I always knew I wanted to have my baby at home, long before I was even thinking about getting pregnant. Despite working in hospitals for years, the thought of going into one to have a baby just didn’t feel right. I wanted to be at home, in my safe space, with my husband and my dog.
Luckily I had an amazing midwife to support me throughout my pregnancy. I booked in with the midwife at the GP surgery and when I told her I wanted a homebirth she referred me to the new caseloading team. I had my first appointment with my caseload midwife L at home and we clicked straight away. She was going to see me at home for all of my appointments and be on call for my birth. My biggest fear was having strangers in my birthing space so this was a dream come true for me.
However, the following week I had a call from L to say the funding had suddenly been pulled for the caseload team and they were all being reassigned back to traditional community roles in GP surgeries. I was distraught and told L I was considering having an unassisted pregnancy and birth, as I just couldn’t cope with the thought of a different midwife at every appointment and then whoever was on call at the time I gave birth. Thankfully, she pulled some strings and offered to continue seeing me at home and being on call for me. Finally I was able to relax and enjoy my pregnancy!
Because I have PCOS (which I treated naturally with herbal medicine and acupuncture to fall pregnant), I was offered a glucose tolerance test. Having researched the test I decided against it, given the high rates of false positives and the unnecessary intervention it would lead to. Once we began measuring my bump at 28 weeks, it became apparent I was plotting at the top end of my personalised growth chart- above the 95th centile. Each time L measured and palpated, we agreed the baby did not feel that big and neither did it feel like I had excess water. As per protocol I was offered several growth scans which I again declined. I had complete faith in body that it was growing the perfect sized baby for me.
At 30 weeks, my husband and I started a one-to-one hypnobirthing course. I know it sounds dramatic but it was life changing! I practised the techniques religiously every night and, although I found it really difficult at the beginning and didn’t believe it would ever work for me, by the time my guess date arrived it was second nature.
My guess date came and went, as I expected it would, as I usually have long cycles. I discussed induction with L and decided that, based on my research, I was happy to continue to 43 weeks before reconsidering induction. L agreed with me and booked me an appointment with a consultant for when I was 42+ to make a plan. As the days ticked by I began to feel physically and mentally more tired and uncomfortable. L was going on holiday when I was 41+5 so I felt under pressure to go into labour before then so she could support my birth as planned. Eventually that day came and went and I had to face the reality of birthing with two unknown midwives. I knew my birth plan was quite ‘out there’ as I wanted the midwives to stay out of the room unless I needed them. I just couldn’t imagine two unknown people walking into my birth space mid labour. Given that I was past the routine induction date for post-dates pregnancy and had a supposed “big baby” I heard that some of the midwives were getting a little twitchy about being called out to me!
Finally, when I was 41+6, I was woken in the night by what felt like a combination of period pain, back ache and braxton hicks. L had suspected I was in very slow, very early labour for the past week or so, so I didn’t think too much of this new sensation until I realised they were coming in waves and I couldn’t drift back off to sleep between each one anymore. My deep, purposeful hypnobirthing breathing woke my husband John up at about 5am. At around 7, I decided I wanted to get up and go downstairs. As part of our hypnobirthing, we had spent a lot of time visualising our dream birth and thinking of ways to optimise my oxytocin levels. So we lit a fire, worked our way through a pile of chocolate croissants and watched my favourite movie while I bounced on my ball snuggled up in my dressing gown.
By late morning I felt the need to move around more, so we wrapped up warm and took the dog out for a walk, stopping to breathe through the surges and using fences, trees or John to lean and sway against. Unfortunately it was at this point it started to go a little off plan.... First we got into an altercation with a farmer who tried telling us we couldn’t walk our dog on a bridlepath(!) and then we encountered four loose dogs heading straight for us at full speed! By the time we got home, the adrenaline had kicked in and totally shut down my labour. I ate a big bowl of pasta for lunch and laid on the sofa in front of a funny film to try and laugh myself back into labour.... I woke up 2 hours later as the film ended and realised my surges had completely stopped.
