By the time you get to your third baby, you’d think you were braced for most things, so I thought! Having had two lovely ‘accidents’ before, this was to be our last and only planned pregnancy (ha ha, number 4 is on the way now!!).
I conceived very quickly, but sadly, our first attempt ended in a miscarriage, so my GP arranged for me to have a follow-up ultrasound – which did not come through until 3 months later. We had just been on a French camping holiday with the in-laws, and only one way to survive this – WINE! In the middle of the ‘alcoholic haze’ it did register that my period was late, but a pregnancy test came back negative. I trundled along to the scan, not very hopeful that they could determine the cause of something that happened three months ago! The radiographer’s face was very serious as he tried to interpret my ‘dates’ with what he saw on the screen. There was only a big haemorrhage in my womb, with some slight signs that I had conceived.
According to my dates, this should by now have been a thriving foetus, but there was no heartbeat, no sign of life, pronounced ‘not viable’. I was told to expect another miscarriage as I had obviously conceived but the baby had already died. So we went away to go on another holiday, this time with my parents and – you guessed it – even more wine! Every day we prepared ourselves for the loss of the baby, but nothing happened. To make matters worse, I started to lose my appetite and feel very sick.
We thought about trying again for homebirth on the NHS, but I was still not confident that we would achieve this. Even though it was wonderful to have had a homebirth for my daughter Esther, it could not take away the feeling of how terrified I had been during my first birth. We decided to contact Kay Hardie (of Kent midwifery practice), the independent midwife who had also helped at Esther’s birth. We started planning a waterbirth at home. We also chose to involve a student midwife, Nanette, at the birth – partially to look after our two children in case they woke up, and her brief was also to take photos of the birth. Finally we could tell people that this ‘tummy-bug’ I had been having was a baby. At this stage, I still had no appetite and had started to react to perfectly normal foods, and for a while was put on a special diet and a formula drink to ensure this baby was getting enough nutrients. This resolved at 5 months, and my little bump and I began to feel really well until we hit 36 weeks. Whilst my other two children had been late, I just knew this baby was not going to go to term. I had never before experienced Braxton-Hicks contractions – the first twinge was always the real thing.
From 36 weeks on, I had severe Braxton-Hicks contractions, sometimes every two minutes for several hours, resulting in a few false alarms – at least we got our skates on with the name and the announcement cards! I needed to get as close to 37 weeks as possible to have a home birth, but Kay was very confident in delivering the child even if it came a bit early and she gave me hope that we wouldn’t end up in hospital after all. I spent every evening in the bath, the only way I could cope with the contractions. At 37 weeks, I got up in the middle of the night to find that I was bleeding, we rang Kay who immediately told us to call the ambulance. I felt a bit shaky and tired, but not in any pain, and somehow I knew the baby was fine. I kept thinking – ‘my 3-year old son would be gutted to find out that there was an ambulance parked right outside his house and he missed it all!’.
I was having mild contractions, was already dilating and the doctor suspected the placenta was detaching itself. Kay had met us in the hospital and her independent advice now became invaluable - hospital policy suggested induction of labour in my kind of situation. Even though I was really frustrated and tired, I did not want to be induced! After 24 hours observation on the ward – I think I was the only lady in the antenatal ward who was desperate to leave hospital without a baby – the bleeding had stopped and I discharged myself.
Things carried on much the same, contractions every evening, until my waters broke early Sunday morning, at 38 weeks +1. We texted Kay with the news of the impending birth, but, just then, the little darling of a baby decided it did not want to come out any longer – no contractions anywhere in sight! I had a really good night’s sleep – albeit a bit damp- and Kay came Monday morning to find that there was no progress at all. Kay looked up the guidelines and the maximum time allowed between rupture of membranes and birth was 48 hours, and 24 hours had already passed at this point. Kay went through natural ways of inducing labour, most of which we had already tried, but I saved one method for last - castor oil. This was something I also did for my second child and swore I would never ever ever ever do again!
I took it just after Kay had left at 11 am– I did offer her and my husband to try some, but surprisingly, they declined! After horrendous diarrhoea for a few hours we decided that a ‘brisk walk’ would speed things up, but my idea of walking these days is ambling around the shops in town, and I don’t know which bedlinen triggered it but I finally went into labour in the soft furnishings department at House of Fraser at 5 pm! Kay came immediately, and we also alerted Nanette. I still managed to put the kids to bed at 7 crawling up the stairs during the contractions– the kids thought it was great fun! Back down again, I rested on the birth ball watching ‘Little Britain’ – I couldn’t concentrate on anything more taxing - while Kay was rubbing my back. She suddenly remarked – ‘there’s the purple line!'
So there were David, Kay and Nanette intently gazing at my bottom – in the end they took a digital photo so they could show me what all the fuss was about – a line that develops from the sacrum upwards when a woman is in established labour – I think I could have told them I was in labour without photographic evidence of my most unflattering parts!
Not much later, I could not bear the contractions any longer and was desperate for the pool, whilst David and Nanette were busy getting the temperature right. When I got into the water, it was such a relief… The first stage of labour seemed to go on forever, and was much more painful than I remember for my second child, and I made good use of the gas & air – so much so that David had to sprint to Kay’s car to get the refill bottle, and then, to my horror, the plastic tube snapped off and David then had to search for Ducktape to repair it! It was really only then, that I panicked, but once I had my gas & air back, I was back in control.
Everything was so low down that I could feel the cervix opening with my fingers – this really helped me focus during the contractions. For what seemed like ages, there was only one centimetre of cervix left, and Kay said – ‘just push it back then’, so I did – and it just pinged back, I shouted ‘the baby is coming’ and the head was out.
The baby’s body did not even wait for the next contraction to drop out, and I lifted a tiny being covered in white grease to the surface, just before midnight. Leah Miriam weighed 5lb 5oz, and had a shock of black hair. Although her tone was good, she did not appear to be breathing much so I had to stand up in the pool so Leah could be rubbed with a towel on the floor – much to everyone’s relief, she soon breathed vigorously. I got back into the pool and Leah latched on immediately (she has hardly latched off since!). I could not believe how tiny she was!
She was finally here, our little ‘baby Rumble’ who had survived a diagnosis of ‘not viable’, two holidays with our parents, sharing its room with a haemorrhage, a horrible nutritional drink and goodness knows how many bottles of wine!
The placenta was born an hour later into the pool – it popped out all neat and wrapped up in the membranes, so there was very little blood at all. The clothes we had prepared for the baby were far too big – the hat was so big that it just looked like someone had dropped a huge fluffy something on Leah’s head! Other than feeling a bit lightheaded, I had no other side-effects of the birth and we were all tucked into bed by 2.30 am – the whole birth had lasted 9 hours, with under a minute spent on ‘pushing’!
Our two toddlers had slept though it all, and woke to find that ‘baby Rumble’ had miraculously turned into ‘baby Leah’ over night!
On to the story of Judith's third baby's birth - Leah.
Back to the story of Judith's first baby's birth - Lukas
Home Birth Stories
Siblings at a home birth - what to do with your older children? Should they be present?
Waterbirth at home
You may be expecting a small baby - what are the issues regarding homebirth?
What if your baby needs resuscitation at home?
Independent Midwives - what they do, and where to find one.
Group B Strep - your options for homebirth, and choices regarding antibiotics.
Kent midwifery practice - independent midwives Kay Hardie and Virginia Howes, who practise in Kent and SE London.
Home Birth Reference Page