Jennifer Vaudin's Home Birth Story

Jennifer's first baby, Edward, was born in hospital after Jennifer developed pre-eclampsia. Her second child, William, was born at home.

I think we were both surprised when we felt like trying to conceive again when Edward was six months old, and even more surprised when the conception occurred within two months.

I phoned the surgery to speak to the midwife I'd had last time, only to discover she wasn't there any more. Eventually I tracked down the community midwifery manager - and found she was the midwife I had had before. I was pleased about this, thought it would smooth everything. There was still a bit of mucking about to do, especially in order to avoid the pointless visit to the covering consultant.

I screened positive for Down's - but only slightly the other side of the cut off from my age-only risk. After a lot of agonising, we decided to go for amniocentesis. The doctor who dealt with us was very pleasant and positive about our list of questions - but notably lacking when it came to proper figures such as his miscarriage rate. I think this is relevant because there is much moralising when it comes to the risks you run from your decisions, but you are often not given proper information before running risks 'they' are inviting you to take.

I had a lot of sickness again, the heartburn kicked in early and also had some symphysis pubis dysfunction (pain in the pelvis, especially in the pubic bone area - see British DSP Support Group for more info). It felt very unfair that again I was not having a 'well' pregnancy, even though I still enjoyed being pregnant.

Then the blood pressure reared its ugly head again - once again, very borderline, especially in relation to my booking BP. The midwives wanted me to see the consultant again, but we declined - simply because we were more than happy with the guidelines from last time and I did not want to make any pointless journeys to the hospital. In fact we were able to establish that this time I was not even borderline hypertensive - except in the presence of midwives. I was checking my BP and urine regularly.

I was totally dismayed by the pressure we came under, especially from the community midwifery manager. I felt insulted, as if all that work to come to an understanding last time had been for nothing. After all, I had eventually gone to hospital when warranted without a murmur. The community midwife was new in her post and in a difficult position and I felt bad for her. However this time I was not prepared to suffer to make other people feel more comfortable. I thought this would be my last shot at a home birth and whilst I knew that things could really change and that might not be possible, I was very anxious indeed not to be made worse or bullied into hospital as I felt it would be too hard to come to terms with that later.

I was pleased when she suggested taking bloods to keep a baseline and check that nothing was going awry underneath. It must have been difficult for her because I had begun vomiting again and had severe epigastric pain - but I felt pleased that she was working to keep me safe and give me what I wanted. I had read up on pre-eclampsia. I believe that her actions were not looked upon favourably elsewhere and she felt obliged to pass on messages telling me what I should do and who I should see. Eventually John took her aside when she arrived one day and said that they had explained their views, we had explained ours and that unless the clinical picture changed, the subject was not to be discussed again and that the community midwifery manager was not to contact me. I was sad it had to be that way, but the evidence of its effect on me showed in my blood pressure.

This is a good example of how valuable your partner or labour supporter can be as your advocate before the birth, as well as during it - fathers-to-be please take note! It is also a great demonstration of calm assertiveness under pressure. Jennifer and John had made an informed decision, and they took steps to see that it was respected. - Angela

Anyway, once again it became a waiting game, hoping that things would not get any worse - that I wouldn't, after all, develop a genuine problem. I had a show at the beginning of my 40th week and a day of regular contractions. The midwife was very excited and offered an internal. I declined, saying it would be too disappointing if nothing was happening. Indeed nothing was happening, and my midwife bid me an emotional farewell and went on holiday a few days later. I regret not having accepted that internal now!

On my due date, yet another visit from a midwife to check my BP - and it was doing well! But as soon I heard the baby's heart rate I thought "That's too fast". It didn't settle so we went off to the hospital with our small son in tow as the midwife felt there was not time for us to wait for relatives. I knew there had to be a possibility I would shortly be in theatre for a Caesarian and I felt anxious for our baby (but prepared - my list of birth principles includes my wishes in the event of a CS). On arrival at the hospital we sat for half an hour before being seen. This reminded me again that there is nothing magic about hospitals. Anyway, he'd settled down again just fine, was pronounced 'very happy' and we went off home. Relatives had arrived from all over and my parents then sat it out :-) I was feeling very impatient by this point, mostly because of the concern about harassment, and upset to be going through it again.

We'd had a consultant appointment made for us yet again, but this time we felt we would keep it, in view of the tachycardia (baby's fast heartbeat), and also because I would be 5 days over my date and I would want to find out about induction policies. Someone had suggested going for a walk at night to start labour (I had already tried breast pumping 45 minutes each side, sex, clary sage and massaging reflexology points to the point they were bruised for weeks!) We has a short walk that night which was very uncomfortable - I think because the head was engaging (Edward's head had not engaged till labour). The morning of the appointment, we had a very odd letter from the consultant, which I assume was some kind of 'covering our backs' document; amongst other things, it said I had done well first time to deliver such a big baby without problems 'even if it had been nothing like as satisfying as I had hoped' This annoyed me because it had in fact been very satisfying.

We had a long, long wait at the hospital and then were called in by a midwife. Initially we weren't too pleased about not seeing the consultant, but it worked out very well. My blood pressure was amazingly the right side of borderline and I knew I liked this woman when she said "Right, you're five days over, what do you want to do?" I said I wanted to sit it out. She said fine, would I be interested in a sweep of the membranes? Yes I would! So a doctor did that, and to keep them happy I agreed to book some monitoring sessions for the coming week.

