By Jade Glen
Two-year-old Ash welcomed his baby sister, River, into the world by singing ‘Happy Birthday.’
Home birth was an empowering option for Warburton couple Elinor and Sam.
River, their second child, was born in their shower after a restful day at home, with Sam able to ‘catch’ the baby as she was delivered.
River’s arrival was a whole-family affair – Ash was able to witness his sister’s birth and Elinor’s mum was also at home, preparing dinner for everyone.
Elinor’s pregnancy and birth was supported by Yarra Valley Midwives.
“We were living in New Zealand for Ash’s pregnancy and birth, and in New Zealand they have continuity of care with publicly funded midwives,” Elinor said.
“They have the option of homebirth or hospital birth. We believed in homebirth, and we thought it was absolutely the experience we wanted to have.”
Unfortunately, Elinor was unable to have a homebirth in the end – as her pregnancy approached 42 weeks, she was admitted to hospital to be induced.
With the family now living in Warburton, Elinor’s second pregnancy began through the public system, but she craved the continuity of care that she had experienced in New Zealand.
“I was starting to go down that path when at playgroup someone suggested I speak to Yarra Valley Midwives. I called Robyn and remember just being really taken with her warmth – she was really warm and genuine,” Elinor said.
Elinor’s pregnancy progressed normally, and she had antenatal appointments with both Robyn and Lisa.
“With the induction, I really had no idea what the onset of labour was like and hadn’t really been aware of Braxton Hicks in the lead up to Ash’s birth either. In the lead-up to River’s birth I was having Braxton Hicks that I was really quite aware of. There were days between them so I was trying not to get too excited,” Elinor said.
“Then I woke up and found myself having some lovely regular contractions. I quickly downloaded a contraction timer on my phone and was keeping track. I sent Robyn a message about 5.30am to let her know what was happening. She messaged me back straight away and said she would give me a call at a particular time. It was really lovely to have that chat with her.”
Both Robyn and Lisa arrived around 9am, but with the dawn of the day and business of getting Ash ready for childcare, Elinor’s contractions had petered out.
“I didn’t know what I was in for, whether it would be the next few days or the next week or later that day.
“It got to about lunchtime and Robyn and Lisa went to Warburton to get some lunch and suggested Sam and I get out of the house and have a stroll. We went to our favourite cafe and had coffee and cake and then walked along the river. At that stage I was contracting again, fairly irregular, but it was lovely to pause during contractions.
“We came back home and had a chat with Lisa and Rob – I asked if I should be doing anything (to move the labour along)- I will forever be thankful for Lisa saying at the moment no, just go back to bed, go where you are most comfortable and just relax. That was music to my ears, because when I gave birth at hospital they had me walking and walking.
“So about 2pm in the afternoon, I was just lying in bed, it was a beautiful day, just looking out the window. I had a few different breathing techniques up my sleeve and found one in particular was really effective. I was just dozing in between contractions. At 5pm my mum came over, picked up our boy from childcare and all of a sudden my waters broke in bed.”
Robyn and Lisa were on their way back to Sam and Elinor’s home after picking up some supplies from Healesville.
“I moved to the shower in the ensuite while they inflated and filled the pool. I stayed in the shower and the lights were off. I was with my husband just swaying and rocking through contractions and breathing; I found staying up most comfortable. I knew Rob was popping in occasionally but she was just letting the two of us labour, my husband and I.
“All of a sudden I said I have to push! I felt like I had no control, it was just what my body did at that moment. Robyn was in the process of taking firewood into the lounge room – she rushed to the ensuite. I remember having a quiet freak-out because all of a sudden I could feel my little girl’s head.
“At the same time my mum had come in with my little boy. He saw the look on my face and he started to get upset. I think in that moment I needed to see that to pull myself together. He was only upset for half a minute or so, then he was calm and within a couple of pushes she was out. My husband was able to catch her and Robyn was there with her non-slip gloves to make sure she couldn’t go any further.
“Then my boy started singing happy birthday.”
With babe-in-arms, Elinor shuffled to the birthing pool where she, Sam and River enjoyed a calm and relaxing bonding session. Ash declined offers of getting in the pool, preferring to watch The Wiggles.
“I think it was about an hour and then Robyn and Lisa were starting to wonder what was happening with the placenta – they said OK, it might be time to come out now.”
The simple movement of getting out the pool was enough to deliver the placenta.
The following day both Lisa and Robyn came by to visit the family, and their support continued throughout the first few weeks and months.
Elinor said River’s birth was a special memory for the family.
“The day itself was a real gift. It was a stark contrast to Ash’s delivery – and that wasn’t traumatic.
“To be at home, where I could enjoy a bit of the morning and share it with my husband, and to come home and to be told just to relax. I was comforted by the fact that they (Robyn and Lisa) were here the whole time, and they knew what they were doing.
“We all got to have that experience together, in this house.”