Updated: Mar 14
My first birth experience did not go as I had hoped or planned, and left me with some emotional (as well as physical) healing to do. I was in the MGP (midwifery group practice) model of care at my local public hospital, and had a good relationship with my midwife. However a long stint of early labour feeling somewhat unsupported at home left me exhausted with depleted energy levels, and once in hospital the cascade of interventions began, with artificial rupture of membranes leading to an emergency c-section under a general anaesthetic.
Fairly early on in that postpartum period I knew that next time around I would aim to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) and when I fell pregnant again I had to think more seriously about what would give me the highest probability of making that a reality. I enrolled in the MGP program again at the same local public hospital, but I had a niggling feeling that that was not right for me this time.
And so at around 15 weeks I started making enquiries with local private midwifes that support homebirths. It felt like it wasn’t going to happen, when every midwife I contacted was fully booked or away around my estimated due date. A friend of mine who is a lactation consultant and has connections within our local private midwifery world suggested I contact Lindsey as she had heard positive things about her. I think I was around 17 weeks at this point and thought it likely that every private midwife in Victoria would be fully booked, but it was just absolutely meant to be for Lindsey and I to work together throughout my pregnancy, labour, birth and postpartum – she said she was able to take me on! I instantly felt comfortable with Lindsey – we had an initial video chat online, and even in that meeting, she made space for me and I felt safe enough to tell her my first birth story and pretty much cried my way through it!
We then had a second meeting for my husband to meet Lindsey – he wasn’t fully on board with the decision to have a homebirth at this point, but after meeting with her, we both agreed that working with Lindsey would give us the best chance of having a VBAC, but more importantly, it would give us the best chance of having a positive birth experience, regardless of where or how I birthed.
Working with Lindsey was beyond anything I could have dreamed of, and it was everything I needed. She helped me acknowledge and lean in to my emotions, instead of shying away/ignoring them like I have a habit of doing. She also helped me to get curious about my body, to slow down and listen to what it was telling me, she helped me to appreciate all it had done and all it was doing.
One noteworthy antenatal session I think we had planned to do some more body work, but during our initial chat some big emotions came up for me about the birth of my first daughter. Lindsey intuitively knew this was where we needed to focus that day, and took me on a guided meditation of my first labour and birth, but rewriting how it played out, to the way I wanted it to. As we got to me birthing my daughter and holding her in my arms for the first time, incredibly she arrived home from a walk with my husband at that very moment and ran straight in to my arms. We had a beautiful embrace, which somehow felt like the first time to be holding her again. It was a powerful moment.
Part of my medical history and possibly a factor in my first labour ending in an emergency c-section is that I had a total hip replacement at 25 years old, 5 years prior to having my first baby. After having my hip replacement the surgeon said it should function like a normal hip and won’t impact any pregnancies/births. This was true for the function of the actual replacement, but not for all of the muscles/connective tissue/ligaments surrounding it. I did nothing to address these deep pelvic structures in my first pregnancy, I believe to my detriment, so I was really keen to explore this with Lindsey. Lindsey was instantly on board and intrigued, and together we got curious about my hip! She did lots of bodywork with me using the rebozo, and I found it so comforting that we seemed to always be on the same page, hearing/feeling the same things from my body. This was the work I needed, and what isn’t offered through the public system (or any other midwives I know of to be honest!). It was a good start, but we also wanted some more expert input, so I had an internal pelvic release appointment with Fiona Hallinan at around 36 weeks. My session with Fiona started gently with discussing my previous birth experience, and she explained to me the lesser known structures of the pelvis that play a huge role in creating space for our babies and birthing. She then went on to do an internal pelvic release. Fiona could feel how much the connective tissue on my left side especially had been holding on, protecting my hip for so many years – and they were reluctant to yield to Fiona’s touch, but eventually they did sigh and release. At one point Fiona said she could feel a real fierceness within my pelvis, and I felt it too. I hadn’t known it was there deep within me, and it was something I tapped in to during my daughters birth.
My dear cousin organised a Mother’s Blessing for me. It was really beautiful having the support of the women close to me, and I felt so much love. It was the perfect way to enter the last few weeks of my pregnancy, and definitely got my oxytocin flowing! I had ‘braxton hicks’ from early on, around 26 weeks, so when I started experiencing these a little more frequently, and a little more intense one Monday around 39 weeks, I wasn’t sure if it was early labour, or just more of these. I got the grocery shopping done with some difficulty, stopping down several of the aisles and at the checkout to let the waves pass over me. I was fairly confident this was the real deal, so tried to rest when I got home. We organised for my Mum to come, and my husband Joe pretty much took over looking after our older daughter. I was also trying to keep Lindsey updated as to how I was going.
