My daughter was born at home on 29th April. She was 10 days overdue. Throughout my pregnancy, I had seen one midwife and she actively encouraged me to follow my wish to have a homebirth despite reservations voiced by my GP over having a first baby outside of a hospital. As my pregnancy progressed, the conflict between the views of my midwife and the more conservative views of the doctors I met became more pronounced.
After my due date had passed I visited the consultant at the hospital and was told that (1) I would have to be induced at 10 days overdue, (2) neither a homebirth nor a birth in the midwifery unit of the local hospital would be possible following induction. When I questioned the necessity of induction if both myself and my baby were healthy, he told me we would be endangering our child's life by refusing to come into hospital at 10 days overdue. Despite having had internal examinations from my midwife and having been unbothered by these, I felt violated by his brusque examination. His treatment and his assertion that I would need to be induced made me feel very anxious for the remainder of my pregnancy - I thought that I would have to go into hospital, despite my fears around this, and I thought I would have no control in my birth.
At nine days overdue I drank a bottle of castor oil in sheer desperation. This was probably very unwise! I initially drank the stated dose of 2 teaspoons and then sat for two hours drumming my fingers on the table - at some level I think that the baby would just arrive because I had done this. After two hours, I drank several more spoonfuls despite my husband's disapproval, cursed about the ineffectiveness of this old wives tale, and then spent the rest of the evening being sick before going to bed with backache (and the reader will know what this means, even if I convinced myself at the time that it was because I had pulled my stomach muscles vomiting!).
A few hours later my waters broke - lots and lots and lots of water. I dutifully rang the hospital and was told that I must go in to be checked up. I explained that I wanted to have the baby at home - they said I needed to be monitored at hospital. I asked to have a home visit as everything seemed to be otherwise fine, although a bit wet, and I couldn't get into hospital as it was 11pm and my husband doesn't drive. They told me to telephone an ambulance. I explained it wasn't an emergency and I didn't think an ambulance was necessary - just a midwife.
It felt as though things were beginning to be a battle of wills as I continued to refuse, and they continued to command. After several minutes of this they told me they would ring back. The telephone didn't ring again but the most wonderful midwife appeared on our doorstep an hour later. She examined me, gave me back my confidence that babies could be born quite happily at home, and left with the promise that she would return in the morning. I was having tiny contractions and nothing else much was happening.
I should have slept but I was too excited. I was at home, in labour, and my baby would be arriving at some point in the near future. So my husband and I lit some candles, put the taps on to fill the water pool, and started playing our favourite records. The contractions kept growing, the music got louder, the pool filled. At 6 we telephoned the midwife convinced that things were going to happen soon, she returned but I was only a few centimetres dilated so she promised to return later in the morning. This was a precious time. Daylight peeped through the curtains and we danced through the contractions and sang to the music and splashed in the pool.
My own midwife, who had seen me since my 12 week appointment, arrived at around 10 in the morning and things started hotting up. The music stopped after we played "Stuck in a moment you can't get out of" by U2 (not a wise choice when you are in the middle of a contraction) and I began to focus more on the contractions. The amazing thing was that as the contractions grew they seemed too powerful to deal with, but once I survived one the next one seemed manageable although it was just as intense. At one point I asked for gas and air, but we never got around to using it once the midwife had brought it from her car (an opportunity that Nathan feels he missed out on!)
For the last part of stage one I stayed in the pool and then got out of the pool when I was in transition. Stage two was the killer - it lasted nearly two hours. The midwives (the first one returned at some point to help) explained that this was probably because of all the horseriding and cycling I do.
Note from Angela: Some midwives' experience has led them to believe that women who do a lot of horseriding and/or cycling may have harder second stages, because their pelvic floor muscles and perineum in general are toughened by these activities. You can read more about these theories on the UK Midwifery Archives (www.radmid.demon.co.uk/pelvicfloor.htm), and it does sound like it makes a difference for some women, but equally, don't expect problems if you ride - many women who ride give birth with no trouble and find their sporting background gives them improved fitness, flexibility and awareness of their body, all of which can be a great help in labour.
Nothing is ever straightforward. I wanted to deliver my baby standing up, but by this time I was so exhausted I was propped on my back against the sofa. Then we found out that the baby had the cord wrapped around her neck. I can never thank the midwives enough for their expertise at this point - throughout everything they had taken a back seat as me and Nathan danced and sang and shouted. Then they stepped in. At first we thought that the cord and me would both need to be cut to get the baby out. By this time, that would have been fine by me - I wanted the baby out and the pain to stop. But because we were at home and there was no rush and no-one else was waiting to deliver their baby after me, the midwives decided to take their time. I gradually thinned and thinned and the baby was delivered through the loop of the umbilical cord.
To me this was a miracle, compounded by the later realisation that in hospital I would have probably had an episiotomy and forceps (this view has been reinforced by the midwives and other people I have discussed this with). Instead, Maya - my daughter - was slowly born (with a very long head, but no other sign of distress) at 3.40 in the afternoon. She lay on my tummy until the cord went limp, Nathan cut the cord, and then the placenta was delivered naturally. I went upstairs for a bath, went to bed with Maya laying on my tummy, and woke up at 7 in the evening with my mum and Nathan bringing me my tea in bed.
For a few days Maya had jaundice and she didn't want to feed. But I was at home and we were able to take our time, learning to breastfeed together and sitting in the sunshine waiting for the yellowness to disappear, which it did. Again, if we had been in hospital, I suspect that we would have been there for a while.
Of course it hurt and it wasn't how I had dreamt it - laying on my back wanting the baby to be out rather than being able to marvel at her head crowning between my legs. But it was the best possible birth for me and Maya. There are no certainties but I feel lucky to have had my two midwives who believed in the possibilities of home birth, my own home around me with my favourite music, candles and a very nosy cat who appeared by my head about 10 miuntes before Maya appeared, my husband who wanted the same birth as I did, and my wonderful daughter who is now nine months old and has never been near a hospital. And I don't feel scared when I think about doing it all again.
cft-nparry @ supanet._homebirthsite_.com
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