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Ceri's birth story started on a Tuesday in February 2008 at 12:45pm when I was 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I went to the toilet and felt a 'pop' in my cervix. I thought some fluid had come out but I couldn't be sure so I rang the Delivery Suite who contacted a community midwife who rang me back and said she would come to my house at 3pm.

I decided to keep busy so that I didn't panic - so I continued to clean my front room whilst watching 'Doctors'! Before I felt this popping sensation I had no idea that anything was starting, however during the previous week I had felt an intermittent pressure in my pelvis and was getting intermittent back pains as well. I also felt that the Braxton Hicks contractions were getting increasingly tighter but they weren't painful. In this week, the food aversions that I had experienced throughout the pregnancy were decreasing and I could enjoy food again. In fact on Monday, I insisted my husband and I went out to dinner - subconsciously I must have realised that this would be our last opportunity for a while!

Over the next two hours I gradually lost more and more water so was in no doubt that something was happening! When the midwife came I told her to excuse the mess as I was cleaning (I had actually cleaned our 'birth room' that morning) - she told me this was a good sign!

She undertook the normal checks for any midwife appointment (blood

pressure, urine, fundal height, fetal heartbeat) and then explained that she would need to take a swab to examine if my waters had gone. As I moved onto my couch, a good gush of water flowed (thankfully over a waterproof pad!), I was then told that the swab wasn't necessary - it was definitely 'water'!

She examined me and did a sweep (which I found very painful) and told me that the membranes were intact and the water was probably hindwater but that my cervix was fully effaced and 2cm dilated!

She asked if I was having pain or contractions. I said I wasn't having contractions, just increasingly tighter Braxton Hicks contractions but I explained that as I hardly ever get period pain I was unsure as to what a contraction would feel like. She mentioned I could get back pain that gradually moves over the stomach so I had some idea of what to expect during labour.

We had planned a home birth but I was advised to attend the Fetal Assessment Unit at 1:30pm the following day for fetal heart monitoring if nothing had happened by then, and was advised that induction would be offered after 48 hours due to the infection risk. Before the midwife left I was given a list of advice (don't have sex or go swimming - as a gym freak who was still in the gym at 38 and a half weeks pregnant even I wouldn't go swimming after my waters had gone!) and told to take and record my temperature every 4 hours to monitor signs of infection.

The midwife left at around 4pm and I rang my husband and advised him to finish the day at work but to tell his colleagues that his Paternity Leave would start the next day. I then rang my mum and dad and sent a text to a friend from church to pray that contractions would start.

Water was coming at regular intervals and I had a couple of 'shows' over the next two hours. I didn't feel comfy resting at all because of the amount of water I was losing. The maternity pads in my home birth pack were absolutely essential at this point!

I had been told to eat as normal so at 6pm, as the 'tightenings' were increasing, I had some dinner. At 7pm the tightenings were starting to get painful and quite frequent (I can't remember the exact timing and duration of contractions but they weren't lasting very long). My husband and I were trying to get our birth room ready. He was hoovering (which needed to be done) but I found the noise very irritating whilst coping with contractions! We placed a duvet on the floor and placed some plastic sheeting (which we had saved from our sofa delivery!) on top and my husband moved some beanbags upstairs.

I made a massage oil blend of a Sweet Almond Oil base with Rose, Neroli and Clary Sage essential oils which proved absolutely essential during labour and delivery.

The contractions were getting increasingly painful and more frequent and at around 8pm I rang the Delivery Suite who got the on-call midwife to ring me back. She told me have a bath, rest in between contractions and to take some paracetamol to help me cope with the pain. I explained I was a bit apprehensive about taking paracetamol as I hadn't taken conventional painkillers for 3 years and any medicines affect me very quickly, however she reassured me that all would be okay. I could hear the Champions League match in the background and I decided I wouldn't ring again until the match had finished!

I couldn't lie down because that made the contractions more painful and as more water was coming with each contraction I was concerned about our bed! They were also getting more and more frequent and of longer duration - there wasn't the time to rest. A bath seemed quite scary as well because of the amount of water I was losing - plus the act of getting into the bath seemed quite a challenge! So I didn't lie down or have a bath - all I wanted was the base of my back massaging as this was where all the pain was.

