I was called by this mama to film her birth when her waters broke. Yes, that’s right – I was not hired until the day this sweet baby boy was born. Luckily, I was able to get on the road and make the trip to Brisbane to photograph and film her beautiful homebirth – for it is a story full of strength, beauty and love that will be forever cherished (and I’ve been told the film has been watched many, many times already). Ullie is their fourth baby – and their third homebirth (with a doula) after a cesarean. He was born into his daddy’s waiting hands on a stormy December night. Here is his story, told by his mama.
Ullie’s birth story starts as all four of my birth stories have……an unexpected release of amniotic fluid on an ordinary Wednesday. I find it quite funny that all four children decided that they were ready to enter this life time of theirs on a Wednesday. And for all four children, I was not aware that they were about to start their journey at all until a gush of amniotic fluid was felt.
All four children also gestated in a speedy manner, arriving before forty weeks, however in Ulrich’s instance, he was a few days earlier than the girls and I was quite shocked at just how early he was ready to meet us.
It was 10:45am on Wednesday, 17th December when Ulrich’s membranes released. I had spent 3-4 hrs prior doing loads of washing, vacuuming and mopping the floors and then doing a large load of dish washing. My back was really aching by the time the dishes were all clean and I’d walked over to the desk to put away the lemon essential oil I’d had out to mop the floors with. As I bent down to floor level to put it in its box in the desk cupboard, Ullie’s membranes released. I had told myself I was on my way to the toilet straight after putting the oil away as after forty-five minutes of doing the dishes, my bladder needed some relief, so when this happened, for a minute or two I wondered whether my bladder simply hadn’t been able to hold on. I did think to myself it felt different though so headed to the toilet to check out what was in my undies – urine or amniotic fluid. Amniotic fluid it was, so back out to the living room to call R and tell him to come home from work straight away as with C and H labours, I was in full on labour within thirty minutes of my amniotic fluid releasing, I thought it would be the same this time too. I was shaking as I called him as I just didn’t feel ready to meet Ullie. We had a list of things that were supposed to be done in preparation for his birth that weekend, I was only 37 weeks + 6 days and technically, knowing exactly when he was conceived I was actually 37 weeks and 5 days for another hour or so, it just seemed too early.
I then called our birth support to tell her Ullie’s membranes had released, she laughed and told me to call her back when I wanted her to come. I told her I didn’t feel ready to meet him and thought it was too early for him to come, she assured me that he wouldn’t have initiated labour if he wasn’t ready. I was worried I had caused the release of amniotic fluid by bending in an improper way to put the oil away, both her and R tried their best to assure me that Ullie was ready……..he so was and it was evident when I first laid eyes on him. He barely had any vernix on his body, he breathed straight away, he was fat and pink and perfect.
G with her flappy eight year old ears somehow managed to hear my phone calls from the playroom downstairs and raced up to confirm with me that she’d heard what she thought she’d heard. She then raced downstairs to tell C, H and our au pair J that “Mummy’s waters had broken and the baby was coming.”
J came straight up to ask me if I was OK and if there was anything she could do. I was shaking in shock and trying to mop up the amniotic fluid I was leaking everywhere. I told her we hadn’t even blown up the pool, it was on the list of things to do on the weekend when R was to commence his paternity leave, so she got to blowing up the pool for me whilst I wrapped blankets in which we planned to welcome Ulrich in when he birthed in Alfoil, pulling out all the things I’d put aside for the birth such as drop sheets, an aromatherapy birthing blend I’d made myself, and all sorts of other things. As I did this I continued to try and mop the floor of the amniotic fluid I was dropping on it until G decided to take over the mopping for me.
