Calmbirth Stories by New Mums in Sydney
Birth stories are a wonderful way to understand the myriad of ways women experience birth. Pregnant women can really benefit by reading lots of birth stories written by women who have positive, uplifting, inspirational stories to share.
Often, pregnant women complain about all the negative, horror stories that others seem to want to tell them about in graphic detail. It is not fair to burden a pregnant woman, who is possibly feeling sensitive and vulnerable, with stories that will fill her with fear and dread, so instead, here you will find stories from women who have been through my classes, willing to share the story in their own words, in an attempt to assist you, the reader, as you prepare for your own wonderful, unique birth journey.
Listed to the right in blue are several positive stories donated by some of the lovely new mums from Julie’s courses who just want to share their story to help other to be inspired to aim for a positive birth experience for themselves, their baby and their partner…
Julie Clarke is a Calmbirth antenatal class specialist providing sessions for pregnant couples in Sydney – helping them overcome fear to replace it with trust – trust in their own body and capabilities.
Mark and I were very excited to find out we were expecting a baby, only shortly after we decided to start a family together. We were overseas in Holland at the time, visiting my home country. At the second ultrasound we learnt that we were having a boy and we named him Oliver. I was four months pregnant when we returned to Australia, and I was keen to find out what my options were for the birth. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found out that St George hospital in Kogarah had just started a home birth program, for which midwives come to your home to assist you with the birth. Giving birth at home is a very common thing in Holland but I found that many people were quite apprehensive about it in Australia, especially since it was my first baby. Nevertheless, I felt very confident about having my baby at home. Shortly after, I met the two midwives who were going to come to our home and I loved their philosophies on birth- it’s a great, natural event that should empower you as a woman and most of all- it’s something to celebrate and experience, not to be afraid of.
I was lucky to have a smooth pregnancy with no morning sickness or other hiccups, so I worked until week 35. The last month of my pregnancy I spent at home preparing myself and our home for Oliver’s arrival. I really enjoyed taking time out and just reading my book or having a snooze outside- just being pregnant. I felt very relaxed and ready for the big day!
In week 37 I was checked and approved to have my baby at home, should he decide to come at any time after that. The midwives came to our home to see where the big event would take place and to meet everyone who was going to be there on the day. They also brought a trolley full of ‘birth supplies’ that they left at our home, so they wouldn’t have to pick it up at the last minute. I had read a lot about different types of birthing options and was really interested in water birth. I love swimming and always feel great being in the water, so it seemed perfect. The more I read about it, the more enthusiastic I became. When I watched a number of videos on gentle waterbirths, I was convinced that this was the way to go for me. Our own bathtub was too small to give birth in so I had to find something else instead. I did some research and eventually opted for an inflatable pool especially designed for waterbirths (www.simplybirth.com.au). It was a beautiful dark blue, round pool with very sturdy thick walls and an inflatable bottom. We did a test run at 37 weeks and I loved it, in fact I couldn’t wait to use it!
It turned out I didn’t have to wait too long. Oliver was due on December 3rd but having heard about other women’s first pregnancies, I wasn’t expecting him until at least the week after that. However, on November 25th I had some small contractions after I woke up – nothing to worry about, I told myself, probably just something I ate. We visited Marks dad and even set out to go shopping, but when we were on our way to the shopping centre I asked Mark to turn around and go home. The contractions were getting a bit more intense and I found it harder to ignore them or even to keep breathing through them normally. At home, I went to lie on the bed but found I could cope much better with the contractions kneeling on the floor with my arms on the bed. I made a hot water bottle which did wonders for a while, and had some porridge (just in case…). We started timing them, as they now came at about 3-5 minutes apart and lasted a minute- and realised that our baby was on his way- these were real contractions! We called the midwife around midday and told her about the timing of the contractions. Her response was clear: the baby is coming, I’m on my way! Mark started filling up the pool and called my sister in law, who we’d asked to be there for the birth.
When the midwife arrived at 1pm I was 4 cm dilated, so I had to wait a little longer before I could go in the pool. If you enter the water too early, you can slow your labour right down. So I kept labouring on ‘dry land’ for a while until I was dilated enough to get into the pool, which was set up in our lounge room. As soon as I got into the warm water, the pain eased away and I felt much more comfortable. This was what I had been hoping for but it was even better than I imagined! I was also very happy that I didn’t have to go into the car to drive to hospital, but instead was able to stay in our own home where I felt at ease. After about half an hour of relaxed floating and moving around in the pool, pushing contractions started. I was able to move quite freely in the pool and this helped me dealing with the contractions. I sat on my knees, with my arms over the edge of the pool for each contraction, and my husband Mark held my hands. In between contractions I stretched my legs backwards and just floated. My sister in law gave me ice cold apple juice and patted my head with a cool wash cloth, which was really nice. As I was literally in my own space, I felt much more in control and that really gave me the strength to ‘do the job’. I only got up once so that the midwife could check the dilation (and even then she could have done it while I was in the water), but after that I didn’t have to get up anymore. She regularly checked Oliver’s heartbeat with a waterproof monitor and talked to me to see how I was going.
After what felt like hours of pushing contractions (in fact, it was only about an hour) I assumed that the baby should be nearly there, but the midwife told me he was still a while away. For a moment I became a bit stressed, thinking that it was going to take much longer than I thought, and wondering whether I could really do this myself. But then I tried to remember all the breathing exercises I learnt at prenatal yoga and the pregnancy classes with Julie, and I became more relaxed. I also started talking to Oliver, which must have sounded a bit funny but it felt really natural- I told him we were in this together and we’d get the job done! It felt like we were both working hard to get him out safely. At the same time, the midwife was really talking me through it, reassuring me that I was doing well and that everything was going according to ‘plan’- which was exactly what I needed to hear. And Mark just kept holding my hands and stroking my hair- he was (seemed!) very relaxed, which helped me, too.
