Rebekah's and Roger's first baby, Isabella, was born at home. On this page, both parents write about the birth and their afterthoughts.
Back in 2005 a friend of mine said that she wanted to give birth to her baby at home and like many other people my initial reaction was ‘why?' ‘Surely you go to hospital'. I cannot remember much about her response, but I remember going home thinking that maybe it was quite a nice idea after all. By the time we decided to try for a baby ourselves, the idea of a home birth was already nesting in the back of my mind.
After telling people that I was expecting, I remember saying to my family that I was thinking of a home birth and their reactions were so negative. My parent's generation all had their babies in hospital and they kept querying why I wanted to take such a risk. Even when I pointed out that many of them were born at home, I would get reminded about how many baby deaths there were in those days. As you can imagine, hearing so much negativity did play on my mind about how sensible a decision I was making. I have tiny feet and people predicted that I would have a difficult birth; other family members had had difficult births and pre-eclampsia, but fortunately I had a midwife who was able to answer all my questions and provide the much-needed reassurance I was after.
I did my own research, as there is a wealth of information out on the web, and was encouraged by the positive experiences many people seem to have. I wanted to try and not go down the spiralling route of pain relief and believed that being at home would give me more control. My partner, Roger, was keen for me to do what I felt was right and in the end we both decided that if I was healthy at full term and with the added reassurance that I lived close to the hospital if I needed to go in, we decided to try for a home birth.
Despite a scare that Isabella wanted to make an early appearance at 33 weeks, I had a relatively healthy pregnancy. I left work a couple of weeks early to keep my blood pressure down and get some rest. I mentally told myself that I would not have our baby on the due date as the chances were slim and so I was focused on having our baby by the 16th December (she was due on the 4th). Looking back I seemed to be in denial, as I had to be forced by Roger to pack my birthing things. I finally ended up a few days from my due date with my tens machine ready, a bag for at home, a bag for 'if' I had to go to hospital, a bag of sheets etc that the midwife wanted and another bag for baby clothes and sheets. The rest of this time was spent most of this time sleeping in, deliberating over boys and girls names, going to antenatal yoga and becoming a lady who lunched.
The day before I was due I had a lot of tummy pain but dismissed this as labour. To this day I don't know why; probably naivety about the whole labour thing. After a long lie-in we went to the allotment and even had my brother round for Sunday lunch. It was only when I went to bed at 11pm that we decided to call the hospital as I could not lie down comfortably and it finally dawned on me that this might be labour. The midwife on the end of the phone confirmed that I was and so we started timing the contractions. At midnight the majority were 6 minutes apart and by 3am less than every five. A phone call confirmed that Rachel, my midwife, was on her way and she arrived within the hour. Between us all, the lounge became full of plastic sheeting, had a chair, my birthing ball, CDs and anything else we thought would be useful.
At four in the morning I was 5cm dilated but many hours went by before I was ready to push as I was only 8cm by 9am. Most of this time was spent chatting, the midwife and Roger drinking coffee and with me standing up every few minutes over a chair, tens machine in hand and toe-wiggling every time a contraction came. I have no idea where the time went that day. After a while I started to use entonox and I remember ordering Roger to follow me upstairs with the bottle every time I went to the loo (which was very frequent). I was quite disappointed when it was taken away from me when the pushing started. Isabella's heart beat was checked regularly, which was reassuring, and the whole atmosphere was as relaxed as it could be. I distinctly remember that, despite the pain, being calm during this period and that was largely down to the support of Roger and Rachel and the fact that I was in my lounge using my things whenever I wanted to.
A second midwife, Glynis, arrived mid morning to help with the later stage and I remember both midwives to be full of encouragement. Although not as painful, it was this stage that I remember to be the hardest. Poor Roger had to deal with me squatting against him for over an hour as I tried to push Isabella out. Not once did he ask me to move so he could go to the loo or take the pressure from his 'dead legs'.
This whole stage is a little bit of a blur but at 2:15pm Rachel decided to cut me to help Isabella out. At 2:28pm I leaned back against my sofa and she popped out and Roger had the ringside seat of the whole thing. It turned out she was born back-to-back and explained why pushing her out was such an effort but I did it !
