In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, April Wild shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note: this article contains images of birth.
During my third pregnancy, I planned to have my son at home without any medical assistance. I’d already had one hospital birth and one home birth – and I knew I wanted a free birth this time. I teach hypnobirthing and am a pregnancy yoga teacher, so I believe in the power of visualisation – and I counted on that getting me through it all.
I’d done a lot of research and to have a calmer birth, I needed to be in a calm environment with people around who make me feel safe.
For a lot of people, they may feel safer in hospital – I get that – but for me I just wanted my husband, family, a photographer and a doula. That’s what I felt would allow me to give birth in the best environment possible.
This was my longest pregnancy. I had my other two children before their due dates, but I didn’t go into labour until 41 weeks the third time around.
I woke up with a few surges, on and off, and had a feeling it was going to be that day. I did hypnobirthing in bed, before having breakfast as a family – it was on the weekend so it was nice and chilled – and then we all went on a long walk. The surges increased, getting closer together the more I walked. I had a reflexology appointment booked for midday, so got home and had a lovely hour-long session.
I spent the rest of that afternoon resting. My husband’s mum popped over to play with the kids so we could relax together – and they kept us all supplied with cake and tea. I pottered around the house, mostly tidying. I couldn’t stop cleaning up! Later on, I got my mat out and did some yoga and breath work – I knew my baby was back-to-back from its movements in the last few weeks, so there was discomfort and I needed to keep moving.
Things started progressing – the surges were about five to seven minutes apart – so I rang my doula and birth photographer to say they should head over. In the meantime I sat in the garden and swayed on my ball, moving around as much as I could. We had a family meal soon after, around the dinner table like any other night.
When the doula and photographer turned up, I don’t think they could believe how far along I was because I looked so calm. I was rocking on my ball in the garden again, watching the sunset – and my doula suggested we go to the birthing room. I swayed on it for the next hour while she massaged the tension out of my back. My husband, meanwhile, kept reminding me to be present with my breath. We were all laughing and chatting normally as the pool was being filled up. And the kids loved coming in and out – my little girl even had her own birthing ball and copied everything I was doing.
At 8pm, it really hit. I got in the pool and my little girl pottered in. “I want to come in, Mummy. I’ll go get my swimming costume!” she declared. She put cold flannels on my back, which was where I felt discomfort the most.
She was the best birth partner I could’ve had.
As the intensity increased, there were a few split seconds when I wondered whether I could do it. But I breathed through, focusing on that. And then the feeling came: I knew it was going to be a matter of seconds.
I turned myself around to sit down and reached down – my son’s head was there. It was magical. We dimmed the lights, and it was exactly how I wanted it to be. After two big surges, Grayson came out fully and my little girl reached forwards and grabbed him, too!
It was such a beautiful experience. I held him under water – my daughter watching – before pulling him up onto my chest.
I’ve never felt so in control, even though I was doing it on my own. I just felt so sure everything was going to be okay. We had a beautiful bonding experience in the water and I was so proud of what my body had achieved.
My birth advice?
I wouldn’t push a free birth on other people – it’s totally personal – but if people can empower themselves to research birth, then it’s definitely worth it. I wish I could help get that message out.
And breath is key. Attend calm birth classes like pregnancy yoga, hypnobirthing, or your local positive birth group.
Are free births safe?
When we asked the Royal College of Midwives, Birte Harlev-Lam, executive director for leadership, said: “Maternity services can and do accommodate lots of different choices by women but there is clearly more that needs to be done to support those choices. There is no doubt that some women choose freebirthing because of previous experiences of birth that perhaps did not meet their expectations and we need to address this.
“We do have concerns about freebirthing. Most births will go fine without any problems for the mother and her baby. But, there is the potential for things to go wrong, and this can sometimes happen very quickly, such as a haemorrhage after the birth. This is why we would not advise women to give birth without a qualified health professional supporting her. However, it should always be a woman’s choice about how she gives birth and we do advocate supporting women – if they are engaging with the health services in pregnancy – whatever choices they make. What is important is that women are aware of the risks and benefits of the decisions they make.
“Ultimately, what we need to focus on is ensuring our maternity services are providing the best experience of pregnancy and birth for women and their families, and that will be different for every woman.”
Dr Daghni Rajasingam, consultant obstetrician, and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “Clinical guidance recommends that a home birth may be suitable for some women, particularly those with a low risk pregnancy and those giving birth a second time. If a woman plans to give birth at home, she should be informed that there is a small increase in the risk of an adverse outcome for her baby. It is important to note that giving birth is by its very nature unpredictable and a woman must have quick access to obstetric care, if an emergency develops.
“We fully support giving women accurate and evidence-based information about the benefits and risks of the different places and ways of giving birth so informed decisions can be made. The benefits and risks will be different for each woman and will depend on age, certain risk factors, pre-existing conditions, complications and so on.”