My Journey to Homebirth


My journey to having a home birth is a long one, spanning nearly 6 years, and 3 pregnancies. Despite the birth with my eldest being very medicalised, I still chose a hospital birth with my second. Tahlia was our first baby. A very much wanted and waited for baby. We had been trying for 2 and a half years to get pregnant, and I had completely given up hope, we were waiting to see the fertility specialists.

I had been charting my cycles but when my period didn’t turn up I just presumed it was yet another anovulatory cycle that I had misinterpreted. I was waiting for my cycle to start to try next month. However at my brother in law’s 21st dinner I discovered all the alcohol smelt like cigarettes (yuck!) and I got suspicious. I did a test the next morning and when one line came up straight away I figured it was the ‘control’ line and I was getting excited about a very faint pink line forming next to it. It wasn’t until a few seconds later that I realised the first and strongest line was the test line, I was very definitely pregnant!! I laughed out loud like an excited child, I truly couldn’t believe it! I told my husband and best friend Matthew straight away.

During the pregnancy I put on quite a lot of weight, and had lots of swelling and terrible hip nerve pain. I was later diagnosed with both symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) and pre-eclampsia. The SPD needed physio and I finished up at work at 36 weeks because of it all. One Sunday I woke terribly hot (it was very hot and muggy outside). My hands, which were usually puffy, were huge and I had a screaming headache. I rang my midwife and she said to gather our things together and meet her at the hospital at 11am. When we arrived my blood pressure was 165/105! Because I was 38 weeks to the day and so unwell they decided to try an induction.

In hindsight, I wish I knew how hard the induction was going to be in comparison to a natural labour. I may have looked at other options if I had known. One of the girls from work was having a home birth, and my response was “Good on you, I don’t think I could do that though.” I was hooked up to a foetal monitor and an IV line. The midwife did an internal exam and found I was already 3cm dilated so she tried a stretch and sweep, which hurt like bejeebers! Then she went to get some prostaglandin gel. After lying down for two hours with the gel I tried a bath to try and help the labour start.

After a couple of hours, another internal revealed I was now 5cm but ‘not progressing fast enough’ as they wanted to avoid me having seizures, which are a possible outcome of eclampsia. So I was hooked up to syntocinon. My midwife suggested I get an epidural, as they usually have them with Syntocinon and it would help lower my blood pressure. Then she asked me what I think. My reply was, “I don’t know, I’ve never done this before, if you think its necessary then yes, I will have one”.

By the time the anaesthetist came my contractions were coming hard and fast, and to keep them from overwhelming me I had shut my eyes, I don’t think I opened the again until she was born. I was kicking my legs to try and dull the pain. They tried 3 different epidurals over the course of 2 hours to make it work for me. Thankfully, due to the magic of labour land, to me it felt like maybe 20 minutes. I was so over them asking me if I could “feel the ice” and trying to hold still while they tried again and again in my spine. I really felt like yelling for them to just leave me alone. Finally I said to the midwife (remarkably calmly) not to worry about the epidural, I was fine without it.

Somewhere amongst this all they had to switch to a scalp electrode on my baby as I was moving around too much. The upside to this was I wasn’t confined to lying down any more so I got straight up onto my knees, much, much, MUCH better! I remember the anaesthetist saying to my midwife, “Do you think she’s in transition?” She said to me, “Do you think you need to push?” I responded with, “I dunno, I feel like I need to pooh?” My midwife said “Oh good, push.” So I did. Lots and hard.

The ring of fire really is an understatement, and I felt like I was actually splitting in two. Then I hear her say quite clearly, “Matthew push that red button 3 times will you? Dana I need you to roll on your back, her shoulder is stuck.” Gosh talk about panic, Matthew had no idea which red button, and didn’t click the significance of it. As a nurse, I pointed the button out to him before going from all fours to plonking on my back very quickly. I covered the poor woman with birthing goo in the process. I felt an almighty click in my tail bone which I later discovered was it re-breaking from when I injured it previously, and I got a bowel abscess/haematoma from the pressure.

Tahlia slid out with the change of position with ease and she let rip an almighty wail. Matthew was called round to cut the cord. An 8 and a half hour labour and a healthy baby. Not bad. I was given more Syntocinon to deliver the placenta, which was ‘helped along’ by the midwife. I had gone into shock, and was shaking all over. I was covered in warm blankets and she went off to find a doctor to stitch my ‘very extensive 2nd degree tear’ that I was ‘bleeding a lot from’.

Birth of Tahlia

Other than being terribly sore in the nether regions from the stitches, the damaged bowel and the broken tail bone, I was as happy as can be. I stared at Tahlia for ages, I think I managed to sleep for about an hour before breakfast arrived. I had done it! I was a mummy! I had to stay in hospital for 3 days to monitor my blood pressure, which had gone from very high right down to 80/40 with blood loss which made me very faintly!

