Rafferty's Birth
by Sarah Ockwell-Smith

Sarah and Rafferty

Sarah and Rafferty

Sarah planned a homebirth for her first two babies,Sebastian and Flynn, but fate had other plans. Hoping that it would be third time lucky, Sarah had another go with baby 3. She sent this story to me five days after giving birth to Rafferty, at home, on 12 January 2005. Rafferty weighed 11lb 3oz!!

Here is Sarah's story:

I tried to have a homebirth with my first two, though sadly didn't manage it. My first was a very long labour with a posterior baby. I transferred into hospital for "failure to progress" (and some pain relief) after 3 days of latent labour and 10hrs of established labour, and he was born spontaneously a few hours after arriving at the hospital (after an epidural and some syntocin). I contracted pre-eclampsia a couple of days after my due date with my second baby, and was admitted to hospital and induced. I had a very straightforward delivery even though he was posterior again. Then finally, last week, we struck third time lucky!!

When we found out we were expecting for the third time, despite a lot of ridicule and negativity from others and a lot of apprehension from me, Ian and I decided to have one last stab at a homebirth (although neither of us actually expected it to work out). As expected, we had hurdles from day one. I was classed as high risk because of "big babies" (9lb 12oz and 10lbs) and previous pre-eclampsia with my second baby.

I was assigned the most anti-homebirth consultant at our local hospital. At my first appointment he scrawled all over my notes in red pen with "homebirth not advised" and told me that the safest option would be an early induction as my baby was "exceptionally large" and I, at 5 feet 1 inch, was not. I thanked him for his opinion and told him that I was largely ignoring it and that I was also refusing the GTT that he wanted me to do. My bloods later showed an abnormality with my glucose levels so I ended up with the dreaded GTT (glucose tolerance test) anyway, which was thankfully normal though.

At my 36wk appointment they told me that the baby was transverse and too big to turn and that I would need a C-Section at 37wks; by 36+6, and every trick in the book, we managed to get him cephalic (highly recommend tight cycling shorts and moxibustion - at the same time of course for full comedic effect!). Things then progressed smoothly - and my community MWs were really supportive - until the day before my due date when my fabulously well-behaved BP went up to 150/110. Cue re-run of my second pregnancy - straight up to hospital for immediate imprisonment. My bloods were clear though, and my protein levels dropped and the baby was happy, so we struck a deal with the SHO (senior house officer - mid- to junior doctor) that I could go home on bedrest and daily BP (blood pressure) checks and avoid admittance unless my diastolic went over 95. Just for added effect, she scrawled over the rest of my notes with "Still wants a homebirth after being advised of medical risks".

I decided this time not to attempt any form of self induction; for some reason I felt it wouldn't be safe. The baby was posterior right up until last week, when he finally shifted to LOA and then engaged. On Sunday, one day after my due date, Jan 8th, I lost my plug and on Monday morning started having mild contractions every now and again, and had lots of watery, bloody show. The contractions kept petering out though, every time the boys came near me, and they stopped totally that night.

On Tuesday the same thing happened again. I took myself off for some reflexology that evening, which gave me the best night's sleep I'd had in ages. I had a full night's sleep and woke to nothing in the morning on Weds the 12th. Ian decided to go into work late so I could have some rest in bed.

By the time Trisha came on the TV I realised the contractions were every 5 mins and had been going for 2 hrs - the best run yet - so wondered if things might finally happen. I went downstairs and shut myself away in our study which we'd set up as the birthing room with the pool, lots of candles, beanbags and duvets. I drew the curtains, burnt some oils and lit some candles and shut the door on the boys so I couldn't hear them. By about 10:30 I decided that things felt pretty laboury so we called our friend to take Seb and Flynn for the day and phoned for a midwife. At about 11:30 the midwife arrived and I asked for a VE to see if she should stay. Contractions were very irregular and quite mild and she found me to be 3cm dilated and told me she was staying (I told her she'd be in for a long day if she did!).

