The Birth of James Bradley Russell By Clare Russell

All through my pregnancy, I had been determined that this baby would not be overdue as Elisha was. I had had a miscarriage immediately before this pregnancy, so it had already been 13 months long!! By Sunday 30th September, I was just about fed up of being pregnant, and wanted to take matters into my own hands. Graham and I had agreed all along that 1st October was a nice date of birth (my due date was the 10th).

Graham made a hot curry for our evening meal, and I took a fistful of Raspberry Leaf tablets. I put Elisha to bed, and started to concentrate on going into labour. I took a bath, with essential oils of clary sage and lavender, and then started a bit of nipple stimulation (apparently these are all tried and trusted methods of getting things started!). It was while I was in the bath that I started to get a few mild contractions, and then my waters broke. I couldn't be sure, being in the bath, but after I got out it was taking unusually long to dry off, so I knew it had happened!! I was pleased as this meant the baby would be born in the next 24 hours.

During the rest of the evening, we started to make a few preparations, and got the house cleaned up (we were planning a home birth). I phoned my mum, who was going to be looking after Elisha during the birth, to warn her I might be waking her during the night! I had a few mild contractions, but not a great deal was happening, so by midnight we decided to go to bed. I was awoken at 2.30am by stronger contractions, and got up to time them. They came every five minutes until about 3.30, and then fizzled out. I was disappointed, but went back to sleep thinking they would soon wake me up again. I was even more disappointed when Elisha woke me at 7am, and I wasn't getting any more pains!!

I phoned the midwife, as it was now a while since my waters had broken, and she arranged to come round. Graham phoned work to arrange the start of his paternity leave. We all took a long walk on the way to Elisha's playschool, and the midwife (Keran) was at home waiting for us after we had dropped Elisha off. She gave me a standard pregnancy check-up, and arranged to come back again in the afternoon to see if things were progressing.

I had contractions throughout the day, encouraged by massage with clary sage, and more nipple stimulation! They were fairly mild, and irregular, between 5 and 10 minutes apart. We tried to push things along by going out for walks, having more curry for breakfast, and I bounced around on my borrowed birth ball!

At about 1pm, I decided to phone a friend for her advice on a homeopathic remedy to take, to encourage my contractions. We went around and borrowed her box of Homeopathic Remedies for Childbirth. I took Caulophyllum 200c, to establish strong productive contractions. I also drank lots of raspberry leaf tea! My contractions got stronger, and by the time Keran returned at 4pm, I was sure that things were really happening. However, when she examined me, I was disappointed to hear that I was only 3cm dilated and not fully effaced. She went away, to return at 7pm.

Elisha came home - she had been with my mum all afternoon - and we went out for a walk with her. We made a meal, and sat down to eat, my contractions becoming stronger all the time. Elisha kept asking, "Mummy, why have you stopped eating?" as I was struggling to breathe through my contractions, which were about 5 minutes apart by now. We got Elisha ready for bed, and then Keran arrived. Elisha was excited to watch her examine me, she was aware that the baby was on his way. When my mum and Graham had Elisha tucked up in bed, I felt I was free to concentrate on birthing this baby.

For the next few hours, Graham and I mainly stayed in the bedroom, with him massaging my lower back and helping me to breathe through my contractions, which were getting stronger. Occasionally we ventured downstairs to drink tea with my mum and Keran. Keran carefully read my birth plan from start to finish, and I felt reassured that she was supportive of all the decisions we had made. The next time Keran examined me, I was disheartened to hear that I was still only 5cm dilated. She was also worried that the baby's heartbeat was slowing down during contractions. She rang the second midwife for advice, and Angie arrived at about 9pm.

I took another homeopathic remedy, Gelsemium 200c, for slow and sluggish labour. It is supposed to be useful after receiving bad news, e.g. that the cervix has dilated less than expected. At around this time, I asked for some gas and air, as the pain was getting worse. It turned out the effect was just psychological, as there was no valve on it, so I wasn't actually breathing it in!! We all chatted for a bit (which is a bit surreal when you are contacting every five minutes!) and Graham was rubbing my back all the while.

