Christine's twin girls were born at home, in water, in August 2003.
I was delighted to find out I was pregnant for the third time. I have two boys already; Joe and Cameron. Joe was a straight forward hospital birth and Cameron was born at home in a birth pool in the dining room. Cameron's was a wonderful birth and I planned straight away to do the same again.
I decided to have as few tests as possible this pregnancy, and told the midwife I only wanted a scan if there was a reason, rather than it just being routine.
When I got to 33 weeks I was measuring equivalent to 38 weeks, so the midwife suggested a scan might be helpful and I agreed. My husband Martin, my Mother and I by this time felt that twins were quite likely (They are in the family.), though the midwife never mentioned anything. She thought the baby was breech and probably quite big!
Martin and I went to the hospital for the scan. The sonographer's face was a picture, and I knew it was twins the moment he looked at the monitor! Martin and I were delighted and had a good laugh, but the poor sonographer was having a hard time deciding which limb belonged to which baby (It gets quite hard towards the end of the pregnancy apparently), and was not impressed.
Once I knew I was expecting twins I thought my home birth was out of the question and accepted the inevitability of a hospital birth. I wanted to labour with the minimum of intervention, and have the security of knowing that everything was on hand if I needed it. I'd had two previous normal labours, the twins were both head down and good weights according to the scan. I'd read up about twin births beforehand and knew how they differed from singleton births. All looked straightforward.
I had 3 separate appointments with the consultant to discuss my birth plan. The consultant told me that twins were abnormal anyway and so I couldn't have what I wanted. That I was being completely unrealistic to even aspire to a natural labour and that he knew that labour was really dangerous, and things often went wrong. There seemed to be an element of paranoia in his attitude to childbirth in general. I was to have a room full of people, the labour augmented with drugs, and an epidural. Possibly even a Caesarian! I have always managed without drugs during labour for the sake of the baby. I explained that I was prepared to have intervention if it was really necessary, but I wanted to minimise it. I felt he was not listening. I tried to get some explanation, medical or otherwise, for his rigid stance. In the end he admitted it was to protect himself and the hospital from litigation. This was the justification for removing my right to a choice. (Presumably, if the trend towards more litigation continues, this will slowly be applied to all labouring mothers.). I tried to get something of a compromise, but he was willing to give very little.
I was really scared at this point. It felt like I was been swept away and was no longer in control of my own or my babies' situation. I was being given no choice. I wanted to give birth to my babies myself, but 'they' wanted to 'take' them from my body as quickly as possible, and make sure they were in total control of me. I was to be only a passive participant; a receptacle, even. I was afraid of being violated.
I am not afraid of labour. I have confidence in my body's ability to do what it is designed to do. It has served me well before. I know that if I feel safe and confident in my caregivers, then I am relaxed and the labour goes well. Here I was faced with a situation guaranteed to cause maximum stress, and all the consequences of that stress on the labour and my babies. I started to look for alternatives.
I spoke to several independent midwives, my Active Birth teacher, Jayne at Splashdown (who I had rented a birthpool from when I thought I was having a single baby) and AIMS. I knew I could still go to hospital, put a stop in the door to keep the obstetricians out, and get on with it, but I didn't want to fight people during such a vulnerable time for me as the labour. Eventually I decided the safest thing for me was to go back to plan A. My home waterbirth, but with independent midwives. I contacted Chris Warren at Yorkshire Storks. She and Michelle Whittle were happy to deliver me however I wanted. They said the main increased risk with twins was one of Post Partum Haemorrhage, due to the larger than normal placental site, which they carry the necessary drugs to deal with. If things didn't go to plan we would just go to the hospital instead and one of them would stay with me and be an advocate for me if needed. The only downside was that Michelle lives about 1 - 1 ½ hours away, and Chris even further. My labour with Cameron had been only 4 ½ hours and so this one was expected to go pretty quickly too. I was willing to go for it though. I'd just have to call Michelle earlier rather than later. (At the time there were no Independent Midwives in our area, but there are now apparently.)
