I read all the stories on your site in the run up to my planned homebirth in early December. I'm actually in Ontario in Canada but I am from England and I felt I could relate really well to the stories as told by these British mummies. I wanted to maybe add my story and feelings about homebirth to your pile.
This was my second child. My first was a planned hospital birth with a family doctor. We were really disappointed with the lack of continuity of care and the standard of care we received. I was also disappointed with the number of medical interventions. A long exhausting labour combined with a no food or drink policy in our hospital ended with AROM, pitocin, a much-resisted epidural, IV's, internal monitoring and finally the vaccuum extraction. This resulted in a big tear which didn't heal very well and was still causing me problems that required medical intervention six months later. I also hated the 24 hours I stayed in the hospital post-partum.
A few people had mentioned their experiences with midwives and couldn't speak positively enough about them. Here in Ontario you see either an obstetrician, or a family doctor or a midwife for prenatal care and delivery. The midwives have full staff privileges in the hospital but you also have the option of birthing at home, providing the midwives feel that it is safe for you to do so. We were initially open-minded about birthplace when we started going to see the midwives, but the more I read about homebirth and thought about it, the more I thought it might be the best way to avoid some of the problems of our first birth. I hate hospitals and find doctors intimidating, so the midwifery and homebirth option seemed perfect.
I read lots of homebirth stories in preparation. Each one gave me confidence that a natural birth was something ordinary women were capable of, and that the home was a perfectly fine place for a birthing. In a way though, I think I might have over-rommanticised the possibilities. I was too quick to skip over the stories of the transfers and the disappointments and focus more on those where the mothers had virtually painfree, relaxing, wonderful labours and births, sustaining no tears or bruises and were bounding in energy and dancing around minutes after the placenta emerged. That was not how my homebirth ended up being. And I don't think I'll ever have a birth like that...though I can't wait for the day I'm proved wrong. Nevertheless it was an amazing experience and, six weeks on, I look back on it with fondness and can't wait to do it all again.
With my first, I'd gone into labour on my due date. I sort of thought this would be the case with my second too, but the date came and went and I started to panic about needing induction. I had a feeling that the baby would be born on a Saturday and that there would be snow outside. On the Friday, four days after my due date, my husband had a major presentation at work. That out the way I think we all felt as though we could just let the baby come when it wanted. I was having uncomfortable contractions all day but I had been having them for weeks, along with nesting, twinges, moodswings. So I had given up getting too excited or timing things. That night the snow started falling.
I fell asleep around midnight. Then at 2.30 am I woke with a really painful contraction and a need to empty my bowels. That is exactly how labour started with my first. The contractions seemed to be all over the place in terms of timing and intensity so I was thinking it must be really early days. On the other hand, I was coping really badly. I was so tired and just wanted to sleep and wake up with a baby. I told Jon, my husband that something was happening but to go back to sleep and get rest. I would wake him when I needed him. I went into the living room and tried to get comfortable but couldn't. He soon came in, claiming he was too excited to sleep. I think my moans and groans were keeping him up! So much for breathing through contractions, relaxing into the pain etc. I think I was still, despite my best intentions, resisting every one and feeling very dispapointed with myself as a result.
I wanted to call my doula to let her know I was in labour, as she lives over an hour away, it was snowing and she has three small children she needs to get sorted. But I didn't want to call in the middle of the night so planned to hold off til 5am. By then things still hadn't settled into any pattern so I waited.
Around six, my two year old daughter woke up crying for me. My husband was singing her to sleep but she kept re-awaking, so eventually I thought perhaps I should go in the bedroom and let her know I was OK and tell her that the baby would be coming today. Unfortunately she was still half asleep so not receptive to reasoning. She was just screaming for nursies and wanted me to lie down with her. I was reluctant to lie down as I find it harder to manage contractions when I can't move around but eventually I gave in. I lay next to her singing her favourite lullaby over and over while my husband applied strong counterpressure to my back during each contraction (when the song would get very very loud!). I don't know how I did it; in some ways it helped focussing on someone else for a time, but it was hard. My husband was crying the whole time: for our daughter, for me and for our soon-to-be-born child. Eventually she snapped awake and was happy to go off with Jon for cereal and stories and I could get back to labouring alone.
