There’s no doubt giving birth is one of, if not the hardest thing a woman will do - physically at least.
No two births are the same. Some are short, while others are extremely long, lasting days on end. Some are unbelievably taxing, requiring medical intervention…whilst others are quiet, calm and straight-forward. Nothing can truly prepare a woman for birth, particularly her first.
For the most part, women love to talk about their births (some wish to forget!), so at Cadenshae we thought we’d reach out to our amazing community of mothers, listen to their stories, and really delve into the nitty gritty of labour. We want to shed light on what can happen during childbirth - good and bad - because for mums-to-be, it can all be a bit of a mystery.
We’ve collected all sorts of stories, each is entirely different to the other, as we try to demonstrate the various ways in which a woman can give life. Although nothing can truly prepare you, learning from those who’ve gone before will certainly offer a little more understanding around what’s to come.
Giving birth is empowering - whether it’s unbelievably tiresome, or relatively ‘easy.' When a woman delivers she truly understands the depth in which she can persevere, push forward, endure. She understands the true magnificence of her body.
She understands, ‘The Power of Mother.’
1. The Early Bird - Harrison Mark Woods.
Mum - Emily Woods.
Dad - Tim Woods.
7 lbs. 12 oz.
At 36 weeks pregnant and at around 9:30am, Emily Woods was in her bathroom when she felt a ‘pop,’ followed by a rush of water pouring out of her. Her waters had broken...it was game on!
Emily called her husband immediately and told him to, ‘get on a plane.’ Tim was away on a business trip, but since Harrison decided to come a little early, he had to do some serious hustling to get home in time…
Next, Emily called her midwife who told her if she wasn’t contracting then she would assess her in a few hours. Emily had been hoping for a homebirth, but since he was coming before 37 weeks, she knew Harrison would have to be born in the hospital.
Meanwhile, Tim ran out of his breakfast meeting and bolted to the airport. He was on the phone to ‘Air New Zealand,’ who said he wouldn’t make the next flight...but Tim was determined! He sped up to the airport door, leaving his rental car right outside (someone must’ve found it!) and sprinted to the departure gate...he made it.
At 2pm, Tim called Emily to say he’d landed and he was on his way home. Emily recalls, “my hormones obviously knew he was only 20m away and could finally do what they wanted to because I started having strong contractions. As soon as Tim got home we went to the hospital, it was just before 2:30pm and I was 7cm dilated.”
Emily and Tim live in a small town at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. The town’s maternity unit on average has 1.5 births a day, but on this particular day, there were six. When Emily and Tim arrived, all three of the delivery rooms were occupied, so Emily was set up in one of the postnatal rooms where she was squeezed into a tiny bathroom with three midwives, and Tim. Emily’s parents were outside waiting nervously.
“It was so cramped that every time I changed position I was touching someone, but for some reason that was okay and it felt like I had a whole team of people birthing with me. Just after 4pm I gave birth to my amazing baby boy, on my knees, in the dark, in that bathroom and I have never felt so strong, so primal and so much love.”
As far as births go, Emily’s was pretty fast, especially for a first timer. Her waters broke at 9:30am and by 4pm baby Harrison (Harry) had arrived.
“I loved labour so much! It was a little overwhelming because I wasn’t prepared (since he was early), but it was quick and I really felt amazing. I loved the birth.”
2. The HypnoBirth - Mila Honey Laurence.
Mum - Kate Laurence.
Dad - Mark Laurence.
7 lbs. 9 oz.
When Kate Laurence first fell pregnant, she, like many of us, imagined her birth would be excruciating and could easily result in medical intervention. Kate felt quite comfortable having an epidural and/or a c-section, should the need arise. Why did she feel this way? Movies, videos and T.V. programmes for the most part...what Kate had seen of birth looked severely painful and extremely intense.
Fortuitously, Kate met a woman who told her about HypnoBirthing - a method that uses self-hypnosis and relaxation techniques to help a woman feel physically, mentally and spiritually prepared, and is designed to reduce her awareness of fear, anxiety and pain during labour. The technique has been around for over 50 years.
"I had this chance encounter with this woman who said she had the most incredible birth,” says Kate. “I’d never heard someone talk about their birth as being ‘incredible’ and I asked her why, and she put it down to that HypnoBirthing course. So I said, 'I'm sold,' and signed up that afternoon.”
When Kate felt herself going into labour she was excited, not anxious, scared or nervous...excited. She lit some candles and her fiance (now husband), Mark, called their midwife, then set up an inflatable pool in their living room. Kate hopped in and relaxed.
Ninety minutes later, Mila was ready to arrive.
