When I discovered I was pregnant with my second baby, I decided I was going to try and have a home birth. This decision came to me easily, firstly because I had my two year old daughter Roxana to think of and wanted to be at home so that she would not have to go anywhere overnight or for a long period of time during the day. Secondly, I had a really bad experience in my first pregnancy.
I have many friends that have had home births. Therefore I have had several discussions with them about their experiences before and during my second pregnancy. These friends also introduced me to the NCT Plymouth and West Devon Home Birth Support Group that is held once a month in this area. Therefore I had this as an added bonus and, believe me, it was very much an added bonus for me in the last few weeks of my pregnancy.
I first went to a meeting at about 25 weeks gestation and was welcomed very warmly by Gayle who runs the group. I was shocked to see such a turn out as there must have been about 20 people there, consisting of couples who were new parents and other expectant couples with varying due dates, along with other pregnant ladies there without their partners due to their other children being at home in bed.
When I arrived I was quite apprehensive due to many reasons, mostly because of the negativity surrounding home births that had been literally showered upon me by friends who are within the medical professions, including my sister who is a GP (and very wary of home births) and my own Community Midwife. I had many questions and fears that I needed to discuss and ‘iron out’ before I would be completely comfortable with having a home birth, even though this was all I really wanted.
Some of these fears included being worried that I would not cope with the pain with only Entonox to help. I was also worried that there would not be enough of this to last the whole labour. One of my main concerns was what would happen if the baby were born with respiratory problems or just ‘not well’, how would the midwives deal with this? Or, what would happen if I became unwell, due to heavy blood loss or a nasty tear?
Many people had told me different horror stories that had happened to them or ‘someone they knew’ during their labour or childbirth and I was worried that similar problems may occur with mine. During the meeting I asked lots of questions about all areas I had concerns about. Gayle as well as the other mums that had experienced their own home births were able to share their own experiences with me which very quickly helped me feel much more relaxed.
I continued to attend these meetings every month right up until I was almost due. I had also borrowed a birthing pool and acquired information on every single bit of equipment and aid that may help or benefit me during my labour.
Whilst at the meetings I also discussed my worries about being overdue and therefore maybe ending up experiencing problems at home trying to deliver a ‘big baby’. This was something my midwife was concerned about because I was ‘measuring big’ and my last baby had been 2 weeks overdue and a fair size. This baby was also a boy, which historically I understand, can mean a bigger baby. I had been sent for a growth scan at around 37 weeks gestation and the measurements indicated that our baby was approximately 8lb 3oz.
I had been advised that a home birth might not be a good idea because the baby’s head might get ‘stuck’!! The midwife I saw at Derriford after the scan was not concerned though. Further reassurance was given at the next home birth support group because there were mummies there who had delivered their 9lb-plus babies at home with no problems.
As my due date loomed my husband and I got everything and everyone organised. This included arranging a small group of close friends who would be on call for if we needed them to look after Roxana for us. We had a friend who was on stand-by for nights and a number of friends who would have her during the day. They were all fully aware of our plans to have our baby boy at home but they would also help out if I ended up going into hospital for any reason.
The pool and other birthing aids were all set to go too. We had bought a hose and tap adapter so that we could fill the pool from the kitchen tap. I had also bought a fast pump for any inflatable, a bath thermometer, a sieve, a relaxing CD, a TENS machine, some lavender oils for burning and massage and a mirror and torch for the midwives to use.
On Sunday, the 31st August when I got up, I just did not feel right. I asked my husband to take Roxana swimming so that I could go back to bed. I then slept until 1300 hours. Then when I got up, I still did not feel 100%. I could not put my finger on it, just not quite right. By teatime I was having what felt like stronger contractions, now and then, not regularly. So I got on all fours and swung my hips from side to side for about 10 minutes and then bounced on my gym ball for another 10 minutes. But much to my disappointment, the pains began fading and stopped.
I woke at just past midnight on the 1st August 2011 and felt a strong contraction and just knew that on this day, I was going to give birth. Steve and I made a cushioned bed area with a duvet doubled over, towels, a throw and some incontinence sheets. My husband then pumped up the pool and started filling it with water. I lit my candles and burned lavender oil and played my relaxing birthing CD. It got to about 02:30 and I felt the time was right to contact the midwife.
