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Gabriel's Birth Story, by Fiona Keithley

Well, finally, just before his first birthday, we complete the story of his wonderful arrival into the world...this is how all homebirths should be..

Gabriel 's birth story (26th Feb 2006)

After the fight we had to have our first child, Sebastian, at home, we thought we would have to go through the same the same rigmorale all over again. However, nothing could have be further from the truth! After "booking in" at 12 weeks with our chosen obstetrics clinic we heard nothing from our local midwives until 28 weeks when they called asking me to come for my check up. Oh, "and they had something to ask me"...We both thought, here we go again, roll out the excuses. Sorry, you're too old for a home birth", "Sorry, you're STREP B positive.." yeah, all the ones we had last time...

The day of the checkup arrived, and to our surprise, they were as nice as pie. What was the thing you wanted to ask? Oh, yes! "Would I consider being cared for by a consultant midwife who wanted cases she could follow through from start to end?" This would mean the midwife would cover both my antenatal and postnatal care and be there at birth. This sounded like heaven to us, but I think they were quietly pleased when I said yes meaning I was no longer their responsibility...

At 34 weeks I got a phone call from the consultant midwife, Fiona. "Could she meet for a chat?" She suggested she came to me as it would be easier for me and Sebastian who was only 15 months at the time.

Fiona was superb, a complete supporter of home births, had previously worked for another health authority where she had attended, wait for it...over three hundred home-births.....

She explained that her and her colleague (who was a lecturer in midwifery, but previous to this had been a independent midwife and liked to keep her hand in) had been given the go-ahead to support mothers wishing to have home births in my local area.

What a difference from the last time! No arguments, no trying to dissuade us, no negative 'sales pitch'! Right from the beginning she made us both feel confident with our decision. Every checkup was done in our own home and on one occasion she brought both her colleague and a student who would be in attendance at the main event. Was this more expensive we asked? No, was the answer, giving birth at home, despite the one-to-one cover is no more expensive than a hospital birth and frees up a bed for cases with greater need.

What amazed us was the gentle questioning about my previous experience having Sebastian. How long was I on the bed? How long in the bath? Was it comfortable, too warm? How did I feel about the gas and air? Little did we realize this quiet questioning was all about building up a store of experience that she was able to draw upon during the birth. At each stage Fiona was able to gauge my progress and how we were handling things.

Everything was in place at 37 weeks, instead of the normal 38 weeks (in Fiona's area), we all had a gut feeling that Gabriel was running to his own schedule. Anyway, it was "no problem" but she said all she actually needed was in her small blue bag and not to worry all would be OK; this type of confidence is contagious.

Note from Angela: Most health authorities support homebirth from 37 weeks onwards, which is the standard definition of full-term. However, a few have more restrictive policies and advise hospital birth before 38 weeks. Regardless of the policy, it's still your decision - see Homebirth before 38 weeks for more.

That last week I tried to stay active, mostly painting ceilings and walls in the new extension. On the Thursday of that week, after the delivery of the bits 'n' bobs, I was planning on going swimming with Sebastian in the morning. But... when I popped to the loo, just before we left the house, there was a show, so no swimming for us! Fiona arrived for the planned visit, and checked me over, nothing obvious was happening and blood pressure was fine. She said not to worry and she reminded us she was off to visit friends on Sunday, but would carry her mobile, just in case.

I continued to paint on Saturday, determined to get the last of walls done. I must have been painting for a couple hours; I felt fine. Then, about 4.00am on the Sunday morning I woke to a wet bed. I seriously thought I had wet myself, thankfully no, my waters had broken. But, I felt no pain, had no contractions. I lay quietly in bed wondering when it would all start! About 5:00am they slowly began. Andrew thought he best assemble the cot-bed; we had been avoiding this so as not to confuse or upset Sebastian. I rang Fiona at 06.30am, not too early I hoped, to let her know what was happening. She said she would see me soon. The contractions were mild, I was coping well, no hurry, take your time, was my brave reply. At about 7.30am we rang our good friends, who had offered to have Sebastian when things "took off". We got Sebastian up and dressed and said he was off to see his best mate Sam, we told him would pick him up later. At about 8.30 Fiona arrived, her colleague as yet didn't know the situation, but that was OK as it was still early days.

The contractions slowly gained in strength. I did all the usual stuff, walked around quite a bit, had my back rubbed. Then, at about 10:00am Fiona decided it was time to contact her colleague. Unfortunately, she got no answer, but said she would keep trying, not to worry things were progressing well.

About 10:45 we decided it was time to hit the bath to ease the pains; things were getting a bit "nippy" now. Andrew held my hand as each one hit me - I could feel Gabriel trying to work his way out!!

Fiona tried again to contact her colleague, again no answer, I can't say I noticed at this point, the contractions hit a different level. I was expecting to be moved to the bed, just like last time, but no, if I was comfortable, then I could stay put. We used a towel as pillow and kept the water topped up. Andrew held on, compressed hand or not!

I was still expecting to move onto the bed, and I seemed to have a better grasp of events than last time, then unexpectedly the big push came, then another, a couple more, then his head was out. Fiona held his head down in the water so he didn't need to breathe; this way his reactions would be fooled into thinking he was still "inside". Finally, the big one big one and out he came. Our angel Gabriel had arrived at 1.09pm and landed on my chest, still in the bath - thank goodness it's a good size. We phoned our friends and his new big brother to let them know straight away. Gabriel and I stayed in the bath to await the placenta; we had a feed and cuddle.

As with Sebastian the placenta took well over an hour. Finally it came out after I was encouraged to stand up and try a soothing shower; you can't beat gravity. Finally, we moved to the bedroom and Andrew pulled the plug on the bath, no mess, no stress; it all went down the plug hole...much better than last time when he ran around trying to clean up the bed for me to get comfortable in.

In the end, Fiona was right, all she needed was her bag, a pair of gloves and some scissors, that was it, not even an aspirin!

Gabriel was weighed on the kitchen scales; in the grand plan Fiona's colleague was to have brought the proper ones with her from the office. As it turned out her mobile phone had failed that morning, she had missed all the fun. Only days later did we realize how inaccurate our kitchen scales were, but who cares when you're holding a beautiful baby boy.

The whole experience had been unbelievable thanks to Fiona... she led me through it. Keeping me in the bath as that's where I was comfortable... I'm so glad she did..

At about 4.30 we went round to collect Sebastian from our friends who greeted us with a glass of bubbly; what a day!

I only wish that there were more midwives like Fiona around. She oozed confidence and had the ability to match.

Fiona Keithley

Related pages:

Sebastian's birth story - Fiona's first baby.

Home Birth Stories

Older Mothers and homebirth

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?

Waterbirth at home

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