It’s a gorgeous sunny morning in March. As I write this my four month old baby is asleep on my lap. We’ve had a very busy morning of feeding and playing and she is understandably exhausted. As predicted time has flown by and her arrival in November seems like a lifetime ago. I suppose for her that’s exactly what it is. When I was pregnant I really enjoyed reading stories from new mums. I wanted at least a glimpse of what labour and birth might be like, especially from those choosing to do it at home. It’s only fair therefore that I share my own. Here is my home birth experience.
This a long one so grab a cuppa.
Deciding that a home birth was for me
The first time I heard about home births was when Louise Pentland shared her experience on YouTube about three years ago. Like most women, I had always assumed that giving birth in the hospital was my only option, so her video really opened my eyes. She spoke of something called the Positive Birth Company, a business and birthing approach which had helped her to have a very positive experience.
I then read Rosie’s (the Londoner) blog post about her home birth and it cemented my interest in making it a reality for myself if I was ever lucky enough to have a baby. She also spoke of the PBC as well as something called hypnobirthing. It sounded a bit strange, but I was certainly open to learning.
When I found out I was pregnant myself, almost exactly a year ago from today, I knew exactly where to go to start learning the important details about planning a home birth. The main intention is to remain in a calm and familiar environment which you are in control of and fully relaxed and comfortable in. The calm and security which your home brings you encourages a hopefully smooth and empowered birth with little to no intervention. The more I learned about it the more sure I became that this was for me.
The support I received
Despite their increase in popularity, home births still receive mixed reactions. I knew it was important for me to find the right people to support my birth choices and so when I rang the hospital to register my pregnancy I immediately asked to be transferred to the home birth team at Liverpool women’s hospital.
Every city will have their own way of doing things so I really recommend doing some research if you’d like a home birth yourself.
If you’re in Liverpool I can confirm, the home birth team are incredible. Within an hour of my referral I had spoken to one of the midwives on the team, discussed all of my thoughts and worries and was booked in for my first appointment with my dedicated midwife. It felt like a good fit immediately.
All professional support aside, there was one person that I wanted on board most of all. My husband. It was so important to me that he be with me, supporting me through every moment of my birth. Thankfully he had my back the entire way, taking a hypnobirthing course with me and everything. I know that I had the birthing experience that I did because of Mike’s support.
How I prepared for my home birth
Following the recommendation of Louise and Rosie, I went straight to the Positive Birth Company for guidance on preparing for my birth experience. I also wrote a long list of questions for my midwife about what I would need at home and what to expect. The combination of the two was exactly what I needed and made me feel ready, not just practically in the house but also emotionally.
This is something I’d really like to place a lot of importance on. We all tend to focus on having the ‘stuff’ we need for birth. From the comfy clothes and the big pants, to the place we want to give birth and the pain relief we might look to take to help us through. We often forget the most important thing of all. Ourselves.
One thing I clearly remember my midwife saying to me is “you have everything you need in yourself”. That brought me a lot of calm. She talked me through everything that happens within my body during birth, explaining that it knows exactly what to do, how and when, in order to get my baby to me.
Of course we prepared a hospital bag, filled the kitchen with snacks and the linen cupboard with towels and maternity pads. We even came up with a birth plan for the hospital, just in case we needed it. But most importantly, Mike and I focused on preparing me for labour and birth.
This preparation is personal to each person. I found it helpful to understand every detail of how the process of labour and birth works and what I should expect of it. Knowing what my body was doing allowed me to understand and accept each stage of labour, even when it was very uncomfortable.
This might not be what you want or need and so it is incredibly important for you to go through your own preparation.
On a practical note, the NHS have a great list of all the things you might need and your midwife will be able to guide you on this too. I wanted to use a birth pool at home, which was brought to me by my midwife from the hospital. You can also purchase them and hire them privately, so there’s an option for everyone.
The birth itself
As a little disclaimer my home birth, just like most, wasn’t 100% what I had planned but was overall still incredibly positive for me. I won’t share every single derail with you, but here is an overview of my labour and birth.
