Home Birth Series: Part 3 - London flats, managing family expectations and the magic moments.
With huge thanks to one of our wonderful mums Katie for sharing her story!
I feel so fortunate to be able to look back positively on both of my births, which were at home as planned, the first in 2017 and the second in 2019.
With the first, I had just assumed that I would have a hospital birth. I was aware of home birth and it had crossed my mind that it might suit me, but it was only when my midwife mentioned it at my booking appointment, that I realised it could be a real possibility. It just so happened, that because I had registered with St Thomas’ hospital and where I lived in Streatham, I had been assigned to the now called Olive midwife team and it turns out that they are a team that support the highest number of home births in the country. I knew instinctively that home birth would be most suitable to me, but it was the reassurance that I got from my midwife that helped to anchor it for me. Researching it, alongside my understanding of how birth works and the hormones involved, I knew that for me personally, I would have a greater chance of intervention-free birth if I planned to have it at home. The transfer rate to hospital for first time mums is quite high at around 50% (then at least), so we settled on the idea that we would “start at home” and I fully expected to have to transfer into hospital at some point. Being in London, we’re lucky enough to be about 8 minutes away by ambulance to multiple major hospitals, so I didn’t worry about that aspect.
For my first, we were living in a flat, so I was also quite worried about bothering the neighbours, but actually they were so well insulated I don’t think they heard me at all. I was completely free to move around, change position, do whatever I liked to help me bring baby into the world. I used the pool for relief (and gas & air), though in the end, I gave birth standing up holding onto the dining table! Baby came out in one push and the midwife only just caught him before he hit the deck! Then it was straight onto our sofa for cuddles, feeding and delivering the placenta. The midwifes left us within 2 hours of birth and I could have a wonderful shower in my own bathroom and climb into our freshly made bed as a family of 3 and snuggle in. It really was amazing. We were well looked after with a midwife visit later that day and plenty more home visits across the next 10 days or so.
For my second, we were in our house by then and this one was a little quicker. Within an hour of the midwife getting here, baby arrived, this time in the pool. Snuggles on the sofa again with the fire on and big brother was able to come downstairs when he woke up to meet his little sister, which was just an incredible moment.
A few tips on preparing for one:
We chose not to tell anyone that we were planning a home birth the first time around. Unfortunately, there is still a bit of stigma associated with it and I knew we would be questioned for 9 months on it and urged to go to hospital (especially because I went 2 weeks over my dates), so we just didn’t tell anyone. No actual lies - when asked what hospital, we just said we were registered with St Thomas’ which was the truth.
The birth partner has quite a lot to do so I’d recommend getting them involved in it. Luckily, my husband was brilliant - not only did he support me, got the environment set up including the birth pool, cooked a lasagne for the midwives and us (which was brilliant for the next day) but he also did all the clean up whilst I showered and snoozed after.
I would really recommend doing a hypnobirthing course - it’s such a powerful tool. Not only during labour, but I also used it to settle my mind when I went 2 weeks over dates - again I was getting a lot of pressure from family about this. And I used it to feel confident in my instincts and decision to delay induction and avoid interventions.
Research, research, research so that you feel completely comfortable that you know all your choices associated with birth and are able to get the answers you need from your support team
There’s all the material prep you’ll need too, although you don’t actually need that much to give birth at home. The midwives will bring their box to your house a few weeks before your due date so they have all of their kit there. You’ll just need to provide towels, old sheets, plastic coverings (like dust sheets) are useful for extra protection of sofas and carpets. Your midwife will advise.
Other things I’d recommend that might be useful: soft lighting (fairy lights, candles), a diffuser with some relaxing essential oils, a birth ball, music of your choice (my first we listened to Enya on repeat for 12 hours, so my husband can’t listen to it anymore! My second we listened to Ludvico Einaudi which I’d really recommend), water or homemade electrolyte drink and healthy snacks.
Home birth really is the most incredibly empowering experience. You’ll learn so much about your body and it’s amazing capabilities!