Fred is our seventh child and the first homebirth. My 2 girls were both born by caesarean section whilst the boys have all been VBACs - the first being more horrific and painful for me than the c-sections. This was due to being in hospital, left on my own, being scared and so opting for an epidural which didn't work and led to a ventouse delivery and severed artery. After this birth I was determined never to have to experience such a traumatic birth again.
My births of the last 3 boys had been wonderful experiences and I was all set to have another waterbirth at Bournemouth again. However, I wasn't sure and had a gut feeling I wouldn't be happy with that - still, I carried on telling myself that this would be the way to go. Fred was a bit of a miracle conception - As well as being 'old' (feel very young but my children keep reminding me of the ever-increasing grey hairs appearing on my head!) I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) causing an erratic cycle and I suffered 2 ectopic pregnancies not long ago which mean I now only have one tube, and as well as my c-section scar I also have a scar at the top of my uterus.
At around 13 weeks pregnant I went to Lymington Birthing Centre to check out some pain I was experiencing and met a wonderful midwife who changed everything - I instinctively knew that she was the right midwife for me and that Bournemouth now wouldn't do. I had begun having nightmares about the last birth and realised that, although the birth was perfect, the midwife who was on duty when I arrived hadn't wanted me there (because I was considered high risk). I felt that she was negligent in running the birthing pool and letting me get in it when it was far too hot - I had almost passed out until there was a shift change and the midwife who delivered my baby took over and cooled the water down. The thought of what might have happened if Jude had been born before this happened still scares me.
I went and saw a consultant midwife in Southampton and had a look around the new midwife led unit - which looked great and was doctor free - but it was still in hospital and after having my first ectopic removed there I just didn't want to be in that place again. A quick tour around the labour ward made me realise that I definitely wouldn't go there by choice. For me, it would have just been asking for trouble/intervention and I knew I would feel very tense which could cause problems.
Homebirth was at the back of my mind but I didn't quite feel confident about going for it - not because I was worried about a homebirth as such, but because our house was always in a mess due to building work and messy children. However, after that visit thoughts about a homebirth kept whizzing through my mind and by the next time I saw my midwife I had decided that home it would be. I read up all I could on the internet about the risks of VBAC and also 'many babies syndrome' and this research backed up my feeling that a homebirth would be safe for me - in fact I felt it would be safer than hospital if all was well because the lack of intervention would mean more chance of things not going wrong.
As the pregnancy progressed I felt more and more confident that this was the right decision - and I couldn't have done it without my wonderful midwife who was both enthusiastic and supportive. It was good to feel that I trusted my body enough to let it do what nature intended and also to have someone who believed in me too.
Fred was due 11 May - but like most of the little Bishops was in no hurry to arrive. Anything less than 12 days 'overdue' would have seemed early to me.
However, on 19th May I woke up wondering if something was happening - the usual painful Braxton Hicks contractions were 'different' and this made me call Lymington Birthing Centre to ask if I could be checked out. If Phil was to be called home then I needed to justify it!
Nothing much was found to be happening but the baby's head could be bobbed up and down - but was higher than the day before. I had a sweep but didn't expect much from it. However by the early hours of the morning I felt the contractions were getting too painful - and much as I wanted a homebirth this time, I didn/t want an unassisted birth. The contractions could be felt where my c-section scar was and so I wanted to be doubly sure all was well there too.
Two midwives came out and then gradually over the next few hours the contractions petered out a bit. They were still painful but just stopped feeling like 'this is it' contractions. This was a shame because I was really enjoying the conversation! Phil was getting tired though and so it was probably for the best as he finds childbirth very tiring!!
I went back to bed - exhausted by this time and soon after I got up in the morning the pain was back again. I tried to put off calling but felt so confused - it felt like labour and having been someone who usually feels that you *know* instinctively whether it was the real thing or not I wasn't really sure based on the previous night's activities. Two more midwives came out, but once again things petered out and so I went back to bed for the afternoon. The pain was pretty much bearable - but still wearing because it just went on and on and on and seemed to be getting nowhere. After yet another curry that evening I went to bed wondering if this baby would be here before Christmas.
At 2am I woke up and took my ear plugs out (Phil's snoring had stopped me sleeping earlier) and realised that the contractions were hotting up again and were almost unbearable. I still felt too tired to get up and so lay there for a while. Then I snuck the gas and air upstairs that the midwives had left to see if that made a difference. I knew I had to call if I started using it but was worried about calling them out again in the night if nothing was happening. It felt like this was 'it' but I needed to be sure. The Entonox would let me know if I needed to call them - if it made a difference, relaxed me and made things 'get worse' then I would call and if it didn't then I would stop using it and try and deal with the pain by other means (self-decapitation being one of the things on my mental list of ways to cope). It really did help and even blocked out the sound of snoring for a while (how could he sleep through it all?!)
