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IN HER WORDS…COURTNEY ADAMO

IN HER WORDS…COURTNEY ADAMO

It’s been two years since we caught up with the American-born mother of five. Last time we met, Courtney, her husband Michael and their four children were about to leave their life in London behind to embark on a year of travel.  Since then they have traversed the globe, settled into a new home in Byron Bay, Australia and welcomed a new member of their family, a little son known affectionally as Wilkie. Here the 36-year-old talks about her incredibly moving experience of homebirth.

I HAD TO CALM MYSELF DOWN FROM A MINI PANIC ATTACK IN THE TINY BATHROOM IN ITALY WHEN THE PREGNANCY TEST READ POSITIVE…

I think I was mostly scared to tell Michael because I knew he was not ready for the news (of course he feels completely differently now). There was also a little part of me that was excited, of course, but I was worried about Michael and I even felt embarrassed to tell my family.

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PHYSICALLY ALL OF MY PREGNANCIES FELT VERY SIMILAR…

I was never able to predict the baby’s gender based on any differences in the pregnancies because they all felt the same.  Emotionally, I really enjoyed my fifth pregnancy and felt very calm and present throughout it. Knowing it was my last, I cherished the feeling of carrying a baby inside, and I guess I didn’t have to grapple with any fears or worries about the birth since I had done it many times before. I also did a lot of yoga, which helped keep me physically and emotionally fit.

I KNOW THAT WHENEVER YOU FIND OUT THE GENDER – DURING PREGNANCY OR AT THE BIRTH – THAT IT IS A WONDERFUL SURPRISE…

But there is just something about the surprise at birth that makes that moment when you meet your baby that little bit more enchanting. Also, I love the anticipation it creates amongst your friends and family when they don’t know the gender. I love how excited everyone gets to find out the news! A friend once told me that finding out the gender of your baby is a bit like X-raying your Christmas presents before you open them. It’s so true. I wouldn’t want to X-ray my presents either.

ALTHOUGH, A FUNNY STORY…

We were 37 weeks pregnant with our first baby when we had to go in for a scan to confirm the baby’s position. We explained to the doctor that we didn’t want to know the gender and she agreed not to let us see anything. But then… half way through the scan she accidentally pointed out his ‘willy’! So we found out we were having a boy in a little clinic on Harley Street after going 37 weeks without knowing. The poor woman felt so bad, she was nearly in tears. Apparently she had worked in that job for more than 20 years and had never made that mistake before.

I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED THE IDEA OF BIRTHING AT HOME…

I loved the thought of being in my own space, lighting candles, dimming the lights, not having to get in a car to travel anywhere… I loved the thought of crawling back into my own bed with my newborn baby and Michael by my side and just being home (my bathroom, my kitchen, my food).

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I AM A BIG FAN OF INA MAY GASKIN AND HER BOOKS ON NATURAL CHILDBIRTH…

The homebirth stories she shares are always so beautiful and powerful, so normal. Reading those stories made me long for the same experience. I think it also helps that here in Byron Bay, home births are really common. Almost all of my friends have birthed their babies at home, and the local Byron hospital has a beautiful team of experienced midwives who assist with home births. There is a communal approach to birthing at home that is both empowering and inspiring.

OF COURSE EVERY BIRTH IS DIFFERENT AND YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT…

But I really tried not to let any fears creep in because I know how crippling and disabling fear can be in labour. I actually wasn’t very nervous, I was just so excited to get to experience childbirth one last time and of course so excited to meet our baby.

 I STARTED FEELING LABOUR CONTRACTIONS AROUND 4PM…

I prepared dinner with Michael and we all sat down at the table to eat around 7pm. I went into my bedroom at 8pm and Wilkie was born at 10:15. So it was quick!

I HAVE HAD FOUR HOSPITAL BIRTHS AND ONE HOME BIRTH…

So I am aware that birthing in hospital can come in many different shapes and forms.  I gave birth to Marlow in a birthing pool in the birth centre of UCLH in London, and it was a beautiful, intimate experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  But giving birth at home is definitely something extra special. I think there is something about never leaving your home that makes the experience more dream-like, more intimate. You never have to hop in a car, remember your bag and belongings, arrive to a hospital, step into a lift, remember your NHS number, and the myriad other steps and details of birthing in hospital. You can literally relax and let your mind go soft and internal and do what your body wants to do. After Wilkie was born, I quickly rinsed off in my shower, grabbed a nightgown from my closet, and climbed back into my own bed. When I woke in the morning, it felt as if the whole thing had been one big, beautiful dream.

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I COULDN’T IMAGINE NOT HAVING MY CHILDREN THERE AT THE BIRTH OF OUR BABY…

It’s interesting because I don’t really remember them ever asking. I don’t even remember discussing it with Michael or making any decisions. It’s as if we, the six of us, just always knew we’d all want to experience the birth together, like there was some unwritten understanding that this would be a shared experience. This pregnancy came after a year of travel – where we spent every minute of every day together as a family, so in many ways I think their presence at the birth was a natural continuation of that lifestyle.

 EACH OF THE KIDS REACTED SO DIFFERENTLY…

And really it was their reactions that I remember most from that evening. Where our previous births were an intimate experience between Michael and me, this birth was so much about the children and less about us.  Easton was moved to tears. Ivy kept excitedly asking the baby’s gender. Quin started jumping up and down when I announced he was a boy. And Marlow – she stood so completely still, her wide eyes staring at me from just above the edge of the birth pool. For the first time in her life, she was speechless and still. It was amazing and I feel so fortunate that our children were able to experience this precious moment with us.

 I HOPE ALL THE MEMORIES FROM THAT NIGHT STAY WITH ME FOREVER…

But I guess my strongest memory is of watching my eldest, Easton, as he watched his baby brother be born.  Easton was standing at the edge of the birth pool, slightly curled over, wiping away tears as they rolled down his cheeks. He was so moved by the experience of childbirth that he was experiencing tears of joy – the kind of tears that you can’t hold back.  It is such a grown-up emotion for a little boy to have. Just thinking about it now makes me cry. I will never forget how moved he was by it all, how overcome with emotion he was.  Easton’s teacher told me recently that when she asked her students to give a quick, impromptu speech about ‘the best experience of their lives’, Easton said it was watching his brother be born (followed by surfing with dolphins in New Zealand).

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I ALWAYS WANTED FOUR CHILDREN…

I am the eldest of five, so in many ways it doesn’t feel that crazy to me. But I never thought I would have five of my own. Five is a bonus!

THEY ARE SUCH A CLOSE-KNIT LITTLE TRIBE AND I FEEL SO THANKFUL THEY HAVE EACH OTHER… 

I think the best thing is the different dynamics between all the children – watching the different friendships evolve, watching the older children nurture and love on the younger ones. There’s never a dull moment in our home, which can be exhausting sometimes, but it’s also a lot of fun.

 WE ARE DEFINITELY NOT HAVING ANY MORE BABIES!

But I would totally give birth at home again. A thousand times over!

As told to Amanda Woodward-Brown

Main image photographed by Amelia Fullarton

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