Determined to birth at home, Shelly McKenzie’s water broke on her outside dunny as the rain poured down. If ever there was a true-blue Aussie birth story, then this is surely it.
Victorian couple Shelley and Danny had experienced joy and heartbreak on the way to becoming parents, ending in a serene home water birth that was everything they wanted.
Heartbreak before happiness
Late last year Shelley and Danny endured the heartbreak of a miscarriage at 12 weeks. “I have Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune condition, so we always knew miscarriage could be a possibility and were prepared to the best we could be,” Shelley told Mum’s Grapevine. “We were lucky enough to find the positivities in our situation and for the first time knew we could get pregnant. So we continued to try and fell pregnant again soon after.”
Fast forward to July 2019 and Shelley, a nutritionist who runs her own practice was feeling fabulous leading up to her birth. So much so that she worked right up until the last possible minute.
“Leading up and on the day my contractions started I was feeling great so finishing up with my clients. On Thursday night at 7:30pm my contractions (or what I thought were contractions) began and were roughly an hour apart. They lasted all night and at 7am my midwife visited and confirmed I was in early labour.
“By Friday morning they had well and truely slowed down so I decided to go and see my chiropractor. After an adjustment with her, my contractions ramped up and started with five minute contractions from then onwards. I rang my mum Friday morning and with a three-hour drive ahead of her she jumped in the car to make it to the birth of our baby.
“By 3pm Friday my two midwives were at our house. My lounge room had a blow-up pool in the middle of the room, I had affirmations plastered around the room, candles burning, salt lamps lighting the room and my ‘labour playlist’ playing. I was feeling so calm and ready for my baby to enter the world.”
As ready as she was, Shelley says she still questioned her birth decisions while in the thick of contractions, but ultimately had the birth she’d prepared for. “Having a home birth meant an all-natural birth and I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about intervention during certain points. It was the hardest thing I have ever done but the experiencing of bringing life into this world was the most incredible experience.
“My dog Kevin was laying in the lounge room the whole time wondering what was happening. My husband holding my hand and supporting me through every contraction. Tears welling in his eyes as he helplessly sat through my pain and eagerly awaited his baby to enter this world.
“I remember saying, ‘I can’t do this’ and my beautiful midwives encouraging me through, reminding me to take every contraction as they come and know I am one contraction closer to meeting my baby.”
As the birth continued on, Shelley knew things were ramping up, and during one of her many trips to her outside dunny, it came to a head.
“We live in an old house, it was pouring rain and I kept having to walk to our outside toilet which made me laugh every time. I broke my waters on the outside toilet and progressed inside to the pool for a water birth.
“I was in the pushing phase for an hour and by this stage running purely on adrenaline. I was so ready to meet my baby. When the baby crowned my midwives asked me to reach down and feel his head, at this point I remember thinking he is coming out. I pushed and into the water he went before getting whisked into my arms. Minutes had passed and finally, we saw we had a little boy.”
The couple welcoming little Archie Van into their cosy home.
“I was then sat up on the couch to rest with my baby and husband. I left the cord on so my baby could get all the nutrients sent to him and then my husband cut the cord. It was a magical experience and one I will remember for the rest of my life.”
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Whether you’re planning a water birth or home birth, we have lots of incredible birth stories for you to read about right here: