I first me Caroline and Jack back in 2017 as they prepared for the birth of their first baby. They opted for a private course at their home after I had been recommended to them. They were so much fun to teach and really engaged with the course content. When we discussed the options for where to give birth and I explained how a home birth worked they simply said ‘we might as well do that then.’ They then went on to prepare a calm home water birth. But as Carolines due date came and went they started to wonder whether they would get a home birth or would need an induction. Caroline writes:
The home birth of Zachary
I was really fearful of being induced, which is probably why I was so stubborn about not having one! I fully expected from 37 weeks to go into labour at any minute and was waiting but nothing happened, for weeks and weeks.
At 39 weeks I had an infection which turned out to be thrush. My midwife advised me to go to hospital to get it checked out just to be sure. At the hospital I had to go to the labour ward, and there was a doctor there who said “let’s just induce you today.” When I questioned this he said that I was 39 weeks so the baby was cooked and ready to come out. I might as well have the induction as I was planning a home birth but was only going to end up back with him soon needing an episiotomy! (An episiotomy is where the perineum is cut to make more room for the baby to come out, it is only recommended when necessary or an emergency not as routine). He was very matter of fact about how my birth was going to go. It made me go even more the other way, and I became even more determined to have my home birth. When we left the hospital I felt like I’d escaped and said to my husband Jack that I am not going back to hospital to give birth. Luckily because he had witnessed it all he agreed with me and supported me.
I got to my due date, which I didn’t think I would get to and I was really deflated. Then at 41 weeks I started to get really frustrated and tired of pregnancy. At my midwife appointments I was told that i had gradually been dilating, but no real signs of labour. At this point I spoke to Colleen my hypnobirthing teacher about what my options were at this point and how it would impact my home birth. I decided that my plan would now change to have a stretch and sweep, and I ended up having five sweeps! The night before the last sweep, I was 31+6, I felt like I had cracked and maybe would end up having a hospital birth. I wrote out a hospital birth plan which ended up with me getting very upset and Jack finding me crying in our bedroom.
The next day, at 42 weeks, I went in for monitoring and my final sweep at the hospital. I agreed to be booked for an induction at 43 weeks, but would go home to wait until then. This felt like the first time I had accepted that I would not get my home birth, that I might have to have a hospital birth or an induction. But once I was home, I went into labour. Maybe it was because I relaxed or maybe things went into alignment that things started that day.
At home we went for a relaxing walk over Epsom downs and watched some TV, I had also booked a reflexologist for that day as a last attempt to get labour started. Jack went to the gym and that’s when my waters broke. As soon as my waters went my contractions started and were one minute apart from the start. At this point the reflexologist knocked on the door. I had to explain that my waters had just gone but my husband was on his way back, and she sat with me until Jack got home.
Once Jack got home I went and got in the shower whilst he started preparing the birth pool. We had set up a birthing area with dimmed lights, fairy twinkling lights and birth affirmations laid out with some of our scan photos. My contractions were still a minute apart and quite intense. It was not how I imagined labour to start, as I thought there would be a gradual build up. Every time I got too tired Jack would tell me to look at the scan photos to remind me of the end goal. My amazing community midwife Pippa then turned up. She had already told me that she was going on holiday on Saturday, but that if I went into labour on Friday to still call her as she wanted to be there. As I had gone into labour on the Friday I told Jack we couldn’t call her but he did. Bless her, she was on annual leave but came anyway, and turned up with her suit case ready for her flight the next day!
Once the birthing pool was ready I got out of the shower and got in the pool, and then our second midwife and my Mum arrived. The baby was back to back so took quite a long time for him to get down into the birth canal. The whole labour was around ten hours, but felt around four. Because he was back to back I also kept feeling like I needed to push, but wasn’t quite ready. My midwife would check me and see that I wasn’t fully dilated, so I would have to stop pushing and go back to my ‘Up’ breathing, which I found incredibly hard. I found pushing a relief against the contractions, like itching an itch, but when I stopped pushing it became painful as well as disheartening that I wasn’t as progressed as I thought. One of the midwives kept telling me on repeat to breathe and let the baby do the work which I found really comforting. At one point she stopped saying it and I had to tell her to keep saying it. It was something to focus on and helped me to get through.
I then got out of the pool to see if I could get the baby lower down. Pippa my midwife advised me to go an sit on the toilet to see if it would help to turn him. The contractions were really intense now. I didn’t get back in the pool, instead I was leaning over with my Mum massaging my lower back. Weirdly then everything stopped, I think because I was tired. Jack went and got some clary sage oil out of my car to see if it would ramp things up again (I’d been sniffing it continuously for four weeks to try and get things going). My contractions started again and I turned to my Mum and said I can’t do this. She just turned around to me and said ‘Caroline you have to do this’ and that’s when the baby’s head came out. It was such a relief once he started to come out, like I couldn’t hold him in.
I ended up giving birth on the floor, on my side with one leg up. Baby Zachary was born at 42+1. I had one small tear and the placenta came away soon after the birth. Then we had tea and toast all together. Pippa my midwife slept in my spare room, did the newborn checks in the morning then went straight to the airport for her holiday. It was so lovely to have her throughout my whole pregnancy and birth. It was such a great experience that afterwards I felt ready to do it all over again.