Friday, 3 September 2010

Ben's birth story

My sunshine baby

It seems to me that all babies give us an insight to their personalities when they are still in the womb. Connor was never still and kicked me in the ribs till I was sore – now 8 he is a mad keen sportsman. So it should have been no surprise to me that Ben would be born in glorious sunshine as I used to call him my sunshine baby as the thought of baby number five made me so happy.

Like the last two times I saw no reason to see a GP and contacted a midwife directly (which anyone can do); previously I went straight to the community midwife but I had reasons for not wanting any care from the current one so wrote to the Head of Midwifery asking to be assigned a midwife. As soon as the lovely midwife called me I felt a weight off my shoulders. From then on I had all my antenatal care with the same midwife, at home!! It is worth complaining!

Every pregnancy is different and every birth. I had had four straightforward labours and births – the first in hospital in Hampshire and the next three at home. The last had been a water birth. Again I was planning another home birth with a birth pool for pain relief and maybe for the birth – depending what I wanted on the day. I was planning to have my hubbie Merlin and my friend Jenny as my birth partners. My sister was on standby to come and look after the children (then aged 14, 12, 8 and 5) who had the choice of being around or not. I was planning on using water, breathing, relaxation and visualisation to cope with contractions as I had done with the others.

With each baby I have felt more twinges and Braxton Hick’s contractions than before, and sure enough I thought baby was on its way about half a dozen times from 37 weeks, keeping my legs crossed on the days Jenny was working. However the baby sets the day and in the early hours of 40+2 I was having twinges that were a little uncomfortable but I could sleep, waking occasionally, thinking that hurt a little. At 4am the twinges were too uncomfortable to sleep so I read. By 4.45am I could no longer read through the twinges so had to concede they might actually be contractions. At 5pm I woke Merlin and we went to the kitchen to time them – every 15-20 mins lasting 50 secs – this was it!

Jenny arrived at 7.30am and my sister an hour later. As the children woke and came down it was wonderful to see the realisation dawn on their faces. I was coping by sitting on the birth pool or leaning on Merlin or the breakfast bar and focusing on my out breath with Jenny rubbing the small of my back. I rubbed a little Clary Sage and oil into my bump to help keep contractions going; be warned, it is powerful stuff. Contractions gradually became more regular – about every 10 mins - and at 9am I called the delivery suite for a midwife and she arrived at 9.30am. The lead midwife Libby used to sit on the Maternity Liaison Committee with me. The second midwife, Ursula, I hadn’t met before but had heard good things about her from the home birth group. Indeed they were both fab – quiet, supportive, followed my birth plan to the letter, even when I was so far in birth land I had forgotten.
It felt so strange labouring in the morning and the bright sunshine as my other labours had all been later in the day. I did enjoy being in the garden. By this time I was singing through contractions as for some reason this was helping! It made sense as the baby had always moved more when there was singing going on. I can honestly say that yes, the contractions were very painful but while I was relaxing, breathing out or singing, having my back rubbed and all the things that helped, it took all the pain away. As soon as I stopped doing those things it was painful. So it is possible to reduce and even eliminate the pain of contractions – just try lots of things and relax into them.

About 10.30am the contractions were stronger and about 5 mins apart, and I wanted to get into the pool. We had started filling the pool at the beginning of labour and had filled it two thirds full of hot water, so now I waited as some cold was added and then a little more hot to get the right depth and temperature. Ah bliss!!! Now I didn’t want my back rubbed but water poured on my back. I was losing heart as it was getting harder. I was getting frightened but Jenny and Merlin were so supportive and encouraging. That was probably transition – but I was still asking if I was really in labour! I did feel a ‘pop’ as if my waters had gone, but none seemed to come into the pool. Looking back we think the head was so far down it acted like a plug.

By 11.30am the pool was no longer working as well as I couldn’t find a comfortable position – and I needed the loo. Sitting on the loo was so comfortable I didn’t want to get off. I sat there for quite a few contractions till the midwives persuaded me I didn’t want to have the baby on the toilet. I still didn’t believe I was that close – I had only just started to accept that this was actually labour! I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I wandered over to the living room. I had earlier practiced a birthing position with Merlin – him sitting on the sofa with me squatting between his legs and him supporting me under the arms. However I thought it was too early to do that so I just knelt on the floor, leaning on to the sofa during contractions. I could feel what felt like a poo waiting, and as everybody seemed to be looking elsewhere I thought I would quietly push it out, but it wouldn’t come and I pushed again and the midwife said ‘There’s the head’. I looked at my friend Jenny in disbelief and said ‘Not yet?’ ‘Yes’ she laughed. I stopped my hard pushing and let my body do it slower.

