It has taken me quite some time (in fact 4 years) to feel comfortable sharing this birth story..... the birth of my beautiful, kind hearted, sensitive daughter, Matilda. I still feel a little nervous sharing it if I'm being completely honest. There are many complex layers behind the reasons I felt I wasn't yet ready to share it on my own website, although its been on Bree's (my birth photographer and friend) website since Matilda was 4 weeks old.
One of those reasons is the intense vulnerability I experienced when that very normal experience happened. Because of the beautiful images Bree managed to capture, Matilda's birth story ended up going viral. It left me feeling completely exposed (I felt like I was walking around naked in public.. all around the world) and far too much in the spotlight when I felt I should be so focused on the little tiny circle of love around me, I felt dragged out of that place and put on show. Let me try and articulate a little better. When a baby is born, so too is a mother. In that very moment her baby is born, she is transformed into a mother holding a baby, meeting her tiny gorgeous human for the first time ever. She is completely and utterly vulnerable in this transition.... A whole tsunami of emotions and love and instincts that she never knew existed now takes over her whole body. And she should be cared for and kept in a warm bubble of love and safety for those first weeks... not having her birth images go viral!
Those first moments were captured for me in images I will treasure for the rest of my days. I love them and adore them so much. There is a 'however' though.... in agreeing for them to be shared on my photographers site, I hadn't considered that the very normal, unremarkable thing I had just done, would intrigue and excite so many people. I didn't feel that the way my daughter was born was remarkable.... I still don't. Women all around the world give birth in cars, on footpaths, in the bush, in their laundries, in shopping centres etc etc every.single.day. And I had never seen anything of those births being plastered everywhere and had never heard of those wonderful women being contacted around the clock by blog writers, radio stations etc etc. It didn't seem like such a big deal.
I don't want my daughters birth to be seen as extraordinary or remarkable. I want it to be seen as it is..... beautiful, normal and natural. I feel very blessed to have those images of her entering the world and I will share a couple of them in this birth story. I share this to show you what a normal birth can look like. I am feeling strong and brave enough to share this so you can be inspired, not so that I can be on show. Her birth was not dramatic, despite its location. It was every bit as calm as it would have been had I birthed her at home and never gotten into the car. It was beautiful, and perfect and I would absolutely never wish to change how it unfolded. I hope it inspires you and ignites that desire for a normal birth... the birth your body is absolutely perfectly designed to have.
So here it is, the original story of Matilda's birth as I wrote it 4 years ago:
As with the previous 14 nights, I woke up numerous times with discomfort in my ribs. Like I had done all of those other nights, I got up, walked around the house and had a bit of a stretch, visited the bathroom checked the time, 2:40am this time, and got back in bed. Half an hour later, the ritual was repeated and again every half an hour until 3 hrs had passed. It was then that I realized the discomfort waking me was not only the discomfort in my ribs but was accompanied by surges (contractions- for those who have not done HypnoBirthing). At 5:50am I decided that I’d better get up so as not to wake the sleeping 3yr old next to me. I texted my Doula and my birth photographer to let them know I was experiencing surges and it could be the start of labour but I wasn’t totally convinced as I’d had no other signs of labour. I also went to tell my husband the same thing as he was getting ready for work. I decided then to go and jump in the shower and things really started to move, surges were strong and leaning forward hands resting on bent knees with the hot water flowing over my back felt incredible.
My shower comfort was ‘interrupted’ by the cries of our waking 3yr old and I promptly got out of the shower and headed to the bedroom to tell him “Mummy’s going to have our baby today”. This statement was met with absolutely pure excitement, his whole face lit up with the realization that “our baby is coming?!”. I had a surge shortly after my announcement and asked him if he could rub my back, to which he replied, “of course mummy, does it feel better fast or slow?”. This is one of the most beautiful moments of my labour, my 3 yr old rubbing my back through an intense surge and asking what felt better, what an incredible moment it was. I labored for another few surges in the bedroom with my son before practically running to get back in the shower- that hot water felt sensational and comforting on my working body. Each surge was stronger and more intense than the previous and brought me to my knees for comfort- on all fours or leaning forward were the most comforting positions for me.
My husband had contacted our Doula and birth photographer to let them know things were progressing rather quickly and between getting our son ready to leave for the hospital and packing the car he came to encourage and keep me focused on relaxing my body and letting my uterus and cervix do all the work. I checked my cervix at 7 am and it was only just beginning to open, so despite surges being only 4mins apart and 2 mins long, I thought I had more time.
