I came across a poster for Hobart calmbirth classes and, although I wasn’t particularly nervous about labour and birth, I felt that the calmbirth emphasis on the naturalness of labour and on breathing and relaxation would be the perfect preparation for the birth of our first child. My partner, James, and I attended Kelly’s classes over five evenings. The classes were lovely and intimate and so relaxing that I even fell asleep a few times! We took the CDs and booklet home and practised regularly, increasing to once a day from 34 weeks. Practising with the CDs was a lovely relaxing experience that we would look forward to at the end of a hectic day.
As the pregnancy progressed everything fell into place for us to have a waterbirth and continuity of care with a midwife friend, all within the public hospital system. Everything was going perfectly until at 37 weeks my blood pressure was found to be elevated and high levels of protein were detected in my urine. Two days later, these pre-eclamptic signs were so severe that it was decided our baby should be born as soon as possible to prevent harm to both the baby and myself. An induction was scheduled for that morning. My midwife friend was interstate for a few days and talk of an emergency caesarean was being bandied around: suddenly nothing was going according to plan.
The doctors were very considerate and courteous and, given my expressed enthusiasm for a natural birth, agreed to induce slowly. I was given one treatment of prostaglandin gels and told that they’d give me another dose the next day, before progressing to more aggressive induction measures. An hour later James and I went out to lunch with my family at the nearby chocolate factory. During lunch I started having mild sensations in my lower back. We returned to the hospital for a routine blood-pressure check and then settled down to play cards. We played a couple of games over two hours during which I was having sensations approximately one minute apart for around 30 seconds. Every time one started I’d have to leap from my chair and move around until it passed. I also had a show about midway through the cards. I told the midwives but they couldn’t believe I was in labour and told me that nothing would happen until at least the next day.
After our second card game ended I was finding it hard to focus and was ready to get in the tub in the birthing suit. I sat down on the toilet as the bath filled and my waters broke with a pop. Almost immediately I felt an uncontrollable urge to push. A midwife came in and encouraged me to fight the urge as she felt I couldn’t be far enough along for it to be helpful. That was really tough but I just lay forward in the tub letting James support me and my muscles go limp as I breathed through the sensations. This was a really intense but beautiful time. We’d read all about labouring women verbally abusing their partners and were prepared for the worst, however, in our case it was actually really romantic and loving and I was amazed by how incredible James was and how we worked as a team with our baby.
I wasn’t very aware of time, but around two hours later I felt the urge to get out of the tub and reaching between my legs felt the head in the birthing canal. The midwife was sceptical that things could have progressed so far. I didn’t want to be examined so she got me to describe in detail what I was feeling before she could believe our baby was nearly there. Around 20 minutes later our perfect baby girl was born serenely into the world. She was placed on my belly and over the next 40 minutes climbed up to the breast, stimulating the natural birthing of the placenta.
I have no doubt calmbirth contributed enormously to our beautiful, calm, 5-hour, natural labour and birth, particularly in the face of pre-eclampsia and induction. Doing the preparation together really helped James and I work together as a team far better than I could possibly have imagined and you couldn’t find a teacher more enthusiastic, genuine and generous than Kelly.