The Pleasurable, Unhindered Birth of Ashlyn
by Jade-Maree Allingham
The journey to Ashlyn (or Ashlyn to us) started on January 1st, 2006, when I conceived the first pregnancy. This pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 8 weeks, and during the miscarriage I had very vivid dreams of saying goodbye to this little girl. I became pregnant again straight away with no period in between. This pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 6 weeks. After such an emotional start to the year, we thought we should wait before trying again. My body was showing no fertile signs, so I thought we were safe.
I guess I was wrong. I felt pregnant immediately, as I usually do, and had implantation sensations the week before my period was due. I was confident I was pregnant, but very cautious to tell anyone because of the previous miscarriages. This little being growing inside of me had such a presence, like I could reach out and touch it.
The pregnancy continued on and much to family disgust and mistrust, I saw no care providers. Through the wonderful support of my husband, the women on Joyous Birth, and my beautiful women friends in real life, I experienced a beautiful pregnancy compared to the experience I had with Alissa’s pregnancy.
Those last few weeks I thought, “Will I be pregnant forever?”
From 39 weeks I had been starting to dilate, which meant two or three days of vomiting, upset tummy, not much eating and only wanting to sleep! This lasted until I birthed her at 42 weeks. Not much fun with hubby running his own business and an active, almost two-year old.
Christmas came and went, as did New Year’s. Emotionally I was so up and down, but my body was obviously preparing beautifully as was my babe. I had an unassisted pregnancy and did not even pee on a stick. Trust was my motto and in those last few weeks I added surrender to it.
I trust my body. I trust my babe. I surrender to my body as it opens. I surrender to my babe to know how best to be birthed.
BIRTHING DAY BEGINS
Please note: I refer to contractions as openings.
At 2:30 in the arvo on Monday, the 8th of January, 2007, openings began with a little more intensity than usual. My husband was out at a job and Alissa was asleep. Thinking this could be it, I realised that they were coming every ten minutes. Alissa awakened at about 3 o’clock and I did my best to read and sing with her. My husband came home and I let him know that the openings were about ten minutes apart. I told him if there was anything we needed, he should get it on the way home from the last job.
Meanwhile, the openings were increasing in intensity and I found myself up and swaying my belly through them. When I did this, Alissa grabbed my hands and rocked side to side with me saying, “dancing, dancing.” My beautiful, little doula knew something was happening. My husband finally got home at around sixish. Thank goodness, as Alissa was just starting to get to me and I realised that I needed time and space to be able to go into myself more.
My husband brought home chicken and chips at my request and we had some dinner. He closed up the blinds and turned off the lights. We all watched Alissa’s birth photos followed by our wedding photos, accompanied by Evanescence’s new and old CDs. We then watched some TV and got Alissa ready for bed. I decided to snuggle with Alissa, hopefully to fall asleep and get some rest.
No such luck. Alissa fell asleep easily and quickly and I found myself increasingly uncomfortable lying down. I also wanted to spend some time with my husband. For the next few hours, I rested in the lounge area with my husband massaging my back with some labour massage oil. I then had a shower and headed to bed at around midnight (my usual bedtime) to get to sleep. I had my husband rub the labour massage oil into my feet–it was bliss!
Alissa woke up at around 1:30 in the morning for a drink of milk from a bottle. She drank it and fell back asleep as she normally does. I tried to get comfy, but I felt restless and it suddenly clicked that my openings had intensified again. I had a quick look at the time and it was ten to two in the morning. I had hoped for a little more sleep. Oh, well. I got into the shower and bath (all in one). I put the plug in to fill the bath with the shower water. The shower was great and I somehow managed to squish myself into a sitting postion in the bath that kept me open, yet was somewhat comfy during openings.
