Melbourne Doula

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Laura's Family Birth - a journey to trust

A journey to trust
Come with me on a journey a journey that didn’t start with the birth of my daughter - but long before she was conceived. A journey through birth trauma, one in which truly paints a picture that it wasn’t needed. But it led to me discovering myself in many ways that I never thought possible. To trusting myself above all others and listening to those instincts that were screaming out from inside.

I had never thought of myself as an instinctual person, I often wondered how others ‘did it’. Surely there was something they learned that I was lacking? I look back three years ago and think to myself, ‘If only I knew then what I know now!’ One thing is for sure - I will always trust my instincts, no matter what!

Zahli’s birthing journey starts some 16 months or more before she was born. My cycles hadn’t returned as Kaeden was still feeding - but there was this overwhelming knowledge that we were pregnant inside me. I had felt it from day dot. I shared with my sister, but decided to leave sharing with my mum until Christmas time to make it a real celebration. Later that week the bleeding began - and she was gone. But I felt she would be back again soon. I was sad and spent lots of time crying. But I felt accepting of it too. I just knew she wasn’t quite ready and came to tell me she was there in the not too distant future. In order to go on this journey I needed to trust myself above all else. I retreated from the support networks I had known for so long and went within. At times it felt lonely and isolating but it was what I needed to do. Slowly bit by bit I started putting myself back out there again but still felt very guarded.

A little presence
6 months later, we were pregnant again. That little presence had never left. She just tapped on my shoulder every now and then to let me know she was ready when we were. The month we achieved pregnancy with Zahli my cycle was shocking. They had been all over the place for me since the miscarriage, but this cycle was especially weird. Emotionally I was in a funk. Our relationship was only ‘just’ recovering from some major issues. A few days after my bleed should have been due I tested. The lines appeared immediately, I was in total shock somehow!I went from shock to freak out: "I can’t do this right now. Too many things I still have to deal with. Too much hurt." I'm not at the point where I can let go, and go within, and allow the journey to unfold as it needed to. I was scared of miscarriage even though I knew she was here to stay, I was more scared of losing the friendships I had formed again due to trust.

Learning to trust
Trust became my biggest issue. It had been for a while, but was heightened in pregnancy. If I was going to open up my space, I needed to be able to trust those around me. But most of all, I needed to be able to know that they would stand beside me and not question my instincts. I didn’t know if I could put my trust in someone else in our birth space again.

I did know I wanted a small circle of support at this birth. There was one doula, Julie, whom I had known from before the pregnancy, who I knew I wanted to be our doula. It was so heartening to hear her talk, saying she would be there regardless of which path I choose. I decided to approach everything as it happened, and just draw strength from the power of being able to let go of the past, let go of what others think I should or should not be doing; and most of all let go of preconceived ideas of what I thought I should or should not have under control by now.

Finding my authority
The pregnancy had the usual ups and downs but I felt as healthy as ever. It was very freeing to just let go just be pregnant and most of all to trust within myself that I had the tools available to reach out if there was anything I wasn’t certain of. But otherwise I knew my body better than anyone else. My dh was largely in the back ground, though completely supportive of my decisions.

I knew that I needed to be the authority in this pregnancy and birth. We continued building a relationship with Julie, who would be our family doula. She would take care of my sons and take photos of the birth - but also to be another birthing woman I could trust and turn to if and when I needed to. Strangely enough I never felt any trust issues with this doula. I think this was I considered her a friend before pregnancy.

I never questioned in pregnancy my ability to birth. I thought a couple of times of 'what ifs'. I would work out how I could move through that fear. Something that came up was PPH. How we I manage that at home? So I organised homeopathics and herbal tinctures to have on hand.
Everything was falling into place, my doula was home from overseas, the birth pool was blown up and ready, we made it through the first day of school.

Just like my other babies, Zahli didn’t engage. My hips started to widen a couple of weeks before birth, but there was a huge difference the week before she was born. I had so much pain during the week I brought my chiro appointment forward as on the Saturday before I had spent all day in early labour. That day I had driven Rog to work, started back home and just couldn’t continue I was spacey and just needed him home so I turned around rang him and picked him up to come home. We were meant to have an open house that day so he rang the RE and told him I was in early labour so I could just do whatever I needed to.

The February Fires
Around 12pm the phone calls started the fires had begun and Rog ended up glued to the phone or computer for most of the afternoon. I felt content - just shutting myself off and thought things would get under way later in the afternoon evening. The tightenings remained consistent, some hurting. Mostly I felt the need to really zone out. I had rang Julie during the day and we were thinking later in the afternoon evening would be when I would be wanting her here.

