Madeleine's birth stories - Tom and Rachel's births

I had my son Tom in the midwife-led unit at Queen Charlotte's hospital in London. While my early phase of labour was long, the birth itself was hugely positive.  

I arrived at hospital exhausted from several sleepless nights and suffering with the ache of a back to back labour.  What turned the whole situation around was a) pethidine and b) a hot water bottle. 

The hot water bottle on my back went a long way to relieving the pressure of  my baby's back to back position, while the pethidine allowed me to sleep.  It was like a magic reset button.

I slept for two hours and while I did, Tom turned.  Now in a better position, and me with renewed energy I got on the birth ball and bounced while breathing gas and air. Suddenly the whole thing felt amazingly manageable.  A couple of hours later I got in the birth pool and Tom was born, still in his sac, into the water two hours later.  It was amazing.

I feel pethidine often gets a bad press. But in a situation like mine where I was absolutely exhausted, and contractions had been going on for a very long time, it  was a real aid.  Having that chance to rest was absolutely the right decision as it allowed me to go onto have a completely uncomplicated birth. 

I felt really glad I knew in advance about this option and that I tried this first before considering anything else, as that sleep was one of the key factors behind Tom's birth being so straightforward.

Before having Tom, I'd never considered the idea of a homebirth.  I thought that really only raging hippies and people who liked pain had home births.  And so I always assumed I'd have my second child at Queen Charlottes too.  However, the only thing that worried me was when to go to hospital.  With my son, my early phase had been so long, I'd ended up playing the "hokey cokey" with the hospital, going in, out and then in again. 

But after moving house, and now being further away from a maternity hospital I was worried that I would either end up going in too early again and find this demoralising or worse that I might accidentally leave going in too late .

I was attending an active birth yoga class during pregnancy, and through the teacher and things I read on Tell Me a Good Birth Story, I realised actually all the myths I'd thought about homebirth were just that... myths!!  So for Rachel's birth I registered with the Kingston Home Birth team.

And I am so glad I did.  All our appointments where at home, with none of the long waiting times at Queen Charlottes and so much easier to manage with now three-year- old Tom.  And the birth itself was just amazing.  Having her at home made such a difference, everything was much more natural.  Before Tom I had always assumed where I gave birth wouldn't matter, or that even I'd feel safer at hospital.  But having done both I'd now choose home every time. 

Your ability to relax and go with it, is just so much easier at home.  This is something I'd never have realised until I'd actually done both.  It's hard to imagine what people mean when they say "wouldn't you prefer your own space and your own things" . This kind of comment didn't really resonate with me. I'd think "erm no I'll feel safer at hospital won't I?"

Before you've had a baby, giving birth  is such an abstract idea.  You can't accurately gauge what it will be like.  I wish someone had asked me "where would you prefer to have a poo?  Would you prefer to have a poo in your own home with very few people around or in a hospital under bright lights with several people watching and people coming in and out constantly?"  Because ultimately that's what giving birth feels like.  It felt exactly like having a poo, and having a poo is such a private thing and almost impossible if your not left alone to get on with it.

Rachel's birth was so different Tom's, and a truly amazing experience.  While Tom's water never broke (and he was born en caul), Rachel's labour started with my waters breaking while playing a board game with my husband after Tom went to bed. 

I sent him off to bed while I pottered around relaxing and ignoring all the early stages.  The beauty of being at home was I could happily leave him sleeping (so he'd be on the ball when I needed him) while pottering around getting comfy in my own surroundings. There were no decisions to make, and so this was possible - just relaxing into it. 

I used my surroundings to full advantage once the labour did start to pick up in the earnest namely the stairs. Strangely I found it really good to do lunges on my stairs during contractions.  It really helped!  I am sure it was one of the reasons Rachel came so much faster than Tom. As good as my hospital birth was, I'd have never felt free enough to go out of my room and do lunges on the stairs.  But at home I was completely free and I went up and down them squillions of times.  Constantly going upstairs to the toilet or just loitering on the stairs because it felt good.

In fact the midwife did tell me she did wonder if I'd end up giving birth on stairs but when the time came I simply came onto all fours in the front room, on the soft old duvets my husband had carefully laid out for me and Rachel was born easily in just three surges.  

Honestly it was amazing.  

I really do think being at home made all the difference.  There are just so many examples... with Tom's birth in hospital and the long early phase I had a total of five vaginal exams!  At home I had none.  And this wasn't because I refused but because the midwife never asked to do one. She could see where I was because she'd been tracking it by speaking to me and popping in from the off and didn't need more than that. 

I do think at hospital there is a level of "tick box" style care...  a vaginal exam every 4 hours being one of the boxes they want to tick... while at home its very much your house your rules.. and the midwife just follows your lead.  You and your husband's! 

Another difference with the homebirth was it really allowed my husband Dave to take charge and he was just amazing.  Particularly, during my one "wobble".  I think everyone in labour experiences a "wobble" moment when they think they can't do it.  For me this came just after my mum had picked up my son.  I went in the bath to relax while she got him dressed and loaded in the car, and then once they both had left... BAM!  The surges really kicked up a huge gear!  Suddenly I went from coping very well to not coping at all. 

My husband seeing this and knowing I needed to start breathing and relaxing through each contraction rather that sobbing and screaming in pain, started doing exaggerated breathing and repeating random hypnobirthing phrases.  During the last few weeks of pregnancy I had got him to read scripts to me, I had thought I hadn't really taken to hypnobirthing ... but the sound of him saying things like "deeper and deeper" "calmness and wellbeing" and other random snippets... really had a huge effect on me!  I breathed with him, I relaxed to the sound of his voice.  He did this completely unprompted and I can't tell you what a difference it made.  He always seemed to put on this special hypnobirthing voice which my body just recognised from those times he'd read scripts to me and just responded to automatically.  I started breathing through the contractions again.  This totally got me through until the Midwife arrived a short while later with the blessed gas and air!!  

For all these reasons and more I'd absolutely have a home birth again.  The midwife led unit was fab too but it just doesn't compare to the ease, simplicity and feeling of complete naturalness of being at home.