Life lessons learned from childbirth…

03.08.11 | Posted in General Parenting

One of the things I love doing most is helping others see that they can achieve whatever they put their minds to. It’s all about mindset and whether you believe you can, or believe you can’t. Same goes with childbirth, which is why I’m sharing the story of my second daughter’s birth here. If you didn’t catch it, read my first daughter’s birth story here.

So we called this little cherub Honey because I really wanted (needed??) a sweet little child after my very spirited and independent first. I’m hoping her name will help her grow into that.

Honey was fifteen days overdue. These 15 days were tough for me, not because of being huge and pregnant (although sleeping was uncomfortable toward the end) but because of the pressure I was receiving. I had people calling me saying (inadvertently) that I was putting the baby at risk (what?) and asking in a concerned tone “Oooh, what are you going to do?” My answer was always: “I am going to do nothing. I believe strongly in the natural process of birth and labour, and I am going to let it unfold.” And unfold it did (eventually….)

Lesson Number 1: Don’t take on other people’s fears or negative energy. Ever. Just don’t do it. It’s their stuff, not yours.

Lesson Number 2: Don’t do things just because everyone else is doing them. Just because the majority of people go to hospital to have an induction if their baby is ‘late’, consider your options. I researched induction while I was overdue and the fact is that there is (in the most part) very little reason to induce healthy babies and low-risk mothers.

My labour started at 11pm on Sunday night three weeks ago. My hubby (Rowan) was asleep so I decided not to wake him, and I lay in bed enjoying the contractions and texting with my gorgeous friend Dani who kept telling me jokes and making me laugh. Every now and then I’d have to pause to have a contraction, and eventually I had to tell her I couldn’t text any more because they were too strong.

By about 12am I couldn’t do the contractions on my own any more so I told Row and we moved downstairs. We’d set up our house for the birth several weeks before but there was still stuff to be done. I got busy lighting the tens of candles around our lounge room, putting on music, and pulling the Powerades out from the back of the fridge. Row lit the fire (it was a really cold night) and then he started filling the birthing pool. In between all of this, my contractions were getting pretty strong. In Milla’s birth (my first daughter’s) there was a long and steady build up of contractions (her labour was 23 hours) so I could integrate them easily, but these were fast and furious! Seems the little baby who’d kept me waiting all this time had made up her mind and was not going to wait any longer.

We called our doula Rochelle (a doula’s a birth support person) who arrived half an hour later. A few people have asked why we needed a doula this time around, but there was no question in my mind that we’d do better having the extra support. Firstly, a doula can provide a female perspective/touch that the husband can’t, and an extra pair of hands (especially when you’re birthing at home like we do) can be really helpful. Rochelle helped me with contractions when Row was off boiling kettles for the pool (yep, we ran out of hot water that night!) and then they switched roles and she did ‘kettle duty’. Also, I find that having a doula who has birthed herself before (Rochelle has four kids) and believes in the natural process of birth really gives you confidence while you’re in labour.

Lesson Number 3: In life, as in birth, you can never have enough support. Surround yourself with people who give you confidence in your own abilities, and people that you can draw strength from.

By this point I knew things were heating up as the contractions were really intense, but neither Row, Rochelle or I thought it’d move this quickly. We had a few discussions as to whether we’d call the midwife (it was past 2am by now) and decided we shouldn’t just yet. It seemed like just a minute after we’d made that decision that the contractions got even stronger and I said that perhaps we should call.

And lucky we did! I started to really want to have the baby as soon as we’d notified the midwife but knew she had at least a 25 minute drive to our place, so I had to hang on. Rochelle coached me on how to hold back, and it felt like years before the midwife finally arrived.

As soon as she arrived, I jumped (ok, let’s rephrase that), I climbed gingerly into the pool and waited for the next contraction. In two contractions the bub’s head was out, and then her body slid out easily with the next. The midwife was only there for 15 minutes before I had the baby, and the whole labour had taken just over four and a half hours.