It was in these early moments that I decided to message a Woman I knew that did beautiful birth photography. In the past, I’d always felt I didn’t want to have anyone in my birth space but R and my birth support, however I had all of a sudden started wondering whether I might like professional photography for Ullie’s birth about five weeks prior to his birth. It was to be my third home birth in four years and very likely our last. The little photos and video we had of C’s and H’s home births had been taken by our birth support and whilst great considering that it wasn’t their job to do the photography at the birth but to support me, it wasn’t anything like the professional photography that had recently caught my eye. I had contacted Jen about four weeks prior to the birth, asked her about her services and pricing and then left it at that as I just couldn’t decide whether everything felt right with it. Funnily enough, after not talking for weeks, Jen had messaged me on the eve of the 16th of December, to wish me well for the birth and assure me that if I decided last minute to hire her, she would happily capture Ullie’s birth so long as she wasn’t capturing another birth whereby the Mamma had officially booked her. Ironically, I had just responded to her message on the morning of the 17th, a few hours before Ullie decided to initiate his labour, telling her I still couldn’t make a decision on it and thanking her for her support and well wishes. So it was, that Jen got her kids out of the pool and handed them over to their father so that she could make the one and a half hour journey to our home to capture Ullie’s birth.
When R arrived home J took all the kids back downstairs to play so that I could try and relax and that’s pretty much where she kept them until early evening. Sure they came up a few times to say hello, have something to eat, give Mum a hug, but for the most part, it was nice to not have them around when I needed to try and relax. I gave up on moving around since I kept dripping amniotic fluid wherever I went and got jack of trying to continuously mop it up and decided to set up a towel on the floor and sit on it and try to relax. At the time, I didn’t realise, nor think that Ullie’s labour would not start until twelve hours after the release of his membranes and I regret that I set up the towel and sat for several hours that day on it in a half lotus position as my baby belly pulling forward in the position for so many hours with no back support at all did fatigue my back so that by the time labour started, my back was already very tired. If I had my time over, I would have taken myself to bed for the afternoon, I really should have but I didn’t and his birth was still perfect, just that my back would not have been half as tired had I taken myself out of shock mode and centered myself enough to think of the best way to rest myself before his birth.
So I sat upstairs in front of the birth pool and blessingway candle on my towel, and later a mattress that R bought up and chatted to R and also to Jen for quite a while after she arrived too as she hadn’t done a consult and had no idea what I expected from her in capturing Ullie’s birth. We chatted about all sorts of things that afternoon whilst I waited for my body to start laboring.
Around 6pm I decided to eat. I hadn’t been game to eat between 10:45am and then as I had been worried I’d go into labour any minute and the food would reappear when I hit transition as it did when I labored with C. I hadn’t eaten between breakfast and 6pm so I was starving and hoed down on toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches, mixed berry cordial and chocolate mousse. And you know what? Despite thinking I may vomit when I hit transition and summoning a bucket, I managed to keep it all down – hooray!! – I detest vomiting.
The kids were bathed and put to bed by R around 8pm and the house was finally silent since the very early hours that day and we were still in the living room, me still sitting and tiring my back mind you, waiting for Ullie’s labour to start. We had a lovely storm come through just before 11pm and I asked R to call our birth support and ask her should we do something, ANYTHING, to get this labour going as twelve hours after the release of Ullie’s membranes, I was still not in labour at all. So at 10:57pm R called her and she advised that it was probably best not to do anything given I’d been up since really early that morning, had worked hard doing housework all morning and then not rested in the afternoon that it may exhaust me too much for the birth. She also reminded me that 85% of women go into labour within twenty-four hour of release of membranes. I of course think when that is said “what if I’m in the 15% that don’t!”, that’s so me, not happy unless I’m worrying about something haha.
Pretty much straight after R hung up on that phone call and the storm had moved on, I finally started getting some waves, FINALLY, at around 11:15pm. I decided I needed to move into our bedroom as I always have in all four labours liked to have something hard under my perineum to sit on and allow my feet to hang during the first stage of labour. I had tried the couches in the living room but they weren’t high enough off the ground like the bed to let my feet dangle so in we went to our bedroom.
