For those of you who experienced long labours, be warned this story may invoke serious birth envy. When Sarah Laird (31), recently gave birth to her second son, Alby, it was all over in a matter of shower and a couple of pushes. There wasn’t even time for her support crew to arrive.
Imagine this – you are patiently waiting out the last couple of weeks before baby number two makes its arrival. Your youngest is happily asleep in his own bed, you’re also in the land of nod. Suddenly, you’re woken in the middle of the night with the kind of cramping that suggests Bubs might be on its way.
Sarah Laird (31), mum to boys Luca (3) and Alby (two weeks old), found herself in this situation only weeks ago. And while second-time-around, short labours are far from remarkable – as they say, we’ve been having babies for thousands of years and we’ll be doing it for thousands more – the rest of Alby’s birth was a little less ordinary.
“On the night Alby was born, I woke up at about 1.30am with some mild cramping,” Sarah recounts. “After trying to ignore it for awhile I got up and went downstairs. At this stage I was thinking these must be the beginning stages of labour but, as anyone who has given birth understands, this can go on for quite awhile. I wasn’t having regular contractions as yet and just rested on the couch in front of the heater. I rang my partner Kim (27) at around 2.45am to suggest he come in as this was probably going to be the day. (He was at our home in Dwellingup, about an hour away from the house we were renting in Fremantle for our baby’s birth.)”
Sarah was under the care of the Community Midwifery Program, and following advice from her midwife, spent the next hour or so moving around and using the fit ball. Having already experienced a painful posterior birth with Luca, Sarah was keen to do everything in her power to encourage a strong, straightforward labour.
The contractions were mild, short and very irregular so I didn’t have any reason to feel I was near giving birth, nor was I even sure I was really in labour.
Feeling a stronger contraction at 3.30am, Sarah felt the urge to hop in the shower – it had been a great source of pain relief in her labour with Luca. As she was getting into the shower, she experienced a stronger contraction and what felt like her waters breaking.
While standing under the warm water, Sarah experienced some mild contractions, and knowing Kim was on the way, thought once he arrived they would call the midwives to let them know things had started.
“Suddenly a strong painful contraction surged through me and I squatted down to work through it. As I rose up I realised I was pushing, and I could actually feel his head moving down! At this moment I realised things were progressing much faster than I had thought. I pushed for a second time and his head was out. I remember thinking ‘OK, I just have to do this’ and knelt down while cradling my baby’s head with my hands. Two more pushes in quick succession and I caught my baby boy in my arms.”
Still in shock from what had happened, Sarah knelt in the shower for a moment, then turned Alby over and loosened the umbilical cord from around his tummy.
“I remember feeling a moment of extreme relief that he was breathing and appeared healthy and normal. I was holding my new baby boy in my arms and thinking ‘Wow, did that just happen?'”
Back to practicalities, Sarah realised her phone was in the lounge room and she had no idea what time he was born, nor did anyone know that she had been remotely close to giving birth.
“I put the phone on speaker in the middle of the bathroom, rang the midwife Tracey, and hopped back in the shower. I told her I was in the shower and I’d had the baby. Of course she was shocked, but I think she handled it really well – she stayed calm, told me to make sure Alby and I were warm enough and that she was on her way. I then called Kim, which was a funny conversation that I barely remember – I told him I was in the shower, had already had Alby, and that we were fine. Then I told him it was a boy and hung up!”
Sarah’s voice takes on the dreamy tone of someone enjoying a pleasant memory as she recalls a favourite part of the story. “I wrapped Alby and myself in a towel and went out to the lounge room where I had the heater on. I sat quietly gazing into Alby’s face and contemplating the incredible experience we had both just been thorough. He began suckling almost immediately and I felt so calm and in control. The first few moments with your child are infinitely precious and miraculous and I will never forget mine. After ten minutes had passed, I heard my eldest son calling out to me, so I told him to come into the lounge room. He came halfway down the hallway, and I said ‘Luca, come and meet your brother’. He came into the room and was so delighted to see the baby in my arms. We sat there for another fifteen minutes or so looking at Alby, and then Kim came in.”
After Kim had met his new son, and the midwife had arrived and given Alby a clean bill of health, Sarah called her parents to share the kind of news they are unlikely to forget. “Dad answered the phone. I told him I had already had the baby and had given birth in the shower on my own. He just kept saying ‘What? What?’, then he put Mum on.”
Sarah says lots of people tell her how amazing she was to cope, but to her, there wasn’t any other way to handle it. She also credits having planned to give birth at home with the relaxed way she reacted when things started to happen so quickly.
“Because I was in the place I expected to give birth, I wasn’t panicking that I was still at home. If I’d been planning a hospital birth, I might have focused on being in the wrong place rather than dealing with what was happening.”
While birth is often an unpredictable experience, Sarah says she never anticipated she would give birth to Alby quite so quickly, or at home, alone in the shower. “I am in awe of what our bodies and minds are capable of and feel extremely proud that I was able to find the courage and strength that I needed to bring Alby into our lives.”