We got home on the 3rd day, and Tahlia was just starting to get hungry – it turns out she had gotten all the fentanyl I wasn’t getting via the epidural. She hadn’t opened her eyes for the first 48 hours. Tahlia got more and more hungry and more and more jaundice. We had to take her back to the hospital. Her bilirubin test came back off the chart, and her other blood work showed severe dehydration. She had to go under the lights for 5 days.

After this experience I was hoping my second labour would be totally natural as I had a healthy pregnancy. However my active labour the second time around ended up being only 1 hour 15 minutes long. The car ride and walking to the ward that late in labour was the WORST. The second pregnancy was a bit of a surprise. We were up in Wellington on the second block course of my well-child training, Tahlia and Matthew were there with me. During the week I began to get suspicious… I had heart burn more than once, I had a couple of headaches and I had to get up to pee two nights in a row…. By Wednesday the vegetables at dinner didn’t look appealing any more, by Thursday I just couldn’t face them. My period was due on Tuesday but had never arrived.

We got home late on Saturday, so on Sunday morning I took the second pregnancy test from the box of two I had from having Tahlia. After trying so long for Tahlia we get pregnant by surprise on my first cycle since having Tahlia. I didn’t even think about birthing options really. I naturally went back to the same hospital-birth-only midwife without hesitation. I really loved her mumsy vibe and respected her medical knowledge. I just presumed I would hospital birth again. Fortunately, my pregnancy passed fairly uneventfully, I didn’t swell up like I did with Tahlia. SPD reared is ugly head again, so I finished work at 34 weeks this time, which was lovely.

At 34 weeks my midwife told me that Chloe was breech and gave me some exercises to try and turn her. I spent days hanging upside down from the couch, propped up on an ironing board and following things from At 36 and a half weeks Tahlia was having a terrible sleep, and I had to keep getting up to her and to pee. In between times the baby was doing some crazy aerobics. Come morning I was exhausted, however I was also sure Chloe was now head down! My midwife confirmed this at our next appointment but at the same time my blood pressure started creeping up, just like last time. This meant I had to have all the tests done for pre-eclampsia again, but this time I just knew I was OK.

The Monday night before my due date I had a dream that my waters broke on Sunday at my in-laws house. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I had contractions that started up at 8pm and came regularly until I gave up and went to bed. Each night they got slightly stronger, but never more than a ‘rub the belly to sooth it’ sort of strength. When Saturday came and there was nothing, not even a braxton-hicks to be felt.

On Sunday we got up and headed to church and to the in-laws for lunch. I didn’t feel like what they were cooking for lunch. But something told me to eat, so I sent Matthew off to the shop to get some crackers, pesto and cheese. I could feel bub squirming around a lot so I lay on my side on the couch to give her some room and I nodded off. At 1pm on the dot I awoke with a pop and a small gush. I ran off to the bathroom, smiling at myself, I KNEW this was going to happen. I told everyone what happened and we headed off home, leaving Tahlia with Grandma and Granddad for the afternoon.

I had random contractions off and on in the car on the way home, but nothing exciting. We went in and told my parents (who we were living with at the time) what was happening and arranged for them to collect Tahlia later in the day. We rang the midwife to give her a progress update, and she said to come in when we were ready. All seemed fine until suddenly at 3pm I couldn’t do anything but focus on riding out the contractions. I had to drop (read throw) my phone and stand up and lean on my tallboy to breathe through them. Then I could go on like nothing happened. After 3 like that I got Matthew to time them, they were about 2-3 minutes apart and up to 2 minutes long and some were double peaking! “Crap” I said, “We better ring the midwife!”

From here on in is where my wish for a home birth began. The car trip was the worst thing ever, especially going up my parents bumpy drive! Every bump or turn in the road set off another contraction, and I had to sit through them, all I wanted to do was stand. We arrived at the entrance of the hospital, and decided to walk in, there was no way I was going to sit in a wheel chair. I had one contraction at the car and said “lets go!” and I almost ran to the lifts.

It took 2 more contractions to get to the back door of the maternity ward, where our midwife met us. Then 3 more contractions to get me around to the birthing suite. She got me to jump on the bed and quickly did and internal and said, “You amazing lady, you just walking in here at 7-8 centimetres! Now we just need to strap this monitor on you for 10 minutes….” I was hit by another contraction and groaned “Noooo…” She quickly asked, “What do you need to do?” “Stand up” I say, she said, “Righto, up you come then, I will monitor you while you stand here, I’ll just hold it on there.”

