Thursday, 8 October 2009

Marathons and Mothers

Last weekend I had the opportunity to film a man who plans to complete 20 record breaking achievements in twelve months. His first to be recorded for Record Holders Republic is running for 48 hours on a treadmill with a 40lb pack on his back, all of the money he raises will go to Help for Heroes. So, on Saturday morning I arrived in Swindon at the Brunel Shopping Centre to watch Mike Buss as he started on this crazy marathon. On Sunday evening I returned to see how he was doing- and to look at his war torn feet, and then on Monday at midday he finished his record breaking achievement- not only had he achieved a world record for 24 hours non stop, but the 48 hour record too, and he had covered 76.2 miles. As I watched him on the treadmill I pondered the fact that women achieve great marathons every day- when they have long drawn out labours and their strength flags, yet somehow most of these women continue and eventually give birth on their own. In the final hours of a labour they find an inner strength and this was what I saw in Mike on Sunday night and Monday morning.

One of the areas that he talked about whilst continually tramping the treadmill was that he feels he needs to research his diet more carefully before he takes on another record attempt. I think, in this respect women should do the same- many midwives give advice on foods that might prove palatable whilst in labour and energy rich snacks which help them through. Mike, like a woman in labour, couldn’t stomach large meals and so small snacks and high energy drinks were the order of the day- he also learnt late into his marathon that pastries from the local café in the shopping centre proved to be a great energy booster. So, for those of you who are about to undertake possibly the biggest marathon of your life here are some ideas for foods that will help you through:

Carbohydrates that will provide sustained energy such as bread, cereals, cereal bars, pasta, bananas and yoghurt. Iced freeze pops for rehydrating and cooling, fruit juices and plenty of liquids especially water. Drinks are best served in sports bottles or cups with a straw. Dextrose tablets are useful – especially if you can’t keep food down as they will provide that necessary energy, you can buy them in your local chemist. The other piece of advice is not to eat anything too heavy or bulky- little and often is key.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

When to call the Midwife

Last week started with a bang - at 2.30 on Monday afternoon I got a call from the mother of a young woman I was filming who was planning on a homebirth. She told me that Amy’s contractions were coming every 3 to 5 minutes so I dropped everything, jumped in the car and drove like a bat out of hell to get to Ashford in time.

When I got there all was peaceful and calm, Amy’s Mum opened the door and I went in to find Amy in the pool, everything seemed under control and I set about getting my camera ready. I asked if Virginia her midwife had been called and they told me that she was at home, so I relaxed as Virginia lives no more than five minutes away. After 15 minutes had passed I felt that Amy was moving on in her labour and suggested that they call Virginia, both Kate (Amy’s Mum ) and Amy seemed surprised that I thought it was time to call a midwife but I felt she was closer to giving birth than they realised. Amy had been practicing her Hypnobirthing technique and I do believe that it can help in blocking some of those messages of pain. Hypnobirthing and Natal Hypnotherapy practitioners do not talk about pain and contractions, but powerful surges instead, pain, being negative and powerful surge being a positive word, so Amy was dealing very well with her surges.

Anyway, back to the story; Virginia was surprised to hear that Amy had got in the pool and was having regular contractions, but somewhere in the communications between midwife and mother the wires were crossed and Virginia was not at home but visiting a client for an ante natal appointment, she left her client immediately and set off back to Ashford.

Virginia called whilst on her way back to Ashford to see if I was already there and so she asked to speak to me, I told her that I thought Amy was close to giving birth and Virginia told me to get her on the floor with her bottom in the air, and for Amy to start panting if she felt like pushing. It was really difficult to get Amy out of the pool as she was comfortable there but I knew I had to do what Virginia asked. At some point Hannah who had covered for me on my trip to Los Angeles had arrived as she had grown close to Amy and didn’t want to miss the birth, so I handed her the camera and I got on with trying to get Amy out of the pool. Another contraction went by and then Amy managed to get out and on to the floor. By this stage it was obvious that the baby wasn’t going to wait and all the will in the world wasn’t going to stop it- about half an hour had passed by since Kate had called Virginia and I asked Hannah to call an ambulance and Virginia too. Hannah called Virginia first and she told us she was only two minutes away, an ambulance would have taken longer than that two minutes so I was glad she was so close. The baby’s head appeared and with the next contraction I caught the baby’s body and put her through Amy’s legs and placed all 8lb 9oz Honey Sofia on Amy’s chest as Virginia rushed through the door.

It had all happened so quickly that it was only afterwards and now as I write it that the shock of what happened hits me. Virginia was disappointed to miss the birth but I’m just so glad that she got there immediately after. Honey Sofia was in perfect condition, she cried immediately as she was born (Apgar 9) and looked very healthy.

So the lesson of this tale is, If in doubt call the midwife sooner rather than later, better to waste their time than for them to miss the event.

