As a Midwife I already had many ideas and experiences about pregnancy, labour and birth when I fell pregnant with my first child. Due to the nature of the job I had seen many beautiful, calm births and unfortunately a fair few traumatic ones. Sadly, I have seen so many women feel disempowered and afraid of something that I knew was essentially normal. I was determined not to be one of the many women who regretted and were traumatised by their first birth experience and head back for the second one hoping to recover. I kept telling myself "my body is made for this."
I had heard about Tracey's Calmbirth course through Tracey herself and other work colleagues. I convinced my husband Nathan that this would be much more beneficial for us and him than the hospital classes and he didn't protest. To be honest he probably already knew a lot more than I gave him credit for, with me being only a fairly, newly qualified Midwife. Filling out the Calmbirth registration paperwork really forced me to face my fears around childbirth. I had a massive fear of interventions, mainly because of the cascade of things I knew it can sometimes lead to. It also made me face my fears about becoming a parent.
After the course, thinking about increasing oxytocin and preventing the rise of adrenaline in labour, it brought up my fear of going to hospital for the birth. It had been something I had already identified in myself and pushed to the side. My fear surrounding going to hospital was firstly because I worked there and didn't like the thought of everyone knowing my business. The second thing was around 'having things done to me.' I didn't want to go into hospital and all of a sudden lose my voice and not be able to advocate for things I wanted. I had pushed this fear aside as I thought homebirth was not an option for me or my husband. I need not have worried because Nathan was so supportive in my journey of pregnancy and planning the birth telling me "whatever makes me comfortable."An opinion that had most definitely has something to do with the Calmbirth course. Upon speaking to our private Midwife Ali who had been caring for me since 12 weeks pregnant, she was very supportive. I had a low-risk pregnancy throughout and she said that home birth would definitely be an option for me and she explained all the things I would need and the logistics etc. I began to feel completely safe with the idea of having our baby at home and began preparing for it. During the preparation for home birth I think I really let go of my fears surrounding hospital birth as well. It was as if I just needed the option in case I didn't feel safe at the time.
I also contacted Tracey and explained my fears surrounding both options with her. Tracey was fantastically supportive and helped me realise what I wanted. Once finishing work and being on maternity leave I became more diligent at practising my calm birth techniques as well as continuing to attend pregnancy yoga which I had done throughout my pregnancy. In the last week of my pregnancy I had an appointment with my Midwife Ali, on my due date. I had some high blood pressure and even after rechecking it three times and practising my calm breath it was still elevated. I had no other worrying symptoms but due to this Ali had to make a call to the Doctors to get me checked up at the hospital. Before going up there Ali offered me an examination to see what my cervix was doing as I had been having mild tightenings on and off for the last two weeks every night. Ali informed me that my waters could be broken if induction was necessary. For a first baby this is a really good start and I was very pleased with myself knowing that my body had been working hard for the last couple of weeks. Upon going up to the hospital for my check I was very nervous and scared. My blood pressure did not come down once I was up there either, needless to say. My blood and urine tests were all normal, and this baby was happily moving around in its little home.
I was visited by the Doctor on that day and she advised that there was a space that day for induction and kept telling me that my blood pressure was quite high. I had always thought knowing what I know that I would be comfortable advocating for myself but I didn't, I still felt pressured and unaware of the options. Finally, she checked again and gave me the option of Tuesday or Thursday for induction. I reluctantly agreed and booked for Thursday with a blood pressure check on Wednesday, hoping that would give my body enough time to do it on its own.
I went home that night and tried all the natural things to try and bring on labour and to try and enjoy these last days before baby arrived. But, I couldn't. I was miserable and upset about the way things had changed from my original plan. I had gone from planning a homebirth to an induction in hospital. I contacted Tracey again, hoping to calm my fears and get some good advice. She was fantastic again and gave me lots of tips and encouragement. At my blood pressure check on Wednesday my blood pressure was still elevated but with no other symptoms, nothing needed to change as I still had my induction booked for the next day. I started to cry and express all my fears to Ali. Ali reaffirmed to me what I already knew, that it was my decision and that there were definitely other options rather than continuing with the plan for induction. Ali rang and spoke to the registrar on that day explaining my situation and my hope to avoid induction. Upon consultation with the obstetrician, they suggested Ali referred me for a scan to check everything was ok and that I could have a review in the Maternity Assessment Unit on Friday.
For my review on Friday Ali came up to the hospital with me. The scan was normal and baby was very happy, but my blood pressure was still up. Ali offered me another examination and happily informed me that my cervix was 3cm dilated and fully thinned out. They could really classify me as being in active labour. I was ecstatic. The registrar agreed that if I had not had a baby over the weekend then we could talk about booking induction again on Monday. I just knew I was going to have my baby that night.
So, I called Nathan to come home. He wasn't sure whether to believe things really happening yet as there had been so many pre labour moments already that week. The contractions were coming strong when I got home and I began using my calm birth techniques. When Nathan got home they started to die off a little bit and so we went for a walk. We talked and we laughed and I even did a couple of little sprints during my walk to get me going. By the time we were coming home they were regular and strong again and I knew I was in active labour. We called Ali to let her know and keep her in the loop. I remember laying on the couch between contractions watching 'Puss in Boots' on tv and I definitely remember lots of love and laughter with Nathan. By about 8pm we decided it was time to get up to the hospital. We had to take a massive detour as well as the highway was closed due to a major traffic accident. We got up to the hospital by about 8:30pm and we were greeted by Ali and I was requesting to get in the bath.
Ali suggested I get in the shower for a little while first just to make sure things didn't slow down. I was in the shower for about an hour breathing through contractions, listening to my music playlist, leaning on Nathan and talking to him in between. During this time I began to battle with myself saying I didn't want to do it anymore. I knew that it wasn't far off by then and this was my time of transition. I got in the birth pool and it was a massive relief. I was (mostly) calm breathing through the contractions. I had Nathan giving me lots of massage on my back and controlling my music playlist I had created. I also had brought my homebirth feeling to the hospital with battery operated tealight candles lighting up the bathroom. I felt the urge to push at about 10:40pm which felt like a massive relief to have something more to concentrate on doing.
When I look back at it now, I do not describe it as painful but as intense. It was the most intense yet rewarding and empowering feeling I have ever experienced. I gave birth to our little girl, at 11:14pm, Lucy Eleanor, weighing 3550grams. Lucy was born in the membrane sac or in the caul, as my waters only broke just as she came out. Being born in the caul is quite rare and something special to see as a Midwife. It was lucky that the membranes did not need to be broken as they were obviously very strong. When Lucy entered the world she was so alert, content and calm. She still remains that way (most days) and I am certain her beautiful calm pregnancy and birth are the main reason for that.
Calmbirth has taught me so much, both personally and professionally. It has helped me practice and maintain tangible skills to deal with anxiety in everyday life as well as in such an intense and exciting time of pregnancy and childbirth. It has also helped me realise my deep passion for promoting positive birth experiences. Sadly, the culture of women and men in our society alike is of fear and disempowerment around birth and it is something I am so passionate about trying to change. Calmbirth also helped teach Nathan about the joys of positive birth and I know he now speaks loudly of the preparation we did for the birth of Lucy and the magnificent experience we had. I could not have done it without him, he is my absolute rock and was such an amazing birth support. I'm pretty sure he has not become one of the traumatised Father's you hear so much about and that he promotes his experience to other men (and I am so proud of him for that). We both highly recommend Tracey and her Calmbirth course, we would not have had the beautiful experience we had without her.
-Karli & Nathan