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Kalonice's homebirth, by Jo-Anne

Jo-Anne's last baby, Chelsea, was born at home in 2004, at 3 weeks postdates. When she found herself pregnant again, Jo-Anne was keen to book another homebirth, with the same independent midwife.

Kalonice

Kalonice - born 7th March 2005
7 lb 3 oz

Despite exclusive breastfeeding I became pregnant very soon after having Chelsea. Although I was surprised, I was really pleased, but whereas in my last pregnancy I had been looking forward to the birth from the second I found out I was pregnant, this time I started worrying about the birth straightaway because Chelseaís birth had been so quick.

Ever since Chelseaís birth, I had been driving everyone mad moaning about the speed of it. People thought I was mad to have wished it had lasted longer, but it had been such a shock and really frightening not having a midwife there. I was also really upset that my midwife had been there all the way through the pregnancy and missed the best bit. By the second antenatal appointment, I was already looking forward to her being at the birth; I think a good experience is even more enjoyable if you have people you think a lot of there to share the experience with you.

It sounds really daft but Iíd been looking forward to the birth so much for so long, especially as I went so overdue, then when I finally went into labour it was over and done with so quickly I didnít have a chance to enjoy it. I tried to pull myself together, saying to myself "How can you enjoy something so painful anyway?", especially as it was one continuous pain, with no gaps between the contractions so I didnít get a chance to think about anything other than the pain, but it didnít work.

Another really upsetting thin was that it affected my bonding. Births so quick that there is no time to get to hospital or have a midwife, are the sort of thing you see on TV, not something that happens to people like me. It felt as if it happened to me, she didnít feel like mine and it took a good six weeks to feel like her mum and bond with her.

I booked with the same independent midwife I had before, Sarah Montagu. As the pregnancy progressed I became even more worried about another precipitate birth. I feared this one would be even quicker, and what if there was some problem which meant I really should have a hospital birth, how would I get there on time? I became even more worried and upset when Sarah said she was moving to Oxford. This meant, as I lived in Birmingham, if I had any more children, I wouldnít be able to book with her again. So she had to be at this birth, it was my only chance to have her at a birth. (As it happened I moved to be nearer relatives and live in the same area as her again anyway!)

I wasnít too bothered about having an anomaly scan; I hadnít done with Chelsea as the local hospital weren't offering them then. However, my husband was keen so Sarah arranged one. I hadn't planned on having any antenatal care, other than that provided by Sarah, but the scan showed a problem with my baby's left kidney. The sonographer said it was hydronephrotic and there was a dilated renal pelvis so I agreed to see the consultant. I was offered, and accepted, another scan, this time with a fetal medicine consultant, who said the kidney wasn't hydronephrotic or enlarged but was polycystic and I should have consultancy led care and hospital birth so the baby can be checked immediately.

I spoke to Sarah that night but she wasn't too worried and said she couldn't see any reason why I shouldn't have a home birth. I now felt there were some advantages to having had a precipitate birth last time; I could use this as an excuse to have a home birth, as I wouldn't get to hospital in time. This didn't work though; I was just told I could be admitted at 37 weeks.

I saw the obstetrician who said I was high risk even without the kidney problem because I'd had a previous precipitate birth at 43+ weeks. He said I didn't need to worry about not getting to hospital in time, as I would be in hospital anyway for post-dates induction! The baby was placed on the perinatal alert register and I would have to have paediatricians in the delivery room and baby would be taken off me straight away to have a direct scan of the kidneys.

I had another scan and this time was told that either the left kidney had two ureters or there was one enlarged one which could indicate a blockage. This panicked the obstetrician even more and he asked me to wait to see a paediatrician which I agreed to and was very glad I did. Instead of getting further pressure to have a hospital birth, the paeds were reassuring that the baby would be okay and supportive of my wish for a home birth. Sarah had mentioned prophylactic antibiotics and I was worried these would be advised, but no mention of them was made at all.

Sarah and I discussed my fears about the birth and she thought it might help if I didn't go so overdue this time. About midday a couple of days before my due date, she did a stretch and sweep. Although the two I'd had done with Chelsea hadn't bothered me at all, I found this incredibly painful. Half an hour later I started having pains but thought I was imagining them. I am a qualified complementary therapist, and I worked the reflex areas on my ankles that correspond to the reproductive organs to see if this helped get me into labour. Then I went shopping and the pains intensified, getting both stronger and closer together. I wanted to believe this was labour but was still expecting to go really overdue again. Also I was expecting labour pain to be one long pain as it had been with Chelsea, even though that isn't typical of labour pain. At 8 pm I was unable to talk through the pain so I sent Sarah a text.

