I had read up on home birth since before I was pregnant and felt strongly that it was what I wanted. Once pregnant there was talking to be done with my husband Lewis and we visited the birth centre as an alternative option, but my head and my heart were both in agreement – home birth it had to be.
Fortunately I had a very straightforward pregnancy and a fantastic community midwife who had a lot of home birth experience and was very supportive and keen to attend my birth if at all possible. I did pregnancy yoga from around 20 weeks, read lots, bought a second hand pool and TENS machine and attended antenatal classes. I somehow managed to avoid developing any fears (despite watching every episode ever of One Born Every Minute) and looked forward to birth. I expected to go past term, and I did. Until a week after my due date I was very relaxed. I then started to lose my cool a bit as the pressure to be induced neared, but happily I went into labour before reaching that point.
On Saturday 29th June, 10 days past my due date and two days after a second sweep, I woke in the early hours with some strong cramping pains. At 3.15 I began to time them and they were around 10-15 minutes apart. I got up after a while and they started coming closer together, but dropped back to 10 minutes when I lay down. At 5.30 I rang the labour ward to ask their advice and was told that the contractions were not regular enough to indicate established labour but that they would ask the community team to ring me when their day shift began. At 8am my waters broke and I noticed a few tiny specks of dark green on the pads I put on, which I told the community midwife about when she rang at 8.30. She advised me to go to the pregnancy assessment unit to be checked as I did not appear to be in established labour but the green specks could be meconium. Shortly after this phonecall the contractions strengthened and the short trip to the hospital was very uncomfortable as a result. At the hospital the midwife who examined me said that the amount of meconium was not significant enough to be a cause for concern, which I was relieved about as I really wanted to be able to labour at home. I was found to be 3-4cm dilated so not quite established labour but the midwife said she would ask the community team to ring shortly. I went home and shortly after the community midwife rang and said that the usual practice was to examine every 4 hours so she would call at 2pm.
From then on the pains got stronger and stronger. Lewis put the TENS machine on me and I found this very helpful for the cramping pain. I also felt nauseous, and uncomfortable due to the constant waters leaking. At some point – I have no idea when – the cramping pain began to be accompanied by an almighty pressure, which the TENS machine did not help with. I was spending most of the time kneeling over my birth ball and trying to breathe and mobilise through the pains but as the pressure increased I was struggling to manage to do this and was vocalising instead. I was also regularly visiting the loo. Lewis commented afterwards that I was quite peaceful and ‘zoned out’, which was true, I remember having to focus completely to cope and not wanting to talk or be touched. In hindsight the pains were coming very frequently and regularly at this point, but neither of us considered the possibility that I could be progressing towards the end of the first stage; as a first baby we assumed that it would take much longer. However I was finding it very difficult to cope and felt that if this was to go on and worsen for many more hours then I would have to give up on the home birth and go to hospital for an epidural. But for the time being, assuming I was still in the early stages, I felt that I had no choice but to focus on getting to 2pm when the midwife would examine me and I could then hopefully get in the pool and see if that helped.
Lewis inflated the pool after 1pm but had not started to fill it when I felt that there was something ‘down there’. I touched it and felt hair! So I asked Lewis – who was sat in the same room watching the rugby – if the baby was there. He had a look and said he thought not (he could see something but thought it couldn’t possibly be baby) but as he was unsure what it was he rang the midwife to ask her to come; she said she would get to us in around 15 minutes. A few minutes later I asked him to check again at which point he realised that it definitely was the baby and tried to ring the midwife again. Her mobile was engaged so he frantically started looking for the labour ward number and rang there. As baby was quickly arriving and the community midwife was not yet there, a labour ward midwife talked us through what to do over speaker phone. Lewis said he did not have time to panic but did feel alarmed when a very purple, lifeless head popped out moments later, and he had to take the cord from round the baby’s neck on the instructions of the midwife over the phone. At this point I knew pushing fast was not ideal for the perineum but my instinct was to get the baby out so I pushed hard and she was born shortly after at approximately1.45pm. I pulled off my top and put her on my chest, and the midwife stayed on the phone until the community midwife arrived a few minutes later.
I was at this point sat in a pile of clothes, towels and blood, with the TENS machine still attached and pulsing on my back and the cord also in the tangled mix. I must have looked a right state! I felt exhilarated to have my baby, and very relieved that labour was over so much earlier than expected. The baby started pinking up and crying very quickly and at some point one of us checked and saw that she was a girl. When the midwife arrived she asked me if I wanted the syntometrine injection which I said yes to; I had planned to request delayed cord clamping but that had happened by default! I delivered the placenta with one big push and the midwives said it was in very good condition. I needed stitches for a second degree tear which one of the midwives gave me whilst I lay on the sofa having skin-to-skin. Baby Edith weighed in at a healthy 9lb 2oz.
The midwives helped to clear up, completed some checks whilst Edith had her first feed, and left an hour or so later. It was so incredibly blissful being left in our own front room with our brand new baby. One of the midwives popped back briefly after a couple of hours to check on us and all was well. I was so lucky to have such a quick labour, which meant I was not as exhausted as many new mums are in the first days and weeks, and to have got my home birth, albeit without birthing pool or midwives! The first stage was recorded as 2 hours 40 minute and the second stage as 5 minutes. It was such a brilliant experience despite the pain and I believe that being in my home environment allowed me to stay much more relaxed and in control than I might otherwise have been.