Henry is my fourth baby (third homebirth) born when I was 41 after an uneventful pregnancy.
As per usual for me, I started having hours on end of regular, quite strong Braxton Hicks at about 37 weeks - but none of them went anywhere, and I certainly wasn't going to get excited about them, other than to hope that they were doing *something* . My previous two labours had been about 2-3 hours - and this time, for the first time, my baby had actually engaged prior to labour, so putting these factors together, I was quite hoping that this birth would be really short and to the point
I did have a niggling concern about slow dilatation, as I had LEEP laser surgery on my cervix a couple of months after my last birth. However, as most women have no problems at all after that, I was quite firm with myself that I would be one of the majority. Fond thoughts of a BBA (Born Before Arrival - before the midwife gets there) played across my mind (Ha!! How wrong can one woman be? LOL) . My pool was set up beside the french windows in the dining room ( had to fight off three small boys to keep them out of it) , the fairy lights were strung around the room, and I was *ready* for labour. "Bring it on", I thought every night when I went to bed - and when I woke up again the next morning - still pregnant. Oh, and my previous births had been at 39+5, 41+5, and 40+5. So no pattern there, then hahaha.
Monday 9th August (40+3) - woke up and found I was having a show . Yippee - I thought. I know lots of women lose the mucus plug, and then don't give birth for a fortnight - but for me it has never been more than a few hours between that and me holding my baby. I was having contractions of sorts - but nothing to write home about. Still, they were of a different nature now - only further apart than they had been of late. The last few weeks they'd been at ten minute intervals - these ones were every 30+ minutes . Jonathan ( my husband) and I talked, and he decided not to go to work -as it is an hour's journey by bike each way, and with my previous history, we didn't want him to miss it if things decided to hot up. Pah! They didn't hot up, and you've guessed it - I woke up at 4.30 the next morning, *still* pregnant.
August 10 (40+4) The ctx definitely upped themselves a few gears, and somewhere between 6am and 7am I realised that I was definitely giving birth that day. "Time to get up. I'm having a baby" I barked at Jonathan in my finest sergeant-major tones and plonked a plate of toast down in front of him. Then came the discussion of what our older boys were going to do.
Sam (almost 8) had been adamant that he wanted to be around - even if he was waiting in another room "while all the boring, shouty bit was going on" as he put it. Luke (10) quite wanted to be there, but was doing a theatre course for the week, and reluctantly decided that witnessing the birth of his brother was not a good enough reason to miss a day of drama-queening it up.
Gabriel (4) had been enjoying "Hello Baby" - great book by Jenni Overend about a lovely homebirth - and we had talked about it all, including the fact that the mother in the book - and almost certainly his own - did a lot of yelling during labour ( actually, that was one of his favourite parts of the story). We'd asked him if he wanted to be at home, or if he wanted to go to his beloved cousin's house to play, and come back when Henry was here. He was quite firm that the playdate won - so my sister-in-law duly collected him.
Meanwhile, the contractions were increasing in intensity - although still very manageable. By 7.30am I was in that pool - and got Jonathan to bring the tv into the dining room, so I could be distracted by the drivel coming out of it.
By 8am it was becoming difficult to fit in a trip to the loo in between contractions -and I soon learned that I didn't really want to be having a contraction when I was out of the water. More than once I got as far as the dining room door, and had to scuttle back to base as another one hit. It was exciting, though, and I was welcoming each contraction with thoughts of "open" and "baby" as I leaned forwards, with my head and arms on the side of the pool.
