My name is Inger, 33, and in February 2008 I gave birth to my beautiful Nathan Isaiah.
I knew I wanted a home birth before I was even pregnant. I am Dutch and found pregnancy in the UK very medicalised. I did arrive at my booking in appointment ready for a fight and was surprised and pleased to find that my midwife Carole found home births a great idea for straightforward pregnancies. So we set about preparing.
I had a very straightforward pregnancy, apart from a blood pressure that danced up and down a bit occasionally and plans for my home birth were formalised. Together with my husband Peter I drew up a birth plan. We did find it very important to keep our options open. We decided that we would start labour at home and take it from there.
Just before I was 40 weeks my oldest and best friend from Holland suddenly appeared on the doorstep, having book herself into a local B&B. I surprised myself by not being happy to see her and having to force myself to enjoy her presence. I also started to feel slightly crampy. At 4am the next morning I realised I was in labour as I was having mild but painful contractions. I sneaked out of bed, as I knew it would be ages and I did not want to wake my husband early. I sat downstairs on my birth ball and leaned over a chair, getting up occasionally to eat or drink. Attempts to time the contractions only revealed that they were very irregular. Late that morning my husband persuaded me to call the midwives and Nicky, who was on duty, came round. She examined me, which was painful, and found that I was just starting to dilate with bulging waters. She was calm and encouraging. After she left I took a bath to help the pain, but the effect it had was that my contractions stopped completely, and did not start again until the next morning, which I found stressful.
The next morning they started like the first day but again did not become regular, although they were stronger. Another midwife visit, Carolyn this time, revealed I was not much further along and my blood pressure was a bit high. She came back at 6pm and found it was over safe levels and together we decided that a transfer was appropriate. In the delivery suite blood tests showed I was starting to develop pre-eclampsia but my contractions stopped again. I was monitored for ages and was given the choice to have my waters broken on the spot or spend the night on the ward to rest first. It was an agonising choice as I did not want Peter to leave but we knew we were both too tired and I chose the ward. Not much rest there, as they promptly insisted on monitoring me again. The good news was that Peter got eight hours sleep, which turned out to be a lifesaver.
To make a long story short, Nathan was back-to-back (occiput posterior - see 'Get Your Baby Lined Up') and not descending properly and labour refused to become established, even after I had my waters broken. Due to the developing pre-eclampsia I was told I had to have a hormone drip and I agreed. I managed five hours of synto-contractions on gas and air before admitting defeat and requesting an epidural as I was still not dilating and could not carry on. The epidural was heaven and skilfully done, so I could still feel things but no pain. The drip was turned up for one last attempt at dilation. By now I was on my third shift of midwives and there was some concern over Nathan's heart rate being too stable, but generally things were ok. When the registrar examined me again I do not think anyone had much hope and I was thinking ‘c-section´, when she suddenly beamed up from between my legs and said ‘do you want the good news, you are fully dilated´. No one could believe it. I was advised to wait an hour before pushing, as the head was still high. When I did start to push Nathan´s heart rate dived and I was told to stop. So far every step had been taken in consultation with us and with lots of information, so when the registrar said that she wanted to take me to theatre, dose up the epidural and attempt forceps before resorting to a c-section we really felt we could trust her. A team was assembled, I was fully numbed from the waist down, Nathan was turned by forceps and I was told to push. I could not feel anything but had read something about pushing being like working a canon ball out of your rectum so that is where I aimed. With three days frustration behind it I pushed Nathan out to his chest in one push, and the rest of him with another little one. He weighed 7lb4. Despite the long labour and forced delivery his apgars were 9,10 and 10 and before I knew it we were on the observation ward breast-feeding. Babymoon had well and truly begun. I felt I had always known my little boy and was deeply in love.
Unfortunately after 12 hours on the ward Nathan turned blue and his little eyes lost focus. We ran to the midwife who perked him up with some oxygen and said it was normal, until it happened again and again. She rushed him to SCBU where they diagnosed that he was fitting very frequently. Terrifying days followed. It took 24 hours to control the fits and another few days before they discovered he had sustained brain damage at some point during pregnancy or birth. We were given a prognosis that included cortical blindness and other special needs. He is now nearly four months and not blind, praise God. So far he is developing normally and bowled over his consultant when she saw him recently. The future is a bit of an unknown, but we are really enjoying him.
Despite all this I still feel positive about the birth. I had a fantastic husband who did all the right things (but was left deeply traumatised by first seeing me and then his son in distress) and great midwives and a very skilled registrar. At the time of delivery I had one experienced midwife, and a nurse nearly qualified as midwife, to myself. Whatever bits of my birth plan that could be rescued were rescued (such as skin-to-skin straight after birth) and we were treated with respect and all options always clearly explained. I feel we were able to cope with the transfer to hospital and all the interventions as we knew why it was happening. Not to say that I did not cry my eyes out when things just kept on going wrong, but with the necessary support I coped and I feel really proud that I pushed Nathan out.
No more home births for me. In fact I have been told by my very good and anti c-section consultant that he would recommend I have sections in the future, or at least to bail out as soon as labour is slow or baby shows any remote signs of distress.
I am still in favour of home birth, but would advise anyone planning one to keep options open and think of a change of plan when writing a birth plan.
Nathan is 2.4 now and a real stunner if I may be so modest. He has not entirely escaped scot free. He has mild cerebral palsy on his right hand side so doesn't yet walk unaided and struggles to use his right arm. He communicates well but is slow to speak (it's coming though and all the building blocks are in place - he speaks about 30 words now). No seizures since his first few days, no blindness, and as far as anyone can tell a razorsharp little mind. He mixes mainstream and special nursery (for mobility and speech support) and generaly does brilliantly. He's the sunniest child I've ever met and tends to wind people round his finger in about 30 seconds. One thing I really want to mention: Despite all the difficulties we've had I've breastfed nathan for 11 months, starting in SCBU - we had great support and it has meant so much in terms of bonding.
First Babies and homebirth
Fathers and home birth - fathers' feelings about the birth, and how they can help.
Transferring to hospital - why it might be advised.
Get Your Baby Lined Up - what it means when your baby gets in an awkward position, and what you can do about it.
Homebirth UK email group
Home Birth Stories
Home Birth Reference Page