Jo Bottomley's Home Birth Story

Jo lives in Taunton, Somerset. Her son, Daniel, was born in hospital after a traumatic forceps delivery. Jo persevered in booking a home birth for her next baby, despite considerable opposition. Her daughter Cathlin was born at home on 2 February 2000.

I had a disastrous experience of booking a home birth with my first child.

First stop was my GP. She told me outright that I could not have a home birth. Her reasons - First baby, you have Asthma (very mild, I might add ) and you're too fat. I left in tears.

Next stop was the midwife. "The doctor has already said no" was all she would say.

The consultant was worse. They scanned me and decided that I had got my dates wrong by around three weeks. They refused to believe that my dates were correct even when I pointed out that my husband was two hours drive away at the time of conception having an operation and that there was no possibility of it being anyone else's. Again I left in tears.

When even my midwife refused to believe my dates, I requested a new midwife from the director of midwifery. I was asked to go in to the hospital to speak to her and after a very long chat she seamed happy that I knew all the "risks" and understood my reasons for requesting a new midwife and home birth.

Things seamed to be going well until my due date came and went. When I was two weeks overdue I contacted the midwife to ask what I should do. She told me not to worry as I wasn't due for another week. I was frantic with worry as I was being told that my baby may be stillborn if I went too overdue. When I was FIVE weeks overdue I was finally induced. My baby was ripped out of me by forceps after a twenty hour labour. I felt everything. It was like a horror movie. Blood hit the walls and the doctors in slow motion.

My son was slapped on to my stomach as all seven of the staff present took bets on how much he weighed. He was a massive 10lbs 14 oz.

Within days of his birth I was having flashbacks. I was later diagnosed as having post natal depression and post traumatic stress syndrome with anorexia as a symptom. While I was still on the post natal ward someone asked me how I could laugh and joke about what had happened. All I could say was " If I don't laugh I will cry, and I don't know if I will be able to stop"

Eighteen months later I conceived again. I decided to start a complaint about the way I was treated the last time. I was invited to revisit the consultant. She told me that the reason that my son was so big was because I was so big and I'm not exactly small now am I. I panicked and stopped eating again as well as cycling like mad. I lost the baby a few weeks later. Ironically I had a scan to see if the baby was still there and was told that I had got my dates wrong by (you guessed it) three weeks. One good thing came out of this though. I got to dray up a statement of care for next time with the director of midwives.

Exactly a year later I conceived. Unfortunately the director had changed and was not happy for me to have my baby at home even when I explained that I was now terrified of hospitals. I was told that I could not have the midwife that I had requested as she was ill, but strangely she had taken on another woman who was due a week before me. This time I refused to even discuss a hospital birth so she resorted to scare tactics. She told me that I would die or my baby would get stuck. I was told that not every woman could give birth, and second babies are usually 1lb heavier than the first. She described in great detail haemorrhaging and shoulder dystocia. She didn't like the fact that my friend and I were not afraid to research things on our own and ask questions that she couldn't really answer.

We discovered that there wasn't much they could do in hospital if the baby got stuck, so I wouldn't be much worse off at home. I was summoned to see a different consultant this time after asking for midwife only care. He was OK. He advised me to go to hospital but wished me luck all the same.

I would get panicky before every midwife appointment, and two weeks before I was due she wanted to discuss induction. I had previously told them I would not consider it before 44 weeks, to which they gasped in horror as my baby would surely be stillborn. I asked them why they were so worried this time when nobody cared last time but they still didn't believe me. I got so stressed that I refused to see the midwife. I told her I would contact her at 41 weeks. She was not happy. I didn't want my midwife to deliver my baby. I had explained that it wasn't that I didn't want to do it but that I couldn't do it in hospital. I had been for a look around the operating theatre and spent the whole time having a panic attack. The final straw came when she said "but Daniel was alright" I told her "I wasn't" to which she replied "but Daniel was alright". I knew then that she had no concept of what I went through last time.

11PM on the 1st of Feb my waters broke. I called the midwives and the midwife I had originally requested came out. I almost kissed her. Sadly nothing much was happening but I was told that I had at least 24 hours before I should go in and they wouldn't want to take me in the middle of the night so I should have around 32 hours breathing space.

The next morning my nice midwife went and the horrid one appeared with student in tow. She announced that I had until 11pm at the most and not to expect to deliver at home. She performed a painful internal and announced that I was only 2cms gone when the first midwife had told me 3 maybe 4cms. I was then left on my own with my husband with instructions to call when I needed them.

After they had gone I relaxed and things started to happen. After around half an hour I couldn't stand the pain so I retreated to the bath. My husband started to panic when shortly after I started to scream out with every contraction. I wouldn't let him phone the midwife for ages. When he finally did they took half an hour to phone back and another half an hour to arrive. When they got here I was asked if I wanted to push. I thought I just needed to poo. I had been feeling like it for over an hour. They helped me out of the bath and down stairs and I was told to push.

Shortly later I delivered a very healthy 8lb 1oz baby girl called Cathlin.

The student midwife present said that it was the best birth she had witnessed so far and it made her wish she had had her three babies at home. My son saw his sister minutes after she was born and the bond between them is amazing.

Jo Bottomley

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