This is the story of the birth of our baby girl Rachel Elizabeth Buckland.
My husband, Brendon and I had decided to have a home birth, much to the displeasure of some people. I had to change obstetricians after my first doctor was informed of our decision. He told me that if I wanted to have a home birth, he did not want to be involved. From his point of view it was too dangerous, and he openly told me that he looks at labour and birth from a “worst case scenario”. I went to view the two hospitals closest to our home and was told by one head sister that I was not a good candidate for a home birth because this was my first child and I had not “proven myself obstetrically”. Fortunately at the other hospital they gave me names of doctors who did work with private midwives and so I was able to find a doctor who was willing to work with us. He only practices at a hospital 20km away, but we were happy with the hospital when we went to see it.
We had a wonderful pregnancy, visiting my doctor at 18 weeks and 36 weeks, and for the rest of my antenatal visits I went to see my midwife, Sharon. The visits with her were wonderful. She helped my husband and I to feel our baby and to know more about what was going on. She listened to Rachel’s heartbeat at every visit and got to know our little girl even before we knew it would be a girl. (We only found out at her birth). Sharon held antenatal classes where we were one of five couples who were planning home births for that time, and these were wonderful times of sharing questions, fears and joys. We made good friends with all in the group and looked forward to our get together after all the babies had been born.
Our baby was due on the 14th of April. We had booked the birthing pool we were going to hire, and we collected it two week’s before “D day”. We had set the pool up on the Sunday and we had everything ready. We had tested the pool (or should I say our geyser) to make sure we knew how long it would take to fill ect. I had monthly bookkeeping work that I do, and so I planned to get April’s work done as soon as possible. We travelled through to Pretoria on the Monday and got the work done. We had supper with friends and headed home. Now there was nothing planned for the next month. We were ready for the arrival of our baby. On the way home I had my first contractions. I had not felt any of the Braxton hicks contractions before that Monday night, and what I did experience was that I felt the contractions mainly in my back. (Even though our little one was not lying in a posterior position). And on Tuesday morning I had a show.
We had an appointment with Sharon that afternoon, so we went to see her and told her that things had started. She confirmed that our little one had engaged and said that because my weight was the same as the previous week, our little one might arrive in the next week (maybe on the weekend). It was exciting to think that within the next two weeks I would be holding my little baby in my arms.
I had contractions on Wednesday and towards the evening they got a little more intense. I did not sleep much on Wednesday night as I was having to breathe through contractions, and I was very uncomfortable (with the pain in my back). I had a hot bath which helped the back a bit but things kept going. This night was difficult. I was not sure what to expect and was not sure if I would know when I was in established labour. The question in my mind was weather things were going to happen tonight. By 5am Thursday morning I was tired of trying to get comfortable and sleep, so I decided to bake a cake to keep busy and help me to not focus too much on the contractions. They eased off through the morning and then started again at around 1pm. They were coming every two minutes and after a while we decided to phone Sharon and let her know what was happening. She said we should phone her when we want her to come out.
At 3pm we phoned Sharon again and asked her to come out. My contractions were coming every 2 or 3 minutes and seamed to be getting stronger. Brendon and I had been discussing when to phone her, and we were so unsure as to what was happening that we decided to rather ask her to come over and then we would know how things were going and not sit worrying about it. We also phoned my mother, as she and my sister were going to be here to help through the labour, and we were not sure how long it would be, so we thought it best they get told now (as they were coming through from Pretoria – an hour trip).
Sharon arrived around 4pm and brought her things in from the car. She then chatted a bit and said she would do an internal to see how far my cervix had dilated. Not eh news I expected. I was only one centimetre, and the cervix was still slightly posterior. Sharon said I should have a hot bath for and hour and try and “know things off” so that I could have a few hours sleep. She also told Brendon to phone my mom and tell them not to worry about coming through yet. My mom said they were almost here so they would still come. I am so glad they did. I was in the bath, feeling confused and weepy. I did not want things to stop. I was looking forward to meeting my baby and holding her in my arms. I also felt stupid for calling Sharon and my mom when things were not really happening. This is why I am so glad my mom came. She came into the bathroom and we both had a good cry and a good chat. My mom told me how she also did not know what to expect with her first child and that I must not worry about it. She reminded me that every labour was unique and that we must just wait and see. My mom told me that I needed my energy and that this baby has her time when she wants to arrive and we must just wait and see when that will be. I need to relax.
