Positive home birth story: Birth Experience Co. founder Abigail

Updated: May 2, 2020

It took us some time to fall pregnant and I suffered a miscarriage during that time. As a result I found the first trimester was very stressful and was incredibly anxious. At the 20 week scan I had a doppler result which was 0.1 over a threshold, so I was booked in for three additional growth scans and monitored for small growth and pre-eclampsia. Luckily neither materialised and overall I was blessed with a great pregnancy although the doppler result meant I had advocate stronger for the birth experience I wanted including having to speak with a consultant.

I have been lucky to have experienced very limited medical intervention in my life, aside from a couple of broken bones as a child. My first ever blood test was during my initial midwife appointment. I was scared about giving birth but I don't find medical environments calming.

Before falling pregnant I followed a family on YouTube called the Michalaks, who produce beautiful weekly videos about their life. I watched their birth video with their second son around a year before I fell pregnant. Hannah gave birth to her son, Rufus, at home in a birth pool. It seemed so calm and personal, even magical. They were so excited when she went into labour, comparing it to Christmas morning. Afterwards she said she would love to do it all again. It completely changed how I viewed giving birth and also led to my interest in having a home birth.

At my first appointment I asked my midwife about the birth options, particularly about the differences between midwife units and home birth. I was fascinated to learn that there is effectively no difference in the care and equipment as two midwives would come to your home and bring anything which would be available at a midwife centre with them, including gas and air and resuscitation equipment. We decided to aim for a home birth, but be flexible. I was surprised by the reactions of family and friends about this decision. We were told we were brave, asked if we had to pay for it or if it meant we would be doing it alone. After explaining many times that two midwives would come to the house and we would have lots of equipment, I stopped telling people.

I read and listened to podcasts about birth obsessively. We did an online hypnobirthing course, I loved learning about the science behind birth, the hormones and how modern birth environments aren't set up to facilitate a positive birth experience.

I started maternity leave at 37 weeks, I kept very active, walking the dog as much as possible and did acupuncture to prepare for birth. I drank copious amounts of red raspberry leaf tea and ate dates. We were aiming for a home birth and set up a birth pool in our dining area. At 38+3 weeks I lost my plug and got excited, but another week and a half passed without any sign of her arriving. I tried to stay positive as I knew most first babies arrive at 41+3 weeks.

I woke up at around 3am on her due date feeling unwell and a bit strange. I decided I would go downstairs so I didn't disturb my husband. I snoozed and watched TV on the sofa. Around 5am I began to feel strange sensations which were different from Braxton Hicks. After around 30 minutes I decided to track these sensations on an App and realised this may be it! My husband came to check on me at about 6am, he was due to work from home that day, so decided to get some extra sleep in case I was in labour. This was a good, as we ended up being awake for over 24 hours.

I stayed downstairs watching TV with my aromatherapy diffuser on. I began walking during contractions. I could barely sit down as her head was incredibly low and the birth ball was not comfortable.

At 9:30am we called the local midwife team to tell them that I was in early labour. As my contractions were very sporadic it was agreed that someone would come out to see us in a few hours. I was coping well and felt so normal between contractions that I struggled to believe I was in labour! I even iced a carrot cake I had made the day before.

Around midday a midwife came round and although I wasn't sure if I was going to accept internal examinations I agreed. I was 1cm dilated but my cervix was still far back and barely effaced. The midwife did a sweep, which although I hadn't agreed to, I think helped move things on. It was great being at home and on my own bed for the exams. I loved knowing that although I could change my mind and go to hospital later, but in the meantime I didn't have to travel to know how I was progressing. She left and told us not to call until my surges were 1.5 minutes long, which wasn't advice I had heard before. She was quite dismissive and repeatedly said I wasn't in "proper" labour. I was hopeful that she wouldn't be the midwife on the clock when I actually gave birth. I had to reset my mindset after she left and focus on being positive, which I felt was easier as I was at home.

The surges became more regular and were around 3 - 5 minutes apart by mid-afternoon. I lost interest in watching TV and instead put on a playlist, some candles and walked around the kitchen island repeatedly. Moving really helped, together with focused breathing. By 5pm I wanted to know how much progress I had made and requested that the midwife return. She was a bit huffy and again dismissive even though I was now fully effaced and 3cm. She offered to stay but knowing the shifts changed at 7:30-8pm I wanted to hold out for a different midwife who was fresh on her shift.

An hour or so after she left the surges really ramped up, were every 3 minutes and I was needing to really focus on them. I was sceptical I had made much progress but had seen such a change that I asked my husband to call the new midwife to come out. If I had not made much progress I was beginning to doubt whether I would cope at home, yet by the time I was examined at 9pm I was pleased I was around 7cm. It gave me a boost and my husband began to fill the birth pool. It was instant relief and I loved having the weight off my bump. I also started using gas and air during surges, which took the edge off, although I was a bit keen to start off with and made myself feel sick. The midwife sat by the birth pool cuddling our dog and monitoring the baby's heart-rate every 15 minutes. She called the second midwife after a couple of hours and we were joking about whether she would be born on her due date, or the following day which is my father in law's birthday.

I had a bit of a wobble around 12:30-1am, as there was little gap between my contractions, with two peaks. I was asking for a lot of reassurance and kept saying I couldn't do it. I was exhausted as I had almost been awake for 24 hours and disheartened as I had thought she would have arrived by then.

The surges tailed off, I got out of the pool and tried to move positions. I was examined which confirmed I was fully dilated and they could see her head. Through some coached pushing on my side I managed to break my waters. In hindsight I think I was in a "rest and be thankful" stage and I should have instead taken the time to get some rest, rather than trying to push without any contractions.

At 2:30am the midwife asked if I could try to go for a wee, as it had been a few hours. I moved cautiously to the downstairs toilet and after sitting down suddenly felt some strong contractions and intense sensations. She came down quickly and the midwife and my husband had to crouch on the bathroom floor! There was a strange snapping noise, which we later realised was a septum (piece of skin), which was the likely cause of the delays in delivery. She crowned, which was an insane feeling. I had to then pause (with a head between my legs) to wait for the next contraction when her body was delivered. I remember just gripping onto the radiator and thinking "I won't still be doing this in an hour's time!" She was placed on my chest as I sat back down on the toilet, less than 15 minutes after I first moved to the bathroom. I kept repeating "did she just come out of me!"

The septum bled a bit but the midwives thought it was the placenta so I agreed to the injection to encourage the placenta out. I wasn't intending to have this, although it was actually a relief to have it done. I had a very minor tear which required no stitches but after some cuddles (slice of cake) and a feed in bed, we agreed to go into the hospital for a consultant to check out the septum. A few days later the midwife came round and we had a debrief. We all agreed that had it not been for the septum, which is a very rare issue, my labour would have been much shorter.

I am so glad I decided to give birth at home, it was the right decision for us and I would definitely do it again if I am blessed with another low risk pregnancy. I couldn't have done it without the knowledge and relaxation skills I gained from the hypnobirth course.

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