Our frist baby, Olivia, was born at home at 41 + 2. We had wanted a home birth from day one. My only previous experience of hospital was not very positive, our local hospital has very high intervention rates and a 29% section rate, and as a home birth myself I just couldn't see the need for a trip to hospital without a significant medical reason.
When first asked by our midwife if we had considered where we might want to have the baby we were a little tentative in our response "well, we thought we would have it at home" as friends and relations had lead me to expect that this would not be well received from a first-timer, but her response of "oh good, hospitals are for sick people" made me realise that I had scored a total result in getting assigned to her. A chat with a three-time-homebirth friend revealed that the very same midwife was the highly-praised individual who had delivered her first baby, so I knew I would be in very supportive and experienced hands.
After a fairly uneventful pregnancy, with just mild SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction - pelvic pain due to instability in the joint at the front of the pelvis) and Sacro-Illiac Joint Dysfunction and a 37 week scare about placental abruption, my due date came and went. I'd had a sweep on Saturday at 40 + 6 and also gave reflexology a go that afternoon. Both the midwife and reflexologist didn't think I was ready but things did start to move along a bit. Contractions started the next day, at 4pm on Sunday. Although the contractions did start to become regular, and an initial examination in the early hours of Monday indicated that I was 2cm, but by 7am things really slowed down and I spent Monday having intermittent pains. It turned out that having been LOL (left occiput lateral) for much of the latter pregnancy and looking like she was working her way round the front, our little one had managed to get herself LOP (left Occiput Posterior - see 'Get Your Baby Lined Up') and so the lack of consistent pressure on the cervix was making everything stop-start.
I finally got into established labour at 9pm on Monday night. At midnight I was examined and was at 5cm. At 4am I was examined again and was still at 5cm. After my second sleepless night and long hours of on-off pain I got very upset and said I couldn't do it any more, but my wonderful midwife and supportive husband helped me get back on track. The midwife explained my options for staying at home and the circumstances under which she would recommend transferral. As a great advocate of home birth, she reassured that we had initial options that were effectively the same as they would do at hospital - breaking of the membranes which could speed along a home birth as long as the colour of the waters was ok, and would mean hopefully no need to transfer. I was very scared, in pain and saw a long road ahead and was not very rational, but my husband, Mum and I had a quick chat and they boosted my flagging strength. Although I was scared that having my waters broken would take things to a level of pain that I wouldn't cope with too quickly, it was by far the best decision as I think that continuing as we were going would have ended in me transferring in with exhaustion.
I had my membranes broken at 4.45 am and despite being 9 days overdue the waters were clear. Thinking we may well still have some long hours ahead of us my midwife suggested my husband might want to get some sleep for an hour or 2 as my Mum was also on hand to support me - we all agreed that it would be beneficial for someone in the equation to get some rest and be able to maintain a sense of logical judgement if tricky decisions needed to be made later.
Having coped with just the TENS to this point, I started on gas and air which made it easier to cope with the stronger and longer contractions. We planned to let my husband sleep till 7 and then examine me again to see what progress had been made. The increased pressure on the cervix was obviously just what we needed to get things progressing nicely. My lovely midwife had thought we would be going for some time to come but after a trip to the loo at 6.50 I suddenly felt like things were very different. Having read lots of birth stories and attended NHS and NCT ante-natal classes I knew what it meant when I had a huge contraction and suddenly thought I needed the biggest poo of my entire life! I had to open the bathroom door and call out to the midwife that I thought the baby was coming.
My Mum went off to wake up my husband with the words "you need to wake up now, the baby is coming", and both myself and the midwife laughed in the other room as we heard him wake up and leap out of bed seemingly in one movement. My midwife admitted afterwards that she was a little doubtful that I had made so much progress so quickly given the rest of the labour, but asked if I wanted to go on the birth stool. By this point my husband was sat behind me providing physical and emotional support while I sat on the stool. What happened next took us all rather by surprise as the second stage of labour lasted literally 5 minutes. A few big contractions and the midwife proclaimed that she could see the head. One huge contraction started and she said the head was out, but as I was still only halfway through the contraction at this point the rest of the baby just followed the head out and Olivia was born happy and healthy weighing 8lbs 5oz. The midwife had one glove on, and she had to make a choice to either put the other glove on or catch the baby! The second midwife had not yet arrived and arrived just after the baby had been born.
I had initially planned to try for a physiological third stage with the cord to be cut once it has stopped pulsating but had indicated that I would be willing to have the injection if required. Given the epic duration of the stop-start labour and my general exhaustion the midwife had already asked me earlier if I would consider the injection once the cord had stopped pulsating and I had agreed that things had really gone on long enough. Once the cord stopped pulsating my husband cut it. He hadn't been sure if this was something he had wanted to do but in the moment he was delighted to do it with tears in his eyes. The midwives administered the injection to deliver the placenta and asked me to lay down (as it later transpired they were concerned about the bleeding). The third stage took a total of 5 mins.
It later transpired that my Mum, my husband and the midwife had been having mini-conferences whenever I was in the toilet about how to boost my morale and support me to succeed in the home birth that they knew was so important to me. Overall even despite the long and exhausting labour my home birth experience was very positive and although for about 5 mins at 4am Olivia was going to be an only child :) I would definitely have a home birth again for any future pregnancies.
Home Birth Stories
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
First Babies and homebirth
Get Your Baby Lined Up - what it means when your baby gets in an awkward position, and what you can do about it.
Homebirth UK email group
Home Birth Reference Page