Ok, so I know I said ‘last but not least’ at the start of my fourth baby, Max’s birth story but here we go again with baby number FIVE!
The decision to have a fifth baby came easy and we were very lucky to fall pregnant quite quickly. My pregnancy was pretty straightforward despite a list as long as my arm of wonderful (HIDEOUS) symptoms…the kind that no one talk about! Each of my pregnancies have been easier than the one before in terms of morning sickness, thank god! I felt great this time, just exhausted.
I expressed my desire to have a home birth at my booking appointment with my midwife, Gill, at 8 weeks. Labouring at home is something I have always wanted to experience. Mostly for the home comforts, my own shower and bed afterwards sounded great! There is nothing worse than being stuck in a tiny cubicle on a roasting hot busy ward. I also loved that our other children may be able to be there for the birth. Gill could not have been more supportive of my decision and was very reassuring throughout my pregnancy.
We saw obvious looking boy parts at the 12 week scan. I mean, we’ve had enough scans at this point we kind of know what we’re looking for. At 18 weeks we had it confirmed at a gender scan. A boy! Our fourth boy. We had the scan in secret and bought a couple of beautiful little outfits from Mamas & Papas for him to surprise the kids with later that day. They were SO excited!! Poor Georgia has longed for a sister for so long but instead has 4 little brothers, who she adores…though I’m sure she would disagree at times! Us girls are well and truly outnumbered. There are definitely some big positives to being the only girl! She will never have to share a room, or her clothes and she will forever be our favourite daughter :).
Time flew by and we were soon ordering the birth pool, having the gases delivered and collecting the home birth supplies from Peterhead hospital in preparation. All the way through my pregnancy it felt completely surreal. At every midwife appointment I mentioned that it just didn’t feel real, like it wasn’t happening to me. Even setting up the playroom as a make shift labour room didn’t make it sink it. By this point with the others I would be feeling panicked and scared. I came to the conclusion that it was just that I had no experience of birthing at home, only in hospital. Hospitals have always filled me with fear and made me feel anxious so I imagine that my fear of birth previously stemmed more from my fear of hospital. I had no expectations, it was new territory for me. I felt totally chilled about the whole thing! Max’s birth being such a positive one would have surely helped too.
I had much stronger and more frequent braxton hicks this time round and many times felt like it could have been the start of something. My due date ( Friday 26th January) came and went. I saw my midwife and had a membrane sweep, I was 2cm dilated. We arranged to see each other again on the Tuesday (or at least that’s what I thought) and I felt sure that I would have had the baby by then. The next couple of days were spent trying to get baby moving. We tried everything in the book! Even a walk at Balmedie beach on Saturday climbing up and down the sand dunes didn’t work! A slow and painful forest walk on Sunday didn’t either.
Tuesday 30th arrived, 40+4 weeks pregnant. Still no baby. I waddled into the doctors surgery at 9.30am to be greeted by the lovely Gill, who told me that it was actually only a phone call she had scheduled me in for and not an appointment, entirely my mistake. She asked me to come back at 12.30 when she would have a room available. Paul and I went to Georgia’s class cafe at school then headed to the garden centre. I remember telling Paul while we were there that baby would be born today. I just felt different. I felt achy and he felt low, like he was about to fall out! We collected Harris from nursery at 11.20 then headed home for lunch. Paul was busy batch cooking (if you know Paul, this will be of no surprise) while I lay on the sofa with Max, feeling exhausted. At 12pm I felt my first contraction, though I wasn’t 100% sure at the time if it was the real deal. I had an idea as I kind of had to breath through it, unlike the braxton hicks I had been experiencing. A couple more followed before my 12.30 appointment.
I had another sweep. I was 3+cm and my cervix was paper thin, babies head was low and waters were bulging. Things were happening, at last!
And then…my waters broke! At the doctors surgery!!
The contractions immediately ramped up a notch. I had 5 contraction in the next 20 minutes. Paul had been absolutely desperate to fill the birthing pool but I was putting him off until I knew it was actually happening. It very soon became apparent that it most definitely was! We weren’t back home long before calling Peterhead hospital to inform them that I was in labour. We were so lucky that my own midwife was on call that day and she gave me a call straight back to see how things were going! Paul collected Georgia and Cameron from school early at 2pm and shortly after at around 2.45 my sister, Emma, arrived to help with the kids. She has given birth three times herself but has always wanted to be at someone else’s birth so it was lovely to have her there and she was a great help. Gill then arrived with student midwife, Niamh, whom we had met a couple of times during my appointments. Second midwife Jude followed a short while later.
The contractions were in full swing, I wasn’t getting much of a break in between. I walked around the house keeping as mobile as possible to let gravity do its work. Paul and Gill taking turns rubbing my back with each contraction. Gill listened to babies heartbeat often which was reassuring. Aside from this, the midwives were very hands-off. I had no internal examinations. When the pool was filled and at temperature I stepped in. The relief was immense. I can’t believe I have never laboured in water before! My previous two labours were induced on the labour ward and were for the most part spent lying on a bed strapped down and hooked up. Being in the pool, feeling almost weightless and free to move around and change position easily felt incredible. I asked for gas and air. I always find it easier to control my breathing with G&A. It definitely took the edge off the pain too! Hats off to any ladies who go it completely drug free!
