I considered titling this post “The home birth we won’t have” because I still am 100 per cent pro home birth and would love to encourage women to consider it as a choice. I really do think it is the best place to have your baby in so many respects. But it won’t be where our baby is born and I’m accepting that that’s OK.
The itching started three nights ago, first on my bump and boobs and then all over my body. Soon I was breaking skin, finding it hard to sleep and driving Laurence mad. I was slapping myself and begging the baby to come out because I knew whatever this was, it was some kind of pregnant thing. But wait a minute, hadn’t I read somewhere that that was a thing? You know – a thing you’re not supposed to ignore?
So I rang up the doctor yesterday, totally expecting her to say: “It’s just your preggers hormones.” But she didn’t. She asked me to come in straight away for a blood test. By the time I’d left her office, though, I believed her when she said that it was most likely nothing. Though she was upbeat about it all, she gave me a leaflet on “obstetric cholestasis” – a pregnancy thing we shouldn’t ignore.
I went to bed, willing myself not to scratch, but really not thinking about it. Then today my community midwife rang me. My results had come back with abnormality and I needed to go to hospital. She’s a bit of an alarmist, I’ve always felt, but she was very firm with me that I most likely would have to be induced and even if not, this was a hospital birth we were looking at. I gently reminded her that it was my choice where we’d have the baby and she rephrased that they would strongly advise me to have the baby in the hospital.
A quick look through the facts and I knew that they were right. The risk of stillbirth was unquantifiable and we have to do what’s safest for the creature. It would now be considered high risk for us to have her at home. My midwife told me she was sorry, knowing that I had had my heart set on having a home birth. I thanked her, put the phone down and cried.
Laurence got a taxi home and we drove together to the hospital for monitoring, more tests and a consultation with a doctor. Again the results were abnormal. I definitely have contracted obstetric cholestasis, later than most pregnant women do. It basically means something’s up with my liver and there are bile salts in my blood, which can cross over to the placenta and affect the baby.
We chatted through all the options with a midwife there who was very understanding. She too had tried for a home birth and hadn’t achieved it. Would we be able to have a water birth in hospital? Not if I was induced. And if I went into labour naturally? Most likely not because they need to monitor the baby. Would I be able to move around? Not much. It was the opposite of everything I’d sort of imagined. So I began crying again.
Eventually I got a grip. I know this birth is just one day and it’s not about me. It’s about my baby coming into the world safely and once she’s here, I won’t really care about the rest.
It’s just all been so sudden. I’ve always expected I’d have a home birth, from since I was old enough to understand that women gave birth. I’ve had my arguments planned to defend myself against NHS workers who might want to induce me if I went postdates or transfer me for reasons which were unnecessary.
It’s a bit like a woman planning her wedding and then realising that it just can’t happen that way. She knows the bigger picture is that she and her husband will make their commitment but still needs a moment to put aside her girlish disappointment.
Now, I’ve had to accept that my body has just gone and done something random and that’s just how it goes sometimes. And I’m OK with it. The birth pool is folded up on the dining table where I’m writing this and I’ve accepted that we won’t be using it. The NHS is not the enemy and isn’t making us do anything. We’ve weighed up the information we were given and know that we’re making the right decision for our family.
So, now the race is on. I’ve had a ‘stretch and sweep’ – not fun I tell ye – in hopes that I’ll go into labour naturally otherwise I’ll be induced on Monday at 38 weeks and 1 day. The baby is unusually low and my cervix unusually open for this early in my pregnancy, especially since this is a first child. The doctor who did the sweep was surprised. So, hopefully, the creature will surprise all of us and respond to the call.
Either way, we’re rethinking our birth plan, re-imagining labour positions, have packed the hospital bags and bought our snacks, magazines and isotonic drinks. After the initial shock and disappointment, we’re both excited that we’ll be meeting our baby soon. Just need to actually set up her room and sort out the mess I showed you in the post about buying stuff for her.
Incidentally, I happened to sit next to a woman in church on Sunday who had been induced for waters breaking and labour not starting and she was telling me about her very positive birth experience. Looking back on that conversation, I thank God.
So come on, creature, it’s OK to come on out. Mummy wants to meet you. And she wants to stop this bloody itching.