The Surrey Homebirth Team are amazing, their expertise and level of care meant that we were confident and at ease about birthing at home, despite having complications at the beginning of our pregnancy. We had been unable to have a homebirth with our first child and being able to have one with our second enabled us to have such a different, positive experience. From the fantastic antenatal care given at home, the birth being so calm and empowering to the post-partum care being like a good friend popping over for a cuppa!
After planning a homebirth in 2011, it was a real disappointment when my waters broke and there was meconium. Our daughters birth was then in hospital, induced with Syntocin drip, baby had to be continually monitored so they wouldn’t let me stay in the positions I was comfortable as it interrupted with the monitoring, I was advised not to eat as they were worried I would need a c-section and I needed an epidural as the Syntocin meant the contractions were back to back. I remember sobbing as the doctor put the epidural in as I felt I had failed. I did give birth naturally to our daughter but due to the meconium the cord was cut and she was taken outside for suction, my placenta was delivered without me realising and when I asked to see it (just curiosity!) they said it had already been taken away. The feeling of failure stayed with me, I hated telling people that I had had to have an epidural, I was jealous of my friends who had had births with nothing but gas and air. A few weeks later I asked for a midwife to come as part of the listening service, she went through my notes and although tried to be positive about how well it had gone, my notes used the word ‘distressed’ a few times to describe me and not the baby! And that is how it felt, the whole birth in hospital had been….distressing!
18 months later we decided to try for another baby. Unfortunately, nothing happened and after a year we went for ‘investigations.’ We were advised we needed ICSI IVF if we wanted another baby. Our first attempt failed and we waited another year before we could emotionally and financially try again. This time round was successful! We had a rough start with complications from the ICSI putting me into hospital for a month over the first 3 months of pregnancy. Thankfully, by 28 weeks things had settled down and I was discharged from hospital care. Our enthusiasm for a homebirth was not met by the hospital and they would not recommend it. However, the homebirth team were fantastic, they read my notes and were happy that a homebirth would be safe and fully supported us.
We dusted off the pool and started to prepare for the day! About 3 months before the due date, we attended a ‘hypnobirthing’ class at the hospital which was fantastic for getting into a positive mind-set and providing birthing strategies. We read the book and listened to the hypnobirthing cd in bed most nights. We felt much more empowered this time round and confident that I could birth naturally at home.
There were still odd times (usually when friends and family made comments about hospital being the best place to be!) that I had doubts about needing extra pain relief or things going wrong, but I would then seek out positive birthing stories or listen to the hypnobirthing track to keep me feeling confident in my body’s ability.
At 40 weeks + 4 days I woke at 3am to contractions, I wondered if they would turn out to be more Braxton Hicks but they continued to come every ten minutes or so (they do say on the hypnobirthing class to not be fixated by time but I put the hypnobirthing track on and would get 3 contractions during a track of 30 mins, so it was quite easy to work out!) I stayed in bed and dozed.
At about 5am they were still every ten minutes so I woke my husband and asked him to put the tens machine on as I remembered that it said to put it on early to get the most benefit. He went back to sleep immediately and I dozed again. At 7am our daughter woke up and my husband decided he would fill the pool. I got up and text the home birth team as I didn’t want to ring them as it still felt very comfortable and I didn’t want to wake them unnecessarily.
By 8am the contractions had jumped to every 3 minutes so I rang Tanya and think I scared her as she arrived not long afterwards with a student midwife in tow and all rather flustered! I then felt a bit silly as I was up and eating crumpets and still sure we were a long way off having a baby. Chatting to the midwives and our little girl wanting attention as she was getting a little bored seemed to slow things down, but whenever I went upstairs on my own the contractions would intensify. Tanya told me to stay upstairs if that’s where I was comfortable. Tanya would come and monitor the baby when she needed but apart from that she never examined me. Part of me wanted to know how far I had come but the other part knew that with my first labour being told I was ‘only 2 cms’ was so disheartening.
At 10.30 our little girl decided she wanted to play at her friend’s house and between then and 11.30 the contractions got longer and stronger, although I kept the tens machine on level 1 the whole time as it said not to go up the levels too quickly as you might find you run out before the end of your labour. At 11.30 Tanya suggested I come downstairs and get in the pool – I was still completely unaware of where we were in the birthing stage and so was calm and comfortable. As soon as I took off the tens machine and got into the pool at 11.39 the feelings all changed and I suddenly felt an urge to push and of the baby moving down.
I don’t remember much else about the next 40 minutes, other than a little gas and air, bruising Tanya’s arm by squeezing it rather tightly, being very worried the ‘Tesco’ man would arrive (we were due a delivery between 12 and 1 and our back door is very close to where I was in the pool!) and the wonderful moment when Deena (the other midwife) turned up just before baby made an appearance. As baby came out Tanya said “pick up your baby” and I can still see the little face under the water as I lifted baby up to my chest. I was able to see we had a little boy, he stayed on me until the cord stopped pulsating and I was able to birth my placenta and see it.
I appreciate that this being my second child it was a quicker birth, but with our first in hospital we went through 3 shift changes and unfortunately can barely remember the names of who was involved. By establishing a relationship with the team during their visits, knowing and trusting the midwives made it an easier, more relaxed and welcomed experience.
Those precious minutes in the pool with our little boy (and the Tesco man arriving 2 minutes after he had made his entrance!) will always be remembered. The euphoria of birthing at home and naturally was incredible. Sitting on my own sofa having tea and toast with the midwives was a perfect way to end the afternoon.
The level of care the homebirth team gave is amazing – from helping to breastfeed, checking on our wellbeing and becoming a friend of the family. Our little boy is now 10 days old, he is fortunate enough to have not been near a hospital or doctors’ surgery as everything has been done by the homebirth team. Some people might think the word empowered and euphoric is a little OTT but it really is how I feel and would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Obviously, there is a place for hospitals, and without a great deal of medical intervention we wouldn’t even have got pregnant in the first place. But giving birth can be different, if all is well being able to have a baby at home and being under the care of the homebirth team is a wonderful privilege. The only negative is being discharged by the team, as we miss them so much. However, we are very much looking forward to the Homebirth coffee morning in a few weeks!