I had been planning a homebirth throughout this pregnancy and it was the first thing I said to every health professional I came in contact with, just to make sure there was no misunderstanding! I wanted to have a homebirth because my other two deliveries were in hospital and on both occasions, there was a lot of intervention. It's not that I disliked the hospital I found the staff very nice and accommodating I just wanted to experience what an active labour and natural delivery felt like in the comfort of my own home. Not to mention the practicality of having two children to look after already, it seemed to make sense being at home. My worst fear was labouring at home and then having to transfer during the labour or post-birth.
When I went past my due date of Thursday 20th, I sunk into a terrible melancholy. Both my other two babies had been born on their due dates with labours starting well before that so I was feeling really fed up. I was also very frustrated by the regular Braxton Hicks contractions which were actually quite painful. They came every night about ten minutes apart and every time I went to bed, I woke up in the morning and then nothing had happened. I tried every trick in the book to get labour started including hot curry, raspberry leaf tea and a long walk in the woods but nothing happened. On Monday 24th, I was hiding in bed as I couldn't face getting up, having what I thought was regular Braxton Hicks contractions (again) it was only afterwards that I realised they were pre-labour contractions. I didn't have any of the pre-labour signs that I had with the other two. I ignored these 'practise' contractions for most of the day until about 3pm when I started to think that maybe something was going to happen.
At this point, we decided to give the labour ward a call as instructed, just to feel out the situation. The receptionist took my details and said she would get in touch with the on-duty midwife who would call me back. Josephine called me back very quickly and we talked about my all-day possible contractions. She said she would come out and see me and check me and the baby over. When the two midwives arrived, they checked baby's heartbeat and my blood pressure etc and were happy that everything was okay and was glad I called them out so they could see where I lived and work out where to park etc for later on. I allowed one of the midwives to examine me internally but asked not to tell me how dilated I was. When I was in labour with DD they told me I was only 3cm dilated and had at least another 7 hours to go, however I delivered within 20 minutes after having begged for an epidural. It totally put me off and made me realise that if that midwife had not told me about the timescale I would never have had the epidural. So this time I didn't want to know so would not be disappointed! It was funny watching the midwives whispering to each other. I realise now that I was in labour at the time although then I didn't know it.
One homebirth issue that arose unexpectedly was the midwife realising my history of Group B Strep (GBS) with DD. She was quite panicked by it even though I had had a negative swab for GBS in this pregnancy. I explained to her that I had done my research and made an informed decision based on the facts I knew and she seemed to be okay with that.
After the midwives had left, I used a birth ball to relax and get comfortable between contractions. I had something to eat and tried to get on with normal tasks. We put the kids to bed and tried to concentrate on what was to come. One of the midwives from earlier came back to visit me at the end of her shift to check baby and me over. We agreed that I would call back the labour ward when my contractions were stronger, lasting up to 60 seconds and regularly 5 minutes apart. DH and I timed the contractions and when they were really regular and long and getting increasingly more painful we rang the labour ward again, who called out the midwife for me. I tried the TENS machine but this did nothing for me and I took it off straight away. I did however manage to get a warm bath which was nice and reminded me why I had wanted to labour at home.
This time Josephine arrived about 9.45pm with all her equipment and I actually began to get quite excited. She brought some gas and air canisters which I used straight away. We listened to some relaxing birth music and I used what I had learned from the Natal Hypnotherapy to breathe through each contraction. It really helped and I'm convinced I wouldn't have lasted as long as I did at home without the help of this pain relief. I had one contraction where I forgot to do my relaxation technique and I literally jumped 5 feet off the sofa! Another midwife, Sarah, arrived about 11pm and it started to get quite cramped in my living room. She examined me but not realising that I didn't want to know 'the results' she inadvertently told me that I was about 7cm dilated. However at this point it was promising news and I knew that my baby was going to be born soon.
