Before I’d started trying for a baby one of my friends told me she planned on giving birth at home and I thought she was mad. But there I was, 32 weeks pregnant, sitting in my first NCT class and was seriously considering it. I have a real phobia of hospitals and the home birth statistics shown at our NCT class were so positive (88% of them end without intervention e.g. Caesarean Section, epidural, ventouse, forceps) so I decided to go for it.
I want to just say here that I’ve tried to describe as best I can what happened on that day, but no words will ever come close to how amazing (and painful) giving birth is, however and wherever you do it.
2nd April 2018
A home birth – really?
When you plan to have a home birth, your house has to be checked out by a community midwife. Community midwives are the same as the normal NHS midwives but they are based out of a local hub. It’s these midwives who assist you all the way through if you decide to have a home birth. They visit your house when you’re about 34 weeks to check you have enough space, that your house is easy enough to find and that you’re close enough to a hospital in case of emergency. My living room, sadly, was not quite big enough, as there can be up to three midwives sent out. They also noted that my hallway is an ‘L’ shape, so it would be too difficult for me to get out on a stretcher in an emergency! I was really disappointed and now quite scared at the prospect of being taken out on a stretcher! So, my homebirth dream came crashing down. Until…. on one Sunday lunch at my mum and dads, they asked if I’d consider doing it at theirs instead. At first, I thought no way, but then my practical brain kicked in. I wasn’t on Trip Advisor looking for a hotel for the night, I was deciding on where I was going to squeeze a baby out of my private parts and I wanted to be comfortable. My mum and dads house has a lovely big kitchen/ diner, plenty of space, is easy to find, and is a 2 minute drive from the hospital if need any intervention. So I decided to go for it.
6th April 2018
Yes – really!
We had the second community midwife visit but this time at my mum and dads and this time all was well – my homebirth is set in stone! I ordered a birthing pool online and tried to put it to the back of my mind for the next few weeks.
Saturday 5th May 2018
11:11am – I’m going to pretend it’s not happening
I was 5 days past my due date when I felt a couple of painful twinges in the morning. One in the shower at around 9am and one when I was on the phone to my mum at about 10am. I hadn’t felt anything else so didn’t think too much of it. But then, at 11.11am, I was standing in the kitchen with my fiancé, Matt, when I felt the same twinge but this time it was VERY noticeable, and painful. I’d been told the day before when I’d gone for a sweep that my cervix was still very much closed and I wasn’t even engaged, so I didn’t think it was a real contraction. My friend was due round for lunch so I just carried on as normal and went off to Sainsbury’s to buy the food. At 11.18am I felt it again, then again at 11.25am, 11.32am and 11.39am. By this 5th one I think I’d accepted that I was in labour, but with your first baby they say it’s quite normal for it to stop/ start over 24 hours or so, so I still didn’t think too much of it.
2.30pm – Ladies that lunch (during labour!)
During these few hours I was having contractions every 6/7 minutes or so and they were very manageable and I was still sitting in the garden having lunch with my friend. But by about 2.30pm I couldn’t really concentrate on what she was saying so she told me to go inside, helped me explain to Matt what had been going on and made a quick exit! Soon after she left my contractions started coming every 4 minutes and they were getting pretty painful, to the point where I was having to hang onto the bed to get through them. We decided it was time to go to my mum and dads.
3.30pm – We’d better get the pool ready
We arrived at my mum and dads but they weren’t there. My dad had a full-on day: a funeral in the morning, Christening in the afternoon, interrupted by a phone call from Matt telling him I was in labour! Matt was amazing and put the pool up, helped me through my contractions and was very diligent with the contraction app! I downloaded ‘Full Term Contraction App’, and whilst the midwife on the phone said to concentrate more on pain over frequency, it was really nice to have something else to focus on. By now my contractions were getting pretty damn painful, but I was still ok.
5.30pm – Put another shrimp on the barbie
My mum and dad got back and did nothing less than light the BBQ! It was a beautiful sunny Saturday evening of the bank holiday, we sat in the garden and I felt really relaxed. In between each contraction I was totally fine at this point and wouldn’t feel any pain so I just joined in the conversation. My dad’s an amazing cook, and on the menu that night was Mexican rice, a couple of sausages and BBQ’d veg. I instantly regretted eating but in hindsight it probably gave me the energy to get through it. I lasted another hour or so like this, in a really tranquil state of mind.
7.30pm – OMG… this is really painful
I could no longer focus on what anyone was saying and in between my contractions I was still in quite a lot of pain. It seemed there was no longer a big enough gap in between them to properly recover after each one so I had to go upstairs to be on my own. Matt came up shortly after and helped me to have a shower but there wasn’t enough room and it made me feel quite claustrophobic. I carried on in the position I knew best – hanging on to the bed and squatting down during each one. It was getting really really painful. Each contraction would start in my bum, weirdly enough, like someone was sticking a hot poker up it 😐, then it would move into my tummy and make my insides painfully twist for about 30 seconds until starting to wear off. I could hear music coming from downstairs and thought “please don’t tell me that’s my mum and dad listening to music whilst I’m up here in all this pain! Matt! Tell them to turn that effing music down!” Promptly, the music went off, my mum came upstairs to my rescue and I didn’t see my dad again until Bertie had been born. I think he stayed in the garden on his own all night… completely overwhelmed.
8pm – “Mum, I need you!”
