Wednesday 31 October 2018

Home Birth Awareness Week 2018

Ok, it’s over now. Home Birth Awareness Week has finished for 2018. I just wanted to write a quick post to thank everybody who took part. It was really exciting to see people joining in and sharing their home birth stories. If you search the hashtag #HomeBirthAW18 on social media, you can see some of the posts. It was lovely to see women joining in and telling their stories, as well as midwives getting involved to promote home birth. Oh, and Emma Willis’ Delivering Babies show just happened to cover home birth in that week’s episode which was pretty awesome timing (you can see a clip here).

The whole point of the week was simply to normalise home birth. The more people hear about home births, the better. Hearing your home birth story could prompt somebody to ask their midwife whether home birth is an option for them. My home birth in 2012 was amazing and I will always be thankful to the people who told me about their home births and planted that seed in my mind.

If you want to remind yourself of how the awareness week went, search the hashtag on social media. According to Keyhole, the hashtag was used over 100 times on Twitter and Instagram, and reached over 100,000 people. Those stats don’t include Facebook but there were plenty more posts to be found there so the actual reach is probably a lot higher. Hopefully we have shown people how home birth works for real families, and perhaps even inspired a few couples to have home births of their own.

And now, because this is pretty much my Oscar’s speech, I wanted to thank the lovely, lovely Hannah from Make Do & Push for getting involved and sharing her experiences of home birth. She’s currently pregnant and has only a few weeks left until she will hopefully be able to have her third home birth! Keep an eye on her Instagram to see how she gets on, I’m so excited for her. She posted lots during the week and helped to keep the momentum going which really helped to get the hashtag out there.

If you want some home birth inspiration, the following stories were shared as part of Home Birth Awareness Week. Please have a read to find out a little more about home birth and what it looks like for different families here in the UK. Here you go:

Thanks again for taking part and helping to make Home Birth Awareness Week 2018 a success. See you next year!

Friday 26 October 2018

Home Birth Q&A

Today is the final day of Home Birth Awareness Week. Thank you so much to everyone who has taken part, it has been wonderful reading all of your stories and seeing your beautiful photos. I said I would do a home birth Q&A to answer any commonly asked questions about home birth. So, here it is:

My partner isn’t keen on the idea, how can I convince him?
I think the best way to convince your partner is to arrange a meeting with one of the midwives on your local home birth team. They are best placed to answer any of his questions and address any of his concerns. Their experience and knowledge may help to get him on board with the idea of a home birth.

You should see if there is a home birth support group in your local area. These are often held in hospitals or community centres and run by people who are passionate home birth. Each local group will vary, but the meetings exist to support people considering a home birth. There might be a midwife there to answer questions, or new parents there telling their own home birth stories. There will be the opportunity to ask questions and hear from a number of people who have given birth at home.

What about the neighbours?
Ah, yes, the neighbours. Some people warn their neighbours in advance just in case it’s noisy on the night. We didn’t warn our neighbour and she didn’t realise we’d had the baby so she clearly didn’t hear anything (or just assumed there was a herd of cows passing that morning). She was 95 with bad hearing though, so I think we were pretty lucky.

When you’re giving birth, you won’t be worrying about whether the neighbours can hear. You’ll be too focused on the birth. If the noise is worrying you, you can plan some ways to reduce it. For example, don’t give birth right next to the party wall, instead set your pool up against an internal wall. Playing music will help to cover any mooing/groaning/yelling.

What about the mess?
Mess, what mess? Just kidding. There will be mess. A whole load of stuff is going to come flying out of you. If you give birth in a pool, all of that mess will be contained in the pool. But somebody will need to empty the pool and take care of the mess. If you don’t give birth in a pool, the mess will end up on the floor or sofa or wherever you choose to give birth. Use tarpaulin, old towels and sheets and whatever else you can find to protect your floors. It is perfectly possible to give birth at home without ruining your cream carpets.

