Karenna’s Home Birth Story of Tara
The pregnancy and birth of Tara is nothing short of a miracle.
At 45 years young and after a few early pregnancy losses along the way, I’d made peace our beautiful nine year old daughter Maya, would be an only child.
So in spring 2020 when I started feeling consistently nauseous I became concerned.
My inner hypochondriac wondered whether I had a serious illness.
I’d recently had a light period- and thought my nausea could be another sign of perimenopause, since my cycle had become irregular lately.
This led me down the rabbit hole of Dr Google, searching ‘does perimenopause make you nauseous?’
As the nausea increased over a few weeks I became more worried and decided to call my GP for some screening tests.
The day I’d intended to make the appointment, on a hunch I bought a pregnancy test.
I’d noticed a few other physical signs that I’d only ever felt with the pregnancy of Maya.
And besides, I rationalised, at least I could rule one thing out before the GP visit.
When I did the test I couldn’t believe it when I saw the two lines.
I instantly did a second test to double check. But it was true- I was pregnant.
What a miracle-surprise!
When I shared the news with Viv he was cautiously excited- three early pregnancy losses can have that effect…
We decided to keep it between the two of us and our midwife Janine O’Brien (Ibirth), for as long as we could.
And each day after that I became grateful for the nausea, knowing it was a good sign.
There were more surprises in store when we went for what we thought was our 12 week scan only to be told we were at least 14 weeks along- the light period I’d thought was the start of perimenopause was an implantation bleed!
Knowing there are no guarantees, we waited until we were 16 weeks along before we started sharing the news.
By this time the nausea had subsided and I was feeling great.
Most people were excited and pleased for us. Some shared their quiet concern about my age.
Others couldn’t hide their shock and fear when I answered their ‘where will you have the baby’ question with ‘at home’.
I was even told a few horror stories of over-40 births gone wrong and why hospital is the only place I should give birth (!).
Because I had enough of my own fears and concerns to overcome, Viv and I decided from then on we’d only inform those we’d be regularly seeing (and who we couldn’t hide the pregnancy from!).
Meanwhile I worked on my mental game- reading, researching, visualising, attending workshops with leaders like Rhea Dempsey, Min Mia and Jane Hardwicke-Collings plus curating our birth support team.
I worked on my physical game by continuing to teach and practice Japanese yoga combined with regular chiropractic and acupuncture sessions.
Feeling fantastic, I was so grateful my body could receive and grow a baby ‘at my age’.
Something I never forgot was how privileged I was to be able to consciously create my support team, which made such a difference to my level of care and self-belief.
I believe all birthing women deserve and should have government funded access to the same support and resources I did, as well as the option to homebirth if they’re healthy, low risk and willing.
It was only in the final month of the pregnancy that I paused my yoga practice- I felt more comfortable walking and I really enjoyed being out in nature.
At 37 weeks our midwife Janine organised a red thread ceremony to welcome in the baby.
Our doula, Kathryn Belle and birth photographer Anna Todd were there as well.
At this ceremony we shared our intentions and fears for the birth.
It was so comforting to hear Janine share she had no fears at all for me- she said she knew I’d put in the work, was physically strong and mentally ready.
I shared my only fear: that I wouldn’t believe in myself.
Then we burnt our fears and celebrated with chai and cake- it was the perfect blessingway- intimate and raw – just as I was hoping for my birth.
And so began the waiting and nesting game.
Ever since I’d learnt at Jane Hardwick-Collings’ The Shamanic Dimensions of Pregnancy workshop that babies are often born on full moons, new moons and in storms, I’d penned into the calendar the Super blood moon of May 26th as ‘Bubba’s birthday’. I had a strong sense she/he would arrive on this date.
You can imagine my excitement when, on May 25th at 10.30am, my waters broke.
I’d just arrived at Maya’s sports carnival and had briefly squatted to take some pressure off my back.
Without warning I felt a ‘pop’ sensation and my inner thighs became warm and wet.
I bolted to the bathrooms and also noticed the bloody show.
Discreetly I gave Maya the choice: she could stay at her carnival or come home with me.
I reassured her there were no waves yet so I didn’t think baby would come immediately.
She decided to stay so I evacuated the lively sports ground- grateful for the disguise of my dark coloured leggings and extra jacket around my waist.
On the way home I rang Viv at work but there was no answer.
Then I rang Janine and Kath, who gave me some tips and signs to be on the lookout for.
When I reached home I showered to freshen up, then lay outside in the sun while listening to a hypnobirthing track.
There were still no waves and I wondered whether this time tomorrow I’d have met my baby.
After a few calls and texts I was still unable to reach Viv- I started to worry what would happen if the waves started and I was all alone.
As if sensing my feelings, my cat Rana came and curled up next to my belly, something he never usually does.
It was so comforting to feel him purring and keeping me company- animals are so wise!
After what felt like ages (but was actually only about an hour and a half) Viv called me to let me know he was on his way- he’d left his phone in his bag at work and hadn’t heard my calls.
Finally I could relax and enjoy the sun with my cat cuddles.
When Viv arrived home we ate lunch, then he drove me to my routine acupuncture appointment with Sue Booth booked for 2pm.
Sue took my pulse and said my body was already primed for birthing action.
Almost as soon as the first needle went in I felt a light wave and could sense my baby was getting close.
It was a nurturing, nourishing session and when it ended Sue wished me the best with a knowing smile.
