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Birth of Nia (22-09-2023)

Updated: Jan 21

11:20pm on the 22nd of September 2023 was one of the most amazing moments of my life- the moment we welcomed our beautiful baby girl Nia Dorothy Marshall earthside; the moment Leo became a big brother; the moment I achieved a home birth after caesarean.

At 40+5 weeks I woke at midnight with mild irregular cramping- my first sign that labour was approaching. My eldest, Leo was welcomed into the world in March 2021, via an ‘emergency’ c section when an induction at 36 weeks didn’t progress. The induction came after being hospitalized for nearly a week and a half with high blood pressure. I’d never experienced spontaneous labour before, so these niggles were really exciting. After getting to 37 weeks (the most pregnant I’d ever been) with no complications, I started feeling like I would go past my ‘due date’, so I was not surprised that it had taken this long for these first niggles to show up.

I’d had an amazing pregnancy with my care under Jenny and Jas, miles apart from my experience with the public system. When I reached out to GEMS at only four weeks pregnant (knowing that continuity of care with a midwife gave me the best chance of achieving the VBAC I so deeply desired) I inquired about the support they provided alongside a hospital birth. At this time, I believed that home birth wasn’t for me and had this uneducated belief that birthing at a hospital was my safest option. However, after getting to know Jenny and Jas more, seeing the holistic care and loving approach they provided, reading birth stories on their site and reflecting on my first birth (particularly the long hospital stay), I became drawn to the idea of having a home birth. This sudden, new longing, lead to a discussion with my husband (Aiden) and Jenny and Jas. Just like that, from about 22 weeks onwards the plan changed- I would be planning to birth my baby at home.

Here I was lying in bed with those pre labour niggles, excitedly imagining the outcome of this birth. Could I actually do it? Could I bring my baby into this world, unmedicated at home? I excitedly continued to have these thoughts over the next 3 or so nights while pre labour continued, including the loss of my mucus plug. I was in touch with Jas and Jenny throughout this time, becoming more and more eager to meet this little Bebe. At 41+2 Jas messaged, checking in. I let her know that the night before had been very uneventful and even though I knew that this was my body preparing, I was feeling very ready to meet my baby now. Jas reassured me that all the right things were happening and said that often (although not guaranteed) mothers who have long pre labour have shorter active labours. My body hadn’t done any of this work naturally last time and labour didn’t progress to the active stage at all, so I viewed this labour as my first and expected to be labouring a long time, contrary to Jas’ comment.

I went to bed that night nice and early, heat-pack close by, with no expectations. To my surprise, at midnight I awoke to contractions that started to form a rhythm and felt slightly different to the niggles I’d experienced previously. I continued to rest through them, getting as much sleep as possible. At about 6:30am when Aiden woke, I excitedly told him I thought today was the day and messaged Jas. Not long later, Jenny called me to let me know that they were both on their way to Launceston for an appointment for Jas. I knew I certainly wasn’t in active labour and we decided I would continue my day as normal, (including attending a CTG in Burnie that I had booked at my 41w OB appointment) ensuring to stay in touch with how I was progressing. After returning from the CTG later that day I had a bit of a rest and contacted Jenny again at 4:30pm letting her know I had wiped a bit of blood and that my contractions were now 2-3 minutes apart, short in duration and manageable. Jenny called me not long after and decided she would head back my way but unfortunately Jas would have to stay in Launceston. After she hung up, I turned to Aiden knowing, even though Jenny hadn’t said anything yet, that I would have to have this baby in the hospital due to only one midwife being available.

With this in mind I sat on my bed with Leo, giving him cuddles while Aiden took some photos- the last moments of just us. At about 6pm Aiden took Leo over to his parents while I stayed at home working through the contractions by using the TENS machine, breathing techniques and swaying at the bench. Just after Aiden returned, Jenny called and confirmed what I already knew- we would need to have this baby in the hospital for legal reasons. Although I was disappointed, I completely understood and knew that my experience would still be a lot different with Jenny by my side. While on the phone Jenny said that we could go through to the hospital now while I was still comfortable, however I didn’t feel ready. I knew that going too early could stall my labour and I felt like I was still in early labour. Jenny understood this feeling and said she would come over and check on me and we’d make a plan from there. While we waited for Jenny we packed the car, ensuring we had everything for the birth space, labour and postpartum. I continued using the TENS machine, movement and breathing to work through my contractions which had stayed about the same. Jenny arrived at about 8pm, checked the foetal heart rate, baby’s position and my blood pressure. She also watched as I worked through contractions (which she agreed I was managing well) and gave me some breathing tips for when contractions amped up later in labour. I then agreed to a VE where Jenny discovered I was 3cm dilated and about 50% effaced. This was reassuring for me as it meant I was still only in early labour like I had predicted, and I was relieved I hadn’t yet made the journey to the hospital. At about 8:45pm I decided I would go and have a shower and try and get a bit more rest while Jenny headed to her sister’s house about 10 minutes away. She told me to keep in touch.

