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.

For Such a Time as This - the Birth of Hadassah Dara

Our third birth, daughter #3 (Hadassah) taught me something about choosing your birth attendants wisely. I've got a soul-mate woman friend in New Zealand. Kathryn was there when we had our second baby in the shopping mall. I wanted her there for the birth. I chose the midwife she'd had for three of her births, because I trusted her recommendation. See now here comes my silly mistake. I loved my friend so much, I thought it would be nice for her if I chose her midwife for this birth.

Lesson learned: choose the right midwife/birthplace for YOU. Not for your dh, df, mother-in-law or anyone else. Choose for YOU. It’s the time to love, and prioritise, YOU.

I've encouraged other women to choose a different midwife if they did not have a good click with their current one. But I couldn't take my own advice. Every appointment I went to, she rarely said a positive thing about me or my body, discouraged homebirth and looked for problems. She was very nice and professional. But not a lot of affirmation going on. Perhaps, as a hospital-based midwife, she thought that my philosophy of birth was somewhat idealistic. I was feeling unsettled, but it was only retrospectively that I saw that the hints had been there all along.

(Interestingly, this midwife's husband was the photographer who came along with a reporter to interview us after Saoirse's shopping mall birth - the photo he took of us ended up on the front page of the local rag! She was also a work colleague of my mother, who was a delivery suite midwife for 30 years. And Mum looked after my friend Kathryn when she had her first baby at that same hospital! Connections, connections.)

Stuff was happening spiritually as well. I felt so troubled, like something was not right, that I started going on prayer walks every night, and felt God was warning me that negative pronouncements had been made over me and the baby. He gave me the keys for how to right that in the spiritual realm. I felt his protection. This might sound a bit 'out there' but it was pretty real and relevant at the time. (In my spiritual tradition, we call God ‘he’ - but my concept is that he is the perfect merge and harmony of feminine and masculine. God is not a man. Stating the obvious here I know!)

Kathryn moved with her family to the South Island right about this time. I was so disappointed that she was not going to be just down the road from us when the baby came. She even flew up to stay with us (leaving her own 4 children behind, in the capable hands of her lovely man) on the weekend before our baby's due date - which was my guess for when she would arrive, as the other two were born at 39 weeks, too.
But babies go by their own sacred timetable and there is no way you can rush a baby to come before they are ready. (You can try - but it's not advisable!) I was trying not to cry as I said good-bye to Kathryn at the airport. I didn't want her to feel bad. Still, I was glad that she had come - birth or no birth, we still had a lovely time together, as always.

I prayed a lot in the last few days, I could feel tension building spiritually. The impending birth did not have the blanket of peace of our previous births. I could sense the conflict, but I also knew I was protected. The day before I went into labour, I walked for miles along the beautiful wild beaches of Auckland. I lay in the waves in the frog position, doing pelvic tilts and circles, and although this did not start labour, I remember feeling so caressed and inspired by the movement and sound of the ocean.

The mw told me I was overdue. I was only one day over my EDD. She said, "But that's late for YOU." (???)

I decided the best way to get into labour was to make like I was in labour. So, I drank labour ade, did all my exercises, and drank strong brew of Raspberry Leaf Tea, with lavendar, basil and nutmeg added. I got this idea from herbalist Nan Koehlers "Birth Tea" from a book I'd found in a library in Hong Kong.

I put on my favourite birth music and while I was doing pelvic tilts and circles on hands and knees - my waters broke. Overnight, mild contractions began, about every 20 minutes. I did my best to sleep in between them. At about 4 a.m., I got up, appreciating the full moon shining through the kitchen windows. I called my birth team, thinking that if I was going to have another quick 2-3 hour birth, they'd be spitting chips to miss it.

In those quiet hours before dawn, they arrived one by one. I had asked two single girlfriends to attend, so that each of our little girls would have one support person. I also asked one older woman, a mother of 4 children, who was there just for me!

I realise now, I should have just stayed in bed until dawn. Ah, the wisdom of 20/20 hindsight! But you know how it is at the time - you're so excited, and you have no way of knowing if birth is an hour away or 40 hours away.

Later that morning, the midwife arrives. She observes my pad, which I had set aside for her to look at, at her request - and she is not happy about the presence of slight meconium. You could see a slight yellowish, faintly green tinge on the pad.

My uterus gets total stage fright from the negative vibes. A contractions starts, and hopefully, I ask her to come and feel. She shakes her head.

"Your uterus is not working hard at all".

I sensed my uterus rise up in protest:

"Excuse ME????!!! Like, I've done this before, I'm a pro, WHEN I'm good and ready (as in, once YOU'VE left), then if I so feel like it, I will give a few good squeezes and that'll be that!"

(I love a uterus with attitude!)

The foetal heart was 140. The midwife put forward that this was an indicator of distress, along with the meconium. I suggested to the midwife that the fh was up because we were feeling stressed, and said wait 10 minutes and it will be fine. It was. 126.

Still, the midwife wanted me to transfer to hospital immediately.