At 12.10pm Ben was born with a whoosh of waters. Libby pushed him through my legs to me and he was all slippery and wet. Connor told everyone the sex and I had a long skin to skin time with a little suckling. Adam cut the cord and I had a natural third stage, pushing the placenta out while Ben was being cuddled by his siblings. He wasn’t weighed till over an hour later (7lb 12oz) and not dressed till later in the afternoon. We used a ribbon to tie the cord but later put a clamp on as the cord stump oozing. By 2pm we were all sitting on my bed eating delivered pizza, as I counted my many blessings and breast fed my fourth boy!! I asked my sister what she thought of the birth (her first to witness) ‘It’s not like it is on the TV, is it.’ I said. ‘No’ she said ‘It was so peaceful and calm’.

Ursula did all my postnatal care except for a phone call on day 4 from another midwife on the team to see if I was ok. She said she’d heard about my lovely birth as the two midwives had come buzzing in the office full of the joys of birth. ‘We do like doing homebirths’ she said. Amen to that.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Baby Ben born!

Ben was born on Tuesday 13 April at 12.10 pm!!!!! It was a lovely calm and smooth home birth in the sunshine. Birth story to follow.
He is a delight and feeding and sleeping well. I am counting my many blessings.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Monday, 5 April 2010

39 weeks and 1 day ... and counting

Well nothing happening yet. Lots of twinges, a couple of false alarms but no baby yet. I know I am not even at my due date but as my other four all came early (well one on his due date - others: 38+4, 39+1 and 39+3) I am expecting this one to be the same. Apparently shorter women tend to have shorter pregnancies and taller women, longer ones - baby triggers labour and it is thought that one of the prompts for it is the lack of room.

I did have the pool up and filled and then took it all down again. Today I have blown it up again in case anything happens tonight because the electric pump is very noisy and I have been feeling niggly - though pattern or contractions - painful or otherwise.

I am not inclined to do anything to start things off as my body (and my baby) knows best when baby should come. Just resting and early nights and lots of baths. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Birth pool trial run

Well - pool is blown up (hurrah for electric pumps) and punctures mended (not ones that would let water out but ones letting air out of bottom ring so deflating it. After some research it seemed the conclusion was that ordinary garden hose would be fine for filling - just to let water run through it for a few minutes first. I also bought a new tap connector as recommended. So everything putting the water in is new and clean. There is a separate hose for removing the water which connects to a submersible pump (like you would use in a garden pond). (NCT sells pack with all these bits in.) I half filled it and added Milton to give it a good clean. I added the sieve to clean that as well - although it is new, not been used before and I will throw it away after. The bath thermometre I bought from Mothercare doesn't work which is a real pain. I hope to get a kitchen thermometer from our local hardware shop before I go into labour.

I am going to fill the pool again today - this time to get in and enjoy. I will leave it filled for the boys to enjoy after school. With my last pregnancy I did that and it started labour off. I hope that doesn't happen this time because Jenny, one of my birth partners, has a 12 shift today and the earliest she could be here is 10pm. I sort of don't want baby to come tomorrow as it is April Fool's Day - but we will have to wait and see. No signs of anything imminent. I did think it was coming last Thursday but all went quiet.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Midwives supporting home births

In March 2006 the Nursing and Midwifery Council issued a circular clarifying the rights of women, the responsibilities of midwifes and the obligations of Local Supervising Authorities (LSA) for home births. In brief it outlines guidelines in three areas
• As experts in normal birth midwives should be competent, and have confidence, in caring for women having home births.
• Home birth is at least as safe as hospital birth for healthy women with straightforward pregnancies. Whilst there are some clear categories of women for whom a hospital birth would be highly recommended, there are others with increased risk factors where opinion is divided. Risk is a complex issue. If a woman is legally competent to make the choice to birth at home then the midwife should support her, make a plan of care, and seek support from her supervisor. S/he should make all options and choices clear and respect the choices a woman makes.
• There should always be midwives available to cover home births. ‘Withdrawal of a home birth services is no less significant to women than withdrawal of services for a hospital birth.’ Women can contact the LSA for advice.

