All three of my children were planned as home births. Unfortunately, this was not to be with my eldest two. With my first, although I was over 10 days post dates (the point at which my local hospital liked to induce you), I was lucky enough to have an NHS midwife who was supportive of my staying at home in the absence of any other problem, so started contractions on the Friday evening with no induction. 24 hours later, there had been no real progress, so my midwife said that she could break my waters to speed things along. She later told me that she knew there was likely to be a problem when there was no decrease in the size of the bump when she did this and 10 hours later, we still had little dilation (3cm). We transferred in to hospital to attempt the drip, but after 2 hours with no change, a section was performed. Before they cut me open, the midwife said that either I had a large baby or a problem with my pelvis and when my 9lb 6oz son was born with his 38cm head, she said "it's all right you've got a large baby."
Depressing as it was to have not achieved our home birth, it was worse to be told that we had to wait 2 years before having another baby when we had intended a small gap between our first two. However, with the help of Debbie Chippington Derrick, who I contacted through the NCT, and doing a lot of research, we discovered that there was no real need to wait that long, so we started trying to conceive and despite my fully breastfeeding, I got pregnant 5 months after my first section.
This time we decided to go for an independent midwife (IM), having been warned that we'd have to fight for a home birth on the NHS and having a dim view already of our local medics for various reasons. I spoke to three, all of whom were of the opinion that bigger babies usually need longer labours and if I'd just been allowed to go for longer, he would eventually have come out, before hiring our lovely IM. This time we planned on a water birth and the pool proved to be invaluable when I started having contractions a month before we were expecting our daughter to arrive. It's a long story (17 days long), but essentially, allowing my body as long as it needed saw even less progress (1cm), so we transferred in for a second section. When my 7lb 11oz daughter was born, it put a lot of ghosts to rest, since if I couldn't birth her, there's no way I could have birthed her brother, but also left an unanswered question of why my body was failing to birth.
We emigrated to New Zealand when our children were 2.5 and 1.5 and got pregnant immediately I arrived (2.5 months without your husband will do that!). We had a bit of a problem finding a midwife to support an HBA2C (Home Birth after 2 C-sections) general consensus was that I was an automatic section, which we didn't want. We'd like more children but decided that if we did end up in theatre again, that would be enough for us. Finally we found a fantastic woman who only does home births and had supported an HBA2C before. Most importantly for us, she recommended a cranial osteopath and finally we had an answer to my birthing mystery I did have a problem with my pelvis due to a childhood accident, which made it impossible for the babies to descend. Regular sessions throughout my pregnancy saw this baby engage, which had never happened before and was a huge boost to my confidence.
After 2 months of a very irritable uterus, pre-labour started at about 1 on Thursday morning, when I was woken up by contractions roughly every half hour. When I woke up the next morning and they were still going, I rang my mw (midwife) to say that I thought it might be starting but was early days yet and I'd call if I needed her.
A friend came round and kept an eye on the children while I spent most of Friday in bed resting. Friday night was the same as Thursday but this time, my husband woke up with me when I was contracting to press on my lower back for me. It was great - we both stayed in the sleep zone and woke up just enough to deal with the pain and went back to sleep again!
I rang my mw to update her the next morning to say that they were still going but still no need for her to come round. Over the course of Saturday morning, the contractions increased to about 1 every ten minutes, but it was the increasing intensity of pain that got me calling my mw round at about midday.
We did have one moment of maybe going to hospital when baby's heart rate was up, worrying my mw that there might be an infection, but monitoring showed that it was just a blip and everything was fine. Having made sure we were all OK, she went off to do a visit to another new mum locally (mainly because I was feeling bad that she was just sitting there while apparently nothing was happening!) to come back round about 5ish.
My mw was very, very hands off for the most part, which I think was the best approach for me. We hadn't done any kind of induction or worried too much about being post dates (except to make note of movements and check the heart rate for the last couple of weeks when I'd noticed the movements seriously slowing in rate) and during the labour, she didn't do any internals and wouldn't comment on how far she thought I'd progressed, essentially because either I was doing well, in which case, why interfere, or it was happening very slowly, which might dishearten me and slow things down further. Looking back, I was having a classic text book labour, but at the time, it was a bit strange because having had an irritable uterus, once in labour, I didn't feel my uterus contracting at all - I felt the pain in my hip sockets. My mw suggested a brilliant way to help - pressing in on my hips on either side, which really helped to relieve the pain - and suggested that I might like to get in the bath. This was about the only indication I had that she felt things were moving, since when we'd planned to use a pool (which proved to be not possible for us to fill, so thank goodness for a big bath!), she'd said that it was best not to go in until things were established and moving along.
