Home Birth: Second Time Lucky

Here at Love Mamas we share a lot as a community. With these birth stories we want to share our labour experiences, to share in the joy, awe and amazement of what women do to bring life into this world. Everyone's story is different and special.

For the first in our series of true-life birth stories Jessica Scott shares the story of her two very different labours.

With my first baby, I went into labour spontaneously at 38 weeks. I was born more than two weeks overdue myself, as were my two siblings, so I had assumed my baby would be overdue too.  My mother likes to remind me of the hot Christmas she spent heavily pregnant with me, sweaty and miserable. She tells me of going to church on Christmas day where everyone around her was celebrating the eagerly anticipated arrival of a more famous baby, and feeling like she would be stuck in that limbo place of waiting for her own baby forever.

Therefore the early niggles of labour I wrote off as a pulled thigh muscle, which seemed to respond well to me going for long walks.  Once my husband and I had come around to the idea that this was REALLY IT, my labour progressed with the calm predictability that had been described in the books I’d read and classes I’d attended.

At 20 weeks pregnant an ultrasound had picked up that the placenta was misshapen and not behaving as it should. Rather than being the smooth meaty muscle it’s supposed to be, a doctor described mine as looking like ‘Swiss cheese’. This caused me no end of anxiety, as neither my midwife nor the hospital Obstetricians could tell me what this would mean for my baby. There was talk that the placenta would most likely not be able withstand the stress of labour, or even be able to support the baby to 40 weeks and so it was most likely I would need an early induction and probably a caesarean. Every week I went to the maternity ward of the hospital and had ultrasounds measuring the placenta and the baby’s growth. Every week I would feel momentarily reassured that things were OK for now, until the following week when I would have to wait for the Obstetrician’s assessment again.  I had the arrival of a premature baby constantly hanging over me and would give myself ever-changing goals: ‘Please, please just stay inside til 28 weeks’ I’d say to my baby, then ‘please hold on til 32 weeks’, ‘please wait til 36 weeks baby.’

So the thoroughly unremarkable, yet intervention-free, ‘textbook’ I guess you could call it, labour and birth of my son, felt completely miraculous to me.  I was triumphant and proud of myself at what my body had achieved, in spite of all my worst case scenario worries, and had to apologise to it for all the cursing and annoyance I’d felt towards it throughout my pregnancy.

And so throughout my second pregnancy I mentally deducted two weeks from my supposed due date, and decided that this baby would be born at 38 weeks too.  Surprise, surprise, 38 weeks came and went with no signs of labour starting. Weeks 39 and 40 came around too, and due to the mental trick I’d played on myself, I was already feeling ‘overdue’. The pesky placenta of my first pregnancy had scuppered my home-birth plans. This time I wasn’t going to let that happen. At my 40-and-a-half week check-up my midwife performed a stretch and sweep to see if that would get things moving. She said I was already a few centimetres dilated. At the next appointment there was still no sign of labour starting, my midwife did another stretch and sweep and she said that I was another centimetre dilated. I couldn’t understand what was holding the baby inside me! My days dragged on aimlessly as I waited.

That night my husband had decided to make turkey hamburgers for dinner. This was the first and, I’ll hazard to guess, last time I will ever eat turkey burgers.

At 12 days past my due date I was booked in for a hospital induction for a few days later.  If this were to come to pass my baby would be born more than a month later than I’d been expecting. My midwife performed a third stretch and sweep, and some acupuncture to help start labour. OK, I told myself, today has to be the day if I want to have my baby at home.

That night my husband had decided to make turkey hamburgers for dinner. This was the first and, I’ll hazard to guess, last time I will ever eat turkey burgers. Once my son was in bed, dishes were done and the house was tidied, I decided to run myself a bath. After relaxing in the bath a while I felt some slight period-like cramping in my lower abdomen. Once I’d gotten out of the bath I told my husband, who was convinced that I must be in labour and wanted to call my midwife immediately. I didn’t want to jinx things so early on, fearing that the early contractions would be scared off by too much activity, and convinced him to hold off and see if anything more happened. After an hour or so the mild contractions hadn’t got any more intense or regular, but my husband insisted that he call my midwife, just to let her know.

