Scott, Lillith, Jackoby and I are proud to announce the home water birth of our baby girl Arlie Atley Hanson late last night. As per the request of some people, I’d love to share the story of her arrival earthside with you all.
*Please be pre-warned: it’s a labour and birth story, so I’m not going to tone down the description of the natural processes that can and did occur in my experience. If you don’t like TMI, this is your warning!*
Arlie Atley Hanson
Born at home in the birth pool on Friday 15/08/2014 at 2309 hours.
The full moon (super moon) was on the 10/11th of August, and it must have flooded me with hormones that caused pre-labour for about 5 days over that period. Irregular contractions would start every night around 6-7pm, wake me up occasionally throughout the night, but not go anywhere. It was frustrating, especially since I was only just getting over a chest and sinus infection, and both kids were still slightly unwell with conjunctivitis and ear infections. I was cranky, irritable, tired and becoming exhausted.
Wednesday 13th, I was putting the kids in the bath with Scott (hubs) at around 5.30pm when I thought maybe my waters were leaking. I texted my midwife Hazel, and I monitored the pads. Our babies went to bed at 7pm, so I jumped in the shower to relax. I had intense pressure down below all afternoon after a gorgeous walk in the sunshine with hubs, our babies, and the dogs, so I thought the shower might help to relieve it. There was no hot water, so I rushed out, and while drying myself, had a pretty profuse and scary-looking show, followed by a bigger gush of what felt distinctly like my waters. My midwife Hazel told me to rest up, monitor the flow/colour/etc, and she left her house to come see me. I had filled 3 maternity pads in an hour, so thought that I was right with the suspicion of SROM (spontaneous rupture of membranes).
Hazel arrived around 2300 hours, did some basic checks like fetal heart rate, my blood pressure, and baby’s position. Baby was cephalic and 2/5 engaged, lying slightly LOL, happy and healthy. The decision was made to obviously have no internals, monitor for contractions and signs of infection, rest as best as I could, and see what the morning brought. That night, I was woken every 12-15 minutes by quite strong period pain-type cramps. By the morning, I was exhausted! Both kids were unsettled and needed re-settling during the night, then woke early for the day. Hubs was exhausted because I kept him inadvertently awake, plus he had gotten up with the kids as well. I was feeling hopeful that the day would increase the chance of contractions becoming more regular and closer together because we were both so busy with the kids.
Morning of Thursday 14th, Hazel and I left Jack with Scott while we took Lill for a walk to try to get the contractions closer together. We enjoyed a gorgeous gluten-free slice and a cool drink with Lill, did a little food/snack shopping, and walked home. Contractions were regular, but not getting closer together. They were mild to moderately painful, and creating A LOT of lower back pain. I was still leaking amniotic fluid (I had to stop at the chemist to buy some more mat pads and stepping off the curb caused a massive gush to fill the one I was wearing). By the time we arrived home, the contractions had infuriatingly stopped again. I was becoming frustrated, worried, cranky and negative. Hazel advised me to go to the bedroom, listen to some CalmBirth tracks, and try to nap as well. I put my earphones in, laid on my left side, and tried to sleep. I got 2 hours of restful sleep before I was woken by 7 minutely contractions AGAIN! I decided to get up, and found my lovely little family outside in the yard with Hazel, playing in the sandpit. I decided to walk laps of our backyard for an hour. The contractions continued, became more painful, but refused to get closer together. They AGAIN stopped once the kids’ night time routine began. I felt like my mind couldn’t relax enough while having the kiddies around, as I felt obligated to still be there for them 100%. Scott, Hazel and I decided that it all might pick up later that night after they went to bed.
