I am overjoyed to announce the long awaited arrival of our baby daughter Amelie.
At 43 weeks and 2 days, she was born at 9:45am, Sunday 3rd June 2007. She weighed in at a wonderfully healthy 9lbs 3.5oz after 8 hours of established labour.
Everything went as planned and she arrived at home, in our birth pool.
Mum, Dad and baby are doing well! She is perfect in every way.
Due date: Friday 11th May 2007
Birth date: Sunday 3rd June 2007
My daughter Katie was (still)born by elective section at 28 weeks +3 days in 2000 (Perlman Syndrome). I had since met and married Richard in 2005 so genetically the chances of the same problem occurring with a different partner were between 1 in 500,000 and 1 in a million.
I had a miscarriage in July 2006 at 10 weeks while we were on holiday in Amsterdam. We were both devastated. The start of this, my third pregnancy, was heavily monitored and we were very glad for regular reassurance scans. We were tentative about celebrating too early in case our hearts got broken again. The first half of the pregnancy, however, turned out to be textbook, with every scan showing normal growth and activity. With every scan we got closer to having our dream coming true. At 23 weeks we were told we were having a little girl. I couldn’t believe things were actually happening right. It wasn't until I got past 28 weeks (the gestation of pregnancy at which I had Katie) I breathed a sigh of relief and saw every new day of being pregnant as a step closer to meeting our new daughter.
We had a 4D scan at Window to the Womb in Nottingham. We came home with a 20 minute DVD of our daughter sucking her fingers and pulling faces from inside the womb. I was finally starting to believe I might actually have a healthy baby in my arms at the end of this pregnancy.
We hired a doula, Sallyann. We found her details on the Doula UK website. This was to be one of the best decisions I had ever made. I was anxious about the birth for so many reasons. Mainly though because of the loss of autonomy I had experienced during previous stays in hospital. However I knew that this should be a positive reason to be in hospital when baby was born, so finding Sallyann was a positive step towards planning for the birth we wanted.
We attended a homebirth support group in Moseley, Birmingham. We met ladies who had great birth experiences and it got us thinking about what we wanted. We approached our midwife about it, who was unsupportive. I wrote to her supervisor the SoM (Supervisor of Midwives)Anne O'Riley and had a meeting with her at Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry, where we had been having all our scans. We basically addressed the midwife's concerns and anxieties one by one, suggesting research which backed up our decision. It was a difficult time and stressful build up to the meeting. Sallyann accompanied us. I was saddened that I had to 'fight' for the homebirth booking, but once we had shown we were making an informed decision based on our needs as a family, the homebirth booking was confirmed. At the end of the meeting our new midwife, Doreen, was very pro-homebirth and had been present at all her daughter's home births.
We were booked in for a HWVBAC (home water vaginal birth after caesarean). We were hoping I would give birth in our birth pool that we had bought after attending the NCT Homebirth Support Group. This was going to be my first labour. Although we got the homebirth booking we wanted and a change of midwife, it was not easy. The SoMs focussed in quite heavily on the risks of having a homebirth. However my husband and I felt we had researched these risks well enough to make an informed decision based on what we felt would be the best birth for us as a family.
The local policy is to 'offer' induction at term plus 10 days. We decided to decline induction and accept twice weekly scans and EFM monitoring for reassurance in accordance with national guidelines. We were constantly repeating and having to re-justify our decision to 'wait it out' at home. Another meeting with the SoM took the form of us having the list of risks associated with 'post-dates' babies given to us, almost as if we were being told off. We stood our ground. We felt the due date was not 100% accurate, all monitoring showed baby and I were healthy and happy, baby was in the right position, with plenty of fluid and placenta still effective. Lots of support from our doula and the Homebirth UK and VBAC e-mail support groups really helped us 'stick it out' despite unhelpful comments from people all around us. Everyone around us became impatient. I decided to go into hiding, my husband fielding all calls and texts.
Had a stretch and sweep at home with one of the community midwives. The cervix was slightly round to the back and she managed to get 1 finger in to do the sweep. I produced a mucus plug 24 hours later which was very exiting.