We had music playing and I could hear the kids playing and laughing in the next room. They were free to come and go as they pleased. Harris spent a lot of time in the room, entertaining us with his cheeky charm. I love how unphased he was by the whole thing, casually standing there licking a lollypop. He kept me going and made me smile and laugh between surges. The midwives were brilliant with the kids and made them all feel welcome in the room despite getting under their feet a few times I’m sure.
Paul is a pro birth partner and was as supportive and attentive as ever. He knew what I wanted or needed without me saying a word. A massage, water or an ice cold flannel on my neck, he knew. He got in the pool with me as he was finding it awkward to rub my back from the sidelines. We were fully prepared for all the grossness that would inevitably end up in the water, but not sick! I was having a wee bit of a coughing fit and they all thought sick was coming, but not me. I declined the sick bowl then seconds later realised they were right, but it was too late! The little sieve that came with the pool came in handy. The water smelt so bad, as did I. Sorry Gill!
I have so much admiration for midwives ❤
It got dark outside and I felt like he should have been here by now. Time was dragging. I fully expected this to be my fastest labour, I was wrong.
Emma got the kids tea sorted as I began to push. We managed to film this part. I was tired and ready for it all to be over. Ready to wash the sick out of my hair and snuggle our brand new baby in my own bed. I kept focused and listened to the midwives. Jude suggested I go on all fours and this helped massively. At this point, Paul called the kids through, they had always wanted to be at his birth. They stood watching, pizza in hand which was hilarious. I could feel everything!! At 5.47pm his head was born, immediately followed by his body. I sat up, looked down, and there he was in the water looking up at me. Our beautiful Hugo. The first thing I thought was ‘wow look at all that dark hair’!. I scooped him up only to realise he was a little tangled up in his cord. Round his neck, arm and leg! He was such an active baby in the womb I was not surprised! Gill untangled him before placing him on my chest. He was so calm and just lay there wide awake in my arms taking it all in. As I held him the song ‘Real Love’ by Tom Odell played softly in the background, I remember thinking how perfect it was. We stayed in the (smelly) water for a little while with the kids around the pool. Harris kept telling us that baby needed to be washed. He came out absolutely covered in vernix! Georgia and Cameron spoke to Hugo. Paul cut the cord. Max stayed in Auntie Emma’s arms looking a little shocked. I stepped out and lay on the sofa to deliver the placenta. I had the injection but it still took its time to come. Thankfully no stitches were needed! While Gill looked after me Jude checked Hugo over and got him weighed before dressing him. He weighed 9lb 1oz and was 56cm long, big boy! Cameron was pleased he didn’t knock him off the top spot for heaviest baby, he was 9lb 7oz at birth (40+3). Student midwife Niamh then had baby cuddles while Paul helped me get showered and into bed. I felt like I had been hit by a bus…it even hurt to breath! This is normal though. But using my own shower and getting into my own bed felt so good. It was Niamh’s first ever birth! It’s nice that she got to experience a ”normal” and calm birth before her placement on labour ward. Easing her in gently hehe. She was lovely and will make a superb midwife one day!
The midwives did all the paperwork at the kitchen table and Paul set the pump up to empty the pool while the kids all got a turn holding (fighting over) and getting to know their baby brother in our bed. After an hour or so the midwifes left and Emma helped get the kids to bed before setting off. As my blood type is O negative Paul had to drive into Aberdeen to drop off cord blood at the lab which was not ideal but he set me up in bed with my beloved Cadbury mini eggs and picked up a McDonald’s on his way home. Healthy! I’m sure we had a Burger King the night Harris was born. Beats tea and toast that’s for sure!
I am so happy to have finally experienced a home birth. It was AMAZING! To give birth surrounded by my family and in my own home was beyond special. I am eternally grateful to our midwives for making Georgia, Cameron, Harris and Max feel welcome in the room and such a big part of their baby brothers birth. They saw him take his first ever breath earthside and I don’t think they will ever forget. I certainly won’t. I have no doubt that being at the birth has strengthened their bond with Hugo, they are all besotted with him. I had a few wobbles during my pregnancy and doubted my decision to have a home birth but I’m so glad we went for it in the end. I worried that I wouldn’t feel as safe being at home and there were a lot of what if’s. That could not be further from the reality. I didn’t feel scared. I felt empowered, confident and strong. I felt 100% safe in the hands of my midwives. They were very calm and relaxed yet extremely professional. They completely put me at ease. My birth was everything I dreamed it would be and more.
If you are expecting and thinking about having a home birth, go for it! I would recommend it wholeheartedly. It is worlds apart from a hospital birth and that’s coming from someone who has had four fairly positive hospital births.
We finally registered the birth of ‘Hugo Bear Stephen Cruickshank’. Hugo always held top spot on our list of names and I still absolutely love it and think it’s well suited. He is our only baby with two middle names. We love our little Hugo Bear.
I am so pleased to have caught the birth on film. Something we have always wanted to do. However I think watching it may just result in baby number six. Watch this space 😉