A calm breech homebirth at 36 weeks

After two missed miscarriages, I was left with a lot of scan and hospital-related anxiety and found appointments for my third pregnancy very difficult. That, combined with my best friend accidentally and easily giving birth at home, meant the idea of homebirth really appealed since I’d be in my own familiar environment which I knew I’d find much more relaxing. I read a lot about oxytocin and what encourages it, and knew I’d be far more likely to have the experience I wanted at home with a dedicated midwife who I could come to know and trust. Attending a hypnobirthing course with my husband cemented that belief for me and I contacted Newham’s homebirth team around 22 weeks pregnant.

I enjoyed an easy pregnancy with no complications and very little discomfort. I absolutely loved being pregnant and felt excited about about birth and the empowering experience I hoped it would be. Hypnobirthing-related techniques like controlled breathing, affirmations and relaxation scripts really helped me stay positive and calm. Being an early baby myself born at 36 weeks, I always had a feeling that my baby would be early, too, so I wasn’t that surprised to lose a bit of my mucas plug six weeks before my due date and to start having strong tightenings and the occasional cramp over a month before. I knew it might not mean anything though but couldn’t help but hope that it did! My husband and I joked that the baby could come two weeks early on his birthday and, not wanting to share his birthday, he told me to keep my legs crossed!

The evening before our baby came, I found my show while we were at the theatre (!) but went to bed as normal that night looking forward to my birthday the next day. Ninety minutes later at 1am I woke to an intense pressure in my abdomen and a sudden loud POP! with what felt like a waterfall pouring out of me, soaking my pyjamas, the bed sheets and mattress.

A couple of hours later, after finishing packing our birth bags (we hadn’t quite done that nor received the birthing pool, built the crib or even discussed our birth preferences with our midwife!), we went into hospital knowing they wanted to see me since my waters had broken early. Unfortunately it wasn’t a great experience as a doctor put a lot of pressure on me to have an examination and to stay in for the next 24 hours. I used BRAIN (benefits, risks, alternatives, intuition, doing nothing) and declined both, and once the machine monitoring was over in a couple of hours, we went home and messaged our midwife.

While at home my period-style cramps got stronger over the next four hours and I tried to ignore all the happy birthday texts I was receiving – I was gutted that my plans to celebrate my last birthday before baby had been scuppered! I rested for a lot of this time, trying to eat a little and preserve energy as we hadn’t slept. But by 10am the surges were stronger and I was being sick. I kept breathing and kept upright, forward and open – using my birth ball, the bed and a variety of positions. My husband stroked my head/arms/back and encouraged me with kind words and affirmations.

I found the mental aspect of labour quite difficult at this time as we hadn’t been able to get hold of our midwife so I was worrying about not being able to have our planned homebirth and having to be in hospital, potentially without her. I felt a bit panicky at times but knew that wasn’t going to help me progress so used my breathing, relaxation tracks and affirmations to stay calm and relaxed.

I finally spoke to my midwife around 11am and asked her to come over to discuss options, saying I didn’t want to go back into hospital but knowing it was likely we’d need to. She arrived around midday and I instantly relaxed further and believed everything was going to be fine wherever we ended up. We talked about how I was feeling and she felt my stomach during contractions. Interestingly, she said my contractions were mild and irregular and gently warned me I wasn’t yet in active labour and therefore there may be several hours to go. Rather than be disappointed at this news I felt determined! I knew I was progressing and strongly felt the baby was coming sooner, and not long after that I told her I wanted ‘to strain’. I felt a lot of pressure very low down and like I wanted to poo – which I knew I was a good sign, if confusing at this stage! My midwife encouraged me to go and sit on the toilet so off I went to the smallest room in our flat where it was warm and dark with candles lit.

While there I relaxed even more and the discomfort I’d been feeling from the cramps/surges evolved into pressure which felt much better and like something I could work with. Around 1pm I felt a change, like something had dropped in my pelvis and called out to my midwife and husband who were chatting in another room. I told them what had happened and said I felt like I wanted to lie down. They fetched a duvet for the bathroom floor and while on the floor my midwife offered an examination which I accepted and to her surprise found that the baby was on its way down! I was so excited, and relieved that I’d be having my baby at home after all.

A second midwife soon arrived and I was now on my knees with my arms on my husband’s legs while he sat on the toilet seat. The pressure was intense and I could feel the baby moving down. It still felt like I was about to do the world’s biggest poo! I was involuntarily pushing when I heard whispering behind me…and my midwife then told me the baby would be coming out bum first! I was so calm and in the zone thanks to hypnobirthing that all I said was “ok!” and continued going. My midwife was also very calm and told me that in this situation I’d need to listen to her and push extra hard because a bum is squishier than a head (best word to use during labour ever!) and therefore there’s less to work with, and soon I was bearing down and pushing. It didn’t feel very long at all until I felt a ‘ring of fire’, gently and slowly pushed through it, and was told the baby’s bum was out! I felt tickling against my inner thighs, looked down, and saw my baby hanging out of me, arms and legs flailing! I couldn’t believe my eyes and that I’d almost given birth, breech too. The midwives then told me to kneel or crouch higher so that I had more gravity to work with to deliver the baby’s head so I did that and two minutes later I had another surge to work with, and our baby fell out into our midwife’s hands, at 2:07pm, weighing 5lb 1 / 2.32kg!

During skin-to-skin we discovered our baby is a girl, we named her Clara June. It was a wonderful moment. I felt very proud of myself, especially since I’d managed without any pain relief, had an unconventional labour during which I wasn’t ever contracting 3 times in 10 minutes, and stayed calm during the drama of a sudden unexpected breech delivery! All without any tears, too, to which I also credit hypnobirthing and staying both mentally and physically calm. Clara is definitely the best birthday present I’ll ever receive!

Kim lives in Plaistow with her husband and daughter, born in February 2020 at 36 weeks. She works for Getty Images and loves spending time with friends, eating her way around London, playing netball, practising yoga, and travelling as much as possible.

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