Amy’s birth story should be on the site by the beginning of October. You can view Nancy's hypnobirth here.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

I HATE EXERCISE- but it's good for me, and you too.

Those of you that know me well, know that I HATE EXERCISE- so it might come as some surprise when I was asked recently if I minded being photographed at my local cardiac fitness class for my instructor’s site! I have always known that I needed to get fitter, especially when I have been up all night filming a birth, and of course I’m not getting any younger. I started these classes last November when my husband had been attending them for several months, I could see the physical difference in him, and I wanted some of the same. So, although I have not had any cardiac surgery I went along to the class and have been enjoying the benefits ever since. In fact I think I’m a bit like a former smoker who has become a zealot, totally convinced that everyone should do this form of exercise, and I preach to any who will listen! I was chuffed yesterday as I am planning a short break to Los Angeles and needed someone to cover filming for me while I’m away, as I have been following someone who is due to have a homebirth this week . I asked Hannah to stand in for me as she is involved in the local Maternity Services Liaison Committee (MSLC) and is a former producer director with camera experience. She came along to Amy’s 39 week ante natal check up which was with Independent midwife Virginia Howes. Halfway through the check up she asked if she could do some filming and I handed over the camera. After twenty minutes or so there was a lull in the filming and she took a break. Her arms were killing her because, although my camera is quite small it still seems to weigh a ton when you’ve been holding it for a while. She looked at me and commented that I had muscles of steel and how did I manage to keep the camera so steady for such a long time? Some of the births that I have been lucky enough to film have been drawn out affairs, as long as 37 hours and the filming has been hard, but I think now with the extra exercise classes I will be able to cope even better with holding that camera for a long time if necessary.

On the note of exercise I think it’s also very important to keep levels of stamina and fitness up whilst pregnant. There are many types of ante natal classes available that can give you time to focus on you and the baby- life can be so hectic at times, especially when there are other children to look after and perhaps a job to keep down too, so don’t forget to attend a class when you can. Pregnancy, labour and birth and the weeks and months following can be some of the toughest times in a woman’s life, and taking a fitness, aquanatal or yoga class can be just what is needed to get you through.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Conflicting Advice - Swine Flu

Pregnancy should be a wonderful time in a woman’s life, as she looks forward to a positive birth experience and the excitement of impending motherhood. For many, these emotions are mixed with a sense of fear about the unknown, how will she cope with labour and birth, and how will she cope with a small baby? Even for the low percentage of those with a high risk pregnancy, good ante natal care and monitoring should get them through it unscathed with a healthy baby at the end of their pregnancy, so it is a little unhelpful and frightening that added to these natural worries we are bombarded on a daily basis about the impending flu epidemic, and the conflicting advice given. For example women are told to stay away from crowded areas, avoid public transport and stay at home- how does that work then when they are expected to visit their ante natal clinic, usually in their Dr’s surgery, an area no doubt bombarded on a daily basis with the virus?

Then, when they go into labour the advice is MAYBE to have a homebirth thus cutting the risk of infection or passing it on to other new mothers, OR to have a hospital birth because there won’t be enough midwives (as they will be sick too), and so the few that are left will be expected to care for more women in labour than usual. You can’t have it both ways, but department of health guidelines are written in order to cover all possibilities, they don’t want to be accused of not doing the right thing.

The thing is that none of us know how this will pan out, and maybe the DOH should be honest and declare it. So far the death rate of healthy individuals has been mercifully low – on the NHS choices site on the 27th July the statement read : There were an estimated 100,000 new cases of swine flu in the UK in the week ending July 19. Total deaths stand at 31.

I suspect that the infection rates are much higher than this with many people not visiting their Drs and self treating at home. Statistically the predictions are that as many as a third of the population will get the H1N1 virus over the coming months with a predicted death rate in the region of 0.1 to 0.35%. Sir Liam Donaldson the Chief Medical Officer, announced last week that the death rate could be as high as 65,000 or as low as 3,100, the truth is they don’t know and won’t know until it has run its course, in a normal year there will be as many as 6000 deaths from seasonal flu, so maybe we should calm down . Putting another perspective on this crisis is this: In the UK in 2006 ‘Cancer accounted for 29 per cent of all deaths in males and 25 per cent in females’. That’s 242,200 men and women in one year of mainly preventable deaths, and yet I don’t see the politicians, the newspapers or other media wringing their hands over that statistic.

Having said all that, it’s a known fact that pregnant women are more susceptible to infections with a lowered immune system, and so they can try to protect themselves by careful hand washing and so on, but in the crowded cities and towns that we live in I think the chances of not coming into contact with the virus must be pretty slim. Eating a well balanced diet, drinking plenty of fluids and getting enough rest is probably as good a protection as anything else, and for the time being keep to your plans of a home or hospital birth, whichever you prefer.

