I had the absolute honour of photographing Colleen whilst she was pregnant and again once Acacia was safely earth side; I am filled with gratitude when clients not only entrust me to capture this amazing journey into parenthood but trust me with their story as well.
Colleen’s story is amazing and when I suggested that she put her story into words, she did, and she is proud to share her story here with you all;
aying back on my couch with my three week old daughter asleep on my chest, I can almost forget the challenges I faced delivering her into this world. Right from the beginning of my pregnancy I had other women, mothers especially, telling me what I could and couldn’t do now that I was pregnant. The hardest part of pregnancy was having other women tell me what I was doing wrong, rather than ask me how I came to the decisions and beliefs that I had. Our biggest issue as a Western society is this conditioning we have instilled into women that there’s something wrong with their bodies and they need doctors, nurses, and drugs in order to fix it. What’s wrong, with the perfectly designed female body? The ability to bare children apparently.
Throughout my pregnancy I didn’t follow all of the “rules”. Using common sense and using intuition along with the internet and my midwife’s feedback I came to my own conclusions and worked out what was best for me and my pregnancy. A rebel with a desire for an old school approach to pregnancy and birth, with a little sprinkling of current scientific research and information. My husband and I decided the Family Birth Centre was the place for us. We went to the birth classes and even took a Hypnobirthing Australia™ course which gave us more information and empowered us to know our rights and gave us some skills to help get us through the labour and birth process.
When I went into labour it was 3:30am and I awoke to what felt like a long cramp in my lower abdomen. I laid in bed beside my sleeping husband, who was blissfully unaware, trying to sleep between surges. With each surge I knew my baby was preparing to make their entrance into this world and despite this discomfort I was quite excited. Eventually I found it impossible to sleep between surges, so I told my husband that I was in labour, but we had plenty of time. I told him to sleep and that I was going to go to living room, so I didn’t keep him up. It wasn’t until 9 or so that morning that my mum (who was visiting from the States emerged from her room, I was laid out across the couch and when I saw her I smiled and said, “I’m in labour, the surges started around 3:30 this morning.” She smiled back and continued to the shower to get her day started. She made me some eggs and made sure I was drinking water and as the day wore on she timed my surges. I spent some time walking around in our backyard enjoying the sunshine and trying walk this baby out.
My husband was checking in on me every so often and eventually convinced me to lay down with him in our bed to try and rest, as he knew I’d been awake for several hours. We slumbered together for a while, but the surges began to get closer together so I eventually left the bed and returned to the living room with my mum. I laboured on, and was already so exhausted, so my movement slowed, although I did spend a lot of time on my hands and knees crawling around the living room and leaning over my fit ball and couch seat.
As the surges came closer together my mum told my husband she thought it was time for him to call the midwife. We went in three times before I was actually ready to have Acacia. I looked at my husband during our second visit to the birth centre, and told him that it was okay if we ended up in the hospital, and that I understood things were taking a long time and I just wanted our baby born safely. He looked deep into my eyes and just said, “ok”. I think at that point I just needed to verbalise my fear in order to normalise it and come to terms with it. Our midwife shortly thereafter checked my dilation… One centimeter after all that effort! I was tired, and feeling like things were taking too long. Our midwife, on the other hand, never made us feel as though our birth process was out of the ordinary at all.
Our midwife came and explained the situation of my dilation to me, but informed me that because I was only at one centimeter I would have to go home and labour until I get further along. She offered me a sleeping aid and pain relief so I could rest and reset. I accepted this option, as my alternative was to go home without it and try and do what we’d been doing, and
I felt like I wanted some help.
We went home and I had a warm bath followed by some sleep, until my surges started up again. It took most of the day for labour to get back in the swing after the pain relief wore off, but at some stage that evening we made our way back to the birth centre. Just like before things slowed after the car ride, but I did seem to be progressing well. The midwife on duty this time asked if she might check my dilation and possibly stretch my cervix open some if needed. After so many hours of labour I said yes, I was only 2 centimeters dilated. After the stretch 4-5. I consented to having my waters broken at this stage. My surges started to really come on quickly and within a couple hours my original midwife walked in and said, “I hope you weren’t waiting for me!” I smiled with relief at the sight of Wendy. She came in and quietly asked me how things were going. Told me she was getting texts from her colleagues all weekend about me. After all of our checks she asked if she could check my dilation as she thought I may be getting close to needing to get into the bath. I was so relieved at this news! I didn’t want to know what I was dilated to at this stage, just if I could get into the bath. She was happy with my dilation and went to run the bath water.
My surges were very strong and coming on quickly, so I went into the shower and sat on the floor on my knees with the showerhead on my lower abdomen. As I started to get get out of the shower I stood up and sat on the toilet to relieve myself. Another surge came on, so I waited it out on the toilet. Once that one finished I got up and another one began within a minute and found myself on the bathroom floor holding onto the counter pushing. My mum popped her head in and asked if I was pushing. I nodded and she went to tell Wendy. Within a few minutes I was in a huge bath of warm water with my husband behind me holding me and stroking my back during surges, reminding me to, “Breathe baby down,” and that, “Each surge brings us closer to our baby.” He was reminding me to drink water and Hydralite the whole way through.
We spent about an hour and a half in the tub. I just allowed the surges to come and remembering Pip’s words from our Hypnobirthing Australia™ course, despite knowing I wasn’t fully dilated, when I felt the urge to push I went ahead and allowed my body to guide our baby down and I was just the vehicle through which she was to join us here in the world. My body knew exactly what to do. The water and my body did everything. In a way I was just a witness to the birth of our daughter. After more than two days of labour my brain finally allowed my body to do what it knows how to do. With the assistance of the staff at the Birth Centre I was able to deliver my daughter without drugs and in the water, exactly the way I’d hoped.
Yes it was a long labour. Yes I had some fears and other issues arose during the labour that may have held things up. But thanks to the model of care under which the Birth Centre is run they never caused me to feel as though anything was wrong. They supported me and my journey into motherhood 100%. Everything I learned in my Hypnobirthing Australia™ course helped me to understand what my rights were, and empowered my husband to speak for me, when he could and helped him to know what his role was.
Reading Colleen’s birth story gives me goosebumps. I feel so honoured to have been part of her family’s journey.
The thing with birth is that we really don’t know how each individual woman’s body will perform on the day but we do know what will help her manage this uncertainty and that is Trust! Trust in her body, trust in her baby, trust in her own strength and trust in and from her support people.
Birth is meant to be an amazing, empowering, transforming experience. One that prepares a woman to take on her new role as a mother with pride and confidence, knowing she is loved and supported in this.
You have got to agree that this is exactly what Colleen got 🙂 – Pip Wynn Owen
For more information on Hypnobirthing Australia™, please feel free to contact Pip Wynn Owen directly and follow her on Facebook!