It was mid march 2014 and our baby daughter was due any time now. It was so exciting. My husband Jono and I enjoyed lots of pre-birth date nights together during this time – dinner’s at restaurants, scrabble, lunch at café’s and evening walks at Takapuna beach. My surges started at8am on Saturday 22nd March while I was lying in bed. Everything was all set up – birth pool, fairy lights, cartons of coconut water (fabulous for hydration and energy), affirmations, printed birth plan, music playlist, lavender oil and beeswax candles on the oil burner, and a big jar and straw for me to drink from. We closed the curtains for privacy and Jono filled up the water tank so we would have enough water for the birth pool when it came to the pushing stage. During the surges I used the relaxation techniques from the Calmbirth classes we went to – deep rhythmic breathing and muscle relaxation. It helped so much and I am so glad I attended the classes and pract iced the relaxation CD’s. It really helped prepare me mentally and emotionally to stay calm and positive for the majority of the labour, and to me this was a huge achievement and joy. Another thing I did in preparation for the labour is I retreated for the few weeks leading up and didn’t socialize too much for those few weeks, just to spend time in peace and quiet and to avoid any words from people that may upset me and cause me to be stressed and bitter which would cause tension during the labour. As a result, I was in a really peaceful zone of positivity and I believe this greatly added to having a much easier and joyful birth journey. The early labour went on into the night, and the next day and night – a total of 45 hours! My lovely midwife Gail, and her lovely assistant midwife Allison who was a former doula, came 3 different times and Allison showed me and Jono a type of acupressure and rocking technique which makes good use of gravity. It really help ed me cope with the more intense contractions toward the end of labour. It consisted of me dropping to my hands and knees during a contraction, my husband squeezing my hips with his thighs while standing and applying pressure to my lower back with his hands, and me rocking my hips around in circles. This helps to ease the discomfort and keep baby calm, as well as help baby descend deeper into the pelvis into a good position ready for the birth. During the labour I was quite hungry and ate some delicious soup and a stew, which I really enjoyed eating!
I was grateful that I didn’t feel sick or vomit at all and so was able to enjoy some nice meals. My midwife Gail had suggested prior to the labour that I keep well hydrated to avoid nausea, so I did drink lots of coconut water and water. This may have been what helped to prevent me from feeling sick or losing energy. A beautiful song named ‘Arms of love’ by Kutless came on the playlist and both Jono and I felt so much peace in the room – the powerful impact of music is amazing. At one point we went outside to see if I would feel better in the fresh air so we went out and I did a few contractions swaying on the swiss ball, but decided I felt better in the privacy of our house. I played some songs on the piano and tears fell as I felt so much joy and also empowerment to stay strong through the discomfort. “There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning” was one of the lyrics in the song, and it couldn’t have been more true (especially as my darling daughter was indeed born at dawn!). I declared some ‘boldness’ quotes out loud that I had printed and this gave me a lot of strength and encouragement. We decided to try the bath to see it would help ease things. I hopped in and I couldn’t even feel the contractions! Warm water was an amazing painkiller for me. It gave me a nice rest , although I didn’t stay in too long because I felt like moving about as well, but I would hop back in the bath whenever I felt I needed to be calmer. We also put some drops of lavender oil in the bath and Jono lit a beeswax candle to make it more enjoyable. The lavender essential oil was amazing in the bath and on the oil burner. Lavender helps to calm the nervous system and it did a brilliant job at it too. It also smelt beautiful, especially in combination with the beeswax candles smelling of honey. My husband Jono was amazing, he was constantly supportive throughout the whole time and did such a great job of getting me drinks, food, burning the oil, running baths, encouraging me, acupressure, and reminding me to relax my muscles and breathe deeply. Allison was a former doula and she gave Jono and I the acupressure technique, so I had some aspects of a doula anyway but free of charge. Midnight of the 23rd came by, and we decided to play some scrabble in bed to pass time.
