Joanne's first baby, Amy, was born in hospital - quickly. Joanne found the experience traumatic and suffered a third-degree tear. Her next three children were all born at home.
Lucy Isabelle Foster - 23rd May 1995
My first labour with Amy, two years previously, was fairly traumatic, though fast (too fast really) and uncomplicated apart from a bad tear. I had arrived at the hospital with only minutes to spare, and gave birth in the Assessment room. I hated it in hospital, though I was lucky enough only to have to spend two days in. When I became pregnant for the second time I had decided to go for what was known in our area as a 'West Wing' delivery. This meant that a community Midwife would assess me at home when I went into labour and then I would be brought in by her to a separate, less technical, more homely wing of the Maternity Hospital and hopefully delivered by her too. Then depending on how I was, I could go home in six hours. This seemed quite attractive to me - Amy was now just turned two and I was anxious not to be away from her for too long.
When I got to my check up with the GP at 36 weeks, he said he couldn't believe I hadn't considered a home delivery! This surprised me a bit as I had always thought the GPs were against home birth. He suggested that as I was so far having another trouble-free pregnancy and my first labour was so quick, it might be an option I should consider. Well, it didn't take me long to decide! I am very lucky that I never got anything other than encouragement from my GP and all the Midwives on the team. I only went to hospital once for the anomaly scan at 20 weeks; I didn't have a consultant at all.
The pregnancy continued 'quietly', though at 35 weeks my GP was concerned that the baby was lying in an oblique position (diagonally), and that he would need to check again at 36 weeks that everything was normal in order for the home delivery to be on. I saw him again the following week and sure enough the baby was head down and fully engaged!
On my due date, 23rd May 1995, I felt a bit 'odd'. I had a bit of a backache, but nothing else to go on. Still, I was persuaded to call the Midwife, Esther, who had asked me not to hang on at all if I thought anything might be happening. She said she was passing this way later and would drop in to see me. I pottered about, put Amy to bed and had a bath while I was waiting. She arrived about 9.00pm, I was still feeling nothing, but she said she would examine me anyway. When she did, she nearly keeled over when she found me to be 6cms dilated. I didn't have a clue! Almost as soon as she had examined me, the contractions started, they were pretty powerful, but quite bearable, certainly not enough to need any of the Entonox she had with her. At this point we didn't even have the room ready, so we set about moving furniture and putting the plastic sheets down.
My Mum and my Aunt arrived; my Mum would be keeping an eye on Amy who was asleep downstairs and my Aunt was there as my second birth partner. This time I really wanted a second partner; after Amy's delivery, Mick was actually quite traumatised (me and you both, mate!!), and wasn't at all sure that he was going to be able to face it this time. I didn't mind - I wasn't sure that I actually wanted him present for the actual delivery. He is unbelievably squeamish, and felt quite ill when Amy was born. She was born so quickly, it was a shock for all of us. And as I had a bad tear there was a lot of blood. I could well do without him passing out on me and didn't want to have to worry about how he was feeling. My Aunt is very much loved and trusted, and endlessly wise and experienced, so she was the perfect partner.
By about 10.15pm I had started to feel the urge to push. Mick was still in the room at this point and coping well (!!!!) This time it was just so very, very different - I was the one in control this time, and instead of telling me what to do, the Midwife followed my lead and allowed me to decide how things progressed. I instinctively positioned myself sitting upright on the bed and pushed when it felt right. Unlike Amy's delivery, it was all very calm and controlled. We laughed and joked between pushes and all the panic of last time had gone. As her head crowned I was aware of Mick getting gradually paler and more terrified-looking. By contrast, I felt very relaxed, but I remember just wishing he would go if he wanted to. I told him again I didn't mind, and he started to edge towards the door. In fact, I think he just kind of hovered in the doorway in the end with his eyes closed. He says that looking back he bitterly regrets not being braver when Lucy was born, as she was the only one of the four that he didn't actually see born, but he did redeem himself when I had Harry and Nancy later by throwing himself into it 100%!!
The moment that Lucy was born was so strange and quite surreal, as she was actually crying and screaming before her body was delivered. I remember seeing her little screwed up, crying face, but could still feel her wriggly body inside me. She was born kicking and screaming into this world and she hasn't ever stopped!! She's a feisty little thing, and was from day one!! She was, of course, beautiful! She was so 'compact', and, to our utter amazement, she was blonde (we are all very dark) with mad sticking-up hair and quite a cross little face!!
