I first wrote this to share with Grace when she is older and before the haze of Mum life muddles some of the precious moments. I so strongly believe that pregnancy and birth should be celebrated, not feared. And it is for this reason that I have also chosen to share our birth story with you.
Before I go on, if my journey into motherhood is at all triggering to you, I want you to know that I write this with the utmost respect and consideration. To those have experienced or continue to experience infertility or loss, I see you. My heart goes out to you every day. I hope that by reading our story you are inspired to continue to find the strength that you need.
I remember the moment that Grace was conceived. I had completed my three-month preconception cleanse and it was our first month of trying to fall pregnant. Almost immediately, I just knew that my little lady was on her way to me. My pregnancy was relatively symptom free. I practiced yoga almost daily and walked religiously. I ate really well, albeit a little more relaxed than pre-pregnancy. I focused on real food and when I wanted more carbohydrates, I made the best choice that I could from banana, sweet potato, potato, white rice and buckwheat. There were days that I could have devoured a packet of salt and vinegar chips… You may be noticing a trend here – I definitely ate a lot of potato and loved every minute of it!
At 20 weeks I went to the local hospital that I thought we would birth at, only to feel that nothing in the environment felt right. Almost immediately I began to visualize my perfect birth room at home. Now, before you get carried away with images of free birthing alone in the forest, that is not what I had in mind. This decision was not made without significant research. I am analytical and pragmatic to my core and I had already meticulously studied the research before my 20 week visit to hospital. Home births are extremely safe and, as evidenced in research literature, with lower intervention comes less subsequent complications. An incredible piece of research and one I highly recommend is Rhea Dempsey’s Birth with Confidence. Not long after reading Rhea’s book, we committed that we would birth at home, with the guidance of Jan Ireland and the team at MAMA. I had found my team.
I do want you to know that even though I was extremely confident in my decision to home birth, it did not come without fear. Mostly society projected fear, but as I worked through this over the coming weeks with the guidance of my incredible acupuncturist Melissa, I have never felt so strong about a decision in my life. I visualized candle light, essential oils, water, soft music and complete control over the environment where Grace would enter the world.
At 36 weeks pregnant I completed a hypnobirthing course with the amazing Julie from Hypnobirth Tribe. This was absolutely the icing on the cake to fine tune my mind-set and birth plan, and provide me with an incredibly positive home practice as my impatience crept in over the following month. I honestly cannot speak highly enough of hypnobirthing knowing how pivotal it was for my birth experience.
As our due date approached, we finished setting up our birth room with printed mantras, candles, essential oils and birth pool. I walked, meditated and baked multiple birthday cakes, in anticipation that Grace could join us any day. (A girl needs a GF SF birthday cake for her arrival to planet Earth right?!)
Then, right on cue at 11.53pm, just minutes before our due date and in true Hollywood style, my waters broke. I still chuckle at the mental image of myself laughing hysterically as I stood over the bathroom tiles while Ian mopped our ensuite as the clocked ticked over to 11.03.19. (Many people have since commented: “Of course you had a due date baby!” which begs me to ask the rhetorical, tongue-in-cheek question, “Am I really that controlling?”)
Fast forward a few hours of naps, contractions and yoga breaths, my active labour started approximately at 8am with my midwife Jan arriving at our home shortly after, at 8.20am. My contractions quickly became the epitome of intense but as my hypnobirthing manta played in the background: “each surge brings my baby closer to me”, I also worked out that each contraction was lasting for five of my best yoga breaths. “I can do anything for five breaths”, I repeated to myself over and over again.
By this stage I had no concept of time, and it was just me, Grace in my belly and my fit ball, in my ensuite (the birth cave). I gripped the sink intensely with each contraction and while I had regular check ins from Ian and Jan, I have never felt more solely responsible for anything else in my entire life. While I was so wonderfully supported, I had fleeting moments of feeling alone as it was solely a dance between Grace and I for her safe arrival Earth side. “It’s just me and you kid” ran through my mind many times during the morning.
I will also share that Grace’s labour was not without moments of darkness, moments when I didn’t know how much longer I could continue to cope with such intense contractions. But not long after another check in by Jan, I could hear her outside the birth cave urgently on the phone to our second midwife Rachel, telling her to “get here quick as this baby is coming!” Up until this point I had no idea how far along I was and I cannot do justice to the sweet feeling of relief that came with finding out that we were so close to meeting Grace. Any darkness immediately lifted and I went completely into “game on” mode. Because of how close we were, Jan made the executive decision not to move me into our birth pool and I completely trusted her decision so Ian quickly set up plan B on our bed. Hands and knees, naked, a couple of very significant contractions and one expletive later, Ian was handing me our baby. I’d asked him to introduce me to him or her by their name (rather than sharing their sex) and when I asked Ian who it was, we quickly realized that no one yet knew who had joined us. After a quick check while I turned my gaze, Ian said to me: “Mummy, I’d like you to meet Grace” and I learned that it truly was my baby girl that I had been speaking to for the last ten months. I hope I remember the sweetness of this moment forever. We played Happy Birthday by Stevie Wonder loudly and I cried happy tears at the amazement of it all.
Grace Elizabeth Northeast was born on her due date, safely at home after a 4-hour natural birth. What followed was an incredible few hours of skin-to-skin, bonding, feeding and an oxytocin love bubble that I will cherish forever. That night, while Grace slept, I lit her zero birthday candle and cranked Stevie Wonder again. Ian made us each an Aperol Spritz each and we ate birthday cake for dinner.
While it was the hardest thing I have ever done, it was the most incredible, heart expanding and life changing experience of my life. Words cannot truly do the experience justice, but from the bottom of my heart I hope that my story inspires or re-inspires your view of birth. That it inspires you to do your research and to find your people. To be in your power and to ensure that it is never taken away from you. And to the mothers-to-be, I hope that my story inspires you to create your dream birth, whatever that may be.
Grace: the benevolent, powerful and unwavering energy of the universe that guides you towards the best version of yourself.
My darling girl, may you always be my guide back to love, grace and the strength that you reminded me I am.
Edit: I’ve since had so many requests for details on my preconception cleanse, plus how Grace and I are navigating her first solid foods. Pop your details here and I’ll be in touch tomorrow.