After a while the contractions started getti ng really intense and so I had a little rest and focused on breathing through them. During one of them I let out a sigh, and I quickly realised that it really did not help to complain, it just made the discomfort worse. I continued to use the Calmbirth breathing and relaxation techniques and it made it so much easier to cope and stay calm. I also found that slowly counting through the contraction on each finger and breathing on each count was really helpful. Eventually the surges were very close together with not much rest in between. At this point we did the hands and knees acupressure technique as well as sitting on the toilet and doing ‘hoola hoop’ swaying while I held onto Jono. These things made the discomfort so much more manageable. During this time I started getting an uncontrollable urge to push, a very interesting feeling! It was like I couldn’t stop pushing even if I tried. But I wasn’t thinking I was at the pushing stage yet so I was conc erned that something was up and called Gail to come. Perfect timing! It turned out I was at the pushing stage and it was time to fill up the pool! I felt so much relief and excitement that it was nearly time, and Jono and I were so happy to hear it after nearly 45 hours of waiting in labour. Gail & Allison started filling up the pool with nice warm water , and Gail suggested that meanwhile I give a few more pushes on the toilet as it often moves baby under the symphysis bone ready to be born. (Sitting on the toilet is a brilliant idea because the brain automatically associates it with ‘letting go’.)
The pool was ready so I hopped in and rested my arms and head over the edge of the pool as I breathed through a few more contractions. My body rested for a bit as I was past the transition stage and Lilac was ready to start being pushed out. Jono hopped in and held me from behind and I enjoyed the warm water during each rest between pushes. There were handles for me to hold on to on both sides of the pool which was really helpful. My midwife Gail suggested I take a deep breath and then hold it during pushing (silent pushing) so that I save as much energy as possible instead of using it vocally. My heart felt so full of joy as I felt so empowered and excited that we were nearing seeing our baby girl! Jono, Gail and Allison were so supportive and encouraging. I shed a few happy tears and told everyone how amazing they were and how happy I was to be having my dream home water birth. I was in awe of how perfect everything was – there was something to bless each of my five senses, so I had a huge amount of beautiful oxytocin release! (Oxytocin is your body’s natural painkilling endorphins – the same hormone that gives butterflies to someone in love – and can be produced or hindered depending on your birthing environment and state of mind). The warm water hugging my body, my husbands embrace, encouraging words, lavender oil and beeswax candle scents wafting from the oil burner, delicious coconut water and sweetness being stuffed into my mouth for energy, beautiful calming instrumental music, dim lighting with pretty fairylights.
No wonder I felt so empowered and in love! I also had a few calming pictures set up on a music stand by the pool (a lake by moonlight, clear blue water by a tropical island, and an affirmation “Brittany Mafi is strong, secure and loved. She can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens her!” During the pushing I often glanced over at these – and it honestly helped a million, especially when the full diameter of Lilac’s head was out. I became a bit panicky at that stage as I found it a bit overwhelming that I could stretch that much, so my midwife gave me a drink of ‘Rescue Remedy’ – a homeopathic drink that I found really helped to calm me down. I reached forward and touched Lilac’s little head under the wate r! A few more pushes for the shoulders and then she came up out of the water like an adorable little submarine and onto my chest! The cord attached to her was just like a bouncy telephone cord. All three of us were cuddled in the warm water, and we reflected on our precious cutie miracle. I had such a newfound respect for the designed amazingness my body was capable of – housing an intricately created baby and bringing new life into the world in such a powerful way.
After a few minutes Switchfoot’s dare you to move ‘welcome to the planet’ came on the shuffle playlist, which was very fitting and special! I am grateful to have had a midwife who’s mindset was to keep things as natural as possible unless medical intervention was necessary. I am grateful to have made informed choices. I am grateful for the knowledge I was enriched with over my pregnancy though classes and books about alternative and positive ways of viewing birth and all the options available and how to increase my chances of having a natural birth.
The birth of Lilac was one of the most beautiful and euphoric experiences in my entire life. We are so blessed to be able to look back on the birth with feelings of so much joy and happiness. In fact I even miss the birth every now and then!