At around 4.15pm I finally felt Oliver’s head coming down and at the same time, I felt my waters break. I knew for sure then that this was it- the movements I felt before didn’t even come close to really feeling his head going through the last part. Very shortly after I had an enormous urge to push and in one big move, Oliver shot out- head and body at once! I was still facing the other way so the midwife guided him underneath my legs to the middle of the pool. Then I turned around and held him in my arms. Mark had wanted to catch him but unfortunately, I was squeezing his hands too tight when he was coming out! After a few big screams Oliver relaxed and lay in my arms for a few minutes in the nice warm water. Mark held both of us and we just sat there, the three of us, looking at each other. It was the most magical moment in my life! Mark cut the umbilical cord and after a while, the midwife took Oliver to wrap him, so he wouldn’t cool down too much. A few minutes later I delivered the placenta quite easily in the pool.
After I got out and had a quick shower, I gave Oliver his first breast feed. What a fabulous experience!! Mark sat next to me and helped me position Oliver for the feed, and then he started sucking a little bit. I was so proud of Oliver, having made this big trip from a nice warm environment inside me to the big cold world. We just couldn’t stop looking at him. Then we called everyone in Holland to let them know Oliver was here. The midwives stayed for a few hours, making sure we were all doing well. Marks dad came, and his brother, and then everyone left and it was just the three of us. We were so happy to be at home with our little man, and fell asleep together in our big bed.
The next few days we had some visitors, but as most of our relatives are from Europe we were mostly together- which was just what we needed. We just spent hours looking at Oliver, cuddling him and of course taking heaps of pictures and video for the family overseas. Mark cleaned, washed, did the shopping and cooked, and I just enjoyed being a mum for the first time! I was feeling really well and didn’t really want to be in bed all day- I just moved around the house and tried not to sit down for too long in one spot (ouch!). It was hard getting up at night for the breastfeeds but once I was up I really enjoyed spending time with Oliver while everyone was asleep- just the two of us, on the couch. Unfortunately I had some difficulties breastfeeding after a few days, with Oliver not latching on properly. It was very nerve wrecking for all of us; I was very full and wanted him to suck, he was very hungry but couldn’t get any milk out, and Mark felt helpless watching us struggle! Luckily, with the help of a lactation consultant from St George hospital (who came to our house), things improved pretty quickly and with Oliver’s first birthday coming up I am still happily breastfeeding at least twice a day. Oliver is doing really well and has started taking his first steps- a milestone for all of us. We love him so much and still can’t believe our luck sometimes that he really is ours (well, for the next 18 years or so)!
Looking back on the whole experience I feel gratitude that everything went exactly as I hoped it would. Being at home made me feel relaxed, birthing in the water eased the pain and made me more comfortable. Also, having three wonderful people helping me throughout the birth, each in their own way, was wonderful. I would try and do everything exactly the same again next time, and would keep my fingers crossed that it would be the same fabulous experience as it was this time.
Marieke and her partner attended Julie’s courses during the early third trimester of pregnancy. They have since gone on to have another baby, again at home just recently with the midwives of the St George Hospital Homebirth Program and managed to “do it all the same again” she was thrilled with her two very beautiful birth experiences, as are the midwives for her too.
My husband and I had made a firm decision at the end of 2005 that we wanted to start our family, which saw us see a naturopath to get extra healthy, and me going off the pill. We had planned to go on our health kick for most of 2006, but in August we found ourselves pregnant much to our surprise, and joy. We had been using natural fertility management methods to avoid getting pregnant, but as my cycle was not regular, it caught us by surprise that month when I ovulated on time! I knew I was pregnant within a couple of days of my missed period, because I had been tracking my cycle so closely.
The first trimester saw a bit of nausea (but no actual morning sickness), and a bit of tiredness. We told our family a week after we knew, because we needed to get used to the idea ourselves! They were ecstatic of course, being the first grandchild on both sides of the family. We started telling friends around 10 weeks, before the end of the first trimester, and I told work at 12 weeks.
I also started reading up about birth options as soon as I was pregnant, and became very keen on giving birth in a birth centre in a birthing pool as my first preference. I had decided very early on not to get an obstetrician but to go through the hospital’s birth centre directly – I ended up in shared care with my local GP, which worked well, and was convenient because she was located around the corner from home. I had also been advised to book into the birth centre early as it filled up quickly!
The second trimester felt great – I felt healthy and like I had lots of energy, and my bump was starting to show, so I could start talking about it with people. I also started to feel like being pregnant was a very natural state for me to be in at this point in my life – not a feeling of ‘I wish I’d done this earlier’, nor a ‘why am I doing this now?’, but a feeling of being happy to be having a baby. Quite a few people commented that I had that pregnant glow!
During the third trimester I started to be slowed by the size of my belly, making me a little more tired than usual, and less able to move in the same way! I continued to do karate up until 34 weeks, at a reduced level of course, and enjoyed keeping fit all that time. We also attended our birth and preparation classes with Julie Clarke as well as the calmbirth course at this time, both of which were invaluable. Although I had done some reading, the ante-natal classes gave a practical approach to labour and birth, as well as a friendly atmosphere to discuss issues in. The calmbirth class was also helpful, and with the cd and exercises in the book provided useful tools for late pregnancy, the labour and beyond.
I finished working at 36 weeks, and not a moment too soon – I realised how tired I had been at work once I had stopped working. All those snacks I’d been eating weren’t because I was eating for two, but because I needed energy boosts through the day to keep me going. Although I did organise a few last minute things during my time off, I also took the time to relax and rest, which had been the very good advice given to me by various people. I don’t know how people work longer, and up to their due date!
