As soon as I found out I was pregnant I knew I wanted a homebirth. I’m no fan of hospitals (who is?) and felt it made much more sense to bring my first baby into this world in the safety and comfort of my own home. My partner, Conan, felt the same. We were relieved and delighted to find independent midwife Sue Cole living and working near where we lived in West Clare. We had trouble finding a GP to take us on, so Sue suggested one a little further afield who had already done antenatal care for one of her homebirthers. The reaction from the local GPs was disappointing but expected and further concreted my wishes to stay as far away from the medicalised world of doctors and hospitals as possible. I wasn’t sick after all. In fact after the tiredness of the first trimester had gone I don’t think I’d ever felt healthier or happier.
We always looked forward to Sue’s visits – even the dogs loved her! We would sit at the kitchen table for hours with tea and biscuits, talking all things birth and babies. And listening to the baby’s heart was always the highlight, especially that first, magical time. It was clear from the start we were going to get on very well with Sue, she’s a lovely mixture of trustworthy professional and caring nurturer.
I did as much preparation as I could; antenatal yoga, read everything I could on natural childbirth – I particularly loved reading homebirth stories – listened to my hypnobirth CD everyday and started prenatal acupuncture 4 weeks before my due date. I was in high spirits and ready to take on the exciting challenge of giving birth.
Robin was due on Saturday 26th of April. I am not a patient person, so from 38 weeks I already wanted to get the show on the road… I was talking to my bump regularly convincing her to arrive on time.
At 39 weeks I felt the first little niggle. I started to get excited. The following Monday I had a small show. I had prenatal acupuncture on the Wednesday and told her to pump it up big time. I started having a stronger niggles after that, which went on into Thursday. Not much to speak of – just enough to make me hopeful that maybe my baby would arrive on time.
Friday I was out and about as usual; walked the dogs, did a bit of grocery shopping. The niggles seemed to be getting a bit more lively as the day went on. I decided I’d rustle up a bit of dinner for us that evening and as I was cooking I had a couple of twinges that made me stop and think about them, but I didn’t want to get too excited, convinced labour was a long way off. I scoffed two portions of dinner, thinking I should fuel up, just in case it was the big night. At 6pm I decided to time the twinges. By 7.15pm they were forming a fairly consistent pattern, coming every 5 minutes so I decided to ring Sue to give her the heads up. She asked if I wanted her to come and I said no as I could still talk through the contractions and I didn’t even believe I was in labour proper yet. She said to call her if my waters broke or whenever I felt I needed her. She reminded me to put on the TENS.
I decided I’d stick on my favourite comedy movie to laugh away the early labour. No sooner was the DVD in the player that I said ‘No I can’t concentrate on a movie now.’ We moved into the bedroom and I put on a lovely soft old cotton shirt (it had a handy pocket for the TENS too). He busied himself lighting the candles and lavender oil burner, building me a nest of pillows on the bed, setting up the music and getting the TENS stuck onto me while timing the contractions. At this point I conceded I was in labour, as although still really manageable the contractions definitely required my undivided attention. I was very excited thinking my little girl would arrive on her due date and we’d finally get to meet her.
By about 7.45pm the contractions were every three minutes and one minute long. Conan called Sue and said he thought she should probably come at this stage, seeing as things seemed to be progressing nicely. She said she was all packed and ready to go. At this stage I was lying on my left side just like I had done each time I listened to my hypnobirthing CD. As I felt each contraction come I would hit the booster button on the TENS and relax as fully as possible into the pain while breathing slowly and deeply. I asked Conan to be still and silent when I was having a contraction as I felt they needed all my attention. He stood beside me and I held his hand through each one. I didn’t really feel like being touched but I needed to know he was right there with me. I started to regret eating so much at dinner; the contractions were making me queasy and a full stomach was not helping matters.
By the time Sue got to our house at about 8.15pm the contractions were every two minutes and took every fibre of my concentration to get through with reasonable comfort. Sue commented when she walked in the room; ‘Well, that’s the quietest and stillest I’ve ever seen her!’ (I’m not the most shrinking of violets!!) She busied herself setting up her stuff and I got on with the business of being in labour.
Things really heated up at this point and Sue barely got to take my blood pressure and listen to the baby’s heart between contractions, which were coming very close together now with only a small break between them. There were a couple of times where I didn’t get ‘on top’ of the contraction as it was coming and those were really uncomfortable, but mostly I found breathing into the contraction would get me through ok. At about 9pm I got up to go to the loo as I got this huge, uncomfortable sensation of pressure on my bladder. As soon as I had a pee the nature of the contractions changed. I felt like I’d stepped onto a roller coaster ride. When the next contraction came as I sat on the loo I felt like I’d been picked up and spun head over heals. An involuntary ‘Whoooooaaaaah’ came out of me. Thankfully I quite like extreme theme park rides, so it wasn’t a bad sensation – just all-consuming. Conan was kneeling in front of me and on hearing that noise Sue popped her head in the door of the en-suite. ‘Do you feel like pushing?’ she asked. ‘I don’t know’ I panted. She instructed Conan not to let me push and he reminded me to breath like Trea, our yoga teacher, had taught us; pffooh pffooh pffooh pffooh.
