I had always dreamed of having a home-birth. I'm a nurse and feel very strongly that hospital is the place to be if you are ill or if something is going wrong, but that home was the right place to give birth as long as there were no complications. Despite these feelings, I had started to feel less confident in my decision to have a home-birth by the time we started our NCT ante-natal classes, and had just about decided to give birth at the Midwife-led Unit at Gloucester Royal. After the first session when we talked about places to give birth, I began to feel, again, that home was the right place to be, and with the ongoing support of Clodagh (our ante-natal teacher) and Diane (our post-natal supporter) we started to get going on planning the most important day of our lives so far.
I started to think about how I wanted to give birth to my baby. The only place I felt truly comfortable in the later stages of pregnancy was the bath or the swimming pool so we decided to hire a birthing pool and try to give birth in the water. We found a pool that had a heater, a thermostat and special tablets that mean that you can leave the water in for 7 days at a time, which we hired for two weeks either side of my due date. We both had great fun wallowing in it watching 'I'm A Celebrity ' in the last evenings before becoming a family!
About a week before my due date my body 'embarked on' two weeks of pre-labour and I was getting very tired and demoralised by waking every night and having a run of Braxton-Hicks contractions, wondering whether it would be the start, and then waking in the morning with no baby! The pool was wonderfully therapeutic for all these aches and pains.
Eventually, 6 days overdue, I woke up at 4.30am on the Bank Holiday Monday to go to the toilet (as usual!) and remembered having a dream during which I'd had a contraction (in my dream) and that it had hurt my lower back and I'd had to lean over a table to ease the pain. The same thing happened at 5.30am and at 6.00am, at which point I had woken up enough to stay awake. I then realised that I was actually having regular-ish pains (all across my lower back) about 8-10 minutes apart.
I woke up Sven at 6.30 and, although in my head I thought to myself that it was yet another 'trial run', something in my sub-conscious made me ring my mum and ask her to come over. The midwife and Mum arrived at the same time, about 7.30 and my contractions were then 3-4 minutes apart and really taking my breath away. I had my TENS machine on, but as I had (stupidly) neglected to practice with it beforehand I couldn't' get the hang of it and it wasn't very effective. I had been walking around the whole time so far and leaning against Sven during the contractions, eventually discarding the TENS and relying on Sven rubbing my back or holding the bottom of my bump where the contractions were becoming strong as well by this point.
At about 8.30 I asked the midwife to examine me so that I had some idea how long it would be before I could get in the pool. I was 2-3cm already and (although I thought I had to wait until I was 5 cm dilated), the midwife said it would be ok to use the pool. I got in and felt instant relief. Mum and Sven knelt in front of me encouraging me while I knelt with my hands gripping the side of the pool. The contractions were still mainly causing me backache as well as pains low down in my bump - it felt like a big elastic band tightening up. I was surprised by the lack of pain in between contractions though.
The new midwife and a student arrived at about 10ish to take over from the first midwife. The new midwife then took my temperature as she thought I looked quite hot (I did feel hot) and it was a bit high so she asked me to get out of the pool for a while - she also thought I had been advised to get in it too early and she wanted to see if she could speed things up a bit. I walked up and down stairs a few times and then sort of knelt on the sofa with the Entonox and Sven and the midwife rubbing my back during contractions. I was sick for the second time and the midwife decided to examine me again - I was 4-5cm so she said I could get back in the pool.
The pool did help me to cope with the pain, but I quickly became quite distressed and upset. I started to feel I couldn't cope, the contractions were coming very close together and they were double peaked, the second peak being twice as painful as the first. This meant that every time I began to relax as one contraction wore off, another, much worse one took over.
I was also using the Entonox very inefficiently. I was taking three or four deep but fairly fast breaths as the contractions began. This would then make me feel very dizzy and I would stop using it for the rest of the contraction, which meant that the pain wasn't being at all controlled.
In retrospect, I also think that subconsciously I was feeling quite alone in the pool even though Mum, Sven and one of the midwives were always in front of me, encouraging me and rubbing my back. I was getting very upset and saying that I wanted to go to hospital for an epidural - I really did feel that if I was only 5cm dilated and couldn't cope at this point, that I would be nearly dead by the time I got to 10cm! I felt terrified and lonely and angry that everyone was trying to make me stay at home. Mum and the midwife kept saying that I wouldn't like the ambulance journey, and I kept saying that I had to go in at that minute then, so that it wouldn't be so bad. In the end, the midwife persuaded me to stay in the pool for one more hour, then she would examine me and we could decide what to do. I agreed to this, and did begin to calm down at this point.
I eventually found that I'd got the hang of the Entonox, breathing long, slow, even breaths in and out and focussing on a point in front of me. Sven was in the pool with me and I was hanging on round his neck. His poor leg got squeezed really tightly during each contraction! Mum and the student were helping me with the gas and air and to focus my energies during each contraction. I found I was coping much, much better and actually began to 'enjoy' the labour (if that's at all possible!). After the hour was up, A asked me to turn onto my back so she could examine me again and was surprised to announce that I was 8-9cm dilated! She couldn't believe it, and neither could I, and it gave me a huge boost of encouragement. She called the second midwife who arrived at about 3.00pm.
At 3.30pm I started to scream on each out-breath I made during the next contraction, which I hadn't been doing up until now, and, in my notes, the midwives had written that I was involuntarily pushing. Mum also told me later that it was very clear that I was pushing, as my whole body moved back with each contraction. I had no idea I was pushing though. The midwife examined me during the next contraction, which caused my waters to break (3.33pm). I flipped back over onto all fours half way through that contraction and tried not to push.
During the next contraction I put my hand down to see if I could feel the head. After three pushes (during that contraction), I felt the head come out and told the midwives that the head was born. They were surprised and rushed to get a mirror to see if they could see what was going on.
Sven wanted to catch the baby so I told him, at that point, to move round so he could be in the right place. He was so lovely and asked me if I was sure I didn't want him to stay cuddling me, even though I knew he really wanted to catch Rosie! I told him that Mum was there for me to grab hold of.
After just one push during the next contraction, Rosie was born (3.35pm)! I flipped over and Sven handed her to me - I couldn't believe she was here! She was so beautiful, staring up at us. She didn't really cry - just enough to get 9 on her Apgar score! Her hands were clasped as she gazed around at her new world.
All the time I was holding Rosie, the midwives were telling me to be careful as the cord was going under my leg and they were worried it would snap, so after Sven had checked that she was a girl, I handed her back to him and carefully climbed over the cord. He gave her back to me to carry as the midwives and Mum helped me out of the pool and onto the sofa to deliver the placenta. I chose not to have the injection so the placenta arrived 25 minutes later. I unfortunately had to go into hospital to have a bad tear repaired so we didn't get to spend our first night at home.
I would definitely give birth at home in water again. It was so easy to move my huge bulk in the water and to get myself into a comfortable position. Once Sven was in the pool with me, it really felt like we were in our own special world together. Being at home meant that I could wander around where I liked and lie on our own comfortable sofa before getting in the water.
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