Home Birth Reference Site

James's birth story, by Jessica B

James was born at home, in water, on 11 December 2006.

To set the scene I'll digress slightly to explain that in November 2004 my first child, Pippa, was born overdue (16 days by scan dates, 10 days by my dates) after contractions had been going for 60+ hours.  I had been interested in a homebirth for my first but my husband wasn't & therefore we'd agreed to go to the birthing centre as a compromise.  However, I was refused access to the birthing centre because we'd used my scan dates during the pregnancy and I'd now gone over the 14 day limit, so chances of a waterbirth were now zero and hospital was the only option.

Editorial note: There is always another option, of course - you can decide on a homebirth at any point in pregnancy, even when you have already gone into labour! It may not feel like a real option at the time, though...

To cut the story short, after many hours of irregular contractions, it was found there was meconium in the waters, which had been broken by the MW (with my consent) to try to speed things up and because of this I was on a monitor where my pulse rate (by now 100 bpm) was frequently showing up so there was concern on the part of the hospital staff in case this was her heart-rate.  I ended up pushing for more than 1.5 hrs and gave birth at 16:30 reclining on my back because of the monitor – something I'd expressly said I didn't want to do but it was the only way to keep the monitor steady and therefore stick to the hospital protocol.  I suffered a 2nd degree tear.  Baby was sleepy and point blank refused to suck, she wouldn't even suck fingers (I'd been strongly advised and did take pethidine that morning although I'd written "no drugs" in my birth plan).  Breastfeeding was a real struggle, meaning I wasn't discharged until several days had elapsed despite being dressed, packed & ready to get out of there after one lonely rotten night on the ward.  At the gentle but persistent insistance of the night staff, Pippa was fed a bottle of my expressed colostrum because she'd not breastfed properly despite my expressed wishes and repeated efforts to establish breastfeeding.

So many things happened that I felt out of control of so I was determined this time things were going to be different, starting with ignoring scan dates & sticking with mine.  EDD: 6 Dec 2006!

I'm very lucky in that I suffer no adverse effects during pregnancy so I felt this time I had a strong 'case' for HB.  The major sticking point was my husband who had not changed his opinions in 2 years and did not want me to go for a HB.  I made the decision early on that this time I would be more resolute in 'holding out' as I just knew that I would have a better experience & felt so confident I could cope at home.  We still had to address practical issues like who would look after Pippa when the time came especially as we don't live near family, but I figured that I had 8 months to work that out!  I looked into waterbirth and was more and more attracted to that idea but kept quiet until about month 8 when my husband mellowed to the idea of the HB and then I hit him with that one too!  I bought a Birth Pool in a Box "Mini" pool which was really great – it was a reasonable price, there was loads of room in it despite it being the smallest they sell and it was extremely sturdy.  Even though I'm only 5'4" I'm pretty overweight and I had been a bit concerned about the rigidity of a blow-up pool, needlessly as it turned out.

On the Sunday, 5 days past my EDD, I'd been having what I can only describe as "on, off" feelings – not real contractions - during the day until about 11 pm when I was more sure that things could be starting.  We went to bed feeling excited but fearing it could all stop.  I woke at 4 am unable to sleep through contractions & started writing down times.  By 6 am they were 5 mins apart and 35-45 seconds duration but I was able to breathe through them with the help of TENS and rotating my hips whilst sitting on a birthing ball.  I was calm and smiling between times and sat watching CBeebies with Pippa, a rare treat for her!  My husband inflated the birth pool and partially filled it just in case.  

I had phoned and arranged for the MW to come round as the shift changed at 8 am.  I was keen to hold out until then if possible as I knew that my lovely community midwife was the one on call that day and Monday evening.  She arrived late after being stuck in exceptionally bad traffic by which time, disappointingly everything had settled down.  We decided she would do her morning clinic and I'd call her if things changed or my waters went.  My husband dressed and fed Pippa and left for the 25 min round trip to her nursery, having alerted mother-in-law to start the 180 mile journey to arrive so Pip could be picked up at 5 pm.  Left by myself, after 30 minutes my husband returned with Pippa having got about half a mile down the road – the traffic was still dreadful!  MIL arrived at lunchtime and entertained Pippa the rest of the day whilst contractions all but stopped so I had a 3 hour doze in the afternoon with a hot water bottle for company.  I was waking hourly with strong but single contractions.  At 17:00 I got up & showered knowing that the 10 min contractions I was now experiencing were of a new depth to before.  By 19:30 I was on regular, long, 4 min-spaced contractions feeling drowsy and 'inside myself' between times.

