I didn't orginally plan a homebirth. This was my second child and I assumed home birth was a choice for the natural earth mother type rather than your average bring-on-the-drugs kind of girl.
My first birth was pretty horrendous: involving a major panic attack, an argument with one of the midwives during second stage, a seven hour second stage...all this helped along with gas and air for 14 hours, a couple of shots of pethidine and an epidural, episiotomy and ventouse at the end for delivery!
In fairness, the reason the first birth descended into such a farce was because I had tokophobia (phobia of pregnancy and birth) and the 3rd shift of midwives didn't read my birth plan and weren't aware of it. I won't run through the story here as we'd never get on to the good bits (the second birth) but thought it was important to set the scene.
I will focus a lot on the build-up to the birth as I think this will be most beneficial for anyone caught up in a similar situation.
Before I fell pregnant with Jack I came across the Natal Hypnotherapy website with loads of testimonials about how the hypnosis cds enhanced the birth experience for women. I devoured these and slowly became confident that I could give birth and that it wouldn't be a horrific, invasive experience. (I'll mention at this point that there was a section on home births but I never once looked at them, wasn't even curious).
I started listening to the hypnosis CD at around week 26 and after a few weeks felt so relaxed about giving birth that I decided to look into having a home birth. My midwife was positive and thought that it would be a great option for me and, after researching every aspect of what could possibly go wrong, I made the decision that home would be where I would be happiest. Once I had made this decision it was like a huge weight that I hadn't even been aware of was lifted.
However, it was around about this time that things started to go wrong! One of the midwives on the team noticed that I might have had a pph (postpartum haemorrhage) in the first delivery. She decided to get the notes from my previous hospital before a decision could be made on a possible home birth. I knew I had lost some blood during Sam's birth and had been given iron tablets (which I didn't take).
Whilst we were waiting for the notes to come through I started to research everything I could on the subject – starting off with this website. A week later my midwife Diana, rang me to tell me I "couldn't have a homebirth as I had lost a 1000 ml in my last delivery." I was quite relieved it was only a 1000 ml, I'd made the decision if it was up to a 1000 ml it didn't really count anyway as some countries in Europe only define a pph if it is over this figure. Backed up by the information on this website about nobody being able to stop you having a homebirth, I said to Diana that I still wanted to consider it. She was obviously quite shocked and told me that a woman could bleed to death in four minutes and that she wouldn't feel comfortable with it. I questioned her about the hospital notes: whether there was any information about whether it was affected by the episiotomy, ventouse etc and it then transpired that she had only received summary notes. I requested that she ask for the full notes to come through. She wasn't very happy but agreed (in fairness this was the only time that we disagreed and in all other respects she was a fabulous midwife).
While I was waiting for the second set of notes to come through I spent every evening searching the web for any information about pph, episiotomies, assisted deliveries etc and I spoke to various independent midwives.
A meeting was arranged for me to meet with the consultant at the hospital to discuss my home birth. I had planned to take an independent midwife and my husband with me but as it happened the meeting was arranged with only 2 hours' notice and I went alone (big mistake, actually going at all was ridiculous. One independent midwife had advised me not to see a consultant (what does he know about natural birth?) but to request to see a consultant midwife instead which would have made more sense).
The consultant was single-minded – a homebirth was a risky situation - and every fact and statistic I presented to him was dismissed out of hand. He told me any number of ways that I might go on to have another haemorrhage and when that didn't deter me he told me to think about my children. Finally when he was obviously losing patience with me he said that actually it wasn't the mothers he was so worried about, it was the babies. If I had a pph and there was a problem with the baby, then one or both of us would be compromised.
He severely dented my confidence in giving birth – at home or otherwise - and it took a lot to restore. I started listening to the hypnosis CDs twice a day to erase the negative and scary things he said and fortunately received some very positive support from one of the matrons at the hospital and then later on my doctor, who both supported my decision.
The week after seeing the consultant I decided to ring the hospital to inform the midwives that, even though my full notes hadn't come through, I wanted a homebirth and that I wanted them to deliver the home birth kit to me. I was 36 weeks pregnant and didn't want to risk going into labour and having to go to hospital purely because I hadn't made the decision.
They still tried to talk me out of it and to wait for my notes but I stayed resolute. I haven't mentioned at this stage either that during every conversation of homebirth the midwives reminded me that if there was another homebirth that night or if the hospital was busy that they might not be able to attend to me and that I would have to go to hospital. Having read this website and the AIMS site I sort of expected this, but had been more focussed on the pph situations and had ignored it.
Eventually a midwife came to deliver the homebirth kit. She went through everything with me and asked me to sign a document saying that I was aware of the situations where a midwife wouldn't be able to attend and that I would transfer to hospital. I signed but wasn't happy about it.
One thing that I think is important to mention here is that at no time did I mention my concern about this to any of the midwives. Although I was unhappy about it I felt very uncomfortable challenging them on it and didn't want to appear awkward or to compromise my relationship with them. I think it is quite natural to feel this.
