In June 2010 we tragically lost our 11 day old baby, Stanley, from a previously undiagnosed incurable heart defect. Naturally it was devastating and a hugely difficult time for our family. However we felt that as a couple, we wanted another baby, a sibling for our two year old son Bertie. We always knew that any subsequent pregnancy was going to be emotionally and physically tough. It would mean that I would be having my third baby in as many years and that my pregnancy and wellbeing would have to be handled carefully and with genuine compassion. However, at my booking in appointment and dating scan we felt let down by our midwives and sonographer and did not feel that they were geared up to look after me in the way that I knew I needed this time. Someone suggested contacting Liz and within a few hours I had spoken to her, made an appointment and pretty much knew that she was the person I wanted to look after me! The idea of a homebirth had never appealed to me before, but suddenly it just felt right.
My due date was the 2nd August and Liz explained that she would be away for the last two weeks of July and that it might be a good idea to share my antenatal care with her colleague Meg – the Oxford Midwife. I was happy to do this as I felt that I could then build a relationship with both of them in preparation for my birth. Over the next few months I met with them both regularly and bonded on a level I never expected. They understood me and the psychological journey that I was embarking upon. I trusted them both, they involved Gordon and Bertie every step of the way and they supported me as I had special heart scans, emotional wobbles or fears about my first homebirth.
On the whole I had a straightforward pregnancy and was excited about the impending new arrival. As I had had one baby two weeks ‘early’ and one baby a week ‘late’ we had no idea when this little bundle would put in an appearance. I was desperately hoping that it would be before Liz went on holiday but that date came and went and I started to think that she would miss my birth. I was absolutely fine with just having Meg, but my dream was to have the dynamic duo in attendance! Well clearly baby felt the same way and as Liz made her way back from Scotland, my contractions started. I think that she just about managed to get home and have a cup of tea before getting back in the car and coming to join Meg at my house at about 9pm.
My contractions had been fairly regular for a while and I was having about three in a ten minute period. They were quite short but fairly intense and I needed to concentrate on them as they hit their peak. I would lean against a wall as they started and swing my hips whilst breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. Breathing was a big part for me and I used lots of the techniques that I had learnt during an antenatal yoga class. However I was still laughing and joking in between and so we couldn’t decide whether I was in established labour or not. After a few hours we sent Gordon to bed for a rest, with Meg saying that she would go and get him when things got ‘interesting’. I continued tackling each contraction by breathing through it but now Liz massaged my lower back as well as I had each one and this brought great relief. It became clear though that things were not progressing as quickly as we had all expected. I seemed to be getting long periods of rest followed by intense contractions and then rest again. It didn’t feel quite right.
Despite our reservations, Meg went and woke Gordon up after an hour or so, and I think at this point we were all still hopeful of meeting a baby before too long. By now I was getting tired and although I was feeling concerned by my lack of progress I was still reasonably upbeat. After a bit of discussion we decided to consider breaking my waters to see if that helped move things along. I was helped to the floor and Meg examined me. When she realised I was only 3cm dilated (actually 2cm but she lied to try and keep my motivation level up!) I was beside myself. Breaking my waters was not an option and I still had a way to go. I broke down. There was no way I could sustain the pain for hours and hours more. I was desperate and burst into tears. Luckily the relationship that I had with Meg and Liz meant that they knew me incredibly well and Liz used her knowledge of my bereavement to try and decipher what was going on with my body and not allowing my labour to progress.
Liz gave me a cuddle and suggested that I snuggle up on the duvet with Gordon and talk about Stanley and any fears that I had. Until that point, I didn’t realise myself that I had some deep rooted emotional stuff going on. Then it all made sense. Perhaps I wasn’t allowing my body to do what it needed to, to help our baby enter the world. I could feel parts of my body tensing and withdrawing with each contraction and it now appeared that I was terrified of allowing this baby out in case she was ill like her older brother had been. I couldn’t face losing another child. I couldn’t face any more heartache. Maybe psychologically I wanted her to remain in the safety of my womb. If Liz hadn’t had that personal connection to us as a family then I might still be labouring now!
Meg and Liz went to an upstairs bedroom and left us alone for a while to get to grips with the emotional rollercoaster we were on and I broke down and told Gordon how scared I was. I was also now exhausted and needed a break so we just lay for a while and I continued to breathe through my contractions. All of a sudden I got a second wind (literally, as I couldn’t stop burping!) and told Gordon to go and get Liz from upstairs as I was ready to start again. It was tough realising that I literally needed a new slate and I was going to have to start from the beginning but this time I was ready for whatever my head and body might throw at me.
