Firstly, I must confess I really have no idea what I am going to write for this story. I know I have some points which I would like to get across, but I have only a few ideas how.
My wife Helen is a HypnoBirthing Instructor and a qualified Doula, she also did a year and a bit of Midwifery training in the NHS. She studied for all of these qualifications after Harriet was born (our second), as midwifery and birth are one of her passions. I have very minimal experience of any of these things, only what I have learnt from Helen over the dinner table. I haven't been on the Hypno Birthing course and I'm not in any way medically trained. I probably should have gone on the course, but for some reason or another it didn't work out.
Helen and I had decided on a home birth for several reasons. Helen researches continuously and assured me that a home birth was at least as safe, if not safer than a hospital birth. The reasons for this are far too many to mention, but if you are interested to know, Helen can explain it all in infinite detail. Personally, I don't like hospitals that much, I particularly don't like maternity units. I know all the midwives mean well, but they have an amazing habit of making a man feel like a third-rate citizen. You have to buzz to get into the door, buzz to get back out to buy something to eat, you get told you are in the way if you get too involved, if you have to get a midwife's attention for some reason you get made to feel that you are asking too much. Once the baby has been born you get told when you can visit and for how long; I distinctly remember getting a thorough telling off after Samuel and also when Harriet was born for staying in the ward 'too late', god forbid. The worst part of it all is the fact that your wife will be in need of your help at some point in the hospital visit, even if she is just hungry, thirsty or more likely in pain. It is at this point that a man (being a problem solver) wants to fix the problem for her, but being is hospital makes that nearly impossible. If you can get someone to assist you, chances are they won't or can't get you what your wife needs.
Martha's birth day started about 1am, when Helen got out of bed to take a bath, as she could feel some pressure. You'll notice throughout this story that I don't use the word pain, as one of the fundamentals of HypnoBirthing is to consider contractions as pressure, not pain. Again, I can't really explain this, but I'm sure any good HypnoBirthing instructor could. So, Helen got out of bed and I went back to sleep. The next thing I know was Helen was waking me up to tell me that she had dropped my iPod in the bath! Not a crisis, so I just mumbled something like "put it in the airing cupboard" and went back to sleep again. I think Helen probably took some paracetamol and went back to bed. It wasn't until 7am when I woke up that Helen told me she thought this was it, so we should probably sort out someone to look after our 3 yr old daughter. With luck, it was a Saturday and our friend Sharon could take Harriet all day, so I carried on with the normal morning routine until 9.15ish, when Sharon came to collect Harriet. By this time Helen had moved from the bedroom until the nursery, where we have one of those Dutalier rocking chairs. Helen seems totally in control and was listening to Rainbow Relaxation (one of the HypnoBirthing tracks) on her iPod.
Once Harriet was out for the day I tried to get a little more involved in proceedings. I fetched Helen something to eat and drink and got myself a few cushions and a bean bag to sit on the nursery floor with her. I found my phone (for the stopwatch, not to text my friends) and started to time the contractions, just to get a feel for when might be a good idea to call the midwife. Timing the contractions was actually easier said than done, as Helen had her eyes shut and wasn't making much noise. Eventually, after a few chats between contractions we agreed that she would give me a little wave at the start and end of each one, just so I could get an idea. I think they were about 4 – 5 mins apart at this stage and lasting around 45 seconds. As I couldn't do too much more, I settled down with a few old copies of New Scientist and did some reading. Being in the same room I could count this as support, but only loosely.
We had borrowed a Birth Pool from a friend, so I decided this would be a great time to pump it up just in case. It was half pumped up from the test earlier in the week, so it only took a few minutes. This is a great "man task", as it is something practical which can be done to help, which always makes me feel better. I didn't fill it with water yet, as I wasn't sure Helen would be keen on getting in. With Harriet's birth we spent about 45 mins filling the pool at the hospital for her to only stay in for about 45 seconds.
Times start to get a bit blurred now; if I had being thinking I would write a birth story I would have made some notes, but I didn't so I haven't. Anyway, at some point Helen thought her TENS machine would be a good idea. Again, another great "man task". I read the really badly-written instructions and worked out what to do. Helen had used a TENS twice before, so I had a pretty good idea. I checked the battery this time; previously I have suffered some criticism for letting the battery run out mid-labour, which wasn't great. The words "you only had one thing to do" seem to jog my memory. Anyway, with the TENS on Helen got back on her rocking chair and I did a few more timings.
Things were not happening as quickly as we expected, Samuel had only taken 7 hours and Harriet had only taken 4 hours or so to arrive in total and we were well past this point already. After a little chat and a few close together contractions (2 to 3 mins), we decided to call the Midwife. This wasn't really because we thought we needed her (I had some loose instructions about what to do should the baby arrive before the Midwife, but I wasn't keen on putting them into practice), but more because we were bored and wanted to get an idea what was going on. I called the Maternity unit and, as expected, they wanted to talk to Helen without asking me anything. This was the first point I remembered the "third rate citizen" feeling. They could have asked me how close the contractions were and then spoken to Helen, I did have the stop watch after all! Anyway, this just made me even more pleased I was at home and Helen and I were in charge. Anyway, after some questioning they hung up and said they would call back.
