A Father's View:

Monica's Homebirth

My name is Haydon; I am Wendy's husband and Monica's father.

photo of the Bambury family

Shortly after the birth of the second Baby Bambury, whose birth story is eagerly awaited!

Before Wendy conceived we occasionally had hypothetical discussions about my role at the birth - I had always wanted to be there whilst Wendy had mixed feelings. She did want me to be there to share in the experience, but she was a little worried that I might fuss and cause her extra stress that she could well do without!

When it was confirmed that Wendy was indeed pregnant I was overjoyed and I could hardly contain my excitement. Thankfully the pregnancy was uncomplicated and so we were both able to concentrate fully on our feelings about what might happen at the birth without the distraction of any physical worry.

Wendy decided very early on that she wanted to give birth at home. Her last experience of being in a hospital had been watching her father die of liver cancer less than 2 years previously and so quite apart from the lack of freedom and control she didn't want to be in a place with so many bad associations.

She wasn't anti pain-relief per se but had ambivalent feelings about Pethidine (Demerol) as her mother had a very hard time giving birth to her using that drug, and of course knew that being at home an epidural wouldn't be available.

It was at around this time that I started to realise how important it was for me to be supportive in all of Wendy's decisions, and to back her up wherever I could.

There was some (perhaps inevitable) resistance from the healthcare authorities regarding the idea of a home birth, particularly as it was Wendy's first pregnancy, but we were able to persuade them that we were determined and also that we weren't going to endanger either mother or child by refusing to go to hospital (which was after all literally just 5 minutes away) if things were amiss.

Wendy has asked me to stress that of 5 midwives that she saw during the course of the pregnancy 3 were very supportive of the home birth plan, one gave no real opinion either way and only one actually expressed reservations.

At 3.00am on Monday 12th January 1998 Wendy had very minor hind water leak. "Here we go!" I thought and called the midwife. She advised me to sit tight and wait for the contractions to start.

That was when nothing proceeded to happen for around 24 hours. We waited. Time passed. We went for a walk - still nothing. The people at the hospital started to apply the pressure for Wendy to go into hospital - after making sure with Wendy that she was fine and that she still wanted to stay at home, I fended them off!

Early in the morning of the 13th, the contractions finally started, but in a very low key way, and didn't seem to be increasing in frequency or intensity for hours.

At about 7 in the morning the midwife called to pass on the message that the obstetrician (a registrar) was now very unhappy about the risk of infection and wanted us to go in. I pointed out three things: 1) Only the hind-waters had broken, not the full shebang. 2) Which place was more risky in terms of infection - home where all the bugs and beasties are familiar or hospital where there could be just about anything? 3) We weren't going anywhere until something was actually wrong!

I think they got the message - that was the last time that anyone suggested to us that being at home was a bad idea. Without wishing to blow my own trumpet, I felt proud that I had been able to be instrumental in making sure that Wendy's wishes were carried out. I honestly believe that if Wendy had been on her own, she would have given in at that point, leading to a birth experience that she would have hated.

The registrar did put pressure on the attending midwife late in the afternoon of the 13th for us to go into hospital, but she fended him off for us without either of us having to get involved, although Wendy did hear the midwife's side of the telephone conversation and was upset by it.

For the next few hours there was nothing much to do. The contractions still didn't seem to be increasing much so we just waited. I erected the birthing pool and filled it, the midwife came round occaisionally to check on any progress, Wendy got bored and a bit irritable.

Finally, in the early afternoon, the midwife suggested that she could give things a bit of a jump start by breaking what remained of the waters (ARM - artificial rupture of membranes). Wendy agreed, and so it was done.

What a dramatic change of pace! Immediately things started to get serious. The contractions increased in intensity and for the first time Wendy was in pain. From here on my role changed - I was no longer the defender of rights; I spent all of my time concentrating on attending to Wendy's needs and wants, trying to help her to stay relaxed, supporting her through the more painful contractions.

Note: Wendy says that I understated the dramatic and extremely painful speeding up of the labour which occurred after her membranes were ruptured, and she would not recommend that anyone take this course of action.

Even now, we were in for quite a long haul. By early evening Wendy was getting extremely tired and was dismayed that on examining her the midwife found that she was still only 4-5 cm dilated. I did my best to keep her calm, telling her how wonderful she was doing, encouraging her to keep on breathing evenly - in truth I was full of admiration for how well she was coping with everything.

We periodically moved around the flat, from bedroom to bathroom to living room (where the birth pool was set up) - Wendy tried the water, but to my chagrin afterwards we found that I'd got the temperature too warm and she found it uncomfortable and disorientating - a slightly cooler bath was much better.

At 10.30pm Wendy said that she felt weird and started breathing very quickly through apparently the most painful contraction yet. For the first and only time Wendy snapped at me as I tried to get her to calm her breathing again - this (we soon realised) was transition.

The midwife examined Wendy again and told her that she was fully dilated and ready to give birth. It didn't sink in immediately - Wendy was understandably confused and had to be told again that she was ready and that she could get into the pool if she wanted. My heart started to beat a little faster...

There was still just under an hour left before Monica was born. Wendy was extremely grateful for the water - she found it very supportive, and I found that it helped me to support her too for much longer than I could have without it. I found myself feeling profoundly calm - it was almost a zen experience for me at this stage.

The closer that the contractions came to their climax the more determined I was to concentrate on Wendy: supporting, encouraging. The midwife was fantastic throughout, quietly and authoritatively making us both feel comfortable that everything was going fine, which was a great help.

Finally at 11.27pm, with what seemed like an incredible final effort (for which I will always have a deep, deep respect for Wendy and all women) Monica was born.

Joy unconfined. When Wendy brought her to the surface Monica didn't cry, she simply gazed at us, seemed to consider things, and then simply opened her mouth and started to breathe. I was given the opportunity to cut the cord and then I just held the pair of them, Wendy still sitting in the pool, Monica cradled against her shoulder.

The photographic evidence shows our Cheshire Cat grins - I honestly can't remember too much about the immediate aftermath apart from feeling inordinately proud that Monica scored 9/10 for looking healthy immediately after the birth and 10/10 two minutes later!

I do know that for the rest of the night, after a glass of champagne and saying goodbye and thanking the midwives, we gazed at what we had done, as she lay between us, gurgling and staring in apparent wonderment at the world. We must have slept at some point - I honestly can't remember. It was the happiest time of my life.

Now Wendy is pregnant again, due to give birth to what we both feel in our bones will be our first son in April 2000. He will be coming along a little (OK, a lot!) earlier than we had originally planned and a fair bit of the first half of this pregnancy has been taken up by Wendy fretting that it is too early and worrying about how to cope with the new baby and Monica's, shall we say, 'demanding' nature. For my own part, like last time I can't wait. I'm looking forward to that feeling of amazed awe as the new life that I helped to make stares back, unabashed, into my eyes.

Haydon Bambury
December 1999

Note from Angela: This story is particularly important to me as Wendy is one of my closest friends and I have known her and Haydon since we were at school together. Not only did we find out that we were pregnant for the first time in the same week, but Monica was actually born in the same birth pool as Lee! I'd had to hire it for a month, so when Lee was born on his due date I sent it over to Wendy...

Wendy and Haydon's second child was indeed a boy, Alex Frazer, and he was born two weeks early, at home, on 30 March 2000. The photo at the top of the page is of Wendy, Alex, Monica and Haydon, shortly after Alex's birth.

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