Story by Melanie Reid
The birth of our son Louis was very positive and aligned with my birth intentions, I’d go a step further to say it was an incredible and empowering experience. It was medical intervention free, drug-free, I gave birth in an active position and I was able to pull him out and bring him directly to my chest. I laboured 8 hours at home with the support of my husband Matthieu and my doula Jade. I used water immersion and a TENS machine to assist with the pain of the contractions.
My contractions throughout established labour were not textbook, they were short and close together. I discussed this with my doula, fortunately we’d contemplated this situation as part of the birth plan. We agreed that it was time to go to hospital because although the contractions were short, I was starting to bear down, the urge was so strong I could not suppress it, my body was telling me it was time. I had a moment during a strong contraction where I silently gave myself permission to have an epidural if I had hours of contractions ahead of me, that must have been the moment of transition.
At the hospital the midwives were concerned about my short contractions, then they checked my cervix and told me I was fully dilated, it was time to push! I found the pushing stage less painful than the contractions. I was on all fours for most of Louis’s journey through the birth canal and then I switched to lying on my side with my feet pushing against a prop and the shoulder of the midwife, so an active position where the resistance against my feet aided the pushing. The midwives were wonderfully encouraging in talking me through delivery, coaching me in how to push and they ensured a safe delivery of Louis’ head and shoulders to protect my perineum, then they told me to pull my baby out completely.
I was so overwhelmed in that moment of seeing Louis emerge that I missed my cue from the midwifes to reach down. My doula could see I was stunned and said ‘do you want to pick up your baby Hon?!’ I was like ‘oh yeah!’. Then skin-to-skin, the joy of becoming a mother, finally meeting my baby and the relief of the delivery being over, what a moment!
Altogether it was 8 hours at home for established labour, 2 hours in hospital for delivery. It was part of my birth plan to have gas and/or morphine and I’m so pleased that it was drug-free because I was so present in every moment of the entire labour. I entered a very primal, instinctive state and my normal conscious self and ego was absolutely sidelined.
I trusted this natural process and did not fight it, I had faith that my body knew how to birth my baby. At the risk of sounding silly I felt like an Amazonian! No one is lying about how painful labour is but it’s also incredible, and the instinctive state of being allows you to cope with the pain differently to normal situations of physical pain. It’s a level of power, strength and courage which I wouldn’t have considered that I normally have access to, but now I know it was within me all the time.
Matt was a wonderful supportive partner during the whole labour. He told me what I needed to hear; ‘you’ve got this’ ‘I love you’ ‘I believe in you’. That encouragement and feeling of protection made a huge difference, I felt safe. We were both calm, we trusted that my body knew how to birth our baby and the process we learned at Calmbirth.
My doula Jade was a great advocate for me and support to Matt and myself. After explaining my birth intentions to Jade, we wrote a birth plan together. She guided us on what we could expect from birth and from the hospital, we had a preferred birth plan and back ups in case circumstances meant that our preferences could not be met. Having Jade as my doula made me feel prepared and safe, the continuity of care from someone who had my emotional well-being top of mind, and who was experienced in births helped me to stay calm.
The midwives at Northern Beaches Hospital were fantastic in their encouragement and support. They respected my birth intentions and guided me through the pushing stage.
I hope that my very positive birth story will help anyone feel confident that a positive birth is absolutely within your reach too. It’s a matter of having the knowledge and tools, trusting your body and putting what you know into practice, you can do it! I came away from labour with a first degree tear and some minor grazing, a doctor confirmed that no stitches were required. It wasn’t very painful and healed fast.
I encourage you to read the positive birth stories in the Calmbirth booklet, filling my head with these stories and actively stopping myself thinking about scary birth stories helped me to stay in the zone. And it’s good to talk to people who support you just ahead of birth, hearing ‘you’ve got this’ from other Mums is very reassuring. Birthing my son was one of the greatest and most enriching experiences of my life