The idea of having a homebirth first became desirable to me when I was pregnant with Sandy. We were at NCT antenatal classes where the teacher was explaining about the hormones oxytocin and adrenaline. It all made perfect sense that being in your own comfortable environment would illicit the release of the labour progressing oxytocin and prevent sudden bursts of unwanted, labour inhibiting adrenaline. The idea of a homebirth seemed to be calling me but I was quite far along by then and decided not to rock the boat, as my birth plan was in place and everything arranged. Unsurprisingly I’d been very proactive in planning and didn’t feel in control by changing everything at what seemed to me to be the last minute. I do regret that choice now, and wish I had been more proactive, but what’s done is done and Sandy’s Birth, though not ideal, is still a treasured memory.
I hadn’t really thought about the birth of any subsequent children I might have when we found out we were expecting number two. We were excited children playing at grown ups again as, though we already had Sandy, we felt a little reckless having another so soon, especially considering my career situation (or lack thereof). The first few weeks of knowing (we found out very early on) where I wasn’t sick were giddy and jubilant and the idea of labouring didn’t even cross my mind. I was just delighted to know I was growing a little bean and wasn’t in bed because of it. Then the morning sickness hit me full force and I sat in bed day after day feeling like I was dying or perhaps already dead. It was when I felt so bad that I called the community midwives in desperation that my whole outlook on my care throughout this pregnancy changed.
The midwife on the phone was dismissive. She seemed to find the script in her head and reel off a well-practiced essay on what to say to pregnant women who don’t feel well. I think the thing that stung the most was being told that it was “a good sign” and showed a “healthy pregnancy”. So it was a good sign that I was in tears daily because of it? And it was healthy for me to not be able to get out or bed, or see my son? I agreed and hung up the phone and took the NHS “ready, steady, baby” book I’d been given at my booking appointment and ripped it to shreds. I think it was the most energetic thing I did in those first four months of pregnancy hell. The way I was treated in this single moment brought back every little feeling of just how uncared for I was with Sandy. Being a tick in a box, and being placated and fobbed off, and not being listened to. Honestly? I knew when I called that morning sickness was par for the course and that I just had to suck it up. I knew that, but if the woman on the phone had just sympathised… and perhaps asked me to see the GP for medication which did help as it turns out, then I wouldn’t have felt so marginalised. But this seems to be the typical response of NHS care, to try and get you off the phone or out the room as quickly as possible. So for me the book telling me to eat a healthy diet and take my folic acid represented this in a tangible format and it was quickly removed. The next thing I did was google “independent midwife scotland” and from then on I’ve not felt as though my pregnancy was anyone’s property but my own.
Of course you need not get an independent midwife to have a homebirth, it’s just that I’ve chosen to have one. It’s the only way to get continuity of care, and most importantly for me, to know who exactly it will be who is with you when you deliver your baby. Having Allison, my indi midwife, has left me secure in the knowledge that she knows me and my wishes, she knows the things that upset me last time and she understands. So when I’m in labour, and in a place where vocalising my wishes articulately and strongly isn’t going to be my priority, I know she’ll have my back, even if I do have to have a hospital birth for whatever reason.
My reasons for having a homebirth, aside from the positive effects of a familiar environment, are as follows. Firstly, there is far less chance of unnecessary intervention. One of the main issues for me after Sandy’s birth was that one simple intervention I wasn’t even sure I wanted (which was sort of forced on me) led to a chain of intervention that took all control over the situation out of my hands. It started with being forced to be monitored and lying down and ended up with me on an induction drip, despite Sandy being totally fine and labour having started naturally. Secondly, I can guarantee myself the ability to use a birth pool (all being well) as our midwife has loaned us hers (more on this shortly). Thirdly, there are no constraints to what I want to do. If I don’t want to lie down, I don’t have to. If I want a bath RIGHT NOW I can have one. I can eat to keep my energy up and not feel generally like a naughty child misbehaving which is how I felt in hospital. Fourthly there is no need for constant monitoring, the monitoring will be with a simple doppler and as unobtrusive as possible. Sandy’s heart rate was great throughout the whole of his labour yet I was forced to lie down with monitors on and allow them to stick one in his head while in labour, for seemingly no reason. Finally, anything I need, or want, will be right here. My favourite music, foods, smells and visual items will all be within reach. And most importantly, my husband will be there, involved, and not forced to the sidelines. Plus hopefully afterwards I can get into my own shower and then into my own bed with my baby and not have to suffer the indignities and discomforts of the post-natal ward. I’ve discussed my time on the post-natal ward and it’s contribution to my PTSD following it before on here so won’t go into details, but the idea that I won’t even need to go to hospital at all is one of the most appealing parts of a homebirth for me.
