Homebirth... Does that give you a sense of joy or does it sound terrifying? If it's the latter, then I hope this post might show some of the positives and who knows... maybe you'll find you'd quite like one.
The first time I heard or even considered homebirth was at my very first antenatal appointment with my midwife some three years ago. As we were filling out my paperwork, she asked the question "Where would you like to give birth?" My immediate response, definitely at hospital!
However some months later, at our very first hypnobirthing class, our teacher told us "One in four of my couples end up opting for a homebirth".
As first time parents, all of us in the group were adamant we wanted to be in hospital or at a birthing centre. Well let me tell you, over the 4 week course I ended up telling my midwife I wanted a homebirth - I was the one in four. So what the hell happened to change my mind?!
Folks, all I can honestly tell you is that it was the power of hypnobirthing that completely changed my mindset towards birth. The course left me with an incredible sense of peace and confidence, and I knew homebirth would be the most relaxing environment for me to birth in the way my body was designed to do.
So what happened once I made up my mind - well first things first, my paperwork got updated and I was put on the homebirth team's list (where we lived had its own dedicated homebirth team - not always the case as we'll talk about shortly). Closer to my due date, my midwife popped to my house to drop off a homebirth kit (complete with suture kits, pads and an adorable little hat) and I had the number to call when I went into labour. It was all very straightforward. Not once, did I have my decision questioned - I had an incredibly open midwife who was thrilled that I had chosen a homebirth as a first time mum. (Again I know this isn't always the case if you're classed as "medium" or "high" risk or have any existing conditions).
The time came when my waters went and I was put on a 24 hour clock before they'd want me to be in hospital and be induced (I didn't realise at the time but going into the hospital would have my own choice - please remember you are in charge, you get to make decisions based on the evidence at hand).
My first labour was sloooow - my waters trickled on Wednesday night with mild cramping and by Thursday they had started to ramp up (giving my parents time to drive down to us - my mum was one of my birth partners), but boy did it feel good to be at home. I pottered around the house, had counter pressure applied to my pelvis, had food and drink offered, listened to my hypnobirthing relaxation tracks and used my TENs machine.
As it got towards evening, my surges were close enough that the visiting midwives decided they would stay. I kept moving, had my aromatherapy going and eventually got into my birthing pool with my gas & air (you get your own canister for a homebirth) - the pool felt amazing but the gas & air made me feel a little loopy (I had some very strange hallucinations/visualisations)!
As things ramped up, there was a shift change and I got two new midwives who were very quiet and let me get on with it, which helped me stay in the zone. I kept needing the toilet so had to traipse upstairs (wish we'd had a toilet downstairs!) and on one of these trips in the early hours, I told my husband who'd come with me that baby was definitely coming as my waters fully popped. He called the midwives up and they assured me that it was fairly common to deliver baby in the bathroom but I decided I wanted to go back downstairs so moved in between surges.
They said I was due an examination (again, this is your own choice) and I agreed, at which point they told me I was ready to push. The rest is a bit of a blur until I felt my little girl's head emerge and suddenly she was on my chest for the most amazing cuddles.
The midwives left us to it for a glorious hour of skin-to-skin (during which time my placenta was delivered naturally - this is the most amazing organ and I recommend you check yours out) before they examined me and saw I'd torn more than they were able to fix on our sofa.
Everything that happened next was done calmly, they got an ambulance to our house which transported us as a family of three to our closest hospital for my stitches. And this is something to remember if you're considering a homebirth - you will never feel like you're in danger - the midwives know what to look out for and wouldn't hesitate to call an ambulance at the slightest sign of things going awry.
My first homebirth was an amazing experience and it meant that when I fell pregnant for the second time, I definitely wanted another homebirth. So again I opted to put homebirth on my antenatal paperwork (but having moved to a new NHS trust area, there was no dedicated homebirth team). Second time round under this new Trust, things seemed a little more formal (and it was during Covid times) as we had a structured home assessment with a community midwife. They ran through questions about access to the property, environment, and talked me through the risks and circumstances where they'd suggest we were transferred into hospital.
I think I knew from early on that we wouldn't get our homebirth the second time round - it seemed like with limited resources, there just wouldn't be enough midwives to support us. And so after being all prepared with our birth pool, sparkly lights, aromatherapy, birth ball - it just wasn't to be. I laboured mostly at home so still got all the benefits of being relaxed in my own environment but did end up giving birth in the wonderful birthing centre at the hospital (and if we hadn't left for hospital when we did, I'm fairly certain it would have been a freebirth!) N.B. A freebirth is when you give birth without any medical professionals.
Unfortunately, I didn't spend that first night at home with my newborn either time (which many say is one of the best parts), but for me, being in hospital proved to be the right decision both times.
So if you're considering a homebirth, I strongly urge you to go for it! I have zero regrets - remember if you change your mind or if there aren't the homebirth midwives available - you will always be able to go to hospital/the birthing centre. But if you want, or end up having, a hospital birth - those can be pretty amazing too!