My first child, Sacha, was born routinely in hospital following a long monotonous, uneventful labour at half past midnight on January first 2000. I though nothing could top that until I looked back at it and realised that my experience had been marred by the constant monitoring, the lack of privacy and the put-downs of midwives 'you can't be that far gone, you're not moaning enough' (at 8cm dilation). So 6 years later I am with a new partner, and when I discovered was pregnant I was thrilled. I originally considered a local midwife-led birth centre approx 15 miles away, but as my pregnancy progressed smoothly I began to think that being at home would be lovely - especially after reading the positive stories on this website.
Although I went a week past my estimated due date, the midwives, once convinced I was serious, were very helpful and supportive. A few weeks earlier they had brought the essentials box over and advised us on appropriate mess prevention, temperatures etc and we felt ready. My partner is not good in hospitals so he was more confident than ever about being with me in our own home.
Note from Angela: Willow was not technically 'overdue' as the definition of normal gestation is 37 - 42 weeks, and the estimated due date (EDD) is just an estimate; it is not even the average gestation! In the UK our standard EDD is 40 weeks, but in some countries the EDD is considered to be 41 weeks. Babies are not considered 'post-term' until 42 weeks. However, most hospitals have a policy of offering induction of labour some time around 10 days past the EDD, and positively recommending it by 42 weeks. For more discussion see "Overdue - but desperate for a homebirth?"
I was due to be given a membrane sweep the day I went into labour and I was really relieved that my baby had avoided that. I sent my partner, Colin, off to work, Sacha off to school and proceeded as usual. Pains were about 15 mins apart but bearable and I watched tv and drank tea. I got so bored of chat shows in the end I treated myself to Gladiator and ogled Russel Crowe in-between gasps. I also put lavender oil in the oil burner and that was lovely. I felt so indulgent that labour was definitely second to my self-pleasing at this stage.
I let the midwives know they weren't needed to kick-start things but I would be needing them later. They asked me to time the contractions for a while and just monitor how they progressed. By lunchtime things were stronger so I called my sister, who was to be my second birth partner. She had a 2 hour drive to get to me and I did really want her with me.
I had a warm bath with oils and just pampered myself. Ate some lunch, had a lie down and read a bit. By 3 pm I was getting uncomfortable and a little scared being by myself, but as Colin was doing the school run for me he was home with Sacha by half past. My sister Rainy arrived at the same time, with David Attenborough's 'Life of mammals' to watch. She said the little animals might increase my endorphin production and smooth things - I think she was semi-serious!
Sacha was delivered to a friend's house for the night. By now it was about half 4 and I was becoming oblivious to the rest of the world. The pains were about 60 seconds, with about 40 seconds of unbearable pain. I had to concentrate on breathing, squatting and rocking and not talking. I was really worried that I would feel totally self-conscious around family because medical staff are anonymous, but the pain drew me in and it was pointless worrying about it. At 5.30-ish I started to get tired and was thinking that if I was this tired and in so much pain now, that I had better eat something soon as it would be hours yet. The midwives had told me that 90% of homebirths happen in the middle of the night, and because my first labour had been in excess of 2 days I didn't think I was in any rush to call the midwives over yet.
So we ate some pizza and then I went upstairs to lie down, as I was needing to be alone. In retrospect I think I was being a little cat, circling my nest before delivery, trying to find comfort and quiet. However, lying down brought on the monster of all contractions and as Colin came in to check on my wellbeing, I clutched the bed post and felt my waters go, with a dull popping sensation. Oh the relief! I felt a lot better! Went to the loo and yes, the sanitary towel was soaked and covered with blood. I had been bleeding steadily all day - just a trace - midwife had reassured me that it was ok.
It was about 6.15 pm at this stage so we called the midwife and I told her all that had passed. I had also passed what I thought was a huge clot of blood but this turned out the be my show - which surprised me as I had had much mucousy globs over past few days, with backache and nausea.
Lorna, my midwife for the night, said she was about half an hour away - ordinarily this would have worried me, but I was in too much pain. In between contractions I found I could talk and chat as usual, even laugh, but when they started I had to get on my hands and knees or squat with my back against the radiator and bounce gently. This was probably the most effective position for relieving pains. At one point I yelled at Colin to put on some soothing music and he replied that he had no idea what I would find soothing - so I ended up listening to Paul Simon. Which actually worked somewhat! They were still about 60-90 seconds long with 50 or so being unbearable, and coming every 4-5 minutes.
By 7 I went back upstairs as I needed to relieve myself. I was unable to poo and got really upset. Rainy and Colin didn't really know what to do, so kept bringing me sweet cups of tea. I went into the bedroom and vaguely thought that I should find the plastic sheets and lay them out, but was so short of energy and motivation I could not be bothered. I sat on a chest with my back on the radiator and Rainy stroked my head. I was getting really upset and frightened by the prospect of several more hours of the pain and was nearly crying when Colin brought Lorna upstairs.
Believing I would be internally examined I sent Rainy and Colin downstairs and started to tell Lorna some details. I told her, incoherently, that I wanted to go home, and I wasnt sure I could manage any more of it. She had a knowing look on her face.
Note from Angela: Hmmmm... could it be... could it possibly be... transition?!!! Willow could be a textbook case! No wonder her midwife looked "knowing"!