The fires intensified things got scary from this end, Rog was stressed. Ok - they were safe for now. My tightenings stepped up a notch, nope - on alert again. By late afternoon I was getting increasingly frustrated with the phone calls - not just about the fires but is the baby born yet. I didn’t want the world waiting, yet somehow they were.

My doula rang we decided she would start making her way to me at 5 pm. But when 5 pm came, she was in Marysville, right in the path of an on-coming fire-storm. There was no mobile coverage so she had no way to contact me from then on. She escaped Marysville with her three young children and her parents just before fire razed the town. I had decided that if she was to make it, she would - otherwise I was ok if it was just us or we would call Clare in as well.

Elijah and Kaeden headed to bed. I got some rest. The tightenings continued to have a bite to them. Then around midnight, the news was in - Kinglake was gone. My family have long ties with Kinglake. I cried on Rogers chest and went to sleep. I wasn’t doing this tonight - everything stopped!

Labour held at bay for a week
We woke on the Sunday morning and started realising the sheer devastation, slowly started finding out how our families were. We kept sending our love and thoughts to Julie and her family. Sometime during the morning her husband rang to see how I was doing and let us know they were safe - yet stuck in Alexandra, which was still under Urgent Threat, and unable to get home. I kind of had to re-group a little bit as this wasn’t going to just be a day or so thing. I needed to get my head on straight.

Clare was more than happy to be any support we needed, so again I just felt whatever was meant to be would be. Over the course of the week, each day brought more tightenings - was this it starting again?

On Wednesday I heard from Julie, letting us know they were finally home, exhausted - but safe.

By Thursday I had decided I was ignoring the tightenings until they made me take notice.

Come Friday I was kind of suss but went about our day. Rog had started holidays on the Tuesday as it made life a lot simpler for us all (ie me) as it meant he would do the school run and continue to do the house hold stuff that I hadn’t been able to for so long. In this time, Clare was on stand-by to be our support person and I had grown ever more open to having both Clare and Julie here, so ended up asking Clare to be here as well - even though Julie and her family were now home and waiting for our call. This felt perfect. Clare would be here camera in hand, Julie here for Elijah and Kaeden, Rog here to support me. All 3 could swap and change roles no issues at all knowing this I had such an incredible sense of tranquility.

Here we were Friday afternoon. We ran a few errands while Elijah was at school including food shopping. The tightenings I had known all week were still there and I was blissfully ignoring them. We postponed our doula meet that evening due to the continued threat of fires and I felt more at peace as the week got on that everything would be as it should.

Is this IT?
Sometime around 5-5:30pm I wanted some peace and quiet so was hanging out for bedtime. I decided to go up to Safeway for a few things around 6 pm while dinner was cooking as I had been making up the laundry powder and decided we kind of couldn’t make it without the lectric soda or borax, we couldn’t get either at Coles and ran out of time before school pick up. Elijah decided he wanted to come along we get into the car and Kaeden decided he was coming too. I felt this wasn’t a great idea - but couldn’t say one could come over the other, so they both came with me. I hadn’t really let on how I was feeling as all week people bugged us constantly and we weren’t even ‘due’ yet. We had told everyone mid February so February sometime. Rog stopped taking calls with me in earshot.

Got to the supermarket and just wanted out of there as quickly as possible it didn't feel right at all. The boys were amazing - we went around getting the few things we needed very quickly.

We headed home, had dinner, then organised Elijah and Kaeden for bed. I was starting to take a little notice by now, but still ignoring what was happening within my body.

About 8ish Rog discovered we needed fly spray as the ants were back by the hoards again. So Rog said he would head down the shops. Kaeden was almost asleep and Elijah was asleep. This was the first time I thought to myself, yep something is likely happening. So I asked Rog if he was going to go out, go sooner rather then later.

By the time he got back I was beginning to take notice that the tightenings were actually starting to bite. Once I allowed myself to think that, WHAM - they notched it up. Knowing Julie had 2 hours to get here plus time to get organised, I rang her about 9 pm.

By this point, I started to believe this was IT. I knew Julie's car was packed and they were ready to evacuate from Warburton and come spend the week locally - whenever we needed her. So I asked if we should keep our meeting that night - but greet a baby instead!

