Sophia is Claire's first baby, and she was born in October 2005 at home. Claire writes:"As my own experience was so wonderful, I'd like to share it and hopefully provide some reassurance to expectant mums. Here goes..."
I was always adamant that I wanted to at least try to have a homebirth. As far as I was concerned, women had been having children in their own environments for centuries and with a healthy pregnancy behind me, was told by my 'home-birth friendly' midwife that I was an excellent candidate. I won't lie and say that I had no reservations, not least as to whether I'd cope with the pain with only gas and air for comfort. Also, how can you not worry when all you hear is "Aren't you brave?", "Blimey, with your first??"), and my absolute favourite "My baby would have died if I'd had him at home".
It was enough to whip the calmest person into a frenzy, so I did my own research. Firstly, I found out that homebirths are AT LEAST as safe as hospital deliveries. Secondly, if a baby is going to experience problems, the midwives are equipped with the same fundamental tools and skills at home as they'd have in hospital, and lastly, that ambulances are on stand-by and know that home deliveries are occuring... call outs to homebirths take precedence over all other emergencies (including car crashes etc.) as there are two lives involved. So... I decided that given my feelings towards hospitals (smell of wee, restrictive visiting hours etc.), that I'd go for a homebirth.
Five days overdue and fit to burst, I woke on Friday 28th at 4.30am to mild period pains. I knew it was labour and felt strangely calm and matter of fact, which is ironic given the absolute panic I'd felt about the birth during the weeks before. I got up to get showered and managed to accidentally wake my husband who also got up (we were too excited to go back to sleep!) I'd decided early on that the best strategy for me would be distraction, so after showering, doing hair and make-up (for birth pics :)), we went to Tescos to get pumpkins for Halloween (don't ask why... it just felt right at the time). I continued to contract throughout the day and again, it was like period pains that very gradually became more noticeable.
At around 2.30pm, I decided to get into my birthing pool (a self-heating one that we'd hired for £300 - wonderful investment). I started a new book (trashy novel as usual) and shouted 'yep' to my husband at the start of a contraction, and 'yep' at the end so he could make a note of the timings. To be honest, it gave him something useful to do. After a couple of hours in the pool I'd had enough and went into the kitchen to lean on the sideboard. By around 5pm I felt like I'd like some gas and air. The contractions were getting closer together and more intense.
My husband called the midwife who arrived half an hour later. My greatest fear at this point was that she'd tell me I was 3cm dilated, because I knew I wouldn't be able to cope and would probably opt for an epidural in hospital. As it goes, I was 9cm dilated. I remember smiling and chuckling with my husband, as I knew I was nearly there. By around 6-6.15pm, I'd moved into the dining room and was leaning on a high-back chair. Throughout the whole labour I'd breathed through the contractions...in four, out four. By the time the midwife had set up the gas and air, I'd decided that I'd come this far with nothing and would continue to concentrate on my breathing instead.
Pretty soon I felt the need to bear down. It was entirely involuntary and made a nice change to the contractions ;) I guess the 'bearing down' part took around an hour and gradually worked up to a stretching and burning sensation. Then the head bobbed out a bit, in a bit (I was on all fours by now and my waters had broken). The final pushes were hard work and I basically strained and shouted during each contraction... it felt like trying to pass a massive poo but actually not as painful ;) Then there seemed to be a bit of a pop, and the back-up midwife came in the door to see me with Sophia's head hanging out and looking round the room. The primary midwife turned the shoulders a little and the final push saw my baby slither out onto the mat, pink and crying like a good'un (the placenta followed immediately after). Hubby cut the cord and held her while I was taken to the sofa to have a few stitches.
An hour later, my parents were sitting with me, husband and baby Sophia having toast and champagne. The midwives had cleared everything up and made sure I'd had a wee. The candles were lit, it was quite dark in the room, and Sophia slept calmly in her grandmother's arms. I would not swap this memory for all the money in the world. My baby was not taken off anywhere, my husband was not sent home, and the house was warm and serene. I can honestly say that having a homebirth was the most amazing experience of my life. I would be lying if I said if wasn't painful, but it was definitely bearable.
My advice to all expectant mums would be the following:
Sophia is now four days old and we've fallen utterly in love with her. I'm up and about and slowly establishing a routine. My birthing experience was wonderful and I hope yours will be too.
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