Birthing Baby ThreeMay 24, 2021
Dr. Cheryl Kam shares her unmedicated home birth experience for the third time. Learn what the preparation & process was like for a successful birth.
A story about my 3rd unmedicated home birth...
Preparing for a third baby with two young ones still co-sleeping with us was going to be a shift! Our friends had convinced us that they're actually old enough at 4.5yo and 23 months old to be in their own rooms, and we felt it was right for our family.
First, bedtime logistics!
It took me a while to come around to the idea and say a little goodbye to a piece of them deep in my heart. It also made sense to have a protected and safe space for the mother-baby dyad, for when our newborn comes. The idea of a huge heap of us at night time with sore boobs, a fragile newborn, and clumsy toddlers made less and less sense to me.
Moreover, Neil and I had been missing our evening couple time for some while now and were wishing it back. Funny how that wasn't the first thing I mentioned yet is actually the most important.
And so we began with a 2 week buffer period. I was already 36 weeks pregnant by that time, so time was indeed ticking.
It went much better than expected! 4.5yo Nat was thrilled with his new Spiderman bedsheets. I put him to bed with his stories and stayed with him til he fell asleep. He only wandered back into our bedroom for a couple days, before managing to stay all through the night.
We let him settle in for a week before starting on Amelia, who also in a similar fashion, had a couple days of tears, and wandering back into our bed, before similarly sleeping most the way through.
I grew bigger and bigger. At 37 weeks I developed Symphisis Pubis Pain due to overdoing a stretch during Pilates. I was grumpy and couldn't do bed times as well as I could. In one frustrated huff, I told Neil that he was in charge of bed times for the two kids singlehandedly, from now on. I'm going to concentrate keeping baby #3 and myself safe and well.
At 4am, Amelia whimpered and toddled into our bedroom. She quickly fell back asleep by my side, after climbing into bed with me.
Perhaps it was the movement, I just couldn't get comfortable, and had a Braxton hicks contraction. "...Nothing major, just shift positions and it should not continue. After all I'd been having three of those a day for the past week..."
Except, another one came about 5 minutes later. And another 5 minutes later. I woke Neil to carry Amelia back into her bedroom so I could figure this out. I thought nothing of it, but got up for a drink of water to rule out dehydration as a cause.
Since I was in the kitchen I decided to check on the birthing snacks: Hydralite lollies, check. Dates, check.
By 5am, I'd had 6 of these and a couple of poops. I began to track them. By 6am, I'd had 15 contractions, and by that time I had to pause for them. I'd also had 4 poops by then, which was telling. It's a common pre-birth phenomenon to empty the bowels cleanly before birthing. Another of God's perfect design.
But regardless of the signs, my active mind stepped in and rationalised, saying the due date is 1 June and it is now only 19 May, so these may stop, and I may go back to sleep. And I would feel super bad about calling the midwife out only for a false alarm...
But I texted my midwife to inform her anyway. And then decided to conserve energy (something I learned from birthing Amelia, my 2nd born) and lay in bed to catch the last of some sleep between the contractions. 5 minute power naps.
At 6am, I told Neil we may as well have an early start and inflate the pool just in case.
By 7am, I couldn't lay down for these surges anymore. They became what we call "active" labour, where I had to stand/rock/walk them out.
My midwife rang and heard me through the surges and decided she was coming right over.
In this time, Neil managed to get a shower, which I could estimate would take half an hour. But the real surprise came after when he began cutting his nails. It seemed endless. How many nails had he to cut??? I was annoyed. From the bedroom I threatened, "If that nail cutting doesn't stop soon I'm going to lose my shit."
Neil promptly came out and held me during my surges.
My sister was indispensable, with soft touch on my sacrum, and words to focus me on the trees and ocean, forces of nature bigger than myself, during each surge, to remind me that I was just another small piece of creation, safely held in God's hands. Any fear or disbelief of my own abilities began to pass away, because it wasn't about my ability anymore, but His.
8am, midwife arrived and heard a deep and primal moan from me. From that alone she said "Uh, we're going to have a baby...and I don't think it's going to be in there (pointing to the birthing pool)...this baby is ready and could be out in as little as 3 surges."
She began getting the floor prepped with towels just in case.
Thankfully just that moment the tub was almost filled. I hobbled over carefully and stepped into the warm water. While in the birthing pool I decided to do a vaginal examination on myself, and could feel the bulge of the amniotic sac which was still intact. Cervix was completely dilated. Baby was already close!
I got into a leaning forward position and the next surge came.
Neil said the birthing prayer together:
"Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank you for every surge! I welcome it and draw comfort in knowing that I am one step closer to meeting my baby!
I give this surge permission to accomplish its task, as I trust in my God-given instinct to birth normally and naturally.
I thank you for guiding and directing me throughout this process.
I have complete faith in the birth process and have peace knowing that You created me to do this!
I give up all control and fear and let my body take over and bring Your miraculous gift of life into this world!
Please help me to relax every muscle in my body and allow my cervix to open and help the baby move down the birth canal easily and smoothly.
I pray that my uterus will work perfectly and in order, and that my cervix will remain supple and open.
Comfort us during this time and allow us to have the beautiful birth experience that You desire and designed us to have.
Cast out any fear that the enemy puts in our way, Lord.
Help us to have a gentle and quiet spirit, yet firm and confident during this process so that others will see Your hand at work.
We praise You and thank You for Your love, for keeping us safe and for this miracle we are about to receive from You!
In Jesus' most Holy and precious name I pray and give you thanks.
We just about got to the end of the prayer and the next surge was rising within. I reached out for Neil who would hold me during the surge and "moo" with me to remind me to keep the note low and open. (Instead of screaming, which is high pitched, and "closed", and disconnected from the pain)
Did you know that the vocal chords look remarkably like the pelvic floor?
Neil also told me he was mooing to encourage low pitched sounds from me, to protect his hearing, which he nearly lost during Nat's birth!
It must have been during that surge that I felt a mild pop, and told my Midwife, "That's the waters, it's burst", thinking, "Here we go, now the head's going to be coming right down like it or not!" The waters were clear, which was a good sign. No meconium. Clean! Proud momma.
I got a tiny rest this time, to chew some ice from the electrolyte lolly. And next surge came. I tried to breathe through this one but some noises came through. It was breathing, high low pitches, all over the place, trying to be quiet enough to tune into what my body was doing and allowing it to do so. I bit a towel to help me. Almost bit Neil's shoulder but decided against it as I will need his shoulder (and so will he!).
At this point I could feel a heaviness very low down already. I imagined this must be what it feels like to have baby's head in my vagina! I don't even think I had time to feel a feeling. I just felt the sensations.
I tried to channel what I had read about an orgasmic and ecstatic birth. I may not have 100% embodied those things but I had a tinge of those feelings by just thinking to myself, "This is great! This is pleasurable!" Using all the powers of my mind.
Next surge. I decided to put my right hand down to my vagina. Breathing through it was not possible. It was LOUD, high pitched which I made an effort to being low pitched. I was beginning to lose my voice. My body wanted to curl my butt inwards like doing a small crunch.
9am. Head definitely coming down. RING OF FIRE! This is it. A couple of seconds here experiencing the ring of fire and moaning/growling through it. During this big long surge the baby's soft head blopped out of my vagina into my hands in the water.
It was happening really fast. Even though I had a grimace on my face and probably sounded like I was dying, I also felt accomplished, powerful, strong, amazing!
I felt like breathing fast and shallow - I needed to reduce the intensity, this was one long surge! Another continuation of it along with some otherworldly sounds from me, brought my baby's body out!
Baby was face up in the water, and I had decided beforehand I'd not scoop baby out as quickly as I did for Amelia. I was in a squat and allowed myself to see my baby in the water. My midwife checked the umbilical cord and untangled it from around baby's neck so I could lift her out. Then I scooped baby out slowly, onto myself, then leaned back into the birthing pool and held baby in my arms, watching that I did not dip its face into the water again like I did for Amelia.