My husband massaged my back with the oil blend during and just after contractions and this was and absolute saviour over the next two hours. He did circular movements in my sacral area and the pressure and the smell of the oils was really helpful. I kept mobile during this initial phase of contractions - I wandered about between them and during contractions I either leaned over the banister, a chest of drawers or remained more upright by leaning against a wall. I continued to sway and circle my hips both during and in between contractions.

The back massage became increasingly necessary during this initial phase and I didn't want him to leave me as I realised that everything was happening quite fast. In fact at around 8:30pm he said he would have to leave me at some point to go for a loo break - and he then said he was getting tired from all the massaging (I nearly shouted at him at this point but I didn't do as I didn't want to waste the energy!).

I decided to take one dose of the homeopathic remedy Pulsatilla 200C at this point because all the pain was in my back and I didn't want to be left alone. This didn't decrease the pain but it helped me manage it more effectively - and it let my husband leave me for a few minutes to have a quick break.

Before I took the remedy I was feeling quite 'low' with the pain. I understood why some women don't want to go through labour and thought that the Caesarean Section discussed at my first midwife appointment (because I am 4'11' with size 3 feet)- which I rejected- may have been a more preferable option! Taking the remedy and then praying helped me get through this 'block' and I didn't feel as down again for the rest of the labour. My husband was also very supportive and kept telling me that each contraction was bringing us closer to meeting our baby and that I was managing very well - this also helped to change my outlook.

My husband and I are Pentecostal Christians and he used Prayer Language ('tongues') to comfort me during the labour. This was invaluable as every time I asked him to pray with me, the contractions increased in frequency but mentally I felt I could cope. I feel that this helped to accelerate the first stage of labour.

At around 9:30pm I didn't want to move out of our birth room so I leaned over a chest of drawers with a pillow placed on top and my knees were on the duvet on the floor. I continued with my hip swaying and circling and my husband helped me practice many of the breathing exercises that we had learned in our NCT antenatal classes and from my Prenatal Yoga DVDs.

At around 10pm I was getting almost no break in between contractions and the pain was getting increasingly intense and I was 'singing' through the contractions. I decided to take the paracetamol as advised 2 hours previously and I decided I needed extra pain relief. My husband rang the Delivery Suite as I couldn't hold a conversation and the midwife arrived (with Gas and Air!) at 10:30pm.

I was examined at around 11pm. I found the exams the most painful part of the labour and delivery process as I needed to be examined on my back and as my contractions were almost constant I had to be examined during them. At this examination I was told I was 4cm dilated and said 'Is that all?!'

I didn't let myself become downhearted and the Gas and Air gave me a renewed energy to cope. It also enabled me to relax, close my eyes and flake over a bean bag in between contractions to conserve energy.

At around 11:15pm I began to make the 'bearing down' noises! I was learned over bean bags with my knees on the duvet at this point and was still managing the hip swaying! I was asked if I felt the urge to push - I made a hand signal to indicate that I was unsure!

The midwife told my husband to ring my friend who is a student midwife and who we wanted to be present for delivery. She arrived at around 11: 30pm and was an absolute star. She had a very calm manner and gave me lots of encouragement - and sips of water!

I have lost track of the timing of events but know that I continued on with making the bearing down noises! At some point after midnight I was advised to be examined again. I had to move onto my back again. The midwife told me to use the Gas and Air to help me with the pain of being examined so I did. This honestly was the most painful part of the labour and the most painful experience of my life but the Gas and Air really helped take my mind off it! My husband and I were screaming out in tongues as well because I was in so much pain and this helped me get through these very painful few seconds.

To my relief I was told I was fully dilated and could start pushing at the next contraction. The midwife called for the second qualified midwife at this point - no one could have predicted that I would dilate so quickly!

My husband helped me get back on all fours over the bean bag - and I just flaked out to conserve energy for pushing as I was so tired! My husband asked the midwife if I was okay as I appeared comatose over the bean bag but she just said I was conserving my energy! She asked if I wanted her or my friend to deliver the baby. I said if my friend felt able to then she could. She was going to deliver the baby but due to events in the second stage it was a joint effort!

