Two years ago today was one of the best days of my life. I would even go so far to say that it actually was the best day of my life. Two years ago today, I was flying high on oxytocin, roaring from the roof tops and felt like I could take on the world. Two years ago today, my youngest baby was born at home in our lounge.
I am telling her birth story on her 2nd birthday, partly to acknowledge that the baby stage of our journey is ending as she is now a beautiful walking, talking little toddler and secondly in the hope that anyone debating a home birth might be inspired to give it a go.
My Home Birth Story
The best environment for women to give birth in, is the environment where they feel most comfortable and safe. For me this is home. So when I found out that I was expecting my 2nd daughter, I was adamant that I wanted to give birth at home. I had wanted to give birth at home the first time round, but the midwife said I wasn't "allowed" (completely untrue as I found out later). Home birth is equally safe to hospital birth, and midwives can typically forecast whether you need to transfer to hospital well in advance, so I felt confident that all would be fine and if it wasn't, then I would get to a hospital in time.
I had heard that a lot of people have trouble trying to book home births, so I was well-prepared to present my case for home birth at my booking-in appointment. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the home birth rates in our area are quite high and the midwives were very supportive of my wishes.
During the last weeks of pregnancy, we excitedly gathered the supplies that we would need for our home birth, including a birth pool and did a couple of dry runs at home, working out how long it would take us to transform the house into a birthing haven. We were really excited to be giving birth at home, even though many people thought we were mad to even consider it, but I just knew that I would be more relaxed at home and that I wanted the same midwife with me throughout labour. So where some have a hospital bag, I had my home birth box on standby with towels, plastic sheeting and the like.
At 40 plus 6, no baby had appeared and so I was booked in to be induced at 40 weeks plus 10 days. The midwife offered me a sweep, but I decided that I didn't want even the smallest of interventions and so politely declined.
The next evening, at 40 plus 7, I took hubby on a two mile walk around where we live as I was determined to get things going. I came home and then burnt lots of clarys sage and lavender to try and stimulate contractions (Disclaimer - don't do this unless you are familiar with using oils and are full term) before going to sleep. It obviously worked, as I woke up a few hours later at 2:30am, 8 days overdue, having really strong contractions coming about every 4 mins.
I had experienced lots of false labour during the last weeks of pregnancy, and so I didn't want to call for a midwife and wake hubby if this was another false alarm. I started walking round the house and timing contractions and was surprised that they were so close together and increasing in intensity and so I woke hubby up about 3:30am and told him to start getting stuff ready. To get the living room ready, we put down the plastic sheeting and removed the dining room table into the garden and covered it with waterproof sheeting and then hubby started blowing up the birthing pool in its place.
Because my labour was so long last time, I thought that we would have loads of time before I gave birth, but the contractions were getting really strong really quickly (I put this down to me being so relaxed in my own home), so I eventually phoned the hospital about 4:30am and they agreed that a midwife definitely needed to be dispatched to us. During this time, I started getting everything ready, walked around the house and started bouncing on my birth ball which really helped. My toddler also woke up and even though I had planned to have her around during the birth, within 5 minutes of her waking up at 5am, I knew that she would make it really hard for me to focus, because she was so excited about the baby coming and so she was taken off to my parents-in-law.
The midwife arrived about 20 minutes after I called the hospital and I was really relieved to see that it was a really experienced, motherly community midwife "M" who arrived. I hadn't met her before, but had heard nothing but high praise about her from various people in the area. My contractions were getting stronger all the time and I was really surprised how quickly everything was happening. M, my Midwife took charge straight away, but in a very unintrusive way. She had an incredibly calm manner which immediately put me at ease. She read my birth preferences and said she was happy to follow them. In a nut-shell, my preferences equated to minimal interventions- only an initial examination, just leave me alone and let me do things my way and please be here to help if needed (Not everyone's choice but it was mine).
M helped me immensely in early labour. I had my birth ball balanced on the sofa and was leaning over it, focusing on breathing through each contraction. The midwife massaged my sacrum through the contractions which were getting closer together, whilst Hubby filled the birthing pool. M supported me through each contraction and she was completely focused on me - a far cry away from the stretched midwives spreading themselves thinly between all the labouring women in the delivery suite. It felt very surreal to be watching TV and chatting in my own living room and then to suddenly be hit with such intense contractions in between. I decided that I would like some gas and air and so had a couple of puffs through contractions and then the birthing pool was full up and I could finally get in.