I spent the next hour and a half there, feeling happy and relaxed. I concentrated on relaxing my pelvic floor, visualising my cervix opening and taking a nice big breath in and out (opening my mouth into an ‘O’ shape whilst keeping my jaw relaxed). I had a “bloody show.” It gave me renewed energy as it was a sign of progression. I decided at that point that I would do no more self checks of my cervix. The show was the sign I needed to relax and let go, and I finally believed that my little babe was on her way.
After a while, I felt the need to move downstairs. Only I knew that once I got down there, I would not be able to make it back up to wake my husband. I decided to wake him up then! LOL! I spent about five minutes shaking him to try to wake him while having openings that required me to be more vocal with my breath. Luckily Alissa did not wake up, but my husband did (we all share matresses on the floor). It was around 3:30 in the morning, and the openings kicked up to another level. We set up my nest of cushions, waterproof sheets and sheets on the floor in the lounge area.
I found that the only position I could bear openings in at this point was hanging around my husband’s waist while resting my head against his hip and arm. His job was to hold me up and under no circumstances STOP RUBBING MY BACK. I was really vocalising now. Although I was well into labour land, I found that I had to concentrate on relaxing my pelvic floor, vocalising and relaxing my jaw and mouth. To help keep on track with my vocalisation, I remembered how Alissa would bring in a flower from outside and I would smile at her, smell it, and go Aaahh. At the beginning of an opening, I would smile to welcome the opening, take a big breath in (smell it), then breathe out with an Aahh sound opening my mouth wide with relaxed jaw and mouth.
I did this for as long as the opening lasted, keeping my breath slow and even, knowing that taking a big breath was helping my babe during each opening. During my openings, I could feel my cervix actually opening. It was a rather sharp sensation and openings were felt in my back and front.
I start to feel cold, so put on an old t-shirt, one thick bed sock and one of my husband’s socks (that was all we could find that was nearest to us). Not long after this, my legs were getting shaky and I needed to give them a rest. I moved to hands and knees position. My husband was sitting on the floor beside me and I felt him nod off to sleep during an opening. As he fell asleep, he would stop rubbing my back. This happened twice, and as I recall, I said something like, “Don’t stop rubbing my fucking back!” My tone was low and primal–I think he got the picture.
I thought to myself, “Maybe I am in transition,” but didn’t mention it to my husband. He later told me that he also suspected that I was in transition and didn’t say anything to me. Openings were now bloody intense and coming one on top of another. I moved to a hands and knees position, resting halfway on the birth ball, with my husband rubbing my back.
I could feel that I was sleeping between clusters of openings. I heard him say that it was five o’clock and he commented on how quickly the time goes during labour. He then tells me how openings are now coming one on top of another. LOL! Bless his heart, I probably said,”yes, I know!” I suddenly awoke and told him that I had to go up to the shower NOW.
I made it up the stairs and into the shower. My husband put the plug in to fill the bath in case I want to sit in it later. I asked him to leave the bathroom door open halfway so he could listen out for Alissa. I was not worried about waking her at all and did not hold back when I needed to be a little louder. I used the warm water on my back it provided a little relief. Things became so intense and I had to really start concentrating on my relaxationand vocalisation, as a few times I noticed myself tense up at the begining of an opening. I started saying YEEES and OPEN loudly to release the tension and welcome the sensation of opening.
The bath was about halfway full when that familar, almighty I’m gonna vomit feeling hit. I grabbed onto the soap holder on the wall and my husband’s t-shirt, holding on for dear life as my body vomited 3 or 4 times. I didn’t hold back at all and told myself that this violent vomiting meant that my body was well on its way to birthing the babe. The next sensation began and I started my vocalisation, but it quickly turned into, “I think I’m pushing. Holy shit, I’m pushing!”
Indeed, I experienced the fetal ejection reflex. My gosh, what a difference when your body is doing it itself and you are just there, just being while it happens! Anyway, I turned to face my husband so I could stand with my legs further apart and he maneuvered the shower head so it was still running down my back. I was in disbelief and keep saying, “My God, the baby is coming. I’m pushing and the baby is going to be here soon!”