After 4 or so more contractions she handed me back to Matthew. This time I was determined to be more aware of where I was and who was where. I hung round Matthew’s neck through the next 3 contractions, while Mary started some paperwork, she came to check my blood pressure, and I said, “Um… I think my body is pushing!” “Oh guess we will skip the BP then eh? Where do you want to do this? All all fours again? On the bed?” I nodded and climbed up.

The next wave hit and I moaned the most guttural noise, and said “I’m sorry i’m gonna pooh on yoooouuuuuu” whilst pushing. My amazing midwife said calmly, “That’s OK, that means your pushing in the right place!” I still don’t know if I actually pooped or not! I gave one push and baby’s head was out, I felt someone faffing and tugging but didn’t think anything of it. The midwife said “Dana, this one has her shoulder stuck too.” This time I carefully rolled to my back and she came free immediately with the change of position. Two more half-strength pushes during the next contraction and out came Chloe.

The birth of Chloe

Scream? Boy oh boy did Chloe scream. There never was a nice new-born cry from my Chloe – we nicknamed her buzzsaw before long. She had the cord round her neck twice and needed a little oxygen while she was lying on my chest, yelling the place down. Again my midwife ‘manages’ the placenta delivery. She checked and I had a small second degree tear. So she cleaned up Chloe, checked her over and weighed her and passed her to Daddy for a cuddle. While the midwife ‘popped in a few stitches’. It was suggested we could go straight home. I decided to stay just one night, as it would save us 3 separate hospital appointments to check her hearing, hips and a paeds check.

I often thought about how much more pleasant this whole process would have been if I could stay at home. I started doing my research and discovered for a healthy pregnancy, a home birth is as safe, if not safer, than a hospital one. I was sold. It didn’t take much to convince my husband. He hasn’t got the best memories of hospitals, so the bonus was being able to stay home where he is comfortable. I am a nurse by trade, and hospitals don’t scare me in the slightest. But if I could do this thing at home, I was gonna try! I really wanted a water birth too, but the midwife I had used for my first two births doesn’t condone birthing in water let alone at home. So I set out to find one that does. I am so glad I followed this path. It was lovely to see a whole different side to midwifery care. Home visits, hour long visits, visits that talk about the rest of life and holistic health not just the numbers on a page.

We had been trying for baby number 3 for nearly three years, and I was getting close to giving up when finally we got a positive pregnancy test. Right from the beginning this pregnancy was very different to the girls’ ones. This time around even a plain lemonade was too sweet. I could eat chicken with gravy and mashed potatoes 3 meals a day and I craved Big Mac’s. If the food on offer wasn’t what I was craving then I was hardly hungry and lost 7kg in the first 12 weeks due to not being able to stomach the thought of most food. I had very little heartburn this time as well, and my skin was so clear right up until 8 months. Not surprisingly – we found out at the 19week scan that this baby was a boy.

Early on during this pregnancy my best friend discovered she was also pregnant and due the same week that I was. We also both wanted the same midwife! Lucky for us she was quite happy to take us both on, despite the fact we were only due 3 days apart and at the beginning of the new year. The horrendous shearing pelvis joint pain kindly referred to simply as SPD, that I had with the girls started at 6 weeks this time around. Consequently I finished up at work at 32 weeks, as walking on concrete hospital floors for 8 hours was killing me! This pregnancy went very smoothly. I sailed through the glucose test, my blood pressure remained good, minimal swelling, I had very few headaches and the nausea I had settled at 14 weeks. It was just the SPD that haunted me constantly.

We hired a birthing pool from the local Home Birth Association and picked it up 3 weeks before my due date. My previous babies were born at 38 +1 and 39 + 4 so part of me didn’t expect to make 40 weeks, the other part – the inner intuitive part – knew this time we would go past the due date. I also knew this baby would be born in the very early hours of the morning. Intuition is an amazing thing.

Home birth has it’s own set of details to sort out. For one thing we needed someone to come and watch the girls in case they were awake. They were only 5 (very nearly 6) and 4 and Matthew would be busy with helping me. The obvious choice was my mother – who was very keen to come. I also invited my two sisters that live in town. A friend of mine was studying to be a child birth educator and part of that training is to attend a home birth, so of course I invited her as well. With my first two births I never dreamed of having a massive support crew, or that I would be comfortable having anyone else there at all. But because it was at my house, it didn’t seem so weird to have others there.

My due date came and went. I should have guessed it would be a Sunday, because both the girls were Sunday labours. I was troubled by prodromal labour again for the week leading up to my due date. Finally the practice contractions went away and I got a full night’s sleep on Friday and still wasn’t getting practice ones on Saturday either. In the back of my mind I got a little excited as I had 24 hours rest from them before Chloe’s labour started. My friend and I joked that actually we weren’t pregnant at all, obviously it must just be a food baby. A VERY large food baby.

