Updated: Sep 22, 2021
This is the birth story of our daughter, Primrose Selene, who was born at home without the assistance of NHS midwives. It’s important to note that this was a fully informed decision we made - and that when someone books in for a home birth with the NHS you DO get 2 midwives to assist you at home, should you wish!
I’ve toyed with when to start this birth story. I could begin in with my first contractions, but really that’s not where the story begins. My pregnancy was one which would be considered 'high risk'; I was diagnosed early on with Low PAPP-A and had previously had Group B strep in my first pregnancy. I probably would also have been given a 'high BMI' label, had I consented to being weighed ;-) I'll post more about how I managed to remain in control of my care at all times through pregnancy in another post!
I knew before we’d even conceived this baby that - all being well, we would be having her at home.
I know that in order for birth to progress as it should, women need to feel safe, undisturbed, unobserved and trusting. And I knew deep in my heart that I couldn’t feel this way, and importantly couldn’t stand in my own power and authority during labour if there were medical ‘folks’ observing, monitoring and timing me... essentially bringing the medical model into our home.
We hired an independent birth keeper, or doula, to be with us as a ‘wise woman’ - a traditional midwife of sorts, who’s role it was to support us emotionally and spiritually through pregnancy and birth - helping us to tap into our own intuition rather than relying on things outside of my own body.
2 weeks before our baby’s birth I had the dreaded 38 week appointment. To date, I have never worked with a couple planning a home birth who haven’t been told at this appointment that ‘something is wrong’. Anything... it could be a suddenly ‘big baby’, a high blood pressure reading, a ‘small baby’... pick a problem, any problem - one is usually found at this appointment.
For me - it was a ‘breech baby’. I knew my baby wasn’t breech - I had become very familiar with ‘belly mapping’ the baby, and the midwife herself had thought baby to be head down before the doppler had thrown her off.
What followed was the coercion which I have supported couples through time & time again, and even though I know my rights, I know how to say “NO” - nothing quite prepares you for how that feels at 38 weeks pregnant. I remember saying to my husband between sobs “I feel like there are wolves scratching at my door!”
So - we took back our power. We declined any further discussion about our ‘breech’ baby, and indeed any further care from the NHS until the birth (should we have needed it) or postnatally.
No more hoop jumping, no more bowing to policies or guidelines. Just 2 weeks of bliss & relaxation ahead of our baby’s birth.
THE BIRTH 🙌🏼
I had SUCH a long build up with this labour... niggles, obvious changes in body and hormones, a few nights on and off where I could sleep and wondered ‘is this happening?’. The final night (Sunday) I had these I got up and wandered about the house, ate some chai seed cake (😂🤷🏼♀️) and went back to bed. I had period type aches as I dropped our son off at nursery on Monday morning & I semi joked to the Mums at the school gates that I was in early labour... I actually was 😂
I spent the day pottering, gardening, house jobs, went to collect our son, and by 8pm thought ‘hmm I definitely think this is building up - maybe in the next day or so’.
I took our dog for a walk, and on the way home, circa 8:30pm had to have a little sway during the ‘aches’. By 9:30pm I told my husband I thought actually something might be happening in the next day or so - did some laundry, emptied the dishwasher, had a sit on my birthing ball & by 10-10:30 pm thought ‘right we should probably let our doula know’ ... I ummed and ahhed for a few mins as she lives 1.5 hours away & I didn’t want to call her out way too soon. I called... “I think something MIGHT be happening, I’m not in ‘labour land’ no panic or rush..!”
Everything then gets a little hazy - our doula arrived close to midnight to find me on our bedroom floor, salt lamp on leaning over the bed. Hubby offered to go blow the pool up for when we needed it. He came up 15/20 mins later to say to just let him know when I wanted it filling... “NOW”...
I stayed in our room whilst those two got to work filling the pool. I got up to go for wee and afterwards was brought to my hands and knees on the landing outside our sons room. Ok... this is progressing WAY quicker than I thought...!
I got in the pool around 1 I think, and after a couple of contractions definitely felt I was getting a little ‘pushy’ towards the end of each one. I’m a very insular birther, and had wireless (waterproof) headphones in for almost the entire labour, with my relaxation playlist, so I wasnt really communicating with my husband or doula.
In my head it was pretty obvious I had transitioned (had a moment where I wanted to get out the pool, got out and was shaking from head to toe and got back in) and I’d thought my changes in sound would have been a giveaway... BUT neither of my birth team seemed to have realised just how far ‘on’ I was.
My doula and husband didn’t have to ‘do’ anything at all, in fact them resisting keeping me ‘with them’ by not talking to me, nor drawing me in with eye contact or touching me without being asked ... all allowed me to go to where I needed to. I loved their contrasting energies in my space... a strong grounding masculine force from my hubs & a more soft, relaxing energy from my doula 🥰 It gave me in turn both the strength and softness I needed to birth.
I guess around 1:45 I felt our babe descend into my vagina, and ‘puffs’ of blood plug & vernix were coming with each contraction. I put my fingers insie myself and could feel her head, all collapsed into itself to allow her to come out - so amazing!
A couple more contractions & her head was right there... again I felt (the now round!) head and her soft hair. I remember thinking ‘your ancestors are with you’ ... and with the next pushed to that ‘ahhhh’ point and said out loud ‘stingy’... her head came out, but I still just kept quiet! And with the next contraction felt her emerging and said to my husband ‘She’s coming, catch her’
He was completely taken by surprise and just said ‘What...? Oh WOW’ ... I just reached down and brought her up myself.
I’ll never forget her alert, calm eyes just staring up at me as I slowly brought her to the surface. She was ‘awake’ straight away, but didn’t cry a huge amount, just made enough effort that we knew straight away she was well. I instinctively wiped away some gunk from her mouth but knew she was coming to her body herself.
It was so important to me that the final stage of labour (the pushing bit!) was kept totally calm, with no speaking or coaching, no excitement, just peace and time. I suspect this perhaps is why subconsciously I just ‘kept it to myself’. I didn’t need any guidance, or any encouragement - only that which my baby gave me.
After a little shell shocked time in the pool we got out & had skin to skin and an hour feeding wrapped up on the sofa. My doula then suggested I go for a wee as my contractions for the placenta were getting intense. Two contractions on the loo and away came her placenta. We popped it in a bowl and had another 1.5 hours feeding.
As the dawn chorus of morning birds sounded up it felt like the right time to separate Primrose and her ‘Tree’ (Ever noticed how a placenta looks like a 🌳 ) She nursed whilst we tied the cord tie (from heartstrings) and at the point that I cut the cord she did still and pause, and then went back to nursing.
We went to bed shortly afterwards, and in the morning her big brother came into bed with us to meet his long awaited sister.
8lb1 (at 40+1) for Prim, and zero tears etc for me.
Doing what I do, I spend SO much time looking at magical birth photography and edited birth films with music backing that ‘real life’ completely undisturbed birth felt/ feels so... simple. Loving. Ordinary in the best possible way.
There was no suffering, no agonising pain - it NEVER occurred to me to use our TENS machine or want a massage or anything other than my own breath and sound & focussing on relaxing my uterine muscles.
It’s a power which ALL women have within them, if they’re able to shake off the fear that the past 100 or so years has given us & be fully supported to birth on their terms.