At about 8.30, I started to think "Entonox would be good here" and tried to phone my midwife. Eeek her phone was switched off. Strictly speaking, I should have been phoning labour ward anyway, telling them I was booked for a homebirth with Team 2 and asking them to contact the on-call midwife for me. However, right since my booking appointment at 18 weeks, my midwife had said that she loves homebirths, and was very keen to be at mine. She'd said that as long as it wasn't 2am or something, that I should call labour ward, but to call her as well, and she'd do her utmost to swap duties/clinics so that she could come out to me. I knew their on-call went from 9am-9am, and that they had a morning meeting - so just tried again and got through to her at 8.50. "Who's with you?" (meaning midwife-wise) she asked
"No-one" I replied "You're the first person I've called"
"I'm on my way. I'll be right with you"
Half an hour later, J ( the midwife) was here, waiting patiently for a contraction to finish so she could examine me. Half of me wanted to know how far I'd got. The other half didn't want to be told "2cm" and be disheartened - and also knew that even if I was at 2cm that was no guarantee that I wouldn't be at 10cm in the same number of minutes time. The nosey half won - and I was 5cm, fully effaced. Hurrah - so definitely labour then LOL. ( I'd had ctx this hard - well, a lot harder, actually - and not been dilated at all with Luke. Although he was OP, and a first baby to boot) J was fairly convinced labour was cracking on, and that Henry wasn't too far away - so contacted the second on-call midwife - K. I'd never clapped eyes on her before - but she was great, and quietly got on with arranging stuff for the actual birth - checking her equipment etc .
Inevitably, the entonox wouldn't fit together properly at first - arrrghhh - why does that always happen? Happily for me that was a temporary problem, because entonox is my friend, and I really didn't want to attend the party without her. When I started using it, the gas didn't exactly stop the pain so much as change my response to it - it still hurt, but I just didn't care.
During one of my antenatal visits ( all at home) J had had a student midwife with her. I'd asked her then if she'd been to a homebirth before - and when she said she hadn't, I asked her if she'd like to come to mine. It wouldn't work for everybody, but I feel it's a good thing to spread the word if I'm able and student midwives aren't going to be confident in attending home/waterbirths if they've never even seen one. She arrived about 10.15 ( having phoned first to make sure I was still OK with the idea) by which time, we were all convinced that Henry was imminent as the contractions were getting pushy. I laughed ( yup - still laughing at that point) that she'd better get her roller-skates on and get someone to give her a shove if she didn't want to miss it ( she was coming from a clinic just up the hill from my house) . The midwives commented on how relaxed I was in between the contractions ( even though they were taking all my concentration during them)
Then somewhere around 11am everything went quiet - a "Rest and Be Thankful " stage. I'd never had one of those before. I was still having occasional smaller ctx, ( still enough to make me reach for the entonox most of the time) but not big pushy ones. I was very calm about it, assuring the midwives that I could feel the baby moving down with each one - I was absolutely confident that my labour was progressing. I also made the mistake of remarking that although this labour was longer than the last two, it was also much gentler. I even wondered to myself if I was going to be one of those women who just breathed their baby out, in a powerful but virtually painless second stage.
After a while, I wanted to get things moving again ( patience has never been my strongest suit ), and decided I'd let gravity give me a hand, by getting out of the pool. I got in and out a few times, and other times, I stood up in the pool, hanging on to Jonathan while I did so. I threw in a couple of trips up the stairs to the loo for good measure while I was at it too. It took until midday for the contractions to really get going again. By this time, the midwives and Jonathan were faffing about with the pool temperature - the midwives wanted it at 36-37degrees for when the baby arrived. Seeing as we'd been expecting the baby at any moment since just after 10am, that meant a fair few buckets of water in and out. I wasn't worried about the temperature, but I was in no state to argue the toss - and anyway, the water changing wasn't bothering me, and in fact was rather nice. With the contractions having died down somewhat, I wasn't working as hard, so warmer water was lovely. The pool was right up beside the open french windows so the buckets of cooler water could just be slung straight out over the garden - and it was almost like labouring outside.
When not in the water, I did wonder if things were so slow because of all the people in the room - but the pool gave a wonderful feeling of privacy, which was another good reason for being in it.
It was somewhere about this time that things stopped being gentle. Having had such a laid-back labour up until then, it quickly became very, very hard. The contractions became much pushier - and also more painful, and I started to roar. The words "injured wildebeest" crossed my mind - and I obviously wasn't the only one, as there was a knock at the door - it was one of my neighbours calling round to see if I was being murdered. ( who says Londoners don't care? ) We discovered later that it wasn't even the next-door neighbour, but somebody from two doors down!