Had second sweep with community midwife. Cervix slightly more round to the front and bit more stretchy. This small amount of progress encouraged me. Every day was like an emotional rollercoaster.
As a result of some of the pressure being put on us, we visited an alternative hospital labour ward and met Supervisor (Warwick). This helped me stay positive as they didn't offer induction until 42 weeks and even then have a more relaxed approach. It seemed they would not pressure me into induction. It was a smaller unit and much more homely. We decided that if we needed to transfer into hospital during our homebirth, this would be where we would go. At this point I was considering attempting use of prostaglandin gel/pessary. However as I was attempting a VBAC, they would only offer one administration before recommending further intervention such as ARM (artificial rupture of membranes) and oxytocin drip. This was my worst nightmare as I would be less likely to be able to use a birth pool, and more likely to be pressured into being strapped to a bed being monitored throughout.
Desperate, had acupuncture session called 'natural induction of labour'. Came home with some lower back pains. The regular Braxton Hicks I had been having since 38 weeks were becoming stronger. The positive attitude of the acupuncturist really helped me through this day. Continued to ignore all calls and texts all asking the same thing; 'is baby here yet?' (Jeez, as if I would keep such news to myself!)
Had third sweep at home. Cervix was more stretchy and midwife said she could have got 2 fingers in cervix if she had wanted to.
Had mild contractions from 11am, every 10-20 minutes. Managed to sleep from midnight until 2am. Tried Castor Oil as it was recommended by many different people.
2am woke up with stronger contractions. Started to time them; they were 1-2 mins apart. Richard called the midwife and our doula Sallyann at 3:40am. I got in the bath. Up until now the bath had provided me with relief; however, I found that having a contraction in the bath was not as relaxing as I thought it would be, so got out again and waddled round the house, rotating my hips and repeating my mantra – 'I trust my body, I trust my baby'.
The midwife arrived at about 4.10am - it was the same lady who had done sweep no. 1 and 2. An examination I asked for revealed I was 2cm dilated with 'waters bulging'. At 4.55am my doula knocked on the door. I was sat on the sofa and shouted 'it's open, come in!' and at exactly the moment when she walked through the door my waters broke with a huge gush all over the floor and sofa! I let out an exited 'Oooooh!' and waddled off to the loo leaving a trail of clear fluid behind me. I was very relieved to see it was clear as one of the reasons we had been given for recommended induction for post dates pregnancy was meconium in the liquor and meconium aspiration. Things were really starting to happen and I was so glad because I had got to a point where I almost believed my body didn't know how to labour or give birth!
The next few hours were spent upright, stopping for contractions and blowing the pain away. Richard or Sallyann would meet contractions with massage at the bottom of my back, which really helped and soothed me. We stayed downstairs for about an hour then went up to our bedroom for a while. I had a selection of my birth music playing and this helped. I had spent weeks listening to it and relaxing in the bath; now I could recreate that relaxation but whilst in labour. I felt I slowly became more vocal, and eventually did not need to tell anyone that I had a contraction coming.
It took a while to get used to the fact that a contraction made me feel like I needed the loo due to the pressure. I therefore spent most of my time not too far from the bathroom. Richard filled up the pool and I started asking for gas and air. Sallyann urged me to save it for towards the end of labour, which kept me going for a while, but after another visit downstairs to the loo, I found the contractions to be more intense and felt that I really wanted to try something to take the edge off. I found out later that Sallyann did not realise just how strong the contractions had become. Sometime later, I tried the gas and air it whilst leaning against my bed; it made me feel a little drunk and hazy, but did seem to take the edge off the contractions.
I felt I wanted to get in the pool at about 8am, as it might be enough relief for me to get through the more intense contractions. Everyone agreed. I was being guided by my instincts, and what I felt was the right thing to do next. On examination just before I got in I was told I was 4 cm dilated. This was fantastic encouragement for me. It was in the corner of our little living room. The birth music was playing in the background.
