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Erin's birth story, by Claire Thomas

My son Ben was born in hospital on New Year's Eve 2003. I'd always planned a hospital birth, but I'd hoped to do it on my terms with as little intervention as possible (although I'd kept an open mind as I wasn't sure what my pain threshold would be like!). Unfortunately I went 14 days overdue and was summoned to be induced. It didn't occur to me to argue with the 'experts', plus I'd been quite focussed on my due date so I really wanted him out at least in the year that he was due! To cut a long story short I ended up, after being shoved from pillar to post, with an epidural, a ventouse delivery and 3 stitches. Ben was fine and we were all delighted, but it obviously wasn't the experience I'd wanted.

When I found I was pregnant with Erin I thought a lot more about my labour with Ben and specifically what I'd found difficult. The more I thought about it, the more I found myself considering a home birth where I would be in my own environment and, most importantly for me, I wouldn't have to be moved. In spite of having a previous assisted delivery I never encountered any objections. My midwife was in agreement with me that it was a classic case of escalation of intervention and shouldn't be an issue.

I went overdue again, but I'd expected it this time so I wasn't climbing the walls. However, when I went to the hospital for a membrane sweep a week past my due date and the midwife started talking to me about induction I got quite upset. It really brought home to me how desperate I was to avoid a repeat of Ben's birth. I negotiated a date that would be 17 days past my due date if the baby didn't come, but luckily the sweep had been a good one and it all kicked off that night...

I noticed that the 'twinges' I'd been having since teatime had a pattern to them at about 9pm. Got the TENS machine out and spent about half an hour figuring out how it worked then packed Rich (my husband) off to bed for a bit of kip. Got myself comfy leaning over the beanbag flicking between music channels on TV. I found that focussing on the TENS machine and adjusting it between contractions, and bumping it up when it got a bit more painful, was really helpful. It was the right sort of distraction, and it helped me feel I was in control of the pain. Rung my mum about 10.00 just to say that I might need her later (they live 40 minutes away). She suggested I ring the hospital but I didn't think much was happening so I didn't bother. Rung her back about 11.00 to say I was still OK and she insisted I ring the hospital! We live on a new estate that's not on the A-Z so it was midnight by the time Rich had talked the midwife in on her mobile. When she examined me I fully expected her to say I was about 2 cm and she'd come back later. It was a very pleasant surprise to find I was 5-6 cm and she was ringing the 2nd midwife! I got a real surge of emotion at that moment. I think that's when it struck me that it was really happening, and I realised how confident I was that it would be fine.

Anyway, Rich rung mum and dad and they were there much faster than is legally possible! I was starting to struggle a bit by about 1.00 but the TENS was really doing its job. I'd got it up as high as it would go but I was adjusting it between contractions which helped. Unfortunately the gas & air was coming with the 2nd midwife, who lived almost as far away as my parents and had to go via the hospital to collect it. Then when she arrived the valve was faulty so it was about 2.00 by the time I got it. The timing was fabulous as I think I'd just hit transition. I had 2 contractions with the gas & air and my waters broke and I had an overwhelming urge to push. 40 minutes of pushing and Erin was born at 2.50am on Friday 7th July 2006. The TV was still blaring in the background as no-one had thought to turn it off. According to Rich 'The Verve' were playing at the point that Erin was born. We don't think it was 'The drugs don't work' but we're not completely sure...

The placenta took about half an hour to come, and we had a bit of a comedy moment with a clot of blood when one of the midwives decided to 'help it along a bit'. Rich looked like an extra from a horror film and we're still finding little specs on the sofa and the carpet. I had a very small 2nd degree tear but a single stitch sorted it out. The midwives weren't sure that they could manage it as it was quite deep, but I was very clear that no way was I going to hospital just for that so they had a go, and it's never given me any bother. Ben, who normally wakes up when you step on a loose floorboard on the landing, slept through the whole thing and came in to meet his baby sister at 6.00.

It was only afterwards that I realised how much the first midwife had held back and let me dictate the pace. I was left to get on with it but with someone there quietly observing, which was just what I needed. Having had an epidural with Ben I'd been slightly worried about how I might cope with the pain, and I'd ordered diamorphine just in case. However, the experience convinced me that the level of pain is directly proportional to the feeling of control. It was quite manageable, even in the late stages, whereas with Ben I felt completely unable to cope by the time I got to 6 cm. It makes sense really, but I think I had to experience that distinction to realise it.

Claire Thomas

Related pages:

Home Birth Stories

Pain relief - what are your options at home?

The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?

Blood on the carpet - How much mess are you likely to encounter at a homebirth, and what can you do about that carpet?!


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