At 35 weeks, my best friend Zoe and my midwife/dear friend Erin held the most beautiful blessingway on my behalf – to honour this rite of passage into motherhood with 3. I was loved bombed by the women most dear to me with beautiful messages and words of encouragement; of “you’ve got this”. Not only for this upcoming birth, but for this new gig as a mother to 3. The most powerful of rituals was the ‘burning of the fears’ ceremony. An opportunity for me to write down and voice ALL the fears I had leading into this birth as well as the huge change that was about to unfold in our family. Could I do this? Did I have it in me? As I watched that piece of paper burn in the candle light and sobbed away my fears, I had never felt more 'held' in such a vulnerable moment. I came away from my blessingway in a really great headspace, floating around in my little positive protective bubble.
In the midst of COVID as well as the stressors of renovating our home (why do pregnant women do this to themselves!!?), I had to be very mindful to stay in this positive headspace. I consciously disconnected from any negative energy around me, knowing it was not serving me nor my little babe.
There was also lots of conscious intent going into this birth. I had seen a kinesiologist throughout this pregnancy to help me shift some stuck wounding that I knew I needed to clear, not only for this birth, but for my postpartum. I wanted the intimacy and connection we had for our first born’s venture earthside (which we didn’t really get second time around, having had our toddler present for her sister’s birth). I wanted to feel held. I also wanted to be the one to catch this baby. I had wanted this with my girls, but I just couldn’t bring myself to reach down in the moment. It’s funny, because as a midwife I get so incredibly frustrated with women when they 'hand themselves over to the system', yet in the moment of BIRTH with my girls, I had almost done the same. The discomfort was too much to handle; and so I would disengage from the moment, from my body, and ‘hand myself over’ to my midwives to help me birth my babies. It was something I had discussed with my kinesiologist, as well as with Lisa and Erin, my two midwives. This time I wanted different. I wanted to be present. I wanted to be IN my body, in the moment, and to be the only one to lay hands on my baby.
I had a few weeks of on/off prelabour leading up to Lenny’s birth. One night we had a false alarm where I was pretty convinced it was on. I called Lisa to give her the head’s up, only to have Phill come out from putting the girls to bed, have a chuckle and say “I’ve seen you do this before, you’re not working hard enough”. *Kick in the guts right there*
At my 39 week appointment I gave Lis a heads up about all the tightenings I’d been having, to which she smiled, reassured me how my body was doing all this wonderful prep work and gave Phill a *look* to warn him, when things started - it was likely to be ON.
The night things kicked off, I was putting the girls to bed and Jo, my chiro sent me a text saying “Sending you strength tonight”. She’s a pretty intuitive woman and so I thought “Hmm…does she know something I don’t?”. I came out of the girls room and had an overwhelming feeling that we needed to blow up the birth pool that night. We’d been putting it off for days, and I pressed firmly, so Phill got the pump out and it was good to go.
We’d started watching Into the wild the night before and had about an hour left, so we sat down and finished it. Woah! It’s heeeeeavy. The credits started rolling, we looked at each other, laughed and said “We’d can’t go to bed on that.” – and so on went Friends. Gotta love friends to get you laughing. Mid-way through an episode I felt a sensation come over me, then maybe another 10 minutes later; then another. I said to Phill, “I’ve just had a few waves, I think we might be on”. He looked up, smiled, and then said “Well, what are you doing up!? You better go to bed and get some rest”. I looked at him and rebutted “Says you, scrolling on your phone. You’re going to be supporting me!”. We were both abit giddy. Excited/in disbelief, unsure if this was it.
I jumped into the shower and spent a good 15-20 minutes in there. Nothing.
I hopped into bed just before midnight and then things started. Waves coming over me maybe 10 minutely. I couldn’t get comfortable. Phill hadn’t jumped into bed yet, and so I grabbed my TENS machine, and went looking for him. He was in the bathroom getting ready for bed. He took one look at the TENS in my hand and then realised I was serious. It was happening. I told him I couldn’t lie down and needed him to put my TENS on.
We decided to call Lisa. She asked if we needed her – to which we said no, so she told us to keep her posted and try to rest/sleep as much as possible. I tried to lie down again now that I had my TENS on, but I just couldn’t. I needed to be up.
I chucked my birth play list on and set myself up straddling the fitball at the end of our bed, propped up by pillows so I could lay on them and sleep between the waves. Phill flipped himself around so he could lay next to me and hold my hand. He started timing things, but the waves were only 10-15 minutes apart. I went into a trance, and we both dozed between each one.
The pressure in my backside was ridiculously intense. I hadn’t felt such intensity in my back with my previous births. I remember commenting “There’s soooo much pressure!!”. Phill just reassured me and told me I was doing great.