It was Friday 13th, I had some regular contractions in the evening, but then they stopped. They started again about 1am -I'd been asleep, John had just slipped Edward into his cot and asked if anything was happening. I said 'Maybe' without much enthusiasm, as there had been lots of these and so he went to sleep after putting my TENS on. I was very uncomfortable and kept waddling to the toilet to no avail. One of the cats came and sat with me, purring loudly. Round about 3am I decided it was getting too toe-curling to stay in bed, and perhaps we ought to act like something was going to happen as I'd need John's full attention later if it did. I prodded him awake. We got a swivel chair and I sat backwards on that. Contractions were every five minutes, it was going up to 4am so we rang for the midwife and contractions stepped up to every 2 to 3 minutes just before she rang us back. It wasn't anyone I knew so I was slightly apprehensive - but I knew they'd all been talking about me. We also phoned my sister who'd wanted to be there, but mysteriously she changed her mind. I drank banana milkshake, we put on some music (I hadn't wanted any first time) and got to work.

My parents brought the birth stuff into the room, but otherwise stayed upstairs in the attic or answered the door. I felt slightly unnerved about the noises I'd need to make in their hearing but quickly realised that it just hurt too much if I didn't. As the midwife arrived, I got the first inkling of an urge to push and had to get on the floor, again leaning forward. She was very patient and quiet waiting for me to be ready to be examined, BP taken and so forth. She asked if I wanted the gas and air brought in. I remember looking at her thinking "Now why on earth would I want that?"The second midwife arrived soon after, one I had seen recently and liked, so that was a boost.

It was all very familiar, but somehow, even though I had not been going that long, I did feel very tired and had a sense of wanting to get a job done so I could go back to sleep. It wasn't all romantic like the first time. John wanted to go and shut the window, but "No, you can't let go of me now until it's over" I got on the bed, he was in front of me and I had several bean bags - not enough really, the delivery table had actually been better first time, I kept sinking into them and it made my pushes go in the wrong direction. John suggested turning the TENS up higher, but I insisted on keeping it at 8, thinking that it only went up to 10 rather than 15. At some point I think my bowels evacuated and my waters went unnoticeably, so unlike the first labour. The midwives couldn't see much, but didn't pester me at all.

In a minute, the delivering midwife said “I'll ask you to pant”, but out came his head before she had chance, and then the delicious feeling of his body slithering out of me (first time it was the body that hurt as the midwife pulled, being concerned about him). Second stage is recorded as lasting 4 minutes, but it felt longer than that. I heard John say quietly "Boy" in response to something from the first midwife and the second midwife saying "She doesn't want to be told!" I flopped gratefully into the bean bags, hardly able to believe that I really had given birth at home in my own bed, just as I'd wanted. One of the midwives ran round with him to show me and I could not get over how different he was to my first son. I had been expecting a smaller baby and he did look tiny and squashed and dark. The midwife weighed him twice, because even to them he looked much lighter than he weighed. I heard 4.3 (Kg) (approx 9lb 7oz) and thought "No, that's wrong, he must be 3.3" I lay back and thought "No Barbie!" with such a sense of relief.

The placenta followed without drugs again, but accompanied by the contents of my bladder. I could sense the slight anxiety on the part of the midwife, though it was only 10 minutes. Anxiety is putting it too strongly, just an air of "I'll be happier when this is out" I had a small tear that 'wasn't worth stitching' (I was surprised on looking in the mirror to see how big 'not worth stitching' can be, but very glad to avoid that, although what with the bruising, it actually was just as painful and took the same time to heal as my second degree and anterior tear had done the first time) I later found that under 'Special Notes' the midwives had recorded "Blood pressure within normal limits" It was nice to have a few days with the labour notes; it helped me to take it all in.

Then it was tea and biscuit time, and a real appreciation of how very wonderful it is to give birth in your own home, with midwives as honoured guests. He was born at 5.24 after a four and a half hour labour, and by 7.30 am the midwives had been gone an hour, my mother had put the sheets through the machine, I'd had a bath and finished my banana milkshake and we tucked our number two son up in bed between us and went back to sleep, the best bit of all, with no heartburn!

Some comments: Use a proper obstetric TENS - this time I used an ordinary one and it is too fiddly for labour. It really is worth getting it on for the slightest twinge. Have good support in the form of bean bags, foam, firm cushions etc -I needed more than I had to keep me upright enough. I found it slightly more difficult to accept that this was it, and get focussed as everything happened so quickly - and I think the same went for everyone else.

Eventually (again) we named him William Richard James. I think I might have had difficulty accepting he was mine in the hospital - unlike Edward he did not look like 'one of us'. His birth was less romantic and enjoyable in some ways than Edward's, but it was so nice that he spent no time in hospital and was not exposed to the awful hostility that Edward had been.

I do not know if we will have more children. None are planned. It is good to have had two satisfying births. I do not relish the thought of any more tussles with the professionals, but do feel a yearning to discover what a hassle-free pregnancy might be like, but perhaps that is something I am not meant to have. I've still had a much better time than most people and get odd looks when I say I enjoyed my labours.

Jennifer Vaudin

The birth story of Jennifer's first son, Edward, is on this site.

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