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Clémence's birth story, by Amélie

Background :
My first daughter Lucile was born in France in a high-tech hospital. Labour started on term date (41 weeks exactly by French term) after a membrane sweep done during the check-up at the hospital. She was posterior and after 4 hours of lying on my back (due to monitoring keeping me put), I asked for an epidural, which calmed everything down... Since I was still only at 4 cm, midwife decided to rupture the membranes to get things back on track. 20 minutes later I felt the urge to push... I was 9cm dilated. I went into a sort of panicky shock, totally overwhelmed by the violence and fastness of it. Lucile was born after just 4 pushing contractions and an episiotomy. The epidural never kicked in enough to be useful. They tried to sew me up without anaesthetics, so I kept tensing, and the episiotomy tore further... Enough said.

Luckily, breastfeeding went very well and somewhere along our way, Lucile and I met La Leche League, through which we learned a lot about natural parenting. I then understood what had gone wrong for Lucile's birth.

So 2 years later, when we moved to London, I was happy to find out that homebirth in the UK was possible and supported.

When husband and I felt ready for another kid, he asked me where I would want to have it (meaning would I want to go back to France for the birth or would I trust an NHS hospital). I said "chez moi", at my place. At home.

Clémence's pregnancy went fine, if you ignore my constant sickness of the first trimester (I lost 5kg), and the fact that I wasn't referred to the right hospital and had no follow up until 24 weeks... We then moved to Greenwich during the summer and had to start the hospital booking all over again. But everything was OK.

Eventually, one of the wonderful midwives came to our home to give us the "homebirth chat". She seemed very nice and we got along very well. She dropped off a big black bin bag of supplies and 2 canisters of gas and air. Husband was very keen on trying the gas and air right away as he'd heard from his colleagues that it was great! I didn't let him.
At 38+4, I had a growth scan because a midwife had said I measured a bit small, everything was fine and baby said to weigh 3.2kg already (that was Lucile's birth weight).

Then at 39+2, another midwife who was visiting me suddenly found out I had tested positive for group b strep. She wasn't prepared for that issue any more than myself. She just told me I would have to go to hospital and agreed to come back to discuss this with me when she'd bring me the results. She told me to see my GP for a treatment; my GP couldn't prescribe anything because I tested negative that afternoon.

I did a lot of research on group b strep and my husband and I came to the decision that I would have IV during labour only if I could have it at home and no oral treatment. Midwife wasn't happy with that and booked me with a consultant (which would have occurred at 40+2). After a bit of panic and some reassurance from the homebirth mailing list, I sent an e-mail directly to the Head of Midwifery asking to cancel the consultant and to maintain my booking for a homebirth, explaining why. I was unnecessarily worried - she was very agreeable and, at 39+4, I could settle down again and start nesting.

On Wednesday 21st of September, at 40+3 now, I didn't feel this baby was going to come for at least another 4 days. (I was expecting this pregnancy to go at least to 41 weeks since Lucile had come then and only after a sweep.) However, I felt particularly unproductive, and I shamelessly asked dear husband to take care of supper when he got back from work.

During the evening I started to have some mild contractions. I really thought they were Braxton-hicks, since I was just barely aware of them and they were completely irregular. They were bothering enough to give me a good excuse not to do the ironing while watching 2 new episodes of Lost.

At midnight, I was still convinced this wasn't really going anywhere soon. And we prepared for bed. I settled down around 1 AM. I slept poorly, kept waking up regularly and, strangely enough, kept dreaming I was in labour (duh !). Got up after 2 hours and went downstairs to try and assess the situation. Once I was fully awake I started using the exercise ball and realised this was probably it after all.

I didn't want to wake husband up unnecessarily so I started transforming our living room in a birthing room, complete with pool and midwife's desk. I moved furniture around, set things up and every 8 minutes or so would make a mad dash for the birthing ball. Let me state here it worked wonders, I really would never have thought such a silly piece of equipment could make such a big difference in coping with contractions…

I had to go upstairs to the loo quite often and when a contraction hit there I wasn't a happy puppy... The pain in my back reminded me how stupid it was to not be upright in labour.

Around 5:30 AM, I went to tell dear husband how I was doing. Now, dear husband is not exactly the fast waker. I told him I was downstairs and preparing things, and I just wanted to let him know. After a few seconds, he asked "Are you having contractions ?" (well, duh.) "Yes" "Do you want me to set up the pool then ?" "No, I've done it" "Well, what do I have to do then ?"
I told him to keep an ear on Lucile and check on me around 6 AM. I shouldn't have bothered, he didn't really recall that conversation afterwards.. Anyways, things were picking up by then and when I next went to the loo, husband really woke up and I asked him to join me.

He was surprised to see everything set up already downstairs; he took care of the final blowing of the pool. And took a couple of photos. It felt really cosy I must say, I had one candle glowing on the table and only the lights from outside coming through the curtains..

