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Jude's Birth Story, by Rachel Hale

I discovered I was pregnant with my first child on September 19th 2005 - thanks to the magic of First Response pregnancy tests, I was not even 4 weeks along! My due date was 3rd June 2006.

I never even considered going to hospital to give birth. As far as I was concerned, hospitals are great if you are ill, or having problems with your labour or birth, but otherwise, I was more than happy to stay at home. My husband was entirely in agreement, and was happy for me to have a home birth.

I am lucky enough to be close friends with Mary Ardill, a midwife who works for the Albany Midwifery Practice in Peckham, SE London. Albany are a self-managed, self-employed midwifery practice, contracted by King's College Hospital. Their work is entirely case-loading, they are on call for their women 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Although I was just out of their catchment area, I was fortunate that they agreed to care for me, with Mary as my primary midwife, and Becky Reed as my second midwife.

My pregnancy was entirely uneventful - we were disappointed to be told the sex of our baby at my 23 week scan. I expressly told the sonographer we did not wish to know - which she agreed to, then proceeded to call him "naughty boy" when he wouldn't get into the position she wanted him in. She denied saying it, but we had both heard her. I was not at all disappointed to be having a boy, but I'd wanted the surprise after the birth.

I bought a pool from Birthpoolinabox - and it was all ready and blown up by June 1st.

So, my due date came and went - I had quite a large bloody show on the 3rd, but nothing else. I saw Mary on Monday 5th, and I'd started having niggly little pains that necessitated me standing up and rocking around. I must have looked like a complete loon doing that in the middle of the leisure centre where the midwives are based, while waiting for Mary!

That evening, I felt the baby "drop". He was now so low in my pelvis that sitting or lying down was simply not an option. I paced the floor all night long - and all the next day - and all the next night. By 6am on Wednesday morning, I was exhausted and my feet were killing me from pacing about on hard wooden floors! Mary came to see me that morning and did an internal examination. At 7am on June 7th I was 3cm dilated, so things were finally happening. She left me with instructions to rest, but again, lying down, or even sitting was just too painful. I strapped my TENS machine on, thinking Level 2 was a bit ouchy!!

At about 10.30am, I had quite a big bleed, so I bleeped Mary. Becky answered her bleep and called me back. She agreed to come out straightaway, and was at my house within 20 minutes. She wasn't concerned about the amount of blood, and it had stopped by the time she got there. Eager to know what was going on, I requested another VE, and she found me to be 6cm. This was great, it wasn't even hurting!! She warned me though, that she felt the baby had turned OP - back to back - and I could be in for a long day.

She was right.

At 7pm Mary came back with a student who was on a placement from Huddersfield. I am so sorry, but her name escapes me, six months after the event! Another VE found me to be 7-8 cm. I had progressed 1-2cm in 8 hours. Baby was fine, good heartbeat, and still active. Away she went again, and I carried on pacing. My husband went to sleep from 9pm-1am, while I tried desperately to tell myself I could do this, and it wouldn't be long.

At 1am, I needed Mary back. So she came. She didn't examine me immediately, she just sat and watched me. I was pacing up and down, clinging to the door frames, and boosting my TENS for dear life. And to think I thought Level 2 was ouchy - by this time I was on Level 13. By 4am, I was losing the will to carry on. She did a VE, and found me to be 9cm with an anterior lip. She tried to push it back over the baby's head, but it was just too painful.

She suggested I get in the pool - which we had already filled earlier on. So my hubby topped it up with more hot water, and at 4.10am on June 8th, I got in. The relief was instant - and it gave me a much needed 20 minute respite from the contractions. By 5.30am, still nothing was happening, so Mary phoned Becky to come, as she felt she needed some support as well. Becky arrived at about 6am.

She was my saving grace - she sat down on the floor next to me, and said I had two choices. I could withstand a bit of discomfort and let her push the lip over, or carry on for another two hours. It sounds harsh to read it in black and white, but really, it wasn't, it was what I needed to hear. She pushed the lip over his head, and at 6.25am I was fully dilated.

Almost immediately, I started to feel expulsive, pushy contractions. I pushed hard with every single one - I never wasted one, I knew I had to get on with it now, if I ever wanted to go to sleep! I lost track of time really here, it seems like it was only a few minutes, but in reality, it was almost an hour and a half until he was born.

At 7.58am on Thursday June 8th 2006, my son Jude William was born, weighing 8lb 13oz. They took him out of the pool quite quickly as the water wasn't very warm - but his APGAR's were 10 and 10. He was beautifully pink, and was passed to his Daddy, while I sat down on the floor of the pool for the first time in over 3 days.

I had a physiological third stage and delivered my placenta in the pool. I sustained a very small labial tear, which didn't need suturing, but boy, did it sting when I went for a wee! The midwives cleaned up and left us at about 10am. Jude slept for almost 24 hours - I wish I could say I did the same, but suddenly I wasn't tired anymore!!

My labour notes state that I was in established labour for exactly 23 hours 58 minutes. I had no pain relief besides TENS and water. To say I am proud of myself is an understatement.

Jude is now 6 months old and an absolute joy. He is permanently smiling - only grizzles when tired, and is a pleasure to have in our lives.

I give the biggest thanks to Mary, Becky and my lovely husband - for all supporting me and convincing me that I would do it. I can honestly say that it never once crossed my mind to transfer in for pain relief. They made it seem entirely normal. I know full well though, the cascade of intervention I would have been subjected to had I been in hospital, and I will be forever grateful for being looked after by wonderful midwives who had faith in me.

Rachel Hale

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