What if something goes wrong?
Birth doesn’t always go to plan. Sometimes, medical help is necessary to ensure both mother and baby are safe and healthy. When that happens at home, you might need to be transferred to hospital for additional help. Home birth midwives are qualified professionals. They are trained to look for problems before they arise and act accordingly. If you need to be transferred in, your midwife will ensure this is done as soon as possible. It’s also important to remember that home birth midwives have a lot of medical kit with them when they turn up to a home birth. If you are worried about what will happen if something goes wrong, tell your midwife. She will be able to explain the transfer procedure and explain what they do in an emergency.

What if there are no midwives available on the day?
This was something I was really worried about in the lead up to my home birth. I was so worried that we’d be told a midwife was unavailable and that we’d have to go into hospital. In reality, we just rang up and they sent a midwife within half an hour, so there was no need for me to worry.

Of course, it doesn’t always work out like that. There are times when midwives may be unavailable due to staffing issues. This is something you will need to discuss with your midwife in advance so you can find out the best way of getting a midwife to your birth.

What do you think the biggest misconception is?
That it’s brave. People often tell women planning home births that they are brave. People mistakenly think home birth is dangerous and that anyone planning to do is being brave. In fact, these women are not brave. They are making informed decisions to try and ensure they have the birth experience they really want. By telling these women they are brave, the implication is that they are doing something risky and dangerous.

Another common response is ‘Aren’t you worried about ...xyw?’ Women planning home births meet negativity wherever they go. If somebody tells you they are planning a home birth, and you want to say something supportive instead of joining the nay-sayers, try saying “Wow, that will be amazing.”

If you have any other questions, comment below and I will do my best to answer them.

Thursday 25 October 2018

The Importance of Telling Positive Birth Stories

This week is Home Birth Awareness Weekend and it was has been really lovely seeing so many people joining in and sharing their personal experiences of home birth. Less than 3% per cent of mums choose to have their babies at home. I meet so many women who say they didn’t realise home birth was an option, or they didn’t think they would be allowed one, or they didn’t have the support of their partner.

I wanted Home Birth Awareness Weekend to provide a platform for those of us with home birth stories to tell. The more we talk about our experiences, the more normalised home birth will become. And the more normal it seems, the more women will consider it and make an informed choice about where they want to give birth.

Negative experiences account for most of the birth stories retold on a daily basis. For some reason, society cannot get enough of those birth horror stories. When I was 25 years old and pregnant with my first child, negative birth stories were all I heard. It was as though the mere sight of my bump reminded people of the horrible birth story they’d once heard and, for some unknown reason, they would immediately tell me about it.

I was feeling understandably anxious about the birth. I just had absolutely no idea what to expect. It is impossible to imagine birth before you have experienced it. I had no idea what contractions would feel like or whether I would be able to cope with the pain. And the constant barrage of negative birth stories didn’t help. Luckily, I had a friend who had recently had a very positive birth experience which she shared with me. And my mum has always spoken positively about birth so that mindset helped, too.

Some women do have negative birth experiences, I am one of them. I had one beautiful and onenot-so-beautifull experience and the difference between them was huge. I know how important it is to be able to talk about negative birth experiences. I know how hard it is to keep all of those feelings of anger and disappointment and vulnerability inside. I know that I needed to talk so badly that I couldn’t keep it inside. And I know that talking helped. I know that talking and talking and talking that horrible day to death helped me to process my thoughts, it helped me to disect my feelings and move on. We cannot censor women’s experiences and we shouldn’t try to. Women should be free to tell their stories.

What we do need, however, is some balance. We cannot have a culture where only negative birth stories are heard. We need to make sure a mix of all experiences are spoken about often. Pregnant women need to hear positive birth stories to, to help them make informed choices about their own births. We need to speak up about our experiences so that people know not all births end in intereventions.

It isn’t always easy to speak up about your positive birth experiences. My first daughter was born in a pool in the living room at my first house. My labour was six hours long and the pushing stage lasted 29 minutes. I used gas and air for the last hour and a half, but before that had only the pool, paracetamol and breathing techniques to keep me calm. I focused on my breathing, I fought the fight and flight impulse, and I felt in control. The room was lit with candles and it was silent apart from the gentle encouragement from my husband and midwife. It was the best experience of my life. I felt amazing afterwards. I felt empowered and strong and loved. It could not have been more perfect. But it is hard to say that in a room of women sharing their bad birth stories.

