Today, I’m going to share something very personal and close to my heart. I even felt a lump form in my throat as I looked back at the pictures and re-lived the memories.

This is an account of what’s probably my greatest achievement to date. This is also for anyone who is interested to know what water birth looks like – because in reality, each birth story is unique and fascinating, and more often totally different from what is portrayed in the movies.

So, are you ready? This is a long story, so you may want to grab that glass of wine and I hope the pictures will get you through to the end. ;p

Maternity care options

Did you know that there are various maternity care options available to women in Australia? Well I didn’t know anything about that until my GP told me during a visit after I learned that I was pregnant with my first child. A woman can choose to receive care primarily from a midwife or a doctor, as well as choose to have her baby in a hospital, birth centre or at home. This depends on the woman’s health and the health of the baby during pregnancy. Some services are are charged with a fee, while some are completely covered by Medicare.

After contemplating on the various options available, I chose the Midwifery Group Practice model of care. This service is completely free for women with a Medicare card. This option allows a woman to receive consistent information and care from a midwife they get to know throughout the pregnancy, birth and postnatal period. In my case, I was cared for by the Ryde Midwifery Group Practice since I live within the catchment area where they serve.

At Ryde, I was allocated a midwife who cared for me during my pregnancy, labour, birth and for the first few weeks at home. Ali, my midwife, saw me for all of my ante-natal appointments, and discussed the various stages of pregnancy with me, as well as checked on the progress of my baby. When I went into labour, Ali was the person to call, and she discussed my situation, gave me advice, and met me at the birthing centre when labour has become established. More of this later!

Early contractions

I was 38 and a half weeks pregnant when my labour contractions started. I woke up at 7:15am with period-like pains on my lower abdomen. I haven’t felt that kind of pain in a while (because you don’t get your period when you’re pregnant), so I knew that this was the beginning of something special.

Pregnant woman taking a selfie

Last selfie at home

Hubby still went to work, but I did warn him of what I was feeling. My waters started to break (just small gushes) around 9am. I called my midwife and was updating her throughout the morning. I also called Hubby to tell him to come home and install the baby car seat – pronto – in case I give birth. We would not be allowed to bring the baby home without that car seat installed!

Man motioning a stop sign with his palm

On hindsight, we overpacked.

Hubby and I showed up at the birthing centre half past 1 pm. My contractions were progressing but didn’t hurt more than what I was accustomed to when having my period cramps. My midwife checked the contents of my pad to make sure if it’s really the amniotic fluid that’s leaking, and to assess my general situation. We were advised to come back because my contractions are not that intense yet (because I could still talk!). My midwife said she reckons I’ll have the baby within 24 hours, and that we should be prepared to come back at night.

Pregnant woman lying down on bed

That smile would soon be wiped out. LOL

So, Hubby and I went to have lunch at this new pizza place in our neighbourhood. In between pizza bites, my contractions started to hurt really bad! At some point I could not walk anymore. I also became silent because talking took too much of my energy. Hubby called the midwife again to give an update of my status. She told us to come at half past 4.

When I came back to the birthing centre, my face was contorted in pain. My midwife exclaimed, “Ah…no smile! That’s telling!”

pregnant woman having contractions in chair

DEFINITELY not my best photo

Ali quickly instructed me to get into the birth pool for labour. She checked my lady parts and noted that I was already 9cm (out of 10) dilated!!! IT IS TIME!

Delivering Baby D

Woman in labour at birth pool

Being in labour is the most exhausting experience I’ve ever had to go through. Even opening my eyes sapped too much of my energy, so I pretty much kept them closed all throughout.

I feel so blessed because I had Hubby with me throughout the whole ordeal. He held me close, prayed with me, whispered words of encouragement, and made sure I drank enough water in between contractions.

woman in labour supported by husband

woman in labour in birth pool

woman in labour supported by husband

It must have been pretty exhausting for him to wait with me and seeing me in pain.

Man yawning and looking at clock

The pain level during contractions quickly escalated and I soon found myself screaming in pain. The only pain relief I had was the comfort of the hot water in the birth pool. No epidural, laughing gas, nor any form of medication. (This was a personal choice I made after reading through the benefits and empowering stories of other women before me. My pregnancy was assessed as low-risk, and I trusted that my body was designed to do this. I do acknowledge that there are instances when medical intervention is required, and I have nothing against that!)

woman grimacing in pain during labour

This went on for a while, but my midwife later advised that instead of using my energy to scream in pain, it would be better to channel that energy into trying to push my baby out during contractions.