Mark got in the pool with Kate, and with their midwife leaning over watching every moment, Kate gently contracted and Mila’s head peacefully emerged. With the next surge, Mila Honey Laurence was born...all in a matter of minutes.
"On the birth day there was zero fear. I found it really empowering. That the body can give birth, that it's a natural thing, and that it doesn't need to be this big scary medical intervention.”
"It was the thing I am most proud of in my life to date, it was everything we had visualised. It was intimate, calm, joyous. It wasn't pain-free but the pressure was definitely manageable.”
“It was just incredible.”
If you’d like to watch Kate’s astounding birth to Mila, click here. It’s a wonderfully calm and inspiring birth to watch, not to mention quick!
"When I discovered HypnoBirthing I saw there was a whole other way,” says Kate. “I just thought, if my body can conceive a baby and grow a baby then, surely, if everything is right, it can give birth to a baby."
Two years later, Tulsi Snow Laurence arrived. Kate HypnoBirthed again, and this time it all happened so fast Tulsi was delivered by Mark, 20 minutes before the midwife arrived!
Thank you Kate for sharing this intimate tale and the video to boot...you make us realise it’s possible to fully embrace the whole labour experience and turn it into something truly magical.
3. The Tortoise - Nina Jo Buscke.
Mum - Amy Moore.
Dad - Stu Buscke.
8 lbs. 4 oz.
October 23rd 2005 was the Sunday of Labour weekend in New Zealand, the three day holiday Kiwis hang out for. Amy Moore was entertaining some friends at home and although she felt ‘a little niggly’ in the morning, she refused to miss out on KFC at the beach!
However, the day brought more ‘niggles,’ so at around 5pm Amy called her midwife. Amy had a ‘stretch and sweep’ a few days beforehand, but her midwife said she was still in the early stages and there was no need for her to come and assess things just yet.
By midnight, Amy’s pain was worsening, “maybe an eight on the, ‘how much can you handle it,’ scale,” says Amy. “I didn’t realise that scale went beyond 10...to about 600!”
Twenty-four hours went by and Amy continued to labour away. Her midwife was still at home, as was Amy, leaning on the wall swaying side-to-side, focusing on her breathing. Things were getting a little mundane and Amy was getting tired.
By Monday evening, Amy was starting to wonder if something was wrong…
“During my pregnancy I had all these ideas about how I would fill the time while I was in labour. I would have DVDs lined up to watch to take my mind off the pain! Oh how wrong I was! There was no watching T.V! Although I may have considered throwing something through it at one stage...”
At around 8am on Tuesday, Amy’s midwife said it was time to head to hospital and she should have her baby by lunchtime.
Once at the hospital, Amy tried the birthing pool - but hated it as it made her too tired. After two nights of very little sleep, Amy was running on empty.
“It was at that stage my husband announced he was, ‘pretty tired too.’ That didn’t go down well!”
Tuesday lunchtime came and still no baby. Amy didn't want any major drugs, but was enjoying the benefits of the nitrous oxide! “I think I polished off two of those giant canisters that they wheel in on a trolley!”
At some point whilst Amy was inhaling the gas, her waters broke.
“When I’d exhausted the gas it was time to push. I’d heard this part was quick and easy. Another lie!”
“It was two hours of what felt like a car battery exploding acid on my nether regions which had then caught fire!”
At one point, Amy wondered if the pain would kill her. She thought to herself, “how can women endure this level of trauma, come out the other side...then choose to do it again?”
At around 5pm on Tuesday...50 hours after the initial ‘niggles,’ Nina Jo Buscke made her entrance into the world. Finally.
“I remember the midwife telling me if I put as much energy into my pushing as I did into making that awful grunting sound then things would happen a lot faster. She was right. They usually are.”
Amy says her birth experience reflects that of Nina’s personality.
“She’s still the same! Does things in her own time, when she’s ready!”
4. The Intervention - Willow Pyper Murray.
Mum - Olivia Murray.
Dad - Matt Murray.
5 lbs 4 oz.
After a beautiful baby shower, nurse and mum-to-be Olivia Murray was feeling extremely excited about her adventure to come, however she’d “blown up like a balloon,” and was experiencing extreme fatigue. She was 36 weeks pregnant.
Olivia went to her weekly check-up with her midwife who noted she was looking puffy. Protein showed up in her urine, but her blood tests came back normal. Nothing to worry about...
Two days later at around 8pm, Olivia developed a severe migraine and blurred vision.
