I'm so pleased to bring back Birth Story of the Week, which has been on a bit of an unplanned hiatus (had you noticed?). I have some great stories lined up for the coming weeks, so stay tuned! Let's kick things off with this empowering, funny, sweet, and matter-of-fact home birth story. It is written by my new friend, the fabulously multitalented and accomplished Sharmadean Reid, who authors the blog, London Momma. Thank you so much for sharing, Sharmadean!
So two weeks after the deed, here is my birth story: On Monday 31st Jan I woke up at 8.30am with some mild period-like pains. Having not surfed the crimson wave for so long, I almost forgot what the pain felt like. I pretty much knew I was in labour straight away and I was pissed because every week since 36 weeks I’d been getting my hair and nails done, just in case he popped out, and I was due to get did that day. I wanted to be all beautified for my babba, but of course all of that went straight out the window.
I didnt call the midwife until 10am when I had my “show” - you know that bloody muscus plug that looks like alien saliva? I thought I had it earlier but just like your waters breaking, when it comes you KNOW about it.
My midwife, the lovely Keiko, arrived at my house within 20 minutes! I had decided around week 30 that I wanted to have a homebirth. My reasons being: I’ve never been in hospital overnight since I was born, but when I do go to hospitals, to visit friends or something, I’m always grossed out by it. They’re always noisy, with bad furniture and lighting, yellowing walls and staff who always seem too rushed off their feet to tend to you. I also get annoyed hearing women screaming. I think it would stress me out and make my labour difficult. Hospitals are basically a gathering place for illness and disease, and to me, pregnancy is not a disease, so why not have it in the comfort of my own house, surrounded by pretty things, food and drink I want, TV, internet and boxsets?!
When I told my previous midwife, a jolly African lady called Kiki, that I wanted a homebirth, her first comment was “So whut is yur attitude to pain???” I replied “Its gonna hurt isnt it, so theres no need to get hysterical…” and she was like “Uh huh…okaaaay”. At a homebirths you can only get gas and air - NO OTHER DRUGS! I wasnt worried though. She then transferred me to the Homebirth Team.
Every London borough is different, I’m with Haringey, so basically there is a team of community midwives that deal with homebirths. I had my first appointment with Keiko, a really chilled out Japanese lady, who immediately made me happy as she was so relaxed. Exactly what I wanted - i hate a lot of fuss and she was completely zen-like. She went through a health checklist with me to make sure I was eligible. Technically you have to tick all the boxes to qualify for a homebirth, stuff like you cant be asthmatic, you have to be between 37 and 41 weeks pregnant etc Its basically only available for low-risk pregnancies and I was lucky enough to not have had a single complication my entire pregnancy.
She then left me with a shopping list of stuff to buy as I wanted a waterbirth. My boyf was convinced I was gonna shit myself during labour and was obsessed with buying a sieve to fish it out of the pool with, but he didnt have to worry as I ordered this HOMEBIRTH KIT from Made in Water which I highly recommend. It contained everything I needed (including sieve) and the pool is reusable after! (The pool comes with a specially made liner for use during labour so all the placenta and stuff gets thrown away and doesnt touch the actual pool bottom). Here is the pool in our living room.
Make sure you get it out for a test run and that you have enough hot water to fill it. We blew it up about a week before and it just stayed in the living room until labour time.
I then had weekly visits in my home by the midwives from the team. Since I transferred I havent had to leave my house for anything - actually the only blip was that my iron was low (8.6 and it needs to be at least 10)) and if your blood count is low, they advise against homebirth in case you bleed a lot and pass out. So I had to take iron tablets for 3 weeks (so three weeks of black poop) to get my levels back up. I took myself to the hospital to get a blood test to prove my levels were up after two weeks as the thought of not having a homebirth cos of IRON really annoyed me. Thankfully it went back up to 11.6 and all was fine!
Ok so back to the labour - After Keiko came at 10am the contractions were starting to build slowly. I kept going between laying on the sofa, lying in the bath and bouncing on my birthing ball (like a gym/medicine/swiss ball - another thing I highly recommend). Nothing much was happening. I’d been doing pregnancy yoga for 4 weeks with Maxine Levy in Golders Green so I was well prepared with my breathing exercises. It made all the difference and the contractions werent really painful in the beginning.
The rest of Monday was quite boring. My Mom came down so Monday evening me, Greg and my Mom just sat around in absolute silence, no tv, no nothing, while i did my special breathing continuously. I called Keiko at midnight as the pain was intensifying but unfortunately I was still only 3cm dilated!!! I was sooooo pissed off! I’d been having contractions all day and only three fucking centimetres?!!? (You have to be at 10cm before you can push) So Greg and my Ma went to sleep while I stayed awake with my belly.