Labour and Birth
I had had a few signs that labour was coming – I had the bloody show 3 or 4 days earlier, and some pre or false labour the week before. The labour itself started at about 12:30am on 14 May, when I felt a noticeable knock on my cervix, and a small leak of my waters. I rang the birth centre, who said it could be labour, but may not be, and told me to go to sleep (i.e. what was I doing up at that hour anyway!)
I’m not sure what time I started early labour during the night, probably soon after, but the contractions seemed far apart, so I managed to sleep in between them. I had had false labour contractions like this a week before, so wasn’t convinced myself that this was labour, which helped relax me. I practiced my breathing through these mild contractions (which just felt like intermittent period pain), and didn’t wake my husband to tell him, in case it wasn’t the real thing and he had to go to work the next day.
When he woke up after 7am I told him I had been feeling contractions and was still having them – we decided to time them and they were about 7 minutes apart, so it looked like the real thing. We rang the Birth Centre and they said if I could talk through them I was fine, and not to leave home until they were 5 minutes apart. So I stayed in bed a little while longer, then decided to lie on the rug in the living room – I seem to remember asking my husband to have some porridge with him, but by the time it was cooked I definitely was in no mood for it! I had some energy drink though, which helped my stamina through the morning. I then decided to jump in the shower, which was lovely, and found myself thinking after a while that I didn’t know how I was going to bear getting out. I asked my husband if we could go to the Birth Centre yet – so we decided to time some more contractions and they were 3 minutes apart! That was at about 10 o’clock, so we rang in again and told them we were on our way. My husband packed some last minute things, got the car out and helped me into it. He then drove ever so calmly to the hospital with me in the back seat – I felt every bump on a route that I had never noticed had bumps before!
We got to the hospital around 10:45am and slowly walked into the birth centre – as I walked to our room I requested that the midwife run the bath, which she promptly did, and when she checked I was 6cm dilated! So I got into the birth pool, my husband set up a few things and went and moved the car, and by the time he was back 15 minutes later I was already 10cm dilated and wanting to push!
So I guess I pushed for just over an hour – the pain was pretty full on, and I was rather vocal, but your mind is so in another space that time seems to go quickly. I remember at some point the midwife telling me she could see the head and I couldn’t believe it – I was having our baby! Soon after I could feel our baby’s head with my hand – it felt so soft, being covered in hair. I continued to push and our baby was born at 12:21pm. My husband said as soon as she was out she floated to the surface and the midwife handed her to me – I was on cloud nine! I held her for a minute or two before we checked for gender, and we were both overjoyed to have had a little girl! We knew straight away she was going to be Isabella! A few more minutes of family time, then my husband cut the cord and took Isabella from the bath, and I got out to get on the bed and birth the placenta – which was surprisingly firm unlike my expectations. Then Isabella and I cuddled a bit more, skin to skin, while my husband rang everyone to let them know we’d had a girl!
The midwives were wonderful during the birth, and because it was such a quick birth, they were with me almost the whole time –I had met Helen during one of my birth centre check-ups and Claire was a trainee midwife who helped out (and held my hand while my husband was moving the car!).
My mum was first to arrive – she’d got the message standing at Circular Quay station, so she came straight over, followed closely by my husband’s mum, dad and nan, who were already in the car on the way over when they got the call. My husband’s mum was speechless, apparently there was only screaming down the other end of the line when he told her we’d had a girl.
With everyone arrived, we went through the business of weighing, measuring and checking she was OK, and then everyone had a cuddle with our alert and calm little girl. My dad arrived a few hours later, after we’d moved to the post-natal ward.
Isabella didn’t breastfeed at first, it was nearly 24 hours before her first breastfeed, but she took to it after that. We stayed 2 nights on the post-natal ward, and once we’d got breastfeeding under wraps, we decided to head home.
The Birth Centre and the private room at the post-natal ward were more than adequate facilities, but I’m glad I brought the stuff I had read about on various ‘hospital bag’ lists. Particularly useful was the bag for my husband, including food, toiletries and a change of clothes, as well as my own favourite foods to supplement the hospital food. I’m also glad we brought the cameras, music and oil burner, which brought a homely touch to the stay.
The first few weeks
The drive home was pretty surreal – we were now a family, with a precious little cargo on the backseat! We were on the early discharge program, which meant that a midwife came to visit our house each day for five days to check on our progress, which was really handy. On day 4 my milk came in, which was interesting, and not long after I started develop sore nipples, probably because Isabella couldn’t latch on properly to my big breasts! It took a few weeks for them to heal over, making breastfeeding rather painful, but everyone I talked to was encouraging, and let me know that if they weren’t getting worse, I was on the right track, and that they would get better eventually!
I did wonder how I’d cope with a new baby at home, not having dealt much with babies before, but it came naturally enough, and my husband seemed to know what he was doing, having helped with his younger brother Sam as he was growing up.
As for Isabella, she has been alert and keen to watch her parents from very early on – tracking our eyes and watching our faces. I found the first two weeks I was on a natural high, tired but happy. However when my husband went back to work in the third week, the tiredness started to kick in, and I found the following 2 weeks rather difficult emotionally and physically.
I’m now in week 6, and I (and we) can’t imagine life without our beautiful little girl.
Looking back I don’t know that I would have done much differently – the advice to learn as much as possible about breastfeeding beforehand was very good advice, and although I thought I stuck to this advice, I wish I’d learnt more!
The best pieces of advice I was given before having Isabella were to a) follow my instincts (in regards to Isabella), and b) to not fear the birth, which is the advice I would give to anyone about to have their first baby!
Nicole and her partner attended both of Julie’s courses as their friends had advised “Be sure to book into classes that definitely cover baby care as well as birth – not to just focus on the birth!” and they found that the Transition into Parenthood course covered everything. Nicole and the other mums in her course formed their own mum’s group and get together once a week with their babies to socialise and have fun.
