A real home birth experience, told by Alannah.
In 2014, when I told people I was choosing to give birth at home with my first child, looks of horror would spread across their faces.
They were clearly picturing a nightmare similar to a horror movie scene. The questions full of fear followed.
“But you can’t have any pain relief! How will you cope?”
“What if something terrible happens and you or your baby’s lives are at risk?”
“People don’t do that anymore, do they?”
I tried not to let it phase me. I knew people were just concerned with mine and the baby’s safety and home births have an outdated reputation for being very risky for the welfare of mothers and babies.
My husband was completely on board with the idea and fully supported the decision from the start. As long as I wasn’t making any uneducated or irrational decisions concerning the birth of our child, he knew the best choice was the one that made me feel the most comfortable and happy.
We did our homework on the subject and met with the amazing home birth team at Airedale General Hospital.
Sue was our assigned midwife and she was just incredible. She answered every question knowledgeably and thoroughly. She talked us through the entire process of how homebirths work and what steps would be taken should anything unexpected happen.
I felt satisfied that a homebirth was the right choice for my birth plan.
-We only lived 5 minutes from the hospital at the time (should any complications arise)
-My pregnancy was considered low risk as I was young, healthy and had no concerns over my medical history
-I trusted and felt safe in the hands of my midwives
-My husband was prepared to do what was needed of him during labour and delivery (and he’s not the squeamish type)
-The control I felt giving birth in comfortable and familiar surroundings was going to be a huge help in controlling the anxiety issues I was experiencing at that time of my life
I decided a water-birth was the best option for me and I hired a purpose built, inflatable pool from a great birth pool hire company. (They closed the business down a few months ago and I’m gutted about it as I also used them for the birth of my second child too and the woman who ran it was so lovely. I wanted to recommend them to everyone!)
The pools can also be purchased from reputable sellers online too. They are very easy to get hold of.
In my research on home births I came across the term ‘hypnobirthing’.
‘Hypnobirthing is a birthing method that uses self-hypnosis and relaxation techniques to help a woman feel physically, mentally and spiritually prepared and reduce her awareness of fear, anxiety and pain during childbirth’ - Definition from MayoClinic.org
I was a little skeptical at first but I was also keen to test the techniques and see if it really did work.
I bought the book ‘Effective Birth Preparation: Your Practical Guide To A Better Birth’ by Maggie Howell. Even if hypnobirthing isn’t for you, I still highly recommend reading this book.
It’s packed full of useful information that gets you thinking and discovering your own beliefs around birth and what is right for you. It’s a huge confidence builder for your birth preparation. Whether you’re a nervous and worried first-time mum or you’ve already experienced a labour and birth that really didn’t live up to your expectations, this book will teach you how to trust your body, no matter what happens.
From around 2 months into my pregnancy, I spent almost every night listening to hypnobirthing audio tracks to train my brain to react in certain ways that would be beneficial during my birthing process.
By my third trimester when I was getting uncomfortable and frustrated with the completely unglamourous aspects of pregnancy, it was super relaxing just to lie on my bed and unwind to the hypnobirthing tracks. Sometimes I drifted off while listening. I still didn’t know if any of it would work. But I felt prepared, calm and in control so things seemed promising.
My due date came and went. Discussions around induction were going on and every day my baby stayed put was a day closer to my ideal home birth not happening.
My midwife suggested we book a slot for induction for Day 14 overdue just in case we needed it. My heart sank a little but it was the right thing to do under the circumstances.
I woke up on Day 13 overdue. Nothing was happening and I felt more frustrated than ever. I crept to the bathroom as quietly as an overdue pregnant woman can to avoid waking my husband.
I got in the shower as usual. As the warm water hit my bump, something weird started to happen.
Was it finally time?
After what felt like a few ripples of pressure under my bump, I turned the shower off and carefully stepped out and made my way back to the bedroom.
I didn’t make it that far. Halfway back I started to experience full-blown, serious labour contractions.
Let me take a second to say that this isn’t considered ‘normal’ It usually takes hours, sometimes days for women to get to this point in labour. It took me less than 10 minutes! As I'd find out, warm water makes things happen fast in my particular birth experiences.
I finally made it back to the bedroom and woke Tom, my husband. He was straight to work inflating and filling our hired birth pool.