I soon became very quiet and waited for the next wave to hit. Instead of yelling, I mustered all my strength to push. I did this for a few rounds of contractions until I could feel an indescribable sensation that must have been my pelvic bones rearranging to give way to my baby’s passage through the birth canal. Alas, my midwife informed me that my baby’s head has come out!

head of baby coming out during birth

I frantically asked her if I should keep pushing because I wouldn’t want my son’s head to be stuck down there, but she told me to wait for the next contraction and push very hard.

I felt the rest of my baby’s body slide through, and felt instant relief. I quickly reached down for my baby and brought him out of the water, as instructed by Ali.

It was surreal to finally hold my baby in my arms. My first words to him were, “I love you, son!”

woman embracing her newborn at birth pool

I was given the opportunity to bask in the new reality that I am now a mother. I just sat there to savor the moment and cuddle my baby.

woman embracing her newborn at birth pool

There was no need to rush.

newborn baby reaching out to mother

Hubby soon joined in.

mother and father with newborn baby

We are parents now. There’s no turning back! Life will never be the same.

mother and baby inside birth pool while father looks on

I’m really glad that we had these moments when the midwives just let us be. At this point, my baby was still connected to his umbilical cord.

Eventually, I was helped out of the pool so we can do the other necessary things like birthing the placenta and cutting the umbilical cord.

mother and baby get out of birth pool with father's help

Hubby did the honors of cutting the umbilical cord, of course. Below is the picture of the placenta!

picture of placenta on the table after birth

We were given a lot of private time with our newborn. I was made to lie in bed with my baby on my chest for some much-needed skin-to-skin interaction.

father touching the hand of newborn baby

My baby also managed to latch on my breast right away and started to breastfeed.

mother breastfeeding newborn baby

At some point I needed to be stitched due to the trauma of vaginal birth, and it was great that they allowed me to hold and continue to breastfeed my baby because it served as a distraction from what was happening down there.

Afterwards, they did the necessary measurements for my baby. Praise God for this healthy baby boy!

newborn baby being weighed

newborn baby's head being measured

black and white picture of newborn baby

Hubby was finally given the opportunity to hold him exclusively…while I tried to put on some face powder.

father carries newborn baby for the first time

Our midwife had to excuse herself at some point because she was called on to help another midwife to assist the woman in the next room who was also giving birth, so we had an extended time being just us as a brand new family.

first family picture after water birth

My baby Dawson came to this world at 7:16pm, and we got discharged from the Birthing Centre at 12:30am. Yes, that was quick – only a little over 5 hours after birth. However, part of their service is for the midwife to do home visits, and in our case, up to 3 weeks post-birth.

Beyond birth

A lot has happened since. I thought the toughest part of becoming a mother is pushing the baby out. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I underestimated the postpartum recovery period – when your lady parts are super sore and your breasts start to get engorged with milk – on top of sleep deprivation and constantly second-guessing why your baby is crying.

Dawson also had jaundice so he was admitted to the hospital for phototherapy at 5 days old. Then, he had urinary tract infection and was again hospitalized at 5 weeks old.

I’ve lost count on how many times I broke down in the first 2 months out of exhaustion, anxiety and loneliness. However, as the cliche goes, it is in the darkest hours that the stars shine the brightest. We’ve been the recipients of so much goodness this world can offer. Family and friends stepped in to help us. We received so many encouraging messages that really kept our spirits up. Friends gave us groceries and sent cooked food to our house. They’ve ran errands for us. Our family visited us from the Philippines and stayed for a month to be extra hands at home.

My baby is 8 months old almost one year old* now, but I’m still getting used to being a parent. It’s the most taxing job I’ve ever had to do – I kid you not – and it’s a lifelong learning experience. I just pray that when my time’s up, I’m leaving this world behind with the good people I’ve raised.

Photo credits: Our awesome birth photographer, Shirin Town (except the first 4 pics that were taken by me and Hubby)

*Updated on 12th Oct 2017