Gabriel: a home birth story

So, you can read about what happened in the run up to labour in this post and I’m going to continue the story here…

Give us a wink

Having told Barry and my parents I didn’t think anything was going to happen that night we went to bed at about 10pm and I was hoping labour might start the next morning when Toby was in nursery and we’d had a full night’s sleep. But as I lay in the dark I realised that the cramps I’d been having earlier were perhaps getting a bit stronger and more regular. I found the contraction timer on my pregnancy app and counted as I had three mild contractions over the next 20 minutes. The procedure for a home birth was that I call the consultant led unit at the hospital who would get in touch with the on call midwife. I decided it was probably a good idea to give them a ring and let them know what was happening.

I spoke to the hospital at about 10:40 pm and they said they would get the on call midwife to give me a ring. By the time she rang 40 minutes later my contractions were 5-6 minutes apart and with my history of a quick labour she decided she better get changed back out of her pyjamas and come over. While we were waiting for the midwife we got together all the things I’d prepared and put a waterproof mattress protector and old sheet over the sofa, just in case my waters decided to go when I wasn’t expecting it!

The midwife arrived not long after midnight. After a quick chat she felt my tummy – the baby was still head down and well engaged. She then listened in to the baby’s heartbeat. His heart rate was a little low – it should be between 120 and 150 bpm and the baby’s was only 104. Heart rates in babies fluctuate a lot though so the midwife said she would do an internal examination then check again. The internal revealed my cervix was soft and thinned but still only 1-2cm dilated. I knew this didn’t mean much though – with Toby I went from 3cm to having him 3 hours later so I knew this time things could progress just as quickly if not quicker.

The midwife checked the heart rate again. It was up slightly but still only 108 bpm. At this point the midwife advised us that if the heart rate didn’t pick up soon then we would be better off in hospital so he could be more closely monitored. I decided it was probably a good time to get my mum and dad over so they could watch Toby if I did need to go in.

Of course when the midwife checked again just after I hung up the baby’s heart rate was up to something like 126 bpm and it stayed up there for the rest of my labour! While all this was happening my contractions were still coming and getting a bit stronger each time. I was coping fine with the pain at this point just using the breathing techniques I had been taught at the pregnancy yoga classes I went to. The midwife decided we would probably be OK to stay at home so she started unpacking all the kit she needed. There was quite a lot of bumping and banging and Toby actually woke up and cried at one point but thankfully he got himself back to sleep quickly.

Over the next hour we found a Star Wars documentary to watch – a bit random I know but there’s not much on TV in the early hours of the morning. I had a go at bouncing on my birthing ball which was comfortable between contractions but I actually found standing up and leaning on the arm of the sofa whilst rocking my hips was the most comfortable place to have a contraction for this part, I had my TENS machine on by now too but only on about level 4 on the first programme (of which there were 3, and they went up to level 50!), I concentrated on my breathing and pressed the boost button every time I contracted, which was getting to be more and more frequently. The midwife was still checking the baby’s heart rate with the doppler every 15 minutes. It stayed in the normal range which was great but pressing the doppler into my bump started to get really uncomfortable and annoying!

About 1:30 am my mum and dad turned up. After a quick hello they headed upstairs to bed (although my mum didn’t actually sleep for the rest of the night – I suppose it must be quite weird listening to your daughter give birth and be wondering what is happening.) Around this point Barry cleared space on the living room floor in front of the sofa and covered the floor with some waterproof mats we used to use when Toby was weaning, along with an old sheet and some towels. I took up the position where I ended up staying for most of the rest of my labour – kneeling in front of the sofa, leaning forward onto a cushion. This was the same position I had Toby in too – I guess that’s just what works for me. I think when I made the move to this position the midwife realised that things were really moving along so she called the second midwife who arrived about 45 minutes later.

I think at about 2:30 I decided I couldn’t manage just breathing through the contractions any more and got the gas and air. I also got Barry to come and sit next to me so I could squeeze his hand, and I put him in charge of pressing the boost button on the TENS machine as it was starting to annoy me trying to find it every time (by this point I was on the second programme at about level 10). He was also in charge of dispensing Jelly Babies! I started to relax with the effects of the gas and air – I remember saying to Barry ‘I didn’t tell you this last time but it is like being drunk’ to which he replied ‘yeah, you told me that last time’. I also found it funny at this point that because I was leaning over in quite a short night shirt everyone could see my bum! I actually got quite chatty at this point, in between the contractions which were coming thick and fast, sometimes without a break in between them at all. I was moaning a bit at the height of the contractions but I did try and remember a couple of things I’d read in Ina May Gaskin’s ‘A Guide to Childbirth’; firstly that keeping an open and relaxed mouth would help the cervix open and relax too, and that low pitched noises would help me do this. A couple of times I caught myself clamping my teeth down on the gas and air mouth piece so I made a conscious effort to relax my jaw.

