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Zoe's birth, by Clare

Clare's story contains some interesting insights into the effects of the environment, and her own state of mind, on her labour.

Zoe is our second child - her birth at home is an experience that my husband and I would recommend to anyone!

We had planned on a home birth for our first child, Miriam. However, about a week after my due date my waters broke and I started contractions with her. While they were hard and regular enough to stop me sleeping for a couple of days, they did not do the job of getting me properly into labour. I ended up going into hospital and being induced with a syntocinon drip, a fetal heart monitor attached to her scalp, in a tiny room where the monitor kept going on the blink and the doctors were in two minds as to whether to do a Caesar as her heart beat did not recover so quickly from all the contractions. In retrospect I now believe that I could not get myself into labour because I had three miscarriages before conceiving Miriam, and I was so anxious that things would all go pear-shaped at the last minute - the chance of a live baby was just pushing my luck!

Twenty months later I was hoping all would go well for a homebirth with our second child. A week after my due date, and after having a few contractions in the preceding nights, I seemed to be getting them a little more regularly. However they were not that strong so I headed into town with Miriam for a morning at the library. I remember getting tearful on my way home as the contractions were stronger - by 1.30 I'd called my husband as they seemed 10 minutes apart and I needed to plan who would care for Miriam and I wanted his emotional support.

We called the midwife who came at 5pm. My contractions faded away just about as soon as she walked in the house. They picked up a bit when she left but were really fading when I got into a bedtime routine with Miriam and a friend called round with some shopping. I was resigned to a longer wait for this baby and felt quite frustrated. We sent text messages to family in New Zealand to say everything had gone quiet and I headed to bed. Sure enough, this was enough to get me going again and by 11pm the midwife was back. The contractions were only lasting 20 seconds or so, although they were only 3 - 5 minutes apart. The midwife, Sandy, kindly left to collect a tens machine for me, thinking that her absence might help me to get more into labour. Her shift was due to finish around midnight but she stayed around for an hour - unsure about whether to call out the next on duty. Fortunately she did, as Trish did not know she was on call. Sandy checked to see how dilated I was - to help them to make up their minds - and I was 5 cms by that stage, so Trish came out. I asked Sandy when she thought I would give birth and she predicted 3.40 am which surprised me - I thought it would be later.

The contractions were pretty uncomfortable and I began by walking around with them but then just settled down to sitting round the dining room table with Trish and my husband, abandoning the tens machine and taking great swigs of entonox as the contractions came on. Around 3am I thought that it might be a good idea to empty my bladder and headed off to our very small downstairs bathroom, with Trisha and the entonox in tow. Once Trish saw the size of the loo she suggested it was not a good place to go into and we came out. I could always use a bucket! I don't remember the contractions getting a lot stronger or entering a transition phase, but do remember feeling a little like an urge to push. So we went into the living room and I knelt in front of the sofa, resting on my arms. I had a "show" and decided to ditch my pants.

Trish called the second midwife and seemed to be getting quite businesslike in her preparations. Again, I thought she was really quite ahead of herself, but I only seemed to have about five more contractions and these really pushed the baby out. My waters broke as she came. I had read another woman's story where she had written that she had done no pushing consciously herself, but her body did it. And I just let my body do the work this time too, letting out deep grunts that I was aware could be quite disturbing but just came naturally. I might have pushed a little at the crowning stage, but wanted to avoid tearing if possible.

The second midwife arrived at 3.35am and the baby arrived at 3.38. Sandy's prediction was spookily close! The midwife cut the cord as it was wrapped tightly round the baby's neck and then the baby was handed to me, crying, and looking so small. I asked what sex it was and was told to look as they said they had not seen. A little girl - Zoe.

Zoe took quite a while before she would suckle and the afterbirth took about 40 minutes to come out. I then needed some stitches, but recovered very quickly and two week later my perineum feels pretty much like its old self. We were all quite cramped in the front room - two midwives, Pete and me and the baby. Pete said the place looked like an abattoir, but it felt pretty cosy to me as I cuddled Zoe - and the midwives did a great job of clearing everything away, once we had all had a very good look at the afterbirth! We had cups of tea and a plate of biscuits. Pete took some photos and the midwives left. I had a bath and then phoned my parents around 6am. Miriam then woke up and found her sister lying in our chest of drawers. "A baby" she said, with a smile, and life carried on!

It was wonderful to have Zoe at home. I felt very relaxed and knew Miriam was safe asleep upstairs. Any vague concerns about wanting the safety net of a hospital just did not cross my mind once I was into labour as it all seemed so natural. It seemed like we were having a late night chat with Trish and then this miraculous event took place. I had the internal exam to see whether we should call Trish, but apart from that and a couple of checks on the baby's heart beat, it was a completely hands-off approach by the midwives.

I was struck with how my contractions faded away so easily when the midwife arrived or the phone rang. I look back at Miriam's birth and feel fairly sure that if I had not been so concerned about her safety at birth, and if I had believed in my ability to give birth, then my contractions would have taken me properly into labour. If it happened to me again - and we are not planning any more children, then as soon as my contractions started I would probably head into a darkened room with a request for no interruptions until I shout out for the gas and air.


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