Kate's story - unexpected journeys and all sorts of joy

I was about 33 weeks pregnant at a weekend residential NCT crash course when I met a lady who was adamant that she wanted a home birth. Amazingly, until that point in my pregnancy, I hadn’t considered this at all. This lady was passionate about her desire for a home birth and I loved her reasons, she wanted to feel safe, in her own home and in control. On our return I immediately contacted my local hospital and began to investigate if I had left things too late to put in a request for a home birth. Thankfully I had a really quick response and I met a midwife, who was imminently retiring, who would be responsible for my care while I had my baby at home. My antenatal appointments switched from being at the hospital to the comfort of my own home. I was determined and confident I could have a home birth. I watched a great documentary called orgasmic birth. I realise that this sounds a bit out there but it was a great compilation of women birthing naturally at home, showing the lows and highs, and I think it helped to prepare me. We bought a birth pool and had a practise run at putting it up.

But, my body had other ideas. My Mum had always told me that women in our family always have late babies. I have no idea if there is any scientific evidence that shows late babies run in families but as the end of week 41 loomed I began to fear she might be right. My midwife started to talk about booking me into the hospital to be induced at 40 + 11 days. That was how long I was “allowed” to go overdue. 

My stress levels really started to rise at this point. I absolutely hated the idea of being induced. I was convinced induction was a slippery slope and I wanted to avoid it at any cost. I had heard a lot of negative stories about induction, including my Mum’s own experience. I began to furiously research overdue babies, WHO guidance and any and all means of naturally inducing birth. 

Once I was 40 + 11 days overdue I was told I had to go to the hospital every day to have the baby monitored. As a first time mother I accepted that this was a necessary condition be being “allowed” to keep waiting, although I found the toing and froing to the hospital very tiring. I also consented to numerous cervical sweeps, which were uncomfortable and unproductive. By 40 weeks + 14 days I was really coming under a lot of pressure from my midwife and the hospital to be induced. Each time I attended for baby monitoring another consultant would come over and give me the same speech about the risks I was taking. I felt that I was taking a measured risk, and I did a lot of research that reassured me of that. I also had a scan to check that everything looked OK. Everything looked completely normal.

Eventually the stress and pressure just became too much. I had friends and family constantly phone me for news, as well as the lectures from the hospital and my midwife, at 40 weeks + 18 days I agreed to letting my mid-wife break my waters in the hope this would induce to labour. This was highly irregular. My soon-to-be-retiring old-school midwife offered to do this “off the record” to give me the best chance of labouring at home. 

As things turned out, I had to meet my midwife at the hospital to have the waters broken as she had been called in for another birth. I went in expecting to return home to labour. However, as soon as my waters were broken ( a very painful procedure) my baby immediately went tachycardic. At that point I thought I was destined for a caesarean! 

I was put in a gown and hooked up to a monitor, but fortunately things calmed down after a while. I was encouraged to walk around the hospital to get things moving along, but after a few hours there was no progress and I was persuaded to begin Pitocin. While I was able to tolerate this for a while, with the help of a TENS machine, it wasn’t long before the artificially induced (stronger and more frequent) contractions became unbearable. We questioned the midwife attending at the time about the dosage of the Pitocin, she became defensive and robustly defended the approach, citing hospital protocols. The intensity and relentlessness of the artificial contractions eventually led me to request an epidural. This was administered without drama (while the anaesthetist  and midwife discussed her significant weight loss over my head). From this point I was then required to stay lying on the bed, I had a catheter and my husband and I dozed for the next few hours while the various drugs did the work. 

I realise this is supposed to be a positive birth story, and some of what happened at this birth was not positive.It seemed at the time my worst fears of a cascade of intervention were coming true. What followed, when I was fully dilated, was typical. I was unable to feel my contractions to push, my midwife seemed unsympathetic and dismissive. Eventually my healthy baby girl was delivered via an episiotomy and ventouse. They administered syntometrine, and I vomited. But, she was here, she weighed 7lbs and 14oz and was perfect. She was born at 40 weeks + 19 days and she certainly didn’t look “over cooked”. 

wo years later I was pregnant again. For various reasons, including a lack of trust in the transparency  of the home birth team at the hospital, I opted for independent midwives for my care this time around. In preparation I attended a hypnobirthing course with my husband. I found the guided meditation on this course, encouraging you to let go of any previous negative experiences or  narratives, incredibly helpful and cathartic. 

