WRITTEN BY RACHEL BRADFORD (GUEST WRITER)
Hi, I’m Rachel, mother to three kids under five, and proud home birther to two out of three of my babies. We welcomed our last baby, Temperance, into the world on 28th September 2020 in the midst of a global pandemic in our home is Hampshire.
This was our second home birth, both of which were empowering and amazing experiences. So here’s my story of a pandemic home birth
My home birth experience (Southampton University Trusts)
The first moment I knew I was in labour was in the morning of the 28th around 7:30am when I started to feel strong backache and mild contractions that bordered on braxton hicks. Our four year old was due to go to school (his first full day) so my husband dropped him off, taking our two year old with him so I can pace around the living room, and bounce on my exercise/birthing ball. They came back and I put our two year old down for a nap around 9:30am.
I started to monitor the contractions and read a bit of my book (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) to distract me as they started to get more intense. I phoned the midwives around 10am to have a chat. My contractions weren’t hugely regular, a mix of 4 minutes to 2 minutes apart, sometimes lasting 30 seconds, sometimes longer. I knew this was typical for my body from my previous births. I don’t fall into a particular pattern. I decided on the phone to give it a little longer before I requested the midwives to come.
Half an hour later, the contractions were getting increasingly more difficult to talk through so I called again. The labour line said they would contact the midwives and see if and who could come out to me. I received a call perhaps 10minutes later from the midwife saying she was coming from the hospital and how was I doing? I was starting to get the bearing down sensation from the contractions where the pressure started to build in my back, spread to the front and pushed downward. I said this to the midwife who asked if I thought it would be a good idea to request the second midwife which I said yes. They would be with us in half an hour.
In that time, Dann began filling our hired birthing pool. He had inflated it earlier that morning before the school drop off. The pool took about 30 minutes to fill being a mini birthing pool (the standard size can be upwards of 45 minutes but our water tank struggles to keep up with that size and maintain the water temperature at 36 degrees. We’ve learnt this from previous experience.) To fill up faster, Dann connected hoses to both our kitchen sink tap, and the hot tap in our downstairs toilet. The pool was filled when the midwives arrived at around 11:30am.
The lead midwife (who turned out to be the student who had attended both of my previous births which was pretty special) did my internal exam, as well as general wellbeing checks giving me some entonox to tide me over as the pain was getting more intense. We phoned my friend to come collect Dexter who had now woken from his nap, and I got into the birthing pool with the entonox by my side. The midwives were super helpful with hand holding and helping me get into the pool whilst my husband sorted Dexter who was good as gold throughout.
As soon as I got in the pool the sensation to push increased and I let my body do its thing. The next part is a little fuzzy from the pain and pain relief (entonox makes me very heady and spaced out though I know this isn’t the case for most). Not long later, I could feel baby girl’s head near crowning, and I was aware of the midwives monitoring more closely, using the mirror in the pool to monitor any crowning.
To everyone’s surprise, my own included, she crowned on a contraction, with her body slipping out on the same push. My previous home birth, I pushed the head out, then had to wait a full contraction later before I could push his body out. The midwives caught her and said I could move back so they could pass her up to me. The surprise is written all over my face in some of the photos my husband took. Dexter was with me the entire time, blowing on the entonox canister by the pool as I breathed it in.
I was given the injection to pass the placenta, passed Temperance to my husband and the midwives and guided out of the pool to the sofa to pass the placenta and get checked over. Before I managed to get to the sofa, the placenta slipped out onto the floor. Fortunately we have wood flooring and understanding midwives who had a good laugh about it.
After another check for tears and grazes, I was deemed as a graze which didn’t need stitches (the midwives can do these at home so you don’t have to transfer) and Temperance was brought back for cuddles and her first feed whilst the midwives monitored me for a bit longer and fill in their paperwork whilst we all enjoyed a cup of tea. My friend arrived to collect Dexter for a playdate so we had a bit of time as a three with our baby girl. The most fascinating part of having a home birth is learning about the placenta checks the midwives do, particularly as our hospital trust is a teaching hospital so always has students. I had three midwives attending in the end for this birth.
It was an intense and quite quick birth, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
How the pandemic affected our pregnancy and birth experience
As a low risk pregnancy, I was lucky to not have many difficulties. Due to the pandemic, my husband couldn’t attend a single scan which was hard, even as a third time mother. We had our first scan a week into the first lockdown. I was the one who told my husband we were having a girl when I got back in the car after my 20 week scan.
All my appointments with my midwife (the same community midwife I’ve had for each of my pregnancies and the most supportive woman ever, she was the one to suggest a home birth in the first instance.) were alone, in masks.
I had an additional growth scan at 37 weeks due to stagnant growth which was not a hugely fun experience, though bumping into Lucinda, my midwife at the hospital was nice.
During my actual birth, the pandemic fortunately didn’t make a big impact. The only real perceptible difference was the fact the midwives wore masks the entirely time, aside from when they had a drink. I am glad we chose a home birth as I think I would have ended up birthing alone in a hospital due to restrictions and childcare.
I think the pregnancy restrictions were far worse and harder than the labour restrictions, and I am very pleased to see that a lot of Covid restrictions have been lifted now for partners and pregnant people.
The months since have been different to how we expected to spend our days with our baby girl when we conceived her in January 2020, but we have our healthy baby girl and a wonderful birth experience to remember, and that’s all that matters to me.
YOU CAN READ RACHEL’S FIRST GUEST POST BY CLICKING HERE : EVERYTHING YOU NEED WHEN PLANNING A HOME BIRTH
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