Some time after 3 am I started to really feel my cervix opening up. I think this was the point last time that I heard myself saying ‘I can’t do this!’ This time in my determination to be more positive I was saying ‘I can do this’. I was still on my knees, leaning on my arms on the sofa. I remember the midwife asking if I was feeling ‘pushy’ and I said no but on the next contraction I started pushing. The midwives were getting together all the things they would need once the baby was born, and they put some of those absorbent mats underneath me. After a few more contractions the midwife said she could see my waters bulging and then I think on the next contraction they went, splashing below me. According to Barry it was quite dramatic. Another couple of pushes (and some pretty loud screaming from me – how Toby didn’t wake up I will never know!) saw the head come out and one more and the body followed. At 3:43 am, after about 6 hours of active labour, our second son, Gabriel, was born.

Just born

The midwife caught him and passed him up between my legs. One of the first things I said was ‘he looks just like Toby’. I knelt and looked at him for a little while then the midwife helped me turn over to sit down. By this time the cord had stopped pulsating so the midwife tied on the cord tie I had made and Barry got to cut the cord. I was planning on having the syntometrine injection for a managed third stage but the second midwife asked if I would rather just wait and see if the placenta came on its own and within a few minutes and couple of small pushes it did. The midwife then checked me for any damage, I got away with just a small graze at the front – exactly the same as with Toby. I’m glad I make babies with small heads!

First kiss

I moved up to the sofa with Gabriel wrapped in a towel, which he had already filled with meconium that was getting all over his legs and feet as well as his bum! Barry went upstairs to let my mum and dad know the news and my mum came down to say hello. She chatted to the midwives while they filled in all their paperwork and me and Barry got to know our son. I managed to get Gabriel to latch on to feed fairly quickly which I was really pleased about as I’d found it so difficult with Toby. A while later the midwives weighed Gabriel – he was 6lb 13oz, just 3oz more than his brother had been.

First feed

Barry held Gabriel under his t-shirt for some skin to skin while I managed to go through to the loo and get cleaned up a bit. Just before this I had been really shaky. I didn’t feel unwell or cold but I just couldn’t stop my legs in particular shaking and jerking. Apparently it can happen because of all the adrenaline that is in your body after giving birth. My blood pressure was fine though so I had a banana and plenty of water and soon started to feel OK again.

Funny face

The second midwife left some time around 5 am and then by 6 am everything was cleared up and both midwives had left. Half an hour later Toby woke up so Barry went and got him dressed then brought him downstairs to meet his new brother. My dad made an appearance as well – he’d slept through the whole thing too! This was the main reason I had wanted a home birth; not because I had any particular desire to actually give birth at home but because within a couple of hours of having my baby I was in my living room with all my family around me.

A few hours old

So that’s it, the birth story of baby Gabriel. I’m sure there are bits I’ve missed out but it’s long enough as it is! I don’t claim to be any kind of expert now but if you have any questions about what it is like to have a home birth then I will do my best to help.

I’m sure I’ll be writing plenty more about life with a newborn too but for now, as I finish writing this, Gabe is sleeping beside me, he is almost 6 days old and he is adorable. He hasn’t done much except eat and sleep for the last week. Toby wasn’t quite sure about this new arrival for a few days but now seems to love his little brother already and is being so lovely with him. He comes over and gives him such a gentle kiss on the head while I am feeding, and he brings him toys to look at. Today he even gave him both his muslins – Toby uses muslins as his comforters and is very protective of them so that’s a massive thing for him!

We’re all very happy in our new family of four. Now if we could all just work on getting a bit more sleep….


Gabriel: the lead up to labour 

I started off trying to write my birth story but it ended up being really long so I have split it up and this post is about the lead up to the birth of baby Gabriel. If you have been following my blog lately you’ll know I have been pregnant with my second baby. Despite my first pregnancy ending with the arrival of the lovely Toby after 38 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy and me being convinced this one would arrive early too, last week I made it to my due date and 40 weeks pregnant.

