Alexander's Birth Story By Cerys Byrne

Cerys had her first two children, Emily and Kieran, in hospital; she planned a home birth for Kieran, but transferred because of worries that the baby had been in distress. Her third baby, Alexander, was born at home, in water, on 3rd August 2003. He weighed 9lb 5oz.

Alex is my third baby and I had planned a home waterbirth. I'd hired a pool with a heater, filter and lockable lid and had been using it for relaxation during the two weeks before Alex was born. Having planned a homebirth for Kieran, my second child, and transferred into hospital during labour I felt that at least if I used the pool before the birth I wouldn't feel I'd wasted my money if I wasn't able to use it during labour.

During the day on Saturday 2nd August I was having period-type pains very low in my pelvis. I thought this could be a sign that things were starting to happen and spent the day cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen, thinking that they'd better be presentable if I was going to have midwives in the house. Just before 5pm I felt the first unmistakable contraction. Paul, my husband, had gone to play tennis with a friend but I wasn't unduly worried as I'd had quite long pre-labours with the other two and knew he had plenty of time to play his match and get back.

When Paul returned from his tennis match he cooked supper whilst I put Kieran to bed. During the evening the contractions were getting stronger but were still not painful and at 9.30 I decided to go and have a bath. I chose the bath rather than the pool because I wanted to use some Clary Sage oil and didn't want to get the water in the pool oily. After my bath I decided to go to bed to see if I could get some sleep but I'd only been asleep for about 20 minutes when I was propelled upright by a much more painful contraction.

I went back downstairs and asked Paul to put the TENS machine on me and then paced around, leaning over the birthing ball during contractions. At around midnight I told Paul to go to bed so that he at least got some sleep before things really hotted up and I stayed downstairs listening to CDs and pottering on the PC until 2.00 when I felt that I couldn't cope on my own any more.

My contractions were a regular 5 minutes apart by this time, so we phoned the maternity ward and asked them to send a midwife. The midwife called us back and said she would be with us shortly; she arrived just after 2.30. I consented to an internal examination and was pleased to be told I was 4cm dilated; I was definitely having this baby. Alex was in a perfect position except that his head was turned to one side, but the midwife said there was plenty of time for it to turn during labour. Paul phoned my Mum, who was coming to be with us in case the children woke up, and I got into the pool.

At 3.15 the student midwife who had looked after me during my pregnancy arrived, and my Mum turned up not long after. I spent the next couple of hours in the pool with Paul massaging my back during contractions and the midwives and my mum sitting chatting quietly. During one particularly painful contraction I was surprised to feel Alex's head turning from the side into the correct position to be born.

At around 5am I was beginning to find it hard to cope with the contractions and was also being sick. As I looked up from the sick bowl over the edge of the pool I saw a little face looking at me through the banisters; Kieran had woken up. My Mum took him up to our bedroom and read him stories. I meanwhile, had decided that I couldn't cope with the water and massage alone - my back was getting quite bruised from the force of the massage - so I asked for entonox. At this point we discovered that one of the cylinders was pure nitrous oxide and the other was leaking so the second midwife, who had arrived earlier, had to go to the hospital to collect more cylinders.

At 6.00 I got out of the pool and put the TENS machine back on. This, and leaning over the ball, definitely helped during contractions. Shortly after, the second midwife returned with the entonox, which I used sparingly during contractions. I didn't really like it, but it did take the edge off the pain.

By 6.45 my contractions were slowing so I started walking up and down the stairs to try to get them going again. Emily was awake by this time and appeared at the top of the stairs to see what was going on, then disappeared into our bedroom to watch television with Kieran. The walking around definitely helped, and my contractions started up again.

At 7.00 I consented to another internal examination and was found to be 9cm dilated with a thin anterior lip and membranes bulging. The midwife felt that the contractions had been slowing because Alex's head was not in direct contact with the cervix due to the cushioning bag of waters so we consented to ARM (Artificial Rupture of Membranes - having the bag of waters broken).

Almost immediately the contractions became more intense and were coming more quickly. During the contractions I really felt I wasn't coping at all well, but in between them I was absolutely fine. The midwives had left Paul and I in the sitting room, with me leaning over the ball and gone off to make toast in the kitchen. During contractions I was moaning and saying that I really didn't think I could go on and between them I was shouting instructions through to the kitchen, saying that the children wouldn't want butter on their toast and that the jam was in the fridge.

Once everyone had their toast the midwife said that if I wanted to have this baby in the pool I'd better get back in, so off came the TENS and back in I went. Emily and Kieran were getting bored so my Mum decided to take them to the park and I waved them off between contractions. Just after 7.30 I started pushing; it was a lot harder work than I remember from the other two and I was convinced that it was my longest second stage (although in fact it was only 12 minutes). Alex's head must have crowned about three times. The last time, using every muscle in my body to stop him from slipping backwards, I put my hand down and felt his head. I remember saying, "its got hair" in wonderment and the midwives saying "at least it's coming out the right way".

I pushed out his head and then it seemed like ages until the next contraction. It was most bizarre as I could feel this little head moving from side to side having a good look around him under the water. Finally the next contraction came and out came his shoulders, my baby slithered into the water and I lifted him to the surface and discovered that he was, as suspected, a boy - all 9lb 5oz of him. A few minutes later I handed Alex to Paul and got out of the pool, we went into the sitting room, and I latched Alex on for his first feed.

The other children arrived back from the park just as I was getting settled on the sofa. Kieran had run ahead and when Paul told him that Alex had been born he rushed out into the street and shouted at the top of his voice to Emily and my Mum "I've got a baby brother". During my pregnancy he had been very interested in the baby's cord and how the baby got its food through it, so it was lovely to be able to show him Alex with his cord attached before Paul cut it.

I'd opted for a physiological third stage and the placenta arrived 40 minutes after Alex was born. By now I was getting hungry and discovered that there was no bread left, not even a crust, so I dispatched Paul to the petrol station for food and he cooked me the most wonderful fried breakfast I have ever eaten.

I knew having a baby at home was going to be good, but I didn't realise just how good until I'd done it - and how else would you get the undivided attention of 3 NHS midwives for 3 hours!

Cerys Byrne
Cerys @
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