By about 11pm both midwives were keen to get things moving quickly, as it had been so long since my waters had broken. They suggested I take a bath, so Graham ran me a bath with more lavender and clary sage oils. The water helped the pain a lot, and I carried on with the gas and air as well. Keran monitored the baby's heartbeat intermittently with a Doppler. I must have stayed in the bath for about an hour, and when I got out I was uncontrollably shivering. I remember thinking at the time, "could this be Transition?".

When we returned to the bedroom, Angie sat us down and explained to us that because it had been over 24 hours since my waters had broken, it was important that the baby be born soon. She explained that because my waters had already broken, they couldn't break them to speed things up, so the next step would be to put me on a drip, and to do that we would have to go to hospital. She gave us the choice of waiting another hour to see if things progressed, or transferring to hospital there and then. As she was talking, I started to get much more severe contractions, and I could barely concentrate on what she was saying. Graham decided for me that we would wait another hour.

Note from Angela:

In situations like this, it needs to be made clear that the midwives are offering you the option of going to hospital to have a drip to speed up labour. You are under no compulsion to accept that offer, and really it is misleading if they imply that you have a choice between going to hospital 'now', or in one hour. Their health authority's policy may be to accelerate labour after the waters have been broken for 24 hours, but in other areas the policy may be to wait 48 or even 72 hours before encouraging intervention, if there are no other signs of problems. The UK's national guidelines from NICE are that it is acceptable to wait up to 96 hours if there are no signs of problems.

There is a higher risk of infection once the waters have broken, but this is lower at home than it would be in hospital where you are surrounded by other people's germs. There are compromise solutions too, such as keeping a close watch for infection by checking the mother's temperature, and the baby's heart beat is reassuring. It may be that you would be happy to accept induction of labour after your waters had been broken for 48 hours, but the important thing is to be aware that you have a choice. Nobody can force you to transfer to hospital if you do not agree to it.

Back to Clare:

Keran managed to improvise a valve for the gas and air out of sticky tape, and I was glad because the contractions were getting severe and I could only just breathe through them. Graham continued to rub my lower back. Suddenly I wanted to stand up. Graham was sitting on our bed and I stood, with my arms around his neck. At this stage Keran asked me to lift up my dressing gown so she could see what was going on, and I gaily threw all my clothes off! I think they asked me if I wanted a T-shirt, but I just screamed, "I don't care!".

I was close to being exhausted, but I started to push, hard. I could feel the baby's head moving lower down and that encouraged me. I was hanging around Graham's neck as if my life depended on it, and I was just pushing as hard as I could. I couldn't feel any contractions at this stage; just one big overwhelming urge to push which I knew would not go away until the baby was born.

My mum was taking photographs, and she put a mirror on the floor between my legs. I could see the baby's head peeping out, a little more with each push, and that kept me going. When his head was born, the cord was round his neck 3 times, so Keran clamped and cut it, and unwound it. I was making so much noise that I couldn't hear her instructions, but Graham was repeating them to me - pant, don't push, just breathe. When the cord was unwound, I was able to push the rest of his body out, and the coffee table swiftly became an infant resuscitation table, as my mum and Angie used oxygen and massage to get Jamie breathing. It was 1:25 am on Tuesday 2nd October 2001. I sat on the floor and Keran helped me to deliver the placenta, naturally.

Jamie soon started screaming, but wasn't interested in feeding. I was completely exhausted, and I think I was half asleep as Graham and the midwives cleaned the place up and my mum rocked Jamie. After Graham and Jamie and myself had spent some time alone, Angie examined me - no stitches! I was so glad! She weighed Jamie - 7lb 3oz, two pounds lighter than Elisha had been!

By 3am, the midwives were gone, and Jamie's yelling had woken Elisha up, so she came through to meet her new baby brother. There was a real Christmas-morning feeling as we all sat down and began the adjustment into being a family of four. Soon, we all went back to bed to get a much needed rest! Jamie's entry into the world had been slow, but peaceful, and he has been a quiet, placid baby ever since.

Clare Russell

Update: Clare had another baby, Bethany...

Back to Home Birth Stories


Home Birth Reference Page
Site Contents