My empowering home waterbirth during lockdown
New mama Fiona shares how her little girl came into the world during lock down in a global pandemic.
When I discovered I was pregnant I was absolutely delighted; after being a midwife for ten years it was finally my turn to be on the receiving end of midwifery care. I was so excited to experience the wondrous changes my body would undergo over the next ten plus months as it protected and grew my developing baby, gave birth, nourished my newborn through breastfeeding and then went somewhat back to “normal”.
As my pregnancy was relatively low risk my plan was to birth at a primary birthing unit so I could use the birthing pool and enjoy three nights’ midwifery support postnatally. As I was approaching my maternity leave Covid19 was becoming more of an issue in New Zealand so I was relieved to finish my role as a hospital based midwife. During my first week of maternity leave (37 weeks pregnant) New Zealand went into Lockdown at alert level 4. For me this meant I had to cancel all of the lovely plans I had made for my maternity leave before baby arrived but more significantly it meant severe restrictions at healthcare institutions to visitors and support people for women giving birth. It was possible that my husband would not be able to stay with me during my postpartum stay in the birthing centre. If they didn’t have the visiting restrictions at the birth centre my other concern would then be the increased risk of transmission of Covid19 at the birthing centre. Either way I now felt very uneasy about birthing there. My husband and I therefore decided to remain in our isolation bubble as much as possible and plan for a home birth. I was fortunate enough to find a birthing pool that I could hire at short notice and the hire company had very reassuring protocols regarding the Covid19 risk (wondermum.co.nz).
Three days after my due date I was so excited to finally be in labour, to experience it for myself and I had the most wonderful day! My labour started at 2am with contractions coming every 15 minutes so I left my husband in bed and set myself up in the living room with my swiss ball and hot water bottle. I spent the first four hours of my labour on facetime to my mum and sister in the UK who were at home due to the Covid19 lockdown in the UK and awake because of the time difference. My excitement and delight at being in labour grew with each contraction that came – I was loving being in labour and so excited that I would soon meet my baby. At 6am when my contractions were more regular (coming every 3 minutes) I woke my husband and applied my TENS machine which worked wonders. At 9.20am my LMC attended to assess me – I was 3cm dilated so she went home again and advised me to call her when the contractions were stronger. I decided to get in the pool at 10am and it felt fabulous! It was lovely to have some of the weight and pressure of the pregnancy alleviated by the warm water and I felt like I was wrapped up in a gorgeous warm hug. We called my LMC back just after 1pm and she arrived just before 2pm as I was starting to struggle to cope with the contractions, I was 9cm dilated. The pain became unbearable soon after my midwife arrived and after ten minutes of roaring and wailing and thrashing about the pool my daughter was in my arms, she was born at 2.25pm.
That day was the most incredible day of my life. The attention and care I received from my husband as he supported me through every contraction and then joined me in the pool towards the end of the labour made this one of the most intimate and romantic days of our relationship. I loved how the majority of my labour was just the two of us; I felt confident that baby was coping well with labour as she was moving well throughout so I didn’t deem it necessary to call my midwife back too soon to monitor fetal wellbeing. My LMC arrived at the exact time I needed her – when I was at the “I can’t do this anymore” stage. I felt so empowered and exhilarated throughout the whole day.
My daughter breastfed very well from the very beginning and has continued to do so. I think this is thanks to her calm(ish) entry into the world and the fact we enjoyed over 8 hours of uninterrupted skin to skin contact immediately after her birth. One of the beauties of having a homebirth was there was no hurry to shower or transfer to another room – we enjoyed hours of snuggles on the sofa while being waited on firstly by our midwives and then by my husband.
Looking back on the birth day of my daughter I now can’t believe I even considered not having a homebirth (I had a low risk pregnancy so no reason to birth in hospital). I actually went through a process of grief for a few days afterwards; I was so over the moon and in love with my daughter but was incredibly sad that labour was over. I had looked forward to experiencing labour for over ten years and it was so much better than I even imagined it would be. I feel overwhelming saddened that this is not the experience for more women; homebirth aside, too many women go into labour from a place of fear rather than a place of empowerment and excitement. I’m already looking forward to next time!
For the first three weeks of my daughter’s life it was just me, her, my husband and the occasional visit from my wonderful midwife. This was such a special time that we will treasure forever; we had lots of skin to skin contact and started introducing her to short massages. I’m a Certified Infant Massage Instructor so was eager to put these skills into practice on my own baby. She’s four months old now and absolutely loves her massages. We really enjoyed those lazy days of just the three of us snuggled up at home or going for occasional walks in the local park and felt ready to introduce her to family and close friends by the time lockdown was lifted.
At times it did feel quite lonely, especially before I gave birth. My three weeks of maternity leave before baby’s birth were spent at home in isolation. This made the last part of my pregnancy pass very slowly and I did experience some anxiety about Covid19. I was also quite nervous the first time I took baby out and about but that can be quite normal for a first time mum with a new baby anyway. We are now part of various weekly groups and activities which we are missing now we are in level 3 lockdown in Auckland but we are enjoying our one to one time and I’ve relished the challenge of finding new and interesting things to do at home with my daughter during lockdown 2.0.