Donna did an antenatal and hypnobirthing course with me in preparation for the birth of her first baby, and had continued support from me, as well as @samanthagadsdendoula and @kemibirthjoyjohnson, particularly when she went past 40 weeks, and then past 42 weeks… and hit 43 weeks… and gave birth AT HOME at 44 weeks with nhs midwives in attendance.
Her story is inspirational in the strength she had to show to advocate for herself and her baby, to stand up for her beliefs and instincts in the face of repeated coercion and fearmongering from her midwives, both throughout her pregnancy AND throughout labour, and endurance and conviction she showed. I am in awe of her power and determination. A 44 week pregnancy is something that terrifies some pregnant people but Donna had faith in her baby and her body and waited until her baby chose his birthday. She did so much work to inform herself and make the best and most educated decisions for her baby, and thank god she did, given the coercion and misinformation she faced!
💫 44 week birth story 💫
First time mum.
Known boy - Vinnie Judah Marsh
EDD - 18/04/22
Birth date - 16/05/22
44 weeks exactly!
Planned: home water birth
Actual: home land birth
Pain relief: hypnobirthing, birth pool and a comb in each hand.
Trigger warning - difficult midwives
I had a relatively easy/ stress free pregnancy up until the midwife appointment where they ask if you’d like to have measurements taken. I always knew I wanted to decline measurements as I have a lot of friends that were induced due to suspected big babies that then went on to have just your average sized babies. Some had instrumental births and others c sections. I’d spent my whole pregnancy up until that point researching guidelines, statistics, birth rights and listening to birth podcasts so I really felt confident that my body would be able birth my baby. I also didn’t want to give any ammo for them to try and label me as high risk.
The looks I’d get from the midwives at each appointment when declining these measurements, each one would ask why when it was quite obvious it was already on my notes. I can be hard headed and stubborn if needed and rightly so as I was told so many false things - my placenta will deteriorate after 41 weeks, some breech babies the head won’t be born, my blood type can change during pregnancy…. So much misinformation being spread from midwives. I was told at 34 weeks I would need to be referred to a consultant because I was refusing routine care (measurements)I refused that referral too. That particular midwife was the worst of them all, I felt as though maybe she’d read my notes and seen I was a ‘difficult’ patient and it was her own personal goal to get me to comply. I was totally ignored at each appointment when I spoke about wanting a homebirth, I ended up speaking with the head of midwifery at 38 weeks who reassured me she’d get things in place and arrange for my home check. That eventually did happen.
My 40 week appointment fell on good Friday so the antenatal clinic would be closed and so reluctantly the midwife booked it for 41 weeks instead. The day before my 41 week appointment I rang to cancel it as I felt the best place for me would be at home where I’m comfortable without the stress of an appointment. At that point they did everything they could to try and make me come in for daily monitoring as per their guidelines but I declined. They asked if they could send someone out for monitoring every day with the Doppler and I said I’d prefer not to, I trust my baby is well and will be born when he’s ready if I feel like somethings not right I will go to the hospital. They then asked if they could come out just twice a week to which I agreed but said they were not to talk to me about sweeps or induction due to being ‘over’ because I’d done my research and am fully aware of the risks and benefits. This was ignored and I had some heated appointments in my own home where again I was told a sweep is not induction (yes it is) and that my placenta would fail. I was also begged to just have my baby in the MLU as I’m overdue and it’s safer. Again I declined.
At the 43 week point I was starting to feel low, I’d been so strong past 40 weeks and had managed to ignore the concerns and views of those around me about being overdue but at 43 weeks I was tired and emotional. My doula had said she wanted to give me space to allow me to relax and hopefully things would get going, I was to contact her when things got going.