Not long after Jenny left, I started to feel more pressure in my bottom when contractions occurred and some nausea. I spent nearly an hour moving between the toilet and shower, using the water and the breathing technique Jenny had taught me to work through the contractions. I then moved to the bed where I started having overwhelming feelings of doubt. I was only about 3cm, I had hours of this still and it was starting to feel very intense. I couldn’t do this. I expressed these feelings of doubt to Aiden who had stuck close by since Jenny had left. “I can’t do this, this is f***ed.” In this moment the discussions I had had with him regarding labour and Rhea Dempsey’s book “Birth with Confidence” clearly played on his mind as he responded with “yes you can, this is just a crisis of confidence.” I knew he was probably right, but it didn't exactly make the moment any easier. I also started to question whether I was further along than I thought. Earlier when working between the shower and toilet I had vomited, I was now having intense feelings of doubt and pressure in my bottom, could this be transition? Should I call Jenny? Na surely not, I was only 3cm and not fully effaced just over an hour ago. Having talked myself down, I declared I wanted a bath. Aiden ran it for me while I stood nearby using the TENS machine. The water had hardly hit the bottom of the bath before I was in- the heat an instant relief. With a cold washer on my forehead, I had been in the water for what felt like five minutes (but later was informed by Aiden that it was at least 20 minutes) before the pressure intensified and all of a sudden, I had this uncontrollable urge to push. I turned to Aiden and definitively told him “Call Jenny! I think I need to push.” On loudspeaker I explained to Jenny that I had all this pressure in my bottom and felt the need to push. She asked me a few questions and when it didn’t seem like this feeling was due to baby being in a posterior position she said “I think I better come back.” I stayed in the bath until I again had the overwhelming feeling to push and my body took over. As soon as the contraction stopped, I leapt out of the bath and once again turned to Aiden “where is Jenny?! call her! I really really really need to push.” On the phone Jenny informed me she was only 5 minutes away and suggested I go to the bed. Jenny entered at 10:40pm to me on the bed on all fours and by this time my instincts and body had completely taken over. Jas was on speaker phone to Jenny and a few days later she informed me that as soon as Jenny walked through the door and they heard me they knew I was close to meeting my baby. When Jenny entered the first thing I said was “Is this actually happening?” In response after having a quick check Jenny said “yes I think this is definitely happening, I can see the membranes”. She asked Aiden to call the ambulance as it was clear we would not make it to the hospital and that way, legally they had others here because Jas couldn’t be. Then Jenny got to working her magic, reassuring me, rubbing my back, pressure points and talking me through what was happening. Jas was still on speaker phone and it was so nice to hear her reassuring voice throughout it all as well. I stayed on my hands and knees, working with the contractions to get the membranes out, they burst as they came out and I felt an instant release of pressure. Then with Jenny and Jas’ help, explaining how to work my breathing and moving me into a squat position for a couple of pushes, I worked at birthing my baby. When back on all fours, Jenny told me on the next contraction I could reach down and feel the head, it was the most amazing feeling, knowing that my baby was right there and we were about to meet them. A short while later after a big contraction, I felt the head emerge and could hear the baby gurgling, a short while later little Bebe was earth side (only 40 minutes after Jenny walked back through the front door). Jenny placed them onto my back, draining any mucus. I turned and my beautiful baby was placed on my chest. I looked at Aiden and ecstatically stated: “I did it!” He kissed me and we just stared at our baby in awe. We didn’t know the gender so together we lifted them up and to my surprise we had a beautiful little girl- Nia Dorothy Marshall, named by her big brother who, for the last 7 weeks of my pregnancy had been adamant that the baby in my belly was named Nia.

As I laid with Nia on my chest, I gave birth to my placenta in an easy 10 minutes and just soaked up what had happened. Once the cord stopped pulsating, Jenny gave the okay and Aiden cut the cord. I asked Jenny if I had any tearing, having not felt anything myself and she informed me after another check that I didn’t and that I had minimal blood loss. Now that we knew everything was fine, Jenny let the paramedics, (who were in a room close by) know that they were right to leave. On their way out they crossed paths with Anna my photographer and let her know there was a baby. She was so excited when she entered. Even though she’d missed the birth she was able to capture those first few special moments of Nia’s life. The four of us debriefed about the birth, laughing at how surprising, fast and perfect it had been. I was in awe of my body and felt so proud of myself but also so grateful for all the opportunities and support I had received from Jenny and Jas. After at least an hour of amazing skin to skin and Nia’s first feed, Jenny weighed and dressed her before turning her attention to me. I decided I would like to have a shower so Jenny carefully walked me there. I relished in the warmth of the water and felt pure joy thinking about what had just happened. When I was done, Jenny helped me get dressed and I hugged her and said thank you. I couldn’t have done that without her and was so amazed at the beautiful experience I’d had. 

At about 2am, Jenny and Anna tucked us into bed and headed off. That night I laid there next to my husband and baby girl in complete awe of what had happened, replaying the labour and birth over and over in my head. During those nights of pre-labour, I’d also lay awake imaging the outcome of this birth. I’d envisioned my birth space lit up by fairy lights, the affirmations I had printed scattered within the lights. I had imagined that my carefully curated playlist would be filling the space, wondering which song would be on when Bebe became earth side. I’d visualized myself in the birth pool, letting the water and warmth wash over me with the contractions. Nia’s birth wasn’t at all what I envisioned in those moments. When announcing Nia’s arrival to family and friends I would describe her birth as wild. That was exactly what it was; wild, instinctual, raw and real- more perfect than I could have ever imagined. My body and my baby had worked together, in the safe space of my home, surrounded by love and care, doing exactly what they needed to. My body had brought my beautiful baby girl earth side straight into her home without any intervention.

I’d done it. I’d achieved a home birth after caesarean.

Birth photographer Anna Davis from Folk Photography

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