Rather suddenly I needed to empty my bowels and staggered through to the bathroom. She asked me to pee on a stick but I could only produce a drop - there was such a pressure in my pelvis I was keening and moaning softly as I was brought to my knees on the bathroom floor - a contraction and pain unlike the others and a sudden desire to take lots of drugs overcame me. The reality was that I was well into the transition stage and was very frightened because deep down I knew it, but also couldn't believe things were happening so fast.
I apologised for not weeing properly as I came back in the bathroom and automatically, without any thought, got on hands and knees on the floor at the foot of my bed. Contractions were coming with seconds between them, overlapping and I looked desperately at Lorna and begged for pain relief. She had been in the house barely 15 minutes and had to shout Colin and Rainy to head out to her car to fetch the entonox. By the time they came back in, wearing the terrified expressions that fire crews and paramedics do on arriving at an accident scene, it was too late.
I felt what I can only describe as a 'clunk' in my pelvis and my belly contracted so hard pushing down - I definitely didn't have to put in any conscious effort - my only fear was that I was not ready! We had no towels, no plastic sheeting etc, I didn't even have my pants off! I began make sobbing moans, particularly as I could not only feel the pressure of baby against my rectum but I KNEW without doubt that I also needed a poo. I apologised profusely to Lorna and was horrified that Colin was suddenly sitting on the bed by my head, because as baby bore down, it pushed out a long wet fart. However I managed to be embarrassed during the agony, I dont know, but we ladies are sensitive! Lorna and Colin managed to get my pants off and spread some towels out - Colin did not even know where to look for the plastic sheets (my trip to B&Q wasted!) and Lorna tried to persuade me to separate my knees further. I really couldnt - it was like my pelvis was paralysed with pain. In the end, managed about a centimetre of movement.
My belly contracted twice more - I was upright on my knees but gripping the end of the bed, so did not have to strictly push but bear down with contractions. I was totally incoherent, begging Colin to feed me water from a bottle and breating like a steam train with tears and sobs mixed in. Between the contractions I could really feel the girth of the baby's head stuck in my vagina and was really unhappy with the way it seemed to be sucked back up as the contraction subsided. I shuddered for an age as Lorna waited for me to stretch sufficiently. Then Lorna surprised me by saying 'one more and we'll have the chin'. One more came and I felt her wipe my bum. Nice. 'One or two more and baby is out' was the next announcement' and it was true. With a slither and a gush down my legs, Lorna in full action on the floor close behind me, I heard from another world that I had a daughter. I looked down between my knees but all I could see was a pool of blood, mucous and tissues.
Lorna quickly checked her over and I very rationally asked for the injection to speed up the delivery of placenta. I had romantically hoped to breastfeed instantly and slip it out like a real mammal, but in reality I just wanted birth over with. Lorna kept asking me if I wanted to hold baby but I was still gripping the end of the bed and staring around the room in a daze. Eventually I got it together and took hold of my brilliant red and blue screaming daughter. I saw brown stuff everywhere and had this fear that I had produced gallons of diarrhoea but Lorna reassured me it was just mucus. Yuk!!
After a minute of admiring the tiny stranger, I passed her to Rainy and started to get in a reclining position on the floor to deliver placenta. Boy, my bum was sore and I didn't relish sitting down at all. Shortly after it was over - the relief in my womb as it came out was immense, almost more that giving birth. It had been low and at the front - I had a huge placenta. I had a look and Lorna pointed out gritty bits which indicated that baby was indeed overdue, but otherwise was healthy. She also later told me that the umbilical cord had been looped around baby's neck (see What if the cord is around the baby's neck?).
Beautiful newborn Tabitha
I got up and went to have a shower. Colin helped me in and out and dried me off, helping me into gigantic pants and the massive pads. I mastered the art of positioning 2 crossways over the next few hours to catch as much as possible. And into my own bed! With my new baby, I put her straight to my breast and she latched on immediately. It was wonderful! Colin fetched a bottle of champagne he had been saving and we all toasted her arrival - me with the slightest sip of course. Was faintly disappointed I couldn't risk a glass or 2!
Willow, Colin and Tabitha
Lorna gave us the facts - she was 8lb 9oz, a long baby (she never actually specified), and the pushing stage had taken only 10 minutes. It took longer to get the placenta out - 13 minutes. I had no tears, no problems at all and was able to relax in my own bed with my sweetheart and my sister bringing me love and cups of tea at 8.30 in the evening. Lorna confessed this was only her second ever homebirth and was thrilled to be allowed to hold baby, as at most births, the parents are so overwhelmed they never offer.
I took some paracetamol and after an hour or so, baby slept and I even went and watched half an hour of telly by myself. It was perfect, being able to relax and recover at home, instantly, knowing everything was at hand and I had laboured by myself, managed it admirably and impressed and overawed my sister and Colin. He says now that looking at me in the final moments, he had never know such complete and utter love for anyone. Now isn't that perfect?
If I have any more children, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I would opt for a home birth, UNLESS there were any reasonable complications in pregnancy.
Good luck to all
Home Birth Stories
First Babies and homebirth
Pain relief - what are your options at home?
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
Overdue - what are the risks? What are your options?
What if...your baby needs resuscitation at a homebirth?
Home Birth Reference Page