Ethan was born on Chinese New Year day, the 29th of January 2006, (year of the dog) which is said to be a very lucky day to be born, and I was fortunate enough to be able to experience a 3 in 1 natural birth. I had a home, water and hypno-birth and, best of all, my husband John got to deliver our baby! (What a wonderful privilege!).
My daughter Alyssa aged almost 2 1/2 was present at Ethan’s birth along with our fabulous midwife Elizabeth Vella. In many uninformed individuals’ eyes, this type of birth would be seen to be extremely irresponsible, but for those of us (women considered to be in a low risk category, such as myself) who actually make the effort to become informed regarding the benefits of home, water and hypno-births, know better (don’t we?)
It’s ironic that I categorise myself as “low risk”, if you asked St George Hospital (I was originally booked in there) you would be told the complete opposite. They have a new home birth program which is currently on trial and until I was 7 1/2 months pregnant I was on the program. At this time I received a dreadful call from the hospital telling me that I had been cut from the program due to GBS (group B streptococcus) during my first pregnancy, regardless of whether I had it this time or not, and also because I was a few measly minutes out of area.
I expressed to my unwelcome messenger how devastated I was and that I felt all my rights to have a home birth had been taken away from me. I also expressed how I felt discriminated against and asked her why I hadn’t been told this earlier – instead I was lead to believe that the GBS wouldn’t be a problem (as I had discussed it with them before) and that I would be able to have the birth I had dreamt of through the public system. Off course all she could say was ‘sorry for the inconvenience unfortunately we have to follow hospital policy’ and I was left twiddling my thumbs wondering what to do next? I mean after all, I couldn’t be detrimental to their program – could I?
It was then that I called Home birth Access Sydney to talk about my situation; I decided the only thing left for me to do was to employ an independent midwife if I was to pursue my dream birth. Thank you so much to Jo Hunter for recommending Betty – she was fantastic! I couldn’t have done it without her – although she says I could have!
After much consideration and a lot of negative criticism from family and friends during my pregnancy, I knew that the decision we had made to have little Ethan born at home and to have Alyssa present at the birth was an extremely well informed and educated choice which we have never looked back on – in fact, it was the best decision we had ever made! Ethan is our second born and second planned pregnancy, I was fortunate enough to experience two natural births – the first being in a birth centre where I didn’t know the midwife or her beliefs and I was left wondering whether some other health-care professional would intrude and/or interrupt at any given moment. Of course, my second birth was a planned home-birth where I knew the midwife, her beliefs and experience. We had built a rapport and friendship, and had an understanding of one another which was extremely comforting for me. I didn’t need to worry about intimidating strangers walking into a hospital room and telling me how to have my baby.
During my pregnancy John and I had several discussions about Alyssa’s presence at the birth and I remember at one point I had hoped that she would be asleep in bed or watching T.V while I was birthing, so that she wouldn’t be afraid of mummy making those loud funny noises. Towards the end of my pregnancy I had read and watched so much material and information about toddlers witnessing siblings births that I ended up feeling that it would be a shame for Alyssa to miss out, so instead we hoped that Alyssa would in fact be wide awake to witness the miracle event take place. We believed that Alyssa’s presence would actually benefit her by making her understand at an early age where babies come from as well as make her feel special for being involved in the birthing process.
During the later stages of my pregnancy, John and I did our very best to try and prepare Alyssa for the new arrival – both physically and emotionally. We spent as much quality time with her as possible, explaining to her all about her soon to be new baby brother and how he is growing in mummy’s tummy.
We made sure to involve her in visits with our midwife, she would listen to the baby’s heartbeat and help check mummy’s blood pressure using real medical equipment etc. … we showed her ultrasound photos and talked her through water birthing videos two weeks before I was due. These videos also had siblings in them so she could gain a better understanding of what to expect and watch how she could be involved.
At first Alyssa seemed a little disturbed watching a mother-to-be making all those funny noises, but then when I explained that the lady needs to make all those sounds in order to get the baby out of her tummy, Alyssa seemed somewhat relieved and even interested in watching the end result – the birth of the baby! We watched a few different birthing videos together and Alyssa appeared to be very excited and interested and explained to me what was happening in the video. I strongly believe that getting her to watch these videos played an important role towards guiding her through my actual labour.
My husband and I showed Alyssa how daddy is going to massage mummy when she will be making those funny noises and that we will all get to go in the pool too – which is where the baby will come out of mummy’ Alyssa was fascinated with this and couldn’t wait to help her father massage me! She also couldn’t wait to go swimming in the pool!
A few weeks before the birth I bought Alyssa a baby doll and a toy pram so that she would enjoy having her own pretend baby and make the same sort of preparations as I would for the real baby when he arrived. This was extremely helpful as it allowed me to show Alyssa how she should treat the baby by being gentle and it also allowed me to demonstrate how I was going to breast feed and change baby’s nappy – which she really enjoyed being involved in. We also showed Alyssa pictures of pregnant women and babies as well as read her books about newborn babies.