I had a good cry to John and told him I felt like this baby was never going to come! We spent a lot of time talking and cuddling on the sofa before deciding to go out and get a chippy tea- pie, chips, mushy peas and a can of Coke! After tea John ran me a bath and I decided to have an early night in the hope things would start up again in the morning. As I was about to get in the bath I felt like I needed a wee, and as I sat on the toilet my waters broke! I was so shocked I wasn’t sure what to do! I had just put clary sage in the water and knew I shouldn’t technically get in now my membranes had released. But I really wanted a bath and there was no more hot water so I hopped in, thinking it would probably be hours before anything happened.
Within 5 minutes I had a huge surge and saw lots of bloody show in the water. Two minutes later I had another and immediately knew I needed to get out of the bath and be upright. Suddenly I was getting strong, powerful surges lasting well over a minute with just a minute’s rest between each one. John put the TENS machine on my back and got to work putting up the pool. I stood in the corner of the room, focusing on my affirmations and scan photos that were hanging up and really concentrated on my hypnobirthing breathing and visualisations. I was back and forth from the lounge to the bathroom as I had so much pressure I kept wanting to sit on the toilet. John was asking if we should call the midwives but I kept saying no, thinking it would be a while yet.....
At about 10pm, and hour and a half after my waters had broken, I had an involuntary urge to push with a surge. John took one look at my face and the sound I made and decided it was time to call the midwives. They arrived at around 11:30pm and John ushered them straight into the other room.
One of them came in very quietly and introduced herself, asking if I needed anything or wanted any checks done. I declined and she said to call if I changed my mind. At this point the surges were lasting nearly 2 minutes each with barely any rest time in between, so as soon as the pool was ready I hopped in. It was heaven! Once I was in the water I felt I could really relax. Surges spaced out to a more manageable frequency and I felt the surges change. I could feel baby moving down the birth path and held off actively pushing by my using my calm breath throughout. The midwives came in very quietly at this point and sat on the sofa either side of the pool. They were so lovely and totally respected my space and my wishes. We were actually chatting between surges! As they were getting stronger and the urge to push was becoming unbearable I realised I was clamping my knees shut as each surge began. I think my body was telling me to slow things down and I was so worried about tearing that I was desperately trying to stop the baby shooting out! Eventually I said to John, “I’m ready now” and kept my legs open on the next surge. My body just took over and I felt baby coming down the birth path and the head crowning.
With one more push the body slipped out into the water and I reached down to catch, as did John. Baby was wearing the cord like a seatbelt, wrapped round the waist and across the shoulder so the midwife stepped in to help us untangle it as we didn’t have enough hands! I remember saying “I did it! I did it!” to John as we both cried and stared in amazement at our baby, who we had just discovered was a boy! He was so calm and peaceful, he looked around as he laid quietly on my chest. The midwives crept back out of the room as I had said I wanted to birth the placenta alone in the pool but within a minute or two I had a sudden unexpected urge to get out. I felt very shaky and dizzy so John called the midwives back in. I laid on the sofa and put the baby to the breast. After half an hour I tied and cut the cord and passed baby to John for skin to skin, as I just couldn’t get in the right position to get the placenta out with baby on me. Sure enough, as soon as I stood up and gave a little push it came straight out.
Caspar Benjamin was born at 01:58am at 42 weeks, weighing 3.7kg or 8lbs 4oz. So nowhere near the 5kg/10lbs my chart was predicting! I had no perineal trauma, minimal blood loss and hadn’t even had a paracetamol during labour! The midwives were wonderful and after sharing a glass of non-alcoholic fizz and a pile of hot buttery crumpets with us, they tidied up, finished their paperwork and left. I had a hot shower, put on my favourite pyjamas and was tucked up in bed with my new family just 4 hours after Caspar was born.
I’m so glad I trusted my body and my instincts, and didn’t let fear lead me down a path of unnecessary intervention. I owe so much of my experience to hypnobirthing and I now try to encourage anyone and everyone to give it a try!