My goal was not a pain free unmedicated birth. My goal was to have a birth that healed me from the trauma of my daughter Max's birth. I wanted to remember birth as a positive experience yet didn't really know how to achieve that, so I went down the rabbit hole of birth education. I didn't want to accept the status quo that birth is traumatic and we need to deal with that.
I can't really talk about Banks's birth unless I talk about my daughters birth. When she made her spontaneous and surprise arrival 2 months early, I felt as though I experienced the whole labour on my own. From the moment I woke in the middle of the night to my waters breaking and poor Jarrod in his deep slumber suggesting maybe I had JUST wet the bed, to me screaming out "this baby is coming" and being told I wasn't having a baby today, I felt unheard, not believed and entirely on my own in the experience. I did in fact have that baby that day BTW.
I knew one thing, that the trauma of not being heard or trusted in my birth with Max actually overrode the trauma of her being so early. I did not want the same experience for my 2nd birth.
Birth podcasts became my best friend and I quickly learned how little I knew about birth. We booked in to do a hypnobirthing course and I also went on the hunt for a doula (another spoiler alert, I found our angel Bree Stafford) The hypnobirthing course and Bree provided the education and the preparation strategies I needed to trust my body and the process of physiological birth.
Find out about Bree here
Before I knew it, I had moved from having a one-line birth plan consisting of "get me an epidural, stat" to wanting an uninterrupted birthing experience with minimal intervention.
In the lead up, I prepared a very thoughtful birth plan that I probably changed 5 times. I was obsessed with baths and visualised labouring in water in a calm and peaceful state. I listened to my hypnobirthing meditation everyday and at night to fall asleep and clutched my heat pack for comfort.
The birth of Banks 40+3 (debatable 39+6 my due date was changed because I was having a "big baby", another spoiler alert, Banks was a perfectly standard 3.6kg)
For two months I was convinced my labour was beginning, I had intense cramping and such an intense pressure that I was sure I was in early labour... everyday! Every night I would be telling Jarrod that tonight was the night, as I lay down mentally taking note of the time between the cramping.
So when I woke at 4am with cramping I sat with it. It had been months of false alarms so I tried to relax and not get excited... by 4:30am I had put on my hypnobirthing track and tried to get into the calmest state I could and at 5am I woke him. He didn't jump into action; he didn't really react at all. Afterall, I had been saying it every day! By 6 I had convinced him that it was the real deal. Once he had let his work know, my first instinct was of course "pack the orders!" It was a Saturday and not knowing how long labour would go I felt it imperative in that moment. Jarrod raised his eyebrows and obliged, helping me. I remember telling Jarrod to take a video of me as I thought about how hilarious I looked. I think it's the only video we have (My one big regret is not getting video or photos of our labour)
Soon Max woke up. The plan was make her pancakes as casually as we could, send her off to ballet with her little bestie and Jarrod's mum would pick her up from there. Halfway through pancakes the surges/contractions started getting strong enough for me to hide in the bathroom and the hallway to hide from Max and drown out my moans. We chose not to tell Max what was going on. She wasn't going to be with us so we knew the wait would be nearly unbearable. She spends a night a week at her grandparents, so this part was easy for us.
I started to get ancy when Jarrod wasn't picking up on my urgency while he was sitting in the playroom taking play orders from Max as he simultaneously got her dressed at snail's pace. This was the first and only time I thought WTF are you doing?🤣 Through gritted teeth I told him to get her out of here and eventually they left with him returning in around 15 minutes. I messaged our beautiful doula Bree with an update and she quickly reminded me to put on the tens machine on as soon as he got home. We hadn't practiced using it so that took a few minutes but once we got it working I was sold straight away...highly recommend using a tens. I'm guessing it's about 9am at this stage.
Then everything calmed ... I imagined labouring mainly in my bedroom, but first I needed a clean house, so I was busy ordering around Jarrod and cleaning myself. Eventually we got into bed and put on the hypnobirthing track. Surges at this stage I think were about 6-8 minutes apart.
11:00am, we put on a movie, we chose "She said" about the 'me too' movement (heavy stuff) We were about 45 mins in when we told Bree (doula) that we were watching a movie and she said make sure it's a rom com to get the oxctocin flowing, another tip I had forgotten, and we couldn't have gotten the movie pick more wrong! Lucky I wasn't really watching any way, I was groaning through surges and texting one of my bestie's updates.
12pm, Jarrod's mum came to pick up the pram for Max. It's true what they say, my surges went from around 6 mins apart to 10-12 mins while she was here.... and then when she left, omg shit started to get real!
1pm, I felt like I needed to be close to the toilet (had urges to poo) so instead of labouring in the bedroom as I had pictured (the other end of the house) what better place than in the playroom right outside the bathroom. At this point I could not do a surge without hanging onto Jarrod. Poor guy was trying to walk away quickly in between surges to call the doula and the hospital and I was screaming at him to come back. I'd lean my head into his shoulder or chest and roar my way through them. surprisingly they were already coming 2 mins apart but only lasting 45 seconds. We wanted to labour at home as long as we could, but the frequency crept up so quickly! Poor Jarrod was confused that they had shortened though so was 2nd guessing how far along I was or wasn't. Bree had told him earlier; I don't want to hear from you until she stops thinking straight.
