13 weeks ago, we welcomed our beautiful 2nd daughter safely into the world along with the Surrey Hills homebirth team, who I am eternally thankful for.
My first daughter was born 4 years ago in hospital and the birth was quite straightforward. I had developed a bond with my community midwife (now a member of the Surrey Hills homebirth team) and remember feeling that I wish she were at the birth. The midwives who delivered my baby were very kind and calming but it was all such a blur, I can’t even remember what they look like! I do rememberb1 of the commenting that because of the speed and relative ease of the birth that should I have another, it should be at home! At the time I felt horrified at this thought- another? I’ve only just pushed this one out! However, I also felt quite proud that someone thought I was capable of this and a homebirth sounded like a very brave thing to do.
2 years later, I fell pregnant for the 2nd time. I visited the same community midwife and was very excited that she was still working my patch. She asked if I had considered a homebirth and I felt confident to say that it was definitely on the table. My first experience at hospital had gone smoothly, but I’d been left with the thought that it could have been much more comfortable. Unfortunately I had suffered a miscarriage and then two more.
The 3 miscarriages resulted in lots of trips to the hospital due to scans, operations and meetings with a consultant. It felt that every time we stepped into that hospital, our hearts got crushed. We were told the bad news following scans and put into a room to await a nurse. It was the same one every time who we nicknamed our “bad news nurse”. Bless her, she was so kind and empathetic but our bad news seemed intrinsically linked to her. By this point, I really couldn’t stand the hospital and had a mixture of anger, sadness and an incredible amount of anxiety about the place!
When I fell pregnant for the fifth time, I was so used to it ending badly and without answers, I just ignored it. Early scans had just fuelled my anxiety previously and had given false hope and I knew I couldn’t go through that or see Bad News Nurse again (unfortunately I did used to see her at the local leisure centre quite regularly and this induced anxiety that I would walk around the place with my head down- fearing that eye contact with her would lead to more bad news!). So I didn’t bother arranging a booking in appointment.
By 9 weeks, I thought should get the ball rolling- 9 weeks was further than I had got for a while and I was suffering quite strong morning sickness- something I’d had with my first but not so much with subsequent pregnancies. I had an emergency booking in appointment but it was not at my GP surgery as they didn’t want to wait until the next available appointment. I then had a couple of appointments with the community midwife.
We couldn’t believe that we had actually got to the 12 week scan and nothing had gone wrong! By this point, we started to feel like this might actually happen and I mentioned to the community midwife that I would like a home birth.
I was referred to the team and was surprised to find out that all prenatal visits are in your own home. It made life so much easier with juggling work (I could work from home around appointments) and my daughter and husband could also be around (some appointments were at weekends). The whole process really empowered me and eased my anxiety as I got to know my named midwife.
Towards the end of the pregnancy, other members of the team came out too, they included my previous community midwife and a midwife who had helped my neighbour birth her 2nd child. People were so surprised when I told them I was planning a homebirth and some were even aware of members of the team- they are legends across Surrey!
People often commented how brave I was and asked what about if something went wrong. To me, a home birth felt like the safest option and feeling safe gave me confidence that nothing was going to go wrong.
When I was 40+3, I had a routine appointment. I was 41+4 when I gave birth to my 1st daughter so figured I still had a way to go. I discussed the merits of sweeps with the midwife and also mentioned that I wanted to avoid being induced. I felt that my choices were being respected and this helped me to feel even more in control.
At 11pm, my waters broke. Despite exceeding the due date, this took me by surprise as I had assumed that I still had another few days, not to mention that my waters broke very late on with my first child. Everyone says it’s not like what you see on TV, but for me it was- a pop which took me by surprise. Another surprise was just how much water there was and how long it continued for. My partner and I consulted the instructions which said to call the hospital if your waters break at night but you have no other symptoms and they will inform the home birth team. So after explaining this on the phone, the person I spoke to insisted that I should go to hospital immediately because I must see a consultant. Luckily, I disagreed with this and called the home birth number directly. I can’t say how relieved I was to hear my named midwife at the other end of the phone! She reassured me that it was fine to stay home and to keep an eye on things and let her know how things progressed. Not long after hanging up, my contractions began.