By 8pm (24 hours post SROM), I was showing no signs of infection, baby seemed well, but I was exhausted. I had my feet massaged with a gorgeous clary sage mix twice that day, with no effect. We had tried nipple stimulation, endless walking, yoga moves to rotate baby down further, hip rolling, belly dancing and more. My mind was becoming more frustrated, more negative, more cranky and irritated. I was becoming irrationally upset at the genuine concern being lovingly showed by my friends and family, and turned my phone off to avoid messages and calls. I was becoming short with poor Scott. I didn’t want to eat or drink, especially bloody Hydralyte, as I felt like it was all I was drinking. I was drowsy, tired, and sick of the continual, strong contractions that just wouldn’t advance. I had told my SIL and brother that baby might arrive tonight, so they started the 6 hour journey from Sydney. When it become apparent that baby was still a long way off, I became very weepy that I was ‘wasting their time’, which of course Scott and Hazel told me I wasn’t, as I wasn’t a bloody stage show set to start at a particular time, and that they would understand. I still felt horrible, and cried on and off. I packed the kids’ preschool bags, thinking that the prospect of them going to preschool the following day might help to relax me sufficiently that I might just progress with the labour. At 2300 hours, I requested an internal to see if these constant contractions were doing anything to my cervix. Hazel talked to me about the risks, but I wanted it anyway… I was at my wits end. My home birth resolve was slowly failing. Cervix was 1cm thick, could be stretched to a 3cm, no membranes palpated, just baby’s head. I was going nowhere. Frustrated to further tears, knowing that the only thing keeping the contractions going was my input (walking, nipple stimulation, etc), but also knowing that I was exhausting myself for nothing, I went to bed… Only for me to have to deal with 10-12 minutely, strong, cramping contractions ALL NIGHT! I awoke constantly, had to breathe through them, and Scott placed pressure on my back through each one, followed by loving kisses and snuggles after.
Friday 15th, my brother and SIL arrived early morning, and went to bed. I heard them arrive, but felt so bad for telling them to drive here for nothing that I was too ashamed to go see them when they arrived. I was woken at 5.30am by a very strong contraction and Jack crying. I got up with him, tried to settle him on the lounge as everyone else was still sleeping. He howled with pain due to teething. Scott got up with me to help. We were both smashed with exhaustion – both having stayed up late, he assisted in as many ways as he could to get labour progressing, plus was woken by my breathing through contractions all night. I was horribly short-tempered with him… I yelled at him no less than 3 times before 6.30am!?! He took it with grace, and did not react at all. I apologised not long after, and he hugged me, telling me he couldn’t ever understand what I was going through, but that he would always be there for me, no matter what. More tears. My brother Matt and SIL Steph woke up, helped Scott organise breakfast for the kids and get them ready for preschool. I wallowed in my sorrows, telling Hazel of my night. I was by that stage 36 hours post SROM, google-doctoring way too much, becoming irrationally scared and upset, and emotional. Hazel told me she had to return home to see her kids (she had selflessly been at mine for almost 2 whole days). I understood, but was also becoming really crazy-upset about the risk of labour not fully starting after SROM, the associated risks of being at home in this situation, and becoming very scared for my baby’s and my health. She told me it was a very difficult situation, and that we needed to monitor well, rest up, and discuss as need’s be all the ins and outs of the situation. I reluctantly said goodbye to her, but kept stressing like crazy. I again turned my phone off, becoming frustrated at having to tell people that nothing had happened yet. I was also becoming aware that baby had not moved at all so far that day, and that I had no leakage of amniotic fluid… this stressed me further.
9.30am – We all went to drop Lill and Jack at preschool, then went for breakfast at a nearby cafe. Matt and Steph reassured me that they weren’t upset, didn’t blame me of course, and just wanted what was best for me, baby, Scott and the family, and that they would stay until lunch time the next day, and help out where they could, regardless of whether baby arrived or not. They made me laugh and forget my worries. Scott cuddled me and reassured me constantly. I was still upset and frustrated though.