At 8pm on Charlotte’s due date my waters broke. Like every first time mum I was worried I wouldn’t know what to look for when this happened. I needn’t have worried. Within about 20 minutes I had already filled two sanitary towels with my waters. It was time to ring the midwife!
As I had expected, when the on call midwife spoke to me she told me to sit tight, rest and look out for the first signs of contractions. After a couple of hours of bouncing on my birthing ball and feeling very excited that baby was on it’s way, I realised that little else was happening and the best thing would be to go to bed and get some sleep.
My midwife had also advised that we keep track of time. Once your waters have gone, the birthing team like to ensure that active labour is underway within the line 24 hours to ensure that baby is kept safe and away from the risk of infection.
With this in mind Mike and I headed to bed but woke again around 2 or 3am desperate to see if anything more was happening. With no sign of contractions I rang the midwife again to check in and she advised that we head into the hospital to be checked and possibly induced.
At this point I panicked. Between the suggestion to go to hospital and the mention of an induction, this wasn’t the labour I had been hoping for at all! What I later discovered was that the checks were routine, to make sure that my waters had definitely gone and of course check on baby, and the induction was a small outpatient one which would allow me to head straight back home again to resume my planned home birth. I was calm again and prepared for the assistance.
The induction I had is called a pessary and it’s a small piece of fabric which is put into the cervix to help it dilate. While everything in the hospital went very smoothly it did take a little while, as these things do, and it was 7am by the time Mike and I were heading home again. Thankfully I felt the effects of the induction almost straight away and my contractions were starting to make themselves known by the time we got home.
Unfortunately there was a small blip in my progress when the pessary came out at home. A second visit to the hospital and some encouraging words from the midwives in the MLU and I left ready to go again. They even did a quick check and told me I was already 1-2cm dilated which was really encouraging. Returning home once again my contractions were getting into a good rhythm and from here everything is honestly a bit of a blur.
As the morning went on my contractions were getting stronger. By 12 noon they were very intense. I did my best to breathe through each one as I had learnt to do, but honestly spent most of my time wriggling and squirming around on my bed like a worm to get through them.
We reached about 1.30pm and I asked Mike to call the midwife again. I was really starting to struggle by this point. When she arrived I was once again showered with reassurance and encouragement. A quick check told us that I was still around 2cm dilated. I tried to stay positive as I knew that it was normal for things to move slowly, but I really was finding the pain of the contractions a lot at this point. We decided that some time in the pool would probably help to relax me. Whilst I settled in there for a while my midwife would pop to two other appointments she had that afternoon and then return to check on my progress.
I waddled downstain and sunk into the water. It felt amazing. That’s when everything suddenly ramped up and my labour went from slow and steady to a four hour blur.
With the help of gas and air, by somewhere around 4pm (I think) i had progressed to 5cm dilated. I continued with focused breathing, gas and air and supportive words and by 6pm (again, I think) I was fully dilated. Mike and my midwife were with me the entire time, occasionally disappearing to get more hot water for the pool I’m told. At some point a second midwife appeared to provide extra support during the birth itself.
After an amount of time (I have no idea at this point) of intense and focused pushing Charlotte was born at 6.34pm. With some assistance from my midwife I lifted her through my legs and there, in a pool in the middle of my living room, I held my daughter for the first time.
I’m so grateful for the birth experience I was able to have. My own health took a small turn afterwards, but that’s another story for another day perhaps. If it is a good fit for you, I can highly recommend having a home birth. It will forever remain one of the most incredible days of my life.
If I were to make any recommendations, i was say do your research, put your own preferences first and make sure you have a bag packed for the hospital just in case. Oh and of course, find yourself a birth partner who is fully supportive of you and your choices.
If you would like to read my pregnancy posts, you can find them here:
- Pregnancy Update: My First Trimester
- 16 Week Pregnancy Update
- 20 Week Pregnancy Update
- 24 Week Pregnancy Update
- 28 Week Pregnancy Update
- 32 Week Pregnancy Update
- 36 Week Pregnancy Update
- Pregnancy During a Pandemic