On Sunday 20th November 2016, at 39+6 weeks pregnant, I woke up at 8am and went to the toilet for a wee. I stood up afterwards and wondered if I had lost control of my bladder entirely as I felt warm liquid stream down my legs. It kept coming and coming and coming…. and I knew then, that my waters had broken. Instantly I felt a surge of excitement run through my body because, after what felt like the longest pregnancy ever, I was finally going to meet my baby. I hobbled across the landing in undignified fashion, with a bath towel between my legs, trying to catch the drips. As I stood at the top of the stairs I yelled down to Stephen, who I think was downstairs playing with Jasmine at the time, that my waters had broken. “What do we do now?” he said. “We wait.” I replied.
“What do we do now?” He said.
“We wait.” I replied
I called up the midwifery unit to let them know that my waters had broken. They asked me if I could pop to the hospital to check that it was my waters (obviously they doubted my bladder’s capabilities too) and also make sure that baby was happy. Our lovely neighbour, Chris, came over to our house to look after Jasmine whilst Stephen and I went to the hospital. When we arrived, we were seen straight away by one of the midwives – she inspected my maternity pad (yup, definitely NOT wee) and got out the doppler to listen to baby’s heartbeat. All was fine, except my urine sample showed ketones so I was instructed to eat lots when I got home.
The midwife asked if I would like a sweep to try and ‘get things going’ – I declined as I was confident that labour would start naturally when my body was good and ready. She then said that seeing as I was having a home birth she’d just like to double-check that baby was head down so there wouldn’t be any nasty surprises. She spent a good few minutes palpating my tummy, she noted that I was having tightenings, albeit they weren’t painful. She couldn’t tell if baby was head down or not (this has been a running theme throughout the latter stages of my pregnancy) so she said she’d like to give me an internal examination to be sure. I wasn’t going to get away without having her fingers up my noonie afterall.
I wasn’t going to get away without having her fingers up my noonie afterall.
I’ve had quite few vaginal examinations over the last couple of years but this one was definitely the most uncomfortable. It made me wince. “Baby is hiding behind your cervix” the midwife said apologetically before finally announcing “…and I’m tickling baby’s head – they’re head down and ready to go!” She then left the room to write up some notes and said she’d be back in a couple of minutes with my maternity file and then we could go home. Meanwhile we sat waiting whilst listening to two other women in neighbouring rooms scream in agony as they gave birth. This put me on edge and I got quite frustrated that I had to sit and listen to the noise – this was precisely the kind of atmosphere I wanted to avoid by having a home birth. About 15 minutes passed and Stephen could see that I was getting agitated. He went to look for the midwife who he found, in his words, “just having a chat” with another member of staff. She then promptly appeared at the door and gave me a leaflet about induction, told me I had 24 hours for labour to start naturally or they’d want to induce me. I smile and nodded and then got the hell out of there.
“I’m tickling baby’s head!”
Once we got home, we pretty much carried on with our day as usual – I had a few more tightenings but nothing that felt like contractions. We still had to decide what we were going to do about Jasmine when I was in labour – our neighbours were happy to have her at their house if need be but for the time being I wanted her at home with us.
From around 4pm, I started getting stronger tightenings which were powerful enough to take my breath away. They were very inconsistent though and would only happen every 20-30 mins or so. Before we knew it, it was dinner time – Stephen had cooked a lovely beef stew which I scoffed down, hoping it’d give me plenty of energy for when the time came to push this baby out!
It was getting to Jasmine’s bedtime and I made the decision not to send her to stay at our neighbour’s house but instead just to put her to bed at home. She’s never stayed overnight at anybody’s house before (without us) so I felt happier knowing she was upstairs sleeping in her room. As soon as Jasmine was settled in bed (6.30pm), things immediately stepped up a gear, I was getting proper contractions. Stephen and I cleared a space in the middle of the living room floor and taped down the protective sheeting to the carpet. He brought down my home birth box from the spare bedroom whilst I sat on my CUB support and put on my birth playlist. Within minutes of having the room ‘birth ready,’ I was getting a steady stream of painful contractions – I asked Stephen to apply my TENS machine pads to my back for me.
