From anxious pregnancy to relaxed birth

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...

A Positive Birth Experience

When my community midwife suggested home birth to me at my booking in appointment with my second pregnancy I politely declined, thinking absolutely no way did I want to have a home birth. I was terrified of labour after a traumatic hospital induction with my son and didn’t really want to even think about having to go through labour at all.

As my pregnancy progressed I realised I had to face up to it sometime and booked onto the Royal Surrey maternity ward tour as I had given birth at a different hospital before. Being on the labour ward had me in floods of tears and did nothing to dispel my fear.

I started a hypnobirthing course and the hypnobirthing teacher suggested homebirth again to me and after the emotional experience of the labour ward tour, the idea started to make a bit more sense. It was actually my husband who cemented the idea as he knew I would be a lot more relaxed at home.

The more I thought about it the more it made sense and I was desperate for a different experience of labour this time. I went to a homebirth forum to meet the team and had a lot of my fears put to rest. At 28 weeks pregnant I made the decision to switch to the homebirth team.

Having all my antenatal appointments at home was the first huge benefit, I already felt more relaxed especially knowing that I would know the midwife who would be there at the birth.

My named midwife (Tanya) was so reassuring throughout the pregnancy, was great with entertaining my son during appointments and it felt like a friend visiting rather than an antenatal appointment.

As my due date got closer I started to feel excited at the prospect of having a home birth and really hoped everything would go to plan. I set the living room up with the birth pool and positive affirmations so it was all ready to go.

When I was 40+6 Jodie came to do my appointment and asked me what my thoughts were if I got to 42 weeks. I decided to have a sweep there and then as thought it could do no harm and I was desperate to avoid induction. I was 2cm dilated so Jodie reassured me it was unlikely I’d get to 42 weeks which was a relief, and joked that she’d see me later as she was on call. 

Later that afternoon at 4.30pm I started to feel period pains. I timed them for half an hour and realised they were coming every 2 minutes and I might be in labour. I contacted Jodie to let her know and she said to keep monitoring and let her know when they intensified.

I put my tens machine on and carried on focusing on my breathing. My husband started to fill the birth pool as we were worried it might take a while because of our boiler.

I practiced my hypnobirthing and focused on breathing through my contractions. I spoke to Jodie again at about 7.15pm and she said I sounded too happy still but she was ready to come when things intensified.

At 7.45pm I asked my husband to phone Jodie and ask her to come. She got to us just after 8pm and immediately suggested I get in the pool. Shortly after that I felt the urge to push.

Having not experienced the feeling of pushing/crowning the first time around due to an epidural, this made me panic a bit and I asked for gas and air for the last bit of pushing.

At 8.42pm my daughter was born in the water! I felt immense joy and was so proud of myself for doing it. 

The whole experience was incredibly empowering and I felt so relaxed throughout. My husband even has a video of me straight after birth asking why my baby isn’t crying, she was just so relaxed too!

I stayed in the pool for a while after and then Jodie wrapped me up on the sofa to cuddle and feed my baby in the comfort of my living room. It was so lovely to be in our own surroundings getting to know our new baby rather than the loud and busy postnatal ward.

To have had such a positive birth experience made all the difference to the first few weeks with our new addition. After my son’s birth I swore I’d never do it again but this time I’m sad I can’t repeat it as it was so amazing!

I cannot recommend the Surrey Hills home birth team enough. They are so encouraging, incredibly skilled and have the most amazing ability to give reassurance when needed but to step back and let you and your body get on with labour your own way.

It felt like it was just my husband and me throughout the labour but I knew Jodie was there if I needed her (the second midwife arrived after my daughter had been born but I never felt it was an issue with it just being Jodie and a student midwife).

Jodie actually took photos of my daughter being born and sent them to me straight after. I never would have thought I’d want photos but I am so pleased she just went ahead and took them.

The team supported me to believe in myself and trust my body and baby. My only regret is I wish I’d made the decision to have a home birth sooner so I could have experienced their incredible care throughout my pregnancy.  

Surrey Hills Client February 2019

…the best day of my life…

A couple days before my due date I’d started to get anxious at the thought of going over due. The thought of wasted time at home waiting and then the idea of being induced filled me with dread. I was already on the dates, raspberry leaf tea and clary sage but I decided to ramp it up with a curry, a reflexology session, a pineapple and whole evening on my birthing ball.

This seemed to do the trick because at 4.30am at 40+1 I felt a little trickle and thought ‘hmm…that can’t be anything else’. Trying not to get excited I went to the loo to put a pad in and went back to bed. About 15 mins later the same amount leaked again and I got out of bed.

Not just wanting to lie there I went downstairs and had a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit. I decided that if this was it I wanted my husband Sam to get some good sleep in because this could be a long day or so.

However at 6.30am the period pains were enough for me to wake him with a ‘I think it’s all starting’. He was wide awake and ready to go. We had it all planned that we’d make the living room cosy, watch something light hearted and put on the mp3s, all to keep the oxytocin high.

However as the period type pains quickly ramped up and we’re quite painful I wondered are these full on surges not just period pains? I’d expected strong tightening across my belly but it was all low down period pain and it felt like there wasn’t much of a break in between. So at 7.30am I called the homebirth team and was told to just chill and see what happened.

It then ticked over passed 8am and I really thought these are strong so I called back and the next midwife on shift for the homebirth team answered (Laura) and reiterated that I was a first time mum and I could have a good 8-12 hours ahead of me and I just needed to relax and maybe I should get in the bath.