Lucy Isabelle Foster was born at 10.41pm after 1 hour and 25 minutes of labour, weighing a neat 7lbs 6ozs. Despite having a Syntometrine injection, I did have some difficulty delivering the placenta, which came away in bits, but I was in a fuzzy haze of bliss at the time. The Midwife examined me and told me I didn't need any stitches. This was great as I had a third degree tear with Amy, so I was expecting the same deal again!! Afterwards, I jumped out of bed. This in itself was a surprise, as after having Amy, I could hardly move. I didn't realise at the time how painful stitches were, I thought that is what all births felt like! This time I just felt a bit 'bruised' and tender. Using your own bathroom afterwards is fantastic - whilst in there someone changed my sheets and got me a fresh nightie and I got back into my very own bed! One very good reason for having a home birth, I think!!
Suddenly, the room seemed to be filled with family, it was lovely, Amy had woken up and came in to see her new sister. She was quite taken with her until Lucy started to cry loudly. I don't think Amy was prepared for this, she dissolved into tears too!! My Mum and Dad appeared, my Nan and Grandad, my brother and cousins. People seemed to materialise from nowhere. It was just like a party, champagne was opened, there was a lot of kissing and backslapping, I had never known such happiness.
Then the Midwife left. She said she had never been to such a happy home birth and it was a joy and a privilege, which was nice to hear. Then the family disappeared too and we were alone. Lucy stared at me all that night, she never slept once. She didn't cry, just stared with that knowing look that new-borns have. I held her in my arms all that night, just looking at each other and taking it all in.
I knew then that the decision we made for Lucy to be born in her own home, was the best decision that we ever made and that this really was the way it should be done.
Harry James Foster - 26th August 1999
After having a traumatic hospital birth with Amy, my first baby, I had opted for a home delivery with my second, Lucy. This was just so very, very different. Everything about the experience was so positive. I was relaxed and felt in control, I was in my own home, in my own bed, free to do just as I pleased. When I was expecting my third baby, it was just taken for granted by all those taking care of me that I would want to do the same again. There was never any question about this!! Amy and Lucy were by this time six and four and I didn't want to be away from them either, I think the children believed, quite rightly, that hospital was for people who are ill, so obviously, they didn't want their Mum there. So it was really important for me to remain at home.
I had a different Midwife this time, Tracey, but we hit it off straight away, she told me she had given birth to all three of her children at home and I knew she was going to be on my side! I had a difficult pregnancy compared to the other two, I was in agony from about 16 weeks with back pain. I suffered with sciatica, complicated by the baby being in a posterior position right the way through. However, the Midwife assured me that this wouldn't prevent me from having this baby at home. She did warn me though, that if the labour was long and I became very tired, I might need to transfer to hospital if I needed some assistance. I hoped it wouldn't come to this but assured her that I trusted her, and would take her advice if and when the time came. I knew that my Midwife really wanted me to have this home birth and if she felt that I needed to be in hospital, it would be for a very good reason.
My due date was 29 August 1999. I had never been heavily pregnant through the summer before and I did find it quite hard to cope with. I was huge, I had measured big for dates from the start, it was so very hot and the backache was unbearable. I think I could probably count on one hand the number of hours' sleep I had in the last few weeks. On 25 August I had an antenatal appointment. I felt a completely different shape that day and I just knew that the Midwife was going to tell me that the baby had turned round. She did. She told me that maybe the baby was thinking about moving out!!
The next day I felt a bit deflated; I had got my hopes up a bit and expected things to have started. It was the school holidays and a hot sunny day, so my Mum and me took Amy and Lucy to the park. When we came back late afternoon, I went to the loo and found I had a show. The Midwife had told me to call her if anything at all happened as I had a history of quick deliveries (2 hours 30 mins and 1 hour 25 mins). I was not in any pain or even discomfort but I called anyway. She said she would look in on me during the evening and told me to carry on as normal. I had a bath and got dinner, my Mum came round to help with the other children and my Aunt arrived (she was my second birth partner). We had wanted all the family there - births are a bit of a party in our house (people find this quite difficult to understand, but there you go!!). By the time the Midwife had arrived we had a housefull. It really helps me to have all the family round me - we are unusually close-knit and we all gain a lot of support from each other, I just wanted this to be a celebration. I felt excited, happy and confident - I just knew this baby was coming tonight even though I hadn't felt a single twinge!
The Midwife examined me upstairs when she arrived about 8.00pm. To her amazement (though not to mine, this had happened before!) I was 6-7cms dilated. Just like the last time, as soon as she had examined me, the contractions started. We got the room ready and I made myself comfortable on the floor kneeling against the foot of the bed. I had Mick and my Aunt with me, tea was brought up and we just sat around chatting and laughing and the mood was just so relaxed. I just went with each contraction, breathing and concentrating and letting them pass. As each one came I got over it by telling myself "right, that's another one out of the way". The children were able to pop in and out more or less when they wanted. Mick kept a careful eye on me, and if he thought I needed to be 'elsewhere' and concentrate on the job in hand, he would distract the children or take them out. Being welcome to come in the bedroom really helped as they were quite anxious about me, especially Amy, and seeing their Mum was OK, reassured them. I had other visitors come up from time to time too. My Nan, who was then 83, was reduced to tears as the Midwife listened to the baby's heart. In all her lifetime, and all the babies in our family she had seen arrive, she had never heard the magical sound of an unborn baby's heart. It was very moving for us all.
