Cassandra is a regular contributor to the Homebirth UK Yahoogroup. Her well-thought-out responses (under a pseudonym) have helped many members to plan a homebirth. Her own journey to homebirth has not been straightforward, but her experience with her third baby speaks volumes. He was born at home, at 41+5 gestation.
My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage when I was barely 20. I had requested even then to have a 'homebirth' but was told I wasn't 'allowed' and made to feel like an idiot. My then partner and I went for a scan after I started bleeding and there was no heartbeat. I was numb. Was considering aborting the baby to begin with and suddenly changed my mind so when my miscarriage occurred I felt like some god somewhere was having a huge laugh at my expense. I did not cope well with the loss went through a D & C...can't stand hospitals at the best of times but this was just sooo worse and my first ever experience of death.
When I conceived almost immediately after loosing my first, I was a bag of nerves. Paranoid at each twinge and scared of doing something to loose this baby too. My life I put on hold, just in case I did something to kill this baby too. Was too frightened to argue any sort of case for a homebirth because I believed then that the stress I was under the first time killed my other baby. Having been brought up by my paternal grandmother who had birthed all but one child at home, a hospital birth seemed extremely odd to me, hence my desire to be at home.
I had a trail of UTI's (Urinary Tract Infections) and was admitted to hospital a number of times due to concerns of them setting me off in early labour. Was pumped full of antibiotics to get rid of them but only giving birth finally did. I do not believe for one instant (looking back and comparing with subsequent pregnancies) that the UTi was in fact causing the pain I was experiencing....I believe it was the antibiotics. However it is also a factor that my mental state at the time was not a perfect state to build a baby either.
I went two weeks overdue and was all ready to be admitted for inducing at my 42 week appointment with my consultant, my mother (a SRN -State Registered Nurse) had pre-warned me that they would want to anyway...because that is standard procedure. At the appointment it was found I had high blood pressure and protein in my water, as well as swelling.
I was admitted Monday 16th November 1998, in the afternoon and given a pessary gel early Tuesday morning, then again Tuesday afternoon. By Tuesday evening I was getting a few pains but apparently nothing that they should be worried about and I was given half a shot of pethidine to help me sleep.
By the small hours of the morning I was pacing the corridors trying to cope with the pain, was alone (as my partner wasn't allowed to stay with me) and very scared. One midwife - Cathy she was called, calmed me down. Cheered me up when I threw up and helped me cope with the contractions.
FINALLY at around 8am I was dilated enough to go down to the labour ward. Three of the other mothers who had been induced at the same time as me had already given birth - one via normal exit and two via epidural and c section.
Once they gave me the gas and air the clock went from 8am to 11am and at some point during that time my partner and my mum had arrived. I was happily away with the gas and air fairies!
It took 12 hours to get to the final stages of labour. During that time I was harassed constantly about having an epidural - which I didn't want. I was pestered into taking a shot of pethidene, which stopped my contractions altogether, forcing them to put me on a drip. Not to mention them increasing it because my contractions didn't fit a 'regular' pattern. In fact none of my three births have followed regular intervals between contractions.
At 7.30pm on the Wednesday my little boy was born. A close call, according to my mum, as it looked like most of the blood had drained from the cord and the placenta was coming away in pieces.
I found out only a few weeks ago that they had to give me an episiotomy to get my boy out because his head kept going back in....I had previously always thought I had just torn...no one even told me for three days I had stitches at all, and it has taken nearly eight years to discover the episiotomy. My mum just assumed the midwives or doctor may have mentioned it.
They delivered him straight up onto me but I was just far too exhausted to hold him...tried for five minutes to summon the strength to tell someone to get him before I dropped him..I felt so guilty for not being there for him.
The doctor tried to manually remove the placenta by what seemed like sticking his entire arm inside...this was the only time during the 12 hour+ ordeal I actually screamed. Thankfully he stopped...I know of other instances with other mothers, where the consultants haven't stopped and ignored their cries.
Again I was harassed by a midwife over an epidural for theatre to remove the rest of the placenta, she openly laughed in my face about my concerns and reasons...but the doctor was happy to give me a general anaesthetic, despite this meaning I wasn't awake for a number of hours.
