This is the story of my homebirth, with my second baby Ada in September. I just want to encourage other mums to have a homebirth, as I really did have an amazing time, and now feel that I do not want to give birth again, not because of the awful experience, but because I don't think I could top this one!!
I had my 2nd baby, Ada, at home, which I had planned; she was 40 weeks and 11 days, which I had not planned! The birth could not have been more different to that of my 1st, which included a dramatic ambulance ride, forceps, stitches, jaundice and a horrible infection.
I was determined for my second baby to have a different experience! Reading your page and others on the internet I realised that I could be so much more in control – I didn't have to go into hospital (something I was very keen to avoid!), I didn't have to have my waters broken, I could take things at my own pace and not be rushed. A friend of mine who had two children had told me about breathing and visualisation techniques, and lent me the Hypnobirthing book. I read this with some scepticism, but definitely agreed with the ethos that birth does not have to be abject agony, and remaining calm must help the mother and baby.
As I approached the due date, though, I was becoming less and less calm. I'd had a lovely pregnancy, with some sickness (a girl!), but the same blood pressure throughout and no complications at all. But I was so determined to have a homebirth... I was told that I was 'allowed' to go 12 days overdue before I 'had' to go into hospital, and 14 days before I 'had' to be induced; this information burned a hole in my head and was all I could think about from the week before I was due until... eleven days later, when she decided to arrive!
Note from Angela: Although it's common to hear phrases like "We will only allow you to go 14 days past your due date" and "you will have to be induced", in fact it is always the mother's decision whether to accept these interventions or not. As a mentally competent adult, you are legally entitled to make your own decision; the health professionals you consult can give their advice, but you are not obliged to follow their recommendations. You are not a naughty schoolgirl, but a woman who is bearing a child; wouldn't it be nice if all health professionals talked in a respectful way which acknowledged this?
See 'Overdue - but desperate for a homebirth?' for discussion of those issues, and Mary Cronk's Phrasebook for some good responses if you're told what you're "allowed" to do...
Back to Claire...
Five days 'overdue' and I had a midwife appointment, where it had been mooted that a Stretch and Sweep might be carried out. I was really nervous about this, as friends had had them and said they were not very nice, also during my first labour, the most painful part had been the initial vaginal examination – it had been agony and I still cringe about it now. So a tearful and nervous me decided to go ahead anyway, as I had worked myself up to it... but nothing! The midwife could not even carry it out as everything was 'too high' and nothing had started at all "This baby is not ready to come out yet" was all that could be said! But she had been so gentle and careful not to make me nervous that I actually have to say the experience was not painful at all.
Had a second S & S two days later, which was much better, and 'favourable', in fact, the midwife was able to feel the top of the baby's head, which I thought was amazing! Booked a reflexology session that afternoon, and was all ready for the baby to arrive that night... But she had other plans!
Three days later...(after trying to remain relaxed and calm!), another S & S was carried out: 10 days overdue and I am a determined and crazed pregnant woman! P. the midwife who had performed the first failed S & S came round to have another go: she was very excited at the report from Friday. This time things had progressed even further and I was about 4-5cm dilated!
I can't believe that this had happened without me feeling a thing! She seemed sure that the baby would be here within the next 24 hours, and left me a timesheet of when she would be working!! Again, I tried not to get too excited, as I just didn't want things to stop again. Also, I checked with P. when I would actually 'have' to go into hospital (12 days – I had hoped that meant the evening of the 12th day?); the answer was the morning of the 12th day, which was the following morning! She said if things had started before 9am, she would try keeping me at home..! Not really what I needed to hear, but I knew she wanted me to have a homebirth too. So now I was even more determined for things to get going NOW!
Into Pete's rickety Landover we go (first time for months, I have to sit with my legs astride the gearlever, and don't know how I managed to fit in at this point!). Off we go for one last romp across the beach and up a steep cliff path. I am actually feeling the same dull, period-type pains as I had had two days before, but am madly praying that this time they will not stop!
At about 4.30am I woke up needing to go to the loo, and realised that the contractions were there and this time getting stronger. I lay in bed for the next hour or two and breathed each one through – they were getting closer and stronger and at last (!) I knew that this was the beginning of my labour!! I was so thrilled that I was within my time for having a homebirth, and this elation kept me extremely relaxed: Pete was snoring away beside me, as I was just enjoying this precious time with just me and my baby. I visualised the rosebud opening and the water going down the plughole, as I had been doing, and stroked my belly, talking softly to the baby. The birds were singing outside and dawn was breaking – it was an amazing time.
