Joanna – ACT
We feel very lucky with the birth of our first child, Amelie Rose. We were fortunate enough to get a place in the Canberra Hospital Birth Centre, and found the continuity of care with our assigned midwife excellent.
I did a lot of preparation for the birth. We attended the birth centre classes as well as external Calm Birth classes; I did prenatal yoga, pregnancy relaxations, meditations and visualisations; and listened to audio recordings that were provided as part of the Calm Birth course.
Unintentionally I ended up having most of my labour at home, which was actually really nice, as I could relax, and not feel any time-pressure from the hospital environment. I’d been having expansions (I prefer this word to ‘contractions’) on the Thursday and Friday and then they got more intense on the Saturday (the day I gave birth).
My partner, Edward, was really helpful, employing many of the tools he’d learnt from the Calm Birth toolkit. The acupressure massage he did was particularly helpful during each expansion, and also just reminding me to breathe. I kept very active throughout labour – we walked around the garden together, I did some gentle yoga and belly dance moves, and used the fit ball, which I think all really helped. I had a shower at home, and the running water over my back was very soothing. I needed to sit in the shower, so used the fit ball as a seat (and ended up flooding the bathroom, as it covered the plug hole!). It was worth it though!
Saturday afternoon I started to feel more pressure on my cervix, and even though my expansions were still 5-6 minutes apart, decided to call our midwife, despite her saying to only call when they were 2-3 minutes apart. When the midwife came to our house, she observed my expansions and then I asked her to check my cervix. I told her that I didn’t want to know if I was only 1-2cm dilated (as I would have started doing irrational calculations in my head!), but joked that I’d be happy to know if I was 9cm!
To do the check, I had to lie on my back. This was the first (and only) time I lay on my back, as it was incredibly painful in this position. Just as she was about to check, I had an expansion and had to roll onto my side. And then my waters broke! She continued with the check and said ‘you know how you would want to know if you were 9cm?, well….you are 9cm!’
So we were on our way to the Birth Centre!
The drive to the hospital was memorable. Just as we left the house it started raining, with big storm clouds looming through the eerie summer afternoon sunlight. My doula, Amey (also my sister in law) drove me, with Edward following closely behind. I prayed for green lights the whole way, and lucky enough we got them! It was quiet at the hospital and we parked right outside the front. I had an expansion just as I got out of the car, and was half-keeled over on the footpath – looking pretty dismal! There was a father and his two young children walking behind me on the footpath and I think the little kids were a bit concerned for me! The father, as if reading my mind, walked inside and grabbed me a wheelchair – I could have kissed him, and will be forever grateful!!
On arriving at the birth centre, I hopped straight in the bath! Edward and Amey tried to make the room as relaxing as possible, putting on music (I’d made a birth playlist) and oil burner (with birth-inducing oils). Soon after getting into the bath, our midwife could see the top of Amelie’s head – so we all thought she would be arriving soon!
Wanting to minimise tearing (if possible!), I didn’t force any pushing, and just allowed my body to push when it wanted to (and it certainly knew when it wanted to push – there was no stopping that!). It was quite a long pushing phase, with lots of breathing and encouragement from Edward and Amey. It was getting near the 2-hour mark, although it felt like only 15 minutes to me, and the midwife said that she would need to call the Doctor, as they have a policy of no longer than 2 hours to push.
At that point, Edward said that my face changed to ‘business mode’, and I proceeded to give it everything I had to birth Amelie naturally, right then and there! I heard the knock at the door and the Doctor saying ‘do you need me’. At that moment, I pushed Amelie’s head out, so the midwife replied ‘no’. It was two more pushes and then the rest of her perfect little body followed, and I was the first to pick her up out of the water.
Everyone’s labour experience is different and uncertain, and I was of course open to having pain relief or other interventions if required. I feel very fortunate to have found my first birth quite a beautiful experience, without any need for drugs or intervention. Pain relief didn’t even cross my mind, as the birth wasn’t painful. It was intense – it doesn’t get the name labour for no reason! However, I felt that my body went into a zone, and I trusted the process – that my body could do it – it’s what it is designed to do after all!
We would like to thank the midwives and staff at the Birth Centre – they were absolutely fantastic both leading up to the birth and during the birth itself.
Rachael – ACT
I was really hoping for a VBAC with my second baby as I had been extremely disappointed in my first birth experience with my son, almost 3 years before, in the UK. He had been very ‘overdue‘ at 18 days past dates and my waters had broken naturally but I didn’t go into labour. Induction did nothing either, and ended up having a C section. I felt very ill and recovery was slow.
