Our baby was due to be born on the 22nd December 2005 at home in a birthing pool. I had wanted a home and a water birth but didn't think I would be supported in this as this was my first pregnancy, although midwifery services in Maidstone had a reputation for being progressive. However I was surprised to be fully supported in my plans for this sort of birth from the beginning. We had excellent antenatal care and hired a birth pool and all was set to go ahead for our homebirth in water.
On Sunday 18th December Paul intended to fill the pool for a test run, having set it up a few days before. I wanted to go for a walk before it became dark, so we decided to do that first. We had a lovely walk, albeit very slow and short, and when we got back Paul settled down to watch Chelsea play on the telly after starting the Sunday roast dinner, and I carried on with a jigsaw puzzle that I had started the day before. About half an hour or so later, at 5.45 I felt a strange bursting sensation that I then knew was my waters breaking. Running upstairs to the bathroom I shouted to Paul "we're going to have a baby" (talk about stating the obvious). Paul got to task filling the pool while I phoned the delivery suite at Maidstone hospital to inform them that my waters had broken. The midwife phoned back shortly after and said she'd be on her way round. We were pleased that it was Zoe, who facilitated our antenatal group with one of her colleagues.
At 6.30pm Zoe arrived at our house and I was having moderate contractions every eight to ten minutes. About an hour after arriving Zoe examined me and found me to be 4cm dilated, which was very exciting for us. Zoe went to hospital for gas and air, while Paul and I sat down for our roast. I didn't eat much though as my appetite had gone and I was so, so excited. I phoned my parents and texted some of my friends, then got into the birthing pool. Up until that point the contractions weren't really painful, but by 8pm they were really starting to hurt and felt really intense. I sat in the pool for a while, which was quite relaxing but it felt a bit strange. After a while I needed to go to the loo so left the pool. From that point the contractions were really painful and I started trying the gas and air. It did help me, but to be honest I think it made me lose the plot a bit and I felt less in control. I didn't feel that I wanted to get back into the pool so used my birthing ball instead, which I found really helpful.
At about 10.30 I started to feel a bit panicked and wanting to push - so I did! Zoe called the second midwife to attend the birth. By that point I remember feeling quite scared and had little awareness of what was going on around me - I wasn't enjoying it anymore! I spent the next few hours moving between the birthing ball on the floor, standing up and holding on to Paul and kneeling on the sofa. I was pushing as hard as I could and was getting so, so tired but it felt like nothing was happening. The baby's head was not advancing down the birth canal, although his heart rate remained in the normal range throughout. Just after midnight, Zoe went off duty and Alison came to join Sue. We were really disappointed that Zoe had been unable to deliver our baby as she had been there from the beginning.
A little after 2am on the Monday morning, I felt so tired and unable to carry on. At examination the baby's head was still behind my pubic arch bone (which was described as narrow by the midwives), and a discussion took place between us about what to do next. Transfer to hospital was suggested and I (to be honest) readily agreed. I had been in stage two of my labour for four hours and was beginning to feel really scared. Paul was worried too as he had been with me throughout and saw how tired I had become. My contractions had become less regular and were also less strong. An ambulance was called, which arrived at 2.50am, taking twenty minutes to arrive at Maidstone Hospital, although it felt a lot longer at the time! Paul had to follow in the car (he wasn't allowed in the ambulance as well as Sue (the midwife) and one of the paramedics). He arrived before the ambulance though and was there waiting when we arrived! I was so glad that Sue came with us as she knew exactly what had been happening and I felt that she was able to act as an advocate for me.
A registrar examined me and they decided to commence intravenous Syntocinon to bring on my contractions, which had really slowed by this point. My legs were then raised up (the lithotomy position), which was the last position I had wanted to be in for the birth of my baby. However the team felt that this was necessary at this point to flatten my sacrum (lower spine) in order to compensate for my narrow pubic arch bone. This was at 3.40am and after several mind-blowingly painful pushes, and an episiotomy, our baby's head was delivered, with his cord wrapped tightly around his neck, followed by the rest of him at 4.04am on Monday December 19th.
The midwife described him, in the notes, as being in "quite a shocked condition", and they cut his cord, wiped off the meconium that he had passed, and gave him to me for the briefest of cuddles before whipping him off again for some oxygen. They gave him straight back and I laid him on my chest for some skin-to-skin contact. Paul was crying beside me, stating the obvious, "it's our baby, Sarah". I held our baby while they stitched me up (painless) and I remember feeling so, so relieved that it was over and really traumatised by the experience. An hour after he was delivered, our baby (who we called Aidan) latched on for his first feed, and we were made tea and toast. The most heavenly cup of tea ever!
We had wanted to go home that morning but they insisted we have Aidan checked by a paediatrician. I wish we'd been more assertive as we ended up waiting until 4pm before we could go. I had so wanted to have our baby at home, but have no regrets about how things turned out (other than wishing we'd gone home earlier that day). I do believe however that had I gone into hospital from the outset, I would have ended up having more interventions that I hadn't really wished for, maybe even a caesarian section given the fact that I'd been pushing for hours and Aidan's head was stuck. We are so grateful to the midwives who supported us at home and feel privileged to have been able to try for a home birth. It shouldn't depend on whether you live in an area where the local Trust is supportive of home birth, but unfortunately that is the experience of many people.
Sarah from Maidstone
Home Birth Stories
First Babies and homebirth
Pain relief - what are your options at home?
Transferring to hospital - why it may be advised, and experiences from women who've done it.
Meconium - what does it mean if your baby passes meconium? Should you transfer to hospital?
Home Birth Reference Page