It began on the way out for a curry one Saturday evening. Firmly believing in all the methods of encouraging the baby out from its cosy bubble, I had been working through the various steps over the day and by 5.30pm I was at the hot curry stage.
It was my due date, but this was not the only reason I felt ready. Two days before my wonderful NHS midwife Becky had informed me that if my baby was born over the weekend, she would be on call. This meant a huge amount to me as not only had we built up a trusting relationship over the months of my pregnancy; I knew that her chirpy personality and positive nature would have a huge part to play in my mind state during the birth.
As a first time mum, I had the usual fears of the unexpected but knew that these fears would be greatly reduced in the comfort of a familiar environment. I had learned through my antenatal yoga class that regardless of whether you choose homebirth or a hospital birth it was best to stay at home during the first stage of labour and the idea of milling around eating chocolate and taking a lavender bath for the early labour pains appealed to me greatly.
In reality it didn't quite work out like that. As we were leaving the house, I felt a short, sharp cramp and a flush taking place down below. It certainly wasn't the waterworks I was expecting, but I rushed to the loo and out dropped the mucous plug, like a small gungy five pence piece.
Relieved that it was starting but still at the early stages, I informed my partner Nick and sister Serena of what had just happened and insisted that we still continue with our plan for curry. You can't deprive a pregnant woman of her food after all!
Five minutes later, we arrived in the supermarket which was heaving with early evening shoppers. As we passed through the automatic doors my first contraction stopped me in my tracks and I remembered Becky's comment that when you have your first contraction you know. There was no longer any confusion in mind between this and the late term twinges I had been receiving over the past few days.
Suddenly the desire for curry was replaced with an immediate urge to seek the quiet tranquility of my home and Nick immediately drove me back, leaving Serena to shop.
Back at home I realised, the contractions were coming every 2 minutes and lasting for up to 30 seconds, which was a much quicker than I had expected at this stage. I phoned Becky immediately and she was round in what seemed like minutes, full of smiles that mirrored my excited anticipation.
Serena returned and Nick began preparing their meal. Becky sat with me in the adjoining lounge and observed me quietly as I chatted excitedly to my parents on the phone. Even during the short conversation, my contractions had strengthened and I found I needed to stop talking and breathe during these 30 second periods.
As I came off the phone, Becky said that although on arrival she thought I was in early labour, it turned out to be progressing quickly and she would be staying on to monitor me. Totally oblivious to this conversation, Nick emerged from the kitchen offering me an onion bhaji! Becky jokingly refused on my behalf and I smiled on, unable to speak as another contraction descended.
About 20 minutes later, while it was just myself and Serena, I confided in her that I was getting concerned as the contractions were much stronger than I expected so early on and if they were going to continue for another 18 hours, I would not be able to bear the pain.
She gently reassured me that I would be fine and that once Becky had completed her examination we would have a much clearer idea of how long the labour would last. In the meantime she told me to visualise each contraction as a wave and continue breathing and swaying my hips in a figure of eight. As a paramedic, who had never been called to a homebirth but had done some training shifts in a maternity ward, I trusted her advice greatly and it was a massive support to have her there with me.
As anticipated within 30 minutes Becky asked if she could complete an examination to see how far my cervix was dilated and we decided to go to the bedroom. A few moments into the examination she excitedly proclaimed Wow Charmaine you are doing so well- you're 6 cms dilated!!!! As I had only been in established labour about 2 hours, this was excellent progress. Nick and Serena later told me as they sat downstairs that they had almost thought the baby was born due to our happy squawking! It actually took another 5 hours until my beautiful Jasmine emerged.
After choosing my bedroom as the place where she would be born, Nick immediately started to lay out the plastic sheeting and towels, pushing back the bed to allow more room. Serena lit some candles and placed lavender oil into a burner and as my favourite album 'Café Del Mar' began to play in the background, I felt hugely at ease. At this stage I had started to take the entonox, which was doing a wonderful job of making me feel relaxed, slightly elated but totally in control. I felt as if I was floating and allowed my mind to journey with my breathing and the music, it was quite an extraordinary experience and one I will never forget.
Nick gently massaged my lower back which provided huge relief for me during the contractions. Serena kept popping into the room with various offerings of fresh fruit, energy drinks, water and other small snacks to keep my energy levels up. Becky sat by the entrance to the room, taking notes and offering words of encouragement. I was well and truly looked after and although I felt unable to communicate with them most of the time, I could feel their immense support.
When the second midwife arrived an hour before I was due to give birth, I immediately felt the dynamics change, but this was only momentary. She was extremely sensitive to the situation and actually sat behind Becky in the corridor leading to our room, still able to see me clearly, but not imposing her presence in any way.
As my mind floated, I remember hearing Becky's voice saying, she's going to breathe this baby out Nick chimed in, she's totally away with the fairies isn't she? I immediately felt myself click back into the present. As this happened, the urge to push fully kicked in and I suddenly felt I needed to change position.
Moving around onto my hands and knees, everyone seemed to re-arrange themselves around me ensuring the floor was protected. As I begun to push, a huge flush of water rushed out and I felt a significant reduction in the pressure. Finally my waters had broken. What seemed like moments later but was probably more like half an hour, Becky announced she could see the head and I pushed furiously, completely determined to get the baby out as quickly as possible.
As I heard the first cries I saw my new baby being passed up through my legs looking like she wanted to know what the hell was going on. I later found I looked back at her with the expression that asked ‘where an earth did you come from?' Within seconds our uncertainty had diminished and we snuggled together, perfectly at ease with our new found status.
Jabs, afterbirth and stitches followed but none of it mattered as I had a perfectly healthy, beautiful baby girl in my arms. Serena ran me a lovely bath and the three of us chatted as I took a long soak in the candlelight, Nick embracing our tiny new bundle. Afterwards as Jasmine slept between us, I lay watching her and reliving the events of that evening in my mind, not being able to think of a more perfect scenario for her entrance into this world.
Charmaine has set up a business selling luxury home birth kits - see www.homebirthkits.com.
First Babies and homebirth
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Pain relief - what are your options at home?
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