This time around in Canberra when I met with Bek and my student midwife Meagan we talked about being really proactive to ensure my chances of a vaginal birth were increased. Everything progressed normally. I used acupuncture, acupressure, an epi-no and took raspberry leaf capsules from around 32 weeks.
At 41 weeks, Bek did a stretch and sweep, and then another one a day or two later. The third and last one (done by the consultant obstetrician at a routine appointment at 41+3) was pretty forceful, and the following day about 3pm I started having a couple of mild contractions, very spaced out. Bek was due to come to visit me at home at 5pm and when she came and examined me I was about 3cm dilated with membranes bulging through the cervix. The examination seemed to have an effect, as after that the labour progressed very rapidly, with contractions coming very quick and strong so I felt overwhelmed with no time to get relaxed and get my breathing under control. My waters broke during a big contraction. And my husband called Bek to let her know. She advised me to get into the shower to help with pain but I found it hard to stand. Bek told me later that after speaking to my husband she had a funny feeling and so rang him back. After hearing me in the background in the shower she came back straight away and examined me to find I was now 8cm, at about 7:30pm. We got to hospital as quickly as we could after a rather uncomfortable car journey! I had to go straight to birth suite (as this was a VBAC) and Bek and Meagan met me there. Before long I was 10cm and was advised to try some pushes. After about 15 mins of this, bub’s heart rate dropped very low and the obstetrician was called in. She tried using suction to get her out quickly, but this didn’t work, and I ended up having forceps. Without any pain relief this was very distressing for me.
My baby, Meadow Rose, was born at 9:11pm on 15th August 2014 weighing 3.1kg. She was very healthy and didn’t need any assistance despite being in distress during the last stages of labour. I needed to go to theatre for a repair due to damage caused by the forceps. Despite all this, my labour was quick, efficient and I managed it drug free like I wanted to (even though I really wanted to change my mind about that towards the end!). Even though the last part wasn’t what I’d hoped for, and it took me a few days to get my head around it, I was so pleased to have had a vaginal birth and my recovery was much quicker than with my first baby and Meadow did very well, breastfeeding like a champion and stacking on weight. I am still feeding her now at 16 months old. Bek and Meagan were extremely supportive and advocated for me at all times. I am very grateful to them. If I have a third baby I would definitely aim for a VBAC again.
Amey – Farrer ACT
After a very ‘medical’ first birth experience, I was lucky to be accepted to the birth centre second time around. My midwife knew what I wanted because we built a relationship during my appointments, so when the time came, I got my intervention-free birth. I laboured in the birth centre for under 2 hours and at 5.30am birthed my baby as my waters broke. I was home in time for lunch and already planning my next baby. Third time around I was ecstatic to get the same midwife! 🙂
Stacey – Evatt ACT
I was very lucky to have the birth I wished for with our 2nd daughter Brea. Contractions started off at home at 6am and were very irregular but still painful nonetheless. I sent my husband, Brent, off to work as I didn’t believe I was in labour. I was going about my morning getting the housework done and playing with our eldest, Indi (22 months at the time). I rung my lovely midwife, Janette, just before 9am to let her know I was having irregular cramping and maybe they were contractions and I would call back when they were more regular and lasting longer. My sister came over and said to me, I was in labour, but I still didn’t believe her, I thought everything would fizzle out. I was able to hold a conversation and just pause for the brief moment whilst I was having a contraction. I now know I was in established labour even though contractions were still irregular. I was expecting the pain to be so much worse after being induced with my first pregnancy. I honestly did not think I would be lucky enough for my body to go into spontaneous labour. It was really lovely to be able to experience the build-up of contractions. Brent came home from work and drove us straight to the Birth Centre. He rung Janette at 9.20am to let her know we were coming in to have our baby. I was still in disbelief but he wouldn’t take no for an answer so off we went. During my labour at home, Indi was fantastic. She was staying very close to me the whole time and was saying, ‘Mummy sore’. She laid on the couch with me for the brief moment when it felt good for me to lay down. I feel we prepared her quite well for this moment. The car trip was very uneventful, however I do remember feeling the baby move down and wondering if I was about to give birth. I went along with it and breathed through the pain and contractions. In my mind, I was preparing myself to be told we had come in too early and to go home and rest. Upon arriving at the Birth Centre at 10.25am and saying hello to Janette, she thought the same; that we had come in too early. She said I was smiling too much to be ready to have this baby. Her mind changed when my next contraction hit, she knew I was getting close. I was very surprised when Janette told me I was fully dilated and ready to have my baby. I remember so vividly being so happy and proud of myself that I was in actual labour, let along ready to push. My body could do it. For me, this was a moment I’ll never forget. I knew I could do it, I felt on top of the world and this happy feeling gave me the confidence to give birth. 10 mins later, our darling daughter Brea Charli was born.
