It’s taken me almost a year to put this story together, to put into words one of the most profound experiences of my life and also one of the most personal. I’ve started writing and re-writing it a hundred times, unsure of the details to include or keep private and unsure of how to tell a story with a million parts and details without writing a whole book. From preparing for a home birth, to confronting previous birth trauma and then experiencing profound joy, giving birth at home was, and is, one of the most significant moments of my life. In sharing my birth story(s) I hope to inspire other women to consider home birth if they want to but more importantly I hope to inspire people to talk about birth with a more open dialogue. To talk about the good and the bad. To talk about all the choices and options and to help women believe in themselves and their bodies and to rid themselves of doubt, worry and feelings of failure.
In March 2016, Jasmine, my first daughter, was born in a fairly straightforward hospital birth. I spent the vast majority of time calmly labouring at home, arriving at the hospital to give birth less than 2 whirlwind hours later. In many ways, it was the birth I had wanted and planned, natural and un-medicated and ultimately, the birth that made me a Mother. The experience though, however transformative and “low risk” still left me feeling somewhat shaken, and my healing, both physically and emotionally, took many months. I remember spending many moments during those first few weeks, amongst the joy and celebrations, feeling shock, pain and sadness and that somehow, I hadn’t actually had the birth I’d wanted at all.
If you’re squeamish, feel free to skip this bit! Following Jasmine’s birth I required internal stitches following a 2nd degree tear, which although is really common (over 80% of first births), was also my biggest fear and meant that I was taken away from newborn Jasmine for over an hour to be “stitched up,” which was far more traumatic for me than the birth itself. (I used double the amount of gas and air!) My post-partum recovery was hard and I wasn’t prepared for it. I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and failure when I re-told my birth story (which of course I now curse myself for in hindsight) and to be honest, I felt jealous and envious when I heard stories of women who had experienced water births or who hadn’t had stitches. Now, I can see that those feelings were there because I hadn’t processed or understood my own story, let alone realised how amazing it truly all was! Jasmine’s birth sparked my interest in reading about other women’s birth stories, birth trauma and birth culture around the world.
When we found out we were expecting Summer (although of course we didn’t know it was her at the time) I almost immediately started making plans for a home birth and I knew it was something that I wanted to make a reality, if at all possible. My community midwives were really supportive from the start and the idea, although misunderstood by some, felt like exactly the right thing for me (and Ben!) I researched the various logistics involved with doing it at home, ordered a birthing pool, joined some hugely helpful Facebook groups and started listening to Home-birth podcasts. I wanted all the knowledge I could get and really dedicated time to reading and preparing, something I didn’t do much of before having Jasmine. (For her, I adopted a more “go with the flow” approach!) Most importantly I created a space in my mind that was overwhelmingly positive about home birth. It’s safe to say I was vehemently determined but of course I always kept in mind the unpredictability and risks that childbirth can (but doesn’t always) bring.
A big step in the preparations for home-birth was booking a “birth after-thoughts” appointment at our local hospital during which Ben and I met with a senior midwife to go through the details of Jasmine’s birth. I was able to ask questions and find out so many things I hadn’t known at the time, like why I hadn’t been able to have a birthing pool. I was able to cry (and cry and cry) and release 2 years worth of built up emotion related to my first birth. The midwife not only helped me to come to terms with Jasmine’s birth story but also knew just from speaking to me that I was a “home birther.” She knew it before I even said it was what I wanted! I left that appointment feeling understood, empowered and at for the first time, at ease. If you have any degree of birth trauma be it from an emergency delivery to the most straightforward delivery, I strongly urge you to talk it through with a professional. You deserve to free yourself of negative associations and own your birth story without shame, fear or feelings of failure.
Preparing for a home-birth was also a big exercise in regularly practising mindfulness, meditation and visualisation. I was mindful about what birth stories I listened to and mindful of not letting people’s concerns or worries invade my space. I spent hours visualising the birth I wanted, imagining it playing out step by step, building a clear picture in my mind of what I wanted, from the atmosphere in the home to the guidance I wanted from my birth partners to all the things I didn’t want as well. I made a set of positive affirmations which I stuck around the house and I spoke to women whose own experiences or words of encouragement made me feel uplifted and strong. I downloaded hypnobirthing tracks onto my phone and listened to them in the shower, as I drifted off to sleep and as and when I needed to. I was determined, focused, positive and most importantly, I believed in myself and my ability to birth safely in the comfort of my own home.
Part 2 – Giving birth at home – coming next!