Benjamin's Birth Story - by Catriona

Catriona's third baby, Benjamin, was born at home - a birth so perfect for her, that Catriona worries another might be disappointing in comparison.

I don't think that the birth story of a second or subsequent baby is complete on its own - I don't see how any pregnant woman can fail to be influenced by their previous experiences. So the birth of Benjamin really starts with the birth of Charlotte (now five and a half), continues with Edward (now three) and finishes (or maybe not - I'm not sure this is the end!) with Benjamin himself.

All three of my pregnancies have been remarkable straightforward and as a relatively big woman, no family history of problems and big feet, I didn't anticipate any problems with actually having a baby. All the same, first time around I was very nervous at the thought of the pain and I had no birth plan when I went into hospital after hours of fairly regular contractions (despite which I was only 1cm dilated).

After struggling on for a few more hours and having tried pethidine (which made me very sleepy and sick but didn't seem to help the pain), I opted for an epidural. I can safely say that it was the best injection of my life - I lay on the bed with a huge smile on my face! Charlotte was born about six hours later, after an hour and a half of pushing. I felt that I would never have managed to push Charlotte into the correct position, and get her out on my own, if I hadn't had an epidural which allowed me to concentrate on the pushing. After three great days in the Rosie (Maternity Hospital in Cambridge with an excellent reputation), (very luckily in a room on my own), throughout which the midwives were brilliant, I had to go home, where I cried because I hadn't really wanted to leave the security of the hospital. At that point, I would never have thought that I would opt for a home birth in the future!

I was much more relaxed when I was in labour with Edward. For a start, my waters had broken so at least I knew that this was it, one way or another. I went into the Rosie after about five hours of proper contractions (and about eight hours of milder but regular contractions) when they were about three minutes apart ("We think you should come in NOW" the midwives said). Edward was born two hours later with just gas and air, although I almost had another epidural when I was 7cm dilated. Fortunately the anaesthetist had a bit of trouble with the drip and in those five minutes I dilated the last 3cm so it was too late.

The second stage was only 10 minutes and Edward was born with no problems (and no stitches!). I felt fantastic and so grateful that I hadn't had an epidural this time. I went home about 14 hours later - I couldn't think of anything to do in hospital this time!

I started thinking about a home birth for my next baby as soon as I'd had Edward, not because I had ever had a bad hospital experience - I have nothing but praise for how I was treated in the Rosie - but I just felt that it would be the right thing to do for me. As my third pregnancy progressed, the idea of a home birth seemed increasingly attractive. Simon was not very thrilled at the prospect but he was brilliant about it and could see that it was what I wanted, and was slightly reassured by how close we live to the Rosie.

Everything about this labour was different from the other two. For a start I went overdue. Charlotte and Edward were five and four days early, and I just assumed that this baby would be too. My mother came to stay four days before my due date, having booked two weeks off work to help me when the baby came, and we fully expected the baby to be born within the next day or so. By my due date, I was a nervous wreck from waiting for something to happen and as the days passed (very slowly!!) my emotions were all over the place, each day I felt just as I had the day before and I couldn't imagine why labour would start that day when it hadn't before. We tried all the old wives' tales - spicy food (very nice but no good), sex (Simon's idea!!), raspberry leaf tea by the gallon (disgusting).

The day after my due date, I spent three hours in bed in the early morning with regular contractions and was convinced that this was really it but when I got up, all traces of contractions vanished and I was left with an awful feeling of anticlimax for the rest of the day.

Three days past due date, I had what I thought was a show (I hadn't ever had one before) and, while driving to fetch Edward from nursery school, a very strong contraction. I had a couple more contractions during the evening (about two hours apart) and then I began to relax - things must be beginning to happen even if they were fairly slow. I kept very quiet about it all as I didn't want to raise any hopes (by now my sister had also come for the weekend!) but I went to bed pretty excited.

