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March 23, 2010

Harriet's arrival

Phew! It's been a big week for us, but we finally have a moment to announce the arrival of our little girl, Harriet Tully Jones Smith on Monday 15th March at 1.09am. She was 7 pounds 2 ounces and 55 cm long.

It was a very, very fast and easy birth. The homebirth midwife only arrived ten minutes before I was pushing. While in the birth pool the baby descended and I reached down and felt what should have been her head and it was soft. We realised it was a bum! Marilyn (our midwife) called the ambulance just in case (as it is protocol not to birth breech babies at home) and I ended up pushing her out just minutes after arriving at the hospital.

The whole labour, including mild contractions in the restaurant to the birth of the placenta was only 6 hours, the midwives only counted it as 3.5 hours! Harriet is perfect and the birth was unassisted.

About an hour later however I began to bleed alot. I lost 2.2 litres of blood which is a very frightening thing. I needed surgery to stop the bleeding and two blood tranfusions. I am recovering surprisingly quickly, and gathering strength every day.

I feel very happy that I got the best of both worlds. If I'd planned a hospital birth then Harriet would have been almost definitely born by ceasarian, as vaginal breeches are rarely attempted these days, mainly due to a lack of experienced doctors. But the care I recieved for my bleeding was excellent and I am incredibly grateful to the hospital and modern medicine. If I had not had access to a hospital I'm not sure I would have survived, and even if I were at a smaller, less specialised hospital I may have ended up with a hysterectomy.

As it is I had a beautiful, natural, drug free birth, followed by the best medical care on offer. I feel very fortunate, although it was more dramatic than I had hoped!

You can see for yourself how beautiful she is! Her head wasn't squashed like head first bubs, though her bottom is a bit bruised and pointy! We're enjoying falling in love with her and spending those first precious weeks together drenched in Newborn Baby Smell, but having to fight off family for cuddles.

March 10, 2010

39 - Due Dates

Some people talk about due dates these days as though they were set in stone. Indeed for many people they are. They book in for an induction or a ceasarian at a convenient time for themselves and for the hospital and can plan for the exact moment their little one arrives.

I'm on the other end of the spectrum. A home birth is considered safe between 37 and 43 weeks provided there are no other complications. I'm now sitting at 39 weeks and willing my baby to come. I really don't want to go over, I was born three weeks late and caused no end of trouble to my poor mother! After 41 weeks the hospital like to see pregnant women to observe the baby and the placenta every couple of days, and as long as all is well and healthy then I can just wait as long as I am comfortable.

Who you choose as your primary carer (ie midwife or obstetrician) largely indicates when it is acceptable for your baby to arrive, but the other strange thing is how due dates are actually calculated. It is assumed by those little wheels they use that every woman has a 28 day cycle and ovulates on day 14. Any woman reading this is probably laughing out loud, My cycle for example is 23 days and I ovulate on day 8. How do I know? I can feel it, a little twinge in one ovary, alternating sides around the 8th day after my period. But most women can't tell when they are ovulating so they have to make some assumptions. So if ovulate 6 days earlier than most women then it follows that my baby will be due 6 days earlier. This works in my favour because I can tell everyone the later due date and hope that the baby comes by then. Most first babies are born about one week late, which puts me back to the later date.

To prepare my body and my baby for birth I have been doing a few different things. None of these are directly to induce labour, more just to encourage things in the right direction.
  • Many herbal teas ncourage contractions. Choose what feels appropriate for your dosha. I found raspberry leaf too astringent, and have preferred dandelion made into chai, or tea made from two parts fennel and one part fennugreek, brewed fairly weak, about 1 tspn to 500 mls water.
  • Walking, squatting, lunging, belly dancing, hula hooping and cat and cow all help to open the pelvis and encourage baby to head South.
  • Talking to baby, telling stories about how wonderful the world is and how much love is here waiting, as well as visualing the birth positively surely can't do any harm at all!
If your caregiver wants to induce your labour find out if their is a good reason. Just being late is not reason enough, because it could be that your due date is inaccurate to begin with.

39 weeks - my birth plan

I've been leaving this for last because I keep changing my plan as I learn more. Some people like planning, some don't. I love it. I love plans and lists because they help me to clear my mind, make decisions and have positive expectations of the world. I don't expect everything to go to plan, I don't think I'm in control and I am happy to accept whatever comes my way. But I always think it's worth asking for what I want and putting in efforts, without being to attached to the outcome.

My latest favourite preparation for birth technique comes from the book Birthing from Within. The author doesn't believe in birth plans as such, but she really encourages pregnant women to positively picture birth. (which I think is just a matter of semantics, cause it all depends on how you define a birth plan.) Many women in our culture can't actually picture birth, and go straight for the ending, the happy family snapshot.

