Kirsty is Jem's fourth baby. Jem planned homebirths for her first three children too, and explains below what happened for each.
I had a homebirth for my first baby, Lib, in 1998, it was lovely to be at home but wasn't perfect because I had some jumpy midwives who talked a lot about 'if this that or the other happens we'll transfer you' and they wouldn't bring the gas and air in from the car so I ended up having pethidine, then they told me how I should sit to give birth, and it was sitting, so that they 'could see'. but I avoided going in to what was then a very grotty old maternity unit and having a standard three day spell in hospital.
My second baby, Tom, arrived in 2000. I had planned a homebirth but found out at 37 weeks that he was breech and he arrived three days later before I had time to consider any options so I went in to the grotty unit, in to the huge 'complications' delivery room full of scary lights and equipment, to have a standard for breech managed delivery with epidural and forceps... except that Tom wasn't having any of it and fell out all by himself a few minutes after they first examined me, as the midwife was shouting for someone to bring in the forceps trolley, so I didn't even need a stitch and was home a few hours later.
Jo arrived in 2002. Again I planned a homebirth but I had a huge bleed at the beginning of labour; apparently when the placenta was delivered they found it had come away a little bit so I feel I made the right decision. I chose to go in and have continuous monitoring. At least the maternity unit had been rebuilt by then so it wasn't as bad but it was disappointing. I don't remember much about her birth and it took me ages to bond with her I was so shaken up by the rapid turn of events. I had her naturally though, just a couple of hours after going in, but with some awful degrading things such as a male consultant trying to break my waters without even telling me what he was about to do, never mind asking.
I knew that something was happening from Friday lunchtime when I was 39 weeks and one day, but didn't tell anyone cos I'd promised Lib and Tom that morning that I'd take them swimming, and it was really important to me cos I knew I wouldn't be able to for ages, so I still went swimming contracting madly but painlessly, which yes may have been a bit stupid, dunno, folk with more than one child may understand where I was coming from it's that guilt of knowing you're about to displace your kids with a new one so you try to fit in as much as possible first. When we got back I rang my wonderful independent midwife P to say things may or may not happen later but I didn't need her yet, and I rang a friend to warn her I may need her to have the kids. At the sound of her voice I just wanted to go 'waaahhhhhhh...........' at the thoughts of approaching labour etc, but I managed to stay very calm. Then after they all went to bed I was disappointed that I still felt odd and was contracting but they still weren't painful. I got no sleep that night but wasn't particularly in pain just uncomfortable and weird feeling. Things died off on the Saturday so I slept in the morning when dh took the kids out, then in the afternoon we went to the wildfowl park. I was ok until about two thirds round then felt exhausted and burst into tears demanding to go home!!!!
Dh made lasagne for tea and I managed some despite the nausea cos it was delicious. P rang to check on me and to say that the other (equally wonderful) midwife, K, was taking over the on-call from then on cos she was off to the football. Then after the kids went to bed the braxton hicks returned. I think it was about the time we'd be thinking of bed when I realised I was having to stop what I was doing during them. After a bit of deliberation I rang the midwife. K lives an hour away, and Tom and Jo were fast births, especially Tom. Then I went into hyperdrive - I had veg in to make soup for Sunday and dh was set to chopping them. I sorted a few clothes out, tidied, raced up and down, and even finished a card I'd been making for the kids from the baby, using PVA and glitter. Oh and I made the room feel nice. This was bizarre - I'd had essential oils etc in for Jo's birth and various plans of how to create a nice atmosphere, then with having to rush in to hospital they'd obviously not been used. This time round I hadn't made any plans at all, hadn't dared believe that I might actually end up staying at home. I'd made a pile of old towels in the bedroom, tidied it a bit and that was it. But when reality dawned that the midwife was actually on her way I suddenly remembered the oils in the cupboard (probably hideously out of date!!) and I put a few drops each of lavender, geranium and clary sage, the mix I'd worked out for Jo's birth, onto damp cloths and put them on the radiators in the lounge and bedroom. We put the fire on and turned classic FM on in the lounge, where I intended to stay until things got really bad. So at the last minute I got the ambience I'd always dreamed of. Kind of like my plans being fulfilled four and a half years later! Oh and we had our final discussion about what to call the baby and made up our minds about her middle name, we'd managed a provisional first Christian name about a fortnight previously finally after much debate and many new grey hairs.
