When you birth at home you feel in control, safe and above all normal. A hospital birth turns you from being a healthy birthing mother into a patient with no autonomy - the process becomes medicalised with so much intervention and is so very different to the spiritual, magical birth that is experienced at home.
I am mother to four children. My first son was born in hospital and the subsequent three were born at home, in water. In this birth story I am going to talk about my most recent birth because it’s the closest to my personal ideal of birth and the preparation and planning came about as a culmination of my previous experiences.
For this birth I was fortunate enough to be assisted by an independent midwife who really listened to my wishes and helped to make the birth everything I’d always hoped for (Nicky Grace is amazing!). Anyway, my fourth baby, Thomas was born on my eldest son's 10th birthday.
I felt a bit strange in the night but got up to begin organising Joe’s birthday as planned. Contractions started whilst sharing a special birthday breakfast with the whole family including grandparents. I quietly kept leaving the breakfast table between bites of croissant and opening of cards. Eventually my Mum asked; “where does Jane keep going?”
When I realised that things were ramping up a bit, we sent the children out with their grandparents and our dogs for a walk so that I could labour in peace. As the contractions increased in length I busied myself making a birthday picnic (still not entirely sure if this was the real thing or if we’d still be heading out for the picnic later in the day) and my husband filled the pool.
We’d prepared my birthing space to be dark and cave like. Steve covered the windows with tin foil to block out all traces of light and I had decorated the walls with pictures of birthing women which I'd coloured in throughout my pregnancy in preparation. Fresh flowers were in the room and special items were arranged on an altar. All these things made it personal, homely and safe, enabling me to be in the birthing zone. I wore a special chain of beads around my neck, each bead had been given by a friend with warm wishes for the birth at a mother blessing ceremony previously. Candles were lit in the four corners of the room and my close friends and family who attended my blessing were notified and lit candles in support in their own homes too.
When the pool was filled I climbed in and felt great relief – it’s amazing how the water supports you and changes the experience of contractions. I find that water also supports you to relax much better between the surges and the boundary of the pool makes for a very private space. Steve sat the other side of the pool in support and my midwife arrived soon after - I'd planned a hands off birth with no monitoring at all so she just observed. With the final surges I could feel Thomas assist the birthing process by actively pushing with his feet! He was born safely and peacefully into the water at 11.46am.
After a bit of time, I climbed out of the pool and transferred to the sofa. A semi lotus birth had been planned (where the cord is not immediately clamped and cut). It felt to me as if the placenta was being stubborn and not coming quick enough for my liking (I’d had trouble with this stage in previous labours). Nicky, however, knew exactly what to do and got me to blow into my fist – the placenta plopped out! Nicky popped a small chuck of placenta in my mouth as it is said to help prevent PPH. Steve called to let everyone know the happy new , notifying them that they could come home now – luckily I’d already prepared lunch for everyone.
We wanted a gentle separation from the placenta for Thomas and planned that we would burn the cord rather than cut. This enabled a slower more conscious introduction into the world and allowed for my whole family to be involved in the process. One of my friend’s had given me two bees wax candles at my mother blessing, she had brought them back from Greece. My second son Charlie and my mum held the candles as they gradually burned through Thomas’s cord (the candle stub was saved and used on Thomas’s first birthday cake).
Thomas just slept peacefully though the whole thing. It was important to me to have everyone there and deeply involved and just wouldn't have been possible in hospital. Later in the day we went on to have birthday cake and an indian takeaway for dinner-a double celebration. Nicky stayed until the evening, helping to clean up and sharing the birthday celebrations with us, I was so grateful that she stayed, she’d been a big part of our lives throughout the pregnancy and sharing birth with someone like that is a very intimate experience – it was as important to me to have her there as the rest of the family. At the end of the day my eldest son said that Thomas was the best birthday present he could ever have asked for and their bond is something very special - I'm sure the birth circumstances have greatly helped the children to integrate our new family member more smoothly.
I'm now just starting out my journey as a Doula to support other women through birth.