My first birth was four years ago and, although it was very straightforward, it resulted in my son being in hospital for two weeks. He had a bowel disorder that had to be operated on at eight weeks. It had been a very traumatic time for me and I was determined that my second birth would be different.
From 20 weeks of pregnancy I planned to have a home birth, and once this decision was made I felt very excited and positive about the pending event! I primarily made this decision because of my dislike of hospitals, but also for a whole host of other reasons. I felt that I would be much more relaxed at home and this would lead to an easier labour and birth. I also couldn't bear the thought of my husband having to leave the baby and me alone in the hospital- this seemed so unfair on him and not ideal for me either! My husband realised how important this decision was to me and was behind me 100%.
My midwife was very supportive and seemed to be pleased that I'd be having my baby at home. She did outline a whole list of possible reasons why I might have to be transferred to hospital but I decided to worry about these things if they occurred. She also spoke about what the midwives would 'allow' me to do, which I found a little annoying. It felt as if they were making some concession for me rather than my fulfilling my right to the birth I chose.
Four days before my due date, I had a show and was very excited as I took this as a sign that the baby would arrive the next day (as had happened with my son). I informed my husband that he should stay home from work as the baby was coming (despite the absence of any contractions!) All night I paced up and down willing something to happen but not a sign!
At 5am on the 17th July I suggested to my husband that we should do something to kick-start the labour and he rather half-heartedly tweaked my nipples. Within 30 seconds my contractions had started and they continued every three minutes!
I then began to frantically clean the house- scrubbing floors, cleaning out cupboards and generally nesting. By 7:30 am we decided it was time for my son to be shipped off to a friend's house. He went willingly, although he did comment that he wasn't ready for the baby to be born that day! We called the midwife at 8 o'clock and by 8:30 she had arrived with what looked like the contents of a doctors surgery. She examined me, pronounced me well on my way and summoned the help of midwife number two. By this time I was bouncing up and down on my birthing ball and beginning to feel quite uncomfortable. Midwife number two asked me if I'd like a massage and proceeded to massage my back with essential oils. It was fantastic - so relaxing and it really helped with the pain. The midwives took a very low-key role in the proceedings. They sat and chatted to us and really put me at ease. They were both very experienced and were obviously delighted to be delivering a baby. They were also extremely encouraging and positive, telling me numerous times how well I was coping and that it wouldn't be long.
At 10:30am my waters broke naturally and I moved onto the bed. I kept remembering my antenatal classes and thinking I should be in a less conventional position, but my body was telling me to lie down so that's what I did! By 10:40 I was getting the urge to push and my midwives instructed me to listen to them and do what they said. They told me they were too old to do stitches so they'd make sure I didn't tear! I completely trusted them, and when Betty Alice was born at 10:48am I was overjoyed. She weighed a healthy 7lbs 12oz (spot-on guess from midwife one), and she was beautiful.
After cleaning up (although there was very little mess), running me a bath, making a cup of tea and sharing a glass of champagne, the midwives left my husband and I to enjoy our new addition. I was overwhelmed by my fantastic birth experience. I couldn't have wished for better support from the midwives and my wonderful husband. It had all felt so natural and perfect. There was no point when I felt scared as I knew I was being looked after by experienced professionals who had my best interests at heart.
The whole experience was a world away from my previous hospital birth and I would recommend it to anyone. As we were sat there in bed with our hour-old baby in my arms breastfeeding happily, we knew we'd made the right decision in staying at home. When my son met his new sister, she was in our home where she belonged and I was where he'd left me. The birth was just a natural part of our everyday life and not a big trauma and upheaval.
I had never been overdue. In fact my previous two babies both arrived three days early so I was fairly confident about when number three would turn up
At three days overdue I was slightly annoyed. At six days overdue I was thoroughly fed up! The midwife had been around and given me a sweep two days previously (not my idea of fun); this had produced a lot of show but not much else. I was beginning to worry about the pressure to be induced and envisaging my home birth slipping away from me.
At 7:30 on Wednesday night I had my first contraction. I was shocked by how painful it was. With my previous two births the contractions had been fairly mild till the last minute but this time they were very uncomfortable from the start. I began to get excited thinking that this could be the night and debating whether to put the TENS machine on. I had about half an hour's worth of regular contractions before it died off. My very sensible husband suggested we get good night's sleep and that maybe it'd happen tomorrow so I reluctantly went to bed. During the night I woke up three times with painful contractions but quickly went back to sleep. I got up the next morning feeling very disheartened.
Despite a few continuing contractions we decided Stuart should go to work that morning. It didn't seem like much was happening and I didn't want to be sat around waiting. I carried on with the normal routine of taking Owen to school and went for a walk with my friend Lara in an attempt to intensify the pains I was having. By lunch time I'd got to the stage where I had a pain every time I stood up. This was frustrating as I was torn between walking around to bring it on, or sitting down and resting as I was in charge of a small child.
