When Jessica Farley found out she was pregnant with her third baby, she knew she wanted a homebirth.
What she wasn’t expecting, was to have an unexpected ‘freebirth’ of sorts, birthing her son in the shower with her midwife on speakerphone.
But rather than panic when she began crowning with just her and her partner Tom at home, Jess, from Queensland, embraced the moment and told 9Honey it was an incredible moment having just the two of them present for their son’s birth.
Being her third baby, Jess knew what she didn’t want from labour. With her first son, Zachary, she opted for a hospital birth but used a private midwife. A compromise after wanting a homebirth, but being hesitant due to the financial cost.
But when she fell pregnant with her middle son, Henry, she found her midwife had retired and opted to go through the public system. Although she’d had a mostly positive experience with Zachary, she found her second labour too clinical.
“I didn’t enjoy it, after having a private midwife it wasn’t for me, it wasn’t as special,” she shared. “I decided for the third to go all out. I knew it was my last baby, I didn’t want to be pregnant again and I put the money factor aside and thought ‘last baby, I’ll do what I want’.”
“Once you have that private midwife care, you realise money doesn’t matter, it makes the whole experience. Nothing can prepare you for what can happen, but having that support team, you can’t put money on that.”
It also took away some of the stress about when to head to hospital, especially having two little ones around.
“My birth was so relaxed, because I didn’t have to go anywhere. I didn’t have to wonder ‘is it time to go now? How far along am I?’ I was playing in the yard with the boys an hour before [the birth] without the pressure of having to think about when to leave.”
Having read a lot and listened to podcasts about birth — particularly with third babies, throughout her pregnancy, Jess was expecting a prolonged labour. And having gone six days over with her first, she assumed she’d again go over.
So when she felt the nigglings of contractions at 39.5 weeks, she brushed them off as Braxton Hicks.
“I’d heard third babies are really different. People told me the third is a wild card. I’d read stories of women who were three days in labour. So I let my contractions roll — but I was very much in labour!”
Having first felt twinges around midnight, she felt excited that it was getting closer, but when she found there was no consistency to them, she went back to sleep. Especially as with her first two, contractions had been ‘so hard and fast’ there had been no mistaking she was in labour.
When she was able to easily fall back asleep, she thought it musn’t be true labour. After waking up at 5am, she kept the nigglings to herself, so as not to get Tom’s hopes up prematurely.
While he took their eldest to a skateboarding lesson, Jess rested before they headed to a midwife appointment in the afternoon.
“We drove to the midwife, which was about an hour away, and I looked at the clock and I’d had three contractions in an hour so I wasn’t convinced… they sort of felt like painful period contractions.”
“I said I’d had a couple of niggles today and she joked ‘I might see you tonight’… she may have known.”
I just felt this overwhelming sense of emotion. And then the urge to push, but I told myself not to push too early.
They arrived home and, feeling a bit off, Jess didn’t feel up to doing the bedtime routine, so they called in Tom’s mum to help out
“They were starting to get a bit closer together and more painful. I was just starting to close my eyes, but I wasn’t struggling. And I stub my toe and think it’s the worst pain in the world, so to not find it painful I thought I must be day one into a three-day labour.”
At 4.20pm she texted her birth photographer to let her know she’d felt contractions, but didn’t think it would happen soon.
When Tom’s mum arrived, with KFC in hand for the boys, Jess went upstairs to lie down. But reluctant to make a move on setting up their birthing equipment up until the boys were asleep, they had nothing ready for what was to come next.
Alone in her room, around 4.45pm, Jess said her body instantly relaxed. She tried using a TENS machine, but ‘couldn’t stand it’.
By this point, her contractions had rapidly accelerated from 10 to five minutes apart. By 5pm she knew she was in labour, but thought she had a long way to go. She asked Tom to set up the birth pool and asked his parents to take the boys, who she’d planned to have present, to their house until she was further along.
But Tom had no sooner walked downstairs than she was calling him back, saying she needed support. They called the midwife, still an hour away, who started to make her way over.
At 5.15pm she felt as if she was transitioning into the final stage of labour.
“I just felt this overwhelming sense of emotion. And then the urge to push, but I told myself not to push too early.”
When they called the midwife back at 5.20pm Jess shared she had the urge to push and some big contractions, and the midwife told her to moan through them.
Once she stopped fighting the need to push she said the baby was ‘coming and not coming slow’.
“I had a contraction and Tom asked if I was pushing. He was like ‘whoa’. He called the midwife straight away and went into panic mode. I was like ‘I’ll check’ and he wasn’t there yet, I said we’ve got time, call the midwife and have her on the phone.”
“She said to lie down, but I tried to stand up and started pushing again. It was like I wasn’t pushing, my body was doing it itself and I couldn’t get out of the shower.”
On checking again, the baby was ‘right there’.
“I was so excited, and this was the moment Tom stopped freaking out. I was so happy, I couldn’t believe he was coming and the labour was so easy I didn’t even know!” Jess said.
Having grown up on a farm and witnessed animals give birth, who she joked didn’t get midwives, also brought an unexpected sense of comfort.
“The baby was coming so I knew it was almost over and I felt relief, and ‘we’ve got this’.”
“Once bub’s head [could be felt] I held my hand there as I’d always wanted to guide him out, and in the shower I didn’t want him to fall. Tom grabbed towels and put them on the floor. As he was crowning — my shower is tiny, I said stand behind me and hold my hands so I could squat, and his head came out.”
With the midwife on the phone, and just Jess and Tom present, they guided his head out and Tom, now sitting in front of Jess, helped to guide his body out.
“It was pretty special, just the two of us and I was so, so happy. I couldn’t believe he was out and I wasn’t in pain. My second was a big boy and I was in a lot of pain after him. I’d been a little traumatised and worried that would happen again.”
With their midwife now only five minutes away, she told them to sit on the toilet, with a towel under the seat to catch the placenta if it came out, and they sat there and gave their baby, Murphy, his first feed.
Her placenta birthed straight away, her first unassisted third stage and a big relief to Jess. The boys returned home not long after their midwife arrived and the house was suddenly filled with people, a moment her birth photographer, who arrived just after the boys, captured.
“The chaos around that you can forget. You don’t forget the birth because you’re so in tune with your body, everyone can explain what happened. But afterwards it’s such a blur, it’s so exciting and everything is happening. You lose those moments, so to have it captured was really amazing.”
“[Before] I thought my birth photographer missing the birth was the worst thing that could happen, but it was a blessing and part of the story for me. Freebirth never would have been for me but doing it accidently was something special.”
Having her boys meet their younger brother was another highlight, with Zachary showing no fear and wanting to touch the baby straight away. While Henry was more reserved and preferred to observe him from a distance.
“It’s not what I wanted, but it was perfect. To have him on our own and have that quiet, alone time and then the chaos. I love family and community and I would go to all my friend’s births if they asked me. Having everyone around to welcome the baby was so special.”
Three days after the birth, however, Jess developed mastitis and had to be hospitalised for two nights, which has since recurred.
Despite the difficult post-partum period, Jess said she’s happy her birth experiences went ‘out with a bang’.