I asked what would happen if I did agree to go to the hospital. She said, "Well, we'll put you on the monitor, give you IV anti-biotics, and then if your labour still isn't progressing, we'll give you some syntocinon. If that's too painful for you, then we'll give you an epidural. And then if you can't push your baby out, we'll just give you a c/s."

If I can't push my baby out? If I can't push my baby out? I've done it twice before, but now, today, my dysfunctional, incompetent, uncooperative body CAN'T??? I could not believe what I was hearing. She spoke so kindly and reassuringly, as if offering just the very thing I needed in my distress. Was she trying to reassure me - or was she trying out some subtle reverse psychology?? If so, it worked! She couldn’t have freaked me out, to make me want to run screaming in the opposite direction, more.

Then she brought out the big guns. It was now a whole 16 hours since SROM. I needed to be in hospital on IV anti-biotics. I wanted to continue at home. I was sure my uterus would and could come through. The mwidwife told me:

"You're talking about brain damage. You're talking about knocking off brain cells. You won't thank us for the outcome. You can't compromise the safety of your baby for the sake of an ideal."

I was so close, so close to capitulating ….. it’s scary to think how close I was ….

“Well,” I began, trying so hard to swallow rising terror and appear outwardly calm, rational and reasonable. Trying to please. Just as I opened my mouth to say, “OK then,” my husband spoke up.

He said:

“Well, you said she needs to be on IV anti-biotics after the waters have been broken for 18 hours. It’s only 16 hours, we’ve got 2 hours left. What about if she stays home for 2 more hours, and if there is still no progress, then we come in?”

His gentle interruption saved me from capitulating. He gave me time to think.

I don’t know where the strength came to say this, because I was under severe intimidation. Not just the words she was saying, it was something else. She was very pleasant and professional – the fear and intimidation coming against me was spiritual – that’s what I felt. I said,

“We don’t want to stay home just because of an ideal. We believe that if I stay home and do this naturally, that’s what will be actually safer for the baby.”

The midwife reluctantly conceded. Somehow, she knew that her presence was not conducive to my labour. She left the house. At the door, she turned back and gave me some good advice.

“Julie – get walking!”

We told our birth team all that had transpired. They said, “Well, you gave it a good try, I guess it’s for the best” etc etc – and assumed of course I was about to get in the car and transfer.

I realized at that point that I was in this alone. I had my dh still confident, but even my birth team did not really trust. I had to stand my ground and fight this myself. I realized God has been preparing me and had given me the tools in advance to be ready for this show-down.

I prayed. I spoke to my uterus and blessed it to start strong effective contractions. I blessed the baby to born safely without any distress or complications. I made a decision to praise and to be thankful. I thanked God for my fantastic birthing body and my fantastic birth team.

I drank RLT and labour ade and walked. Non stop. For nearly 2 hours. Praying constantly. First down the fields, over the bridge where willows dipped into the stream and the water sang a labour song to me. Then I did circuits around the house. The longer and stronger the contractions were, the more elated I was.

I needed to go to the toilet. Came out, knew something was different. Really strong, strangely non-painful contractions – they were like whole-body, brain-frying cx. I felt like I was being tossed in the surf, I hardly knew which way was up and needed intense anchorage – kneeled in front of the couch and just – held on for dear life.

My uterus:

“Hmmph! Not working hard, she says? And if you ‘can’t’ push out the baby, she says? Phhht! How’s this then?” (Huge hormonal surge contraction hits)


“OK! OK! I know you’re a powerful uterus!!! I believe in you, already!”

I told them to call the midwife back. My birth team were like, ‘Why?” But my dh who’d already seen me birth two babies, was totally in sinc and knew I was minutes from having the baby.

I was crowning as the midwife and her back-up walked in. Her first words?

“Oh, LOOK at all that meconium!”

She was concerned that she would not have time to set up the oxygen etc. There was a long gap between contractions, which she didn’t like either. I said. “Check the heart.” 120.

YESSSS! I knew it.

My little girls, aged 4 and 2, were just the most perfect little doulas through all this. They patted me and said "S'orright, Mummy!" They were in awe, but not scared. My 2 year old was so cute, she'd pat me on the back, then peek round my thigh (ducking under the midwife's arm) to see if she could see any baby coming yet.

I felt her crowning. I could feel her vitality. I did not push at all, I was trying sooooo hard to back-pedal and NOT push. The shopping mall birth was so exciting, I’d forgotten to chill and back-pedal, and had a small tear. I knew I could avoid a tear this time. The mw was so cranky with me for not obeying her directed pushing. I could not believe she was directing me! Her tone was terse. I sensed her disapproval. I heard the warm voice of my friend, “Oh wow, Julie, you’re doing so well!” Her loving tone, so in contrast to the midwife’s coolness, made me want to weep. I wanted that from my midwife. That’s when I realized that I had not chosen the right midwife for me.

Finally the midwife said, “Oh very well then. Push as you please!”

My uterus said,

“That’s precisely what I AM doing.”