Tues AM - I call Keiko at 9am for another examination….still wasnt dilated enough! I’d been awake for 24 hrs and I was exhausted! Keiko leaves me and we begin another day of contractions. Again I rotate between bath/sofa/ball and again nothing happens! At 10pm I’m getting weary and disheartened. The contractions are getting more painful as my amniotic sac is pressing so hard on my pelvis. I tell Greg to call Keiko and tell her I want to go to the hospital and get my waters broken. At this point I feel bad that I let Keiko and the Homebirth Team down. I anticiapted all sorts of pain but I didnt expect the labour to drag on for two days and I was tired! They wont break your waters at home, in fact they wont do any sort of intervention, so I was shouting to Greg - just take me to get my waters broken, it hurts!!!
Keiko arrives at 11pm. She pretty much ignores my pleas to go to the hospital (which I am totally thankful for) and gives me a can of gas and air. Cos I’ve never done any drugs, I didnt know how to suck it properly (like a bong i guess) and Keiko was like - “Dont you ever get high?!” I started laughing…Once I got the hang of it, I sat there sucking on that tube for dear life! I thought it would make me feel sick and lightheaded but it was just perfect. It took the edge off the contractions even though it made my mouth all crusty and dry.
By now I was like a freak. I vomited anything I ate, I kept pissing myself and I was sat bouncing on a pink ball sucking on the gas. I looked like shit, I was tired and hungry and just wanted to sleep!
Greg and my Mom went down for another night of sleep while Keiko kept me company. (she stayed with me from Tues 11pm onwards) I was getting really impatient and restless and at 4am she “examined” me again and I’d said if I wasnt 6cm that was going to hospital. I say “examined” me as she kind of fiddled about for a while a lo and behold my waters gushed out all over my sofa! Hallelujjaaaaah!
I felt like a massive pressure had eased, it felt so good for about FIVE MINUTES! Because without the shock absorber of the sac, the contractions felt even worse!!! I was sucking on the gas like a crackhead to a pipe while Greg filled the pool. I got in at 6am and the water was such a relief. As the pool is small and snug, it felt really cosy and the water eased the pain in my back.
I was sat in the pool on my ass for 2 hours breathing and falling asleep between contractions and nothing was happening. I was breathing and pushing and the head hadn’t even crowned! The second midwife, Nancy, arrived and by now I was shouting that I couldnt do it, was too tired etc!! Nancy, who was 7 months pregnant herself, started spurring me on, telling me I was fine etc. I was kind of spun out and I can’t remember the tiny details. I wish I had filmed it so I could see what I was like but I do remember that I was shouting, not in a hysterical way, but it a more primal way, like a war cry or something.
By 9am I’d had enough. I decided to pull myself together. I turned around onto all fours (which I hadnt wanted to do before because it was so painful) leaned by elbows on gregs lap as he was sat by the pool and stopped my constant breathing which was exhausting me, and only did my breathing exercises and pushes while the contractions were happening.
He finallllly started to make moves. I pushed and pushed and the only real pain that I can remember is when I felt his head widening my pelvic bones. As his head started to come out, I felt every feature of his face brush against my vagina, so weird! The midwives then told me to stop pushing which I duly followed as I knew they were controlling my pushing to stop me from tearing and tearing was the only thing I was terrified of. However when I stopped pushing I felt like his head was going back inside me! argghhhh, all my hard work undone! But no, it was fine, his head came out and then I felt his shoulders wiggle - PULL HIM OUT! I shouted, but no - my work was not yet done and I had to give him a final push out.
Greg delivered him and passed him underneath me, and my Mom grabbed him and passed him to me, and I sat back in the pool with him in my arms and started laughing!
He didnt cry immediately so they cut the cord and took him over to the dining table where the towels were laid out and roughed him up a little. He started crying and they weighed him.
Then they delivered the placenta and examined me. Thankfully I only had a tiny tear, no stitches! Yahoo! Then Greg and I sat on the sofa with him and he looked and each of us in the eye directly, it was truly magical.
After cleaning myself up and putting on some warm clothes, I got into bed with my baby and just stared at him.
Roman William Prendergast was born at 10.31am on Wednesday 2nd Feb (his due date). He weighed 8lb 4oz! and was 57cm long. He is super alert, stares a lot and I love him.
Labour is not as bad as you think.
THINGS I WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY:
Take your final trimester diet seriously. I was anemic as I’d gone off meat but I should have taken some supplements.
Walk around during early labour. I made myself way too comfortable and cosy which is why I think he didnt come out for ages. No relaxing baths next time, I’ll put myself in some pain to encourage active labour.
Videoed the birth. I wish I could remember every detail, but its just impossible when you’re in the throes of it all.
Having a homebirth is an amazing experience. It was so wonderful to be able to get into my own bed with my baby. Everything went perfectly. The midwives were great. It was a real luxury to have two midwives undivided attention throughout my labour, in a hospital they would be coming in and out. I understand its different for everyone, but if you are young and healthy and low risk, I think having your baby at home is a good option.