I got up a few times; to the toilet, for some water, but by 4am I wanted some feedback. I got Phill to time again, but the waves were still only 10-15 minutely. I was feeling abit defeated at this point as I realised I’d been at it for 4 hours with no real 'change'. That incline up the mountain wasn’t getting any steeper.
I felt hungry, and asked Phill to make me some peanut butter toast. Hunger made me more frustrated as I thought “Well there’s no way I can be in active labour if I’m hungry! Women in labour don’t get hungry!”.
I demolished my toast and then felt the need to sit on the toilet. There was just so much pressure in my backside and I couldn’t bear it any longer. I made my way there, sat down and then a huge gush came flooding out at about 4:30am. “Oh, there’s my waters!” I thought. I dabbed with toilet paper – pink. Great! Phill happened to be walking past the door at the time, did a double take back and with wide eyes said “Was that your waters!?”. I answered “Yep”, to which he took one look at me, got out his phone, and I said “I’m calling Lisa!”.
As soon as the waters went, that intense backside pressure disappeared. Oh, it was SUCH a relief. The waves became much closer together; 4 in 10, but had lost their intensity. I was cruzing! In hindsight, baby’s head must of still been high in the pelvis, and the waters breaking just took that pressure off my cervix. Lis asked if I wanted her there, but I told her I was perfectly fine. She said she’d have a shower and then leave, and so would get to us in about 2hrs (coming from Healesville) – but to call her if anything changed. Happy days. Sounded like a plan.
I then told Phill it was time to fill the pool. I wanted to get in. I grabbed my things and made my way over to the living room. I lit my birthing candle from my blessing way, and felt the presence of all the women I had chosen to surround me that day. Things changed very quickly from there. One huge wave and I literally felt our baby shoot his way down through my pelvis. It was in that moment I had this deep realisation that no one was going to make it. This baby was coming. I yelled out to Phill to update him and got him to ring Lis. She wasn’t picking up as she’d stepped into the shower.
From here, there were multiple phone calls back and forth between our birth team. After a few attempts of reaching Lis, we tried Ez. Sensing the urgency she hopped straight in her car and sped down Nepean Hwy. Next was Lis calling back. I recall Phill giggling over the phone saying “Ummm, it’s funny how things can change so rapidly in a matter of minutes”. She was on her way.
At some point I looked down at my phone, saw it was almost 5am and realised our girls would likely be up in an hour or so. Regardless if babe was born yet or not, I needed mum here to support them. Phill was on it – calling mum, asking her to come down as soon as she could, to be here when they woke up. I was standing gripping onto the T.V cabinet at the time when a mammoth wave came over me and I felt our baby move through me even further. The cry out for Phill made him jump off the phone, and the minute I locked eyes with him I desperately said “Where’s Erin!? Call Erin!!”, knowing very well there was no way Lis was making it.
Another mammoth wave had me down on all fours, that pressure in my backside was back. By this point I think Phill could hear I was grunting away, and this babe was not waiting for anyone. Erin gave an ETA of 18 minutes and somewhere in there the decision was made to ring the ambulance. Phill tried to get me to hop into the pool which by now was ready, and it was here that I had my crisis of confidence. Not that I couldn’t do it – but this huge cloud of fear came over me. "I'm scared" I almost whispered to him. He was so reassuring but there was NO WAY I was hopping in that pool without my midwives present. Noo siree. Nup. Not happening. I snapped into conscious midwife instead of birthing woman and thought if something goes wrong here whilst I’m in there, I’m not going to be able to get myself out. So I stayed put. More grunting on all fours.
When I heard him dialing 000 in my head I was screaming “Noooooo”, but I just couldn’t seem to get it out in time. I had been at a friend’s homebirth where her midwives were en route, and remembered how the ambo operator wouldn’t let me get off the phone until the officers arrived, when all I wanted was to be by my friends side supporting her. I just needed Phill. Well he was bloody brilliant! He gave them a quick run down and then kindly told them he was going to hang up the phone as he needed to support me as well as pick up the phone call coming in from our midwife.
Lis was on loud speaker and wanted an update. Phill filled her in. Lis could hear me grunting away and was trying to tell me to just keep breathing. I thought she was crazy. 'This baby’s coming! I can't help pushing!' was all I could think. I then had both of them trying to convince me to get the hell into that pool. Lis knew it would slow things down, which would buy some time. She also thought that when the ambos got there, if I was in the pool, I was protected in my space and no one could touch me.
Phill got in close next to my ear, used allll the persuasion and reminded me how much more comfortable Rosie’s waterbirth was vs. Eve’s land birth. I caved. He managed to get me up and over the pool edge into the water. O.M.G. The. Water. Made. Such. A. Difference. It grounded me. I was able to switch back into being in my body and just slow everything down. As the waves kept coming I just kept breathing as best as I could. I was on all fours and could feel this little babe making his way out. I instinctively put my hand over his head almost as a support.
