Linda’s assistance and I said to Linda that I could stay in there all day.  She replied succinctly ‘don’t’ which I thought was funny.  We talked and ate and drank for another couple of hours then Wayne went and got Flynn.  The first thing Flynn said when he saw Maisie was ‘wow’.  He cuddled up with her on the couch. 

It wasn’t until later that it dawned on us how amazing our birth had been.  We hadn’t had a chance to dwell on it much but the more that time goes on, the more I have come to appreciate how ‘easy’ and straightforward the birth was.  And how ‘normal’ it was to birth at home.  No stopping part way through to get in a car and travel to a strange hospital but it was just a normal part of our lives.  Get up, have breakfast, have a baby, have morning tea!  Yes it was as painful as Flynn’s birth but every time I think about it and look at photos I am filled with warm feelings and a lot of that is thanks to our midwife who helped us birth at home.

Breathing Baby Out: Arran’s Homebirth Story

By Kate McArthur

Arran’s birth story begins a week before he was born.  My daughter Zyanya (10 yrs) was 8 days early, throughout Arran’s pregnancy I expected that he too was going to come early.  He was big and squashed inside me and an ultrasound scan at 35 weeks estimated him to be 6lbs 6oz, so I was keen for him to arrive.  Arran grew noticeably by the day in those final weeks and I was very uncomfortable at night and getting little sleep.  A week before he was due I decided to take things into my own hands.  I went for a lie down on the Saturday afternoon to try some nipple stimulation.  Everything I had read told me this was the most successful way to bring on labour as long as the stimulation continued for several hours.  I figured a do-it-myself approach might be the most fruitful method.

After an hour of stimulation I started to have a crampy feeling like the onset of my period which soon became a rhythmic tightening in my womb.  I got up.  While on my feet the tightenings continued, quite far apart but regular nonetheless, and they carried on while I cooked dinner and baked a cake.  I started to feel excited that my baby might soon be born, but by 8:30pm I was tired and needed to lie down.  All the action stopped and I was pretty disappointed the following day when there was no sign of baby coming. 

By Monday I was relaxed and happy to let things happen in their own time, but taking a good brisk walk everyday to encourage baby in the right direction.  On Wednesday morning I started to have strong Braxton Hicks contractions (these weren’t unusual as I had been having plenty throughout the pregnancy) and then my uterus went hard as a rock and very tight around the top for more than an hour with no let up.  This was frightening and not something I had experienced or heard of as being ‘normal’ pre-labour activity so I called my midwife and on her advice took a bath.  Perhaps I should have rung my mother because talking it over with her later she said “Oh yes that’s how labour started for me with both you and your sister”.  Again I was caught out by comparing this experience with the birth of my daughter.  My labour with her began with my waters breaking in the middle of the night in a great gush and then a slow progression until her arrival some 14 hours later. 

With my uterus still contracted hard after a bath I was feeling very anxious (not helped by lack of sleep) so my midwife suggested I come up to the hospital and meet her for a check-up.

I had never been to the hospital birthing unit, having had my daughter at home; I found it a bit daunting.  After foetal monitoring which showed regular small contractions and a healthy response from baby I asked my midwife for an examination – I really needed to know what was happening down there.  I was 2cm dilated and 80% effaced – at last real progress!  So we went home with all of us feeling that baby would be coming in the night.  Once again all the action stopped and nothing the next day either although by now I was 4cm dilated and 100% effaced – how frustrating.

Arran’s due date arrived and my midwife arranged for our second midwife Nelly to do some induction and relaxation acupuncture.  After a rest my Mother in law took me to do the shopping, with instructions from my husband not to bring me home until I was in labour.  I got a good hour’s walk around the supermarket.  My husband and I had another go at nipple stimulation in the evening and I spent plenty of time rocking on my Swiss ball.  But other than two large contractions nothing else happened so I went to bed to get some rest.

At 2:30am I woke up feeling quite refreshed and turned on the tennis on the TV.  I felt resolute – the time had come for baby to be born!  So I started nipple stimulation again while watching TV and after an hour I felt a popping sensation low in my belly, which was just a little painful.  My waters had broken!  To be sure I leapt out of bed and switched on the light, sure enough a few drips appeared.  I woke Rob and before 30 seconds were up I got a painful, strong contraction which lasted only about 20 seconds.  We both waited a little longer to make sure this really was labour and sure enough within 90 seconds another short, sharp contraction came: “ring the midwife and fill the birth pool!”

