Ellen's Birth, by Jo

I live in Devon, and this is was my first pregnancy. My midwife suggested a homebirth at my booking-in appointment, something I had never considered and didn't think I could have with my first baby. We only live 5 mins drive from the hospital so it seemed like we might as well go for it. Devon has a relatively high homebirth rate and the team of midwives I was under has the highest rate of homebirth in the town - so I felt pretty confident in the care and support I would get.

Saturday 17th May
Went to the loo at 6am to find my waters had started leaking. Went back to bed and had some mild contractions every 20 mins. Got up and the contractions stopped, spent the rest of the day as normal with some mild occasional twinges.

The community midwife called in at lunchtime to check me out, had a feel of the baby (who was back to back, ie occiput posterior) and did a swab of my pad to see if it was my waters. She said it was a hind water leak and to try and get as much rest as possible. Had a sleep in the afternoon and had a few more mild contractions.

Went to bed after a movie and dinner and started to get more contractions - still only mild. Woke up at 1am and with much more painful contractions, took some paracetamol and stuck the TENS machine on, but found it was much more painful lying down, so got up and paced around with DP (partner) rubbing my back. The contractions were pretty regular - The rest of the night was spent like this - and I was starting to get worried as I knew it was early days and I didn't want to get worn out.

Sunday 18th May
At 6am we phoned the midwife again to say that things were hotting up. She said she'd come and see us at 9.30 on her way to work. She examined me and said that I was only 1cm dilated and that the contractions weren't really regular enough, although I was having very strong contractions, they weren't coming at regular enough intervals to get labour established. She confirmed that my membranes had gone completely, so this meant that we only really had 48 hours before I'd need to go in to have things speeded up. She left it that we'd see how things were at 5pm and then see if I'd need to go in to hospital that night. She was also slightly concerned that there was some meconium staining in my waters - but was happy for us to keep an eye on it.

By lunchtime I was finding the pain harder to cope with and was having some contractions that lasted 4 minutes, and they were coming every minute. We called the midwife again and asked her to come with some gas and air. She arrived and seemed happy that labour was finally getting established and seemed as though she was settling in for a long stay. The gas and air was great - and I chugged away on that for a while. Then we noticed my waters were turning rather a greenish colour with more meconium staining. This meant that I was looking at a transfer to hospital, which was a bit disappointing as we felt like things were just getting going, but on the other hand, I was getting very tired after a night without sleep, and really wanted to get on with it.

So at 3pm we drove to hospital. We drove ourselves which was nice - as I'd been told it would be by ambulance. I sat in the back with my bottle of gas and air and blathered away to DP.

When we got to hospital I got all teary; I don't know if I was disappointed, relieved, or just overwhelmed that I was actually having a baby, I think being there made it all sink in. The community midwife stayed with us an hour to get us settled in, which was great, I expected to be handed over straight away. I just got on with sucking on the gas and air - now I had an unending supply - so I gave it my all!

The community midwife was still concerned that things weren't progressing fast enough and asked us if I wanted to go on a drip to speed things up. We decided that we wanted to wait a while, as the last thing I needed now was accelerated pain! Then we were handed over the hospital midwives. I had another internal - still only 3 cm dilated. I was hooked up the heart monitor which was one of the things I was really adamant about not having as I thought it would be really restrictive, but it was actually fine and it meant that DP could see my contractions coming and make sure I started on the gas and air in time. I thought I would only be on it for half an hour, but looking back I now realise I was on it for the whole time - just shows how little I noticed it.

At 6:30 pm we asked if I could be examined again - I was still only 3.5 cm dilated and I was starting to struggle on the gas and air, with contractions coming back to back. We asked for more pain relief. The midwife came in and ran through our options; Pethidine seemed like the best thing as it should be worn off by the time I got to the second stage.

I was given the pethidine at 7:15pm (DP told me about the size of the needle - thankfully I didn't feel a thing!). It made me very out of it, but I actually got to rest between contractions which was great and felt like I got some relief. I was surprised that I got on so well with it, as I was expecting it would make me feel sick.

At 9pm I was examined again and I was 7 cm dilated, the baby had turned and it seemed like things were finally underway.

The pethidine had started wearing off and things started getting more painful again and over the next few hours and I started feeling pressure in my bum and getting the urge to bear down. I remember DP getting really upset at some point - I think he was finding it so hard to see me in so much pain and not to be able to do anything about it - trouble was when he started crying it set me off too!

Then at 11pm came a change of midwife and with the pethidine worn off and me fully dilated (apart from a small lip) it was time to start pushing. The midwife said that the next stage would be the hardest work I had ever done - she was right!! She was fantastic and really spurred me on saying 'Come on Jo - give it some welly!!' I think without her I would have ended up with an assisted delivery.

I spent ages trying to find a comfortable position to push, squatting by the bed, kneeling on the bed (but I just ended up huddled in a lump), squatting between DP's knees - but my legs were so tired by this point that they just kept giving way. I ended up lying on my side on the bed with my leg braced against the midwives shoulder. I thought the baby would never ever come out, and the closer I got the more I wouldn't believe I was getting there!! She kept telling me to make low noises and really push down. I can't believe some of the sounds that came out of me - even DP was grunting along with me urging me on, he was fantastic. It felt like he was with me through every contraction - even when I ground my foot into his toe and dug my nails into his hand!!

Finally the second midwife appeared - but I was still in denial that I was near the end.

Finally at 12:54 am on Monday 19th May 2003 Ellen finally emerged. I think I just about hit the roof when her head finally came out - that's how I knew - this must be it!! The other midwife said -ah look she's trying to cry and I could hear this little noise of a BABY!!! I don't think I even waited for the next contraction before I pushed the rest of her out - what a relief!!! DP cut the cord and then suddenly this little slithery wide eyed little person was put on my front - all warm and wet and beautiful. I will never forget that moment when I first saw her.

I had a natural 3rd stage with the placenta appearing in 16 mins - very speedy, then came some rather nasty stitching (I tore slightly to the front so needed a surgeon to stitch) which was done by the most heavy handed man in the world (GGRRRRR!!!), but I think he did a good job! Then after a bath and a cup of tea we were wheeled up to the ward at about 4am. DP went home for a few hours' kip, but I don't think either of us got much sleep! Our brilliant midwife had arranged for a really quick discharge for us - as we had planned a homebirth, so we left hospital at 12 noon that day after seeing the paediatrician.

I am so pleased with how my labour went, even though it wasn't all as we had hoped, and even though I didn't get the homebirth I wanted I was so impressed with the way I was treated in hospital, not at all as I had feared (lots of procedures and intervention). I think that was down to having a brilliant midwife - who had spotted that I was a homebirth transfer and singled us out. She had a homebirth herself and was very pro natural and active birth, so I really take my hat off to her.

The community midwife - though she was very nice, I didn't feel that she was very used to homebirth, tho we were with her for such a short time I don't really know (she wasn't one of my midwives, but one that was covering for the city that weekend. She just seemed to err on the side of caution.

I am just happy that I managed a relatively natural and active labour (did the whole second stage with out any pain relief) and managed to deliver her unassisted - I think things were touch and go for a while in the second stage regarding Ellen's heartbeat and me needing some assistance to deliver her. The midwife kept threatening Ventouse if I didn't get a move on, and I think it was her laid-back attitude that meant that I was given more time to deliver my baby by myself.


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