Today I had the privilege of sharing Mother’s Day with Matilda’s first birthday and I wanted to mark the occasion by recounting her birth story – the long version. I experienced a lower back ache most of the day and my stomach went rock hard randomly, throughout the day before Matilda’s birth. A call that night to the midwife at the Midwife led Birth Centre at Toowoomba Base Hospital confirmed that I was likely in the early labour stage.
Fast forward to 8am Saturday morning, I woke up to my stomach tensing and feeling firm. I wasn’t sure what was happening but I thought, ‘maybe I have gone in to labour?!’. I told Will (husband) what I suspected and his response was to put a load of washing on and start cleaning the house. I wasn’t overly convinced it was labour so I jumped in the shower to relax. In the shower I realised that this tensing and firm feeling was happening regularly… time to get out and time this! Four minutes apart. I had woken up to contractions four minutes apart, and Will was cleaning the house – a moment of panic and then pure joy and laughter. An hour later, we started our 2.5hr drive to Toowoomba (for some reason we weren’t rushing).
Side note: The drive is so long because I live in rural Queensland. The closest hospital is 20mins away, however they did not have a Birth Centre and it would’ve been a standard hospital birth. I opted for and insisted on the referral to the Toowoomba Birth Centre as it was the closest, midwife led unit, and it had a much more comfortable setting with the birthing pool option. Nearly everyone thought I was being overly ambitious and naive, and there was no way I would make the drive whilst having contractions, but I was very determined, and it was actually a really lovely and relaxing drive. Will spent the drive listening to a true crime podcast and I spent the drive timing contractions.
The midwife had said to come in to the birth centre when I was getting 3 contractions in 10mins and I hit that mark about 20mins outside of Toowoomba. I called my midwife and she assured me we were a while off and that I should relax and check in to the air bnb we had booked for the week, and jump in the shower for a while. I went from the car, directly to the shower. We spent about 2hrs in the shower eating cut up oranges and pineapple that my beautiful friend Krystal had prepped ready for my arrival. I stopped timing contractions and just relaxed into what they call ‘labour land’. It’s a beautiful place. It was just me and my breath. I was standing up, bent forward with the water raining down on my lower back and it was bliss. I had to keep taking time outs from the shower because I constantly thought I needed to poop. This was my least favourite time – leaving the shower. After about 2 more hours in the shower, I got to a point where I could no longer manage to talk while I was having contractions. I had to be in the right position, have my head down, eyes closed and just breathe. Will started timing again. 3 contractions in 5mins. Definitely time to go to the Birth Centre.
This was the most uncomfortable I felt throughout the whole birth experience. Leaving the shower, getting dressed and getting in the car. I could only move in between contractions. This 20ish minutes from the shower to the birth centre room was the only time my contractions caused discomfort. I think it’s because I wasn’t in a comfortable position and I had an increase in stress – transitioning from my internal world of calm and being to the outer world which was a tad chaotic. Throughout the shower and drive from home to Toowoomba the contractions had just felt like tensing and pressure. During the contractions my body told me to relax in to them and breathe, so I listened. I got to the birth centre and I remember thinking ‘I’m wasting everyone’s time, this isn’t the real thing’. I hadn’t had a ‘bloody show’ and my waters had not broken. So I was convinced it was not the real deal. Just after I arrived at our beautiful big room at the birth centre, I had my first moment of doubt. I was tired and just wanted to lay down but laying down was extremely uncomfortable. I remember being on all fours on the bed swaying with my contractions thinking ‘I’m sure this is what an elephant looks like when they give birth’. I started to cry and my tears ran down my face and on to Will’s who was right there with me, supporting me through this overwhelming moment.
Side note: due to Will and Krystal’s overwhelming support, and the safe relationship I had built with my midwife, I had had the courage to share with her my past experiences of sexual assault (Will and I had prepared a written note on his phone that he was able to show our midwife on our arrival). In the note I requested that I have NO dilation checks and ensure that I was properly asked for consent before any intervention or checks. My glorious midwife was completely supportive and instead used the Doppler a few times to determine how birth was progressing.
So, finally I made it back in to the shower again. On all fours with my elbows on Will’s thighs and head in his lap. Will was eating a burger and I laughed to myself because I was frustrated by the beetroot and onion smell. I was very much in my own internal world at this stage and could barely get any words out. All I was thinking about was breathing, how I was wasting everyone’s time and causing a fuss, and how much I thought I needed to poop. Then it hit me. The first overwhelming urge to push. I was finally convinced that it was the real deal after that. Now I had to try and communicate with Will and the midwife that I wanted to get in the birth pool. I thought I was communicating urgency, but apparently not, everyone was cool, calm and collected. Outside I appeared relaxed, inside I was screaming ‘get me in the fricken pool’. I made it in to the birth pool and my body took over. I was on my knees, water up to my armpits, with my arms wrapped around Will and hands holding on to the edge of the pool. I had another overwhelming moment where I started to cry and said ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘I’m scared’, at this moment our midwife put a firm hand on my shoulder and reassured me that I WAS doing it and that I would be ok, and somehow I believed her and immediately felt better.
I had a total of about 6 pushes. I pooped! I made primal grunts of effort. I felt scared, but I also felt powerful. I was swept up in the moment and there was no stopping me. Crowing felt like an intense, vagina version of when you have dry lips and you yawn, and the corner of your mouth splits and stings. Matilda was born in the birth pool, completely encaul. An extremely rare occasion, especially for first time mums, and vaginal births. I felt safe, supported and empowered by the experience. I was up and dancing in the shower an hour later – after birthing the placenta and I felt amazing. I am proud of my birth story. I worked hard to have my dream of birth become reality. Knowledge is power and I researched the crap out of everything to do with birth so I could go in confident and feel empowered.