I’m sure our poor midwife Sue must have thought we’d timed the contractions incorrectly when he called her to say it was time to get to our house already. I was a first time mum and I’d been in labour for around an hour.
When Sue arrived, I’d been in labour for about 4 hours. She had finished her appointment with another pregnant woman and got to me as soon as she could.
Meanwhile, I’d climbed into my pool after she had given us the go-ahead over the phone and floated around while working through my contractions using my hypnobirthing techniques.
My contractions had already been intense but as soon as I hit the water they instantly went up a gear. I felt like I was reaching the limit of my pain threshold but the techniques I had practiced kept me calm and in control. I trusted my body and did whatever I could to relax and let all my muscles do their thing.
All my skepticism about self-hypnosis disappeared as I drifted into a meditative state despite being in very active labour. I could still feel the pain but I just accepted it and worked through the waves one at a time.
My biggest surprise was how it completely altered my perception of time to my advantage. What I thought had been 30 minutes had actually been more than an hour.
I was floating around on my back completely in the zone when I was startled back to reality by Tom yelling my name. When I opened my eyes and glared at him his response was “I thought you were dead! You didn’t look like you were even breathing!”
I laugh now. At the time I was annoyed and told him to leave me alone because he’d ruined my last hour of hard work to get myself that relaxed. (To be fair, that’s the worst thing I’ve said to him throughout either our children’s births so don’t feel too bad for him). Back to Sue. She arrived and was surprised to find me 10cm dilated. My body had already been trying to push without any conscious encouragement from me.
Once Sue had told me I was safe to push I completely let my body do it’s thing. If I were to tell you I actually pushed my baby out, I’d be lying. The pushes were involuntary. They just happened whether I wanted them to or not. I think my relaxed state just allowed my muscles to do what they needed to birth our baby. I gave a couple of gentle nudges to help ease our baby’s head out with encouragement from Tom and Sue (my waters finally broke!) and our beautiful daughter Ellie made her way into the warm water of the birth pool as relaxed and chill as I was. Her heartbeat had stayed steady throughout the entire process and she didn't even cry for the first minute or two she was out of the water.
She weighed a healthy 8lb 5oz and my entire labour only lasted about 6 hours.
I felt a little tired but completely euphoric and content after the birth and couldn’t be more thankful for the support and encouragement I received from my husband and my midwives throughout my entire pregnancy.
I should also mention here that a second midwife arrived at some point during the birth. I’m not sure when and I’m sorry that I cannot recall her name. I just want to make it clear that two midwives attend home births, not just one.
I suffered no damage at all from the birth apart from the normal soreness and my recovery was extremely quick.
The combination of familiar home surroundings, the birthing pool and the hypnobirthing techniques (and of course the incredible support from my husband and midwives) all merged to create a really positive birth experience that I went on to repeat with my son, Tommy in 2016.
He was a chunky 9lb 12oz so I had to do a little extra pushing with him but he was out in a relaxed 3 hours.
The friends and relatives that were so dubious about home births are now much more open to the idea. They ask questions out of curiosity now rather than horror.
Regardless of whether you’d consider a home birth or not, I hope that after reading this it’s given you an understanding of why I chose it and helped alleviate concerns you may have had about it being outdated and dangerous.
If medical professionals had warned me against a home birth due to expected risks of complications, I would definitely have taken their advice and birthed my baby in a hospital.
If I can leave you with any advice for your birth preparations it would be this:
-Be open minded, research and choose whatever suits you and your particular situation best
-Make a plan of your ideal birth but be prepared to roll with it if life throws unexpected complications at you
-Nobody can tell the future so nobody can tell you exactly how your labour and delivery will turn out
-If you can learn and develop relaxation and coping techniques, no matter what happens, you’ll do amazing!
-Listen to your body. It’s smart and it knows what it needs
-Ask a family member or close friend to check in with your partner after the birth to support them. My husband forgot to eat for 24 hours afterwards as he was too busy taking care of us
I’m always happy to talk to expecting parents and answer any questions you may have about my experience.
The fantastic team of midwives at Airedale have a facebook page where lots of women share their experiences. Definitely take a look: www.facebook.com/airedalemidwives/