As I moved into the lounge another contraction hit, they were painful, short but very close together.  In retrospect we should have had a practice run with the birth pool.  Labouring alone on the floor was a little stressful, while Rob ran around trying to find the pool instructions (that I had tidied away and forgotten about).  I texted my friend Aileen to ask her to come and help and rang my Mum in Christchurch to let her know we were at ‘action stations’.  The contractions increased in sharpness and started to spread into my back while I talked to Mum on the phone.  Each time a contraction came I dropped the phone and groaned my way through it before picking up the phone again to talk.  Mum was timing me on the other end of the phone and after the third contraction in two minutes she urged me to call Julie back and make sure she was on the way.  Rob started acupressure on my lower back at each contraction and the relief was incredible.  After that I felt like I couldn’t handle any contractions without the sacral counter-pressure as the pain was too intense.  By this time the pool was filling, the contractions were coming one after the other (but still short) and I was feeling quite scared by the intensity of them and the lack of any break between.  I called Julie back and asked her to come straight away. 

Aileen arrived and Zyanya awoke and came out to see if I was OK.  She wanted to be at the birth but I was anxious that she would be frightened watching me labour so I asked her to stay in her room for a while with the radio on.  Aileen began reminding me to keep breathing and reassuring me.  The lights were dimmed and music was quietly playing with a visual display on the TV to help me relax.

Finally I felt the birth endorphins kick in and I started to feel ‘out of it’ and more able to focus on going with the flow, not as frightened of the contractions.  My anxiety lessened and my breathing improved.  Negative thoughts were going through my mind like “I can’t do this” and “everything is too fast and painful”.  But I had practised with Aileen to let those thoughts come and go without taking them on or panicking.  Looking back, I think I was probably in transition not long into my labour, a difficult starting point mentally.  Our student midwife Bridgette arrived and Julie soon followed.  I was feeling the need to bear down at the end of each contraction by now, Arran was not far away.

Zyanya came out of her room and sat quietly in an armchair, apparently she was not frightened as long as she could see what was happening; 10-year olds cope remarkably well.  Julie set up her gear and Bridgette and Rob stepped-up efforts to get the pool full and to the right temperature while Aileen stayed with me on the floor.  Finally I could move into the pool, which was cool and wonderful relief.  Aileen remained by my side applying pressure to my sacrum and reminding me to keep breathing through each contraction and not to hold my breath when the pushing sensations came, just to go with the flow and let my body do the work on its own.  Julie called Nelly and she arrived not long after.  Rob stayed at my head, stroking my arms and applying acupressure to my shoulders to remind me to keep my focus on breathing while I laboured on hands and knees in the pool.  Between the contractions Aileen washed water over my lower back, which was magic.  At this point the pool was too cool and shallow for the arrival of the baby; Bridgette did a great job of getting it heated up and full just in time.

I was determined not to hold my breath or physically push with the contractions and this helped me to relax more.  I could feel Arran’s descent into and through the birth canal and the opening of my pelvis as he moved and turned.  It was an amazing feeling and though the contractions were strong and overwhelming at times I kept allowing the negative thoughts to come and go and visualised that I was riding waves in the ocean.  Aileen was my constant reminder when the going got tough that we had a plan and the plan was to keep breathing through each contraction; I wanted to “breathe the baby out”.  This method slowed Arran’s descent and helped me to relax after the whirlwind intensity of my earlier labour.  Julie had to remind herself not to tell me to push.  I touched my son’s head and felt his hair – not long now! 

With each contraction I simply let my uterus do all the work and the sensations of Arran and I working together to bring him into the world were amazing.  I knew when his head was going to crown and I took a deep breath in readiness.  His head was birthed with some easing from Julie and I panted hard to stop myself from pushing him out straight away.  While we waited for the next contraction to bring his shoulders and body out Zyanya came to the pool to see Arran for the first time – that wait seemed to take forever.  One more strong contraction and he was free with Julie passing him through my legs and into my arms.  At last you were here Arran, sleeping in my arms, contented and very chubby!  We all sat around the pool looking at Arran while he slept on, stirred a little and finally opened his eyes.  I couldn’t believe how big he was or how quickly he was born in the end, only two hours and ten minutes from start to birth.