I stayed in the bath for about an hour or so before getting out and getting into bed to see if I could get any sleep at all. Bizarrely, yes I could, even though there was only about 10 minutes between contractions. Again, it was a case of sleeping and then staying in that zone during a contraction.
Once I couldn't do that any more, I went back into the front room, which is when things became their most intense and there were cries of "I can't do this!!" Classic approaching transition, but not something I recognised at the time. I'm really glad we weren't in hospital because if I had been, then I know I would have asked for pain relief by this point, which would have started a cascade of intervention and I'm sure would have resulted in a third section. Instead, we ran another bath, which was where I stayed for almost the rest of labour.
For the next couple of hours things were more regular, but even then, I never settled into contractions every couple of minutes, they just became more painful and would sometimes be one on top of the other and sometimes 10 minutes apart. It's a good job that I didn't stick to my original plan of not phoning the mw until my waters went because they still hadn't fully gone (apart from a leak earlier) and by this point, I was very definitely in need of her being there! A lot of the time I was on my own in a candle-lit bathroom (which was lovely) and if I needed anyone, they came if I called. Otherwise, my mw came in regularly to check the heartbeat and sometimes stayed pouring water over my lower back, which was lovely, or topping up the water to keep it warm.
Probably the most unexpected thing was that I fell asleep in the bath! Things were quietening, and I was sitting up and literally nodding off, which was really disconcerting, so I decided that I'd lie down and go to sleep on the basis that if I did fall under water, I'd wake up but that this was highly unlikely since I fitted almost the length of the bath so it would be difficult to slip. It was just so nice - no contractions, candle light, time by myself and sleep!
When I woke up, things were feeling fuzzy when suddenly there was a pop! which were my waters going (so I still don't know what the gush feels like!) and I told my midwife that either I needed to poo or the baby was ready to be pushed. She told me to just go with what I felt, so I started pushing.
Just as when I was dilating but couldn't feel it, I couldn't feel that pushing was doing anything and I heard my mw telling my husband that I would know something was happening because I'd feel the head move down, but I didn't. Instead, after a couple of hours, I wanted to go back into the lounge which is when I felt the head down below my legs at last which gave me the impetus to keep going.
My mw held a hot flannel against my perineum which again helped with dealing with pushes, as well as softening it to minimise tearing (and there was apparently just a tiny rip at the bottom which didn't need stitches because it was barely noticeable). I was on all fours for a lot of this, but the head couldn't quite move down, so my mw suggested I squat supported by my husband and finally Skyla-Eve's 36cm head came out. The thing which threw me the most was feeling her squirming while I worked up to the next push, which was the one which saw her come out and my beautiful daughter arrive. Apparently she had had the cord lightly round her neck, which was easily sorted, and she had one of her hands by her shoulder, but she came out with no difficulty and I had her in my arms.
I delivered the placenta without drugs while my daughter took to the breast very comfortably. We were home and all very, very happy.
There is no doubt in my mind that without the work of my cranial osteo, which has seriously changed the shape and siting of my pelvis, it would have been impossible to birth this baby. Likewise having a fantastic mw who is possibly the only one I could have found to support me in an HBA2C made all the difference - had I gone into hospital, I'm sure the cascade of intervention would have started and if not, having a pushing stage which lasted 3 hours might have been too long for the medics, who would have been told where to go - that is assuming that being in hospital hadn't stopped me progressing anyway because of my fear of the places. The funniest part is that my husband had been talking about having the snip, even during labour, the day after she was born turned round and said that he was working out finances for another baby...
Home Birth Stories
Independent Midwives - what they do, and where to find one.
Vaginal Birth After Caesarean - what are the issues?
Home VBAC stories
Caesarean.org.uk - support and information about caesarean birth and vaginal birth after caesarean.
Homebirth UK email group email group
Home Birth Reference Page