My labour and birth was very empowering. I felt in control and everything just ‘felt right’. I listened to my body and went along with what it was telling me to do, following each contraction through as if it were my first, not allowing myself to get ahead or worked up. Having the support of Brent and Janette means everything to me, they both believed in me and I believed in myself, this gave me the confidence in being able to have the birth I wished for.
The day before my due date, I was having irregular small contractions for most of the day along with strong Braxton Hicks. The contractions weren’t big I have more painful periods.
I made myself a cup of raspberry leaf tea before going to bed around 11pm.
I had a think about my birth plan before drifting off to sleep. They have beautiful big baths in the Birth Centre I’d never laboured in a bath before and couldn’t wait to try it out and have a water birth too if I was comfortable in the water. I’m not usually a bath person, I get a bit bored, not that you would be getting bored in labour. I’d also planned for another drug free birth so was keen to try out the water for pain relief.
At 2am I woke with a start. I’d had a dream that someone had punched me in the stomach, it hurt and made a weird noise. It took me a minute after waking up to work out that the noise was my waters breaking along with a decent contraction.
I grabbed my phone to time the contractions, my midwife wanted us to call her and head in when they were coming every 5 minutes. The first three after waking while I was still lying in bed were 5 minutes apart. My waters had broken but it was only a slow trickle, I got up to go to the toilet and then thought I’d have a shower to see if the contractions stayed regular at 5 mins and didn’t fizzle out then when I was sure it was established I’d call my midwife.
I went to the wardrobe to get a change of clothes for after my shower, but realised that they were now coming at 2 mins apart with a smaller one in between and lots of downward pressure as soon as I was upright. No time for a shower now.
About half way to the Birth Center I started to feel nauseous and realised I didn’t bring a vomit bag. The first time in an HG pregnancy that I didn’t have a vom bag with me! Then it dawned on me that it was probably transition. The nausea didn’t last long it was just a couple of waves then gone. After that I think I closed my eyes for the next few contractions and willed the baby to stay put just a few more minutes. I honestly almost yelled to pull over at one point, I didn’t think I could hold on any longer, but I did.
Not far from the drop off zone I started to wonder how I was going to make it up the tunnel and up the lift to the BC. I thought for sure once I was on my feet again gravity would win over me trying to keep bub in. Just then my midwife sent a txt saying there was a wheelchair at the tunnel if I needed it. YES thank god!!!
She met us in the corridor and asked if I was getting really pushy, I said I was with every third contraction, they were the biggest. We followed her to our room I hopped off the now very wet wheelchair and I just made it over to the bed to hang on as a big contraction came. I could hear the bath running and just thought, well I bet there’s no way I’m getting in there now. They take about an hour to fill and I could tell by the sound of the water there was probably only a foot of water in there if that. While in the middle of the contraction she told me I could let the baby go now that I was there.
Kneeling beside the bed is where I stayed. My midwife helped me get my jumper off and pushed a mat underneath me.
After a couple of contractions I could feel bub moving right down the pressure was huge and fast, completely involuntary pushing, my midwife told me to just go with it. She said she could see everything opening up and bub would be here very soon. Another couple of contractions and I could feel the head crowning it seemed so fast I put my hand down to try to slow it a little, my midwife was there too telling me to slow down while she cradled the head to slow it as well. I let go and held the bed to help me slow it down. Next contraction the head was out, one more and I felt the familiar big slippery gush of the rest of the baby and thought, ‘That’s it, it’s over’ I heard a cry straight away. My middie slid bub between my legs and said ‘There you go what have you got?’ I looked down and was shocked to see a girl!! After 3 boys we just expected another, I picked her up and held her to my chest then after a minute had to move the cord and look again to be sure lol, yep definitely a girl.
There she was 16 minutes after getting to the Birth Centre, 7lbs 15oz (3600gms), 51cms long, 34.5 HC, and arriving on her due date.
My middie said she had the resus table set up ready because after we called and she heard my contractions were at 2mins apart she thought we may walk in holding the baby. She also told us how she couldn’t find the one and only BC wheelchair so had run down to the regular birth suite and argue with a midwife there saying I was on my way, bub #4 and if I hadn’t had her in the car already she didn’t think I’d make the walk up to the BC and would end up having her in the lift, they finally said she could take it.
