I am thrilled to share this lovely birth story with you from first time mum, Michelle.
The moment I found I was pregnant I was absolutely over the moon, but at the same time I was filled with fear. Not the usual apprehension a lot of first time mums have: ‘how am I going to cope?’ ‘how am I going to push a baby out?’ ‘how much is my life going to change?’ etc. None of that – all that was going through my mind was ‘sh*t I’m going to have to go to hospital!’
Hospitals fill me with fear. They always have done. So when the midwife came round for a home visit and casually suggested a home birth I knew this was definitely an option for me. As my pregnancy continued and I told more people about potentially having a home birth I got a lot of crazy looks. People were quite judgemental: ‘I didn’t think you could have your first baby at home?’, ‘what if something goes wrong? I’d much rather be at hospital!’ and ‘YOU’RE MAD, you’ll want an epidural!’ I just nodded politely because I knew I’d never be in that much pain that I’d willingly ask for a needle in my back. At both my blood tests during pregnancy it took 5 adults to hold me down whilst I screamed the GP surgery down. My fear of needles is even greater than my fear of hospitals, so much so that I’ve actually been referred for CBT therapy. I think at this point the midwives thought how on earth is she going to cope with the pain of labour if she can’t even cope with a simple blood test? But for me the pain of needles isn’t an issue, it’s just needles full stop.
I absolutely knew that I could birth my baby without any form of medication or pain relief other than water. The only people who supported me fully about having a home birth were my husband, my mum (who knows how much I hate hospitals) and my grandma (who birthed 3 out of her 4 babies at home). Throughout my pregnancy, I did a lot of research on home births and birth rights and I followed Cathy’s Chilled Mama Facebook page which gave me lots of advice and encouragement. At my 36 week check the midwives confirmed that I was still low risk and could go ahead with a home birth and the next day our pool was delivered. I was beyond excited at this point to meet my baby.
At 37 weeks I was offered a sweep to get things moving but I declined this as I still had 2 weeks of work left. At my 40 week appointment I was prepared to have a sweep fearing that if I didn’t go into labour soon then induction might be on the cards. But when I got there, they wanted to do another blood test (something about switching from hospitals because of the home birth – essentially just a box ticking exercise and not to do with my pre-natal care) which sent me into a panic attack, so I left un-sweeped.
Still pregnant at 41 weeks but feeling well (albeit slightly frustrated that baby wasn’t here yet and I was ‘wasting’ precious weeks of my maternity leave) I decided to have a sweep. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be but nothing happened afterwards. With an induction looming over me, I spent days stressing out. I was never going to agree to an induction unless either myself of my baby were going to die otherwise, but I didn’t want the struggle of explaining my decision to the health care professionals. I’d also been told I ‘couldn’t’ have a home birth if I went past 42 weeks and the thought of this broke my heart. I’m a planner and I know you can’t control child birth but in my head I had planned a home birth and that was exactly where it was going to happen!
So a few days later I had another sweep and early the next morning I began to feel the first twinges. At 41+4 I went to the toilet and my show came away and I just called out for my husband and told him to call work to say he won’t be coming in today. The rest of that day (August 24th) is a bit of a blur. I tried to sleep through the contractions, which were coming every 5-10 mins, whilst watching Disney movies all day. I just laid on the sofa all day, timing the contractions, which probably didn’t help move things along but I knew I’d need to preserve energy for the big moment. That evening around 9pm the pain was getting worse so we called the midwives. They came and assessed me and said I was 1cm dilated. I wanted to punch her – nothing personal – it was just I thought I’d be at least 7cm by now so I was disheartened to say the least. They also said if the baby was to come tonight I’d have to go to hospital as there were not enough staff on duty to attend a home birth. I knew that wasn’t an option for me so I made sure the baby was hanging on until the morning! That night my husband went to bed and I just curled up in different positions around the house. It was dark and quiet and I actually found it quite peaceful. I’m one of these people where if you fuss me when I’m in pain I’ll cry out more, but if you just leave me I can cope on my own. By 6am the pain was getting much worse. By this point it was too much hard work to time the contractions so I knew things had progressed. I’d convinced myself I’d be about 2 cm by now, but because I was in so much pain and there was no break between contractions, my husband rang the hospital. I was also being sick and with every mouthful of fruit or water that I tried to eat, it felt like I was throwing up more.