The most beautiful thing about this birth was that I did it all myself.

Lesson Number 4: I love this saying: ‘If it is to be, then it’s up to me.’ Nothing truer can be said about women in childbirth. While you can have all the support in the world around you, no one can have your baby for you. I’ve heard of women becoming like damsels in distress in labour, reaching out to others and hoping they can take away the pain, or hoping they can have the baby for them. Ain’t gonna happen. At some point during your labour you realise that it’s just you, and nobody can do it for you.

We didn’t have any interventions whatsoever with this birth and no one assisted me (physically.) No one touched me once during the second phase of the labour, as I delivered my baby. I was in the pool by myself and listened to my body and knew exactly what to do (helps if you’ve done it before mind you!) The result was that I birthed a 4.15kg baby with no pain relief and no tears or stitches required. I believe that this is due to a) the water – birthing in water is so gentle; b) the environment we created – to be in your own home with all your own things and smells and creature comforts is such a blessing; c) the fact that we could control who we wanted there and both of those people were people I loved and respected d) my preparation for this birth – I watched DVDs, got out my old books, journalled about the experience I wanted and attended pre-natal classes again, to get back into the birthing energy; and e) I strongly believe that as women we are in perfect design to give birth and there are so many benefits (to both mother and child) if we can do it gently, powerfully and naturally.


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32 Comments

  1. Irritated

    Did you have any contingency whatsoever for if something DID go wrong? E.g. meconium or cord prolapse?

    I believe in education and as little intervention as possible, but you have spoken about birth as if you can visualise yourself into an easy, safe and healthy birth. You were lucky that it turned out well, for many women it doesn’t and a complete lack of intervention is fine up until the point that it is needed.

    There’s a reason female mortality dropped considerably after increased developments in antenatal and birth care.

    I feel like you would judge people who don’t take your path just as much as you felt judged by those who thought you were irresponsible leaving your well overdue baby to cook further. I agree that you weren’t wrong, but intervention isn’t wrong either.

    • Emma

      Hi there Irritated,
      Yes we did have a contingency plan, thanks for asking. I sat a registration and interview process at our local hospital which is five minutes away. They had all my blood test results, ultrasounds and medical history. If a transfer was required I would’ve been the first to go.
      Yes, the medical model and hospital system has saved many women’s lives and thank God we have it. On the flipside, I believe it’s created a culture of women not believing they can birth naturally and in so many instances has left women feeling disempowered and feeling like they’ve failed.
      I would never judge my friends (nor acquaintances) for their birth choices. Three of my best girlfriends had elective c-sections and I supported them wholeheartedly, as they did my choices.
      All the best to you Irritated.

  2. Sally

    Just gorgeous…you are so blessed to have 2 wonderful birth stories. I am pleased to say in a country (i live in Dubai) where natural is not the norm and home is out of the question, i was able with the support of a beautiful doula and faith in myself and my body to deliver totally naturally at hospital after 3 days of labour and many, many “you should get this baby out, intervention suggestions”. I was 5 1/2 weeks early and i decided that every second counts and he would come when he was good and ready. i had to argue all the way through labour that if baby was fine then I was waiting for as long as it took. You are an inspiration! I hope for 4 hours next time round :-). i say to anyone that asks how anyone can stand that pain, that it is the most powerful, devine pain i have ever experienced and i can’t wait to feel it again. Much love to baby Honey and your family. xx

    • Emma

      Thank you darling Sal for sharing your story here. You stuck to your guns and got the result you wanted. Bravo! And yep – I can’t wait to do it again too! xxx

    • Emma

      100!% I’m not condoning for a second that homebirth is for everyone. What I am condoning is that women should birth where they feel most comfortable, safe and supported, and for me that’s at home. For others it will be at hospital. The other thing I stand for is people sharing their positive stories – most of the time all we hear is negative ones. That was certainly the case for me anyway.
      Thanks for your comment!

