A story of home-birth and empowerment
My first birth was pretty terrible – and sadly I have learnt over the years – pretty standard.
I was ‘invited’ to have an induction which of course I accepted because I didn’t feel I had an alternative at 40 +12 days. I arrived at the hospital and had the obligatory ‘shave and enema’ (thank goodness some things have improved over time!) and waited in a ward with 5 other women until there was a “gap” to induce me.
My waters were ‘broken’ after a night of no sleep, I laboured for many many hours (but apparently not quickly enough) before being recommended syntocinon to speed up labour. Unfortunately no one told me this would mean more pain! I then asked (begged) for an epidural which worked fabulously, but slowed labour down to an excruciating rate. After many more hours I struggled to push my baby out because I couldn’t feel a bloody thing – and finally a doctor helped to ‘deliver’ my baby with forceps.
I felt desolate that my ‘birth plans’ had proven to be a ridiculously naive pipe dream.
I felt ridiculous for ever having believed I could do better
I felt foolish for having told people I was going to have a natural birth
I felt I had failed.
Roll the clock forward by 5 years and I found myself sitting opposite a midwife called Kim Mason. She was a community midwife offering personalised care within a small case loading team.
Only a few months earlier I had taken the painful decision to walk away from an unhappy marriage with an alcoholic that had no respect for himself or me. I was worried how well I would cope as a single parent – not only to my 5 year old daughter, but also to a ‘not even here yet’ newborn – and my self worth was at an all time low.
Kim had arrived at my home to do my ‘booking’ visit – and instead of asking me “which hospital are you going to birth in?” she looked me directly in the eye and asked
“So, you’re going to home birth this one right?”
I choked on the tea I was drinking and with the ability to only get one word out I simply spluttered “Sorry?”
She just calmly repeated… “So you’re going to home birth?”
“Er, I don’t bloody think so!! Have you read my notes? I don’t do birth very well!”
She simply smiled and said “No Sarah, you don’t do birth in hospital very well – Let’s talk about it again closer to the day”.
I completely forgot this conversation until during our routine appointment at 36 weeks when Kim said “Well, you are still really healthy, your body is growing your baby beautifully and it would be lovely to help you birth your baby into your home if you want to give it a go? – I will be on call for you”
She made me feel confident
She made me feel I could trust my body
She made me feel I could trust her.
She made me feel that I could.
My pregnancy progressed, and true to form, the baby decided to stay put. He seemingly liked his current accommodation and clearly wasn’t yet “ready”. Because I was home birthing I avoided pressure from consultants to come in for induction and the community midwifery team consistently reassured me that ‘baby’s come when they are ready”.
And so it was at exactly 42 weeks that I woke at 4.00 am to some ‘peculiar’ sensations in my groin. I stayed in my own bed under the warmth of my duvet and breathed through as they gently increased and by 5:30 am they had picked up a rhythm. It slowly became obvious that these were contractions and I was definitely going into labour. I called Kim’s mobile and her sleepy voice said “That’s fabulous Sarah I will be over shortly”.
I rang a friend who collected my daughter and took her home for breakfast before taking her to school for the day. As soon as I knew Ellie was taken care of I relaxed and my labour began to pick up a steady pace.
I just moved around my home and found the “right” place to be for each surge. Sometimes I was downstairs in the kitchen leaning on the counters, sometimes I was upstairs in my room curled up in a ball on my bed and enjoying the softness of my duvet and pillows that felt so “safe”. Othertimes I was half way up the stairs stomping from side to side with the growing intensity.
My mum ran me a bath and we stayed in there for a while until Kim arrived – bringing confidence and assurances that this was a beautiful day for a home birth!. After some quick checks she just allowed me to do my own thing. She sat quietly in the corner drinking tea and just listening in to the baby every now and then.
I couldn’t believe how different this labour was. No journey to hospital, no ‘settling’ into a cold clinical room feeling like the next installation on a conveyor belt. Freedom to move around – with plenty of space and a choice of rooms to go to not just a square room dominated by a bed! I snacked out of my own fridge and had my own bathroom that I could comfortably sit on the floor without worrying about the germs that might be there or worrying someone else might be waiting for it!
Most crucially the people supporting me and surrounding me had all been invited in at MY request – they were entering into my home and honouring my preferences.
I wasn’t disturbed by the sounds of other women – and I wasn’t ever asked to manoeuvre, position or behave in any way. My team worked around me and my needs came first.
Mum was my constant companion, swaying with me, reassuring me quietly, rubbing my back and telling me I could do it. She had home birthed me 29 years earlier with the support of a wonderful midwife and she had total faith in Kim and I achieving this together. She never once questioned my decision, she just offered constant reassurance that this was natural, this was normal and this was something I could do.
I had asked Kim during my pregnancy which room would I be birthing in and she just laughed and said “well whichever room you happen to “drop” in. I hadn’t understood her statement. But at 10.00 am on this crisp winter day with the heating blasting to raise the temperature I finally “dropped” onto all fours, in the lounge just in front of the Christmas tree with it’s lights sparkling.
The strength of the contractions were incredible my head was unsure how much more I could take – but my heart was SO delighted that I was actually able to feel the overwhelming urge to push my baby out.
Each contraction felt like a tornado had gripped me, spun me round at high velocity then spat me out – just to rest for seemingly a moment in time – before picking me up again in its whirlpool of power.
Everything seemed out of control – I thought I was going to die….
And then there was Kim’s voice – the beautiful calm right in the eye of each storm, saying “Sarah, you are doing this, just follow your body”….
And I did.
Jamie was born at home on my front room floor after just 20 minutes of my body pushing him out – I dropped to the floor in exhaustion and without a word Kim picked up my baby and gently laid him onto me before covering us both with the duvet to keep us warm.
We had time alone, uninterrupted, in a quiet and darkened room – just gazing at each other whilst I took in the enormity of what we had all achieved.
Mum ran me a fresh bath whilst I fed Jamie and helped me upstairs and helped me lower my exhausted body into the water. After a 20 minute soak she helped dry me in my own towels and then finally tucked both Jamie and I into bed.
Kim stayed in the kitchen and completed her paperwork before gently saying goodbye – and I cried when she left.
I couldn’t put into words how thankful I was
She hadn’t only helped me achieve a home birth – she had helped me to believe in myself again.
We are often asked by doula clients – why did you become a doula?
My answer is “because I benefitted from the most incredible one-to-one care from a midwife that believed in me”
Whatever your choice of place of birth be sure to surround yourself with people that have faith in your abilities and will support you to achieve your goals.