K arrived at almost midnight. I was still contracting every five minutes and they weren't that painful so we sat and chatted. I kept needing to go for a wee, like loads. K hadn't met dh before and it turned out she was from the same part of Cheshire as him so they talked and talked about it and I started needing to breathe through my contractions then so I didn't want to join in. I sat backwards on a dining chair, leaning forwards resting on a pillow and was pleased they were talking cos it distracted me and felt kind of homely but I just wanted to rest. Things were obviously continuing I didn't need to be active to hurry things along, I preferred to save my energy for later. By about one-ish I was beginning to hurt a little bit more and really breathe through it but still every five minutes and they were relatively easy to breathe through, I was counting how many breaths each one lasted for and got up to about 16 each time. I asked K to check the position of the baby cos I'd worked really hard on it not being posterior - and she wasn't so that was ok, and significantly her head had gone right down to 1/5 palpable (it had only been 3/5 the day before) - and hence all the weeing. I had an uncomfortable pressure which had built up all day and which I didn't like at all.
I went to the loo one last time cos this time I thought I needed a poo but I didn't (ha! should have guessed what that meant....... duh......) and asked to go through to the bedroom, actually I asked K to set up the gas and air so I knew it was there as soon as required!!!! I still wasn't sure if this was really it... she set up her gear and I moved through, apparently at 1.25 am, still on my dining chair with its pillow. I had a few whiffs with the next couple of contractions cos I thought I might as well even though I was coping. Then I felt something give and that funny pressure was suddenly gone. It took a couple of minutes before I realised I was soaking wet. I was a bit confused cos my waters had gone right at the end with the others when I was ready to push and I'd hardly really had any pain so didn't think I was anywhere near that stage. This was ten minutes after moving to the bedroom.
I can't remember much after that. I know the next couple of contractions were still easily manageable with the gas, then the next few are just a blur. I remember the peak of each, and realising somewhere at the back of my brain that I was in transition and thinking 'Cool!!! this is as bad as it's gonna get and I'm coping!!!!!!' How wrong I was about that..... Then I realised I was pushing and I could feel that the baby was nearly there but I was still sat on my chair, I knew I needed to tell dh and K but I couldn't speak so I just thought 'They'll work it out'. I was well out of it and not just on the gas, my brain had switched itself off. Turns out they hadn't realised. Apparently I'd just gone very quiet, nothing to give away how far on I was.
I can't remember anything after that. It says in my notes that I started making pushy noises at about ten to two. Apparently they realised a bit late that the baby was practically out and had to lift me out of the chair, which tipped over onto the floor whilst dh staggered under my weight. K then panicked as she realised I was still wearing my knickers!!!!!! It hadn't occurred to me when I went into the bedroom that I wouldn't've moved by the time the baby came out, and then I just forgot. I was used to all the routine examinations that I escaped this time, you don't get a chance to forget to take them off in hospital!!! So dh struggled to hold me up, K wrestled with my knickers and only just got them out of the way on time to catch the baby. I only have vague memories of pushing, probably a good thing I don't like that part, hate the 'out of control' feeling followed by the burning sensation of trying to pass something the size of a large grapefruit, and I can't remember standing up or the baby coming out at all.
I have hazy memories of finding myself sitting facing the other way and dh showing me the baby. I remember crying but I can't remember feeling the emotion that went with it. I guess I must have known I'd had her but my brain quickly switched it off with what followed. I'd hardly felt a thing at that point, just two or three transition contractions that I'd coped with using the gas, then some of the pushing. Unfortunately that's when the pain kicked in. This was far, far worse than anything that had gone before. I remember begging for my gas back which thankfully K listened to and gave me. I just kept using it, every time it wore off the pain was horrendous, but I don't really remember much, which can't all be down to the gas, it's good but not that good. I remember every time I did come round dh was holding a baby that looked a bit like ET, kind of like Tom had looked so obviously mine, which confused me because I was still in pain and I couldn't remember having had a baby - I hadn't felt it. When I talked it over with P later she said my body's endorphins had done a really good job of switching me off.
