SECOND TIME MUM, UNASSISTED HOME BIRTH
Just as with my first pregnancy, my ‘guess date’ came and went. I’d anticipated this, as I knew only 5% of babies come on their due dates. At my 40 week appointment on 1st March 2017, my midwife booked me in for an induction at 41+3, with little discussion. Her reason for this was that “it gets booked up quick”, so better book me a slot. I was furious with how blasé she was. It wasn’t offered to me like I had a choice, nor were the benefits or, more importantly, risks explained. I made it clear I would not be entering into discussion before 42+ weeks as I did not want to be induced.
At that same appointment I was told my baby was head down and partly engaged, which made the induction date seem even more unnecessary. I went home feeling frustrated. The induction date hung over my head for days. I trusted my body, but wasn’t getting any niggles or signs of labour yet. I was dreading the prospect of my labour being interfered with.
We walked a lot over those next few days! I was dragging Jack (my partner) & Elba (my eldest daughter who was just over 2.5 years at the time) out for walks everyday and bouncing on my birth ball at every opportunity.
I toyed with the idea of a home birth during my pregnancy, but we opted for another hospital birth this time because I really felt I had such a positive experience the first time; I’d felt safe and things had gone exactly how I’d wanted. Naively, I thought that by keeping the hospital as my choice of place to give birth, I’d be able to have a similar experience. Of course, no two births are the same!
GOING INTO LABOUR
On Sunday 5th March (40+4) I had a familiar, dull period-like pain coming and going all day. During the night, the sensations were coming more frequently and I was sure something was beginning to happen. I took myself to bed to get some rest, assuming I’d be woken by labour at some point during the night. I was disappointed when I woke up in the morning to nothing! Everything seemed to have completely stopped, other than what I thought was my waters slowly trickling. I popped a pad in and went about my day.
We chose not to contact the hospital at this stage, as I didn’t want them to start clock watching or be given a time limit for my birth to happen spontaneously.
I walked with a friend that lunchtime. My waters were still very lightly trickling and I was feeling a lot of pressure in between my legs. I trusted that something was happening, but carried on as normal.
Once I returned home, at about 3.30pm, the tightenings and period-like pains returned. I decided to speak to a midwife. My mum drove down to be with Elba and we went in to be assessed at 5.30pm. At this point I was experiencing irregular surges.
As I arrived at the hospital my waters gushed. It was such an odd feeling and so unfamiliar. During my first labour my waters didn’t break until the last moment and I was already in the pool.
I was seen by a student midwife at around 6pm. She listened-in using a hand held doppler and felt my tummy to gauge the position of baby. I was grateful that she said she wouldn’t be offering a vaginal examination now my waters had released, as this would increase the risk of infection. This isn’t something I would have accepted anyway, as I didn’t feel it was necessary and knew a VE could stall things at this stage.
She then told me I wasn’t in established labour because my contractions weren’t regular enough yet; to go home, take a bath and have something to eat. Then, of course, told me I’d have to come back in the morning for an induction if nothing had progressed further by then. Again, this wasn’t portrayed as though I has any choice in the matter. I was adamant my baby would be here before the following morning!
As we left my surges were so strong. By the time we reached the car park they felt quite close together. We weren’t timing them, but I was having to stop and really focus to breathe through them. We followed her advice and headed home anyway (in hindsight, perhaps we shouldn’t have, but I like to think our baby led us home as that is where she wanted to be born).
The journey home was pretty horrendous. Labour came out of nowhere and every bump in the road exacerbated each contraction. We arrived home at 7pm. I was so relieved!
My mum was in shock to see us home. She’d made some dinner, but I couldn’t stomach anything to eat. I stood in our front room, bent over the table, breathing through regular, strong surges. Mum suggested taking off my leggings and shoes, and getting a little more comfortable. I was convinced I’d be going back to hospital soon, so just took off my shoes and stayed fulled clothed.
As my contractions were getting stronger and closer together, I suddenly felt so disheartened. I felt I was not coping with my surges as well as my first labour. Little did I know how close I was to having my baby! Elba was sitting on the sofa just opposite from me at this point. I asked my mum to take her up to bed.
