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My home birth turned hospital transfer - Definitely not a failure!

After returning home from the hospital just a few hours following the birth of our daughter, I found myself grappling with some unexpected emotions. The prospect of explaining our transfer to certain family members, who had been vocal about their concerns regarding our "unsafe" choice to have a home birth, left me feeling a twinge of annoyance. Despite having experienced an epic, unmedicated birth just hours earlier, there lingered a subtle sense of "failure" because it happened in a hospital rather than our planned living room delivery. However, through thoughtful reflection and insightful debriefs with remarkable women like @janehardwickcollings, I've come to recognize the strength and wisdom in my decision to transfer—a decision that taught me when to seek more support, a skill I had struggled with for years.

Even now, nearly three years later, as I sit here 29 weeks pregnant with our second child, preparing for another home birth, I find it fitting to reflect on the remarkable birth of our daughter, Koa. While the timing and details of the birth are well-documented through our camera footage, allowing me to revisit moments where my memory may falter, I've never fully documented the complete birth story until now.

Regarding how to label Koa's birth – was it a "homebirth," a "freebirth," or, after the transfer, should it now be considered a "hospital birth"? While these labels hold little significance for me, providing some context about our chosen support system is essential. Our "Midwife," technically an unregistered midwife due to changes in government regulations at the time of her homebirth apprenticeship training meaning she could never get her registration and there for we can't really use the word midwife. Although she wasn't officially registered, this was more than ok with us and we resonated with her wise woman presence and woman-centered care. Her trust in the birthing process, lack of pressure regarding due dates or baby's size, and the remarkable continuity of care made our chosen birth team feel incredibly supportive.

In the lead-up to Koa's birth, I experienced four nights of prodromal labor, each night growing more intense yet consistently subsiding with the sunrise. Not an ideal start to the labour marathon, but this was to be my journey.

On the afternoon of Sunday, May 16, 2021, things seemed to be progressing for real this time. By 4 pm, mild contractions started while we were at the beach, my partner catching his last surf before baby's arrival, and me relaxing in the van and on the beach.

Upon returning home, things continued to progress. My beautiful friend (and fellow osteopath) gave me a lovely leg rub as I had been cramping in my legs for days. As evening set in, so did the contractions, and by midnight, they were frequent and consistent, prompting our contraction timer app to suggest going to the hospital. However, our plan was to stay at home. Messaging our birth keeper, who agreed things sounded promising, she opted for a bit more rest before heading to us in the morning.

During the early hours of established labor, the intensity grew, making it clear that this was the real deal. I shifted between the birth ball, a makeshift contraption I'd designed (later becoming The Birth Sling by Dr. Jess Michaels®), and the bathtub. With the cold night and a roaring fire, the atmosphere was beautiful.

Our two birth witnesses arrived around 7 am on Monday, and things continued to progress, a relief as new energy entering the birth space can sometimes slow things down. I decided to fill the birth pool and get in, a choice I later reflected on, wishing I hadn't entered so early. The warm water provided relief but also slowed the process. I would be in and out of that birth pool many times over the course of the next couple of days.

Moving between the birth pool, the bedroom, the mattress on the floor (mostly in a hands-and-knees position), and my improvised birth sling, the days blurred into nights and nights back into days. Tuesday, the 18th, arrived, and the realization that she hadn't arrived overnight was disheartening. Despite breaks in intensity, the consistency remained. By this point, I was mentioning the possibility of transferring to the hospital around lunchtime. My partner prepared the car, and I got out of the pool to get ready to go. That's when I noticed a bit of fluid leakage and some bloody show, offering tangible progress and encouraging me to labor at home a while longer.

Throughout this time, our birth team rotated in taking breaks, leaving my partner and me to enjoy some alone time, drawing cards from my goddess deck... the card I drew was "changing woman" which felt encouraging. Contractions were intense, but the birth team's support, including inversions, rebozo techniques, acupressure, and hot towels, helped me navigate each moment. Despite the increasing intensity, there was never concern for the baby's well-being, and I knew I was physically okay, though fatigued and weary.

By 8:30 pm on Tuesday, the 18th, I decided it was time to go to the hospital.

We debated how to get there, and my initial thought of an ambulance was quickly dismissed – this wasn't an emergency, just a chosen transfer. So, in the back seat of our small SUV, over the new baby car seat, I traveled in style to Coffs Hospital.

As we arrived amid the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, none of the extreme mandates about partner and birth support restrictions had reached our area. This allowed for a relatively calm entrance into the hospital, with absolutely no intention of wearing a mask during labor, a ridiculous thought in my mind.

Upon arrival, we were met by the night team, and to my surprise, the main person addressing me was a male midwife, the Clinical Midwifery Educator. This felt strange and really significant for me at the time. I initially assumed he was an OBGYN. He was super kind and supportive and reassured us that, despite the transfer, I was still in charge. Expressing my need for pain support and IV fluids due to vomiting, I underwent initial checks to assess my condition and ensure the baby was head down. At this point, I was essentially thinking, "Do whatever, just not synto or antibiotics—take the pain away." Lucky for me, the male midwife suggested sterile water injections, a non-invasive alternative. Accepting the injections brought immediate relief to my back pain, changing the sensations completely!they then hooked up an of IV for fluids, reassuring me that it was nothing else but saline in the drip.

Back in the pool, I finally felt the change, starting to get pushy as the sounds and movements indicated the imminent arrival of our baby.

Shortly after transition the female OB-GYN entered, urging me to leave the pool for another vaginal exam. She wanted to check if I had a cervical lip… she was concerned I had been in labour for a long time (cheekily we had told them it had only been about 20ish hours and not the full 48 hours) and was worried I could be pushing on a swollen cervix. Our birth witness gently intervened, expressing her belief that if I left the water, the baby would arrive before I could get back in. I told the OB that I would have a feel for myself and push the tissue out of the way. As I did I finally could feel that baby was right there… something hard when I put my fingers inside. The OB continued to insist and this is when My incredible partner chimed in and told her "to come back in an hour and there would be a baby here". She left after this. Shortly after, with roaring screams, I birthed our baby. Id say the pushing phase (or second stage) lasted around 1-1.5 hours.

With a triumphant roar, I experienced the "ring of fire" I had heard so much about, and her head emerged. The brief pause between her head and the next contraction felt like an eternity. Fears of needing my partner to catch her in case I couldn't reach her were dispelled as her short cord placed her right in front of me. I pulled her up out of the water, and as she looked right into my eyes, it became the most incredible and beautiful moment of my life. Tears didn't stream down my face, perhaps due to a mix of shock and delirium from three sleepless days, but I was awe-struck by her beauty.

After spending a blissful moment as a family of three in the birth pool,

with Koa having her first latch, the hospital midwife suggested moving to the bed for rest. I declined the "injection to help release the placenta," and shortly after, my placenta came naturally. Before settling into bed with our daughter, they checked for tears, finding none, a huge relief!

Reflecting on my hospital transfer, I've come to appreciate the strength and wisdom in knowing when to seek more support. As I prepare for our second home birth, I carry the lessons and empowerment gained from both the planned and unplanned aspects of my birthing journey.

home birth, home birth transfer, due date,
preparing for our home birth

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