The Birth of Karla

A second baby born at home

I was woken up in the night by my small son stirring. I felt some mild period like pains and there was some liquid trickling down my leg. Ah ha! This was it! I resettled my son, and donning some rather attractive paper pants and pad, I went back to bed. I couldn’t sleep. I was too excited and was planning through the following day. The contractions were very mild and by 4.30am I had got a bit bored, so I woke up my husband. He wasn’t pleased but did the honorable thing and came and lay with me until dawn.

At 8am I called the midwife number to let them know that something had started because I was planning to have the baby at home. I also called my Mum, who was taking care of my son and my sister who would be taking care of me. The midwife came out to check me over. It was unclear whether my waters had broken. I defiantly had a mucus ‘show’ but I hadn’t lost much more liquid since the initial trickle and a couple of drips. She was keen that I go to Southmead to get them to have a look with a speculum.

In the Day Assessment Unit I was put on a monitor for half an hour and then my waters were checked. They were still in tact! The liquid I had lost was just a lot of mucus. This was good news because had my water gone I would have been on a time limit. If I hadn’t been in established labour within 48 hours they would have been looking to induce. Not good news for a planned home birth.

We returned home in good spirits, armed with good tips from the lovely midwife at Southmead. My baby was lying slightly to the right and back-to-back. I wasn’t surprised. During my first labour my son had been in the same position and it had taken ages, partly because he didn’t have much space to turn. The midwife suggested I relax as much as possible on my left side and to have a warm bath. If my abdominal muscles were relaxed, my baby would have more space to turn. She also suggested I stand with my right foot on a stool or step.

The contractions remained fairly weak until about 5pm when I called my sister. We agreed that she would come soon. I also called the midwives again and I was in luck! Judy, who had delivered my son was willing to come out. It was her day off but she had done my antenatal care and had promised she would be there if she could.

Soon the contractions were starting to get quite painful. My sister arrived and Ben lit the fire. Ben also put his hands on my lower back and Clare had some great visualisations to help me to relax and keep my out breath long. We tried the Tens Machine, which I had found quite useful before but I couldn’t get on with it so it was discarded. I was also sick and was starting to feel quite rotten. We tried to time the contractions and although they were still fairly short they were coming quite close together so we decided to get Judy to come.

I was so happy to have somebody attending the birth that I knew and liked and trusted. I’d had my son (see The Birth of Frank) standing up on my landing. The birth had been brilliant but the recovery time was awful due to a third degree tare. This time I was really keen not to tare like that again and had planned with Judy to deliver lying on my left side on my bed. I wanted to have a slow and controlled second stage.

The contractions were becoming quite horrid and I was getting really attached to my sister’s voice talking me through each one. At about 6pm we all moved upstairs to our small bedroom. When a contraction came I would move to all fours or rest my arms on the bed head then in between contractions, rest back onto my heels. Ben was holding one hand and my sister the other. I started getting the fear that I couldn’t “do it.” I was surprised at this as I had been looking forward to laboring again and had been totally relaxed about it. I think the strength of the contractions took me by surprise though. I was scared that it was going to go on for a long time and I didn’t feel resilient enough. Clare kept reassuring me. She was brilliant and seemed to know exactly what I needed to hear. She said stuff like “you can do one more contraction” and “remember each contraction is bringing you closer to your baby”. She also helped me to relax and keep breathing.

It was funny how I was also aware of the midwives behind me having a good old natter. They were chatting away quietly like this was the most normal thing in the world and although this could have been distracting I did find it quite reassuring. I asked Judy and the second midwife how I could get things to speed up. Judy suggested I walk to the bathroom and I said ”I’m scared!” Judy asked whether this was because of what happened last time, i.e. I’d had my baby on the landing! But really I was just scared of the pain and the intensity and for the first time wondered why I was here with no pain relief! Clare said, “I love you,” which somehow really helped and I relaxed.

I became aware that a part of my pelvic floor was still ‘holding’. There was tension down there, trying to protect me against the pain. I concentrated on trying to let it go. I could feel the pressure of the baby’s head on the cervix and then as I focused on relaxing, I actually felt myself opening. It was amazing. And then I felt I wanted to push and thought Thank God! Let’s get this over!

I lay down on my left side and Ben had the glamorous job of holding my leg up. The contractions were still painful. I pushed until the baby was crowning then tried to breath and not push. It was really hard and I wouldn’t have done so well if Clare had not been there, talking me through, encouraging me to concentrate all my energies on my breath. The baby’s head was half in half out for quite a few contractions which was really weird and it stung like hell as my tissues stretched. She came out really slowly then finally she was there and Ben said, “It’s a girl!” Whoopee! She was lifted into my arms and cried and tried to latch on straight away. I wanted a big hot sugary cup of tea to reward myself for my efforts!

It was all then clearing up and bustling about with pieces of toast and blankets. The midwives did an impressive clear up job and I was really glad I’d put some clean sheets on my bed underneath the plastic. After close inspection I did have a second-degree tare but it was decided not to stitch it – hurray!  Another wonderful advantage to having two such experienced and confidant midwives at my side. Judy stayed to help me have a bath and when we were all happy went home, leaving us to cuddle up in bed with our new little baby girl. I felt so lucky. Not just to have had such a calm and homely delivery with those I loved around me. But also to have had Judy there again was such a gift. It made me realise the enormous value of an old-fashioned community midwife. The disappearance of midwives who are known and trusted, and who see many members of the same family bought into the world are a big loss.