Our Home Births
Opps...I MISSED IT AGAIN
Monday was International Home Birth Day and I missed the opportunity to share a little bit of Zola's birth story...
Which is pretty fitting considering the short version is
***She was born surrounded by Love and Calm, at Home, but her birth was "missed" by our Beautiful Midwife @janineatibirth and Birth Photographer @melfisherphotography . Through no fault of their own...I just didn’t realise how close Zola was in the moment.***
Had she not have come out of me, I probably would have missed it too.
For those buckling in for the long version and are a bit obsessed with all things birth, like me, grab a warm drink, settle in and enjoy.
For those who don't know we had a homebirth with Bodhi and I couldn't be prouder of how it went, so it was a no brainer, when we realised we were pregnant again, that Janine was one of the first people we told and asked her to please come on this adventure with us again.
The days leading up to Zola's birth escape me. It's a blur of resting, eating, sleeping, daydreaming about what was to come and constantly asking Clint "Can you believe we will be meeting our baby in the next few days?" And "Do you think the baby will come today?" Excited to meet our newest Family member, but nervous to think how much our lives would change in that moment.
Fast forward to Sunday morning, I woke up with Bodhi and tried to casually slide out of bed, as I stood up, I felt a huge shift in my body, looking back now I should have known the Baby was coming...suddenly there was this heavy pressure in my lower back and pelvis.
As I wobbled back to bed, shuffling my feet I suggested a beach day to Clint as the sun was shining and I knew once the baby was here, beach days would be few and far between. He agreed and encouraged me to get ready while he sorted Bodhi out... but I couldn't. I told him the pressure in my rectum was so intense I wouldn't be able to sit 45 mins each way in the car and was happy to just sleep all day instead. Thinking nothing of it they packed up and left and I laid in bed binge watching...i don't even know what, rubbing my legs, back and abdomen and instinctively breathing and meditating, and talking to Zola about how her birth would go. (Evidently it was very different to how I planned, other than we would both be safe, held and supported more on that further down).
The boys got home around 2pm and Bodhi was asleep, Clint saw me and knew sh!t was about to get real. By this time, I was moaning and breathing and had sent him screenshots from a contractions app which had been suggesting I "make my way to the hospital" for about 2 hours. The sensations felt so different to Bodhi's birth, but I would press the button on the app each time I did primal breathing, just in case they were indeed contractions. I was sure I would have this baby in the dark of the night, so I wanted to make sure I was conserving my energy and was in a calm state to meet our baby. I had been texting our Midwife and Photographer to give them a heads up the Baby would come overnight, so they could be on standby. But decided that I was not calling anyone until the baby was closer, as I didn't want to waste anyone's time or have anyone sitting around bored, if these were not actually contractions, even though they had both told me right throughout the pregnancy that they were happy to come even for a false alarm rather than miss the birth altogether.
One of the joys of homebirth was that I the Birthing woman, felt totally in control and empowered to call or not call as I saw fit, and so I continued on with my day.
We were all ok and doing really well. I was still sort of in denial that these were even contractions, but rather momentary, out of body experiences, the only way I can describe how I felt at the time. It felt like I was leaving my body, floating above it, watching this miraculous event, smiling down at myself like "You go, you birthing Goddess, you got this".
We sent Janine some more of the contractions app and stayed in touch, waiting to let her know when I couldn't talk through the contractions, and Mel told us to call her once we had called Janine. We went back to hanging out and getting as ready as we could...
My breathing became more and more Primal, I rocked on the exercise ball, I constantly went to the toilet, I had a shower, we used the rebozzo and our SheBirth techniques and then like a flash....everything happened. I realised I was about to meet our baby, in the blaring sunshine, in our home, with 3 males around me. Clint, Bodhi and Baxter had become my birthing team and there was no turning back. The pool was empty, I was the only female energy in the room and it was bright daytime....Whhhhhhaaattt?!??
As much as I wanted the same home birth as Bodhi's, I reminded myself time and time again that my body, my baby, my mind, my pregnancy, my marriage, everything was so different this time around, and to go with the flow.
Regardless, I had set everything up to make sure this birth was everything I wanted. I had been suprised weeks before, on return from a rare outting, by Bodhi and Clint, who had decorated our loungeroom and from that moment on it was referred to as our birthing space. Bodhi meticulously positioned the birth pool in the exact spot it was for his birth, we had blockout curtains on every doorway, fairy lights, affirmations, crystals, diffusers, homeopathy, essential oils, blankets, towels, baby cloths, cloth nappies, GoPros and cameras set up... I wanted to spend time floating in the birth pool before birthing in there with Clint and Bodhi in the pool too, and my birth plan even listed Bodhi as one of the people to "catch the baby". I had taken him shopping in the weeks leading up for his own mirror as he had become equally as obsessed as me with watching birthing videos and seeing the baby crown. I had an Erykah Badu playlist ready (I think she's a Queen and FUN FACT she is a Doula; more on that at another time), I had planned everything to the T. Which oils would be in the diffuser at each stage of labour, I had premixed roller bottles with instructions of when and how to apply, I had a memo on the wall of when to call Janine and Mel, Clint had prepared a grazing plate for after birth celebrations...
