If you don't already know, you need to know a little about the birth of my first daughter before reading about the birth of my second daughter. I was induced with Talitha at 3 days past the due date for low amniotic fluid. My labour was 30+ hours and included an epidural at 24 hours. I broke out in chills before I was fully dialated, checked vaginally more than a handful of times, constantly monitored, and once I was instructed to push, I was told there were 3 strikes against me: that my pelvis was shaped in a way that was going to make it harder for Talitha to come out, that she was back-to-back (meaning she wasn't in the ideal position to come out), and that both our heart rates were going up. My doctor then asked me if I wanted to have a c-section as he told me that he'd likely have to use forceps and that he thought I'd likely have a third degree (full vagina to anus) tear. Frightened, clueless of how birth works, and unbelievably tired, I tried to push for half an hour more whilst laying on my back (the worst position to birth a baby in!). I wanted my baby so badly. "Let's do the c-section," I said finally. Still clueless about everything, I had accepted the way it went with Talitha. But after the experience of my incision bursting due to infection at 2 months postpartum and taking months to fully heal, I realised I was going to do things differently second time around. Not out of bitterness, but from a desire to feel empowered and informed and with the passion that no matter what happened, I wanted to feel calm and positive and sure of myself.
This post isn't about how I prepared for Evie Claire's birth or how Talitha's birth brought me to Evie Claire's. I'll write about that another time. But it is about the full circle healing that's taken place in my heart and my body from this experience — a total opposite event whereby the circumstances and my body were fully in my control this time. I feel so grateful and in awe that my body was able to do all things it didn't get the chance to do last time.
It all started when David put Talitha to bed. When he came down the stairs at 8pm on Saturday the 20th of October (which makes Evie Claire's birth on the 21st three days past the due date), I told him the contractions I had been feeling for nearly 2 weeks were definitely different. I felt them in the top of my belly before and was sure those were just Braxton Hicks. But these were coursing through to my vaginal area and lower back. We began to take stock of them gradually, but went on with our evening together by watching an episode of The Office and chatting. I sat on the birthing ball, scrolled on Instagram posting about our day walking around at Reculver, one of my favorite local spots. We decided if this was the real deal, we'd help things along by getting my oxytocin (the love and birth hormone) up with lots of cuddles and light touch massage. I went to have a hot shower and texted my doula at 10:45.
“Hi Sue. We think it might be building...my contractions have been stronger and more frequent. I’ve not had a show or my waters release but just been semi-tracking these surges. They feel “lower down” if that makes sense. Not sure if this is real but figured I would text you. Xx”
“Hi Christie, thank you for letting me know. How exciting! Are you able to sleep or are the contractions keeping you awake? How frequent are they? Xx”
“I have been resting but not sleeping since T went to bed. That’s when it started. The last five were roughly 3 min apart and 45 seconds or so. Some aren’t as long. I’m about to have a shower and then try to sleep I think. I’m having to breathe them through. I had one while writing this text.”
“It definitely sounds like things are getting ready. Once you’ve had a shower, rest, lots of cuddles. Call me as soon as you feel that you are ready for me to be with you xxx “
The next text in our thread is after the birth, because I called her about 12:15am. I had stronger and stronger contractions in the shower that I couldn’t talk through. I began to get a bit overwhelmed by the idea of the pain, but a powerful affirmation rang in my ears: “my surges (or contractions) can not overpower me, because they are me.” Embracing the act of my body instead of trying to resist it completely changed my mindset and my pain level. Before I got out, David started making the rearrangements of our furniture that we’d planned and getting the birthing pool out. He had put the old mattress that we’d planned to use directly after the birth to deliver the placenta on in the lounge, so I laid down there and began to listen to my relaxation mp3s from my hypnobirthing course. I knew I wasn’t going to sleep through these contractions.
I spoke to my doula, and we knew we wanted her to go ahead and come. She got to our house about 1am, David had the pool up and was still working on filling it as he had encountered a slight issue with the tap not attaching correctly to the hose. Sue started helping him with buckets. Somewhere around this point, David asked me if I wanted my birthing playlist of music on, which I said yes. I vaguely remember hearing the music later during the actual birth. My surges were getting so strong that in some of them I felt the need to push and couldn’t exactly stop myself. Sue encouraged us to call the midwives at that point. I honestly didn’t think it would progress so quickly, so even though things were feeling quite intense I still thought we had loads of time.
David got on the phone to the hospital at 1:45 and a midwife called him back at 2:05. David told her I was having urges to push, so she decided to come on to our house without the gas and air and would send it with another midwife. Just as that was happening, we heard Talitha, our 3 year old, wake up wondering where we were upstairs as she had peed in her sleep. David brought her down telling her “baby baby” was coming. I remember greeting her and my doula also saying hello. She saw the pool and I think it just clicked in her mind. She had a peaceful, observant, and engaged look on her face — ready to see what this was all about. We had prepared for her to be at the birth by going through a stages of birth illustrated "map" with her here and there at home.
We had also watched a few home birth videos together including ones with siblings also present at birth. She had met my doula several times as well; she even had a special nickname for her. Her name is Sue, but Talitha called her 'Sula the doula," which we all sort of adopted. I started to think Talitha wasn't going to be able to see the birth as it was all happening while she was asleep, but she woke up at just the right time. I was so encouraged seeing that my contractions weren’t freaking her out. She just seemed to watch and let me get on with what I was doing. I remember interacting with her here and there but mostly I was in my own zone.