I felt regular, light waves on the drive home – enough to feel excited but not enough to need to drop everything and focus.
Once home I lay down for a nap and when I woke it was just getting dark.
The waves were still regular but not too intense- I put on the TENS machine so I could acclimatise to the different sensations.
Viv, Maya and I ate dinner together, lighting a candle to welcome in our new family member.
I put Maya to bed around 8.30pm, letting her know our doula, Kath would wake her up for the birth (we’d talked about it lots and Maya had said if it was a night labour she wanted to be left to sleep for the labour but woken for the birth)
The waves started to pick up around 9pm, where I needed to pause, move and breathe through them.
I was feeling a bit tired and considered trying to sleep- but I could tell by the waves I’d need to get up and move through each one so instead Viv and I listened to another hypnobirthing track.
After that we went outside and basked in the full moon light, taking a moment to pause and savour the moment- the moon was big, bright and close!
By now it was about 10.30pm and we decided we’d like our doula to come.
We called her and she asked to speak with me- I knew it was to gauge how far into my primal brain I’d gone.
We had a pretty standard conversation so she suggested she hold off coming over for about an hour to give the labour a chance to get established.
We said we’d stay in touch as I settled in to the waves.
I found it helpful being on my knees with Viv squeezing my hips through each surge.
I must have gone into the birthing zone around this time because what happened after that is a bit of a hazy blur in terms of time.
I remember noticing our doula arrive and hearing her say she’d called our midwife and birth photographer and they were on their way.
Meanwhile I stayed mostly on all fours, burying my face into a nest of pillows with each wave as Viv squeezed my hips.
I felt fully present, safe and trusting in my body and baby.
Having Viv by my side with each wave made all the difference.
At one point during a big surge my other cat Zen gently rubbed against me- I felt so held and supported- not only by my cats but by Viv and all my ancestors.
I moved into a phase where I felt very irritated.
Irritated at the discomfort in my body and the ‘slowness’ of the endorphins to kick in; irritated about the rustlings around me (my support team filling the pool); irritated at feeling abandoned when Viv wasn’t with me for one or two waves (I learned afterwards there was a ‘complication’ with the hose for the birthpool and he was desperately trying to help get it filled!); irritated my doula couldn’t read my mind and offer me my labouraid drink and specific essential oils at the precise moment I wanted them;-) (she was also helping with the pool debacle…)
Wise words from my friend and spiritual teacher Yantra came to me: ‘it’s not a choice between irritation or peace. Let the irritation be the doorway to peace’.
Letting the irritation be, I doubled down on my breathing and upped the setting on my TENS, which all seemed to help enormously.
Although I didn’t realise it at the time, I must have been getting close to transition because soon after that Janine gently suggested I get in the birthing pool.
‘Already?’ I thought to myself- remembering our birthing plan was that I’d ‘save up’ getting into the pool until the end and the birth was close.
I felt a combination of surprise we were at pool time, relief everything was still feeling ‘bearable’ and denial my baby would be coming soon. I had no idea was time it was – I learned later it was just after 2am.
I reluctantly removed the TENS machine –my new best friend- and slipped into the bath.
The warm water felt so soothing and warm.
From there it felt like a switch was flicked and things intensified very quickly.
I felt an uncontrollable pushing sensation and the waves started coming on thick and fast.
My breath become shorter and I started vocalising involuntarily.
I longed for the ‘rest and be grateful’ phase I’d read can happen between transition and second phase…
The pushing feeling intensified and felt overwhelming to the point where I cried out ‘help!!’.
While I clung to Viv for dear life, Janine reassured me I’d be meeting my baby soon and Kath suggested sending my breath down to the baby.
Despite the intensity I felt safe, present and connected to my baby.
I asked how she/he would like to be born and sensed it was the position I was in–on my knees, arms around Viv and legs apart.
An extra strong pushing surge rippled through my body- and with a few more breathes the head emerged, soon followed by the body ejecting. It was 2.54am.
I was sure I’d been torn from head to toe (I didn’t tear at all!) but I didn’t care.
I’d birthed my baby!
In a split second Janine whooshed baby and cord out from between my legs and I was holding my baby in my arms.
Words can never do justice to the feeling of holding your baby for the first time but I’ll try; it was a mixture of extreme joy, pride, relief, thankfulness and pure ecstasy all at once.
I held her up and Maya proudly announced she was a girl. A little sister!
After cuddle time in the bath I was helped to the couch where she latched on to my nipple like a seasoned pro and soon after I birthed the placenta.
The soft, jelly feeling of the placenta coming out felt so relieving and soothing.
Maya immediately jumped into her big sister role and was keen to decide on a name- our favourite two girl names were Aurora and Tara.
Kath mentioned some friends of hers had recently named their little girl Aurora and she was being called Rory for short.
We’re not really nickname people so that helped us decide.
Welcome to the world Tara!
We all celebrated with homemade fruit slice and bliss balls.
Soon afterwards the birth team tucked us up in bed and we were ready for our moon cycle birth bubble and gentle start as a family of four.
Karenna Reidy is wife to Viv and mother to Maya (10 years) and Tara (2 months), living on Cammerygal Country in Sydney. She is a high school teacher and Japanese yoga CEO/instructor where she runs her own outdoor boutique yoga studio and offers online courses. Karenna’s a fan of Aware Parenting and the Montessori approach. She is passionate about family, Eastern culture and philosophies of health, essential oils, piano, nature immersion, books, seasonal living and soulful conversations.