Clare arrives
Soon after I rang Clare and she headed over. It was close to 10pm - which already found me in the pool concentrating through contractions. She was so gentle the way she came in and just stood back, not wanting to get in my space. I just remember her being so respectful of my space, waiting until contractions ended before getting the picture that caught her eye. In those moments I just felt so free. I felt so in tune with my baby and body, yet I also felt so alert. I started to enter labour land but still had this level of consciousness that is hard to explain. I still was a little iffy as to whether this was it in some ways. It all felt very surreal but I started to surrender.

Julie arrives
By the time Julie got here, it all just felt like everything had aligned and this was going along full steam ahead. Sometime said that Julie had rang and wasn’t far away. I was curious how my body was feeling. I had always wanted to know how my cervix felt as it dilated around my babies head so I checked. My waters were still intact. It just felt so amazing - my cervix was moulding around my babies head and the bag of waters. As someone who loves knowing her cycle and seeing the changes within her body, this too was another moment of 'WOW! How amazing is my body - look at what it is doing!' For me, this was just a quiet thing I didn’t do it to check progress or announce we are x cms. It was more of a: 'Oh, beautiful progress and look at how this feels' thing.

Every single contraction I felt was in my pubic bone. It felt as though it was being torn apart. This is what threw me. I had a posterior labour with Kaeden; and laboured on a bed on my side pretty much with Elijah. I was barely feeling the contractions through my uterus. Instead, I felt it down really low like my pubic bone was bending. It took me a bit to get used to. I sent Rog to get the hot packs to boil up. I was using counter pressure at some point too. As it all started to get harder, he stood closer and closer, not leaving my side. He was my rock - just having him close by helped me through. He found the words to say when I needed them the most.

An inner struggle
Around the time Julie got here I had started to fight an internal struggle - one I had suspected would come up. As I started to feel my baby's head in the birth canal, I started trying to rush it through contractions. Yet emotionally, I needed to work through what I was staring at inside. I never really voiced it until afterwards but I was scared - scared of it all going pear shaped like with Kaeden's birth - scared of being told, "We need to do this now" - and losing my trust in myself. Those demons from the last birth came up with each contraction. I went between a state of knowing 'this right here is not Kaeden’s birth, no one can harm me' to an altered state of 'quick get this baby out, you need to now.' Even writing it now, knowing that I would have to face that barrier at some point and being as prepared as I could for it, I am still amazed by the intensity at which it presented itself in Zahli’s birth.

After some time of battling this struggle within, Julie knelt in closer for some wise words. I had felt her presence right there beside me the entire time, yet this is when I needed her and she knew that. Her words helped me bring myself back into a conscious state of 'this is Zahli’s birth and a different journey.'

ZAHLI arrives!
I breathed through a couple of contractions and found my centre again. I felt Zahli come further down the birth canal - and before I knew it she was on the perineum. I was called out ‘boys, boys, boys’ so they could be woken and watch the birth. Clare high-tailed it across the bed to go get them. They were there in time to see her head and body born.

Rog was going to jump into the pool to play catch but I had been so internal with exactly where we were at that it was too late - her head was out - so he continued supporting me as he was doing best by holding my hands. Julie was beside him getting pictures too. Clare was getting pictures from the other side. Elijah and Kaeden sat there in awe as I pulled Zahli up to the surface of the pool. She had been born with me leaning over the pool facing forwards, yet managed to come out in front of me. So I scooped her up and brought her to the surface, calling her earthside.

OMG! A Girl!
Her colour was amazing and I just gazed at her before looking up in amazement over what had just happened. Hugging Rog, I called the boys in closer. I asked them to find out if we had a brother or sister. OMG - A girl! I was right all along - yet had almost stopped believing it was possible. Zahli is the 2nd female in 6 generations of my husbands family! I knew either way that Zahli was probably our last child and had gotten to a point where I loved this little person inside me regardless of their gender. But the feeling of my instincts being correct and now having a daughter as well as 2 beautiful sons - I really couldn’t ask for much more.

Elijah and Kaeden were stoked. They didn’t say much, but the looks on their faces said it all - to have watched on as their sibling was born was truly such an amazing gift for them to take with them in life. They knew all about it, after asking me lots of questions in the last month. So I was so rapt they both got out of bed and were there. Elijah says he was awake for a while beforehand, waiting to be called to come in!

Cold and shaky
I started feeling cold and my legs were hurting as my hip had started playing up in the last part of labour from being on my knees for so long. So I hopped out of the pool and onto the bed, supported by Rog from behind, and covered in towels, blankets - whatever we could find. My legs were shaking - I probably should have thought about that previously as this is what my body does after big events, surgery, big works outs etc. It is how my body gets rid of the lactic acid and processes whatever it is that just happened. Years of sport has taught me this but I didn’t think to pay attention to it for post birth.

