This is the story of how our gorgeous daughter Chloe was born at home-our second child she is lovely and our first child Rory has really taken to being a big brother!
Friday 18th January 2013, it had been snowing all day and my husband Ian had luckily decided to take the day off to play in the snow with Rory and I, and to give me a bit of a break. I’d been experiencing a dull ache in my lower back all day, a bit like a period pain, but then back ache had been a feature right through pregnancy so I wasn’t thinking ‘I’m going into labour’, just ‘ grump, wish I could get comfy’. After some ungainly attempts to put on wellies, I managed to join the boys and the neighbours for some sledging and snow ball fun in the street 🙂
We got back into the house to warm up with tea and I had a little gush of fluid, watery and slightly pink, and wondered if maybe something was happening…I decided to wait and see…another half hour later and another little gush, I decided to call the delivery suite at about 5pm and ask them what they thought. Rory was just sitting down to have his tea so I was aware that if we needed grandparents to collect him then it would ideally need to happen then, rather than wait until after bedtime. The midwife suggested that I come into the hospital to be monitored and they could check to see if my waters had broken. In the snowy conditions, I wasn’t going to attempt driving so I called a cab which came about half an hour later. In the meantime Ian aranged for grandparents to come over and I collected up everything Rory would need, said (a slightly tearful) goodbye to him and walked up the street to meet the cab.
Ian waited with Rory until his parents came and then he also called a cab – just as well he could get one as I had forgotten to take my hospital notes with me so he brought them along! When I got into hospital the midwife explained she was going to monitor the baby and asked me to lie down for a while so they could see if any fluid collected, in which case my waters would have broken. I lay down for a while and listened to the heart beat of the baby and got text updates from Ian on their progress. After half an hour or so the midwife came a found that there was a pool of fluid, so she decided that my waters had broken. She wasn’t getting much movement from the baby so she waited to check all was ok for a few more minutes, which it was. As my waters had broken but I wasn’t yet having contractions she booked me in for an induction the following evening in case I didn’t go into labour naturally (this is standard now, they only give you 24 hours after waters have broken in case of infection – apparently it used to be 3 days). [ NB: this is not compulsory – see our PROM page] As I was so adamant that I wanted a home birth, this was a slightly scarey prospect but then just before Ian arrived it came- the first contraction! hooray! it looked likely then that we would be able to go ahead as planned.
Ian got there in time to hand my notes to the midwife to update, and he asked the cab to wait for us. I had another couple of contractions as we left, and the cabby was slightly puzzled as to why we were asking him to take us away from hospital as I had more contractions in the cab ride home!
We walked back down the street (hill too slippy for cab to drive down) in the light of the street lamps, all was peaceful as some more snow drifted down and I felt happy to be going home and excited that we were going to be meeting our baby soon 🙂
We got home and set to work clearing the dining room of Rory’s toys so we could put the birth pool up. Ian also managed to get the TENS machine working and I got myself settled on the sofa to manage the contractions. They started to come fairly frequently, so I called the community midwife team who said they were about to change shifts so was I happy to wait and the next midwife would come out to me when she was ready? I was managing ok and contractions were coming about every 3-4 mins so I said that was fine. By the time the midwife, Caroline, got here at about 9pm the contractions were regular, around every 2 mins, and strong but the TENS machine and breathing exercises helped me cope with them ok, and Ian putting pressure on my lower back as each one came and went.
Caroline read through my birth plan after she’d got all her equipment in, and monitored both baby and I for a bit. I had said that I didn’t want any vaginal examinations, but she wanted to establish where I was at so I consented. As with the last birth, this was the only part of the process that I truly hated – it was just so uncomfortable and felt like such an invasion into what had been a really peaceful process so far. Anyway, with hindsight I should have done some research and asked her to hold off for an hour or so, but the good news was that we established I was 7 cms dilated so could crack on with filling the birth pool etc. Caroline said that she could feel the membrane and the baby’s head pushing against it, so my waters must have broken high up – the hind waters.
The second midwife arrived around now, called Hazel, and they exchanged notes and got on with getting the birth area ready. Ian was busy filling the birth pool so I was pretty much left to get on and manage the contractions for an hour or so, which suited me fine. I felt confident, and whilst each contraction was strong, I could manage by breathing through each one and using the TENS machine to help too.
Once the pool was full, they asked if I wanted to get in. I wasn’t sure because I was doing ok with the way things were so wasn’t too sure about changing things at that point. But the midwives very sensibly said I could always get out again if I wanted to!
