This post is written in support of Home birth awareness week 2018. My views on birth and experience are mine only, and expressed in this post to inspire other women to feel empowered in birth, to know their rights in birth and to know that amazing birth is possible after traumatic experience.
What do you think when you hear a word “home birth?”, just pose for a second and think. People say things like “brave”, “crazy”, “dangerous”, “was it an accident?” and “why would anyone do it?”, when they hear about me giving birth on our bed without midwives they are definitely get convinced that I am “crazy” and “brave”, and “lucky”, or “had an easy birth”. I was talking to a friend of mine, who at the time was a doula about my birth experience and she said that when she mentioned her birth being “amazing” and “empowering” she was told she was making other women feel bad, because they have suffered so much more than she did, that she shouldn’t be telling people about it and got called insensitive because some women had traumatic experience. She had a hospital birth by the way, and her first was traumatic. A few days after Alma’s birth I bumped into a lady from a hypnobirthing course and told her how amazingly well my home birth was, and she said hers was awful and traumatising. I felt bad. Honestly, I felt guilty that I had a good birth, an “easy” birth and she didn’t. It took me awhile to get over the horrible sticky guilt feeling that the encounter gave me. I think as women we talk a lot about horrors of the birth, trauma of the birth, pain of the birth and not enough about it being empowering, liberating and amazing. Listen, someone’s traumatic birth experience isn’t devalued by someone’s positive experience. If anything, it’s important to talk about positive birth experiences so women know it’s possible to have one, so amongst the darkness of the trauma there is a light that gives a hope to a woman that her next birth can be better, that as women we don’t have to suffer all the time and be happy about someone else. Our births have been taken away from us, they have become a medical issue, we have been listening to horrors of the birth for so long it affects our subconscious mind and gives is fear. Fear which interferes with oxcitocin production, paralyses us and stops our bodies from doing what they are designed to do: give birth freely and naturally. We don’t know enough about birth because we don’t see other women giving birth around us, it happens behind the closed doors so to stop other people seeing this beautiful process which only by the way of unnatural interference has become traumatic and horrible for some. I am talking about my amazing birth experience not to devalue other women’s one, but to give a different perspective and options to consider, and being open about it takes a courage too.
When I was pregnant with Askar I did all the things a high achieving top of the class, career oriented woman should do: research the internet, exercise and sign up for a course. Mine was delivered by an obstetrician, we talked about stages of the birth, drugs that can be used, how to listen to a midwife and obstetrician, what to eat and not to eat before giving birth and all things technical. I practised my breathing techniques and carried on swimming 3 times a week till 41 weeks pregnant. I knew that if I don’t give birth by the 11th of September I will be induced because my placenta would get “old”. After a very big party and a huge meal on Saturday night I felt something happening on Sunday. Very excited about meeting our first baby my husband and I had a long walk to “make things happen”. At 10 o’clock at night things did happen. We waited till contractions were every 5 minutes to go into hospital where upon the examination I was told I am 1 cm dilated, but they will keep me in, because I was due to be induced soon anyway. It suited me well, after all what’s wrong with being in a hospital where there is all the medical staff who can help I’d anything goes wrong. It was 7 am and I was tired already, I didn’t get much rest at night and all the walking around day before was taking its toll on me. Contractions were bearable and I felt like I can do this “giving birth business”. At 10 the midwives checked on me, said I wasn’t progressing and it would be in my and my baby’s best interest to give me some oxcytocin intravenous and break my waters. Breaking the waters would make the baby’s head go down and press on the cervix, and oxcytocin would give me stronger contractions since the ones I am having are “useless”. One small detail to remember here, I am allergic to a painkiller that they used in epidural. 