After a lot of deliberation, and a long wait to see if my previously low lying placenta would cooperate and move out of the way, I was booked for a home birth and had all the kit delivered by the NHS at about 36 weeks although I wouldn’t be allowed to stay at home for the birth unless I reached 38 weeks. Logistically we had a few issues about how we would make sure Toby was looked after if I stayed at home, or if I had to transfer to hospital as we don’t have any family nearby. We were very grateful that my mum and dad were happy to come up with their caravan and be on standby on a campsite about half an hour away, although I think they were hoping for an early arrival but instead they had to wait over two weeks to meet their newest grandson…

I saw the community midwife who I have been seeing throughout my pregnancy on my due date, she offered me a sweep which I refused and then wished me well as she would be on holiday for the next week. Saturday came and went and then on Sunday morning I decided I was fed up of just sitting about the house waiting and even though my pelvis was still making walking really painful we decided to head to the beach to let Toby have a run around. He wasn’t entirely convinced about how much fun the beach is but that’s another story. After some fresh air and chasing birds (that bit was just Toby) we headed back up the steps to the car park and home for some lunch.

Pregnant at the beach

I still didn’t feel like labour was imminent until I went to the loo when we got home and realised I had had a ‘bloody show’. I knew that it could still be days before labour started but I was happy that I knew something was starting to happen at least. I gave my mum a ring to let her know and put them on standby in case something did happen – it’s a good job I wasn’t ringing to say I was in labour though as my dad was off walking up a big hill somewhere at the time!

We carried on our afternoon as normal, I was feeling a few period pain like cramps but nothing different to I’d been having for the last few weeks and certainly nothing I would call contractions. We decided we should probably clear some space in our office/ spare room so we could open out the sofa bed if we needed my parents to come and stay.

As the evening went on I was feeling more cramps but still not really contractions and nothing regular and I told Barry I didn’t think anything would happen overnight so about 10pm we headed up to bed to try and get some sleep…

You can read the rest of Gabriel’s birth story here.


A birth story

A birth story

It seems a bit strange to be writing about my birth experience when Toby is already four months old but it seems that a blog primarily about being a mum would be incomplete without a record of how my baby arrived in our family. I am also finding as the weeks and months pass I am forgetting some of what happened so I want to write it down before it disappears from my memory altogether!

I had a straightforward pregnancy really. I had nausea constantly from about week 6 to week 12 but I was only actually sick twice. From about 30 weeks I had quite severe pain in my hips but it came and went and only usually lasted a minute or two when it was there. Other than that I was just really tired, which wasn’t helped by the fact that I was still teaching (and on my feet for a lot of the day) right up to 37 weeks. And whereas in some jobs your colleagues might make allowances because you’re pregnant, teenage kids show no such sympathy!

My bump was measuring a couple of centimetres big throughout most of my pregnancy. I got really fed up with everyone asking me if I was sure it wasn’t twins, or telling me I was going to have a massive baby. I’m still not sure how measuring the outside of a bump can be at all accurate or useful – I know some of my bump was definitely due to excessive cake consumption and nothing to do with the size of my baby.

Anyway, to the birth. I had somewhat ill-advisedly decided to work right up until the end of the summer term, which took me to 37 weeks pregnant. I was really glad that the last couple of weeks of term were pretty quiet – I was huge, and knackered! If I had made it to my due date I would have had almost three weeks of summer holiday to relax and prepare myself. As it turned out Toby had different ideas! Eleven days after we broke up was sitting on the sofa with my husband and we were discussing whether we would be able to go to the recording of a comedy TV show which we had tickets for the next day. I got up to go to the loo and just before I got there my waters broke all over the kitchen floor! Decision made.

I wasn’t having any contractions or other signs of labour but after a quick call to the hospital they asked us to go in so I could be monitored. So at 11 pm we made our way to the maternity unit. We were there an hour or so while I was put on a monitor. The baby was doing fine and they could detect some mild contractions but nothing much was happening. The midwife advised us that their policy was to allow 72 hours after waters breaking for labour to start naturally before induction. Apparently after 72 hours there is a much greater risk of infection. So we were sent home with an induction booked for 3 days later and appointments to come in and be monitored on the days in between. I was so weird going home that night thinking that our baby could arrive at any time and would definitely be with us by the weekend.

The next day I was still leaking amniotic fluid but no sign of any contractions so we went back to the hospital in the afternoon as planned. While we were there one of the midwives came and said they were very busy on the day my induction was booked so would I mind being induced the next day instead. Now, I know some women maybe just want to get their baby out as soon as they can but I was keen to avoid an induction if I could help it. They seemed quite put out when I said no and tried to get me to change my mind, telling me I’d have to wait until the evening to come in on the planned induction day but I stood my ground and I’m glad I did. There was no medical reason to induce me earlier than planned, the baby was doing fine and I was only at 38 + 5 weeks so I didn’t want to rush him out if I didn’t need to. So off we went home again for another evening of waiting.

Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long. About 5 am the next day I woke up with a bit of a crampy feeling under my bump and in my back. I quite often woke up feeling a bit sore though so I wasn’t sure whether this was really the start of something. I drifted off back to sleep for another hour but when I woke up again the pain was still there. I decided to get up but told the hubby to stay in bed – if this was the start of labour then he needed as much sleep as he could get. I had some breakfast and watched a bit of TV but over the next hour or so the pains were getting stronger and I decided this was definitely labour. I started using an app on my phone to time the contractions and when they were about six minutes apart rang the hospital. I explained what was happening and they told me I could go in if I wanted but it was probably best if I stayed at home as long as I could. The hubby was up by this point – I had taken some paracetamol (which was doing nothing!) and was kneeling on the floor trying to do the breathing I’d learnt at pregnancy yoga. I think about half an hour after the initial call to the hospital I decided we weren’t waiting at home any more. The contractions were coming every three minutes by this point. The hospital was about half an hour’s drive away and I knew it was only going to get more uncomfortable the longer we waited. So we got our things together and set off.

We arrived at the hospital about 10 am and after settling us in one of the delivery rooms the midwife examined me. I was 3 cm dilated. She also gave me a sweep during the examination to ‘help things along’ and told me it was unlikely we’d see a baby before tea time and they would check me again in four hours. They contractions seemed be coming more frequently and more strongly, I wasn’t sure I could cope with another four hours of that! My birth plan was to try and avoid pain relief if I could; I had wanted to use the birthing pool for my delivery but the midwife explained that because of my waters having gone two days before I would need antibiotics via a drip during the labour to prevent any infection in me or the baby. I couldn’t go in the pool with a cannula in my hand so they would have to take it out then reinsert it a few times during the labour. I’d only had a drip once before and the cannula was really uncomfortable so I didn’t fancy that and decided to abandon the birth pool idea.

The midwife suggested I try getting in the bath instead. After about ten minutes though I gave up on that too – this was in July when we were in the middle of a heat wave. I was too hot in the bath and it wasn’t deep enough to cover my bump anyway. So I got out and tried to find some way of getting comfortable. I eventually found that kneeling up, hanging over the back of the bed seemed to be the most comfortable. It was now about 11:30 am and the contractions seemed to pretty much constant to me. There was no way this baby was waiting until tea time. The hubby had been doing a great job helping me with breathing through the contractions and rubbing my back but the pain was getting unbearable. I had a TENS machine on but that wasn’t doing much apart from giving me a button to push. I needed something stronger so we called for the midwife and got the gas and air hooked up. After that it gets a bit hazy for me – I kind of went into a world of my own, just sucking on the gas and air, occasionally asking for water, and just trying my best to cope with the pain. At some point during this stage I had to turn over on to my back while they put the cannula in my hand. It was excruciating – I have no idea how anyone manages to give birth lying flat on their back!

Anyway, I think maybe an hour passed before I felt the urge to start pushing (although as I think is quite common in labour I wasn’t sure at first if I wanted to start pushing the baby out or if I just needed a poo!). ‘Just do what you need to do’ advised the midwife. So I started pushing. The next bit didn’t really take very long. At first the baby’s head would come down then pop back up again after the contraction. Towards the end I had to stop using the gas and air because I was actually doing it so well I was breathing away the contractions. So with a couple more gas-free pushes Toby arrived in the world at 12:58 pm.

It was then a bit of a manoeuvre to turn from kneeling facing the back of the bed to lying down with Toby still attached by the umbilical cord! We managed it though and had immediate skin to skin contact while we waited for the cord to stop pulsating before the hubby cut it. He wasn’t sure if he would want to but then decided he might regret it if he’d had the opportunity but not done it. I had a managed third stage which was over in a few minutes without me really realising and I was massively relieved to have got away with out needing any stitches.

So, I didn’t need my induction after all. From the first twinge to the arrival of our beautiful baby took just eight hours. All the midwives seemed quite surprised at how quickly it had gone. In fact they said if I have another baby I should go to hospital as soon as I feel the first pain of labour because a second baby is likely to arrive even quicker! I never did get my antibiotics either. After they had put the cannula in my hand they didn’t have time to get them prescribed by one of the doctors before Toby was born. So I could have used the birthing pool after all!

I know I was very lucky to have such a straight forward pregnancy and labour. I honestly don’t know how women cope with labours that go on for days! Any longer and I think I would have been begging for an epidural. We spent one night in hospital so Toby could be monitored for infection and then although they were trying to get us to stay another night so we could get breastfeeding properly established I thought we were doing OK and just wanted to go home. So that was it. About 30 hours after we first arrived, we went back home taking our new baby with us.

A birth story