Eventually we left the pool to birth the placenta.  Rob cut Arran’s cord after some encouragement from Julie.  I found I only had a small tear and no stitches were needed ☺ thanks to the slowed second stage.  Arran was swaddled on my chest skin-to-skin wearing only a hat (the newborn one I had chosen for the occasion was too small!) and although he was alert and looking around he had little inclination to feed then.  We cuddled up together on the couch for tea and toast, Aileen and the midwives drank tea and chatted and I called Mum back to let her know everything had gone well.  We named him Arran David McMillan sometime around dawn.  After a clean up we were all tucked up into our bed for a well-earned sleep and for Arran’s first feed once he woke in the afternoon: homebirth bliss!

Oliver’s Birth Story by Zavana Wenham

I had initially thought that I would have a hospital birth, thinking that with my first baby I would want to make sure that nothing could go wrong. My fear soon changed with discussing home birth with my midwife Sue (who is also my partner’s auntie). She had had tons of experience with home births and reassured me that the hospital was only 10 minutes away from where I lived, but the most important thing was that my birth would be unique and special, that after the birth, I would be at home with my family and new baby and could go into my own bed and relax. Home birth was for me.

My pregnancy did have the usual morning sickness, though it seemed like all day for me. I couldn’t wait to actually look pregnant instead of looking like I had put on a little weight. From 6 months on, you couldn’t mistake it.

At 37 weeks, thinking that I was in labour as I had never felt Braxton hick contractions, my Mother in Law rang Sue (Who also had a Student midwife called Mianh with her), she came at 1am in the morning, checked me out and said I was only 1cm dilated. I felt a tad silly for thinking that it was all go, not knowing that I would have to wait another 4 weeks till I was going to give birth.
My due date (September 21st 08) came and then passed and each day after I woke up thinking “this will be the day”.

On the Saturday before I gave birth I was busy painting the baby’s room, then afterwards I had started having Braxton hick contractions, this time thinking “oh it’s nothing as I have had them before”. Hamish (my partner) kept saying that tomorrow our boy will be born, with me thinking that I would have to wait at least another week since I was already a week over. He was right.

About 3am Sunday morning, I started to feel tight cramps around my lower back. I tried to move around in bed to get more comfortable (yet how can you when your full term!), waking up Hamish to tell him I was feeling something strange. I managed to make it to about 6am with trying to sleep through the cramps, but then contractions actually started and I knew that our baby was to be born sometime today. Hamish told his Mum that I was in labour and he rang Sue. Sue said that we needed to time them and when the contractions were 5minutes apart, to ring her back. Hamish had got his Step dad and brother to set up the birthing pool in the lounge, while I went and had a shower. By 10am, Sue was called again, and she and Mianh came and gave me a VE and told me I was 4 cms dilated. I was in labour!

While Hamish was rubbing my back we discussed names for our boy that was soon to be born. We had not settled on a name but had a short list. At 1pm I moved from the sleep-out to the birthing pool, INSTANT RELIEF! Hamish was holding my hand throughout me being in the pool, and when he left it was either Mianh or Jenny (my Mother in Law) doing his job. Sue told me to breathe through the contractions, which I found to work, alongside Mianh giving me water with Rescue Remedy in it. At 2.20pm I was 9cms dilated but still had the rim of my cervix remaining. This I found the most painful part of giving birth. At 3.35pm I had another VE; Sue broke my waters which were meconium stained. At 4.20pm, I had another VE, which showed I was fully dilated at last. With 19 minutes of pushing (which I found to be the easy part?) Oliver Malakai arrived at 4.39pm. 7lb 11oz, 51cms long.

After Hamish cutting the cord, and myself delivering the placenta, Sue then showed me how to latch Oliver on to feed. An hour later, I finally had something to eat, and as Hamish held our son, I dozed off for a brief nap – totally exhausted, yet proud. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect birth than the one I got. Everything I had put in my birthing plan had gone to plan. I believe the fact that my midwives were so encouraging and helpful made my birth go so well.



