26 November 11
On 26 November at 10.45am, our fifth child and first son — Elijah Rainbow — made his extraordinary entrance onto Earth, birthed in the bush with no medical assistance, surrounded by our Rainbow Family and welcomed with love. This is the story of our freebirthing experience.
The decision to freebirth
Our son Elijah has been a long time coming. I first saw him in a vision when I was nineteen — shortly before I met David. When our first four daughters arrived in alphabetical order (Aisha, Brioni, Calista and Delaney), we felt certain that our fifth would be a boy — the Elijah of my vision.
Our four beautiful daughters were all birthed in hospital. With the first, we were booked into a midwife-run birthing centre, but medical complications moved us into the standard hospital room where I birthed in a bed with my feet in stirrups. The other three births were less complicated, but David and I opted for midwife assistance in a hospital — with an epidural to mask the pain.
I’ve experienced this whole pregnancy on the road and have received little medical care throughout it. However, when speaking to a friend after one disappointing encounter with a “professional”, I expressed my dismay. She confided that she too was pregnant and didn’t plan to seek any medical care. “I’ll freebirth,” she said. And that statement sent me researching.
When I expressed my desire to freebirth — to deliberately birth away from medical establishments without the assistance of a midwife or doula — David supported the idea. We have been moving away from our reliance on institutions, and eschewing medical help during something as natural as childbirth seemed the next logical step in our transformation.
During our recent travels, we met lovely women who freebirthed accidentally, who homebirthed and who encouraged me in what we planned. Except that we didn’t plan. We didn’t know where we would be when I went into labour. We didn’t try to envision the future — David and I just prayed in agreement that it would be good — and extraordinary. And so it was.
We’re staying near Glendon Brook village in the Australian bush as part of a Rainbow Gathering, about twenty minutes from Singleton, NSW — not so far, except that access in and out of the property is cut off by the flooding Glendon Brook. We’ve been here for over two weeks already.
We’re camping in our truck and trailer which is our Australian travelling rig since we hit the road full-time in November 2010. Our four daughters sleep in the truck, and David and I sleep in the trailer which also serves as our outdoor kitchen.
The labour and birth
Contractions started yesterday. We were all ready — friends looked after the girls, others prepared meals, someone cleaned and tidied our trailer in preparation, I received lovely foot and back massages, and David and I took a walk in the rain to encourage the contractions — however, the contractions never progressed. They remained constant, but not painful. Finally, we all went to bed.
Around 4am my waters broke. Contractions started to strengthen around 6am. Shortly after 7, I woke David to ask him to help me through the next contraction. I started using my tens machine to relieve the pain. By 10, friends were also massaging me through each contraction. Before 10.30, I stopped thinking I could manage it and wondered if it could possibly get worse. Elijah was born at 10.45 — a short labour, really.
Birthing the placenta
David and I opted to keep the baby attached to the placenta until the placenta was birthed. It was a bit awkward to hold the baby while its cord kept him close to me, and that meant I couldn’t labour actively.
The contractions that pushed out the placenta were different to the ones I experienced to birth Elijah. At this time, the main pain came down my thighs, and I lay on my back holding Elijah while Rebecca helped massage the pain away.
It’s so unsatisfying to go through the painful contractions after the birth of a baby. I was already holding the prize, so why was I still suffering the birth pangs? Nonetheless, this was the only path available to us, and in retrospect, the placenta was released after a short time — only one hour and twenty minutes.
Welcoming the baby
After the placenta was out, David could take Elijah out of the trailer and introduce him to our daughters and friends. As the sun came out, we received visitors who blessed Elijah and offered their congratulations to us both.
Behind the main stage
Although I felt like I was doing all the work, our camp was kept running smoothly through the assistance of many Rainbow Family members. Throughout the two-day process, I didn’t need to think about our daughters or our camp-site at all; in David’s and my physical and mental absences, it was all taken care of.
The supporting cast of characters
We’re thankful that our freebirthing experience happened in the company of so many wonderful people. When David and I consciously agreed to freebirth Elijah without any prior planning, we had no idea that we would be surrounded by love and assistance within the Rainbow Gathering.
The experience of birthing Elijah in the bush was made beautiful by a wide supporting cast of characters — from those who helped us with making the camp mud-free, to those who tended our fire or played with our children. These are only some of the people to whom we are eternally grateful.