10.30am – Scott and Matt took the dogs for a walk, to get Scott’s mind off things and to get him some fresh air and bloke-time (having being cooped up with emo me and Hazel for 2 days straight), while Steph and I did 2 brisk walking laps of the town. I only had 3 contractions the entire time, and still hadn’t felt baby. By the time we got home, had a cool, fizzy drink and rested, I realised I had only felt one small movement from baby. I jumped in the shower to relax. I then noticed that my pad was showing off-colour discharge. I became upset and scared, and called Hazel, who advised me to pop up to the hospital to get an amniosure test just to be certain, and a CTG for baby’s welfare/placenta check up, etc. I told Scott to stay home so he could nap in peace, and then pick the kids up from preschool when it was time, while Matt and Steph drove me in. I annoyed them with my constant, almost trying to vocally reassure myself banter that going to hospital would be ok because it wasn’t a bad thing, and it might ease my mind. By the time I had arrived, I had pretty much 98% thrown home birth out the window because I just wanted safety, baby safe, imminent birth and reassurance…
5pm (44 hours post SROM) – I was placed in birthing suite triage, sent off to get a urine sample, then strapped to the CTG. I had a BRILLIANT midwife caring for me, who seemed very pro-home birth, and accepting of my choice (of course, I had to explain why I was there, why I was only presenting then, etc). She was caring, professional and wonderful. She told me that baby’s CTG was good, that baby must have just been resting after 2 days of strong contractions. This eased my mind significantly about the present moment, but not the future. I started to notice that I was having contractions 4-5 minutes apart, but didn’t think anything at all of them. The amniosure came back blazingly positive. I was becoming slightly irrational in my thinking, and wanted to know then and there if I would go into labour within 24 hours, even though I knew that no one could predict that. The doctor’s offer of sleeping tablets and induction was becoming increasingly appealing to me. I rang Scott and told him that if labour hadn’t started at the 72 hour post SROM point, that I would take the induction. I told the midwives and doctor that I had 2 concerns – 1 being having to deal with another night of shitty, non-progressive labour contractions, the combined lack of sleep, exhaustion, 2 kids under 2.5 to look after, poor Scott being equally tired, etc, and me then not having the stamina to do the home birth; 2 being how long since the SROM, and being at home. I was starting to get to the point that I actually wanted to stay in the hospital. I was irrationally freaking out about baby’s health and safety. Scott agreed with me on the phone about the 72 hour point, and said we would go to hospital if nothing happened. As for then and there, that was my decision… Steph, Matt and Hazel (via phone) kept reminding me of the hard work and effort I’d put into the home birth process, and certainly didn’t try to persuade me, but tried to gently remind me of my goal. They told me it was ultimately my decision, and they would stand by me no matter what, but to just think about it. The hospital doctor was pushy, telling me that I should have had antibiotics 18 hours post SROM as per their protocol, and that a home birth so far from the hospital was a great risk. He tried to tell me how much he would care for me if I stayed, how he would make sure I got some sleep, be induced by tomorrow, etc. I was being lulled by his offered securities…
6pm – Realisation hits when Hazel asks me if I’m still contracting. Surprisingly, I realise I was contracting every 3-5 minutes without fail for the past hour. I was shocked! I hadn’t noticed properly, but Matt and Steph were timing them for me discreetly. She told me that this was a pretty good sign – contracting in a hospital, where most labours stall… Contracting while having large amounts of adrenaline caused by stress in my body. Woah! Realisation hit me. I told Matt and Steph – let’s go home, see how this goes. If labour starts, great! If not, I would return the next day to be induced. I happily called Scott, who agreed. We rushed to the nurses’ station, told them we were leaving, waved goodbye, and rushed out the exit. Contractions were 1 minute long, becoming impossible to walk or talk through, 3-4 minutely. My phone rang as I got into the car – the hospital wanted me to return to sign a ‘Discharge Against Medical Advice’ form, because the doctor didn’t want me to leave… I told them that we couldn’t return as we were already on the Gil Road. They received vocal confirmation that we were indeed DAMA-ing, and that we would see them the next day if need’s be. Hazel called to say she would meet us at home as she was leaving then. I started gushing fluids again.
6.30pm – Still contracting. Picked up Maccas drive thru for everyone and Matt drove Steph and I safely home. She helped me breathe through contractions on the drive and reassured me. When we arrived home, I saw that Scott had already picked up the kids, bathed and fed them, and put them into bed, plus set up the birthing room with candles, photos, and love. The room was tidy, as he knows I have terrible OCD that interferes with my life if things aren’t in order, clean, and tidy. He helped me get through a few contractions while Matt and Steph gave us some space.
7pm – Scott scoffed his dinner down, helped me get changed, and was rocking me through quite intense contractions. He hugged me, loved me, guided me through the pain, and made sure I was ok. Matt and Steph went to get Jack, who was hysterical by that stage with teething pain. They tried to settle him… He wasn’t bothering me, but I was worried for him.
8pm – Contractions lasting 1.5 minutes, intense pain that I found comforting to low-moan through, every 3 minutes. Hazel called to say she wasn’t far away, and to start filling the pool so I could get in. The hot water had run out by 20% full, and we couldn’t find the peak/off-peak switch! Matt had 4 pots and the kettle boiling constantly, plus water for Scott and I, ice chips, cool face washers, plus the dishes washed up! Steph had Jack, trying to calm him, but he seemed to get really really upset every time he heard me moaning through contractions. He started screaming and wailing when one started at one point, so I asked Steph to sit him in front of the TV to distract him. He wasn’t annoying me at all, but I was so upset for him being upset at my noises. Eventually, he became hysterical during one of my contractions, so it was decided that Matt and Steph would take him for a drive… He was obviously very affected at seeing his mummy in pain. I had jumped into the pool, Hazel had arrived, and I felt I was coping well. I was amiable and chatty in between contractions. Scott had a bit of trouble trying to apply enough force for the counter-pressure on my lower back that I kept requesting of him during contractions, as I was squatting in the pool, and he was unsteady on the inflatable floor of the pool. He never complained though, and continuously listened to me growling gutturally over and over, “HARDER! LOWER!” He was amazing. I’m surprised his arms didn’t fall off by the end of it all.
