Nicola's first baby was born at home, weighing 5lb 15oz. Nicola had some concerns about anaemia during her pregnancy, but went ahead with her homebirth. Despite a last-minute drama, everything went well:
When I first found out I was pregnant in February 2005 and went for my booking in at the doctors, I was asked where I would like to have my baby. I was given a choice of two hospitals. No one mentioned the possibility of a home birth and I had never thought about having one. A couple of months into my pregnancy, my husband said he thought it would be nice if I had the baby at home, as he and his two brothers were all born at home with no complications. I started to do some research into the idea and looked at sites on the internet such as this one. I started to think it would actually be quite nice to have my baby in the privacy of my own home with just my husband, cat and the midwives here.
At about 20 weeks, I asked my doctor how I went about arranging this. She did her best to put me off the idea by suggesting that as this was my first pregnancy and birth, there were no clues as to how well I would cope with labour and if there might be any complications. She detailed all the things that might possibly go wrong. How far away I lived from the hospital etc. She wasn't very positive, but said I could speak with the midwife. The midwife was very positive and didn't see any reason why I couldn't express a preference for a home birth. When I mentioned this at my Consultant appointment, he also tried his hardest to put me off the idea, but did not actually 'forbid' it, though he did insist I be booked in for induction 14 days after my due date.
Note from Angela: the consultant and GP were probably both aware that they do not have any power to 'forbid' or 'allow' a homebirth - although they can of course offer their professional opinion and advice, it is the mother's decision whether to follow their advice. See Homebirth and the Law for more information. And while doctors and midwives are able to make induction appointments at any time, a woman is under no obligation to accept the offer of induction, or to turn up at the appointment. Of course, sometimes there are very good reasons for accepting induction, but it needs to be made clear that induction is a treatment that you are being offered - it is a choice for you to make, not something which is done to you without your consent.
Back to Nicola:
My pregnancy passed without any problems at all. The only thing that might have caused a problem, was my low iron levels, which I was told would mean I couldn't have my home birth if they didn't go over 10 by my last blood test. Luckily they were at 11.3 by week 39!
Note from Angela:
A lower-than-average iron level can indicate an underlying health problem, but in a well-nourished woman is normally due simply to dilution of iron stores as blood volume expands in pregnancy. Sometimes it is raised as a possible contraindication to homebirth, but I have been unable to find any convincing evidence-based reasoning for this. A low Hb count does not mean that a woman is more likely to haemorrhage, but it can mean that it is harder for her to recover if she does have a haemorrhage. As with other possible contraindications to homebirth, you can make your own informed decision once you have researched the subject. Your caregivers cannot stop you having a homebirth on this basis; they can advise you, but the decision is yours. See discussions on anaemia from the Association of Radical Midwives (ARM) and, for example, birth stories fromElaine and Fiona
Back to Nicola:
My due date of 6 October came and went. I was prescribed aromatherapy bath oils to try to see if they would get my labour started. I spent Sunday helping my husband at his building site, used the bath oils Sunday evening and woke at midnight with a crampy feeling. I knew this was it starting and by breakfast time on Monday my stomach was aching and I'd had a show. I decided it probably wasn't a good idea to go driving anywhere, so I went for a 2 mile walk, then finished some painting I'd started. I got the sheets and pillows ready, and put some things ready in case I needed to transfer to hospital. We had a big dinner, so I wouldn't be hungry in the night.
By the time Coronation Street was on, I was practising my breathing techniques whilst knelt over a footstool. We went to bed, but laying down was really painful. I had a bath, but found it was making my contractions more painful, so by the time they were about 15 minutes apart, I went and watched TV for a while.
By 2.30 am on Tuesday my contractions were less than 10 minutes apart. I thought it was about time to call the midwife, as I was now certain I was in labour. I made a cup of tea and sat with the cat to await the midwife's arrival. She arrived at 3am and examined me. I was suprised that I was already 5cm dilated. It hadn't really been too bad so far. I was also suprised that after each contraction had passed, I was able to carry on my conversation as if nothing had happened.
We continued to watch TV and I made us breakfast about 5am. At 6am my husband finally got up and dressed and unrolled the plastic sheeting over the lounge carpet. I'd spent most of my contractions knelt down and leaning over the sofa, in between wandering around the house. I found this to be the best position by far.
The contractions were starting to get quite intense by now and I had spotted a small bottle of Entonox. I was never offered it, as I was coping quite well. I started to use that at 9cm. I was using a TENS machine. I don't know that it was any use, but it did feel kind of tingly, but I forgot to use the boost button. I soon went through that bottle of Entonox and the second midwife had to go out and get some more.
Things seemed to have slowed down, so the midwife suggested breaking my waters. I found this very uncomfortable, so she didn't continue and they stayed intact until I started pushing.
I was forced to give up my Entonox when I reached the second stage. I didn't really notice what my husband or anyone else was doing by then, I was so focussed on pushing. I don't think I was really using them effectively, as I was told to walk down to the toilet and sit there to push, which I did for half an hour. This seemed to help as I could really feel where I should be pushing. I waddled back to the lounge and took up my comfortable kneeling, leaning over the sofa position. All I could ask the midwife was how much longer was it all going to take, as I couldn't be bothered much more with it.
As the head started to crown, they took a photo of it, to try to spur me on a bit. I was taken by suprise as the head was born by the sheer pain as it came out. That definitely felt like the worst bit so far! Worse still, I had to move from my kneeling-with-my-back-to-everyone position to a sitting on the floor facing everyone position after the head was born and before the body was delivered.
I hadn't realised at the time that there was a minor emergency going on. This was quite difficult to do, but the plastic sheet was quite slippy and they practically spun me round on the towels I was kneeling on. The cord was wrapped so tightly round the baby that the body couldn't be delivered until the cord had been clamped and cut near the head.
After a 12 and a half hour labour with a 1 and a half hour second stage, I gave birth to a baby girl at 10.24 on 11th October 2005. She weighed 5lb 15oz and we called her Daisy. She had lots of bright red hair and was perfectly healthy. I didn't need any stitches and suffered very little blood loss. My husband trimmed the cord, which was nice, as he had been adamant that he didn't want to before the birth.
It was definitely worth insisting on a home birth. I was quite positive that I would be able to cope with the whole experience, unless there was a real emergency; after all, no one died of pain. If I were to have a second child, I would definitely plan to have it at home. The whole labour was not nearly as bad as I had psyched myself up for. Half an hour later, I was phoning my family myself, whilst sitting on the sofa in my lounge, breastfeeding my new baby and eating toast!
Nicola, Steven and Daisy
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