Francis is my fifth child, and my second to be born at home, unassisted by medical staff or midwives. It took the births of my first three children (hospital and homebirth with midwives)to grow and learn that for me, the safest and best way to give birth is in the sanctity and privacy of my own home, in the presence of only my husband.
When my fourth child was born, we informed the local midwives 3 days after his birth, but encountered hostility and harassment, which overshadowed those precious early days. When expecting Francis, it was of paramount importance to me that I experience no stress whatsoever or worry before or after the birth, due to a lack of understanding of unassisted birth.
To achieve this, I felt we had to play the system´ just a little. Having moved back to our home area, I saw a very respectful, hands-off midwife five times during the pregnancy and we planned to call her immediately afterwards and claim a precipitous birth.
Francis´s birth was a real test of faith. I shudder to think what would have occurred if we´d allowed midwives or doctors to judge and assess this labour against their textbooks. I however, never stopped listening to my body and my baby. I guess my body just likes to do things differently.
The Birth Story, written a few days after his birth.
Well, where do I start? Labour didn't really have starting point as such. Looking back it's almost impossible to pinpoint. I suppose I should start on Tuesday 1st July when I had a show. I was 39 weeks pregnant and the two nights previous to this I'd had runs of pretty strong contractions that made me wonder, and on this morning I was quite surprised to find what appeared to be a complete jelly plug covered in bloody mucous.
I was excited and panicked a little as I was home alone with all four children and had the elder three to get off to school. I was sure that this meant things were going to happen very soon as I'd experienced in previous labours, so called my husband, Steve, back from work. Well, how wrong could I be.
I had contractions all day, irregularly, but they never got going and faded away by the evening. I was very disheartened that day and the next - Steve was using up his paternity leave and I felt under pressure to birth soon. Wednesday I had very few contractions at all, though continued to loose bloody mucous making it difficult to distract myself. We decided on Thursday that Steve should return to work and not waste any more leave.
Thursday I had contractions again all day and evening, never regular and varying in strength but they went away when I went to bed.
On Friday, things moved up another gear. Steve and I had a lot of rushing around to do, parcels to post and shopping in limited time and contractions became pretty darn uncomfortable. Very strong with a deep throbbing pressure inside at their height and an ache inside that didn't go away in between contractions. After the one I had in the post office I really did cross my legs and pray I was going to make it home! Tonight had to be the night I was certain.
No. By this stage sitting was uncomfortable because of the constant pressure inside and my back and hips were aching. However, the strong contractions were few and far between and still interspersed with much weaker ones. I finally went to bed, sure that I would be woken by things finally 'getting going' but it didn't happen. I slept the night through.
By Saturday morning I was feeling fairly miserable. Really wondering how much longer it could possibly be. I was on my own with all four children all morning and was so irritable, poor things. Contractions were occasionally intense, and I just sat back (even though sitting was uncomfortable- I wanted them to hurt!) shut my eyes and let the feelings wash over me thinking 'bring it on, bring it on!!' and breathed through them, savouring them.
I wanted my body to just get on with it but it wasn't happening. The good contractions were still very infrequent, and even those were totally bearable - I could easily talk through them if necessary. I thought about the TENS machine sitting in the cupboard, but the idea was laughable - I wanted MORE not less.
By lunchtime Steve was home, and my sister arrived to take the children out for the afternoon. I felt like such a fraud though - saying 'well yes, I'm sure things are happening, I am in labour' even though I could stand there quite happily and not let on to anyone that anything was happening if I didn't want to.
I then took the decision to do something I was pretty adamant I didn't want to do before for various reasons, and something I'd not attempted since my second child´s labour. I decided to check myself for dilation. Well, I checked and found a bag of bulging waters at my cervix about 5cm across! So things WERE happening and the bulging waters certainly explained the intense pressure. I felt encouraged by that but still a little worried by the slow pace. I went to bed and slept most of the afternoon.
That evening we got the children into bed and I sat down to watch television. Still having the odd very intense contraction. About 8.30pm I felt a really big one building thought 'uh-oh I need to move now!' stood up and felt a pop and my waters broke spectacularly everywhere. Gallons and gallons - made two lovely puddles on the carpet before Steve could get something under me. Panic ensued once again and we had a mad scramble to get the birth stuff ready because I must be just about to give birth now, right? Wrong once again.
I waited, and waited for some killer contractions to hit, but *nothing* was happening. Any contractions I did have were probably weaker than before. By midnight Steve and I had both had enough of sitting around waiting and decided to go to bed to get some sleep. I can't tell you how disheartening it was to have to move all my birthing nest back upstairs. I set it up on my side on the bed and slept on it just in case.
