Let me get this out there from the beginning… I am not a hippy! I shave under my arms, do not wear clothes made from hemp and have never felt the urge to hug a tree (I sometimes barely tolerate hugging people!) However, all 3 of my children were brought into the world in the comfort of our own home. Home births if you will!
I’m also about to say something that breaks ‘the code’! Child birth, in my humble opinion, not that bad!! When describing the births of your children there is an on-going game of top trumps that you are supposed to compete in… when you are pregnant so many women seem to take complete glee in telling you exactly how horrendous the experience will be, how they were in labour for 42 weeks and how they ripped from ear to ear! I don’t mean the people who genuinely have a bad experience where they or their baby were in danger… in my experience those people don’t want to talk about their birth stories… I mean the people who take absolute joy in making people feel terrified at the prospect of birth! An elaborate game of one-up-man-ship takes place where women compete to see who wins the prize for the worst experience when it comes to giving birth! Controversially, I honestly did not think the whole thing was that bad! Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be choosing to do it again, 3 times was enough thank-you very much, nor will I be booking myself in for 8 hours worth of contractions every Saturday for shit and giggles, but overall, when compared to my expectations, I actually quite enjoyed the whole experience!
I decided fairly early on that I liked the prospect of having our baby at home. My mum is a midwife and I was used to her being called out and popping off to someone’s house to deliver a baby! Maybe this made the concept less novel and abstract to me. My main motivation however was the desire to have a birth that wasn’t clinical. Our son George was the result of IVF and 3 years of very invasive treatment; whilst the outcome of that was amazing, three years of being prodded, poked, injected and jabbed had left me a bit fed up of hospitals and yearning for something a bit less ‘medical’.
So the decision was made… My pregnancy had been completely straight forward (other than the actual getting preggers bit!) and I had experienced no complications. I was going to try to have our baby at home!
Some people’s reactions to the prospect of having a home birth are absolutely hilarious.
There are the panic mongers… ‘But what if something goes wrong? Aren’t you worried? Aren’t you? You’re not??? Shouldn’t you be? I am!’
There are the incredulous … ‘you’re having your baby WHERE? In your HOUSE?? In a pool in your KITCHEN?? Are you INSANE!?’
And there are the OCD’ers… ‘But what about all the mess? The mess! Your carpets! I couldn’t be doing with it!’
We chose to ignore all these reactions and forge ahead regardless after conversations about our questions and worries with our very helpful and encouraging doctors and midwives! Labour generally is not as dramatic as the soaps will have you believe! If something is going to go wrong, there are usually warning signs that something is amiss and at that point I’d have been whipped in to the hospital quicker than you can say ‘epidural’. We didn’t live far from the hospital and I could still have gas and air at home- plus a home birth gave you the best chance of being in the water as there was only one pool at the hospital so it was pot luck on the day as to whether you’d get to use it. At home you are loaned a massive inflatable pool (complete with cup holder for your vodka and coke) which you fill up with a hose pipe! Comes in handy to bath the dog in as an alternative!
My labour with George was fairly text book. I woke up on the Wednesday morning with niggly back ache and thought something was potentially starting, however having never birthed a human before I couldn’t be sure! I saw my midwives at lunch time that day and they thought I was in the early stages of labour. I walked miles that afternoon and by tea time was definitely more uncomfortable. I vividly remember ringing Jon at work and telling him that I thought I was having contractions and him asking if he had time to fit a quick pint in after work as it might be the last one for a while!
I bounced like a loon on a birthing ball while watching ‘One Born Every Minute’ and by 9pm was having relatively regular contractions. We’d made a decision that where possible, we wouldn’t tell our families that I was in labour and would just let them know when the baby had arrived. We decided that partly because we didn’t want everyone to worry and partly because we didn’t want them to keep bothering us! I delivered Oscar winning phone conversations to my mum, sister and Nan that evening, breathing through contractions and trying not to let them know I was in labour while chatting about nonsense!!
We called the midwife at about 3am and had our two wonderful midwives with us more or less from that point forward. I used a TENs machine and got in the pool at about 6am. By this point I was completely knackered but was still coping reasonably well with the contractions. Gas and air became my very good friend and I snoozed in the pool in between contractions. It hurt but it was bearable and I’d got to 7cm. There was an amusing moment in the kitchen when I lost my cool with Jon- we’d been up all night and he was starving but I’d been sick a few times through the night so he wanted to (thoughtfully) check if him sitting next to the pool eating toast would bother me! I misheard and thought he was asking me to get out of the birthing pool, dry off and make him toast! He felt my wrath!
By 9am, after begging to be taken to jessops for an epidural so I could have a sleep, my waters had finally broken and I was ready to push. I had the Eastenders version of child birth in my head and remember asking my midwife after one or two pushes if the head was out yet?? Took a few more than that… At 10.27am our beautiful baby splashed into the world! I remember Jon trying to look to see whether it was a boy or girl and thinking that I massively didn’t care what it was and just being so glad that I was finally holding a baby and that it was all over and that I could get some sleep- how wrong I was!! And our clever little boy came on his due date- clearly had insider knowledge on his mummys love of punctuality!