The midwives' attitude throughout was horrendous, they just wouldn't leave me alone, couldn't understand why I didn't want anymore drugs or their miracle of science the epidural. They didn't seem to understand that I wasn't really in pain, the gas and air was enough to tick me over; I just wanted to get on with birthing my baby as safely as possible.
I came round after the operation to my son crying, surrounded my tubes and masks and unable to attend him....the midwives were nowhere to be seen. I had to fight my way through it all to press the button to call a midwife...then they told me off for trying to sit up and removing my oxygen mask???
Needless to say it was a very traumatic experience! I then surprisingly (NOT) got PND, an infection and my son also got an infected umbilical cord.
After going through such an ordeal as well as other things at the time which I haven't gone into detail with, me and my partner split up. I also believe because of the situation I was put in by the staff during that pregnancy, birth and the resulting post natal effects...it led me onto a dangerous and damaging life path.
Almost immediately after separating from my partner, I got involved with an abusive man. Being told what, where and how to live was normal wasn't it...the doctors had shown me that and I was to be grateful of their lofty god-like interventions now my son was alive!
I had my second child with this man and subsequently...there was only HIS choice.
Different hospital and NHS district, May 26th 2001. My daughter, the pregnancy was a breeze in comparison. No infections or illnesses. I did have bleeding every month for the first few months when my period should have been, which resulted in very speedy scans showing everything was fine. At one of those I was given an EDD before my official dating scan (at 20weeks) which was the 26th May. At the official scan they changed the date and brought it forward to the 20th May.
I woke up one morning with a show - according to the official dating scan I was 6 days overdue...but with the first date...right on time!
Rang the hospital and was told to make my way into the labour ward, but it wasn't a huge rush. Spent a couple of hours hanging around a consultation room and was then told my water sample showed a UTI meaning for some reason they would probably induce me....though it would probably be tomorrow as the labour ward was quite busy. No one ever explained anything.
Hung around again for another hour and was then told they were taking me straight down to be induced. I was put on a drip, two hours later my wee girl was born. I say "wee"...she was in fact over 10lbs and had a gaggle of midwives around the scales!
Placenta came away fine...all is fine...went home following day as I was desperate to get out of the hospital!
It is only since I have left this abusive man and experienced life and love and true family that I have seen what damage my first birth experience had done. Even though I can look back and say that my second birth wasn't as traumatic...I know it wasn't 'right'.
This baby boy is the only pregnancy that was planned. He was conceived in complete and total love.
Another area, another hospital, different country even, from England to Scotland.
The pregnancy was okay. I had a bit of morning sickness...as always. Was very active, but then I had two older children to run after.
I battled with the maternity staff over lots of things. Realising that I had been so wronged with my first birth, I was armed and ready with lots of information and wasn't about to be a doormat for anyone, though I did have a lot of hang-ups and doubts leftover from previous experiences.
One argument was with my consultant, who felt that due to having big babies I couldn't possibly give birth at home because of shoulder dystocia and gestational diabetes. To which he was told that hell would freeze over before I stepped foot in that hospital, and only a severe medical emergency would get my ass in there.
This didn't stop an underhanded tactic to test me for GD (gestational diabetes), and after that test came back fine he didn't have the balls to face me at subsequent appointments.
After being told after a monitoring session at the hospital that I wasn't in fact dilated much more than 3cms (being previously at 5cms) and that I wasn't effaced at all (being previously told I was 75% effaced) I had all but resigned myself to the fact that my body had indeed failed.
Despite many attempts I wasn't able to examine myself and my OH was unsure at what he was feeling. I was just one of these women that didn't work properly and I should get used to the fact that doctors would always have to intervene to save my babies from the wrongings of my body.
I was planning on calling the midwives the following day (Monday) and asking them to break my waters or at very least book me in for induction as my body obviously wasn't doing anything properly it seemed a waste of time stressing at home getting my hopes up for nothing. [I would be 41+5 on Monday]
6.25 am Monday morning, woke up needing the toilet. Felt like I really needed a poo. I made it to the bedroom door and had to slow down a bit..."wow" I thought, "this is going to be a painful movement. I must have really bad constipation"
I made it to the toilet, sat down...managed a wee...got back up because I couldn't 'do' anything and went back to bed.
