From sailing boat to water birth

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We were living on a tiny motor/sailing boat during 8 ½ months of my pregnancy and knew we wanted a homebirth. We registered with the Barkantine Birth Centre, but were really hoping to move into our new home before the birth of our first child, so we could have a homebirth in a birth pool. I had always wanted a water birth, with no medical intervention. We had attended Homebirth in Newham support group meetings, hosted monthly by Ilona, which were not only inspirational and a great way to share information and gain knowledge but also very empowering. After much uncertainty of where (and when) I was going to give birth, we finally got the keys to our new home on Friday the 6th July.

I had been given two due dates, the 17th July and 22nd July, the former came and went and I really didn’t want to be induced, so I made a very concentrated tea using loose raspberry leafs (which are widely known to tone the uterus muscles) and drank almost a litre!

It could have been the result of drinking the tea or a coincidence, as the following evening, Friday 20th July, I started feeling dull tightening in my lower back, which would come and go.

I was in the reception area of my local gym, waiting for my mother-in-law to finish a class and my husband to meet us there after work. We drove home and started preparing for the birth, which we had no idea when would come, but knew something was happening. My husband lay down a large tarpaulin, which covered (and protected) the lounge carpet, and filled the birth pool, which he had inflated a few days earlier.

As the dull tightenings continued (I then realised these were contractions), we set up camp in the lounge, bringing an inflatable sofa bed, lots of pillows and a duvet next to the birth pool.

The contractions became stronger and more frequent through the night, which made resting really difficult, we called the Barking Community Birth Centre (place to call if you are in labour and having a homebirth) to inform the midwives on duty that I was having contractions so they know when to send someone to our home. Midwife on the phone said I should wait a bit longer until they were even stronger and more frequent, and I could no longer have a conversation. To manage the contractions, my husband searched for active birth pages online, as we attended a workshop a few weeks earlier, run by midwife Jude, we needed a recap of the moves.

Ones that really helped were doing deep squats on a door frame, walking around the lounge or patio and my husband pressing on or massaging my lower back/hips whenever the contractions came.

Mid-afternoon the following day (Saturday 21st July) the contractions became very intense, at this point we called the birth centre again and requested midwives. One of the midwives arrived, while the other went to get ‘the drugs’.

The midwife that arrived asked how frequent the contractions were and saw me managing several intense ones using ‘active birth’ techniques. During a very strong contraction I had the urge to go to the toilet, and I was encouraged to try and empty my bowels.

While on the toilet I had a really strong contraction, at which point part of the amniotic fluid sac emerged and was dangling between my legs!

As soon as the contraction stopped, my husband helped me to hurry into the lounge and the midwife then offered to examine me on the sofa, as this was my first experience of birth and I wasn’t sure what stage I was at and that all was ok with the baby, I agreed.

However, if I had to do it again, I would decline an examination. The examination unfortunately broke the amniotic sac, however, she did announce that I was fully dilated (10cm) and it was time to start pushing as the baby was coming.

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At this point the midwife stated she had no experience of water births and that if the baby starts coming I would have to get out of the pool to deliver on the sofa. On hearing that, we decided to ignore her advice and continue with the water birth. I managed to climb into the birth pool, and on each subsequent contraction, I started pushing.

The contractions were seriously intense by this point, but still manageable, the warm water really helped alleviate most of the discomfort.

I had another contraction and pushed, then I felt the ‘ring of fire’, when the baby’s head was crowning, it was like nothing I had ever experienced previously, like a very strong stinging sensation. I was told the baby’s head was coming out, then as I stopped pushing, his head reverted back inside me, it took another push and his head was finally out, closely followed by the rest of his body. I only actively pushed 3 times, and for 10 minutes, since entering the birth pool. At 4.37pm, baby boy Iktán was born, weighing a healthy 3.36kg (7.4lbs), 11 minutes later, with a contraction, I pushed out the placenta. Straight after the birth, two other midwives arrived, I needed a few stitches, which one midwife could do in the home setting, and the other midwife checked our bundle of joy. I was so elated we were both healthy and there were no complications and we were all so happy we had a homebirth, in a relaxed setting with zero medical intervention.

Hana lives in Newham, London and is very interested in research into the mind and body. She loves spending time with family, and enjoys travelling, experiencing new cultures, cooking (and eating), socialising, running on the beach and walking in forests, as well as growing and eating fresh fruit and vegetables. Since attending homebirth meetings, hosted by Ilona, and becoming a mum, Hana is really passionate about homebirth and breastfeeding and is training to become a breastfeeding peer support volunteer. Her baby was born in July 2018.

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