While I sat there staring into the eyes of our not so tiny newborn (8lb 11oz) a military operation of tidying up happened around me and by the time my mum and dad arrived at just after 11 the kitchen was cleaner that it had been before we started! My favourite bit about having a home birth was afterwards- being able to labour in the comfort and relaxed atmosphere of our own home was amazing but I appreciated it even more afterwards- a cup of tea in one of my mugs and being able to get into my own bed was totally worth the lack of epidural!
Esmes birth was more like a tornado on speed and has ended up being a fairly accurate marker of her personality! We moved house 8 days before she was born and there are only 18 and a bit months between the big two so we had a full blown toddler in the mix as well! George stirred at about 3 in the morning and I went in to settle him and noticed niggly back ache again. I got back into bed and couldn’t sleep- more due to the excitement that something was happening rather than pain. I got up at 4 ish and noted very mild contractions about every 4 minutes while I did essential labour activities like having a brew, mopping the kitchen floor and putting in a load of washing. At half 5 I was fed up of the 24 hour news channel which is basically the only thing that is on at that time and went upstairs to run a bath- I hadn’t woken Jon at this point- I learnt from last time that it was important that at least one of us got some sleep so as everything seemed so mild and calm I thought he might as well snooze! I got in the bath at 6 am and heard George wake up properly at 6.30 so got out of the bath… Holy! Mother! Of! God! It’s fair to say at this point that contractions ramped up a little in terms of intensity and also were coming quite regularly (as in every 2 minutes!) Jon walked into the bathroom and wondered what the good god was going on! He took one look at me, called the midwife and ran downstairs to start filling the pool while I tried really hard to not terrify the life out of a toddler by manically smiling and grimacing through the contractions rather than screaming! Grandparents were summonded- George was thrown out of the door with a pile of clothes and the midwife arrived at half 7. She took one look at me and told Jon to turn off the tap to the pool- this baby was not waiting for a paddling pool in the kitchen to fill! Instead, with frightening efficiency, our bedroom was covered in left over polythene from our move and a load of all old towels! It was a bit like a scene from a serial killer film! At 7.59am our beautiful baby girl came into the world, born within her waters which never broke and weighing in at an impressive 8lb 15oz (all the pain of a 9lber and none of the glory!) The gas and air arrived in time for the last push and, having convinced myself we were having another boy, I asked the midwife to check at least 4 times that it definitely didn’t have any ‘dangly bits’ to be absolutely sure! The proper bit of labour lasted an hour and a half in total and brought our little girl along four days early! Very intense, very quick and a complete whirlwind! Just like our little Esme-doodle!
Ted didn’t get the memo about punctuality! He went 8 very long days overdue and it did not bring out the best in me!! This situation wasn’t helped by the 3 days prior to him being born, having 3 hours of regular contractions each night which evaporated into nothing each time! On the night before he was born I’d got into bed having contractions that regular that we blew the pool up! I’d gone to bed thinking that I may be able to snatch a few minutes between contractions and ended up waking up 2 hours later after it had all stopped and feeling very, very angry! I came downstairs and tried to march the contractions back into action by stomping up and down the length of our living room! When that didn’t work I went back to bed, woke Jon up and demanded that he take me to the hospital immediately for a section, in between very ugly sobbing! He tried to very diplomatically explain to me that this wasn’t how it worked and he wasn’t sure the doctors would be willing to slot me in for major surgery in the middle of the night because I was a teensy bit pissed off! I had however decided that ‘this bloody baby’ was never coming out and spent most of the night laid wide awake either crying or fuming at his or hers tardiness!
Jon took George to school that morning, I was worried about my ability to quell violence against anyone who mentioned ‘signs’, and when he came back I was bent over the work top breathing heavily! I continued for the next hour to deny the existence of contractions for fear that they would disappear if I acknowledged them! My mum came and took Esme and at 10am when I requested the TENs machine Jon decided to ignore my protests that ‘It was honestly nothing… definitely not a contraction… it’ll all just chuffing stop in a minute you wait!’ and rang the midwife. My lovely midwife arrived, told me I was 6cm and suggested I got in the pool. I was still convinced that it wasn’t proper labour, what with the fact that the baby was never coming out and all, despite having fairly intense contractions every minute and a half! I finally accepted that this was possibly now going to happen, got in the pool and our little boy was born at 12.12 weighing in at a very impressive 9lb 11oz.
I wouldn’t swap our home births for all the Morphene in the NHS! For both of us, being in our own home, relaxed and comfortable was the right thing- I would have been anxious in hospital- I don’t like them- and I’m not sure I would have had such a positive births. I totally get that some people would find the hospital reassuring and therefore more relaxing but for me, home was definitely where my heart was! And being at home when the babies were born, being comfortable and content and in our own setting straight away without having to share a noisy ward with loads of people coming and going was definitely preferable! All were amazing experiences and I was so lucky to have such positive births, but if I had to pick a favourite birth it would probably be Ted. George was a bit too long and stole one whole nights sleep from me at the beginning of a period of time where I needed all the sleep I could get! And While Esme was the quickest, it was a bit too intense and fast and I felt like it all ran away from me a bit! Plus I had absolutely no pain relief due to the speed of it! Ted was a nice hybrid of the two, nice and quick once he finally got going, but much more controlled and I made it into the pool!
Three brilliant pregnancies (excluding the 8 days I went overdue with Ted!), 3 amazing birth experiences at home and 3 happy healthy children to show for it! One very lucky mummy!