Last night, we had my mate Phil and his family round. Towards the end of the night, we watched some old camcorder footage of times we have shared and of our daughter when she was 1 0r 2. We began talking about when my daughter was born and Phil said his presiding memory of their first visit to our house after the birth was that our house was so peaceful. This got me remembering…
Just over five years ago, my wife Lisa gave birth to our daughter in our bathroom. I look back on the birth with wonder and pride because it was such a great experience and because we did virtually the whole labour without anyone else around. We had opted for a home birth as, after doing a hospital visit, Lisa realised that home was where she would be most comfortable.
The night before, we had been watching Eastenders on the tv, but Lisa felt uncomfortable and went to bed early. Around midnight, we called our midwife to announce things were happening but she told us to go back to bed. (I should say we chose our midwife because she is lovely, wacky and very relaxed and makes you feel confident and able). She then decided to pop round anyway, just to tell us in person to get back to bed! She left our house telling us that she would be in touch in the morning.
So, it was just Lisa and I at home. Lisa labouring in our bed. We hugged through the contractions and slept in between. This being our first baby, we had nothing to compare with and just presumed that things were moving steadily, but with Lisa slightly fearing that things would ramp up at some point. Every now and then, I would bring Lisa some iced water, or carry her to the loo, or give her a back rub – and the night just seemed to pass, both of us sleepily excited. Throughout the entire labour and birth, Lisa had no ‘medical’ pain-relief. I say ‘medical’ because one of the things we had learned was that if a mother is relaxed and supported, then her body will flood itself natural pain relieving hormones.
Around 8.30am, our midwife rang to see how we were getting on. I said that things were fine and that Lisa was managing her contractions but I had no idea how far things were.Our midwife said she would pop to the hospital and then come over. Around 9.30am, she arrived after having an argument with a hospital staff member about parking. She walked in without her equipment as it sounded like things were moving slowly, only to find Lisa was very close to giving birth! She ran out and came back with her equipment, but then she did nothing with it (- another reason why we wanted her. She was very hands-off and could see how things were progressing just by observing).
Long story short, our daughter was born in our bathroom only 45 mins later. Lisa had her head on my shoulders as our daughter was born and within a short space of time the two of them had their first bath and feed together. In the meantime, the midwife and I made the bed and tidied up and then we all celebrated with cake and champagne! The midwife left and, within an hour or so, it was just the three of us in our bed, Lisa and I just grinning in wonder!
And we stayed like that for a good fortnight. Visitors were kept to a minimum. Lisa stayed in her pyjamas. The curtains stayed drawn and the house was peaceful. Yes, we upset some people who didn’t understand why we weren’t letting them just walk in, but this was important to us. They got to see our little girl eventually, and it didn’t seem to matter after that!
Lisa is now an antenatal teacher, doula and champion for home birth, such was the impact that the experience had. As for me: initially, I told everyone I met every single detail about the birth until Lisa told me to reign it in a bit! And I did come to realise how difficult it is for some parents to hear our story when they have had emergencies during birth or other difficult experiences of birth. I know that somehow,things just went right for us – but I also think we’d managed to make the right choices for us as well. And I do believe that if a mother would feel safest and most relaxed in hospital, then that must surely be the right place for them.
But I also chose to talk about this in this blog because a few of our friends are/have recently been pregnant, and talking to them I found a common thread. People seem to love telling pregnant women their horror stories! Why this is so is beyond me. But it makes me want to tell our story. And to keep on telling it. Again and again. And hope that at least one person/couple is made more relaxed ahead of their birth having heard a good story.
As a dad, I want to tell our story because I was fundamental in the birth. It was a shared thing and I had a key role to play. I wasn’t a spare part, I was involved in every contraction and am so glad that I was.
I want to tell our story. Not to brag, and certainly not because we really knew what we were doing, but because we are evidence that births can be, and often are, an amazing experience. If anything helped our birth, it was the positive guidance and support we received from our friends, antenatal teacher and our midwife, and most importantly: Lisa’s and my belief in each other.
Five years on, I am still inspired by that day and by Lisa’s strength, courage and dedication. And I still grin with wonder!