Thank you to MoorMum Katherine from Ilkley for sharing her story.
On Friday the 18th of March 2005 I was 38 weeks pregnant. It was the last day of term before the Easter holidays and I joked to my friends that the next day would be the perfect day for my new baby to arrive. I’d been feeling that the baby was very low for a while but at my midwife’s appointment a couple of days before, she’d said he was still high and that she thought I probably still had some time to wait. She’d also found my blood pressure was a bit high, which I have since found out can be a sign that labour is imminent. I was scheduled to go back to have it checked on the Monday and was anxiously waiting to see whether it would be high enough to cause concern.
My previous three births had all been in hospital. The first two were both inductions due to complications and my third was a planned hospital birth. I had wanted to give birth at home but the consultant was very negative about it and suggested the possibility of a placental abruption while I was in labour (due to some minor spotting during the pregnancy) and also warned me that the baby looked large and I might have difficulty delivering him. I ended up with a rather scary one hour labour, most of which was spent driving down the M5 to the hospital and then gave birth to my smallest baby! I decided then that if I had another baby, he or she would be born at home unless there were genuine indications that trouble might be expected.
I did have to deal with some reluctance from my midwife who seemed very unenthusiastic about the idea of a homebirth. She also forgot to book me in for a homebirth until it was almost too late, and then came up with a string of seemingly infeasible concerns during the pregnancy, including saying the baby might be too big. When I said that I wasn’t concerned about that having had 3 natural deliveries with no problems before, she felt my tummy and immediately announced that she couldn’t tell which way up the baby was. I knew he was head down, but was duly despatched for a scan, which showed a totally average sized baby in a really nice head down position. We were ready to rock and roll!
Everything was set up ready in my birthing room, otherwise known as the spare bedroom. We had a tarpaulin to protect the floor, sheets and blankets, a foam fold out bed in case I needed to lie down, a CD player so I could listen to my favourite music, an exercise ball for me to sit on whilst in labour, some of my favourite ethnic decorations hung on the walls, a lamp in case we wanted dim lighting, and a dining chair with pillows on it in case I wanted to kneel for the birth like I had with my second and third babies. We had also taken delivery of a canister of gas and air and a pack of supplies, just in case.
That night I woke in the early hours feeling some familiar twinges. I waited until about 5am and then woke my husband and told him what was happening. At 5.30am the twinges were getting stronger, As I’d had a one hour labour before, we decided to call the midwife straight away. As it was out of hours we were put through to the on call service and told that a midwife would be coming but that she lived on the other side of Skipton and would also need to stop in at Airedale Hospital for some supplies before coming to us. I was a bit worried to hear that news! Thankfully soon after they called back to say the second midwife lived in Ilkley and would be with us very soon. We then called my mum who was going to look after the older children during the birth, except for my 8 year old Lilian who had decided she wanted to be there for the birth. We’d prepared her by explaining what would happen and she’d also watched a DVD of a homebirth so she knew what to expect.
By the time the midwives arrived I was in the living room waiting for them. The midwives were both very friendly and seem happy and confident to be doing a homebirth which was a relief. The one who was in charge was very supportive of my plans for the birth and agreed that I didn’t need to have any internal examinations if I didn’t want to. Around this time the girls, who were 8 and 6 years old, got up. They were very excited to find the midwives and their grandma here and to hear that it was baby day!
At around 7am the contractions were getting stronger and I decided it was time to move upstairs to my birthing room. We went up and got Lilian set up in the corner of the room, which would be the head end when it came to the birth. I asked her again whether she was sure she wanted to stay and she nodded her head emphatically, yes. I put on one of my favourite CDs and sat on the birthing ball rocking from side to side. I kept needing to go to the bathroom and was amazed how much more painful the contractions felt when I was standing leaning against the wall on the way there and back, rather than relaxing on the ball. The midwives were wonderful and sat chatting about rearranging their rotas while I got on with being in the birthing zone. I remember sitting on the ball with the music playing and my husband rubbing my back in exactly the right way. It was like heaven! I felt so powerful and in tune with my body and my baby. Soon after that the contractions became really intense and I uttered those well known words, “I can’t do this any more”. Straight after that I felt some of my waters trickling out onto the ball. I could feel the baby moving down and was starting to feel pushy, but I was so comfortable on the ball that I didn’t want to move. It was a really effort of will to get up and go and kneel over the chair.
After a couple more contractions it really was time to push. As with my previous births my body took over and I pushed with all my might. Between contractions I looked up at Lilian and caught her eye and we smiled at each other, that was a very special moment. The second pushing contraction the midwife said “I saw the head that time”. I steeled myself ready for the painful stage of pushing out the head, I wasn’t looking forward to experiencing that again. The third contraction came and there was the head, and oh my goodness, the head was out, just like that! There was kind of a second wave to the contraction and the rest of the baby was born. I was so taken by surprise and everyone else was too. We hadn’t found out the sex of the baby this time but all along I’d thought it was a boy and had even bought some blue things when I was only 6 weeks pregnant. And sure enough, it was a boy, it was Isaac!
I sat back and the midwife put Isaac onto my chest. Soon after that he was ready to breastfeed for the first time and they helped me to position him. I’d requested a natural 3rd stage again but the cord continued pulsing for a long time and the midwives were getting anxious so I agreed to them cutting the cord. After that we waited but there was no sign of the placenta. They also discovered that I had quite a bad tear, not surprising considering the speed of the birth! We knew the placenta would come and was just taking longer because it was a natural 3rd stage, but the midwives were concerned about not following the protocol which said I should be transported to hospital by that point (after having syntometrine it is important that the placenta comes out quickly because the uterus clamps down fast and it can become trapped inside). They wanted to call for someone to come and stitch me but didn’t want to tell the hospital we were still waiting for the placenta. Eventually it came and then they called the hospital and asked for someone to come and do some stitches for me, for some reason neither of them were able to do it even though I had a suture kit which had been supplied in the NHS homebirth pack. Sometime during all of this they weighed Isaac and found he was a pound heavier than my other babies, at 8lbs 10.5oz.
Once the placenta was out, my mum and the other children came upstairs and met our new baby. I laughed to hear that my mum had started vacuuming the living room to drown out the noise when she heard me start pushing! I’d been worried how Reuben would handle being kept downstairs away from me (another reason I wanted a homebirth was because I knew he would struggle with me being away from him , especially if it was at night as he was still sleeping in our bed). I was happy to hear he’d been unaware of anything going on as he’d been watching his favourite Thomas the Tank Engine video!
Thankfully there was someone available at Airedale to come to stitch me. It was a very unpleasant experience though as the local anaesthetic didn’t seem to work like it did when I had stitches after my first baby, and even guzzling gas and air it was still very painful. After what seemed like ages it was finished and I was reunited with Isaac. The midwives cleared up their things and we said our goodbyes. I was sad to know I wouldn’t see them again after they’d been such an important part of my magical birth. However, one of them turned up the next morning with a card and to thank us for letting her share our “beautiful birth”. After a while my mum went home too and our family was left alone to get to know our newest member. That night, I slept in my own bed snuggled between Reuben and my new baby boy and felt like the most blessed person in the world.
I realised later that unbelievably my babies had all arrived on subsequent days of gestation. My first was at 38 weeks and 1 day, then 38 weeks and 2 days (both induced), and then my third came naturally at 38 weeks and 3 days, and then Isaac at 38 weeks and 4 days! So if I ever did have another baby I’d be expecting him or her on the dot of 38 weeks and 5 days!
If you would like to contact Katherine to discuss her story or ask any questions, please contact us.