NCT Swine Flu Information

NHS Swine Flue Information

Swine Flu Symptom Checker swine flu symptom checker

Flu statistics on BBC site

Friday, 3 July 2009

Scans, homebirths and mothers

Eli and Dan with their three boys- Toby, Luca and Gabriel and Elis' Mum Vicky Katherine, Bryan and Beatrix before the birth of Lucie

Whenever I have filmed a birth I ensure that the family sees the finished film before it goes online or is broadcast. Although I love this part I also find it quite daunting; other people are going to look at how I filmed their birth experience and I worry that it won’t meet their expectations.
A few weeks ago I went to see Katherine and Bryan to show them the film of the birth of their second baby Lucie. I had already filmed the birth of Beatrix, so Katherine and Bryan knew what to expect and had not been worried about me filming this second birth. For a mother to watch
the birth of their baby it must be quite hard- flashbacks of what they were feeling at the time and emotions that were going through their heads must bring it all flooding back. As Katherine and Bryan watched, they were reminded of the early pregnancy when Katherine had a Nuchal fold scan and the baby would not co-operate by showing its fold of fat on the neck. How small Beatrix seemed at the time, and now, several months later how much she has grown and adopted her role as older sister. The labour was relatively short but sharp, Bryan had been rubbing Katherine's back furiously and her mother had come over to look after Beatrix. Katherine watched in silence with tears running down her face as she saw her baby Lucie being born. I am relieved to say that Katherine and Bryan loved the programme and it's now uploaded to the site.

A couple of weeks ago I went to see Eli and Dan with the rough cut film of their third baby’s birth. I filmed it last summer and now eleven months later it is finally ready to go online. Eli, Dan and Eli’s mum Vicky watched as we saw Eli having an anomaly scan at 21 weeks of pregnancy. Her two older boys Toby and Luca were at the scan too and they waited to hear if the baby was a boy or girl. No mistaking its sex as the grey and black picture focussed on a prominent part between the unborn baby’s legs- ‘Yes, it’s another boy’!
Eli is heard to say something about the amount of testosterone that will be flowing around her home in a few years time! We laughed at Eli and Dan’s interview where he only manages to get a word or two in edgeways- and sympathised with my editor who had to view all six hours of Eli’s birth diaries!
At this point I looked across to see Vicky wiping tears away; she had already started to cry and I realised that it must be even harder for a mother to watch her daughter going through the birth process.
When the programme reached the labour and birth Vicky was in full flow and Eli followed suit, it was a wonderful waterbirth with Gabriel coming up through the water with his eyes already open.
I hope that one day when my children decide to have babies of their own that they will allow me to be present at the birth of my grandchildren, although my daughters have already told me in no uncertain terms how they wont want me at the birth of their babies, so it seems amazing that so many women have asked me to be present to film and document their birth experiences, and several have asked me back to film more than once, which I find an honour and a privilege. I do hope that in time my daughters will change their minds, and in return I will promise to be a supportive and sympathetic birth partner, even if I do cry.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Cutting the cord

Eons ago when I was training as a midwife (1979-1980) the whole birth process was over technical. I remember the birth pack which comprised of two layers of paper, gauze swabs, Gallipot, cotton wool swabs, plastic kidney dish, cord clamps, cord scissors and episiotomy scissors – OUCH! (I suspect with the passage of time I have forgotten some elements). These were all placed in a particular order of use to ensure that you made your episiotomy before the baby was born, and you didn’t cut the cord before clamping it!

I remember the speed at which you had to deliver the baby, clamp and cut the cord, dry the baby down, wrap it in a towel and hand it to the mother, it was always in a matter of seconds provided there were no problems to deal with like a baby not breathing or a haemorrhaging mother.

There was also the element of keeping a sterile field – the mother was discouraged from putting her feet on the paper, as this was where the baby would lie whilst the cord was clamped and cut- I always wondered about this ‘sterile’ field when the mother would regularly open her bowels during the birth process- that definitely wasn’t sterile. Having said that of course, she sometimes would be given suppositories or even an enema prior to the birth or induction of labour. There was also the matter of the ‘Shave’- What indignities. In addition to all of this she would give birth lying down or reclining – in order to give a good view and access for that all important episiotomy!

Thankfully, times have changed; no longer are women given suppositories, enemas or shaves, unless of course they request one! They can birth in any number of positions, and the episiotomy scissors are kept well out of sight. At the time of birth some women are asking that the cord be left until it stops pulsating to ensure that the baby receives its full quota of blood and has time to establish a regular breathing pattern. Whilst the cord continues to pulsate the baby is receiving oxygen via the placenta- this could be particularly useful when a birth has been complicated or traumatic and the baby is unable to breathe for itself. I have observed this myself when a baby was born making little or no effort to breathe- the cord was left intact and the baby received life giving oxygen for a matter of minutes whilst the midwives resuscitated the baby, the baby appears to have suffered no ill effects. Had the cord been clamped and cut at the time of birth I have no doubt that this baby would have suffered some degree of brain damage. Fortunately doctors and midwives are recognising the positive effects of late cord clamping and are even introducing this procedure into the operating theatre at caesarean sections.