I’m aware that nothing is guaranteed. When discussing my homebirth plans with a friend recently she warned me against being so vociferous in adhering to my “birth plan” such as it is, lest I be let down and feel out of control. She is right, I can’t expect anything. In fact, it’s something that women are often told about labour, that they need to surrender control and go with the flow lest they get disappointed. To some extent that is true, yet I was like this with Sandy but still wear the scars. I was uninformed and defenceless and I let the staff do what was best. I know now though that these are all opinions, and at the end of the day it is my body, my baby and my labour, and aside from emergency situations (where obviously I would let whatever needed to be done to be done) it is my choice what happens. So I don’t know how my second labour will go down. I may very well end up in hospital, the birth pool may never even get filled. If that’s the case, so be it, but what I do know is that I am well informed now and I have a midwife who knows me and who I trust, and when a decision needs made it will be me who makes it, and I won’t feel forced by people who treat me as though I am a child. I will go with the flow, I promise, but I won’t let myself be carried off by rapids for no reason like last time.
Anyway! Now for the preparations. My midwife sent me a list of essential items that are required:
Kitchen roll, a cardboard box lined with a bin liner, a roll of small bin liners, a measuring jug and medium sized bowl, MANY old towels, handwash, sanitary towels, flannels, sheeting/tarp/shower curtain, hot water bottle.
These are added to the items you would probably have prepared for birth of any sort including:
Postnatal outfits for you and baby, nourishing and easily digested food and drink, bendy straws.
It also includes the note “feel free to add anything you feel might be useful”. I remember last time packing my hospital bag(s) to within an inch of their lives. The amount of stuff was ridiculous and barely any of it got used. Flannels for my head, water spritz, a handheld fan, energy bars. It was all lost in the mess and found weeks after the birth in random places, unused. The amount of energy I put into it was kind of pointless. Perhaps if I’d had a different birth it wouldn’t have been. I remember distinctly being washed up after with shampoo because Stuart couldn’t find the tiny and perfectly sourced bottle of shower gel in one of the bags!
So this time my hospital bag is a very basic affair with clothes, a few toiletries and nappies.
As for additions to the list we have made fruit smoothie ice lollies and will be preparing a barley fruit drink. Other than that the joy of it is that everything we need is right here. From the midwife point of view there are emergency drugs in our fridge, a bottle of oxygen in the nursery and all other items here in our house, all ready to go.
Moving to when I go into labour. When I first go into labour Stuart will immediately be on pool duty. It’s not like a paddling pool and actually takes a while to arrange, as Stuart found out yesterday on the trial run!
Sandy and I were out at a party (livin’ it up!) and he text me saying he’d happily do the labour part for me if I’d handle the pool! I don’t think it was actually that bad. The problem was that we still haven’t got an appropriate adaptor for the hot water tap to use with the hose. Once that’s sorted he won’t have to lug buckets to test it out. He reckons it will take around three hours to fill to the right temperature (37 degrees).
Here is a little picture of the stuff collected so far, minus many more towels which aren’t pictured. I also have an old mattress on hand which can be covered in a shower curtain and old bed sheets if I feel like being out of the pool.
When Sandy and I arrived home he couldn’t even eat his dinner, such was his excitement at seeing the pool. We donned our suits and hopped in to try it. Though I daresay I won’t be feeling quite so modest when the time comes.
Stuart only filled in up to a third depth for us (timing it and adding to the total for the real deal) so Sandy wouldn’t drown!
It certainly got his seal of approval!
And as I was saying in the last post, I’m actually not so neat after all! It certainly creeps up on you how massive you get. Everyone seems in agreement I’m less big than with Sandy, but I feel similar in myself. Perhaps it was because I was slimmer with Sandy the bump looked bigger, or maybe it’s just because it’s not the height of summer and Allison’s suggestion of nettle tea plus nightly massages from Stuart have kept some swelling at bay.
I felt so happy and ready last night as Sandy and I were in the pool. I always wanted him involved in his sibling’s arrival and while he won’t be there for it happening, last night we shared a moment in the pool, the pool where perhaps his baba will arrive in the next few weeks. It’s scary to think I will look back on these pictures and see him as a single child for the last time, cuddling my bump, “mummy’s baba”.
As for Sandy himself we really are just playing it by ear. Having a homebirth doesn’t make much difference to him in a sense as he would have to be shipped out if I was going into hospital too. Actually it will probably make it a lot easier on him as once the baby is here he can come home to his own bed and meet his sibling in his own environment which is surely much less daunting than in a scary hospital. To that end my mum has bought him a doll and a cot for him to have his own baba. And I will make him a little sling to carry it in too. I don’t feel overly worried about how he will handle it at the moment.
So that’s us, finally all prepared. Had it been my first baby we’d have had this all done soooo long ago, but that’s life with a toddler. It’s all good though, the pool is ready, the things are ready and most of all I am ready. Bring on the labour and bring on my baby!