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Rosa's Homebirth, by Sara Gonzalez

Sara's third baby, Rosa, was born at home in 2006.

I have two children aged seven and five years old, both of whom were born in hospital with the 'aid' of Pethidine, Meptid, gas & air and epidurals. The first took three days from the waters leaking, but had a recorded labour of 14 hours, which I was told was average. The second was born on the now-abolished domino scheme in Trafford and, whilst I had more continuous care from a single community midwife who transferred to the hospital with me, still took 10 hours and a lot of drugs. So, I wanted to try a homebirth the third time round, as friends had said it was much less stressful. But, you can imagine I was worried, having been numbed by epidurals during both previous births. I wasn't sure I had the guts. However, I booked for a homebirth and this is how it went:

On Saturday 30th September, my husband and the kids and I were out at a party in the evening. I had been having period-like cramps for about a month or so, so didn't think much of it when they were coming more than once or twice a day. Then, by 9pm, I'd been timing them, and noticed that I was getting these cramps every ten to fifteen minutes. Friends we were with offered to have the kids stay over at their house 'in case', so we took them up on the offer, not really thinking it would happen yet, but quite fancying a lie-in anyway!

By the time we had dropped the kids off and been back to get them some pyjamas and toothbrushes, we finally got home at about 10pm. At this point, I wanted to ring the midwives to 'bags' a homebirth, as I'd been told there were several booked in Trafford and if someone else went into labour before me, I'd have to go into hospital to deliver, as there are only two midwives on call for any homebirths. So, I called and told them my pains were coming ten minutes apart, but nothing to worry about. They said ring back when they were five minutes apart and lasting for a minute or more. My husband, Eddy, and I watched Match of the Day then went to bed.

Lying in bed, the pains started to increase in duration and strength and come about four minutes apart. I rang the midwives at the hospital again and they said they would call the community team and send a midwife to assess me. I went back to bed and, lying on my side, something popped inside me and I felt water run down my leg. Eddy got a towel, and answered the phone to our community midwife. I told her I thought my waters had just broken, and she said she'd have a shower and come out to see me. This was at about midnight.

Eddy and I were still not sure if tonight would be the night, as the previous labours had dragged on interminably, so we lay in bed and he held me whenever the contractions came. They started to get stronger quite quickly, and I started to feel sick. I had never been sick in pregnancy or birth before, but asked him to get a bowl, which arrived just in time.

I had planned to give birth downstairs, so Eddy had cleared away all the kids' toys and hoovered the carpet. However, I decided in the midst of the pains that I wanted to remain in the bedroom, and asked him to fetch the birth ball from downstairs. I hadn't really used the ball much in pregnancy, other than to sit on at the computer. I just needed something to lean on. We had saved an old duvet which we were going to throw away, and laid it on the cream carpet of our bedroom floor. Eddy cut up some plastic garden bags and put them underneath, in the hope that the cream carpet would survive the night.

At 1:30am, Kath, our community midwife arrived. Kath had delivered my son six years earlier at Trafford General Hospital as part of the domino scheme, so I felt comfortable with her and was glad it was her on-call that night. She came upstairs and examined me in between two contractions and said I was 4-5 cms dilated. This was pleasing, as it had taken me almost a day to dilate 1 and a half cms in my first labour.

Kath then sat on the bed filling in notes and she listened once to the baby's heartbeat, which was fine and steady. I took off my nightie and just wore a top so that Eddy could massage my back through the contractions. I had bought some lavender oil which he lathered onto me. Eddy is a reluctant masseur at the best of times, yet he was the most fantastic birth partner I could have hoped for. He spent three hours massaging my lower back and hips, and it was this alone which got me through without the use of any drugs. As the contractions came more regularly and fiercely, he pushed against them to relieve the pressure and it really worked. I am quite bruised from this strong massage now, but it was great at the time. I remember shouting 'do it harder!' as the last few contractions came and took my breath away.

Kath rang the second midwife when she saw that I was having rectal pressure, as I had asked Eddy if I was 'pooing myself?'! The rest of my waters burst too, all over Eddy, but he still carried on massaging, bless him. Kath went downstairs to put the front door on the latch for the second midwife, Sandra, and said to me 'don't push yet'. As she went down the stairs, I felt my body recoil at the end of a contraction and just push down. Eddy was worried and called Kath, who came hurrying back up to find that I was ready to push.  

The second midwife, Sandra, arrived promptly as my body got into the second stage and pushed with each contraction. However, Kath asked me to push myself, and I didn't want to. I felt no urge to push, as my body was just doing it for me anyway. I kept arguing with her saying I didn't want to, and she kept asking me to push to get the baby's head fully out. In the end, she pulled the baby under her armpits and she slithered out with the last contraction. I felt no 'ring of fire' as the baby's head crowned, or pain in the perineum as she came out. The contractions were the only painful part. Rosa was born at 3am, an hour and a half after Kath arrived. I escaped with a small tear which didn't need stitches, and seems to be healing well.

I opted for the injection of syntometrine to expel the placenta, as I didn't want to be hanging around pushing afterwards. Kath asked me to get up onto the bed once she had clamped the cord and cut the baby free. She wanted to pull the placenta, and I objected, thinking it would hurt. She persuaded me it was necessary, and actually it didn't hurt.  

Eddy held the baby and helped the midwives check her over. She was handed to me naked, unwashed, and she breastfed in my own bed. I felt awake and alert and fine. The photo of me straight afterwards looks rosy cheeked and glowing, compared to the photos after our other two children's births, where I am covered in scratches and bruises and drips and look pale and shell-shocked. Once everything was over, Eddy went down to make everyone cups of tea and brought up a tin of cakes I'd baked the day before (coincidentally) and we all sat around chatting. The midwives left at about 5am and Eddy and I got into bed with Rosa in the moses basket next to us.  

It couldn't have been a more perfect start to life for a baby, and since her birth, Rosa has been so laid back! She barely bothers to cry, and seems really relaxed and calm. Eddy is in love with her and wants to keep cuddling her. He says he feels closer to her than he did after the other children's births, at which he seemed a spectator on the sidelines, distanced from me by the monitors and drips attached to me. I feel very lucky, and can't quite believe I had the inner strength to give birth without drugs or intervention. I just kept thinking of lying on a beach in the sun and focusing on relaxing the muscles everywhere else in my body; in my arms and legs and neck etc.  

All in all, Rosa's birth is recorded as three hours long. I remember thinking as I was pushing her out 'this isn't so bad; I could do it again if we wanted another child'. I would never have thought that during the other births. Eddy went to collect the other 2 children from our friend's house at midday, and we spent the day together at home as a new family. This wouldn't have happened if they were restricted to visiting hours at a hospital.  

If you are thinking about giving birth at home, I fully recommend it to you and your family as a less stressful way to bring a new life into the world.

Sara Gonzales

Related pages:

Home Birth Stories

Pain relief - what are your options at home?

The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?

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