10 years ago I fell pregnant with my first child. Not long into my pregnancy I knew I wanted a home birth. But after discussing it with my mum she convinced me that it was best to have it in a hospital as it was my first baby and anything could go wrong. So when the time came I went into hospital. I was strapped to monitors and wasn't allowed to move. Labour was slow, no one gave me any suggestions to try different positions, to stay upright to try and aid gravity. In the end there was so many interventions from breaking my waters, to taking a sample of blood from my baby's head to test his level of oxygen, and after I had an epidural things went downhill. My baby was in distress and I needed an emergency c-section. About 24 hours after going to hospital I finally had my baby in my arms. After I healed I felt a mixture of emotions, one of them disappointment, that I didn't have a natural birth. A failure. Then I had family members telling me 'once a caesarean, always a caesarean' and I'd only be able to have 3 children because of it. I was very upset. But the surgeon told me that if I waited at least 2 years, I'd be able to have a natural birth. Hope.
3 years later I fell pregnant again and I was adamant that I was NOT having this baby in the hospital. So I looked into IM's. Their fees were more than I could afford so I emailed about 10 and explained my situation and if anyone was willing to take me on for less than they asked for. Only one got back to me with the news that she would help. Virginia Howes! Meeting her for the first time, my mind was made up. I told some family what my plan was but I was met with negativity as to every thing that could go wrong and was I crazy to even think about having my baby at home after a c-section? So in the end, my husband and I decided we would just let them think we would head off to hospital when the time came. I wanted to surround myself with positivity. And then the research started. First time round I was young and naive. This time round I threw myself into researching VBAC's, pain relief in labour and their pros and cons, the physiology of the body of a woman in labour. Virginia was always on hand to help and answer any questions I had. Always positive. Always giving me the pros and cons. Always instilling confidence in me and showing me how awesome and miraculous the human body is. Our bodies are made for this. She gave me books and DVD's of her Homebirth Diaries to watch. I looked forward to labour. I was excited.
One morning I had a show and I knew things were starting. I let Virginia know and told her about my plans to take a long walk after taking my son to school. True to form my contractions sped up but slowed down when I took a rest at my aunt's house. By 5pm, back at home, Virginia came over and my husband took my son to my aunts. My sister came over and it was all systems go. Virginia offered me an examination to see how far I was, but if I didn't want it that was ok. I decided to opt for it as I wanted to know how far I had to go. In my mind I was still 2cm like the first time (I never went past 3cm). To both of our surprise I was 7cm dilated! YAY!!! There was no time for us to fill the birth pool as we only had a tiny hose, so my husband ran the bath and I lay there till my waters broke. All the while Virginia was asking me if I felt any pain other than labour pain (checking to see for signs of scar rupture). She let me know when she was going to monitor baby. When I was in the bath she sat on the floor, a reassuring but non-invasive presence that I needed. By the time I went back to the lounge, the pain was unbearable and I had the gas and air. Wonderful stuff! Then the first spontaneous push! Wow! I had never felt that before! And then I pushed, and pushed my baby into this world. There is no feeling like it! I was on my knees, and when she was born Virginia put her between my knees and I held, skin to skin. So warm, so chubby, so beautiful! After the cord stopped pulsating my husband and I cut it. Not long after having a shower, I was in my own bed, with my beautiful new baby girl, tired, but still buzzing from such an amazing experience.
3 years later a pregnancy test showed two purple lines - PREGNANT! Again, not a question in my mind that this one would be a home birth too. After all, my first homebirth was, as births go, BEAUTIFUL!!! My pregnancy progressed as healthy and normal as a pregnancy could go. I had felt my body doing something a few days before I was due. Contractions would come. Then go. Then come back again, sometimes a few minutes later, sometimes a few hours later. I let Virginia know, but she had said that this wasn't labour. I was convinced these were proper contractions. They didn't feel like Braxton Hicks. They felt like contractions - albeit all over the show. After two days of this I was tired, frustrated and just wanted things to get going already. I called Virginia to ask her about a sweep and what were the pros and cons. As always she gave me all the information so I knew where I stood and could make an informed decision. She came over later that day and let me know that she wouldn't perform the sweep unless she found my cervix favourable. To her surprise (mine too) I was 6cm dilated!!! YAY!! She told me to call her if the contractions became regular. Nothing much changed for quite a few hours. In the evening I was ready to call her and she came. However, this labour was much much different to my beautiful birth. It was LONG!! it was PAINFUL, very painful. When Virginia had performed an internal examination she found that there was a piece of cervix that just refused to budge, so she held it down through a contraction. But after a while it came back. After hours and hours she suggested I lay down and try to relax. I did. All this time sucking on my gas and air. But the pain was unbearable. In the end she gave me some pethidine.