I got undressed in the dining room (slightly strange sensation!) and as soon as I got in the water I knew it was the right thing – it felt supportive and gentle. It was great to get in the pool as we had wanted to use it for Rory’s birth, and my friend who had used it in between time had also wanted to use it for her babies but hadn’t been able to, so it was fab to think that eventually a baby might be born in this pool! It took me a couple of contractions to find a position that I was happy with, as it was so different from being on the sofa or walking around. It felt like I was in the pool for about 20 – 30 mins and was managing contractions just fine, but then transition hit and it was like nothing else – it was fast and intense! Up until now I hadn’t made any noise really, but I couldn’t help but yell through this – it had taken me by surprise and was so different from a contraction which builds and then dies away – this just hit me from no where and I hadn’t been prepared at all for it. I felt a ‘pop’ as the waters broke, and a gush and I suppose that the baby’s head moved down into the birth canal. Luckily Ian was there to help put pressure on my lower back, which really helped and gave me something to push against. It felt like that lasted for about 2 minutes, though it was probably less, and the pain finally relented and I could breathe again. I had asked for gas and air through that time, but hadn’t really got it together enough to use it so when it felt like the baby was ready to come and I wanted to push I just went for it! I think it took about 3 pushes and her head was born into the pool. Ian was supporting me in front, and the midwife was watching the baby. She asked me to stand up, which was the most ungainly thing I have ever done (child’s head between legs and all!) as the baby was trying to breathe. I was worried that there was something wrong, but they all reassured me she was fine. Another couple of pushes and she was born at 11.22pm! Wow! I felt so much more connected to the whole experience and in tune with what the baby needed and what my body was doing, I think that with Rory’s birth the mount of gas and air that I had really took me out of the experience but this was so much more satisfying and I felt in tune the whole time.
I sat down and Caroline passed me our baby girl. She had a little squawk but then settled as we cuddled in the pool and the umbilical cord was left to pulse out. I held her to my breast and she instinctively nuzzled close, but didn’t latch this time. We decided that the name we had in mind, Chloe, felt right. Once the cord had stopped pulsing Ian cut the cord. I’m not too sure exactly what happened next, but Ian ended up cuddling Chloe while the midwives helped me out of the pool, into my dressing gown and helped me move through into the living room to deliver the placenta. I had just said ‘let’s get it out – give me the injection’ when I felt a little cramp, so the midwives helped me to deliver it standing up in the living room (something I think about most days when I sit on the sofa!). It is the most amazing piece of natural brilliance – a personalised life support system unique to each mum/baby combination and just extraordinary that my body could produce such an incredible, temporary and disposable nurturing device which grew Chloe for us!
Ian handed me Chloe and we snuggled on the sofa for skin to skin, this time she took to latching to my breast and I was just so happy to see her manage instinctively to feed where Rory had been such a pickle – I was so much more aware and confident this time to say what I wanted and what I knew was best for the baby and for the feeding relationship – and I think that not having the gas and air helped me to see clearly what needed to be done this time too.
While Chloe fed, Caroline confirmed that I needed stitches and set about with her needle and thread! I did use the gas and air to help with the discomfort of this part!
Soon enough they had finished with me and it was time for tea and toast, and a quick dunk in back in the birth pool for both Chloe and I before getting ready for bed. It was around1am I think by the time we made our way up to bed. Caroline stayed to check that Chloe was latching on ok, and I lay in bed with my beautiful little daughter for the first time and enjoyed a cosy cuddle as she had her second feed. At some point during this, I had a big contraction and an after pain – my womb was contracting back down and a LOT of ‘stuff’ came out! This was slightly daunting, but other people had said that after pains were more severe the second time around and I did remember a lot of clots etc from last time, so I wasn’t too worried….
By the time Ian came up Chloe had settled in for a lovely snuggly sleep with me, and I was just enjoying being at home, with her and all the myriad emotions that went with that moment – a fantastic sense of elation and empowerment and wonder at what my body had done, and a feeling of pride for the little being in my arms who was at once so dependent and so resilient. I was in awe of her courage and the ease with which she had made her journey, and so thankful and grateful for her being and presence and to my body for growing her and getting her to me in such a simple and straightforward way.
If anyone is even vaguely considering a home birth I would recommend booking it in-it is the most incredible experience-and you can always change your mind if you prefer the idea of hospital in the event…