My first baby was born by emergency C section at 29 weeks due to a placental abruption. It was a nightmare experience. All the technology could not save my little boy. He had a massive brain haemorrhage...
I was so careful during my second pregnancy but I was determined to have a vaginal delivery. My daughter was induced in a delivery suite at St Mary's Hospital, Manchester. They broke the waters at 6.30am and labour progressed naturally all morning. Later I used gas & air. At lunchtime I was judged to have made insufficient progress, so I was put on a 'synto'(syntocinon) drip. The drip induced savage contractions. I could not cope. I had a pethidine injection. The dosage rate on the drip was increased and at 4.30pm I was given a top-up dose of pethidine. At just after 5pm I went through transition and started to push. My daughter was born at 17.35pm, drunk from the pethidine but otherwise fine. No complications at all. With hindsight I recognise that I was put on the 'synto' for the hospital's convenience. The staff wanted to go home on time. The high tech delivery suite was booked for another woman the next day.
Last year we moved to Central London and for this pregnancy I was assigned to The Elizabeth Garret Anderson Maternity Hospital (part of UCL). The building is due to be replaced later this year and maintenance has obviously been on hold for a long time. To be polite it is a dump. Smelly and dirty. Some of the staff are great, others less so. Antenatal appointments were always late. I never saw a consultant. At 38 weeks I attended an antenatal appointment with a registrar. His recommendation was for a C section because of my history. I disagreed. A rather heated discussion followed and I told him I would investigate other options. I subsequently visited a private hospital but their approach was very similar to my second confinement. As a 'high-risk' patient I would have to use the delivery suite. Then I had a consultation with an independent midwife - Deborah Jordan (Birthing Solutions) and I had such confidence in her that I decided to go for a home birth.
When I went to my GP to get a prescription for pethidine my problems with the NHS system started. My GP advised me in very strong terms not to have a home birth. He had telephoned the hospital. They agreed. I should not even consider a home birth. They had organised a consultant appointment for me the next day! This would be the first time I would see a consultant this pregnancy. I agreed to go and my GP gave me the prescription I wanted.
The next day I waited for over an hour in the basement clinic of EGA for my appointment. The consultant was a middle-aged lady. She was kind and polite to me and said that the options offered to me had perhaps been misunderstood. She then outlined basically the same scenario as my second birth at St Mary´s. When I declined this approach and told her I was going ahead with my homebirth plans her suasion in my opinion became unreasonable. She told me that I would die very quickly if my C section scar ruptured and I would kill my baby. This frightening opinion did not have the desired effect. I left that office determined never to see her or anyone else in that hospital ever again!
The next two weeks were filled with anxious waiting. On Friday 29th February my daughter came home from Nursery with the Chickenpox! Frantic phone calls established that new baby was in no real danger (Husband and I have both had chickenpox) Saturday and Sunday we had to care for a very itchy, sick and demanding little girl. Of course our childcare plans for the home birth required a rethink ! Then on Monday morning, after breakfast, I went into labour...
Deborah (my independent midwife) arrived at 11.00am with what appeared to be the supplies for a mobile hospital! My husband arranged all the cylinders and boxes into my daughters room which was now 'out of bounds' to her. We live in a three-room flat so I settled in our bedroom listening to the hypnobirthing CD. I found it much easier to 'focus' at home. The birth ball was very useful in these early stages. I was quite active trying different positions etc. Deborah was quietly monitoring my situation in an unobtrusive way and giving advice when I asked. My husband was entertaining our daughter in the lounge but she is very empathic and was beginning to get disturbed by the situation.
By 3pm the contractions were frequent and stronger. I was using gas and air (entenox). At 3.30 a friend arrived (she had left work early) and she took our daughter out to the park and then on to her flat for the duration. My husband now became my birth partner. Over the next 2 hours my labour progressed. The 'hypno' CD was not calming me as before. I became more reliant on the gas and air. At 5.30pm the pain became intolerable. Deborah examined me and found that I was 6cm dilated. I opted for a pethidine 'cocktail'. Then I lay on my side on our bed. The pethidine distanced me from the pain and I regained control. Deborah had warned me that the injection would relax me and speed things up. It did. At 6.40pm my baby daughter came into the world screaming at the top of her lungs! There was no hurry, I cuddled her on my chest wrapped in an old bath towel. Husband took some photos, then cut the cord (after it had stopped pulsating). My baby girl had an APGAR of 10 from 1 minute and no apparent side effects from the pethidine.
I opted for an injection to speed the birth of the placenta, which came away without any problems. Deborah checked me out. No tears, even though she was 8lbs! (3.6kg) I had a shower then joined my husband and baby in the lounge.
We opened a bottle of Champagne and a box of luxury chocolates. We toasted our new arrival! The whole experience had been so intimate. So unlike hospital. At 8.30 my husband helped Deborah reload the mobile hospital into her car and my elder daughter returned just before she left. "Baby ! Baby!" She exclaimed. She was so excited it was nearly 11pm when we got her to bed. Not a bad first night. I got some sleep.
Next day I was very tired. New baby and a jealous 2 year old. Deborah arrived in the afternoon and we finished up the paperwork. She is quite simply an amazing woman and has my unreserved recommendation. So that is how it happened for me. Little drama and no problems, very different than the nightmare prospects so vividly described by the NHS...
Once you have been labelled "high-risk" I think you will always be advised against a home delivery. Maybe this is applied differently across the country but it appears to be a general policy. In my personal opinion this is unwarranted in the vast majority of cases. However it takes considerable courage to go against this advice and exercise your right to choose. I think many women will be frightened off by the doom-saying scenarios that occur in only a few percent of cases and so miss the opportunity and joy of a home birth. Very sad...
Home Birth Stories
Siblings at a home birth - what to do with your older children? Should they be present?
Pain relief - what are your options at home?
Independent Midwives - what they do, and where to find one.
Hypnotherapy for childbirth
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
Home Birth After Caesarean
UK VBAC/HBAC (Home Birth After Caesarean/ Vaginal Birth after Caesarean}) group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ukvbachbac
Home Birth Reference Page