The only thing that went to plan was the grazing plate, and tracklist, but I should have expected that. At most of my meetups with Janine I would tell her how I kept having this recurring thought that I would be by myself for this birth, that I would be in my bathroom (which I hate and is well overdue for a renovation).
Was this my maternal instinct kicking in and preparing me for what was to come?
Was this my subconscious telling me to let go?
Was this my maternal lineage whispering to me that everything I needed to birth this baby was already inside me?
I would laugh with Janine about how I am doing all the things to make sure this lonely bathroom birth would not be a reality and manifesting everything in my power for the opposite.
I dont want to misquote her but she often asked me to think about what that meant, what were my fears and how would I release them?
I figured out that it wasn't lonely being 'alone' in birth. That I wasnt truly alone, I was held and supported by My Family, My Friends, My Midwife, My Photographer.
I met with my Midwife every 4-6 weeks in the beginning. She checked on the baby, she checked on me. She had raw, open honest conversations with me, she informed me, she challenged me, she truly held and supported me through the aches and pains of pregnancy, the endless tears and hormones, through all of it, she had my back. There's no amount of money that can ever compensate for the bond and connection we now have.
She wasn't there physically rubbing my back as Zola entered the world but she had done everything in her power to help me find the power I held within to know that my Baby and I were Safe and could birth with or without her physical presence. Don't get me wrong Private Practice Midwives are worth their weight in gold, and nothing can replace their experience and medical knowledge but I truly believe their greatest value is in the continuity of care, the personal connection and their expertise in the beauty and support of birth in all it's forms.
Transition...what a wild phase during birth, everyone experiences that moment of "I can't do this" and then just like a that you have done it....
Before I knew it, and quicker than I could notify Janine or Mel, I had all the birthing signs Janine had discussed. I couldn't sit (I jumped off the exercise ball so quickly, I thought I was going to hit the ceiling), I sobbed momentarily telling Clint "I just want the baby out, I just need to stop pooing" (as all day I had a constant urge to poo and as a result had emptied my bowel at least 308683 times by this point).
I had one more giant contraction in the loungeroom and told Clint " this is it, this is the last poo for the day, I just want to stop going to the bathroom", I slid my feet from the loungeroom, (where all the things were beautifully laid out at arm’s reach for when we needed them) to the toilet, sat down and had a sudden urge to push...
I had flashbacks of every episode I had ever watched of "I didn't know I was pregnant" watching re-enactments of Woman birthing on the toilet thinking to myself while watching "There is no way, they didn't know they were about to give birth", mixed with imagery in my mind of ancestors I had never met, birthing in Africa, surrounded by their village, surrounding me and looking at me lovingly repeating my affirmations "my body and my baby know how to birth", "my baby is in the perfect position to birth", "women all over the earth are birthing with me", " I have done this before, I can do this again". I snapped out of this internal chanting just long enough to shout to Clint
"Cliiiint....it's the baby!"
"The baby...it's coming..."
"I know...you're doing great, we will meet our baby tonight"
"No Clint, it's the baby, not another poo...it's the baby! The baby's coming. Call Janine"
Clint thinking we still had at least 40 mins, because that’s how long it took for Bodhi's head to come out, shouts back "All good, Janine's on her way, she will be here in an hour..."
Me almost laughing in disbelief at this point, that I had been through all the stages of labour without realising, AGAIN .
Again? Yes Again. During Bodhi's labour I also didn't believe I was so close to giving birth and poor Janine who lives an hour away (with no traffic) arrived for his birth when he's little head was already crowning.
Funnily enough I had also basically manifested this. During Bodhi's pregnancy I had a recurring vision of just Clint and I, using our SheBirth skills and hanging out until go time, and only having 1 Midwife there for Bodhi's birth.
Our minds are wonderfully creative things aren't they, because sure enough that is exactly what happened. With Bodhi's Home Birth I didn't allow Myself to birth him until I knew Janine was there. My sister whispered "Janine's here Kim, you can meet your baby now..." and in that moment I breathed a sigh of relief and something shift in my mind. Janine was my safety net for Bodhi's Home Birth. Only My Mum and Sister's knew we were planning a homebirth as I didn't want anyone else's fears projected onto me. So I felt like I needed Janine for her medical expertise that time, but what I got in return for booking her and planning a homebirth together, was so much more.
