Claire's Birth Experience

Claire had a straightforward, good hospital birth for her first baby, and planned a homebirth for her second. In the event, her labour was induced in hospital for reduced amniotic fluid levels and suspected small size.

My first daughter was born in October 1999 - a complication free and very happy hospital delivery.

Having booked my home birth for number 2 (see experiences of booking a home birth) I once again had a problem free pregnancy, and continued working until 36 weeks. The day after I went on maternity leave my community midwife came to see me at home for a routine check-up and to drop off my home birth 'kit'. She, as usual measured the height of the fundus and was concerned that I was measuring at 33 weeks (not 36). As a precaution she booked me for a scan the following day. It was awful. They scanned me and said immediately that I had olighydramnious (reduced amniotic fluid). I was just off the scale on their centile charts.

Myself and my partner went to talk to the most insensitive Doctor I have ever had the misfortune to deal with. He said 'I see you are booked for a home birth - well in the end it's not about your experience, it's about the health of your baby. We wouldn't want a dead baby, would we?' He said I would need to return in a week for another scan - to check that my placenta wasn't failing.

Note from Angela: This doctor wins the 'Prat of the Month' award... as if anybody would ever care more about the health of a baby than its mother. This sort of patronising, thoughtless comment gives doctors a bad name. Why couldn't he have focussed on stating the facts so that Claire could make her own assessment of the situation? What would be wrong with saying "Your amniotic fluid levels are xyz... at this level, research has shown that the baby is at increased risk of a, b or c... I recommend that you do this... what are your views? " . Bah.

Back to Claire...

I left in tears. I'd gone from feeling totally happy and in control of the pregnancy to feeling utterly useless in the space of 24 hours. My brilliant community midwife came to see me the following day. She was very reassuring, and explained the situation in a far clearer way than the doctor had. The for the next 3 weeks I went for weekly check ups at the hospital and as the level of amniotic fluid remained the same I was still on for the home delivery.

Three days after my due date I woke up feeling a bit sick. I'd been having regular Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks but these felt stronger. Still nothing happened and I went to bed that evening and slept very well. The following day I woke with the real feeling that things were about to start. However, I was expected at the hospital for another scan so I went along. The scan showed that the amniotic fluid had all but disappeared and I was told that the baby probably weighed around 6lbs (my first daughter weighed 9.1 lbs). The Radiographer said 'it doesn't look like you'll be going home then' and then (having already asked me if we knew the sex of the baby - we'd said no) said ' you'll get to meet your little girl today'.

I went down to the delivery room and they broke my waters at 3pm. The merest trickle emerged. The midwife left us to get on with it - the contractions started coming very fast almost immediately. I walked around and around the room dealing with the pain through breathing and with the help of a tens machine. Things progressed very quickly. Then, at about 5pm the midwife came into the room with her supervisor and said 'we'll have to have continuous monitoring'. I immediately burst into tears and protested that I was coping fine with the labour and being forced to lie down would make things much worse. The supervisor said that it was essential to have continuous monitoring because of my circumstances. I felt I couldn't argue. I was propped up in the bed with the stupid machine that kept sliding off. The pain was massively worse as I wasn't upright or mobile. I had some gas and air and my daughter (perfect and weighing 7lbs13oz) was born just after 6pm. I cried and cried - the stress of the previous month was just a bit much for me. I desperately wanted to go straight home - but they insisted that I stayed the night.

I returned home the following day and introduced my new daughter to her big sister - it was the most wonderful moment. But from about a week after the birth I began to experience quite severe post-natal depression. I feel certain that part of it was connected to my experiences in hospital. I felt so utterly out of control, and knowing that it could have been so different still upsets me now.

My second daughter is now 17 months old and I have just found out that number 3 is on the way. I plan to request a home delivery.

Claire from Bradford

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