I did not know this at the time but my mum carried Amelia in for the last surge. Nat was in with us all the way and was not at all phased by the progressive build up of noises - I had prepared them for months that I would be shouting, even screaming; in fact earlier in the labour he had gently complained that I was not being as loud as I said I would have been. But Amelia only came in at the end and was a bit shocked for a moment by my screaming before she saw the baby and her heart melted.
We invited the kids to come around the pool to say hello baby!
We were all delighted by the beautiful little creature cradled in my arms and marvelled at the incredibly think coating of vernix all over her body, in some places smothered on her like clotted cream on a scone. Daddy was concerned that she was pretty purple under all the white gunk, but no one else seemed concerned - least of all me. My midwife mentioned baby wanted to take a breath and encouraged it by rubbing baby's back.
I decided to check - it's a girl!
Nothing had sunk in properly yet. It was intense and way more efficient than I ever expected! Each surge truly brought baby miles down the birth canal, no messing about! I was astonished, as this took 3 hours. I had Amelia in 5 hours and Nat in 8 hours.
We needed time to digest that our baby girl is now very much with us. To feel all the feels.
Needless to say, I was elated, felt amazing, and quite fresh after the labour!
It was time to birth the placenta. This was not pleasant, it is like giving birth to another tiny baby just as you thought you're done with any kind of crampy pushing shenanigans.
After-pains during latching, which help shrink the uterus back, were are also unwelcome. Done with the labour, yet these cramps....
All I have to say here is, do not disturb or try to have conversation with a mommy latching her baby in the first 72 hours of birth.
When we were ready, we let Nat cut the umbilical cord.
There is a saying that in our culture there is a secret and it is not that birth is painful but that women are strong.
But it's not just on the individual. Because further to that, I'd assert that women cannot feel their strength unless they feel safe, supported and nurtured, and trusting of their body’s ability.
Unmedicated home birth essentials:
Books for Mamas and Papas:
Ina May's Guide to childbirth
Books for siblings:
Hello Baby, Jenni Overend
Marie Mongan's Birth affirmations and rainbow relaxation MP3
What helped me:
Good home cooked nutrition, Chicken essence, Collagen and bone broth. Eating enough protein 1.5mg/kg.
Taking my multivitamins that included a good dose of Zinc 25mg.
Testing my ferritin during the third trimester as I felt breathless, and finding I was low, and got a top up to above 100 at the iron suites. This meant I could afford to lose some blood during and after the birth and recovery would still be fine. It also meant that my baby was not iron deficient at birth.
The support of my mum and helper and of course my husband in taking more of the responsibility with our 2 older kids.
Pilates with Erick, Options Pilates.
Prenatal Yoga with Embodiment Coach Gwen
The use of the Epi-No, a perineum stretching device to help me become aware of sensations, to train the pelvic floor as well as to pre-stretch the area. I had got up to 8cm. My baby's head was 11cm diameter or so. I tore minimally, and it healed on its own within 2 days, painlessly. The yoni is self healing!
What did not help me:
1) Allowing myself to work too much during the second trimester, and taking my eye off our marriage. I also kept late nights.
This stress led me to develop Group B strep due to an unbalanced vaginal flora, which I had to work hard at to shift, in the last weeks of pregnancy. I had decided to not take antibiotics, but used Doula Johanna's vaginal herbal pessaries, Megasporebiotics, High dose liposomal vitamin C, Elderberry and tonnes of pickles and sauerkraut.
I never got to re-swab to find out if this worked. We are on the lookout for any fever in our baby girl. Water birth greatly reduces risk of transmission. So does not being in hospital and receiving lots of vaginal examinations.
2) Trying to feel the "stretch" during one of my pilates stretches. Trying to wrangle the kids in my third trimester, carrying Amelia too much throughout my pregnancy...These led me to develop Symphisis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) which set me back a week.