They say that second babies are supposed to arrive earlier, but this one made me wait ten days over my guess date. I was totally relaxed about it, as I’ve always thought that babies will come whenever they are ready. My husband, Mike, however, was getting steadily more stressed every day. Mostly this was because we were planning to try again for the home birth which we hadn’t managed to get with our first child, and he knew how much logistical stuff there was for him to do once things kicked off!
My surges (contractions) started at 1am, and I lay in bed and timed them for a while before I woke my husband. I was absolutely convinced for some reason that it was a false alarm, and that I would be waking everyone up in the middle of the night unecessarily! But my last labour had been quite quick once it got started, so we soon phoned my mother-in-law who was driving up from Kent to look after Lydia, our toddler. We also phoned the home birth midwife, Laura, who said she would come straight away.
Mike started all the practical things he needed to do to get the living room ready, including lighting the wood burning stove and starting to pump up and fill the water pool. He was so focused, rushing around, but stopping dead still every time I had a surge to let me focus – it was almost funny.
I had eaten some toast and made a hot water bottle, and was sitting next to the sofa on my birthing ball rocking. I had a photo printed out of a newborn Lydia on my chest seconds after her birth, which I looked at between each surge. It really helped my focus on what I was doing this for. The room was lovely and dark, and cosy with the fire on, and I was able to really retreat into myself and focus inwards. I was using a visualisation I had been taught of sitting on a beach with a wave going up over my legs as the surge built, and then away again as it faded. I found it very helpful and calming.
My mother-in-law arrived, and popped in to say hello to me and rub my back. It was lovely, but it really disrupted my flow, and I didn’t have a surge for the 5 minutes or so she was with me, whereas they had been coming every 2-4 minutes before. She then went upstairs to bed and Laura arrived and did a few checks – she was so relaxed and happy, it gave me huge confidence that we could do this. She also attached the TENS machine at my request, which I found really helped, although only on the highest setting!
Time seemed to pass quickly, and around 5.30am I was getting a bit uncomfortable on the ball (I had pelvic problems during pregnancy), so I got up and lay on the sofa. Immediately things intensified, and I knew that it was time to get into the pool. Laura said that it was likely to slow things down a bit, but that was fine, as it was a second birth, and therefore likely to go faster anyway. However, as soon as I got into the pool, things got really intense, and I started to get the urge to push.
None of us had realised how far along things were, so after that first big surge Laura quickly phoned the second midwife who is supposed to be there for the birth (one midwife for mum and one for baby), and told her to come immediately. I definitely went through transition, as I (quite firmly and apparently not terribly politely) asked Mike and Laura to stop whispering and laughing.
The warm water of the pool was lovely between surges, and I was sitting up against the wall of the pool, holding my husband’s hand. The instructions from Laura on panting quietly and letting the baby come slowly rather than shouting and straining with each urge to push were very helpful, if incredibly difficult to follow at the time!
There was a lot of pressure, and at around 5.55am my waters broke with a pop and I felt the head starting to come down. He was born at 6.05am, and my husband says that he just floated on the bottom of the pool looking up at us for a few seconds before Laura gently brought him up and into my arms.
We spent quite a while just staring into each other’s arms sitting in the pool, and then he began to root and grumble, so I put him to the breast and he had a huge feed right there in the pool. Afterwards I handed him to my husband for some skin-to-skin time, and concentrated on birthing the placenta, which came after a few short sharp contractions. It was only at that point that there was any mess in the pool, and then I got out to be checked over.
By 7.15am I was snuggled on my sofa, under lots of blankets, in my pyjamas with the baby asleep on me. My daughter came down at 8am to meet her new brother, but got confused initially and thought the midwife was the exciting new visitor she had been told was there! Once pointed in the right direction she was very excited about the ‘new baby brother boy’.
By 8.15am the midwife had packed up and gone home, and we were there as a family, eating toast, snuggling on the sofa and enjoying our newly enlarged family.
Giving birth was the hardest work I’ll ever do, and even when everything goes according to plan it is still a dramatic and in some ways traumatic event in your life. But I am so glad that we had our calm, quiet, relaxed and low-intervention home water birth – I really would recommend it to anyone.