I managed to sleep through the night, but was partially woken several times by contractions (at last contractions that didn't go away even if I still could just sleep through them!) One woke me right up at about 5.30am and I couldn't get back to sleep.
I struggled at this point. Although not in great pain, I was jolly uncomfortable. I couldn't believe it was now Sunday and I was facing another day of uncertainty. Plus with waters gone the clock was now ticking. I worried about all sorts of things that could be causing the delay. In my heart, I knew the baby and I were fine but it was nevertheless a trying time.
About 8.30am I phoned my parents and asked if they'd take the older three children for a while, so off they went leaving Steve, Alfie and I at home together. I still felt like a fraud. I would never normally ask Mum and Dad to have them all at once as I know they find it hard work these days, so having called them I really felt under pressure to give birth and soon! Silly really. By mid-day nothing had changed. I was still getting the odd very strong contraction, but no pattern, nothing to get into.
Having held off for fear of introducing infection I decided to check myself once again. I scrubbed my hands for dear life, and then checked. What a difference to 24 hours before. I felt a large round furry baby's head with no discernible cervix present at all. I was fully dilated.
That was good news, but once again absolutely nothing seemed to be happening. The hours were ticking by, contractions seemed to have completely stopped now. I paced about upstairs, Steve hovering between myself and Alfie who was downstairs. I started to worry again, was the baby stuck? Presenting badly? I reminded myself that I hadn't felt any ears or noses or anything, just a large even round head so that probably wasn't the case. Steve started to get very edgy, and I told him that if nothing had happened by 3pm I would call the midwife to look at me. As soon as I said that I regretted it and as 2 pm approached I knew I'd be trying to delay my promise.
Finally I decided I would try to push without waiting for the urge and see what happened. When I finally had a decent contraction I gave a tentative push, and then a bit more and felt the faintest, faintest hint of a pushing sensation. I was filled with hope! However I just couldn't feel it with the following contractions at all. At last at about 2.20 I had a contraction, I pushed and the baby moved!! It was so weird to feel the head moving down, yet without any kind of all-consuming pushing sensation as I'd experienced before.
After that contraction I moved to all fours, Steve asked if he should call the midwife now, and I moaned back 'Just let me have the baby first!'. The next contraction came and I pushed the baby down a bit more and felt the head start to crown. Then finally at the very last moment my body 'got going' and uncontrollably expelled the baby. For a split second it really hurt, the only painful moment of the whole thing!
Steve said 'It's here!' and then "no - HE'S here' (I was a bit cross about that afterwards as I wanted to discover the sex). I looked down and saw a tiny scrunched up blue bundle lying face down away from me in a puddle of gloop - silent. I said 'Is he breathing?' and as soon as I said that he let out a loud cry. I was just overwhelmed with joy and relief that it was finally over and he was here safe and sound.
Steve helped me sit back, and put clean mats under us, I scooped up the baby and covered us with a towel whilst Steve went and phoned the midwife. She happened to be in the nearest village at the time and was with us within 10 minutes.
I have to say, I found it worked well having someone there afterwards. All I wanted to do was gaze at my incredible, beautiful new son, and not have to worry about the placenta, the bleeding, the cord etc. I was totally honest about the long labour and having very little warning of pushing. If I hadn't checked myself I'd have had no idea at all. The midwife was great and we tied the cord with the cord ties I'd made. She was only with us for about half an hour and that was it! We kept the placenta and Steve buried it in the garden the next day.
Baby was 7lb 10 oz. He was about a pound smaller than my last two babies. Perhaps that had something to do with the long labour and lack of an urge to push? The midwife's theory was that my uterus was worn out after 5 babies - I don't think I like that theory. We got there in the end in our own unique way!
We named our new son Francis Daniel the next day.
Note from Angela: There were quite a few similarities between Hannah's experience here, and my own when Lachlan, my fourth baby, was born - many false starts, labour never really became difficult, and I too pushed without any pushing urge, to move my baby down far enough for that "foetal ejection reflex" to kick in. It seemed a very nice way to labour, to me - I wonder if this is an experience which is more common in women who have large families?
Hannah's website has the birth stories of her first four children on it - one planned hospital birth, one transfer to hospital, one home birth with midwives in attendance, and Alfie's unattended home birth http://hannahshome.20m.com/index.html.
Hannah's thoughts about having transferred to hospital are on this website, along with the birth stories of Alfie and Sylvia.
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