Saturday, 8 February 2014

My (Wonderful) Home Birth Story

When I started this post I was calling it simply "My home birth story" but decided to add in the "wonderful" because there are so many negative birth stories out there that might add fear to expectant mothers that I wanted to make it clear from the start that this post is a positive story meant to fill people with confidence in their bodies and to share the sense of joy I felt on this special day.

The afternoon before the morning of giving birth we visited my grandmother-in-law and all day I felt like I had a bit of a dodgy tummy and kept having to go to the toilet, I was also ravenously hungry and ate at every opportunity I had that day, I literally couldn't get enough.  Looking back I realise now that my urges to go to the the toilet were the start of contractions and my hunger was obviously my body telling me to pack in the calories because later on I was going to need the energy. 
We went home, had dinner and put our toddler to bed, as the evening went on I felt like I was getting something like contractions, I said to my husband that there was definitely something going on, I said that it might be a false alarm, as with my first son I had contractions all day which then stopped for a day before I gave birth.  I was also sceptical because it was two weeks from my due date.  I had a shower and got ready for bed and went to the toilet quite a few more times, I switched the hot water on thinking that I might like to have a bath if the contractions carried on (and slightly bizarrely scrubbed the grout in the bathroom).  My husband came up to bed and we both tried to get some sleep.  At about 1.30 I felt like the contractions were getting a bit stronger and we started to count how long they were lasting and timing the gaps between, they were lasting about 30 seconds but sometimes having 7 minutes between so we didn't phone to hospital because I still felt like it could still be nothing.  At about 2.20 I had a contraction that was strong enough to wake me up. We phoned my mum and dad because we though we would warn them that I was having contractions and that the baby might be coming tonight, but that it could be a false alarm (my parents live in South Wales and I wanted my mum there when the baby was born so that she could look after my older boy if he woke up).  We started writing down the times from about 2.20 and my husband  fell asleep at about half 2, I stayed awake and felt really worried about what would happen with my toddler, what if he woke up? who would look after him? what if I had to go to hospital? etc.  I started to get a bit panicky and scared about what would happen which kept me awake, I prayed that this wasn't it and that the baby wouldn't come yet so that my mum would have time to get here.  I must have woken up my husband with a contraction at about 3.00 because he started to write them down again and we started planning what we would do if this was really it.  We decided that I probably was in labour because I stopped counting contractions and started just breathing heavily through each one.  I was lying on my side in bed.  The contractions were often uncomfortable as it felt like the baby was moving and when it did it intensified the contractions, it made me think that birth wasn't imminent because I thought the baby would go still if it was on its way.    At 3.15 we phoned mum and dad and asked mum to leave and come over because I was almost certainly in labour.  At 3.45 my husband phoned the hospital to tell midwife that I was in labour, he had to call several times because it was engaged for quite some time he started to get a bit worried, he felt we were reaching the point of no return (as in it would be too late to drive to hospital if we didn't hear from the midwife soon) and couldn't get though to the hospital.  Eventually he got through to a nice sounding midwife, she was the on call midwife so said she would leave right away and come over. 
I started pacing around the upstairs of the house and then leaning my hands on the bed and swaying my hips in circles when I had a contraction.  I was still regularly going to the toilet, partly to see if I had my mucus plug and partly because I was feeling the urge to empty my bowels, I also felt more comfortable sitting on the toilet and gyrated and even swirled my head around the manage the pain.  I ran a bath and laid in it for a bit, but the water didn't seem hot enough and I didn't feel particularly comfortable lying on my back so I got out, just as the midwife arrived.   
My husband saw the midwife driving around at about 4.30 and went up to the car in his slippers because she couldn't find the house.  She came upstairs just as I was getting out of the bath, I continued sort of pacing and wondering about and leaning my hands on the bed and swaying.  She asked if I had had my mucus plug or if my waters had broken, I said no to both.  I started to try to get some positive visualisation to help me through the contractions (which by now were getting much stronger) and to keep me breathing deeply, I was picturing myself on a beach and when I was breathing in I pictured myself breathing the ocean towards me as if the tide and waves were coming in, then as I breathed out I imagined I was blowing the sea back out again. 
