(Please click HERE for more photos from Adam's birth!)
The night before Adam was born, Dan and I stayed up super late watching X-Files. We had downloaded the episodes of the latest "season" ages ago but never had time to watch it. It just so happened that June 30th was Dan's first day of paternity leave (because it was Adam's due date), so we had time to stay up late watching TV. It was also the only night we decided not to do anything to encourage labor. You see, at 36 weeks, I experience false labor. It was so convincing and lasted around 8 hours before the surges completely stopped. Since then, I had been impatient to get baby out, and starting at 37 weeks we did what we could to naturally and gently get baby out - essential oils, massages, acupuncture, stretch & sweep, and of course, sex. Obviously, baby came out on the one night we didn't do anything at all, hahaha.
Anyway, we went to bed around 2am and I just could not sleep. I felt like baby was really pushing down and it was too uncomfortable for me to get settled. But at around 5am on Friday, July 1st 2016, I felt the first surge which around 30secs long. At this point I noted that it felt different, but after a month of false starts, I didn't get too excited. However, then there were two more that were 10-15mins apart. At this point I knew it was real! So I woke Dan up to tell him ("This is definitely the real thing, babe!"). I did tell him to go back to sleep but I don't think he actually slept. I can't blame him, because I didn't either. We were just so so so ready to have this baby already.
At 6am, after timing the surges for an hour, I texted our midwife, Andrea, to let her know what was going on. There was a little bleeding, but the surges were still pretty far apart at 10-15minutes between each 30-45 second surge. Usually you wouldn't call your midwife at this point but Andrea had told me to let her know as soon as something happened because I was likely to have a quick labor.
By 7am, the surges were a minute long but timing was erratic. I was getting nervous that maybe this was another false labor so I kept myself busy pottering around. I put on some makeup (of course), had a bit to eat, changed into my "laboring clothes". I texted our birth photographer, Emily, to let her know what was going on as well.
I needn't have worried about it being false labor again though, because by 8am, the surges were 5 mins apart and a minute long. At this point, I ask Andrea and Emily to come. I go to the the birthing room (which is usually the guest room in our house). I was really focused on my breathing, on feeling the surges and breathing through them. I also stop timing the surges - I knew by then that this was the real thing and it was only a matter of time before baby makes an appearance!
At around 8.30am, Andrea arrives and checks on me. Dan starts filling up the pool, with hot water by a hose connected to our laundry tap. Then he actually adds cold water using a bucket. I have very vivid memories of him running in and out of the room carrying that bucket, hahaha! I was still relaxed and chatty between surges at this point in time.
Around 10am, I start asking to go into the pool. After Andrea checked the temperature to make sure it was okay, I got in. Immediately the surges were 80% less intense! I relaxed straight away, smiling and laughing and bonding with Dan. I was practically limp, I was so relaxed. I was also really really gassy. I burped a lot, and farted too (which is impossible to get away with doing discreetly when you're in water, as you can imagine).
Flatulence aside, the next couple of hours were quite emotional for me - at one point, I remember saying to Dan "I never thought I'd ever experience this again, now here I am about to have another precious baby. Thank you. Thank you for making all my dreams come true!". I think there were quite a few tears in the room at that time, mostly from me hahaha.
I also kept saying, "Oh man, laboring in water is the BEST! Why doesn't everyone do this?? Everyone should do this!". Seriously, if laboring in water is an option for you, DO IT.
Throughout this time, I was able to freely change my position based on what felt comfortable for me. My favorites were squatting and being on all fours, but eventually I found that I enjoyed floating in the water on my back (this would also end up being the position baby was born in!). During surges, Dan would support my lower back and press into it to counter the pressure I was feeling around my abdomen. He would also scoop water on my back, which felt incredible.
Andrea would periodically check baby's heart rate with a doppler monitor, and she would just work around me in whatever position I was in. This is my first time having a medical practitioner put my comfort first, and it felt so reassuring to know she had my needs in mind first and foremost. She still did what she needed to do, but never made me feel like I was in the way. I love midwife care!
At around noon, I felt my water break in the water (which made me lose focus for a few seconds, and the only time I really felt fear because I remember how much it "hurt" after my water broke during Afraz' birth) and the surges really start getting more intense, but I started feeling really tired (remember, I hadn't slept at all the night before!) and Andrea asked if she could check me. Turns out there was still a little more cervical lip in the way.
Andrea suggested that I get out of the water and walk around for a bit to help things along. I began feeling a little discouraged and in despair, but most importantly, I didn't wanna leave the comfort of the water! But in the interest of just getting this baby out already, I finally got out of the water.
From the first moment I took a step back on dry land, it was awful. I felt so HEAVY, like I weighed a tonne! And the surges were super super super intense. There was a sharpness to the pressure that wasn't there in the water, a heaviness that felt almost unbearable. Through those surges, I managed to make it to the toilet to pee. However, the temperature change from the warm water to cold air made me really really dizzy. I decided I needed to take a nap, so I laid down on the bed, which felt good for about ten seconds, lol. I was soooo tired and wanted to nap but the darn surges were interrupting my rest!
