Melbourne Doula

Welcome to 'Melbourne Doula', the place where I share what birth work is teaching is me, and what I am learning from the wonderful families who have invited me to share this most special season of their lives. Here you will find information about me and the doula services I provide, birth stories from remarkable women and their loved ones, as well as all kinds of resources to enrich your own journey of discovery. And welcome also to BLISSFUL HERBS, the home of beautiful herbal teas and bath herbs to support wellness through every season of life.

Sarah's Home Lotus Birth

After extensive research and preparation Sarah and Andrew decided to have their first baby at home. I was one of the doulas they chose to accompany them through their amazing journey. Every birth and every mother teaches me something, and this unique journey to birth had much to teach us all. Jo, the other doula present at this birth, had also given birth to her first born at home, just as I did, ten years ago in Ireland.


My partner, Andrew, and I had been planning for the birth of our first child for two years before her birthday finally arrived. During that time we read extensively about birth and decided that the most important thing to us was giving our baby the kind of welcome to the world that all baby's received in ancient times - in a calm birth space we could call our own, supported by the loving and experienced hands of other women who had birthed like this before. I knew as soon as I first spoke to Julie that she was to be one of these women.

We enjoyed a normal uneventful pregnancy with no doctors appointments, tests, or scans. Julie and I both sensed that my baby was in the posterior position at the end of my pregnancy, Julie made some suggestions for how to help my babe move into the anterior position, but I felt strongly that this was not something I needed to worry about. I felt that my baby was telling me she either wanted to be born sunny-side up to greet me, or she would turn in her own time during our labour. Either way, I instinctively knew she would be born safely in her own time.

Gentle pre-labour began on the weekend, but I didn't realise that's what was happening. I told Andrew that it felt like the baby was doing break-dance moves on my cervix, but well aware that these early stages can last for weeks, I also knew not to start counting down the hours until we would met our baby.

Monday night during dinner the sensations in my uterus became slightly stronger. We had friends over that night and quite often I would jump up in the middle of conversation, without thinking, and begin swinging my hips from side to side. I didn't get much sleep that night as the sensations became like very challenging menstrual cramps.

Tuesday Andrew went to work and I laboured gently throughout the day. At times I felt overwhelmed by the realisation that our baby had begun her journey earthside. Other times I felt at peace with her timing, but most of the time I was excited. At last it was my turn to join the company of my esteemed friends who had homebirthed before me.

When Andrew got home that night things started to gather momentum. We went to the supermarket for dinner supplies and I would stop when a contraction began and gently swing my hips, breathe, and close my eyes, right there in the isles of food. Back at home Andrew began taking photos of me labouring away in my underwear, as I've written elsewhere:

As I emerge from a baby surge I look down and see that he has been taking photos, and he has a big smile on his face. He has a look in his eyes that I know only too well after so many years of friendship – it is his “I’m falling in love again” look. It makes me smile.
“What?” I ask knowingly.
“Just you. It starts to hurt and you just get up and do it.”
His smile widens. He makes me feel as if I’m the first woman to ever give birth and I suppose to him I am. Tonight he meets the ancient birthing goddess within me…actually…we meet her together.

We turned off the lights and lit candles which we had placed all around our lounge room and kitchen - the places that I had felt would be where this birth would take place. We began to wonder if we should call our doulas to the house? Things were moving along, so we decided to call Julie. We knew it could take her three hours to get to us, so we decided to give her a heads up, and guessed that in three hours the birth would be much further along.

Julie arrived just before midnight and took Andrew's place by my side so that he could rest. Hours later Jo, my other doula, joined us, so that Julie could rest. My labour had become wiley and slowed down, so we went for a walk outside to help it pick up again. When we returned to the house Julie had woken up and joined us in the kitchen where I had my first crisis of confidence. I was worried that I was not ready for motherhood and that I would make a horrible mother, particularly given the poor (and now non-existent) relationship with my own mother. Julie and Jo counselled me through my crisis and I reasoned with myself "trust birth, trust your baby. She will not come before we are ready. She will come in her own time, which is perfect for her" I thought to myself. The crisis passed.

Wednesday was the most challenging day of my three day labour. On again, off again, it went all day, but it was never "off" enough for me to get a decent rest. In the afternoon Jo and Julie asked my permission to leave for a while and give us some privacy and space, which we were both very grateful for. Andrew had been hanging around in the background, allowing Jo and Julie to be my primary supporters, and we both wanted him to play that role. At any time we could call our doulas back, but we didn't do so until half an hour before midnight. Until then Andrew and I fell more deeply in love as we laboured in privacy. When the contractions became so intense that I started to fear, he would confidently whisper "you are doing it", and I was so grateful that he never said "you can do it" as if I wasn't already! When he held me in his arms the pain would literally ease. Between contractions he massaged my lower back which was aching, and during contractions he would cuddle me from the front. Eventually I got frustrated with him having to move from front to back and asked him to call Jo and Julie back.

They arrived at midnight, by which time I was calling out "WHERE ARE THEY!?!?". It had only been twenty minutes between the phone call and their arrival, but deep in my labour haze it felt like a couple of hours and I was desperate for some experienced massaging hands! For a while the three of them took it in turns to either massage my back, sit by me with my bucket (I was nauseas a lot of the time, but didn't vomit, the bucket was there for security) or cuddle me. And all of us sang a whale-like song during contractions. It was comforting to have back-up vocalists!

It was now very early Thursday morning. Once again my labour slowed down so we went for another walk, which I was very resistant to. Another crisis of confidence was beginning, and I began trying to test the strength of my support circle. In my hazy mind I thought that my birth support team had the power to switch labour off like a light bulb, and all I had to do was convince them it was a good idea! I didn't even bother asking Jo to let me escape, if there was a good cop/bad cop scenario at my birth Jo was the bad cop! I tried leaning on Julie - who was very much my mother figure during birth. But true to the mother archetype Julie guided me to realise my own strength.

She was ready with words of encouragement and faith and I realised she would not save me from my power, she knew how important it was for me to experience it! Finally I thought I could work Andrew down, the man - so often they're scared of birth and relieved when their womenfolk seek an easy way out - but not my well-prepared, homebirth advocating partner! I momentarily regretted empowering him with so much knowledge about birth! I accepted that I would have to stop trying to escape my birth experience and embrace it for all that it would be regardless of my wishes.
This was a turning point for me. At this moment I went from girl to woman. I had been waiting and seeking for Jo or Julie to give birth for me, for them to tell me how to do it. At this point I stopped doing that and chose to listen to my body and do what came naturally to me. My support team were suggesting we walk further from the house, but now that I was tuned into my instincts I felt with every fiber of my being that this was wrong and I said so. My body and baby were telling me loud and clear "get back to our birth space!" and now I had to become a woman and tell my teammates with equal volume and clarity.

When we returned to the house labour slowed down temporarily. With my blessing Jo went home (not before saying "don't worry, the first few centimeters of dilation are the hardest" which she felt awful for saying afterwards, but which I really appreciated because it helped me to stop watching myself like a pot of water waiting for it to boil. That comment really helped me surrender) and Andrew and Julie took turns being with me.

I was beginning to get tired and impatient. I felt foolish for having rung Jo and Julie so early, and I felt guilty for robbing them and Andrew of their energy. And I began to doubt my ability to see this homebirth without medical attendance through! I knew just where to go to get the pep-talk I needed. I went to Julie, who had been resting in our spare bedroom and released my fears to her. As I wrote elsewhere:

She calms me, reassures me, helps me cast out the guilt. She reminds me what an honour it is for her, Jo and Andrew to bear witness to my birthing goddess and not one of them cares how long this birth may take. “It will take as long as it takes” she says. Best of all she says “you are doing it! You may feel like you’re not, or that you’re failing, but you are doing it right now, and you are doing it beautifully!”

I returned to the lounge room and Andrew to labour. Whenever I tried labouring alone the pain increased and I became anxious. I needed someone by my side, even if they did nothing, I felt comforted by their presence. But Andrew was zombie-like with lack of sleep so I sent him to bed and told him to get Julie. I was only comfortable standing up at this stage, but I was exhuasted and struggling to stand, so Julie suggested I lie on my side and she sat beside me. When a contraction swept through my body she would whisper "just relax, breathe through it" and I would.

My body began to shake, I knew from what Julie had told me earlier, that this was the body's normal reaction to all the great birthing hormones, but it really pissed me off. The shaking made my body feel rock hard, and I struggled to relax, I felt out of control and unsteady. Julie massaged my legs, helping me release all the tension. And when I shook she would place a hand on either side of my body and hold me tightly. It was glorious! She made me feel steady and calm.

I went to the toilet and was comforted to see lots of thick blood streaked mucus. I could no longer doubt my perfect body's birthing abiltiy - it was a sure sign my cervix was dilating beautifully. I returned to the lounge room where I hurled the contents of my stomach into my security bucket, and it was such a satisfying feeling to get rid of the nausea! I also accidentally urinated on the towel covered floor. In hindsight I realise that my baby was close to earthside at this stage, but at the time I was actively letting go of time and expectation, so when second stage hit it felt like it had come out of nowhere to me!

All of a sudden I felt like I needed to poo, which I knew from reading was a sign that the time to push had arrived, but I didn't want to get my hopes up. Once again I let go of expectation, told myself it was just poo and to let my body do whatever it was it wanted to, right there in the lounge room. At that moment I felt my baby's head turn around and drop into my vagina! My sense that my baby had been in the posterior position was confirmed, but now she had chosen to be born in the anterior position. I didn't care which was she way facing, but her turning was what made me realise it was indeed second stage and not a poo coming out! I remember singing out to Julie so happily: "It's not poo!"

Julie woke Andrew and called Jo back to the house as I was on all fours in the lounge room grunting. A sense of urgency had filled me and Andrew couldn't heat the water in the birth pool fast enough! (we had filled it days ago, expecting the baby a lot sooner). My knees were sore from the floor and I felt like I might split in half if my baby was born on land. I was so relieved to jump into the luke warm pool and feel the soft padding beneath me. I spread my knees far apart and felt myself open, I felt secure and supported by the water, and confident that the last stretch of birth would come to me easily.

Second stage only lasted forty-five to fifty minutes, after fifty-eight hours of dilation! It was fucking awesome not to be dilating anymore! I LOVED pushing! If there was no dilating I'd happily push a baby out every day :D Pushing is exquisitely satisfying.

I was very calm, and giving my support team a commentary in between cracking jokes. When my body would push I would think to myself "just let it happen, don't do anything, relax, breathe". At one stage I did a poo, and without thinking I reached around, scooped it up and handed it to Andrew! A lovely example of labour brain, nothing could have seemed more automatic or normal to me, but it left Andrew quite bewildered!

I reached down between my legs and could feel my waters sac/membrames bulging out. I felt my baby's head moving down. As I announced to my captive audience "I feel a head" Jo returned. My waters exploded out of me into the birth pool. The pushing urge returned again and my vagina burned briefly as it stretched further than I ever could have imagined possible, then it stretched some more. It was intense but not hard or scary.

I reach down again and touched the top of my baby's hairy head as it was still inside my vagina. I felt connected to all the women in the world who had reached down and touched their own baby's heads during crowning. I smiled remembering my friends describing it as "the fury walnut".

My body pushed again and my baby's head was born. I calmly waited for the next pushing urge and then I felt the rest of my baby slide out of me, soft and slippery, the opposite to her head. Julie later told me that from her view behind the birth pool it looked like a whispy explosion of amniotic fluid and white flesh, as if she were gazing up at the milky way and saw a shooting star.

I was stunned! I had given birth to my baby on my knees in the pool, upper body leaning forward over the side of the pool, she was behind me in the water, Andrew was still ferrying hot water to the pool, so he was in front of me rather than behind catching our baby. But as usual we could trust our baby, she swam between my legs and placed herself right in front of me. I reached down and scooped her up out of the water and into our world. Andrew was by my side to greet our firstborn.

Time stood still as we gazed down at our wrinkly little bubba. She introduced herself with a gurgled cry. She and I cuddle in the pool with Andrew by our side. Eventually she kicked her legs apart and we discovered that we had a daughter, just as we sensed throughout the pregnancy and even before. We gave her the special name I chose for her years ago, before I knew who her Dad would be. Harriet is here at seven past seven Thursday morning.

When the water became uncomfortably cool Julie, Jo and Andrew helped us out and we sat on the couch. Julie and Jo helped Harriet and have our first breastfeed while we waited for our placenta to be born. A little over an hour after Harriet was born, her womb sister (placenta) joined us earthside.

While Harriet and I continued to savour our skin-to-skin time, Jo, Julie and Andrew cared for her womb sister. The carefully put it in a collender in a bowl so that it could drain. When it had drained Jo removed the clots gently by hand. Over the next couple of days Harriet and her placenta would continue to be one, just as they had been since the beginning. We tended to her placenta with lavender oil (a smell that now always makes me feel as joyful as I was in those first few days of motherhood) and kept it wrapped in a face washers and soft bamboo cloth nappies.

Julie prepared a herbal bath for me a couple of hours later, where I soaked and slept and made a few phone calls to tell loved ones that I was a mama. Meanwhile Julie did a couple of loads of washing for us, emptied and packed up her birth pool, and helped Jo clean our lounge room and kitchen. Andrew cuddled our sleeping bundle of joy still attached to her womb sister.

When I returned from the bath I was rejuvinated and keen to cuddle and feed my baby. As I did so, Andrew prepared everyone a cooked brunch. Jo and Julie lied on the lounge room floor together when they were finished cleaning. They were delirious from lack of sleep and the joy of attending such an awesome birth, laughing. The four of us chatted about the past couple of days and the grand finale, and already began making plans for our next birth together!

Late Sunday afternoon Harriet's cord and placenta naturally detached from her belly-button. Like an apple falls from the tree, Harri's womb sister fell from her body to the floor during a nappy change. Our home-water-lotus birth without a midwife was complete.
I am so filled with pride and self-respect. After years of planning for this moment it has finally come, I have had the awesome freebirth I’ve been dreaming of. I did it as a first timer, I did it for 59 hours, I did it with a posterior baby. Before birth I had no idea the depths of my strength!
Our family at the time this was written (three months after birth):

To read the extended version of Sarah's birth experience and see all the photos click here.

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