Hurrah! This is tremendously important for those planning homebirths. In the past six months I have known women trying to book home births who have encountered problems in all these areas: midwives who are not competent in water births, not competent in physiological third stage, not confident in normal birth and nervous about attending a home birth; there have been women with low iron, suspected big babies, previous caesarean, previous assisted birth with high blood loss; two women told no midwife was available, though one other woman was attended by a senior midwife who came out from the hospital. For all these women, and the many, many more, I am very grateful for this document. If you would like to see the full document, ask me for a copy or go to

Everybody should at least consider a home birth, simply because it is one of your options, and should be considered along with which hospital, what pain relief and which pram. In fact the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence ( - Clinical Guideline on Caesarean Section) positively recommended that you do “During their discussions about options for birth, healthy pregnant women with anticipated uncomplicated pregnancies should be informed that delivering at home reduces the likelihood of CS.”* Start at or the NCT publications (home birth info sheet, £1; booklet, £2.50), or contact me

*Were you told this? The guideline also recommends that “Women should be informed that continuous support during labour from women with or without prior training reduces the likelihood of CS.”

Ref: pg12

Why your first is the best one to have at home

Women are often recommended (ie told) not to have their first baby at home – because you don’t know what will happen. However it is precisely because of this that planning to have your first baby at home is eminently sensible. The great thing about being booked for a home birth is that you can go to hospital at any time you choose – it is much harder to transfer out of hospital to home! On top of that first labours tend to be longer. Being at home is less tiring and more comfortable for the long haul.

Most importantly, you are more likely to have a positive birth experience at home. Things are actually less likely to ‘go wrong’ at home. Studies have shown women who have planned home births need less pain relief, less likely to tear/have episiotomy, less likely to haemorrhage, and 50% less likely to have a caesarean or assisted birth even if you transfer to hospital. The baby is less likely to need oxygen, more likely to be in a good condition at birth. All of these benefits were shown in scientific research in which women booked for a hb were matched to women with similar risk factors booked for hospital births.* In fact a government body (NICE) looking into reducing the caesarean rate recommended that all women with straightforward pregnancy should be offered a home birth.

The deputy general of the Nursing and Midwifery Council said “The vast majority of women, well in excess of 60-70%, will not have started to have complications and these women do much worse in hospital, where they are at risk of interventions.” (June 23, 2006, The Guardian)

Why are the outcomes so good at home?
Going into hospital interferes with the flow oxytocin (the hormone that keeps labour moving on) – which is why women often report labour slowing down or stopping on arriving at hospital. It’s the flow of adrenaline (caused by stress/anxiety) that affects oxytocin and also inhibits the production of endorphin (the body’s own painkiller). So being as relaxed as possible is important, and for many that means being at home.

Other aspects of being at home that positively affect the birth are being upright and being able to move around freely with many different surfaces to lean on, access to a bath for pain relief, privacy, distractions from the pain, being able to eat/drink.

What about the equipment?
At home you have the most vital piece of equipment – a midwife. Midwives at home still do all the same checks and monitoring they would do in hospital. They carry equipment to deal with emergencies. At home, however, as they are solely looking after you, they also use their higher level observation skills – noticing how you are coping, your body movements, sign of labour progressing, or not. They are able to spot problems coming and make remedies or call an ambulance. (Did you know - mws can tell that a woman is getting near pushing by the way she curls her toes!)

Of course you may need or want to be transferred to hospital care, either before, during or after labour, though this is very rarely a major emergency. The vast majority of times it is due to a risk factor arising in the final week, labour not moving on, the woman wanting more pain relief, or the midwives wanting to have the baby more closely monitored. Most of those are transferred to hospital care before labour begins. More first time women do than second timers (up to 40% though rates vary tremendously). That means 60% (or more) of first time women booked for a homebirth have a straightforward birth. This contrasts greatly to hospital.

My local hospital has a higher than national average of normal births (54% in 2005). The figure will be lower for first timers as subsequent births are likely to be easier, more straightforward and quicker. Some months the the hospital has had a c.s. rate approaching 30%, and last year’s average was 25%. Again this will be higher for first timers. Other hospitals have similar outcomes. (go to )

Women in hospital use more pain relief, including epidural, which is linked to longer labours and a higher risk of assisted birth. In hospital you are less likely to have one-to-one care from a midwife.

I hope I have given you some food for thought. If you are looking forward to your first, or subsequent birth, you might like to explore the option of home birth, particularly to talk to women who have had/ booked home births. You can also look at the information detailed below.

*If this all sounds too good to be true then check out or look at ‘Safety in childbirth’ by M Tew, an obstetrician who set out to prove that homebirths were unsafe and found the opposite. Women have been kept in the dark.

Further info:
From NCT maternity sales (
NCT booklets (£2.50): home birth, using water in labour
NCT information sheets (£1): home birth, straightforward birth, using water for labour and birth
Birth your Way by Sheila Kitzinger
NCT My birth year

From Association for the Improvement of Maternity Services (
(Shane Ridley, Manor Barn, Thurloxton, Taunton, Somerset TA2 8RH
Books: Choosing a home birth, Safety in childbirth, Choosing a water birth, Birthing your baby


The NCT moderates an e-group for women and men to discuss issues related to homebirths – go to

My birth plan

Thought you might like to see the birth plan I have drawn up.