At 7 I phoned my doula to warn her things might be happening before she got up and made plans for the day. Originally she was saying to call back when a real pattern emerged etc but then I had three contractions in quick succession over the phone and she said maybe she would come anyway, especially since my two year old was taking up most of my husband's concentration. She also said to phone the midwife just to let her know things were happening.
I was really glad that my midwife, Jane, would be attending the birth and so was she, although I didn't realise at the time that she had just come back from a birth and had had as little sleep as I had. She heard some contractions over the phone and said she would come out just to check progress and we'd decide on a plan from there. She arrived at around 8ish and checked me. I was expecting to be only around 3cm as my contractions didn't seem to have settled into a regular pattern. My first labour had begun really intensely but I was still only 5cm after 24 hours of that. Jane felt me and said "I'm not feeling any cervix at all, just a big bulging bag of waters". I thought to myself: "Oh no, no cervix at all, that's really bad. I haven't even begun yet". Then I realised that no cervix meant perhaps it was already somewhat effaced and dilated so I said tentatively "is that good?". She confirmed that it was and that I was probably around 7cm. That was one of the high points of the labour.
Things got somewhat crazy after that! I realised I could now go in the pool if I wanted, but we hadn't yet set it up, so my husband launched into that. Jane called her back-up and my doula arrived somewhere in the middle of all this. Furniture in our living room was being moved out the way to make room for the pool and the midwives started setting up their equipment with a resuscitation area and warmed blankets for the newborn. I thought "wow they really think a baby is coming". I couldn't quite believe it myself. My daughter was running around stripping off her clothes and nappy and trying to climb into the pool. I was relieved for all our sakes when it was time to take her off and settle her with friends for the day. I had thought perhaps she might stay for the birth, but I quickly realised that would not work.
There were a few hitches filling the pool, but eventually it was filled enough for me to try going in. The water was really soothing. It didn't take away any of the pain. Its main effect, as I began to realise, was to space out my contractions. I think it was useful therefore in helping me control the pace of my labour a little, but while I was in it, I started getting frustrated that things weren't progressing. I tried walking around more, which brought on the contractions more intensely. When it got too intense I could get back in the pool for some respite.
However, after a few hours of not any change I started wondering about this bag of waters. It didn't seem like it was going to burst by itself and I was feeling huge pressure. We talked about the option of rupturing the membranes artificially. I decided to have another internal and if I had made no progress from the initial exam I would opt for rupturing, though I was of course concerned that if the waters weren't clear we might need to transfer to hospital. The internal showed that I was still around 7 or 8 with the cervix paper-thin and very stretchy. I decided to go for the AROM. I thought it was supposed to be quick and painless but it seemed to take forever and felt as though I were being disembowelled. Jane said they were the toughest membranes she'd seen and likely the baby would have been born in its caul. I'm glad that I went for the AROM though. The labour would have been way longer otherwise and I was so tired to begin with. It may have meant I ended up in the hospital too, who knows.
In another hour or so things started to get more pushy. I had a lot of fear and anxiety around this part; as I had been anaesthetized for it in my first birth, it was all unknown. The urge to push was very different from how I had imagined it might be. It was so terrifyingly intense and overwhelming and felt more like my body convulsing than me pushing. I was yelling really loudly and was glad my daughter wasn't there. Not all contractions were pushy ones. I had a bit of a lip of cervix remaining and was encouraged to lie on my left side in the pool for a few contractions.