She got to me really quickly but I was upstairs and couldn't get downstairs to answer the door. I had become a single mum a few weeks before, and the person who was staying with me to look after Chelsea if needed had been thrown out a few hours before as she was annoying me by fussing too much! Suddenly the pain eased (looking back I think maybe I felt better knowing if I was in labour I wouldn't be giving birth without a midwife this time) and I thought "Oh no, I've called her out for no reason". I felt bad for wasting her time.

I went down and let her in and it seemed like she was there for ages just sitting on the floor doing nothing. I wanted her to tell me whether I was in labour or not, so that if I wasn't she could go home instead of wasting more of her time. I was still getting the pains just as frequently but they were very mild now, but I moaned with each one as I was afraid she'd be cross with me for calling her out when the pain was nowhere near bad enough to be caused by labour! I pretended to be in much more pain than I really was. Even though I'd been upset about her not being at Chelsea's birth, I have often thought about how embarrassed I'd have been if she had been there as I had made such a fuss she'd have thought I was a right wuss and now here I was in hardly any pain at all and I was moaning about it!

An afterthought from Jo-Anne:

The pain had become much less severe so I didn't really need to make any noise but I continued to moan with each contraction as I thought acting as if I was in labour would convince me that I was and stop me worrying about wasting her time. When the contractions became less painful I was really worried and upset that I had called Sarah out unnecessarily. I was also worried that as I didn't seem to be in pain, Sarah would be angry with me for getting her out when there was no pain - but of course she wouldn't have been!

Back to the story:

After what seemed like hours and hours (she said afterwards she hadn't been there long at this point at all), Sarah asked to examine me. I'd wanted her to do this when she first arrived and I still did but I didn't let her as I was pretty sure I wasn't in labour and I was afraid that once she knew that she'd tell me off for having had her there for ages when nothing was happening! Instead I asked her to leave, but she didn't.

Another note from Jo-Anne:

I wanted her to go so I didn't waste her time. I was very glad she did stay though! It's a good thing it was labour as I have recently found out that her daugher had taken her out for a meal as it was the day after Mother's Day. I felt awful when she told me and coped with it by telling myself it was her own fault she missed the meal as she had done such a good stretch and sweep! I would have felt even more terrible if she had missed the meal to attend me for a false alarm!

Although I said Sarah seemed to have been just sitting there for ages not doing anything, she hadn't been there for as long as I had thought and was just observing me without interfering; it's not that she was being lazy!

Back to the story:

I was kneeling over the sofa and all of a sudden realised I had been pushing for quite a while. As with Chelsea I thought "How can I be pushing when I'm not in labour?" I felt I needed the toilet and although the pain I get with IBS is excruciating and this was mild I thought the IBS was the cause. I sat on the toilet and the pain become unbearable again, as it had been when I texted Sarah. I started screaming and I became aware of a shadow outside the bathroom door. With the next scream Sarah came in and I got off the toilet and kneeled leaning on the side of the bath. Sarah said "All right, the baby's coming now" and I thought "You stupid woman, you've gone mad!" as, even though the pain was terrible now, I still didn't think I could be in labour.

The pain intensified again and I realised that maybe Sarah was right. I started screaming even louder and shouting that I couldn't do it. Then my waters broke and Kalonice was born shortly after, at 11.35 pm. I'll never forget the joy and amazement I felt when Sarah said "Here, take your baby". She handed Kalonice to me and I felt the happiest, luckiest woman in her world. I bonded with her immediately. Somehow Chelsea had managed to sleep right through it, even though her room was next to the bathroom (I wish she still slept that well!)

It was such a lovely experience; I just wish I'd known I was in labour earlier. Once I knew I was in labour I was so excited and enjoying it so much; if I'd known I was in labour earlier on, there would have been even more excitement and enjoyment. I was so pleased I had Sarah to share the experience with this time.

For months after Chelsea was born, I had been driving everyone mad moaning about the quick birth. Now, 10 months after Kalonice's birth I am boring everyone silly going on about her birth. However, instead of moaning about the birth, I am saying how wonderful it was and how I can't wait to do it again. If all labours were like this one, I would give birth every day if it was possible!

Jo-Anne Berry

Oxford

Update:
Jo-Anne had a third baby, Jordan, in 2007.

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