Birth plan for Williams baby no 5

Just to let it happen. Let my body get on and do it.
To be supported to listen to my body and enjoy this amazing event in our family.

Four previous births have been straightforward – first in hospital, then three at home (last one in water); two babies born with me on my hands and knees, one standing and one squatting.

I have not had any pharmacological pain relief with any of my labours. I will use water, breathing, relaxation, laughter, positions, encouragement and the support of my family.
I appreciate the vigilance and support of a midwife but want to mostly be left to get on and do it by myself. I consent to regular checks of BP, temp, pulse and for the baby’s heart rate to be monitored by pinard or sonic aid. I do not want any internal vaginal examinations (I have had only one at each of my home births). Reminders to go to the loo would be useful!

I will have an inflatable birth pool up for the pain relief. I may end up giving birth there. I expect to use the whole house to labour in and will see where I end up to actually give birth.

My birth partners will be my husband Merlin, and my god-sib Jenny (was at Connor’s birth and is now a midwife in Hampshire). I expect the children will come and go. I would like them to have the option of witnessing the birth of their sibling if they wish. My sister, Becky, will be on hand to look after them. I find the presence of my family a positive influence (last time I had my brother, sister-in-law, mother-in-law, three children, husband and three midwives).

All things being well I want a natural third stage. In all my births I have had minimal blood loss. My two natural third stages have been quicker than the two managed ones and I experienced less intense after pains.

I would like a very unhurried time after the birth. I would like to pick the baby up myself, for Connor to discover the sex, and for baby to enjoy lots of skin to skin and cuddles. Weighing can wait. I would like to dress baby myself when I am ready. I will be breastfeeding.

I do not want a plastic cord clamp. I will provide a sterile cord tie.
Tom would like the option of cutting the cord (Adam did it last time); if, on the day, he doesn’t want to, then I would like Connor, Hannah or Adam to have the choice.
I do not consent to the baby being given vitamin K. I have looked into this in detail so it is my informed decision and I do not want to discuss it.

Should there need to be any deviation from this rough plan, including transfer to hospital, I expect to be fully involved in the decision. I am quite well informed in most aspects of childbirth, having run support groups, attended conferences, and read widely so have a good understanding of most of the issues. If I decide not to take your advice I will sign my notes to that effect.

Monday, 22 March 2010

37 weeks!

Can't believe how time has flown. I haven't written as much in this blog as I thought I would. Found working and pregnant and four children very tiring. Then once I gave up work I have been extremely tired.

Now 37 weeks and all set up for the birth - well just about. Will trial the birth pool this week. Thought baby was coming at the weekend (think baby was just moving down and engaging) - and thought would just use the bath. I have borrowed a 'birth pool in a box' from the local homebirth group. I want to give it a good clean with milton - and I need to find some info about hoses. It has come with one but that might have been used for emptying - so I think I need a new one for filling, but I believe it can't be a garden one cos of the chemicals - will have to find out. I have remembered I also need to get a thermometer. I have not bought a new liner, but I do know the pool hasn't been used for almost two years - well not for actually giving birth in - it has been borrowed (but not for a year) and was put up but not used. It has been blown up for demonstrations at the home birth group and at my children's centre.

I have been listening to the natal hypnotherapy home birth CD which is wonderful (very similar to the classes I used to run for relaxation for pregnancy and birth. I am having mixed emotions - on the one hand I am getting very impatient to meet my new little one, but on the other hand I don't want to stop being pregnant - it is such a magical time - having a baby inside wriggling about. I guess this latter emotion is probably a sign that I am not going into labour any time soon as I am not fed up of being pregnant.

Anyway - a short little post of not much content. Will keep you posted how I am doing.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Myth 1: Big babies are harder to birth than small babies - False

Back on the computer - children still sleeping so I get a chance. Baby has been moving a lot and giving me insomnia!

As I said in my last post - women can have a difficult time with a small baby, and others, an easier time with a large baby. A woman can have a long difficult labour with a 6/7 lb baby and then has a straightforward birth with a 9-10lb baby. This happened to my cousin who, after a long, difficult first birth to an average sized baby, gave birth to a 10.5 lb baby at home in the pool without a tear or even gas and air. Why does this happen?

