An Unintended Unassisted Birth

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.


  • Cassandra

    Thank you for sharing! That sounds like an amazing birthing experience, so empowering to hear of a sister having so much faith in this glorious process. And hopefully your husband will come around too 😉

    • Amy

      Hi Cassandra, I possibly haven’t explained myself very well – I typed this story up in the haze of the first few days after birth. Richard and I planned a home birth together after the first few months of pregnancy, despite it not being what he had initially wanted. We make decisions together and I couldn’t have birthed with confidence without knowing that he – and everyone in the room with me – was on my side. He had absolutely intended to catch his baby, with or without the midwives present.

      What I discovered though, is that there was no need to ‘convert’ my husband to blind faith in natural birth in order for him to be the strong support person I needed so badly. I respect him too much as my intellectual equal (or superior) to expect him to simply acquiesce to my desires. But – you don’t need to be a sandal-wearing hippie to catch your baby. His love for me was such that he put any fears he had in the beginning to one side. To me, strength isn’t about being ‘without fear’, but about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. I don’t know anyone else who would have been capable of such strength, love & selflessness. I feel very lucky to have been surrounded by such loving, supportive people, and I wish every birthing mother could have the same.

  • Nikki

    Beautiful. Reminds me of my third, after 2 hospital births ( the 2nd a c section) my third arrived very quickly at home. That was not the plan but it was awesome. My midwife had checked me out 90 min earlier and told me they were niggles. My contractions didn’t register on ctg. they were never longer than 30 sec. Needless to say my midwife didn’t make it. Just my husband and I ob the floor of our bedroom. He really stepped up that night. 🙂

  • Stephanie

    Beautiful story! Congratulations on your empowering unassisted home birth..that is so awesome…I love how you knew better than the on-call midwife. When we are in tune with our bodies and educated about birth, WE are the experts. The baby is so adorable 🙂

    • Amy

      Thanks Stephanie. I was grateful when our wonderful midwives did turn up. They were able to assist with things I hadn’t thought of – such as having the presence of mind to catch the placenta when I was sitting on the edge of the pool to keep the cord from breaking (I got out in the end to keep us both warm, and Julian had a reasonably short cord).

      There is a lot to be said for book learning – I didn’t go into this without doing a huge amount of reading both from medical & emotional perspectives to be sure it was the right option for us. I can’t recommend authors like Sarah Buckley & Michael Odent enough, & ‘Birthing From Within’ is a fantastic book that all pregnant women should read. I do think it’s a mistake when textbooks take the place of observation and intuition, though. The word ‘midwife’ means ‘with woman’ – it is primarily a role of support and observation. As all labours vary, it’s unhelpful to base judgements on things like clocks and dilation. It was obvious to everyone in the room – including our student midwife – that I was ready to push. It makes sense to expect the best, prepare for the worst, but keep an open mind to all kinds of natural variation. Birth is as individual and varied as mothers and babies.

  • Richard Mayes

    Hi – just a couple of quick comments:

    Cassandra: I “came around” to my wife’s way of thinking about home birth MONTHS before Julian was born! I don’t think my original concerns were irrational, as the overall rates of childbirth mortality are NOT zero. But Amy was able to educate me that with two straightforward deliveries under her belt, HER odds were far better, and she was correct. There were no “sides” at our son’s birth, we are a team.

    Stephanie: As Johnny on the spot who was going to have to live with the consequences, I didn’t at all *love* the fact that our Lead Maternity Caregiver (whose expertise I would have been counting on if there HAD been some sort of crisis) wasn’t there during the pushing and birth stages. Julian’s birth was an extraordinary experience but every once in a while I’m haunted by a couple of what ifs.

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