Right from the exciting blue lines of the positive pregnancy test, I knew I wanted a home birth. It is hard to explain why, as most people’s reactions ranged from ‘oh, you’re brave’ to ‘why would you put yourself and your baby at risk?’
I should start by saying that I’m a junior doctor and have therefore had the immense privilege of witnessing birth, which in modern society is not something women get the opportunity to do.
Seeing different births cemented all my reading – birth can be a natural, calm and wonderful experience; given the right setting and support. I researched as much as I could, I asked questions and I found myself an excellent doula and hypnobirthing practitioner. My husband tolerated my ‘homebirth obsession’ and slowly found himself sucked in. We were planning this event, that was to become one of the most momentous of our lives, together and looking forward to it together.
Throughout our planning, we kept an open mind. We saw it as staying at home as long as possible, so as not to be disappointed if we transferred. We practiced hypnobirthing, enjoying the benefits of relaxation and better sleep there and then, rather than expecting a miracle cure for pain.
As the day approached, I became excited and believed strongly the hypnobirthing affirmations. I risk sounding like a raving hippy, but the last few weeks of pregnancy were very special for me – I felt incredibly feminine with a strong connection to my baby, who I was so looking forward to meeting.
A few days before my due date, I had signs that things were starting to happen. When I saw the midwife, she booked me for a sweep the next week, but in my head I thought ‘the baby will be here by then.’
Everything at home was arranged; I wallowed in the birth pool reading my book. The towels were piled up, candles and music were at the ready. I had my final hair cut and spent the day after my due date having a lovely family picnic. At home that night I thought ‘I am ready.’
Sure enough, the next morning my contractions started. I called my mum and dad to let them know. They asked if I wanted anything and I said ‘cake!’ They arrived early afternoon to find me bouncing on my ball with each contraction, but still quite happy. We had lunch together with me stopping mid-sentence for a contraction every 7 minutes. As the contractions increased and I started to need to breathe through them, my parents made their exit and we decided to walk up the road to see our doula, Helen.
It was early evening and we sat in Helen’s living room with a cup of tea – instantly relaxed as she reminded me of my breathing and chatting of this and that. It was great to carry on with normality.
We left saying we would probably be calling on her later that night. David was amazing when we got home, he ran me a bath, lit candles and put music on. I tried to relax as much as possible, knowing it could be a long haul, but was too excited to sleep.
At midnight, I needed Helen. I had to stand swaying to deal with each contraction and felt exhausted. If I didn’t stand up in time, it was much more intense. I became quite negative and needed encouragement. Helen and David ran me another bath and I lay on my side to relax with the water around me and Helen guiding each breath. I also took two paracetamol at this point.
After an hour in the bath, I came back downstairs and stood in the breeze of the fan wearing a silk sarong and rocked with each contraction. I used both hands to rub circles over my bump and imagined my hands holding my child. I was smiling through these contractions, as I felt really close to my baby and kept repeating ‘as my labour progresses, I will go deeper within to my baby’ from hypnobirthing.
By 3am, things had picked up. I really wanted the birth pool to be ready now! I asked to call a midwife, as I was aware that the hospital had no idea I was in labour. She came and checked me and the baby, but I declined an internal examination. I was now in established labour but coping well, so she left us to it and we could call again.
After a brief dip in the nearly full birth pool, I decided to go and lie down on the bed. David put my tens machine on and I dozed between contractions to get the rest I needed. With each contraction I took a huge in-breath then a long slow out-breath followed by a single hiccup!
I woke up at around 6am as my contractions changed and felt my body pushing down by itself. It was an incredibly overwhelming feeling of strength coming from me that I just had to go with. Helen now really motivated me to follow my body and helped me back into the birth pool before calling the midwife back again.
She came straight to us, without picking up the gas and air. When she arrived, I went against my own birth plan and requested an internal to reassure me and to break my waters. This was done in the birth pool and instantly changed my contractions from an uncomfortable pressure to a full on downward movement which was a relief.
I felt amazing in the pool – it was my own private space and I could move so freely. I changed position as I needed and went with the flow. At about 7.30am the midwife said she could just see the head. The second midwife was called and I was relieved to get the gas and air. I found it really helpful for helping me to relax between each contraction, but with hindsight it made me so relaxed that I ‘missed’ some contractions and didnt work with my body as effectively because of it.
Time then seemed to go on forever. I was pushing away, using a puff of gas and air between contractions to rest. The head was bobbing back after each contraction. The atmosphere got more serious as the midwives started watching the clock. I began to fear transfer and ending up with an forceps delivery.
At around 11am, after nearly 5 hours of pushing, I agreed to have standby paramedics outside and thought ‘right, I’ve got to do this now’. Helen got me a drink and one of my Mum’s cakes and I stepped up my pushing, moving into a determined squat in the water. Sure enough, the head started coming. I remember pushing away looking at David, who was watching our baby come into the world with such a proud look on his face and feeling totally connected as a family.
Just as I birthed the baby’s head with an incredible feeling of release, the front door (which opens straight into our living room) was flung open and two paramedics walked in! What I yelled at them is not repeatable, but they left fairly quickly. Eden was born in the next contraction at 11.54am and David and I picked her out of the water together and held her in amazement.
We got to cuddle and murmur over her without interruption until we asked and the cord was cut. Eden got skin to skin with Daddy in the armchair whilst I was checked out on the sofa. I didn’t have any tears which was a great relief. We just had to wait for the placenta whilst Eden had her first breastfeed. Unfortunately, I then lost quite a bit of blood and took a short trip to hospital for blood tests and IV fluids in an ambulance, whilst poor David had a baptism of fire dressing the baby and fitting the car seat! We were home within a few hours and David tucked me up in bed with Eden and got us Chinese takeaway! Our life as a family started right there.
Eden’s birth was an amazing event that I look back on positively. However, I actually feel quite guilty, and find myself not sharing my story, when other mums relate more negative experiences. But hopefully my story here may inspire families-to-be as they prepare for a new arrival. Birth really can be a natural, calm and wonderful experience; given the right setting and support.