The pool made me feel I had more privacy to birth. I imagined that you could not see through the water, and felt that I could let go once my bottom half was submerged. I felt lighter and more flexible than I had been on dry land. I spent a while getting used to the pool before I found my comfort zone with my back to everyone. I was facing the corner of the room. That way I couldn't see what was going on in the room around me. Sallyann and Richard squeezed into the space between the birth pool and the wall and held one hand each; I held the mouthpiece with my teeth. I found it helpful to bite down on it. I closed my eyes during contractions; when I opened them it was like waking up. Sometimes Sallyann had her head down leaning on our hands clasped together. I really liked this as it made me feel less observed but still supported. I remember thinking 'crikey you are one hell of a lady having birthed 4 babies, 3 of them at home in water with no gas and air!' Sometimes I crouched, and other times it felt good to spread my legs back straight behind me floating in the water.
I used gas and air to get through every contraction. I was more focused and determined than I had ever been in my life. I said to Sallyann once I was in the water 'I think I could really do this in the pool you know' to which she replied 'you could do this anywhere'.
Labour progressed well (although I didn't know that)- I was just concentrating on getting through each sensation, everyone leading me closer to finally meeting our precious baby girl. The order of what I remember is a little jumbled up now. But here are a few things which have stayed with me; in between deep breaths of gas & air I breathed out noise almost like a long loud sigh. I think they got higher with the intensity of the sensations. Eventually they turned to almost growl-like noises. I said 'do you think we should knock on the neighbours' door in case of the noise?' To which I got the reply 'what noise?'.
One of the songs on the birth music collection was Flowers in the Window by Travis. At the time of its release I had not long lost Katie. In the music video, the band Travis are seen walking round a new town, every inhabitant of which was a heavily pregnant woman. I always thought of it as one of 'her' songs and had vowed it would one day become a positive song for me. I somehow in between contractions managed to tell this little story to Sallyann and Richard. From that point on I felt like I could really let go. I also have 2 pencil sketches of Katie framed on the wall I was facing. I stared at them hard during one contraction and apologised in my mind to her for not having laboured, but opting for a section. It made me feel stronger inside. Another song on my birth cd was an Annie Lennox song, the lyrics to which are 'come on now baby' which I had sang to my huge bump in the bath many times before, so listening to it in labour felt so right. I was on a complete mission to do this for my baby.
Other mantras I said in my head which were helpful were:-
I also concentrated on the images of other birthing mothers from the birth videos I had watched through my pregnancy. The main one was from the NCT DVD 'Happy Birth Day' of a lady who had a home water birth using gas and air, and made her own video diary leading up to, and through the labour. The other was of the unassisted homebirth of twins (one breech) which I had seen online. Both had inspired me to stay focussed.
Once the second midwife arrived things changed slightly. She was older and more vocal than the first midwife. She was lovely but seemed to want to take over a bit. Whereas Helen was very hands off and just quietly monitored me intermittently, Elaine approached me in the pool during a contraction saying 'what do you want to do about the 3rd stage Rosie?' I remember thinking have you even read the birth plan!?! But ended up replying with something along the lines of 'let's wait until we get there and I will be guided by you.' Half way through a contraction the conversation between the midwives got too loud. They were rustling a paper bag or something as well. I shouted 'too loud!' to Richard and Sallyann. They asked the noise be kept to a minimum and then things seemed to get back to how they were before Elaine arrived – hands off. I remembered what Sallyann had told me about 'finding my voice' in labour and felt good I had been able to do this.
At one point Richard commented I hadn't sworn once. I was struggling to vent the sensations and so gave it a try, shouting a loud 'F**K!' at the height of one of the contractions. It didn't seem to help so didn't swear again. Richard later said it sounded unnatural, as though I "felt" I should swear; I went back to my growling.
I started asking for the meptid at 9am, which we had in the fridge. It felt like there were hardly any gaps between contractions. I later found out that this was because I was in transition. Richard said things which really encouraged me like 'just go with your body'. It was not long after this that my body decided it was going to push whether I liked it or not! I was so shocked that I was pushing with seemingly no control. I tried to relax through it and asked for meptid again. The midwife suggested I have another examination. I was told that there was no cervix at all, I was fully dilated and that I could push when I wanted as my baby was ready to be born. There would be no point in meptid now as it would take 20 mins to kick in and I was so close. I was so shocked as it felt like I hadn't been in labour that long, and as it was my first labour I was expecting a long drawn-out affair.
