Freebirth as a first time mum: This is the birth story of Aine, Colin and of their baby girl Fiadh born in November 2023 as written by Aine. Freebirth (i.e. a birth without the assistance of midwives or doctors) was their preferred option and one Aine prepared for extensively. She shares freely how she prepared, what happened at the birth and after and offers suggestions about other things she wishes she had looked into. Her doula was our own Sara, the Italian doula.
You can find Aine here
First time parents Rainbow baby Planned and actual freebirth Born 39+3 7lb 5 ounces Known baby girl Pain relief- combs (although my doula has now told me I was using these wrong during my labour ) and birth pool
Background Having had a previous miscarriage last year I went into pregnancy with fear and doubt this time round, I found it hard at the beginning to lean into my instincts, trust my body and tune into my baby. After repeat reassurance scans pregnancy was smooth sailing although I had bad morning sickness in the beginning with some moderate PGP and back pain in my second trimester. I found relief with weekly yoga/fitness classes, stretches and attended aqua natal yoga towards the end of my pregnancy. Throughout my pregnancy I began to educate myself on physiological birth, I was initially hoping for a #homebirth with midwives but as I began to learn more about the unnecessary interventions and how important the subtleties of maintaining a positive and relaxed birth space are to the flow of labour I grew more and more disillusioned with this idea. I began to grow a strong trust in my body, baby and intuition, I could feel that my baby was willing this to happen as much as I was and I really leant into all the knowledge and positive birth stories I could find. I don't believe I would have been able to have the experience I had without this deep understanding and trust.
I decided to be very quiet on my thoughts surrounding my birth wishes when speaking with family and friends, not allowing their own fears and doubts to filter in. As I wanted the option of calling midwives if necessary, I had to advocate for myself when attending appointments (although I had not informed the midwives of my intention to #freebirth until my home assessment. I mentioned in passing that it was my ideal scenario...much to their dismay). There was a couple of occasions when I was coerced into a growth scan on the basis of LGA and declining GTT when it was offered outside of their own guidelines. I was told I was going to have a big baby and highly likely to tear from my vagina to my asshole. I declined further growth scans from here. I had also outlined my birth preferences and that I would be declining offers of sweeps, inductions, vaginal examinations, regular fetal monitoring etc. The midwives would discuss each of these choices on each visit dispite being told as it was previously discussed in detail with the consultant midwife that I would not have to go over these again as I was making an informed choice. Thank god for my doula offering a listening ear and being my sounding board during this time.
The birth I had been drinking red raspberry leaf tea for about a week in the run up to labour and had started noticing some light cramping at night but as I was 39 weeks, this was my first full term pregnancy and I was feeling so content being pregnant I didn't feel any rush to give birth, i was thinking I would probably be closer to 42 weeks by the time I went into actual labour.
At 39 weeks +3 I thought it was about time I start prepping my husband for labour, I tried to run through some of the supplies I had so he knew where things were and went through some things that might assist me through labour. He had gone to sleep in the spare room as I stayed up and watched tv, the light cramping began as the last couple of nights and I went to sleep as usual. After 12 o'clock I realised this might have been the real thing and remembered back to all the advice to just ignore this stage of labour and rest so that's what I did, I tried to sleep through contractions, listen to hypnobirthing tracks and relax. Surges started picking up and I was unable to lie down during them, I noticed some light blood when wiping after 1am and then started losing my mucus plug after 2am. I wanted to allow my partner to rest as I knew labour can sometimes take days so I choose not to wake him until it felt right. I texted my doula at 1:40am to give her a heads up that things were starting. I felt completely comfortable knowing that she was likely sleeping and would make her way in the morning when she woke up and saw my text. At 3:50am I messaged her with an update to say that i was managing okay but that my surges were very intense and I was losing my mucus plug.
I had envisioned that I would use a variety of positions during labour but the only one I found comfortable during the surges was sitting on my birth ball slightly reclined with my hands up in the air holding the combs. I was in the zone, listening to my hypnobirthing tracks, holding my combs during each surge, surrendering, focusing on my breathing, in through the nose and an extended out breath exhaled out through my mouth. I was experiencing nausea and was using peppermint essential oil to assist with this during early labour. I then reached for my lavender and frankincense and alternated these as needed. I found these really helpful to ground me and relax me. At 4:20am I text my doula asking her to make her way up when she woke up. Around this time I woke my husband as I knew it wouldn't be long until I would have to concentrate fully on my surges. He was surprised but kept his cool, got me iced water, made a labour aid drink, went off to get the birth pool ready and left me to it which was exactly what I needed. When he would try to come in and speak to me I found surges were significantly harder to work through and so I asked him to leave me be to labour on my own and let me know when the pool was ready. I called our doula at 6:30am to ask her to make her way to us as she lives 45 minutes away. My husband told me the pool was 3/4 full, I asked what temperature it was and so he ran off to check. It was 35 degrees. At some point my nausea overcame me and I projectile vomited. My husband came back into the room and we found humour in the fact he stepped in my vomit as I was trying to warn him not to. My husband had brought all my supplies into the other room and much to my amazement he had set up the pool beautifully with fairylights and tealights which I had only just informed him that evening that I had planned to use. I got into the pool when it was 36 degrees. It was an instant relief. I continued to labour focusing on my breath with my hypnobirthing tracks, using my combs and essential oils.