By about 10.00pm, I felt I was coping fine, I was beginning to feel the urge to push, but the only real discomfort I had felt was the unbearable heat. It was a very humid August night. I had a fan on me, but the Midwife had told me that it would have to go off once I started pushing as it would make the room too cold for the baby. I decided it was time to get myself comfortable and I got up onto the bed. It was all so calm and controlled just like the last time, I just took a deep breath and pushed. There was one point when I felt I wasn't actually achieving anything, but the Midwife assured me I was. I had one moment of panic, when I thought "This baby's stuck!!". Then suddenly, the head was there, Mick was right down at the business end watching all the action, which I couldn't quite believe at the time, after his last two performances! The first time, where I watched him stand rooted to the spot with fear, turning white then green. The second, he watched hovering in the doorway from behind his hands! In fact, even this time, right up until the last minute, he was trying to decide whether or not to watch through the crack in the door!! But when it came to the crunch, he was right there shouting encouragement and giving me full details of absolutely everything he could see! I'm sure this time he was even getting in the Midwife's way a bit!
I remember saying, "It's not coming out is it? It hurts!" and the Midwife saying, "Right, if it hurts so much, lets get it over with one last push" I mustered every last ounce of energy and heaved. My waters went and Harry James Foster appeared at 10.16pm on Thursday 26 August 1999. He had taken 2 hours and 46 minutes to arrive. The Midwife said "Oh my God! Look at the size of him!!" Mick cut the cord (couldn't believe THAT!!) Then he was weighed - 9lbs 5ozs. His head was measured at a massive 38.5cms! Ouch! No wonder I didn't think he was coming out! Apparently, during labour, the Midwife had said to Mick, "This is going to be a whopper you know!" I'm glad she didn't tell me that! The placenta was delivered and the Midwife said "No stitches", Yeah!!!! I was tempted to ask her to check again because I couldn't believe a baby that size with such a massive head could come out without causing some damage!!
Suddenly the room was filled with people again and the party started, first my Mum came in with the children, then my Dad, my Nan, my brother and his girlfriend, my cousin and her boyfriend, another cousin!! Even a couple of neighbours appeared! The tears and the champagne flowed. The Midwife couldn't quite believe it!! She said she had never been to a home birth like this before!!
Then I had a bath, my very own bath, changed into fresh clothes and got back into my very own bed with nice clean sheets. Everyone disappeared apart from Mick of course and my Mum, who was staying to help with the girls. We snuggled up in bed with all three children, I was just so very, very happy. Then I realised this was a 'moment', one of those priceless, special memories that you will never, ever forget. I was cuddled up with them, the girls, happy and tired, nodding off, Harry lying in my arms staring up at me with those 'new-born eyes'. You just don't get this in hospital, do you?
Nancy Ella Foster - 19th December 2001
When I was expecting my fourth baby, there was never any question about what my plans for the delivery would be. Already having two home deliveries behind me, I was becoming quite a pro! I was getting the hang of this! I'm sure that having two such positive home births after having Amy in hospital contributed to our decision to keep having more children. My GP asked if I would like to have this baby at home when I first visited him. I now realise after talking to so many other Mums who have had home births that I am so fortunate to have the luxury of a fantastic, supportive GP and team of Midwives.
The pregnancy was mostly uncomplicated apart from quite severe Anemia, which I had experienced every time, but this time it was worse. At one point towards the end, my Midwife said she was concerned that if my iron levels didn't improve, I might even be unable to have the home delivery. On top of that, the baby was breech and she was starting to talk about having the baby turned by ECV. I was not relishing the thought of that! Luckily, at my 35 week appointment with my GP, I was assured that the baby was head down and raring to go! My iron levels had improved to just above the level considered to be 'safe' for a home delivery, so I was all set!
As my first three children were not late, I hadn't expected to go overdue the fourth time. My due date was Saturday 15 December, terrible planning, well, not actually planned at all. But I was so well organised, I had done all my Christmas shopping in October, everything for the baby was ready by the end of November, the cot was even made up ready and waiting. I was so sure that the baby would be here well in time for Christmas and I would be back on my feet and in my jeans again!