Because there were still two weeks till the due date we felt that there was plenty of time to buy things we needed for having a home birth such as some maternity mats and a tarp, so we had to improvise, my husband went downstairs and gathered up the plastic mat from under my toddlers high chair and got some towels out of the airing cupboard.  The midwife got all her stuff out and ready  but I had to ask her to move because it was where I was planning on being to give birth.  She sorted out the gas and air but I didn't feel like having any at that point.  She asked if she could examine me to see how dilated I was.  I said that I had planned to not be examined, but she seemed keen to do it, also I kind of felt that I wanted to know how far along I was.  I was worried though and said to her that I thought I would feel really depressed if I was only 2cm along.  I decided to be examined and waited for a contraction to pass then got on to the bed, but then had another contraction straight away so had to wait.  The contractions were still quite random at this point, certainly not 1 minute apart and each lasting for a minute which is what the midwives usually want to hear.  I said to the midwife that when I had contractions the baby was moving and making the contractions worse. After the contraction finished I laid down on the bed and she examined me.  It was very uncomfortable but she was really nice and saying that it wouldn't take long, it stung, but after she had done it she said I was 8-9cm dilated and I was so relieved.  Part of me felt like I must have been quite dilated because remembering how I felt with my older boy and comparing the two, I felt similar.  I asked my husband to turn off the main light. 
The midwife checked the baby’s heart beat, she said it was a bit fast (or was it a bit slow?) but nothing to worry about.  I asked my husband to rub my back and he did and he asked me if I wanted him to use the coconut oil which we had discussed , I said no but he did anyway which I was glad of. He rubbed side to side on my lower back and moved up and down depending on what I asked.
After the midwife arrived, at about 4.45 my husband phoned our friend to come over in the hope she would get to us before my mum and be there in case our toddler woke up, he couldn't get through initially but then he got through to her husband and she started getting ready to come over.  While Paul was out of the room on the phone I asked the midwife to rub my back which she did, she was really good at it.  It felt good to be able to ask her to do this and for her to do it, I think it helped me to trust her a bit more.  I never would have felt comfortable to do this had I been in hospital. 
I remember that I was anxious that I hadn't had my mucus plug and kept going to the loo to check and the last time I went to the toilet there was my show and I called through that I had had it, I was relieved because I knew it meant things were moving on.  I had felt frustrated about not having had my show or waters because I felt like it meant labour would be longer without having had them.   
At some point I felt myself going through transition.  I had a contraction that was much stronger and caused me to push a bit, I was so consciously aware of it, I remember actually thinking oh, I am going through transition.  I think not having the gas and air helped because I was so much more aware of what was going on.   I settled on my knees on the floor by the bed where Paul had spread out the mat and the towels.  I also had a pillow on the bed to prop myself up a bit.
Things progressed really well and quickly.  I continued to use positive visualisation. My husband rubbed my back and used coconut oil to make to easier, it felt really good.  At some points I felt he was too near me and I asked him to move away because it just felt like he was in my space and it somehow made the contractions worse. The midwife kept periodically checking the baby’s heart beat and I remember her saying it was a very happy baby.   At some points I felt the contractions were so strong I felt like I was spiralling into a miserable despair of pain, where I felt like crying and just complaining about the pain and feeling sorry for myself and unable to cope.  However because I hadn't had the gas and air, and so could concentrate and because I had the midwife and my husband continuing to tell me to breath and take really deep breaths I was able to re-focus and do my deep breathing and continue with my positive thinking.  I was now not just thinking about breathing the ocean in and out but breathing the whole of creation in and out.  I was imagining all the animals and trees and hills and birds and lakes rushing towards me and into my lungs then blowing them all back out again and filling the earth with life.  When I had contractions now I was gyrating my whole body and swirling my head round, it felt very primal and natural.  I started saying "yes yes" and telling the baby to come on.  I was feeling myself tense up and said to my husband and the midwife that I was tense and needed to relax, and so was telling myself out loud to relax.  I tried to think about relaxing my thighs a bit and my jaw.  I said that I needed to be more positive and to say positive words so started just saying the word love over and over. At first the midwife laughed, but, according to my husband , she saw I was serious, so didn't laugh again.  I am sure that if I had been in hospital I wouldn't have felt confident or comfortable enough to do this, I am so glad I was at home and could just say and do what I wanted. The contractions were now so strong I started pushing during them or rather my body was pushing and I went along with it, I felt much more in tune with what my body was doing, I knew how to work with my body, rather than fighting against it. It felt almost a bit sexual, the way I was saying yes, oh yes and come on baby, but I felt it was what I needed to do.  I was saying yes that the baby was moving down and I was saying out loud that I could feel the baby moving down, it was such a powerful experience, I felt so strong and totally in the zone.
