Tess has just turned one month old and I can honestly say I have been thoroughly loving the newborn stage. I am so relaxed, calm and confident this second time round! I’m beyond grateful to have had a second incredibly positive birth experience. Here is the story of how Tess came into the world.

One of my last ‘bumpies’. Taken 10 days before Tess was born.

Monday 22nd October

I was in crazy nesting mode this morning, cleaning the top of the fridge for the first time ever and feeling extremely agitated with how dirty our living room rug was and trying to search for a new one. After lunch I lay down on the couch to have a rest and watch a movie. I then started to get mild contractions but it took me a while to realise they were ‘real’ contractions and not Braxton Hicks ones because I had been having quite uncomfortable and strong Braxton Hicks contractions since I was about 25 weeks pregnant. However once they became regular – lasting for about 20-30 seconds every 40 minutes I realised they were the real thing. I still didn’t get too excited because last time I was in early labour with on-again off-again contractions for almost three days before baby made her entrance into the world. You can read my first birth story here.

I spent the afternoon going to the shops to do some last minute baby shopping. All afternoon I kept getting a contraction every 40 minutes which required me to stop what I was doing and concentrate on breathing through it. I also felt quite fuzzy headed and hot and sweaty. I called my midwife at 7pm to tell her what had been happening. She said what I suspected: it could progress into established labour overnight or maybe not for a few days. There was no way of knowing, I just needed to wait and see.

Tuesday 23rd October

All throughout the night the contractions came every 30-40 minutes lasting for about 40 seconds. They were too painful to sleep through or even to stay in bed for. I had to jump out of bed and breathe through them in an active labour position: either on all fours or leaning over something like the bed or the couch. I gave up lying in bed and went to labour/rest on the couch. I did not sleep the whole night which was not the best start to labour!

In the morning I told my husband “I think it’s going to happen either today or tomorrow”. So he took the day off work to look after our 2 year old and me since I was very tired and in pain every time a contraction came. Throughout the morning I was getting a bit impatient and frustrated that my contractions were not getting longer, more intense or closer together.

Then at 10am it all started to happen. The contractions suddenly got longer (60 seconds) and closer together (10-20 minutes apart). Oh and really uncomfortable! I started using the TENS machine and heat packs to manage the pain. My husband rung my Mum to come pick up Summer who left for her first 2 night sleepover (she did amazing, I’m so proud). The contractions were getting really painful and only 5 minutes apart. I threw up and started to get the occasional uncontrollable shakes (apparently to do with all the adrenalin going through your body). At 10:45am we called my midwife. She said it sounded like I was quite far along so she would meet us at the birth centre rather than come to my house to assess me. My husband rushed around the house locking everything up and packing all the last minute items in our bag.

At 11:30am on arrival at the birth centre my midwife assessed me and said I was 5-6cm dilated. Best news ever! I kneeled leaning over the couch and started on the gas. It really helped me relax, calm down and get into a nice rhythm with my breathing.

Family Birth Centre, King Edwards Hospital, Subicao, Western Australia.

After a while I moved to the bed and lay down on my side with a pillow between my knees. Next I moved into the birth pool which felt really nice. Then my midwife suggested I tried moving into another position to keep things moving along so I sat on the toilet. Then back to lying on the bed. I was starting to feel really tired, over it and like giving up. It felt like I had been in labour forever and I was getting impatient. I asked for an epidural because I was so tired and wanted more than anything to have a little sleep. There is no epidural at the birth centre though so that didn’t happen. You can get transferred to the hospital which is only a few minutes walk down a corridor however my husband and midwife knew I really wanted to avoid any intervention due to all the associated side effects and risks.

I was so incredibly tired from not sleeping the night before so had little mini naps between contractions for a while.

Then I sat on the toilet again and my waters broke yay! I lay on the bed again and gradually with each contraction I started to feel a slight rectal pressure which progressed into an urge to push. It was such a relief to know this was almost over!

I moved over to a couch and leant over it on my knees. I could have had a water birth again but didn’t feel like it at the time. I birthed in the exact same position I birthed Summer in, just not in the water. My midwife was amazing at coaching me through the pushing phase. Sometimes she told me to push and sometimes she told me to pant and not push to allow for stretching. After 22 minutes of pushing and 4 hours of active labour Tess was born at 4:20pm. I held her for a little while and then moved to the bed so I could start skin-on-skin time, birth the placenta and get assessed.