I was so hot so I opened the back door and continued to have surges, all I could think was someone is going to call the cops! But at the same time I needed that fresh air which overrode the worry I had for my Neighbours.
Somewhere in the midst of this there was a phone call to the hospital. The nurse asked to talk to me and was asking questions that I don't recall but all I can remember was thinking whyyyyyyy are you asking me this right now? she could clearly here what was going on.
There was also a call to Bree who said "change of plans, meet you at the hospital". Now all I needed to do was get from my house to the car about 20 meters from my front door. Nope I was stuck on the footpath overcome with a surge and giggling inside at any onlookers that were getting the show.
The car ride
EVERYONE warns you for the surges in the car and how bad these will be. The hospital is around 15 minutes from our house but of course the footy was on and we ended up in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Jarrod (who actually is a race car driver) thought it was a good idea to go the "back ways" which of course gets us lost and me raging!!! At this point it feels like I may have about a minute in between surges. Holding onto the handrail and alternating from sitting and kneeling on the front seat, I continue to roar through as he runs many red lights and breaks a lot of road laws while reminding me to do my calm breaths. All I can think is 'where the F are you going?!?' I was already prepared to have the baby in the car but also intuitively knew it was not time.
When I picture our arrival to emergency, I recall it like it was a comedy movie. I was looking at this little Yia Yia with her 2 primary school aged children standing out the front of the hospital (I think they must have been waiting for a cab or something) No problem, I'll do one surge here in the car and then B line it through the doors, I thought to myself. I didn't want to scare the children! As I'm doing said B line, my body has a different idea, I knew I wasn't going to make it. I looked the children in the eye and mouthed "sorry" as I turned to the wall and braced it, screaming while Jarrod caught following with our hospital bag.
Once I head into emergency which always has around 5 ish people in it (I've been here a few times) I see it's jammed packed with an audience to witness yet another one of my wall bracing surges.
There was a kuffufle about whether I needed to see triage first or not. 2 women who were checking in themselves started insisting the nurses open the doors. Once the doors opened there was a small attempt to get my information to put a wrist band on before putting me in the wheelchair. They opted out of the wrist band and off we went. The nurse said to me "ohhh you sound a bit pushy; do you feel like you need to push?" I knew I wasn't that far. But I was starting to worry that Bree wouldn't arrive in time.
We were taken straight to our birthing suite and Jarrod asked if I wanted them to fill the bath. Surprisingly I wasn't interested, and I also wondered if I'd even have time to labour in the bath. I asked for them to put a mat on the floor and get me a birth ball. I also prompted Jarrod to give them the birth plan, that was my main priority, I needed Rose the midwife and the student midwife to know how I wanted this to go and there was no way I could manage a conversation. Jarrod took the lead on these things and continued being my physical pillar, while remaining quiet to let me do my thing.
People say there is no point or that writing down birth preferences is pointless. I would say that the intention and effort I put into my birth preferences was KEY in experiencing my birth positively. Jarrod shared that he noted the midwives appreciation for the plan as they nodded to each other and discussed the different points between themselves.
So, there I was hands and knees on the floor experiencing the most intense surges I've ever felt. And then suddenly I heard "she's here, it's Bree" I remember feeling so relieved that she was here but not able to come out of my experience enough to even look at her. All I can remember is looking at the bottom of her pants. I would then find myself seeking them out when I was at my worst, seeking comfort knowing she was there. Every suggestion she had I deeply trusted because of our time preparing for the birth. She suggested something, I screamed that I couldn't while my body did what she asked. I remember thinking that I couldn't possibly keep going like this and thinking I had so much longer to go because my waters hadn't broken yet. Bree reminded me that baby may come out "en caul" (born still in the sac) this gave me permission to stop using water breaking as a marker for how much I had progressed.
We had requested to have minimal interuption from the midwives which included no internal checking of how dilated I was and we had also requested for manual fetal monitoring so I could move around as I needed. The midwives were great, they used a hand held monitor when they needed to check baby and the only time I really heard them talking was when they assured me "baby is very happy" Jarrod stayed by my side offering water and the cold face washer (the opposite of the heat pack I used religiously throughout pregnancy)
How Justin Beiber made it to my labour
During the later stages of pregnancy, I tried making a labor playlist, but got stuck. Admitting my lack of musical prowess, I only managed to compile about six songs before giving up and changing my plan. I figured I'd just type "birth playlist" on Spotify when the day arrived. Turns out, I miscalculated my multitasking abilities and forgot to clue in Jarrod. So, with those same six songs on repeat for what felt like ages, I scrambled between contractions to switch up the playlist. Every time I was about to make the change, another contraction hit. All I wanted was to hear something else, but fate had other ideas—cue the Justin Bieber playlist. (Funny thing is, I used to listen to Justin Bieber way before meeting Jarrod, during my beach walks in Elwood and St. Kilda.) I hadn't jammed to those tunes in years, yet there we were, laboring away with Justin Bieber on an endless loop.