The placenta took 23 minutes to arrive, apparently. dh looked after the baby; she was fine. I hadn't wanted syntometrine and a managed third stage because the only placenta I've ever had delivered using it was Tom's, and that was the one where a bit got left in and all the ensuing problems. I'd had natural third stages with the girls and hadn't had any problems. Both midwives said later that it was just as well I hadn't had it, if anything had caused my uterus to contract down any harder I would have been in far more pain, which really doesn't bear thinking about. After it was out I relinquished my gas but was still well 'out of it'. I remember someone helping me into bed and K asking if I'd felt a bit shocked. I feel a bit resentful that my body didn't allow me the fairy tale, baby pop out - pain stop - mother bond with baby immediately with Father standing behind proudly - placenta come some time later without much fuss, but apparently this third stage pain does happen to a minority of people it's not just me. I was glad they'd listened to me and not taken the gas away and dumped the baby on me expecting me to 'bond' immediately which was what happened when I had a lesser version of all that pain in Jo's third stage.
I did get to meet my baby properly then. I'd picked up from what I had heard dh say that it was a girl, which was what we'd expected from the scan. I wanted to have some skin to skin time and because I'd been given the time and space I needed, this time round I really appreciated it. Kirsty fed straightaway and well. K tidied up and left, promising that either she or P, probably P, would be there in the morning to check on us and that her mobile would remain on all night in case we needed anything. We dozed in our own bed with our new baby girl between us, feeding on and off until morning, when Jo came in, her eyes got bigger and bigger in amazement and before greeting the baby she went to get Lib and Tom to tell them!!!!
When they all came in my children seemed to make the right 'shape', a 'triangle' had always made it seem as though someone was missing a 'square' seems right. And this was my only pregnancy where I never once thought 'next time.....' so I suspect that as long as there are no little surprises along the way I've got all my children now and am bowing out on a high note. This was my first homebirth since Lib, and apart from not being able to remember it which was kind of my body's natural defence, the only one that has gone completely to plan. And the only one where my health professionals have totally respected me and given me the dignity every woman should have for every birth, (wherever it takes place and no matter how many interventions are necessary), telling me what was going on and consulting me at every stage - even asking permission to take off my knickers when the baby was clearly about to come out!! Which to my mind makes a huge difference. I benefited from it being very straightforward, but I don't see why the most medicalised birth could not be the same eg 'we feel it would be a good idea to use forceps because.... is that ok?'. My birth belonged to me, dh and our baby, not to an institution or system, with the midwife invited to be there, a huge support and very much appreciated.
After having a lesser version of third stage pain with my third baby I had discussed how to deal with it this time around with my midwife, and she did suggest that it may not happen as I had a much bigger age gap this time (four and a half years as opposed to 22 months then 19 months) but obviously for me it did anyway.
It has been suggested to me by both midwives and several other people that it is the result of an extremely efficient uterus going back down super fast, this can be helpful to visualise in order to breathe through the pain, there's nothing 'wrong', it is because everything is extra 'right'. But at first I needed more than visualisation and breathing I would have hated to have been separated from my gas.
I can say though that my third stage pain has not in any way at all affected my bonding with my baby, i just started it half an hour later than most people, she was well cared for by her father in that half hour and I was well cared for by the midwife. Neither is it affecting the way I remember the birth, hasn't soured it at all, out of my four births this is the only one that I have remembered positively afterwards, even felt 'empowered' which was a concept I never understood before in regards to birth.
Even with the pain I would do it all again tomorrow except that I have four children now and don't particularly want any more I think my family is the right size as it is!
I think the key is in being prepared, as with the pain in labour, or any potential negative scenario in any birth thats a particular issue for an individual mother, think first how to deal with the situation. If you don't know who your midwife is gong to be a note on your birthplan ('I feel afterpains much more strongly than most women to the extent that they can be worse than labour therefore I may still require pain relief for a while after delivery')could maybe achieve this, no guarantees I know but hopefully the midwife will read the thing!! and of course talking about it to your birth partner. I wasn't particularly prepared, I had discussed it with the midwife as I said above but hadn't envisaged anything as bad as this, but was blessed with a good midwife and partner who knew what to do. The time before when thankfully it wasn't quite as bad all I got from the hospital midwife was 'most women don't feel afterpains as bad as you ' not particularly helpful at the time!!!
Home Birth Stories
Pain relief - what are your options at home?
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
Independent Midwives - what they do, and where to find one.
Fast Labours - is quicker always better? What do you do if your baby is arriving faster than your midwife?
Home Birth Reference Page