Home Birth Reference Site

Lucie's birth, by Carolyn Hoolihan

Carolyn's second baby was born at home in December 2006.


Rachel was born in May 2003 and if you asked me to sum up her delivery in one word it would be 'Traumatic'. Not half as bad as some birth stories I have read, but bad enough for me. Waters broke before labour started, I was admitted and put on a monitor where it was discovered Rachel was having heart decelerations. So, at 1cm dilated, I was shipped off to labour ward for constant monitoring. After a LOT of entonox, a scalp monitor, a dreadful internal, a drip, 2 shots of pethidine and 3 epidural attempts (and 24 hours after waters broke) Rachel arrived. I hated the experience of being in hospital and just wanted to get home.

I had a miscarriage in Oct 2005 and discovered that Rachel’s birth had left me with a real phobia of hospitals. Going for an appointment is fine (though I always get a severe headache), but being a patient is different and I get panic attacks. So I knew that I would desperately want a homebirth when we became pregnant again. March 2006 comes around and I tested on Mothers Day. It was positive and meant I had conceived on the Florida holiday we had just returned from. EDD: 6th December.

Community Midwife was so supportive of our wishes for a homebirth and we were all set! I had ordered a Birth Pool in a Box, which was set up in the lounge.

The False Alarm: Tuesday 5th December

Noticed in the late afternoon that my Braxton-Hicks contractions had a pattern to them, so I took more notice and by 5-6pm, I was timing and writing them down. H rang shortly before 9pm (or did I ring him?) so I told him and he hot-footed it home. He was due to come home around then anyway. Had a bit of a nesting session which consisted of H hovering and I shampooed the carpet in the dining room! Bonkers...

Had been told during ante-natal checks to ring the labour ward when I thought I was in early labour (or waters broke) so they could account for me in staffing levels/numbers of ladies on the ward etc. So I did and, to my horror, they said they were very busy and had no spare staff. I would have to go to hospital if I needed pain relief, labour got going or my waters broke. I was so disappointed! However I was happy to carry on at home as I was. The pain wasn't bad at all and the midwife said to make sure I continued to drink and eat if I felt like it, and try to get some rest. She also warned me not to be too upset if the contractions stopped.

Note from Angela: Sometimes women are asked to go to hospital if the labour ward are short of staff when they are in labour. You do not have to agree to this. Where there is a will to resolve staffing problems, there is a way, and if you believe that homebirth is safest for your family, then this does not change just because the labour ward is having trouble with its rota. If you make it clear that you will not go to hospital, and that you expect a midwife to be sent (not an ambulance) then 99% of the time, a midwife will be found. Bank midwives can be called to labour ward, freeing up a community midwife to attend the homebirth, for instance. You have the rest of your life to be co-operative, helpful, etc.., but you will only give birth to this baby once, and it's too important to risk because you don't want to be a nuisance! For more discussion of this, see "Home birth in the UK".

Back to Carolyn:

By about 11-11.30pm I felt very tired all of a sudden and went to bed. And the contractions stopped.

Nothing much happened for the rest of the week. I was very tired due to lack of sleep and a right grumpy thing. I tried sex, walks, I practically lived on the birth ball, I reeked from clary sage baths and I even resorted to jumping up and down on the spot whilst watching MTV. I was supposed to do star jumps but very quickly found this impossible with massive boobs and a massive bump. So I slung one arm round my bump, the other holding the boobs and jumped about like a loon...

The early labour: Friday 8th December

Was having a lovely chat to my sister when I had a big contraction. This was some time around 9-10pm. Once again they had a pattern, but were quite irregular coming anywhere between 6 and 15 mins apart. They were more intense than Tuesday though. I felt quite restless and didn’t want to go to bed, so H did to make sure he got some sleep (on Tuesday he stayed up just in case and was knackered on Wednesday). I paced around the living room with my TENS on low, bounced on the ball and generally pottered about. I went to bed eventually, but rang labour ward again first to let them know. Once again they were busy. Sheesh!

Contractions carried on all night so I allowed a tiny part of myself to think this just might be it. Rang the labour ward again in the morning and H and I had a chat. We wanted to see if/how things were progressing. H said he didn't fancy delivering the baby himself. Ward was too busy but the community midwife out that day would call and check me. She arrived at about 11am and I was.... 1cm. Pah! I know we went for a walk (I jumped off a few kerbs for good measure) but can't remember what else we did that day; I was contracting all day. Gave up timing them though so I have no idea how far apart they were. Went to bed with my TENS on and contracted all night too.

Sunday 10th December.

