After my first baby’s suction delivery performed by a busy doctor in Japan, keen to get him out before going to a conference later that day, I wanted a different experience for my second child. As I had been born at home, and my mum also, this option felt like the one I wanted right from the start.
My firstborn had been born ten days early, but this baby was taking his or her sweet time. During second pregnancy I had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and therefore it was recommended that labour should be induced by 40 weeks plus four days, if baby had not made appearance by then. I was never convinced by this diagnosis, and when two midwives measured my belly at the same appointment and got different results I felt I couldn’t trust it when they said baby was big. It is considered that gestational diabetes can cause baby to grow “too big” if pregnancy lasts longer than the due date. I went to have a scan and baby was exactly average sized on the graph (although apparently these measurements can be inaccurate too)!
Still, on the day that marked 40 weeks plus four days I had an “outpatient induction” – where pessary was administered at the hospital and I went home to labour and hopefully give birth at home. A few weeks earlier, one of the home birth team midwives told me that if I was induced I would have to give birth in hospital – this really upset me. On the advice of a friend I called the supervisor of midwives, who wrote a letter “giving permission” for me to go home.
Looking back now I am relieved that everything went smoothly following induction. I suspect that is the reason my labour went so fast. I do not remember any discussion of alternatives (for example, waiting longer), apart from a sweep. In general, I felt in control of my care, and like I could stand up to the medical professionals. I had read about gestational diabetes and induction, and looking back now I realise I had been scared by the words “stillbirth” and “placenta deterioration”. I declined the sweep because I had heard they are painful, and because I still had hope I could bring labour on naturally using raspberry leaf tea, pineapple, curry and sex!
I had been enjoying my pregnancy and felt a bit nervous that the induction would mean it would end before it would have done if allowed to run its natural course. It felt strange that my baby’s birthday had been decided upon by medical professionals. I was hoping to avoid intervention as much as possible with baby number two. I had read all of the birth stories in ”Ina May’s guide to childbirth” (I highly recommend it for any pregnant woman), which had left me feeling confident about labour and delivery.
I had the induction at 3pm on Thursday, and went to bed that evening at about 10 pm, thinking I should conserve energy and try to rest. I must have started having contractions a couple of hours later, but they felt so mild I managed to doze on and off through them. My husband was on the sofa downstairs and we had half put together the birthing pool on loan from the birth centre. Because we had had to buy the liner, the birth centre advised we only get it out of the packet and set it up once we knew for sure we would be using it. Unfortunately, in the end this meant that we didn’t have time to assemble and fill the pool properly. A local friend was next on the home birth team’s list, and she was told to have it all set up ready…you live and learn!
I got out of bed at about 4am to pee, and sensed that standing for any length of time would make everything go a lot stronger and faster.
I remember sitting on the edge of the bed and really feeling the contractions and trying not to shy away from the feelings. They were like waves –the build up did not feel good at all, but I held the thought that soon each one would crash down and that part felt like a really sweet relief each time.
I came downstairs and said that I thought we should start timing my contractions and call the birth centre for advice. I also woke my mum up who was staying with us to help. After that everything happened very quickly. I was soon doubled over the arm of the sofa; I could not stand up straight. I said to mum that I felt like baby was coming very soon. I was shouting to my husband that I wanted to be in the water, he was trying to fill up the pool, with the water from the hose attached to the kitchen tap coming out in just a trickle! He had also been on the phone to the birth centre and they had dispatched a midwife.
I stood above the water in the pool and my mum said she could see a head with lots of dark hair. That was a wonderful moment, very exciting! I must have pushed because she then said she could see eyes and a little nose and mouth. I love that her grandmother was the first person to see baby’s face. My first words to her were – “You’re a girl” – a really wonderful surprise!
In most of my dreams while pregnant she was a boy. She was born at 5am on the dot –just an hour after I said I thought we should start timing the contractions. Her weight was 8 lbs 12 oz. The midwife arrived thirty minutes later.
My mum was the one to catch my daughter and said afterwards that it was scary as baby was so slippery –she didn’t want to drop her in the water. When she was younger she had wanted to be a midwife, but had never fulfilled that ambition. Of course, now she has been telling everyone about delivering her own granddaughter! Luckily she is a very calm person and took it all very much in her stride. She grew up on a farm and had watched plenty of animals give birth!
I sat down in the water and we waited for the midwife and paramedic to arrive. I held my daughter to my chest and she started to nurse straight away. The midwife and an ambulance came separately but at almost the same time. The paramedic said he had attended an unexpected homebirth in the shower just the day before! The midwife clamped and my husband cut the umbilical cord. Then I was hauled out of the pool, and lay on the sofa to deliver the placenta. The midwife was encouraging me to push it out but I couldn’t be bothered. I had just had a baby, after all! So she gave me the injection to make it come out within their recommended hour after birth. After that, while I was enjoying being with this beautiful new daughter, her brother came downstairs. He had slept through the whole thing! He was so happy that she was a girl, his request for a sister granted.
One final bit of drama occurred when my husband was trying to drain the pool and one end of the hose came unstuck. Water from the birthing pool shot up and hit the ceiling, raining back down on the poor midwife who was writing up her notes at the kitchen table!
All went well that day; I even had a good sleep in the afternoon! The next morning her dad carried our daughter in the sling and we walked to the hospital for her newborn check in glorious sunshine. I would highly recommend trying for a home birth, but be aware that things can happen very quickly. I got the impression that the team in Newham is stretched and understaffed. As the midwives do not want to be waiting around for hours they encourage you to wait until your contractions are strong and regular before calling them out. However, from what I have heard anecdotally, this seems to result in quite a few DIY births!
Fiona has worked in the fields of psychology, teaching and HR. Her daughter was born in June 2017 and the mum of two is now enjoying her maternity leave. She is currently volunteering with Newham NCT as a Parents in Mind mental health peer supporter. Fiona has lived in many places including Russia and Japan. After two years in Newham, it feels to her like a “forever home” but with an American husband, who loves the countryside, she is keeping an open mind!