The next few hours are a bit of a blur. I remember double checking all of the kit and trying to formulate a plan as to what to do with our 4 year old daughter so sent messages around asking people to be on standby. The contractions progressed and steadily got stronger and closer together. I was relieved when they reached the magic 3 contractions in 10 minutes, I really felt that I wanted the support of my named midwife. I remember asking my husband to call and him letting me know she was on her way. Time to get the pool up.
We has already done a practice run so everything was quite straight forward and quick. I was more preoccupied with organising someone to pick up my daughter- it was 5am and our family hadn’t picked up any messages yet. Luckily, between friends and family we got it sorted.
My midwife arrived accompanied by a student midwife. I was aware of them being there and getting things ready but they were so non intrusive and just let me get on with things. It wasn’t long until they said it was fine for me to get in the pool.
My daughter came to the door just as I was getting in and I’ll never forget her face as I smiled and waved goodbye as she got collected. Things really seemed to ramp up when I got in the pool.
Small gestures from the midwives really helped relax me- they lit the candles I’d left out and helped create a calming atmosphere. I remember 1 of their phone alarms going off and even that music was soothing! I tried to put some hypnobirthing techniques into practice but I felt that I couldn’t get my head into it. The pool had made things more comfortable and it felt that things were moving very fast and I couldn’t calm myself down. My midwives were so supportive and reassuring- it was like having 2 cheerleaders in the room.It really made a difference when I felt that I couldn’t carry on and that it was too tough. I can’t emphasise enough the difference that support made.
My husband asked if I wanted and photos/videos- we’d watched enough homebirth videos on YouTube and I’d previously commented how lovely to have that record but at that point I thought that I didn’t want to be reminded of it again! I never even noticed that my midwife was taking photos all along.
There was such a difference from my first birth- I was able to get into whatever position felt comfortable for me and the midwives worked around that. I remember being asked to move the first time round and finding it so uncomfortable but this time it was all about how I felt.
At 6.54am my baby was delivered in the water. It took me a moment to be able to reach down to pick the baby up. There was no noise and I remember thinking how grey the baby looked but the midwife reassured me that everything was fine. And we just stayed there cuddling and taking it all in for what felt like an eternity.
You could see the colour coming to the skin and eventually a cry. I hadn’t even thought to check what gender the baby was- the midwife said to make sure I kept him under the water to keep warm and both my husband and I said “Oh, it’s a boy,” to which the midwife replied “Oh, I didn’t see, I meant keep the baby in the water.” When I checked, it was a girl! Even that felt special- I was the first person to find out as opposed to being told like last time.
At some point, another midwife arrived but again it was so non intrusive, I hardly noticed.
The delay in cord cutting gave us such a lovely time to have a cuddle and seemed to last forever! But, I was conscious that I wanted to get the next stage over. There seemed to be no sign of the placenta budging- the midwives were great in suggesting positions to help and remained very calm despite the fact it was taking so long. Eventually it all came away and I was oddly fascinated to see it. The midwives did all their checks and it felt so nice to be included and we were able to ask questions and have them answered.
The baby latched on for a feed and the midwives left us to it snuggled on the sofa. They did an amazing job of clearing everything away and in no time at all, the pool had been emptied, cleaned and packed away- my husband was especially impressed with that!
A little while later we went through everything that would happen in the next few days and then they were gone. Soon after, my daughter came home to meet her baby sister. It was so special for her to come home and see us all in a familiar place. And I was so grateful to be able to shower and change in my own home.
The support I received in the following days was invaluable. It really did feel like family members coming to see how everything was going! The team happily played along in doing checks on my 4 year old’s baby as well as the real thing and they even arranged for my named midwife to see us before we were discharged.
I actually found it very emotional being discharged from the team, it’s hard to put into words why as I felt confident in looking after the new arrival but I felt a sense of loss at knowing my time with the team had ended, everyone really made an anxious pregnancy into a relaxed birth and I cannot thank them enough for the memories.
Every now and then when we’re sitting in the living room, I look at the spot where the pool was and tell my baby about how she was born in that very room. It didn’t feel like it at the time, but I wouldn’t change anything about the experience so thank you to the whole Surrey Hills homebirth team… almost makes me feel like having another one! Almost...