Shortly after this my OH's alarm went off. Seconds later I got that 'toilet urge' again and tried to roll round to get off the bed for toilet again and couldn't move. At this point I let out a moan...it woke OH up properly and he switched on the light to see if I was okay.
I told him it was just bad constipation and went to the toilet again whilst he hovered nervously.
For an hour I paced up and down the bedroom and stairs landing backwards and forwards to the toilet, convinced it was just constipation that was trying to work its way down and it was just babies head in the way that was causing the discomfort...because of course my body didn't work ...I couldn't possibly be in labour...
I sent OH downstairs to wake my mum up...spent a few more minutes arguing with her about constipation; both her and my OH convinced that I was in fact in labour.
I did actually manage a 'movement' the relief was fantastic but I also felt a bit stupid because I had just agreed for my OH to ring the midwives. "brilliant" I thought..."I have just called the midwives out their bed because I couldn't have a poo!"
I came out of the bathroom and had a go at my mum and promptly had another contraction, eating my words about constipation after it subsided.
I was going to ask my OH to check my cervix but realised pretty quickly that I just couldn't lie down. My mum did take a look and a little feel. I sort of squatted over her head whilst she lay on the floor....brave woman...can only imagine her face if my waters had gone! She didn't feel inside just around my vaginal area and found it was quite hard (she is a SRN btw). Didn't give me too many details at the time just said it was a good job I had called the midwives and shouldn't we get the waterproof sheet down. She said later she knew at that point the baby had probably already started to make its way down the birth canal.
Things were getting organised. The kids had woken up and mum was organising their breakfasts in the kitchen whilst me and my OH dealt with the contractions. I couldn't sit or lay down so with each one I held onto my man. It was so reassuring to have him just hold me. It was terrible dealing with the two contractions he missed, you see the dustbins were due to be collected that morning and he needed to get them out, especially considering the sort of rubbish that would be thrown out after the birth, so he had to leave me to get it sorted. I started with another contraction whilst he was trying to put his boots on and lifted him to standing by his shirt collar so I could hold onto him again
I did try to log on to contractionmaster.com to get an idea of how far apart the contractions were, but I couldn't get to the computer once one had started so never managed it. They were coming quite close together. We never timed them; they were just very close and very very strong.
I did have gas and air in the house along with the rest of the homebirth pack but I wanted to stay off it for as long as I could. I didn't have any idea at what stage during my labour I was and I didn't want the stuff unless I felt really needed it.
The blankets and things I had prepared for me to give birth on were set out on the floor in the living room. I put on the lamp and switched down the lights. The kids were now well aware that something was happening. My daughter got a little upset because she could see what discomfort I was in. I wasn't able to speak to her properly to reassure her because the contractions were so close together so I told her to speak to nanny. My mum was an absolute gem with the kids; she was there with them the whole time explaining everything to them.
I felt I needed the gas and air, so mum got it out and turned it on....relief for a while. I sat on the floor then bolt upright, there wasn't another position I felt comfortable in.
Laura was the first midwife to arrive (the one I didn't really like but by this time I was not caring) she busied herself about...doing whatever it was she was doing whilst I and my OH just held each other. The contractions were very strong, very close together the gas and air was hardly helping. However the nozzle gave me something to bite on and I lived in hope lol!
At that point the running commentary started in my head. What on earth was I doing, this was definitely just as painful as being induced, how on earth would I cope at home, how stupid was I, what if I have another 12 hours of this.....don't be daft what would they do any different in hospital that you can't do at home, they would just take you in for a c section now stop being stupid and BREATHE, DAMN IT, it will be over soon just keep going...you know, the really bizarre talking-to-yourself stuff..
At a later point the other midwife Jackie arrived. She did whatever it was she was to do. Not much filtered through the contractions, I was so deep in concentration I didn't take in what was happening around me, and baby was my concern.
I remember my children. My daughter came in with a really worried look on her face and just stood there for a few minutes with her hand on my hair stroking it. My son who was his usual awkward, nervous self...wandered to the door and asked if I was alright, then left again. I remember feeling emotional about it at the time but I don't think I cried.
I remember needing Drew's hand to hold, I had often thought about that when I visualised the birth, he is such a strong man, and I needed him there so much. He spent the whole time rubbing my back and kissing me and telling me how much he loved me...nothing the others guys had ever done when I birthed before.
