I'm a 27 year old first time Mum. I decided not long after I found out that I was pregnant that I wanted a home birth, but initially DH (Dear Husband) wasn't so keen. I think he had visions of blood up the walls and having all sorts of unthinkable 'bits' to clear up afterwards (Ed's note: see 'Blood on the carpet?' for more discussion of these issues!). So, to start with we told our MW (midwife) that we'd use one of the MW-led birth centres. However, as time went on I felt more and more strongly that I wanted to be at home for the birth. With some help from my MW (who was VERY supportive) I managed to convince DH that a home birth would be good.
I didn't have a great time of it for the first five months of pregnancy. I had REALLY terrible morning sickness (one day I was sick 30 times in 12 hours) and had to have a lot of time off work. However, as time went on things got a lot easier, and if it wasn't for the unbelievably hot summer I would have sailed it.
As my due date got closer we started planning for the home birth. Unfortunately my MW had a holiday booked for 4 days after my EDD (estimated due date), so I didn't really know who would turn up, but I felt confident that it would all be OK in the end.
Anyway, EDD came and went, and we got to 41+2 and still nothing. I agreed to a membrane sweep (this was on a Thursday) - not the nicest of procedures (not exactly dignified) but it didn't hurt - I managed to relax which apparently helps lots.I was getting quite bored of waiting by this time, and I knew that if nothing happened soon the hospital would want to induce me - definitely NOT part of my birth plan! So the MW explained that I would need to be monitored to check the baby's safety, and assuming all went well they'd probably "let" me carry on for a few more days. If any problems were spotted, they would want to induce me there and then.
Editorial note: you may be offered monitoring, normally only if you get to around 42 weeks or later, but it's just that - an offer. You don't have to accept it. Similarly, you may be offered induction, but again, it's an offer, not a threat. Although it's common to hear phrases like "They let me go to 42 weeks, then I had to be induced", nobody has the power to "let" you do anything in this context; it's not in your midwife or obstetrician's power to "allow" you to continue your pregnancy, it's your decision - you are, after all, a mentally competent adult. What they can do is offer you the option of induction of labour - but sometimes, sadly, it's phrased as if you have no choice. You always have a choice. See "Overdue - but desperate for a home birth?" for more on postdates pregnancy.
The MW (not my normal one - she was on holiday by this time) booked me in for monitoring and possible induction for the Sunday (41+5). Nothing happened on the Friday and I started preparing myself for the possibility that I might not be able to have the home birth I wanted. But then...
I woke up at about 6am on Saturday with an odd twingey feeling. I'd been having really strong Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks, so I wasn't exactly leaping out of bed in anticipation, but I hoped that this might be 'it'. I lay in bed for a while longer and after some time I had another twinge. I woke DH up at this point - don't think he was impressed - Saturday was his lie in! At this point the twinges were so mild that I really didn't think I could be in early labour. We sat and chatted about it, and thought we ought to time them for a bit to see if there was a pattern. They were 20 minutes apart. This continued right through the morning.
At lunchtime we went out to our favourite cafe for lunch, and the contractions by this time were about 8 minutes apart. We then came home and settled in front of the telly. Bizarrely, we were watching some detectivey thing (probably Frost) and somebody got shot. The next three contractions were 20 minutes apart! At about 3pm I decided to put my TENS machine on. The contractions were still very mild, but were starting to cause mild discomfort, and I knew that TENS can take a while to build up. Nothing much happened then for hours. DH went to bed at 11pm but I just couldn't get comfortable, so I stayed in front of the telly.
At 3am I phoned the MW team and they said that it sounded like I probably wasn't too far along yet, but they'd get the duty MW to call me back. She did, and I described what was happening - poor thing was obviously exhausted as she'd just got home from attending another birth. She decided to come round and assess me, and told me to have a bath in the meantime.
It wasn't until I got out of the bath that I realised quite how strong the contractions had got - the TENS and the bath had worked their magic. The MW turned up bouncing (had coffee!) and examined me. It turned out that I was already about 5cm dilated, so I was "allowed" to get into my birth pool. The water was wonderful. The only bad bit was when the hot water hose got my foot - that was the only time I actually let out a scream! I must have got into the pool at around 5am.
I did ask if I could have some entonox, but the MW said I was doing just fine without it. At about 7am she decided that she wanted to call the second MW. I was finally allowed the entonox when she arrived. However, they were convinced one can would be enough... I drained it in less than 20 minutes (I am a singer, so my breathing is pretty effective!). MW no.2 had to drive back to the birth centre for more supplies - I managed without for the 20 minutes or so that it took her to get back. She bought another 2 cans, just in case.
Both midwives should have finished their shifts at 8am, but neither wanted to leave, so they called a third MW to take control (by this time our bedroom was just a little crowded, but it was fun). DH was supporting my head and I was holding his hand (quite gently apparently), one MW was shining a torch into the murky depths of the pool (all dignity had long since gone) and the other two MWs were getting towels ready, monitoring me and chatting to me - keeping me doing the right thing (it must be said that it was at about this time that the neighbours realised that something was up, when DH started emptying buckets of water out of our bedroom window!). Finally at about 9:30am, the first MW gave up and went home - she was so exhausted she could hardly string a sentence together - we were all a bit worried that she was too tired to drive!
I started pushing at just after 10am. The midwives were fantastic at talking me through it. I just used the gas and air between the contractions as apparently this makes you concentrate, and so the contractions are more effective. As the head came out they got me to put my hand on it - WOW, that was an amazing feeling, knowing that I was only minutes away from giving birth. A couple more pushes and the head was out, and then the body followed with the next contraction.
What I didn't know (until I read my notes later) was that the cord was around baby's neck, and his arm had come out with his head, so the midwives whipped him out, cut the cord and gave him a rub to get him breathing. However, it was SO fast that I would never have known - the midwives were great. Before I knew what was happening, he was wrapped in a towel and handed back to me in the pool. DH and I were overwhelmed - we'd done it!
I had wanted a natural third stage, but the placenta didn't want to shift. The midwives encouaged me to go to the loo, and I think I will always remember shuffling to the loo, towel between my legs, with a MW following me with a plastic bowl with the loose end of the umbilical cord dangling in it - lovely image! I sat there for ages, but it really wasn't happening, so I then shuffled back to my bed and had the injection. The placenta followed a couple of minutes later. While this was happening to me, the other MW cleaned little Alexander up and did all the checks on him, so when I got him back he was lovely and clean and ready for excessive cuddling ;-)
The midwives stayed until about 12noon and one stayed until about 1pm. They cleaned me up really well - I got away without any tearing, but Alexander had kindly scraped a bit with his sharp little fingernails. There was a huge mound of towels left by the washing machine. They did a pretty good job of tidying as much as they could, but they didn't empty the pool - DH got to do that later in the day.
We were then left on our own to get used to being a family together which was wonderful.
One of the midwives came back round again at about 6pm to check that we were all happy and healthy. Luckily little Alexander took to breastfeeding very quickly, and it was great being able to relax in our own home.
I really enjoyed the experience. It definitely helped that I had read as much as I possibly could about birth, so I understood what was happening at every point. The midwives were brilliant and totally supportive of home birth - they were so enthusiastic and dedicated, and we've seen all of them again because they made a point of putting their names down for the various visits in the days following the birth.
This was my first baby, and I will definitely aim for a home birth next time - I was so lucky to have exactly the birth I wanted.
Home Birth Stories
First Babies and homebirth
Pain relief - what are your options at home?
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
Overdue - what are the risks? What are your options?
Blood on the carpet? Mess at a homebirth - how bad does it get?/p>
Home Birth Reference Page