Unfortunately Liz had returned with renewed vigour as well, and decided to get me into new physical positions that wouldn’t allow me to hold back. Out came one of Bertie’s small wooden chairs and as each contraction begun I lifted a leg on to the chair and swiveled my hips. It hurt a lot more but my goodness I knew that it was doing the job! Gordon massaged me and Liz encouraged me to start mooing, deep low sounds, during the out breath. I was no longer laughing and joking between each contraction and was more focused. Everyone encouraged me to eat a few bits of banana to keep energy levels up and I was drinking sugary drinks. I didn’t want to, but I knew I had to.
The hours continued to go by and although I intermittently had moments of desperation, exhaustion and total doubt in my abilities, Liz and Meg kept me (and toast maker extraordinaire Gordon) calm. I say calm, I did panic a few times but nowhere near as much as I could have done under the circumstances! I contemplated using gas and air but I thought that it would actually be a distraction and the combination of deep back massage and mooing was actually better for me.
After a while I went to the toilet (not for a wee if you get my meaning!) and afterwards, everything seemed to step up a gear. This time Liz had me going up and down my stairs sideways two at a time to get my pelvis opening and then at the top of the stairs I was doing deep squats whilst holding the banister. It was proper exercise! I can’t say any of it was enjoyable but my goodness it was effective and I definitely felt the intensity of my contractions step up a gear. I resumed my position of leaning over the back of the sofa during contractions and mooed my way through them. They were giving me very little respite by now, but Liz and Meg provided some relief by squeezing my hips together as I tackled each one. This was designed to manually open my pelvis and it seemed to do the trick. Either that, or they just pressed so hard that I focused on that rather than the pain! However I was still quite worried and asked Gordon whether he thought I should go to hospital. His resounding “no” was all I needed to convince me that I could still do this at home with no intervention.
As my contractions were now coming thick and fast, Meg suggested putting some frankincense on my hands for me to sniff as a way of bringing some calm to the situation. I wasn’t sure whether it would work, but had nothing to lose. It was amazing and genuinely brought me some peace. These women really do know their stuff thank goodness!
By now I was starting to feel intense pressure in my back and was in fact shouting the words “pressure, pressure”. Liz pressed her hands into my sacrum and told me to push back into her during the next contraction. I dutifully did as I was told and pushed as hard as I could against her hands. Gordon said that poor Liz was almost squashed into the wall such was my strength but boy did it work. As the clock flicked from 7.26 to 7.27 my waters broke with considerable force and with the next contraction the baby was out. It was 7.28. I was stood up as I gave birth to her, so Liz really did have to catch her, but luckily she has steady hands and a good grip! After a huge physical and emotional journey, our beautiful baby girl Cecily Kitty was born.
She was passed up to me and the sofa was quickly hauled up and turned the other way round so that I didn’t even have to move, just sit down where I was and cradle this precious wonder. I was elated. We enjoyed some amazing skin to skin contact and almost instantly this wonderful little being brought her parents some closure and above all some healing. It had been a harder labour than we expected and brought up issues I had never expected, but holding this baby girl in my arms was incredible and all I now felt was love.
I had decided that I wanted to deliver the placenta naturally and so Meg sat at my feet and waited patiently. After about 45 minutes I felt ready, and with each after pain I blew hard on my clenched fist and out it popped. Doing it in my own time and without intervention was great – so much more relaxed than in hospital. The cord had obviously stopped pulsing by now and was cold and white and no longer full of blood so Gordon was able to cut it. Cecily had managed to take everything she could from the cord and placenta and this was really satisfying.
We had snuggles, tea and tears and then Liz helped me upstairs for a shower. Being in your own home is so nice as you have no time scales, all of your personal belongings around you and a familiarity that brings with it that sense of calm. By the time I came back downstairs the house was immaculate and you would never have guessed I’d just delivered a baby in our living room! It meant that we could have Bertie home as soon as possible to meet his little sister and allow us to be a happy family once again.
I genuinely could not have done it without the experience and knowledge of my Batman and Robin and I will forever be grateful to them. The support that I have received since has not disappointed either. They have offered guidance and a shoulder to cry on as well as, naturally, outstanding professional advice. They clearly love their jobs and we love them!
Thank you x