After three hospital births which were all straightforward and drug free except for gas and air, my husband and I decided to book a home birth for our fourth baby. I don't have anything against hospitals but the idea of a home birth seemed very attractive - not having to 'share' your midwife, home comforts of refreshments, familiar surroundings, your own bathroom (without other people's germs!) all on hand, and no hospital rules.
Two of my other children had been induced - the first 15 days after her due date, and my third three days after her due date because the amniotic fluid levels were low. My second had been a natural onset of labour 2 days after his EDD (estimated due date). A midwife friend was chatting to me about plans for labour when I was about 35 weeks and asked why we hadn't booked a home birth, which led to a discussion when we asked the same question of ourselves. I had thought (wrongly) that my husband wouldn't be keen, but he was very enthusiastic about the idea. I did some research on the internet and read some of the great stories on homebirth.org.uk. I rang the community midwives to ask about it and received an equally enthusiastic response from them, so within a day we were booked!
My due date (17th Jan) came and went, and I was getting a bit fed up waiting for labour to kick off. I had a cervical sweep 5 days after the EDD. After a false alarm that night, the next day I had noticeable - not particularly painful - contractions intermittently throughout the day - about one every 90 minutes.
Settled the children to bed including having a discussion with my 10 year old daughter about not investigating too closely if she heard strange noises in the night, as I thought the baby might be born that night. I felt that if she saw the baby being born she might find it a bit traumatic!
Woke up at 1ish with tightenings and period-type pain, so I got in the bath. They were coming about 7 minutes apart but I hadn't taken a clock into the bathroom with me, so I wasn't sure how frequent they were. I thought I'd better time them and let the midwife know as I didn't know how far she had to travel, so I got out of the bath and timed them at about 6 minute intervals.
The midwife said to try walking up and down the stairs to get them closer together, and during a contraction stand with feet on different stairs, leaning forward slightly to help the head move down into the pelvis. Boy, did that work! They went straight to 2 minutes apart so I woke my husband and he called her again, at 3.15am. She said she would leave straight away and if I felt like pushing to get down on all fours! This alarmed both me and my husband as we didn't fancy a DIY delivery, so I said, "Shall I stop going up and down the stairs then...?!" My husband told me to sit down and not move until the midwife arrived, which did slow them down!
The midwife arrived 15 mins or so later and I started using the stairs again. She had a feel of my tummy while I was lying down - had a contraction in the middle which was v v uncomfortable because of being horizontal. About 15 minutes later she suggested an internal to see how things were going - I said OK as long as she didn't tell me I was 2cm... but it turned out I was 7cm, so that was encouraging.
A few more stair climbs later things were getting a bit more uncomfy - still breathing through them and hanging onto my wonderful, very supportive husband. The midwife rang the second midwife and said she thought things were moving along quite quickly.
For the last bit she suggested putting one foot up on the sofa during the contraction to help the head move down - this made the contractions more painful but I could feel that the head was coming down. Started using gas and air to help. At this stage the waters still hadn't broken. I felt like I was getting towards being fully dilated and ready to push but not quite there by then. Still very much in control and chatting - even smiling - in between contractions.
After about 4 contractions with one foot up on the sofa (walking about in between them) I had one almighty one and suddenly felt the waters break and run down my legs. Still had my knickers on, mind you!! Immediately in the same contraction my body started to push (can't say I had much to do with it!) and the head was suddenly coming out - someone managed to get my underwear off (!) and in the middle of the same contraction the midwife said to bend my knees - probably the hardest thing I'd done all night! - and the shoulders were delivered simultaneously as I knelt down with help from the midwives. So my 2nd stage is recorded as 1 minute cos it literally all happened in one longish contraction. 1st stage was 2 hours 4 minutes according to the notes, with baby born at 5.20am.
I looked down and there was the baby ('a whole baby' I said) and she was passed up to me through my legs. I turned round and sat down in front of the sofa, then had a bit of a wait - 50 minutes - for the delivery of the placenta while the baby had her first feed. No stitches - hurrah! I have been incredibly lucky never to have needed stitches before and I was surprised, having delivered the head so fast, not to need them this time.
The loveliest bit was that our other three children were asleep upstairs throughout - I wasn't sure beforehand that I would be quiet enough for that - but it was all so manageable and I felt in control that there was hardly any yelling except for the actual delivery and my lovely hubbie was kind enough to say that even that wasn't really yelling!
After the placenta was checked over and little Miranda Elizabeth Anne was weighed (7lb 9oz) I went and had a shower while the midwives cleaned up. Came downstairs to a pristine living room and my husband went and woke the other children. Despite initial scepticism on their part that the baby really had been born (10 year old daughter thought it was a ploy to get her out of bed to go to school!) they came down like it was Christmas morning to meet their little sister - it was absolutely lovely! We had a bit of a slow morning but they went to school later in time for the mid-morning break, and our youngest (2 1/2 year old Susanna) went to the childminder so as not to mess up her normal routine.
So I can definitely recommend a home birth - it was incredibly relaxed and it helped me feel very in control throughout. I was vertical all the time (except for the tummy exam) and the stairs helped amazingly well - shame most delivery suites don't have them! My husband made gallons of tea for the midwives and it was lovely to be able to potter around, then not to have to abide by hospital rules for eating and drinking, waiting to be discharged etc.etc.
My top tips for giving birth - find some stairs, stay upright and take arnica to minimise bruising, before and during labour. And if you're having a home birth, make sure you've got plenty of tea bags in!!
Mum to -
Victoria, hospital delivery induced with prostaglandin pessaries at 42 weeks
Ben, born in hospital at 40+2
Susanna, born in hospital after induced labour (prostaglandin) at 40+3
Miranda, blissful home birth at 41+0 weeks
Hope this is of use for your site - I am now a complete home birth advocate and will be recommending it to everyone I meet!!
Home Birth Stories
Siblings at a home birth - what to do with your older children? Should they be present?
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
Fast Labours - is quicker always better? What do you do if your baby is arriving faster than your midwife?
Home Birth Reference Page