I have three children, two born in hospital and one born at home. During my first pregnancy I had a lot of trouble with my blood pressure, protein in wee etc which required quite a few stays in hospital. When it came to deciding where to have the baby, the only option was the hospital which I was happy with as I had never heard of anyone having their baby at home (it certainly was not mentioned in my antenatal classes!). My second was born in hospital because I had problems with my blood pressure again (not requiring any treatment this time). Both labours were long (32 and 13 hours), first was OP presentation. Both times I found the hospital incredibly depressing, and did not enjoy my (fortunately fairly brief) stays.
When I discovered I was pregnant with my third I initially agreed to a hospital birth automatically. It did not even cross my mind that there might be any alternatives and it was not until one of my friends had a tricky time when having her baby (hospital short staffed, mum not kept aware of what was going on, cascade of intervention) that I thought "sod that, there has to be a better way".
I began to research online and found that not only was homebirth a realistic option for me, it would give me much more control over what went on and also a much better standard of care (seeing one midwife for the whole of my labour - unheard of!). I raised the idea with my midwife at around 34 weeks and she was great, very enthusiastic and supportive. I only mentioned I was planning a homebirth if people actually asked where I would have the baby. Most were supportive but I think the general feeling was that I must be a bit mad.
All went smoothly with the pregnancy with only one blip - at my 39 antenatal appointment I saw a different midwife who measured my fundal height as being 32.5 cm and promptly booked me in for a growth scan in 3 days time.
On the morning of the scan I woke up with very mild but regular contractions. I was pretty certain that once I got up they would fade away (I had been having mild niggles for days). They didn't, so I called my mum to give her some warning. I got my daughter ready and took her to school and sorted out all the last minute things I had been putting off (towels, emergency hospital bag). My contractions were becoming more frequent and stronger so I rang the midwifery unit to give them warning and to cancel my scan! I was really pleased to hear that my midwife was on duty so would be looking after me. She gave me a ring to see how things were going and said she would get there as soon as she could.
By this time I was getting a bit concerned as, even though I had been having regular contractions for 10 hours, I had not had a show and the contractions would all but stop if I sat down. I had been for a couple of walks to try and encourage things, but the pace was slow. The reason for this was revealed when the midwife arrived - an internal check showed that the baby's head was presenting awkwardly, preventing him moving down into my pelvis. This meant that I was not dilating at all as there was no pressure. However, there was good news - cervix was stretchy to any dilation, it just needed pressure from the baby's head to get it going. Helen (the midwife) left with instructions to get up and down the stairs and to go for another walk - this really seemed to get things going and by the time I got back I was having to pause and really concentrate through contractions.
My mum started urging to call the midwife, but I was keen to hang on; after all I had not even been in established labour an hour earlier! However, the contractions were getting very strong so about 10 mins later my mum called through to let Helen know things were moving. She came back very promptly and found that I was now 9 cm dilated - I was stunned! Helen started to set up all her stuff, and I felt the contractions become more "pushy". Helen called the second midwife (also Helen!) around about now.
I started pushing involuntarily now - I had no control over this, and it was great not to have people telling me when to push. I think the fact that my body was able to control how quickly the baby descended meant that I had the least bruising and general tenderness post partum of any of my three births. The midwives were fantastic while I was pushing, they really helped with keeping active and changing position to help the baby move down - such a change from being flat on my back!
When I could feel that the baby was very low down, I really wanted to lie on my side to push. I found this amazingly comfy, and it was whilst lying like this my waters broke during a contraction. Hurrah! My waters had been broken for me previously. Each contraction was pushing hard now, and I could feel the baby very low down. Everything was very intense, and I felt I had to move on to my back to push properly. I did this and I could feel the baby's head - nearly crowning but not quite! I remember thinking that this last bit was harder than when I had my son.
With the last couple of pushes the head was born, face up and eyes opening. My husband (who was on standby in the next room) came running in at this point because he heard a cry - when he arrived he saw the huddle of me, my mum and the midwives and realised that only the baby's head was born. I was very grateful that the midwives were quite "hands on" while the head was born. It felt very different, and I am not sure I would have controlled it well on my own.
Note from Angela: Rachel's baby was born face-up; this is called a 'persistent occiput posterior' presentation, 'Direct OP', or 'face-to-pubes'. Although quite a few babies are in the OP position during labour, most turn around so that they are facing the mother's back when they are born. When a baby is born face-up, the widest diameter of the head which has to pass out is significantly larger than if the baby is face-down; it is quite an achievement to give birth to a direct OP baby without any perineal damage.
A few moments later he was all the way out, crying loudly. It was amazing to give him his first cuddle. After the false start my husband came in and saw him for the first time when he was a few moments old. My mum got to cut the cord, and we were all able to enjoy a cuddle with the baby, tea and biccies. I had no tears or grazes, and we were all in bed by midnight.
I am very pleased to have had such a good experience. The midwives were friendly, enthusiastic and supportive. I had great support from my mum (always good to know that she has "been there" so understands what is going on!). Being at home also meant that my husband could be there without being "at the business end". He has been in the delivery room with me previously and felt useless and out of place. This meant he could be there when our son was born but not have the experience marred by a miserable few hours beforehand. I was happy because I knew he was there if I needed him, and felt confident that I could communicate what I wanted.
My baby is happy, contented, feeding well and benefiting from having such a calm start in life. I feel truly blessed.
Rachel and family.
Home Birth Stories
Get Your Baby Lined Up - what it means when your baby gets in an awkward position, and what you can do about it.
Home Birth Reference Page