Ben's Birth Story, by Ruth Clark

BENJAMIN EDRIC BOX was born on 14 January 1997 weighing 7lb 12oz

Ruth's first baby, Eddy, was supposed to be born at home, but instead ended up as a breech delivery in hospital when he decided to come feet-first at 35 weeks. This is the story of her second birth, which was just a little bit different....

The players:

Me - Ruth
Adam - my husband
Ben - the star player
Eddy - our 2 year old son
Sue - my midwife
Julie - my other midwife
Maggie - supporter for Ruth and Adam
Kerry - supporter for Eddy
Daniel - supporter for Eddy and also my brother

My first birth experience hadn't been as I had hoped. Due to a premature footling breech my plans for a homebirth had been well and truly scuppered. So this time round I was twice as determined to have my baby at home. I was delighted when I discovered the baby was cephalic (a perfect LOA (see Note*)) and ecstatic once we got past that magical 37 weeks. In fact I was really excited about going into labour, no worries about anything, this was going to be good and everything that my last labour wasn't. My NHS midwives were supportive and we got on really well.

* Editor's Note:
LOA means Left Occiput Anterior - head down, well flexed, back of the baby's head towards the mother's front. See 'Get Your Baby Lined Up' for more info...

I was woken on 14th January at 5am by Eddy, who was crying. As I went in to see him I noticed a slight discomfort in my lower abdomen that was coming and going. I put this down to wind. After dealing with Eddy I went back to bed and listened to him singing and talking to himself until he went back to sleep at 6.15. All this time I was aware of the abdominal discomfort, only slight but enough to keep me awake (I am a light sleeper).

At 6.30 I decided that I needed to open my bowels. I thought I would feel better after this but I didn't - if anything I felt slightly worse. I wondered if, as this was 6 days before my due date, these were contractions and decided that if they were they must be Braxton Hicks.

At 7am I got up and fed the cats (all 7 of them). The contractions were now coming about every 10 minutes and were getting stronger and longer but were easily bearable, I just breathed through them. I now also noticed a lower back pain but still did not think that I was in labour.

At 7.15am I needed the toilet again, this time it was much looser and I noticed a show. I wondered if this was the real thing as there were now four signs, but I was not convinced.

At 7.30am I thought that maybe I should wake Adam. I told him I thought that I might be in labour; he said OK and did I need him and then he went back to sleep. I decided I'd better phone the other people who were due to come over. Kerry had just got home from working a night shift and she had taken a sleeping tablet and was about to go to bed; she was not going to miss this for the world and set out to walk across town to our house. Daniel was on his way to work so I couldn't get hold of him. Maggie did not answer her phone (it was broken), so I rang her partner's mobile; he was half way across the country but managed to get a message to Maggie via relatives who live nearby. I got hold of Daniel at 7.55am; I told him there was no rush as he wanted to go elsewhere on the way.

By 8am Adam was getting out of bed. I met him naked at the top of the stairs. Through bleary eyes he told me he needed to go to the toilet; I told him in no uncertain terms 'I need to go first'. And once again I opened my bowels. My contractions were now very close together.

At 8.05am, still sitting on the toilet, I had the first really intense contraction. It was very different to the previous ones, which had all been really low down and opening-out-type contractions. This one was from the top of my uterus, a really strong pushing contraction. My first thought was that this shouldn't be happening yet, I couldn't possibly be at this part of my labour as I hadn't had the painful bit yet. However my body was pushing and there was nothing I could do that was going to stop it. I then decided that I needed to do my hair (which is down to my waist), so I unplaited it and asked Adam for my hairbrush. I also decided that I needed my TENS machine on; it was far too late for this but it seemed the right thing to do at the time.

After two or three more contractions I put my hand down between my legs and could feel something sticking out! I lifted myself off the toilet seat and asked Adam what it was, it was the amniotic membranes bulging out and was about the size of a grapefruit. At this point I decided that I needed a midwife rather urgently. She was the one person that I had omitted to phone when I made my calls earlier so she didn't even know I was in labour.