  3. Fiona Pascoe

    Dear Em,

    I got the message about it being candle time the morning of my date with Heston Blumenthal’s 10 course degustation extravaganza so i was with my besties around the table too and we all had a cheers to you and your forthcoming journey (just so you know). I wish I knew the exquisite pain of childbirth and hope that if I am ever lucky enough to know it, I would be as brave and prepared and safe and confident to make the same choices as you have done so beautifully with both the girls.

    Thank you for sharing this story, my love to you all, Fi xxx

  4. Mel

    Thank you for writing so beautifully and sharing your story. My daughter was 16 days late (arbitrary dates anyway!) so, you had me from the start! I have had two beautiful homebirths and its seriously the most empowering thing I have ever done – and will ever do. Sharing stories such as this are like precious gold, your lessons are encouraging and inspiring… keep writing, Mel

  5. Emma

    Oh Fi! I can’t believe I even got a look in while you were amongst all that decadence – what an experience! I too hope that you experience the exquisite pain of bringing a soul into the world – that’s my wish for you xxxxx

  6. Emma

    Nice to ‘meet’ you Mel! Thanks for your lovely comment and congrats on your two wonderful births. Appreciate you sharing xx

  7. Kerry

    Yes – thought this post may bring a little controversy. I applaud you too Emma. I’ve 3 children with the last two being water-births at the hospital. I wasn’t doing it to be ‘alternative or rebelious or even different’. I personally love soaking in a deep bath and love the nurturing qualities of water. (The bouancy certainly helps too)!. I strongly agree that the ‘pendulum effect’ of better development in birth care to reduce mortality has and is still taking away women’s power to believe in their own strengths (mind and body). I’m sick of hearing about how ‘hard’ birth is and how there is ‘no need to suffer’. I didn’t suffer!! Yes, it bloody hurt but I saw it as part of the process – a managable pain if I put my ‘mind’ to it. I’m sick of women who choose a natural option being branded as ‘martyrs’. We are the normal ones! I don’t judge women who choose elective cesareans or drugs for pain relief. (Although I do think some of them are selling themselves short and talk themselves into the fear) Truly – each to their own. But don’t judge me for choosing to take control of my own giving birth. Why shouldn’t I??? 99.9% of it is all in your mind.

  8. sharon vandermeer

    After a frantic day at the office I climbed into bed and read your latest Blog Emma. I have to say it was a lovely blog and I agree whole heartedly that trusting your own decsions is a must (not that I always do it). Every one has an opinion and is definitely entitled to it but at the end of the day you ultimately have to live with the decisions you have made. When I have made many very important and hard decsions I really trust my inner self. Your blog is a timely reminder to do just that. And it was just a wonderful recount on the birth of Honey. You must put it aside and read it to Honey when she is older…I think it will bring a tear to her eye! Great feel good Blog!

  9. alexx

    love this post emma. we did the calm birth weekend down in bowral with Peter Jackson which was blissful, and although we couldn’t stay in the birth centre and ended up 38hrs later with an emergency C, the process of birth, you owning your experience & knowing that women are designed to do this, is so essential to your ability to make it a positive & amazing journey, whatever the twists and turns in the road to getting your little one out into the world & help from modern ‘save the dayers’ you need. others might think: ‘well your calm birth was a disaster… and they did & they told me, on repeat!’, I honestly loved the whole experience. Eye on the prize and all that…

    hope it’s going well & she’s nice and chilled as you hoped :-)

    • Emma

      Hey Alexx,
      Thanks for your comment. We did Calmbirth with Peter Jackson too (for our first birth..) Awesome, huh?
      I love your positivity – you never know what experience you’re going to get but I love that you guys responded so well to what you were given (this time!)
      Hope you guys are all well and that you’re remembering to put the parsley in the scrambled eggs!
      Emma xx