The independent midwives that we found started their care for me quite late on in my pregnancy. I discussed with them my preferences for our birth. Should I go overdue again I didn’t want any cervical sweeps, I didn’t want to attend the hospital for daily check-ups. Once labour was progressing I didn’t want to be checked for dilation. We once again had a practise run with our birth pool. The midwives attended appointments with me at my home frequently and checked in over the phone. My Mum came to stay to help me with my toddler. Once I was 40 weeks we spent a relatively peaceful time together at home nesting and getting ready.

At 40 weeks + 12 days, on a Monday evening in the pub where we had gone to for an early dinner at about 6.30pm, I felt my first contractions. We ate our dinner and went home, put my daughter to bed, and started waiting. By midnight my contractions were about 5 to 10 minutes apart, but manageable. We put up the pool and started filling it. We didn’t want to call the midwife too early, but by 2.30am we thought it was time. I was slightly thrown because my contractions never really got any closer together than 3-4 mins, although they did get more intense. I was expecting natural contractions to be textbook and to decrease in the amount of time between them as the labour progressed.

Almost immediately after calling the midwife the contractions because more intense, and we were still desperately trying to fill up the pool. I was just beginning to struggle to manage each contraction when one of my midwives arrived, she found me kneeling, my bum in the air and my elbows on the floor and immediately recognised I was trying to ease the pressure. She suggested I get in the pool, I had one more contraction on the way there and I got in and immediately I wanted to push. My midwife said that if that was how I felt, then I should push. I wasn’t calm and serene breathing and relaxing through each contraction. I was roaring and groaning, but it felt natural and like I needed that rush of energy. After a second stage of only sixteen minutes I gave birth to my second daughter. I caught her myself and bought her to the surface of the pool between my legs. I have never been more proud. I can’t say her birth was beautiful, but it was completely wonderful. My Mum, who had been listening upstairs, came in the room just after she was born. I was jubilant, I had managed to have my baby, at home, the way I had wanted.

There was no syntometrine this time and I naturally delivered the afterbirth. The second midwife arrived (I had left it too late to contact them really), they tucked me and my husband and our baby up on the sofa with blankets and duvets and made us buttered toast - literally the best toast I have ever eaten. The midwives made their observations and checked over our little girl. They examined me and advised that I would need some stiches where I had slightly torn. However, when it came to give me the stiches I just couldn’t face it, I felt bruised and vulnerable down below. It was explained to me that as long as I was careful and stayed in bed for a couple of days, and let everyone else run a round for me, I wouldn’t need the stiches. That sounded wonderful. I spent the next forty eight hours in bed. 

Fast forward nearly six years and I was expecting a surprise third baby. By this time we had moved to Devon. I immediately stated at my appointments that I would like a home birth. I was forty years old and worried that I might be treated like a geriatric mother. This was not the case though. I attended my midwife appointments at my doctors surgery and only had two trips to the hospital the whole pregnancy for my 12 and 20 week scans. The pregnancy was very straightforward. I tried to listen to my hypnobirthing recordings once a week and take some time to relax.

At 40 weeks + 10 days, my shortest pregnancy, I began feeling contractions at about 4am in the morning. I dozed for a few hours and at 6am had a bath to check that they were genuine (about two weeks before my due date I had had some very convincing Braxton hicks), they kept coming. I woke my husband and he began filling the pool. I was slightly panicked as I had assumed I would give birth at night. My two daughters were at home and I wasn’t sure if there was anyone who could look after them. My hypnobirthing did help me through the next couple of hours while I wandered around giving my girls breakfast, making sure they were dressed and doing their hair. 

I managed to contact a friend who came to pick the girls up and take them out for a few hours. Almost immediately after they had left my contractions become more intense. It was almost as if I had held on until I knew I didn’t have to worry about them. 

The first midwife arrived, she asked to examine me to see how far along I was dilated, I declined, she said she wanted to check I was actually in labour. I firmly told her that there was no doubt I was in labour. At the first contraction that I struggled to manage I decided to get in the pool. My husband offered to out on some music, before he did I hugged him and felt scared, then I thought, oh wow, this is it, I must be in transmission if I feel emotional. Then, as a surprise to us all, including the midwives, I let out one animalistic bellow, and I pushed out my baby’s head, after one more, relatively easy contraction, my third perfect daughter was born. I caught her myself and raised her to the surface. My face in the photos of me following the birth is radiant, I felt amazing, In two short contractions I had delivered my baby at home in my dining room, on a beautiful sunny August morning.