After a positive first birth with my daughter in America (my husband Mark and I relocated to California for a couple of years, where our daughter was born – yay dual citizenship), I was keen that my second birth would be another one to look back on with fond memories. I decided to sign up for antenatal classes with TBTBC, despite having “done it before”, for a couple of reasons: I wanted to find out more about labour and birth on the NHS after a pretty medicalised experience in the US; I wanted to give hypnobirthing a go, and I *really* wanted to make friends with people who’d have babies at the same time as me, as I know the 4am WhatsApp chat is invaluable, particularly during the early weeks.
Our antenatal classes with Beth were excellent, even my skeptical husband who wasn’t convinced we needed to do them second time around was won over… perhaps by the beer and donuts at Baker and Graze! Although I think some of the other people in our class thought I was slightly unhinged as I would tear up at any mention of the moment where you first hold your baby – pregnancy hormones are real!
A combination of feeling more confident in my own decisions second time around (seriously, look into the statistics on the safety and positives of a home-birth, you may be surprised!) and the great support and advice from Beth led us to decide that we would plan for a home-birth, with a hospital bag packed just in case.
My first labour was very quick (under an hour and a half from start to finish), so another one of the reasons I wanted to plan for a home birth was that I couldn’t face the idea of giving birth in the car on the way to hospital. I also knew the importance of a comfortable birthing environment to help labour progress and after doing *a lot* of research I decided that the safest place to give birth, for me and our baby, was at home.
My due date came and went, but thanks to the positive mindset gained from TBTBC hypnobirthing class I was feeling relaxed and knew my baby would come when he or she was ready. I was also much more relaxed about the thought of labour occurring at any time as the birthing pool was all set up and Mark had a list of things to do when I went into labour… and the snack cupboard was fully stocked for the midwives!
The morning I went into labour I felt different to how I had been feeling for the rest of the third trimester and I was convinced that it was the day we’d finally meet our baby. I was so convinced that I phoned my in-laws and arranged for our daughter to go to them for the weekend, just in case something happened. Thankfully my mum was also staying with us so it was reassuring to know if I did go into labour that our daughter would be well looked after and I could concentrate on birth without the added distraction of a toddler. Having had such a quick labour the first time, on the advice of my midwife I called the maternity unit at the first sign of contractions – in my case it was like very mild period pains – and Mark started filling the birthing pool.
Our midwife arrived shortly afterwards and after taking some details, sat quietly and unobtrusively making notes while I laboured on the birthing ball. I was glad that I called them early because although my contractions weren’t regular, they were definitely getting stronger and I felt that it wouldn’t be too long before things really got going.
Having not had any pain relief for the birth of my daughter (they don’t use gas and air in America for birth – but strangely you can use it at the dentist – and I didn’t even have time to consider an epidural due to my quick labour), I wanted to use more natural methods including a birth pool to manage the contractions. However, I was advised not to get in the pool by the midwife as I had some bleeding and although all the other monitoring was normal, she wanted to keep an eye on any more blood loss which would be harder to do in the pool with the water. This was a good opportunity to use my “BRAIN” as we’d been taught during antenatal classes. I decided that although I wasn’t worried about the bleeding being a sign of anything wrong, I was managing the pain of contractions well enough without the pool and I was keen to keep the midwife happy and avoid her recommending we go into hospital for monitoring so we agreed with her recommendation and the pool remained unused. Using all the hypnobirthing techniques we’d learnt with Beth, I managed the pain by using breathing techniques, movement, sniffing essential oils and listening to affirmations (just reading this makes it sound so hippyish, but it really can work!). The pain was intense but manageable and at no point did I feel that I couldn’t do it – it helped that I had done it once before. Having said that, I read the notes my midwife made during labour and she used the word uncomfortable to describe how I was feeling… it was definitely more than that!
After about 45 minutes I really felt things change and knew it was time to push. The midwife stayed back and let me do my own thing and go where I wanted which I hugely appreciated – she also put in a call to her colleague to hurry up as home births are usually attended by two midwives! The only time I was really aware of the midwife was during the examinations and I was happy labouring by myself. At birthing class we talked about labouring women being in one of two categories: those who like company and those who would rather be alone – I’m definitely the later! I decided that I didn’t want to know how dilated I was in case it wasn’t much and I would have found it demotivating, the only time we found out was when I felt ready to push and the midwife checked that I was at 10cm.
After the sensation of contractions, feeling my body push was really satisfying. In our birth plan I’d written that I didn’t want coached pushing and I was happy to let my body do what it needed to naturally. I also had a lovely few minutes (or at least that’s what it felt like to me – my husband said it was more like 20 seconds!) break in between my contractions at this stage just before delivering the head where I could catch my breath and get really excited that in just a couple of pushes we would meet our baby and finally found out if our daughter would have a little brother or a little sister.
An hour after feeling the first “proper” contraction, our beautiful baby boy Arthur was born. The moment the midwife caught him and passed him up to me was just as amazing as I’d remembered from the first time. I needed a couple of stitches, which were genuinely more painful than labour and birth, but being able to have them done on the comfort of my own sofa with our baby having skin to skin with his dad more than made up for it! The endorphins kicked in and I felt like a superhero for days.
A couple of hours after they had arrived and with all our observations done, the midwives left and Mark and I had brownies and a glass of champagne to celebrate – definitely a perk of giving birth at home!
For any one considering a home birth, I would highly recommend it – I think it was the single most important decision I made for a positive birth and labour. Having a homebirth is relatively unusual, so expect some raised eyebrows if you mention it to anyone. This is where being armed with facts really helps, not only for your own decision making but also to quickly shut down any unwelcome “helpful comments” you may receive. I feel very lucky to have had such a brilliant experience and now two beautiful children.
Having said that, wherever you give birth it is possible to have an equally brilliant experience. It is such an important thing to be able to feel like you’ve made informed decisions and the best choices along the way for you and your baby – doing an antenatal classes like TBTBC really helps with that and will hopefully allow you to look back on your birth positively.
If you want to know about ways to keep calm during your birth, ways that you can stack the odds in your favour to have a great birth and techniques that you can start practising now in your pregnancy to prep for birth, then you can get all the information from the convenience of your own home on your own time, by accessing our online course.
An online course put together by UK midwife, Beth offering both hypnobirthing and antenatal education, which has helped women across the globe feel confident and calm during their birth.