Thursday, 17 March 2016

A Tale of Two Birthplaces Part 1: The Home Birth

It's been a while since I last blogged. That's because, just hours after my last postI went into labour.

I woke up at around 1.30am on Friday 4th March with period-type pains. They fizzled out after a while and didn't return, so I got up to go to the toilet, sneaking a look out of the window before I went back to bed. We were forecast snow and I'd been anxious about whether the home birth midwives would make it to me. Sure enough, snow was falling steadily.  I returned to bed, feeling relieved that I wasn't in labour after all.

After dozing but not really sleeping, the pain returned at 3.25am, then every 11 minutes after that. My husband woke at about 4am and I told him what was happening. We looked outside - thick snow covered the street. Pants. I waited till 4.30am then rang the home birth team to let them know what was going on. The midwife I spoke to was lovely, gave me some advice on managing the pain and said to call again when my contractions were closer together. I stayed downstairs doing some gym ball exercises, but couldn't get comfy so went back to bed, thinking I had ages to go. At this point I was using breathing and visualisations to get through the contractions.

My husband had taken over timings by then and in the next hour and a half the contractions moved closer, to 7.5 minutes, then to 6 then 5. I was still coping mostly with breathing and other relaxation techniques but it was getting harder. I rang the home birth team back at 6am, feeling really bad because I knew that shift change was at 7am. The midwife reassured me not to worry about shifts, suggested I put my TENS machine on and asked me to call again in half an hour.

It took ages to sort the TENS machine out so I'd only just got it on by the time half an hour had passed. Preschooler woke up just before 6.30 and came through for her usual mummy milk, but by this point I didn't feel like I could give her any. We explained the baby was coming and that she was going to her grandparents (who had already been notified). As she went to get dressed, I called the home birth team again and asked for the next midwife on shift to come straight to me. I relocated back downstairs and stationed myself on the sofa, laying on my side as this seemed to be the only vaguely comfortable position I could find.

At about 7am my father in law came to pick Preschooler up, then came the two midwives followed by two taxis bringing their kit from the hospital. I felt really bad as the snow was thick and our street isn't easy to get to in bad weather, but I was relieved everyone had made it and I wasn’t the one braving the elements to get to hospital!

Once the midwives were here I lost all concept of time and just focussed on the task at hand. I was still coping with a mix of relaxation techniques and the TENS, but at some point I started needing to kind of hum through contractions too, which felt a bit daft but seemed to help. I tried going on my knees leaning over my gym ball for a bit and that seemed to intensify the pain, and for the first time I started to panic that I wouldn't be able to do it.

The memories are a bit hazy at this point, I think because I was heading into transition. I remember telling my husband I couldn't do it and saying I was scared. I remember the midwife asking what I was scared of and for a minute I didn't really know, but then I answered that I was scared of tearing again, having suffered a third degree tear in my first labour. The midwives were great at reassuring me but I still kept saying I couldn't do it with every contraction. At some point I felt a lurching feeling. I remembered reading about the foetal ejection reflex, which has been likened to ‘vomiting’ out your baby, and that's exactly what it felt like. I freaked out, realising that I was now in the second stage, and fought the urge to push at first. I felt dizzy, so laid back on the sofa. I asked at one point if I should take my bottoms off which I now realise was a bit of a stupid question!

I started out pushing whilst laid on my side, and my waters broke in that position with an audible pop. I’d gone from squeezing my husband's hand through every contraction to wrapping my arm round his neck and screaming in his ear!! As things progressed we all knew I was in the wrong position for getting a baby out, so I painfully got on my knees and leaned over the back of the sofa. I asked for gas and air as being upright made the pain worse, but in the end I found it too distracting and just had a few puffs, preferring to just brace myself on the back of the sofa. I remembered learning in my antenatal classes that a relaxed jaw helped to relax everything else, so with every push I made a bizarre mooing noise to keep my face and jaw relaxed. I felt like a right plank but it was working!

Pushing seemed to take ages but probably didn't in reality. Having had a forceps delivery first time round, I'd never felt the sensations of actually pushing a baby out before - it was the weirdest feeling ever! It took a few pushes to get the head out and two or three more to get the body out, not quite the speedy delivery the TV shows would have you expect. But then finally my baby boy was being passed to me through my legs! I clung onto his slippery body awkwardly - his cord was really short so it was hard to get a good hold. Turning round to sit down was awkward too but finally we were settled on the sofa, Baby and me, snuggled up together. I'd done it! I'd had the home birth I dreamed of, with just a few puffs of gas and air! I felt like Wonder Woman!

But here's where the two birthplaces bit comes in - I'd planned a natural third stage but wasn't expecting a postpartum haemorrhage. After a bit of trying to get the placenta out naturally it became obvious that I needed help, so I had the injection. The midwives managed to stop the bleeding but I'd lost a lot, so reluctantly we agreed that I should transfer to hospital. After the first breastfeed, one of the midwives took Baby to be weighed which is when I realised why it had taken so many pushes to get him out - he was 4.9kg, or 10lb12oz!

I'll blog about my hospital experience soon, but wanted to say a bit about the home birth first. Despite needing to transfer I have no regrets about choosing a home birth, the way in which the bleeding was dealt with and the quick arrival of the ambulance shows to me that I was very much safe. Being able to look at the very spot my son was born every day is amazing! If I could go back in time I'd probably opt for a managed third stage, but then I don't know if that would have made a difference anyway. Overall giving birth at home was a great experience and something I'll remember happily for the rest of my life!

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