I felt good, and was starting to think tonight would be the night we met our baby. Perhaps I was getting a bit too ahead of myself – I still had a long journey ahead of me! My daughter was still breastfeeding, and so I gave her our usual breastfeed before she went to bed, and the tightenings became a lot more intense and closer together during this. At one point I had to stop reading her bedtime story and leant on a chair, becoming vocal through the tightening. My sweet little girl leant on the chair next to me and vocalised with me, it was a really precious moment! She had been present during many of my antenatal appointments, and we had been reading a couple of children’s books about homebirth, so it was wonderful having her a part of the whole experience, and for her to understand what her Mummy was doing.
After she was in bed I asked my Mum and Joe to get the pool ready, I knew it might take a while, and I was right! They filled what they could from our hot water, and then began the arduous task of filling it up from an urn a lovely lady from my community had leant us. It sure got a work out that night! Finally the pool was ready around 2am. I took the TENS off that I had been using and got in the water – it was bliss! I loved the feeling of the water carrying me, and felt a lot of relief from the contractions. I was in the water for an hour or two - who can keep track of time during labour – and I didn’t feel like there was much progress happening. The contractions had stayed somewhere between 5-10minutes apart, but were intense enough I had to breathe and vocalise through them. So I asked Joe to get Lindsey to come, not because I thought I was close to birthing our baby, but because I was starting to feel a bit lost and in need of support.
Lindsey arrived around 5am, and her presence instantly put me more at ease. She checked in with me and my baby (in the beautiful respectful way she always does!) and just sat with me for a while. After watching me in the water for some time she gently suggested that it wasn’t helping things progress, and maybe being tucked up in bed could help! So out of the water I got. Lindsey gave me some homeopathics for the nausea I had started feeling sometime through the night and she supported me to do a forward leaning inversion, and some gentle rebozo which felt great. I put the TENS back on, but wasn’t finding it as helpful as I had earlier on. I tried resting in bed, and was there for maybe an hour without being able to fall asleep. I was starting to worry, it had been 24 hours since I’d had a sleep, the nausea wasn’t settling so I wasn’t able to eat, and it was starting to feel like a repeat of my last long and difficult labour.
I felt too restless in bed, so I got up, and requested something stronger from Lindsey to help with the nausea, and she was able to give me an IM injection, which did take the edge off, and I managed to eat a small amount. We also had a chat and she said she didn’t think I was in ‘active labour’, which I knew within me, but it was also difficult to hear! How much longer could I keep this up for without proper rest or energy replenishment? How was I going to get through the day? (I felt I wasn’t going to birth this baby during the day, so knew I had to wait the day out to get to the next night).
Lindsey left after getting me settled to get some rest herself. By late morning I was starting to feel defeated. Joe and I went for a gentle walk. I was no longer enjoying this labour. Even in between the contractions my body felt uncomfortable and strained. I started thinking that if we just went to the hospital now I could have an epidural and I wouldn’t have to feel my body anymore. I was also fearing that this birth could end in another emergency c-section, and I thought if I already had an epidural then I wouldn’t have to have a general anaesthetic like I did previously.
We got home and I lay on the floor with the sun pouring over me, and Joe massaged my back. It felt like bliss and relaxed me enough to get some rest. It helped, but I was still physically and emotionally drained, and I quickly spiralled back to that negative space of wanting the pain to go away, of not feeling like I could do it.
Joe called Lindsey. I can’t really remember the conversation, but I remember that I cried and I cried, no holding back. It was like this huge eruption of emotion pouring out of me. She listened to me, and held space for me. She said she would be back by 7pm and I was so relieved that I didn’t have to decide when to ask her to come back. We got off the phone and I continued the outpouring of emotions with Joe, he played me a music video for a song that had stood out to us the night before and I cried even more. I cried with my Mum, there was so much emotion deep within me being released. I think it is the most I have ever cried freely in front of others. This labour had broken me, just like Chloe’s labour had broken me. But in that huge emotional release something shifted, the huge blockage in my way was moved. Looking back I really feel like that was a turning point, like I had to be ripped open and broken to be able to start climbing out of that hole, to be able to start re-writing my experience of giving birth. And pretty much from that point on this experience stopped feeling the same as Chloe’s with the same outcomes, but things were changing. At the point I felt broken in my labour with Chloe I felt unsupported and lost, and unable to fully express my emotions. Thanks to the work I’d already been doing with Lindsey, at this point of brokenness I let it all out without feeling like I had to hold it in. I felt supported by her and by Joe and Mum. My experience was shifting. This baby and I were forging a new path together.
stay tuned for part 2 coming soon
Photo by @saskia.karin.photography