But here are the four images I use to picture my own birth:
  • Walking along the swan river with my sister and two of my oldest girl friends, picking some flowers to decorate the birthing room with. Being infused with their girl power, walking to get the contractions going, and being in nature, by the water in one of my favourite places in the world.
  • At home, sitting on the fit ball at the my kitchen table, blanching and peeling almonds. I'm making a birthday cake for my baby, and stop every now and then to rest my head on the table as the contractions get more intense.
  • Kneeling on the floor in the birthing room resting over the fit ball. The contractions are very powerful know and I need to go inside myself to get through the next stage. It's dark and cave like.
  • Finally the actaul birth. I am squatting in the warm water pushing my baby out. My husband is in the water behind me. He catches our baby and pushes it through my legs, I pull our baby up to my breast and lean back on my husband, where we cuddle and gaze at each other in love and amazement.
I'll post my more practical birth plan shortly...

March 05, 2010

38 weeks: positive thinking

As my babies birth day approaches I feel very open and vulnerable and exposed. I feel like every little comment that people make has a disproportionately strong affect on me. Like I saw a trashy magazine headline about a celebrities 2 day pre-labour ending in a ceasarian, and I had a friend comment that home birth for first time mums was a bad idea, and one man started telling me about all the doom and gloom in the world and questioning whether I should be bringing another child into such a hopeless world...

It's so surprising to me that people can behave so unhelpfully, but humans love drama, we are addicted to it. That's why you never see natural, normal, healthy birth on prime time television. It's not as interesting as wailing sirens, emergencies and life saving surgery.

I feel that giving birth requires me to totally open up my body to the universe. I need to be exposed and vulnerable. I need to let go and stop thinking with my head and let nature take it's course.

Anyway, all of this requires some really positive thoughts, and here are some concepts which make me look forward to the birth being a positive experience:
  • Voltaire said "The role of the doctor is to distract the patient while Nature is curing the disease." Whilst I don't consider birth an illness the idea of distracting my head whilst my body gets on with it is very appealing.
  • I Ching says "Rain, after all is only rain; it is not bad weather. So also, pain is only pain; unless we resist it, then it becomes torment." It's like a birth story I read where the woman was totally calm, and she said she was still in pain, except the pain didn't "hurt". It was just pain with a purpose.
  • There are 270,000 babies born in the world every day! I like the feeling that I am not alone. I like knowing that most of those women are doing it safely at home without drugs and intervention. Talk about girl power! If they can do it, so can I.
  • I will gratefully accept the birth I am given. It's not all about control, it's about positive thinking.
  • A quote form the book Birthing from Within: "Labour is hard work, it hurts and I can do it." Very practical.
  • Ina May, my birth hero, relates a birth story where the woman's mantra is "I'm gonna get huge." I love this cause it makes me laugh, and reminds of what Ina May calls the forgotten powers of the vagina.

March 02, 2010

Home birth

I get mixed reactions when I tell people I am having my baby at home. People have experienced homebirth are really thrilled for me, and people who are ignorant or misinformed can be quite dismissive. I was a planned homebirth and many of my friends had their babies at home too. For me it just felt like the normal thing to do.

Of course the safety of my baby is my highest priority, so I did research home births before going ahead. Many studies the world over prove that home birth is as safe as hospital births for low risk women who birth full term babies with experienced and trained midwives within a half hour drive of a back up hospital. My pregnancy is low risk, my baby is now full term, my midwife has 5 years education and 15 years experience and one of the best maternity hospitals in Asutralia is about a ten minute drive away. So the answer is simple.

Unfortunately the personal becomes political and what felt like a very natural decision to me happens to have come at a turbulent time for home birth in Australia. New legislation will make it illegal for an independant home birth midwife to practise after June this year. The new laws state that midwives must practise under hospital based obstetricians in order to be covered by their insurance, but obstetricians do not support home birth so the midwives can no longer practise. No insurance is available directly to these midwives. If you ask me it's all about control and money and fear of litigation, but let's not get into that. The fact is home birth is safe under the right conditions, and the new legislation is expanding on the culture of fear that already surrounds birth.

Fortunately I am birthing on a government home birth program which will not be affected by the new legislation, but this is not available in all states Australia.

If you read any articles or studies about home birth please use your best media analysis skills. Studies that prove home birth is dangerous usually include in their statistics one or more of the following:
  • unplanned home births
  • preterm babies born at home
  • birth of twins or more
  • unassisted births at home (also known as free birth)
  • breech babies
  • babies known to have died in utero, but the mother, in order to grieve and let go, would like to labour and birth at home anyway
One study I read even included miscarriage amongst it's home birth statistics!

Today we can have the best of both worlds, a peaceful and private birth at home, with the best technology on offer in nearby hospitals for the 8% of women who need intervention. I want to share this with you because I strongly believe in every womans right to birth in a place where she is safe, comfortable and supported. For many women that is in a hospital. For me it is at home.