Lunchtime'ish I put my TENs on and rocked around on my ball watching various crappy TV programmes. When I'd reached full power on my TENs and my BP was just shy of 95 (our agreed transfer level) I decided it was time for the pool. My notes say I got in at 3pm but it felt like I was in there for hours! My Bp immediately dropped to 65, lower than my booking reading, and contractions immediately lessened in intensity. I thought this meant everything would slow down or stop completely, as in Seb's labour, but now I know it was just because I was so relaxed.

I'd used the pool every night for a fortnight before for my SPD pains, so felt really at home in it and knew how I was most comfortable. I also added some lovely oils of lavender and Neroli which I'd been using every night. By about 3:30 the contractions were starting to bite and the midwives were having to really help me keep calm and breathe through them (rather than scream and swear through them :]) I felt a pop and a gush and told them that either my waters had gone or I'd lost all control and had a giant pee in the pool :] The MW informed me that it was probably waters and I felt very proud of myself that for the first time in 3 births I'd avoided the dreaded amni-hook :-)

 At around 3:45pm the pain all went into my back and became pretty unbearable and I realised that if I pushed it didn't hurt during a contraction. I told the midwives (a second one arrived at some point after I got in the pool) I was pushing and they told me to stop it and breathe through the contractions until I couldn't stop myself. They asked me to have a feel of my bits and explain what I felt, I felt nothing but some pretty grim bulging and a handful of piles, then they asked me to examine myself and see if I could feel a head, I told them I really had no idea what I could feel but there wasn't a head there unless I was giving birth to a giant haemorrhoid. They clearly thought things were imminent though as they donned their fetching plastic apronds and farmers' elbow-length gloves. I told them things weren't imminent as I hadn't puked and that I always puked once I hit 7cm, so no puke meant no progress as my puke bucket was still spangly new next to the side of the pool.

At around 4pm I felt a huge pop, felt like my bits were tearing open and felt something drop down out of me and was utterly convinced I'd had a serious uterine prolapse. I quickly realised this wasn't the case as I felt like someone was driving a flaming double decker bus through my minnie at breakneck speed. I braced myself on the side of the pool, bit down hard into the side and screamed. The MW told me the head was born and to touch it. I told her I didn't want to and I didn't want to do this anymore. I considered asking to use the entonox, after weighing up whether the pain relief would be worth the copious vomiting which would inevitably ensue if I did use it, and swore at myself for not going to hospital where I could have had an epidural. I also swore at my body for not giving me my normal 2 minute slithering out second stage (this was my longest ever at 14 minutes long). The MWs told me to get on all fours and push hard and not scream, I didn't quite manage the screaming part. At 16:13 the baby landed on the pool floor looking very blue. I scooped him up and gave him a huge cuddle in shock that we had actually had a baby at home. I didn't need to look to see what we had when the MW asked me as I had a hand full of squidgy warm testicles so my instinct was right all along and we had our little Rafferty!

 A short while after the pool started getting bloody so we got out and sat on a duvet on the floor. The cord stopped pulsating so Ian cut it and was the second person to hold our little boy. I opted to have synto by this point as the placenta wasn't appearing and I wanted it gone. A few minutes after the jab it was out, in its hugeness. Rafe was weighed; we all thought he was in the mid 9lb range so were surprised when he tipped the scales at 11lb 3oz. Then, whilst the MWs cleaned up, I went and had a lovely hot lavender bath whilst Ian held Rafe. By 6:30 everyone was gone and my other two children Seb and Flynn were back home, eager to share their toys, over-enthusiastic hugs, kisses and drinks with the newest arrival. By 11pm we were all in bed, after the best tasting curry I'd had in ages!

You wrote that it was hard giving birth to Rafferty's body after his head was born. Did he had a shoulder dystocia (stuck shoulders)?

I think Rafferty's shoulders would have been termed as "sticky"; it certainly wasn't a dystocia, but they didn't just slither out after the head like my previous two. I had to actually work to push them out the same as the head. His head was out for quite a while before the next contraction and then the rest came out in one contraction but it was *hard* work! I think they just told me to get on all fours/push because the head had been out a while and they didn't want it to take any longer and because of my history of big babies. There certainly wasn't ever any panic or any talk of him being stuck.

Sarah Ockwell-Smith


Sarah went on to have her fourth baby, Violet, at home in 2007.


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