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Waterbirth at home as a first-time mum…

My pregnancy with Tama was classed as low risk, it was very straightforward. Nothing too extreme or unexpected which was nice. I was very very body-conscious unfortunately but over the course of the pregnancy, I learned to embrace the incredible experience my body was giving me. From the moment I found out I was pregnant I knew I wanted to have a waterbirth after hearing a few stories from friends over the years. The initial birth plan was a water birth in a hospital.

The vast majority of my last trimester was spent in lockdown due to Covid-19. Understandably hospitals here in New Zealand had put very strict rules regarding visitors in place. The restrictions in place meant that there was going to be a chance my husband Ben may miss the birth of our son. At the time he worked away from home so was away for up to 4 nights at a time. We changed our birth plan to ensure there wasn’t a chance he would miss the birth so we opted to have a water birth, but at home. Scared about birthing at home is an understatement for my initial feelings but soon enough I was content knowing he was going to be able to be with me. Accessing a birthing pool was a difficult process as many other people had made similar plans due to covid. We managed to source the last available birthing pool in our area for the month I was due!

My contractions started at 2.30 am the day after my due date. This was a Saturday morning. It was also Queens Birthday weekend so happened to be a long weekend. The contractions were consistently 2 and a half hours apart for the following 24 hours. By Sunday morning my contractions were roughly 1 and a half to 2 hours apart and remained this way for the course of the day. I called my midwife to let her know and she told me to mentally prepare for it to last another 48hours and encouraged me to ‘try and relax as much as I could’.

I was already exhausted from not being able to sleep in between the contractions.

My contractions were very much in my lower back rather than in my tummy which I initially found odd but I had awful bad back pain throughout my last trimester as well. I took the advice to ‘relax’ so went and got a pedicure with a girlfriend. The nail technicians were highly concerned that I was having contractions whilst in their nail salon and begged ‘ please don’t have the baby here’. It was a great temporary distraction but having a hot water bottle or heat pack was the only thing at this point helping the back pain in any way. 

My contractions had become closer together overnight but were still only 10 minutes apart for most of Monday. I spent the majority of the day bent over the couch with the hot water bottle on my back. Ben was changing it over every hour or so. By 5 pm my contractions were 3 to 4 minutes apart so we called my midwife again. She was at another birth at the hospital and told us to fill the pool up and spend some time in the water. She told us to contact her again if things continued to progress for me or if I wanted someone to come over sooner than she could. 

We emptied our hot water cylinder in the process of filling the pool. The moment I got in the water I felt instantly more relaxed, still in pain in my back particularly but I felt so much more at ease.

We had made it too hot for my liking so attempted to cool it down. The kettle and pots on the stove were being boiled for the next 10 hours- our house turned into a sauna!  After about an hour in the water, I asked Ben to contact my midwife again because I wanted to be examined. At 8 pm my midwife’s back up midwife arrived- she was going to stay and be part of the birth as well because there has to be 2 midwives at a home birth. Turns out she knew Ben and his extended family so they had a good old catch up! She examined me on her arrival and I was 5cm dilated. She was impressed we had made it that far on our own. I really wanted to have some gas for the pain at this point by since we were at home it was not an option.  I continued to labour in the water which was the only way I wanted it to be. My midwife arrived at our house at about 10.00 pm. She examined me and I had progressed to 8cm dilated. I asked her to take me to the hospital- she was absolutely incredible and reminded me of how far I had come already and told me I was doing so well being exactly where I was, which was absolutely true. My waters had still not broken, my back was in agony and my contractions were occurring every 1 to 2 minutes. 

I stayed in the pool for another hour - Ben put pressure on my back during every contraction and sat in front of me holding my hands in between them.

Both midwives would come and check Tama’s heart rate every now and then and would check in with us every half hour or so.

They sat in a different room to where I was labouring in the pool.  It was nice being left to labour how I wanted to with Ben at my side but also know they were there as well.

At 11.30 pm my midwife asked me to get out of the pool and have 6 sets of contractions sitting on the toilet to ‘change the position up a bit’. Minimal progress had been made in almost the 2 hours she had been there. It felt like the longest 6 sets ever! She decided to give me an IV drip not long after midnight because she could see how exhausted I was! 3 days of minimal sleep will do that to you! I climbed back in the pool,  had the IV drip and straight after this they decided to break my waters. I remember if feeling like a thud in the water.  Ben tells people “after they broke her waters it was all ago”.

It was about 30 minutes after my waters broke that the urge to push started. I spent roughly 2 hours pushing. For the good majority of it, I was leaning over the edge of the pool holding Ben’s hands, I think he lost all feeling in them.

As Tama’s head was getting low enough that he was about to crown my midwife told me to reach down and touch his head- I remember feeling like it was almost over and I had a surge of energy I suppose you could call it to get him earthside finally.

For the last few pushes, my midwife got me to turn and face her so I was sitting with my back against the edge of the pool. Part of our birth plan was for Ben to deliver Tama and bring him up out of the water to me but in the midst of pushing, I begged him to stay with me and hold my hands instead.  After pushing Tama’s head out his shoulders got slightly stuck. I had to wait for the next set of contractions so they could pull him out with one more push. It was only about a 1-minute wait but all I can remember is his head being out and feeling him wriggling down there- it was absolutely bizarre.  After that one last push, I was holding our son. He was so bruised. He took 60 seconds to start crying and to breathe properly but once he did it was a noise and feeling like no other. 

Tama was born at 2.35 am weighing 3.9kg on Tuesday the 2nd June 2020 in our lounge at home. I had a first-degree internal tear which meant I received a few stitches, my midwife told me they weren’t necessary and gave me the option- she said it would make peeing less painful for a bit so of course, agreed. I learned that Tama was back to back with me hence all the pain in my lower back. Ben tells me my midwife told me this during labour but I have zero recollection of that conversation!  We spent the next 36 hours taking turns doing skin to skin with Tama. One of us would sleep while the other was with Tama. 

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When I think about my first birth being this I feel so empowered and humbled that this is what I experienced. I got the waterbirth I had hoped for (honestly doing it drug free was hard but the water was AMAZING) and I didn’t have to leave the comfort of my own home. I got to shower in my own shower and sleep in my own bed. The water itself was an amazing form of pain relief and created a calming space for me as the labouring mum. Tama’s waterbirth at home was incredible and I would do it 100 times over.

Incredible story by beautiful mama @_taylaagrace