It has been almost 365 days since we welcomed our second child into the world - a beautiful baby named Violet Wren. I have sat down to write this story many times but can never seem to find the words to accurately capture the magic that was her birth. One year on, it still feels so raw and visceral. Our first (very surprise) baby was born in hospital in 2015. I was only 20 at the time and though I didn’t know much, I did know that I wanted a hands-off birth experience. Early in the pregnancy, my Mum had gifted me a book by Ina May Gaskin and I had fallen in love with the idea of birthing at home. My age and my lack of exposure to home birth in a real-world sense led me away from this deep desire – though, by some incredible stroke of luck, we landed with an OB that truly honoured my wishes. We spent just one hour in hospital before our son emerged – purple and gasping – totally surprising us all with his efficient entry into the world.
Fast forward several years and we found ourselves ready to walk this path again, calling another little person into our lives. My world came crashing down when, at 10 weeks, a tiny body made its way out of mine in the bathroom of the ultrasound clinic. I was entirely unprepared for the intense and crippling grief that would accompany this very early loss, and for a period felt unsure of whether we would ever try again. One year on, we discovered I was pregnant. Having heard of Jasmijn’s work in the hospital system from a friend, I endeavoured to secure care with her through the hospital route. Fate had other plans. Continuity of care was so integral for me as I walked this path of pregnancy after loss and the only way to ensure that was to reach out to Jenny and Jas in an independent capacity. The afternoon after I sent that first email, they were on our doorstep – the rest is history. When they left after that first visit, I said to my partner, “I don’t know if I want this to happen in our living room or in the hospital, but I want it to be with them”. Prenatal care with Jenny and Jas was family-centred, holistic and loving. One night, Jenny visited around dinner time and turned sausages in the pan while I tended to my older son. I will never forget that. It felt so right to forge a deep and trusting relationship with these women before they witnessed me in birth.
The weeks leading up to my daughter’s birth were, for me, filled with deep uncertainty. I was terrified to labour, terrified to birth. My pregnancy had been filled with a persistent and overwhelming fear that something was about to ‘go wrong’. I struggled to connect with the concept of delivering a live, healthy baby. I counted kicks incessantly and felt the fear creep in at every turn.
My due date came and went – and with each day that passed my fear grew. Jenny and Jas stood steadfast in their faith – in me, in my baby, in birth. At 10 days post ‘guess date’, we headed to the hospital for some monitoring and a check in with the OB. He was well-meaning but insisted on induction, littering the appointment with talk of hypoxic brain injury despite no clinical evidence to suggest it. Throughout, Jas was calm, kind and reassuring. She told us that many women delivered their babies post-41 weeks. I believed her and she believed in me.
The next morning, at 41+4, I started bleeding. I was convinced that all my worst fears had been realised. The logical part of my brain told me that I had bled in my first labour, that I could still feel my baby kicking. The rest of my brain was in meltdown. Jas came right over. We monitored my blood loss and talked through my options. I requested a vaginal exam to see if my cervix was preparing for labour – it was. While I felt completely out of control of what was happening in my body, I felt entirely in control of the circumstances surrounding it. Jas was gentle – she showed me photos of normal/abnormal blood loss, she listened to my baby’s heartbeat. I felt safe. In the hours that followed, early labour started. Light contractions came and went every 8 or so minutes. Jas left and visited another Mum – I sent her photos of my blood loss every hour or so and we spoke on the phone as she drove here and there. She returned later that evening, this time with Jenny in tow. I was scared. They said to me, “if we were concerned, we
wouldn’t be sitting here right now”, and we believed them. We needed to get some rest.