When things go pear shaped: my home-style hospital birth by Johanna Aitchison

The obstetrician said, “My name is Yogi. We are going to do a ventouse extraction of your baby. I will do 20% of the work; the other 80% is up to you. I may do a small episiotomy to help him out.”

“I don’t want an episiotomy,” I said. It wasn’t in my birth plan and, despite the fact that I was feeling in a somewhat compromised bargaining position—legs in stirrups, clothed in a gown marked Hospital Property, moving into my second day of labour with a badly-positioned baby—I was in no mood to change my mind.

I had discussed it with my midwife, Linda, and had researched the practice of doing episiotomies—a deep cut to the perineum—rather than letting it tear naturally, and taking preventative measures to stop the tearing, such as stopping pushing and panting when the baby’s head was crowning.

Yogi did not seem happy.

“Look,” I said, “If it means that the baby is going to die if you don’t do an episiotomy, then do it, but otherwise, I don’t want one.”

I had had a vision of how things would go for my homebirth. This vision did not involve pushing a baby out lying on my back with an obstetrician wielding a kiwi cap, ready to suck my baby out by the head. It did not involve an epidural in my spine, a pethedine injection, gas, a syntocin drip to strengthen contractions, constant electronic foetal monitoring, a drip in my arm, blood pressure monitoring, and a catheter.

However, with a baby’s heartbeat not looking good and exhaustion clinging to me like a cloud, there was little point in reflecting on how far I’d deviated from my birth plan.

“You have three pushes and then we’ll do a caesarean,” Yogi told me.

Good, I thought, at least I know what I’m working with. The anaesthethetist had inserted the perfect epidural: I could still feel my legs—just—but not the contractions. So it was a matter of other people looking at the foetal monitor and telling me when to push.

The labour—or what I thought was labour—started midnight Friday the 17th of April. It was our first baby and we didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl. I was intent on having a homebirth at our Stoney Creek Road home. My desire to have a

homebirth had started off with a hunch, and taken off when I found a midwife, Linda Shannon, in whom I had complete trust. Oh, and we had a wonderful spa bath which I foresaw as the perfect venue for a water birth.

After deciding on a homebirth, I set about reading as much as I could about the topic. Homebirths, according to British research, were as safe as hospital births. The Netherlands, which has the highest rate of homebirths in the OECD (at 40%) has the lowest mortality rate for mothers and babies. In contrast, America, which spent the most per birth out of any of the OECD countries, and had a high rate of medical procedures in birth, had the 13th worst maternal mortality rate in the OECD.

I read about the “cascade of interventions” that often happen in hospitals, which gives one a much greater chance of having a caesarean, a procedure which has 4 times the maternal mortality rate as that of vaginal births.

So how did I end up in hospital, with every medical procedure applied to me, being told by Yogi that I had three pushes and then I’d be having a caesarean?

After starting what I thought was labour Friday midnight, I waited twelve hours and then called the midwife. My primary midwife, Linda, was off that weekend, so I was visited by her back-up, Lynley. She examined me on the couch and told me that I was 1cm dilated and that what I was experiencing wasn’t labour; I was actually in pre-labour, the latent phase, and the best thing I could do was distract myself: go for a walk, do household chores, anything to take my mind off the twinges I was experiencing.

Holy hell, I thought, if these are twinges what is it going to be like when the real thing hits? I did what she told me—kind of—but with a considerable amount of self-pity, melo-dramatic moaning and clinging to the swiss ball, trying to convince myself that I was only faking it and that the real thing was yet to start.

Despite the twinges becoming increasingly painful, I resolved not to ring Lynley and kept telling myself “This is not labour, this is not labour, this is not labour” in mantra to convince myself.

By midnight Saturday things were really starting to heat up. The pains were coming stronger and harder and closer together. I lay in the spare room—determined not to wake my partner—trying to sleep between contractions, or at least rest. A lower back pain started to kick in that was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I managed to get some relief in the spa bath and resumed labouring against the bed. The back pain was getting worse and worse and I was

moaning so loud my partner woke up and came down to rub my back and murmur encouraging words.

At 3am I was starting to freak out. The contractions seemed to be one on top of the other and without a break. The pain in my back was even worse.

Lynley arrived at 3.30am and examined me on the couch. “You haven’t made any progress,” she said, “You’re still only 1cm dilated.”