Around this time I developed a terrible pain in my right leg that felt as though my leg was going to come out. It was really hard to push through this. I was so scared and was just panicking and screaming "my leg, my leg". No position helped. In the end Jane told me the only way the pain would go was when the baby was out and I just had to focus on that. Anita, my second midwife helped me with a relaxation visualisation to try and numb the pain which actually helped as I was in a very suggestible state at this point. I was lying in the pool and my doula was supporting me so that I could just float and relax between contractions/pushes. I was really zoned out at this point. At one point I think I asked "am I still here?".
It was really great to feel surrounded by so much support. my husband, my doula and my two wonderful midwives. There are women who like to be by themselves to birth and just get on with it. I don't think I am one of these. I really felt like I needed to be held and helped through each contraction. Incidentally, the leg pain did ease after the birth, but I was left with hip pain and numbness in my toes and lower calf for about three weeks before it got better; probably a pinched nerve?
At one point Jane suggested I felt inside to feel my baby's head. I was sceptical but thought I'd try anyway. I didn't feel anything, then of course I realised that perhaps that squishy thing I was pushing against was a head! I couldn't believe my baby was just inches a way. It helped a lot. When the head started to appear I was again encouraged to look with a mirror at the bottom of the pool. The midwives had their flashlights out at this point too. It was encouraging to see the head appearing.
I started to feel the burning, which again was a new sensation. It hurt and was scary as I was pretty sure I would tear but at least I knew the baby couldn't be far away. The best was when the baby started crowning. Jane told me to feel my baby's head. When I felt it staying and not moving back inside I suddenly became very awake and filled with determination just to push the baby out. At long last I realised the birth was actually just minutes, not hours away! The head felt so soft. For weeks after the birth I would hold the baby's head and remember that incredible moment of feeling her head while she was still inside me. The contractions were so spaced out still and it felt like a cruel trick of nature to leave half a head just sitting there while I had to wait for the next contraction!
I somehow roared the baby's head out through the burning and pain but then the midwives ordered me out the pool and onto the couch. It seemed the shoulders were a bit stuck and they wanted me to move positions and be out of the water. I didn't mind about leaving the pool. I hadn't really been planning a waterbirth anyway, but I was incredulous as to how I was to climb out of the pool with a head between my legs. Somehow though they hauled me out. As I lifted my leg over the side I felt the baby drop more. I was pretty much flung onto the couch and in the next contraction I pushed out the baby.
I pulled her up onto my stomach and enjoyed our first moments together. In my previous birth I had been so scared when they put the red, slimy creature that smelled of innards on my stomach and just was thinking "what do I do with this?" before she was whipped away for various procedures. But in this birth I held her for a long time while they rubbed her and wrapped us in blankets. They briefly whisked a little oxygen under her nose to help her get going but I hardly noticed that. I got to check the sex myself (a bit of a surprise as I had been sure I had a boy this time!) and I was just delighted by the whole thing. The baby was born at 2.20pm, a twelve hour labour and an hour and a quarter of pushing (compared to 29 hours and 3 hours of pushing in my first birth). I was pretty pleased with that, even though I dreaded and hated every contraction!
I held off on the pitocin injections to deliver the placenta and did manage it quite soon after, but there was a lot of blood. I needed a catheter to empty my super-full bladder and a couple of shots and I.V.s to help my uterus contract as I was haemorrhaging a bit, but fortunately I didn't need to leave my couch. I kept worrying that they would call an ambulance any minute, but I was able to stay home. The midwives stayed about six hours with the IVs and stuff. I also had a second degree tear, which needed stitches.
When they finally got round weighing the baby, it turned out she was 8 pounds and 9 ounces and had been born with her hand up by her head (she still sleeps like that even now!). I am just a petite girl of 4'9'' so I never imagined I would birth such a big baby.. naturally, too! I was very proud.
The best thing about the homebirth was being home after it all. I got tucked up in my own bed. The midwives cleaned everything up and made the bed for me. In the first week they came to my home every couple of days for our check-ups, so that I didn't need to worry about getting up and dressed until I felt well enough. It was so much easier and made for a calmer and happier mummy, and a calmer and happier baby too.
9rcs123 @ qlink.queensu.ca
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