At 2 o'clock my husband rang to see how I was doing. I told him I was fine and that things were much the same. Ten minutes later I rang back and asked him to come home. It wasn't because it was too painful, but I didn't feel like I'd be able to walk to school and fetch Owen without doubling over!
Stuart got home at 2:30 and helped me put the TENS machine on before going to get Owen. We'd already arranged for the children to go to my sister's house overnight and when she picked them up at 4:30 the contractions were every five minutes. I talked to her whilst I was having a contraction and she told me to think positive and enjoy the gaps between contractions. This really helped me focus throughout the labour.
Things seemed to speed up from this point. I spent the time pacing around the house or leaning over the bed. I bounced on my exercise ball a bit and felt I was managing quite well. Stuart kept suggesting we ring the midwives but I felt we should hold off. At six I suddenly changed my mind and Stuart made the call.
The first midwife arrived at half six. She seemed very positive and encouraging. She examined me and said I was 5-6 cms dilated. She felt that the baby's arrival wasn't too far off so she rang the second midwife and told her to set off from home. For the second midwife it was her first night on call. She was pregnant herself and seemed very calm and unobtrusive.
The next hour or so was spent with me breathing through contractions whilst the midwives wrote notes, listened to the baby's heart rate and chatted. Midwife number one gave us a leaflet on 'your emotions after childbirth' to read, which I found very strange! She later laughed at us for actually reading it during labour. At one point they both went and sat downstairs whilst Stuart and I stayed in the bedroom. At this point I remember sobbing quietly whilst he cuddled me. The contractions were very intense but the breaks in between were lovely! They were still only coming every five minutes but they were getting stronger all the time. My TENS machine worked brilliantly - especially the boost button!
At about 7:45 I began to feel like the baby should soon be born. Everything hurt so much and I also felt sick. It seemed like it'd never be over. The first midwife kept encouraging me to stand up, but every time I tried it was agony. In the end she was so insistent that I gave in. As I stood up my waters broke all over her feet! I immediately sat down again.
Once the waters had gone I began to get an urge to push. I climbed onto the bed and began pushing at 8:13pm. At this stage the contractions felt like they were tearing me apart and I had agonising pains in my sides. It was like nothing I'd ever felt before. As I pushed I grabbed hold of Stuart's hair and tugged hard- he informs me that it was very painful! Thankfully I only had to push twice before the baby's head was out, I looked down and saw a crumpled little face looking up at me! The baby had twisted at the last minute and been born facing the side instead of downwards. I was reassured to hear a loud and angry cry even before the baby was fully born. I had to push the shoulders out, which was also a new experience for me - on my previous labours they'd just slipped out.
Note from Angela:
Usually, the baby's head is born facing towards your bottom. As soon as the head is out, the baby wriggles itself round so that she is facing your thigh - most commonly the left thigh if baby is left to do this on its own. This is called 'restitution' - see Wikipedia's childbirth entry for more detail. In this position, the baby can wriggle its shoulders one by one through your pelvis. Maybe what happened here is that Deborah's baby wriggled round very quickly, before she had a chance to look! Alternatively, some babies are born 'persistent occiput posterior'or POP - otherwise known as 'face-to-pubes', and actually emerge facing upwards. Any thoughts, Deborah?
Here are a couple of animations showing how the baby restitutes:
YouTube How The Body Works - childbirth animation
YouTube 3D childbirth animation
My baby was born at 8:16pm and was delivered onto my tummy. I couldn't reach the baby because the cord was very short but once the cord was cut and the placenta delivered (aided by syntometrine injection) I got a cuddle.
Stuart and I gazed at the little face for a couple of minutes before the midwife said, Do you know what you've got?’ We'd forgotten to look! I hadn't noticed anything between the legs when I'd glanced down so I wasn't surprised when we discovered we'd had a beautiful little girl. We were so delighted- just what we'd wanted! We also discovered quite a big purple coloured mark on her right knee- the midwives assured us it was just a birth mark.
I put little Esther Rose to the breast straight away and she looked at me as if to say 'What do you expect me to do with that?!' She just licked it a bit before falling asleep. The midwives weighed her and pronounced her to be 7lbs 9oz.
Esther had her first feed about an hour after she was born. I was amazed once more by a baby's instinct to suck and how much I wanted to nurture and care for this little scrap of a person. When the midwives left at 9:30pm (after champagne and congratulations) Stuart and I sat and baby worshipped.
What an incredible experience! Another wonderful home birth. It was more painful than the last but just as breath-taking. I felt good - no tears, no stitches and lying peacefully in my own bed. We'd been blessed with a real beauty. A dark haired girl who looked so different to her brother and sister. We sat and gazed at her and fell in love.
Esther Rose Faulkner
16th June 2005. 8:16pm
Home Birth Stories
Siblings at a home birth - what to do with your older children? Should they be present?
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
Overdue - but still want a homebirth? When is 'postdates' risky?
Home Birth Reference Page