I can remember sitting in a room with about 10 other women all sharing their birth experiences. The women spoke of birth interventions, forceps, emergency sections. They all spoke of the trauma of birth, and the fear they felt, and how they were still coming to terms with their experiences. The health visitor turned to me, “And how about you, Fiona? How was your birth?” I said it was nice and she was born at home, but that was all I said. It felt wrong to talk about how empowering it was or how much I loved it when I was sitting in a room of women who were struggling with their own experiences.

Occasionally, I stumble across other women who have had good birth experiences and together we talk about how amazing birth is. But, generally, I try not to talk about it too much because I don’t want to make other women feel bad. I have had a bad birth, I know how much it stings to see that things went to plan for other women. I know how hard it is to deal with those emotions of jealously. And yet, I still want to hear those positive birth stories. I still want women to tell me about their birth experiences. I want those positive experiences to be shared as far and wide as the negative ones. I want pregnant women to know that birth can be beautiful and calm and empowering.

So, with all of that in mind, please join me in telling your home birth stories for Home Birth Awareness Weekend. Tell your friends about your experiences, share your story on social media and be sure to use the hashtag #HomeBirthAW18 so that women considering home birth can find your story. The world is already filled with negative birth stories, so please join the conversation and make your voice heard.

Wednesday 24 October 2018

A Tale of Two Home Births

I have a guest post for you today as part of Home Birth Awareness Week. I have been really pleased with the number of people keen to share their own home birth stories. The whole point of this awareness week is to normalise home birth. So many women tell me they would have loved to have a home birth but didn't know it was an option or didn't see it as a realistic option for them. This week I want to share real-life home birth experiences so that people can see how home birth works in reality. Our guest poster today has had two home births, one with a breech baby!

So, without further ado, this guest post was written by the lovely Louise from Little Hearts Big Love. She is a mum of three and blogs about pregnancy, parenthood, child loss, congenital heart defects and so much more. If you haven't come across her blog before, please do check it out because her posts are beautifully written, honest and inspiring. 


I had hoped to have a home birth when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter Jessica. However, at 20 weeks we found out that she had a complex heart condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. I still remember leaving the hospital that day and hubby saying “well, there goes your home birth!” It’s funny the things you say in that kind of situation – it really was the last thing I was worried about in that moment.

Jessica ended up having her first heart surgery while she was still in the womb, when I was 28 weeks’ pregnant. The doctors planned to induce me at 39 weeks in Southampton, 70 miles from where we lived, as University Hospital Southampton has a specialist children’s cardiac unit and Jessica would need open-heart surgery within hours of being born if she was to have any chance of survival. Jessica decided she wanted to choose her own birth date though and I went into labour a week before my induction date. She was born with the help of forceps, weighing in at 5lb 10oz, and had open-heart surgery at eight hours old.

My hospital birth experience with Jessica was a very positive one, but I knew that I still wanted to have a home birth if possible.

Sophie’s birth
My next pregnancy was my most straightforward one. I had additional heart scans which showed that baby “Pod” was heart-healthy. Before Jessica’s arrival, I had been an independent midwife and booked my maternity care with two of my independent midwife friends. My labour started just as the clocks went back when I was 40+4 weeks’ pregnant. I had a pool set up in my dining room. As soon as the contractions became regular, I got in the pool. As dawn started to break, I started to get urges to push. The pushing stage was slower than I had expected second time around (over an hour) but Sophie was born into the water just before 10am. She was my biggest baby at 8lb 10oz – three pounds heavier than her sister had been!

You can read more about Sophie’s birth story here.
Thomas’s birth
The second half of my pregnancy with Thomas was a very tough time for me as Jessica died suddenly at the age of six. I was 23 weeks’ pregnant at the time. She had been so excited about baby “Peanut” and looking forward to having another sibling. After she died, I found it hard to feel excited about the new baby – I just wanted my big girl back. I had repeated growth scans with Thomas due to having low PAPP-A levels which meant I had an increased risk of preterm labour or a small-for-dates baby. Baby “Peanut” was growing well but was persistently breech. I tried moxibustion and the doctors tried to do an ECV to manually turn the baby but Peanut was having none of it and stayed breech.

