Petra's story - having a baby at home and why doula support works

Dear Natalie,

I would like to share the news that I had my baby, Benjamin, last Wednesday and I had the most incredible birth with Lina (my doula). Everything you said about labour and birth is true!

I read your book - How to Have a Baby-  and, as you suggest on the first pages, I did mark the most useful parts with a pencil. This was immensely helpful during the last couple of days, when I revisited some of the chapters as a manual/guide.

Giving birth at home was both an emotional and practical decision. Coming from a culture where ante-natal care and birth are highly medicalised but also personalised at the same time I really enjoyed the non-interventionalist approach here in the UK. I loved the fact that you can journey through your pregnancy without being seen by a single doctor/consultant and can stick to a midwife-led care if you don’t have any complications. As a result, pregnancy became a surprisingly empowering experience and it really boosted trust in my body’s capability. 

However, at some point, the thought to give birth at a place I never seen (the hospital) with people I never met started to feel very uncomfortable. After weeks of gathering information and attending workshops I decided to change my care at 32weeks and I opted for home birth. We were extremely lucky to be covered by St. Georges’ dedicated Rainbow Team who have built a wonderful home care. I realised that this didn’t just mean that I could lay down the foundations for birth to happen naturally, supported by midwifes I got to build personal relationship with. It was also the most convenient option for us: a midwife attending my birth, instead of me going to the hospital. We knew that if labour hadn’t been unfolding in a straightforward way, the midwifes would have taken us to the hospital, skipping most of the inconvenient hospital procedures. And regardless of whether the birth happened at home, the post-natal care would be continued by the same team, in the comfort of our home. 

I gave birth at 40w+4d. My family and friends got super nervous as I passed my official due date and since baby was 3/5th engaged already I was offered to think about a sweep at 41w. It took me a day and a good cry to shake off others’ belief system and be brave enough to go with my body. 

I held a more intense self-practice yoga session on 40w+2 when I moved my body in a deep and fluid way and had a nice sweat. On 40w+3 I went for a 4-mile walk and now I know that by the end of that the baby dropped completely - I was hardly able to walk home from the bus stop, my pelvis was so full with the baby. 

On that night, around 3am, my water started to leak or it broke. We decided not to call the maternity ward, went back to sleep and I forced myself to get a few hours rest. I had a few period-like cramps, which ceased by the morning. We had a lovely breakfast, I washed my hair, put on some make up, then we called the ward. Soon after the Rainbow team (St Georges’ homebirth team) said they would come and check me. However, they were late and I really wanted to be out in the nice weather so we went for a small walk - until this point labour was completely silent. In the park I collected some ginkgo biloba leaves, a tree we have in our dad’s garden back in Hungary and the leaves I collected in a botanic garden in Tenerife in January when I was already pregnant but didn't know about it. Eventually I had like 5 very mild contractions on the way coming back from the park and Gloria from the team arrived in the meantime. She examined me and said I was at 2cms. She couldn’t even finish the visit when I escaped to the kitchen and told my husband to send them away because they really started to distract me with the student midwife present at the visit.

They left at 14.15 and I immediately went into full gear. I started to have 30-60s contractions 1-2.5 mins apart without any transition and they would never cease again. They were so sudden and so strong that I was shaking by the hormones rushing through my body. I still shake as I write this. We called Lina, who was incredibly quick and good at understanding what was happening and came immediately.

I had my 4kg (almost 9 pounds) boy at 18:18, in just 4 hours, and birthed the placenta by 18:42. 

Lina arrived at 4pm and she was, again, so skilful at assessing what was going on - she instructed my husband to fill the pool immediately so I managed to get in by around 5.20pm. I started to push soon after. Gloria almost didn’t make it, she only arrived 23 mins before delivery and the second midwife never made it. The private stem cell collector didn’t make it either. I birthed with Lina and I’m extremely grateful for having had her on my side. 

I remember you once saying that birth is not gentle and I can’t agree more - probably for the baby only. I was so determined to birth my baby at home but I didn’t feel particularly connected to hypnobirthing or other techniques, in spite of studying them all thoroughly. The only thing I consciously did is to release everything in the last few weeks of my pregnancy - mainly obstructing thoughts, emotions, stress in my body - that would hamper me. I kept repeating that I would lean into the unknown and trust the process - no need to control. Eventually, because of the intensity and lack of build up, I couldn't use any technique, I just kept my mouth open and let out the pain. I was only able to focus on adjusting the frequency of my moaning. I remembered that deeper is better. Paralyzed by the intense power, I was unable to move and was kneeling in the same position all the way through.

It was insanely hard work but I can’t wish for a better and more straightforward birth as a first-time mum: at home, in water, in 4 hours and a 4kg, wonderfully strong and calm baby as a result. It's quite likely that I would have never made it to the hospital anyway, so from a practical point of view, it was the best decision we could have made.

Lina stayed for a sleep over, my husband cleaned the pool and the morning after we had home-baked, fresh pain au chocolat for breakfast while Lina knitted a hat for our son. It was just like in a dream! Since then we’re enjoying the continued home visits from the Rainbow team.

I wanted to share this with you because you and Lina set me on for this journey and I’m so thankful for the work you do and the knowledge that you share.