She told me that she thought that we should go to hospital; I had to get my head together and accept the change of plans, that I would need some pain relief and Jason must pack some clothes for me and baby.

“You can follow me there,” she said.

Just inside the entrance to the Delivery Suite, Lynley told me to hold onto the railing and sway my hips. It was supposed to relieve the pressure on my spine. It helped a little, as did the hot water bottle stuffed down the back of my trousers.

“I feel like someone is cutting my spine in two,” I told her. Lynley explained that I was experiencing back labour. It seemed that the baby had switched from an optimal anterior position to a posterior lie. This meant that its spine was rubbing against my spine. In the scan that we’d taken just a day ago he was perfectly-positioned. It looked like he’d had a change of mind.

I took the gas in great gusts and tried to melt into the contractions. The smell reminded me of geraniums in my grandmother’s garden, of dancing around her garage in pink petticoats and eating guavas from the tree in her front garden.

“She used to give us sweets as well,” I told Lynley, “They were shaped like rectangles and wrapped in crackly paper.”

I was strapped to an electronic foetal monitor that showed the baby’s heartbeat and the strength of my contractions; I took an injection of pethedine in my back side. Lynley suggested that we do stair-walking to move the baby into a more favourable position. I side-stepped and lunged up the cold concrete steps two at a time in my pale blue gown.

“You need to lunge deeper,” my partner Jason admonished me. When we returned to the delivery room he said that I needed to get it together.

“Lynley is doing the best that she can,” he said, “but she’s running out of options. Try harder!”

At 12noon, after about 12 hours of real labour, many gusts of gas, a shot of pethidine, stair-walking, and what seemed like thousands of pushes, my progress was still poor: I was only 3cm dilated and the baby’s head was swelling from pushing against my cervix.

“This gas is not working anymore,” I said. How bad could it be? I thought. How could I have all this pain and still only be three cms? Lynley left the room to take a lunch break and a hospital midwife subbed on. I found out later that she’d called my main midwife, Linda, and told her that it wasn’t looking good, and that she should get some sleep because she’d be up all night.

At 3pm I’d had enough of the pain and was begging for an epidural. Five centimeters dilated. The blue-eyed anaesthetist boy wore cobalt scrubs and had an easy manner. He opened the back of my gown and I pushed my spine out like a cat and stayed as still as I could manage. As the anaesthetic kicked in, the pain subsided. I turned my head to the foetal monitor by my bed and watched my body continue to contract. Jason laid my teddy bear beside my cheek and snapped a photograph. A catheter drained pee from my bladder. There was the sip, sigh of the blood pressure cuff which tightened, read and relaxed. My birth had become something I could observe from a distance.

I knew that once an epidural paralysed you from the waist down you could not push upright and, therefore, had a much higher chance of interventions such as ventouse or caesarean because you lacked the feeling and the assistance of gravity to get the baby out.

Linda swept in at 5pm “Let’s have a look at you,” she said brightly. A low level of the induction hormone syntocin was added to the drip to strengthen my contractions. Linda could feel the baby’s head pushing against my cervix and swelling from the pressure.

She told me later that she dabbed rescue remedy on his head and baby switched position.

She examined me at 8pm and almost yelled, “Nine centimeters dilated! There’s a tiny lip of cervix left; you’ll be ready to push in one hour.”

I began pushing at 9pm and was making good progress. It was hard to push properly, because I couldn’t feel much of what was happening below my waist and my legs were raised. Jason stood by the foetal monitor and watched for contractions. “Push!” he yelled, “Pu-ush!” the midwives yelled.

I did get my baby out with the help of Yogi the obstetrician and his venthouse. When he told me that I had three tries or a caesarean, I resolved to push hard enough to shoot the baby right out across the room if need be. And I did.

On the first push, murmurings—loud murmurings—came from the crew surrounding the lower part of my body—student midwife, my midwife, Linda, my partner, Jason, and Yogi-With-The-Ventouse—rose to excited pitches. Great and He’s Coming and Almost There. On the second push, they stopped me and told me to start panting. He must be crowning, I thought, Yey! Push push, pant pant. Push pant push pant.

A big chirping purplish seal of a baby slid onto my chest.

“What is it?” I asked Jason.

“Have a look,” he said.