Aside from the misinformed midwives and friends around me I did have some really supportive people help me. As I was approaching the middle of my 43rd week of being pregnant I reached out to Kemi birthjoy Johnson and had a reassuring phone call with her to put any niggling worries to bed, the midwives were really stressing me out at this point and she helped me to put things back into perspective. I also did Sams ‘stages of birth’ workshop just to prepare myself on what to expect, this helped massively as I felt the pressures from those around were starting to cloud my vision and I was losing sight of all of the things I’d learnt since becoming pregnant. I’d done a hypnobirthing course with Erin at Better Birth earlier on in my pregnancy and kept checking in with her for reassurance and facts relating to where I was at, as stubborn as I can be you do become really vulnerable and emotional so late in pregnancy, the support from these women were invaluable. Also Victoria from Free to birth was a great listener and had similar battles with midwives as myself so that was again another great help in keeping my spirits up and sticking to my guns.
I was having what I now believe were early labour contractions on and off Friday, Saturday and Sunday but they were mild, I was able to carry on with my normal day to day things and kept it to myself as I really didn’t think it was anything. I went to bed Sunday night at about quarter to 12 and woke up to strong contractions 45 minutes later at 12.30am, I said to Andy I think things are happening but to leave me alone for a while, I went straight to the en-suite put pillows down on the floor and breathed through the contractions on all fours for an hour or so until I realised they were close together, Andy rang my doula Jo who said she’d be over shortly, when she arrived the contractions were roughly 3-4 minutes apart and I wasn’t able to speak through them. She suggested Andy fill the birth pool and get the room ready. I moved to our bed to give my wrists and knees a break from the floor, I moved to the bed and got into the on all fours position but felt unsteady on a mattress. I then tried being on my back for on contraction and vomited from the pain in that position, it was actually toe curling for me.
I then slowly made my way downstairs and into the birthing pool which was the biggest sense of relief. In there I was on all fours rocking back and forth in the dark with a few fairy lights lighting the room, it’s strange that although the contractions were close together and incredibly intense I felt like I was outside of my body in another realm, time literally flew by and a couple of hours later I felt a pop which was my waters and could feel my body naturally baring down/ pushing. My doula rang the midwives to come at this stage. They came and were pretty hands off but unfortunately did break my peace with their whispering and tap tap tapping on the laptop. I wanted undisturbed and unobserved so aside from a quick ‘hello my name is’ they just did their Doppler check every 15 mins like standard. It didn’t bother me to begin with until later on when they increased it to every 5 minutes.
Something to be aware of if you are having NHS midwives attend your home birth, even outside of a labour ward or MLU setting is they still have their timings and guidelines to follow. The main midwife at my homebirth didn’t like that I wouldn’t consent to VE’s and that progress wasn’t fast enough in her eyes.
So after almost an hour and a half of them being there and me ‘actively pushing’ (my body was just doing it by itself) she disturbed my peace to tell me she wanted to do a VE to check my cervix dilation, I told her that gives no indication of how long is left and can actually stall labour so I said no. Id always planned to decline them the same way I’d declined bump measurements and growth scans. She was then like well maybe your cervix is swollen or has a lip that’s caught or maybe you aren’t dilated enough to be pushing so we’d like to check that. I said no as again I don’t believe it was necessary, not all women dilate a cm an hour. Not everyone dilates to 10cm, my baby was fine on doppler checks and so was I, I wasn’t going to change my mind. She must have asked 3 times during my homebirth, the answer was no every single time.
So then I tried to go for a wee as it had been a few hours and I’d been drinking throughout but every time I almost started to wee I had a contraction which interrupted it so I decided to empty my bladder with a catheter then got back into the pool.
Ten mins later the midwife starts doing the Doppler checks more regularly and was doing them during contractions which was incredibly annoying, also I know that baby’s heart beat is still affected by the contraction and she then tried telling me baby’s heart rate had been low the last two readings and she wanted to transfer me in an ambulance to the hospital, my exact words then were ‘no that’s convenient as you’d told me ten minutes ago I was coming to the end of your hour and a half cut off time for pushing without progress’. She looked shocked 😂
She was like well we want to transfer you to hospital (45 minute drive in an ambulance on a motorway to worster) because she wasn’t happy with baby’s heartbeat.