40 weeks of being pregnant I was telling my midwife about it, ok not 40, but from week 12 when I went for the first appointment till week 40 when I was seen last I was telling about this, I was reasurred that it won’t cause any problems because they will use a different one. Back to me giving birth, I was told I will get an epidural to give me some rest, while oxcytocin works it’s magic and makes my cervix dilate. At 11 o’clock i was laid down, my waters were broken, I was put on a drip and attached to a monitor, I was also put in an adult nappy so I won’t make the floor wet. I was told to lay down and wait for anaesthetist to come round. Laying down proved impossible because I couldn’t stand contractions in horizontal position. Midwife came in, checked it was painful and said it will get even more painful. Woman in a room next to mine got shouted at a few times for being too loud. A few minutes later a group of obstetricians came in and said since I am allergic to one particular drug they can’t give me an epidural. I felt like my world has crashed, my waters were broken, so the clock was ticking, the drip made the contractions unbearable and I couldn’t get a pain relief. A bit later I started having a diarrhoea. I spend the next 5 hours standing attached to a drip and baby monitor unable to move but upright , because it was the only way for me to manage the pain, having explosive diarrhoea in my adult nappy, my husband trying to comfort me, giving me water and reminding me to breath through contractions. I silent, all 5 hours of agonising pain I was silent, I didn’t want to be shouted at. Then I felt like I needed to push, he called a midwife who said I was fully dilated but she needs to attend to another woman, she disappeared for 40 minutes while I tried to hold my baby in. Looking back to this I often wonder if that’s why my son screamed for the first 3 months of his life and still doesn’t sleep very well. I feel like the birth has affected him badly, what about me? I never felt traumatised by my birth experience, but I didn’t know any different. Most of my friends have given birth this way, most of my cousins have given birth this way and my mum had two caesarian sections, so I was lucky in comparison to her. I still remember seeing her scar and her having difficulty walking 2 weeks after giving birth, so when I jumped off the bed 2 hours later and demanded some food I knew I was in a better position.
A friend of mine has decided to have a home birth, she said it was safer and since her first was uncomplicated she wanted to be at home second time round. I felt very interested and supported her decision, not that she needed any support in it, out of the duty to support rather than any knowledge about home birth. She had a lovely home birth and midwives only just made it on time, another friend of mine has given birth at home, her midwives weren’t there, just her doula, husband, mum and her toddler. It made me wonder, I was already pregnant and looking into birth options. I started reading about it, talking about it and wishing I could have such a peaceful and undisturbed birth at home. I didn’t mind giving birth at hospital but I didn’t like the idea of staying in a hospital and waiting to be discharged, being in a room full of other mums and newborns and the bright light of hospital rooms put me off. If only I could give birth at hospital, then by magic transfer home I would be happy I thought. My heart started leaning towards the home birth, the reading I was doing confirmed my thoughts. I could imagine me having labour at home, where I felt safe and nothing interfering with oxcytocin production, nobody breaking my waters to “speed things along” and nobody putting me on a drip, nobody telling me how much more painful it will get and nobody having an authority over my body and my decisions. At 25 weeks pregnant this vision was about to be taken away after I was confirmed to have gestational diabetes and becoming high risk pregnancy. It never felt this way, my glucose level was only 0.3 higher than it should have been. I started doing my research, I discovered that it needs to be higher than 10 to be considered gestational diabetes according to World Health organisation. Other countries used different threshold. I started seeing a consultant in a hospital, and following a strict diet to control my blood sugar levels. I had to measure it 4 times a day to see if its within the norm and it went above the normal levels on 2 occasions in 15 weeks. I was “low risk” withing high risk and avoided medication. The consultant was very against the idea of home birth, I was told on numerous occasions that “I won’t be allowed”, “we won’t let you”, “baby will get stuck”, “your husband will break your leg to get your baby out” and “last woman who had a home birth had a dead baby, is that what you want for yourself”. I knew I could do it though, I was doing hypno birthing course, reading affirmations, following AIMS website recommendations, reading NICE guidelines, WHO guidelines, speaking to independent midwives and monitoring my sugar levels. At 37 weeks me and my husband faced 8 medical professionals and said that “we understand your concerns, and trust midwives judgements and if anything goes wrong we will go to hospital immediately”, this was our decision to make. At 37 weeks pregnant we booked a home birth against medical advice. Everyone was very respectful of our choice and despite if being “against medical advice” agreed that in our case I would probably be safe doing it at home. At 40 weeks pregnant I declined a stretch and swipe and said “we will see about that” when I was offered an induction. I knew I could do it, I trusted my gut feeling and I knew I was safe from reading a lot of research about it.