The main factors are the position of the baby and the position of the woman. Birth tends to be longer, more difficult, and more painful if the baby has its back towards its mother's back (sometimes called: back to back, posterior, or OP). Most babies will turn in labour - but it can take time. It is more common in first time babies - though not known why - possibly because of tighter tummy muscles or more time spent lying or tipped back on settee, in car, or in office chair compared to second time more time spent on hands and knees and leaning forward positions (search 'optimal foetal positioning' for more info). Other positions that can mean longer or more difficult births are where the baby's head is not tucked in (more common with OP babies), where there is a hand or arm up by the head, or baby's head coming down at an angle (asynclitic).

The position of the mother makes a difference too (especially to birth where the baby is not in the ideal position). Moving about, walking, rocking your hips, being upright or leaning forward all help the baby and your body to do what it needs to do. The uterus tips forward in labour. Gravity helps the baby move down. Rocking and walking helps the baby move down and to move into the best position. It also making labour less painful as your body does not need to work harder, and because often pain in labour is there to get us to move and get into positions that help labour, we do it because it eases the pain and that is what our body wants us to do. I have heard of women doing strange movements, moving legs, or getting into positions instinctively - to relieve the pain - and that happens to be just what her body needed so it could birth the baby. Being in the warmth and support of water can help too.

Lying on your back or semi seated lengthens labour but also it reduces the size of the pelvis dramatically. Women's tailbones (cocix -sp?) are hinged (unlike men's)to enable them to move back in labour. The ligaments between the pelvic bones are softened in labour to allow them to move apart to make more room. Lying on a bed stops all this happening. Lying down also means your body has to work harder. The uterus is tipped forward as I said - but in a lying position that means tipped up. The action of the first stage of labour is to shorten and move the muscle fibres up towards the fundus (pulling the cervix open) - again, if you are lying down this is against gravity. The baby is not putting pressure on the cervix so it dilates slower, and possibly leaving a lip because of uneven pressure. The baby also has to move uphill and you will be pushing up hill.

Another effect of lying down is that it is more painful, which may cause you to want an epidural, or an epidural is the cause of you lying down. Epidurals relax all the muscles from waist down. This includes the pelvic floor. This may sound like a good thing but it is not. When the baby's head touches the pelvic floor muscles the pressure and firmness prompts it to turn its head to manoeuvre through the pelvic outlet. With an epidural the muscles are floppy and they do not support the head to move, which is why epidurals are associated with a greater need for forceps or ventouse assisted births. This is particulary significant with large babies.

Being relaxed, feeling supported and able to follow your instincts all help you to birth your baby - whatever the size. A wise obstetrican I met (whose wife had 3 home births) said it is counterproductive to talk about big babies as the best way for the baby to be born is vaginally and that is more likely to happen if the woman is not fearful.

There are two concerns that relate to big babies that are worth noting - but they do not contradict what has been said above.
Firstly - a big baby can be a result of diabetes. If the mother has had diabetes that can cause the baby to have more trouble stabilising its blood sugars once it is born. Women who have diabetes prior to pregnancy will receive additional care. There is some debate whether gestational diabetes (ie caused by pregnancy) exists and of the reliability of diagnosis and the value of diagnosis (ie how does it affect outcomes.) The concerns regarding gestational diabetes are two fold: the baby's control of its blood sugar when born, and difficulties of a big baby at birth (see above and below). It is worth noting that more than half of 'macrasomic' babies (over 4kg) are born to women who do not have diabetes.

More in part two - shoulder distocia.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Nappy New Year!

The start of a new year! This time last year I did not expect to be expecting! 2009 was a year of ups and downs. As I transferred all the birthdays on my new calender I noticed there were no births of close friends or family. Two cousins had babies. However I lost my uncle (cancer) and my friend lost her baby (at 17 weeks pregnant). And M and I found ourselves pregnant.

Despite my stretching stomach and the alien wriggles from inside I still cannot believe I am pregnant and going to have another child. It is so hard to equate the bump with the four individual human beings that are my children. With each of them it has felt a true miracle to look at this whole human that grew inside me.

I have finally conceded and bought some maternity trousers - and was grateful to find some under the bump ones. I am now a little more comfortable around the waist. This is not going to be a small baby - not that any of mine have been small. However I cannot believe I have another 3 months to go. My innards are feeling very squashed - I have terrible heartburn and indigestion and can only eat small meals. I am already getting kicked in the ribs! Mind you I don't want to complain about having a growing, healthy, active baby.

I am not concerned about having a bigger baby (my largest was no 3 at 9lb 1oz). Big babies help themselves out and down the birth canal plus they have big stomachs and can go longer between feeds. The position of the baby and the position of the mother make more of a difference. Getting chucked off the computer by child ... to be continued ...