Daniel, born at home 2.02am 23rd January 2007, 6lb 9oz
I was due with my second child on 31st January 2007 and had planned a homebirth from the start. I had wanted a homebirth with my daughter, Eve, born in March 2005, but the midwives didn’t respond to our three calls to the ‘emergency’ out of hours pager and I then had some bleeding, so we ended up going in to the hospital. We were only there three hours before she was born and her birth was still very special, but I would have preferred to have stayed at home so this time I was all the more determined to stay at home if possible.
We had moved to Chester in 2006 so I was under a different midwifery team (I had my daughter while we lived in Greenwich, London) which seemed to have quite different rules and procedures. I mentioned homebirth at every visit to the hospital and midwife from the word go and whilst no one was actively discouraging, no one seemed terribly interested either. Finally, at one of the visits in my last trimester, we talked through the homebirth procedures and made arrangements for a home birth booking. From there on things went fairly smoothly, with a box full of bits and pieces being dropped off at about 37 weeks and the midwife coming to the house to run through our plans. Then, having had no problems at all throughout my pregnancy, I suddenly developed high blood pressure. At my 37 week check up it was 133/93, prompting the midwife to come back to check it again the next day. The next day it had gone up to 137/97 and I had a +1 of protein in my urine, so the midwife wanted me to go straight away to the day unit for monitoring. Once there (after a lovely, relaxing 45 minute wait reading my book and having a cup of tea!) it settled down and was 133/73 by the time I left – my urine sample came back clear too. The following week, another check up and the same problem, but with my readings being a bit higher still. The midwife again came out the next day to check my BP and as it hadn’t gone up any further and my urine was clear I was allowed to give the day unit a miss this time.Then, on 22nd January, at 38+5, I got up as normal to give my daughter her breakfast when, at 8am, my waters broke – it was more of a trickle than a flood, but was steady so I called the midwife to let her know. She said she would pop in a bit later to check how things were going. She arrived at 10ish, and I was having only a few niggles. She checked the baby’s heartbeat and my urine, both of which were fine, but when she took my blood pressure it was 134/107. Fortunately for me, the midwife listened when I told her that I was feeling fine, had no swelling, headaches, lights etc etc and agreed that I could stay at home with her ringing me every few hours to check on progress on the condition that I called her if anything changed. She also told me that if I hadn’t gone into labour by 8am the following morning I would have to go into the hospital to be induced.
Note from Angela: It is unfortunate that advice is often, in maternity care, phrased as instruction. Melanie was told that she would "have" to be induced the next day, but in fact this is an offer of treatment, and the mother can choose whether to accept or not; she does not "have" to do anything. She cannot be forced to go to hospital, or to be induced, without a court order - and the courts have made it clear that these should not be granted where mentally competent adults are concerned - see 'Homebirth and the law'. There may, of course, be many occasions where the mother does agree with the advice and chooses to accept it, but it should still be acknowledged that she is an adult who can make her own decisions!
Back to Melanie:
The rest of the day was a bit strange (my waters had to be broken right at the end with my daughter, so I hadn’t experienced this before) – I tried to get organised as much as possible, cancelled the plans I had for the next week or so, had a bit of a lie down, went for a couple of walks to try to get things moving, did a bit of bouncing on my birthing ball and generally tried to stay calm and keep my blood pressure down! At about 2pm I had a show, which was encouraging as it helped me to believe that things would start happening naturally. In the evening, my daughter went off to stay with my sister and I started to have niggling contractions.
My husband and I decided to go to bed at 9pm because I thought I might be able to get a bit of sleep, but once we were upstairs the contractions started to get a bit more regular. My husband slept from 9pm until 10.30pm, when I woke him up to help me put on my TENS machine. The contractions had been about every 10 minutes from 10pm but were manageable. For the next two hours the contractions got gradually stronger and closer together and at 12.30am they were about 6 minutes apart so we decided to get the birth stuff organised and to call the midwife. We spoke to the community midwife on call, Carol, at 12.52 and she said that she would be round shortly. The contractions were getting pretty strong and were about 4-5 minutes apart, so I thought I would try a bath. I got in at 12.55 and found the water lovely between contractions but found the bath and no TENS machine more difficult during contractions.
The midwife arrived at 1.15 just as I was wanting to get out of the bath, but all of a sudden the contractions were very strong and every minute or so, so it was difficult to get out of the bath, get dressed and get the TENS machine back on, but we managed it. The midwife wanted to checked the baby’s heart rate, take my blood pressure and examine me, all of which were difficult because the contractions were so strong. When she examined me at 1.25am the midwife said I was 5-6cm dilated, and my BP was only something/80, which was a huge relief, although they’d have been doing well to get me to hospital at this point!
Things were now moving really quickly and the midwife rang the second midwife to get her to come along – she had a half hour journey – then she and my husband put the plastic sheeting etc on the bed. The midwife asked if I wanted any gas and air, and I said yes but the midwife couldn’t get the pipes connected right and before she had time to try fiddling with it I started to want to push. I didn’t really know what was happening, because I’d been just 5-6cm dilated fifteen minutes earlier, so thought I was in for the long haul yet, but at 1.50am the midwife said she could see the baby’s head, so I got up on the bed and kneeled up holding on to the headboard. I was worried that I was pushing too early, but the midwife said to follow my body, so I gave in to the pushing and after a couple of contractions the baby’s head was born. I couldn’t believe it, I really hadn’t realised that I was almost there. I waited what seemed like ages for the next contraction, then out popped the rest of him at 2.02 am after about 4 hours in labour and only about 10 minutes of pushing (although, I really didn’t feel like I had to consciously push, more that my body pushed and I just went with it). The midwife told me to look what we had got, and I looked around and saw that it was a boy – we have called him Daniel. I can honestly say that my first thought as he was born was ‘is that it?!’ because it had all been so easy.
Daniel was born with the cord quite tight around his neck, which I didn’t see because I was facing the wrong way, but which the midwife dealt with quickly and calmly. Then I lay down on the bed and had a lovely cuddle with him and my husband while the midwife gave me the injection for the placenta. It was delivered very quickly and easily at 2.12. As soon as the placenta was delivered I breastfed Daniel for 20 minutes or so while the midwife tidied up. At this point the second midwife arrived! She helped out with the tidying up and the notes but only stayed a short while as everything was under control. Carol ran me a bath, which was bliss, and she and my husband got the bed all cleaned up and ready so that we could all go to bed. By 4.30am everything was tidy, the midwife had gone and we were all in our own bed with clean sheets and ready to go to sleep.
The whole experience was wonderful and exactly what I’d hoped for from a homebirth. It was obviously helped by the lovely short labour I had, but I think that was in part because I was so relaxed and able to keep upright and active at home. Carol, the midwife, was really fantastic – calm and reassuring, but essentially letting me get on with it. I had no tears and very little blood loss, so felt great later in the day when we got up and my daughter came home to meet her new brother. My husband has also said that he found the experience far better than the hospital birth we’d had with my daughter, which he had found quite stressful, and that he preferred being kept busy – he certainly was, as he basically had to act as the second midwife! Daniel is four days old now and a very calm baby – I’m sure that this is in part because of the lovely entry he had in to the world.
I hope that this account is helpful to other women considering homebirths
Home Birth Stories
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
Fast Labours - is quicker always better? What do you do if your baby is arriving faster than your midwife?
Home Birth Reference Page