I had a home birth with my first baby, born in June 2013. I decided quite early on that it was the right choice for us, despite always thinking I’d have my baby in a more medicalised setting. We chose HypnoBirthing for our antenatal classes, and watched many amazing HypnoBirths, the majority of which were at home. My mum had a home birth in 1984 with my younger sister, and talked about it so positively in contrast to her hospital birth with me. And as my pregnancy progressed I decided I wanted my daughter’s birth to be as natural and intervention free as possible, and I very much wanted to use a birthing pool, which is of course not guaranteed in a hospital or midwife led unit.
I did a great deal of research and found that far from being a risky option, as it is often perceived, the close care and attention you receive from dedicated midwives during a home birth makes it extremely safe, and it is less likely that you will require medical intervention. However, I did receive negativity from some friends, who believed that home birth would be dangerous, and that it was a ‘selfish’ choice. Finding the Greater Manchester Homebirth support group and attending their meetings gave me the support I needed, and it was great to hear many positive home birth stories. The community midwives based at Wythenshawe Hospital were also very supportive, and immediately put me down for a home birth.
I went into labour two days after my due date. Around 11pm I started to feel what I can only describe as ‘a bit funny’! We decided to go to bed and I listened to my rainbow relaxation in bed but after about an hour of dozing I felt I needed to get up and walk around. After that my surges started and were, from the beginning, long and close together. I woke my husband up and got him to start timing them and we soon realised we needed to call the hospital. I spoke to the midwife and had a surge while on the phone – she sensed from the call that she needed to send someone straight away. It’s all a bit hazy as it seemed to happen quite quickly but I remember my waters breaking around 2am which was just before the midwife arrived. I was quite taken aback by how quickly it all happened and my husband really had to keep me focused on my HypnoBirthing breathing and keeping calm.
I had planned to ease the contractions by using different positions but in fact all I wanted to do was sit on the toilet, it seemed to ease the discomfort. I would describe the contractions like very strong period pains which I felt mostly as pressure in my lower back and a band of tightening around the bottom of my bump. I got into the pool at around 3am. I had meconium in my waters but my midwife was very pragmatic and said she would monitor the baby’s heart rate rather than preventing me using the pool or transferring me to hospital.
I found the pool really helped and I was a lot more comfortable in there. I was listening to the rainbow relaxation and breathing through the contractions, also my husband was doing some exercises to take me into deeper relaxation, and the time seemed to pass very quickly. I had a very quick transitional stage where I momentarily wanted to get out of the pool but it soon passed and I moved into the second stage. This is where I get my body really took over and I felt the natural expulsive reflex really working. Far from being in pain I actually found the second stage a relief and was in no pain or discomfort between surges, and I was happily chatting to the midwives (the second midwife arrived at this point) and my husband. The surges themselves were not painful either, just a very strong downward expelling feeling. I really felt my body was in control and could feel my baby descending. I kept telling the midwives that she had almost arrived and I could feel my daughter’s head! It was very peaceful, and my husband says I was gazing out of the window, mesmerised as the sun rose. The midwife noted that the second stage took fifty-five minutes.
My daughter was born at 5.41, around six hours after I realised I was in labour, and I had no tearing or need for stitches (so we were surprised to discover she weighed a hefty 9lb 3oz – thank goodness for perineal massage!) I caught her myself in the pool and the midwives respected my wish for skin to skin contact, delayed cord clamping and oral vitamin K. In fact the midwives had both followed my birth plan to the letter, they were very respectful and just let my husband and I get on with it! I didn’t even need to use my gas and air which the hospital had delivered just in case.
I had to get out of the pool for the third stage (delivery of the placenta) which I also did naturally without the injection. I must say I found this more uncomfortable than birthing my daughter, possibly because I had to get out of the pool!
My midwife stayed for around four hours after the birth and looked after us completely, ensuring I was washed and in fresh clothes, and that breast feeding was established. They cleaned everything up except the pool, however it was not a messy process at all, I know the thought of the mess puts some people off the idea of home birth. I had a further midwife visit later that day so I felt very well looked after. This is in contrast to friends I know who have had hospital births and have been left alone for hours without seeing a midwife. It was lovely being at home, in my own bed, with all my home comforts and not having to disturb my newborn daughter. Visitors were at our own convenience and my husband was there with us the whole time.
All in all my birth experience was a wonderful one. I know that being at home, in a safe and familiar environment, was one of the major contributing factors to this. I would not hesitate to have another home birth if I was lucky enough to be expecting another child, and I would recommend it to anyone as a very safe and comfortable birthing choice. And it is completely magical to walk into my dining room and think: “that’s the spot where my daughter was born”!
Rachel – Chorlton, Manchester