My due date came and went, there was not so much as a twinge! I started to panic a bit, the last thing I wanted with three small children in the house was to have to go into hospital over Christmas. Well, I didn't want to go into hospital at all! The Midwife said that 'if I was lucky' (lucky?), I could go in to be induced on Christmas Eve and I could be home in time to see the children open their presents. Amy's Christmas play was on the 17th, I got to see that! Lucy's Christmas play was on the 18th, I got to see that too!! Even the headmistress announced to all the mum's and dad's how very pleased she was to see Mrs Foster, and how she had hot water and towels at the ready, just in case! When I was chatting to her after, I said "that's it, I've seen the girls' Christmas plays, now I'm going home to have this baby!" That's more or less exactly what I did!
Later that afternoon I had a show! Hooray! At last something was at least starting to move around! My Mum went into a flat spin and said she was coming round with her camp bed, just in case. Anyway, there were no further developments, Mick came home from work early, my Aunt (and second birth partner) came round, but I was reluctant to call the Midwife when I had nothing concrete to tell her. Eventually, and only due to serious nagging from my Mum and Brenda (my Aunt), I rang the Midwife. I was really disappointed to find both my regular Midwives were unavailable and I was going to end up with someone I didn't know. But I thought, at least I'm in my own home and I have done this before so even if I get someone I didn't like, I would feel confident enough to do it my way. I told the Midwife that I had a history of quick deliveries and thought it was best to be on the safe side and let her know that I may be imminent and she said she would come and check me over. She finally arrived at 11.00pm and was actually really nice and I liked her immediately. But she told me what I didn't want to hear, I was almost 2cms dilated but nothing was happening and I should go to bed. So we did.
Everyone went home (though Mum decided to stay just in case). The children all went to bed and we eventually did too. I didn't manage to sleep though, my mind was working overtime! Then at 12.45am, a huge contraction came crashing over me and took my breath away. I lay in the dark timing the pains - 10 mins, 8 mins, then 5 mins. By 1.30am I decided to wake Mick and my Mum, though the pains were not too bad and not very long, so I still didn't think anything was happening much. I called the Midwife and Mick got dressed and went to get Brenda. Meanwhile, the children slept on! The Midwife and Brenda arrived at 2.00am and when I was examined she said I was now 5cms, I was a little disappointed at first but she said the first 5cms were the slowest so it shouldn't be too much longer.
Gradually the contractions got stronger and longer and I paced around the bedroom, occasionally kneeling on the floor and leaning on the bed. At about 3.00am I decided I wanted to go to the loo and whilst in there the second Midwife arrived. Suddenly I felt I wanted to push, and went back to the bedroom where the second Midwife, who was about to go home again, changed her mind and decided to stay! Then panic set in. For some reason, and I had never experienced this before, I felt I couldn't do it after all and I wanted the baby to stay put!
The Midwife persuaded me to have some gas and air. I had used a little of this when I had stitches after Amy was born, but I had never used any pain relief in labour before so I didn't quite know how it would affect me. As it turned out, it was probably the worst thing I could do (although the feeling was fantastic!!), because all I wanted to do was lie down. Then nothing happened for nearly an hour, everyone kept trying to get me to get up again, but I didn't want to know! Eventually, I decided I was going to walk around the bedroom a bit, and as soon as I was vertical, my waters went with a pop and I was immediately overwhelmed with the need to push. I actually felt a bit scared at this point, as it was completely uncontrollable. I somehow ended up lying on the bed on my left side with one leg in the air, which was quite comfortable. After a bit of grunting and groaning, Nancy emerged just 6 minutes later at 4.06am on 19th December 2001. She had taken 3 hours and 21 minutes exactly to arrive. My longest labour of the four!!
She was placed in my arms and she cried instantly. All the pain and anxiety just melted away, forgotten. The other children woke up at this point and came in and it was a truly magical, unforgettable moment. She was absolutely beautiful and completely perfect with a round pink face and thick black hair and we all fell in love with her straight away! Then the placenta was delivered and the Midwife said those magic words 'No stitches!!' Could I be any happier? She was cleaned up and weighed at 4 KGs exactly or 8lbs 13ozs and her head was a neat 35.5cms (I still can't believe you can stretch that far!!).
That was it! Our family complete, I had loved every minute of all four pregnancies (yes, really!). I have been so very, very lucky. I have had four beautiful children, four easy pregnancies and four quick, relatively painless deliveries. I will always feel a little sad that I won't be doing it all over again, but I will look back on the arrival of all my babies with nothing but joy and deep happiness and satisfaction. Although Amy's birth was at the time traumatic, time has 'rounded off the sharp corners' and it doesn't seem as bad as it was then. She was my first born and that is always special. But I feel privileged to have been able to bring Lucy, Harry and Nancy into the world in their own homes, surrounded by love and warmth. They have been experiences that will shape the rest of my life. I wish every woman could be as lucky as me.
Mummy to Amy Charlotte Rose (01.03.93)
Lucy Isabelle (23.05.95)
Harry James (26.08.99)
Nancy Ella (19.12.01)
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