My uterus continued to regularly expand, my cervix dilating as I labored sitting on the edge of the bed for the next hour and a half. It was at 12:51am on Thursday the 18th December, that I felt it time for R to call our birth support and tell her it was time to come. Shortly after, he called Jen who had gone a couple of suburbs away to visit and have dinner with her brother and decided to sleep on the couch there until we were ready for her. Our birth support arrived around 25 minutes after we called and Jen shortly after. There was just a few more expansions to be had in the bedroom after their arrival before it was no longer comfortable to sit on the bed anymore. I knew I was close to transition at this point and so decided to move out to the birth pool in the living room.
Something about the walk from one end of the house to the other to get to the birth pool must have made Ullie decide to move as by the time I got to the birth pool, I no longer at that pressure in my bottom that had drove me from sitting on the bed. No matter, ten to fifteen minutes of kneeling over the couch whilst the final preparations were made to ready the birth pool and into it I went for more expansions until he was ready for transition where I’d once again feel that pressure in my bottom. It took about another forty minutes before I felt that pressure again and so I labored in the pool almost completely bar one expansion on my side, the rest of them I would hang out of the pool and hold onto R for their duration and then go back into childs pose for the most part in between, it’s what felt comfortable.
Once I hit transition, it was only twenty five minutes before I met my baby however again, it was such a vulnerable moment in time. I started verbalizing fears I didn’t even realise I’d stuffed down such as telling my birth support I was worried I would be in labour for four days like a Woman I know had recently been. I started to cry a little as I did in H’s transition as well, just for a matter of seconds but it was the turning point as always.
From there I needed to be totally upright on my knees as the expansions flowed as in my labours before. I labored like this in the pool which was a first as I had chosen to labour and birth on land the other times. The last photo I have of me in the pool was fifteen minutes before Ullie birthed so at some point in the last fifteen minutes before he birthed, my birth support advised me that my bottom needed to either be in the water to birth my baby in the pool. The pool wasn’t really doing anything for me anyway as it was just my legs being half covered by water, the rest of my body was completely out of the water being upright as I like to be, so I easily made the decision to get out of the pool and birth Ullie on land as I had the other children. I assured her that I was absolutely OK with doing this, I had happily birthed the other children on land and was more than happy to birth this one on land as well so that I could birth in the position that was right for me.
I kneeled beside the birth pool on a thin mattress over the lounge as I had with C, in exactly the same place as I birthed C actually, and I birthed H this way too, upright on a mattress on the floor, but in his case I was leaning over the bed in his bedroom. From the moment I got out of the pool and kneeled over the couch, R grabbed a torch and got down at ground level to give me the run down on what he could see. I always like him to do this as it gives me encouragement that I’m almost there. He told me straight away that he could already see Ullie, not much, but Ullie nonetheless. I said hooray a few times and got another lease on life I think to know that he was so close. So I labored another few expansions where Ullie’s head would come down during the expansion and then go back up again in the break between expansions. On the fourth or fifth expansion on land, his head finally birthed. Despite Ullie being smaller than H, the stretch for some reason felt bigger, even R said it looked like I stretched more. I even asked if I had torn it felt so stretched this time, but no, as all the other times, not even a scratch. I apparently have a nice big, stretchy perineum haha. I then waited for the next expansion, gave him a little push and out slid his perfect body at 2:58am on Thursday, 18th Not quite four hours after his intense labour began. As always, Daddy’s hands were right there to catch him. Rick turned him on his arm into the recovery position whilst I took a few seconds to turn around and sit down and take hold of our beautiful Ullie.
As soon as I had Ullie, R took off to the computer beside the birth pool to text J to come up and raced in to wake up the girls. The three girls were in the living room in I reckon thirty seconds flat to meet our Ullie and it was a really indescribably special and sacred time for us all.
As always, I only had a couple of minutes of bliss before the afterpains started. It seems my body is super blemin efficient at releasing and birthing our babies placentas. The afterpains for Ullie, our fourth child were pretty much unbearable for the first fourty-eight hours….I’m talking vomit from the pain of them, can’t even bare to hold my baby or have the kids around me, I was just in so much pain. My wonderful oh so experienced birth support always told me to wait and see how bad the afterpains are after four or five babies when I mentioned how ouchy they were after babies two and three. Well yes I waited and I damn well experienced them after fourth baby and they may well be the decider between whether there is to be a fifth baby for us.
