This is Zoe's story of the homebirth of her little boy, Finley. Zoe had her first baby in hospital, and she did a lot of work during Finley's pregnancy to release her fears about birth and connect with her intuition. She beautifully describes the mental battle of the most intense part of her labour, and the support of her birth team. My favourite part is how she describes her first postpartum feast of pizza, shared on the bed surrounded by her family and her much-loved birth team. You'll love this one, mamas!
The lead-up to Finley's birth
My birth story really starts a full year before Finley was born, and I was starting to consider having a homebirth after having my first son in hospital.
I had always wanted to birth at home but talked myself out of it during his pregnancy. I fell pregnant with our second baby at the start of 2019, however lost the baby at around 6 weeks. I fell pregnant quickly afterward and was very firm in my decision to have this baby at home.
During my pregnancy I worked through and released a lot of my fears and society’s fears I had taken on around birth, and made peace with some aspects of my first son’s birth and the choices I made during his pregnancy and birth. I did an incredible pregnancy workshop with Jane Hardwicke Collings and started to connect back to my intuition and spirituality.
Fast forward to December 2019 and I was coming into the final weeks of my pregnancy, which had been lovely and straightforward. I was as ready as I could be, however was trying to mentally prepare myself to go over my “due date” yet quietly hoping this baby would be a little early as well - a summer pregnancy with a busy toddler is tough! I had my Mother Blessing with a group of beautiful women the weekend before, so that beautiful positive birth energy was still very present.
I saw my midwife Louise on Tuesday - I was 39 weeks exactly, and we made an appointment for 40 weeks the next week. As she was leaving she said “I think I’ll be back before your next appointment” - famous last words!
The next day, I woke up at 3am to my waters breaking in bed - just the same as happened in my first pregnancy. I was only feeling very gentle twinges, and was able to rest and doze on and off until around 7am. I didn’t tell my husband Sam that anything had happened, it would have made it feel too real and I wanted the quiet and dark of the night to myself in that in between space of early labour.
Once the sun was up I pottered around at home for most of the day, in between family life with a toddler. I was finding it hard to get into the zone of labour with my 3 year old at home, so Sam took him out around lunchtime. I was having irregular uncomfortable contractions by this time and tried to rest as much as possible during the day, I had exhausted myself during my first labour by trying to “get things going” and wanted to enjoy this gentle phase of labour while it lasted.
It was a lovely cool day after a hot smoky one the previous day so I shut the blinds, and watched a funny movie to get the oxytocin flowing, I was bouncing on the fit ball or resting on the couch and gradually started to feel the contractions become more intense and were requiring more of my attention and focus. I set up my birth space and put up some affirmation cards on the wall near the birth pool.
As my contractions became more intense and regular, I laboured sitting over the toilet - this would prove to be a great labour spot later on as well. I never timed them, just listened to my body and did what felt right. I was still having big gushes of fluid throughout the day, especially with each contraction. By this point it was around 4pm, I was finding it hard to talk through contractions which were all in my back and I felt I was descending into “labour land”. I got off the toilet and was leaning against the kitchen bench, Sam was putting a warm washer on my back during a contraction which felt heavenly.
I got in the birth pool at around 5pm, the warm water was beautiful on my back and Louise (my midwife) took over from Sam pouring warm water on my back during contractions. The energy was so sacred, I knew our birth team were coming but the energy was the same, the space was held and respected so beautifully. I was visualising blowing away the contractions as they came and had my eyes closed most of the time. I found if I was able to relax and surrender into each contraction before it peaked I was able to stay in the zone and manage each one as it came.
After a little while of labouring in the pool, I was struggling with the intensity of my contractions, I was losing focus and starting to feel out of control. I couldn’t get comfortable, found the pool and the water too hot, feeling as if I couldn’t manage anymore, almost in tears with the pain of the contractions in my back. I was also having some urges to push.
Louise suggested I get out of the bath and try labouring on the toilet for a while for a change of scenery. I got out of the bath at around 6pm and sat over the toilet.
This next half hour was incredibly challenging, the most difficult in my whole labour. I sat over the toilet and Louise was standing next to me holding my head and my hand. Sam was in front of me and I remember Trudy (our second midwife) sitting on the edge of the bath. I felt as if I was going to die from the intensity of each contraction, and couldn’t imagine surviving each one. My whole body was tense and I felt like I was preparing to go into battle each time another came, and at this point the contractions were very close together.
I was so angry about how unfair it was, saying I had had enough, couldn’t do it and asking why it had to be so painful. I was fantasising about going to hospital and having an epidural and had a moment where I said my head “I understand why women have planned Caesarians- this is fucked”. I kept saying I didn’t know what to do. I remember the feelings of overwhelm, anger and helplessness during my first birth too but the incredible support this time made all the difference.
During this internal turmoil, my midwives Louise and Trudy were sitting next to me, holding me and reminding me that the pain was good pain, it couldn’t hurt me, my baby was doing half the work and I didn’t have to do anything and to just surrender to the pain and let go. These words entered some level of my mind, even though I was on another planet, and I calmed down and was able to let go and surrendered to the epic birth energy and let her overtake me and sweep me away.
My mind cleared, I was quiet and just allowed myself to surrender to each contraction- the pain disappeared as I surrendered. I started to have the overwhelming urge to push and reached down and could feel his head just inside with my fingers, so incredible!
Louise asked me where I wanted to have my baby - I said I didn’t care, I just wanted them born. She said if I wanted to birth over the toilet I had to stand up, and suggested we go to the bedroom instead.
Everyone had made a beautiful space for me in our room and I kneeled on the floor over the end of the bed. The contractions and urge to push were so so intense, and once again I just went into my body and let myself be taken over- the urge to bear down was so intense and I kept reaching down and feeling his head. I remember yelling “ow ow ow” and saying how much it hurt, and everyone reassuring me his head was almost out.
The ring of fire/burning was such an intense feeling, but as soon as his head was out, the urge to push went away and I panted as his head slowly came out- everyone was saying “we can see his head, his eyes, his nose, his mouth”.
Louise suggested I wait for another contraction to birth his body but I wanted him born and just pushed his whole body out. He was born at 6.54pm, the whole pushing phase in the bedroom was only 14 minutes!
We didn’t know he was a boy before he was born, and as I picked him up I saw we had another little boy. He was a bit floppy when he was born but with time and stimulation he pinked up and started crying. I could not believe I had done it! We were in awe, what a moment of victory, and sweet relief.
The post-birth celebration
I bled a bit soon after bub was born, I agreed to the syntocinon shot in my leg and so my placenta was born so after. We got up on our bed and we had skin to skin, he did the breast crawl with a little bit of guidance and fed for around an hour!
We cut the cord after his first breastfeed, looked at and thanked my placenta, weighed and measured Finley and he had a little cuddle with Sam. At 4.3kg and 54cm, he was a little bigger than his big brother. We decided that Finley was his name. Big brother came in and met him as well. Our doula Rachael ordered us all pizza and it was so lovely, we were all chatting, laughing and eating pizza in our bedroom together.
It was so ordinary yet utterly incredible and transformational - the sacredness and rite of passage of birth felt deeply honoured and respected by everyone in our birth space. Welcoming our beautiful second son into the world on the eve of the last full moon of the year, in our bedroom, peacefully and simply and surrounded by love was incredible and something I will be eternally grateful to experience.
Doula: Rachael Rose
Photos by Jennifer Thorson (@caught.photographics)