Elliot is Alicia's first baby and he was born at home in Australia, in 2006.
I was living in Brighton in the UK when I first became pregnant and knew lots of other homebirth mothers who shared such wonderful birth stories with me (thank you!) that I knew I wanted a homebirth too. I booked with an Independent Midwife, lovely lovely lady she is, and went full steam ahead with my homebirth preparations - thinking that my partner was behind me all the way.
Unfortunately I was to find out at about five months pregnant that he wasn't - about homebirth and, well, just about everything. In the end I decided that I couldn't birth in the UK with no support, away from my family who were all in Australia. At thirty weeks pregnant I relocated to Australia with the help of my Mum (bless those mothers) and moved in with my sister, brother-in-law and two children. I was now facing life as a single mother and the baby hadn't even arrived yet.
I was so lucky to find another IM in Melbourne who squeezed me in at the last minute so that I could continue to try for my homebirth (thanks Robyn Thompson). I tried to concentrate on getting myself in a good headspace for the fast-approaching birth (easier said than done).
On my EDD, 10th February (no dating scan so this was going by my LMP), I was having a lot of Braxton Hicks and period-like pain. I was so heavily in denial that labour might be beginning, and kept brushing people off when they asked if I thought I was. (Even though I had suddenly had an uncontrollable urge to put dark sheets on the bed the day before... LOL)
I saw my IM that night and after checking me over and observing these 'Braxton hicks' I was having said that she thought she might just pack the car tomorrow. I was excited that she thought my body and baby were ready to begin labour anytime from now on (dur - still not realising that this was it!!) Later she told me that she had known that I was in early labour but didn't like to say anything in case it put me off :-)
That night my friend gave me a lovely foot massage and I stayed up later than I should have, talking and laughing (and having intermittent period pain). I went to bed tired at about 12 am only to be woken again at 3 am. I thought I just needed the loo. I still had pains and they felt a bit stronger so I thought I might just watch the clock for a bit. They where coming every five minutes or so and after an hour I decided I could no longer deny I was in labour.
I went upstairs to wake my sister (my birth partner) and after waking her at 4 am and whispering that I was in labour her reaction was to sit bolt upright, with a big smile and say "I knew it!" :-)))
We went downstairs and lay in bed together, laughing and talking. I felt bad for waking her as the pains weren't strong but I hadn't wanted to be alone. Of course she understood and even though she fell asleep for a bit, it was nice having her presence next to me.
I had wanted to set up the pool in the lounge but of course I went into labour on the only night that my sister's son was having a sleepover so they where both on the mattresses that I wanted to set the pool up on, for added padding on the tiled floor. Typical.
By morning (6am) I felt the contractions where getting a bit stronger. The children were stirring, thank goodness as I really, really wanted to set up my birth room and my brother-in-law was panicking a bit (not very comfortable with the whole home birth thing) about where he and the children would sleep tonight?!!!? Surely the baby would be here by then I thought (and hoped)!
It was a bit weird as I felt that I had to sit in my room while I laboured as he and the children were having breakfast etc and I didn't want to make anyone uncomfortable! I waited till 7:30 am to ring my midwife and tell her I was in labour. By now I was concentrating on the contractions and having to work through them a bit more.
I had a shower while the kids all left and then we set up the birth room. Robyn arrived at about 9 am. I was lying on my bed and started crying as soon as I saw her. I had a good cry and she said nothing, just stroked my head - which really helped.
We filled the pool halfway; I had some music on, had some breakfast, burned some oils and set up the video camera. My contractions were about every four minutes or so but feeling pretty intense. I suddenly felt very sick and ran to the sink and threw up. I instantly felt better. We made up some gastrolyte to keep up my fluids and energy.
I searched the house for some Panadol thinking I might take some of that to take the edge off the contractions (?) (IMs in Australia don't bring gas and air at all, so I was on my own!). I found no Panadol, and at this point said to my sister (half joking, half serious) 'whose idea was it to have a bloody homebirth - where are the drugs!!' LOL
I walked around, squatted, went to the loo a lot; lay on the bed before finally asking Robyn if I could get in the pool now. She said I could get in whenever I wanted. I thought 'damn, if I had known that I would have gotten in ages ago!' ;-)
The pool was pure bliss. It was so much easier to move around in the water and helped with the pain a lot.
I was having really bad back pain and I think it was because I had had a lot of trouble with my coccyx bone during the pregnancy. I was using the hose that was running hot water into the pool to spray my back underwater in between contractions.