I got a text from my favourite community midwife saying she’d be with me shortly. I was so happy it was her that was on her way! At my blood test she had been really kind and understanding despite the fuss I was making. In the meantime, my husband ran me a bath and the pain stopped almost instantly. The midwife arrived and said I was 8cm dilated and then my hind waters broke. At this point I knew I was going to be absolutely fine and I totally had this under control. Knowing I was 8cm spurred me on and gave me a new lease of energy and confidence. The midwife turned to my husband and said ‘you’d better get that pool set up, we’re going to have a baby soon!’ My husband did as he was told and in the middle of filling the pool the doorbell went. As we were expecting another midwife to arrive, my husband answered the door and saw it was the postman asking to sign for a package for a neighbour. I think my slightly flustered husband muttered some rude words, explained his wife was having a baby and shut the door (he did apologise a few days later when we saw him again!)
The moment I got in the pool the pain disappeared instantly again. I was able to hold a conversation, eat an ice lolly, drink some Lucozade and even brushed my teeth! It was all in vain though as I was sick again afterwards. The midwives joked that I wanted fresh breath to meet my baby, but to be honest I just wanted to get rid of the acid taste! I managed to hold some coconut water down but didn’t fancy anything to eat. I was desperate not to get dehydrated and risk being transferred for an IV drip. The other midwife turned up with gas and air and I tried using it but really didn’t get on with it.
During the contractions I was able to breathe on my own and the gas and air was just distracting me. I rested my head on the side of the pool and had my eyes shut most of the time. I could hear faint conversation between my husband and the midwives in the background but I was just in my own little birthing zone. The midwife would listen to the baby’s heartbeat every so often and after a few hours of things not progressing much they suggested I get out the pool and have a walk around as baby was getting slightly distressed.
At this point I felt some involuntary urges to push and they told me to go with it. I got into many different positions using my gym ball and husband as support. I’d been pushing for an hour by now and there was no sign of the baby. I was laying on my left side on the living room floor by this point. My husband was supporting my upper half and the midwife was holding my right leg up. The other midwife called her senior at the hospital to keep them updated and she literally begged them to ‘allow’ me another hour of pushing before a transfer with forceps, which is what was being suggested! There was no way that was happening so I pushed with every fibre in my body and eventually the head was crowing. The midwife gave me a mirror to look and this spurred me on to push even more. I had had my heart set on a water birth but as this point I didn’t have the energy to ask to get back in the pool – I was just grateful I was still at home. The midwife had her fingers just inside me and was pushing down to guide me to push into my bottom. Afterwards she told me she ‘held on to my perineum like it was her own!’
Suddenly, I felt a sharp sting as the head came out and then a huge wave of relief as the body followed. And there he was. Born on the living room carpet leaving a wonderful entry stain! I picked up my beautiful baby boy and laid him on my chest. It was the most surreal moment of my life. I’d said in my birth plan that I wanted to discover the sex myself but I didn’t even need to look. I’d known instinctively all along that he was a boy. After the cord had stopped pulsating, my husband cut it and I gave him his first feed.
I’d declined a managed third stage (obviously!) and after 57 minutes the placenta had still not arrived! I knew there was a risk of blood loss if it didn’t arrive within an hour so I handed our baby to my husband and made my way to the toilet where I sat down and ‘plop’. It was delivered with a minute to spare! I let the midwives deal with the rest but my husband did go and have a good look too! I went and got comfy on the sofa with my new little bundle of joy and I was checked over by the midwives.
I’d grazed but not torn so didn’t need to be transferred and at that point I was so grateful to the midwife for ‘holding on to me!’ Three hours later, feeding was established, the baby had been weighed and checked over and he was absolutely perfect. I’d said ‘I bet he’s 8lbs 2oz’ when he came out and it turned out he was 8lbs 3oz! The midwives left and both our mums arrived. We introduced them to ‘Chester Frederick’ and they were both so pleased to meet their first grandson. By now, the adrenaline had died down and my goodness did the hunger kick in! I hadn’t really eaten for days so there was only one thing for it – it was time to order Domino's! The whole thing was just perfect. There I was, snuggled on the sofa with my wonderful husband, my beautiful baby boy in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other. And not a needle in sight the whole time!
Congratulations to Michelle and her hubby on the birth of Chester Frederick. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I am sure it will inspire some other women having their first baby to consider a home birth.
Notes: 1. If there is no midwife, you do not 'have to go in'. See Birthrights website. 2. If you go past 42 weeks you can still have a home birth, and the midwives are obliged to support you. 3. Pushing for 2-3 hours with your first baby is NORMAL. It is a shame that Michelle was given anxiety about this. 4. It is not common for midwives to put their fingers inside a woman's vagina to 'guide' her pushing. It helped Michelle, but it doesn't help everyone. You can say no to this.
More information about home birth HERE, including statistics and practicalities.