Like many first-time mums, I wasn’t sure what to expect with my first birth. Initially, I dreamed of having my daughter at home, but home births weren’t offered as an option to me so I assumed they weren’t available in my area.
At the beginning of my pregnancy I was at a hospital on route to work so it was convenient to go to appointments, but I later switched to a midwife-led unit with a first-time birth focus, recommended to me by a friend. And it was great! They were so reassuring and there was no judgment. I asked as many questions as I needed to. It was a much better fit.
My nerves about birth began to subside as my due date approached – but I couldn’t shake the fact I wanted a home birth. Every time I said it out loud, I got a negative opinion back. The comments were well-meaning, I’m sure, but it felt like a running commentary of the things that could go wrong. Obviously I wanted everything to go right, and have all the help I needed, so I stuck with the midwife-led unit.
I was around a week overdue when I went into labour, at home in the middle of the night. I woke up and my waters had broken and, somehow, I was shocked – as if it was a surprise I was having a baby. I held off heading to hospital, in a bid to get more rest, and started hypnobirthing at home.
It was really full-on and painful right from the beginning – in fact, the pain stayed pretty much the same throughout. Later I was told it was because my baby was back to back. As my waters had broken, I was told by the birth centre I needed to go into hospital to be checked over. My mother-in-law drove us to the hospital, which was a half an hour drive in the middle of the night. I was in so much pain I just wanted things to get moving, but they checked me over and said I wasn’t very dilated at all.
I had to wait three hours for the next check, and spent those hours walking around the hospital and on a birthing ball in the waiting room until I could be re-examined. When they checked me again, nothing had changed. They told me to go home. I was disappointed at the time, but it was the best thing that could have happened. It was like as soon as I got back into my house – after a long drive through traffic home – everything seemed to relax a little.
Climbing the stairs into my flat was a chore, though. I’m on the third floor, and it took me double the amount of time it should’ve to get up there because I had to keep stopping, grabbing onto railings or an arm every time another contraction came. But when I got in, I climbed in the bath and sunk into the warm water. I noticed how much my partner relaxed, too.
It was our space. We both felt more comfortable being alone with each other. He helped me through breathing exercises and I used a TENS machine to ease the pain of contractions and whacked it right up. At one point I removed it and my partner went to turn it off – giving himself a mini electric shock in the process.
When I got out of the bath and came into the bedroom was when things really ramped up. I stood at the end of the bed, leaning over, doing that “mooing” sound people talk about. My partner and my mum (who was there but staying out of the way) knew we’d never make it back to the hospital in time, especially not in rush hour. And as they were discussing the plan, I shouted out that I thought I could feel the baby’s head coming out.
But I wasn’t sure. So, as I got onto hands and knees on the bed, I said to my partner: “Get out your phone, have a look!”, willing him to see if this baby was on her way out. He flicked on the torch on his phone and had a peek. “Yep, she’s definitely coming,” he said.
I was relieved. All I could think was that this labour was coming to an end, but my partner was slightly frantic, calling the ambulance. The paramedics were speedy, really speedy. They arrived as I could feel my daughter crowning even more. The urge to push came within minutes of them arriving. I pushed twice and my daughter was there.
It felt dramatic, that moment. The excitement of a baby coming out, in my own bedroom, with my partner on one side, my mum on the other and paramedics at the end of the bed. I don’t remember that first moment with my daughter to be honest – I just remember thinking, it’s over! I’ve done it!
The paramedics helped me to birth the placenta into a cardboard bowl, because we didn’t have a midwife there and they needed someone to check it over. When she arrived, she said I’d need stitching at the hospital, so we ended up going back there – in the room I was meant to give birth in in the first place.
The three of us slept over in the birth centre, had buttery white toast and sweet tea, and gained wonderful breastfeeding support. In the end, I had the best of both worlds.
My birth advice?
I should’ve trusted my instinct and gut about my home birth. Whatever you decide, try and make it work.