Hannah planned an unattended birth for her fourth child, after a great deal of thought and research. It is entirely legal for women in the UK to plan to give birth alone, but it is illegal for anyone other than a registered midwife or medical doctor to 'attend' the birth. For more information, see 'Birth without midwives'.
I'd been having lots of strong contractions for a good week before the baby was born. In fact last Monday, I got a very strong feeling that the baby was ready and wanted to come out - that and the contractions I had that day were enough to make me get everything ready. Things petered out though and I was a little disappointed and discouraged.
I kept busy the rest of the week trying not to take any notice of contractions. I was a little bit concerned that the baby seemed to have turned to a posterior position and had settled down very deeply in my pelvis like that. I couldn't feel his backbone at all anymore and there were lots of movements all towards the front. I decided against trying to do any exercises to change it - as I figured there would be a good reason for him to have settled like that. Also, being my fourth, even if the baby stayed posterior all the way - I thought it unlikely that it would give me any trouble delivering.
On Monday I went food shopping with Steve to Tesco's , it was the first time I'd been out anywhere for a good week (apart from walking to children 5 minutes down the road to school in the mornings) as I had a strong desire to stay close to home - but I wanted to stock up the freezer for after the birth.
I spent all afternoon in the kitchen on my feet cooking up sauces and stews for the freezer and a roast dinner for that evening. By the time we ate it I was having a few nice strong contractions here and there.
By about 9pm I was fairly hopeful that this was the night! Contractions were still irregular, but that was normal for me - I could feel my cervix was stretching with each one and aching in-between times which I remembered feeling in previous labours, this made me more confident that it really was time and I noticed that I had started to have 'a show' when I went to the loo.
I woke up Steve who was dozing on the sofa and told him it was time. I sent him out to get the coal in for the fire in the living room (we've just had the central heating replaced, but I saved just enough coal for a fire to labour by :o))
I lit the fire and some candles, then fetched down the things I had ready for the birth from upstairs.
My plan was to give birth sitting, so that I would be able to catch the baby properly and see it coming out so I made a kind of 'nest' on the floor to give birth on. I laid out an old sleeping bag, used the cushions from the sofa for more padding, covered the whole lot with a big sheet, and then put the large Pampers mats over the top. Everything was ready by 10pm.
The next few hours contractions continued irregularly as before, some strong, some not so strong. I didn't see the point of trying to time them. By about 1am I was starting to feel a little tired. The contractions were much more comfortable and frequent when I was up and walking around, but as I started to get tired I alternated between lying on the sofa for a few too. Contractions were definitely more intense than I'd had during the last two labours - I actually had to close my eyes and breathe through them - whether that was because I didn't use the TENS machine this time or not I don't know.
As I was pacing around during one contraction trying silly positions, it struck me that there was no way I'd feel so free and uninhibited with midwives present - and that gave me a boost.
Steve stayed with me in the living room the whole time, Verity woke briefly at about 1am and he went and got her back off to sleep. I was glad to have him back when he came down, even though he wasn't actually doing anything.
I did start to wonder how far along I was at about 2 or 3am. I thought about checking dilation but decided there was little point - if I found I was only 5cm I would be disappointed - even though I knew I had dilated quickly from that point before. I did feel that things were progressing even though the contractions didn't really change in frequency or regularity.
I told myself, that even though I really wanted to give birth in the darkness in front of the fire it wouldn't be the end of the world if labour did drag on into the morning - I would just have to move upstairs and get on with it.
I was waiting for my waters to break as I knew it wouldn't be long after that. It was about 4am when I realised I was having a slight pushing sensation at the height of the contractions. At this point I was having real doubts about whether I'd be able to sit down an deliver - all the intense pressure seemed to be centered around my tailbone - but I decided to try it.
I got as comfortable as I could on my nest - contractions spaced out a bit then - I looked at the clock and realised I'd been waiting about 20 minutes for another one. I was both excited and a bit scared at this point - baby had been active all through labour so I had no qualms as to his well-being,
I was still a bit worried though as he still felt posterior and I'd thought he might turn during labour.
Anyway - the next contraction came along and I felt something coming down fast - I put my hand down and felt the water bag balloon right outside of me, fill my hand and then pop sending waters everywhere. I was really amazed as I'd not seen or heard of the waters breaking like this before -there was a piece of membrane hanging out afterwards and I racked my brain for a minute trying to think if that was anything to worry about or not, and decided that it couldn't be - I couldn't feel anything else (i.e. a cord) and the waters were perfectly clear.