I woke up in the early hours of Sunday morning, at what I can only guess was about 2am, with a belly ache. I didn’t think much of it as I had been having series of contractions every night at about 1-4 am so I presumed this was one of these because I hadn’t yet had either my ‘show’ or an upset tummy which were both precursors to Chloe’s labour. I rolled over and went back to sleep only to wake to another one, and then another one. By the 4th one I thought, “Hmm these seem kinda regular, and a bit stronger that the last weeks ones”. So I got my contraction timer app out on my phone and timed another 3, they were 1 minute long and 4 minutes apart. The practice contractions I had been having were usually 4-5 minutes apart and 30-45 seconds long, so I still didn’t believe that this was “it”.

I decided that I should at least get out of bed and pee, and then see if they subside. But no, the went straight from 4 minutes apart to 2 minutes apart. My show and the pre-labour upset tummy all hit me at once. It wasn’t pretty. While I was standing, or sitting on the toilet, the contractions were sore enough to have to focus on. I seriously considered going and sitting in the lounge for a while just to be sure – luckily intuition said to get ready instead. While I was in the bathroom I tied my hair up and brushed my teeth (how considerate am I?).

I woke Matthew up at 2.40 and went to the lounge to ring the midwife. I had my heart in my throat – what if this isn’t really it and I wake her up for nothing? She said she would be an hour or so away. To speed up the set-up I helped Matthew set up the pool. I also rang my mother, who was in charge of contacting my sisters, and my friend who was also coming, I told them all not to rush – that the midwife will be there about 3.45 so that’s when they aimed to arrive too. We got the pool filling, I was worried we wouldn’t get it filled in time . We had one hose going from the kitchen tap to the pool on full speed hot, 4 pots on the stove heating and an outside hose running in to the pool on full speed cold. I shouldn’t have stressed about it, I think it took about 30-40minutes to fill.

The birth pool in our lounge

I was leaning over the bench breathing through contractions – Matthew would come and rub my back, which was a great distraction. I thought I would wait until the midwife arrived and gave me the all clear to get in the pool. But when 3.45am came and went and the pool looked so inviting, so I got in anyway. I had one contraction in the water, and while it didn’t take the pain away, it did make it easier to cope with.

Straight after that contraction the midwife arrived, followed closely but the rest of the support crew. It was lovely to tell them to take a seat on the couch and help themselves to hot drinks and the fridge. It was my own space, so I felt so comfortable. The midwife did the usual checks and watched me through a few contractions. I don’t think she realized how intense they were as she commented later that I was very hard to assess because I was so calm and quiet (I didn’t feel calm and quiet on the inside). The midwife tried to listen on the Doppler for the baby, but she couldn’t get his location, and the contractions just kept happening. I think it was then she realized how close we were to having a baby. She decided she should call the second midwife.

While the midwife was on the phone to the other midwife I remember getting a particularly strong contraction. It made me make funny raspberry/horse lips sound which made me laugh on the inside – where the heck did that noise come from?? There was a familiar but different sensation, “I think… oh, nope, it was my waters going.” That contraction didn’t really stop, it subsided a little and then ramped up again. I was on my knees in the pool and just knew I needed to lift my right leg to a half squat. “Here comes the baby!” And an almighty grunt and he crowned all the way to the bridge of his nose. The poor sod had black eyes/nose for the first few days from that pressure.

The midwife quickly hung up the phone and came rushing over to the pool with a torch. She is very hands off, and just said “Breathe Dana, breathe”. While waiting for the next contraction, I gave tiny little breathy pushes to ease his face out. The next contraction arrived and so did the baby! The midwife scooped him out of the water and told me to turn around. I couldn’t believe he was out that quickly! Both the girls got their shoulders wedged and I had to change positions and push hard to move them, but not this time! He had the cord wrapped around his neck twice with a big twist in it, and then wrapped around his arm as well. I had to stand up and walk to the midwife and it took the two of us about 15 seconds to get him properly untangled. Not surprisingly he spent the next 30 minutes having a good time exercising his lungs! The second midwife arrived about 20 minutes after Micaiah was born.

I had a shower in my own bathroom, it was lovely. Then on my own freshly made bed the midwife checked out the damage – I had one small tear that didn’t even need a stitch! I made my way back to the couch to snuggle and feed my beautiful baby boy. Home birth is amazing – both Matthew and I would recommend it to any one. The recovery was much smoother and less stressful that previous pregnancies and it is so lovely sleeping in your own bed and washing in your own shower.

After the birth it was great to be able to eat whenever I was hungry and only hear my own children making noises. I could have music and family around me whenever I wanted. We chose not to attend the hearing and hips check in the hospital so we were able to stay home for the first week or so before we ventured out in the car. Even then, I only left home to see my best friend and her new baby! I loved my home birth and if we are blessed with another baby, I will be signing up for another one!

Baby Micaiah