Soon enough, I found myself on the toilet after mentally thinking "F You!" at Bree's suggestion, wondering how I could make it there. Yet, she had a point. Oddly, it was on that very seat that progress kicked in. And when the momentum waned a bit, Bree threw another idea my way: the peanut ball. She urged me to prop one leg up on it. Inside, I rolled my eyes while voicing my usual "I can't." Truth be told, I could, and I did. It was then that I decided I needed the gas. We aimed to dodge heavy pain relief for now, fearing a chain reaction of interventions. My main goal? Avoiding an epidural. One, because I knew it might snowball into forceps or an emergency C-section. Two, because I remembered not having an epidural with Max allowed me to get up, shower, and make it to the NICU within half an hour. I wanted that flexibility again. The gas did bring some relief and soon and convenientally my water broke straight into the toilet!
Rose the midwife put a bed pan in the toilet so bubba "didn't fall into the toilet" ... well that's all fine but now I'm pushing, and you guessed it POOING into the pan. In that instant, I was trapped in a whirlwind of emotions, swinging between "this is absolutely mortifying" and a surprising "I couldn't care less" all at once.
The message came through loud and clear: "If you're not aiming for a toilet birth, it's time to vacate." I was convinced there was no way I could transition from that spot to the bed. After all, I had nestled into a certain level of comfort, thanks to my trusty gas. However, as with many moments that day, I knew I could, even when my initial thought was I couldn't. It all boiled down to placing my faith in my body and, of course, in Bree.
Somehow I made it to the bed, I was on my knees and hanging onto the top of the bed head. I changed my mind "no no no this doesn't feel good" Bree whispered to me "honey I don't think anything is going to feel good for you at this stage" well it was in this moment that I realised I was in transition. I knew that this was the hardest part of labour, I knew all my vulnerabilities could come out, all my past traumas. I knew I would leave this world and come back to meet my baby. I screamed out to my baby (literally) "come on bubbbbbaaaaaa" calling him to work with me. I cried that I didn't want to do it anymore, I cried that I wanted to have a little sleep (at this point surges were rolling into each other) and then my inner child cried out for my mummy, who has always been the most empathetic person in my life. While it sounded to the outside world that I was not coping, inside I knew that I was and could do this and I was nearly there.
The pushing phase brought a sense of relief. I discovered it to be far more manageable than before. My mental clarity had returned, and I felt a surge of excitement when Bree informed the midwives that Jarrod wanted to be the one to catch our baby. I made it clear that I preferred minimal assistance, just a bit of counter pressure to avoid tearing. The moment of meeting my baby was so close (around 9 minutes of pushing to be exact) I could feel the crowning, the stretching, and the intensity of it all. But I managed to breathe through the sensation, and suddenly, in what felt like a blink at 6:45pm, Jarrod had our baby boy in his hands, passing him through my legs. The shock of realizing we had a boy was an odd blend of emotions – not pure elation, nor disappointment, maybe a disbelief that we had a son.
We were undisturbed. I sat on my knees, cradling my baby against my chest, and tears flowed freely. Jarrod was a mess of emotions, just as he had been with Max. We held each other close, settling into the comfort of the bed. I noticed that someone had adorned the space with fairy lights – a gesture that filled me with gratitude, even though I hadn't registered them amidst the intensity of labor. To be completely honest, I don't recall much from those initial moments after birth. It's often said that it takes a moment for a mother to fully reorient herself, and that was absolutely true for me. Once I regained my presence of mind, I spent a brief period repeatedly murmuring, "We did it! We did it!" Then came the wait – the anticipation for the placenta, a process I was also committed to experiencing naturally. It was another challenge that in hindsight I didn't mentally prepare for but thanks to some witchy tea from Bree and some encouragement from my midwives I birthed it around 45 minutes later. We then all enjoyed the peace that came with the unhurried birth crawl journey which we were supported with without any pressure for weighing and checking baby. Our birth plan and our midwives are to thank for the respect and patience we were offered throughout the entire experience.
I then blurted out "why the hell did no one change the playlist??? Wasn't Justin annoying anyone else?" everyone cracked up laughing, they all thought I must be a Bieber mega fan, Rose said "I thought it was really cute!" I'll always have a quiet giggle to myself now when I hear a Justin song and think back to my birth with a smile, vastly different to the terror I felt with Max....GOAL ACHIEVED 😃 Now followed a weeklong endeavour to name our baby boy, who we eventually named Banks.
3.6kgs of utter perfection, enjoy the photos if you made it this far. The only regret i have is not investing in the photography package Bree offers but she managed to capture these on her phone for us and we will treasure them forever.
Jarrod being supported to meet our baby first
you can see baby Banks laying between my legs. Jarrod had passed him through to me, I think he may be having the cord taken off from around his neck in this photo
That feeling of "we did it!"
This photo of Jarrod makes me cry