Kirsty was my first midwife, she was water trained. With a home birth you have two midwives, one comes straight away and the other one is called by the first when she thinks you are going into transition, or straight away if things are moving fast! Kirsty turned up about 20 minutes later. Our first impressions of her were very positive, she was very relaxed, but at the same time professional and thorough. She explained everything as we went along and put us both at ease if things got at all intense.
Kirsty then set up the Entonox cylinder with the mask and I began using this to help with the pain, which was becoming stronger and closer together by this time. Kirsty had checked my blood pressure and temperature and these were both normal. She also listened to the baby’s heart beat and again, he was perfectly happy with a normal rate.
Eventually, the pool was full and at the correct temperature. By this time, kirsty had phoned the second Midwife on duty who had to come over from Plympton. She was called Nora. I also felt it was time to call my good friend Sarah, who I had pre-warned the evening before that I thought things were happening. I asked her to come over as soon as she could so that she could be upstairs when Roxana woke up to look after her until it was OK for her to come downstairs after the birth. Sarah shortly arrived and took herself off to our bedroom to sleep until Roxana woke up.
When I got into the pool, WOW…… what a relief! Suddenly the contractions slowed right down and became easier. I was able to breathe with the gas and air much more easily through the pain and I rested peacefully and weightlessly on my knees with my arms over the side of the pool, in between each contraction. I alternated from swinging my hips and moaning to just breathing in silence at each rest period. I was fully in control and actually loved every minute of it! I felt so elated; it was the most amazing feeling.
I had been in the pool a while when Kirsty asked if I felt like pushing yet. I had pressure but did not have the urge to push, so she asked me to get out of the pool so she could examine me. When she looked I had stopped at 8 centimetres because my waters were bulging. Kirsty therefore suggested that she should break my membranes in order to help things along. We agreed as I was getting tired.
After my waters were broken, I felt a real difference in the intensity and speed of the contractions, so quickly got back into the pool. The next period of events was a blur as I went through transition. I remember ranting obscenities at the midwives and my husband and making strange mooing noises as I pushed our baby boy down through the birth canal.
After changing position, I spent the next few minutes panicking about not being able to get the baby out. This apparently is a very common sign that you are in true transition! The midwives must have recognised this because they both worked really quickly with what they were saying to me to convince me that I was succeeding in pushing the baby down. They were fabulous all through my labour and delivery. They seemed to say exactly the right thing at the right time.
At approximately 0730, kirsty told me to give one massive push on the next contraction because the top of his head was out and we could see his hair. As the pressure built again I said “This is it… come on Baby Jack!” and I gave one final strong push, holding my breath and bearing down with all my might and out his little head came. The contraction faded and Kirsty confirmed with me that it had stopped. She suggested that we wait for the next contraction, but as Nora checked the heartbeat, it had slowed so, Kirsty immediately suggested I should get out of the pool to deliver and I suddenly felt scared because I did not know what was happening and I did not know how I was going to get over the side of the pool with the baby’s head hanging out!!
I remember the midwives saying that everything was all right, that this was just a precaution and then the three of them helped me over the side and then gently lowered me onto the bed area. I then gave two more slow and controlled pushes as directed by Kirsty, and out came Baby Jack, nice and slowly with no problems. Then there he was, on my chest snuggling his little face into mine………
After Baby Jack was weighed and checked over thoroughly by the midwives he was wrapped in blankets and given back to me where I sat on our sofa. He then found his own way to my nipple and began his first feed. I sat and had four rounds of well-deserved toast with a ‘bucket’ of tea whilst the midwives cleaned up all of the pads, placenta and other ‘stuff’. When I looked up after being mesmerised by our new baby boy feeding so beautifully, our lounge looked like our lounge again! No mess, just the pool left for Steve to empty when he was ready. Fantastic!
Roxana was then brought down to meet her baby brother and she was a little star. She absolutely loved him straight away with no indication of any jealousy or rivalry. It was a very sweet moment when she bent over to kiss him lovingly on the cheek before vigorously ruffling his hair and saying, “His hair is all squiggly!” she was so happy.
After the midwives filled in their paperwork they helped me to the loo and then up the stairs for a lovely lavender bath, to help soothe and relax. Kirsty actually washed my hair for me and helped me dry myself when I got out of the bath. Nora left once they were both happy that I was fine and almost ready to get into bed, whilst Kirsty helped Baby Jack and me into bed. Before she left, Kirsty wished us all well and ensured I was aware of numbers to ring in any emergency or problems.
I truly hope that our story and the information provided throughout will help to encourage other expectant parents to absolutely GO FOR the BEST experience that they are ever likely to have!