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.

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