Being pregnant during a pandemic is not an ideal situation and many home birth services have been reduced or suspended completely, taking away women's choice in where and how they birth their baby.
This was the situation here, in Northamptonshire, when Keira was investigating her options for the birth of her fourth child. She got in touch with me for support quite close to her due date and we managed a few antenatal sessions via video and a lot of chat on messenger in order to prepare Keira and her family for her baby's birth, regardless of where she chose to birth. Keira was faced with either going to hospital or birthing at home without a midwife present. And, with her history of fast labours, no transport and negative experiences of birthing at hospital, Keira made the informed choice to plan to freebirth at home.
Here is the story of Oakley's birth, as told by his mummy....
"So leading up to the birth of our beautiful Oakley, I was adamant he would be early like his sister and brother because I was getting pains and a lot of pressure for weeks, then all of a sudden everything stopped for a few days, making me think he was actually going to be stubborn like his brother Oscar.
Then came the early hours of his due date, 16th May, I woke up around 4.15am in pain, but left Lee sleeping, went for a wee and got back into bed thinking it was just a false alarm. I had just managed to nod back off and got woke up again to more pains around 5am. This time I just knew it was the real deal. I woke Lee up, went for another wee and was contracting on the toilet, I wasn't timing them at this point, but they were definitely close together and I felt the urge to poo. Lee still wasn't out of bed so I called him to the bathroom and asked if he could text my doula and start setting up the pool. He didn't take me seriously at first, and said it's probably just a false alarm, but he did as I asked anyway (or so I thought!). I'm basically stuck on the toilet upstairs for the next 15 mins or so contracting and being sick while I waited for the pool to be set up in my living room, finally manage to get down the stairs and ask Lee if Becki had replied, to which he told me he hadn't text her yet because he didn't know for sure if I really was in labour! So, I text her myself and then rang her and she said she would be around an hour. I then text her again to say things were progressing quickly and could she come sooner than an hour, and she said she would get herself ready and leave asap, she arrived within about half hour if that, at 6.45am ish.
Things were really picking up by this point and I felt my body go into transition as I started shaking before each contraction, but just couldn't move from the chair to the pool as the contractions were so close together and intense. I had a little routine going: uncontrollable shaking, contraction, sickness, repeat, just like my last 3 births, so I knew I was close!! I carried on with my deep breathing techniques and squeezing Lee's dressing gown with every contraction. I can't remember what point this was, but he did remember to play the song I had asked him to: "a thousand years" by Christina Perri, which was lovely and relaxing! He had made sure towels etc were all ready and was right by my side as soon as I needed him to be, reassuring me and kissing my head.
Becki was also just amazing from start to finish, as soon as she arrived she was telling me how amazing I was doing and to just keep listening to my body. She made sure the pool was all ok and everything was ready, was continuously washing out and bringing back my sick bowl, comforting me and just made me feel so much more confident and relaxed about birthing at home!
A little time passed of me going through my little routine on the chair every few minutes and Grayson-Lee woke up so Lee brought him down and he was quite happy sat watching TV, not phased by what was happening at all, and then all of a sudden I had the urge to wee and poo, again. I went to the toilet (luckily we have one downstairs too!) had a wee, pushed in an attempt to poo and my waters broke so Becki suggested I stand up so baby wasn't born on the toilet. I stood up and my body pushed again so Becki suggested I got on all fours in the hallway while Lee got some towels thinking he would be born there! Becki suggested trying to get into the pool at the end of my next contraction and although it seemed like the longest walk of my life, I managed to get there and oh my god the water was instant relief! I so wish I had got in sooner.
Anyway, I knelt in the pool, squeezed the handle and just allowed my body to birth our beautiful baby boy, I asked if the head could be seen and Becki said to feel, which I did and was so amazed at feeling his tiny little head slowly coming out, then Lee said "yes, his heads out babe!!' I was so happy because I knew with the next push my body did, he would be in my arms, and he was, bless him, born at 7.25am, straight into mummy’s hands and I could not have been more proud of myself! Lee didn't know what to do until he heard the cry! As soon as Oakley cried, he was relaxed and went to wake Tiana and Oscar up! They came down and were in complete shock that I'd given birth but were really happy ,bless them, and they all spent time around the pool admiring their new baby brother."
"I started shaking uncontrollably again and was still being sick every few minutes, (also the usual for me after birth) so I got out the pool and dried off/ wrapped up etc, and just tried to relax. It didn't stop and went on for quite a while so we thought maybe it was time for the placenta to come out. Becki had sat right by my side waiting bless her for 40 minutes until my body was ready to deliver it. I stood up and with 2 small pushes and the help of gravity, it was delivered and caught by Becki in a tupperware pot at 8.05am. We did optimal cord clamping, and Lee tied and cut it! We could all finally enjoy cuddling and admiring this beautiful new addition to the family!!
We contacted the labour ward about an hour or so after the birth to inform them and see if they could send a midwife out to check me over as I was still shaking every few mins and being sick, and to weigh Oakley. At first we were told there was no midwives to send out, but then 2 were sent. Everything was fine, I declined the vaginal examinations and anti D injection, and the test on Oakley's hips etc, also no vitamin K. He weighed 6lb 13oz and is 52cm long. He is just perfect and we are so in love!!! Becki stayed with us the whole day helping out, the kids loved her, she made sure I had everything I needed and got me upstairs to bed, taught me a lot about breastfeeding, spoon fed Oakley my colostrum because he wasn't feeding and was just there for me while Lee was keeping up with the other 3 kids. She emptied and cleared away the pool and towels and everything. I honestly cannot recommend her enough. She is fantastic and anyone wanting a home birth - I'd hire Becki as your doula!!!"
What helped Keira to be able to make an informed choice and to feel prepared for an unassisted birth was accessing practical information, hear positive freebirth stories and recieving unbiased and non-judgemental supported.
For anyone else who may be considering freebirth or where BBA (Born Before Arrival) might be a reality, here are some useful resources:
Exploring Freebirth by The Caerphilly Doula, Samantha Gadsden
Home Birth Support Group UK - Facebook Group
Freebirth And Emergency Childbirth Support Group UK - Facebook Group
(Paid, unit based learning)
(Association of Improvement to the Maternity Services)
Many thanks to Oakely's mummy, Keira, for sharing her birth story and allowing me to use the lovely photos. I feel truly blessed to have shared this awesome event with you and your family!