I fell pregnant with our third child right before we were relocating two hours north of Sydney to Newcastle. I didn’t even think about hospitals or midwives because the fact is, we live in the 21st Century. In Australia hospitals are generally easy enough to get to, depending on your location. We were moving to another suburban area so I just thought I’ll book my place in once we settle into and unpack our lives.
In saying that, a month or two rolled by and I was about 15 weeks pregnant from memory. I remember where I was distinctly in our little rental when I made the first phone call to our local hospital. I had just put my two babies down for a nap. I sat down on my bed and dialled the number of the hospital to begin the process. Switchboard re directed me to the midwifery section, a mid wife answered and transferred me again… a kind voice answered. Taking the time to begin with just a few questions about my previous pregnancies and births. I answered all the typical questions adequately and was waiting for her to give me a time to come in and fill out the paper work. There was a pregnant pause (pardon the pun) and she explained very simply, probably too simply for someone who knew very little, if not any information about the subject “it’s probably best you have a home birth.” I shook my head “I’m sorry, a home birth. Ahhh, no. I won’t be doing that.” Thinking all the while how negligent can this woman be. Babies are born in hospitals, not in the home. Let’s just say that very narrow minded, uneducated point of view changed in the next few weeks.
I brought the conversation up with my husband that evening. We both laughed and shrugged it off. Happy to go into the hospital to do the usual, ‘not step out of the box, hippy, homebirth nonsense.’
We came in to meet the lovely staff two weeks later and to re-familiarise all the protocols that are needed with having a baby. As I type this, in reflection I can see now these lovely ladies wouldn’t be done with me yet and our decision making. We finally met one of the midwives face to face. I can’t for the life of me remember her name, however, she was centred in her being, calm, a natural beauty. I hoped I would have her to join me on this journey. The midwife turned directly to James and said “So, Homebirth. Are you going to do it? You guys live 40 minutes from hospital and Jennifer has birthed quickly prior to this pregnancy.” Clearly they knew my answer was a flat out no and were ready to work on James!
James was hesitant and replied with the usual questions. All the what if scenarios. And everytime we thought we would stump her, this very calming midwife responded with such a vast knowledge and experience. I cannot explain the feeling that came over us. Finally she stumped us with a question herself. “Who do you have to look after your children when Jennifer goes into labour?” We were the ones stumped. We couldn’t answer her. We just aren’t blessed with a community of people who we can trust and rely on. Yep, sucks at times and it’s sad. BUT…. my goodness, God works through those trials also and continuously sheds grace, strength, capacity and breakthroughs. (Can I get an Amen from all the mothers who don’t have a community! And an extra salute to those single mamas. I see you!)
We didn’t have anyone to take our children. Now the new questions were running through my mind. What if I labour a long time in hospital with little children there? What will the kids do the whole time? How can James look after the kids and me? Will the hospital cater to children being there when I’m labouring?
As we left the appointment James turned to me and said “Well that’s it, we are home birthing. I love this idea.”
I gave James a look and replied, “Are you serious?” I was so scared. The unknown, the uncertainty, the fear. I had to go and process it all. Knowing that James felt positive to embark on this journey did help me. He could see how wonderful it would be for our whole family. He could see the peace and calm in it all. I still had to process with the Lord to get to that point.
A few weeks had passed, I prayed and prayed. God was working on me, I saw the midwives who continued to work on me in their own way also. What I learnt over those weeks was clearly profound. Nothing new of course because there is no new revelations from God but it became a new and firm certainty in my heart. You see I always relied on hospitals. Without speaking it out loud, for myself there’s this safety when you turn up to a hospital that you’re in safe hands. Nothing can go wrong now. They have all the state of the art equipment to look after each patient and fantastic care.
When I could say this out loud, and recognise why I felt safety in the hospital I could move forward. It didn’t mean I was wrong in these thoughts so to speak. It’s incredible that we live in such an age where hospitals can help us. Help so many of our needs, nonetheless, I was lacking with my trust in God. I didn’t really need to depend wholeheartedly on Him. I didn’t need to hand over every fear I could think of because my faith was in the doctors hands.
What if I removed all that? The doctors, medical staff, equipment, safety, comfort, security? Then what? What would happen to me?