Second stage lasted about 30-40 minutes. Someone said 'do you want to just reach down and feel the head….' To which I replied 'NO THANKYOU!'. I needed to focus on the sensations, and I knew my body would do the rest. In the back ground I could hear someone saying 'she's looking at me, I can see her eyes'. I didn't realise the head was even out!!! With the next contraction I decided to push too when my body pushed. I was scared of tearing which might have been why I was holding back from pushing. It felt like someone was pushing a brick out of a brick wall, like grinding hard surfaces together.
With the next push she was out. She shot out behind me, and I had to lean right back in order for her to be lifted through my legs and onto my chest. I was asked if I wanted to lift her out myself but I still felt like I was coming down off that last contraction so asked Helen to do it. She came out of the water all dark pink and big blue eyes. I was saying 'I did it, I did it' in disbelief. She didn't take a breath but I was reassured that she was still getting oxygen from the placenta so I could blow on her face to see if it stimulated her. After a minute or so I agreed that Richard would cut the cord so that they could get her breathing and then be brought back to me in the water. The high sides of the pool prevented me from seeing what they were doing and I tried to relax through a few mild contractions. I heard a cry and burst into tears saying 'she's alive, she's alive!'.
She was born at 9:45am so I had what I called 'established' contractions for only just under 8 hours. However, all the books say established labour is anything from 4cm onwards, so I was in established labour for 3 hours 45 minutes. She weighed in at 9lbs 3.5 oz and I was so shocked at how big she felt in my arms. I couldn't believe I had been carrying her for so long. After a few minutes holding her in the water I decided to have the injection for third stage because I wanted to get out of the pool and into bed with her and Richard. Six or seven minutes after the injection nothing had happened so with a little help I stood up, and just as I did the placenta fell out and was promptly caught by Helen in a bedpan. What lightning reactions from her!
I climbed out of the pool and was helped into bed. Richard had dressed Amelie during the 3rd stage and we snuggled up. I had a go at breastfeeding which was pretty successful but took a few attempts to get it going. She is almost on the boob constantly now at time of writing this (9 days old) so we must have done something right!
I have been on a complete high since her birth with no signs of baby blues (only tiredness). Everyone who meets her comments how calm and contented she is. I have no doubt that this, my effective contractions and short labour were all down to the fact that she was born in water and at home. After I lost Katie I had tremendous support from a few charities that support parents through loss. I spent a lot of time singing their praises and spreading the word about their good work. Now I feel like I have to spread the word about home birth and its benefits. I realise that if I had needed to be transferred into hospital for any reason I would have been grateful for any treatment either I or my baby might have needed. Her APGAR scores were 6 at 1 minute and 9 at 5 minutes.
I feel we made the labour short by being in control. The preparation we put into the birth helped me to convince myself I was capable. I hope I am an example of how you can have a VBAC, post-dates home birth in water.
Richard is updating the website daily with pictures of Amelie (www.freewebtown.com/rnrwedding/page12.html)
The build up to the day of the birth was getting more stressful as each day "overdue" passed. For every "any news yet" text or message Rosie had, I had the same questions every day in work! It felt like we were getting pressurised from every direction. I am so proud of Rosie for persevering and sitting it out.
Anyway, at 2pm when Rosie woke with regular contractions I was still thinking "no, this can't be it". I thought it would just tail off to nothing again. Even when phoning the labour ward and our Doula I didn't think it was actually going to happen.
The morning progressed much as Rosie described it. I spent the first few hours following Rosie around and rubbing her back when she needed it. During one monitoring of baby's heartbeat, Helen struggled to find it. It took her what seemed like a few minutes (probably more like 20 seconds). It felt like my heart stopped for the whole time she was moving the doppler around. I know Rosie felt the same. My mind suddenly filled with awful images of what could be happening. Eventually there was a heartbeat and all was well, but for that moment I feared the worst. From then on it was pure excitement and awe.
I remember thinking how calm Rosie was throughout. She never really gets het up anyway, but it was almost like she wasn't really in labour, it just felt like a small social gathering, something that wouldn't have happened in a hospital.