My husband sat reading a book (later found out it was the Orgasmic Birth book ) in between adding more hot water to the pool and whispering words of encouragement. Our doula arrived at 8am while I was having a surge, she got a jug out of the cupboard and began pouring hot water over my back which was heavenly. They then took turns providing me with cold flannels to place on my head and neck as needed. She reassured me I was doing great and I felt so in the zone. I felt so held and supported in this space, it was heavenly. Things started to pick up more and I found myself in transition, I could observe this at the time and felt reassured despite voicing I was struggling. During transition my phone that had been playing my hypnobirthing tracks died which was almost comical. My husband quickly got them back on and as labour continued I could feel her drop lower down inside me. My husband was pretty clueless at this stage that I was about to give birth, he had left the room and later told me he was considering going out to feed the chickens, not expecting that I would have been giving birth until later that evening. I asked our doula to go fetch him. During the next surges I became a bit unsure of the sensations, I wasn't sure if I should actively bare down or not but recognised that I was "mooing" so felt she was close. The doula just told me to go with whatever urge I felt. I pushed during the next few surges and I could feel her head crowning. I kept breathing saying "slowwwwww" as I could feel I was about to tear. We watched in amazement as her head emerged. I said "quick someone get a photo!" I'm so glad I did as the photos were completely unplanned as myself and our doula hadn't discussed this yet. As she was underwater turning around in the birth canal until she was facing us, she reached her hand up and looked up at us and with the next surge I lifted her out.
She was born at 11:59am and we were ecstatic. I'm emotional thinking about it now, to have been able to have trusted myself and for my partner to have trusted me to achieve a birth beyond our expectations is just a feeling hard to describe. She was perfect.
I got out of the pool to birth my placenta as this was to be encapsulated. I took some angelica to assist with this (I recommend diluting it in water rather than taking it straight in the mouth) I birthed the placenta onto a sitz bath on the toilet about an hour an a half after birth. Funnily enough at this time the delivery of the gas and air showed up and my husband answered the door and just said we didnt need it anymore..not explaining that I had just given birth. My husband tied the cord with a cotton cord tie and cut the cord. She latched on well and we just soaked her all in. Our mothers came to meet her, I had a shower and my husband and our doula helped tidy up. I called the midwives at 4pm. They arrived shortly after very unimpressed and failing to hide their disapproval in my choice to freebirth. I declined an internal check on my tears as we did not have the gas and air for pain relief and opted to let them heal naturally.
I truly believe her birth experience has had an amazing impact on our initial days with her so far. She is the most content and thriving baby and we feel very blessed that she got the best birth possible.
If you made it this far thank you for taking the time to read our story, reading other peoples experiences was vital in building my own confidence in our bodies ability to birth without assistance and I'm glad to share something back into the community.
Preparation/tips I thought I would share some resources I found extremely helpful during pregnancy in preparation for my freebirth.
My biggest investment was my doula Sara @theitaliandoula
Positive birth community
Normal boring freebirth for normal boring people
The midwives cauldron
The ultimate birth partner podcast
Positive pregnancy, birth and motherhood
Free birth society
The doulas guide to...preparing for your birth
The physiological birth club on the clubhouse app-listening to Kemi Johnson and the other speakers discuss birth so freely in this way on a variety of important topics was absolutely fundamental in growing my awareness and confidence of birth. So a big thankyou for this beautiful free resource.
Instagram accounts Kemibirthjoyjohnson Samanthagadsdendoula Builttobirth Painfreebirth Bydesignbirthdoula Thelabormama Normalboringfreebirth Power.in.birth Hannahpalamarahonestly Consious_birth_and_motherhood Freetobirth Thepositivebirthcompany Thebirthuprising Livewildbirthfree The.midwifemummy The_authentic_birthkeeper Birthuntethered Kristymaes_
Books Orgasmic birth by Elizabeth Davis and Debra-Pascali Bonaro Ina May Gaskin's Guide to childbirth
Classes I used-although you can get the same information free online if you're committed to putting time into your own research Painfreebirth course (very christian oriented which can be off putting) ThePositivebirthcompany hypnobirthing digital pack and postpartum pack
Free Hypnobirthing tracks I used during labour (I purchased YouTube premium when in labour to avoid adds)
Free exercises which reduced my back pain during pregnancy:
My biggest tip for labour is trust your body, your baby, your instincts and any higher power you may have faith in, focus on your breath and surrender to the experience. You don't need a lot, just yourself.
One thing I would recommend to focus more on is preparing physically and mentally for postpartum healing. Sitz baths soaks, Epsom salts, peri spray, peri bottle, homeopathic remedies (particularly arnica and calendula), soft stretchy reusable period underwear, lansinoh reusable cold & warm pad, meal prep etc. I did all of the above and it still came as a shock. Kombu seaweed has accelerated my comfort and healing and I highly recommend getting some in preparation for your birth if you plan on healing naturally (see some suggestions here).