It was midnight under a smiling crescent moon when I felt the first surges, letting me know that Indiana was beginning her journey earthside. I heard the sprinkle of a light rain shower outside my bedroom window as I felt my waters gently start to release and exhaled a sigh of relief, knowing our little girl would be in my arms so very soon.
Well into month 10 of my pregnancy, it felt like I had been waiting forever to meet her, and that’s not including the year before becoming pregnant when heartbreakingly, I experienced three miscarriages. The day before I got a positive pregnancy test with Indiana, I had pled with the universe to allow me to bring more love and life into this world. I had also written a reflection where my final thoughts were “...be BRAVE. And always, always remember and TRUST that everything happens for a reason. It is not always easy to see the forest from the trees when you’re walking through the thickest part.” The very next morning, I saw two beautiful pink lines appear.
The pregnancy itself was very smooth (aside from my emergency root canal at 38wks!), and in fact, I felt healthier and put on less weight than with my son Jaxon, but this was not without perseverance and hard work. I was determined to do my very best to maintain a low-risk pregnancy so that I could experience a home birth. To do that, I needed to avoid getting Obstetric Cholestasis, the liver illness I was diagnosed with at Jaxon’s birth.
I had a 60% chance of getting Cholestasis again, and there was no medical evidence published anywhere about how to actively try and AVOID getting it - only the treatment which essentially was to induce at 37 weeks (which would rule out a homebirth). Nevertheless, I was determined to do SOMETHING within my control, and diet seemed like a logical route. I found an excellent dietician Tanzia Butterfield through my doula Trish Cumming, and although there was no formula to follow, she studied the body systems related to Cholestasis and devised a low-cholesterol, low-fat, low-sugar diet for me. It was super challenging sticking to a strict diet alongside pregnancy cravings, and yes, I had the occasional cry about it (and the occasional treat), but on the whole, I was much more conscious of what I was putting into my body and making much smarter choices. Tanzia kept me in check with a food diary app where I logged everything I ate and drank and analysed monthly blood tests to check my liver functions and ensure my nutritional needs were being met. I made it through with flying colours, and as an added benefit, I gained only 6kg throughout my entire pregnancy, which I lost in the first week after giving birth!
I knew that I also had to address any fears, concerns, or anxieties if everything was to go smoothly. I was aware of some emotional baggage from my previous birth experience at the hospital, my miscarriages, and some new fears about home birth. I set up a fear release session with Trish, who helped me identify, learn from, and release any thoughts that were not useful to me anymore. Midway through the session, I could almost not remember the fears I came in with, so it definitely worked and allowed me to remain focused on a positive experience and vision moving forward.
All of that prep work combined with yoga, massage, meditation and a super supportive network of family, friends and care providers resulted in me feeling healthy, empowered, excited and (so very) ready for birthing Indiana at nearly 42 weeks when she finally decided she was prepared to emerge. As my 2nd bub, I had been conditioned to believe that this birth would be faster and easier than my first, so you can imagine how impatient I was getting at 32 hrs into labour!. I learned first-hand how each birth could be so fundamentally different, to the point of opposites.
With Indiana, when I went deep into my relaxation, my body became so relaxed that my surges seemed to lessen in frequency rather than intensify. This allowed me to rest, which was critical given the length of my labour, but it also didn’t seem to be helpful in moving things along. I could bring on a surge by rocking on the exercise ball and sniffing clary sage; however, when I laid down, things would slow down. After such a long early labour, all I wanted to do was relax, so I was feeling conflicted between my physical needs and my opposing mindset of “let’s get this show on the road”!
Those first 24 hours of early labour went up and down as I grappled with the fact that there was no playbook for this birth. Lucky for Indiana and me, the fluidity was completely embraced by my birth team, and we were not “on the clock” like I suspect we would have been at a hospital. My midwife Renee Eggmolesse, Trish and Zach helped me to stay comfortable, relaxed and hydrated, which was vital in making it to the end of what felt like a marathon.
At 6 am on Oct 20 (30 hours from when labour started), I asked Renee to do an internal exam and told her to “lie to me if I wasn’t as far along as we all hoped”. I was 7-8cm dilated, and Renee discovered there was still a bag of waters blocking the baby’s head from coming down further onto the cervix. She gently broke the remaining waters for me, and I felt a gush of warm liquid flow out. I hopped in the shower afterwards and was met by surge after surge as if I’d gone over some tipping point of no return.
Meanwhile, Zach was cooking eggs for the birthing crew (2nd midwife Rangimarie had also arrived now) while Trish stayed with me for support. Around 7:15 am, I slowly made my way down our hallway and carefully eased myself into the birth pool in our living room with the help of Zach’s steady arms. I couldn’t move once I knelt down into the water, so whatever position I landed in was how I was going to birth, even if it wasn’t ideal.
Surges intensified and changed into the reflex to breathe the baby down involuntarily. The back-to-back surges literally took my breath away, and I was struggling to catch a deep enough breath in between them. Despite this feeling, all remained calm around me, with Zach brushing his hand softly over my back with cool compresses and Trish holding a fan towards my face dutifully. The screen door was open, and I remember thinking the neighbours would surely be hearing all my grunting and groaning, but I couldn’t be bothered to ask anyone to close it. I could feel Indiana’s head pushing against my perineum and internally repeated “soften” to my body as I remained intensely focused on visualising a blossoming rose.
As her head was birthed, something inside me caused me to scream out and instinctively shoot up, standing in the water to everyone’s surprise (as well as mine!). That was certainly not part of the plan, but now that her head had been out of the water, I couldn’t go back to birthing her underwater, so Renee calmly guided me with her hands to remain standing. On the next surge, I birthed the rest of her body, standing on my tiptoes with Zach right behind me to receive our little girl at 7:53 am on 20-10-20 (what a special birthday, and also shared with her cousin Zia!).
Zach and Renee rubbed her with a towel as she blinked, smiled (!) and looked around quietly at this new world. I couldn’t hear her crying and was still faced in the opposite direction, so desperately called out, “is she good?! is she good?!” to which I was assured she was doing fine and very alert.
I turned around and gently stepped over the pulsing umbilical cord as Zach put our beautiful baby girl in my arms. I cried out in sheer relief, “oh my goodness, oh my baby...” as the 2 of us girls had our first cry together, utterly and completely overwhelmed in the emotion of meeting each other on the outside for the very first time.
This was not the quiet and calm Hypno-birth that I had envisioned or experienced with Jaxon. Still, it was powerful, transcending, empowering and altogether unpredictable - challenging me to reach new heights both mentally and physically right up to the very end. I roared my baby girl into this world fiercely and with a determination like no other and was born again as a mother when my heart burst open to welcome Indiana Eve after our near 2-year journey to meet her.
I can now clearly see the forest from the trees, the bigger picture of what was always meant to be. Although the journey was long and seemingly impossible to trek through at times, it was worth every minute of the wait and literally all of the blood, sweat and tears that got us here in the end so we could start our beginnings together.