Well, the contractions slowed down when I climbed in the bath, but within half and hour they were just as frequent as before. Eventually I was getting uncomfortable, so Sharon came and chatted. She said I might as well get into the pool, so Brendon went to make sure the water was at the right temperature (he had filled the pool in the afternoon so that it was ready if things were quick). Sharon got me on my knees in the bath and she massaged my back and shoulders, which helped wonderfully for the back pain. I felt so cared for. Here was the “professional” who was caring for me through this labour, rubbing my back. Sharon was like a friend who was with me, caring for me and helping me in such a practical way. It was quite overwhelming.
The pool was ready. Brendon came to help me out the bath and as I stood up I had a contraction. It was so much more painful that I sat back in the water. The water had helped so much that it was quite overwhelming at first. But I had to get out. So I got out and dried off, and found that after a few contractions it felt a bit better. I then thought that it would be a good idea to stay out of the pool as long as possible. So that I can have the help of gravity and so that I can have the pool for when things get worse. So Sharon suggested going for a walk in the garden. Brendon and I ended up marching around the swimming pool. I was walking quite fast and found it relieved my back pain slightly. When contractions came I would go into a supported squat (holding Brendon’s arms). And this we did for quite a while. We had to switch on the lights and we had a water bottle so that every now and then I could have some water. My spirits were lifted. I felt encouraged that I was now coping better with the contractions and felt really positive.
We then went inside for something to eat. Sharon reminded me that I needed to make sure I was eating enough, as I needed my energy. We were in the kitchen for a while, I would lean on the counter when I had a contraction and Brendon would put a heat pack on my back to help ease the pain. Then as things got stronger I decided I wanted to get into the pool. This was great. Every hour I would get out to go to the loo, and the contractions that I had when I was out the water were so much more difficult to cope with than when I was in the water.
Eventually at around 10om Sharon suggested that we check how things were progressing. She felt confident because of the shape of my tummy. I remember a comment being made that this little one might be here before 12. She did an internal and then had the news. I was only 3cm. What a shock. Sharon then told us that we needed to consider what we were going to do. Things could carry on for 7 or more hours, and we needed to consider whether I had enough energy to last for the long. We had two options. One was to carry on, and hope that I had enough in me. The second was to go into hospital and have an epidural. This would allow me to sleep while the contractions continue to dilate my cervix. Then I would be rested for the second stage and have the energy to deliver my baby. Sharon said Brendon and I must discuss it and so she left the room.
There we stood. Totally unsure as to what we should do. I felt bad because Sharon, my mom and Gillian had been there for so long, and Brendon was also tired. Brendon told me that the only people that I should be concerned for was the baby and me. We also knew that the little one was fine. Sharon had been checking her heart rate with a portable sonic aid at regular intervals and she told me that she was doing well. The question is, can I cope? How long could it still be?
I wanted to give it a try. Brendon reassured me that if at any time I felt it was too much, we would still be able to go in to the hospital. We could just take it an hour at a time. I decided again that I needed to stay out the pool as much as possible. In the time that we spent in the bedroom chatting I had gotten better at coping with the contractions out of the water. So we told Sharon we wanted to give it an hour and see how I cope. I spent the time on my birthing ball leaning on the dining room table. I would rock and bounce and had to focus tremendously with the contractions. Thinking about the cervix opening. They were tough, but I knew I could cope with the pain. I learnt how to relax with the contractions and felt that I was mastering how to deal with them. I also had such great support. With every contraction I had someone rubbing my back. I felt so supported and cared for that it helped me tremendously. During this time Sharon gave ma homeopathic preparation to try and help the cervix relax. She also made sure that I kept eating and drinking so that I would not dehydrate.
At 1am Sharon told me that the hour had now become three. We both felt anxious to know how things had progressed, so we went to the room for another internal. The news, only 5cm. From 1cm to 3cm it was 6 hours. Now we had moved 2cm in 3 hours. This was much better. But Sharon said we must just think about whether we can go on for possible another 7 hours. Can we cope? Can I cope? Brendon asked me how tired I was. I answered him that I was not very tired but I was “sick and tired”. I wanted things to happen. I wanted to keep going. Things are going quicker, and they could speed up. I need to stay out of the pool and use gravity as much as possible.
