If you're choosing to have a home birth, there's a good chance that you hope the experience will be less stressful than a hospital experience. I've heard many beautiful tales of log fires and marmite on toast and a cold glass of beer at the end of it all (I've heard some horror stories too, mind you).
After seeing the way my sister got treated like a slab of meat in her hospital birth, I quickly decided that when I had a baby, I'd be thinking very seriously about a home birth.
Fast forward a year, and that's exactly what I'm planning. But it's already proving to be a less-than-stress-free experience...
When I told my local GP that I was pregnant and that I'd like to have a home birth, her response was "well, I'm not sure if we do that. I haven't delivered a child in years and I certainly wouldn't want to do it". Not really knowing much at all about how these things work, but still feeling slightly more in the know than my own GP I tentatively suggested that in order to have a home birth, I simply needed to find out which hospital I would be doing it through.
"Which hospital do you want to have the baby at, then?" she asked, still not quite grasping it. "I'm not sure. Which is the one you'd recommend for me?" She shrugged and suggested I simply pick one, "you can always change it later if you want".
And that's really where my problems started.
Once I got home, I discovered that while I'd picked a very nice, new hospital, it was also a good 30-minute drive from my house (in good traffic) and a 60-minute bus ride. The hospital I was having my first scan at (hospital B), however, was a short train ride away, and would also be a faster drive - both for us and for any family wanting to visit should I end up in hospital after all. It also has a great reputation, with three independent midwives groups attached to it and great support for home birth.
So I switched to the other hospital.
In the meantime, I got a letter through from hospital A saying I'd missed an appointment. I hadn't actually had any contact with a midwife so far, aside from a very brief phone call saying that someone would be in touch soon, so how I'd missed an appointment that I hadn't even been told about was beyond me. Over at Hospital B for my booking appointment, I explained my concerns and they were lovely and supportive.
But then they looked at my address.
"We don't do home births in your area", they explained, "you were with the right hospital originally, you'll have to go back to them". Thankfully, they were kind enough to ring the other hospital and sort out another appointment for me.
Fast forward to my second booking appointment (yes, I did have to have all the same blood tests again, despite having the results from Hospital B): "I know you're in our borough, but we don't actually do home births on your road. We finish a few roads down from there. You'll need to move to Hospital C".
Hospital C is a hospital with a grim reputation and a nickname provided by locals that includes the word "die".
There is no way I'm moving to Hospital C.
For the time being, they suggested, I should just stick with them, since my midwife care would be at a local cottage hospital down the road from my house. I wouldn't be able to have home visits like normal, however, as they didn't quite go to my street, but they would probably come up to my GP's surgery down the road. Also, since I'll hopefully be moving out of our one-bed flat and into a house before the baby is due, I may well have to move to a totally different hospital, Hospital D, but they wouldn't be able to tell me until I know what street I'll be on. Oh the joys of living in an area that sits across five boroughs
So my quest for a home birth continues. The strange thing is, I'm usually quite good at being businesslike and getting answers out of people, but when it comes to my own pregnancy, I seem to become a helpless child. I haven't had a 25-week visit, for example (I'm now 26 weeks) and instead of ringing to find out what is going on, I've just sat here feeling sorry for myself. I don't want to cause a fuss and I'm aware that we're lucky in this country to have free healthcare that means we get to choose home births and have home visits.
But I think it may be time to get my act together and stop being so helpless. Otherwise there's a serious risk that this baby will be born in our camper van on the way to whichever hospital finally agrees to have me.