Somewhere in there the ambos arrived. They were really great and respectful. Again Phill was brilliant. He didn’t leave my side. I could feel his presence and head right next to mine. Without looking up he gave them a quick handover – 'planned homebirth, our 3rd homebirth rodeo, midwives on the way, low risk pregnancy, our other 2 kids asleep in their bedroom, needed them just in case'. They sensed the “we’ve got this” vibe and took a complete hands-off approach. One guy hung out in our hallway while the other set up some equipment on the couch and offered Phill a torch so he could tell Lis what was happening.
Lis got Phill to stick a mirror into the pool between my legs so he could relay to her what was going on. He couldn’t see much with my hand in the way, but at one point I recall him saying “Oh I can see the head! Marty’s got her hand on it!”. Lis asked how far out it was and initially Phill thought just past the eye brows. Lis asked if I could give another push to birth the head but when Phill realised he could only see the forehead, Lis reassured us to just sit and pause and wait for the next one.
At this point Erin walked in, saw babe’s head half out and said something along the lines of “Just breathe Marty”. With the next wave, his whole head came through. I knew he was bigger than the girls as I could feel this head just kept coming. I remember sighing “The head’s out!” and feel like there was almost an applause of “Yay!” from everyone around me cheering me on. With the next wave I leaned back slightly, put my other hand down and caught this beautiful little soul.
I pulled him up through the water at 05:50, onto my chest and leaned back. Phill was next to me and we were both crying tears of euphoria. When I eventually came to, and looked up, the first thing I saw was the ambo’s smiling eyes - in his COVID mask saying “Congratulations!”. What a sight!
We were on the biggest oxytocic high. Ez came over and gave me the biggest cuddle and said “What did you get!!?”. I peeled open this babe’s legs and had to do a double take. ‘Was it a cord or a penis? Nope, I can definitely see a scrotum’. “It’s a boy!!!!” I yelled! Phill almost didn’t believe me and asked me to move my hands out of the way so he could see. “You have a son!” I said! We were in disbelief, convinced another girl was coming our way.
I stayed in the pool enjoying my cuddle for some time. It’s abit of a blurr. At some point Lis arrived, the ambos left and then mum arrived. She was just as shocked as us that she had a grandson.
I then started to feel the waves building back up again with the placenta and needed some space, so mum went down the hall to wait for when the girls woke up. He started searching for the breast so we attempted a feed in the pool. Not long after, the girls came creeping down the corridor finding a baby brother in their living room! Rose looked absolutely thrilled gently stroking him and sharing kisses with us. Eve wasn’t 100% sure, so mum took the girls into the kitchen and started making them breakfast.
Some time had passed and I couldn’t seem to birth the placenta, so I made the decision to hop out of the pool. Just after I jumped out and squatted by the pool, out it came. The job was done!
The girls (Lis and Ez) nestled me in on the couch with towels, pillows and blankets and Lenny had another go at the breast. By then our girls had finished their breakfast and came over for a cuddle bringing little Lenny some of their toys to share. They were just divine. They were pretty intrigued with it all. Rose put her gloves on and checked the placenta out with Lis. Lis showed us how to secure the cord tie and the girls cut Lenny’s cord (with a little help from Dad – it’s pretty tough!).
Once everyone was fed, and mum and the girls got ready to head out for a bike ride, we made our way to our bedroom. Phill got his first cuddle while I sat there sipping on my smoothie having a lie down. We looked at each other with deep love and gratitude. That oxytocic high. There’s just nothing like it. He was here! I was on SUCH a high. I did it! I caught our little babe. Although, he didn’t really give me a choice! I had no option but to BE present, because no one else was going to catch him for me. It was mind blowingly empowering.
Amidst the chaos, Lenny’s birth was something else. He took me to a place of deep intuitive presence I had honestly never experienced before with my previous two births. Being a midwife, I had always had a bit of judgement around free birth. I had full appreciation of why women chose this option, but also always some reservation of “what if something went wrong”. The intuition I felt with his birth, every moment, every descent, every gut feeling of what was happening in my body has given me deep reverence for women who choose this path. They know their bodies. They know their babies. And as a system we need to stop beating this intuition out of women and instead celebrate it, because it’s bloody powerful.
Little Lenny, your first day earthside and you’d already taught me so much. Complete trust in my intuition. Of women’s intuition. And the ability to sit in the discomfort, to be present, to not disengage - for this I am eternally grateful. Birth is powerful. Birth is transformative. It's a teacher - if we are open to it.