Jack spoke to the hospital again just after 7.30pm. We explained how my labour had progressed substantially since leaving the hospital. They kept firing questions at Jack, who was repeating them to me. It was getting harder and harder to converse and answer him. I had zoned in; focusing on my body, my breath, flowing and moving intuitively. They asked Jack if we wanted an ambulance sent out or if we could make the 25 minute journey back to the hospital in the car. I just looked at him. I think my eyes said it all. At this point I had no idea how close together my contractions actually were, I just knew there was no way we were getting back to the hospital in time for our baby’s arrival.
I felt calm. I had accepted that we were doing this at home, just us. Whilst mum took Elba to bed, Jack and I stood in the lounge swaying together. He took my weight as I hung from his shoulders. I felt the roar in my throat and the urge to bear down. When my mum returned I told her I felt like I needed a poo, so she helped me into the downstairs toilet. As I pulled down my leggings, the pad I had placed in my pants to catch my waters had a little blood on it. The sight of blood made me feel uneasy. Mum asked Jack to grab some towels from the airing cupboard. I went to the toilet and we laughed as she wiped my bum for the first time since I was a toddler! It still makes me crease just thinking about it.
A second later I felt my baby crowning.
I said “mum, I can feel the head… the head’s there”.
She said “let me check”.
I said “No need.. I can feel it!”, as I reached in-between my legs and cupped my hand over the top of the head. A feeling I will never forget. In fact, sometimes now when I place my hand on the top of her head, it takes me back to that moment and I can physically feel how much she has grown.
I genuinely don’t feel I had to actively push at this stage. My body took over and with my next surge, I experienced the fetal ejection reflex and my baby’s head was born. The rest of her followed very quickly with the next surge. She arrived earth-side at 8.05pm (an hour after arriving home from the hospital). Jack and my mum held the corners of a towel and created a hammock underneath me, catching her as she arrived.
IN A TANGLE
As I stepped forward, mum wrapped the towel around her. We didn’t know what sex our baby was, but I didn’t even think about checking to find out. I just instantly felt I wanted her skin on mine, but the umbilical cord was trailing between my legs to where she was behind me. I still had my leggings around my ankles so I had to untangle myself! Mum was right… maybe I should have taken them off!
I stripped off my clothes and mum passed her to me through my legs. I brought her up to my chest… and then she cried. What an amazing sound to know that she was ok. Jack and my mum wrapped us both in towels as I sat and cuddled her. I beamed as I realised I had another beautiful daughter.
THE THIRD STAGE
I sat naked, holding my little Wren for half an hour before the paramedics arrived. They checked us both over and allowed us to wait another half an hour for the placenta to be born. I was eager to get her straight on my breast to encourage a physiological third stage, but in all honesty, was less informed about how else to support it.
She took a couple of minutes to latch on. Perhaps she was a little shocked after her speedy arrival! I had been disappointed not to achieve a physiological third stage after my first birth and perhaps should have done some more work around this before my second birth. I feel I could have been withholding this belief that my body was unable to birth my placenta naturally. My grandmother had previously told me stories of her retained placenta and said “we just can’t birth our placentas naturally”. This, combined with the adrenaline from my quick, unexpected, unassisted home birth, may be the reason I had to transfer for an actively managed third stage.
An hour passed, Jack clamped and cut the cord (about 90 minutes after Wren was born) – it was completely white! They then helped me into the ambulance. By this stage I just wanted to get cleaned up and my bum was numb from sitting on the floor! Wren laid on my chest for the duration of the journey to hospital with her eyes wide, staring into mine. I was experiencing regular surges on the way to the hospital, and on reflection, I feel that if we’d waited a little while longer and protected this time, my placenta would have eventually been born at home.
My birth didn’t go how I thought it was going to, but it was the most empowering experience of my life. To birth unassisted, calmly and in control, feels incredible! In hind sight, I should have given more thought into preparing and planning a home birth, but I am grateful I had a completely undisturbed birth (with the exception of a short trip to triage in the earlier stages) and it was very telling for how in times like that, instinct takes over.