The 40 weeks leading up to Oliver's birth were all pretty stress-free and easy to cope with. No sickness, no massive bump and no swollen ankles! Just a crotchety woman who wanted a few pints!
I tried to swim regularly, attending a yoga class towards the end of the pregnancy and then just walked and walked and walked….. maternity leave was quite boring!
The due date was set for 14 February... that date came and went, although I wasn't at all surprised. He was having a great time in there!
Friday 17 February, at about 10pm we decided it was time to go to bed. The usual routine, brushing teeth and a short conversation agreeing that we would make the most of our Saturday morning lie in tomorrow incase it was our last one! We certainly got that right!
Within minutes of saying this, my waters started to leak. Not a gush like I had imagined, but a small trickle. I wondered if that infact my pelvic floor had given away and I was wetting myself, but no, I quickly established that this was not wee, but must be amniotic fluid!
So, we went to bed (me with a towel underneath) but I didn't feel at all comfortable. Every time I got up to go to the toilet, more water would come out . and then the contractions started. I got back into bed, excitedly told David who I think told me, to go to sleep for a bit. Yeah right! I was expecting the contractions to go away, but they didn't and they arrived on time every 3 minutes. Every 3 minutes wow’ I thought. We'll have a baby by the morning’ I innocently thought. A feeling of excitement rippled through me. I nudged David to tell him that they were regular, lasting about 1 minute and could he put the TENS machine one me, which he did. I was far too excited to go back to sleep and kind of insisted that we should call the midwife. I believed that because my contractions were only 3 minutes apart, birth wasn't a million miles away.
We called the telephone number provided and Sam, bless her, was called out having just got into her pyjamas and into bed with herself. Well, it was midnight on a Friday night. She came out and was really supportive. I remember when each contraction started I would concentrate on my breathing and then giggle after, amazed at how one minute you can be in one world managing a contraction and then before you know it, you're back to your old self again! Amazing! We put one of the CDs we had chosen on and before Sam left, about an hour later, she examined me. I was just 1cm dilated... so maybe not a baby by the morning.
Sam's advice was to go back to bed, take a paracetamol and call again in the morning. So, we went back to bed, David to sleep but I was far too excited for sleep. Besides I couldn't get comfortable and I kept on leaking. The contractions were easily handled (at this point). So, whilst D slept, I sat on the toilet. Hour after hour, after hour . it felt really safe there and was a comfortable position too. Come the morning we called the midwife out at about 9.30am. Larissa came along and by this stage we had moved
downstairs to the middle room this was going to be the action room where we wanted our baby to be born. We'd even put up blacked out polythene at the windows and moved the dining room table out to mark the occasion. After an examination Larissa informed me that I was about 4 cms dilated is that all’. So, by around lunchtime we'll have our baby then?
By this time, I was finding that each time I had a contraction I was having to turn the TENS machine up a bit more far more than I had done during the practice run. Contractions were not much faster, but much more intense now.
All the things I thought I would want during my labour, such as lots of massaging, stroking, talking etc was the last thing I wanted. I really just wanted to focus on what was happening to my body and if anybody talked too much an evil eye was cast.
It was around about mid-morning that I needed a bit more analgesic help. So I started on the old entonox. I can't really say whether it help with the pain’ but was a very welcome distraction and helped focus me on my breathing. With every contraction David held the mouthpiece to my mouth and I'd take a big breath of it in. And so it went on...
I remember glancing at the clock periodically hours just seemed to tick by with nothing else much happening. Tried eating funnily enough, no appetite but drank plenty of water. At this point I had totally stripped off too it just felt right’ this way. After another examination it was established that I was still at 4cms. I was absolutely gutted at this point, feeling rather tired and just wanted the birth bit to happen. When asked when was the last time you had a wee’ I realised that it must have been hours ago. So with some help from D I went to the bathroom and tried to wee. I was told that I would probably have to turn the TENS machine off for this, which I did, but very quickly turned it back on again as soon as I felt a contraction starting. I was terrified about turning it off, as it seemed to be helping me so much.
David put a lot of effort into encouraging urination, but unfortunately none happened. In the end, it took a catheter and half a litre of urine later...my labour started to progress again.
I do remember feeling really tired at this point and my throat felt disgusting from the gas and air. But the rhythm of breathing the entonox in and out helped me to remain focused.
Talking of entonox, reinforcement supplies then arrived with the 2nd midwife, Nicola.
A couple of times the midwives asked me if I felt like pushing yet. Well, at this tage I wasn't quite sure and then wondered if I did or not? But no, I was sure I didn't want to push.
It was probably around this time, after a bit of a desperate moment I asked David to please help me’. I was struggling with some negative thoughts and was really worried that they would want to transfer me.
I don't know how or why this happened in the end, but I decided that I really wanted to be in the bathroom. So we had to up sticks and transfer everything upstairs. This is where I remained from about 4pm onwards.
Not long after this I started to experience what it was like to want to push. Very hard to explain to somebody but I remember my whole body just changing and becoming very animal-like. The power of each contraction was just incredible throughout my torso and I remember animal like noises coming from my mouth.
At last, I thought, this was the end and any minute now a baby would appear. But oh no, a further 2 hours of this endured. I could feel myself getting weaker and weaker. At the this point my contractions I could feel were started to dry up. They were dropping to every 5 minutes and the intensity had dropped considerably. All I could think about was how the hell are they going to get me in am ambulance’. I was on all fours leaning over the birthing ball and could not imagine how on earth I would get down the stairs like this!
With every push I did, I couldn't seem to feel like I was getting any closer. Then finally, the crowning. Probaby the most painful experience of it all. Not quite how friends had described it to me, but slashed skin with lashings of lemon juice came to mind. At this point the midwife said I could feel the head I just didn't feel like I wanted to.
I was really surprised that how much I actually had to push with all my might. Which was good with a contraction but nothing achieved without.
I could feel that the baby's head was sticking out and David said he could see it too. But still, my contractions weren't strong enough to help me push. Poor baby was stuck there with its head half out!
Finally at 18.04, Oliver eventually completely slid out. Halleloujah! Weighing in at 8lbs and healthy in every way. Perfect in evey way just a very bruised looking nose and a Vulcan shaped head. A testimony to the long labour.
We decided not to cut the cord for sometime, about 20 minutes in all. We had managed to transfer ourselves to the bedroom where I decided that I no longer wanted to continue with contractions for the 3rd stage, just give me the drug and let's get it all over with! I think I was due a bit of a break by now. The placenta came out with a bit of a tug, but no problems. Quite a fascinating bag of nutrients it was!
Oliver was snuggled to my breast and we just couldn't stop staring at him. I felt really calm (probably exhaustion) and just stared more. And haven't really stopped staring since...
Update: Helen's second baby was also born at home. A very different labour altogether!
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