Oh my God, I thought, as I peered down, it’s a boy, a big boy. Linda plugged him into my nipple while the final drama was played out in my uterus: a retained placenta. Another obstetrician arrived and began feeling around inside me. As my baby suckled happily at my nipple I took in more gusts of gas while and he yanked my placenta out in pieces.

My baby boy, my nine pound baby boy. That night, after being washed by the midwives, after a hospital meal of roast pork, pumpkin, potatoes, peas and gravy, I watched the dreams flicker across my boy’s newborn face. He let out a squeak, his brow contracted, his hands fluttered, startled, to his face. Yes, I thought, it was hard for you too.

Johanna Aitchison is a Manawatu poet whose work will appear in an exhibition celebrating Matariki, Eyes in the Skies, which opens at the Square Edge on the 3rd of July 2009. Her work is available online at Best New Zealand Poems 2007 and 2008




Positive Birth Stories Website

The innate ability of each woman
to give birth guided by her body’s wisdom, with trusted attendants, in
soft private spaces, has been largely taken over by the international
billion dollar high-tech low-touch obstetrics industry.

This ‘active management’ of childbirth alters the mix of hormones that evolution has provided to help ease mother and baby through birth.

By hearing true stories filled with wisdom, tips & techniques and positive
experiences of birthing you will feel empowered and be reminded that
it is possible to give birth gently according to you and your baby’s
power, strength and innate wisdom. has been set up by Josie, a woman currently living in New Zealand.  She says “This website is based on my conviction that connected intrinsically to the struggle for women’s’ equality and freedom and restoration of the Divine Feminine is that elemental act of female power… birth. How we give birth has far-reaching implications, affecting the physiology and psychology of our children’s lives and influencing our mothering; including breastfeeding, attachment and post-natal depression among others. That makes birth not just a women’s issue but also an issue for humanity.”

She includes in her website gorgeous birth related art and other interesting articles around pregnancy and motherhood.  I encourage you all to take a look as I am sure we could all gain some new inspiration from her work.

To My Beautiful Ruby Roo

Ruby’s Birth Story

by Kylie Look

To my beautiful Ruby Roo, this is your story. Today you are 5 weeks old, and the time has gone so very fast. You have fit into our family so well and we all love you so much.

We started trying for another baby when Piper was just 6 months old. I was pregnant with you on Pipers first birthday and didn’t even know it! Not long after Pipers birthday she and I headed off to Melbourne to visit Aunty Lorna and Uncle David for Fletchers first birthday.  I had been feeling very tired but put it down to travelling with a one year old. I was waiting for my period which felt as though it was coming but just never did. One afternoon Aunty Lorna and I were in the supermarket, and we came to the isle with the pregnancy tests in it. I thought that it would surely be a waste of money as I didn’t actually believe I was pregnant – but Lorna convinced me to buy a test to be sure. We finished getting our groceries and headed back home.

I took the test from the box, had a quick read of the instructions and headed off to the toilet still expecting a negative result. One line negative, two lines positive. I sat on the toilet watching the stick as the second line appeared. WOW! I called out to Aunty Lorna through the bathroom wall “can you please check the box again and tell me how many lines is positive?” “2!?! Are you pregnant?”

I was shaking from excitement and a little shock as I really hadn’t believed it would be a positive test. Aunty Lorna gave me a big hug and I jumped around her living room with teary eyes so excited that I was pregnant with you and that I was here to share this amazing moment with my sister.

I jumped on the phone to tell Daddy who was still in New Zealand. He was really excited too and asked if he could tell everyone at home. I phoned Nana and Grandad and Aunty Julie.  Aunty Lorna and I took a photo of Piper and Fletcher together the next morning with a sign that said “My mummy is pregnant – guess who” and sent it to Aunty Lisa.

I was healthy for the length of my pregnancy with you, apart from the initial bout of morning sickness I had in the very beginning. It was amusing having Piper behind me in the bathroom while I was vomiting pulling the toilet paper off the roll. One day I was in the shower and couldn’t help but vomit, and Piper was in the bathroom watching, she turned around, crouched down and tried to mimic me! Oh dear! But eventually the nausea subsided. I had heartburn too for about the second half of my pregnancy. But that was as bad as it got.

