Baby M’s Birth Story

From the time I first knew I was pregnant I wanted to give birth at home if I could. A hospital environment just didn’t sound attractive and my research into home births showed that it was at least as safe as a hospital birth. I also didn’t really understand the idea of routinely ‘planning’ for epidurals and pain relief – giving birth just seemed like something my body should be able to do, and planning for pain relief felt like a bit of a cop-out and admitting defeat in advance. We live in a small town, so my only options were home, or hospital. No birth centre, and the maternity unit at the hospital only had one birthing suite with a pool – a water birth was something else I was really keen on. The only reason I could see that I might not be able to stay at home was my age – I was 35 and would be 36 when I gave birth.

I found an independent midwife who supported home births and talked to her about my options. She had no problem with me aiming for a home birth – saying that I was healthy, fit, and had no reason to expect problems in pregnancy or birth. Our approach was that I would stay at home if possible but would transfer to hospital if anything was of concern at any stage – we were less than 2km from the hospital. I got to my 39th week, and then my 40th. I had two due dates – one calculated on my LMP (3/9), and one from the 20-week scan (13/9). By the 13th, my midwife and I decided it was time to have an obstetrician check up to make sure everything was ok. Just a formality I thought. The outcome – concern that amniotic fluid levels were low, and that on the morning of 16/9 I would come into hospital and be induced. My request to wait just one more day until the 17th – two weeks after ‘my’ due date – were declined as that was a Friday and they didn’t want to possibly have to call in specialists on the weekend!

This was the last thing I wanted, knowing that my chances of having a birth free of medication and intervention would be pretty low. Luckily on the evening of 15/9 I started to feel tightening’s low down. Idly timing them while watching a movie, I saw they were quite far apart but very regular – 11 minutes – which made me hope that this was it and I wouldn’t need to make the trip to hospital in the morning.  Over the next few hours, they continued, not awfully close together but still regular. Not painful, just uncomfortable. I sent a text to my midwife; ‘I think labour has started, I know you’ll just tell me to try and get some sleep so that’s what I’m off to do, will update you in the morning’.

The sensation got more and more like period pains, and closer together, till at around 3am with the pains 5-7 minutes apart lasting 45 to 60 seconds I gave up trying to sleep and started wandering the house. Lying down was quite uncomfortable – walking around and then leaning against a wall or bench, swinging my hips, during each contraction was least uncomfortable. Sometimes there would be a bit of a break and I would actually fall asleep sitting on the sofa, but this wasn’t often enough for my liking! I never felt any pain higher up – it was all very low down.

By around 7am I knew my midwife would be in the process of getting her kids ready to bring them in to school, so had a quick chat with her on the phone and she said she’d come in afterwards to visit and do an internal. We all thought it would be some time yet but were incredibly happy to be able to tell the hospital that I would not be coming in that day. My midwife arrived around 9.00am and told me that I’d better get the birthing pool filled up pretty quickly if I wanted to use it, because I was already 8cm! This was fantastic news as I didn’t think it had been that bad so far, and to know that I’d already gotten so far was very encouraging. I had been holding off on the pool, knowing that it could slow things down if I got in too early! If only I’d known.

Luckily, we had borrowed an instant gas water heater, so the pool was full quickly, and I got in at about 10am. Bliss. The warm water, weightlessness and being able to move around on hands and knees so easily was wonderful. My midwife had gone to report to the hospital and run a few errands, and I spent the next couple of hours leaning my head against the side through contractions, with my partner beside me outside the pool, and in between running for snacks, or drinks, or whatever else I decided I needed! Closing my eyes during the contractions really helped me to focus on feeling them, and thinking of the pain as helpful and positive, rather than something to be suffered through. All this time, my contractions were still between 5 to 7 minutes apart.

By around 11.20, the sensations were definitely changing, and I was starting to feel strong pressure as well as the contractions. Each contraction was becoming more all-consuming – more like a strong spasm than just cramping and pain. I was about to suggest that if my midwife didn’t come back soon, we’d better find her – when she walked in the door, with her backup midwife following shortly behind her.

A check showed I was fully dilated, but that my waters still had not broken. A few contractions later and as the urge to push became overwhelming, they burst with a rush. I guess I spent about the next 40 minutes pushing – it did not feel painful, just hard work and I could feel my baby’s head moving down slowly each time. My midwife was fantastic – I was getting frustrated with how long I felt it was taking, and she reassured me that this was a good way to be! Between each pushing contraction, she checked the baby’s heart rate and that was pretty much her only intervention. Eventually I could feel her head very low down, and then the only moment of real pain that I remember – my tailbone being pushed out by her head. Then she was crowning, and I felt a lot of pressure but not really pain, and after one final big push her head was out. I felt her shoulders as she twisted round, and she was born at 12.20 on 16/9.

The weather had been awful all day, with thunder and lightning and lots of rain – and just as she was born, we had a brief power cut, so her arrival obviously made an impression on the world! My midwife caught her underwater and passed her back through my legs and up to me, so I could bring her up out of the water. I moved to lean back against the side and held her up so my partner could see, and she opened her eyes and quietly had a look around – she never cried, just stared. Her Apgar was perfect (8 and then 10), and after about 20 minutes in the warm water we got out of the pool for the afterbirth and to clean and dry off. The only damage was one small graze.

After about 40 minutes the cord was still pulsing, so we decided to cut it anyway and my midwife gave me a bit of ‘help’ to get the placenta moving, which came out shortly afterwards. I felt a bit ‘tender’, but the placenta is so yielding, it was not painful. Some leftovers from last night’s dinner, a sweet strong hot chocolate, and a bit of a feed for baby M, and then she had a sleepy cuddle with her dad while I had a lovely long hot shower. It felt great to be at home with our new family.