William's Home Birth Story

By Julie A

Julie's first baby, William, was born at home, a day and a half after her waters had broken.

At the beginning of this, our first pregnancy, a home birth was not what we had planned - it was something we had considered maybe for a second or third birth. However, as the pregnancy progressed, with me feeling fine, and no problems, and as we learned and read more about hospital birth and home birth, we began to feel that a home birth would be right for us. Therefore, it was quite late on before we had things organised.

In fact, it wasn't till September 6th (Week 35 and only 3 weeks before his birth) that we met Judith, the independent midwife who was to deliver William. We found that her views on birth - a natural part of life, which should be in privacy and quiet and with dignity - matched exactly what we were hoping for. We also looked at the possibility of an NHS community midwife delivering at home, and having considered both, chose to work with Judith because her philosophy on childbirth is so close to ours, and she is very experienced in water births. The last 3 weeks of pregnancy were much happier and more optimistic, as we stopped worrying about the possibility of a managed birth, and began to concentrate on the practicalities of having the baby at home.

We had set some deadlines for baby's birth "Don't come before 28 weeks, baby", "Don't come till after September 1st", these were now followed by "Don't come till the birthing pool is delivered", "Don't come until Mummy and Daddy have been on the water birth day" etc. The last of these was a water birth day on 25th September, and by then we were nearly ready - birthing pool set up and tested, my parents on stand by and hospital bag, just in case, almost packed. Despite that, we were sure that the baby (due date 10th October) would be at least a week late...

On the night of Sunday, 26th September, I had "food poisoning", due, we suspected, to a dodgy scotch egg. After feeling groggy all Monday, I went for an hour of Reflexology (foot massage) which made me feel very sleepy and I got 3 hours sleep in the evening. Then my waters broke when getting into bed again at midnight on Monday night - the "food poisoning" was actually the classic clear-out of my insides which we totally failed to recognise, as it was so unexpected. I got very little sleep for the next 2 nights.

When I told Simon my waters had broken, he said "Naah - can't be! You've got at least 2 weeks to go yet!" but I didn't think it could be anything else, so I telephoned Judith, who confirmed it, checked the colour of the liquid was OK, and advised us to get some sleep. An hour later, I was having "contractions" 4 minutes apart, and we thought we were going to be in for a record quick delivery. We got poor Judith out of bed (sorry!) and she came and examined me. Of course these were just very minor pains, nothing was really happening. Probably realising we were too excited to sleep, she suggested filling the pool and getting all the other home birth kit in place.

We did get a little sleep on Monday night, then Simon cancelled his work for the next two days. Luckily, the lady whose kitchen electrics he was halfway through installing was very understanding! I rang my parents at 7.30 a.m. and they agreed to come over that evening. Tuesday passed rather slowly, and it didn't feel as though things were getting very far. I had contractions rather irregularly throughout the day, each time losing amniotic fluid, and I started to worry about whether the amniotic fluid would run out, and whether I'd have to go to the hospital on Wednesday if things didn't progress. We went out for lunch; by that time I was really hungry, so I had steak and kidney pie. Then back home and still nothing much was happening.

My parents arrived at about 7.00 p.m., and by that stage I was writing down the frequency of contractions - four an hour from 6 till 7, five from 7 till 8, five from 8 till 9 etc. At midnight they were coming every 4 minutes, and I got in the pool for pain relief. We called the midwife and she came over. Examination showed 2-3 cm dilation of the cervix, so she said "Right, I'm staying, let's get this baby out of here by the morning!" I was very cheered by the prospect of having the baby out by morning, and a time of 8 o'clock popped into my head. I was still worried about running out of amniotic fluid, which continued to leak out of me steadily, and I can remember asking Judith several times about it - she kept reassuring me there was plenty left.

The next 4 hours passed in a blur of being in the pool, walking about, up and down the stairs, leaning on Simon with each contraction. Just before 4 a.m. Judith examined me again, and said I was now 5-6 cm dilated. I asked how much longer it would be before I was fully dilated. 3 hours, more or less, was the reply. Adding on 1-2 hours for 2nd stage it was pretty close to my 8 o'clock deadline, but now it seemed very far away. We carried on, Simon and I leaning together on contractions, Judith calmly watching progress, sometimes advising us of positions to try, and checking my pulse and the baby's heartbeat regularly. All through baby's heart beat was loud and strong - it was immensely reassuring to hear, as if he was unfazed by the whole experience. Each time I heard it, I knew everything was fine.

Somehow, three hours later I was fully dilated, and it was time to push. Having tried various positions in the pool, I found a supported squat on dry land was the best position for pushing. The contractions were amazingly long, but luckily the breaks were also long. My Mum had joined us at this point, and Simon, Mum and I got into a routine of push, push, push, push, break, wipe face, drink cold water, push again. The sun came up in our back garden while this was happening, and I was trying to think if there are any nice names meaning "Dawn" in any language.

After an hour of pushing I was pretty tired and progress was slow. Judith raised the possibility of a transfer to the hospital if there was no progress soon - a good move as this galvanised me into concentrating on pushing the baby out, although a large part of me didn't want to. William David was born at 8.50 a.m. on Wednesday 29th September, pink with lilac hands and covered in waxy vernix. He cried a bit, but not as much as Simon who collapsed into mum's arms. Judith sat me on a chair with William on my lap, cord still attached and pulsing and when it stopped, clamped it twice and Simon cut the cord. I had two tiny tears, which did not need stitches.

5 weeks later as I write this, William is growing well, smiles a lot, wakes us only once at night and is just as beautiful as the day he was born. My little tears have healed up and I feel fully recovered, although I know I still have to take things a bit slower than usual.

Having William at home, with a midwife we knew and trusted, with no intervention and the family around, was a wonderful experience. Pain relief was 4 Panadols and some "Rescue Remedy" - a homeopathic calming liquid. Simon and I think of his birth with great emotion, and will always remember how amazing it was.

Julie and Simon, Stockport

PS At 8 months William is doing fine, and has just started to crawl - bad news for us! Many people have commented on what a calm, happy baby he is, and we also noticed this very early on. It could be his wonderful genes (!?), or could it be his wonderful birth?

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