The only proper VE I had was when J arrived, so I don't know how many cm I was at whatever time - the midwives and I were happy that my body would tell me what to do when. I do know that once I was pushing it was much harder for much longer than in my previous two births.
I wonder now if Henry had gotten himself into an awkward position, or if I had an anterior lip and a "premature" pushing urge. I'll never know - and it doesn't really matter..... After a while of pushing and not seeming to get anywhere I had a feel to see where the baby's head was -arghhh - still a long way away - a whole finger-length. I'd hoped he'd be almost crowning. Everything was getting to be just too much. It was just going on and on -
"I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS ANY MORE" I shouted, clinging on to my husband with one hand, and the entonox mouthpiece with the other. And then when I tried to use the entonox it was empty. Disaster!!! Calamity!!! Jonathan and the midwives claimed they'd just changed it, but that didn't wash with me - "Broken, then" I snapped, and threw it away in despair. "How can it be broken?" I tantrummed with the next contraction. If I hadn't been over-the-knees-deep in a paddling pool, I'd have stamped my foot. Luckily for me/everyone somebody managed to get the thing functioning again..
The pain was horrible, and the contractions relentless - the worst second stage of any of my homebirths. I didn't know how I could go on - but I also didn't know what the alternative would be. I'm a really keen gardener, and during the pregnancy had planned on having particular plants around to focus on through contractions - one of the reasons to have the pool almost *in* the garden. So when the going got tough, what did I do? Turned my back on the garden, and focussed on my husband's very plain, very moth-eaten red t-shirt.
At some point my waters went - twice! Presumably once was hindwaters, once was forewaters. First time, I felt a long gushing ( definitely not wee!) so I was surprised to feel a distinct pop and another gush a few contractions later. Suddenly, about 35-45 minutes after the roaring started, I could feel the baby crowning. Am I the only woman to have thought "The ring of fire -Thank Goodness!" Because that is certainly the thought that went through my head. I pushed like my life depended on it - and thought he was out - but no! Next contraction - more ring of fire - hurrah (!) and then I could hear the midwives talking about guiding him to me. I opened my eyes, looked round, and took him in my arms "Oh my - it's a baby" (yet another in my catalogue of idiot comments on first sight of my newborn children) I was amazed - again - at how suddenly the pain stopped once the baby was born - it was as total as if somebody had flicked a switch.
Sam had been waiting (somewhat impatiently) in the living room during all this ("There's a lot of moaning going on in there you know" he yelled at one point, very informatively). He'd wanted to see the actual birth - so Jonathan had called him when Henry had started to crown. However, the end all happened so fast that Sam arrived just a moment after the baby was out - just as he was passed to me. Certainly Henry was only a second or two old. I will never forget the look on Sam's face - it was absolutely alight. He couldn't have looked more excited if somebody had given him a Play Station 2 and every game for it ever released.
I decided to get out of the pool for the third stage, and wobbled to the sofa to gaze in besotted admiration at my baby, and await the placenta while Henry latched on. Then - oh, bum! More contractions. "Why am I having a physiological third stage again?" I wondered. However, I knew perfectly well why I was having one -and about one contraction later, I realised it might help if I moved my big bottom off the sofa, as sitting down was probably not the most conducive position. Sure enough, the moment I moved, out it came - masterfully caught by a midwife with a kidney dish and reflexes a rattlesnake would be proud of. The cord wasn't cut until it had finished pulsating - and eventually Sam was the first person after me to hold his baby brother - a fact which makes him extremely proud.
A short while later I shuffled off up the stairs to my own bed in my own home, to be fed champagne and other goodies, and generally be danced attention on ( well it was nice for the 24 hours it lasted)
Even though the last 35 minutes or so were so of the birth were so hard, it was still a wonderful experience - just can't beat being at home. It's just so - well - normal.
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