When I became pregnant for the second time, I determined that the course of pregnancy and birth should be more relaxed than previously. As I was no longer working and we weren't planning to move house this time, the stress levels were immediately lower and therefore the nine months were a lot easier to cope with physically.
Over the period of nine months, as I got to know Eleanor, we discussed my "ideal" birth and she persuaded me that a home birth was a safe option and would make the process more relaxed. I agreed that I wanted to stay at home as long as possible and that if I was still at home when the baby was born then that would be okay. My first experience of labour and birth had been an induction and I was keen to avoid any form of intervention if that was possible. Eleanor seemed to think that one form of intervention invariably led to another and that a "hands off" approach worked best.
She also recommended some classes which would show me how to cope better with labour and enable my body to work with nature to make the process as quick and easy and labour and birth can be!!
As a result, when I went to bed feeling a little uncomfortable at one week overdue, I was quite calm. In fact, it didn't occur to me that this could be "it", after the trauma of my previous experience. At three o'clock I woke up with indigestion, went to the loo and went back to bed. By four o'clock, I realised that the apparent indigestion was appearing every five minutes and then dying away again. I began to get suspicious!
By five o'clock I had worked out that I was definitely in labour and was getting quite cold and uncomfortable. As I was no longer sleeping I got up and moved downstairs with my hospital bags and put the fire on. Thanks to Eleanor's preparation and the teaching I had received from the birth classes, I was still relaxed and calm and able to breath through my contractions, I even fell asleep occasionally. My husband joined me downstairs and we put a video on.
At seven o'clock our toddler came downstairs and asked me to play with various toys, at which point my contractions all but ceased. We decided to get him to his friend's house as quickly as possible so that they might return. He left at about eight thirty and I wandered about, trying to be patient.
Eleanor had gone on holiday two days previously and was being covered by another midwife. However, she had reassured me that she wasn't going away and would still come when labour started. The plan was that she would assess me and then I would stop at home as long as I was comfortable to do so. She said that she would spot any potential problem long before I did so there was no need to worry. She had even brought me a birthing pool which I could try if I felt it would help.
Knowing that Eleanor was away, we rang the midwife to tell her that I was in labour but that I felt I was coping well and that the contractions were now about every twenty minutes, but could she make sure that Eleanor was available today. She rang back to say that Eleanor was at home and would come as soon as the contractions were regular again.
At about ten fifteen, everything started again so I got back into my comfortable position on the beanbag and we rang for Eleanor to come. She arrived at about eleven, took my blood pressure, checked the baby's position and heartbeat and pronounced everything fine. My contractions seemed to have increased in intensity so I asked if she and Simon (my husband) would set up the pool. I didn't really need any pain relief but was starting to think that I soon would. I had been unable to use the pool during my first labour time but had heard that it was supposed to help. By the time the pool was ready I needed Entonox to get to it as the pains were very strong. I was unaware of the timing but knew that I had needed gas and air for a few hours last time so I had been saving it until I could no longer cope. However, by the time I got to the pool, I felt a strong urge to push and expressed surprise that it was still so early. I had expected to be in labour for hours yet. Eleanor was very reassuring and encouraged me to follow my body's instincts. I had still not had any kind of internal examination as it hadn't been necessary. My first birth in hospital had required so much interference (due to the hospital staff's concerns) that this was surprisingly relaxed and felt like it was as nature intended. It made me feel much calmer and able to proceed without medical intervention.
I was determined to use the pool after it had been built and filled so I got in and pushed when I felt the need and a short while later Matthew was born. I was amazed at the ease with which I pushed him out.having a relaxed environment and a midwife who appears to trust you and helps you to work with nature really makes a difference.
There was no time pressure so I had a natural third stage and was then able to relax and bond with our new baby. Eleanor had called another midwife to be present at the actual birth and between them they emptied the pool and cleared up - something else which had concerned me about home births. As a result of his natural entrance to the world, Matthew has been a very calm baby and much easier to care for than our first child at that age. I have also taken a lot less time to get over the birth.
A lot of the difference between the two births was simply because it was the second time around and my body worked better, but I am convinced that the lack of intervention and Eleanor's calmness made Matthew's birth the joyous occasion that it should have been.