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Our home birth story – plastic sheets, birthing pools and no paracetamol

When we told our friends and family that we planned to have a home birth for our second baby, a lot of them thought we were mad. But being such a home body and having had a painful third-degree tear during her first labour in hospital (and subsequently finding out that mums are statistically less likely to tear if they have a home birth), she knew that having baby number two at home was the right thing for her. 

It was three days until our due date – my birthday, as it happened – and everything was in place for our home birth:

  • We’d met all the community midwives from our local homebirth team, and knew we were in safe hands (they were all lovely and very experienced).
  • We’d been practising our hypnobirthing techniques (something we would massively recommend) after completing a refresher course with Miriam, our hypnobirthing guru from The Parent Tribe.
  • Our house renovation was pretty much finished (thank God), and the builders weren’t due back for a few weeks.
  • We’d rented a birth pool (which came with a special poo sieve thrown in…don’t ask), that was sat in a crate in the hallway ready for the main event (I’d even managed to practise inflating it, which I’m pleased to say was simple enough).
Our home birth story - birthing pool practice
  • We’d made two birthing playlists for Rosie on Spotify – one fun one for the early stages of labour with all the oxytocin-inducing songs from our wedding, and another more chilled one for later with long classical tracks and Indian melodies to remind Rosie of her days living in Udaipur.
  • I’d re-downloaded our old trusty contraction app, so we could keep track of the surges once they started coming.
  • And we’d stocked up on old towels and sheets from the charity shop, as well as a few extra-large waterproof tarpaulins from B&Q to protect our recently laid new carpets!

We were ready.

As it was my birthday, we had a lovely chilled day together, just the three of us, going into town for an early evening wander (which turned into a bit more of a trek than originally planned), before returning home for crumpets and cake before putting Teddy to bed. 

Daddy's birthday

It was while I was washing Teddy in the bath that Rosie said, “This baby’s coming tonight.”

I thought she was joking but it turned out her maternal instincts were right on point. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say it had something to do with light pink discharge and leave it at that.

So, with that bombshell, we put Teddy to bed, kissed him goodnight and went downstairs to wait for the inevitable contractions to start. Aside from the odd twinge though, there was no sign of movement yet, so we just carried on our evening as normal…

I made her a supper of fishcakes and courgettes (a nod to our last meal before Teddy was born) as, if this baby really was coming tonight, she’d need her energy.

Last supper

Meanwhile, Rosie (in typical Rosie style) insisted on doing the ironing. When she was in labour with Teddy, literally just before we left for the hospital, I came back in from loading the car to find her doing the washing up, so this was very much in character!) I offered to take over, of course, but she said she wanted to be on her feet, so who was I to argue…

To help get things going and boost her oxytocin levels, I put on the DVD of our wedding day for us to watch while she ironed…we were in the zone.

Our home birth story - crazy ironing lady

At around 10pm, we carefully set up the playroom in preparation for the birth. I moved all of Teddy’s toys into the hallway, laid out the plastic dust sheets and tarpaulins on the floor and sofa, covered them in our charity shop sheets and duvets (to make it look more inviting and less like a murder scene), before finally laying out the birthing pool ready to inflate and fill later. Happy with our handy work, we both nervously wandered upstairs to practise our hypnobirthing exercises ‘on bed’ and wait it out.

Almost immediately, the surges started coming. Randomly at first, around five to six minutes apart, but we just knew this wasn’t a drill. As we’d practised, I read our hypnobirthing scripts to Rosie while stroking her arm (one of the soothing techniques they teach you if you go down the hypnobirthing route). I could see that Rosie was far from comfortable, but being in our bedroom, at least she was relaxed and calm…which was another reason why we wanted the home birth in the first place. I too projected a calm and relaxed exterior, though under the surface I was secretly shitting myself.

With one eye on the contraction tracking app and another on Rosie, it was clear at about 11:45pm that we were progressing fast. The surges were getting stronger and were now about three minutes apart, each lasting 60 seconds (the exact stage where we’d been told to go to the hospital when Teddy was born). Knowing though that we wouldn’t need to get into the car and drive to the hospital was definitely a huge relief.

It was about this time, that I started getting twitchy. Rosie didn’t want me to leave her side, but I knew this baby was coming soon and I still had to get the birthing pool inflated and filled (my one job!) before it got too late. So, she reluctantly agreed to let me go downstairs to set everything up. 

I was also desperate to the call the midwives at this point. Teddy was born just eight hours after the first contraction, and we’d been told by numerous people that your subsequent labours are usually much quicker than the first. But Rosie wanted to wait until the last moment to call (wanting as unassisted a birth as possible), so I reluctantly agreed to hold off until the pool was inflated…

I rushed downstairs to get started. The dry run had gone without a hitch, so I knew what I was doing. But the pressure was REAL. It went straight up no problem, so (with a huge sigh of relief) I called the midwife to tell her it was time to come over. 

With that ticked off my list, I hurried into the utility room to connect the hose to the taps, so I could fill up the pool. They connected fine (with a special attachment sent by the birthing pool company), so I blasted the hot tap on full. Just as it went full stream, the hose flew off the tap and drenched me and the walls in boiling hot water. Turns out the tap adapter wasn’t such a fan of our old Victorian plumbing…

It was at this point that Rosie decided to come downstairs and see how I was getting on.

Let’s just say, she wasn’t best pleased (“You had ONE job!”) as she waddled off to fill every saucepan we owned with water to heat on the hob. I would have said it was an over-reaction (though not to her face and not at that exact moment) as the hose still worked, efficiently filling the pool in about 30 minutes. Saying that, it only actually worked with me physically holding the hose connecter in place, with just the odd squirt of water in my face as the whole contraption occasionally sprung loose. 

