The home water birth of Arlo Willem.

Born 6/5/13 at 10.02pm, weighing 4.1kg/9.1pounds.

I found out I was pregnant with my second child when my daughter Lucy was 17 months old. For a while I just managed to get through the days with bad morning sickness and a toddler, but as I started feeling better, I started thinking more and more about the birth.

Lucy was born at home – it was what I knew I always wanted. She came into the world in a beautiful way, perfect and very calm. However, after the birth I had a post-partum haemorrhage of an estimated 1800mls, and what my midwife said was a second degree tear. Two hours after she was born I was transferred to hospital where I had stitches and two blood transfusions and a 2 night stay. At my follow up appointment 6 weeks later I was told that everything was looking fine but that I should have all further babies in hospital.

With my second pregnancy I knew in an ideal world I would want a home birth again. But I also knew I had to put some thought into it all, especially as I live an hour from a hospital. I found an amazing midwife who was very pro-home birth, but also very thorough and cautious of any risks. We talked about the options a lot. I am lucky that in NZ we have the same midwife throughout our whole pregnancy and post-birth, so we really had the chance to explore the options thoroughly together. My partner and I visited the maternity ward at the hospital to see how we felt about it – it is great as far as hospitals go, but both of us felt that we just didn’t want to be there. There is a local birthing centre, but they wouldn’t officially accept me due to my history of PPH, and anyway, I felt that if wasn’t going to be in hospital I may as well be at home.

We talked through all the ‘what-if’s’ and eventually came up with a plan. Home birth, with my midwife paying close attention to the second stage to help avoid a significant tear. If a PPH occurred again, my midwife had hospital level drugs (stronger than the normal ones a midwife would carry) if needed. And worse case scenario, she would be calling an ambulance sooner rather than later.

It was in my third trimester that we finally reached this decision together, and once it was made, it felt so right to me. I started thinking more and more about the birth, listening to my CalmBirth CDs, putting together things I might need.

I had a few other issues along the way though – iron got super low but managed to get it up again with a liquid iron supplement. And it was discovered in my hospital notes that I had actually had a 3rd degree tear with my first birth – however, it was not a bad 3rd degree tear and didn’t affect my decision to birth at home.

I had a lot of Braxton Hicks in the last few weeks of pregnancy, but my due date (May 1st) came and went without anything significant happening. On the morning of 6th May, I had the tightenings again, but ignored them and took my daughter to gym as usual – even going on the trampoline with her! On the way home I realised that they weren’t going away, and I was beginning to breathe through them slightly. I got home and my Mum who was visiting for the day put my daughter to bed for a nap. At around 2.30pm I called my partner and said I thought he should come home, and called my midwife just to let her know that something might be happening. She said to call whenever I felt I needed her to come.

Partner got home, blew up the birth pool and tidied the house while I walked around and breathed through the contractions. It was still manageable, and at 6pm I sat down to eat dinner with my daughter and even managed to read her some stories before my partner put her to bed for the night.

My midwife said that things may get more intense after my daughter was in bed. Well, this was crazily true. About half an hour after she was down, things started feeling very intense. I noticed I was much more vocal during each contraction and they were coming closer together. I then started to feel sick and threw up a number of times. I remember saying ‘fill up the pool! Call the midwife!’ before another contraction hit.

Half an hour later the pool was finally deep enough to get into and nothing was going to stop me leaping in! It was so amazing to get into the water, but things were definitely getting super intense so I wasn’t thinking too much about anything else. Five minutes after getting in the pool my midwife arrived, took a look at me and called her back-up midwife (there are always two midwifes present at a birth in NZ). The minute I saw my midwife I said ‘something’s coming’ and about a minute after that my waters went. The pushing stage was pretty intense as I was being guided by my midwife to birth the head gently to try and avoid tearing again – not pushing was so hard! But in a couple of pushes my baby was born and was guided straight into my arms. Like with my first baby, I totally forgot to see whether it was a boy or a girl – all I cared about was that I had my baby in my arms. But then I remembered and saw that he was a boy! He quickly gave a cry – and then didn’t stop for quite a while! My daughter was very quiet after she was born, but he was definitely testing out his lungs! I got out of the pool to birth the placenta, and gave my son his first feed on our couch. The placenta came about half an hour later, without any issues.

A natural third stage. Extremely minimal blood loss. A small second degree tear which didn’t require stitches. A completely different post-birth experience compared to my first. I couldn’t believe how perfect it had all been.

And complete bliss to be able to have some food and a shower and get into my own bed, with my partner and my beautiful new baby beside me. He fed for about four hours then slept the rest of the night, and in the morning my daughter woke up as normal and came into our room to meet her new little brother.

I cannot put into words how amazing the whole experience was, and how incredibly glad I am that I trusted myself and my body to birth my baby at home, despite the complications I had the first time around. I am so grateful to have had an amazing, experienced and open-minded midwife, who I trusted completely. And I am so proud that I was able to do my own research, talk to others in the same situation, and assess the situation from both sides before making the decision that was right for me and my baby.