Sue wanted to get me back on the bed because she still hadn’t had a chance to do an internal. ‘Just wait for one more contraction.’ I said, as I tried to get myself together to move. Conan also wanted me to get off the loo because we had never bolted it back on the floor after the bathroom was tiled and he had images of me and the toilet collapsing onto the floor in a pool of mess! ‘Do you want to move to the main bathroom?’ he suggested. ‘NO!’ I grunted, like a stroppy child. Nothing was moving me until I was ready. Then I felt bad because I thought I’d snapped at him. ‘I love you’ I said quietly as he knelt in front of me. ‘I love you too’ he said, laughing at my changing moods.
I got back on the bed and to my utter surprise and delight Sue announced that I was at 10cm! I couldn’t believe it – I was already at the transition stage. I could have jumped around the room with glee, but I knew I needed to concentrate still.
I lay back down on my side but this was no longer comfortable so I got up on my knees, I pulled off my labouring shirt, threw the TENS on the bed and put the booster button on constant. I was naked but for a TENS machine and my hiking socks – a good look.
I tried leaning forward over the pillows but that wasn’t comfortable either so I put one hand on my thigh and one on Conan’s thigh, who was kneeling beside me on the bed. Conan continued to coach me with the breathing. My goodness, that was so important. I think I might have actually stopped breathing altogether if he hadn’t been there to remind me how to do it. Sue was standing on the other side of me offering quiet guidance. ‘Just let her come down herself now.’ ‘Gently does it.’ ‘Let your body do the work.’ I felt so protected and looked after by these two people I trusted and it allowed me to really relax into the labour, undistracted, bringing my baby out. I remember thinking how very, very glad I was to be here in my own home, on my own bed, with this brilliant little team, working together. As each contraction came I would push my hands into my leg and Conan’s and I felt like I was drawing amazing strength from him and that he was keeping me grounded, rooted into the earth.
That stage must have lasted half an hour but it felt like five minutes. My waters still hadn’t broken and then suddenly, whoosh, out they came in a warm gush. Just after that Sue told us the head was crowning. Conan had a look down and announced ‘She has dark hair, just like you!’.
I heard Sue say ‘I’m just going to get some water.’ ‘No don’t go!’ I pleaded. I sensed Conan and her share a smile and before I could get upset she was back by my side with a very welcome warm compress against my perineum. She knew I didn’t want to be touched and asked ‘Is this nice, or not nice?’ ‘NICE.’ I panted. It was very nice indeed. It took away the fear I had about tearing and I decided then I could go for it with the pushing. At the next contraction I bore down. ‘Nggrrffffuuuh’ I growled. Sue suggested: ‘Take it down from your throat and push from your bum.’ The next contraction came and I did just what she said. I tucked my head into my chest and breathed down into my backside and I felt a slight stinging. Sue told me after that was the top quarter of her head popping out. On the next contraction I pushed again and her whole head came out. I looked down and paused thinking I’d have to wait for the next contraction to push her body out, but she kept coming! I could feel myself still contracting and her body just slithered right out. I put my hand down and scooped her up and laid her on the bed in front of me. Myself and Conan just looked from her to each other repeatedly, saying ‘Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!’
And there she was, at 10pm on the button, squeaking and squawking and looking really rather good for a newborn I thought – nice and pink and wriggly. I am, of course, slightly biased…
I turned around and sat up and Conan placed her on my tummy. Sue gave her a good drying down and wrapped a towel around her and after the cord had stopped pulsating Conan did the ceremonial cutting. After a good cuddle Sue weighed her – a neat 6lb10 – and checked her over. Conan dressed her and we sat there for an hour or so as she nuzzled at the breast and had a good feed. It was all so peaceful and chilled out. Then I got up and had a shower while Sue and Conan cleaned the room up and remade the bed. I have never felt more calm and ecstatic in my life.
I had no tears, just a small labial scratch where her little hand had been beside her cheek as she came out – just like we’d seen her at the scan!
Sue left about 1.30am. Robin had a little cry for a while and then conked out followed swiftly by her overjoyed but exhausted parents. We all woke up about 8am the next morning and let the world know our wonderful news.
Giving birth to Robin was an amazing experience that I will cherish forever. I feel so lucky that I got to have her at home, it was just so special. Sue visited every day for nearly two weeks after and gave us huge help with breastfeeding and bathing etc and generally made life very easy for us as we found our feet as new parents.
My little homebirth baby is 5 years old now and she’s such a happy, lively, bright star. I’m not sure if we can credit the homebirth entirely for that, but such a great start to life can only be a positive thing!
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