Growing up, I had always dreamed of being a Mum but never really considered how the baby would come out. When I was pregnant with Bodhi my actual Vagina would clench at the thought of birthing him. Petrified doesn't even begin to describe how I felt about birth first time around, until my Sister suggested SheBirths and my whole outlook changed. (That will be a whole post all to itself.)
What I am getting at is that we are all capable of manifesting our outcomes, eliminating our fears and birthing our babies the way we and our Babies need to be birthed.
Clint and I joked with Janine about how much notice to give her this time around, to ensure she would be there for as much of the labour as needed. We also discussed in detail what would happen if she wasn't there in time and Clint and I felt confident in my body and our Baby.
I let out the most primal sound I ever have, took a deep breathe to regroup and calmly said "ok little baby, I am sorry about all the noise, I'm ready, we can do this, let's do this, I am ready when you are"
Clint came to the toilet to help me get up...at this point I was sure no amount of gym training could have given him the strength to lift me but he managed. We called out for Bodhi to bring some towels, he was playing a game on my phone (which is almost unheard of in our house) so I am shocked that he even heard a word we said and did come out with towels from the lounge. I knew that I was not going to get out of the bathroom and back to the planned birthing space, of our loungeroom. Clint left to get a mirror as my waters hadn't burst like they did with Bodhi but as I tried to get off the toilet so he could look, what for I am still not sure, I felt a little release and knew it was SHOW TIME!
I just about muttered the words "Clint I need a warm cloth" and he's face was that of bewilderment. I knew that if I wasn't going to birth in the (empty) birthing pool, I was going to need to protect my perineum at all costs. He's face said "Kim? I am sure I just saw the baby en caul a second ago and now you want a warm cloth are you kidding me...the midwife is an hour away, the baby is seconds away and you want me to leave you to get a warm cloth?!?!?" But he's mouth said "sure, one sec"
He ran to wet a towel and by the time he came back, not even 4 steps away, I whispered "I can feel the baby's eyes". Now I know that's a weird thing to say, but I could, she wasn't crowning anymore she was making her way out into the world and there was nothing anyone could do to stop her. By this time my body had voluntarily pushed Zola's head out just past her eyes and the warm towel gave me the relief I needed. As Clint and Bodhi fiddled with the phone to call Janine, I remember hearing Janine’s voice and exhaling a breathe of relief, similar to last time. But it was different this time. I wasn't waiting for her to arrive to give birth. I was listening to my body and my baby. I was trusting in the process. It definitely made the world of difference hearing her real life voice, knowing she was holding space for me from her car and I remember saying something along the lines of "Janine...I think I am having the baby...I can feel it's head" she assured me I was indeed having the baby (hence the head I could feel between my legs) and reminded me that the Baby and I knew exactly what to do and as she always did, reminded me to trust my body.
Clint and Bodhi managed to get Janine on Facetime (as I remember it) by the time they turned around to face me again I had gone from all fours, bearing down, guiding our daughter out, to standing, cuddling her on my chest, telling her how well she had done and thanking her for her help during birth. Clint turned around in surprise and handed the phone to Bodhi so Janine could see Zola and I.
Clint noticed her thick juicy umbilical cord was around her neck 3 times, and as we had previously discussed, he tried to lift it over her head.
Again MANIFESTATION...when I thought about Zola's birth, I constantly felt like I needed to teach Clint everything I knew about umbilical cords, about nuchal cords, about getting it off the baby's neck, and then once we had gone over it multiple times, even as recently as that weekend, I let it go. Something in me knew it was going to happen and knew Clint would be the only other adult with me to help. Aren't are body's and mind's beautiful things when we listen to them!?!?!
It was too tight to lift over her head, so we gently and calmly turned her to unravel the cord and I held her close as we all spoke to her and encouraged her to take a big breath. Clint was rubbing her feet, me her chest and Bodhi was casually chatting to Janine, telling her he had a sister. Zola took a big breathe and let out an almighty cry and in that moment I realised I had birthed a daughter. I had imprinted her DNA to know and trust birth. I had grown what will one day become my grandchildren (if she chooses to give birth), while Zola was inutero. I was a birthing goddess.
The best part about that day was knowing I was in the safety of my own home. The place I had already birthed my eldest. The place I felt safe and comfortable. With familiar surroundings, smells and creature comforts like my own blanket, bed, bathroom, fridge, freezer, food and no one to answer to. Everyone who was invited into my birth space knew Me, Clint, Baxter and most importantly for me, they knew Bodhi.
