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Birth of Eloise (03-10-2022)

During my first pregnancy and birth experience I developed a strong interest in physiological birth, positive birth experiences and continuity of care. My weekly podcast listens include Australian Birth Stories, midwives Cauldron, Beyond the Bump and the Pelvic Health Podcast, to name a few…

We moved to Tasmania when our son, Coen, was 6 months old. I was quick to explore what options were available in NW Tasmania for when the time came for baby number two. After I talked with friends and colleagues about their experiences, I could see that the hospital system wasn’t likely going to provide the support and continuity of care I knew I wanted (especially with the lack of MGP midwives and covid rules in place). Thankfully with a bit of a google search I came across two GEMS.

At around 10 weeks into the pregnancy the GEMS team came for the first visit – to see if we would be a good fit. Jas and Jenny. Two exceptional midwives, who complement each other so wholly in what they bring to expecting families. We are so grateful that they became a part of our birth team.

Throughout the pregnancy we looked forward to our visits with Jenny and Jas. They brought support, honesty, a range of birth preparation tools, and great stories, all within the comfort of our own home. Coen became very comfortable with them, which put our minds at ease leading up to the birth- day.

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks before the day of Eloise’s birth that we had definitely decided to give homebirth a go. I was very open to heading to hospital if we needed to, or if I didn’t feel comfortable, however if everything was going along smoothly at home, why leave?! Jas and Jenny provided us with a home birthing kit and advised us to have a few things available (a surprisingly small list!). We discussed what a home birth might look like, what support they could provide and how we would like to manage the placenta. I felt empowered by these discussions as they listened to and supported our wishes.

Coen’s birth began (intensely) a couple of hours after a stretch and sweep and progressed well over a 20-hour period. I had in my mind that this second labour would start spontaneously, progress quicker (the aim was under 12 hours), and it would all happen whilst Coen was asleep. So, when light surges began on Saturday afternoon, I thought “yes, we’re on”. Ryan darted round the house getting lights hung, the fire on and a food platter ready. I cuddled Coen to sleep (singing “Baa, Baa” between contractions) thinking this would be our last night together without his sibling. Around 8pm surges were fairly regular at about 10 minutes apart. I let Jas know that it might be happening – though at this point in time they were very manageable. Her advice – get some sleep and let her know if things progressed. I jumped into bed at 10pm as advised, and, to my disappointment woke up at 6am the next morning… fizzled out!

Around 5pm on Sunday afternoon, the surges came back, but stronger. I again put Coen to bed, this time having to breathe through rather than sing through the surges. I then hopped into the bath to try relax before hopefully getting to sleep. Sleep did not come this time. I put on the TENS machine and tried to lie down, but by midnight I had to get up and move around during the surges.

At 7am the next morning, with strong surges continuing to come every 10 minutes, I felt a mixture of annoyance and defeat – what on earth was going on! Why wasn’t I progressing?! I messaged Jas again, asking her to please come over to check what was going on. I said they would likely be able to leave again but I just needed some guidance. Jas replied quickly saying she would contact Jenny and be there within a couple of hours if that was ok (or she could come sooner).

After the plan was made, something in my body changed, and finally things started to progress more. By the time Jas and Jenny arrived I was experiencing surges closer to 3-5minutes apart. Jas and Jenny helped me through a few contractions, and it was silently decided that they were here to stay.

The hours to follow were some of the most supported I have ever felt. With each contraction someone was providing acupressure to my shoulder, hips or ankles, and in between there were cool flannels being placed on my head, neck and back (Coen, who was still around at this point, was on duty putting them in the freezer and taking them out). I spent this time in the living room leaning first on a shelf (standing on my feet) and then leaning forward against the arm of the couch on my knees. I had quite a lot of discomfort anteriorly over my bladder region, angel Jenny placed a glove filled with warm water over this area – heaven.

After some time, Jas suggested a move to the toilet and then shower to change up positioning. Coen, who had grown restless, was picked up by our friends too. It was at this point, left alone, and perhaps without Coen around, that I think I made great progress. I was inside myself, breathing through each surge – the way Jenny had taught me – marching and swaying in the shower. It was suggested a couple of times that I get out of the shower, but it was only when the shower ran cold that I finally turned it off.

Jas suggested coming to lie down on the bed for a rest – and I thought ‘oh gosh, have I still got that long to go’. However not long after I laid down on my side, some uncontrollable moans accompanied my surges and “pop” went my waters (I think the image and sensation of this moment will always be memorable to me!). It was at this point Jenny suggested trying to work with the contractions to “push” – and I remember feeling a lift in energy - that I was almost there!

I couldn’t control my breathing well with pushing, and after a few goes, Jenny had me back onto the original breathing technique, to avoid causing any injury (oops). Jas also suggested changing positions again, I was relieved – as my head was telling me that I didn’t want to birth in the bed.

Somehow, they got me to the bathroom and I sat over the toilet for a couple of surges. Jas asked if I wanted to check myself to see if I could feel babies head – and to my surprise her head was only a centimetre from the entrance! Amazing! This gave me all the incentive I needed. After another couple of surges on the toilet I again changed positions into a squat holding onto the bath (easier said than done). Within a big surge and a deep squat I breathed Eloise’s head out, and on the next surge (now on my hands and knees), I birthed her body. I felt the intense relief I had also felt with Coen. “She was here. I had done it. FAR OUT!”

The days that followed Eloise’s birth were bliss. Not having to leave the comforts of our own home for the first week, taking in our beautiful new addition, allowing my body to heal and take things slowly, and introducing her slowly to her new world, was the greatest gift. Jas and Jenny popped in several times to check on us and provide nurturing postpartum care.

It was not the birth that I had anticipated (early labour over a couple of days, day time birth, Coen awake rather than…at night-time, quick to progress, fairy lights and fire) – that’s birth for you - but it was a beautiful experience for us. I am grateful that I have had two empowering births, and received birth support that every woman should be able to access. I often look at our bath and the tiles and think of how Eloise entered the world, and I look forward to telling her one day how amazing our bodies are.

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