Nathan's birth story, by Alex

I found out I was pregnant after 1 month of trying and I was ecstatic, but nervous at the same time; being pregnant was a big deal to me as I had desperately wanted a baby for a long time. My due date was the 25th March 2006 and I absolutely couldn't wait!

My pregnancy was ok - mild nausea, lots of pelvic discomfort but other than that it went well. I felt very in tune with my body when I was pregnant I just knew everything was ok and I was really relaxed by this.

I had always been attracted to a homebirth but my partner (Paul) was not - he thought that babies should be born in hospital and delivered by doctors! I am a nurse myself and associate hospitals with sickness and work, not somewhere I would feel comfortable having a baby. After a lot of discussion and a chat with the midwife he finally came round to the idea, so at 34 weeks I booked for my homebirth.

I decided I would like to hire a birth pool too as I wanted a drug-free labour. I used the good birth company who I found really good and reasonably priced too.

Like most first-timers I thought I would have my baby before or on my due date - wishful thinking. My due date came and went and nothing no show - no niggles - nowt. Now as the days tick by the word induction is thrown about more and more. My midwife was very supportive of my decision not to be induced; I had researched it and knew the facts, risks etc. I would recommend you do the same if you go overdue - it's surprising reading.

The main offenders in the induction saga were friends and family with comments like "don't you want your baby?" "I was induced - what's wrong with it?" and the best comment "I know someone who went over by 10 days and their baby was stillborn". My advice: turn off the phone and lock the door and don't talk to anyone until your baby is born! I'm not a supporter of induction unless there is a definite reason for doing it or the baby is at risk; some people just grow their babies longer.

My midwife offered me a membrane sweep, which at first I wasn't keen on but as the days passed I decided I would give it a go. On the third one I told my midwife to go bonkers and that evening I had a show. I called Paul up the stairs and started waving the soiled toilet paper in his face - I was soo chuffed something seemed to be happening. I think he would have preferred if I had just told him! I was now 40 + 11 and finally I felt I was actually going to have a baby.

The following morning I woke up at 4 am with Braxton hicks but they felt different - I can't really describe how. I did not have any period like pains that I had read about but I knew this was it! I woke Paul up to tell him I was getting up but go back to sleep, as if! He got up and at 4.30 we took the dog for a walk in the freezing cold with me stopping stunned every time I had this funny tightening sensation. But at dinnertime it all stopped I was gutted, upset and knackered. I had a sleep and woke up with the urge to get out the house- very odd!

We went to visit parents and on way home at 6.40 pm the sensation came back - hooray! This time it didn't disappear. I wasn't really convinced I was in labour until about midnight as I was getting awful pains in my back not at the front which is where I expected them. I spent hours in the shower with the hose on my back which I found really helpful. I rung the midwife shortly after midnight just to warn her that she might have to come out tonight. My contractions were still irregular, about 6 mins apart. She said to ring back when I felt I needed to.

At about 2.45 am I felt really odd; hot cold tried all at the same time and my contractions slowed. I thought I was in the transitional stage of labour and the midwife needed to come now! The midwife agreed to come out and arrived at about 3.15 on examination I was - da da da - 4cms. Not quite as far as I thought then. She also confirmed that the baby had turned and was posterior from ROA which is why my back hurt. I was to be re-examined at 9am so off I went in the shower, breathing through each contraction until then.

At my next examination I was 6 cms; I had lost 2 cms in 6 hours. The contractions were painful now but I was still coping with the shower and my breathing. The midwife wanted to break my waters as things were slow going. I was really unsure of this as it was something I hadn't planned, I partially agreed, she called the second midwife and a replacement for her as her call was over and I was left to ponder about my waters.

Note from Angela: Breaking the waters (Artificial Rupture of Membranes, or ARM) can step up the pace of labour rapidly, as the head descends and exerts more pressure on the cervix. It's common for women to say that they suddenly find things much more intense and the pain may become hard to manage (eg see Wendy's story), although for other women it doesn't make such a difference.

There are two major risks of ARM to bear in mind. One is that, as soon as the waters are broken, it can be harder for the baby to adjust its position - instead of her head floating in a balloon of fluid inside you, it's usually pressed firmly against your cervix. Midwives who are experts in supporting active birth often advise against breaking the waters where there is any suspicion that the baby is not in an ideal position. Another risk to be aware of is that there is a higher risk of the baby's heart rate showing signs of distress, probably because its head is no longer cushioned against strong contractions. The research evidence suggests that, overall, breaking the waters makes little difference to how long labour takes. However, most midwives feel that there are particular cases where it can really make a difference, even if there is no reason to do it on a routine basis. For more discussion, see the UK Midwifery Archive page on Artificial Rupture of Membranes

Back to Alex:

My midwife arrived as she was on call for home birth that day, which made me relax instantly - it helps when you see a familiar face in labour. I bombarded her with questions about breaking my waters like will I have the baby straight away like on telly, will it instantly get worse and so on - I think I was secretly terrified. She was really reassuring and at 9.30 she broke my waters. Unfortunately there was meconium and her advice was to transfer in.

