I wanted to write my story not only to remind myself in years to come of a very special time in my life, but to encourage other women to have the confidence and peace of mind to choose a home birth if that is what deep down they feel is right.
It was my third pregnancy and as I had had two wonderfully short and relatively trouble free labours I decided to broach the subject of a home birth with my husband and midwife, both of whom were surprisingly supportive and encouraging. Therefore I decided to take the plunge. The only problem I could envisage was that both my girls had been born early, Beth only two weeks but Ruby nearly a month. Hospitals will only allocate you two midwives on call from week 38 to week 42!
Note from Angela: Some hospitals have a policy of trying to discourage women from homebirth before 38 weeks, but many are perfectly happy to support homebirth from week 37 onwards. Regardless of the hospital's policy, however, you are entitled to give birth at home and to demand their support...
Unfortunately this pregnancy didn't run as smoothly as I suffered from terrible insomnia from about 20 weeks to the point of exhaustion. Not falling asleep until 5am and getting up at 7 am to get the girls ready for school was no fun at all.
At about 36 weeks I was given my shopping list of things to get for the home birth, basically lots of plastic sheeting and a torch!! I began to feel nervous that I wouldn't make it to 38 weeks and became quite low. The thought of a hospital birth was now filling me with dread especially as our local hospital was undergoing major building works and a friend who had recently given birth there had reported work men walking through the maternity unit with drills and hard hats on!!
I invested in some self hypnosis tapes and a Tens machine as the only pain relief that can be administered at home is gas and air. My husband had to listen to night after night of a cheesy American women on a tape with wind chimes and bird calls telling me 'having a baby is the most natural thing in the world' and 'release and open' !!
I read lots of books about home birth with some wonderfully emotional stories that brought tears to my eyes and also stories documenting the odd times things can go wrong.
As week 38 approached I literally felt like I was crossing my legs until the date of June 2nd came when I could officially have a home birth. The day of Wednesday June 2nd arrived and I felt oddly tearful as if I literally couldn't hang on anymore. My mum noticed that the radiance everybody had remarked on had seemed to have left me. I did a big shop and even bought some Champagne for after the birth. I rang my husband to let him know that when he came in from work I wanted to have sex followed by an Indian meal!! I had had enough and knew that I would do all in my power to give birth that day!
By 5pm the girls had been shepherded out to my mother in law, by 7pm I had a made love with my husband by 7.30 pm I was eating an Indian and by 8pm my waters popped on the settee!! Amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.
We had prepared my freshly prepared boudoir with plastic sheets, fresh flowers candles and soft lightening. It looked beautiful. Alison, my midwife and a student midwife were called within about half an hour and came promptly as the contractions were only 3 minutes apart. I spent most of the evening in and out of the bath and on and off the Tens machine. The midwives disappeared down stairs leaving Brett and I alone in the most wonderful calm and tranquil atmosphere. It was so therapeutic to have all your own things around you, familiar smells, sound and textures.
Five hours into the labour, I began to cry. I felt very overwhelmed but not in any great pain; it was all oddly bearable pain although I did have some gas and air towards the end. At this point I got into the bath again in my en-suite and, as all the hot water had been used up, poor Brett ran up and down stairs with kettles of hot water.
Suddenly I felt an urge to get on all fours in the bath; I used a lot of visualisation and was almost in a trance imagining waves taking me under a tropical calm sea with each contraction. I looked over at Brett, who suddenly pointed below. I put my hand down and felt a head. We shouted for the midwives who asked me to get out of the bath. I said 'no way' - I couldn't move with a head hanging down. I pleaded with them to let me deliver in the bath; 30 seconds later my beautiful baby boy was born between my legs into a lovely warm bath to the sounds the Verves 'Lucky man' playing in the background!
We had a long cuddle before getting out together. He was weighed (7 pound 2 ounces), dressed and handed to me in bed where I put him immediately to the breast. The champagne was cracked open and we all celebrated the arrival of Gabriel. By 2 am the midwives had cleared away everything and the house was strangely quiet with my baby and husband peacefully asleep next to me.
It was the most natural, almost spiritual experience of my life and I wish more women could experience birth in that way.
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