This is the birth story of my second born, Manawanui Aroa Marie Smith. Images were taken by my beautiful birth photographer Shannon Radford. You can find more of her work here.

You can also hear this story on an episode of kiwi birth tales here.

On Tuesday evening the 17th March, I had a mild amount of spotting and began feeling mild cramps in my lower abdomen. I was excited about the idea that I might meet my baby girl soon, but I didn't want to get my hopes up just yet. So I just tried to carry on as normal. At 2:45am Quaid (my son) came in to our room waking me from my sleep, he climbed into the warmth of our bed & snuggled up to my husband Keanan... I then got up to use the toilet and on my way, I felt a small amount of fluid come out of me. My waters had broken. But as I sat on the toilet and pulled down my undies, I realised it wasn't much, enough to soak my undies, but that was it. I knew I hadn't peed myself though as there was some browny/red spotting along with it and I could also feel that the familiar cramping from the evening prior was back. As I sat there I noticed that this cramping was now coming in slightly stronger every 2-3minutes, I was 39 weeks and 5 days and knew today was definitely going to be the day.

I decided to text my midwife & birth photographer to let them know things were happening just incase they were up. But didn't make any phone calls & climbed back into bed and decided to try and get some sleep as even though these contractions were frequent, they weren't consistent in length. They were anywhere from 15s to 45s but were also super mild. I lay on my side and just drifted in and out of sleep, contently rubbing my belly knowing this could be the last time feeling life in my womb (We had decided that we're potentially only going to have 2 children).

Around 5am I was finding it uncomfortable to lay on my side so put some pillows down towards the end of my bed and lent forward onto them in a child's pose position. Something about this position made the timing between the contractions lengthen and I managed to drift of to sleep between them for longer, but when the contractions did roll in, they quickly drew my attention, so I would shift my focus to my breathe, and visualise a wave coming and going. This position was beginning to make my feet numb so I considered moving down to the lounge and putting on some music. I had a labour playlist organised, but there was a crispness to the air this morning and the sound of Keanan & Quaid breathing softly next to me along with the warmth of our bed was comforting, so I stayed put. Instead just switching between lying on my side and going back to this child's pose.

Around 6:30am, as they woke I noticed things had just begun to pick up slightly, so my breathing had started getting a lot heavier through the waves. Keanan still considered going to work for the morning, but I told him he better stay home. I messaged my midwife again to let her know, but still didn't make a phone call, as the contractions, while coming every 2-3mins were still only averaging around 30seconds long & I felt I could still breathe through these pretty okay.

Around 6:50am, I got up out of bed and laboured through a few contractions on the floor beside my bed on my knees. Leaning my head on the bed. These definitely felt a little more intense. Still short and I was still able to breathe through the waves, but these waves were beginning to draw all my attention to them. So I called my midwife. It was almost 7am, so we agreed to wait and check in again at 8am to see if my contractions would build to 1min in length within that time. As Quaid was still only 20months old, I didn't want him at the birth incase it stressed either of us out, so Keanan got up and got him ready to hang out with his cousin for the day.

By 7:30am, my contractions were still only 30s-45s in length but I wasn't able to simply breathe through all of these. I was beginning to lose my focus on my breath and would instinctively moan to cope with the pain. While the length in contractions hadn't really changed, this shift in the pain I was feeling prompted me to call my midwife and message my birth photographer. I told my birth photographer we would call when on the way to the birth centre and my midwife started getting herself ready to come see me at home.

At around 7:45am, I gave my son a kiss goodbye before my mother-in-law who also lived with us left to take him for us, letting Keanan stay home with me while I laboured. At this point I noticed the intensity of these contractions kept building so at 7:50am I called my midwife and we agreed not to waste time and just head straight to the birth centre now. I rang my birth photographer to let her know it was time to leave and Keanan started getting our bags ready to leave. While he was locking up and feeding the dog, I was complaining about how long it was taking him and that we needed to leave NOW... although in reality it had only been about 5 mins. I knew this because as I was walking out or door, my midwife called at 7:56am to let me know that the birth centre had enforced a new rule that morning due to the new Corona Virus Outbreak. Only 1 visitor was permitted to attend my birth. So Keanan could come, but my photographer and mother in law wouldn’t be able to come. The one thing I regretted about my first birth was not having it photographed. So I quickly decided to stay home. My previous labour with my son was only 6hrs so I was open to the idea of a home birth if necessary and had already discussed this with my midwife. But Keanan and I wanted to birth at the birthing centre as they had gas available and it was closer to the hospital should anything go wrong. In that moment though, I had absolutely no fear about the idea of a home birth. Almost as if my intuition kicked in. My full birth team would be with me and that’s all I wanted in that moment.

As I felt another contraction coming in I threw my phone towards my husband and asked him to call our photographer and let her know the change of plans. This contraction brought me to my knees and as I gripped tight onto the doorpost in the kitchen I could feel pressure in my bottom. With my son this feeling meant I was fully dilated and our baby was here an hour later. My contractions were still only lasting about 45 seconds though, surely I wasn’t that close? I asked Keanan to quickly set up some rubbish bags and towels over by our bay window so I didn’t have far to move but also somewhere comfortable to rest on between contractions. He was trying to rip the bags open so he could cover more floor space with one bag... clearly unaware how close this baby was. I yelled at him to hurry up and lay them down as they are (I later found out he thought I was over reacting hahaha) As I felt another contraction come in I pulled off my undies kneeled down into the floor and lent over our bay window seat and felt that intense pressure again. That was three contractions with this pressure, but that one felt like baby was close.

This baby was coming, so I needed my midwife. It was only 8am, so we’d literally just spoken to her, but I asked Keanan to call her again anyway. “Just see how far away she is” I told him. She was caught in traffic but on her way and told him to call back if the baby starts to come. But just as he was about to hang up, I was halfway through another contraction and I could feel my whole vulva bulge. My daughters head was pushing against my hands. “She’s coming, I can feel her head” I told him. So he put her on speaker.

The moments between my contractions are a blur at this point. The rest of the world is fully blocked out and all I can think about is birthing my baby. I’m in the zone and ready. As the next contraction rolls in I push with it, pushing past the burning and delivered our baby girls head. My husband was talking to our midwife about her position and as the next contraction rolled in I pushed with it and as her body turned and moved through the birth canal my husband & I caught her together and guided her between my legs & into my arms. I did it. 8:07am. 1 hour or so of established labour and my daughter was in my arms. A few minutes later my birth photographer arrived. I was a little gutted my baby girl wanted to come too fast for the photographer, but delivering our girl together on our own was such a surreal moment, that it almost felt too good to be true. But As I look down in my arms, it was true, she was here. My mother in law arrived soon after, followed by the back up midwife. We stayed here for about an hour while I breastfed and delivered the placenta. My midwife then helped me into the shower and I hopped back into the warmth of my own bed with my husband and new baby. It wasn’t the birth I had imagined I would have all pregnancy, but it was perfect.