So now I moved into the lounge where the pool and the sleeper couch were. The room was lit with candles and was very peaceful. I kneeled on the sleeper couch with my arms on my birthing ball. Just resting in between contractions. When the contractions came I would roll forward and someone would rub my back while I swayed forward and back, or side to side. They would hold the hot pack on my back between contractions and I felt so supported. I could do this. I was mastering the contractions but my back was very painful.
Lets get into the pool. From now the hormones released in my body really helped me relax. I felt quite “spaced out”. I felt good in the water. I could move into different positions and find what was most comfortable. I found that I needed to move my pelvis during the contractions. And I found it helpful to picture my baby coming down. In between contractions I was very relaxed. I remember even falling asleep at one stage because my head hit the water and made a splash that woke everyone up. Gillian was giving me grape juice and water to drink between every contraction, and bringing coke for Brendon (who had not been eating well and was getting a bit shaky).
During this final stretch of the first stage and through the second stage I remember hearing Sharon. She was there with every contraction, giving me encouragement and instruction. It was so reassuring. I also remember my mom and sister saying words of encouragement, giving me the energy to keep going. At one point Gillian was in front of me and she said that she was so proud of me. I felt good. We can do this. I remember Sharon saying that baby might be here by 6. It was such a beautiful time of day, with the sun coming up, I saw the light coming into the room, and knew that we would soon be able to see this little one who had been hidden for so long.
Finally we were at the second stage. Sharon had said that I would have to push this baby out. Something she normally does not encourage at all. Rather wanting the mother to allow the contractions to get the baby out and just to breathe with the contractions. But she said that because we had gone on for so long, we needed to get this baby out as soon as possible. We needed my energy to last for just this last bit. This last hour was very tough. I remember struggling terribly to learn how to push, often getting frustrated because I could not get it right. Then once I got better at pushing I had the mental battle of feeling as though we were not getting anywhere. I would push and feel the baby’s head crowing, but when the contraction was over, it felt as if the baby moved back in. I felt as though the pushing was for nothing. And it felt as if they were going on and on and on. I remember hearing Sharon saying “just a few more” and focused on coping one at a time.
Then finally, after one of the contractions, her head did not go back. What relief! We were getting there. Sharon told me that she would tell me to push but when she said breath I must stop pushing and just breath. This was so that things would not go too quickly and cause me to tear. She encouraged me, and told me that there was plenty of space and that I must just push as hard as I can, with no fear or reservation. I remember feeling frustrated when the contractions stopped. I wanted this head to come out. It often felt so close, and the contraction would stop and I would have to wait. This waiting was difficult. At one point my legs were cramping slightly and someone suggested that I straiten my legs in between contractions. I remember saying that I was not moving at all, I was so scared that if I did, the head would go back in again.
And eventually her head came out. Sharon had been getting me to feel her head when it was crowning, but now, to feel that head out, it was great. I knew that it would be one more contraction and my baby would be born. We waited, and the contraction came. I pushed and my baby came out. She came up between my legs and I caught her. Arriving finally at 6:51am When I saw her in front of me, this baby who had been hidden for nine months, was now here. The emotions that I felt can not be expressed in words. It was truly the most amazing experience of my whole life. And something I don’t think I will every forget. Looking down at this perfect little body. Saying to Brendon, “it’s a girl”. Holding her in my arms. Absolutely wonderful.
Sharon helped me hold her head so that any mucus could drain out of her mouth and nose. Then she wanted to get the umbilical cord out of the water so that it would stop pulsating. When it did stop, Brendon clamped and cut the cord. He then held Rachel in the water and the two of them spent some time together. I climbed out the pool so that I could deliver the placenta. Sharon had suggested climbing out so that we could monitor my blood loss. I had a low lying placenta and we wanted to make sure that I was not bleeding heavily. I squatted over a bucket and with the next contraction the placenta came out. I remember Sharon looking up at me and saying “that was quick, you did it all on your own”. She then checked my bleeding and said I could climb back into the pool. I then held Rachel and put her to my breast. She knew exactly what to do and latched on perfectly. The water was cooling off, so we got out the pool and went to bed. Rachel enjoyed her first meal and then Sharon weighed and measured her next to me on the bed. A healthy 2.95kg and 51cm long. Rachel was then dressed and her and I snuggled up in bed together.
The Lord allowed me to be a part of this miracle, the creation of life, a blessing beyond description. I thank Him for giving me the strength, patience, endurance and peace. And I think Him too for those who were there to support and encourage me.