The MW returned with her student, took one look at me & reassured me with a, "won't be long now" – bless her!  She did an internal with my permission to establish whether I was sufficiently dilated to enter the pool (her protocol said 4-5 cm) – thankfully I was 5 cm and 'stretchy' to 7 cm.  I took off the TENS and got in the pool at 20:00 – bliss, bliss, bliss!  I found the best position for me was kneeling holding on to my husband's hands.  I remember the next two hours being incredibly calm.  I learnt that my best way to breathe through the contractions was to rise up on my knees at the crest and sink back down into the water as it passed.  I don't know why, it just felt right.  The pool was deep enough that I didn't really get exposed to the air despite doing this. I was totally lucid inside my head but couldn't talk in decent sentences – it was almost as though I'd gone into my own world and there was no-one else around.  I could respond 'yes' and 'no' or say, 'water' to my husband so he could give me a drink through a straw but that's about it.  I could hear Pippa having a whale of a time playing in the bath upstairs & thinking that I knew it was already way past her bedtime and as usual she'd twisted Granny around her little finger!

After about an hour (?) I remember thinking that I must be in the transition stage as I felt very 'open' and the contractions had changed but couldn't get the words out to tell the MW.  I started some fairly gently pushing as the contractions crested (21:30).  She actually guessed that's what I was doing from observing me but bless her, didn't interfere with me other than to occasionally take my pulse or discreetly use the sonicaid to check on the baby (about once every 15 mins).  She would gently reassure me with, "baby sounds fine" and although I know she was explaining stuff to the student all through, she spoke so quietly it didn't interfere.  By this time the second midwife arrived (a bit noisily so I angrily told her, "shhh!" – how ungrateful of me, but she did walk in just as I needed to concentrate on a contraction!).

By about 21:45 I knew I wanted to do strong pushes and I was feeling hot and bothered even though the pool temperature was maintained at a steady 36-37C throughout.  I found out afterwards that about 15 minutes elapsed and I realised the head was crowning.  I reached down to gingerly feel a spongy scalp.  I'd not wanted to look at or touch Pippa when she crowned & really thought I wouldn't want to this time, but the water made me feel secure enough to do this.  I delivered the head on the next contraction & felt a sensation that made me wonder if I'd disgraced myself, but we think it was actually my waters breaking.  The midwives were trying to look but couldn't see what was happening and didn't believe me at first when I said that the head was out!  I think I heard someone mutter something about it might be a poo so I said, "it's DEFINITELY the head!" (Geez – you can't mistake having a head poking out between your legs now can you?!).  I knew it would all be over next contraction & sure enough I pushed and had enough time to let go of my husbands hands and reach down to catch James as he arrived at 22:06.  He looked like he was asleep as I brought him up & I felt euphoric!  I looked down & said with some amazement, "It's a boy!" (I'd convinced myself I was having a girl again!).

MIL ran upstairs from the kitchen when she heard him cry and I learnt afterwards that the student (a mum of two herself) was nearly in tears at this point.  I couldn't stop grinning and although I never thought I would, I wanted to pose for pictures with my new son despite being totally nude and not exactly looking my best.  I felt so proud of myself and so pleased that everything had gone exactly as I'd wanted, even down to getting the midwives of my choice.  I'd read all the waterbirth stories on the website & had longed to be able to say I'd had a good experience.

I intended to get out of the water to have a physiological 3rd stage but I was enjoying cuddling this wailing child and didn't want to leave the pool.  Anyway, I had pins and needles in my feet so I needed to stretch them or I was going to fall over!  I was amazed that the water was still really clear & not nearly as bloody as I'd thought it would be.  There were huge lumps of vermix floating around which I just found really funny as they looked a bit like icebergs!  I was just planning on getting out when I had 3 strong but painless convulsions in quick succession & the placenta fell out to the bottom of the pool.  James' cord was subsequently clamped and cut and we got on to dry land again.

Although I didn't feel it at all at the time, I did experience a 2nd degree tear again which they think was along the scar from first time round.  Thankfully I didn't need stitches and it healed quickly.

MIL put the kettle on and brought up a cake I'd made and it was a happy, chilled-out time as he was weighed (8 lb 13 oz compared to Pippa's 7 lb 6 oz) and my MW wrote up the notes.  James fed from me contentedly for a short time.  They all left at about midnight and we stayed up another couple of hours chatting excitedly (Pippa slept through it all!).

I'm writing this 8 days later as I don't want to forget a moment of the event.  I would definitely attempt another home waterbirth if we have any more children – I'll never forget what a positive experience it was.

Jessica B

Related pages:

Home Birth Stories

The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?

Overdue - what are the risks? What are your options?

Big babies and homebirth

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