The midwife kept looking to see what was going on and she said she could see a bulge, and eventually during a contraction a small amount of waters came, it felt good physically to feel the pop of the waters and it also felt good psychologically, because it felt like things were moving on and it wouldn't be long now.  There wasn't much waters, the midwife said because the baby was so low down that it was blocking all the other waters from coming out.
I continued to push on the contractions and there can’t have been more than about 3 before I could really feel the baby moving down, it felt really rough and scratchy, it really hurt but thinking back I felt so powerful, I just pushed really strongly, it also felt like productive pain.   I was screaming and pushing hard and pretty delirious with it all.  I felt like my body was being ripped apart, like the world was ending, like I was dying.  But then the baby moved down and I pushed really hard on one contraction and the head came out and I kept pushing then the rest of him came slithering out onto the floor.  Instantly the pain was gone and I was filled with joy.  The midwife caught him and rubbed him down with a towel and I instantly felt a rush of complete happiness that just washed over me, I took off my top, my husband said I wanted to have skin to skin, the midwife was checking everything was alright with him, that he was breathing ok and his nose was clear etc.  I put my hand down to get him and he grabbed my finger.  I remember saying "my darling" and the midwife passed him to me through my legs and I pulled him into my arms and looked at my husband and just started laughing, I felt so happy and joyful holding him there, it’s a feeling I never want to forget.  My husband saw he was a boy and told me.
The midwife left the room to answer her phone and I just remember kneeling on the floor by the bed in ecstasy laughing.  The time went quickly, the midwife had let my friend in who had been at the door, and a second midwife who had been on the phone arrived.
I somehow got onto the bed and laid with my beautiful boy on my chest.  The midwife said the she needed to cut the cord because it was short and I needed to get him on the breast so that I could birth the placenta (I declined the cyntometrine injection that chemically helps this process along) We waited until the cord had stopped pulsating and had gone completely cold then my husband cut it.  I saw signals that my son wanted to breastfeed, he was rooting so I helped him to my breast, he latched on pretty quickly and started to suck, a wonderful feeling, how he knew what to do still amazes me.  The new midwife that had come was keen to get the placenta out.  I was having period like pains so I gave a bit of a push and out it came (I kept it for encapsulation).  I was then stitched up (ouch), as I had a second degree tear from pushing him out so quickly.  My older son woke up just as I was being stitched and my husband went and got him and brought him in when it was finished.  He came straight over and said "ba ba" (his word for baby) then stroked him, so sweet.
It was wonderful to just be able to lie on my own bed for as long as I wanted.  Because it was shift change the second midwife that had come left and a new midwife arrived.  She helped me to shower and get dressed. Having a shower and using my own toilet in my own home was brilliant.  So much nicer than the hospital toilet that I had to share with who knows how many women.  
I then just laid in bed all day falling in love with my beautiful baby and feeding him whenever I wanted, I had him tucked into my night shirt for quite some time because I wanted him to be warm. 
Although my prayer for labour not to have started wasn't answered God sorted it out that it didn't matter because my son slept through the whole thing. All the worries I had had about a home birth hadn't come to fruition, there not being a midwife available, having merconium in the waters, having to be transferred to the hospital, being totally ill prepared to have a home birth, having not even written a birth plan.  Everything went perfectly and totally to plan and I am so thankful to God for not being a "careless mechanic" as Ina May says in her book "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth".  I was able to trust my body to do what it was designed to do.  It's also worth saying that I never saw any mess what so ever, the midwife cleared everything away in minutes.  
I really hope this story makes any women considering a home birth confident that it can go well and that childbirth itself is not the terrible dramatic thing that the media would have us believe, but a beautiful natural process that we are designed to go through.




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