Soon after, I just wanted the placenta to come. I tried a few times but it wasn’t ready - or more to the point, I wasn’t. I knew it was all fine. That 'knowing' never left for a second. But still, while the placenta was in, I couldn’t relax fully. This probably kept it in longer - and, well, it is probably a lesson to be learnt. After being on the bed, I went to the toilet. I was a tad faint so Julie was keen to get me back on the bed. If I was to faint, there was much better. Zahli was still attached and we had a short cord, but I managed to relax and talk myself around for a bit and feed on the bed laying down and attempt some patience. I am sure I felt the placenta come away and I bled a little bit at the time, but still couldn’t release it from my body. So I took a few homeopathics to help my body in making sure there was no extra bleeding. I also sat talking myself through it for a good while before deciding we needed to cut the cord. I needed to be able to concentrate on this part of the birth and I think I realised there was more to it too.

Both Zahli and I were ok with cutting the cord. We sterilised the beautiful cord tie and used my blessingway red string as the other tie for the placenta end. I talked to her as Rog cut it. It had been over 2 hours since she was born and this is the part where I am just so happy we chose not to have a midwife or doctor but instead chose an unassisted birth, surrounded by women we trusted, who also trusted in birth. At some points in that time, I had been freaking out a little bit. I always knew we were fine, everything was normal - but there was that little bit of fear involved - not external fear but fear within me. In hindsight it is probably something I should have known a little bit more about I prepared for all manner of things in regards to the 3rd stage.

A huge release
At this point Rog got some snuggles and the boys helped dress Zahli while I shut myself off in the ensuite with food in hand, talking to myself again and most of all releasing the things I needed to within. With a HUGE bang thanks to the metal bowl in the porcelain toilet the placenta was born just minutes after closing myself up in privacy. With that, the emotional flood gates opened and Julie was right there with arms and shoulders ready. There really was so much that I let go of in birthing Zahli’s placenta. It was more than just the placenta - but the journey, the healing and the validation that my birth rape didn’t need to happen.

Once I cried, I knew that it was just this huge release. Our birth had been sooo magical - I could not have asked for the heavens to line up so perfectly. The love, support and honouring we had around us was everything I could have asked for - and you know what? I didn’t really need to vocalise any of it. I am convinced she was ready to be born the week before but everything started to take the alignment out of sync and, well, she needed her doulas. She had helped hand pick this team and wasn’t going to be born without them. So we all knew this was the support we not only wanted but needed around us.

Facing those demons in her birth was what I needed to face. I have come full circle. Those were the things I needed to face up to and release and she was here to help me do that through her birth journey, while also realising it was ours to have and a different journey too. So much mixed up in one birth journey - yet how can it all not be intertwined?

We're besotted
As I sit here and gaze at her, I am finding it hard to believe it was 4 weeks ago today that I gave birth, 4 weeks ago she was just mere hours old. Yet she has fit in since the very start. It is like she was never not a part of our family. Elijah and Kaeden loves her to bits, Kaeden adores her with endless kisses, Elijah adores her with endless cuddles and well daddy loves the baby sick on his work shirts the best as we have found out this week! Rog is just besotted with her and maybe still in a little shock that he has a daughter. I am convinced he thought she was a boy all along.

Me? Well I feel fantastic. I didn’t have any tears that needed healing. I was tired for a week or so, and needed to remember that I had only recently given birth - but I still feel great and bit by bit my body is returning to some form of normal. Most of all those I am loving being able to wear a baby in a sling again. I'm also loving those firsts - we discovered Zahli loves raspberries so you can never guess what I have spent much of my day doing besides writing this - haha who can resist a baby smile.

More than 'Just a Birth'
Rog has been utterly amazing - I truly had a babymoon and have barely lifted a finger for 4 weeks. Our friends have been fantastic - our freezer is still full as we made sure to keep the meals for when Rog went back to work, to make it easier on us of an evening. We could not have asked for better circle to have supported us in birth. It all worked out as perfect as it should have. Julie and Clare will always hold a special place in my heart for sharing such a journey with us. It doesn't seem like I have written much of their place or of Roger's in this birth - but, well, it all was just normal. They were observers, yet much much more than that - on every level. Sharing this journey with our close knit circle has been all I could ask for. Yet 'just a birth' doesn't seem to cut it - it was so much more than that ... but so normal and peaceful too.

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