I was actually considering titling this article ‘Poppy’s gift’. My first daughter, Poppy, had a rather traumatic entrance to this world with questionable intervention at an unprecedented scale. Coupled with this she was born with an undiagnosed genetic disorder. Consequently her special gift to her unborn sister Phoebe was the beauty of a home birth with no medical intervention. Nature as it should be.
Long before little Phoebe was even conceived, my husband (Adam) and I were determined that our next birth would be a home birth; for a number of reasons. My chiropractor had advised me that a second caesarean would carry a much longer recovery time than the usual stated six weeks – lifting Poppy the past four years has certainly taken its toll on my back; and is not something I could do for at least a further year following a caesarean. Poppy would have lost out. Statistics tell us the chances of a repeat caesarean are very high with a hospital birth, such is the escalation of intervention. A home birth, with highly recommended independent midwives skilled at VBACs, using a rented birth pool seemed the best way forward.
The NHS did not support this, with comments such as ‘irresponsible’, ‘I cannot possibly support a home-birth’, ‘the placenta is attached to the old scar’, and plenty of negative head tut-tuts. I was even advised that I would need to come in to have a fetal monitor attached, AND have an antibioitic drip to prophylatically protect against case Strep B.
To support this pregnancy, I had regular sessions with a reflexologist and acupuncturist. I also paid two visits to Professor Campbell in Harley Street for 4D scans to confirm that the placenta was well clear of the old scar tissue, as well as to confirm the lack of genetic abnormalities. My two midwives paid regular lengthy home visits. Whilst expensive, I found all these enormously beneficial, reassuring and enjoyable! I also did a huge amount of research on the web and joined a local home birth support group, giving me utmost confidence that we had chosen the best path.
The pool was delivered a fortnight before d-day – fun for the whole family! Poppy just loved her daily splash, and in the evenings I would strip off and float in the lovely warm water leaning on the edge catching up on my nightly soaps!
Delivery day presented itself from midnight with strong period pain sensations every 10 minutes. This, coupled with an active baby and heartburn made sleep pretty much impossible! Finally at 4am I thought it time for support. My mother came over directly and quietly sat nearby whilst I had the contractions, noting the time and any comments I made. By now the contractions were coming every 6 or 7 minutes. At 7.30am everything eased off, with contractions much weaker, coming every 10-15 minutes. I took the chance to set up on our sofa with duvet, cat, remote control, oh, and bells to attract attention when needed. Adam had set up the I-pod with relaxing music to play non-stop, along with aromatherapy candles burning continuously since the early hours. Even my reflexologist paid me a visit, treating me for just over an hour.
Until now, I had felt quite pampered – waited on hand and foot! Any contractions were easily dealt with by effective breathing techniques. The midwife visited me at 5pm, at which point I was just 3 cm dilated. Almost immediately she left at 7pm, I entered 1st stage labour. I found myself crammed in the small downstairs toilet with my husband and mother accompanying me through some pretty fierce contractions (at which point I ripped the TENS machine off! Just didn’t work in with my labour rhythms). By the time the midwife returned (8.30pm) I was feeling nauseous and was struggling with the pain. She shifted me into the pool, giving me immediate relief. At 10pm my membranes ruptured. I felt very pushy, and, scared with the intensity of the contractions I accepted the offer of gas and air. I found this incredibly useful for controlling my breathing patterns. Whilst being fully dilated, the lip of the cervix would not shift and was preventing progress. The midwives advised a number of changes of position, eventually finding standing up with one leg raised high onto the side of the pool pulled this to one side. This I found remarkable – for the midwives to have kept a cool head, and work out a route for this baby to take. I have been advised with any less qualified midwives this may well have resulted in an emergency hospital admission and the very intervention I had worked so hard to avoid. 10.40pm brought the onset of 2nd stage labour, lasting just 25 minutes. At 1.105pm our little Phoebe’s head was gently born, quickly followed by her body. An uneventful birth – no tearing, no rupture of the previous scar and a bonny baby.
I chose to birth the placenta naturally, having managed so well thus far, expecting it to take the average 20 minutes. I think I just pushed up the statistical average – it took 90 minutes, delivered the day after she was born! This seemed pretty cruel at the time. All through this, I was plied with cups of tea through a straw, as well as arnica and aconite for shock, whilst those around me scoffed celebration cake and bubbly.It was really a most remarkable experience. At no point during labour did I have any concerns about my scar. I had total confidence in the experience of my two midwives, and in the support of my husband and mother. Certainly, if my husband has his way and we go for a third child, we would not change a thing. Same team of midwives, same support partners, at home and with a pool.