Once I realised that the contractions were about 2-3mins apart, I thought I'd better wake Pete! He immediately wanted to call the midwives, but I knew baby would not be putting in an appearance for a good while yet. Instead I persuaded him to get me a warm 'wheat bag' for my back, which was beginning to be a little painful, and after about half an hour of this, to run me a warm bath too. He then rang the midwives just to let them know that things were happening !
By about 6.45am, I was in a very full bath and beginning to be 'quite vocal'! I wasn't in dire pain, and it's amazing how your body just takes over: I had really no control of the noises I was making, it was just a way to breathe through the contractions – they were manageable, and I was still just elated to be in this position at last! This is when Pete rang the midwives' again, and she stayed on the phone to listen to me (I didn't know this!), to time how long each contraction was, and how far apart. They were lasting for about 2mins, and were about 1-2mins apart: my midwife was duly called!
The midwife arrived at 7.30am. It was P., my own midwife, and although I was coping very well with it all, seeing her walk into the bathroom was just fantastic! I hadn't known if she would be on shift, and she later said that she had had a very quiet night, until 5mins after she had been beeped for me, when she had been asked to go into the hospital, but was committed to me by that time! Our community midwives here have had a new regime thrust upon them, where they all have to do 'time' at the local hospital: they don't seem to like this at all, as it means much longer hours, and they are not in the community doing the homebirths that they love.
I had planned to give birth in the lounge, downstairs, thinking I would use the birthing ball for support and relaxation, as I had anticipated the labour being quite a long one, and we have more room there. However, I didn't make it out of the bedroom again!
P. did a vaginal examination and found that I was 8cm dilated by this time, and I was beginning to be 'pushy' as she put it. This was wonderful news, and she rang the other midwife to come. Now everything was much more focussed and I wasn't able to chat as I had done earlier. I wasn't in great pain, and this was so different to my first labour. I still felt relaxed and in control, as I could visualise what was happening to my body and what the baby was doing. I just felt amazingly connected to the baby, my body and the rhythms of each. It was great to be in my own surroundings then.
As I say, I hadn't anticipated giving birth on our bed at all, but we had had a waterproof sheet under our own sheet for quite a few weeks now (in case of waters breaking etc), and this, as it turned out was perfectly fine for the job! The second midwife arrived at 8.30am, and to my amazement, it was S, my other community midwife!! She had also been my community midwife when I was pregnant with Arthur, so knew us well. This was such a brilliant circumstance: P and S had worked together for years, but never been on call together for a homebirth, so they were ecstatic about the whole thing, and it just made everything so relaxed and added a sort of family atmosphere.
One funny thing about giving birth at home, is that of course you are very familiar with your surroundings (!), but these are suddenly used to a very different purpose than usual. So that even now, I look at my chest of drawers and think, that's where they were writing my notes, and keeping the birth pack. After the birth, I heard a phrase that I didn't think I would ever hear: "I've cleaned your bathroom sink, after examining your placenta in there."!!! Fantastic!
Once S. arrived, she took over my care and examined me at 9.00am, I was virtually fully dilated (fantastic news!), BUT there was still the lip of the cervix which was causing an obstruction, and if I pushed against this, it would swell, and stop the baby from being able to move through.
I remember Pete being called upon to undo the Gas & Air bottle, something which my friend had also recalled happening, for her homebirth, and this seems to be a hazard of having a homebirth – or maybe it gives the husbands/ partners something to do?! Anyway, I breathed the Gas & Air well, but was very conscious of not wanting to take too much, like last time, so the midwives actually had to encourage me to breathe more in at times.
I was only on Gas & Air for about 20mins, and during this time moved onto all fours, as this was the most comfortable position. I hadn't really thought about this being an easy position, but it felt so natural, and didn't hurt my knees or hands at all, and I remained like this until she was born.
After 20mins S. examined me again, and hurray! I was fully dilated and all ready to push, BUT..again another obstruction lay in my path, this time, more embarrassingly... poo! I just couldn't move to the loo, and thankfully it wasn't even suggested!
