'I Checked Into A Hotel To Give Birth'

06/01/2015 15:36 | Updated 20 May 2015

home birth hotel

Like many couples planning for a new arrival, Katherine and Charles Hickman were doing some house renovations when they were expecting their third child. And, like many building projects, it over ran.

Having given birth to their son Alfie at home, Katherine, 37, who is a GP, wanted the same relaxed experience again.

So with neither hospital nor a building site the preferred place for delivery, she gave birth to baby Benjamin in a luxurious city centre hotel room.

As Katherine's due date approached, she and Charles, together with their children - Abigail, six, and four-year-old Alfie - booked into serviced aparthotel Roomzzz.

Tell us about giving birth to your first child.

I booked a home birth first time round with Abigail. It was another GP who recommended it to me. He said even if you don't actually have the baby at home in the end, the midwives will come out to you when you're in labour. I was in labour for 66 hours, so it was a godsend.

When my waters broke after 60 hours there was meconium (a stool passed by newborn babies that can cause complications if inhaled by the foetus during labour, which makes the waters look greenish). I went to hospital at that point and they were great there. I had an epidural so that I could sleep, and then I was ready to push and it was a straightforward birth and a really good experience.

So then what happened when you had Alfie?

I planned to do the same again, as it had all been so positive. I went into labour at home and it was full-on and very intense from the word go. So at that point I changed my mind about going to hospital.

My husband Charles phoned the home birth team and a midwife who lived round the corner came out. I was 10 centimetres dilated. She broke my waters. I was ready to push and he was born very quickly. From start to finish the labour was two hours.

How did it feel having a home birth?

It was the best experience, just lovely being in my own home. The midwife made me some tea and toast and Alfie had a breast feed and then because everything was OK, they left us to it.

So how did getting pregnant and extending the house come together?

The house project - extending downstairs and adding an en-suite master bedroom in the loft - had been going on since April. I found out I was pregnant in December, so it was good timing since we were having a third – or so we thought!

The builders assured us it would be done before he was born, so I pictured this perfect birth at home, and thought this wonderful new house would be all ready for the start of my maternity leave. How wrong I was!

When did you realise you wouldn't be able to give birth at home and how did you feel?

The further the project went along the more we realised there was no way our home was going to be ready for the birth, so then it was this kind of panic. We needed alternative accommodation but there was nowhere that did short term rents for just a couple of months.

A few friends offered to have us and we stayed at a neighbour's house while they were on holiday. That was all well and good but it didn't feel right. I was so on edge thinking I was going to go into labour.

At that point didn't you think it would be easier just to go to hospital to have the baby?

I had this overwhelming urge to be in familiar surroundings where I felt 'at home' having been 'homeless' for weeks. I felt safe in the knowledge that if it all went to plan, after the birth we'd all be together as a family and I wouldn't be by myself overnight in a hospital bed.

Equally, I knew that with the support of the home birth team, if things started going wrong the midwives would be there, able to assess me and make the professional decision to get me into hospital.

So how did you end up in Roomzzz?

One of the estate agents I spoke to recommended it, so I phoned and got booked in for a two week stay. I just walked in and it felt right. It was lovely and clean, and because we were there for a few days we made it our own.

What happened when you went into labour?

The day Benjamin was born, I dropped Abigail at her friend's house for a play date, and Charles, Alfie and I went out for lunch. But before the waiter brought our food, my waters broke.

There was meconium, so I got a bit stressed about that. We got in the car and didn't really know what to do. We phoned the home birth team, and they were great. They said that usually when there's meconium they ask someone to come in, but they asked if it was thick, which it wasn't, so they said to go back to Roomzzz, which was just down the road from the hospital, and they would come straight away.

So what happened when you got there?

Alfie was being very good, holding the door open for me and getting the lift. We got in and Charles put a shower curtain we had bought on the bed and then a sheet over the top. Alfie was watching TV in his room and I was in the bathroom gripping onto the sink.

What happened next?

The midwives turned up and had a listen in to the bump for a heartbeat. I don't think either of us heard it – well I definitely didn't. The mood changed at that point, and I got on the bed and I could tell there was an atmosphere of angst and she listened again and I think I could hear the heartbeat was low.

I asked if they were worried and they said no, but rang for two ambulances. I had an overwhelming urge to push – exactly like with Alfie - and I just felt completely in the zone. I thought: 'There's only one person in this room who's going to get this baby out and it's me. I've got to go for it', and out he popped.

Was everything ok?

He was ever so slightly floppy and gave a weak cry. The midwife lifted his chin up and his colour picked up and he didn't need oxygen, he was fine. At that point an ambulance responder and two ambulance crews turned up.

home birth hotel

Do you think it would have been different if you'd gone to hospital?

I don't know for sure, but I suspect I would have ended up having an emergency c-section had I gone to hospital.

Does it worry you to think things might have gone differently?

As a doctor I have seen things go wrong, and I have been wondering, if it had, how would I have felt? But, being a GP, I see a lot of births go well, often at home. I felt passionate about giving birth at home, and being in hospital is a risk too, just because you're there doesn't mean things can't go wrong.

It's a risky business giving birth, but I had utter confidence in the ambulance staff and midwives and I felt really safe.

What happened after he was born?

Eventually everyone left. Abigail came back from her friend's house. She asked if I'd cried and I said I hadn't made much noise. She asked if it was so I didn't frighten Alfie, but I think it was because I'd read a review that said the walls were thin and I didn't want to disturb the other guests!

One important question - did you leave the room as you found it?

Yes! There was very little mess and the shower curtain did the job!

So do you have fond memories of your stay?

Yes. Now our house is finished and we're happily settled back there, every time we drive past Roomzzz the children point and get excited. We think we might even book in there for a night to celebrate Benjamin's first birthday.

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