I started pushing at the next contraction and tried to use the Gas and Air, however the midwife told me it wouldn't really help at this point and she was right so I stopped using it! I got really scared I would tear as I felt that everything was happening very fast. The midwife was really lovely and explained that most people tear with their first baby and if I followed their advice the chance of tearing badly would decrease. She advised me to move onto my side to help slow down the fast delivery and to reduce the risk of tearing - so I did! However, with the nature of the room, I felt I couldn't push as effectively on my side as I had no leverage so I moved back on to all fours. This was very painful for me at this stage so I decided to move back on to my side.

During the pushing stage the midwife said that she thought we would have a little girl. I was told later that the pushing stage only lasted 10 minutes - but it seemed longer! We lost the baby's heartbeat at this point as she was so low in my pelvis and I wasn't in an ideal position for monitoring baby's heartbeat. The midwife said that we were going to have to get the baby out but I wasn't really registering what she was saying because everything was moving so fast and I couldn't take it in.

My baby's head apparently kept crowning and disappearing because my perineum was so tight - I asked what colour hair it had and was told brown! We had run out of the gel that could be used to soften my perineum so I said to use the massage oil blend that had been so useful on my back in the first stage. The midwife said that this was wonderful stuff! It softened my perineum and she was able to remove the cord from the baby's neck which also preventing her from being born.

I never felt the 'ring of fire' that many people describe at this point - I just kept having contractions and followed the advice given of big push, little push, pant etc. I only realised that my baby was being born when my husband looked down and burst into tears. I felt something slippery come out of me - my daughter!

Cerys Amy (Ceri) was born at 1:04am on Wednesday.

I was told that I had a little girl - I sat up as best I could and looked at her. She didn't cry immediately - just started looking around to let everyone know she was ok (and then she cried!). I said that I thought she was quite big but was told that she wasn't that big - probably 6lb 15oz (when she was weighed she was actually 7lb 0oz).

Ceri's cord stopped pulsating very quickly. My husband had wanted to cut the cord but unfortunately we didn't have the correct cord clamps so the midwife cut the cord with our kitchen scissors! Ceri was handed to my husband who then handed her to me. I thought she was so beautiful!

We opted for a physiological third stage (i.e. no syntometrine) but was advised after about 10 minutes that we needed to get the placenta out - possibly because I was bleeding. I was about to find a homeopathic remedy to take when the placenta came out after the midwife was massaging my tummy! I was surprised at how small the placenta was.

I was very cold and shaky at this point and was told it was slight shock. I put my dressing gown over my shoulders and started to warm up! I had torn during delivery but it was only a first degree vaginal wall tear (which the midwife decided not to stitch as I was not bleeding from it) and labial grazes.

Ceri was cleaned, weighed and dressed and we got a pillow and sat by some beanbags and Ceri had her first feed whilst I ate some flapjack and had a glass of water. The second qualified midwife arrived at this point!

Ceri fed on and off for about 20 minutes and I was shown how to position her. I was pleased that we were able to have this first feed so soon after birth, however because the birth was so quick I was still in shock I think and not really interested in feeding her (and she wasn' t really interested in being fed!). I think I would have preferred to have had a cuddle with Ceri, then a snack and a bath and fed her later when I was calmer!

The midwives did their postnatal checks on me and their checks on Ceri - we opted for Ceri not to receive Vitamin K as there were no risk factors for the blood clotting disorder.

The midwives were very insistent that I tried to wee before they went - but I just couldn't wee! They left at 3:05am as I was sat on the toilet (with my jug of warm water so I didn't sting too badly!) still not able to wee (I managed to go about 30 minutes later!).

My husband cuddled Ceri as I had a bath. I was then absolutely starving so made myself some muesli. I then gave Ceri another feed and then we all finally went to sleep at 4:30am.

Ceri's birth was such a positive experience and I would definitely ask for a home birth again. The only things I would change would be to breastfeed when I and the baby felt ready next time, and I also wouldn' t try and do as much in the days after the baby's birth next time. I was so elated that everything had gone so well in Ceri's birth that I was tidying up and sorting out washing 9 hours after giving birth! We also would make sure we had some cord clamps!

Kate

Related pages:

Fathers and home birth - fathers' feelings about the birth, and how they can help.

Pain relief - what are your options at home?

First Babies and homebirth

The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?

Post-Partum Haemorrhage - what can be done if you bleed heavily at home?

Home Birth Stories

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