It was then that I began vocalizing really loudly, like I did with my previous birth as well. My vocalizing was almost operatic, and probably sounded ridiculous, but it felt so good! At some point during this time on the bed, I start going into transition. How do I know? Because, like someone trying to buy drugs on the street, I whispered to Andrea, "Hey, do you have something I could take? I know you've gotta have something. Just to take the edge off?" It is so hilarious to think about it now, hahaha. I kept asking too! Maybe like three times! Each time she just said, "No, sorry, I don't have anything. But you don't need it! You can do this!". I think I also started getting emotional about not having my mom around. Just using any excuse to wimp out, really! Lol. I was also just so very tired. I had been snacking on dates and drinking water and energy drinks, but Andrea asks Dan to get some honey for me, and a spoonful of that really worked to give me a boost of energy.
At around 12.45, Andrea checked me and confirmed that everything was nice and open. Time to get back in the water! The moment I went back in, my whole body just loosened up. I could focus again. Not long after entering the water, I start feeling the urge to push. I was so exhausted but I had a renewed sense of purpose - it was time.
Now, in HypnoBirthing, we are encouraged to breathe baby out. But I just couldn't help but be absolutely primal. It felt amazing to actively push baby out, to work with my body to get baby out into the world. I was moaning, swaying, following my body as it took me to another place altogether (I'll write more about that at a later date, but I suggest looking up "orgasmic birth" because it is REAL, guys!).
It took a while, and I actually pooped (Andrea just scooped it out of the pool. People get so nervous about pooping when giving birth, but almost everyone poops during labor and those attending to you would not be grossed out by it at all), but soon enough, just before 1.52pm, baby's head was ready to come out. I didn't know this, though. Not just because I couldn't feel it, but because everyone around me was so calm!!!! There were no loud voices or overly excited faces - just a bunch of faces with completely zen expressions staring at my vagina. So when I felt the ring of fire and baby's head popped out in a single push, I was shocked!
It was then that Andrea and Dan started talking to me, telling me to breathe and just push a couple more times to get the rest of baby out. I was freaking out and exhausted, but after a few deep breaths, I pushed a couple of times and baby came out. Dan picked him up out of the water and placed him in my arms. He also checked between Adam's leg and announced "It's a boy!".
I looked at my beautiful new son and said, "Hello, Adam!". He cried for all of five seconds, takes a quick look around at his family (at this point the older boys had entered the room), then promptly fell asleep. I birthed my gorgeous placenta a few minutes later, and Adam stayed connected to it for a few hours after that - talk about delayed cord clamping! By the time we cut the cord, it was completely white and limp. And guess what? I did not tear at all. That's right - I birthed a 3.69kg baby naturally and with no injury whatsoever to my perineum. Thank you, perineal massage and water birth!!!
The few hours after the birth were a bit of a blur. Adam peed on his dad and pooped on me. I latched him on several times in those first few hours and discovered immediately that something was wrong - turns out Adam was born with a tongue and lip tie. I will definitely share our experience with this soon!
We decided against announcing the birth that night. It was mostly because we were beyond exhausted, but we also felt this need to just "be" for a while. It felt like we were still in a dream, and it was wonderful to really enjoy that. Like an extension to the beautifully intimate birth we just experienced.
I still think about Adam's birth and smile. While Aqil's birth was traumatizing and Afraz' birth was healing, this birth was just...ideal. It was more meaningful than I could have ever dreamed. I felt so empowered and beautiful. I felt so connected to my nature as a woman and a mother, in that my body was capable of doing this amazing thing that countless mothers before me have experienced. I felt this energy down to the very core of my being - a strength and resilience that I hadn't seen within myself till this moment.
Women are told all the time that we "need" to do more, that we need other people to help, that we need chemicals to cope, that we have to be in a certain position and a certain location to have a safe, comfortable birth. It is so empowering to know for sure now that that's all a lie. That my body CAN and DID bring a human being into this world on its own. Mothers - we are capable of more than we are given credit for!
Speaking of credit, I also need to thank my fantastic birth team for being incredibly supportive, gentle, and so very loving throughout the entire labor. Thank you to the super mother-daughter midwife team of Andrea and Hannah Quanchi of My Midwives Melbourne North for their patience, support, and good humor; thank you to photographer extraordinaire, Emily Black of Emily Black Photography, for capturing these priceless moments and for helping with the birth as well (sorry to make you run back and forth turning the hot water on and off through the day!); thank you to my older boys Aqil and Afraz, for being the most incredible, well-behaved, considerate, loving, amazing and perfect children that ever existed; and most of all, thank you to my partner in life, love, and now birth - Daniel, you were my pillar of strength through this entire process. You did good, Dan-doula!
I'll always look back at Adam's birth with a smile. It was everything I ever desired in a birth. However, I am cognizant of the fact that mothers do not have water births (let alone home births!) as an option back home in Malaysia. This breaks my heart and I hope that it will change soon, because if my experience is anything to go by, water births are incredible and all mothers should be able to experience it if they so desire!