OK, finally my birthing experience…
On Friday the 27th of January at 9.50pm, I was lying down watching T.V when all of the sudden I heard a pop and to my surprise felt a gush of water! I was exactly 39 weeks gestation and I immediately thought that I was going to go into intense labour quickly, (as that is what happened with my first child) but this time round 2-3hrs passed and I was experiencing very mild pre-labour pains which occurred every few minutes until they eventually came to a halt, meanwhile I was leaking amniotic fluid quite regularly. I continued to experience pre-labour pains on and off for the next 1 1/2 days. I made sure I got as much rest as possible and practised my hypno-birth relaxation breathing techniques whilst listening to positive affirmations from a hypnobirth CD. During my birth I couldn’t actually manage to put myself into a deep form of hypnosis/relaxation, however I still strongly recommend every couple take HypnoBirthing classes. They really helped me gain a greater understanding of exactly what was happening to my body and how I could assist it through different breathing and relaxation techniques and ultimately experience a gentle birth with the release of fear that generally keeps our body tense and closed. The HypnoBirthing Program helped me have a fear free, happy and comfortable pregnancy. It boosted my trust and confidence and led to a peaceful, fulfilling and life-affirming birth which is my right as a mother. Our HypnoBirthing Program was conducted by a wonderful lady named Katherine Ferris from the Sydney Wellbeing Centre (PH:) 02 9568 6801.
It wasn’t until the early hours of Sunday morning on the 29th of January 06 that I began to feel constant and regular contractions”, (which I like to call ‘surges’ or ‘waves’ due to the association of the word pain when speaking of contractions) and I also felt more “pain” or I prefer to use the term “pressure” at about 8am which is when John, Alyssa and I woke up and contacted my midwife Betty. We enjoyed a nice breakfast together, while my body was working through the surges calmly and peacefully. John and I explained to Alyssa that today may be the day baby Ethan would arrive and we reminded her of all the conversations we had with her regarding her new baby brother. We told Alyssa that mummy would be making noises just like she saw on the video to help push the baby out, we also told her that she would be allowed to go swimming in the pool where she could wait for the baby to come. Alyssa was excited about going swimming and she was really looking forward to the arrival of her new baby brother.
About 30-45mins later, I called Betty again to give her a “progress report” as my surges felt a lot more intense and I was ready for her to come. Betty arrived at about 10am and John began filling the pool. All the while Alyssa remained really calm and happy and was assisting her dad with setting up the birthing room with candles, music and other necessary equipment.
During my surges both John and Betty were supporting and guiding me through the pressure I was feeling by using positive affirmations and light touch massage and I was busy practising my breathing and relaxation techniques. During the HypnoBirthing classes I viewed a very inspirational birthing video of Russian women birthing in the Black Sea as well as and other water births, these encouraged me to have a water birth myself.
My first birthing experience was somewhat different to this and the positions that helped ease the pressure the first time did not seem to be working for me this time, so I decided it was time for me to get into the pool to see if it would help. John, Alyssa and I all got into the pool together at approximately 12 o’clock, once I got in it felt so much better and I didn’t want to get out. Alyssa was having the time of her life splashing around, which got a little distracting during my surges but it made me feel good knowing that she was happy and enjoying herself. Once I got into the pool I remained there until Ethan was born – at 1.44pm.
Betty was wonderful; she was extremely supportive in every way and did a tremendous job guiding us through the labour. My husband John did a fantastic job guiding both Alyssa and I through the birth, using plenty of positive affirmations and massage which Alyssa contributed to. John was reassuring and encouraging Alyssa by telling her things such as: -everything is going to be all right”, “mummy is doing really well”, “you will get to see your new baby brother soon”, I was busy practising my breathing whilst listening to the HypnoBirthing CD which was on repeat until Ethan was born.
Alyssa got the opportunity to see the top of the baby’s head as it was crowning which she seemed interested in … however, by the time I felt like pushing Alyssa was so exhausted from all the excitement and anticipation that she got out of the pool and decided to lay down on the couch next to Betty for a rest. Thankfully just before she fell asleep little Ethan was born – delivered by John (who feels extremely privileged for doing so). When we told Alyssa to look in the pool to see her new baby brother, she looked at us in disbelief then glanced into the pool with amazement and discovered a baby boy! Alyssa’s face had changed from being sleepy to completely delighted and full of joy within a matter of seconds – so beautiful to see. Her first words were “Ah baby!”
About half an hour after Ethan was born, I gave birth to the placenta with Ethan still attached to it, and then about half an hour after I birthed the placenta we felt ready to clamp and cut the cord which had emptied and stopped pulsating. Both John and Alyssa had the pleasure of cutting the cord together, while Betty was taking plenty of happy snaps and I was busy glancing into my handsome sons eye’s, getting to know him.
Overall, I cannot express enough just how much better it was to have a home, water and hypno-birth as opposed to a hospital birth. I felt fear free and a lot more in control than I did the first time in the birthing centre. This time I had the room set up comfortably with music, lamps, candles, massage oil etc. I felt 100% comfortable with our midwife and best of all I did not require any stitches!
I am grateful that I did not birth in hospital, having ruptured membranes for over 24hrs I would have likely been induced due to the so called increased risk of developing an infection because of the unknown existence of GBS.
Ethan was born a very healthy 3.5 kilograms, being 54cm long with a 35cm head circumference. Alyssa felt very special for participating in the birth, my husband felt extremely special for having the privilege of delivering Ethan, and I felt really special for having the opportunity to choose the way I had my baby and having my daughter present who was my inspiration and motivation.
Having a home, water and hypno-birth with Alyssa present was the best decision we had ever made, we would definitely recommend it to anyone considering having a child and we would most certainly do it all over again if we were to have more children.
This article appeared in the Autumn 2006 issue of BIRTHINGS magazine featuring siblings at birth, published by Homebirth Access Sydney.