On the morning of the 28th June 2021 we welcomed our third baby into the world. Born unexpectedly at home into the arms of her Daddy.
After two IVF babies, this third little bub was a crazy beautiful surprise, so in a way, it made perfect sense that her birth was just that too.
As the due date with the pregnancy came and went, I somehow remained calm. My babies have never been punctual; two weeks late each time. I knew my time would come and trusted that my baby would know when. On the Saturday morning, at 6 days overdue I decided to have a stretch and sweep, just to see what would happen. I’d had three with my first pregnancy so didn’t rely on too much happening. Once it was finished my midwife made a bit of a plan for the next week and was on her way. It was a beautiful day outside, so we headed out into the sunshine.
The following morning, I woke up, again, still with that baby in my belly. I waddled to the park with the kids. By this point I’d had contractions on and off for a few days and since the S&S I’d experienced a few more early labour signs. The last sign – which Colin states was when he knew it was on – was when I decided mid-afternoon on that Sunday that the house needed to be cleaned within an inch of its life. Clearly no sane man says no to his overdue pregnant wife, so that’s what we did. In between random contractions, I cleaned.
By dinnertime I was still experiencing very mild, sporadic contractions, but didn’t really think much of it. We ate dinner together, got the kids to bed and I bounced on my fit ball. At around 10.30pm things were progressing a little and I started to believe this may lead to something, so we headed to bed. I lay in bed, slept for an hour and was woken by stronger contractions. I hopped into the shower, but found that I was too hot-and-cold in there and just couldn’t get comfortable, so quickly got out. My plan for this birth was to labour at home, then travel to hospital before I was too uncomfortable, hop in the bath and hopefully have a waterbirth. I’d even joked a few times with Colin about how I didn’t want to leave it too late to go to hospital as I didn’t want to have an accidental home birth…it seems this bub had other plans.
At around midnight we moved downstairs, I turned on some music and we just chatted in between contractions, which were still about 10 minutes apart and really quite mild. Even at this point I thought it might still fizzle out into nothing.
A few hours passed and I started feeling quite a lot more downwards pressure but contractions were still very manageable and in no real pattern yet. As I listened to music I stood over our bookcase, swayed and focussed on the images on the wall of our family. At 2am I decided to call my doula and midwife. They both thought I was doing really well, could still hold a conversation fine and so it was decided to stay at home for the time being. I called the labour ward just to let them know I’d be arriving sometime in the morning. I think now, at this point I realised it was on, this was actual real labour, and today I’d be meeting my baby. It was here that just for a minute, a wave of fear came over me. My last birth with my second baby was extremely traumatic and at six-months postpartum I developed PTSD. Through intensive therapy I’d released and let go of the guilt and fear I held from that birth and going into this third birth I felt strong, I felt calm… but just for a minute the fear crept in. My husband reminded me how strong I was, that I could do this, that my body knew what it was doing and all was well. I came back down as I swayed, and re-connected with my baby. I then decided to go to bed as I knew I had a marathon ahead of me and didn’t want to waste too much energy early on. It was now about 2.30am, my contractions were still 9 minutes apart. I really wanted to stay at home and wait for a proper more established rhythm before we headed into labour ward. We curled up into the warmth of our bed together. Colin of course fell asleep immediately and began snoring. I had my headphones in and fell in and out of consciousness as I listened to my birth playlist.
This next hour between 2.30am and 3.30am is all a blur to me. It’s like just here, in this one hour, I was finally in that labour space where you are sort of floating, and the essence of time doesn’t really exist. It’s that zone where mentally, your presence is somewhere else, those months of carrying your baby are leading right here, to this, so close now; labour land. It was here that I then noticed I could no longer just easily breathe through my contractions. I grabbed Colin’s hand for support as I hummed through them, still coming sporadically and sometimes five minutes apart and then back to nine minutes. I recorded my last contraction at 3.49am and decided to call my doula. During that phone call, which lasted for 20 minutes, she listened to my contractions and how I was sounding. In this time, I had only three contractions, however the last two were intense and this is where things changed. My humming quickly transformed into that low, guttural more animalistic sound. My doula asked if I was bearing down to which I said I was, I had no control of it, it was just happening. We then decided it was hospital time.
As we both got out of bed I quickly changed. Even at this point I was still quite conscious when not mid-contraction and even instructed Colin to change his jumper when he threw one on that I hated. Still giving fashion advice even mid-labour, hilarious. At 4.13am I messaged my midwife to say we were heading to the hospital. In the next ten minutes, our baby was born.
Our bags were already in the car, I just needed to let my mum know we were heading out, she had been staying for a few weeks in preparation to look after Eva and August. I walked down the hallway, knocked on Mum’s door, who was already awake as she’d heard my increasingly loud humming the last hour. Mum got up to help me down our staircase and into the car. I reached the mid-point, hallway down, and just here, I realised our baby was ready to be born. As I stood on the staircase another strong contraction came on, I felt a sudden intense pressure in-between my legs followed by a bulge. It was in this moment that a thought of fear popped into my head, just for a split second. A thought of “this is not actually happening”. It just seemed so surreal. I yelled to Colin, who was at the bottom of the stairs, “the baby is coming”, to which he casually tried to reassure me that yes, she was coming, and we were on our way to the hospital and all was fine. I responded with angst “No, No, I mean she’s coming, now, she’s coming OUT OF ME NOW”. It took him a second to catch up, but we were finally on the same wavelength. And this, this is where my mind left and my natural, primal, birthing instincts just took over. It’s like my body was the vessel driving its own way on the journey, and I was subconsciously being taken along for the ride. With my other two babies I had to really work to push them out. It was exhausting, gruelling work that took every part of my strength. But this time, my baby was in control and it was like I was just there to guide her.
