Ginny & Esme
My husband Jim and I had never really thought about how or where we wanted to have a baby. We just always assumed it would be a hospital birth.
It wasn’t until we were assigned a local team of midwives called ‘The Lanes’ that we started to seriously consider a home birth. The Lanes were like something out of ‘Call the Midwife’. They would turn up to appointments at our flat on their bicycles - how quaint - in Peckham!
Our midwives made the whole pregnancy wonderful and not having to visit hospital was lovely. It was especially lovely for Jim who has a rather squeamish tendency to faint dramatically in medical situations. We were reminded of this when we visited the King’s Birth Centre for a guided tour and during a rather graphic presentation in a very hot and crowded room I heard the door open and Jim had suddenly disappeared.
There is obviously always a risk with having a home birth in case of any complications but we felt so supported and reassured by our midwives that we decided to go for it, and the hospital was only 10 minutes away if anything happened.
We set about preparing ourselves for the main event. Jim focussed on making the perfect playlist. We borrowed a birthing pool from a friend (and bought a fresh liner!). This pool had already had 2 attempted home births so the pressure was on!
We’d also been recommended by a lovely friend to try out hypnobirthing as a natural pain relief method as well as it being an amazing relaxation process. We went ahead and enrolled on a course with the wonderful Hollie aka @theyesmummum. That was a great choice.
I’d been having period type pains for a week or so and on my due date I woke early with stronger pains than usual. My midwife was due to visit that day anyway as it was my due date. I was sure I wasn’t going to go into labour today - I’d been told by pretty much everyone that your first baby is always late… but maybe not this time.
Of course in true nesting style, Jim and I had undertaken some serious house renovations during this pregnancy which had just been completed - Thank god!
Back to the contractions… I spoke to my friend Jane who said it definitely sounds like the contractions are starting. The midwife arrived for my appointment and she said it sounds as if this is the early stage of labour, but this could go on for a couple of days before actual labour begins. A couple of days?! She recommended we get on with our day as normal.
Because our flat had just been finished there were a few finishing touches to get done. First was to deal with the massive gaping hole in the sitting room. We had a fire surround to pick up which I had bought on eBay, so we jumped in the car and drove a little way out of London to pick it up. By the time we were on our way home the contractions were getting pretty painful, I was having to really concentrate to get through the pain.
When we got home I got on the Swiss ball and talked to the midwife on the phone. She told me to whack the tens machine on and told me not to be afraid to use it. I cranked it up - it seemed to help so kept it on.
During this time I zoned out a bit and practiced the hypnobirthing breathing I’d been taught. Jim in the mean time was in our TINY kitchen filling the birthing pool. It pretty much filled the entire floor (don’t think you need lots of space to have a home birth - our 1 bed flat was tiny and we managed to squeeze a pool in) At some point the midwife arrived… I don’t really remember this as I was so in the moment. By now my surges were strong and it was probably about 8pm. I went and got in the pool which was amazing - so soothing. Jim had made the kitchen perfect… low light and peaceful. He’d made me a playlist of ambient electronica which at the time of compiling felt perfect. In reality it totally did my head in and all I wanted to listen to was Nouvelle Vague… on repeat. I mean… I don’t even like Nouvelle Vague and we’ve never listened to them since!
Jim was incredibly supportive and filled the pool with more warm water whilst obeying my demands to “wipe my mouth!” all the time. Weird the things you need when you’re having a baby.
The pool was so warm and floating in there was so nice that I started to fall asleep between contractions, which in turn made the labour slow down.
The midwives wanted to get things going again so encouraged me to get out and walk around. I’d been drinking quite a lot of Ribena throughout the labour so far but hadn’t yet had a wee. My midwife suggested I tried but I just couldn’t. It was weird, I just didn’t know what was going on down there.
After some hours of contractions both Jim and I were getting tired. It was around midnight now. Our midwife suggested we went and had a lie down in bed to have a rest. We snuggled up together and Jim was instantly asleep, where as I was in agony, it was so painful. Then a pretty strong surge came which made me vomit. Oh god, this was horrible! I was given some paracetamol to help with the pain. I was checked to see how dilated I was and by this point I was 7 cm.
