Jane had two caesareans, five hospital VBACs, and two ectopic pregnancies before she gave birth to her seventh and eighth babies at home. Below is the story of Caitlin's birth, her eighth baby, written just twelve days after Caitlin arrived. You can also read the story of Jane's seventh baby, Fred, on Jane's own site.
I woke up on Saturday morning after having a painful night full of quite regular contractions and decided that I needed to go and buy wellies for Henry's school trip that day because the baby seemed like it was on its way. If the pain was in vain then I would have been upset! However, I was confused because 4 days 'overdue' was too early for me based on previous experiences. Nevertheless, I was certain that I would not give birth in West Quay or even Asda if I ventured out.
Armed with a Millie (10 years) for help and zimmer frame duties we set out in search of the Wellingtons. Asda had none, next Asda had none either and so had to brave the main Southampton shops whilst still contracting quite painfully. Fortunately, I don't think anyone heard me swear as I tried to look all calm and serene when I was overcome by pain. Retail therapy really is good pain relief!
We found some wellies and so set off home. I was in too much pain to go any further although my mind was trying to tell me that TK Maxx was calling me. Henry didn't want to try on the wellies so I was pretty disappointed.
That night the pains started in earnest again and by the early hours I was wondering if this was it. I knew that I had to get up as lying down made them worse and so went down to the computer and drank coffee and posted a few inane posts on various forums knowing full well that no one would be mad enough to be up like me. In fact I was wrong as a few other mad people were up and were willing to discuss the benefits of Supermarket own brand coffee over Big Name coffee.
After timing my contractions for a while and determining that however spaced apart they were, they blooming well hurt, I called Nicola (producer who was filming the birth for an NCT DVD about birth choices) - she wanted to know early on if I thought I was in labour even if it was a false alarm. Nicola came over and we decided not to call Eleanor (midwife) because things started petering out. So I did the ironing and drank coffee and then Nicola left and I went back to bed. Missed the car boot sale though .
That afternoon I called Eleanor to see what she thought was going on as I really didn't know. My last labour had been stop-start over 2 days but there was a reason for that as Fred was posterior. This baby was in a reasonable position and so didn't need the extra time to turn, rotate and do the Hokey Kokey. Eleanor said she would come out and do a sweep and see how things were which was a relief as I wanted to know by then. Usually sweeps don't work with me until I am at least 40+12 but this time felt different.
It was a relief to find that I was 3-4-5 (stretchy cervix!) dilated and so I knew things were happening and also my BP was up from its near death's door usual state which indicated that I should be going into labour. Eleanor told me to call the on call GP and ask for a sleeping tablet because I needed some sleep and also we didn't know how long it would be until I went into labour. So I called and spoke to Dr Jobsworth who declared that I would die a slow and painful death and be tortured by 3 legged rats if I so much as swallowed even half a sleeping tablet and so no he wouldn't prescribe one. And in any case what was I doing, a mere pleb, calling him when my midwife, who would know the secret ingredients of temazepam should be calling him! So Eleanor did call him and was also made to feel like she was trying to feed me heroin I think so we called the Princess Anne instead and they said they could come up with these illegal drugs if I went in there (making sure I didn't drive myself as I had threatened to do!)
We loaded the kids into the minibus and set off to Southampton. By this time my contractions had pretty much stopped. In fact they had stopped as soon as I had had the sweep. A friend had come round and deposited her son at our house that afternoon and laughed when I told her I was around 4cm dilated. 'You look fine though!' she said. 'Maybe I have hypnotised myself and it's all gone wrong!' I said.
I staggered into the hospital and entered the gloomy corridors of the Labour Ward. Scary place, that. Fortunately I was halted in my steps by the Sister who told me to wait and she would go and find the illegal drugs. She asked if I wanted one or two tablets and so I said one because I had no idea what effect it would have on me and didn't want to be dozy if I went into labour.
On the way home the contractions started again when we hit Lyndhurst, I think Phil's manic driving jolted things into action. But they weren't bad and weren't regular enough for me to think anything was happening imminently. So I took the tablet at around 10pm hoping I could get some sleep and then wake up and be in labour..
At 12 midnight I was still awake wishing I had asked for 2 tablets because I felt more wide awake than before I had taken the sleeping tablet. Plus the contractions had come back and were baaaad.
After monitoring them for a while (ouch that one hurts, ouch that one hurts a bit more, phew that one wasn't so bad) I told Phil that I was getting up, was going to call Nicola AND Eleanor, wanted some gas and air or planned to scream the house down and the baby WAS going to come out. 'OK then!' he grunted and went back to sleep.
So I called and everyone turned up pretty quickly and the wonderful gas and air was there to save me. I wandered around and sorted out washing, raincoats and other junk and in time my visits to the gas and air became more regular and to my dismay I found it wasn't working that well. That meant it was time to get in the pool. Before then the thought of getting in the pool didn't appeal at all but all of a sudden it seemed like the only possible place I could be and so I was glad it was all up and ready.