It felt good but while I was having a contraction I was squatting and leaning on the pool so I had to let go of the hose. My sister thought she would be really helpful and spray my back with the hose while I was having a contraction. She didn't think about how hot the water was and took it out of the water and sprayed my now exposed back (the pool wasn't quite full yet so my back was out of the water) I yelled and jumped away to the other side of the pool - yes she had burned me!! (Not badly, it was just very hot)
How bad did she feel, but it was very, very funny and we couldn't stop laughing. The next contraction came and it was much harder, so then I was swearing at her for making the contractions stronger. When the contraction was over we still all had a good laugh about it.
I got out of the pool and went for a walk around. My contractions were still about three minutes apart so I was getting a good rest in between. It must have been about lunchtime by now. I wondered how far dilated I was. I asked Robyn to check me. Her response was 'if you would like me to I will'. So I thought about it and thought about how I would feel if I found out I was only three centimetres or so. I decided I couldn't cope with that and told Robyn I had changed my mind and didn't want one after all. She smiled and nodded and said ok. Checked baby's heart and my blood pressure - all was well. I did try my own VE but had no idea what I was trying to feel for.
Things were hotting up and I was finding it hard to cope. I began moaning, crying, swearing, and yelling through contractions - this all helped. Robyn and I had been talking about the red line that comes up from your bottom as you dilate; she mentioned that it was just beginning to show. I was thinking 'only just showing, oh my god, it should be at my neck by now' Ha Ha.
I hopped back in the pool and it wasn't long before I felt really sick again. They got me a bucket and I vomited a few times. I remember thinking 'transition - I have made it, almost there now!' Some of you might be thinking that I was thinking too much and you are right. I was really finding it hard to switch my brain off and find 'labour land'.
The second midwife arrived. It was now about 3:30pm. I began pushing. I now think I really pushed before my body was ready (that thinking brain again, I just wanted it over with). As a result I was pushing for over two hours. I was even marching around the pool in between contractions, anything to get this baby out. His head was there, I could feel it, and I could even feel the beginnings of the burning sensations as my perineum stretched but I couldn't get him to move down any further. I was pushing with all my might and starting to feel very, very tired.
Robyn suggested I stand up to allow gravity to help. I was leaning onto my sister, standing over the water. Robyn and Clare could see the baby's head as I pushed. They became concerned as the head looked white. Robyn hopped in the pool behind me, trying to find the baby's heartbeat. As he was so far down she couldn't get one and they were worried about his colour. Robyn decided to do an episiotomy. She cut, I gave two enormous pushes and baby flew out all at once, caught over the water by Robyn. The time was 5:38 pm.
She handed him straight up to me where I discovered I had given birth to a baby boy. I was dehydrated and tired so they helped me out of the pool onto the sofa. I checked him over he was perfect. We allowed the cord to stop pulsating before cutting it, which my sister had the honour of doing.
About ten minutes later I stood up and delivered the placenta, no problem at all. Boy did that feel better!
My Mum came down from the other end of the house, where she had been looking after my sister's younger son, to congratulate me.
My boy was fine although had a bit of suctioning as his breathing was a little rapid, and he had quite a cone head from being in my birth canal for so long!
After two glasses of gastrolyte I felt much better too. They wrapped us both up and the rest of the family came in to congratulate us and meet the new arrival - Elliott James.
He weighed in at 8 lb 6 1/2 oz, which I could not believe as I am only a small person, and 54 cm long!
I had a few stitches at home and the midwives discovered I had a hematoma (sp?) (blood filled swelling) inside my vagina, which might have been why I had trouble getting him out. On reflection I think this happened because I pushed too soon.
All was well though and the family, midwife (2nd MW gone home by now) and I, with my new son, all sat and ate homemade veggie soup - just what I needed!
Now five months on I am so proud and empowered by my homebirth. I believe it has helped me become a better mother, created a stronger bond with Elliott (as well as breast feeding and co-sleeping) and even developed me as a person. I just feel more ready to deal with any curve balls that life throws at me now - like being a single Mum for starters.
I was disappointed at first that Elliott wasn't born under water and that I had an episiotomy. Now though I realise how lucky I am to have had a homebirth, especially with all that I went through when I was pregnant, with upheavals, emotional and relationship issues, relocation to the other side of the world, and birthing in ultimately someone else's space.
I thank all the women who post on the Homebirth UK email group as reading your posts helped me to believe I could do it and gave me courage and encouragement when I came back to Australia, where homebirth is quite uncommon.
I'm happy to say my son is a healthy, beautiful five-month-old baby now, and everyone comments on how happy and content he is. I make sure to tell them not to underestimate how much a good birth, especially one at home, can affect a baby.
If you have made it this far, thanks for reading!
Home Birth Stories
First Babies and homebirth
Pain relief - what are your options at home?
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
Independent Midwives - what they do, and where to find one.
Homebirth UK email group
Home Birth Reference Page