How Ashley's fourth baby gave her the labour she'd longed for: 'Something I'll cherish forever'

Picture: Alisia Mason Photography 
@alisiamasonphotography
Picture: Alisia Mason Photography @alisiamasonphotography 

In this new series we celebrate pregnancy and birth by inviting readers to share the story of their baby's arrival. 

Not many mums can describe their baby's births as magical.

But for Ashley Porteous, her fourth child provided her the opportunity to experience the labour she'd wished for in previous pregnancies

The 28-year-old said she knew exactly how she wanted to birth as soon as she found out she was pregnant. Her desire for a water and homebirth weren't new, but her confidence and clarity about her decision was. 

As she told Essential Baby, the 'epic birth' was better than she could have imagined and the perfect way to complete her family. After a lacklustre first birth and a traumatic second delivery, it was all the more magical, she said. And after a positive third birth, Ashley said she was able to enter this birth feeling empowered.  

"It was so amazing, If I thought the third was amazing, Ziggy's was a unicorn birth," she said.

Saying everything flowed from the outset, she was able to birth at home, stress free, with a full night's rest to prepare for the endeavour. After a midwife appointment the day before his birth, she was told she was 3cm dilated and allowed her to relax into the experience, letting her baby guide the timing. 

"I went to bed and kind of, I describe it as sleep but I was having contractions, but it was almost like I was dreaming, there was a fire in the pit of my stomach and I had to breathe through it," she said.

Picture: Ashley said not having to rush to hospital allowed for a more relaxed birth. Credit: Alisia Mason Photography

Picture: Ashley said not having to rush to hospital allowed for a more relaxed birth. Credit: Alisia Mason Photography

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"I woke up at 5.30am and the contractions were pretty consistent, every 10 minutes or so and I was breathing through them. I nudged my husband Josh and said 'I think it's happening now' and he was wrapping his head around that and timing them."

"I stayed in bed where I was warm and comfy and finally my girls started to stir downstairs, I told Josh 'let's go downstairs and tell them what's happening'." 

Planning to have their kids - Indie, six, Ava, four and Maple, 18 months there for the birth, they'd spent weeks discussing what would happen and how in preparation, which she said paid off when the morning came.

"I gravitated towards the living room and started pacing. I originally thought I'd want to have a shower, but I wanted to be in my little nest, in our safe space. I was there and Josh was in the kitchen making breakfast for them and making us coffee. I wanted a calm morning so we just acted normal," she said.

"My sister-in-law came to pick our youngest up, she's very full on and I needed Josh to be present, so she picked her up and Josh and the girls slowly put the tarp out and the pool in. They were buzzing around like busy bees, I was watching them and soaking it all in."

Picture: Having her eldest daughters there for the birth was also important for the couple. Credit: Alisia Mason Photography

Picture: Having her eldest daughters there for the birth was also important for the couple. Credit: Alisia Mason Photography

When her contractions became more consistent, Josh called their midwives and his sister to bring Maple back - though her new brother arrived too quickly for her to be there.  

"I was leaning on the edge of pool and my girls were standing there with me and they were just really aware, they weren't scared but really watching me closely. It wasn't fear, it was excitement... it was different to see their mum on the ground breathing heavily."

After hopping in the bath when her midwife arrived, the family crowded around and waited for their little brother to arrive.

"The midwife arrive and asked if I wanted to hop in and I thought 'finally!'. The contractions got closer together and a little more intense and the girls were there the whole time, they helped keep me present and calm."

One fear she did have was that her pain may scare her daughters - saying she'd been 'very vocal' in her other births. This time, however, she said she felt no urge to scream, instead feeling calm and present.

Picture: Ashley said Ziggy's birth was everything she'd hoped for and more. Credit: Alisia Mason Photography

Picture: Ashley said Ziggy's birth was everything she'd hoped for and more. Credit: Alisia Mason Photography

"They were right up in my face, touching me and it brought me back, that i'm in my home and feeling so loved and supported. Just overall the energy felt really safe and allowed my body to fully relax, I was only in the water for 30 minuted and he was out." 

"I even remember having a few contractions that felt good. It was almost like a sense of immense release and knowing the baby was coming."  

Ashley was even able to check her own cervix throughout - at one point feeling his sac as her waters hadn't broken. Her daughters excitement also helped fuel her strength, she said.

"Their excitement and energy gave me the energy to push through the rushes," she said, "I started panting really short pants and I knew he'd come soon. In two or three pushes he popped out."

With her daughters watching with a torch and a mirror to help them to see better, as soon as Ziggy was out - Indie and Ava jumped in for a closer look. 

Picture: Both girls were able to jump in the pool to bond with their baby brother. Credit: Alisia Mason Photography

Picture: Both girls were able to jump in the pool to bond with their baby brother. Credit: Alisia Mason Photography

After she'd delivered the placenta, they even got to help cut his cord, before Maple arrived to meet him. As friends turned up to help pack everything away.

"I woke up in the morning and the room looked one way - in the blink of an eye it was birth ready and after I had a shower it looked normal again. His birth started at 5.30am and I had him at 10.30am. The experience was unforgettable. I tell Josh i'd relive that day again in a heartbeat, it was everything i'd envisaged and exactly how I thought it would feel like."

"A homebirth allowed me to really find pleasure and hoy in what's meant to be a natural, blissful experience. I'm very grateful to be able to have had that experience, it's something i'll cherish forever." 

​The experience couldn't be more different from her first two births. Having had Indie at 22 in what she described as a 'textbook medical birth', she said she could never then have imagined doing this.

"Being so young I was so programmed about this is how babies are meant to be born, and I was totally ok with it. I had an epidural and it was easy done. I remember afterwards talking to other mums who'd had natural births and thinking 'these mums are crazy, why would you go through that?!'," she told Essential Baby.

Picture: Ziggy has a feed after the birth. Credit: Alisia Mason Photography

Picture: Ziggy has a feed after the birth. Credit: Alisia Mason Photography

A traumatic birth with her second - starting with being induced, followed by a series of interventions, she said she got closer to defining how she wanted things to be with each birth.

Including her third, where she was able to birth Maple in a hospital water birth - a healing experience she said gave her the confidence to go into Ziggy's birth feeling empowered. 

"With Maple, the contractions felt different, because there were breaks in between. I was falling asleep between them because I was so relaxed in the water, I could breath between them. With Ava I was gasping for air, I never felt I was getting any relief." 

"After experiencing (Maple's) magical birth, by the time I was pregnant with my fourth, I was so ready for a home birth. I knew my body could do it and I was so empowered."

Do you want to share your baby's birth story? Send details to editor@essentialbaby.com.au, with the subject: birth stories.