My daughter was my second baby, an easy hospital birth after an unnecessary prostaglandin induction at 38 weeks. My first was similarly induced at 29 weeks after we found out that he’d be stillborn. My hospital births weren’t bad or traumatic experiences, but there was something lacking – it wasn’t my space, I didn’t feel in control, certain things happened without my consent or against my expressed wishes, and my stay afterward was poor with inadequate food for a nursing mother. If I were to birth in hospital again, with 10 years more knowledge and experience than I had the first time around, I’d definitely be making that space my own and doing things my way. A number of things made me want to home birth this time around though – mainly, evening up the power balance and knowing that I could have my husband and daughter with me constantly.
On Tuesday evening I got my wish. We’d just got back on Sunday night from a weekend away, a honeymoon gifted by friends. I was worried I’d give birth over that weekend while my daughter was away – she’s nearly eight and had been preparing herself by looking up water birth videos on YouTube, and I knew she’d never forgive me if I had the baby without her there.
On Sunday night I began having contractions that weren’t Braxton Hicks – they were painful and felt productive, but my husband had developed a bad cold and I needed his support, so I made the conscious decision to go back to sleep. By Tuesday morning he had his voice back, and the contractions returned when I drove my daughter to school. I got home and asked him if he felt ready to have a baby that day. We were only at 38 weeks, but I’d had the feeling all along that we’d go early.
I had the urge to do a whole lot of cooking and freeze some meals. At half past eight that night, the contractions I’d felt that morning returned and became regular. I made several calls to the on call midwife, but she didn’t want to page my midwife as she kept stressing that in order to be productive, my contractions should be lasting 60-90 seconds. Mine were only around 30 seconds long (and we never recorded any longer than that). Well, these sure felt productive, and having laboured for only 3 1/2 hours with my daughter I didn’t expect things to take too long.
Against the midwife’s advice we ‘filled’ the pool – and drained the hot water tank! Things moved quickly after that and I gave up the phone to one of my support crew when the locum midwife was still rambling about timing during a pushing contraction, and I realised that they were never going to make it there.
Julian Richard was born into the water and his father’s arms at four minutes to midnight after what must have been – but seemed like less than – ten minutes of pushing. I turned around to see him pink, breathing and crying already.
I guess what we had was technically an unassisted birth, but I felt like I had plenty of assistance! I had my mother and sister there, my close friend Sarah, and amazing student midwife Jo who took all our special photos. My favourite photo, the one that just sums up the labour for me, shows my daughter looking on in concern while my husband Richard supports me through a contraction.
Their love gave me an immense amount of strength. If Richard was absent for a second, there was another hand there for me to hold. For all my desires for privacy and seclusion, I don’t think I could have done it without that special group of loving friends and family.
What was so special about how it all turned out for me, is that the birth fear was Richard’s, as a first time father. I knew I wanted a home birth, but I needed his support and a lot of tears were shed at the beginning of my pregnancy over our different outlooks on birth – he was scared I’d die. I needed him to have absolute faith in me. His love and tenderness just absolutely shine through in these photos.
My husband didn’t ‘trust birth’ – and perhaps he never will – but he trusted me as his wife to make an informed decision and he had the strength to face up to his fears. I wish more fathers could catch their babies, and experience the exhilaration of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.