9.30pm – I had hit transition. 8cm by my own judgement through a quick self-check, contractions were barely letting up. I was becoming hysterical. I told Scott and Hazel continuously that I didn’t want to do this anymore. I was high-pitch screaming during 1.5 minute long, every 2 minutely contractions (sorry neighbours!!!). I couldn’t control my breathing. I could feel a cervical lip stretching posteriorly during my self-check, which made me freak out even more, as I anticipated immense pain and a prolonged transition. I begged for pain relief that was non-existent. I begged to stop. I also could not, for the life of me, move if I tried. Stuck squatting with very little rest between contractions, numb arms and legs, I vomited violently after a contraction that absolutely took everything of me to not black out with the pain. Hazel reassured Scott that this was a good sign, that it meant it was close. I then leaned back into Scott. Rest. 3 minutes of rest commenced… It felt like an hour. Steph had returned to help me, while Matt stayed with Jack. I was vaguely aware of Steph at the top end of the pool edge, watching me… Scott’s gentle arms supporting me in the water, and Hazel watching from the bottom end of the pool. I drifted in exhaustion. It was completely silent. It was pure amazing… No other word for it.
10.30pm – I had several contractions that I quietly breathed through, having gained my composure, and actually nodded off between as well. They hurt, but I knew I was at the end. I knew I was almost there. I was able to block out the intense, 10/10 pain, breathe through without a sound other than the breath, and then collapse in exhaustion. It was exhilarating.
10.50pm – Awake. I was stunningly alert all of a sudden. I made this comment out loud, and my birth team laughed with me at my proclamation. I felt like an intense tiredness had just lifted off my eyes. Then the pressure started, and I started involuntarily pushing. It was phenomenal. I couldn’t describe it properly. Scott was incredulous when, after a contraction, I told him that it actually felt amazing to push. He laughed nervously at me. I felt baby’s head, I felt hair! I exclaimed it loudly. A contraction started and I deeply and gutturally voiced my opinion at the contraction. As I pushed, I felt it – the ring of fire. Spanner in the works! I screamed uncontrollably as 2 contractions worth pushed the head out, followed by the body with the next contraction. I couldn’t control it. It truly was primal. I did what my body told me to do, even though I had my team begging me to slow down so as not to tear. I didn’t care. I didn’t tear either! Not a graze! I reached between my legs at 11.09pm and brought my baby up from the water and into my chest, and collapsed back into Scott, laughing with amazement and joy and elation, just as Matt brought a hugely smiling Jack over to meet his baby sibling. Baby was here! I kept yelling, “We did it”, and thanking everyone over and over again, while kissing this sweet, tiny little being in my arms. Baby was looking around the room, calm as anything, not a sound. Blue-grey eyes, blonde hair, a little, long nose, baby was mummy’s spitting image! I uncovered baby to show Scott, who announced… IT’S A GIRL! We all cried tears of joy. Baby girl, Arlie Atley Hanson. The name Arlie was given to her by Lill, who chose it from a few names we liked. Atley is the name of Scott’s grandfather, so we are using it as a unisex middle name in memory of him.
11.30pm – Out of the pool and onto the lounge. Breastfeeding was amazing, immediate and successful, almost like she had read the manual while in the womb! Placenta birthed not long after physiologically – a completely natural, no intervention birth, just like we wanted! I had some food and drink, while Arlie had her checks, which were all perfect. She weighed 2.9kg, length 48cm. She was alert and bright-eyed! Jack was absolutely enamoured by her, smiling and cooing at her, reaching out to touch her. Lill was brought out to meet her, after she slept soundly through the entire birth, but she didn’t seem interested. She went back to bed, while I got dressed and was settled into bed to spend our first night together. We co-slept, staring into each others’ eyes as we drifted off. We had done it! Scott, baby Arlie, Hazel, Matt, Steph, and even Jack! We had done it!!! Home birth done. The hardest thing I had ever done, hands down, but certainly most rewarding. Pure amazement!!!