There was a moment my doula reminded me to relax my face, that my body would follow suit just by relaxing my face. I zoned in again and that reminder was a little breath of fresh air.
Finally, the water was filled enough that I got in the pool. The feeling of relief as I lowered my body in was so lovely. But the contractions were coming so close. The midwife arrived around 2:25 or so. She told us we still needed to get more water in the pool, so David went to work with the bucket again. Talitha came into the pool just after me as was a part of our plan. She loves water just like I do, so I knew she wouldn't be able to resist. I loved having her in there with me. She had a flannel in there with her that had come off of my neck as I had needed it to cool myself previous to getting in the pool. I remember her laying it on my tummy saying, “Here, mama, this will help.” That sweet gesture just made me melt and I told her thank you.
The midwife wanted to monitor the baby’s heartbeat, and when she seemed to have a hard time locating it with me sitting on the little seat in the pool, I felt an instinctual desire to turn and face the other way kneeling with my knees on the bottom of the pool. The midwife managed to get that one strong reading of the baby’s heartbeat, but there was no time for any other monitoring or checks!
I remember one contraction where David was not in the room filling up the bucket, but I needed a hand to hold. I reached out to my doula and held her close through it. It was so good to have her there when I needed that extra support. With each contraction at this point, I felt like I was going to give birth to a massive poo! There definitely was some that came out, and my daughter was the one to realise it. I could hear her behind me saying, “Mummy did a poo. Get it out!” It’s actually the thing she talks about the most when she tells the story! "Yes, and what else did Mummy push out?" I ask her with a smile on my face.
Back to the action: I knew that it was happening so soon, but I made the choice not to say anything or ask any questions. I feel like my birth team knew it, too, but it was great how no one was annoyingly telling me what was happening. There seemed to be an understanding that I was following my body, and didn’t need to hear anything. I do remember hearing the midwife say when she initially arrived, “She’s handling them so well.” That combined with the encouraging words of my doula and the warmth of my husband’s embrace and the, I believe, subconscious incentive to give my daughter an amazing example of giving birth fueled me.
At what must have been 2:45 or so, I felt a big pop during a contraction. “What was that?” I asked. I heard the midwife say, “it could be your waters.” I couldn’t see anything behind me, but I realised she was putting a mirror under the water to look. My husband recalls a couple times where there was nothing to see but then the last time, the midwife told him, “There’s the head,” and David could see it. I remember on the next contraction feeling and thinking, “This must be the ‘ring of fire.’” I had been quite guttural throughout the labour, and heard myself “roar” her out as my doula so encouragingly put it later.
The midwife said the forehead and nose were out, and I heard her tell me I didn’t need to push anymore but to just breath the baby out. I focused all my energy on breathing and immediately I felt her fully descend. I turned around, heard David whisper something like, “you did it,” had to lift my leg over to receive her (that’s when I heard her cry and when David said, “it’s another girl”) and then just sat back holding my fresh babe. “It’s Evie Claire!” I told Talitha as she stood beside me gazing at her sister. “My girls...my girls...” I remember uttering.
“2:57,” the midwife said. I remember looking at my doula like wowwww. And as we all took it all in, the second midwife arrived with the gas and air! We sat in the pool for maybe 10 minutes as we delayed cord clamping. And David cut the cord. Then we moved over to the mattress on the floor, and I put her to my breasts. It took just over an hour for me to deliver the placenta, which actually was more frustrating than anything. We had turned the heating on earlier so it would be warm in the house for the baby, but I was really hot and asked David to turn it off, and I started feeling tired and just wanted it to be over with.
I actually told the midwives to go ahead and administer the injection for a managed third stage, but they encouraged me to wait for a full hour. I felt like I wasn’t getting any help from my body, but I kept letting Evie Claire nurse, and finally whilst kneeling, a little over an hour after her birth, I felt the placenta just sort of plop out! The relief! I mentally thanked it for doing a great job for 9 months, but all my attention was turned towards my breasts for the role of sustaining my baby out of the womb.
I was checked for tears and was delighted to learn I didn’t need any stitches for the minor stretching that took place. I kept thinking, “Goodness, this is just too good to be true.”
We called our parents to let them know. We hadn’t told any of our family that we were planning a home birth. We wanted them to experience our joy after the fact instead of worrying about what all could go wrong beforehand. I said to my mother whilst FaceTiming her in America, my new baby in my arms, “I hope you don’t mind I didn’t tell you. I didn’t want you to worry.” She smiled and said, “You’re right, I would have worried.”
“You know how much I wanted this,” I said. “I’m so proud of you,” she said through tears making me cry as well.
The midwives weighed Evie Claire, gave her Vitamin K, and finished up their paperwork. They left by 5:30am. Talitha had been given her tablet (I think she chose to watch Bing reruns) at some point and we noticed she finally crashed on the couch around then.
My doula stayed with us a little longer just recapping what an amazing few hours it had been. I sent out a few texts, got cleaned up, and put on some PJs. Then the 4 of us went up to mine and David’s bedroom carrying our 2 daughters. We pulled Talitha’s mattress beside our bed and went to sleep for a couple of hours. We woke up together to a new season. One of my deepest dreams fulfilled, it feels like we’re forging into new territory where reality is just that good — it’s true.