At one point I asked him to page the midwife because I felt ready to try gas and air. It was around 7 AM. I hadn't gone into the pool yet because I wanted to keep it for last resort and the birthing ball was enough so far.

I had another urge to go to the loo and rushed upstairs; the contraction that hit there was suddenly having me make a grunting noise. Husband recognised the sound and asked if I needed to push now ? I was bewildered. But I wasn't going to have this baby on the toilet. I rushed downstairs, stripped and dashed in the pool just in time for the next contraction, which felt unbelievably mild within the warm water. Although I had gone on all fours, the contraction made me spread my legs behind me.

I then asked husband to page again for the midwife, it was around 7:30 I think.

I felt good in the pool, although there wasn't enough water to cover my shoulders and husband started topping it up. I was lying straight with my head on my hands, resting on the side of the pool. Very much at peace. After a while I said "It's been a while since the last contraction, I wonder if this could be transition".

Sure enough, the next contraction hit me with a vengeance and the need to push was definitely there. I started moaning and screaming. I instinctively gathered my legs under me. When it receded, I talked some nonsense along the lines of "it's too soon, too fast, I can't, I'm not ready".

I had a feel, and I'm pretty sure I felt the bag of waters bulging. Still, I didn't feel ready. Dear husband was perfect. He told me I was going to have this baby and everything would go just fine.
The second pushing contraction had me still in a panic, tensing and holding my breath. Dear husband kept saying "breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe", it helped a lot, I was panting like mad but at least not holding my breath. I shoved his hand away when he tried to massage me but held on to his hand with mine for dear life.

The third pushing contraction was much more efficient and I could feel the so called "ring of fire" towards the end as the head was already crowning.

There was a very short lapse and then on the fourth contraction I pushed out the head. When it receded, I said "the head is out". He said "WHAT?" He went behind me to have a look because he couldn't believe it. Sure enough, our baby girl was there, looking at him from beneath the water.

There, we didn't know what to expect exactly and since she was moving and opening her mouth, we thought she was going to try to breathe underwater so dear husband got into the pool (all dressed) and I lifted my bum up so that it would be above the water. Then I waited for the next contraction to help me push out the body but there was a long pause and dear husband started to worry, so he urged me to push anyway.

When I first tried to push, I found that I couldn't control my muscles at all, so I waited a bit more and tried again. This time I felt a mild contraction helping me on and my baby just slid out into her daddy's arms. She started crying right away, screaming really. It was 7:45.

I turned around and took her in my arms, sitting in the pool; husband and I were overwhelmed. He then called the midwife's pager again, and took a photo. That photo is really beautiful, I wish I had more.

As he ran upstairs to fetch me all the towels he could find as well as my bathrobe, he met Lucile who had just gotten up. She asked him if the baby had arrived because she could hear a baby crying. She then came downstairs and we had a kiss. I was worried that she would be upset at not having been there for the birth, since she'd said she wanted to see the baby come out but she wasn't. She was happy and eager to meet her sister, but not overexcited.

I soon felt uncomfortable in the pool. I was getting cold and was afraid that the baby would be really cold, so I climbed out and walked to the sofa (dear husband had prepared a towel path for me to walk on - he had no idea there were waterproof things in the midwives' supplies - and I was too far gone to care or remember). I put on a bathrobe to try and warm up myself and the baby. Lucile came to sit beside us.

Then the midwife called to say she was on her way, and on hearing the baby, told me she sounded very well! She asked me to think about delivering the placenta elsewhere than on the sofa. So after a few minutes I went to sit on the bucket. By the time the midwife actually arrived the placenta had fallen out already, it didn't even need pushing.

So she helped dad cut the cord, assessed the baby's condition and weighed her (3,55 kg). I had been trying to put Clémence to the breast but she couldn't be bothered really. So I gave her to her dad while the midwife examined me. I had a small tear and torn skin, she said she could stitch it up but it was unnecessary. I was happy to let it be, as I remembered very well the stitching up of my episiotomy after Lucile.

Dear husband made breakfast for everyone, and I sat happily on the sofa with my new baby girl. After an hour or so, the midwife left and dear husband reminded her to take the canisters of gas and air (he's still disappointed he didn't have a chance to try it out - I'm not). A bit later I went to bed with Clémence. But I didn't sleep at first, still exhilarated by it all.

Two months on, I have already forgotten a lot of the details of Clémence's birth. What I will never forget is the sense of peace and comfort I had from being in my own space with whom I choose (no one during early labour and then just the person I trust), the feeling of relaxation of that whole night, and the exhilaration and joy at welcoming our baby girl ourselves in our own way. Clémence is a character already, she's a more rested baby than her big sister was and I can't help but think her birth has something to do with it.


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Group B Strep - what is it, and how does it affect your homebirth plans?

Waterbirth at home


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