Theo's (unintentionally) unassisted homebirth story

By Jenni Thompson

Theo, 1 August 2000, 7lb10oz

My two previous births - one hospital, one unplanned homebirth - had left me determined to go for a homebirth. Events seemed to be conspiring against me though - my iron level was well below the 10 that hospital policy 'requires' for a homebirth, and then the baby was breech, then in an 'unstable oblique lie', and even the one midwife on the team that I felt I had some sort of relationship with wanted me to agree to go to hospital. So going 11 days overdue didn't help, and I was convinced that I would end up being induced in hospital, even though I was still hoping to stay at home.

Monday 31st July - 11 days over, had been avoiding the midwives but was phoned in the morning by my favourite midwife. She offered to come and sweep my membranes and I thought this would be a fairly harmless intervention so agreed. (In the previous few days I had tried so many things - evening primrose oil, semen, even fresh pineapple which apparently contains some labour-inducing enzyme - you name it. Not castor oil though!).

Membranes swept at 2:45, some light contractions started immediately, but didn't intensify. By about 7pm they were still there but not painful or particularly regular. Kept them going by climbing up and down the stairs and nipple stimulation, and by 10:30pm thought it was time to call the midwife, as they were a little painful and as frequent as every 3 minutes. She came at 11pm and examined me - 2cm, 50% effaced. Almost no change from that afternoon, when I was 2cm and not effaced. She did a good sweep again and waited a while, but the contractions although frequent were not intensifying and only lasting 20 seconds, so she left at midnight, advising us to get some rest as we may well be getting her back later, but if not she'd come and sweep the membranes again the next day.

Went to bed straight away, got maybe 10 minutes sleep, then realised the contractions were coming every 5 minutes and getting more uncomfortable. Let Guy sleep, but by 1am I was moaning through the contractions and got up to relocate to the front room. Rocked on birth ball, realised that this was really getting painful, then spent next few contractions on toilet. Finally had some faintly blood- tinged mucus. Back to the front room, knelt on cushions leaning over birth ball. It would have been the perfect birth setting - just the lava lamp on, no birth professionals directing operations, but it hurt too damn much for me to really appreciate it. I think it was around this point (1:45?) that Guy phoned for the midwife to come.

After a couple more contractions, needed to race back to the toilet. This was when I started to feel like pushing. Knew I should try and slow things down but decided to just go with it instead. Called Guy, he could tell I was starting to push, and could see a fair amount of bloody mucus coming out, and he ordered me back to the front room as giving birth on the toilet was not a good idea. I didn't want to move, so he practically dragged me downstairs between contractions.

Around 2am I was really yelling and needing to push. My waters broke with a huge gush, and within a couple of pushes I felt the head coming down. Made a conscious decision to get this over with as quickly as possible, even though I would probably tear the scar tissue I had from my other births. I was screaming at Guy not to touch me but he did anyway, trying to support my perineum. Felt it crown, not as agonising as I expected, then the head came out, possibly along with a hand and a shoulder - Guy had insisted on turning the light on as it was really too dark to see what was happening. He checked that the cord was not round the neck, and supported the head while I pushed the baby out with the next contraction. Looked at my watch - 2:07.

OK, so now what? I managed to semi-stand, get my leg over the cord, sit down, take the baby onto my chest and Guy wrapped him in a towel and got some cushions to prop me up. Asked what it was - my 3rd boy! By 2:11, Guy was taking photos of me grinning from ear to ear cuddling my baby, who was obviously breathing fine after an initial splutter. The midwife knocked on the door at 2:15 and immediately set about making sure we were both OK.

Even though I had wanted a natural third stage I was in an increasing amount of pain, and just wanted the placenta out, so she gave me Syntometrine and cut the cord, which had more or less stopped pulsating. I didn't want to be touched at all but she had to check what the damage was - 2nd degree perineal tear and some internal tearing, so I agreed to be sutured, partly so that she'd get on with numbing me up with some Lignocaine! Went and showered off the blood and assorted fluids, got into bed, and snuggled up with baby Theo and a glass of champagne.

I have never been on such a high after a birth - with the other two I was pretty much shellshocked - but the relief that it had all gone well and the fact that we'd done it on our own made it an almost perfect birth experience.

Jenni Thompson

Update:

After Theo's birth, Jenni was found to have cervical cancer and had an extensive cone biopsy. She was advised to have a hysterectomy in case the cancer had spread, but declined. She went on to have another baby - Lydia - and another homebirth!

Related pages:

Home Birth Stories

Fast Labours

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