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George's homebirth, by Donna Freeman

George was born on Tuesday 18th April at 11.58 a.m. in a birthing pool at our home - it was the most amazing experience and one that fills me with joy every time I recall it.

My first child, Lewis (now 3) was born in hospital. I had in mind as natural a birth as possible, preferably a water birth, and certainly one that didn't involve laying on my back in a bed. When I arrived at the delivery ward I told this to the midwife and she replied "We'll see what happens". It was at that point I knew that I was in their hands.

I was left to my own devices with the gas and air and, as I clearly took too much, the whole birthing experience was fuzzy for me. Because of this, and the speed at which Lewis was born, I ended up on a bed with my legs up in stirrups. I remember being really sad that this was happening. Also, having just given birth naturally using only gas and air - because of the shock at the speed of it all - I ended up having to have a general anaesthetic to have some stitches put in because I was shaking so much. It wasn't a pleasant time.

So, having had that experience with Lewis, I was determined that my second birth would be different; and my goodness, how different it was!

From the very beginning, I opted for 'midwife-led' care, rather than consultant care at the hospital. This meant that the only reason I went to the hospital was for my scans. I saw the same midwife all the way through my pregnancy - although she wasn't yet qualified for home water births. When the time came I had an experienced water birthing midwife who I had met prior to the birth and she was brilliant.

There was some concern towards the end of my pregnancy that George was going to be a big baby and whether or not that would affect my having a home birth. I insisted that it didn't matter how big George was, the fact was that he was coming out and I wanted to do it at home. It takes a second birth to make you realise that you do actually have choices and I'm a firm believer that everything you learn at your first birth prepares you better for your second. First time round, you just go along with the professionals' advice because you assume it's for the best, but often it's not necessarily the best, it's the safest for the medical staff and that's not always right for you!

George was actually overdue and so on Monday morning my midwife came and gave me a 'sweep' to see if that would get things started. In anticipation of something happening, on the Monday night my husband and I pre-filled the birthing pool which had been sitting in our lounge for two weeks and waited ...

My contractions started at 1.00 on the Tuesday morning. As my first birth was so rapid (only 6 hours from start to finish) I was expecting that little George would come into the world in the early hours of the morning. This concerned me a little as Lewis was in bed and we had no plans for what would happen if George was born that early in the day. I phoned my best friend, Sally, and she came over to stay with us and to help out with Lewis. However, George wasn't rushing anywhere! At 7.30 Sally took Lewis off to nursery for the day, so we knew he would be safely looked after whilst I gave birth at home and then she came back to be there for the birth.

My contractions went on, and on, and on and then at about 9.00 stopped completely. This threw me as I hadn't read anything about this along the way. I phoned my midwife and she said this was completely normal and not to worry. The contractions re-started at about 9.45 and from then on got progressively stronger. My midwife was actually on her day off that day but said she'd check in on me at about 11.00, just to see how I was doing. She came and checked me over, checked the birthing pool was okay and was then planning to go shopping. As she left to go to her car, my waters broke - so she said she may as well stay!

My contractions got stronger and at about 11.30 I got into the birthing pool. By this time the second midwife had arrived. They really looked after me and didn't intervene unnecessarily at all. They were so calm and professional - I felt completely safe. I clearly remember George being born. He came into the world at 11.58 on Tuesday 18 April weighing 8lbs 12oz. I had only taken a tiny bit of gas and air and was completely lucid the whole time. I was leaning over the side of the birthing pool, holding my husband's hand as I pushed little George into the world. (Sally said I should consider a profession as a 'ghost voice' as I was making lots of 'ooooh, oooh' noises!) It was amazing. I felt like I was there, doing it, giving birth myself. With Lewis I had so much gas and air it was a bit like an out-of-body experience, so to be so 'present' with George was just wonderful. Yes, it hurt, but not a terrible pain, just a transient childbirth pain.

I saw George as he came to the top of the water; he was so very peaceful. I cut the umbilical cord myself (husband too squeamish!) and then let George suckle whilst I sat in the water. I then handed him to my husband - he was 15 minutes old at the time. Kenneth was so overwhelmed with emotion. I've got a beautiful picture of him and George with a clock in the background (quite by chance) and he looks stunned! Everyone was so emotional - it really was a wonderful experience, one I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone having a baby. I look back at my two births with real regrets about the first one. I wonder how the same experience can be so very different. If I ever have another child, I'll be doing right at home.

By the time Lewis came home from nursery later that day all birthing equipment had been cleared away - the midwives did that - and there was no evidence of me giving birth at home at all. Apart from a little baby in the corner. Lewis didn't even realise George was in his Moses basket, until George made a little noise. Then he rushed over to the basket and peeped his head over the side and just looked amazed at this new little thing in our house - it was a really lovely moment.

So that's my story. I'm glad I got to have the birth I wanted. It's an experience I will treasure for all of my life. I'm immensely proud of myself that I stood up for what I wanted and created a situation that led to a 'perfect' birth. I'd do it all again tomorrow, just to live through it again.

Donna Freeman

Related pages:

Home Birth Stories

Siblings at a home birth - what to do with your older children? Should they be present?

Pain relief - what are your options at home?

Waterbirth at home

Fast Labours - is quicker always better? What do you do if your baby is arriving faster than your midwife?

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