Things started to happen a bit quicker now, which was perfect timing. Helen was still well in control, so I was mainly considering what I could have for lunch. I had a sandwich and then the Midwives called again. The Midwife on the phone sounded a little worried, really as if I should have been. She said "we ARE sending someone, they are leaving the unit now", I said fine and relayed the message onto Helen. Later on her slightly worried tone was explained, they had several home births that day and were very short of staff, the fact that someone was coming and Helen wasn't asked to go into the unit was actually not as easy for them to arrange as it was for me.
I dug out one of the copies of Helen's birth plan, had a quick read to remind myself of its content and I put it near the front door. I then started to consider how I would communicate its details to the Midwives. Depending on which Midwife came I would either have a battle on my hands to get what Helen wanted or not. Some are great, others like to do stuff a little more "by the book", even if the book is not based on any evidence and is only in place to stop the hospital getting sued. At this point Helen decided she didn't want any examinations, even though her birth plan said she would have one when the midwives arrived and maybe others later. She felt an examination would break her concentration.
The first Midwife arrived and I plunged the birth plan into her hand, told her that Helen was doing HypnoBirthing and didn't want any examinations or to be disturbed. She said OK, and just walked upstairs. I thought this had to be one of two things, either she was ignoring me completely (third rate citizen) or she would do exactly as I asked. If you would have asked me to bet on it then, I would have chosen the first option, having such little push back had worried me.
Next the second midwife arrived, well ahead of schedule. After a brief chat about why she was so early (she said that as she couldn't tell how far progressed Helen was, better safe than sorry) she went upstairs as well and started to read the birth plan. So far, so good. I was then asked if Helen would allow an examination and I said she would prefer not to have one. I then asked why she needed one and the second midwife told me how busy they were and that she needed to do some post natal checks in our visit if the baby wasn't imminent. Fair enough, but I didn't want to let Helen down by agreeing to her having an examination. With luck one of Helen's good friends is also a Midwife and she had offered to come to the birth just as a friend. I explained this to the two Midwives in the house and they were more than happy for Steph to come out so one of them could get on with something else. I called Steph, no answer. I then asked the Midwife if the check she had to do was at Rosanna and Jez's house (some friends just round the corner), she said yes so I said she may as well go anyway, as it would only take her 2 mins to get back if she was really needed. That coupled with the chance of Steph picking up my message and making it over was enough to keep the Midwife happy and she left after about 10 mins.The other Midwife just kept out of the way, other than doing her regular check on the babies Heartbeat, which so
unded fine. So far, it appeared I wasn't a third rate citizen in my own home and people were actually listening to me!
Things were progressing well, so I decided I get the bedroom ready for the birth. We had bought a cheap shower curtain, some plastic sheeting from B&Q, some cheap towels from IKEA and loads of mattress protectors from Boots. I laid them all out on the floor in several layers; as we rent our house I really didn't want to be making too much of a mess.
Helen was still in silence, or very near silence. I could tell from her facial expressions when the contractions were coming now and very near the end she started to moan a bit during each one. Not screeching, shouting, yelling or anything. The HypnoBirthing was working really well, much better than I had ever expected. Helen was totally in control. She even found a moment to tell me she could "really feel the pressure" during the contractions; her choice of words gave me great confidence. The fact that she didn't mention pain gave me the feeling she didn't have any. Of course, I still had a few worries; at the very least it is the worry of the unknown. I'd be by lying if I didn't say the thought of what could happen hadn't gone through my mind in the days and weeks before, but I had total confidence in Helen's ability to cope. This was after all, what her body was designed / evolved to do (creationist / Darwinists delete as appropriate).
Helen decided she wanted to move through to the bedroom and it got very busy all of a sudden. Helen caught me out by asking me to put some music on which wasn't on her iPod and for a moment I found myself trying to get the soggy iPod from the airing cupboard working again, but this soon became insignificant. In fact, I think it was always insignificant, but I can't help myself when it comes to a problem to fix.
Helen lent forward on her birth ball on all fours and the Midwives started to unpack all they needed. It appeared they had forgotten various things, as they were rummaging around looking for something to break Helen's waters. Helen was doing great at this point, but with some concentration in her voice was asking as quickly as she could for them to break her waters as the pressure was apparently quite immense and was certainly at its peak around now. The Midwife broke her waters, I think, and I held Helen's hand as Martha was ready to be born. One big push and she came out in one, which was a bit shocking for her. She started to cry almost instantly, which was great. Helen lent back and I passed Martha up between her legs, although not very high as she had the shortest cord in the world. Helen had been very keen on delayed cord clamping, so we snuggled the baby in the towel and waited a few minutes for the cord to stop pulsating. After a few minutes I cut the cord and Martha was free for a proper cuddle. About two minutes later Helen's placenta (or is that Martha's placenta?) just dropped out and Helen said "Oh, I think that might be the third stage over and done with". A natural third stage without any extra effort.
We now had time to sit on the floor and have a good long cuddle with Martha before anything else needed to happen. After about 40 mins we popped her on the scales to check her weight and Helen got into bed to put her on the breast. I made Helen a sandwich and the Midwives packed up. After about an hour they were all done and ready to leave for the next home birth. I cleared up the room and we got settled in. This was the best part of all.
Ian C. Proud dad .. and Husband (or should that be the other way round?)
Fathers and home birth - fathers' feelings about the birth, and how they can help.
Hypnotherapy for childbirth
Siblings at a home birth - what to do with your older children? Should they be present?
Doulas - professional labour supporters.
Blood on the carpet - How much mess are you likely to encounter at a homebirth, and what can you do about that carpet?!
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
Home Birth Stories
Home Birth Reference Page