“It was weird. I was trying to text Matt and I could see two of my phones. I had some Panadol and drank a bottle of water, waiting for it all to subside. I felt nervous wondering what was going on. I knew these were signs of preeclampsia, but being medically minded I put it in the back of my head thinking, ‘she’ll be right!’”
“As a medical professional you never want to be over dramatic!”
An hour later, Olivia was feeling better, so rang a friend (who happens to be a doctor) and asked her, ‘what should I do?’ Olivia’s friend demanded she head to the Emergency Department (ED) immediately.
Olivia called Matt and told him he needed to leave work and take her to the ED. Once there, Olivia's blood pressure was checked, it was high. She was then taken down to the maternity ward, where she was reviewed by the gynaecologist and diagnosed with preeclampsia.
Olivia needed to stay in hospital overnight, so she sent Matt home to get some rest. At around 1am, Olivia woke and ran to the toilet thinking she’d wet her pants, but in reality, her waters had broken.
“The midwife said this baby would be coming whether I was ready or not.”
Just as Olivia was being administered the drugs to induce her labour, Matt arrived, feeling nervous. Soon after, Olivia began to feel sick, and the baby wasn’t doing well, so the decision was made to cease the drugs until 8am.
“It was the worst pain I’d ever had, I didn’t have any pain medications at that time and that’s something I regret - take what they offer you, don’t be a hero,” says Olivia.
Six hours later with contractions 1-2 min apart, Olivia’s midwife went to check how dilated she was. She was only 1cm. Olivia was devastated, and exhausted. She cried and was beginning to stress.
Finally the midwife said she needed an epidural, after three painful attempts, the drugs were in.
“The loss of pain was the best feeling I have ever had! I slept for two hours and in that time I dilated to 9cm. My body needed to relax.”
While Olivia slept, the medical staff realised her baby was posterior. Once Olivia was 10cm dilated she was given an episiotomy.
“I remember seeing them with the scissors and crying and they said, ‘we need to do this, your baby is not well and we need to get it out.’”
“That was when my mindset changed. That one sentence made me feel in control for the first time in over 24 hours.”
“As I lay there, the gynaecologist had both her hands inside of me moving my baby into a better position so I could push it out. I felt empowered...and ready.”
Olivia had been in labour for 18 hours and after 20 minutes of pushing, Willow Pyper Murray was born.
“I heard the cry and instantly felt relief but then uncertainty as they whisked her away to NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). Matt and Mum went with her, I was lying there by myself with the gynaecologist as she stitched me up. I was lonely, felt cold and uncertain about what was happening to my baby. Matt then came through and said everything was okay with our child.”
“Thirty minutes later I was able to see her, hold her and feed her. She fed beautifully and I was on cloud nine with the endorphins. That night we went to our room and she slept like a dream. That was the first and only time though! Haha!”
The next day, the realities of having a newborn set in for Olivia and she felt incredibly overwhelmed.
“The next few months were the hardest of my life. The pain from my episiotomy, not being able to sit, feeling like a cow, lack of sleep with a child with reflux, one hour feeds, a shower being a rare commodity...it was hard.”
“No one can prepare you for your first child no matter how much people tell you. Second time around was so different and so much easier.”
Eddie Patrick Lee Murray was born on 11.06.2016 and weighed in at a healthy 7 lbs. 2 oz.
5. The C-Section - Beau Richard Wixon.
Mum - Renee Wixon.
Dad - Kodie Wixon.
Little Beau Wixon was so comfy in his mummy that he had no great urge to come early like his older brother, Cooper. Finally, four days past due date Renee began to feel some contractions mid-morning. By late afternoon the pain was ramping up and Renee’s midwife confirmed that she was 1-2cm dilated, but had a way to go.
That night, the contractions were getting closer together, but were inconsistent. Renee’s midwife said not to call her until they were 3-4m apart. By 11:30pm, the pain was too much and Renee and her husband headed to hospital. Upon arrival, Renee’s midwife noticed the contractions were erratic, so got her sorted for an epidural, Renee was 2-3cm dilated. The midwife then broke Renee’s waters saying things would start happening...but they didn’t, the contractions were still not regular.
The epidural began to wear off and after a whole night of no sleep, the midwife discovered Beau was posterior. Things started to go downhill for Renee, Beau was fine, but she was exhausted and had a temperature. By 11am it was decided Renee would need an emergency c-section.
“Kodie had to go get gowned up and I went in there. Shaking, feeling horrible and so scared and nervous. I felt really sick so kept getting the anaesthetist to top up my anti-sickness meds and give me ice chips.”
“The Drs said, 'can you feel this?' and I said 'yes!' But I obviously couldn't because the next minute they held up this ginormous purple baby over the sheet! He took a couple of seconds to cry which was petrifying and I feel like I was going in and out of consciousness at this point, but then he screamed and BOY HE DID NOT STOP!”