God stripped me back friend. And it was truly a beautiful thing. He doesn’t strip you back where there is fear or uncertainty or doubt. As He slowly strips back each question, each reluctance I was finding more and more promises from His word. More comfort from reading His words. More safety in the Great Comforter. The Holy Spirit. More peace than ever. I actually found myself thinking about my past two births and astonished that I had no fear then. Trusting a human?? I mean really? No mans fate is safe in the hands of another.
The hands of God, a completely different story!
I began finding Bible verses, verses that would empower me with Jesus by my side! Having them around my home and in the safe space in my bedroom where I intended to birth. I put these up weeks before I gave birth as daily reminders, my medicine so to speak to keep my mind clean and focussed. I spent more time in meditation. Pleading God to be in my home, my space as I birthed His precious child. I prayed over my baby. For the labour, the midwives, my family unit. And I spoke everyday with my two eldest children about what was going to happen when I went into labour.
People often ask me how my kids feel about sitting in on my labours. I tell them the truth. They don’t think it should be any other way. What I mean to say is, they think this is how everyone gives birth. The family is there to support. And in this reader, if they didn’t want to be there we would allow them not to be. It’s their choice. In fact I find joy in asking them each time if they would like to be there when mummy gives birth. Purely due to their response. Little squished up noses, squinty eyed… trying to work out why I would ask such a question, followed by a long “yeaaah” sound! Music to my ears and heart. Knowing they are close by.
And so, we decided to have a homebirth after all. The midwife would visit and conduct my checkups. Her name was Jenny. She was lovely. I didn’t get to choose her, she just showed up one day to my doorstep and introduced herself. She was tall and loved to talk. She had a thick Irish accent. Sometimes I couldn’t work out what she was saying. She was the type of woman who giggled after most of her sentences. I just giggled along with her.
My due date was the 10th of July 2016. Having had miraculously my first two babes on their due dates the pressure was on. Although, I thought highly unlikely.
That evening we did our usual things, dinner, star gazing (it was winter, a fantastic time to do it) and then popped the kids into bed. We came out and sat down to watch Master Chef. At about 8:30pm I felt a trickle of water seeping through my pyjamas. I walked into the bathroom, checked… nothing… and came to sit back down. At about 9pm I felt something strange again. I walked into the bathroom saw I had lost my ‘show’. James followed me in and saw. Oh boy, he was so excited, exclaiming “Oh, you’ll go into labour now.”
I had to calm the guy down. I told him just because it happened like that before doesn’t mean it will this time…. sheesh! Was I wrong.
I walked 3 steps out of the bathroom when I fell over the back of the couch in my first huge contraction. James was excited. Telling me he was calling the midwife. (She had said to call as soon as I have my first contraction due to my history). I shooed my hand at James and explained it wasn’t a contraction. I was in denial. Again, I felt another deep surge. I stood there hands on knees, hunched over breathing through it. James picked the phone up and rang the midwife. She was on call somewhere else so I had to brace myself for another midwife to turn up. One I’ve never met or connected with. However, at this stage, I couldn’t care less.
Fiona arrived after about 20 minutes into my labour. She had a midwife in training with her. I agreed to this. Shortly after the second midwife arrived. (Homebirthing rules are you must have two midwives. One for mama and one for baby).
The midwife in training had her face in my face, rubbing my back, telling me I was doing a great job. I was dying. I wanted to scream “get out of my face.” She didn’t know I labour very quietly. I need stillness to focus on each surge of pain. And they were coming in fast and hard.
James piped up and asked them some kind of question… which meant he could take the brunt of it. I told him to shut up. He paused as if to say, I’ve done nothing and it clicked for him…He explained to the ladies I need absolute peace and quiet. Fiona stood right near me. I could see her bare feet and tie dyed pants from the corner of my eye. Slowly she came down to where I was at. On my hands and knees. She asked me what she needs to know. I told her 3 distinct things I need from her.
Be strong. Tell me I can do this.
Lie to me if anything goes wrong. I worry too easily.
Check to see how dilated I am so I can brace myself.
Fiona was everything I could of dreamt of as a midwife and more. The way she stared me down. Her eyes focussed on everything I said. I can still remember exactly how blue they were. I remember how her silver hair fell on her face and I remember her presence. She was a real Mother Earth. It felt like she was a mother to me during the labour.
