My experience of transferring from a home birth

Alyson O'Neil

Alyson had to consider transferring to hospital care in late pregnancy, before labour started, when her baby decided on a breech position. Note that it is still possible to give birth to a breech baby at home, but many mothers feel that the extra risks of the situation make hospital birth right for them. Alyson's baby turned and she was back on track for home birth, but she ended up transferring in the second stage of labour. Here's what happened:

I had a few problems in the last five weeks of pregnancy. I went to the Hospital at 35 weeks for my Ob. appointment and to my despair the baby was breech. In that second my aims and hopes had suddenly gone from having a home birth to just being able to give birth and to avoid a C. Section.

I felt cheated and I knew that if this were to happen I would have post-natal depression. I asked the Ob. if I could have a breech delivery and although he wasn't really willing to discuss my options then, he said it would be a possibility and I also asked about cephalic version.

Turning a Breech Baby

Luckily however, I knew from a previous meeting with the Community midwives that one of them practised acupuncture and that she would hopefully be able to perform moxabustion on me. I left a message for her to contact me which she did the next day and she started on the Saturday. Kevin and I went to the ante - natal clinic on the Saturday and it was strange because of course it was closed and the place was in darkness and was eerily quiet. Catalina the midwife took me outside to the courtyard to show Kevin what to do (the smoke would have set the alarm off) as moxabustion has to be done twice a day for up to 10 days and she wouldn't be able obviously to see me every day.

If you don't know what moxabustion is then let me tell you that the smell is like nothing else. It was extremely difficult to do with a toddler running about as it involves using lit sticks which look like fireworks and holding them at each small toe for 10 minutes at a time. Catalina also told me to go swimming so not having a maternity costume I duly trotted off to Mothercare and bought one! As I was still at work I had to go swimming at night and the first night I went it was an under 14 years disco party in the pool! Even better the next night was a scouts night. This night was the Tuesday and after swimming I got down on all fours (the usual nightly ritual!) in front of the t.v while watching who wants to be a millionaire then of course moxabuston time!!

I wakened up during the night in agony and had it been my first baby then I would have thought it was labour. It was like one continuous contraction and my stomach was rock hard so I couldn't tell what the baby was doing. After a dreadful night it stopped and I went to work for my last day. When I went to the Hospital on the Thursday the Ob examined me, scanned my stomach and told me that the baby was head down, he laughed when my reply was "oh I could kiss you" I was back on track for a homebirth but I was still worried and I used to get down on the bed and have a poke about on my stomach at least 10 times a day! In fact one day I had it in my head that the baby had turned and when the midwife came to visit me at home for a routine appointment she was greeted at the front door with "it's turned I know it has, it's breech again" without further ado she examined me and said " here is a hint - bums are soft and heads are hard, it's still head down"

The baby went overdue...

I started drinking gallons of raspberry leaf tea making it stronger every day and when I was 5 days over I started taking the tablets as I was getting desperate! Again I had worries about going to Hospital although this time it was about being induced which I said I would only agree to if I was more than 14 days over unless something was wrong.

Labour and the transfer

Ben Luke was born on 1 November 1999 after a 3-hour labour, mostly at home. Alyson transferred to hospital because there was meconium in the water, although the heartbeat was strong. Here's the short version:

"I only just managed to get to the hospital and into the delivery suite where, literally minutes later, I gave birth to our beautiful 9lb 5oz son. I was in deep shock after it as I had only been in labour for 3 hours and I only had to push once or twice for the head. I left the hospital at 8pm that night as I was desperate to get home and see my 2 year old son."

And some more detail...

I was so happy when I went into labour (10 days over) and was able to call the midwife and thankfully it was my own midwife who is wonderful. She was so sorry when she told me that I had to transfer due to meconium staining in the bath but I was in soo much pain (no pain relief) that I would have been happy if someone had drawn a gun. I said to her "Oh Ellen, this is terrible" while hanging on to her for the pain and she said "what, going to Hospital?" and I said "no, the pain"

I knew that something was amiss as she had told me on last examination that I was 3cms and fully effaced, but at this point I was sitting on my bed and literally getting no break from contractions. I knew that I must be more than 3cms at this point.

I was really pleased that I had packed a bag even though it was just the basics - paper pants, night-dresses, nursing bras, slippers. Part of the reason for packing a bag was that apart from the fact that I might have to go to Hospital at least I had everything at hand and in the one place had I had a homebirth.

When the ambulance came with sirens blaring I wondered how the hell I was going to get from my upstairs bedroom to the ambulance as I couldn't bear the thought of being on a stretcher and I would quite happily have gone running out in the buff!

I decided that I would run between contractions and the paramedic was halfway up the stairs when I decided to go and I literally ran by him while the midwife was shouting "Oh, we're walking out". I got to the front door and shouted "gas and air" and obligingly it was ready for me. My next contraction started just before the front door of my house and I literally threw myself in to the ambulance and grabbed the mask off the paramedic.

I couldn't believe it when minutes later I started pushing, I thought I can't be and the midwife looking at my stomach said "you're pushing aren't you?" She asked the paramedic if he had delivered a baby before and he said "yes, but I thought you said she was 3cms". He spent the remainder of the 17 mile journey sitting at the end of the bed nervously grinning at me every time I took the mask off my face! By the way my brother-in-law is a paramedic and had he not just gone out on a message it would have been him who arrived!

Ellen stayed with me in hospital and literally minutes after arriving I started roaring into the mask and Ben was born. Luckily he hadn't swallowed any meconium and I was able to nurse straight away and the reason for the meconium was that the cord was tight around his neck and getting tighter each contraction.

How do you feel about having transferred?

At the end of the day I think Ellen was more upset than I was about transferring and she still talks about it and says how sorry she was for me. She also says that if she had known that I was going to start pushing so soon then I could have stayed at home. I on the other hand got more or less what I wanted, which was a midwife whom I got to know and formed a good relationship with, and she was without doubt wonderful - and I got to spend the best part of my labour at home. I also left the hospital a few hours later and was able to bond with my son at home and establish breastfeeding in my own home.

The hospital was as bad as I had remembered from Jack being born, one midwife said to me "I'll show you how to bath your baby later" and I thought for god's sake I have a toddler I know how to bath a baby. Ellen says we'll try again at home for the next one!

I hadn't felt well enough after the birth to drink the tea and eat the toast so I was extremely thirsty when I got to the room. I asked if I could make a cup of tea and the midwife said she would make me one - I waited an hour and a half for it! I also, not having taken a watch in looked at the clock on the wall and thought oh good it's 11 o'clock it'll soon be lunchtime when seconds later a man came in to the room to change the clock back! it was only 10 o'clock as the clocks hadn't been turned back from 2 nights before I couldn't believe it!!!

What advice would you give to other mothers planning a home birth?

I would still ask for a homebirth and would obviously still recommend mums to be request one if they want.

I would also recommend packing a bag, if only for the reason of keeping things you need in the one place. It was extremely difficult throwing things in when I was in absolute agony and was 10cms dilated!

I probably wouldn't do the hospital tour as if you are transferred you don't get to see the place anyway as you are in the throes of labour!

I would also say that if you have to be transferred, ask for your own room in Hospital after the birth (this really helped me) and leave as soon as you feel fit. Tell the midwife that you intend to leave early so they are aware and can have the paperwork done.

Mum to Jack, born 2nd July 97 and Ben Luke, born 1st Nov 99

Alyson has kindly offered to chat by email with anyone who would like advice. Her address is

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