Sophia's birth, by Tessa

About 3 months before the birth of my second child, I would never have dreamt I would have ended up electing to have a home birth. I had experienced what seems to be the fairly commonplace traumatic first birth in hospital three years before, and simply assumed I would have baby number 2 in hospital as well. I decided to do the NCT refresher course in the hope of meeting some local second-time mums. The course was run by Marie Coveney at her home in Twickenham.

At the first session, Marie asked us all to describe our previous birth experience. Eight out of nine of us had had a hospital birth and the mood of the stories ranged from traumatic, at worst, to indifferent, at best. But the final story came from Karen who had had a homebirth. I was struck by the way in which she told the story. She was the first person to smile as she spoke and everything she described seemed positive and reassuring. It reminded me that the birth of a baby is supposed to be a happy and joyful event. So I started thinking about things and very quickly borrowed Nicky Wesson's book "Homebirth" to browse through.

Apart from Karen I did not know anyone, personally, who had had a homebirth, but started to hear about friends of friends who had. The more stories I heard the more I was struggling to find a negative or traumatic account. I also noticed that although homebirths were not always problem-free, in comparison to hospital experiences, it seemed, on the whole, that these births went more smoothly. I also noted through my general reading about birth, that second babies tended to come more quickly. I started to wonder if even mega-wimp me just might be able to cope without an epidural so long as things were nice and quick! I wanted to feel in control and that I had given birth, rather than that a bunch of strangers in white coats, otherwise known as doctors, had done it for me. Until now I, like many other western women of the modern age, believed things would be much better, cleaner, safer, nicer, more professional and that I would be more sensible to go and get it all over and done with at hospital. This is the norm so why question it?

But I was questioning it, and I found myself slowly, but surely, moving towards the possibility of having a homebirth. I arrived at the second or third NCT class to discuss this with Marie. To my surprise I was not the only one. A further three members of the group were also considering it! Despite worrying about 'well, who clears up the mess?'; 'What will the neighbours think?'; 'Will I cope without an epidural?' etc., etc - despite all of that we were all starting to wonder whether simply being at home, in familiar surroundings, and not in a hospital, with its clinical and zoo-like atmosphere.... (well, it does rather feel like that when 12 strangers, not to mention the student-doctors whom we don't mind, do we, that they come and watch - gawping at you as you push and pant!) would be the key to having a successful and happy birth experience.

 In addition to all these thoughts I was personally blessed with having a wonderful neighbour who just happens to be a West Mid. midwife!! To cut a long story short I spoke to the midwife (Marina) and - yes- she would be happy to deliver me at home and carry out my remaining antenatal checks - also at home! Apart from the fact that having these checks at home made this a stress-free experience, it also allowed my husband to become part of the process. He also became informed and reassured. I am just sorry that the system does not allow everyone to build up an individual relationship with their midwife in this way, or at least if they do have this luxury it costs around £2-3000.

Anyway... to the birth itself! Well I have to say that it was simple, quick and straightforward. I really believe this was not so much luck as mind over matter. Mild to moderate contractions began at about midnight. They were not excruciatingly painful and I even managed to sleep in between them. From about 5 o'clock I started having to concentrate on them a little more, and putting some breathing techniques to good use. It was nice not to have to think whether or not I needed to go to hospital yet.

At 6.30am. I realised I would not be going back to sleep so sat up to turn on the TV. The pain suddenly escalated and I asked John to call Marina. She was there within 10 minutes. The contractions were now regular and quite strong. I was crawling around the room and found it very difficult to lie on my back to be examined. Finally we managed it and it appeared I was 6cm dilated. Marina then went downstairs to prepare everything for the birth while John got my son, Toby, up. I was suddenly in a lot of pain and alone!

When I finally made it to the bottom of the stairs I had the urge to bear down. I yelled to John to take Toby to the next-door neighbour's house as planned. The time was 7:15am. Marina seemed to know instinctively that I was entering the second stage. By 7:20am she had got me into the living room where I had planned to give birth. I could sense the urgency in her voice and she was rushing to get everything she needed from her bag. Up until this point I had been using the TENS machine for pain relief, but in this final stage I was feeling confused and gave up with it. Marina then produced the gas and air, but it was too late for it to have any real effect. Kneeling up facing the sofa, Marina encouraged me to push (but only a little as the baby was coming very quickly.) At 7:35am, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Sophia Charlotte, weighing 7lbs 15oz.

The whole experience was a very positive one. I felt proud of myself and glad that I had had the courage of my convictions. Most people I told were very supportive and I thank them as this gave me the psychological boost I needed. Throughout labour I never had a moment's regret for my decision. I never wanted to go to hospital; I never felt afraid or threatened. I felt only supported, reassured and comfortable. Five out of nine of us in the NCT group had a homebirth and we all felt equally positive about the experience. I do not plan on having any more children, but if I did, I would definitely go about things in the same way.

Tessa

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