When I woke the next morning I decided to complain about the document. My reasoning was that I might not like the situation and I might have to live with it, but I felt that my signature on that document indicated that it was ok when it wasn't. I felt that if things had to change, maybe not for me but for other women in the future, then women had to say well no, actually that isn't an acceptable service.
I rang the hospital and left messages but no one called me back. Eventually, getting fed up, I rang the Director of Midwifery Services and spoke to her secretary. She promised me a return phone call that day. Again nothing. I couldn't go to sleep that night without expressing my feelings so I wrote a letter and emailed it to both the director and her secretary.
I had a phone call in response the following morning. I was told that the document that I signed was an old one that shouldn't be in use any more and that no midwife should have told me that I would have to go to hospital if there was another home birth taking place at the same time or if the hospital was busy. She apologised profusely for all the confusion and explained that if I went into labour and was told there was no midwife available and asked if it was possible to attend hospital, all I had to say was no, I would rather remain at home and that I would like a midwife to attend and that would be fine.
My notes arrived from the hospital that morning too and I reviewed them over the phone with this matron, who felt that the pph was the result of the long second stage and supported my decision.
All this time I had a birthing pool reserved so I rang the company and asked them to despatch it asap!
After this everything went smoothly. My waters broke about 10pm 4 days after my due date. I rang the hospital and told them that my midwife was on call for me and they contacted her and she rang me back. Diana asked me to monitor the baby's movements for an hour and ring her back. She was happy that he was still moving so she suggested that I get some sleep and call her if I needed to.
By 1am I was starting to get contractions and by 2am I couldn't lie down through them so I got up and started to pace about. By 4am I was downstairs in the kitchen with my tens machine in place and at 5am I rang Diana asking her to come over. She arrived at 6am and we chatted for a while. The contractions were strong and occasionally they came back to back. At 7am Diana examined me and I was only 1cm dilated! I was horrified – we both thought I was further along than that. At that moment I really believed that I would have to transfer later, I couldn't believe that I was going to be able to handle it without pain relief. Diana was great and reassured me that the first 1cm is the most difficult.
We went downstairs to the dining room where the pool was set up. I had lavender oil burning and Ian was the DJ organising the music, although after a while all I wanted was the hypnotherapy music from Natal Hypnotherapy.
The CD helped immensely. Ian had a script of things to say, which was incredibly relaxing. Sometimes the contractions were so intense that I couldn't breathe and then Diana rubbed my shoulders, which was very comforting. My wrists hurt from leaning on the table – but like my labour with Sam I couldn't sit or lie down; I had to be standing.
I couldn't say when the 2nd midwife appeared. They both kept a very low profile, leaving me and Ian to get on with it.
Time passed really quickly and I was waiting for Diana to tell me when I could get into the pool. I remembered that if you get in before 5cm it can slow the labour down. I kept getting the occasional urge to push and remember thinking it was odd. When I said this to Diana she asked me if I wanted to get into the pool. I was reluctant to take my tens off so Ian suggested that I test the gas and air to make sure it worked before I got in, which I did.
The water was gorgeous and warm. The first contraction hurt, but then I had a puff of gas and air and that really took the edge off them. By now it was about 8.30. I remember telling Ian to ring my brother and tell him that I wouldn't be there to collect Sam (who I had dropped off the day before for a sleep over!).
It felt like I was in the water half an hour in total but Jack was actually born at 10.14am. Giving birth in water was the most amazing experience. He descended quite easily although I found it hard to push. I would have preferred to let my body do it by itself but Diana kept urging me to push. Finally after a really huge push he popped out and Diana pulled him out of the water. The cord was wrapped around his chest and neck and he was distressed and needed a little oxygen – once he had that he was fine.
I got out the water for the third stage – I was happy with that and it allowed the midwives to keep an eye on blood loss. It was tricky getting the placenta out and eventually after much tugging from Diana it came out (I found this more difficult than the birth, perhaps because I expected it to slither out of its own accord).
We sat around having tea and toast with our new son wrapped up on the sofa beside us.
It was the most amazing day. I had a perfect birth, minimal blood loss (about 300ml) and a beautiful new son. Not only that, I finally laid to rest the ghosts of my first birth that had haunted me and which no amount of counselling had allowed me to resolve.
The sense of achievement I felt at allowing my body to get on with what it is naturally programmed to do has to be the most empowering thing I have done. There were times when I was fighting for a homebirth when I considered giving up. It was such an incredibly emotionally draining time when all I wanted was to sit back, relax and prepare for birth without any hassle, but it was more than worth it.
Pain relief - what are your options at home?
Waterbirth at home
Independent Midwives - what they do, and where to find one.
Post-Partum Haemorrhage - what can be done if you bleed heavily at home?
What if your baby needs resuscitation at home?
Hypnotherapy for childbirth
Overdue - but still want a homebirth? When is 'postdates' risky?
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
Homebirth UK email group
Home Birth Stories
Home Birth Reference Page