We had our daughter at home on 29th June 2016 and I am writing this to encourage anyone who is thinking about home birth to speak to the home birth team, because we found the whole experience so positive and it made such a difference to us.
Thinking of Home Birth
I did not start out wanting to have a home birth, or any type of “birth” to be honest. I am a first time Mum and I did not have any hopes for labour, I really just wanted the baby to come in as safe a way as possible. I was very happy to have an epidural or any sort of pain relief I needed. I was all set to have a hospital birth, and I hadn’t really given any other options a lot of consideration.
I had however been recommended hypnobirthing by my (very non-hippyish and very sensible friend) who had had one quite awful labour, and then done a hypnobirth course for her second baby and had a much better experience. I bought the Katherine Graves book and CD on hypnobirthing. I didn’t do the course. One of the main themes of the book is that labour is a natural process that does not need a lot of intervention, and that women left to their own devices in a quiet and comfortable environment can birth well on their own. A comment that really struck a chord with me was about how often when you go away somewhere where you don’t feel comfortable, you sometimes aren’t able to go to the toilet. The book made the point that the body is more likely to give birth where the mother feels calm and safe and this just seemed to make sense to me. My husband grew up on a farm and made a similar point about animals finding somewhere safe, quiet and dark to give birth. We did the NCT course and again they emphasised the importance of encouraging Oxytocin rather than Adrenaline (which you feel when you are stressed or anxious) and I thought I may well feel more Adrenaline by having to get in the car and go to hospital and worry about when the right time would be to do that.
We went to do a tour of the labour ward at the hospital which was lovely and the midwives seemed great, but I did not want the worry of knowing when to go into hospital, and however cheerful the unit was it looked to me like a hospital and I knew that after the birth I would be put on a ward with other mothers and babies, and have certain visiting hours and so on.
I asked quite late (I think about 35 weeks) about home birth and even then I was worried that I was being ridiculous and that perhaps hypnobirthing had made me overly confident about the labour! I spoke to Sarah from the team who said she would come to our house to have a chat about it. She came a few days later and we had a lovely chat over a cup of tea and biscuits and I went through my list of concerns with her. She really reassured me about the process, and I thought I would like to try a home birth given that the worst that could happen would be that I go to hospital, which is what I would be doing anyway.
From there, the home birth team made sure I met all the rest of the team, I think so I felt comfortable with any of them. Each and every member of the team was really kind, professional, personable and a real joy to have to visit. They stay for as long as they need to be there rather than sticking to the 20 minutes for appointments at the midwife clinic. It really feels like first class care.
I can honestly say that my experience of labour was a very positive and happy one, and that is why I really would urge people to consider Home Birth.
I woke up at midnight with period style pains in my back which I could fairly well ignore with a hot water bottle and so I slept with them until about 4-5am. I then got up and came downstairs and told my husband I thought I was having contractions. My mucus plug had gone the day before so I thought something may happen. At about 5am we put on our Michael MacIntyre DVD (having been told it is a good way to distract yourself/ stay happy) and put on the Tens machine. I found the Tens machine quite helpful but I have no idea what Michael MacIntyre said at all. I started being sick with the contractions and I tried to manage the pain with breathing which I had learned in pregnancy yoga and from my hypnobirthing CD.
At about 10am the contractions felt quite strong and when I went to the loo there was blood in the loo. I wasn’t sure then whether my waters had gone and it was a problem, or whether it was more mucus plug. My husband called the hospital who advised us to come in but I told my husband that the last thing I wanted to do was try to get dressed and get in the car so we phoned the Home Birth team and Hannah said she would come over. In the meantime I got in the birth pool we had set up in the living room. That was such a relief as the water is so relaxing and calming.
I was utterly exhausted as I had been throwing up since about 5am and hadn’t slept very well so when Hannah came she suggested I go to bed and try to eat and drink because I needed more energy for labour. I did this and my husband came and sat beside me and tried to feed me strawberries and I tried my best to sleep. I listened to my hypnobirth cd. Hannah left us to it. I think at about 1pm my waters actually broke and I then went back to bed to try to sleep again. My husband phoned Hannah and she said she would come back. I think she arrived about 2pm with Tanya and Sheree. I said how I had an urge to push, I felt like I really needed to go to the toilet. I came downstairs and back in the birthing pool and felt so much better. The contractions were much more comfortable and shorter. I could breathe through them quite easily and then rest in the pool and chat to the midwives. This went on for some time and the midwives were just a calm, quiet reassuring presence. My husband encouraged me through the labour and kept me fed and watered.
At some point (I would guess about 4pm) I felt I wanted to get out of the pool. I went for a little walk around and up and down the stairs. I had been shown some positions for birth in pregnancy yoga so I tried those and it helped to move around a bit. I felt very comfortable doing this because we were in our own home. We put some CDs on and I had a little dance on all fours which helped a lot. Hannah then offered me an examination and I said yes and she confirmed I was 9 cm dilated. Tanya said if I wanted to have the baby in the pool to get back in now which I did. I did the final few pushes which seemed not to take very long and then Hannah said she could see the baby’s head and then our daughter came out. My husband and I picked her up out of the water and she came out with eyes wide open and arms open wide. She arrived at 5.55pm. She was put straight on to my chest. It was the most amazing thing ever. We had a wonderful first few moments as a family together and we didn’t feel hurried at all. It was lovely.
The placenta came very easily after about 20 minutes or so on its own. Our daughter was left on me and found the nipple herself. I don’t know for sure but I think that a lovely calm and quiet birth and then being left to find the breast herself really helped her to be quite a calm baby (most of the time) and she seemed to take to breastfeeding well.
The midwives then stayed to check me and the baby over and to tidy up. We were then able to get food from our fridge, sleep in our own bed and be a little family of 3 straight away.
I honestly cannot thank the Home Birth team enough for all their encouragement, support and kindness. It is a really fabulous resource that we are lucky enough to have in Surrey and I hope that other women use it.