Sebastian's Birth
by Sarah Ockwell-Smith

Our first child, Sebastian David, was born at 17:17 on the 4th of July 2002 weighing 10lbs exactly and 23 inches long, with lots of long dark curly hair, and a lot of bruises where the poor little mite had been squashed against my pelvis for so long with no room.

After going into labour very early on Wednesday morning, 13 days past my due date, I had erratic contractions all day. Numerous midwives kept popping out to visit us and see how we were getting on. The last one came tea time on Weds night, by which time the contractions were painful but really irregular still, and I spent all night rocking on my birth ball (fantastic), humming and jabbing at my TENS furiously (which I loved til the electrodes dried out and kind of fried the skin on my back as I'd had it on so long).

At 3am I decided that I really felt ready to go into hospital if we'd planned a hospital birth (the point when the midwife said we should call), so we called the midwife who came round and declared I was 4-5cms and could get into the pool, which I ran into with the most agility I've had in a year !!! It was absolutely heaven and took literally 95% of the pain away, it was so nice bobbing around in our own home, chatting to the midwives, eating toast and watching the sun come up, really relaxing.

I carried on this way until the midwives changed shifts at 11am'ish, at which point they wanted me to get out so that they could do a quick temperature,BP, wee, sonic-aid (the team had lost their waterproof doppler - aghhh !) check and gave me an internal (looking back now I think if I'd resisted this we would have stayed at home). I was declared only 5-6cm, so only 1cm progress in about 8 hours (think they let me in the pool too quickly, which slowed things).

Whilst I was out of the pool, the intensity and frequency of contractions really picked up and I never got back into the nice relaxed state I was in before (tip to any potential waterbirthers - do NOT get out of the pool unless you really really have to !). After I got back in the pool my heart rate suddenly became very tachycardic (too fast) at around 130 bpm, so from then on in the midwives had problems deciding whether the sonic aid trace was picking up mine or Seb's heartrate and got really picky about checking it all the time.

Around an hour after the second shift arrived, they decided that they wanted me out of the pool because my heartrate was worryingly high and they really couldn't monitor Seb properly. From then on in things really went downhill as I couldn't cope with the pain out of the pool and gas and air made me seriously vomit (I filled three buckets!).

Had another check a while later and was 6cms, and it was decided (that like a lot of first timers who really don't have a problem, which I did know but my mind was so screwed with pain by this point that I didn't argue) that I "wasn't progressing at a normal rate", so foolishly let them rupture my membranes after arguing with a really snotty midwife - there were 5 at our house by then and 2 students ! - about the fact that it was not shown to increase the rate of labour by more than half an hour - which made everything twice as painful and intense but STILL didn't make me progress (tip two, don't let anyone rupture your membranes !).

Half an hour later I thought I was in transition, suddenly got very shakey, very pushy and started grunting like some mad primeval woman. I refused any more examinations, so had no idea if I was complete or not so they said I could start pushing, but it hurt to do so, so I obviously wasn't ready.

At this point our postie decided to ring the doorbell and deliver a package (the room we were in is next to the front door with no curtains, I'm trying to avoid him for the rest of my life !) one of the midwives went to collect it bless her, then the phone rang, it was my aunt asking "have you had it yet" and then it rang again! This time the waterpool agent asking if we'd done with the pool.

By this point I thought I was dying, so agreed to an internal, where they said I was only 7cms. The midwife said "Sarah, do you want to......" and I finished off her sentence by saying "please, yes take me to bloody hospital now and get me an F'ing epidural" (must remember to apologise for my language), so 20 mins later an ambulance appeared outside, but couldn't fit in our drive so, given the choice of walking or being stretchered, I waddled over the main road with my hubby Ian's dressing gown semi done up over my enormous bump (by this point I was happy to wander the streets naked if it got me pain relief but somebody apparently decided to preserve my modesty by putting the gown around me!), my granny sandals (the only thing that fitted on my fat feet), dripping blood and gunge everywhere and screaming like a banshee.

The ambulance drivers tried to pacify me with gas and air (why don't they carry proper hard drugs?) and I screamed at the top of my lungs for the 15 minute journey. I refused to let them strap me in so rolled around the bed for the whole time with their speedy erratic driving (I swear just to get me out to get some peace), I also distinctly remember being paranoid about having lost my sandals and interspersing screams with "where are my bloody shoes" and accusing the ambulance man of dropping them outside. We were rather excitingly blue-lighted all the way to the hospital and Ian was left to deal with the carnage in the house and gather up our bits. It must have been awful for him as I knew I was OK, but to anyone else I was acting like I was dying, so he promptly threw up everywhere as soon as I'd left, apparently, bless him.

I was stretchered into the labour ward and when we got to the hospital the midwife had fantastically called ahead and an anaesthetist was already waiting for me (embarrassingly rather dishy). I was given gas and air to try and make me keep still whilst he sited the mobile epidural, and suddenly found I loved it and sucked as if my life depended on it until it pulled off the wall. I screamed, lurched and pulled the newly sited epidural out and the poor man was so good at keeing calm with me. Finally it was in and worked, sheer bliss. I was also given a small dose of syntocinon (by this point we had covered everything I said I absolutely didn't want in my birth plan, apart from pethidine and an episiotomy) to speed things up, and Ian and I slept for an hour.

An hour later I felt pushy and the midwife said I was ready to push, so after having considerable trouble waking Ian up so he could see the arrival of his son, we started. I alternated between thinking "oh stuff it, I've had everything else I didn't want, I won't bother and they can give me a section and it will all be over" and being really positive, then I heard a baby cry in the next room, gave 4 almighty shoves (ripping myself in two in the process after blatantly ignoring the midwife telling me to pant, I just wanted it over!) and Seb literally sloshed out after a 10min second stage (the raspberry leaf did at least work then !!!).

The midwife put him straight to me and apparently all I said was "oh" (I was so shocked as I didn't believe I actually had a baby at that point, and then remember thinking about how big he was and that they must have given me the wrong baby). We were pretty much left alone for an hour, which was lovely, Seb had a feed and we all had a cuddle and some tears and by the time she came back, myself and Seb both had a temperature (I swear because the room was so bloody hot) which scuppered our plans of a 6hr discharge (might as well blow the birth plan in full glory !). We had to see a paediatrician and get some swabs taken from him, they decided it was fine for us to go home the next day though as neither of us were showing anymore signs of infection. Even though nothing really went to plan it was absolutely the best experience of my life, I'm really glad we planned a homebirth, we were only in hospital I think for an hour and a half until he was born (my labour was officially 14 hrs even though I was in pre-labour forever), and we're definitely on for one for the next baby (yes we are talking about another already !).

Sarah Ockwell-Smith

Update: Sarah planned a homebirth for her second baby, Flynn, but transferred to hospital for induction when she developed pre-eclampsia. She tried again for her third baby, and finally cracked it - Rafferty was born at home, and he was even larger than his brothers!


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