As soon as Jasmine was settled in bed, things immediately stepped up a gear, I was getting proper contractions.
Whilst breathing through my contractions, using my Daisy Birthing techniques, I suddenly had a horrendous hot flush. I got so hot it made me feel sick. I pulled my top off and threw it on the floor leaving me in my bra and jogging bottoms. I asked Stephen to fetch me a cold, wet flannel for me to put on my face which helped immensely. The hot flush passed as quickly as it came on and then it was back to focusing on my contractions.
I was already in a lot of pain and in my head I was trying to decide if this labour was more painful than my labour with Jasmine or I was just being a total wimp this time around. I wanted a midwife there but it felt too soon. Surely I’d still have a way to go yet? I had been told that because of my speedy labour with Jasmine that I was to call the birthing unit when my contractions were around 5 minutes apart. I had no concept of the time that was occurring between each surge but it felt like they were around 5 minutes apart at that point. I looked up at Stephen and said “I think it’s time to call the midwife.” He got out his phone and asked me to let him know when each contraction began and ended. They were happening less than 3 minutes apart. Closer to 2. He called the birthing unit and we were told that a midwife was on her way to us.
I stayed sat on my CUB support and continued to breathe through my contractions. They were very intense. I kept going to press the ‘Boost’ button on my TENs machine only to find that it was still on Boost mode from the last contraction! Stephen was pacing the lounge and checking out the window every so often muttering “where is she?” to himself.
Stephen was pacing the lounge and checking out the window every so often muttering “where is she?” to himself.
About 15 minutes passed since we called the birthing unit and our midwife, Karen, arrived. I was relieved but I think Stephen was even more relieved than I was. I was in the midst of a contraction as she walked into the living room so I completely ignored her and focused on getting through that surge. She organised her kit and read through my birth plan whilst I continued to stay in my little zone. As soon as I felt able, I looked up at her and smiled – I didn’t recognise her and I felt a little disappointed that it wasn’t a midwife I knew. I soon got over that when the next contraction arrived. Karen got out the doppler and checked baby’s heartbeat between contractions.
“What are you feeling?” she asked.
“My belly is going rock hard and it hurts so much”.
We didn’t exchange many more words for a while after that, she let me concentrate on my breathing.
“What are you feeling?” she asked.
“My belly is going rock hard and it hurts so much.”
“Can I have some Gas & Air?” I whimpered after realising she wasn’t going to offer me any (because I’d asked not to be offered pain relief in my birth plan). She immediately went about setting up the Entonox canister – I heard a loud pop and the sound of air escaping. Karen looked frustrated as she tried to close the canister back up and even managed to burn her finger whilst trying to stop the air escaping. It was clear that the damn thing wasn’t working properly. I looked up at Stephen as if to say “Please tell me this isn’t happening?!” We’d previously joked about midwives forgetting to bring Gas & Air to the birth but I never foresaw this happening! Luckily, there was a spare canister and that worked just fine. Except… it was crap. It didn’t seem to help at all, not like last time, it just tasted rank and made me feel queasy. So much so, Stephen’s lovingly cooked stew made a reappearance. (Sorry, Hubby!)
Up until this point I’d been fairly silent but I started to moan with each contraction, mooing almost. “Just go with it.” Karen said, rather unenthusiastically, as she sat writing notes. ‘Just another day at the office for her’, I thought to myself.
As the moans got louder, Karen looked up at me again and asked “What are you feeling now?”
“Pressure” I said “Pressure, in my bum.”
“OK, Jenna – we need to decide where we’re having this baby.”