  10. Michka

    I absolutely support Emma in her brithing choices even if they are completely opposite to mine. I am one of her closest friends that had an elective C-Section and I have never felt for one second judged or question for my decision by her. If fact the opposite, I have always felt supported around her, not making one judgement of me for my decision. She has always said that every women has her right to chose to birth her way no matter what that is. I guess there is a reason Ms irriatated named herself that because she is irriating and obviously doesnt even know Emma at all personally to even presume that she would be unsupportive other women’s choices if they were different to hers. Emma Issacs you are such an inspitation to all women not matter what they chose to do in their live in birthing babies, running business, or different spititual or even sexual orintation paths you are so generous with your unconditional love for the people that cross your path and I feel blessed to have you in my life and I thank you for sharing YOUR birth story.. ~Love Love ~

  11. Helena

    Thankyou for sharing this inspiring story – it really is excellent to read about other women giving birth at home – making an informed choice to have a natural birth.

    Emma, I wish that I had seen more stories like yours before I had my first child – all I knew then was the mainstream obstetrician and hospital path – that was the way everyone did it, or so I thought.
    13 months of one bad experience after another that started with too much intervention at birth, my daughter passed away & it took me 5 years before I was ready to have a baby again. And this time I did a lot of research and swore I would do everything differently in the hope that the same bad things wouldn’t happen again.

    Consequently, I had a water birth at home with my son in 2008 and he is beautiful and healthy. As for “Irritated’s” comments – I did have a contingency plan in place that I did use – while my son was born fine, the placenta had other ideas and I did need to go to hospital to have a general anaesthetic and the placenta manually removed – a little disappointing given I had not had any pain relief at home, but better to have support and know when it’s time to change direction if needed.

    I think it’s important for women to hear all the options available to them to enable them to make a true choice for what is best for them and their baby – not just accept the default position of the mainstream medical establishment.

  12. The SheEO

    Good on you Emma for sticking to your beliefs, and congratulations. I’m glad that we live in a country and time where women can be empowered with choices in this important life experience. I know that in my own childbirth experience my own choices gave me huge comfort and confidence (though my choices were very different to yours) and I too was very fortunate that nature co-operated to give me a healthy baby without too many troubles at all. It truly is an amazing journey to take, bringing new life int the world, and reading your story reminds me of just how marvelous it really is.

    • Emma

      Thanks Jen, lovely words, and let’s hope that Australian women continue to have birthing choices – the situation’s a little precarious and very contentious at the moment….

  13. Liv

    Such a beautiful story Em… it may be because in my life I haven’t had the blessing of growing up around babies (we moved interstate when I was 5 and weren’t anywhere near our extended family), but this story is one of few that have really resonated with me enough to give me any kind of guidance for my future. And at 29 it’s probably come at a handy time!

    I’m still a few years away from all this, but I had decided a while back that when the time came I would have a c-section to avoid the physical trauma. After hearing your story, there’s no way I’m letting anyone take that experience away from me!

    What I took from your story is that the ideal situation is to know you have choices about which path you take, and you should know that, and not just accept the conventional path by default, or the path others say is right for you.

    Each to their own absolutely – there is no right or wrong way, there is only the right way for each individual. But I (now) know what I want for myself. xx

    • Emma

      Hi Liv – I was the same as you at first. I spent my entire childhood and early adulthood being petrified of childbirth. But you need not be! I’ve done a lot of stuff in my life but giving birth pretty much tops the lot and I hope you find exactly the same when your time comes. Em xx

  14. Bern

    This was just beautiful to read. I just loved every minute – felt like I was there! Thankyou for sharing and congratulations.

    I had a c-section and realised that even though I enjoyed it at the time, was bought down by people afterwards telling me it was wrong- it seems that no matter what we choose, someone is always there with some type of negative comment! I could relate totally to your experience you had in the leadup to the birth Emma.

