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Blended family

My story begins in September 2013. The 28th of September to be exact, when I met the man of my dreams. I had 3 beautiful children from 2 failed relationships and was busy planning a future that involved buying many, many cats, when into my life swanned a magnificent, kind and glorious man.

I hadn’t anticipated finding love again, and I certainly hadn’t anticipated that I'd fall in love with a man who also already had a child. We married two years ago, and became a blended family of 6.

About a year ago, Hubby and I started talking vasectomies. It seemed like the right time. We had been married a year and felt right with our big blended family. It would be the responsible thing to do. We talked and we talked, but we never actually did anything about it. By September 2016 I realised after taking 6 different pregnancy tests, that I was indeed pregnant. I think it was about then I realised just how much I had been yearning for another baby. I think we both were.

There were a few things that led us to choosing to birth at home. I’m from Dunedin and my three prior births had been at Dunedin Hospital and were happy hospital births. I was young and had never heard of home birth so that option never really presented itself. We still live in a time where home birth isn’t really presented as an attractive option to new mothers. Aside from getting my waters broken to induce labour twice, I never needed any interventions. There was minimal trauma and they were always a reasonably pleasant experience. Because of that I felt confident in my pregnancy that when the time came, I’d be able to birth well. The times I was in hospital, there was never any rush to leave. There was space on the wards to stay a night or two to regain my strength before having to go anywhere further than the bathroom. That was the first thing that started the conversation about home birth with my husband. His oldest son was born at Christchurch womens so he knew more about how things went up here than I did. “What happens at Chch womens if I have a straightforward birth?” I asked him. “ Well you’ll likely have to leave within a few hours of birthing to free up the room”

Now anyone who’s given birth before knows what walking is like afterwards. It’s not pleasant for the first 24 hours, let alone the first few hours after birth. The next question I dared ask was “Where do we park the car?” “Well we could use the park and ride…”

Now my second child was almost born in the car on a ten minute drive to Dunedin hospital and labouring in the car was the worst experience of my life. There was no way I was using a park and ride while in Labour! And just like that, we ruled out going to Christchurch Womens unless we really needed to.

The next conversation was had with my beautiful midwife Heff and went something along the lines of “what gear do birthing units have that make them different to hospitals” she responded “the same gear I keep in my car”

After that it seemed pointless to even debate where to birth. At home we didn’t need to worry about parking, getting kicked out, or not having enough food. We wouldn’t need a babysitter for our giant tribe and I could sleep in my own bed and watch Netflix after. I created a box of entertainment for the kids with DVDs, board games, colouring sheets and treat foods. I gathered my crystals, candles and a mountain of pillows. I put up birth affirmations on the wall, beautiful art and handwritten notes from our children. We put a waterproof table cloth and some blankets on top of a foam mattress, got some old towels and just like that, we were ready to go.

I had a challenging pregnancy. I suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum from the minute those lines turned pink on the pregnancy test. I vomited almost every day of the entire 9 months. In and out of after hours, getting poked and prodded with needles, internal ultrasounds and IV fluids. I was rushed via ambulance to the hospital for emergency ultrasounds due to a large cyst causing excruciating pain. Towards the end I could barely walk due to symphysis pubis disorder. I ended up on crutches, politely declining the wheelchair they offered. Bubs even decided to be breech for a good chunk of my third trimester, just to mess with me, leaving me debating if I was going to be left requiring an emergency c-section.

Luckily I knew all these things would cease as soon as you were born. So I hung in there, eagerly anticipating the day you’d arrive and at 39 weeks I felt it. That twinge, that beginning of labour that I knew all too well. We called up Heff and I jumped in the bath, riding the contractions like waves. I had this, I knew I did. That was until 17 hours later and we hadn’t progressed. At all. In fact after 17 hours contractions stopped completely. Apparently I just had an ‘irritable uterus”. Yet another challenge to my pregnancy that I hadn’t anticipated. Except this one broke me for a while. For several days I wept and felt like my body had failed me and that the exhaustion and pain were never ending. For the first time in my pregnancy I felt like maybe I couldn’t do it and this was all too much.