Adam went downstairs and called the labour hotline. He asked to speak to Sue; the person on the other end told him that she was a community midwife and he would have to call their office. He came back up to me moaning about this and how useless they were; 'did you tell them that I am in labour?', 'oh, no'. He went back downstairs and tried again.

At 8.25am Sue phoned back. She heard me shout out at the next contraction and suggested to Adam that he should be upstairs with me. I then shouted down that I could feel the baby's head. Sue said that she would phone back in two minutes once Adam had put the phone on the extension upstairs.

I instinctively kept my hand on the baby's head from when I first felt it. The next contraction came and the head moved out a bit and then back in again. Adam bought the phone upstairs and began to spread a groundsheet on the floor so that I could get off the toilet. As he finished doing this I had another contraction. With this one my waters broke, out came the baby's head followed by his body. As I delivered my baby I lifted myself off the toilet seat, bought him up between my legs and cradled our second son in my arms as I sat back down again. Adam looked round and folded the groundsheet back up again. Then the phone rang, it was Maggie, Adam asked her the time, so we now knew our new son had been born at 8.30am. Almost immediately the phone rang again. It was Sue, expecting to talk Adam through the birth. He just said 'listen', she heard the cries and asked if we were OK. She also asked if we wanted to call an ambulance or just wait until she got there. As we were fine we said we would wait and she said that she would get there as soon as possible. I offered baby my breast but he nuzzled at my nipple for a bit and then went to sleep.

 At 8.35am Eddy appeared in the bathroom doorway. He looked at me sitting on the toilet and said "Baby" and then came to join us. Adam got a big towel to wrap around baby and me to keep us warm and then decided that he'd better get some clothes on before everyone arrived (he'd had no time to dress up to this point and I had been wearing his bathrobe). I asked Adam to take some photos while the cord was still intact.

Kerry arrived first and took some photos of all four of us, then looked after Eddy.

At 9.00am Julie arrived. She had got dressed in the dark in a hurry and was wearing pink socks with her dark blue uniform and she had also been stopped by the police for speeding on her way to me (they let her go as soon as she explained the situation). As the cord had stopped pulsating, I was happy for her to clamp it and Adam cut it. Baby was then wrapped in another towel and Adam had his first cuddle while Julie helped me off the toilet and onto the floor.

Adam put baby on the floor so that I could lean against him while the placenta was born. While I was waiting for the placenta I noticed my window cleaner cleaning the bathroom window! At 9.10 I had a contraction and felt the placenta move down. Two minutes later I had another smaller one with which the placenta was born.

Julie examined me and told me that I had sustained a small tear, which I decided not to have stitched. I stayed sitting on the floor while baby was checked and weighed. He was 7lb 12oz.

By this time Daniel, Maggie and Sue had arrived; Sue was later than she had hoped because she had skidded on ice and put her car into a ditch. At some point another midwife arrived but I have no idea who she was and she left once Sue got there. Maggie ran a bath for me and made drinks for everyone. Adam stood on our back doorstep to have a cigarette and shook a bit (poor chap still hadn't been to the toilet). I took baby into the bath with me where he had his first breastfeed for about 20 minutes. Eddy kept coming up to check on us and look at his new brother.

I was dispatched to my bed even though I felt full of energy and not the least bit tired. I wanted to tell the whole world what a wonderful experience I'd just had; it was a total contrast to Eddy's birth. I was far too energetic and high to sleep, so Adam bought me the phone so that I could call all our friends and family to tell them the news.

It really was the most wonderful and empowering experience of my whole life. I thoroughly enjoyed my labour and birth and I wasn't the least bit worried or frightened about birthing my baby without a midwife in attendance. It was so natural and instinctive. All we needed now was a name for our son. One helpful friend suggested Lou! And Eddy offered Mr McGreggor (he's a big Peter Rabbit fan). Our baby was three days old when we decided to call Ben.

Ruth Clark

ruth . clark @ (remove homebirth. to get the real email address)

Ruth's third baby, Alice, was also born at home.

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