Jessica's first baby, Eli, was born in hospital, but she planned a homebirth for her second, Denna, who arrived in November 2002.
Denna - just arrived!
When I first started to think about labour this time round, I didn't initially fancy the idea of a homebirth; I was rather worried about if things went wrong, or that I wouldn't be able to cope with the pain at home. There was nothing wrong with my labour experience with Eli three years previously, but at the same time there was nothing positive I could look back on. I felt that "I had a child removed" rather like I would have a tooth removed, instead of a positive experience and sense of achievement at bringing my child into the world. It wasn't until I talked to friends online that I realised that labour can actually be a pleasant and empowering experience. I couldn't believe that there were people who would rather give birth than be pregnant - that idea was totally alien to me, as I found labour so painful and frightening first time round. So this time round I was determined things were going to be different.
I wasn't bothered where I actually had the baby, but I was very certain I wanted the full and undivided attention of a midwife for the entire time, preferably someone I knew pretty well and could trust too. My previous experience in Southmead was of about 8 different midwives and not a single familiar face. Someone suggested homebirth to me, and after reading a lot about the safety issues, and hearing many positive birth stories, I decided that this did seem to give me the things I really wanted. Okay I might not have my own midwife attending, but I should at least have met them once.
As my due date approached I was increasingly convinced Denna would be early, as I started having runs of contractions from about 37 weeks onwards, and I was pretty huge for dates (I knew my exact dates as I'd been keeping track of my cycle). I did call the midwife out one Sunday, only to find it was just a false start. My due date came and went, much to my surprise, and finally on the morning of Dave's birthday my waters broke at 10 to 6 in the morning. He wasn't too pleased at being woken up at that time, especially by me uttering the words "I think my waters have gone...." - rather a rude awakening! At least it was a very positive sign of impending labour, as I think he was getting fed up of me complaining of contractions and still no baby. This was a week past my due date (not overdue I hasten to add as that's still within the "normal" boundaries! I hate people saying she was overdue!).
It was very peaceful; we just got up, rang the midwives, had breakfast, dressed, and I started to "make my nest" in the lounge - which was a lovely feeling. Nesting instinct made a lot of sense at that point! My own midwife was available as thankfully it was normal working hours, so she came round about 9.30am, checked how things were going, 5cms - that's great - and then popped out for half an hour to do a postnatal visit locally. I'd been leaking like a tap most the morning so was sitting on a bucket (with the handle removed), as the loos were too cold at this time of year. That was a great position as it was a nice deep squat, and also I was able to tell my online friends that things were starting. It meant a lot to me to know that so many people were thinking of me and sending positive labour vibes to me.
When my midwife returned labour just progressed really steadily, no problems at all, contractions never really closer than about 3 minutes between them but towards the end they were getting very long. We weren't really timing them though, although I assume the midwife was. At one point I started to really wish someone else would take over, or could I stop and rest for a bit, and I knew this was a sign I could be in transition, but I didn't believe it as I felt it hadn't hurt enough yet! My midwife recognised this too and started to help encourage me, telling me the end was in sight, and to let her know when I wanted to push. She knew I didn't like internals so I only had the one examination earlier just to establish things were happening.
Just when I thought I was going to be in labour for all eternity I felt a strong pushing urge at the end of a long contraction, so I told her and let my body push. The second midwife was called and arrived with a student nurse very promptly, although I was unable to say hello and felt bad for not being in a position to offer a cup of tea! No-one warned me the hardest part about having a homebirth was dealing with the "hostess" urges! Soon after she arrived I felt a pushing urge again and then all the contractions became pushing ones, so we were officially in the second stage!
A few pushes later, about 20 minutes worth, the head crowned. The contraction had ended and I paused as I tore last time at this point, and frantically imagined my perineal tissues thinning to try to help them thin without breaking. With the next contraction Denna came flying out, screaming like mad! Seems she'd tried to breathe early so was filled with mucus. She calmed down after a few minutes of screaming, sneezing, and being held on her belly (hugging me), and we all got to say hello. She arrived at 1.40pm, and weighed in at 8lbs 15oz.
I had a physiological third stage, with the placenta turning up about 40 minutes later, at the same time as Eli arrived home from his grandparents.
I couldn't believe how easy the whole thing was this time round. There was a bit of mess to deal with, but one load of washing dealt with that and nothing was ruined that mattered. And it was lovely to not have to worry about when to go into hospital as labour progressed, as I'm sure I would have been about 3 times before it really started as it was such a long build-up.
Another really good point about being at home was that it seemed to liberate Dave to take a different role from that which he took in hospital. Instead of just being right next to me the whole time and rubbing my back, he was buzzing round dealing with things, offering cups of tea, making toast, and his whole attitude was so relaxed as it was just a morning at home for him, it made me totally relaxed. He popped in and out in the early stages, leaving me when I was coping well, hanging round if he realised I needed someone to talk to. And he made a lovely sweet cup of tea just while I was in transition which was the best thing in the entire world and really helped me to stop worrying about what was happening and just remember how "normal" the whole process really is.
Now I understand how people can say they preferred labour to pregnancy, although personally I'd have to say I love them both. I feel very empowered and very pleased to have experienced labour "as nature intended" (apart from a tens machine!).
Trainee Breastfeeding Counsellor, Full time mum to Eli (Jun 99), Denna (Nov 02) & Adie (23rd July 05)
Jessica's third baby, Adie, was also born at home.
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