Having had two previous vaginal births, I was reluctant to have a caesarean. I was concerned about the lack of vaginal breech experience amongst the team at the hospital. Thankfully one of the independent midwives that were caring for me was very experienced in vaginal breech birth and taught breech birth skills to other midwives. I felt confident in her ability to help me birth my breech baby at home.

My waters broke at 37+6 weeks. Funnily enough, they broke at 2:46am – the time that Jessica had died. I had been told that I might have a long latent phase of labour with baby being breech. Throughout the day, my contractions were very on and off. At 9pm, they finally started to become regular and I got in the pool. Just over an hour later, I had urges to push and was helped out of the pool as it would be safer for baby to be born “on dry land” where the midwives could clearly see what was happening. The first glimpse everyone got of baby Peanut made it quite clear that he was a boy! He needed a little assistance with his arms and chin as he was being born and some help to encourage him to breathe but was absolutely fine, weighing in at 5lb 13oz.

What I loved about having home births
Continuity of care
I booked care with independent midwives for both of my home births. For me having the same midwives care for me throughout my pregnancy and birth was important. Knowing that my midwives knew my wishes for labour and birth and had confidence in my ability to birth my baby reassured me. This was especially important with Thomas’s birth as our grief from losing Jessica was still very raw. The continuity of care meant that I didn’t have to keep re-telling our story. I also felt reassured that my midwives were prepared for the way grief might affect my labour too.

Being in my own environment
Being somewhere familiar felt safe and comforting. I could have who I wanted with me, and best of all I could get into my own bed and snuggle my new baby there afterwards!

I didn’t have to worry about the mess either – hubby and the midwives took care of all that!

Sibling involvement
Jessica and Sophie were around while I was in labour with their younger sibling and I was quite happy to have them there. My mum was on hand to look after each of them while I was giving birth as neither were in the room at that point. I loved the fact that they were able to meet their little sibling so soon after I had given birth. My memory of Jessica meeting Sophie for the first time is such a beautiful one. It broke my heart that she never got to meet Thomas but I was glad Sophie was able to meet him so soon after his arrival.

All three of my births were positive experiences. I’m so glad I was able to have the home births I wanted with Sophie and Thomas. I’m not planning to have any more babies but if I do change my mind, I would definitely want a home birth again.
Isn't that an amazing shot of the breech birth?! Thank you so much to Louise for sharing her stories and her photographs with us today. Don't forget to check out Louise's blog, follow her on Facebook, find her on Instagram and read her tweets.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

My 10 Favourite Things About Home Birth

If you saw my post yesterday (find it here), you’ll know that I have proclaimed this week as Home Birth Awareness Week. It’s already a thing elsewhere in the world, but this year we’re joining in. People will be sharing their home birth stories online and, hopefully, speaking up about home birth in general. If you’d like to find out more about Home Birth Awareness Week, take a look at this post which explains all the details and how you can get involved. To coincide with this week of awareness raising, I thought I’d share my 10 favourite things about home birth. So, here they are:

#1: Having All My Things
I am not good at packing. I am disorganised and leave things till the last minute. And the last minute is not a good time to discover all your clothes are dirty and your camera battery has died, but this is what usually happens to me. I am not good at thinking ahead and working out what I will need. It is much easier for me to just stay home with all of my things so that I can’t forget anything. Having a home birth means you can change your mind about what you want or need because you have all of your things with you.

#2: Privacy During Birth
I have given birth in a hospital and I have given birth in my living room. One of the things I remember about being in hospital was that I saw a lot of different faces. There were midwives, student midwives, doctors, healthcare assistants coming in and out of the room at various stages. It didn’t feel like I had much in the way of privacy. What I remember about my home birth is one midwife, one bloody perfect midwife, stationed on my sofa for pretty much the entire duration of the birth. Two more midwives arrived shortly before my daughter was born, and those three midwives were the only people I saw that day.