Wanted to go for another walk but the weather was rubbish, so we went to the
shopping centre near us as we needed a few bits. Got some interesting looks
as I contracted away in Asda. They were getting more intense and I had to
stop when I had one, but I could still talk and easily breathe through them.
H & I thought it would be good to get checked again to see if anything had
happened since yesterday and the same midwife came out. I was checked at
5.30 pm and was..... 1.5cms. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! She did acknowledge
that the contractions were stronger though and she witnessed 2 of them.

I felt so dejected. I'd been putting up with this since Friday night and after nearly 2 whole days, I was only 1.5cms.

I decided I would put Rachel to bed that night (about 8pm?) and told H I was staying upstairs for a bit to get some rest. I really felt the need to close myself off. Don't know how to describe it really. I felt like I wanted to retreat and find sanctuary I suppose. I dimmed the lights in the bedroom, made a comfy nest on the bed of pillows to get comfortable laid on my left side and dozed between contractions. On reflection, this may have been my human equivalent of a cat nicking your best jumper and going behind the wardrobe. I kept telling myself each contraction was one closer to the baby and other positive things I'd read in my Sheila Kitzinger books (highly recommended).

At some point earlier in the evening the boost button had broken on the TENS machine, but I was too afraid to take it off, so I just turned it up as high as I could stand it (which was around 5-6 on the dial). I still wasn't timing contractions and I wasn't paying attention to the clock so I wasn't sure of the time anymore. I managed to doze for a couple of hours, then the contractions were too uncomfortable to stay in one position. I started pacing around the room, rocking and clinging onto the furniture. I was also vocalising during the contractions and it was kind of a long "Oooooooooooooooooooooooo" sound. H came to check on how I was doing and if there was anything he could do to help. I didn't feel like there was at that point. I didn't want to squeeze hands and although it was quite painful now, I was almost enjoying being on my own in my little nest. Rachel woke at one point and H had to settle her. There was no way I could, especially with the noise I was making. I also couldn't keep out of the loo and was in there probably once every 45 minutes or so. H fell asleep in her room. Stupidly, I still didn't think I could be in active labour.

Around midnight, I felt like I needed support. I couldn't get comfortable in any position. I couldn't sit or lie down for longer than a few minutes. As soon as I had a contraction I had to move, though sometimes the pain was so bad I just froze. I went in to H and he suggested I try going on my hands and knees. This sounded good so I rearranged my pillows and it felt nice…. Until the next contraction and OMG it was awful. I leapt of the bed and grabbed the drawers, swaying and Ooooooooooooo-ing.

H came in and just sat with me for a short time (well, he sat, I moved around) and then he asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I didn't feel like I could cope anymore and I was going to ring the ward. If nobody could come out or I was still only a couple of cms, I was going to hospital. We both came downstairs and I realised I would need to time a few contractions for when I rang. They felt close together but I had no real idea. H helped and we found they were 3 minutes apart, lasting around a minute. I got on the phone and to my immense relief, they said they would send someone right away. By now, I was clinging to the lounge doorframe with each contraction and I was getting quite loud.

The midwife (T) arrived at around 2.30am and had a student (L) with her. I heard them introducing themselves, but I was mid-contraction so couldn't even acknowledge them until it had passed. They got a few bits of equipment out and asked if they could do an internal and some other checks. I lay on the sofa for the internal, which T did. I knew I would be distraught if I was still early on…. Then I heard her whisper to the student "7 to 8". I couldn't believe it and didn't say anything, a few seconds later T said "You're 7-8cms Carolyn". I was sooooooooooo relieved and yelped "You're joking!" Not joking "We're not going anywhere" T said and got straight on the phone for the second (qualified) midwife to come out. Her and L then set up delivery essentials (the second midwife was bringing the main equipment and the entonox) and I ripped of my TENS. It was bugging me and I felt better for having support now. H set about filling the birth pool while I mentally reprimanded myself for not filling it sooner. I just didn't think time would be an issue!

Second mw (M) had the entonox and a LOT of gear (apparently) so the student helped me while T and M set up the remaining equipment (a suction machine was one of the things, I also saw a suitcase but don't know what else they had).

I had my first go of entonox whilst clinging to the doorframe and after the contraction I remember saying "Oooooo I forgot how good this stuff is". But it made me feel quite dizzy so I wanted to sit down. I was down to my underwear by this point and just flopped on the sofa on an inco pad. They kept checking the heartbeat every so often and things were going well. I remember thinking lots of random stuff, which was funny. I was aware that my waters hadn't yet gone and that the carpet was unprotected where I was so I asked them to cover it. I also thought about telling them I vomited after having Rachel, but never got around to it.