    I think I started to become programmed to believe I had a negative experience because that’s what I was told c-sections were supposed to be – rather than believe the reality of what I experienced. It is so odd how people can change what you think. I got myself together and started talking positively about it and bought myself back to that magical day.

    It is so good to hear of friends supporting each other. Unfortunately I am not so close to some who decided pregnancy and birth was a competitive sport.

    Thanks again and I hope you are enjoying the early days.

    • Emma

      Good on you Bernie for owning your experience and remembering that you had in fact loved it! It can be hard not to be swept up by others (especially when you’re so full of hormones and are sleep deprived!) Appreciate your lovely words and thanks for taking the time to comment, Emma

  15. Linda

    Hi Emma

    It’s so good to read birthing stories where people stick to their guns. I was 14 days over with my first little one, and I was quite comfortable with that, in fact I tried to get them to let me go to 16 days! It was everyone else who was freaking out. But of course, nature took it’s course (might have taken a while about it) and when my wee girl came out she was alert, calm and serene, and always has been.

    While western medicine is wonderful, there’s a lot to be said for educating yourself and knowing your own body. What’s irritating is that people *like irritated* presume you’re doing things blind. When it comes to pregnancy it’s totally amazing how many women decide they now own a piece of you and feel the need to force their opinions upon you in the belief they’re protecting *your* unborn child.

    I’m about to do it all again soon, and am sure my birth plan will go out the window like the first time, but that’s ok because I know it’ll unfold as it’s meant to. And in the end, you’re right, no matter how many people are there in the room with you, it’s all up to you.

    All the best with your new wee addition to the family :)

    • Emma

      Thanks Linda – all great points – and all the best for your impending birth!

  16. Lucy

    Hi Emma,
    I have waited a while before checking yourblog to read about your 2nd birth. I was so inspired by your 1st birth story, i was hoping you could have a similar experience with your second. Congratulations…
    Your stories have given me hope and helped me stand by my ideals and intuitive feelings.
    Thankyou Emma,
    Take care,

    Lucy :)

    • Emma

      Thank you Lucy. It was beautiful on a whole other level. Appreciate you checking back here and thanks for your lovely comment. Emma

  17. Big EMMA K

    Hi Little Em,
    I applaud you for your courage and conviction, in ensuring both your children were born comfortably and without trauma. (I’m also glad you had a back up “just in case” plan too) Lovely to hear you and hubby are growing the brood too. I love hearing beautiful stories like this….keep ‘em coming!
    BIG Em
    xx

  18. Melinda

    What a beautiful story!
    Both of my chidrens births were very similar and it’s a story I love retelling over and over again.
    Bringing a child into the world is such a beautiful thing and I think it’s important for women to educate themselves and know that they can make their own decisions.

  19. Rosemary Milne

    Hi Emma congratulations on your lovely birth of Honey. I just entered the competition with Business Chicks and Officeworks to win mentoring with you. So I was surprised when I went then to look at the Business Chicks website to find you were so involved in birth!
    My business as a midwife and mother of four is designed to reduce the stress associated with pregnancy and parenting. One in six women will have antenatal and/or postnatal depression and partners suffer too. I have designed a business program to help . I have many years experience as a midwife, mental health nurse and parent ( most valuable experience!)and have experience with complementary therapies.
    Wishing you a blissful time with your new little one. Rosemary

  20. Rebecca

    Wonderful to read this blog and gain another perspective and womens experience – congratulations on the arrival of honey, a beautiful name!

  21. Rebecca McQueen

    Good on you for sharing your positive birth experience, Emma. The WHO stats say internationally close to 80% of women require no interventions for birth – our numbers in the Western world don’t reflect this but our overall outcome of healthy mums and baby is much better. How do we find the balance…?There surely is a middle ground, just haven’t struck it yet. Maybe its about preparing parents for labour and birth in a practical way? That’s what we reckon, anyway. Welcome to the World little Honey, your Mummy is a rock star. Bec from Birth Sense Aust.