I went into labour at 10 o’clock at night on a Sunday, after a big meal where I allowed myself to have a cake (with gestational diabetes after weeks of following low carb diet) and a glass of red wine. Things started moving very quickly, in laws picked Askar up at 2 a.m and I felt so sad saying good bye to him, but at the same time him being away let go of the last psychological barrier. I became vocal, contractions were very strong and unlike first time I wasn’t scared that anyone would tell me off for being loud. Around 3 a.m midwives came and I have a made a mistake of letting them check how far along I was. I was 1 cm dilated. You see I felt like I was awkward having home birth against medical advice so wanted to add a bit of “normality” in my birth by letting them follow their protocol. They were lovely by the way and didn’t make me feel like I was odd, said I was within my right and I was doing the right thing considering my blood sugar was always very well managed. My labour stopped because I expected to be in established labour rather than 1 cm dilated. I felt like my space was invaded and although they were sitting quietly in the kitchen I felt like I was watched and expected to “deliver the result”. My head filled with fear that I will repeat my first birth experience, so I asked my husband to ask them leave. We promised we will call as soon as contractions come back and I feel like I am close to delivering my baby. My husband was amazingly supportive of all my decisions, turned out deep down he was very worried but guarded my space and allowed me to do what I thought was right for me and my child. I caved in, literally, under a blanket in complete darkness with him, I needed to feel safe again. My contractions came back, I was moving round the house, holding onto the wardrobe doors with each contraction becoming stronger, then I asked to get in a bath. We still laugh about it, but Ben asked if it was ok for him to eat and after I said it was, he sat next to me on a chair eating a microwave burger while I was laying in a bath trying to manage contractions that were unbearably strong now. I knew I could do it though, after all I have been through worse attached to a drip and baby monitor unable to move without any pain relief. We moved into the bedroom and Ben felt like it was a good time to call the midwives. I told him I was ages away and started crying. “I can’t do this anymore, take me into hospital”, “Yes, you can, you are nearly there”, “I want a pain relief, I made a mistake, I want a pain relief”. He knew it was a transition stage and called the midwives, I felt the need to push, they said to call an ambulance because they won’t be on time. He was in the kitchen talking to 999 when I felt such a strong contraction that I started screaming and then my waters broke. I quickly climbed into the bed and no longer able to hold her in started pushing. “Ben! Baby, baby is here”. He run into the bedroom still talking to the lady on 999, he looked down “No, there isn’t any baby” and at that particular moment she was born, he thew telephone out and caught her sliding out, one contraction and she was born. I remember hearing the lady on the phone “is the baby breathing? please check if the baby is breathing” in a very calm voice and I thought “I am going to need some stitches, I bet she’s made a mess”. Ben was saying something but all I could think of was “how the hell am I going to put her on my tummy”. I was on my fours and she was behind me, with a cord and placenta still inside me. We managed, he covered me and Alma with towels. I remember shaking from all the excitement and exhaustion. He picked up the phone and told them our address. After I hang up I asked him to take a photo so we know what time roughly she was born. She was born about 1.5 hour after the midwives left. Midwives arrived before paramedics, I didn’t need stitches or transferring into hospital. She didn’t get stuck and Ben didn’t need to break my leg to get her out. My birth was amazing, it was empowering, it was beautiful and wild. I felt like it healed all the pain and trauma of my first birth. Trauma that I had even if I didn’t know. What I wasn’t it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t painless, it didn’t devalue anyone else’s bad experience and even my own. It also didn’t mean that other women have to birth the same way, it just meant that I needed to birth this way.