T asked if she could check me again, as she thought I sounded like things had moved on and was "a bit transitional". She checked me and I was 8cms, but stretching during a contraction. She said the waters were bulging and if she broke them I would "go like a rocket" so I said yes. I was a bit scared as I'd had to have my waters broken again during Rachel's labour at just 2cms and it hurt like hell. This time I didn't feel a thing. I knew the contractions would get more intense.... then the entonox ran out. They changed the canister but couldn't get it to work, the valve was faulty so they tried the 3rd and final one. This wouldn't work either. I was horrified and having such intense contractions.

Anyway, they rang the hospital for more supplies and got me off the sofa and onto the birth ball; presumably a change in position would help me move along. The pains were so unbelievably intense. Don't know how long this went on (maybe 30 mins or more), but after a while we all heard a short sharp hissing sound in the hall, where the entonox canisters were. One of the mw's went to check and to my absolute delight, one was working. Yay! I grabbed it and sucked the gas as if my life depended on it. But again it made me feel very dizzy and I said I wanted to lie down and I went back onto the couch but lying down this time. The hot water had run out my this time and we were waiting for the tank to refill and heat, but it became clear there just wasn't time and that I wasn't going to be able to use the pool. Poor H had worked so hard trying to get it sorted for me as well. Bless him, he's a star.

I was aware of the midwives talking and asking me things from time to time, but really didn't care. I do recall T pointing out to L (the student) that I was beginning to make some small pushing sounds. She did ask me a short time later if I wanted to push. I said "No!" then immediately did a HUGE push. The "urge to push" was very surprising. I was really expecting to think OMG I HAVE TO PUSH and have strong urges, but I didn't. Pushing was just something my body did and I didn't think about it…. I didn't actively push or have to be told, it just happened. Hard to explain but that's what happened. L was doing the delivery and T was supervising. As the head got lower, I started yelling random things like "It Huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurts" or "I need to pooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo" which on reflection I find really amusing. Oh and "I need to weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" so much so that they were going to put a catheter in to drain the urine until I started pushing.

I loved how the midwives just let me get on with it. There was no enthusiastic or loud "PUSH PUSH PUSH" or anything like that until the head was emerging, when they were gently saying to pant or give a little push etc as they guided the head out whilst guarding the perineum. I felt relief when they told me to pant as I knew she was nearly here.

At 5.26am on Monday 11th December, Lucie Rebecca came into the world on my sofa in the lounge. She was delivered onto my stomach and they quickly released the cord, which had been twice round her neck. I immediately burst into tears (I'm such a cliché) and sobbed "I did it, I did it". Having a homebirth really meant a lot to me. Then they took her off my stomach and I started sobbing even more as I couldn't hear her cry. I was getting a bit hysterical then I heard her and it was great. T and L made sure I could hear her while the other midwife checked her over. She was fine, she just needed a little whiff of oxygen to get going and she pinked up beautifully. I think her APGARS were 7 and 9.

I then got the shakes pretty bad and H held Lucie while they checked my undercarriage. Whoohoo no tears or stitches! They had given me the entonox back while they checked, so I just gave a thumbs up as I was all woozy again. They asked if I wanted to look at the placenta and I did, but all I could say was "Oooo. Isn't it big?!" I'm glad I looked though. Phone calls were made and H went to wake Rachel and tell her she was a big sister. It was a lovely moment when she came into the room with him.

They stayed for about 60-90 mins post-placenta while Lucie fed. They did offer to help me get a bath, but I felt exhausted and had no energy. The afterpains were quite strong and it felt great to neck 2 ibuprofen after all those months. H and I were totally knackered, so Rachel went to my mother-in-law's at about 9am and we went to bed. Hard to sleep though, I felt shattered but on top of the world!

All in all, I'm so glad I got my homebirth, despite the problems with the TENS and the entonox. It really was very important to me and it healed some old wounds from Rachel's birth. Part of me never believed that I could do it but I think that because no other pain relief was available to me at home, I just got on with it. I wasn't thinking I must get better pain relief like I would in hospital. I just got on with it really!

If I had to choose one word to describe this birth experience it would be "Fantastic"!

Carolyn Hoolihan

Did you have any 'risk factors'?

I do have asthma but this was never mentioned as being an issue.

I am also overweight and my consultant was initially quite concerned about my homebirth due to chances of high blood-pressure etc. She did ask that I have a GTT (which came back fine) and my BP was beautiful throughout the pregnancy, in fact it was probably better than ever!

Related pages:

Home Birth Stories

Pain relief - what are your options at home?


Home Birth Reference Page

Site Contents