#3: Not Sharing Those Midwives
This one might be a little selfish, but I liked having my midwives all to myself. They weren’t running out of the room to check on other women or being called away to help their colleagues. They were just in my house with me and that was lovely. Hospitals are short of money and midwife numbers are down. Midwives are overworked, maternity wards are understaffed, and the midwives are run off their feet. I felt wonderfully supported by the midwife at my home birth, she was present the whole time and she was perfect. I’m not embarrassed to say that I was glad I had her all to myself.

#4: The Lack Of Journeys
The furthest I travelled during my home birth was upstairs to the bathroom. I didn’t have to pull on my coat or step outside in the dead of winter and have contractions mid-car journey. I was just home. I stayed put, safe and warm inside the house I felt comfortable in. I didn’t have to walk through a hospital reception or under the bright lights of hospital corridors. I was in control of the atmosphere in my home and everything was exactly as I needed it to be. And when the birth was over, I didn’t have to get dressed or be discharged or sit in a car to be driven home. I didn’t have to bundle my baby into a car seat or take her outside. We were already exactly where we needed to be. She was home. We were home.

#5: My Own Shower
You know what’s not nice? Hospital showers. The floors are grainy, they look dirty even though they are actually probably way cleaner than your average home shower, the water pressure is crap and it’s hard to ignore the real fear that a stranger could walk in at any moment. And the post-birth shower is particularly grim. All you want is to be clean. Having a home birth meant I could get clean in my own shower at home. I didn’t have to use a communal shower or worry about somebody bursting in. It’s not a big deal, perhaps, but it made a difference for me.

#6: Being In My Own Bed
There is nothing quite as comforting as being snuggled up in your own bed. And women really deserve some comfort after they’ve given birth. Even the most beautifully simple birth leaves you exhausted and needing to heal. With a home birth, you can put yourself to bed in your own bed. You can catch up on some much-needed sleep in the comfort and calm of your own home. You don’t have to deal with the unnaturally plump hospital pillows or the squeak of the waterproof sheet hiding on the bed. You can just be back where you feel safe, at home in bed. And then you don’t have to get up again until you feel ready. Nobody is going to be hurrying you along telling you they need the bed, it’s your bed.

#7: No Wards
Wards are the worst. They are noisy and uncomfortable and, even with the curtains firmly drawn, you are never really alone. Even if by some miracle you get a ward to yourself, there is the very real threat that someone will be admitted any moment and take away your privacy. You might share a ward with three other women. That’s three women and their babies and partners and visitors. It’s not quiet or calm or private. Without stating the obvious, your home is your own and you won’t be forced to share it with strangers.

#8: Not Needing To Be Discharged
Getting discharged from a hospital is not easy. Firstly, you have to find a member of staff, good luck with that because the government scared them all away. Then you need to find one with the time to organise our discharge papers. This is pretty much impossible. You end up packed and ready to go but stuck in the hospital until somebody has the time to set you free. At home, you’re just free. The midwives pack up and leave and it’s just you and your brand new family unit getting to know each other.

#9: Having My Own Food
I didn’t want toast after the birth. I wanted a Linda McCartney sausage sandwich. The midwife was dubious about whether I’d be able to keep it down, but I did keep it down. And if I’d been in the hospital, those Linda McCartney sausages would have been nothing but a dream. I liked being at home where the kitchen cupboards were stocked with all of my favourite foods.

#10: Feeling Safe
Everyone has their own reasons for choosing a home birth. Mine was probably because I knew I would feel safer at home. Some people may feel the opposite. For some, the nearby doctors and medical equipment may offer comfort. But for me, those beeping machines and medical staff offered no comfort. The very idea of them made me feel worried. I just wanted to feel safe and calm and in control. And I knew that, for me, that meant staying home in my own surroundings. And that is my overriding memory of my home birth, that calm still feeling of safety. I felt supported and love and empowered. And it was perfect.

What’s missing off this list? Share your own favourite things in the comments section.

Get Involved With Home Birth Awareness Week 2018
Don’t forget, the more people who take part, the more awareness we can raise. If you have a blog post about home birth you’d like to share, please link it up here. If you use Instagram, be sure to share your home birth story with the hashtag #HomeBirthAW18

Thank you!