The cord was left to finish pulsing and wasn’t clamped until after the placenta was birthed 49 minutes after bub arrived, and without any ‘help’ from a synto shot. So she received all her blood and goodies from the placenta.
It was a pretty perfect birth, apart from not making it into the bath. I was very grateful I got to have such a great birthing experience, with a fantastic midwife for my very last baby.
Samantha – Deakin ACT
It was 2:14am when I was woken up with my first contraction, I didn’t want to wake my Fiancé up incase it was a false alarm. After timing my contractions for 15 minutes I thought it was best to wake him up and get him to call our midwife,Denise. They were lasting for 1 minute and they were only 2 minutes apart. This is how my contractions went on for the next 9 hours until our beautiful little boy was born. Denise thought it was best for us to come into the birth centre at around 4am. When we got there I walked up the stairs and met Denise at the top, I remember in birth classes they said to walk the stairs to help labor along haha. After lying on the bed for about 2 and a half hours I got in the bath and that’s where I stayed for the next 5 hours. Denise was absolutely amazing!! She would answer any questions I had but she let us have our own time too. She monitored our little boys heart as required and supplied me with more spew bags when I needed them. Then came the time to start pushing…. Yes it hurt but it was a challenge at the same time, I had to concentrate on pushing properly (Denise helped me but telling me how to push down and not out through my mouth haha). Then about half an hour before he was born my waters broke which I thought was his head. After some more pushing his head came out and one more big push and his body came out. It was the best challenge I have even set myself!! It did hurt, a lot actually, but was worth every bit of pain to have our healthy baby boy in our arms! The birth centre staff were amazing (Denise & Sophie), the room was clean and wonderful (all out visitors commented on how lovely the room was) and I couldnt be happier with the outcome, our little boy, William James 🙂
Andrea – Narrabundah ACT
Our baby Chloe was born on Sunday 7th July. The birth was really positive, and I remember being so excited that the day had finally arrived and that I was going to meet our baby. My waters broke at 5am and I spent the first few hours by myself rocking on a fit ball, eating breakfast and breathing through the contractions. We phoned our midwife around 8.30am and she came to our house about 11.30am to check me. I was 8cm at this time (although she didn’t tell me that at the time – she just calmly said that when I was ready we should go into the Birth Centre!) – so into the Birth Centre we went (grateful that we only live in Narrabundah so it was a quick journey!). The labour was great. The curtains were drawn and the lights were off in the Birth Bentre and it was such a calm and private environment. I used the bath, the shower and loads of different active birth positions (one foot on a step, the birth stool, frog pose, on all fours). After over 2 hours of pushing Chloe still hadn’t arrived though so they called in the doctor who examined me and told me that baby had moved and was posterior (later on they told me that if she hadn’t been posterior should would have been born within 30 minutes!). They then transferred me down to Birth Suite where they wanted to use the suction cap, however the specialist got called away to another emergency, so the doctor did an episiotomy and I was able to birth Chloe without the suction cap. We stayed overnight in the Birth Centre and returned home the following morning. And since then…. our whole life has changed! It’s been a pretty wild ride, but we are absolutely loving life with Chloe and as a family of three. When I got home I promptly deflated the fit ball on which I had spent hours rocking and sitting on in the weeks leading up to the birth with the hope of making sure my baby was in a good position. I thought I had done everything ‘right’ in trying to encourage baby into an anterior position (which she was in just days before she was born), but it obviously wasn’t enough to keep her there! We absolutely loved the model of care and philosophy of the Birth Centre. We attended Calm Birth and a fantastic pre-natal yoga class, and overall felt really well prepared for the birth. I knew what my body was doing and I trusted my body. I wasn’t scared at all – and I now know that there was nothing to be scared about – giving birth was an absolutely amazing and empowering experience. A huge thankyou to the wonderful midwives at the Birth Centre – Tegan, Karli and Stacey – you were all brilliant. Thank you for your support, encouragement, and the wonderful care you gave us.
Kirra – Goulburn NSW
I was really keen on having my first baby at the Canberra Birth Centre even though I lived in Goulburn NSW. I wasn’t concerned about the travel or anything I just wanted to enjoy my experience and felt I would have the experience I wanted with the birth centre.
My husband took the most steadiest drive about 3am after going into labour about midnight.
My experience was such a positive one, I felt I had control over everything and just went with the flow, I had space and did not feel like I was being bothered by nurses or doctors and being in a drug free environment were all important to me. I loves the facilities available including the huge baths.
