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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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….