Our Doula had told my husband to get me out of the shower since I was not wanting to get out of there, she knew I needed to get to the hospital. Reluctantly I got out, and things really sped up, I could hardly make it from one room to the next without having to stop for a surge. We jumped in the car and I knew it was going to be a challenge for me. I was laboring at home well, but needing to be on all fours; in the car I needed to sit upright without the ability to move. I jumped in, buckled up and off we went… for about 50 metres before going over the first speed bump. This was the only time I voiced anything like a crisis of confidence,” I don’t want to do this in the car, it’s too hard!!” I said as I had my first surge in the car. This was not great, we were on our way to Castlemaine Hospital, a 35min drive from our home and all I wanted to do was move!
My husband turned on my relaxation music and I kept my eyes closed during surges, opening them in between. I ended up keeping them closed for most of the trip so I could continue focusing my energy internally and not letting outside happenings distract me. With gentle and encouraging words from my husband and 3 yr old I remained focused and controlled, breathing through each surge and working with my body as it worked for me. Each surge I had I could feel my cervix opening and my uterus pushing my baby down, I visualized the blue satin ribbons and the opening rose as I really could feel my body doing that work. I also got into a great focus and rhythm (finally) between Ravenswood and the Harcourt/ Castlemaine turn off. I completely relaxed, visualizing at that point my surges as waves and using an internal mantra of “in and out (like the waves)”, my surges lulled and I was quiet and calm….
As my husband turned off toward Castlemaine I announced I felt the urge to bear down and told my husband he needed to pull over. He told me he didn’t want to because he thought we could make it to the hospital, I responded with something like “I don’t think we can make it you need to pull over, (POP) my waters just released and I can feel the head”, I reached down and felt a warm little head, I was excited and surprised at the same time. My husband then pulled over and quickly jumped out of the car, he came to the passenger side and opened my door as I lifted my bottom off the seat and only just had enough time to pull my pants down to my mid thigh before the baby’s head completely emerged with a gush of warm amniotic fluid. The next surge and her body came out into her daddy’s hands and I immediately reached down to pick her up and bring her to my chest. I was completely overwhelmed with love and joy and astonishment at how little notice she had given me that she was coming out right then! 3 surges and she was out, yes 3!
Charlie was in the backseat making comments about what he could hear and was so excited when my husband went to get him out to meet his baby sister. I heard a voice ask if everything was alright, and thinking my husband had flagged someone down I looked up to see that it was actually Bree (the birth photographer we had hired), who had followed us from home unbeknownst to me, and had captured everything from the moment my husband had opened the car door! I was completely elated that she had captured that wonderous moment, a moment that still sounds fictional everytime I say it outloud.
Everytime I share my perfect little girl’s birth story, there are faces filled with concern or amazement at the 'drama' that unfolded. To me, and my family, there was no drama, only beauty. She came when she was ready, we couldn’t plan that, and we did what we needed to do; we were calm and collected and at no time were any of us worried or concerned for the safety of our baby or myself. Everything was perfect. So perfect that everything I had focused on- time of day, length of labour, where Charlie would be, what she would look like, everything was exactly as I had prayed and focused on… except birthing in the car!
I had been so focused on what I was doing that I hadn’t realized we’d pulled over across from the little red apple shop; that to me was what made the whole experience even more perfect. Our daughter, Matilda May was born across the road from the Little Red Apple shop in our car, she is named after my Nan who was married to an apple orchardist, an apple orchardist whom my son was named after. It felt like she was born there with them watching over us, and it meant the world to me. Everything after that is a blur of time, but the paramedics came to check me and escort us to the hospital where we met with our Doula and my doctor, both of whom I was very happy to see.
Matilda’s cord and placenta remained connected to on another for 2.5 hours before we separated them and both of us were totally fine after the birth so we came home only 6 hours later. Since then we have fallen even more in love with our two children and it seems a life time ago that I had a big pregnant belly. Someone asked me the other day if I would describe Matilda’s labour as painful and at the time I said yes because it was so much more intense than my first labour… I’ve thought about it a lot since then and I have to say no, it wasn’t painful, it was work, my body was working and it felt like that burning you get when you do a long squat at the gym with weights; intense and hard but mostly it was just my body working and doing the job it was designed to do. ~ Corinne