After 48 hours of labour at home, Catherine Willoughby was relieved when her maternity unit finally confirmed it was the right time to go - but she didn't get that far! Here Catherine shares with us the drama of an unexpected home birth.
When did you go into labour?
It was seven days before my due date. This was my first baby so I didn't really know what I was doing or what to expect. I thought I was actually having Braxton Hicks because I had fully anticipated going overdue. Everyone else at my NCT group had!
How did the labour start?
What I thought were Braxton Hicks just got more painful and regular, and eventually they were spaced apart by seven minutes. I phoned the hospital, who told me I should stay at home until I felt I couldn't go any further and to phone when my waters broke.
How did things progress?
Over the course of 48 hours, I felt as though I was just plodding on. It was certainly painful, but I felt able to cope. My waters still hadn't broken so the hospital just kept telling me that the best place to be was home. Apparently going into hospital too early can actually slow your labour down as the experience can make you tense, whereas being at home means you are more able to relax. According to the midwives, this was my best option.
How did that make you feel?
At that point, it felt like the labour was never going to end! I did want to get to hospital but it just didn't feel like the right time and the midwives seemed certain of this too. So I put my trust in their advice. I had friends from NCT who had been in this situation, so I just thought it was normal.
When did your waters finally break?
They didn't break until around 47 hours into labour! At this point things were getting extremely painful and we phoned the unit, who told me to come straight in. But that's when my baby decided we weren't going to make it after all!
What happened next?
I just, all of a sudden, got the urge to push! Having never had a baby before and, as ridiculous as it sounds, I didn't know that I had been through the transitioning stage and that I was getting ready to push! As soon as I realised what was happening, I told my husband to phone for an ambulance.
How did your husband react?
He just kept saying in a very innocent and inexperienced way that the hospital wasn't far away, and could I hang on? I said no, I can't! Phone an ambulance now!
Did the ambulance make it in time?
Yes – just. My husband had been brilliant and held my hand through a couple of pushing contractions, and raced off to get towels and water in between. As wonderful as he was, I think we were both relieved when the ambulance arrived and took over!
When was your baby born?
Five minutes after arriving, a paramedic helped deliver my son Jonathan into the world. I delivered him in the hallway on the floor – fortunately we have wood flooring!
After such an unexpected birth, what was it like to see him?
It was wonderful. He was so small and crinkly and cute! And thankfully he screamed the minute he arrived. This came as an incredible relief as I wasn't sure what was going to happen when I started pushing. But the paramedics were wonderful and it was all fine. He was of course 100 per cent worth it. And I have pledged to remind him often of his crazy entrance into the world!
Did you ever make it into hospital?
Yes! Once the placenta was delivered, Jonathan and I were taken in to be checked over and were admitted for a night. But I was pleased to get back home - as well as relieved to see that the hallway floor suffered no lasting damage!