My mum kept saying to wait as long as possible before calling the midwives out because unless you are over 4cm, they won’t stay. As they’re community midwives they work on shifts so are at home when they’re not delivering a baby. My mum kept saying, “Try and wait a bit longer, you know, you might be 2cm by now but if you can hold out a bit longer and you’re 3cm when they get here they might stay”. I felt like punching her (she knows this, so I don’t feel bad saying it). I was in SO much pain… surely I couldn’t only be 2 cm. If I was, I was going to hospital because there was no way I could see this through. I agreed to wait until 8.30pm to call them when all of a sudden, my contractions changed and I felt the need to push! Well actually, I felt like I needed to poo! But that’s the tell-tale sign that you are transitioning.
8.45pm – “Call the midwife!”
We called the midwife and she told me she’d leave her house right away. The only issue is that she lived a good 40 minute drive away! I honestly didn’t think I’d make it that long and started to panic as I was in A LOT of pain. I had started making noises and could even feel my baby moving down with every contraction. It was the only part of my birth where I felt unsure about how it would end. But I tried my best to remain calm and what seemed like only 5 minutes later she arrived.
9.30pm – The Examination
This was it… I was either still only 2cm and going to hospital for a very painful birth, or I was doing ok. She prodded and poked and looked relieved when she said “Well done, you’re 7cm, lets get you in the pool”. Thank goodness for that. The pool felt sublime. By this point, the contractions were coming every 2 minutes and I barely had enough time in between to catch my breath. I was around 9cm now and in the ‘transition phase’ where you go from being fully dilated to starting to push.
10pm – “I don’t know if I’m ready to meet him yet”
I started to feel very nervous. This was it. I was about to meet my son. My whole life was about to change. I looked at my mum and said “I don’t know if I’m ready to meet him yet”. She gave me a wry smile, laughed and said “It’s a bit late for that now”.
You always have two midwives at a homebirth so Laura, the first one to arrive, kept calling into the practice to get the second one out. She was saying things like “progressing well, delivery pack, gas and air etc.” so I knew she thought I was doing ok, but every time I asked how long was left she wouldn’t give me an answer. I asked when I should start pushing and she told me to just go with my body, as soon as I feel the need to push then don’t hold back. By this point, I was screaming loudly through each contraction and my body felt like it had been taken over and wasn’t my own.
The midwives monitor both mum and baby’s heartbeat every 15 minutes and at around 10.15pm my baby’s dropped quite low. They looked quite concerned and it scared me a bit to be honest. They said that they’d check again in 5 minutes and if it hadn’t gone back up I’d need to be transferred in an ambulance to hospital. It would have been so disappointing to go in at this point – so close to the birth. I tried to stay calm. 5 minutes past and they checked again and thank god his heartbeat had gone back to normal. All systems go.
10.30pm – “Give me the gas and air”
The second midwife, Kate, arrived with the gas and air and I started using it straight away. To be honest, it didn’t numb the pain but it was good to have something else to focus on. I went on for another 45 minutes or so and this is when I found it most painful. All of a sudden my contractions really changed and I felt the urge to push and there was no way I could hold back. That’s the funny thing… we went to 8 weeks of NCT classes focussing on what to do when you’re in labour etc., and whilst the techniques we learned were very helpful, you can’t control it. Just try not to panic, let your body go with it and it just happens. It’s incredible.
I did ask at this point if I could go to hospital for an epidural although secretly I knew it would be too late. I don’t think I would have gone even if they’d said yes purely because the ambulance journey would have been excruciatingly uncomfortable, but I just wanted to hear them say “No way, you won’t get there in time now”. PHEW! He was almost here.
11.30pm – It’s almost time
Mooing like a cow. That’s what Matt said I was doing by this point.
I then heard one of the midwives say “Ooh, will he be born on the 5th or the 6th of May I wonder”. I looked at the time and it was 11.30pm so they obviously thought he could potentially come within the next 30 minutes. That gave me the energy to carry on because at this point the contractions were the most pain I’d ever endured.
I was in so much pain by now and kept shouting to the midwives “he must be here, you must be able to see something!”. They couldn’t see anything but they hadn’t realised that it was because he was still in his amniotic sac (waters). This was the most frustrating part of labour because with each powerful contraction, I could feel the baby move down, but then when it ended I’d feel him go back up. This happened about 5/6 times until he finally started to crown.
Sunday 6th May 2018
00.00am – Crowning… OMG
For any mums-to-be reading, I am sorry to say but this bit is excruciatingly painful. All I can describe it as is feeling like my groin area was going to split in half. I was getting desperate now and was full on sweating, mooing and clenching. The good thing is this bit doesn’t last long at all, and you know it’s nearly over.
With a few more contractions I finally felt the head come out. The relief was nothing short of incredible and all pain pretty much subsided. My body gave me a few seconds of respite and it seemed like a while before I had another contraction. Matt and my mum were getting really excited now, and whilst I couldn’t see anything I knew he was nearly here.
00.42am – He’s perfect
The midwives told me there’d probably be three more contractions to get the shoulders and body out and before I knew it I was pushing again and my little baby boy shot out like a torpedo. My mum and Matt started jumping around the room in excitement, my mum shouting to my dad “Terry, Terry, he’s here!!”. The midwife caught the baby in the pool, he was still in his amniotic sac, something that only happens to 1 in 80,000 babies. What a special boy. She put him in my arms and I just wept. He was perfect. Matt held his hand and my mum cried. My dad came back into the room and also cried. They let me lay there in the pool with him for a good 20 minutes and it was the most euphoric feeling I have ever experienced. The joy, happiness, love and relief all rolled into one. I didn’t know my heart could feel that way about someone.
Baby Bertie | 00.42 Sunday 6th May 2018 | 6.7lbs