The surges were starting to make me be sick, and I asked Sam to call my mum who used to be a midwife to tell her what was going on and check I wasn’t harming the baby by being sick. I found out after that she told Sam this was all a good sign and my body was really in the process of labour.

Sam ran me a bath and I was in, but the surges were progressing so at 8.15am I called again, really starting to feel like I was a nuisance but I just knew my adrenaline was rising at the thought of delivering our baby without a midwife.

Laura suggested herself and the student midwife get over to my house to see me and take it from there. They arrived, and Sam tells me now that immediately I calmed down and my mindset changed from one of slight panic to ok its time to go!

I continued to be sick whilst having a bath and for every surge Sam counted with me, in for four and out for eight. I realised, after one particularly intense surge, that my body would give me a break and the next wouldn’t be so bad so I took them one by one realising I could get through them.

Suddenly the bath didn’t appeal anymore and I went to my bedroom but lying down was really uncomfortable, so the student midwife suggested I kneel over the bed and she rubbed my back.

This next chunk of time was a blur but I was asking for the gas and air. Laura said she’d prefer I used the gas and air only once in the birth pool (due to the amount they carry!) but before I got in the pool she’d prefer to examine me. I had absolutely no problem with being examined and when she said 7cm although I was really pleased I said out loud ‘so I’ve missed the chance of an epidural!’.

In planning the birth, in the back of my mind I thought I’d be transferred to hospital for pain relief but now I knew I was doing this at home.

I got in the pool and it really was as good as they say for pain relief. It felt warm and I had lots of space to get comfortable.

After some time I started on the gas and air and that was amazing, I loved it! I really felt the benefits and it just took away any apprehension about the surges.

I remember hearing Laura in the hall describing where we lived to the second midwife who joined for delivery and Sam saying ‘that’s because you’re close now’.

I don’t remember any transition stage but I remember a feeling of needing to push at the very end of a surge. And Laura just encouraged me to go with my body. She didn’t do any checks and I didn’t feel like she interfered at all.

At this point there was the strong feeling of ‘I need a poo’ so I went to the toilet, here I did my best pushing and felt in 100% the right position. Laura said afterwards that she thinks this was a really productive part of my labour and the baby moved really well, so much so they had to persuade me to get back in the pool as they wouldn’t be delivering the baby on the loo!

I got back in the pool and back in the squatting position but this time the pain was in my legs, I felt like an athlete pulling my muscles during the surges. I was worried to change position to lying on my back as I didn’t want to slow anything down but my midwife reassured me it wouldn’t in the pool. So there I was with Sam holding one leg and the student midwife the other both massaging my hamstrings as I pushed!!

I could feel the progress now with each push and my baby was crowning. I held him still as just the forehead was out following the midwives instructions but on the next surge his head and body all came together and I said to Sam ‘it’s a boy it’s a boy!’ I couldn’t believe I’d done it!! It really is the most unbelievable feeling in the world!

Without even asking, my midwife team did delayed cord clamping and suggested a natural delivery of the placenta whilst Sam had skin to skin.

I’d only decided on a home birth at 38 weeks but it was the best decision I’ve ever made. If anyone is considering it I’d strongly suggest you ask all your questions and scenarios as I think there are a lot of misconceptions about the safety of homebirth.  

I think back on my baby’s birthday as the best day of my life and would relive it over and over if I could. 

I cant thank the Surrey Hill Home Birth team enough for their support and care, and for giving me the most positive experience possible. 

 

Thank you!

H and baby B February 2019

Fish Cakes for Supper!

What can I say? How can I put into writing my incredible homebirth experience? 

Second time mum, my first experience was long but not at all traumatic (I practised HypoBirthing which helped so much) and ended with an epidural. I was disappointed not to feel the whole labour and pushing stage. 

3 years later, pregnant, I was chatting with a girl in the village and she shared her 2 homebirth experiences with me. From then I was hooked on the idea, especially when she said she had a Chinese takeaway on the sofa for dinner after! 

It was so easy to get in touch with the team and they were so friendly and accommodating when I first reached out.

All the prenatal appointments are done at home during which time I had to move out my house due to renovations and the girls were still able to come see me in my various locations! Every appointment was relaxed and reassuring, like an old time friend coming over for a cup of tea and a chat! 

Approaching my due date, anticipation on when baby would come was a natural reaction but again, the girls kept very chilled and reassured me that all was well and coming along nicely.

I was 1 week over due when I had a show and labour started. I contacted the girls who calmly told me to continue what felt comfortable and they arrived at the perfect time when I wanted to get into the pool. From then everything was swift and I had my baby boy in my arms!

Their guidance was amazing. I felt so reliant on them yet they let me be in control of the whole labour without me realising, how empowering! They kept encouraging me to ‘listen to your body’ and I did, feeling safe and with the best practitioners I could be with.

My dear husband by my side was moved by the whole experience and was blown away how it was all done at home, in our living room, with our dogs and fish cakes for supper!

I will never ever forget my experience and I will forever be grateful to the girl who suggested I gave it a go and the INCREDIBLE Surrey Hills Homebirth team for letting me experience the wonder of natural childbirth because it really is a magical thing, thank you. 

AC & FC born 16/04/2019 

Nathaniel Ernest

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Nathaniel Ernest and Mum November 2017

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.

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