I’ll admit…it was a slight deviation from the plan (mainly as Rosie was left to manage the surges on her own while I acted as a human hose connecter), but at least it did the job in the end. The pool was filled. The temperature was just right.

We were ready…

Hose dramas over, Rosie and I were back together. The lights were dimmed, the calming playlist was on, so she did her thing while I did mine…massaging her back, coaching her through each contraction, while secretly panicking about where the hell the midwife had got to.

It was 12:45am…nearly an hour since I’d called them. I discreetly texted the midwife to ask her ETA, and she replied instantly to say she had just parked up outside. When I left Rosie to let her in, I found her soaking wet on the doorstep…we were in the middle of a horrendous storm but in the commotion of preparing the birthing pool, I hadn’t even noticed.

Having the home birth midwife with us was a massive relief (for me, in any case). She sensitively checked on Rosie, took the baby’s heartrate, and suggested Rosie get in the pool. We’d been holding off, thinking it would be good to save it for later as a pain reliever, but the midwife said the warm water might actually speed things along, increasing her oxytocin levels and helping the baby arrive sooner.

So, with a little help stepping in, Rosie submerged her body in the steamy water. From the look on her face, it was the best thing she could have done (she loves a bath, but this was something else). Pure relief. But still, I could tell that the contractions were getting more and more powerful.

Our home birth story - the birthing pool

I wish I could have taken the pain away. I offered her paracetamol numerous times to take the edge off (to take the edge off?! Lol) but she said no, showing the kind of inner strength I could never even dream of having (I would have been straight on the drugs, no questions asked…). All I could do was keep telling her how brilliantly she was doing, while massaging her back and forcing her to sip isotonic drinks at every opportunity to keep her energy levels up.

The pool was working for Rosie, so for the next hour she stayed put in there, while I occasionally topped it up with the kettle to keep the temperature consistent. She was doing so well but started doubting herself, crying out and saying she couldn’t do it. But the midwife and I reassured her that she was doing an incredible job and the baby was progressing really quickly. It really was.

At 1:30am, the second midwife arrived to assist with the delivery, which we could all tell was imminent. The lead midwife, who had been sitting quietly in the kitchen nearby (observing from afar as we’d asked her to), came into our homemade birthing suite to check the baby’s heartbeat.

Our home birth story - birthing pool mama

She didn’t examine Rosie though to check how many centimetres dilated she was. As we’d asked to have the birth as unassisted as possible, they were happy to just let her body do what it was programmed to do, uninterrupted. She said, “it’s time.” 

Since Rosie had torn last time with Teddy, and needed surgery after his birth, the midwives suggested that Rosie come out of the pool at this stage, so the baby could be delivered on the sofa, in the most controlled way possible. We knew this was a possibility, so weren’t surprised. In these instances, you really need to take their lead. The last thing we wanted was a situation where Rosie might need to be transferred to hospital after the baby arrived.

So, we very carefully helped Rosie out of the pool, dried her off with a towel, and guided her onto the (heavily waterproofed) sofa. There she knelt, elbows on the back of the sofa, ready to bring this baby into the world.

The next 22 minutes went by in a blur. The room was dark. Soft Indian music played in the background. Rosie started doubting herself again, but I repeated how incredible she was doing, how strong she was, and how close she was to seeing our baby. She gripped my hand like a vice, as the midwife coached her through the final stages, taking it painfully slowly to prevent any tearing. The control she showed was immense…an incredible thing to witness.

Kneeling with her on the sofa, I watched as the baby’s head slowly crowned. Within minutes, it was completely out. A deep shade of purple but weirdly familiar…just the most beautiful sight. And with a few controlled pushes more (that felt like forever but actually only lasted two minutes), he emerged in one go, straight into the midwife’s waiting hands.

Our boy. Hugh Orlando. 

A great hulk of a baby, with long fingers and big feet. Weighing in at a massive nine pounds nine ounces. Literally perfect in every way.

Our big baby boy

I don’t know how she did it, but she did. In under four hours, with no pain relief whatsoever, not even a paracetamol. And best of all, she managed to do it all without tearing this time.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so lucky. We really couldn’t have asked for a more perfect home birth…all while Teddy lay sound asleep in his bed, unaware of the life changing event that had just unfolded on the sofa downstairs.

Our home birth story - the aftermath

Seeing Rosie give Hugh his first feed, I couldn’t have been more proud of her – of us – for creating this perfect little being.

Our home birth story - amazing mum

While I emptied the birthing pool and the home birth midwives cleaned up the sheets and waterproof covers, Rosie slowly climbed the stairs to put Hugh down for his first sleep in his Moses basket, before having a hot shower in our own bathroom, getting into a clean set of PJs and settling into our bed. 

No labour ward. No fluorescent lighting. And no plastic sheets. Just home comforts.

This was what she wanted most of all from our home birth, and boy did she deserve it.

Our home birth story - she did it

For more advice on pregnancy, birth and parenthood, my new book YOU THE DADDY: The Hands-on Dad’s Guide to Fatherhood, is OUT NOW to buy!


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1 Comment

  1. Sean Robinson
    17th February 2020 / 9:31 am

    Thank you, we have just decided to go down three home birthing (and hypnobirthing) route. Your experience is so well written and gives us a lot of reassurance and confidence that we can do it too.

    I read somewhere that human beings will nest (at home) but then are one of the few animals that oddly decide to go somewhere completely alien and unnatural to them for the birth (a hospital). With so many new people, sounds, smells, pressures…. its no wonder there can be complications and damage to the mothers like tearing etc. So we will stick to where is familiar and natural, our peaceful home environment where she is relaxed and I can attempt to make things less stressful, which I need to learn to get better at actually!! Thanks again and congratulations.