My first child, Ben, was in born hospital after a long and exhausting 36 hour "on and off" labour, during which I couldn't sleep, and culminated in a forceps delivery. He had been in a posterior position. His birth was still a very positive one.
Three years later, Rosie was booked to be born at home as I believed my body would work more efficiently where I felt safest. Unfortunately she was in the breech position and I felt safer going into hospital to have her. During labour she became distressed and needed an emergency C.Section. Although disappointed, it was again a good experience and I made a quicker recovery than after Ben.
Another three years on and Sophie was conceived. I knew she was to be our last baby and desperately wanted to give birth myself, without any technical help! I was sure that my body could do it and felt certain that the kind of routine protocols that I would be subject to in hospital would only lessen my chances of a safe, natural birth.
I did my homework: contacted the caesarean support group, read all the relevant research and books, and really thought it through.
Convincing the NHS that it was as safe as the research showed it to be, was rather difficult. Initially I was told that they would not provide me with care. They subsequently changed their minds but although they agreed to look after me, they were (as they admitted) inexperienced in VBACs and I was concerned that this might cause me to be unnecessarily admitted (albeit for the best of reasons).
With this in mind, we cashed in a savings plan and "opted out", employing an independent midwife who was experienced in home VBAC's, Elaine.
(Elaine's midwifery practice, Thames Valley Midwives, operates in Berkshire and has a website at www.thamesvalleymidwives.fsnet.co.uk )
I received first class holistic care during my pregnancy and felt in safe hands. Elaine was very proactive about encourageing this baby into the optimum position, as she felt sure this would make a huge difference to the labour and birth.
Both my previous pregnancies had gone beyond 40 weeks, and this one was to follow the pattern. At about 41 and ½ weeks Elaine explored options with me. I started using some acupressure on specific points, clary sage essential oil and all the others!
Two weeks over the due date my contractions gently started during supper. We went to bed at the usual time but I found I wasn't really comfortable lying, so at 11:30 we got up. We put on music, lit candles, the fire and aromatherapy burner with lavender.
Most of the time I stood and swayed/danced during contractions. I tried sitting astride a chair with Hugh massaging my back, but found I really wanted to be standing. I consumed a whole packet of Maltesers!
By 3am my contractions were irregular but the odd one was very strong, so I contacted Elaine who said she'd get dressed and make her way over slowly, she had to travel approx 40 min. We were to page her if things speeded up.
I relaxed into the birthing pool we'd also hired, whilst Hugh, my partner, watched "Batman Forever" on the video!
My contractions slowed right down and in the 30 mins I was in the pool I only had 4 contractions. Also, I didn't feel right in the water much to my surprise, I felt I needed to be in contact with the ground.
I got out and considered going for a little walk down the road, however the contractions restarted with avengeance and I couldn't stand let alone walk! I settled myself on all fours leaning onto Hugh's lap while he sat on the sofa, video most definitely off! He massaged my back and generally held me.
At about 3.45 I considered bleeping Elaine as I had just had a double peaked contraction and knew deep down that things were progressing very quickly, but realised that she'd be here very soon. At that point I remembered that our dog would have to be shut outside in his kennel and run, as he would bark when Elaine arrived and wake the children. Hugh went outside to construct a gate on the run in the pitch dark, we're not very organised!
I had about 3 more very strong contractions, had there been any gas and air around I think I would have used it then. As it was still upstairs in Elaine's bag, I discovered the analgesic properties of making noise! It was unbelievabley helpful to groan and vocalise. Then my waters went.
I called Hugh but he did not hear me. I went into auto-drive with just a hint of panic! I removed my pants and tried to think which position might be best to deliver my own baby in. All of a sudden I felt Sophie move right down and immediately put my bottom in the air to slow what I felt was her imminent birth. I continued shouting for Hugh.
At 4.10 I heard Elaine tapping at the door but I couldn't get up to open it. Fortunately Hugh came back in and let her in.
Sophie's head was visible with each contraction. I found that I did not need to push. Elaine gave me the "permission" do whatever I needed to, and reassured me that what I was feeling was normal (as I have never felt a baby crown etc).
At one point Hugh asked her how long she felt it would be before the birth, and she suggested he ask me! At no point did she perform an internal. She encouraged me to wriggle my hips, applied warm compresses to my perineum and intermittant pressure to my sacrum, all of which I found so useful.
After a very gentle calm 2nd stage Sophie was born at 5.10 to candle and firelight and the "Shoop Shoop" song (I hadn't had time to change the CD!) with me on all fours.
The 2nd midwife arrived just after the placenta had been delivered with the help of syntometrine as Elaine was a little concerned about my blood loss.
I climbed back into the pool and relaxed there with a cool drink. Rosie and Ben both woke up and sat with Hugh, cuddling Sophie. My parents arrived at 6.00 (to look after the children whilst I was in labour!) and joined Sophie and me up in the bedroom, where the 2nd midwife checked and weighed Sophie, 9lbs 2oz.
Later on, my sister and her son arrived and I have a wonderful photo of all of us squashed in together on our king size bed.
As far as Hugh was concerned, he loved the fact that we were in our own home and that he didn't have to leave us at all. Hiring the midwives was the best £1500 we've ever spent!
I feel sad in a way that the only way for me to experience what I had dreamed of was to go outside the NHS. And fortunate that we had the funds to make that an option. This sort of care should be available to all women on the NHS.
Despite claims that Sophie was to be her last baby, Tikki went on to have Simon at home in 2001!
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