We did a belly casting of my tummy at 36 weeks so you could see when you are bigger where you came from! Piper went with Granny Rosy to Aunty Emily’s house so we could get it done without helping little hands.

I had thought perhaps I would be early with you as I had been getting quite a lot of niggles. We went to Coromandel for Dad’s cousin Cybele’s wedding when I was 37 weeks pregnant. I awoke in our motel in the middle of the night with mild contractions the night before the wedding which lasted about an hour…I kept quiet just feeling them wondering if they would turn into anything….but they went away and I went back to sleep.

A week later, same again…they lasted a good few hours through the night and then nothing. The following weekend I was expecting the same thing, however there was nothing.  Eventually on the Tuesday night the day before you arrived I was laying on the couch watching House on tv with Daddy. I started feeling some tightening in waves just like the contractions I had when I was in labour with Piper. I quietly watched the clock as they came and went, 10 minutes apart, 9 minutes apart, 10 minutes apart. I was just about to tell your daddy that I thought this was it, when the phone rang. It was your Granny Rosy, and she asked what we were doing. So I said we were having a baby as I was in labour!! I felt safe to say that this was it and we asked Granny to leave her phone on incase we needed her to come and collect Piper in a hurry. All night the contractions continued, not very painful, but regular and just enough to keep me awake. The next morning I felt so tired and I was sure that it was going to eventuate into labour…I just wasn’t sure when! So Daddy agreed to take the day off work to help me look after your big sister and give me a little rest.

The contractions died down again but at about 11am they kicked in again still dull and about 10 minutes apart. At 12.30 we headed into town to drop Piper at Massey’s day care where she was going two afternoons a week. Then we drove into town for a date. Like our ‘last supper’ we had before we became parents the first time. This time we wet to the esplanade had an ice cream and sat under a tree and talked, it was lovely and relaxing and so exciting that you were nearly with us! As we got up to walk back to the car I had another contraction, this one was a lot stronger and I felt I had to stop and breathe through it. We decided to stay in town and pick Piper up a little early so we could go home and get ready for your arrival. So we popped in to Grannys and had a cuppa and a few more contractions. Then we decided to go to Bunnings Warehouse to get some locks for our cupboards that we had been meaning to get for a while. I started getting even more contractions there. I was getting worried that my 10 minute apart contractions were going on too long and text Julie our midwife to ask how long these were safe to go on for. She assured me that all was fine and to rest as much as possible while we waited for things to speed up.

Once we had our locks we headed on to Massey to pick up your big sister. One of the girls asked me when my baby was due, I replied “now!”. “Oh, you are due today?” “no, I am having it now!!” I answered! I then had a wee contraction as I leant quietly on their sink bench.

On the drive from Massey to Ashhurst, we were discussing names, as we still didn’t know if you were a boy or a girl. I had decided that you were definitely a boy! But we thought we had better find a name we agreed on just incase you were a girl. If you were a boy you were to be Griffin. I was fond of Ruby and dad liked it too, so we just needed a middle name. I liked Emelia, but it had no real meaning to us,  but dad suggested Eileen after his Nana, and it sounded perfect! So Ruby Eileen it was to be!

I had text Aunty Julie to tell her that you were probably going to be born tonight or tomorrow some time so once she finished work she should definitely come so she wouldn’t have to worry about driving at night. She text me at 4pm saying her boss had let her off work early and that she would leave right away. It was fortunate she left when she did as she arrived only an hour and a bit before you did!

When we got home contractions got closer together as I walked around cooking pasta for Pipers dinner and getting her bathed and ready to go to Grannys. I text Julie again to tell her that things had sped up a bit. She asked if we wanted her to come now, and as I wasn’t sure she decided that it was probably best. We then text Aunty Emily and Aunty Avon to let them know that I was in labour and told them they could come whenever they wanted. Aunty Emily arrived to pick up Piper and drop her and Takutea and Marcia to Grannys. Then Julie (our midwife) arrived and a few moments later Avon arrived with Felix. Julie asked if I wanted her to do an internal, again I wasn’t worried, but she thought it would help to establish how far along I was. I was a bit disappointed to learn that I was only 2 cms dilated, as I had thought all of the niggles I had been having would have accounted for a bit more! So Julie offered to do a stretch and sweep of my cervix to get things moving a bit faster. Ouch, it was not very comfortable at all but it did the trick.