So I expressed my discomfort a couple of minutes after Ullie birthed, there are barely any photos or video footage of me smiling from then on so if you feel drawn to take a look see at the birth video and photography from Ullie’s birth and see me frowning and breathing loudly, this is why! I advised my birth support that I would sit for just thirty minutes as I did last time and let Ullie and I get acquainted but then I would get up and birth his placenta so that I could endure the afterpains without the placenta paining me and having to hold Ullie. Going on the metadata of the photographs, I didn’t last quite the thirty minutes before I got up and quickly birthed his placenta on the toilet into a stainless steel bowl R had grabbed for it. This is where things get a little hazy for me as I had not really bled at all during Ullie’s birth, same can be said for H’s birth, I literally lost a drop during his labour and then a small clot birthed with the placenta. Well under 200mls of blood including that clot. With C’s birth I only lost around 300-400mls of blood, placenta clot(s) included. This time yet again, I had lost next to nothing during the labour and when he birthed but for some reason birthing the placenta just made blood start flowing from my yoni. I stood up from the toilet and handed Ullie to R and I bent over and grabbed the placenta bowl to hand to my birth support for inspection and realized it was full of blood. I then looked down and saw it running down my legs as well so I walked as fast as I could to the ensuite shower, had the worlds quickest hose off ever as the blood just kept coming in the shower and got into bed loaded with towels and pads to soak up the blood. My birth support gave me some herbs to try and slow the bleeding and R spent the next few hours out in the living room with the kids and Ullie whilst we tried to bring the bleeding back to a normal afterbirth flow. He came into the bedroom briefly with the kids to say hello but honestly, I was in so much pain from the afterpains, and feeling pretty light headed at this point from the blood loss that I just didn’t want them in the bedroom, not even our already so loved Ullie.
My calm and knowledgeable birth support knew what needed to be done, and she kept ducking in and out of the bedroom to check over me between cleaning up the placenta and birth space and spending time outside with R and the kids to check up on Ullie as well. She left about four to five hours after the birth, satisfied that my blood flow had finally settled into a normal afterbirth loss and told me that I needed to have Ullie in bed with me from then on as his colour had gone from looking great at the time of his birth to a little blue in the face, she felt it was because he had been separated from me for four hours or so and that we needed a lasting re-connection. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, I needed R to be in the bed with me holding him whilst I endured the afterpains….I felt I was in too much pain to hold him and was curling up into the fetal position to endure them. Him and the kids did come in for some photo footage that Jen wanted to take before she left five to six hours after Ullie’s birth, but again I just got a very short cuddle before he was bundled out to the living room again.
R felt that he needed to be out in the rest of the house looking after G, C and H so unfortunately I didn’t get to spend time with our Ullie until late that night, poor Ullie was still not of good colour and had been around twenty hours separated from me apart from a little bit here and there in between. It’s my one regret probably about the birth/our first twenty four hours together. I wish I had been firm with R that he needed to be in the bedroom with Ullie and I and got J to make all the meals for her and the kids and asked her to work through the day rather than telling her to take her usual break from the kids leaving only him to care for them, instead of him out in the kitchen making food for everyone all day and looking after the kids after more than twenty four hours of not even sleeping himself. This is my husband though, he always wants to look after everyone and make food for them and it’s done now and can’t be changed. It does make me cry to relive this part as I type though, I wish it had been different.
I was determined after a great birth but crummy first twenty four hours to bond the hell out of me and Ullie from there so did spend the next days in bed with him. I didn’t even leave the room to eat for the first few days and then started really short episodes of leaving the room to eat and play a little with the kids before returning to my safe zone. It was a beautiful thing to do and something I didn’t do after birthing the other children and after experiencing it, I wish I had taken the advice of my birth support and done it also after C and H’s births.
And here is the beautiful Ullie’s Birth Video
Jen is an experienced birth photographer and videographer based in Gatton, QLD (servicing Ipswich and Toowoomba regions). She has photographed over 35 births in a range of settings, including both hospital and home.