This is not a recount of a dream home birth but my story about how love, care, knowledge, choice and strength won when my home birth dreams fell apart.
In May 2017 I found out I was expecting baby number two. After an unplanned section with my first baby I was already looking forward to the opportunity of having a successful home birth.
Kelly Silk was my midwife with my first and after the level of care and support she gave me last time I requested to have her again.
I was initially disappointed to hear that Kelly was moving on a short time into my pregnancy and so wouldn’t be able to fulfil the continuity of care for me. I was instead assigned Lucy Nuttall. Kelly attended our first appointment with Lucy and we had a long chat and giggle about my previous pregnancy and birth. I felt an immediate connection with Lucy and was so happy to have her as our midwife.
Lucy came to our house for all of our appointments, in the evening so my husband could be present and didn’t have to take time off work. Our appointments were a family occasion with my little boy, Nathaniel, being fully involved in each one. Lucy involved Nathaniel, who was two years old, in all of her observations including using the Doppler and taking my blood pressure. She made him feel like he had an important part in looking after me and the baby. Lucy was so great with Nathaniel that after a few appointments he would go into her bag as soon as she arrived, get everything out that she needed and begin the observations before Lucy had even been given a cup of tea. I’m certain that the time, care and patience that Lucy had for Nathaniel enabled him to accept the arrival of the new baby and continue to be helpful and caring towards her in the outside world.
During our appointments we discussed any concerns and desires for my labour and birth. Lucy gave us all the information we needed and more, completely supporting and respecting us the whole way. We decided on and were excited about a home birth and began making plans, including what we would do if things went off course like in my first birth. Our rights, choices and options were made very clear by Lucy, we couldn’t have been better equipped. My husband and I attended hypnobirthing classes taught by Lucy and although we successfully hypnobirthed the first time around I was eager to have a fresh start and make sure I was as prepared as I could be for my second birth. I have found hypnobirthing to be the most valuable tool for me during labour.
On Tuesday 16th January I was woken at 4am to some strong tightenings. They weren’t regular but I knew this was the real deal and I would be seeing my baby in the next 24hrs or so. I got in touch with Lucy once it was a sociable time of the day to tell her what was going on. By midday she had dropped off the pool. I went about my day, playing with Nathaniel, as my contractions got closer together and longer in duration. At 4pm I called my husband to come home from work as it was getting dark and I was starting to feel the need to prepare for the birth. As the evening progressed so did my labour and I kept regular contact with Lucy, who by 6pm told us to blow the pool up ready.
This was a really special moment between my husband, Nathaniel and I. We talked about how the pool was for mummy to get the baby out and that by tomorrow his baby sister would be here. It was the final time we were together as a family of three. By 7:30pm Nathaniel had gone to bed and things got a lot more intense, so I called Lucy again who instructed us to start filling the pool. She was on her way over to our house. Lucy arrived along with Zoe, we got the kettle on and I hopped in the pool with a nice brew, chatting between contractions. I continued to eat, drink, chat and giggle in between contractions, I was thoroughly enjoying my labour thanks to hypnobirthing and was not in any pain at all. I progressed well and followed my body, letting it do its thing, trusting it and going along with all the sensations. I could feel my baby in my birth canal ready to enter the world but after a while, some acrobatics and various movements from me she didn’t arrive.
Lucy decided to examine me to see what was going on. Things took an unusual turn made worse by the fact that I must be the only person in the world where gas and air does the opposite job and my baby had moved into a very uncomfortable position in her efforts to try and navigate the final rotation in my pelvis. I describe my labour as a yin and yang labour. One side it was serene, beautiful and pain free and on the other side in what felt like a split second it became panicked and painful. Lucy gave me some choices at this point, a) transfer to hospital now or b) ride things out for another hour and reassess. I chose option b. I chose this option so that I could regain my control and manage my newly acquired pain. I hopped back in the pool and calmed myself down for an hour whilst riding out whatever my body was trying to do. After the hour was up, Lucy asked me to go for a wee upstairs. The pain got worse at this point and I knew things weren’t right, so I announced that I needed to transfer to hospital. Lucy again gave me my options. She said that when we go to hospital they will offer me forceps. We had discussed my opposition towards forceps birth many times during my pregnancy and so I reiterated my opinion. Lucy told me that’s fine and it is my choice.
I got ready to go to hospital as my panic and pain increased. Baby’s position was really making me uncomfortable and my contractions were rolling one into the other, pressing all the time around the place where baby was stuck. By the time I’d got to hospital I was in full panic mode. All hypnobirthing had gone out of the window and I couldn’t have any pain relief of any kind. The consultant as expected told me they wanted to perform a forceps birth. I refused. They asked me a further three times. I refused. My birth had already gone so astray but, thanks to Lucy, I knew I had choice. I knew that forceps was not the best choice for me and my baby and I had a right to that choice. I then had to wait for theatre to be ready, it was the longest wait of my life but it was made easier by my husband and Gail, the midwife who had come to hospital with me. I’ll never be so grateful for a wet paper towel on my lips as I was then. Thank you Gail!
The anaesthetist performed the spinal block and I knew right away it hadn’t worked properly but I’d been reassured it had. The consultant made the incision and I felt some sensation, not pain, but it was enough to immediately need a general anaesthetic. In that moment I remembered I still had choice. I asked them to do delayed cord clamping and to use my cord tie instead of a hospital clamp. By 6:30am I was asleep and my beautiful baby girl, Lumen, was brought into the world at 6:55am, handed to her daddy with a really long cord and did skin to skin for four hours until I was awake in recovery. We went back into our room on the labour ward and were under the care of a really lovely midwife. I breastfed. She tied her cord tie on and my husband cut the cord down. I was well looked after in hospital but was feeling so upset, embarrassed and traumatised by the way Lumen’s birth had happened. Both my husband and I spent ages on the phone to Lucy, making us feel a lot more positive about everything and Lucy reminded me about how to best build a bond with Lumen after having been apart for a long time after her birth and overcome the trauma of waking up after surgery to no baby in my belly or in the room.
I spent three nights in hospital and I could not have asked for more from the staff on the maternity ward and the infant feeding team. I was cared for completely and with compassion. After I came home from hospital I felt more and more upset and guilty about my labour and birth so I arranged to have an appointment with Lucy at a time where Nathaniel could be away from the house. When Lucy came over I told her all of my feelings, the guilt I had for choosing a section because it was causing such an inconvenience to everyone and that it caused me to be separated from Lumen and the guilt I had for trying to have another home birth after a previously ‘failed’ home birth. I also felt like such a failure and like I’d let everyone down, including Lucy. I cried and laughed during our chat and through Lucy’s kind words and knowledge I came out the other side knowing that I’d tried my very best and made the best choices for me, my baby and my family. I had nothing to be ashamed of and I had brought a beautiful human into the world.
If Lucy hadn’t taken the time to get to know me and us as a family or the time to have the chat mentioned above, I’d still be feeling guilty, ashamed and traumatised by Lumen’s birth. I can never repay Lucy for what she gave me and my family but I know that I’ll be forever grateful and we will always carry her in our hearts. She helped our little ray of light, Lumen come into the world safely and allowed her light to shine over us in a time where things could have been very dark.
Thank you Lucy for being a midwife from your soul. Any family is lucky to have you care for them. Thank you One to One Midwives for championing choice for all women. Even when you feel like you have no choice.