A few weeks before my second baby was due, I realised how anxious I felt about giving birth to her in a hospital.
While the experience of giving birth to my firstborn had been magical, the environment was toxic.
The few interactions I had with the midwives impinged a wave of negativity around the birth, lengthening the labour. A sweep and vaginal examination were imposed on me with no mention of choice. I was told to do things I’m sure slowed the labour down. I felt powerless, judged and unsafe. And then my son was born at the seventeenth hour. I was so euphoric at his arrival, I ignored how terrible the care was.
When a local mum mentioned homebirth when I was around 38 weeks pregnant with my second, something switched on. I could have my baby at home. Where I felt safe. Where midwives would be in my space. Where I could labour how I wished. Where I could be relaxed enough to let my body do what it needed to.
Before having children, I would never have considered giving birth at home. Now, the risk for me was going to the hospital. I felt certain that home was where I’d feel relaxed, looked after and in control.
My waters broke at eight thirty in the evening, just as I was putting my son to bed. I got up to go to the loo and out they whooshed. He laughed his head off.
I phoned the midwife, who came straight over. My birth preferences stated I didn’t want to be offered a vaginal examination and would ask for one if I wanted it. This was important to me as I didn’t want the midwife’s perception of how “far along” I was to affect my mindset, consequently impacting the labour.
Just before 1am, my contractions started. Advised by our doula, I tried to sleep but kept going to the loo. At 4am, I asked my husband to set up the birth pool and asked our midwife to come over. At around half five, our doula was on her way and I told the midwife I wanted to get in the pool. She advised against this, concerned my contractions would slow down. I went to the loo, came back and said, I want to get in the birth pool. And she said this was fine.
The contractions felt different to my first birth, when they were on top of each other from the start and very painful in between – probably due to being prompted artificially with a sweep. This time round, I felt comfortable between contractions and during them, I felt confident in my breathing and in control.
I’d listened to a hypnobirthing relaxation track every night for the last two months, which definitely helped.
As soon as I got into the pool, the relief of the water was gorgeous. My son woke up, a bit perturbed to find we weren’t with him. My husband brought him down and he hung out by the pool, being delicious and helping me relax. I was listening to my hypnobirthing track. At one point, my husband struggled to find the right one and I felt angry. With this stress came an immediate increase in pain. I relaxed and began to breathe slowly, in for seven and out for eight, and the pain mellowed into the manageable feeling.
My friend arrived to hang out with my son, shortly after which the doula arrived too. I was contracting regularly at this point, but vaguely aware the midwife had no idea how far along I was. As the contractions became more intense, I felt an incredible pressure down there. I tried to tell the midwife I felt something was happening, and asked how long I might be here. She said another five hours perhaps. Five hours! It felt too long to endure this incredibly intense feeling.
I told the doula, “it feels like I’m pushing”. I meant, my body’s pushing. My body’s doing something, by itself, without me. Unable to gauge from anyone if I was ready to push, I decided to give my body permission.
At no point did it feel like I was pushing or straining. My body released; her head shot out, around six hours after my first contraction, soon after my friend and doula had arrived. I was on all fours in the pool and my husband was behind me, I later discovered, filming. Neither the midwife nor the doula had thought I was ready to push, but he was in tune with me. I stayed there for a couple of minutes, waiting for my body to release the rest of my daughter. The midwife began to worry about how long she was under the water and asked me to get up. My husband lifted me out of the pool and held me as the second contraction came and her body slid out. I held her right away and she stared up at me, licking her lips, suckling. My son and friend came downstairs just before I delivered the placenta, standing up in the pool. And then I sat in the water, holding my newborn daughter, my husband and son around us.
I feel privileged to have had this experience. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I feel even prouder now of my first birth, which ended with an epidural after fifteen hours of intense labour. I coped well in what was, for me, a toxic atmosphere.
My second birth was easier because I was at home and relaxed, birthing how I wanted to. I had a minor tear, which the midwife stitched on my bed upstairs while my husband held my daughter. I lay in bed with her for the rest of the day, while my husband and son tidied up downstairs and brought me snacks of toast and tea. The recovery, luckily, has been non existent; it never felt like there was something to recover from. (My daughter was a slight 6.9oz and born in water, which helped).
Immediately afterwards, I felt immensely proud of what we’d achieved together, my husband, son, newborn daughter and I, as a family. My husband, eternally cautious, had supported me from the second I said I wanted a homebirth. For a long time, I’d envisioned my baby coming out comfortably and quickly, at home. I am so fortunate to have had the support I needed to make this happen.
Pavan was born in London, UK. After studying English Literature at university, she taught in China for one year. She then returned to Newham in London, became a copywriter and met her husband, Duncan. Couple had their son in 2013 and their daughter was born at home in July 2018.