I think I had a couple of weak contractions after that - but it just didn't feel right sitting and I knew I had to move, so I got round into a semi -kneeling position which felt much better. I then had a very strong contraction accompanied by such an intense need to push, which I did. I felt inside after that contraction, expecting to feel the top of the baby's head coming but there was nothing there. I was worried again briefly that the baby was trying to come through posterior and wasn't going to come - but I quickly forgot that when the next contraction came.
I had my hand down the whole time, and as my body was overwhelmed with what seemed like involuntary pushing I felt something coming. It felt small and pointy with a distinct cleft in the middle, and for a split second I thought it was a bottom! It kept coming however and I felt his head emerge, rapidly followed by a body. I was completely overwhelmed at this point. The baby had gone from being completely inside, to coming all the way down, and all the way out in one contraction!
I heard Steve saying excitedly 'it's here! it's here!'. He'd come so quickly that he'd just tumbled out on to the floor. I looked down and saw my baby -arms and legs outstretched, purple and screaming, it took me a few moments to reach for him - the cord was wrapped round him a bit, so I moved that -then lifted a leg a saw that we had a son - Steve was thrilled and so was I as we'd wanted another son. I scooped him up with one hand and crawled round to a sitting position. He instantly stopped crying and was very quiet and alert, looking around at his new surroundings. We both thought he looked tiny and was only about 7lb or so. He had pinked up really well by then except for purple hands and feet - I quickly wrapped him up in a towel, even though it was very warm in front of the fire, as I was worried about him getting chilled. I was surprised how wet and slippery he was - I think all my babies must have been dried off before being handed to me previously. We checked the time and it was 4.40am.
I asked to Steve to fetch the bulb syringe I'd bought from the kitchen, but he was breathing perfectly, without so much as a gurgle so we didn't need it.
About ten minutes later I was having strong afterpains and feeling very uncomfortable and I wanted to try getting the placenta out. I decided I would be able to move more easily if we cut the cord, which was now white and stringy so I sent Steve to boil up some string and scissors. I tied the cord about 8 inches away from the baby with a double bit of string - didn't tie 'my' end and then cut it. I tried for about ten minutes to push the placenta out but it didn't seem to want to come so I settled down on the sofa to feed the baby - he latched on really well and fed enthusiastically for about half an hour. This brought on really, really strong afterpains with a pushing sensation too - so I was fairly sure then that the placenta was detached and just sitting there waiting to be pushed out. I knelt over the pot and consciously relaxed and then pushed out the placenta. It was SUCH a relief to get it out - I instantly felt human again. It was exactly an hour after the birth.
After that I settled down on the sofa and stayed there! The children came down at around 7am and were thrilled to bits to have a new brother. Especially Lawrence - he'd particularly wanted a brother.
We managed to decide on a name the next day - Alfred James, to be known as Alfie.
My parents came up to take care of the house and things the next day, and we weighed Alfie with my Dad's new fishing scales - 8lb 4oz! So not quite as little as we thought. He was 36 hours old by then so I think he was probably around 8 1/2 at birth.
I'm thrilled that everything went to plan, but it also feels very ordinary. I feel like I've finally given birth normally! No interference whatsoever. I wouldn't hesitate to do it the same way again.
We had three days of uninterrupted time together before the midwife phoned on Friday morning. She came straight round when I told her he'd arrived. I was very much against Alfie being disturbed or upset for what I feel are pointless tests (such as measuring) which caused some difficulty. I felt the midwife was looking for problems, and she made a fuss about his temperature being 37.1 ! She insisted they would have to come every day to check on this, and I felt rather threatened and helpless to prevent this intrusion without appearing irresponsible, so all in all this period of time was rather stressful. Fortunately a more respectful midwife visited the next day and I only had to endure another couple of visits before we were left in peace!
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Hannah's website has the birth stories of her four children on it - one planned hospital birth, one transfer to hospital, one home birth with midwives in attendance, and Alfie's unattended home birth http://hannahshome.20m.com/index.html. Hannah's thoughts about having transferred to hospital are on this website.
For more information on unassisted childbirth, Hannah recommends Laura Kaplan Shanley's Bornfree! website (http://freebirth.com)
Another planned unassisted birth story comes from Andrea, about her tenth baby, Seth.
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