I got into the pool at about 6:30am and I was still convinced that we had hours to go. I was worried about the water getting too cold but it was 43 degrees, which M said was fine as it would cool off. The moment I got into the water was like an absolute epiphany and all of the pain seemed to disappear straight away. The relief to be in the water was immense - some people call it a natural epidural since it really does have an impact on the perception of pain. The gas and air also took the edge of my contractions and I was away!!! I felt so relaxed being at home, and in my own environment and the whole labour felt very manageable and positive. I was very worried that this was possibly the calm before the storm and I was going to end up on the theatre table, but I knew in my heart that I could do this if I was just left to retreat, cave-woman style into myself. My brilliant midwife remained very much in the background, watching and waiting - I don't even recall her eating, drinking or anything, she just observed, massaged my back and encouraged me. She was really wonderful. She didn’t pressure me to have any more examinations and was completely happy to sit watching patiently and waiting for things to happen in their own time.
The bit between first and second phase of labour is a bit of a blur. I was managing very well by just breathing deeply and using gas and air, feeling very relaxed and in control and then horror of horrors - the gas and air ran out!!! M had a second cannister, but the keys on the cylinders were different and she couldn't start the next canister! She said it wouldn't be a problem since I would give birth before the second midwife arrived with another canister and I told her to get me more (please) or else!! (I think I used some slight profanities here, but have obviously blocked them out!)
Whilst we waited for more gas and air, I used the natal hypnotherapy breathing and visualisation techniques I had practiced during pregnancy to focus and stay calm, and hubby supported me through contractions. About 30 mins later, the 2nd midwife (H) with the lovely gas and air arrived!! By this time, I was reaching transition and starting to doubt myself, but hubby and I had discussed what to do when this happened and he gave me a firm talking to and told me I was having this baby at home, in the pool and that was the end of it. M encouraged me to get into better positions to push, as the ones I was getting into weren't being effective. M suggested I turned over to try and push facing upwards and as soon as I did this, my waters broke.
The midwives kept encouraging me to push as that was what my body naturally wanted to do. After trying various different positions to push, unsuccessfully, they got me to squat down, facing upwards and it was then that they discovered that the baby was a coming facing upwards rather than down which meant she would be a bit harder to push out. I kept calm and kept pushing for about half an hour and the babies heart rate was still ok, so M helped me to get into the best position to get her out and I soon felt the baby's head crowning. After one more push, she shot out like a bullet at 8:58am.
The moment when we saw youngest come up from under the water was the most amazing and surreal experience ever, especially after eldest was whisked away to special care without me even catching a glimpse of her. I started screaming with elation and was promptly told to calm down otherwise I would scare the baby! Hubby was so happy and we were both in tears that this amazing thing had happened so easily in the middle of our lounge. At some point, another midwife had also arrived to take over from H who had to attend elsewhere but had wanted to see the baby born first, so we had three midwives all congratulating us. This time around I had immediate skin to skin contact and just sat staring at her .
It was the most wonderful feeling, to experience birth at home. I stayed in the pool and waited for the placenta to be birthed, meanwhile, the midwives checked over the baby. 17 minutes later, I was still in the pool when the placenta arrived and we waited for the cord to stop pulsing before hubby cut the cord.
When it was all over, M helped me out of the pool, while the other midwife (G) checked over the baby. M was amazing and helped me get cleaned up and then get the baby latched on to feed. The baby latched on straight away which was fab as I had problems breastfeeding eldest.
M also got me into the bath, helped me to get dressed and tucked me into bed (you don't get that kind of service in hospital!!) By 11am, the house looked like nothing had ever happened inside (thanks to hubby's help and the midwives). Youngest and I went off for a little sleep and hubby called everyone to tell them the good news. We spent the day at home, marvelling at our new little baby completely happy and content.
I can honestly say that we had the most perfect birth imaginable. It was everything I had hoped for a home birth. I felt in control and the pain felt manageable the whole time. The only wobble was when the gas and air ran out, but even this did not seem like a massive problem in the grand scheme of things.
After the birth, M told my Hubby that she should have been thinking about transferring me to hospital as the baby was facing the wrong way and I had pushed for so long, but she knew that I didn't want to go to hospital and so she let me keep trying for longer. I am so grateful that her expertise allowed me to do this, as I know I would have completely lost it if I had had to transfer and would have probably incurred lots of interventions and a negative birth experience.
When eldest met her little sister, she loved her so much and didn't want to be apart. Youngest and I slept downstairs the first night and in the middle of the night I woke up to find this. Eldest had come downstairs and snuggled up next to her sister to look after her - and she is still very protective of her today.