Cat thought about having her first baby at home, but in the end opted for a birth centre. She wouldn’t say it was easy, but her birth was just as straight-forward as she’d hoped.
Cat, London, mum to Isabel born in January 2016
“I was interested in a home birth but my husband was worried”
This was my first baby and although I had morning sickness at first, the rest of the pregnancy was very straight-forward.
I was interested in having a home birth but my husband was worried about not having medical care close by. We talked to the midwife and she said that because I had a low-risk pregnancy, going to the birth centre that’s connected to the local hospital might be the best option for me.
I didn’t really know the difference between a birth centre and a labour ward before, but I had a look at the birth centre’s online tour and liked the look of it, so we decided that’s where we wanted our baby to be born.
“I was already fully dilated when I got to the birth centre”
My due date came and went, and I was actually booked in to have an induction. But a few days before the scheduled induction I went into labour in the night. I slept through the first six to seven hours of labour and then in the morning I quite rapidly got very painful contractions.
We phoned the midwives a few times during that time, and after about three hours of very painful contractions we went to the birth centre. When I got in, the woman who met us said: “Oh, you must be Catherine, I recognise your screaming from the phone!”
The midwife examined me and said that I was already fully dilated so I got to go straight into the delivery room together with my husband – I didn’t have to wander the corridors. I had a bit of gas and air but because I was so far along already there wasn’t really time for any other pain relief.
“I pushed for three hours before my baby was born”
I had planned to have a natural birth but changed my mind while I was at home having contractions. Because I thought I was still in the very early stages, I thought “Oh my God, this really hurts” and wanted stronger pain relief.
But when I got to the birth centre and found out I was already fully dilated and was told I could only have gas and air I was happy – it was what I’d wanted from the start.
Although I was fully open when I got to the birth centre, it took me three hours of pushing before the baby was born. They were actually just about to call in the doctor because they thought the baby may not come on her own at all.
But then the baby finally made her appearance and I was completely overwhelmed. I was relieved that it had all gone well and that I hadn’t needed any assistance from the doctor. I got to have skin-to-skin contact with her and she started feeding straight away.
The midwife and student midwife who looked after me were both really good, and actually it was the student who delivered me. I wasn’t worried at all because she was clearly well supervised, so I felt I was in good hands.
“My husband had to sleep on a chair next to the bed”
After the birth, we stayed on the postnatal ward overnight. It was a shared ward but there was only one other woman and baby there, so it was still pretty quiet. Because it was a ward for women who hadn’t had any complications we were left on our own quite a bit so my husband had to find a midwife if there was anything we wanted to ask them.
My husband stayed over but he had to sleep on a chair next to the bed as there wasn’t anywhere else for him to sleep. He had to leave me in the birth centre for a few hours to go home and get his own things for the overnight stay.
In retrospect, it would have been better if we had found out a bit more about what the arrangements would be for after the birth and planned to bring him some things in the hospital bag as well. We didn’t really know about that before the birth as we hadn’t researched that at all.
A friend of mine had her baby in a different birth centre and has showed me pictures of what their room looked like and it was completely different – it looked a lot more luxurious. So I think birth centres can be very different as well.
“Bringing the baby home was both an amazing and bizarre feeling”
The afternoon after the birth, we brought the baby home for the first time. It was an amazing and also bizarre feeling to be driving home with a baby in the car. She was tiny. It was such a lovely feeling to bring her home.
If I were to have another baby and that pregnancy was going well, I think I would consider having a home birth. I think my husband would be more comfortable with it the second time around as he was there when I did quite a lot of the labouring at home this time. Plus it would be nice to have all the comforts of my own home – and a bed for my husband to sleep in.
You only really hear sort of horror stories before you give birth, but mine was quite nice and straight-forward. I wouldn’t say it was easy, but I can kind of look back at it and feel lucky that I got a birth that I was happy with.