I cried a little, I think from shock at how quick it all of a sudden was happening. There was little time between pushing contractions, and after about 2 or 3 I felt stretching at the entrance of my vagina. I reached down thinking I would feel her head. Upon feeling it, I knew it was her bag of waters. Once it felt like it was out a fair bit, I broke it with my fingers. I did not think about this; it happened purely on instinct.
With the next contraction, she moved all the way down to the entrance of my vagina, stretching my perineum. I supported my perineum with one hand and hung on to my husband with the other. When the contraction was over I felt her head just inside of me and told my husband that her head was just there. I think I got him to have a feel.
I was in total amazment with the whole situation. Two contractions happened. I again supported myself with one hand and hung onto him with the other. I said,”Gentle. Be gentle, baby. Come out gently for mama.” Saying the word gentle and talking to my babe helped me to stay relaxed and not fight what my body was doing.
The next contraction happened and her head crowned. She came out down to her ears as I supported her head and myself. The contraction ended and another began straight away. She came out to her shoulders and with no time for them to turn, she came flying out into my hands and my husband’s hands. She had a little cry, then went quiet. My husband noticed that she had her cord wrapped around her neck twice and quickly unwrapped it. She pinked up and had another little cry.
I looked and discovered that she was a little girl, and I cried at the joy of another little girl. I looked up and there was Alissa standing at the bathroom door looking on. I smiled and told her that I had the baby and it was a little girl. I decided to get out of the shower and the now full bath. It was only then that I noticed the water was really coloured, so I gathered that there must have been meconium in her waters. We went downstairs and I got comfy on the floor with cushions from my nest. My husband made sure that we were covered and warm. He did his own Apgar checking, but it was obvious that Ashlyn was fine. We took some photos and began making phone calls.
I spent an hour talking to my mum on the phone. During this time, I had intense contractions and knew that my body was preparing to birth her placenta. When I got off the phone, I decided to see if the placenta was ready to be birthed. I got up onto my knees and we put the colander in between my legs. I gave a couple of pushes and felt the placenta sitting at the entrance of my vagina. I pushed some more and it slipped out into the colander. Some membranes were still inside, so I gave some gentle pushes and wiggled my body until the membranes came free and the placenta was birthed.
I didn’t have the big gush of blood before the placenta was birthed, so I knew that was still to come. I headed up to the shower. My husband got his first cuddle of Ashlyn, skin-to-skin of course. While in the shower, I had the gush and passed a couple of decent sized clots. I felt really good and could not believe that only an hour and a half ago I was standing in that very spot birthing my babe (having a shower will never be the same again).
Ashlyn was small but healthy and I had no tears or grazes. Ashlyn and I spent the next 48 hours skin-to-skin with only sheets wrapped over us. For the first 2 weeks only my husband or I held Ashlyn (gee, family members loved that).
We also had a lotus birth. I cut off 14 small pieces of placenta to consume twice daily for the first week. It was very interesting as Ashlyn did not care when we were cutting the placenta, but would cry if you touched her cord. I believe this was because throughout the pregnancy I talked with her and told her that I believed that the placenta is motherbaby and that I would consume some of it after the birth and that we would both benefit from it again after the birth.
The lotus birth was beautiful and I often would find myself holding onto the wrapped placenta when Ashlyn was feeding or asleep on a pillow on my lap. I would also recommend consuming the placenta in the weeks after the birth. I could not believe how calm and clear minded I felt for that first week. I did not experience any baby blues. Ashlyn released her placenta and cord 5 days after her birth. I found it very emotional and cried with Ashlyn when it happened, our final pregnancy connection was gone. Her cord and placenta are in our freezer door awaiting a nice potted plant to put it in.
Ashlyn’s birth was amazing! It was truly instinctual and I regret not having any photos or video of it, but I know that she wanted it this way. Her birth was for my husband and me only–a special bond that we will share forever.