Planned home birth – second baby.
We are delighted that on Sunday 18th May (one day before her due date and 4 days after my PhD graduation) at 4am our daughter Soča Marika Puawai Schubert McArthur was born into this world gently at home in the water. She is named after the emerald green river Soča (pronounced Sotcha) in Slovenia. She was 50cm long and 3030g.
The short story is that Soča was born after only 3.5hrs of active labour (second babies often take only half the time at birth). Yet, the long story is that she took her time beforehand and raised 'false alarm' twice. Patience is a virtue…
The long anticipated day of the PhD graduation ceremony. I walked in the street parade and received my doctorate at the Michael Fowler Centre. During the ceremony I could feel the baby move lots and I just prayed she wouldn't break my waters or make an appearance on stage!
Hydrotherapy in the morning, then midwife appointment and after dinner my mum did a cast of my pregnant belly. With everything ticked off the 'to do list' I felt ready to have the baby. I had mild contractions during the night, but still got some sleep. In the morning I had a bloody show and told the midwife that baby might be on its way. She came over to check me, did some acupuncture to speed things up (it did the complete opposite) and left. Not much happened during the day, so we went for a walk in the storm and rain. In the evening the midwife wanted us to come to the hospital to monitor how the baby is doing. The monitor showed that baby’s heart rate was irregular: normal then suddenly really high, back to normal and so on. The midwife got a Doctor to do a scan and he came in with the encouraging words "this is the most abnormal heart-rate I've ever seen!" - just what you want to hear - and the midwife was already warning us that we might have to forget about a homebirth. Luckily, the scan revealed why the heart rate was so weird: our little girl was sucking her thumb and her heart-rate showed her excitement! We ran out of the hospital as fast as we could :-)
That night, at 3am, the contractions became stronger and closer together (3 in 10 mins, about 45 sec long) so we called our support team (my husband Ryan, my mum Marita/ Oma, our student midwife Helle, our 3 yr old son Max and his Aunty Sophie). Everything was go, the midwife arrived, we got the pool filled and everyone thought the baby is on its way. When I got in the pool the contractions slowed and weakened so I asked the midwife to check my dilation: 3cm. I was a bit tired by then so I called it a day at 6am and slept for a couple of hours. This was just the test-run for everyone.
Helle had stayed the night, so after breakfast we went for a walk in the sunshine, doing lots of 'climbing stairs sideways' outside, as the midwife had recommended, to bring the baby into a good position for the birth. Every now and then I had a contraction I had to breathe through, but still infrequent (between 30 mins and 6 mins apart and about 20-40 sec long) and not strong enough to bring the baby out.
We were booked for a growth scan. It was reassuring to hear that all was well with the baby. The contractions returned and I spent most of the night in the lounge 'labouring' with my mum and Max sleeping on the sofa. We had the blessingway candles lit, music on (Lorde), it was a full moon and quite lovely just doing my thing and sleeping in between contractions. As soon as the sun came up they stopped again.
Still no baby, but contractions on and off throughout the day. In the afternoon another midwife came to see me (our midwife had the weekend off) and said that everything was fine with the baby and offered that we could always go to the hospital and have an induction if we got sick of waiting - no thank you! We tried everything they recommend for inducing labour naturally (including acupressure, walking, a hot curry for dinner, and the oldest trick in the book). And that night our baby was born!
Contractions started at about 11pm, stronger and more regular than before. I threw up all my dinner, a sign that this ‘might be it’! We were still not sure if this was the 'real thing' so we didn’t call the midwife until 12:30am, when contractions were about 6 mins apart. Our support team was all ready to go again and the atmosphere was lovely: candle-light, essential oils, music, photos of the river Soča as a slideshow on the tv-screen, hot water bottle, swiss ball, birthing mattress, pool with warm water... I was a bit surprised when the midwife arrived as I had met everyone else in the team but her. It did not matter though as she was calm, encouraging and very lovely. She sat quietly in the dining room with Sophie, writing notes while I laboured to 'Nirvana unplugged' (that was great, lots of cheering there!) in the lounge. Through the glass-doors they could see the action without being intrusive. Ryan was pushing on my back with every contraction and everyone else found something to do or just observed quietly. Then the midwife came in to check the baby's heart rate - all good, happy baby - and in between contractions we had funny conversations. I was really keen to get into the pool, but the midwife thought it was too early and wouldn't let me. I asked her to check how far I was and she replied "you are far too chatty to be anywhere near full dilation". To her surprise I was 6cm dilated already! As it was 3am I calculated that we might have our baby by sunrise. Max, who had been asleep on the sofa all along (never mind that I was making strange loud noises) woke up and would give me kisses, lie under my tummy or sit on my back during contractions - being a mum and in labour is hard work!
So finally I hopped in the pool at 3:24am - absolute bliss - had an ice block and felt the contractions becoming more intense and longer. Suddenly, I had that huge contraction and urge to push and actually felt how the baby moved through the birth canal!!! I shouted "baby is coming" and everyone was startled and rushed over to the pool. The midwife asked me not to push - not easy at all, but I did it! (the midwife's notes read: "Tanja is demonstrating outstanding control and breathing through to allow her perineum to stretch. Amazing work!") - and two contractions later at 4am our girl was born in the water surrounded by her family. The Nick Cave song 'Brompton Oratory' by Mark Lanergan was playing when she was born (not that I remember!). I was leaning forward over the wall of the pool and the midwife pushed the baby through my legs so I could catch her and put her straight on my chest! It was an amazingly empowering experience!!! The midwife wrote: "Happy birthday Soča! Welcome to the world. Everyone has a good cry!" Max, who had been watching through the glass-doors with his Oma and his Aunty, came in and witnessed the birth of his little sister. He was so excited he made about a dozen drawings “for her birthday” and brought over a toy for her. I hope he’ll remember birth as a happy, natural event and nothing to fear. In the end Soča arrived so fast the backup midwife never made it to the birth, but arrived 15 mins later.
Everything is a blur afterwards: Everyone was on a high. Soča sounded a bit sniffly, so she got some oxygen and pinked up nicely. We got out of the pool quite soon to birth the placenta, then rugged up on the sofa with Soča skin-to-skin with me. The midwife checked me and to my delight I hadn't teared. I had a shower while Ryan held her skin-to-skin and after that my pulse was so high that the midwife gave me an IV-drip to recover – I think Soča’s speedy arrival was a bit of a shock to the system. Oma had a cuddle with her granddaughter and we watched the stunning sunrise – for the first time as a family of four. We enjoyed cuddles in bed with our wee girl before the first visitors, Ryan's family, arrived and we celebrated with a bottle of champagne. We are over the moon with our little girl and Max is a very proud big brother!