Nicole selected the 2 Saturday calmbirth Course to help her focus on her breathing following her mother’s advice: “Breathing is all important during labour it helps you cope with contractions like nothing else will…”
Nicole said she’ll be passing the same advice to her own lovely daughter too.
I recommend doing the Transition into Parenthood course first and Calmbirth second… as it gives you all the practical info and answers all your questions first… and then with calmbirth you just relax and go with the flow just totally focussed on the breathing.
During my first labour I was overwhelmed with many aspects of labour and birth. My partner John and I had felt traumatised afterwards and I was not at all sure I would ever have the confidence to fall pregnant again. There was a multitude of reasons why it all ended up that way, so after a while I began to think it all through and made some firm decisions after many conversations with friends and midwives, that I would aim for a natural birth and a positive experience this time around
Once I became pregnant, I had mixed feelings; I was delighted to be pregnant again, but I was quite worried about the birth. I considered all my options for the birth and chose the birth centre, with terrific midwifery care, and selected the course that would fulfil my need for building my confidence and focus my breathing and relaxation skills in readiness for the labour and birth. I promised myself that I would practice my breathing and relaxation as much as possible – and I did it. During the classes when we would all talk about what was happening during our preparation, how we were feeling and just sharing our experiences it really came over me that “Yes, I can do this!” and it was a wonderful feeling.
It went swimmingly this time! Thanks so much, Julie, for all your expert tuition and guidance. A completely different birthing experience this time round – the one I was after in fact! My husband, John opted to stay with Gabriel, so my mum came with me as birth partner. Surges started coming at 7 am on 1st October (my due date). I rented a TENS machine which I used in the early stages to help me focus – I also used it on the way to the hospital and in the active stages towards the end of the first stages in addition to the calmbirth® techniques.
There were some points where all I felt was a warm sensation in my uterus – even the ‘power surges’ were comfortable. There were points that I went so deep into relaxation that I actually blissed out. My mum said that I had this contented smile on my face. About lunchtime, the surges were coming every 5 minutes and lasting for 90 – 120 seconds, but I could carry on a conversation between them. We phoned my midwife, who advised that we wait until the surges were closer, if at all possible. I kept up the relaxation and breathing until about 7 p.m. Then, while the intervals between surges were about the same, they were lasting longer and was, as my mum says more ‘away with it’. At that point I was either shivering and shaking or too hot, a very good sign of progress in labour, I believe.
At about 7.30 p.m., I asked my mum to phone our lovely midwife, to tell her we were heading to the birthing centre. I was not convinced that I was ready to be taken in, so John waited with us to hear from Helen. I was, in fact, well dilated; 6 cm by then. My midwife told me that if I didn’t go into the final stages of labour in 4 hours, she would offer to break my waters. I didn’t want this to happen so my mum pressed acupressure points, and I started walking and swaying, I was quite comfortable and focused on remaining active and upright as I wanted to move things along.
About 1.00 am I went into the wonderful bath which is where the real challenge was for me. I was so petrified of tearing, after my last experience, that I breathed to relax rather than push the baby down. My midwife coached me through each surge and I realised that I just had to go for it and simply do what my body wanted to do. When I let go and followed my wave like surge I ended up roaring loudly like a wild banshee primitive woman, which actually helped me to finally release my beautiful baby girl, that bit was not quite what I expected or had visualised as a quiet and calm but I didn’t mind as it worked for me and Francesca was born at 2:14 a.m on Tuesday 2 October.
It was a wondrous powerful experience for me; I was elated and energised afterwards. Thanks to the Epi-No I only had the slightest graze, which my midwife said was absolutely fine and didn’t need any stitches at all. Oh! wasn’t I so pleased at that? Completely different to last time; wish i’d known about the Epi-No for my first birth; what a difference it made. Francesca and I were so well that we were discharged that evening. She feeds well, settles quite quickly and sleeps well. She is a calm and happy baby, except when she wants to be fed or her nappy is being changed. I feel very blessed that I had a chance to experience such a beautiful birthing.
Megan and her partner attended both of Julie’s courses – initially booking into the Transition into Parenthood course over 2 Saturdays, which they liked so much they decided to book into the calmbirth course as well, during the early third trimester.
Megan and her partner particularly enjoyed attending the calmbirth course on 2 Sundays as they felt chilled out on those days of the weekend anyway.
I felt extremely nervous about attempting to have a vaginal birth following the birth of my first child by caesarean. Then I attended the calmbirth course…
My first child was born on 3rd August, 2004, by emergency caesarean section, at 35 weeks’ gestation. The pregnancy had been considered “high risk” from 30 weeks due to grade IV placenta previa, meaning that the placenta completely covered the cervix. From the point at which I discovered that I had placenta previa until she was delivered, I was in a state of high alert and anxiety.
I had been hoping for a natural birth for her, before I found out it wasn’t to be. I was still very keen for a natural birth, and perhaps a water birth, when I became pregnant again with our second child. Even though I felt that I’d had a “good” caesar experience, with friendly staff attending the birth, I was determined to have a more relaxed pregnancy, and no surgery at the end.
Reading a book about hypnotherapy led me to look for a course other than hospital pre-natal classes, and when I found out that Julie had started leading calmbirth® courses, I was very excited. My husband and I attended Julie’s calmbirth course (combined with the One Day Workshop), and I started listening to the course relaxation CD daily, as well as Julie’s pregnancy relaxation CDs. We also got hold of an Epi-No, to help build my confidence in the stretchiness of my pelvic floor. I have always had a very tight pelvic floor, due to a tendency to hold tension in that area when I am stressed.
