Esther Phoebe May
Felicity Dunn, 30, from Milton Keynes, had her first baby at home in a birthing pool. But a couple of days later her newborn baby was admitted to hospital...
What kind of birth were you hoping for?
I work in a hospital but decided on a homebirth as I wanted to avoid unnecessary medicalisation of the birth. I suffer from longterm high blood pressure and had so many different midwives that I really had to fight hard to have a home birth.
How did you prepare for labour?
I spent a lot of time mentally preparing myself for labour and birth. I read a number of books about natural childbirth, attended NHS and NCT antenatal classes, and talked to friends who had recently had babies. I also practiced relaxation and breathing techniques daily in the last few weeks of pregnancy, whilst enjoying the sunshine in the back garden.
How and when did labour begin?
I went into labour naturally a week after my due date, just as I was getting into bed. I managed to get an hour's sleep but then the contractions intensified so I took some paracetamol, put on my TENS machine, and sat up in the lounge all night long, bouncing on my birthing ball and listening to music. I made my husband, Graham, join me!
At around 6am we rang the hospital who sent a community midwife out to us at 7am. I got into the birthing pool but she had to go off to attend another home birth, and she came back around an hour later.
What pain relief did you use?
As well as paracetamol and the TENS machine, I found the water helpful as pain relief. I was determined not to use Entonox (gas and air) but it was available if I wanted it. The midwife gave the Entonox bottle to Graham to hold but he put it down, not realising it had a rounded bottom, and it fell over and badly chipped a kitchen floor tile!
How did you cope with the contractions?
As things progressed I started getting quite noisy with each contraction, despite all those breathing exercises I'd practiced, but the midwife showed me how to keep breathing through them and that helped.
I found myself drifting off into a very relaxed and sleepy state between contractions, to the point that I sort of forgot what I was doing!
It was a hot day so I also had regular cold drinks and sucked on ice cubes. I had intended to eat small amounts but I found I just didn't feel like it. Sports drinks really helped to keep my energy levels up, though.
When did you start pushing?
At around 11am a second midwife arrived, and by about 1pm I was ready to push.
I was very tired by that stage and it didn't feel like very much was happening.
I particularly remember drinking some Lucozade sport at that point, which really seemed to help.
But then we realised that the baby's head was turned sideways, which wasn't helping!
Finally though, after an hour of pushing, she came out in one big push, taking us all by surprise!
She was a girl, as we had begun to suspect, and she was born at 2.41pm.
Felicity Dunn and her baby Esther shortly after the birth
What happened in the moments after her birth?
I picked my daughter up out of the water. She was moving and her eyes were open but she hadn't taken her first breath so the midwives cut the cord and rubbed her down, and she started to breathe by herself.
I got out of the pool and had to have some stitches but the midwife was able to do them in the living room.
Esther laid on my chest but she didn't really start breast feeding initially, she just took little sucks.
The midwives weighed her - she was 6lbs 14oz - but unfortunately Daddy missed this bit as he was busy clearing up the kitchen after flooding it with the birthing pool!
How did you feel once your daughter was born?
Immediately after Esther was born we both felt relieved but a bit bewildered, it was almost an anti climax, strangely!
How quickly did you decide on your daughter's name?
We had decided on the name Esther Phoebe May in advance, with an alternative for a boy as we didn't know which we were having. Once we had finished all the messy bits after the birth and the midwife was doing her paperwork, she asked if we had a name yet and we agreed that Esther Phoebe May still felt right. It was very hard to tell if this little wrinkled person would really suit her name, though.
What did you do for the rest of the day?
Time seemed to fly that evening. I was shattered and could barely stand up and there was all sorts of paperwork to fill in for the midwives.
I tried to eat a bacon sandwich and toast but in hindsight I really should have had a yoghurt or something softer and easier to manage.
That night we went to bed and I didn't even have the energy to think about what to dress Esther in, especially as it was so warm. Graham also didn't know how to put a newborn to sleep in a moses basket and didn't know how to find out, so she went to bed just wearing a nappy with a blanket over her!
Esther woke us at about midnight but again she didn't feed properly. We trawled the internet to find out what to do but eventually she went back to sleep and woke six hours later. I felt so much better after a good sleep but Esther had a very full nappy so it was time for my very first nappy change.
That morning the breastfeeding advisor came round and we spent a couple of hours syringing colostrum into her mouth. We also dragged ourselves out to the GP's surgery for check-ups in the afternoon.
I kept trying to breastfeed Esther but she only took a few sucks at a time, though she didn't seem to be dehydrated as she was still producing wet nappies.
When did you realise something was wrong?
On the second night after her birth I woke to the sound of her screaming. She was having a seizure so I called 999. Even though I had wanted to steer clear of the hospital I was so glad the medical team were there for us when we actually needed them. They were fantastic!
Esther started antibiotics and antivirals, and after her first dose she had her first proper breastfeed.
What was it like having your newborn baby admitted to hospital?
When Esther was taken to hospital we felt calm initially as she had recovered ok from the seizure and we thought she must have just overheated, but an hour or two later when we were taken to the ward and she seemed more unwell again we were very worried and there were a few tears shed!
It was very confusing to go from the high of having a new family member to worrying that we might lose her in such a short time.
What happened next?
We stayed in hospital for a week to finish the course of antibiotics but we never found out why she suffered a seizure. It was probably due to an infection she caught whilst still inside. She's had no health problems since then, thankfully.
Would you recommend a home birth to other expectant mums?
Definitely. I wanted to make sure that I was in control of giving birth, as nature intended, and found it a very positive experience. It can be scary to step away from convention but we ended up getting much more midwife attention at home, although the whole experience certainly went from one extreme to the other, because of our emergency hospital admission. We got excellent medical care when we needed it as well.
We got to meet the health Minister, Andrew Lansley, on the day we left hospital, and got on the TV as well! He was visiting the hospital to discuss the maternity services which were under special measures at the time and wanted to have a chat with some of the mums who had recently given birth.
Felicity and Graham Dunn with their daughter Esther
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