I don’t normally blog about parenting, specifically, but I’m a sucker for a juicy birth story and Emma at emmaandalfiesworld.co.uk is hosting a series of birth stories so I thought I’d chuck in my tuppence worth!
From the moment we discovered we were expecting Baby No. 3, I was determined to have a home birth. Both our sons had been born in hospital and neither experience had been great. Nothing particularly traumatic had happened and we all survived, but the loss of empowerment and control coupled with the wholly unnecessary and unpleasant interventions we endured were enough to make me absolutely certain of my decision.
So, after enduring the lengthy and tedious process of convincing the midwifery team that I meant business and wouldn’t take no for an answer (which involved refusing to attend a consultant clinic and ASK for permission to birth my baby at home!), it was all arranged. My babies seem to like to cook for longer than the suggested 40 weeks, so it was agreed that my midwives wouldn’t go on call until I was 39 weeks instead of the usual 38. This was not only practical, but meant I’d have them on call for longer on the other side of my due date. The kit arrived – there was so much stuff – and we waited. And we waited. And we waited.
It started to feel like Baby Pols had no intention of budging. A sweep at 41 weeks, and another at 41+4 seemed fruitless, and a trip to hospital after my waters appeared so have gone ended up with the midwife gently telling me I’d spontaneously peed on the floor. Even the Twitter hashtag #ComeOutLumpy dedicated to her arrival didn’t persuade baby to make an appearance! It was finally agreed that we’d tentatively book induction for 42+1. Looking back, I had no intention of allowing them to induce me on that day, but to have baby monitored and have general well being to be checked seemed wise. I felt much more relaxed after we’d arranged that induction date, because I felt like there was a Plan B if I was getting to tired to deal with Plan A.
Given that it was fairly certain we were going to be welcoming a new member of our family in the coming week, we packed the boys off to my dad for the afternoon on the Saturday before my possible induction the following Monday. Feeling hopeful, I sent them off with their overnight bags in the unlikely event of labour starting while they were away. Having got halfway back to my house with the boys in his car that evening, my dad decided to turn back and keep them overnight to give us a peaceful evening and some more time to relax…
Relaxation, as it turns out, is conducive to spontaneous labour! I woke at 00:59 on Sunday 25th March, at 42 weeks pregnant, desperate for a wee. I was a bit muddled when I got back to bed after my wee – which felt like it was of average duration – to discover I’d been in the loo for one hour and three minutes. It took me a minute to realise the clocks had gone forward and my phone had adjusted the time accordingly! I lay awake for a while with backache, with Dr Gregory House (yum!) on TV for company. At 3 am, I had a whopping great contraction out of the blue!
I woke my husband up just as contraction number 2 took hold. A quick look at the contraction timer app I’d downloaded told us my contractions were 90 seconds apart. After a brief panic that I hadn’t made the homemade soup or lemon cake that I’d planned to whip up for the midwives, and a conversation with my husband during which I insisted I couldn’t POSSIBLY be in labour, I rang the hospital. After a brief chat, I came off the phone and announced to my ashen-faced husband that I’d arranged to ring them back in 30 minutes. Fortunately, I was brought to my senses by another huge contraction and the midwives were promptly despatched. Looking back, I totally missed an opportunity to dramatically yell “Call the midwife!”
As it began to sank in that I really was in labour, and that this baby really wasn’t wasting any time, we frantically unpacked the medical supplies. Well, when I say “we”, I mean my husband. I plonked my giant, pregnant backside on the edge of the sofa and refused to move. Having made such a song and dance about active labour, I was so shell-shocked by the speed of it that I just wanted to sit in one spot and rock my hips in a pathetic attempt to ease the pain.
I vaguely remember at one point asking for paracetamol. The panicked and slightly puzzled look on my husband’s face was enough to tell me that he had no idea where the paracetamol actually was, and I very politely (with added swear words) told him not to bother. By this time, there was pretty impressive pressure in my derrière-region and not a midwife to be seen. I gave Mr P a quick briefing on how to deliver a baby, and we got ready for action.
A knock at the door at 3.40am signalled the arrival of reinforcements. The first midwife, one I’d gotten to know well during my pregnancy, had arrived and we were no longer going it alone. She set to work arranging her bits and pieces, and tried to check the baby and I out between those bad boy contractions. When she sent me off to the loo for a wee prior to examining me, I insisted on taking my husband in with me. I still have no idea why I did that, but he knew from the hysterical mess I descended into whilst in the bathroom that arrival of our baby was imminent. I begged him to ring an ambulance to take me to hospital for an epidural. I pleaded for drugs, and cried for a C-section. He steadfastly reminded me of how I’d carefully prepped him for this very situation, and off how desperately I wanted to have this baby at home.
Tears and snot cleaned up, and the second midwife now in attendance, I waddled back to the living room where I assumed the one position I always insisted I never wanted to be in – on all fours on the sofa. With that, the penultimate contraction hit and I yelled to the midwife that this baby was coming. I remember her laughing and telling me that’s why she was here, and I’ll never forget the panic in her voice when she saw baby’s head crowning and called to the other midwife for a delivery pack!
One more contraction and all 9lbs of our daughter, Alexa Hannah Catherine, came into the world at 4.02am… 62 minutes after my first contraction. The absence of amniotic fluid confirmed that my waters had indeed gone a few days earlier, and my bladder control was just fine! The midwives cleared up the mess (including the canisters of Entinox that I never even got to use!) in record time and by 6am they had gone back home to bed, leaving us to enjoy our newborn.
For me home birth was a wonderful experience, and truly one of the most empowering experiences of my life. Even during such a short, intense labour I felt completely in control. I knew that babies didn’t always read the handbook before they attempted entry into the world, but it felt that I’d made allowances in my plan for any unexpected changes. People (even strangers) would remark that I was brave by planning a home birth, a remark which suggested to me that I was somehow playing fast and loose with the safety of my baby, I wasn’t brave, I was just informed. My pregnancy was low risk, and statistically a home birth was less risky than a hospital birth. A healthy baby, a healthy mum, successfully established breast feeding and a lovely natural 3rd stage was everything I could have asked for… And it cost the NHS less, too!