The birth of Otis - Home birth to birth centre
Caroline and Jack completed a private hypnobirthing course with me during their first pregnancy. They went on to have an amazing home birth at over 42 weeks which you can read about here. For their second pregnancy they booked me again for a refresher course, which had to be online due to the Covid pandemic. Normally for a refresher class I focus on relaxation techniques rather than antenatal education, especially for those who have had such a straight forward previous birth. However Caroline had a lot of anxiety about hospital births so we focused on this instead – how to make a hospital birth calm as well as going over induction and c-section methods of birth. I had no doubt in my mind that Caroline and Jack would have another home birth, but I wanted her to spend her pregnancy feeling calm and not worried about what if the plan changes. In the end Caroline’s instinct was right! Due to midwives not being available for a home birth when she went in to labour she had to come up with another plan. Caroline writes:
The same as my last pregnancy, I was expecting to go into labour early or on time – and then didn’t! Even though I had been having reflexology the whole way through pregnancy to stop me from going over due. I had pelvic girdle pain at the end of my pregnancy and I couldn’t walk, I was on crutches and pulled a sciatic nerve. The last part of my pregnancy I just felt awful. I was in pain, I had a cold for about three weeks and I kept thinking if the baby comes now I don’t think I’ll be able to do it. With my first birth I could really visualise my birth and having him at home. With my second pregnancy I couldn’t visualise where I would birth him, I had a mental block. When I walked around the house nowhere felt right like this was the spot. In the end I just picked a room, put a birthing ball in it and made it a dark space. But if I’m honest I didn’t really buy in to it.
From around 39 weeks I was having lots of Brixton hicks. I didn’t get braxton hicks in my first pregnancy so I kept thinking it was the start of labour. But they never amounted to anything. After 41 weeks they were happening more frequently. By this point my mobility was really affected, it hurt when I walked, I was barely sleeping from insomnia and needing to get up for the toilet, I was anxious – everything felt off. This was really different to my first pregnancy where I was lively and energetic the whole way through.
The day that I went in to labour I ate a lot! For example instead of having a handful of strawberries I would sit there and eat the whole box, and I was like that all day. I felt super hungry, plus really tired. At around 8pm I decided to go to bed and I fell asleep instantly. I woke up at 10pm because of my braxton hicks, but this time they were strong enough to wake me up. I sat in bed for about an hour and had more braxton hicks, so I timed them. They weren’t very regular – one would be seven minutes apart then one was four minutes later. I was still really hungry so I walked downstairs and made myself a bowl of porridge. As I put the bowl in the microwave I had a contraction, then two minutes later when the microwave pinged I had another one. I put my timer on and soon realised I was having contractions every two minutes, but they didn’t hurt. Again this was really different to my first birth where my contractions were really intense from the start, these just felt like niggles. So then I went and woke up Jack. I told him something was happening but felt different to last time.
After that I called my Mum, and Jack went downstairs to set up the birth pool. He hadn’t done a test run of the pool and was struggling with it. He kept asking me questions but I was walking around the room trying to contact a midwife for our home birth. There are five midwives in our local home birth team and I had met all of them during my pregnancy. Two midwives were on call that night including Pippa who had been at my first home birth. I couldn’t get hold of either midwife, and at this point my contractions were getting more intense – not painful but definitely ramping up. Which meant that I was on the phone calling them one after the other. Eventually Pippa called me back and explained that she was already at another birth, and Maria was waiting for a Covid test result so would not be able to come to me. This meant that my only option was to go in to hospital. At this point I cried, a lot! I asked Jack if we should just stay put and have a free birth (unassisted without midwives), but he did not want to do that.
I agreed on the phone with Pippa that I would go in to hospital. She was lovely and reassured me that a room would be set up for me and that everything would be alright. After getting off the phone I plugged my hypnobirthing track in that I listened to every night. I knew that I had to get my shit together, because if I went into it feeling negative it wasn’t going to work. I gave myself twenty minutes of sitting on the floor to get myself together. Weirdly with my first pregnancy I didn’t pack a hospital bag, but for this pregnancy I did, so that was all ready to go. I put the bag in the car, got in myself, listened to my hypnobirthing track and got into the zone. By the time I got to hospital I felt much better about the situation. I felt ready, accepting and positive.
I went to the labour ward first to get weighed and to check my progression. The whole way through I focused on my hypnobirthing track, and was told I was 6cm dilated. Then I went through to the birthing suite. When I walked in it was so nice! It was all set up ready for me, with a birthing pool already filled, dimmed lights and speakers to listen to my hypnobirthing tracks. The room was so nice and calming I completely relaxed. I’d built it up in my head that it would feel clinical and I’d be on a timer, but the midwife was lovely and everything felt right. At this point I was breathing through my contractions, and for during every contraction Jack would put a wet flannel on my head. It meant I was in warm water with a cooling flannel on me, and Jack had to make sure there was enough water in it to run down my face or I would get annoyed. By focusing on the cold water running down I would distract myself from the contractions. This wasn’t something we planned, but he did it once and it felt amazing so I told him to keep doing it.
Like my first birth, the baby was back to back. In my last birth I was pushing for a long time which I didn’t want to happen again so I asked the midwife to check that I was fully dilated before I started pushing. The midwife said that I would be ok without a vaginal examination, but if I would feel more reassured by having one then she would do one. So I got out of the pool for an examination, my midwife told me I was 10cm and could start pushing if I wanted to. She also said my waters were really bulging too. As I got back in to the pool I felt my waters break and then it really ramped up. The contractions became really intense, so I had a bit of gas and air. The intensity lasted about twenty minutes and then he was born. I got the hospital at 1.30am, into the birthing centre at 2am and he was born at 3.30am. By 5am we were allowed to go home, so it was a great experience despite it not being how I thought the birth would go. I think I needed this birth, because I was so fearful of going into hospital but being made to go in I faced my fears. If anything having to be in hospital has enhanced my birth story rather than hindered it and I’m glad it went this way.