I started having strong practise (Braxton-Hicks) contractions about a week before I went into true labour. The night before, the practise contractions were challenging enough, and regular enough, to keep me from sleeping. I spoke to Julie about it, and she recommended getting into a warm bath to relax. I also called the birth centre. The contractions were so strong! But the midwife also recommended a bath, and to try to sleep or at least rest. I got into a lovely hot bath at about 10pm for about an hour, and when I was falling asleep, I got out, and went to bed. At 2am, I got into the bath again and topped it up with hot water, and was able to get some more sleep after a while. At 6am, I got up with my daughter, now 2 years old, and made my husband get out of bed too. As soon as I was out of bed, the contractions started up again. After pottering around a bit, I went back to bed. I felt pretty tired, and it was much easier to be lying down.
Active Labour – First Stage
At 9am, I had my first indicator that real labour was beginning – I passed a big bloody blob – the “show”. Excited, I called Julie straight away, to get some last minute reminders! She asked me, “Do you want to have the baby today?” Yes, of course. I’d had enough of pregnancy. “No more lying down, time to be upright and active.” I got out the manual from the One Day Workshop which was really helpful for reminding me of positions and other self help measures we’d covered on that Sunday.
I called our support people, and our parents. Then I told Jeremy to take Jemima to church with him so that I could have the house to myself, to help me focus. My husband reluctantly went to church with our daughter, as he would have preferred to stay home to be with me, helping and supporting me but i just felt like I wanted my own space for a little while. He met up with our trusted friends at church, who offered to care for our girl, and bring her home later. When home again, he started timing contractions, which had become much closer together, and regular. I tried a few of the positions that Julie showed us in the workshop. The ones that I found best were leaning against a wall, pelvic rocking, and kneeling over the front of our sofa with plenty of pillows.
I found that I preferred to be by myself mostly, but appreciated my husband heating up grain bags for me. I focused on releasing all the tension in my body with each surge, and breathing deeply and slowly. At around 11:30am, I was finding labour pretty challenging. I got in the shower, and turned the water up to hot. This was very soothing. Jeremy had called the birth centre a couple of times by now, but they said to stay at home until the contractions were 3-4 minutes apart, and regular. My husband was timing the contractions, and yes, they were close together and regular. Now I was finding the strength of the contractions to be more than I had bargained for! Fortunately, all the practise had taught me to focus inwards and work with the contractions.
Transition and Second Stage
By 1pm, I was starting to wonder whether a caesar would have been better after all. How was I going to make it through to the end of the day? Relaxing – what use was it after all? Then my waters broke. I really wanted to go to hospital! I wanted a water birth! Our daughter came home, and we sat her in front of the television while we waited for her support person to come. Laetitia arrived at 1:30pm, having been stuck in traffic. I was now in the pushing stage, but hadn’t realised. I thought I was just trying to do a poo, which I hadn’t been able to get out before. On the phone to the birth centre, when I described this feeling, I was told to come in straight away. It was hard work to get down the 33 steps from our flat, and then in the car. I knelt over the front passenger seat, and we drove to the Royal Hospital for Women, only 5 minutes from our house. I staggered through the lobby to the lift, then from the lift into the Birth Centre. Our wonderful midwife guided me into the closest birth room, and had me up on the bed to check the progress.
I leaned over some pillows, on all fours. “I can see the head!” she said with enthusiasm. She helped Jeremy to see too. “Please, run the bath!” I said. She said, “I’ll run it, but I don’t think you’re going to need it. Push when you’re ready!” I couldn’t help pushing. I was quietly groaning with each contraction now, and all my focus was on each surge. Nothing else mattered. About 10 contractions later, our baby’s head was out. I knew I’d torn a bit, there was a stinging feeling. The midwife told me our baby’s hand was next to his head (superman style!). Two more contractions, and his body slithered out. Immediately, relief! At first, I couldn’t do anything except rest against the pillows. Then I looked down, and picked up our tiny baby. It felt wonderful to hold him then. There was blood and amniotic fluid everywhere on the sheets. Euphoria! Even better than I had hoped for, a completely natural birth. It was 2:15pm when our son was born, just 20 minutes after we arrived in the Birth Centre. After a rest, I pushed a little: the cord, and the placenta came out quickly and easily.
I had a minor tear that needed three stitches. Our son weighed 3.31 kgs at birth. He latched on to the breast like a natural, about half an hour after he was born. And at that point, all the preparation, calmbirth® focused breathing, exercises, Epi-No, it was all worth it! So much better than a repeat caesar.
To any woman considering VBAC, I hope you’re encouraged by my story! You can have a successful VBAC too. I think the most important factors in my success were supportive friends, like Julie and the fantastic midwives at the Birth Centre, and believing in my ability to have a natural birth. Doing the calmbirth® course was a big help, in retraining my mind to feel positively about birth, to not be afraid, and to learn how to make the most of each contraction. I was so apprehensive and uncertain about whether my body could give birth naturally, up until I did calmbirth, and practised with the Epi-No. After the course, I was quietly confident that my body was designed to give birth, and I would continue in a long line of women who had done so.
Melissa and her husband attended Julie’s course firstly when she taught at the Royal Hospital for Women at Randwick during her 12 yr stint as the childbirth and parenting educator and then for her next birth preparation attended Julie’s One Day Workshop and calmbirth courses at her home in Sylvania where she has been teaching over 20 years. Melissa found the home courses much more comfortable than those held in a large institution. Melissa went on to have a second natural birth, a joyous waterbirth, two years later, and a third natural birth, in water, four years later, all at the Royal Hospital for Women, Randwick.
I found the calmbirth relaxation and breathing techniques worked amazingly during my birth. It was probably going to be a straightforward birth anyway but I think it was definitely quicker and more relaxed because of what we had been taught.
I had a show about 5am on the 22 Jan (2 wks before my due date). At about 3pm I started to feel the beginnings of contractions every 10 mins or so apart but they were really mild and I wasn’t even sure if I was in labour. By 4.15pm I started to write them down and they were about 5 -10 mins apart and about 35-40 secs long. I was walking around slowly and calmly during the contractions and reading books to my son, Ryan in between. By 5pm they were 3 mins apart and about 40 secs long so I rang the hospital. The lovely midwife advised that we could stay home a little longer if I was comfortable but given that we had to drop Ryan off she was happy if we started to get our things together and came down to check on how things were going.