At the bottom of our staircase is the laundry and it was here that my body took me.
I remember here, just as I entered the laundry, I glanced up and saw my mum, a look of bewilderment across her face. The next moment we heard a “Mama” from August, so my Mum ran upstairs to be with him. As I walked into the laundry I had a sudden urge to sit on the toilet so I could feel what was going on. I put my hands down and felt a squishy, balloon-like bulge. I stood up and asked Colin to look at what was happening. It was the sac. She was still in her sac, which is why my waters had not yet burst. I turned and leant over the washing machine as he calmed me, and assessed what was happening. In this moment I told Colin to call someone, so at 4.17am he called 000. It took the operator a few seconds to realise how far progressed we were as she tried to ask the initial questions like my age and number baby and said to get onto my back on the floor. I yelled out “I can’t get on my back, she’s coming out”. From here, both of our instincts took over. Colin kneeled down and placed his hands under the sac to support it, which at this stage was just full of my waters. I remember yelling out to my mum, who was up with now both of the kids, to get us some towels, I knew we needed something to wrap her in.
It’s funny in labour, the tiny segments of information that the brain stores. I don’t remember much of what was going through my head here, but I know at this moment I came back to the word that guided me through most of my pregnancy and early labour: surrender. The 000 operator could hear what was happening and told Colin that she would be slippery and to be ready to catch her. As I felt her crowning I put my own hands down to feel her little head. I tried to hold back the pushing and just pant with tiny blows of my breath. I really wanted to prevent another tear this time and knew it was likely to happen here. As I panted, her head came down fully, out and into the sac, which Colin was holding with his two hands. She stayed here, her head earth side still en caul (in the sac), while her body was still inside me. Colin remembers this moment so clearly, he could see his daughters head, just sitting there, safely inside her sac, waiting for that next moment to be born. I had a very quick break here, maybe 30 seconds before another contraction came on and with that the sac broke, her shoulders glided out, followed by the rest of her body. Born at 4.21am, at home into the arms of her Daddy. He quickly scooped her up and lifted her onto his chest. I didn’t have many moments of fear throughout this labour, there just wasn’t time, but here, again for a split second it crept in as we waited for that first breath, that first cry. And then it came, as she was held by her Daddy she let out an almighty cry. She was here, she was healthy, she was okay. As she cried, we both did too.
We then heard the sound of the 000 operator who asked if we had something warm to wrap her in, we didn’t, so Colin undid his jacket and placed her safely inside. I remember looking at him and just saying “what just happened, we just had our baby, she’s here, she’s okay”. The operator then checked in on how I was doing and asked me to remove my top and place our baby onto my chest. I held her, kissed her head, in a state of blissful shock.
It took another ten minutes for the ambulance to arrive, the 000-operator remained on the phone just to monitor us both and disconnected once they were inside. Once the paramedics were in the house they introduced themselves and checked on us both. Although I can’t remember their names, I’ll always remember both of those ladies, they were just so lovely and excited to be there and respected my wishes for how I wanted this next stage to unfold. By this point I was needing to sit down and get out of the cold of our laundry so we moved slowly, into our hallway. Colin sat next to me as I held our baby, waiting for the cord to stop pulsing. It was here that I finally was able to take a moment to glance down and really look at her, take in her little face, the human I’d been growing all this time. I’ll always remember that moment; ecstatic she was here, she was healthy, we were both safe. I remember the immense pride and strength I felt in myself, my body, my baby. We did it. Once the cord had stopped pulsing, Colin was able to cut it.
With the birth of my last baby I’d experienced a postpartum haemorrhage, so I’d been strongly advised to have the Pitocin injection. I wanted a chance to deliver without the drug, and this was the final plan with my midwives, we were just to have it ready to go in case. Once I was set up sitting on some blankets and towels, baby on my chest, the paramedic told me she would give me the injection so the placenta came away quickly. I let her know I wanted to push it out on my own, even with my history of a PPH and just wanted her to have it ready if it was needed. This next part was one of the harder stages, unlike my baby, I needed to really exert myself to bring the placenta out and it took around 40 minutes. It was here while waiting for the placenta to give away that baby latched on and we had some really beautiful skin to skin. Finally, with a last push the placenta came out.
The moment Eva met her little sister will forever be etched in my memory. My mum had kept the kids upstairs waiting until things were a little calmer. As soon as my placenta was out, down the stairs tiptoed Eva. A little surprised and timid at first, she then sat by my side, this beautiful, huge grin on her face; “She’s here mum, the baby, look at her”. We all sat together, baby snuggled on my chest under blankets, complete bliss.
It was now about 5am and time to move on to the hospital for both of us to be assessed. I stood up, bubs still held against my skin and laid down onto the stretcher to be transferred.
Along the way the paramedics kept a close eye on my postpartum bleeding and my blood pressure. Bubs stayed snuggled up on me and fed and dozed the way there. We arrived into the labour ward, straight into a room where my midwife was waiting to greet me. It was so lovely to see her familiar face and a huge wave of relief washed over me. On assessment she explained I’d experienced a simple second-degree tear and the doctor would come in to do the stitching. We were then left alone for a few hours to have some time together. By 2pm that day we were home, the five of us, snuggled up together on the lounge as the rain came down outside.
This last birth experience, although a complete and total shock and very much not what I’d planned, showed me just how resilient and strong I really am. When I’m up in the dark of the night, holding my baby girl, I think back to how it all unfolded and I’m still completely in awe of the power and strength that came from within me that morning. I also feel a deep new love and connection for my husband, for us together as a team. We did it. My body, my baby, my husband, together, we brought the final member of our family into this world.
Rosie Valentina Ford – Born 4.21am on Monday 28 June 2021.
*After Birth images by Tash Whitty Photography