Jen's homebirth - a lovely story
So, I guess my home birth story really begins around 18 years ago when I was only 6. My Mum was training to be a midwife, something that at the time was nothing more than a word to me, with no idea what it meant! Too young to understand what my Mums new job would entail, my only real memories of those years are of my Dad reminding me and my older brother that we had to be extra well behaved around mum as she was very busy with something very important, and of some rather large looking books full of long words and interesting pictures of naked babies and smiling women that she would have amongst piles of paper and pens! What I definitely didn't realise was that my Mum was changing our lives. She was gaining a career, a difficult one that took an awful lot of commitment and, at times, stress.
She was becoming an unforgettable and, ultimately, hugely important person in many many people's lives and in a few years, when I came to realise what an amazing job she did, she also became my biggest idol. As I grew up I heard tales of beautiful babies, long labours, happy families and incredibly strong women. The older I got, the more I would understand about the things my mum had seen and done in this job. It was amazing how different each day could be for her - and that is when I first realised how different each woman, labour and baby could be too. Television began to show more and more about pregnancy, labour and midwives and when I put together the information coming across on tv with the tales from my mum, I gained an incredible sense of 'I am woman'. I wasn't going to let pregnancy or labour, when my time came, get the better of me in any way. It was going to be mine and my husbands to control and do as we needed to, as there seemed so many options.
The happy news that we were pregnant came in December 2008 and my husband, James, and I were over the moon! Telling my mum was scary but from the minute she knew, she was there every step and never kept any of her knowledge from me, so I knew every possibility; good, bad and ugly, of each scenario I could face. That gave me a real feeling that I could do pregnancy and labour like any super woman! When we thought about where to have our first baby there was no other option, my heart was set on the Jubilee Birth Centre in Cottingham near Hull. A midwife led birthing unit. They offered water births and encouraged the woman to be in control, only intervening where essential; so only low risk pregnancies could be accepted. Pain relief was minimal, gas and air was the main on offer and should you require an epidural you'd be transferred to the main hospital unit. We had an amazing birth there! Our first born, Aden James, arrived after only 3.5 hours labour, in the water and with no pain relief. The care from the midwives was exceptional and the place felt so calm and comfortable it was as close to home as possible... Until my husband had to leave, then I knew I wasn't at home. Still, it didn't spoil the experience! I felt like the strongest, most powerful woman on earth after having our son! I'd done it just as we'd hoped I would and that was an incredible feeling! I never lost that feeling of power, so when we decided to have a second baby I began exploring home birth, thinking that if anyone else can do it, then there's no reason I can't! It seemed the natural step after Adens birth so once the idea was in my head, that was it pretty much decided and with my husband totally behind me it was set it in stone. The midwives I saw for my regular appointments were incredibly encouraging, which was a surprise to me - I'd heard so many stories of people having to fight for the birth they wanted that the first time I mentioned it, I was ready to argue my side and was shocked when I didn't need to! At every appointment throughout the pregnancy, they made sure that we were still set on a home birth and checked whether we had any questions. It was lovely to have them behind me and as the weeks passed their excitement for our birth grew just as ours did! It was wonderful to have so much support but my real dream, although I never told anyone other than my husband, was that it would be my Mum that we had present at the birth, however I was aware of all the risks in having a birth with no on duty midwife and so was happy to have the necessary medical team present so long as my baby was born safe and well. Since I had loved the water birth the first time round and had found that it gave enough pain relief to cope with the labour, I looked into hiring a pool for home. In the end we used Birth Pools Online and they were fantastic! At 36 weeks we moved the living room round to make way for the pool that would arrive at 37 weeks and stay with us until the 42 week mark. It arrived exactly when they said it would and was so easy to put up that I did it myself while my husband was at work! Now all I needed was labour to start!