(see 'Get Your Baby Lined Up'for more on 'back to back' or 'Occiput Posterior' presentation.)
I had wanted to deliver the placenta naturally, but as I was in need of stitches the injection was given, the cord was cut and it came out only a few minutes later. Throughout this I was cuddling my little girl, Roger was with us and looking on in amazement and the midwives were quietly letting us have these first moments as a family. Over the next half hour I had to be cleaned and sewn up. It was wonderful standing in my shower thinking of our tiny baby girl sitting in her daddy's arms downstairs. Once I had been tidied up, Isabella was weighed (she came in at 6lb 8oz), checked over and encouraged to suckle, which she took to straight away. She was dressed, I regained some of my dignity and whilst Roger and I had some time to watch our daughter the two midwives cleared up the plastic sheets and tidied things away. Rachel stayed with us a few hours after Isabella was born, before leaving us for the day.
There were some definite bonuses to having my labour at home. I had the same midwife throughout and I felt relaxed and in control as I was in my house surrounded by my things. Roger was much more involved and he was able to be with me the entire time, whereas many friends only had their husbands with them in hospital for the final stages. Food was not an issue to me as I had little appetite, but along with drinks, it was on tap for the midwives and Roger.
I will admit that as the pain intensified I was always debating if I could cope if it got worse. When would I say I wanted to go to hospital and how long would it take to get the effects of some pain relief? But I was always thinking I'll wait until the next contraction and somehow it kept me going. The midwives were fantastic and encouraged me the whole time. If I had been in hospital it would have been much easier to have had pain relief because it was easily available. With Isabella being back-to-back there would have been a high chance that she would have been ventoused out. As I proved, it was not needed.
If there was any difficulty about being at home it was only that we were left to fend for ourselves from the moment the midwives left. Roger had no chance to catch up on his sleep and I had no button to press to say I needed help, which I would have had in hospital. All in all I found the whole thing a magical experience. Every birth is. I am sure giving birth in hospital can be just as positive an experience, but for me being at home was the best. When Isabella grows up we will tell her that she was born in our lounge and although we may not always live in our current house, it is certainly going to remain very special to us.
Our antenatal teacher suggested it would be good to have both the Mum's and Dad's perspective of Home Birth. Having just read Rebekah's account I'm not sure what to add, other than emphasis on a couple of points.
Rachel, our midwife, was with us from half four in the morning until around 5pm, a couple of hours after Isabella was born. Her commitment and professionalism might not be any different than if she was working in a hospital, but she was there all the time. No changes of shift, no differences of opinion, just excellent, consistent care. Isabella's heart rate was monitored frequently throughout the day, encouraging us that however long we thought the labour was going on for, she was happy.
I won't say things were relaxed - at times I was tense as anything. Watching your partner go through labour is hard and you feel pretty useless a lot of the time. Being at home though, it was easier to be useless; I got to make tea and toast for Bec and Rachel and you can guarantee you'll get a feed if and when you want, because you're at home. I always felt from experience of the hospital (Bec went in overnight at 33 weeks with stomach pains) that as the fella you were in the way. Not so in your own home.
What are the drawbacks? I can only think that you don't have all the pain relief options available to you immediately. However you can always go to hospital if you need them and it's as likely that you'll have access to the next level of pain relief as soon as anyone on the ward as your midwife will call ahead whilst you are blue-lighted to the hospital.
I'm not in a position to tell you whether home is better than hospital, birthing centre, or under a tree. I know people who have had a fine time in hospital as well as those who haven't. We've only had one, at home. However, chances are that if you're on this website, you're considering your alternatives to hospital.
If there had been complications during pregnancy or labour, or medical reasons that meant we were advised to go to hospital to have Isabella, we wouldn't have hesitated. As it was Bec had a great pregnancy and we were able to have our beautiful baby daughter Isabella at home. From my point of view we had thoroughly personal and high professional service in comfortable surroundings as we wanted. I would seriously recommend consideration be given to birth in your home.
Home Birth Stories
Fathers and Home Birth - what is homebirth like for dads?
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
Pain relief - what are your options at home?
First Babies and homebirth
Get Your Baby Lined Up - what it means when your baby gets in an awkward position, and what you can do about it.
Homebirth UK email group
Home Birth Reference Page