The mood was total calm and relaxation. I'm sure the midwives picked up on this vibe and went with it. We used my iPod in a speaker to provide Rosie with her birth music. We'd planned this way in advance as it seemed better than changing cd's all the time. I imported her Hypnotherapy CD into iTunes and put that on the iPod too. At one point Rosie asked why a certain song was skipping. I tried to explain that the iPod can't skip as it's not a cd, but I don't think she was really listening J
Note from Rosie: I later realised that this was when I was in transition – the music sounded fragmented and just like when a cd skips. But then I realised people's voices sounded like that too when they spoke. I remember Sallyann saying "you have every right to think that the music is skipping". Acknowledging what I had said without agreeing!
One of the things that stood out for me was over-worrying about the temperature of the water. We had a thermometer in the water and it didn't move much outside of the recommended temperature range (36-38°c). Elaine was quick to let me know if it needed topping up anyway.
It was great having Sallyann there as she provided support for us both. If I had to nip to the loo or make some food/drinks I knew that she was there with Rosie. And I think that for Rosie to have two people she could rely on was a great help.
I missed the 3rd stage, which I'm a bit gutted about. After Amelie was born it all went a bit too quick. I'd missed a conversation Rosie had with a midwife regarding the 3rd stage (even though we had it all written in the plan). I was handed Amelie to get dressed. Now I hadn't dressed a baby for 8 years, since my son was a baby. I'd forgotten what to do. So I was concentrating on doing this task whilst Rosie delivered the placenta after a few minutes of receiving the injection.
If I had that time over again I would have definitely recorded the actual birth, the moment where Amelie was born into the water. I'll never forget the image of her floating under the water with her arms and legs sprawled out and her looking up at us all. She was only there for a few seconds, but it was the most beautiful few seconds of my life. One second just the two of us, and then a second later we have this beautiful little creature to spend the rest of our lives loving.
I am amazed by everything she does. How she knows how to feed; her tiny fingers and toes, even the pooey nappies. She is perfect. The whole birth was perfect. I am so proud of her and Rosie; they were a great team.
Don't worry too much about the water. It keeps its heat for a long time. Ask the midwives to let you know when it needs topping up with hot water. When you've used one kettle full, fill it up and boil it again.
I know the old cliché of hot water and towels, but we went through ALL of our towels and had nothing to wrap Amelie in! (We had 10 months to prepare for this and we still weren't ready).
Make sure you have bread for toast and plenty of tea, coffee and milk.
Rosie went through a lot of Ice during the labour (mainly whilst in the pool). She used it to keep cool on her body and to crunch on. Either get a bag of ice from Tesco's or make sure you have plenty of ice cube trays (or disposable ones).
Keep the Midwives at bay. I made sure that Helen knew where she could setup her area. It was in the front room away from Rosie. I kept the door between us closed as much as possible to keep down interruptions.
We learnt the hard way that you MUST sleep when baby is sleeping, otherwise you'll never catch up on your sleep. We had too many visitors in the first few days and were unable to do this. Spread them out a bit, they'll understand.
If you have an MP3 player I suggest you use it as it will save changing CD's. You can choose the songs you want and the order they play in. If you can, connect the mp3 player to a spear or Hi-Fi.
Stay by me, And make the moment last
Please take these lips
Even if I have been kissed
A million times
And I don't care if there is no tomorrow
When I could die here in your arms
Even if the stars have made us blind
We're blind we're blind
So blind in love (come on now baby)
Don't you know that we're no different to anyone
We stumble, We falter
But we're no different to anyone
And all the winter snow has melted down
Into a pool of silver water
And we're standing in a thunder cloud
Dark as your hair
Dark as your hair
Home Birth Stories
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
Pain relief - what are your options at home?
Waterbirth at home
Doulas - professional birth attendants.
Hypnotherapy for childbirth
Overdue - but still want a homebirth? When is 'postdates' risky?
Homebirth UK email group
Home Birth After Caesarean
UK VBAC/HBAC (Home Birth After Caesarean/ Vaginal Birth after Caesarean}) group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ukvbachbac
Home Birth Reference Page