BECCA AND JOSH
When I found out I was pregnant it was a total shock. The prospect of motherhood and the inevitable life change was overwhelming, but it was the idea of labour that terrified me most. One night I actually cried in fear! Eight months later I would deliver our baby on my bedroom floor in an unplanned (but amazing) home birth.
During pregnancy, I had considered a home birth for about 10 seconds before dismissing the idea entirely. Where would the birthing pool be emptied (in the kitchen sink? Down the drain on the street? In the flower bed?!!) and who would do the aftermath cleaning? I had a vision of blood splattered walls / floors / beds. A home birth was not for me. Or so I thought….
When I woke up from a contraction at midnight on my due date I knew immediately that this was it (my google search for ‘how you know when you’re in labour’ is hilarious in retrospect). I ran a bath and using hypnobirthing breathing techniques got through two hours before I woke up my boyfriend. How and more importantly why I did that I’ll never know! Four hours into labour and with contractions three minutes apart he called the hospital to announce our intention to come in, only for them to assure me that as this was my first baby it would take ‘hours if not days’ before the delivery.
Two hours later and after another phone call and another guarantee that I was not ready, I questioned whether I would in fact make it at all. I was fully prepared to arrive at the main doors of Chelsea and Westminster hospital completely naked. Probably not the done thing. I couldn't believe that this would take much longer as the level of pain was... pretty all consuming to say the least.
During this entire time, I had been completely and utterly fixated on counting my breathing. I breathed in for 8 counts and out for 8 counts like a woman possessed. I hadn't spoken for HOURS (probably the quietest i'd been my entire life) and if the tiniest thing (like the dawn chorus) broke my concentration I was livid.
Eight hours after my labour had started and with contractions every minute, the midwives had agreed that I should make my way to hospital. Things seemed to happen quite quickly here and from the blur of events I vaguely remember bleeding then agreeing that Josh would call an ambulance. Thirty-five minutes after the paramedics arrived, SEVEN minutes after the emergency midwife came and two pushes later, Jude arrived straight into my arms. A wave of shock, relief, disbelief but mainly just LOVE engulfed me. I could not believe what had just happened. And neither, it would appear, could my speechless, ashen boyfriend!). FYI there was limited damage to any fixtures or furnishings.
Having Jude at home was the most incredible thing. Just being able to get back into my own bed with our brand-new baby was amazingly surreal and the whole vibe was just calm, something that I hadn't even considered might be possible. There was no medical equipment or people poking and prodding us and 3 hours after Jude’s birth we were left alone as a family of three, in bed with a take-away pizza. I couldn’t have planned it better myself. So for anyone who is considering it, especially if the thought of hospital sends chills down your spine (like me) my advice would be GO FOR IT.
For what it's worth, here are ten things that helped me get through an (unplanned) homebirth;
- Learning how to breathe. I practised 8 deep breaths in and 8 on the release. It was really, really hard at first and took a lot of concentration. I spent a few months practising on my daily commute - it also sorted out my road / tube rage which was a bonus!
- Booking a hypnobirthing course. I did The London Hypnobirthing course which I couldn't recommend highly enough. At the time I didn't know if it would help. It did.
- Rather than focusing on the contraction itself I focused on the break between contractions. Try to think 'its going to be over soon' as opposed to 'another one's coming soon'.
- Don't bother shouting / whinging at your partner (v. hard in practise, I know) this will not achieve anything useful and will just waste your energy.
- Get in water. If like me a hot bath eases back ache etc you will want to be in the pool or bath during labour
- Buy ludicrously expensive water facial spray. This was sooo nice.
- Download a contractions app for the big day. Pressing that button when each contraction came gave me focus and took my mind off it
- No contraction lasts more than 100 seconds, so start to count to 100 each time and before you get there it will be over (I didn't use this technique but it's helped loads of my friends).
- Let go, this is really hard but the more adrenaline your body has, the longer labour will take. Oxytocin is what is needed for birth so the more relaxed you can be and the more you can let go, the quicker it will happen
- Trust that your body knows how to birth a baby and trust that your baby knows how to be born. This helped me through the labour SO much, and believe it or not, I am not a chilled person by any stretch of the imagination.