You. My beautiful baby boy. I think you knew I was struggling. So you waited. And boy did you wait. On the 5th June 2017, At 12 days “overdue” I had the most incredible day. I felt rested. I felt content. I felt so very happy and full of love. It was just hubby and I at home, the older kids all off with their other parents. We ate good food and snuggled in bed. I felt huge and happy. I had accepted that you would come when you were ready and I was finally ok with it. And just like that, you knew it was time.

Not long after lunch, I felt that all too familiar twinge and my heart skipped a beat. The fear crept in a little and I attacked those negative thoughts with every positive affirmation I had pinned to my wall. Even if this was another 17 hours of nothing I CAN do it and I WILL. So I rode the waves of surges again, used my hypnobirthing techniques and I hid in my spa bath, hesitant to call anyone yet just in case it wasn’t real.

But it was real and suddenly my bathroom was full of people. Not just any people though, people I loved and trusted. My midwife Heff, my students Megan and Rachel. My backup midwife Elodie. MY husband, my best friend and her husband and our photographer Kimberly. Despite there being so many people, I felt at ease, at peace. This was my tribe and they were here for me. Like a giant blanket they surrounded me in silence, every one of them simply holding space for me to do what I needed to do. My husband held me in his arms as I mashed my face into the side of our bath, breathing down our baby.

The surges seemed to last forever. Wave after wave of intensity, testing my endurance, bringing you closer and closer to me. Then it hits. The feeling of such intense pain and the desire to quit. To just stop with this birth nonsense, throw a tantrum and run away from the pain. This is what I’ve been waiting for. I look at my husband and I manage to utter “hes coming now”

You see fourth time around I know from experience, that feeling of utter desperation and hopelessness is transition. It hits you like a brick to the head, but it means it’s time to meet your baby. The hard part is almost over.

I wasn’t wrong either. Knowing what that feeling meant, acknowledging it and harnessing every ounce of strength I had left, saw me push all 8lb 12 oz you out in one swift push.

Your father caught you at 9:02pm in his strong loving arms. He bought you through the water and onto my warm skin. Time stood still and my trembling arms held you for the very first time. And just like that

the fear, the anxiety of giving birth all melted away. I did it. And you knew all along that I could. I listened to my body and my baby and it was the best thing I ever could have done.

Weak and overwhelmed, my lover climbed into the bath to hold our son as I delivered the placenta. As the bathwater changed from clear to red, the colour from his face drained away. But he sat stoic in the bathwater supporting me, until I had recovered from the afterpains and felt ready to take my baby boy again. Never have I felt more love and adoration for my husband than I did in that moment.

We crept into our magical birthing pit after birthing the whenua and just like that our family had grown to 7. You slotted straight into our world of chaos and brought a whole new thread to our family, binding us all together as one. You. You were exactly what we didn’t know we needed.

Thank you Leith, for choosing me to be your mumma. And thank you, for listening to my body as well as your own, and allowing me to have this experience.

As women we often live in fear of the actual act of birth. Of the pain. But there’s only one way out of pregnancy. Mother nature never doubted our ability to birth, its only us who do that.

My home birth experience has changed me. I feel empowered. I feel strong. I have faith in my body and its innate ability to get stuff done. I have a whole new appreciation for the magic of birth. But a part of me feels saddened that I wasn’t aware of this option sooner. I wasn’t educated or empowered enough to understand that we really do have options when it comes to birthing our babies- and home is so much more than just an option. It’s an entirely different experience. Hospitals have their place and we need them for emergencies. But most births are not an emergency. Birth can be scary and unpredictable, but it is always beautiful. Don’t be afraid to talk about home birth and it being a real option for women in our community. I feel so lucky to have been able to not only have this experience, but the platform to be able to share it.

Thank you.

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