When I got into the car I started using the relaxation and visualisation much more because I lost the ability to move around during contractions. It was great to have something to focus on and I was using really positive self-talk even though the contractions were getting quite strong.
We arrived at the hospital at 6pm and were taken to the delivery suite for monitoring. The midwife suggested that I lay on my side so they could monitor the contractions and heart beat for a few minutes. She indicated I was indeed in labour (which I was very sure of by then!) and that I would be staying. I was comfortable on my side and chose to stay in this position for the remainder of Stage 1 as I was completely relaxed and focused on my slow breathing – counting in for 20 and out for 20, all the while visualising the uterus contracting and the cervix opening. I simply shut my eyes during a contraction and opened them when the contraction passed. Todd was able to use this as a cue to rub my arm when I was having a contraction – I felt he was tuned into my contractions even though I was laying relaxed. He was able to defer questions from others during these times as well. Unfortunately the midwife didn’t have access to the visual cue of me shutting my eyes (as I was facing towards the wall) and she was thinking things were in the earlier stages as I was laying so still and so quiet. At about 6.45pm she did an internal and realised I was 7cm dilated and said the waters were bulging and on the verge of bursting. She had no idea I was this far along and quickly went into action, ringing the Dr to come straight in, and preparing for the birth. She commented jokingly that it would be easier if I just yelled out like everyone else so that she knew what was happening (I should note that we had not given her a copy of the birth plan or told her about the course we did with Julie, as we were being left mostly to ourselves because we looked so settled).
I continued to use my slow breathing but was finding the contractions more intense. I was still completely calm and Todd was reassuring that we were nearly there. The midwife suggested I try some gas as she anticipated that things would be very intense and happen very quickly once my waters broke. (I had tried gas with Ryan but hated it). I agreed to try the gas as I thought it would help to keep my breathing on track (as it was getting harder to stay focused). The clicking of the gas machine was great to count to and it was quite easy to keep my breathing slow using the gas. I used the gas for about 6 contractions before stage 2 started (about 7.15pm) and I didn’t need it anymore.
The doctor arrived within minutes of this and I was pushing. It took about 40 mins for Joel to come out (7.55pm) but he came out without assistance (this was the tiring part, although I pushed for 2hrs with Ryan!). He was healthy and looked perfect, and I didn’t tear at all.
Todd commented that the birth was “too easy”. I wouldn’t say it was easy but it was manageable and a wonderful experience – fully relaxed, no fear and feeling in control. I felt confident in what my body was doing and my ability to birth our baby. The midwife commented on what a lovely birth it was and the next day came to see me. She said I must have an incredible tolerance for pain as she had never seen a birth like it (she had also never seen the bag of water delivered either – it was a day of firsts for her too!). She was very interested when I told her about the calmbirth®.
Allison and her partner attended both of Julie’s courses: the Transition into Parenthood during the evening on Wednesday evenings for 8 sessions, as well as the Calmbirth® course on 2 Saturdays consecutively.
With Julie’s help, I was able to use Calmbirth relaxation and breathing techniques for a very positive birthing experience with my third child.
For my first two children, I had what would be considered “good” births. Both babies had been born naturally without any drugs, but they were very painful and intense births and I assumed that was the best I could expect. Both these births left me feeling frightened to birth again. After speaking to a lot of women about their birth experiences, I was really surprised that some women had not been so overwhelmed by their birthing experiences and some even said they found birthing a joyful experience. I decided I wanted to see if it was possible to enjoy a birth this time instead of just surviving one.
I enjoyed the class sessions each week because they were very relaxing and they helped to keep me calm in the lead up to the birth. I enjoyed having that time to focus on my baby with my husband by my side. Julie’s approach was not dogmatic. She encouraged me to find what I thought was helpful from each session and gave me the confidence to add some visualisations of my own for the birth.
I had had a very difficult pregnancy this time with continual morning sickness and was entering into week 36 with my baby in a breech position. I was not sure that I would have the birth I’d hoped for this time, because I was told by my obstetrician to be prepared for the possibility of a caesarean. I continued with relaxation, breathing practice and visualisations of the baby in the ideal birthing position, and my baby turned at week 37.
On the morning of my daughter Ilaria’s birth (at 2am, 2 days into week 38), my water’s broke with a “pop’ high in my abdomen. Very soon after labour started. I found it easy to feel focused and stay calm. I joked with my husband and a friend who came to look after my children and watched “Rage” on TV while doing my breathing with the early surges. We went into the hospital an hour and a half later because my last birth was very quick and we settled into a quiet birthing room with dim lighting. With each surge, I concentrated on my slow breathing, and used visualisations to keep my uterus relaxed and encourage the gradual opening of my cervix. I relaxed, almost able to dose off to sleep, between surges. My husband was quietly encouraging and there to hold my hand if I needed.
I was not aware of the time passing, but after about 4 hours I was starting to feel agitated and panicky and thought “Why am I doing this?”, but then realised I was nearly finished and needed to start to move the baby out. With 4 slow birth breaths, my beautiful daughter was born. I was not exhausted or overwhelmed this time. I was on a high. This birth was a gentle, spiritual, positive experience. I birthed a calm and contented baby, and kept asking if she was alright because she was so quiet and peaceful.
Calmbirth® taught me that birthing doesn’t have to be something you fight against. It can be a natural, beautiful, calm and spiritual experience. I had only a small perineal graze which needed no attention and I have really felt fantastic since. My baby is very settled and gorgeous, and my body needed little recovery. I am still in bliss!
Wendy and partner attended the Calmbirth® course for 5 weeks, one night per week during her 2nd trimester.