During this time I was back to natural breathing without any pain relief, and the TENS machine had been taken off too; at times it seemed like this part was never going to end, but I still felt in control and certainly not panicky or fearful, as I had done with my first labour. The contractions were really strong now, and the pushing was just intense! I kept trying to visualise myself on the beach, and this certainly helped.
My waters had still not broken by this point, so S. asked my consent (which I gave), and broke them for me: she later said that if she hadn't done that at this point, the labour may have taken a lot longer. But because they hadn't been broken earlier (unlike my first labour), the baby was completely unstressed, and I had a more comfortable labour too.
I began to say "I can't do this... nothing is happening!" which of course is a great sign, because it means that baby will soon be here. The midwives reassured me that things were definitely happening, and then all of a sudden S. said, "I can see the head Claire, and the baby's got dark hair". Arthur was completely bald, so I think the surprise of a baby with hair made me push extra hard on the next contraction, and the baby's head started to crown! As I had not experienced this with Arthur (forceps birth), this really was an incredible feeling: extremely intense, and of course painful, but also just so exhilarating and powerful. Like nothing I can describe really! S. told me "This is going to hurt like crazy", but I have to say that actually it didn't! I think the pushing is so intense, and my breathing had gone out the window by now, so that I just felt like I was running out of breath. S. was excellent, being aware of my previous labour, and really worked hard to make sure that I didn't tear. She got me to pant for some of the time, then one more push... suddenly she said "The baby's head is out Claire, I want you to push on the next contraction, and baby will be here!" This was such amazing news!
The next contraction came, and the most wonderful words that I've heard: "Look between your legs Claire, look what's coming..." as baby was posted through!! I looked down (I had had my eyes closed for the past couple of hours mostly), and looking back up at me, with eyes wide open was my beautiful baby girl!! Just remembering this moment is amazing now! Pete was holding her with me, and I had to tell him it was a girl, as he couldn't really see from where he was! Baby girl (as she was named for the first 6 days!) was born at 10.50am, weighing a great 8lbs 14oz, with the sun shining outside! Hallelujah!!
I rolled onto my side, whilst P. injected me for the delivery of the placenta, and then Pete cut the cord. It was just incredible to be doing all of this in our own bed! I hasten to add that she was born on Pete's side of the bed!!
The midwives did their checks of baby girl (she received 10 and 10 on the Apgar scale, which is quite rare apparently – she was so gorgeous and pink; not over-cooked at all!!), and gave her an injection of Vit K.
She was put to the breast within five minutes of being born, whilst I delivered the placenta, which was out in one push! S. showed us this in great detail, it was quite fascinating with the membranes etc, and then, as mentioned before, this was taken into our bathroom for further examination!
After a good feed, during which little girl covered both her and me in meconium, we were helped through to the bathroom, where P. had run a bath: what a fantastic luxury!! A bath in my own bathroom with my newborn baby! I can't tell you how amazing this was, and one of the great things of having a homebirth!
Pete and I had a wonderful few hours with our new baby daughter – we fell asleep holding her hands on the bed! Gradually we spread the news to relatives and friends, and generally just took things very slowly and peacefully: no rushing around as it had been in hospital, and of course we could use our mobiles to text messages at home too!
I was only on Gas & Air to allow me not to push for a while, whilst the lip of the cervix decided to go away... so it wouldnt swell and cause an obstruction etc. This was the most difficult part really, as the urge to push is so strong! I want to reiterate that this delivery was virtually painfree and I didnt need the entinox for pain relief! Cant believe I didn't need any.. but giving birth at home was just about as relaxed and peaceful as a birth could be!
In fact, the whole experience was just so peaceful, relaxed and amazing; I am still coming down from the 'high' of it all, after 4 months! The post-birth healing was just wonderful, I had a minimal tear, which was fully healed within 10 days, and I could move around virtually pain free almost immediately. Also it was great to know that our newborn little girl did not move further than a couple of metres from her birthplace (the bed!) for the first couple of days.
Overdue - but still want a homebirth? When is 'postdates' risky?
Fathers and home birth - fathers' feelings about the birth, and how they can help.
Pain relief - what are your options at home?
Hypnotherapy for childbirth
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
Homebirth UK email group
Home Birth Stories
Home Birth Reference Page