I woke at 2.30am after several hours of broken sleep. These contractions felt more intense. I jumped in the shower, paced in the lounge room. Our son was asleep in our shed/second living area with my Mum. At around 3.30am, I sent Jas a video of my belly tightening and lifting through a contraction. She said they were on their way. Just before 5am, I heard them open our back gate. Relief. They were like an incredibly calm, incredibly quiet and entirely sacred, well-oiled machine. I bounced on the fit-ball as they placed their equipment carefully around our living area. A doppler here, oxygen there. Jas sat at the dining table, writing carefully, as Jenny got to work hitting pressure points and wetting facewashers for the freezer. The pain of the contractions was lost in the cold of the washer on my forehead, the warmth of the heat-pack, the relief of their hands on my back. Every need was met before I could voice it. Birth was a dance they knew intimately. At around 6am, the pool was almost ready. Our beautiful photographer, Anna, snuck into the space. She brought an added reverence, having birthed two of her four beautiful children at home - with Jenny and Jas as her midwives. I sank into the water and it was heaven. I remember saying, “this is amazing” over and over. I felt weightless. My partner was right by my side, supported so tenderly by both Jenny and Jas. He stroked my hair and rubbed my shoulders. Nobody disturbed me. Aside from the music I had carefully chosen beforehand, the room was all but silent. Jenny, Jas and Anna whispered tenderly about lighting and laughed together in the kitchen. I was witnessed and respected. This was women’s business. As the sun rose, I knew our daughter was close. Jenny and Jas suggested some positions as I tried my hardest to roar her down. Nobody rushed me. “Is she crowning?” I asked. “I think so, have a feel” they responded. Everything was on my terms - “do you want to try this? Can we put our hand here?”. I reached up and felt the amniotic sac, entirely intact. She was coming. I asked Jas to please rupture the membranes as my daughter’s head emerged. We puffed and panted together as she crowned – I was in total awe of my body. It knew exactly what to do. I reached down and felt my daughter’s hair, swaying gently in the water of the birth pool. We were so held. I stroked her head as we waited patiently for the next contraction – a time between worlds, a deep knowing that we were on the cusp of being entirely changed. With the next contraction, her shoulders were born. I watched her body emerge, twisting beautifully, as if in suspended animation. Jas guided her out of the water and onto my chest. Time stood still. 9lb 6oz of pure love. She was perfect. Jas headed out to the shed to get my Mum and our son. I will never forget his face as he ran into the room – my partner wrapped his arm around him. “She’s born!” my son exclaimed. He stroked her
head, and we sang ‘happy birthday’. It was the rawest, most pure and beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced. Our first moments as a family, so deeply respected. So perfectly undisturbed.
After a period, the placenta was birthed. My partner held our daughter skin to skin as I made my way to the couch. Our son waited (not so) patiently, topless on the couch, for his turn at holding his baby sister. Our daughter was weighed so lovingly and gently that she didn’t even cry. Jenny watched carefully as Violet latched for the first time. My Mum walked down the street, collecting hot coffee and waffles for everyone. Jenny and Jas helped me to the bathroom, wrapped me in a robe. Before we knew it, the pool was drained. Mum washed towels while Jenny and Jas magically returned the furniture to exactly how it had looked before. After a few hours, they walked us to bed, tucked us in, left us to relish in these first moments as a family of four. Everything felt so incredibly right. In the days and weeks that followed, Jenny and Jas visited often. I called them day and night. Jenny, in particular, was an invaluable wealth of knowledge as we established our breastfeeding relationship. I felt heard and held. One year on and we are still going strong. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that, after an extremely challenging feeding journey with my son, our breastfeeding success was hugely impacted by the ongoing support offered by Jenny and Jas in the immediate postpartum period and beyond.
Sometimes I still can’t quite believe that this is our story. I remember saying to Jenny and Jas, the day after Violet was born, that I felt like I had been let in on a secret – that birth can look like this.
It can be quiet and gentle and calm. It can be wild and trusted and undisturbed. It can be in your lounge room. It can be perfect. I am so grateful that we made the choice to let it be.
Birth photographer: Anna Davis (www.thesmallfolk.com.au)