For this pregnancy, my antenatal care was with the midwives at the small local midwifery unit in our town, in regional Scotland. It would be these midwives that would attend our home birth, although there was no guarantee which midwives would be on call when I went into labour.
Because we were home birthing, we hired a doula (a birth companion) who would would be my birth partner/support when Stuart had to tend to the older boys. For a fee, the doula visits with us multiple times before labour, remains with us from the time I call her for the duration of the labour, and several hours after birth. A doula is an incredibly useful tool to have during a hospital birth as well, as they are familiar with your wishes for labour and delivery and can help insure your needs are met.
My contractions began ten minutes apart on Saturday, 14th of March, at about 9pm. They were very uncomfortable, a little bit painful, but I wasn't certain whether it was the real thing or braxton hicks. I went to bet at about 10pm, but had a very restless night sleep.
When I woke at 8 am on Sunday I thought I'd jump in the bath and see if the contractions disappeared. They didn't, so I figured it was time to get up and stay active. Mostly I wandered around the house doing random stuff and housework. I had to stop and breathe through the contractions them, but was happy making my way on my own. I sent Stuart and Iain off to Rugby at 10am, and they got home at about 11:45am.
At about 10:30am the contractions were coming a bit closer together (7 mins?) and I felt I needed to start to focus a bit more so I went upstairs and listened to my relaxation CD. Afterwards I was back downstairs still wandering and moving, but I was having to call Stuart to come for every contraction to put pressure on my lower back.
At 1pm I texted Karen, our doula, asking her to come, as contractions were 2 mins apart, and Stuart was having difficulty reaching me to help due to having to cater to my demands (like fill the birth pool) and also supervise and take care of the kids, and I felt I needed someone with me with every contraction at that point. We tried to call the midwives at this time too, simply to let them know I was in labour and to be on stand-by to come when we called. However, there was a fault with the phone line, so we had to call Karen back and get her to stop by the clinic and let them know I was in labour and to try and get another phone number for them.
Also at this time, I felt the need to get away from the kids and their noise, and enter my own space so I went upstairs to our bedroom where we were intending to have the baby. While I was waiting for the birth pool to be ready, I laboured kneeling on a mattress on the floor, leaning over the bed. At that point I vomited for the first time, which past labours had shown was normal for me .
As soon as the pool was ready I stripped off and jumped in. I had been in the pool about 5 mins when Karen our doula arrived at 2:15 pm. At that point Stuart went downstairs to focus on the kids, and Karen stayed with me. Stuart continued to pop up and see how I was going, and Iain and Angus did the same occasionally.
The pool was heaven. It gave me so much more freedom of movement and the pain relief it provided was absolutely wonderful. Initially I relaxed back and rubbed my own back while floating during contractions, as at that point leaning forward was very painful. We were in no doubt that the little man was coping well with the labour, as he was extremely active between contractions so much so that my moving belly gave Karen and I a giggle.
At about 3pm (from Karen's notes) the reclined position became uncomfortable so I rested between contractions sitting on the pool floor, but was leaning forward or kneeling up during them.
Contractions were getting even closer together and I was having difficulty finding any relief during them, and I asked Karen to put counter-pressure on my back during the contractions. At that point I decided to give myself a quick internal to see if I could feel anything of interest. Baby's head had descended somewhat but I still had a way to dilate I thought.
I was finding no relief even between contractions now, and I grappled with the idea whether to call the midwives so I could use the gas, or continue as I was. My heart was saying call them, but my head was saying no. My past labours had been so long (60 and 18 hours) that I felt there was no way I could be near to birthing my baby, so I continued in silent conflict for a while. By this point the pain was such that I was pretty much non-communicative.
At 3:30pm (Karen's notes) I felt I couldn't continue without more pain relief. So internally I made the choice to either be ready to push and get the baby out, or call the midwives. I checked myself again, and felt the baby's head had really descended, and the waters were bulging. They broke when I poked them, and were nice and clear. At this point Karen asked if she thought we should call the midwives. Again, I thought I had a while to go, but after a quick think I agreed so Karen gave them a call, and she was told they'd be here in 20-30 minutes.
Then although I had no physical urge to actually push, I decided I wanted to give it a go for a few of contractions and see if I felt any movement. I felt good descent and burning with about the third contraction.
Although I hadn't told Karen I was already pushing, she realised the birth was close, so ran down stairs to get Stuart. When he was in the room, Karen said "Let's see if baby get's here before the midwives", and that was an idea that made us all smile. We were very comfortable with that idea.
I continued to push through contractions while kneeling on the pool and leaning over the side. At that point Stuart was at my head holding my hands and Karen was at my side pushing my back. With the next push felt him crown, kept pushing, and I spoke for the first time in ages to say "His head's out". The time was 3:50pm (Karen's notes). Stuart went scrambling around the back to watch and help if need be.
I waited for the next contraction, and with the next push his shoulders were born into water. Stuart lifted him up, I did some gymnastics with the umbilical cord, and then I was holding our new little baby. He a little slow to move and breathe but as he was still attached to his umbilical cord this didn't worry me. I rubbed his back, and talked to him to encourage his breathing.
By the time Karen ran downstairs to get Iain and Angus, they came back up to hear him let out his first small cry, before he fell asleep breathing quite well.
Karen then called the midwives to tell them the baby had arrived, and they arrived about 10 mins later. I was actually really glad they came because I found the contractions to birth the placenta excruciating and it was nice to have them there for reassurance. As soon as the cord stopped pulsing we cut it so I could hand him off and concentrate of expelling the placenta . It was almost as bad as labour. The midwives checked the baby, checked me, and dealt with the placenta etc. cleaning as they went.
I had a quick hot shower to warm myself up, before dressing and climbing into bed at 4:38pm to give baby Hugh his first feed.
By the time the midwives left, the only 'evidence' that a birth had taken place was a pile of wet towels to be washed.
With Karen's help, Stuart went to the supermarket, and we had the kids fed and in bed by 8:00pm. The three of us, and baby Hugh, then sat down to a beautiful bowl of pasta that Stuart cooked for us. By 9' ish, Karen had left, and Stuart and I (and baby Hugh) had some quiet time to ourselves before heading to bed to the night.
All in all it was a perfect day, and a perfect birth, made all the more so because we shared it with our children, and were able to have the birth exactly the way we wanted it.