Between the next gap in contractions I crawled off of my CUB support and into the middle of the room where we’d prepared the space for me to give birth. Karen and Stephen clumsily worked together to pull my trousers and knickers off. It felt (and probably looked) as undignified as it sounds. I got onto all fours but immediately felt all of my weight in my wrists which was incredibly uncomfortable and I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain that position. “Can you get my CUB?” I asked Stephen, to which he obliged. I rested the top half of my body on the CUB with Stephen sat the other side of it – the midwife was behind me (at the business end). Now I felt ready to push.
“OK, Jenna – we need to decide where we’re having this baby.”
I started bearing down and pushing – occasionally forgetting to take a breath. Stephen would gently remind me to breathe. At some point during the pushing stage our internet dropped out meaning my birth playlist stopped temporarily (I was using Spotify to stream my music). I never realised how much I was concentrating on the music until it stopped! Thankfully it continued playing after a moment or two.
“Arrgh” I shouted “It stings like a bitch!” I felt immediately embarrassed by my outburst because Karen was an ‘older lady’ and it felt like I’d just sworn in front of somebody’s Nan. (I forgot that she was a midwife and therefore used to far more colourful language than that!) I knew baby must’ve been crowning and I knew the end was close. I can’t remember how many pushes it took, Stephen says it was about half a dozen but either way, only a few minutes after getting on to all fours, a scrunched-up angry, red face appeared between my legs as Karen passed me my baby from behind. I scooped her up and began to cry. I had waited so long for this.
“Aren’t you going to see what you’ve got?” Karen asked, reminding me that we didn’t know the gender. Although I distinctly remember there was a lack of ‘boy bits’ when I’d picked her up, at that moment in time I wasn’t 100% sure if I was holding a boy or a girl in my arms. Stephen was grabbing a towel off of the radiator so I waited for him to come over before pulling her away from my chest to inspect baby’s bits. “It’s a girl!” Stephen yelled. I cried again. Two daughters, I was so freaking happy. “Hello Elowen!” Stephen whispered proudly.
She was born at 7.55pm weighing 8lb 4oz.
I sat, shaking with adrenaline, taking in every inch of my baby girl. “I can’t believe I’ve just given birth in my living room!” I announced.
Despite saying I wouldn’t in my birth plan, I decided to try and have a physiological 3rd stage so I continued having skin-to-skin cuddles with Elowen and breastfed her whilst waiting for the placenta to come out. It took quite a while and Karen had me doing squats at one point to encourage the damn thing to come out. Suddenly it popped out into a bowl that Karen had held out between my legs and the feeling of relief was amazing. I felt completely empty… in a good way!
Stephen cut the umbilical cord and then had cuddles with Elowen whilst Karen checked me for tears. That was really quite uncomfortable but fortunately, though I’d suffered a 2nd degree tear, it didn’t require stitches. Apparently I was very bruised too. Once I’d been checked over I went upstairs and ran myself a bath. A post-birth bath wasn’t something I’d even thought about when planning my home birth, but I was so thankful for it. It was amazing to use my own bathroom, dry myself with my own towels and then get dressed in my bedroom.
“I can’t believe I’ve just given birth in my living room!”
I went back downstairs to find that Karen had tidied everything up and had made a start on the paper work (which took longer than anything else to do!) After that, she packed up her equipment, thanked us for being part of the birth and said goodbye. It was now 10.30pm.
I looked up at Stephen and said “Stick ‘I’m a Celebrity’ on will ya?” – he laughed at me and then realised I was being serious. We sat on the sofa, eating crisps and watching trashy telly whilst snuggled up with our newest addition of the family. Meanwhile, her big sister continued to sleep soundly upstairs in her bed.
I feel so lucky to have had another quick and positive birth experience. After months of worrying about what would happen with Jasmine when I went into labour, in the end, everything worked out just fine. Better than fine. My home birth was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and even now, over six weeks on, I still can’t believe I gave birth on my living room floor.