Rosalia’s birth day is a day I will always look back on with a feeling of incredible happiness and a deep sense of joy. My pregnancy had been a very happy and healthy one and I had really enjoyed it. Daniel and I had tried for 10 months before conceiving and so we were thrilled when we found out I was pregnant. Our families and friends were also very excited for us.
When I look back on my pregnancy I can see that it was a journey towards believing in myself and my ability to give birth naturally and without intervention. I immediately chose to be cared for and to give birth in the Birth Centre at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Randwick. My sister-in-law helped me make this decision. This was the first step in changing my perception of how I had always imagined giving birth (in a private hospital, with an obstetrician and I had always thought I would have an epidural).
The next step on my journey was to book into Julie’s “Transition to Parenthood” classes and also into the “Calmbirth” course. The “Calm Birth” course had been recommended to me by some friends who explained to me that the course would help me with any fears I had about giving birth. Daniel and I thoroughly enjoyed attending both courses with Julie.
I finished working 6 weeks before my due date. I decided that I wanted to really enjoy the last weeks of my pregnancy and also give myself the time to practice what we had learned in the calmbirth® course. I listened to the calmbirth® CD’s every day, although there were some days I didn’t manage to fit it in. I also read the calmbirth® booklet numerous times so that I could really understand the concepts of calmbirth® Julie had gone over it all in the course but reading it again embedded it in my mind properly. Another thing I did in preparation for the birth was to use an Epi-no, in that hope that I would not tear or need stitches.
Daniel and I chose to have a Doula attend our birth. This was so that both of us would feel supported by a third person in the room. Our Doula visited us three times in the lead up to help with the preparations of our birth. Having a Doula was an important part of the success of our birth, as knowing there was someone else to support us really allowed us both to relax and release some more of the fears we had, both in the months leading up and at the birth itself.
As my due date passed by I became a little frustrated and had to keep reminding myself to surrender my feelings and trust that Rosalia would come when she was ready. Eight days over due I woke up at 4:30 in the morning with the first extremely mild contraction. Daniel went to work and I spent the day at home doing normal things around the house. I was even able to have a sleep in the afternoon for an hour (although I felt three contractions throughout the sleep). Daniel came home that evening and we had dinner and watched TV until 10:30pm. My contractions were getting stronger as time went on but I was able to breath through them and I thought I had a long way to go. Daniel did not believe that I was actually having contractions and so did not take my warnings seriously when I told him I thought we would be going to the hospital that night. Daniel had to finish a job application due the next day. I told him he had better do it and email it off that night. Meanwhile, I told him I would have a warm bath. At midnight I got out of the bath and proof read Daniel’s CV in between contractions. I then tried to get some sleep but was unable to as the contractions had increased in strength. I told Daniel to get some sleep though as I wanted him to be okay if it was going to be a long labour. I then laboured by myself for the next 3 hours. It helped me to continue listening to the calmbirth® CDs and also other calming music. I also used visualization and the breathing techniques taught in the course.
I rang the midwife twice throughout this time and both times she listened to my contractions. As I was so calm she did not think that I was advanced enough to go into the hospital. At 3 o’clock I felt it was time to go and I was getting tired of being by myself. I woke Daniel up and we drove to the hospital. We entered the Birth Centre and the midwife watched me have a contraction but decided I was probably only 2cm dilated and had to attend to another lady giving birth. After another half an hour the midwife came back and examined me, she told us not to be disappointed as she may have to send us back home again. On examination she found that I was actually 7cm. I was incredibly relieved that I did not have to get back in the car and go home. We were all surprised at how advanced I was.
Daniel called our Doula and our wonderful midwife began running the bath for me. At that stage I still was not certain that I wanted to have a water birth, I just thought that the water would help me to relax more. The feeling of the warm water was beautiful and just what I needed to continue through the contractions calmly. Our Doula arrived and with Daniel they were both wonderful in attending to my needs.
At 8 cm dilation my waters still had not broken and I was getting a little frustrated wondering when they would break. Our midwife suggested that she could manually break them. Although I was hesitant she suggested that this would speed things along. After this my contractions were a little stronger but still bearable. It was not long afterwards that I felt the urge to begin pushing. I knew it was time, but it was surprisingly difficult for me to physically know how to push. I had been dealing with the contractions for so long and I knew exactly how to get through each one without much trouble. When it came time to bear down it took me a few contractions before I figured out what to do. I used visualisation of a rose bud opening and when I breathed I breathed down visualising a capital “J” (breathing down and out of my uterus). Half and hour later our beautiful little girl was born in the water. I only had a couple very small abrasions that did not require stitching.
I felt amazing after the birth – Euphoric. It was the biggest physical challenge I had achieved in my life and it felt wonderful that I had been able to feel everything throughout. I will never forget that day or the feeling of achievement that I felt giving birth to our little girl. Physically I was so healthy after the birth I felt I could have gone home after 4 hours, however I decided to stay in the hospital as it was my first baby. Rosalia has changed our lives forever – we had no idea that you can love someone so much.
Emma and her partner attended both of Julie’s courses. Emma has sent a number of their friends to the courses and although they’ve all birthed in a variety of ways (including c.section) they’ve been pleased to be so well informed of the process and caring for their baby after the birth
Andrew and I had a baby girl, Camryn Jane born at 10.28am on Wednesday 12th March, 2008. She was 40 weeks and 2 days gestation
When I did Julie Clarke’s calmbirth® course, I knew it was going to help me out, but I had no idea just how much!