Monday 22 October 2018

Home Birth Awareness Week 2018

This week is Home Birth Awareness Week. I realised recently that there was no such thing as Home Birth Awareness Week in the UK and that seemed a shame, so I thought it was time to start one. Home Birth Awareness Week already exists over in New Zealand, so I figured we could join in over here. We will piggyback on their awareness and hopefully raise a little of our own. The world is global and all that, right?

Why Do We Need Home Birth Awareness Week?
It’s not a disease or little-known condition, so why do we need to raise awareness of home birth? Well, simply, because not many people choose it. Only 2.3% of women chose to give birth at home in the UK in 2015 and this number hasn't changed since I had my first daughter at home in 2012.

I often encounter women who say they would have liked to have home births but didn’t because they didn’t think it was an option, or they were worried it wasn’t safe, or they didn’t have the support of their partners. We need Home Birth Awareness Week so that we can share some real stories of home births and make women aware of their birth options.

Home Birth Awareness Week isn’t about trying to force women to have home births, it’s about making people aware that home birth is an option. It’s also about addressing negative reactions to home births and empowering women to tackle negative comments from friends and family members. And, most importantly, it’s about encouraging women to share their real-life experiences with the world.

When I was pregnant with my first, all I wanted to do was read about births. I had no idea what to expect, I couldn’t imagine what contractions would feel like, and I wanted to try and prepare myself. Home Birth Awareness Week is about sharing real-life examples of home births and how they worked for you and your family so that other women can feel inspired by your choice.

Simply put, Home Birth Awareness Week is about normalising home birth so that more couples will take the time to consider it. And, hey, they might decide it’s not for them and choose to give birth at a birth centre or hospital, that’s fine. It’s not about trying to make people want home births, it’s just about encouraging people to see home birth as a real and acceptable choice.

Is Home Birth An Option For Me?
You’ll need to speak to your midwife to find out more about home birth provisions in your area. And, of course, your midwife will know your full history and be able to advise you accordingly. If you’re considering a home birth or would simply like to know more about it, mention it to your midwife at your next antenatal appointment.

In the meantime, there is plenty of information online. is a great website filled with advice about planning a home birth. Hopefully, some of the stories shared during Home Birth Awareness Week will help you to decide whether giving birth at home is something that appeals to you.

How To Get Involved With Home Birth Awareness Week
As with any awareness week, the more people who get involved, the more awareness we’ll be able to raise. And I would love for you to get involved, partly so it’s not a failure but also so that we can take some steps towards normalising home birth. It would be great to live in a world where people’s reaction to a planned home birth was ‘cool’ rather than ‘aren’t you worried about…’

So, do get involved. If you’ve had a home birth yourself or if you’re planning one now, please get involved this week. There’s strength in numbers and I’d love for you to be involved. Here are some ways you can help raise awareness of home birth this week:

If you have a blog, write some posts about home birth and link them up below. Include the link badge so we can keep track of how many people take part. Write about your own home birth, why you wanted one and what advice you have for other couples planning to welcome their babies at home. Write about anything and everything to do with home birth. Let’s try and share as many stories as we can.

If you have already posted on your blog about home birth, this week is the perfect time to revisit them. Share your old posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #HomeBirthAW18. I’ll be keeping an eye on the hashtag and sharing all the posts I find. It would be great if you could do the same, of course.

Don’t blog? No problem. You can get involved by sharing your home birth story on Instagram. Please use the hashtag #HomeBirthAW18 with your post. It would be great to see the hashtag filling up with inspiring home births and real birth experiences. If you have a photo from your birth to share, that’s great, but you can share it with any related photo really, there are no rules.

Send Me Some Questions
If you have any questions about home birth, send them my way. I’ll be sharing a Q+A post later in the week so it would be great to have some readers’ questions to answer. What are the things you want to know about home birth? Send them across to me on and I’ll include them in my post.

Happy Home Birth Awareness Week!

Bloggers, don't forget to link up all of your relative posts below (they don't have to be new) and I'll be sure to share them throughout the week.

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