I had a very difficult pregnancy and delivery with my first baby, Freya - I had gestational hypertension, my daughter was severely growth restricted and the labour lasted nearly 30hrs. I ended up asking for an epidural that promptly stopped working after half an hour but, because I'd had it, I was told I had to stay flat on my back for the rest of the labour. All in all it was a nightmare and when I became pregnant with my son I was determined things would be different this time.
My blood pressure behaved this time and serial growth scans showed the baby was growing well, so at 36 weeks my wonderful obstetrician gave me the all clear for a home birth. Unfortunately that afternoon a swab result came back showing I had Group B Strep. The immediate assumption of everyone else concerned was that this ruled out a home birth and I'd have to go in to hospital as soon as labour started and stay there for IV antibiotics. I was heartbroken, as this seemed like such a stupid thing to spoil all our plans when everything else was perfect. I know the decision about whether to have antibiotics or not isn't quite as straightforward as doctors and midwives make out (which you've already covered very thoroughly and concisely (see Group B Strep)) but the problem is I'm a GP myself and a big part of me felt that I should offer my baby every protection possible if I could manage it.
To cut a long story short, I didn't give up and negotiated to go into hospital at onset of labour to have a cannula and first dose of antibiotic and that I and my father ( a retired GP) would take responsibility for further doses. I was definitely lucky in my profession, but also in the fact that the community midwifery team were so open-minded and supportive.
My waters broke at 12:30am on 28th June. I phoned my parents to give them time to come up from Cornwall (6hrs away) and went into Labour Ward for my cannula and penicillin. They'd been well-briefed in advance but I still had to state my case quite clearly to get things carried out as planned. After an hour or so I was allowed home and pottered about waiting for things to properly kick off. I had enough antibiotics to cover me for 24hrs but knew if things went on any longer I'd probably end up in hospital after all.
Around 7am I started getting some mild contractions which gradually built up over the next few hours. I phoned the midwife unit at 10am for an update and told them I was having contractions every 5 minutes or so, but that they were very manageable so I didn't think anything was imminent. They asked if I needed someone to come out, but I felt I was doing OK. Things got a bit stronger, so I thought I'd try having a bath but once I got in I decided I'd felt better keeping up and about and playing with my daughter. Around 12pm the contractions got properly painful. I did a lot of hip rocking leaning over my birthing ball while Freya rubbed my back (16 months old, surely the world's youngest doula!)
By 12:30 the pains were strong and I felt like I could use some moral support and maybe some gas and air, so we asked the midwife to come and put Freya down for a nap. 10 minutes after we phoned, I felt the baby suddenly drop like a stone and I needed to push. What I'd thought was the onset of proper labour was actually the transition phase! I knew it was going to be a race to see who'd arrive first, baby or midwife, so I told my husband he'd better get ready to catch him. (He's totally non-medical by the way. My parents were a few minutes away by now as well.) Chris phoned the midwife unit, said "she's pushing", then got in position.
I was on my hands and knees by this stage, I just knew that's how I had to be. Four contractions and pushes later I felt the head emerging and, oddly, could visualise it in my mind as it happened. His shoulders stuck for a few seconds, but I automatically just shifted my hips further apart and with the next push felt the baby slither out. My husband yelled "I've got him!",the baby started crying straight away and we put him straight up to my chest while I sat back on the floor (slightly shell-shocked).
The midwife arrived five minutes later and delivered the placenta. The second midwife and some paramedics turned up a few minutes after that, said hello and went away again, then my parents arrived just in time to see Freya meet her brother Tom for the first time.
All in all, although it sounds a bit "soap-opera", none of it was stressful at all and I don't think a birth could go any better. Being at home made me so much more confident and relaxed in dealing with the pain that I honestly didn't realise I was so far along in labour. Positive thinking beats the hell out of pethidine in terms of pain relief!
Kate Simpson and Tom, Freya and Chris--
Group B Strep - your options for homebirth, and choices regarding antibiotics.
Fast Labours - is quicker always better? What do you do if your baby is arriving faster than your midwife?
Fathers and home birth - fathers' feelings about the birth, and how they can help.
Pain relief - what are your options at home?
Siblings at a home birth - what to do with your older children? Should they be present?
Home Birth Stories
Home Birth Reference Page