I was already 35 or 36 weeks when we started, so my anxious feelings leading in to the labour were fairly strong at that stage. I found the course really great, however Andrew (being the sceptic that he is) thought it was a bit airy fairy for him at the time. He was supportive for me though, in that he said if it helped me out, then it was worth it. He had a lot of difficulty relaxing. I found the visualisation was a little challenging at the start, but when I practiced regularly with the CDs at home my confidence increased, as I could tell I was getting better at it and I even fell asleep sometimes! I practiced the breathing wherever and whenever I could, even if it was just a few slow rhythmic breaths here and there. I bought some great meditation music and had an aromatherapist prepare me some oil blends for burning and sniffing throughout the labour. I also read a fantastic book by Chiropractor, Jennifer Barnham-Floriani called “Well Adjusted Babies”.
I had some tightenings that just felt like a period that would come and go for the 2 days leading in to my labour. I was really happy about this because I knew it was all great preparation for my cervix. (My first labour came 6 days over and without warning my waters broke leading to strong contractions within the hour that were already 10 minutes apart… so I was really hoping for a nice long pre labour phase this time). As I got in to bed about 10.30pm I felt the tightening become stronger, like a surge, and this time it took my concentration enough that I started my calm breathing. I told Andrew our baby would probably be here tomorrow and I managed quite easily to drift off to sleep with my calmbirth CD playing.
About 2am I woke with a surge strong enough that it was no longer comfortable to lay down and I knew it was time to get up and get moving to let gravity do some of the work. I didn’t feel the need to wake Andrew so I started preparing my oils, music and heat packs and drinking lots of fluids. (My first born and I had become dehydrated with my first labour and ended up with an IV in my arm so I was determined to make sure this didn’t happen again). I used standing positions for a while and leaned over slightly to support my weight so that I could do pelvic rocks through each surge. Then when it got stronger again, I piled up some pillows on the edge of the bed so that I could just slump over them while still standing.
I breathed deeply through every single one, concentrating on exhaling as slowly as possible. I put peppermint essential oil in the toilet to stimulate the bladder every time I sat down. I woke Andrew about 5.30am and told him I had been going through the surges for a few hours. I had my support people on standby and Andrew ended up looking after our 2year old son until my mum arrived around 7.30am.
In hindsight Andrew said he didn’t realise how far I had gone through the labour on my own because I seemed so calm. I told him to call the hospital and my support when I knew it was getting much closer and stronger. I just kept visualising baby coming to me and found so much comfort and peace with the breathing. Pelvic rocking seemed natural to me and it was all I wanted to do with every surge. I was determined to stay at home as long as possible to avoid any medical intervention and dilate as far as possible before leaving home. I had been able to slip in to a very relaxed calm place, so calm that Andrew and Mum didn’t realise just how far I had gone on my own until I started saying, “its very close now, I think I’m very close to wanting to push”…. well, by that stage I realised I had better get to hospital and had Andrew call them while we were on our way. I had to pile pillows up on the carseat, have the seat wound back and face the back of the car to get comfortable. I slumped over the pillows and kept breathing and pelvic rocking.
I ended up being 7-8cm by the time I arrived at hospital. I actually had to stop myself from pushing while we were driving. We had a team of about 5 or 6 midwives greet us with a wheel chair to usher me up to the delivery suite. I got straight in the shower and kept doing my pelvic rocks and breathing. I had begun to involuntarily push now. I was asked to get out of the shower at this stage and I got on to all fours on the bed with a bean bag.
I kept my eyes closed and continued with my breathing. I was still in that place and didn’t want to see anything in the hospital to distract me. I surprised myself with being so incredibly quiet. I hardly made a sound I was so deeply in a trance.
She ended up being posterior, which was lucky in hindsight because I may have had her in the car otherwise! I am a big believer in letting nature do its work and I stepped aside to let the ancient womens’ birthing wisdom guide me. I knew Camryn would come exactly as she needed to and trusted that everything was going just as it should.
My waters had not broken and my obstetrician wanted to do it for me. I declined and told him I wanted it to happen naturally. It was just as well because the delay in waters breaking helped her to turn around and be born.
As soon as my waters broke I felt the need to change positions and turned around and squatted upright on the edge of the bed. She was out in 2 or 3 more contractions.
I was so happy the moment I saw her and overcome by tears of joy. She was immediately placed on my chest and within moments she self attached to my breast. It was the most amazing experience. I had the beautiful release of natural hormones and fell deeply in love with her from the onset. She breast fed for about half an hour just like an expert.
Three months later, Camryn is the calmest and happiest baby I have ever seen. She has only cried a handful of times. I have never had to assist her attach to my breast, she does it so effortlessly. I am the calmest person I have ever been in my life. I am a completely different mother than I was the first time around and my 2 year old son Kai is also reaping the benefits of his new calm mummy. I won’t deny there are plenty of moments where I lose my patience, I think that is only human. The difference for me is that they are just moments this time around. I am a completely calm and patient mum and I strongly believe its the effect of the calm birth I had with Camryn. I was blessed to have the most beautiful birth experience any woman could hope for and I am so greatful to have embraced your concepts. The breathing and the pelvic rocks still help me when I am feeding and settling throughout the night with Camryn. She is so calm and I believe its 100% because I am.
I looked at the videos of other couples during the course and I will be honest, I thought most of them were pretty corny. Now I realise that I am one of them and I probably sound quite similar to others who have not experienced it yet. I really do feel blessed, it really changed not only my birthing experience but me as a person. As a result, my whole family is benefiting. My relationship with Andrew feels stronger. He thought the birth experience this time was absolutely amazing as well. He couldn’t believe how much it really helped. It blew him away that these techniques he just couldn’t get in to, actually worked!
Thinking about what you teach, its so simple, its so natural… its just that most of us have lost touch with ourselves and innate wisdom.
Your tools helped me to guide myself to the exact place I needed to be!
Belinda and her partner came along to Julie’s calmbirth course during the weekend during the early third trimester to allow plenty of time for practice of the breathing and relaxation skills. Belinda recommends don’t leave it to the last minute to do the course if you can help it… the earlier the better so you have plenty of practice time.