Phil had come downstairs by that point (denying that he had heard me say I was getting up) but the children remained asleep and the house was quiet. The pool was lovely and warm and really relaxed me. In fact I felt so relaxed that I can't really remember much from that point on. I know that the gas and air still didn't feel like it was working (but not using it was worse so it must have been doing a good job), and that the contractions seemed to be getting more and more painful but I didn't feel like swearing or cursing. I remember that Nicola was reading about that pole dancing hotel in 'The Mirror' (and I remember that it was £40 a lesson). I can remember Eleanor asking me when I wanted her to call Sharon, the second midwife, and that after asking her how long it would take for her to get here, asked that she call her now. Then Sharon arrived and almost immediately my waters broke
Uh Oh, I thought. Here comes the scary bit where I start wanting an epidural, a c-section and decapitation. But for some reason I didn't. I decided that I needed the toilet again as my overactive bladder was playing up still. So I got out of the pool and reached the bathroom and felt the head ready to descend and for a moment wondered if this would be a bathroom baby. But the gas and air arrived and I managed to make it back to the pool.
The relief of getting back in the warm water was wonderful. I don't think that I had ever appreciated how much pain relief the water offered - or the way that it sort of cocoons you and holds you. Almost immediately I started pushing. It didn't seem to hurt as much as past labours maybe because I was less scared of the pain. It certainly hurt though and whatever I said about toothache being worse than labour pain I retract. I was lying!
The head came out in just 2 pushes but it felt funny. It felt like I needed someone to pull the baby out (we had been discussing farmers yanking calves out with rope earlier in my labour but this honestly wasn't on my mind at the time!) and was certain for some reason that this is what needed to happen. Eleanor later told me that the chin was stuck or something and needed freeing. It was such a relief when the body slithered out and it was all over. I turned round and was able to hold my baby.
It was a real shock finding out she was a girl. At first I didn't even wonder what it was as the relief of labour being over was all that I could think of. We had assumed it was another boy anyway and so I don't know if I would have checked if Phil hadn't asked 'what is it?'
We immediately got the girls up as I knew they would be so excited to have a sister (it had been 10 years since our last girl) and of course they were delighted (Bethany asked if she could do the baby's hair - baby doesn't have any hair yet!)
After a while I went next door to the sofa as the afterpains were too bad and I wanted to get out of the pool and eventually the cord was cut and the placenta came out and the girls and Phil were able to hold Caitlin whilst I drunk much needed coffee.
I really enjoyed giving birth to Caitlin. I enjoy having her in my life even more!
Here is a montage from some of the pictures of Caitlin's birth.
Thanks very much, Jane. Please can you tell us a bit more about your other births?
These were my other births. Most have been born at 40+12 and large babies too (except for nos 1 and 3)
1. Bethany 1993 - induced due to IUGR. She didnt tolerate the induction at all and so ended up with a c-section (they only spotted she was distressed due to labour ward being busy and so delayed sending me up to the ward and strapped me to a monitor instead)
2. Henry 1995. VBAC but horrid horrid horrid as I did as I was told and went to hospital early, strapped to a monitor and left for hours with MW coming in every 4 hours threatening to put up a drip. I was so scared and alone I opted for an epidural and this meant a ventouse delivery (for no real reason other than they wanted me out of the room!) and I tore badly as well as being cut and ended up losing most of the blood in my body
3.Millie 1996 - Had planned a domino delivery but at 38 weeks had a bad placental abruption due to placenta implanting on c-section scar and so ended up with an unavoidable c-section. Fortunately baby was fine (but ended up in hospital due to infection caused by a cut on her leg I presume she got during delivery)
4. Oscar 1998. Used Wessex midwives organised by my then lovely GP who understood how much my second birth had affected me. Had to deliver in hospital but it was a hands off birth and a wonderful experience (tarred only by doctors who kept coming in telling me I was being foolish!)
5. Milo 2001. Used NHS midwives but fortunately Lesley Hobbs was working locally and delivered my 10lb baby in water at the hospital. No doctors allowed in the room!
I then had 2 ectopic pregnancies caused by the c-section scarring
6. Jude 2003 I gatecrashed Bournemouth midwife-led unit. Good waterbirth once the MW who didnt want me there went off duty!
7. Fred 2004. Born at home using local NHS midwives His story and pictures are here (I rent these pools out) (www.aquabubs.co.uk/fredstory.htm)
With Caitlin I planned to use the same midwife as last time. I knew she couldnt be guaranteed to be at the birth (she didnt catch Fred) but I knew that if she did my antenatal care I would have the confidence yet again to cope with whoever turned up when in labour. Unfortunately due to staff shortages etc and the fact that all the local MLUs are being shut I only saw her once for 5 minutes and after seeing the consultant MW in September I realised that there was no way I was going to get any continuity of care this time and this scared me as there are a few local midwives who I would not want at my birth.
By then though I had met with Nicola Phipps who did the Babes in the Wood series as she was looking for women to film for the new NCT Birth Choices DVD and since I am pretty passionate about choice and birth and how it can affect you mentally for years this seemed like something I wanted to do. We decided that it just wouldnt work with NHS midwives given that permission would be needed for filming etc and so she contacted Eleanor May-Johnson, an independent midwife and it was the best decision ever. If I ever have any more children (which I am currently not planning to) I would want to use Eleanor or someone similar again. Just wish I had found her sooner!
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