Lewis Lachlan MacIntyre Holt 's birth story

by Laura MacIntyre

Laura's first baby was born in hospital six years ago, and her second , Lewis, was born at home. Laura says "Giving birth naturally at home is the most empowering and satisfying thing you can do. It's hard work, it hurts like hell and at times it can be traumatic as you experience childbirth the natural way, but it's also a beautiful, intense and overpowering experience, just as nature intended."

I had my daughter in hospital six years ago and was not at all impressed with the experience, so I decided early on during this pregnancy that I would like a home birth. My husband and family were very supportive, and we are lucky to live in an area with a strong community midwife network that supports home birth, so I had the same fantastic midwife throughout all my antenatal visits and at the birth.

My due date was the 16th of December; by the 19th I was getting fed-up even though I was only three days overdue. I decided to see if castor oil would be as effective as the old wives tale suggested, and to my surprise it was. I took two teaspoons around 2pm and by midnight I was in established labour. Of course you do have to endure a rather dramatic 'clear out' in the bowel department as a result of the castor oil, but this is what kicks off the labour!

I felt the first twinges around 6pm, and after timing them for an hour or so at ten minutes apart, decided that this was it and told my mother (who was staying with us for the birth) and my husband, that we would be having a baby tonight. We continued the evening as normal, having dinner together, then bathing our daughter and putting her to bed. She wanted to be present at the birth so we had told her if the baby came during the night we would wake her up. At six years old she is fully aware of how babies are made and where they come from and was very excited!!

By 11pm my contractions were around 5 minutes apart, were much stronger and I had a show (with my first pregnancy I didn't have a show, and my waters had not broken - but trickled throughout the labour so this was all new to me!) We called Penny, the midwife, who arranged to come over in an hour or so with the home birth equipment. Basically this consists of a canister of gas and air, a small portable suction machine and a monitor for listening to baby's heartbeat occasionally.

When Penny arrived I was just about in established labour. With a home birth the midwife basically leaves you alone to labour at your own speed, watching your body language for signs of how established you are. I asked her to examine me around 1am and she determined that I was 4cm dilated, and gave me a membrane sweep to speed things along. This certainly worked! Suddenly my contractions increased in intensity and were coming every three minutes.

I decided that a bath would help and spent the next half hour breathing through the contractions while my husband kept the bath topped up with warm water, occasionally pouring water over the bump.

 Around 2.30am Penny appeared with my mother and announced that it sounded like I wanted to push, I had been concentrating so much on surviving each contraction that I had not realised that I had started making grunting noises too! Penny called the assisting midwife and asked her to start making her way over then suggested that I got out of the bath as there was not enough room to deliver in it.

As I went through the transition stage, I decided that I no longer wanted a home birth, and demanded to be taken to hospital, then demanded drugs, then swore quite a bit. Penny suggested that I try the gas and air. Fantastic stuff! I just about managed to focus on my breathing as the intense waves of contractions rolled over me. Trouble was, it was only a small canister, and within 15 minutes it was empty.

Penny told me I was ready to push, but I had other ideas! I decided that it hurt too much to push, and that I was tired, so I promptly lay down on the bed and went to sleep (Oxygen that would normally go to your brain is diverted to your uterus and baby so 'sleepiness' is quite common in labour.) Even though to me it felt as though I only napped for a few minutes, apparently I slept for half an hour, waking once for a contraction. During this time Penny returned to the hospital for another canister of gas and air. I awoke to find an industrial-size canister sitting at the end of the bed and my husband offering me the mouthpiece. I recall sobbing that I couldn't do it, and apologising to everyone for being so useless. Apparently this is quite common as you go through the transition stage, but I was already 10cm and still adamant that I wanted to cancel the whole thing - as if I could!

By now it was around 6am, and my contractions were coming every two minutes again. I tried feebly once more to suggest that I could have Pethidine, only to be told by my mother and Penny that it was too late for that and I had to start pushing to get the baby out. It was at this point that I realised our daughter would be getting up for school soon, and I wanted to have the baby before she woke up, so I struggled off the bed into a kneeling position and started pushing. Penny felt for the baby's head and found that I had a small cervical lip still present, which explained the pain and my reluctance to push earlier on.

I gave a couple of pushes and the head started to crown. At this point I apologised to everyone for peeing - in fact my waters had just broken! The sensation of baby's head crowning cannot be put into words. It was such a relief to be pushing and to know that you are almost there, at the same time part of you is aware of how vulnerable you are at this stage and your 'fight or flight' instinct really kicks in, it's almost primal.

I raised one leg into a squatting position, whilst keeping the other in a kneeling position on the floor, and concentrated on my husband, who was trying to help me breathe through the gas and air and to stay calm. Two more pushes with the next contraction and baby's head was out. Penny told me to pant through some little pushes and then I felt the most amazing relief as my baby slid out of me. I sat back and lifted baby to my chest, 'my baby, my baby' was all I kept saying. Then Penny suggested that I look to see whether we had a boy or a girl. I was so relieved to have actually given birth I had not even looked. It was at this point that our daughter walked into the bedroom; she had heard all the noise and wondered what was going on. She was the first to discover that she had a little brother as I lifted baby from my chest to look just as she walked in.

My husband was sobbing by this time, and within minutes was on the phone to family and friends to tell that we had just had a little baby boy, even though it was 6.30am and most of them would still be in bed asleep!

I had not torn during the birth, and after delivering the placenta 10 minutes later, was soon snuggled into bed with daughter and new baby while the midwives cleaned up and husband made the tea.

Five days later and I am back to normal, I have no soreness down below and am almost back to pre-pregnancy size 12. Following my daughter's birth I felt as if I'd been hit between the legs with a baseball bat for around 10 days and I'd had a small tear! Baby Lewis is a very alert and contented baby; he is breastfeeding well and sleeps like an angel. We almost have a routine already, something we did not have with our daughter for around six weeks.

I would suggest to anyone thinking about having a home birth, go for it. Giving birth naturally at home is the most empowering and satisfying thing you can do. Its hard work, it hurts like hell and at times it can be traumatic as you experience childbirth the natural way, but it's also a beautiful, intense and overpowering experience, just as nature intended. We are already planning baby number 3 as a home birth!

Laura MacIntyre

laura.macintyre@homebirth_antispam.multex.com (remove homebirth_antispam. to get the correct email address).

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