Not long afterwards I felt the familiar pressure in my lower back hinting that baby was making her way down. I remember being helped off the sofa, I remember pushing and I remember the feeling of how fast she came into this world. I don't remember much else till I was resting back on the sofa and my beautiful baby girl placed into my arms. The pethidine had made me hazy. Shortly after being placed in my arms, my baby's lips went blue. But Virginia was so quick to act. She had my husband on the phone to the ambulance who were on my doorstep minutes later, in the meantime, she was resucitating my baby with a bag and mask, all the while reminding me to touch her. I was scared, yes. But I was also confident in Virginia and her skills and experience as a midwife. A few minutes later, without the paramedics stepping foot in the lounge, Alayna was pink again. She advised me not to sleep with my baby because of the pethidine, so my sister spent the night with us. But through it all, and even now, in hindsight, I wouldn't change my mind about a homebirth. Yes, this time round labour was hardER, toughER, more painful and the birth traumatic but I dread to think what would've happened in a hospital.
Roll on 18 months later. Another pregnancy test, another positive result, another phone call to my midwife Virginia :) Just as a recap we went through what had happened with Alayna and remembered that I wasn't to be given pethidine this time round. Thank God, I had another healthy, normal pregnancy. About a week before I was due I could feel my body going through something. I had 'contractions'. Irregular, regular, they were all over the place but something was happening. In the end I decided to take a 20 minute walk with my mum to visit my cousin. We took a brisk walk back home half an hour later as it started to rain. Once I got home I felt such a calm come over me. And then I had this urge to CLEAN the house, change my bedding (you know, just in case) - 9 o' clock at night!! The contractions came but they were bearable, not too regular but coming more often than they had the past few days. I didn't want to get too excited so I think I convinced myself that this wasn't it. After my husband and I cleaned up they were coming pretty regular now, but still quite bearable for me. Then I had a strong one. Phew, it went away, gave me time to breathe. Then a few more medium sized ones. By the time the second strong one came I told my husband to wake the kids and take them to my mum down the road just in case this was it. Besides, i couldn't relax with them around. My sister came over. The kids were gone. The contractions came. I called Virginia to let her know. She said to see how things were in an hour and call her back. I called her back 15 minutes later. That's how quickly things progressed. In the meanwhile, I went to take a shower. The hot water was LOVE.LY! Hot water never felt so good. When I put it on my back ......HEAVEN! The contractions slowed but were strong and long. My husband came back and helped me put the water on my back. I held onto him and realised I was squatting involuntarily with every contraction which were soo strong now. I had to go to the lounge. I was back in my familiar position - my knees and wondering where Virginia was, I really wanted my old friend gas and air. She arrived shortly after and handed it to me. And not long after I had that same old spontaneous push and my beautiful baby boy was born a few pushes later! Another BEAUTIFUL BIRTH!
Virginia, there are no words, truly, to convey my gratitude to you! I am overwhelmed when I think of you and all you have done for me! You are more than the definition of midwife, for you were not just 'with me', you were FOR me too! Through you I've seen how amazing God has knitted a woman together. Our bodies are amazing when they come to creating life and bringing forth that life into this world. You were the quiet presence monitoring me from a safe distance, never intrusive, you were the caring mother-figure to suggest trying a different position, boosting me with words of encouragement when it became too much to bear, you were the vigilant, skilled medic to monitor that everything physically was going according to plan and you were part of the family that congratulated me at the finish line. Thank you will never be enough! But from the bottom of my heart, Thank You is what it will have to be.