My daughter was beautifully and safely delivered by my husband at the new Canberra Birth Centre at 11am on 29 September 2012.
To me my experience was everything I expected it to be including the pain, tiredness, joy and happiness. I loved the whole lot. I will hopefully be able to do it all over again in the future.
Clare – Kaleen, ACT
My waters broke at 2.30am on Wednesday morning. I couldn’t sleep on Tuesday night (which wasn’t uncommon for me in the last few weeks of pregnancy), so had been dozing on the couch, listening to a meditation. I was partially awake when I felt the gushing sensation (which was lucky, or else the leather couch may have come off second best!). At 4 days overdue I was excited that things were starting to happen! The fluid looked normal (clear) so I just put on a pad and tried to get some sleep as I knew we’d be in for a long day.
I rang my midwife, Gill, the next morning. Gill was finishing up at the Birth Centre on the Friday so I was especially pleased (and I think she was too) that she would get to meet bub and be our midwife for the birth. As I wasn’t experiencing any real contractions yet we arranged for me to go into the Birth Centre later in the afternoon for a trace on baby’s heartbeat. The day is a bit of a blur but I remember ringing Gill around 1pm as I must have been starting to feel stronger cramping. In retrospect, I can see how amazing Gill was at reading my progress just by talking to me on the phone. She obviously knew that things were still at a very early stage and just encouraged me to stay at home for the time being.
At the Birth Centre, the trace looked good and an examination showed that my cervix had softened and I was 1-2cm dilated. Gill sent me home with some pain relief and sleeping tablets to try to gt some rest.
The next few hours at home I tried to rest through the contractions that were increasing in intensity. I used heat packs and gently moaned my way through contractions while dozing on and off. Around midnight, things were picking up a bit and my husband started timing contractions. They definitely increased in intensity when I stood up and moved around so I was tempted to keep crawling back into bed like I would with a belly ache, but hubby was keen to get things going and encouraged me to get up!
After speaking to Gill (during which I had to hand the phone to hubby twice as I couldn’t speak through contractions), we decided to head into the Birth Centre around 2.30am. When we arrived I immediately and instinctively assumed a kneeling position on the bed – leaning over a foam wedge that hubby propped up from the other side. And I just kept moaning! I knew from yoga classes that if I just made my noise as long as possible – the breathing would be slow and deep and would largely take care of itself. I have no idea where it came from, but the mental image I had was of a white streamer coming out of my mouth. As I moaned, I visualised the length of the streamer and my goal was just to make the streamer as long as possible. Occasionally at the start of a contraction I’d think about whether I should ask for pain relief, but then I’d just tell that part of my brain to butt out and get back to focusing on that streamer! I had so much trust in my body to do what it needed to do – I just needed to keep my interfering mind occupied so it stayed out of the way!
At around 4.50am I felt the sensation of pressure. Gill did an examination – I was fully dilated and ready to start pushing whenever I felt the urge. The second stage took close to two hours, but through out I just went with the sensations in my body and made whatever noise came naturally. At one point there wasn’t a lot of progress being made and the baby’s head was slipping back between contractions, so Gill suggested I stand for a few contractions. This simple change in position got things going again (and gave my knees a rest!).
One of the most valuable things I got from yoga class was a simple list of sensations that would be experienced in labour (cramping, tightening, stretching, pressure, burning). Each time I felt a new sensation I just mentally reconciled it against the list and knew everything was okay. I didn’t need to over-analyse or try to figure out what my body was doing. I knew that everything was going as it was meant to and I trusted Gill to keep an eye on things and let me know if there was anything I really did need to worry about! I think that Gill (& my hubby) trusted me too – I was really left to do what I needed to do without interference or pressure.
My daughter, Ella, was born at 6.43am on Thursday morning. I remember looking down between my legs to see this little squirmy thing lying in the bed. I was pretty sure it was a girl, but things were such a blur and I didn’t know if I was overlooking something, that I asked Gill to check! I sat back in bed while I held Ella against my stomach (the cord was too short to reach my chest) and we just cuddled while Gill clamped and cut the cord and delivered the placenta.
We bought Ella home later that day and begun adjusting to life as a little family (and the sleep-deprivation associated with having a newborn)!
I feel grateful that it was all so straight-forward and there were no complications that increased the need for intervention, pleased about the preparation I did, and proud that we were able to put it into practice. While I wouldn’t quite describe my birth experience as enjoyable (it’s a lot of hard work and quite uncomfortable at times!), it was most definitely one of the most positive and empowering experiences of my life.