Noah and Scarlet were still sleeping at this stage. Fiona checked to see just how dilated I was. I was sitting at 8cm’. Heck, I thought. I could do this.
The lamps were on in our bedroom and that’s about the only light that shone. I looked up and felt that reassurance reading all the words God had said just for me in my hour of need. I cried out in my mind “Lord, help me. Strengthen me.” That’s all I could say over and over. I had this beautiful vision of my guardian angel. The one He assigned to look after me, covering me with his wings of protection.
Very soon it was time to push. The midwives could tell. I started to make a very low moaning sound. Turning onto my back. I was positioned down the side on the floor of my bedroom. We had towels, sheets and pillows. I leant back to push, I pushed again, and again. Each time pushing harder than I ever had with my previous births. Nothing was happening. I was tired. I called out “what’s wrong?” And to honour my requests, EVERYONE replied with the stock standard “nothing” response. I couldn’t for the life of me work out why everyone including my husband was telling me to get up and go for a walk. A walk? I mean, I’m literally birthing.
During this time James went and woke up the babes and brought them in. They sat up on the bed watching. The nurses pulled me to my knees, I felt the next intense contraction. I laid back down and pushed HARD. Real hard. My baby came out in two pushes. SHE WAS HERE, she was really here in my weak, shaking, exhausted arms. I had never felt so tired from birthing. I was pushing for 30 minutes. (Big respect for the women who push for hours). Anyway, back to the story. The children and James were nothing short of overjoyed at the arrival of Aquila Jael. She had thick black hair, like a Raven, little red lips and beautiful plump cheeks. Ready for a good feed.
I looked up to Fiona and asked why it took so long? She explained I had a posterior labour and finished by explaining “they are one of the most painful of all the births to have.“
After taking our time as a family to enjoy baby Aquila. Taking in her smell, her little fingers and ears, her wrinkly feet and perfect lips it was time for me to have a shower. Noah and Scarlet played happily with the gifts Aquila had gifted them and the midwives were busy doing all their checks of my baby girl.
James slowly walked me into the bathroom. The shower was already on, running warm water. As the warmth touched my skin it felt like I was being massaged all over my back. He stayed for a while to make sure I was ok. Then left to be with the children. I leant my hands up against the glass screen, looked up to the heavens and questioned my God. Questioned my creator. I asked Him very directly “why would you allow for the most painful birth to be my first homebirth experience?” Why Lord?”
At that exact moment Fiona walked in proclaiming “well done incredible mum!” I said “yeah, thanks… but it took ages to push her out.”
Fiona challenged me. Asking me to research how long it takes a posterior baby to be born.
I opened the shower screen door and simply asked “why?”
She proceeded to humble me, “Hours Jennifer. It takes hours to labour and hours to push. And the pain is all in your back. You did it all in one and a half hours.”
Once she left I burst into tears. I felt no pain in my back at all. In fact out of all my four labours, this one felt the most like I could handle each surge better than the rest. Tears of love, adoration and yes sorrow too. I was sorry for questioning my great God. A God who has had His hand on me since the very beginning of my life. I could see Him so clearly all this time in my pregnancy…. why would He run or flee from me now. Yes, He humbled me. Gently as always. Holding me as His corrects my doubt, my sin. I looked up again and this time out loud shaking my head, tears rolling down my face. I spoke out loud “thank you, thank you Jesus. That you love me this much. Thank you. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for doubting. Thank you.”
I was thankful, deeply awe struck in praise to my God. The God who created life, who created me, created women to be strong enough to handle labour, who created my beautiful perfect baby girl (all of them for that matter). I was thankful that His promises remain true.
I’ve kept those Bible verses. I’ve used them again for the birth of our fourth child. This week I will pull them out again and place them around my home as a good reminder of the pain that will come, and indeed it will come and no doubt I am just as scared- but I know the assurance of Jesus standing firm with me in the pain. I’ve felt it before. It’s real dear reader.
And who knows, perhaps I can pass these little notes of promises onto my children when they each experience their own births. Their own journey to rely wholeheartedly on the name of the Lord.