After this things started to speed up pretty quickly, the midwives suggested sitting on the loo to get things moving - this did the trick, although I really didn’t want the baby to plop into the loo, that wasn’t what I had in mind! The pressure was so intense I couldn’t handle it and got off the toilet. I should mention, the whole way through this I’d been doing the hypnobirthing breathing - it was helping. As I got off the toilet a surge came and the urge to push was insane. I dropped to my knees and did a bit of ‘mooing’ I think!
The midwives got me to the sofa and everything from here is a bit of a blur. I felt like I was pushing for ages, but the baby’s head wasn’t appearing. Basically, because I hadn’t been able to go for a wee my bladder was full and stopping the baby from moving down. They had to use a catheter eventually. I was still struggling to push the baby out so this is when the midwives said that they we going to have to make a slight cut to help things along.
I was given some anaesthetic and thought they had done the procedure when another surge came and I pushed, my midwife Vanessa was incredible at encouraging me to push at the right time. From somewhere I mustered enough energy and pushed the baby out. To my delight I later learned that they hadn’t had time to do the Episiotomy.
At 6:18am weighing 7lbs 8oz our beautiful little girl was born - welcome to the world Esme Pickles! This was amazing, I’d given birth to our baby, on the sofa in our living room, at home - with only a couple of paracetamol for pain relief!
Unfortunately, Esme was a bit quiet and didn't seem very interested in feeding. Her complexion wasn't as rosy it should be either. After a couple of hours the midwives decided we needed to take Esme into hospital.
We were scared. The ambulance arrived and I stumbled about trying to work out what to wear. Poor Jim had to drive behind us following the blue flashing lights. Esme had a little oxygen mask on - she was having trouble breathing.
Once we arrived at the hospital Esme was whisked away, we didn’t see her for a few hours. It was the most frightening experience. It was out of our control. Our baby girl was poorly and we didn’t know why. Eventually we were taken to see her, she was in a incubator with little tubes all over her. We cried. We couldn’t hold her, she looked so fragile and tiny. We changed her nappy for the first time through the holes in the incubator and sat beside her all day, I wasn’t allowed a bed because I wasn’t the one that was admitted so I sat on an uncomfortable hard chair all day having only just given birth hours before.
That evening we were told to go home, there wasn’t space for us to stay the night. We had to leave little Esme, all by herself. It was the most heartbreaking and surreal feeling to go home to an empty flat without our new baby. Jim and I lay in bed and looked at photos of our baby girl and cried. Neither of us had slept for over 30 hours - we were exhausted.
The next day we were up and out. We wanted to get to hospital as early as we could so that I could start breastfeeding her. By 6am we were on the ward to see our precious girl.
I really struggled to feed her, she just wasn’t interested. Of course, the nurses had to feed her formula whilst I was at home, so her little tummy was full. It was frustrating because all I wanted to do was to nourish her and make her strong.
A nurse suggested I used a breast pump to stimulate the milk, so I sat in the ‘milking room’ and started pumping away - what a relief! To my horror when I peeled the breast pump off it took some skin with it - Nooooooooooooooooo! Oh my god, this really wasn’t going well. I haven’t even started breastfeeding yet!
Thank goodness for Charlotte, from Birthtale. She came to our rescue and helped me breastfeed Esme through gritted teeth. All I can say is, it hurt. Charlotte was so incredibly supportive and helped us through a really tough time. With perseverance, through toe curling pain - we got there.
The third night we were given a room on the ward and Esme was able to stay in the room with us. We managed to hand express milk and feed her using a syringe. Jim was amazing and we woke together throughout the night to feed Esme. Charlotte was incredibly supportive and helped us through this really tough time.
7 days later we were given the all clear to go home. We never really found out what was wrong with Esme. We were told it was some kind of chest infection.
The main thing is she flourished, and became a healthy happy baby. We’re so pleased we managed a home birth… we wouldn’t change it even though it was a bit of a traumatic ending.