By this time I was almost 38 weeks. I saw Michelle for my first antenatal visit with them on Thursday morning.
In bed Friday morning at about 3.30am I awoke to find my waters had broken. When this had happened in a previous labour contractions followed fairly shortly. I decided to phone Michelle and warn her (and hoped I hadn't woken her for a false alarm.) Half an hour later at about 4am my contractions started, so I rang again to confirm that I was in labour. Michelle said she was on her way. Martin started to fill the pool.
Things hotted up pretty quickly, and not just in the pool. I phoned my friend Cath at about 5.30am. She was going to be around to help with my boys when they woke up. Michelle seemed to take forever to come. I had the TENS machine on high for ages and was beginning to wonder if baby one was going beat her to it! I didn't dare get in the pool, as when I did that with Cameron I had him in my arms 10 minutes later! I knelt on my mat with my bum in the air to slow things down a bit. I felt quite laid back really, as I felt Martin and I had 'done it before' so we'd cope if we had to. (I think I was too tired at that time of day to think too hard about it really!)
Eventually at 5.50am Michelle arrived and I gratefully got in the pool. I find the deep, warm water such a wonderful relief in labour. It is so relaxing too. I can't recommend it highly enough!
Chris arrived at 6am. Erin was born into the water at 6.30am weighing in at 7lb 1oz. She breathed as soon as she came up and was very bright and alert. I breastfed her for ages in the water. She fed like a pro. Martin eventually cut the cord when it had stopped pulsating and had a cuddle for a while, then I fed her again. I stayed kneeling upright in the water and Chris felt the position of the second baby. She was still head down. Contractions started again at 6.50am. I could feel her moving down into my pelvis. The contractions started slowly then gained momentum again, so it was like two labours really, though only the last few contractions were really difficult for me to breath through. I fed Erin right up to the difficult contractions, then gave her to my friend Cath, who had by this time arrived and was looking after Cameron in the living room. This left Martin free to support me. As I'd been in the pool a long time, Martin occasionally added a kettle of hot water to keep up the temperature. The midwives encouraged me to drink regularly (fruit juice) and I had the occasional bite of muesli bar to keep me going.
By about 9.20am the contractions were very intense. I knelt up in the water and rotated my hips a lot in between contractions to help the baby move down, then sank back onto my heels and leaned forwards against the edge of the pool during the contractions. Martin went to wake Joe up, as he was still in bed and he wanted to be around for some of the birth! Both boys came in periodically to see what was happening, then went back to their video. They had a good coo over Erin.
Rosie was born in the water at 9.55am weighing 5lb 8oz and covered in vernix. She was a bit slower to breateh, so the midwives cut her cord and gave her some oxygen. She then came to me for a feed in the warm water again for a while. Cath and the boys came in to greet Rosie. Eventually Rosie and I left the pool. I can't believe I wasn't wrinkly after all that time!
I had originally wanted a physiological third stage, if possible. Because Rosie's cord had already been cut though I decided to have the Syntometrine after 10 minutes to deliver the placentas. I couldn't believe how much placenta came out! The Syntometrine made me sick! (A fine reward for all my efforts!!) Other than this I had a completely drug-free labour. I laid down for a while after this while everyone stood around happily having a cup of tea. I had to wait until I felt better for my cup. After that the girls and I went to bed for a well earned rest.
I am so pleased with the way the labour turned out. My midwives were wonderful. It is so nice to have time to get to know each other and to discuss all the possibilities for the labour before the birth, so we understand each other. Martin was fantastic support. I can really rely on him to be calm and sensible when the going gets tough. He had to do all the birth pool filling, topping up and (notably worse) the emptying later, too! The best thing for me was that my little girls were born gently into the water, and with no drugs in their systems, not even gas and air. They both breastfed well from the start and still are at 14 months! I really feel they have had the best possible start I could give them and I'm really proud of all of us. Even the timing was perfect. It was my dad's birthday. Funnily enough he was born on HIS father's birthday too! I can't imagine it having been more perfect.
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