We all headed back out to the lounge and Julie started to talk about going away for a while and text the second midwife to tell her not to worry about coming just yet. I took a seat on the couch to greet everyone and Julie quietly asked me if I was sure if I wanted all of my support people here as it was possible that by having them here my labour would slow down. I said I was feeling happy to have everyone here, but she pointed out that since I had sat down and they had arrived that my contractions had already gotten further apart. So I stood up hoping that things would kick off again and sure enough my contractions were suddenly 3 minutes apart, 2 minutes apart and very strong.

Aunty Avon set about making cups of tea for everyone, and lit the gas hob to put our electric kettle on to boil! Luckily Dad was on to it and pointed it out to her just as she held its plastic bottom over the flame! It made me laugh even mid contraction.

Aunty Julie arrived and I felt a bit bad that I couldn’t greet her properly as my contractions were so intense and close together. At this point I was really relying on the warmth and pressure from your dads hands on my back to help me cope with the contractions, and every time one came along I was calling Nicky!

Julie recommended I go to the toilet to empty my bladder and as I sat down on the toilet I had that familiar pushy feeling, and along came another contraction. This was one of the most unbearable parts of my labour and I knocked on the wall to get your dad to come and help me through the contractions.

The birth pool was being filled and I asked if I could jump in. I was leaning on all fours on the lounge floor when the second midwife arrived. I got in the pool as soon as it was ready and it was bliss for about half of a minute until the next contraction came. I was ready to push, and Julie said that it was ok to do so, so I started. It was feeling like such hard work. Julie asked if she could do an examination with my next contraction to establish how things were going. She said there was a lip on my cervix that you had to come over and if I kept pushing I would risk swelling making it more difficult for you to come out. She requested that for the next couple of contractions I try not to push. I gave not pushing my best shot, but my body took over and I had to ask if I could please push because I couldn’t stop it! Julie said that that was fine. But I was half heartedly trying not to push while my body was trying to push.

Eventually I was told that your head was just there, and one more big push and your head came out. It was an amazing feeling to know that you were just there, half in and half out! With the next contraction I gave a great big push and Aunty Julie helped deliver you with the help of Julie the midwife into the world. You cried and we just looked at you in awe, you were just perfect, you felt so soft and lovely!

It took us a while to look and see if you were a boy or a girl – I was quietly stoked that I had another little princess!

I tried to feed you right away but you weren’t that interested for a little while. I persevered and after a few minutes you latched on and started sucking away.  It was just so nice to be snuggled up with you and your daddy in the pool. All we were missing now was your big sister. I half regretted not having her there for this moment, but she was just too young and would have been very confused and upset seeing me in that state. Aunty Emily headed off right away to pick Piper up and when they got back Piper was fast asleep so we popped her in bed, and thought you would be a lovely surprise for her in the morning.

One of the most special parts of your delivery for me was that I got to cut your cord, I managed to swing around as daddy held you (and you were still connected to me) to cut the cord. Just an amazing feeling, first delivering you and then cutting you free into your daddies arms. I was so pleased that I requested and had the opportunity to do this. When you have your own babies one day I would love you to have this experience too.

I had forgotten, as I did with Piper that I still had more work to do to deliver the placenta. I really didn’t feel like I needed to push it out and the midwifes gave it a little tug, and even got me to tug on it as I tried and tried to push it out. Eventually we delivered the placenta into an ice cream container. I had a fair bit of bleeding so they asked if they could give me an injection to stop the bleeding, which I accepted.

I went and had a shower to freshen up while the midwives checked you over and Aunty Julie dressed you. I went to bed and you were brought in for me to nurse and cuddle and admire, my perfect little girl. Everyone came in to see you and Granny Rosy arrived too. All the noise in our room made Piper wake too, Daddy got Piper and brought her in to see you. She was so very happy to meet you, she tooted your nose and gave you a great big kiss and cuddle.  It was as perfect as we could have hoped.

So you arrived in 3 ½ hours. 3 minutes of pushing and a total of about 24 hours of on again off again not very intense preparation contractions. I didn’t have to have any stitches which I was very happy about, and we got to snuggle down in our bed for the night, all as normal, but with our beautiful new Ruby Roo tucked up in her bassinet beside us.