Note from Angela: Meconium in the waters means that the baby has had its first bowel movement while still inside the womb. It can sometimes be a sign that the baby is, or has been, in distress, or it can be a sign simply that the baby's gut is mature. It is very common in post-term babies and is less likely to be a sign of distress in these cases. However, most hospitals have a blanket policy of recommending transfer when meconium is found in the waters. For a detailed discussion of the risks and issues, see the separate page on meconium.

Back to Alex:

The midwife listened to the baby - it was fine and reassured me that the meconium was probably cause I was overdue and it wasn't cos the baby was distressed etc. I was ok though I didn't freak out. Paul began to pack a bag - I never packed one as I didn't want to tempt fate ha ha- I never had half of what I needed but he tried! We agreed to drive to the hospital - no ambulance, no rush, in our own time. My contractions did not get instantly worse like I thought. They hurt lots but they were bearable.

I arrived at the delivery suite at about 11 and this is where I lost it. As soon as I walked into the room I panicked; I was on the bed, on a monitor, exactly where I didn't want to be. My contractions absolutely killed when I lay down. The midwife asked about pain relief and I started on the gas and air. The midwife said I would be re-examined at about 13.00 and left me with the gas and air and a very nice student.

I don't really remember any pain from here in. I was sucking on the gas and air with all I had - I think that's why- I also think it worked better because I didn't start on it till quite late on.

At about 12.30 I started to uncontrollably push at the peak of each contraction - very odd feeling that I had no way of stopping. I began screaming at the student I want to p-u-s-h. She was telling me to try and breathe and resist it but I couldn't. The other midwife appeared and lifted up the sheet with the student. They looked at each other and then announced I was 10cms - hooray!

I started to push with all I had until it started to hurt like nothing I had ever felt before; this felt more like a bus coming out than a melon! After about 1 hour of pushing forceps were mentioned - well, threatened I think. The threat worked; soon after the head was emerging and I had a feel after a little persuasion. I'm so glad I did as it spurred me on and is something I will never forget; if you get chance do it - it's amazing.

The student started telling me to breathe slowly. I was relieved as I knew the head was almost there, head delivered I thought it would be easy now, but as baby turned I tore - ouch! I was screaming like a dying animal, I terrified Paul and that was probably the bit that will take longest to forget, it hurt a lot. The baby got a bit stuck here and my legs were quickly thrown over my head, then a big wet lump is plonked on my tummy, my baby! Born at 13.44 I look at its face - beautiful - then begin wrestling with the legs to see what it was. Paul looks up and announces it's a boy! I knew it. He's whisked off to the resuscitare as he's a bit slow but he's fine.

Note from Angela: It sounds like Nathan's shoulders stuck after his head was born. Once the head emerges, the baby turns its head to the side and wriggles its shoulders through the pelvis, but sometimes it has trouble getting one or both shoulders out. Serious cases of this are called 'shoulder dystocia', although many midwives prefer to describe mild cases as 'some difficulty with birth of the shoulders' or 'sticky shoulders'. It is more common in big babies, and where forceps or ventouse are used. A common step to free the shoulders is McRoberts Maneouvre, which is where the mother's knees are pressed up hard towards her armpits - the movement this causes in the pelvis frequently frees the shoulders. You can read more about sticky shoulders on the page about Shoulder Dystocia, and what is done if this occurs at a home birth.

Back to Alex:

I had planned a natural third stage but the midwife advises a managed one as he's big and I was bleeding a little. I agree, too exhausted to argue. The placenta is stubborn, I hadn't peed since home and had a massive bladder. I was catheterised and after some tugging it comes out. Next a doctor comes in and says I might have to go to theatre as I've torn badly. I refuse, they gave me back the gas and air and spend over half an hour trying to repair my tears. At least I avoided theatre and looking at my baby was the best pain relief ever. In the middle of all this they do the weigh-in. This brings me round - my first baby 10lb 3 ozs delivered on gas air and brute force. After about 45-55mins I get to hold my big boy Nathan.

I am sad that I didn't get my home birth but I spent most of my labour there and I was much more relaxed than I was at the hospital. At the end of the day that's just the way Nathan was meant to be born. I think you can't be too regimented about your labour and birth; things change and you have to go with what's right at the time. I think it's sad when people describe their birth as awful - for some my birth would be 'awful' but to me it's the most precious memory I have and I know it's a cliché but as long as the baby is OK.. I think you have to extract the good bits, remember them, and try to forget the bad bits if you can.

So Nathan arrived on the day I would have been induced if I had agreed; I heard somewhere that babies work on instinct and I believe he changed position because he had to in order to be born. I think by being induced I would have rushed him and I wouldn't have delivered him naturally.

People ask if I would book for a home birth again and yes I would., I would be slightly worried how big it would be next time, whether I would tear as badly and 101 other worries but I still think home is a very relaxing and safe environment to have a baby, and I would be very pleased if next time I achieved it.



First baby - is homebirth a sensible option?

Overdue what are your options for homebirth? What are the risks?

Pain relief options at home

UK Midwifery Archive page on Artificial Rupture of Membranes

Meconium in the waters - what does it mean for homebirth?

Big babies - what are the issues for homebirth?

Transferring to hospital - why it might be advised, and thoughts from mothers who've done it.

Shoulder Dystocia - what it means, what the risk factors are, and what is done if this occurs at a home birth.

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