At around 4.30am I decided that I couldn't bear the pain any more and needed to be checked - and if this wasn't the real thing then I was throwing in the towel and would have to rethink my homebirth plans. Two more midwives came and brought more gas and air. I am sure that laughter helped my labour along - it's very hard to laugh and have a contraction, but is definitely a good way of getting through the pain! Not wanting to be disappointed again I sat it out until around 7am when I decided that if I couldn't get in the birthing pool I would have to reassess. Fortunately, I was found to be 6-7cm by then but the baby's head was still very high and he was posterior - this was why it was taking so long and why the pain was so intense as he had to try and turn himself before he came out.
The relief I felt on getting into the water was amazing - pure bliss! Not having to faff around filling the pool or heating the water was a lifesaver. The temperature was just perfect and it felt so comfortable in there.
The children crowded in to the room by then and fought for front of house seats - but the boys soon gave up waiting and went off to trash the house or watch TV. It just seemed so 'right' - all the family there but not tied to one room so could come and go as they wished. Watching the video made by the children later I discovered the reason why they were so good - Phil had been feeding them ice cream and strawberries for breakfast! So much for their healthy eating diet! Oscar also managed to film some cartoon on Sky and Phil's feet.
What seemed like minutes actually turned into hours. At 8am two new midwives took over and the contractions intensified, but were still quite spaced out - in between I wondered if I was actually in labour still, but when the pain hit I wondered what I was still doing at home when a nice third c-section would have been so much less painful! At times I wondered if I should transfer to hospital as this was pain like no other - but then I figured that if I was in hospital I wouldn't want to be doing anything different anyway - would still want to use the pool and gas and air - so why not just stay home and try and deal with it.
I had bargained on giving birth at around 10am but at this time the gas and air ran out and I knew that until more arrived nothing was going to happen. It was like my body and my mind froze - I was terrified of not coping and too scared to move in case it set off a contraction that had me screaming for an ambulance. Then I reasoned that transferring would solve nothing as it was such a long way to the hospital - BUT the ambulance would have gas and air...
Fortunately more entonox did eventually arrive and after a faulty/empty canister was discarded I relaxed again and decided I could just about cope. My desire to avoid a third c-section was just about greater than my need for the experience to be over. I also knew that if I gave in and went to hospital that I would probably end up opting for an epidural and that would mean that the baby would probably not rotate, labour would be augmented meaning either my scar ruptured or the baby would become distressed or worse still they would break my waters leading to cord prolapse - and then I would spend months or even years wishing I hadn't transferred and had endured the pain for a while longer just to save my sanity. The memories of a bad birth experience never leave you and however much people say 'all that matters is a healthy baby', I don't think that is true. Of course, a healthy baby is the main objective, but the birth experience is still very important.
Finally I hit transition and surprisingly felt the need to go to the toilet yet again (normally during transition all I can think of doing is dying) - so off I went and then when I got back to the pool the desire to get back in vanished and I just wanted to stand there. I did think about giving birth on the stairs but then worried I would tear if I wasn't in the water and didn't feel I could relax into the contractions unless I was in the water - so eventually got back into the pool.
I think that walking around and also the standing and waiting helped tweak the baby into the final position because as soon as I got back in to the pool again I relaxed and my waters went with a big pop. It was a funny feeling - a real pop-bang sort of feeling! I could hear the girls say there was baby poo in it and the midwife say it looked like old poo. Soon after that I felt the need to push - and it was a horrid feeling. I pushed several times with way more effort than I would normally use and very quickly felt the head shoot out. My throat was sore from screaming! The midwife had told me to keep my bottom low so the head arrived under water but I couldn't manage this and so the head came out above water. Bethany was filming this and I could hear excited voices from the two girls. The video turned out to be hilarious to watch 'oy, point the camera at mum's BUM not her head' 'her head is funny too!' Baby's head comes out and I scream - camera almost falls in the water and then cuts to the light above....
Getting the body out didn't seem to be as easy as usual but eventually out it sloshed and soon I was holding baby Fred! It was now 12.20pm - I had expected a 2 hour labour and had never in a million years expected it to have taken so long.
Fred weighed in at 9lb 3oz which was a big shock as I had expected a small baby this time. He has a large birth mark on one side of his head which will mostly be covered by hair and he has enormous feet and hands which indicates that I will soon be a 'short-arse Mummy' as he overtakes me in stature.
He is beautiful and cuddly and well worth the wait and the pain. It did take a good 2 days before I decided I could do it again - and next time it would definitely be another home waterbirth too!