The best place to start is actually well before Alfies birth. The birth of my first child was terrible. It was the result of a ‘go with the flow’ birth plan which resulted in a traumatic experience for me and for him. It left me both mentally and physically scarred. What began as a ‘routine’ induction ended with a railroad of interventions, artificial rupturing of membranes, drips, epidural, ventouse and my baby got stuck at the shoulders. After making such a mess of me that I had to have corrective surgery 6 months after, my eldest was born with nerve damage to his left arm that they weren’t sure would heal. Fortunately Thomas is now a happy, 100% healthy 9 year old.
My second birth was a much more straightforward birth. I was told that my pelvis was too small and that is why my eldest got stuck so birth in hospital was my only option. Again I just went with the flow. Labour began spontaneously, was quick and intense and apart from one midwife forcibly examining me against my will, the birth was completely uncomplicated. Unfortunately the experience for me was not as good. I was scared all the way through, both because of my memories of my previous birth and being unsure if I was even capable of giving birth without being hacked to pieces. The relief When Ben shot into this world was enormous.
This brings me to the questioning phase. After being told my pelvis was too small and had caused the problems during my first birth, it made no sense at all how my second birth had been so easy. That was when I began my own research. I looked at the risks of the interventions, not just the risks of not intervening I realised that not all the routine procedures performed on labouring women hold any benefit to either the mother or the baby. To cut a long story short, I became convinced that the problems I had giving birth to my first child were the result of completely unnecessary interventions. I began to believe that my body was completely capable of giving birth so long as the medical professionals would leave me to it.
That incredibly faint line on a little stick. That is where this story really starts. After my research and previous experiences I had already decided I would have this baby at home unless there was a genuine medical reason to go to hospital. My partner, family and midwives were 100% supportive. My birth plan covered every possible scenario, even the terms under which I would consent to an emergency ceaserian. I was leaving nothing to chance this time. The only flow anyone would be going with was mine. I had a few unpleasant consultant appointments, including one who felt it necessary to write in my notes that if the babies head was born and thew body did not follow within 5 minutes, my baby would die. Aside from him saying this out loud infront of my older 2 children, it was a complete lie. I declined a growth scan and an appointment to discuss post dates. I remained certain that home birth was the right choice. Limiting the risk of interventions seemed the most sensible way of reducing the risk of this baby getting stuck, rather than the hospitals opinion of there being more chance the baby would get stuck, but at least they could rush in and save the day…
I woke at 1.15am on 31.10.2012 with mild cramps. I thought it was just wind so I didn’t wake my boyfriend, I just went into the kitchen to see if it would pass. The crampy sensations seemed quite regularly spaced so I decided to put on the TENS machine just in case. I timed the cramps and they were lasting 45 – 50 seconds with 2 minutes between them. I was coping perfectly fine but decided I should wake my boyfriend at 2am. At 2.07am I rang my mum and told her I wasn’t sure, it could be a false start but that she might want to come over. I was still coping fine with the TENS on it’s lowest setting but we decided it was probably a good idea to start getting the pool inflated and filled. My mum arrived at about 2.25am at which point I decided to ring my other birth partner (who happens to be a doula). After I contracted through the phone call she decided she would set off whether I wanted her to or not. By this point I was finding the contractions more difficult and turned the TENS up a little. She arrived shortly before 3am. I tried a few different positions to work through the contractions but standing with my elbows on the kitchen unit and wiggling my hips was the only bearable position. I tried kneeling and sitting on my birth ball but each time a contraction came I had to get up. I was starting to feel incredibly tired and sleepy between the contractions. At 3.15am I was struggling and asked my mum to call the midwives. The rate at which the pains were intensifying I knew I’d want the gas and air within half an hour. I began to feel like I wasn’t coping. My mum talked me through the visualisations from the hypnotherapy CD I had been using through pregnancy and my boyfriend stroked my arm while I stuck my fingernails in my arm to focus on that pain over the contractions. At about 3.25am I suddenly felt my bowels open. I was a little mortified that I had just pooed all over the kitchen floor but my mum just cleaned it up. At the next contraction I realised I was pushing and shouted it aloud. As soon as I said it I placed my hand just in time to feel my babies head arrive and burst the waters. My mum who was behind me at the time just looked and announced calmly “Oh, the heads out.” As the next contraction began I was worried with all the waters flowing out with the baby that I might drop him so I said “Help me catch him, don’t let me drop him!” and so Alfie was guided into the world by eight loving hands. My first words when I looked down and saw him for the first time were “Look what I did!”. Alfie took his first breaths without a cry and we decided to go sit down and wait for the midwives to arrive.
When the midwives arrived my friend guided them into the kitchen and showed them the birth plan. They were wonderful and left me to feed Alfie, which was difficult since his cord was incredibly short. After a while I stood up to see iof the placenta was ready to come. My boyfriend brought me a large bowl and at 4.30am I squatted down over it and delivered the placenta, exactly 1 hour after Alfies birth. My boyfriend used our home made ties, cut the umbilical cord and then had some skin to skin time with Alfie. I washed myself off in the pool and realised I hadn’t torn, I didn’t even feel tender. The midwives checked the placenta and me, all was fine. I wasn’t even bruised. Once the midwives had finished and gone we called down the older boys to meet their new brother. They were delighted.
Alfie is now 5 weeks old and I still feel amazed by how perfect he is, how perfect his birth was. Following my research and 3 personal experiences I cannot imagine why anyone would choose a hospital birth for a low risk pregnancy. It wasn’t just the birth I wanted, it was the birth both Alfie and I deserved.