For most of the labour the kids were with my mum. Mum reminded the midwife that I wanted the kids there if they chose it..she had either forgot or was hoping she could avoid it, but since mum mentioned it she couldn't really refuse. She asked my mum and the kids to stay out of the living room until it was 'time'.
I moved onto all fours, at some point. I remember being amazed at myself for deciding to do it and then feeling my confidence boom again when the midwife told me I was in the perfect position to give birth for the way the baby was coming out.
I tried to figure out at what stage I was at, where my baby was in relation to being earth-side. I didn't manage it until he was nearly crowning and then it was unmistakable. My waters broke (at around 8.30am), Drew told the midwife that he thought they had broken. I had just had a HUGE contraction when I began to feel the urge to push. I looked down beneath my legs just after the midwives put another sheet down over them and saw bloody water dripping down and started to cry. I think the midwives thought I was upset by the colour...but I was crying with joy, my body broke the water not THEM! I didn't have time to explain - another contraction kicked in.
Not sure at what point the kids and my mum came in; the first time I became aware they were there was when I heard my two children saying "push mummy push, you are doing great!". I think I would have cried there and then if I wasn't busy at the time! Apparently the kids were brilliant through the actually birthing stage; they sat and watched me push their baby brother into the world. My daughter was in complete awe of it all..my son, bless him, spent the first bits peeking between his hands and hiding behind his nanny, but once she explained a few things, his squeamishness left. I am so proud of them both!
Feeling my baby move down I was in pure disbelief had been for the entire thing. I was constantly assessing everything comparing it and re-comparing it to my previous experiences. It was just as uncomfortable as being induced and I wondered if I had made the right choice.
The pain in my back was horrendous, I kept trying to imagine what it would have been like to do this labour in hospital...induced strapped to a bed only able to deliver on my back...the visualisation worked..I convinced myself with that I had in fact made the right choice LOL!
I pushed out baby's head and then a few seconds later out the rest of him came. All 60cms, 9lbs 6ozs of him. It took a few seconds for me to register that the main job was done; they shouted it was a boy and I heard them ask Drew if he wanted to cut the cord..which is probably when I realised lol. But when I looked down to see my wee boy he wasn't there.
I found out a few seconds later he was covered from head to toe in poo (hence the concern from the midwife about me crying when I saw my waters, they realised then there was meconium in the waters) and they were just cleaning him up, making sure he was breathing etc. They wrapped him up and gave him to Drew whilst the midwives concentrated on getting the placenta out.
This was another part of the birth I was concerned about, having had a previously retained placenta (even though I know it was most likely the induction that retained it in the first place) I was concerned that it would happen again and result in being transferred to hospital for an operation and completely ruining my plans. So I concentrated on getting placenta out...which I did! They said it was a bit ragged and had started to shut down, but otherwise fine.
They bathed Andrew before I got to hold him properly but amazingly I don't feel bitter about this. I got to hold both my other children immediately after their births, but I didn't get the recognition on their faces when I spoke to them until months later because of all the drugs involved in the labour, birth and afterwards. With Andrew, as soon as I held him and spoke to him, his eyes flickered towards me in instant recognition it's been the same since.
It took from my first contraction to the birth of baby Andrew 2hours 45mins...all without intervention, my body did it all. I have to admit to being in shock until the early hours of this morning (18th October) when I think I finally recovered mentally from it all. I don´t know how 'normal' this is, due to this being my first un-intervened birth.
It has all just been mind-blowing. When you have two such previous experiences of birth and all the mental baggage and complete lack of confidence to go with it, the emotions of actually giving birth as well as those of knowing that your body isn´t faulty are pretty overwhelming.
I have been able to bath in my own bathroom, have my family around me, birth in a way that is comfortable to me, not having constant monitoring of everything I do for speculation and correction by hordes of staff midwives.
I have claimed my body back. I am extremely happy to know for definite, without any shadow of a doubt, that my body works just as nature intended and the doctors were so so wrong.
I have a gorgeous baby who I absolutely adore and he isn't doped up and when I cry it isn't with any sadness or regret at what may have been, it is with pure happiness and joy.
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Big babies and homebirth
Overdue - but still want a homebirth? When is 'postdates' risky?
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