I’d forgotten the various comfortable positions I’d worked out from my last labour and although not painful, each contraction left me feeling emotionally battered, like a leaf being tossed in the wind.

My midwife decided to come over to our house and see how I was. I was feeling quite chirpy and chatty, and slightly embarrassed that I’d potentially gotten her out of bed for nothing. Pretty soon after she arrived the contractions intensified to the point that I couldn’t talk through them. I also felt incredibly nauseous. Despite all the time I’d had to think and plan for this labour, I felt incredibly unprepared. I’d forgotten the various comfortable positions I’d worked out from my last labour and although not painful, each contraction left me feeling emotionally battered, like a leaf being tossed in the wind. Each contraction brought tears to my eyes, but not due to their physical pain as much as their emotional intensity. I felt like I was grieving something - the end of my pregnancy? The ending of that particular chapter of my life? I rushed to the toilet and vomited heavily (hello turkey burgers!) after which I felt much better.

When I returned to the living room I saw that it had been transformed into a cosy cocoon - most of the furniture had been pushed to the walls and there were blankets, towels, cushions and a cheap plastic-backed picnic blanket we’d bought especially, set up in their place. The back-up midwife had arrived too, and she was sterilising some scissors in our pasta pot on the stove. She was talking to my husband about people they knew in common, which for some reason intensely irritated me - they should be focusing on me! But I don’t know what it was that I wanted them to be doing. I announced I was going to get back into the bath. I felt wretched and wanted to be by myself.

At the next contraction I pushed as hard as I could, eyes squinted shut, and felt something like a bubble burst. It was my waters breaking and the bath immediately filled with browny-green meconium.

My midwife tentatively came into the bathroom and asked to listen to the baby’s heartbeat- all seemed to be chugging along normally. She checked my cervix and said I was about 9 centimetres dilated. She told me that I could probably reach down and touch the baby’s head inside me, and I could. Despite this all being good news (the baby was very close now!) I was not cheered by this information at all and felt very impatient, why was it taking so long?! Even though I’d only been in labour for less than two hours at this stage, I felt like I needed to speed it up. I have to go for a walk to get things moving faster, I announced.  

No sooner had I gotten out of the bath and got dressed, I decided I wanted to get back in the bath. My husband helped keep the bath warm by boiling the kettle and pots of water on the stove. At the next contraction I’m going to push, I told my midwife. At the next contraction I pushed as hard as I could, eyes squinted shut, and felt something like a bubble burst. It was my waters breaking and the bath immediately filled with browny-green meconium. My midwife very calmly but firmly told me to get out of the bath as I was going to hospital.

I didn’t understand at the time but meconium in the waters is a sign that the baby may be in distress. If the baby inhales the meconium, this can lead to serious complications. My husband was immediately on the phone calling his father to come and look after our sleeping son, the back-up midwife was calling 111 to get an ambulance. I was nakedly hobbling out of the bath trying to find something to wrap around myself. My midwife was packing up her things. There was a flurry of chaotic activity and I felt dazed in the middle of it.

My husband and I passed each other in the living room and I grasped him by the shoulders. ‘Everything’s going to be OK’ he said. A deep guttural cry arose from somewhere inside me. ‘WAIT’ my Midwife called, rushing from the other room. She shot out her hands underneath me as the baby tumbled out of me in one go. My husband burst into tears.

Baby Gus arrives!

Baby Gus arrives!

The baby was wrapped in a towel and I was helped to the couch. Although initially a little stunned, the baby starting crying softly quite soon and was breathing normally. In the disarray of the birth I’d forgotten to look at the sex: a quick peak under the towel revealed it was another boy, although I felt I already knew this. We were peacefully snuggled on the couch when first the ambulance and then my father-in-law arrived, they were both sent away at the door, not needed. Amazingly the placenta had been birthed at the same time as the baby, all in one push. The baby was weighed and he was exactly the same weight as my older son was when he was born; although he’d had a month’s less gestation.

After he had fed some more I left my husband to get him dressed and I had the most luxurious shower. My older son woke briefly from the commotion and we told him that he had a little brother. He said that was great, but could we please keep it down! Clean and clothed my husband, baby and I cuddled up into our own bed and had the most blissful night’s sleep.

— Jessica Scott