Poor little Tess’s face was very blue and bruised. Apparently it was a tight fit because she was a big baby with a large head (in the 97th percentile), plus came out with her hand next to her face!

I opted for the active management option for the third stage of labour. This means you have an injection to assist with your placenta coming out. I opted for this instead of the natural option because A) there are no side effects or risks associated with this option unlike most other interventions, B) you lose less blood, so I thought I would feel ‘better’ during my recovery i.e.less light-headed, weak and dizzy. I had already been feeling all these things throughout pregnancy due to having low iron and low blood pressure so didn’t want to make them any worse.┬áC) I remember last time feeling impatient waiting for my placenta to come. After a long labour I just wanted to be able to relax and start enjoying my beautiful baby!

I was assessed for tearing and fissures and was super relieved that there were none – I didn’t require any stitches this time yay! I enjoyed feeding Tess for about an hour and then had a shower. Tess was weighed and measured, dressed, swaddled and then she had a big sleep next to me on the bed.

I had a little nap in bed and then we went home at about 9:30pm. I felt really sore and bruised this time compared to last time and it’s probably because she was much bigger. Her weight was 3.92kg compared to Summer who was 3.35kg. Also her head circumference was big at 36cm, and she came out with her hand next to her head making the circumference even bigger. It was amazing that I didn’t tear!

I am thrilled to have had such a miraculous birth experience again. I am so grateful myself and Tess didn’t have any complications. A huge thank you to my husband who was the most incredible birth support person ever! Thankyou for your words of encouragement and bringing me uncountable cups of ice cold water, coconut water, iced coffee and apple juice.

If you want to increase your likelihood of being able to have a natural birth my biggest tips are:

  • Opt for midwife led management if you are low risk. They are the experts in natural birth. Midwife led care is the norm in most countries such as England and New Zealand, but it’s not as common in Australia and the USA.
  • Have continuity of care with the same midwife you see for all your appointments and your birth itself.
  • When in labour stay home for as long as possible. You are more relaxed, easily distracted and comfortable at home. Also you are not subjected to hospital or birth centre policies and time frames.
  • Birth at a birth centre not a hospital. Both times I felt like an epidural during transition or just before because it is so uncomfortable and unpleasant. I’m sure if I was at a hospital I would have had one. Because I was at a birth centre it wasn’t an option. I am pleased I avoided the side effects and risks both to me and my baby. Pain is temporary but some of the side effects and risks could have implications that would last much longer or even forever (although I know the likelihood is very low it was just what I personally wanted to do).
  • Utilise natural pain management techniques: water, listening to music, heat packs, active labour positions and TENS machine. I also used the nitrous oxide gas both times and found it super helpful. It’s probably not technicaly ‘natural’ but I opted to use it because there are no negative side effects to me or baby by using it.

Some people opt to birth naturally for the accomplishment or to prove to themselves they can do it. Personally I just did a lot of research and wanted to do everything statistically possible to have the best possible outcome for mine and my babies health and wellbeing. I am a very logical person who likes science, evidence, to do my research, to be well informed and to do everything ‘optimally’, including bringing a life into the world. I also have a slight fear of hospitals and doctors. The thought of lying flat on my back in a brightly lit sterile room with lots of machines beeping and doctors running around doing things to me terrifies me (I’m sure it’s not really like that but that’s just the picture I get around birthing in a hospital!) I don’t like being out of control and wanted to feel safe, calm and respected so that is why I opted for the birthing experience which I did. Plus as a bonus we saved 3-4 thousand dollars each time and put the money into a nice family holiday each year instead haha! (New Zealand when Summer was 9 months and Bali when she was 16 months).

Picture taken after Tess’s first night at home.

I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to birth in Australia and with the community midwifery program. I’ve had the same midwife birth both my babies now which is very special.

I hope you enjoyed reading my birth story and I especially hope if you are a pregnant woman about to give birth for the first time it will have helped expel any fears or concerns you may have surrounding giving birth.

Holly xx