We had laid down an old PVC tablecloth and disposable waterproof mats on the carpet. We also set up a borrowed birthing chair which I used to lean on during contractions. For the next few hours I walked around, changed positions, did my breathing, used the gas and air and bounced on my ball. DH made cups of tea and everything was going fine. However it became quite apparent that the contractions were getting increasingly painful and I was struggling to cope with the pain. My chosen methods of pain relief were doing nothing to help now and I started to panic a bit. I started to scream loudly during contractions no longer worrying about what the neighbours might think! The midwives had to try and calm me down and get me to breathe properly. Every time DH tried to make tea I would shout for him to get back. I felt a bit lost without his supporting touch. Incidentally the children were sleeping through all this upstairs. Having had epidurals with the other two I had no idea how excruciatingly painful labour could be. It was a real shock to me and not what I was expecting at all. I naively thought that labouring at home would be 'easy'. At this point I was tired, frustrated and in agony with no light at the end of the tunnel.
By about 2am, everyone was getting desperate. I give huge appreciation and admiration to my attending midwives for sticking it through (even if it is their job) as they had no escape. I actually felt a bit sorry for them to be honest. Eventually Josephine very tentatively suggested that if things didn't start to happen soon, it might be time to consider calling an ambulance and transferring. I think this really spurred me on and I asked if I could just have a few more minutes at home to see what happens. They suggested I try lying on the floor on my side which was an incredibly painful position but it must have done the job because immediately the contractions came one on top of the other and suddenly I felt the urge to push.
Unfortunately I was not in a good position lying on my back and was very uncomfortable but nature had taken its course and the baby was going to come out. The midwives were clearly concerned and when it became apparent that baby had his arm stuck by his head, there was a tense moment. They kept asking me to extend my legs and I had no idea what this meant! Within minutes, baby was delivered onto me. I couldn't even see because I was stuck on my back and it was dark. I discovered what sex the baby was by feeling down between his legs! I had wanted to deliver on all fours and catch the baby myself but although this didn't happen, I'm just happy he was delivered safely.
The third stage was a bit of a blur. It was so hectic that I forgot to say I didn't want the umbilical cord cut until after it had stopped pulsating so the midwives just got on with it and DH cut the cord. The midwife recommended I have the injection to speed the delivery of the placenta since I was so exhausted and because of this I agreed it had been a long night. DH had the fun job of having to shine a torch into my nether regions so the midwife could examine me; I don't think he enjoyed being at the business end of it.
I desperately wanted to sit up but found it really difficult to move. Eventually they got me up onto the sofa so I could examine Sebastian and give him his first feed. The midwives were brilliant at clearing up everything and they had a new surge of energy cue more tea and cake! I didn't need any stitches and of course there was no further mention of transferring as mother and baby were well. They weighed him (4.6kg) and did a few checks then stayed a bit longer to do paper work and check we were okay. I think they left at about 4am after which DH and I called the relatives with the good news and went to bed. The kids had slept all through this event and I knew they were going to be up in a couple of hours so didn't get much sleep.
The best bit of the homebirth experience was the kids coming into our bedroom and being introduced to Sebastian. They were so cool about it and took it in their stride and accepted him into the family as if he'd always been there. I don't think that would have happened if I'd be in hospital. It was also lovely having my first bath in the comfort of my own home and having happy guests come to visit and help out without the restrictions of visiting times and keeping the noise down etc.
In summary, having a homebirth was not the experience I thought it would be. It was really unglamorous, painful and hard work and I didn't particularly feel empowered or at one with the universe or anything fluffy like that. However, I'm quite sure that had I have been in hospital the events would have unfolded very differently probably with intervention, epidural and quite possibly c-section so I do feel incredibly proud of myself that I did stick it through at home and pleased at how it turned out. I would still choose to have a homebirth again and to recommend homebirth to others. I gave birth to a 10lbs 1oz baby with a hand up his head without pain relief I think that deserves a pat on the back!
Siblings at a home birth - what to do with your older children? Should they be present?
Fathers and home birth - fathers' feelings about the birth, and how they can help.
Pain relief - what are your options at home?
Big babies and homebirth
Hypnotherapy for childbirth
Group B Strep - your options for homebirth, and choices regarding antibiotics.
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
Home Birth Stories
Home Birth Reference Page