I'd got to this point being sure of our plans and that never faltered, my only concerns were that labour might begin while my husband was at work 150 miles away and he'd miss it, (a real fear as my first labour had been so short), or that the community midwives would be unavailable and we'd have to go to hospital. Still, that was something that we knew we had no control over so we would just wait for labour to start! Once I turned 39 weeks we were really expecting baby to show anytime as Aden had arrived at 39+3 but we got to that stage with no sign and my husband had to go back to work the next day so then our feelings changed and we began willing baby to stay put until the due date when daddy would be home again... But baby had other ideas! Thursday, when I was 39+4, had been a normal day. I'd felt no twinges, pains or nausea so had convinced myself that this baby was going past the forty week mark. I snuggled down on the sofa, once my son was tucked in bed, and watched One Born Every Minute followed by Home Delivery, before waddling up to bed to sleep. I got around two hours sleep before waking up and checking my phone. It was 0152. I'd not had the kind of pregnancy that had me up in the night so this was unusual. I was uncomfortable but still a little too sleepy to feel much more, however, I knew I wasn't getting back to sleep in a hurry so I went downstairs for a while so that I wouldn't wake my son. It was once I had woken up a little more that I realised the discomfort was intermittent... 'Ah maybe something is happening'! I checked my phone again and noticed that the messaging service I use said that my Mum had last checked her phone at 0152! Strange! I text her, 'are you awake? I have pains, I think something is happening' . She arrived at my house shortly after my message, by which point I had told my husband I was having back pains and he was waiting for her opinion so that he could decide whether to leave work and make the journey home. It became clear after just fifteen minutes that these pains were my first contractions, at regular intervals and around 40 seconds long. With this information my husband set off home! The most incredible part of my labour was this stage because I just bounced on my birthing ball having a completely normal conversation with my mum, that just happened to pause every now and again! She was acting as my birth partner and had contacted the local hospital to inform them that I was in this first stage of labour and had a history of quick birth! We got to 0430 before I got into the water,(the casual conversation with my mum was acting like pain relief in itself). Ah that water was lovely! Even at this point, the only thing occurring was contractions; my waters hadn't broken, I'd not felt nauseous or had a show. I was focused on my breathing and remaining in control, but could tell my Mum was busy, though I didn't take much notice of what she was busy with. She just seemed to know so much about what was happening, just from the tone of my moans and movements of my hands, it was amazing! At 0500 my husband arrived home... Now I knew we were in business, I had everyone I needed there! My waters had broken just before 5am and mum had contacted the hospital again for a midwife. Now this is the part that amazes me, my Mum believes that somehow I was waiting for my husband to make it back, as now that he was here it all happened very quickly! I suddenly felt different and shouted for a bowl, I was sick one and this was followed by a very strong contraction, after which I looked at my husband and said, 'baby is coming really soon'. I had felt the baby move down, what felt like 30 centimetres, though I know it'll have only been a fraction, and within five minutes of that I needed to push. At this magic moment we heard a tiny voice from upstairs, 'mummy.... muuummmyy'. Our son was awake and having told my husband that he was sure 'something was happening', he came downstairs to join us. Snuggled with Daddy he watched as I gently and calmly (but a little more noisily than the previous stages of labour) pushed my baby down and out into the water, having my fingers gently on the head the whole time so that I could feel the effect of my pushes. At 0536 I lifted my baby up and into my arms. I looked down in utter glee at the wrinkled, grey face, tiny arms and crossed legs that I was holding. I looked up at my Mum, my husband and my son and the feeling of love and joy in the room became palpable - it was there in this new baby. I took a glance under the cord and got goosebumps at the realisation that this beautiful new member of our family was a baby girl.. We had our Yorkshire 'one of each'! Mum clamped the cord and my husband cut it.. The only bit our son really didn't like! James took her and wrapped her up while Mum and I delivered the placenta. Then I was out of the water, wrapped in a towel and sat on the sofa with my, now complete, family. Absolute heaven! Good Morning, Isla Reneé!
The community midwife arrived after 6am and weighed our baby girl and then completed the paperwork. That was when my mum could stop - and I realised that while I was labouring, she had been busy taking notes to pass on to the midwife! As Mum sat down and James offered her a cup of coffee, I could just about see the last 3.5 hours hit her. She had taken her 'professional head' off now and was able to realise what she had just done.. Been the most amazing part of my daughters arrival into the world, a part that Isla will be able to tell her own grandchildren all about! And for me... Well, my dream had come true; not only had I had a straightforward, fabulous home birth but my Mum had been my midwife! The irony of my home birth story is that, while it was technically unassisted (in that no uniformed, on duty, midwife was present and my mum didn't involve herself physically - just by observing), it made me appreciate the incredible work that midwives do. They become your friend, your enemy, your guardian angel; they rub your back, hold your sick bowl, wipe your forehead, dry your tears and encourage you; all while taking detailed notes, observing your progress and considering decisions that may have to be made. If you think it's a whirlwind and a blur for you, imagine how the midwives feel too! They are incredible people doing an incredible job. And THAT is why, all those years ago, without knowing it, my mum changed our lives.