“Somewhere in my haze, the midwife shouted 'Renee, he's 10 pounds!'”
Renee was over the moon, but she had lost a litre of blood. Beau went on to scare his parents a little too, as he was breathing very fast (normal for big babies), and his blood sugars were so low he had to be syringed colostrum.
After a shaky start, things soon calmed down and after a few days Beau was brought home to the welcoming arms of his big brother, Cooper.
The Wixon family was complete.
6. The Twins - Lucie Ann and Ria June Johnston.
Mum - Tarryn Johnston.
Dad - Matt Johnstone.
Lucie - 5 lbs 4 oz.
Ria - 4 lbs 14oz.
Tarryn Johnston had planned on having a c-section for her twin girls, regardless of whether it was scheduled or spontaneous. Tarryn was already a proud mother of two beautiful girls - Charlee and Ellie - and had previously had a c-section with Ellie.
Lucie and Ria Johnston are MO/DI (monochorionic/diamniotic) twins, meaning they were housed in separate amniotic sacs in the womb, but contained within the same outer membrane - there was a single, shared placenta. MO/DI twins are deemed higher risk pregnancies than fraternal twins who have two placentas and two sacs.
“My waters broke spontaneously at around 7pm, I believe there was a VERY important rugby game my husband was settling in to watch!”
Tarryn called her midwife who suggested she and Matt go to the hospital at 8pm. By the time they got there, Tarryn had already had a series of strong contractions. The midwives quickly realised the babies were coming...Tarryn was fully effaced and 4cm dilated.
“Unfortunately, the message the girls were well on their way had not been passed on to NICU, theatre or my obstetrician. The baby's heartbeats were proving hard to find and there was a lot of fuss. I remember they brought me some gas, but it was an empty bottle!”
“Matt went to get a full one, but by the time he got back, I was past the point of no return. The hospital unfortunately wasn’t set up for my c-section. The obstetrician was called at 8:40pm to come in. I was quickly moved into a birthing suite on the ward, five minutes later.”
“There was a lot of stress from the professionals in the room. They were over riding one another.”
By 9pm Tarryn was suddenly fully dilated and had a really strong urge to push...Lucie was born at 9:05pm.
“I remember the nurse running out to get her to NICU. She told me later she was yelling down the corridor to let the others know that, “she’s had the first one!”
Tarryn had a brief reprieve before the anaesthetist arrived asking if she still needed to go to theatre and have a c-section for twin B. But the obstetrician decided it was too dangerous to operate and at 9:07pm, Ria’s waters were broken.
“Ria had turned when Lucie came out, which nobody realised. Although I started contracting straight away, I didn't have the same intense urge to push as her head wasn’t down.”
The danger of a breech birth is mostly due to the fact that the largest part of a baby is its head. This can result in a baby getting stuck in the birth canal, which can cause injury, or death. The umbilical cord can also get damaged or blocked.
It was established that Ria’s left foot was down and her right was up by her head. They were also having trouble locating her heartbeat...
“I genuinely thought I may not give birth to a live baby. Sometimes what isn't being said is more than what is being said.”
“I apologized to Matt and tried so hard to listen to what they wanted me to do. The obstetrician tried to move her foot to attempt a normal breech delivery, but was unsuccessful.”
“That anaesthesia would have been nice at this stage.”
After several more attempts to bring both of Ria’s feet down, she was born via total breech extraction at 9.17pm.
Ria was swiftly taken to NICU and placed on a c-pap (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. The small babe was black and blue on one side due to the rough nature of her entry.
“I was able to go and see the girls a little while later, however I experienced some blood loss and was taken back to the ward.”
“I was surging with adrenaline and it all felt very surreal. I was left with just the maternity assistant in the room and I remember asking for a barley sugar!
“Later, they took me down to NICU in a wheelchair and it was very hard to believe those babies were mine!”
Lucie and Ria were housed in NICU for 24 days before being discharged.
The twins have gone from strength to strength since their dramatic arrival and are now three-years-old.
Thank you to all our gorgeous mothers for sharing their inspirational stories. From reading these, it’s easy to see how labour can be so very different, for so many reasons. It’s wise to have a birth plan and try to labour the way in which you’d like to, but just know, things may not go according to your plan, and that’s okay…
All the best mamas, you’re so powerful...don’t forget that.
Written by Ellen Chisholm with contributions from Emily Woods, Kate Laurence, Amy Moore, Olivia Murray, Renee Wixon and Tarryn Johnston.