I had a couple of hours of good sleep then I was woken by a huge contraction. I lay very still trying not to wake Simon (after all last time this had happened, the contractions vanished when I got up), hoping that I would get another one. After five minutes, I dozed off only to be woken by another contraction about 20 minutes later. The pattern continued for an hour and a half by which time I could no longer lie down during the contractions; they were too painful and lasted what seemed like ages. By this time, Simon was awake and we started (very quietly - we didn't want to wake anyone up yet!) to discuss what to do. One of the reasons for wanting a home birth was so that I didn't have to decide when to go into hospital, but deciding when to call for the midwife is worse - at least they are already awake at the Rosie!

At this point the contractions suddenly changed from very intense contractions every 15-20 minutes to much less painful contractions every 5 minutes and we decided that, as they were now so much closer together, we should call the Rosie (they then call the midwife on call as I am at a surgery that encompasses the Focus team of midwives). The midwife on call for the Focus Team 'phoned us back a short while later and I spoke to her, having to stop in the middle as another contraction hit me. Nora decided that it would be wise for her to come straight over as she lived some distance away and, as this was a third baby, things could happen fairly fast.

I felt relieved when Nora arrived at 3.50am and even more relieved when, after she examined me, she said that I was 5-6cm dilated - I hadn't been imagining the contractions and things were really beginning to happen. Nora called the second midwife and she arrived just over an hour after we had originally called the Rosie.

When I had been planning my home birth, I had thought of all the things that I could do when I was in labour (listen to uplifting music, watch television, sort out the pelmets on the sitting room curtains). As it was, I didn't do any of these things. Before the midwives arrived, I didn't want to leave the bedroom in case I made too much noise and woke everyone up. After they arrived it didn't occur to me to go anywhere else, I felt very safe and comfortable walking around my room, listening to and occasionally joining in with the midwives. They offered me gas and air but I didn't feel that I needed any, I clearly remember thinking "I can do this, it isn't really too bad" and I felt like this up until about an hour before the birth.

At about 6.15am, I suddenly felt exhausted and desperately wanted to lie down and Nora suggested that I had a little rest on my side on the bed. My contractions completely stopped for 15 minutes while I had a little sleep, then I felt ready to start again and as I stood up, they began again. The only really hard bit was the 20 minutes or so before I was fully dilated. I felt very shaky, out of control and desperate for everything to finish.

Finally I felt that very welcome need to push. With the first push my waters broke and eight minutes later, at 7.08am, with me kneeling at the end of the bed, Benjamin appeared. I had previously decided that I would prefer to finish things quickly and have Syntometrine to deliver the placenta and I stuck to this (although I think that the midwives would have liked to have a natural third stage as everything up until then had been so drug-free); at this point I just wanted everything to be over.

As soon as the placenta was delivered, I jumped straight into the shower, before I had even held the baby - I had an overwhelming desire to be clean so that I could sit in bed comfortably and get to know my baby properly. Everything was checked over (I needed no stitches), Benjamin was weighed (9lb 3oz), then to my great joy I was able to feed Benjamin - neither Charlotte or Edward would feed for many hours after birth. Simon went downstairs to find Charlotte and Edward (who were watching television with my mother, quite unaware of what was happening) and suggested that they might like to come and say good morning to me. When they came into the room, there I was in bed with their new baby brother. They were very excited and I felt so happy to be there with the whole family at such a special time.

I'm not sure what I will do if I have another baby (which I hope I will in the future). I'm not sure that I would want to have it at home - Benjamin's birth was such a special experience and as perfect as I feel labour and birth could be, I'm worried that another home birth couldn't live up to it and that Benjamin's birth could lose some of its 'specialness' because of subsequent problems. I want to be able to remember Benjamin's birth as the truly unique experience that every birth is.

Catriona

Update: Catriona did go on to have a fourth baby, Theo. Well, what do you reckon - did she go to hospital so that it didn't compete with the memories of her third baby's birth? Like that's going to happen !!!

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