Shelley’s HomeBirth Story in Water

Shelley’s Homebirth Story

Content from:

I never, ever saw myself as the sort of woman who’d have a homebirth, but after my first experience of labour – a miserable hospital birth – I knew something had to be different second time round.

My first labour left me feeling disempowered and scared – very positive about my wonderful, supportive husband, utterly in love with my beautiful new son, but extremely negative about my own contribution to the process. When friends and family told me how well I’d done, I could feel a rising anger: ‘I didn’t do anything,’ I would retort. ‘Labour was done to me.’

It had begun well, at home; with my husband and me in charge, it was mellow and intimate – no fear or panic. After admission to hospital, things went downhill. As the pain increased, my well-meaning midwife didn’t help me take more active steps to cope. I perched on the edge of the bed under increasing stress as one epidural failed and then – hours later – a second only took initially on one side. When I wasn’t dilating ‘fast enough’ I was told I had no choice but to have a hormone drip. Finally, my son was delivered by ventouse. Throughout, the message was consistent – I couldn’t do this without medical help.

For many months, I assumed I’d never have another child. When my son was a year old, I started wanting a second, but was very frightened about the birth. How could a second labour be different from the first? It had already been made clear to me that I wasn’t capable of bearing the pain or delivering a baby without some serious, heavy-duty medical help.

A friend had given me Melanie Milan’s number and, though I was sure I didn’t want a home birth, I called her anyway. ‘I want to get pregnant again,’ I told her. ‘Is there any chance labour might be different a second time?’ Melanie was confident that it could, and on the basis of that I did my first brave thing: I got pregnant again.

What I really wanted was an ongoing relationship with the midwife who would be with me at delivery – something my sympathetic GP assured me the NHS couldn’t provide. What I didn’t want was a home birth (terrifyingly far away from the medical intervention I was sure I’d need), but since that was part of the package, I went along with it.

Then a strange thing happened. As the weeks progressed, and my trust in Melanie grew, I started to buy into the idea of doing this at home. I began thinking longingly about cutting out the bumpy ride to hospital, about the joy of birthing a baby in its own bedroom, and about being tucked up in my own, familiar bed after the event. I began to enjoy a different midwife-client relationship, one which saw Melanie as an enabler, and me as the person in charge of my own body and choices. As I learned more about the ways in which I could be active rather than passive in labour, I began – almost – to believe Melanie when she said, ‘It’s not just that you can do this; I know you will.’

And I did. I was the strong, brave person I never imagined I could be, and I got just what I ended up really wanting; not an easy labour (it took ages, it was hard work and it hurt!), but a labour directed by me, in which I learned to believe in the capacity of my body to do its thing. Melanie was there as a constant, non-intrusive support throughout, enabling me to make my own choices rather than imposing her agenda on the process. I needed gas and air for the last hour or so, but was never overwhelmed by the pain, and was astonished to find myself pushing my baby out into the world without having experienced a moment of misery.

My second son was born in a birthing pool in his bedroom on a gorgeous autumn morning; the decision to do it that way is one of the best I have ever made.


Leave a Reply