I said I’m not transferring in, the journey will stall my labour, I’ll be strapped to a ctg machine on my back and that in itself actually increases your chance of c section by 50%. I don’t think she was expecting stats from me in between contractions.
I got out of the birthing pool and said to just check his heart beat a few more times and she did, sure enough it had already gone back to his normal rate and she agreed he was actually fine. I 100% believe this was her just wanting to get me transferred in if it’s taking too long in their eyes. (She’d also had the other midwife call the ambulance and two were outside our house just waiting to transfer me in).
By this point my doula came over and said she could see I was stressed from these conversations, she too had been asking the midwives to leave the room while we discussed my options etc and id give them my answer and they’d still keep on. My doula put some essential oils on to burn and reassured me that what I’d said had been accurate, I was safe and could do this. I stayed out of the birthing pool at this point as I wanted to try different positions, I was laid on my side with my leg up and much to the midwifes surprise his head was visible. She seemed shocked, she clearly hadn’t realised how close to giving birth I was to want to interrupt that and put me in an ambulance for 45 minutes. I really believe it’d be useful for the midwives to do Sams stages of birth workshop as maybe then they’d learn this whole ‘failure to progress’ is actually more likely to be the ‘rest and be thankful stage’ along with the need for a little extra patience on their part!
At this point my doula suggested I stand up to see if gravity would help, so I slowly got up, Andy held my arms behind me while I squatted down and a few pushes later he was born down onto the pillows beneath me. He didn’t make a sound right away and I could feel the panic of the midwives around me but I knew he was fine, it’s strange even though this was my first baby and birth I just knew he was all good. He was placed on my chest and he began crying. There shouldn’t be a rush or panic if there’s no noise right away, they’ve just transitioned from one world into another give them a second.
I kept him on my chest then and said not to touch his umbilical cord or cover his head with the towel, I just wanted to breathe my baby in and keep the oxytocin going. The main midwife straight away was slightly concerned as he had light meconium on his face (a very light yellow wash of it) and also she said he was tiny, less than the 2nd centile… having never had measurements taken during my pregnancy I literally had no idea what centile meant and still don’t. Again she wanted me to transfer into hospital for the Meconium and because he was a small baby. The meconium was so thin and light, id done lots of research on this in the final weeks of my pregnancy so I was happy for them to do their checks once I’d finished my skin to skin time and birthed the placenta naturally but we wouldn’t be transferring into hospital. I knew that would lead to him being taken away from me for monitoring. Had it been thick black meconium then sure I’d see the need for the transfer but I just knew my baby was good. After an hour and a half of skin to skin I birthed the placenta, Andy cut the umbilical cord, by this point it had gone white and had stopped pulsing. The midwives then did their checks on my baby and he was fine his saturation levels were all good and they wrote a list of things I needed to monitor myself at home in regards to the meconium. He weighed 6lb 7oz which in their eyes is small but my mum and my aunts all had 6lb babies so I do believe it’s just in our family. He was clearly staying in there because he needed to be in there, I do think imagine what he’d have weighed if I’d have been induced at 41 weeks!
I didn’t have any pain relief I just held on to a comb in each hand for the entire 11.5 hours, the second he was born they were thrown down on to the ground so I could hold my baby.
It was an incredible and empowering birth, I felt so in tune with my own body and have a new found appreciation for mothers, birth and birth keepers. If I could go back and change one thing I would definitely not have midwives attend as it did change the vibe when they turned up. I do believe my labour would have been shorter and less stressful without them. If I ever have any more babies I will freebirth, I’d have been happy to this time but stupidly put my partners wishes before my own.
My advice to anyone wanting to homebirth especially as a first time mum, do your research and know your rights. I literally devoted my whole pregnancy to learning about birth and it really paid off.
And also a huuuuuuuge thank you to you, I learnt so much throughout my pregnancy from your page and posts and podcast, your passion for birth and being informed is incredible. I always knew if there was anything I was unsure of I could find the answer on your page along with the evidence to support your findings. I honestly couldn’t have advocated for myself without your help, so thank you xx