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.

David holding Elijah after his birth, November 2011
David delivers our son and hands him to me.

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.

The setting

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.

Camped at Glendon Brook, November 2011
We've augmented our outdoor living space by attaching tarps to the side of the truck and trailer.

Our camp-site at Glendon Brook, November 2011
It's been raining for a couple of days, and the dirt around our camp-site has turned into muddy slop.

Our camp-site at Glendon Brook, November 2011
Friends lay timber pallets around the trailer so we don't have to wade through the slop.

Rainbow umbrella, Rainbow Gathering, November 2011
Before the rain started on Tuesday, we received good warning so Rainbow Family members who needed to leave could drive out of the property before they were cut off by the floodwaters.

Glendon Brook in flood, Rainbow Gathering, November 2011
The waters of Glendon Brook are too high for a safe crossing — either by foot or in a vehicle.

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.

Lauren in labour with Brioni, November 2011
For a while, I can labour alone with the help of my tens machine. This has been my first birth where our children have been present.

Manjari and Rebecca help Lauren in labour, November 2011
Manjari and Rebecca massage me through the contractions as they became stronger.

Lauren holding Elijah after birth, November 2011
It's a relief to finally hold my baby son!

David washing me after I birth Elijah, November 2011
David uses collected rain water to wash me down after the birth.

Blue skies after Elijah's birth, November 2011
The heavens celebrate Elijah's birth by displaying the first blue skies that we've seen in days.

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.

Lauren holding Elijah after birth, November 2011
We wrap Elijah in a clean blanket so I don't drop him during the continuing contractions. Because he is still attached to me, I can't pass him to anyone else to hold.

Rebecca massages me through contractions, November 2011
Rebecca keeps up her tireless massage.

Pushing the pressure points, November 2011
Rebecca applies pressure to the reflexology points that promote expulsion.

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.

David introduces Elijah to the Rainbow Family, November 2011
Friends gather around to see the newborn.

Aisha and Brioni with Elijah, November 2011
Aisha eagerly cuddles her new baby brother.

Wiruungga with Elijah, November 2011
Gumbaynggair elder Wiruungga blesses the newest member of the Rainbow Family.

David with Elijah, November 2011
In the evening, we took Elijah up to the evening food circle to introduce him to everyone.

Food circle with Elijah, November 2011
It was lovely to be part of a food circle again. With the rain ceased and a newborn to welcome, the remaining Rainbow Family joined together in great celebration and thanksgiving.

Elijah and Lauren, November 2011
I received many hugs as people welcomed and blessed Elijah.

Lucy and Nicole with Elijah, November 2011
Some of the people who had seen him born had still not given him a cuddle, like Lucy.

Dancing around the fire, Rainbow Gathering, November 2011
After the meal, we danced jubilantly around the fire.

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.

Barbara, November 2011
As well as soothing me, Barbara worked in our kitchen and around camp to keep us and our retinue fed and watered.

Nicole with Aisha and Delaney, November 2011
Our girls loved playing with Nicole and responded to her very well — even Delaney barely noticed my absence.

Raz, November 2011
Cheerful Raz from Israel made wonderful soup to satisfy my cravings and read many more stories to our girls.

Tammy-Lee plays the harp, Rainbow Gathering, November 2011
Tammy-Lee provided a gentle soundtrack in the background.

Muddy feet at the top bed, November 2011
Often a small audience was lying on our top bed in the trailer, watching the proceedings.

Lucy decorating Aisha's hair, November 2011
Lucy brought her thread and wrapped the girls' hair in beautiful colours.

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.

Rebecca Home, November 2011
Rebecca from Scotland is a highly-skilled masseur, and she kindly stayed by my side throughout the whole birthing process, massaging whenever I called for help.

Nicole, November 2011
Nicole is from Far North Queensland and she works in childcare. She helped us out so much with our children and lent me her quiet positive energy when I was flagging.

Manjari, November 2011
Manjari is from Poland, and this was the first birth that she's attended. She worked hard to keep things comfortable for us and gave me so much help through labour.

Barbara, November 2011
Barbara is an Italian Reiki master, and she gave me so much energy throughout the process, even singing Rainbow songs to distract me!

Karin, November 2011
Karin was the only other woman in camp who had birthed a baby. She worked in the background until I was labouring to birth the placenta, then she offered her natural essences to ease my pain and provided me with advice and encouragement through a process that was new to me.

Freebirthing Elijah was life-transforming to me. Not only do I feel empowered as a woman by the experience, but I am also in awe of the One who arranged everything so perfectly in affirmation of our trust!