The midwife’s arbitrary deadline for transfer to hospital was 3 pm.

Hadassah was born at 2:55 pm exactly.

Her apgars, of course, were perfect.

Those evil spirits, so jealous of birth, so wanting to put me in my place, so wanting to sabotage our birth, were not finished with me yet. My baby was safe. I didn’t know why there was such a rush to deliver the placenta. It was happening too fast. I was pretending to be fine, to prove I was a strong warrior, but I was not strong enough to say, “Stop this. You are rushing us. Go away for a while. I will call you back when I want to birth my placenta.” I stood to deliver the placenta and told my watching daughters all about it (pretending to be strong, and fine.) I wanted skin-to-skin contact. So much had happened, so much had been overcome. I forgot to fight for our skin-to-skin. I could really have used a doula then, my lovely birth team did not know enough to understand how vital this is, and I did not, then, either.

They took my baby to do the newborn exam. She was just in front of me, but she was crying because of the abrupt interruption to her skin-to-skin and my heart was yanked. I placed my finger in her hand to comfort her. I still felt the intimidation, which stopped me from confronting them and insisting that they delay the exam and leave us to bond. They wrapped her in a cloth and handed her back to me like they were doing us a great favour.

The loss of that skin-to-skin and the total disregard of our 4th stage of birth, grieved me. I felt on some level that it was ‘revenge’ for having birthed under my own power. I still see the difference in bonding between me and my first born, when my lovely Irish midwife was intentional about promoting skin-to-skin, and my beautiful third born, where it was not promoted. I love her to bits of course, but I know from this experience what a difference the chance for real skin to skin bonding can make.

At least my girls did have the chance to bond with their sister. One said, "It's yittle tiny one!" and the other said, "I YIKE her!" They each held her soon after the birth, and came with me into the bathroom and bedroom to admire her.

I realized that after this birth, I felt traumatized. I felt guilty about it, as if it was very selfish of me to dare to feel traumatized compared to what other mothers had to endure. I felt that we had had a narrow escape from something terrible.

I contacted TABS. One thing they said that helped, is that what is trauma for one person will be completely different for another. They validated the emotional and psychic trauma I had experienced. My body, and my baby’s body, got through unscathed, which was a huge achievement. But I had taken some hits in the unseen realm. I had also stood my ground, at least to some extent, and felt pride in that.

My wee girls were watching the birth video the other day. I felt a sudden surge of outrage as I watched the treatment of that birthing woman that was me, especially when they took Hadassah to do the exam. They just took her from my arms and I was unable to have the presence of mind to just say, STOP! So now I am very sensitive to tune into a new mother’s unspoken communication in those sacred, tender moments right after birth.

I did not transfer when I was under pressure to do so. It was not because I wanted to beat the system, or be ‘right’ or stand up for myself or for the homebirth ideal or whatever. I was just doing what every mother tries to do during birth, and that is, the best thing for her baby.

This was the Bible verse that the Lord equipped me with in the week before Hadassah’s birth:

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?
When my enemies advance against me to devour my flesh
They will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear
Though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.
I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart
And wait for the Lord.”
Psalm 27

At the 11th hour, I knew that all I had to do was wait for the Lord – that He would come through at the right time. And that is what happened.

Hadassah is the childhood name for the little Hebrew orphan who grew to become Queen Esther in the Book of Esther. ‘Hadass’ means sweet or pure – Hadassah is literally, “sweetheart”. After her birth, a friend gave a children’s story book for her. It was called, “Just-in-Time Esther” – about the Biblical Esther who saved her people from destruction by risking her own life to intervene diplomatically – just in time. It seemed fitting for our Hadassah who likewise was born ‘just in time’ to beat an arbitrary deadline. Once again, God’s timing and God’s plan, was perfect.

There was a theme song for Hadassah’s birth, too. I didn’t really like it at first, but it grew and grew on me in the weeks leading up to the birth. God used it to reassure me that everything would be OK.

“You are my shepherd, I have no needs
You lead me by peaceful streams
And you restore my life
You hold my hand and your guide my steps
Though I walk through the valley of death
I will not be afraid
Because you are in control
You cause everything to work together
You truly have a sovereign plan
And you know who I am
And you love who I am
You are in control.”

Just after Hadassah was born and the midwives had finally left, I sat down to rest and feed Hadassah. I pressed ‘Play’ on the old cassette tape deck. It just happened to be up to one particular song … I heard the intro music and my eyes welled with tears. Yes, it was Hadassah’s song. You Are In Control. Maybe it was just coincidence but I don’t think so. I remembered how on my first Sunday back in New Zealand when I was pregnant with Saoirse, the very first worship song was her theme song: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Freedom.” It happened again: my first Sunday at church with newborn Hadassah, and during the worship, they played this song - which was quite rare, being an older song it was not often played at church. Well it was this Sunday. Holding Hadassah, I bawled all the way through it of course. I think God has His unique ways of communicating with each of His children and song choice and circumstance seems to be one of the ways he whispers to me and strokes a wisp of my hair.

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