For years he begged for a sibling and when we told him I was having a baby in the early weeks of pregnancy he switched straight into doula mode and wanted to know when we could inflate the birth pool and how he would know it was the right temperature for the baby. He fully expected us to have a Home Birth. That was the norm for him. He knows people birth where they feel safest and knew that for us, that was at home.
Another beautiful thing about Home Birth, you can have as many or as few people as you want there, there's no hospital policy, agenda, or restrictions.
Every year on Bodhi's birthday we listen to his Birth Video (i went really primal and wanted almost complete darkness so the homevideo is black but the sound is incredible). We speak fondly of his birth, our birthing team, our birthing space and the lead up and postpartum periods with him regularly. We have imprinted in him that birth is natural and safe. He had no fears about his sister being born at home and will proudly tell anyone who listens that his Sister came out of his Mum's vagina (a classic antedote our beautiful photographer caught as a sound bite on Zola's birth day.)
I sobbed in the moments after her birth when he came to sit on the couch with us calm and cool as a cucumber and put his hand on me and said "Mum you did great, I am so proud of your effort birthing my sister" I hadn't cried yet, probably from the shock of it all and in that moment I sobbed. It was like he was voicing all the things I was feeling. I had done great. I had put in an extraordinary effort and I had managed to maintain his positive attitude towards birth, home birth and the power of birthing woman. His Dad had shown him how to care for a birthing woman, when to take a back seat and when to hold, support and encourage.
I again had grown and birthed another child. Just like my Mum had my 2 sisters and I. Just like My Ouma had my 6 Aunts and Uncles. Just like My Great Ouma had her 17 (yes 17 Children). I come from a long line of birthing woman, some who Home Birthed by choice, some who Home Birthed because there was no other option, and I had just Home Birthed my 2nd Beautiful Healthy Baby who when her time comes, if she chooses to birth, will do so where she also feels the most safe, held, heard and respected, as I had when I birthed her.
For those who know me, understand I am a massive introvert…then when I am comfortable can talk underwater. My confidence has taken blows over the years but I will say there is something about Birth that not only births my children, but re-Births me as a Woman, a Mother, a Partner, Sister, Daughter, Friend. I love birth. Every Birth. As long the Family feels supported, heard and held, Birth is beautiful.
And I haven't even discussed the beauty of postpartum Home Birth. Getting to decide how and when I birthed the placenta. Making informed decisions about when and how to cut the cord. What to do with the placenta (we were given a beautiful lesson by our 2nd Midwife about Zola's placenta and even Bodhi who is usually adverse to the sight of blood sat in the front row for the show and tell). Choosing what and when I ate and drank. When I would shower. How many chances I got at trying to breastfeed Zola. How long I held her before handing her to anyone else. How long we held her before taking the measurements. How bright or dull the lights were. How loud or soft people spoke. We were not pressured by anyone to do anything.
When I finally gave Zola to Clint, Janine came to the bathroom to help me shower and dry myself. She asked Clint to bring Zola to the bathroom knowing I wanted to just stare at her. I showered with the door open, chatting to Clint, watching Zola in his arms, and had the perfect view of Bodhi in the toyroom playing cars. We made our way to our bedroom, where Janine and RubyRose had made our bed and I crawled into bed with Zola, Bodhi and Clint, knowing that we were exactly where we were meant to be, the perfect place for us to welcome our 2nd child, our 1st Daughter...at Home.
Now if you have made it this far in the story...GO YOU!!! But Home Birth doesn't end there. Janine visited us numerous times over the first 6 weeks. She chatted to me on the phone always managing to know when to call or bring baked goods to reassure me, empower me, affirm me and catch my tears when they fell. At each home visit she dedicated time to each of us and debriefed and chatted about our experiences and even gave Baxter extra attention knowing that he had been superseded by Zola and was wondering where he now fit into our wolf pack.
Home Birth, with a Private Midwife is more than just support during birth. It's the pregnancy and post partum care too. I can only speak from my experience with my Midwives but if you are considering children and birth, get yourself a Janine...or the closest you can to her!!!
All images were taken lovingly, discreetly and professionally by our beautiful photographer Mel Fisher. Do yourself a favour and check out her new instagram page @melfisherphotography she wasn't there for Zola's birth, as we had planned, but captured the aftermath so beautifully. When I saw the full gallery I felt like she captured exactly what we needed her to. During the planning I didn't realise what I needed in birth photography but I have looked back at these images more times than I should probably admit and each time they take me right back to this magical day, and are exactly what I needed.