There is still room for improvement on this area though, as resuscitaire’s are built with accessibility for the paediatricians and are designed to be chest height- too high for a recently delivered mother to remain attached to her baby by the umbilical cord. Perhaps the manufacturers of such equipment could develop a new, bed height one, which would enable doctors to work on the baby whilst leaving the cord intact to give life saving oxygen to the baby.

Apgar score / resuscitation
Lotus Birth

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Breast Milk - Supply & Demand

I recently returned from a fantastic holiday to Argentina and apart from developing a cold on the flight home it was a safe trip, no Swine flu virus, Dengue fever or malaria, thank goodness.
As well as some fantastic horse riding across the Pampas with a real Gaucho I also had the opportunity to milk a cow on the Estancia La Margarita where I stayed for a few days with my husband and two of my daughters. At the time I commented that provided you understand your anatomy you should be able to milk a cow in much the same way as a mother can express her milk, although I believe that human milk expressing is a little gentler and the amounts produced less copious - The cow produced three quarters of a bucket of milk in one go! Having said that I recall how, almost 24 years ago when one of my babies was born prematurely I had to express 3 hourly and deliver the milk to the special care baby unit. At the end of a day I found that I was expressing one and a half litres, and my daughter’s needs were for only an ounce or two! Maybe I’m not so different from that cow after all! Unfortunately at that time HIV and AIDS was a relatively new virus and little was known about it, the milk banks that had provided a lifeline to so many premature babies were suspended, so my surplus milk went down the drain instead of being given to a needy baby. Today, with new testing and screening techniques milk banks are back and sprouting up all over the country, and premature and sick babies can once more benefit from other mother’s surplus.

The cow on the Estancia had a calf which had been kept at a distance all afternoon which was then brought into the coral and allowed to feed for a short time to ensure a good ‘let down‘ . The calf was then tethered nearby and the process of milking begun. Once the bucket was nearly full the calf was released and the cow fed her youngster. You see its all to do with supply and demand, the more you milk, the more you produce, and so the same goes for mothers. Providing human milk for premature and sick babies can be a wonderful gift; many mothers are too sick themselves to ensure an adequate supply and in addition if they have had a difficult or traumatic birth experience it may take them sometime to establish their own milk source for their babies. Donating a surplus is easy and costs next to nothing, so for women who are interested in donating their milk they can contact the United Kingdom Association for Milk Banking. If you’re in the USA then the link is All that is required is a blood test and a short questionnaire to ensure that you are not on any drugs, or have an infection that could be passed on to a premature or sick baby. Milk can be frozen and kept for several days before being delivered to a milk bank and some milk banks will collect as well.

Use the links on the right to view all MyBirth video's relating to breastfeeding or click here.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Group B Strep

Today I am writing about a subject that I feel is really important and needs to be investigated and understood further, it’s one that seems to be worrying a great deal of parents to be - Group B Strep

Almost every week receives enquiries about Group B strep and the advice we give tends to run on the same principles. Having watched the video on the mybirth site we then tell the enquirer to contact the Group B Strep organization, which gives fantastic support and in depth information. They should also speak to their midwife or consultant obstetrician who will have up to date information. So, what is Group B strep?
It‘s a bacteria commonly found in a third of all male and female intestines. A quarter of women of childbearing age will carry the bacteria in their vagina at any given time. This bacterium is totally harmless in healthy individuals and is only of concern to a newborn infants and very young babies. As many as 700 babies per year are infected with this bug in the UK, and up to 75 die from further complications, the affects of this bacteria can run from septicaemia and pneumonia to meningitis. Keeping in mind that there are almost 700,000 babies born every year in this country, with approximately 175,000 pregnant carriers, the risks of infection are still very low, but to those infected by it the results are very real and can be disastrous. For in-depth information about Group B strep and the possible risks to babies visit

Although this bacterium was identified as far back as the 1960’s it didn’t gain an awful lot of attention until much more recently, and I don’t recall when training as a midwife in the early 1980’s any mention of it either. Today, most hospitals in the UK will have a protocol for dealing with Group B strep infection; the recommendations may vary from hospital to hospital, but in general the offered course of treatment is intravenous antibiotics for women who are in labour and are known to be G B Strep positive. If there is no opportunity for IV antibiotics in labour the baby may be given them post birth. The whole point about antibiotics is to ensure that the baby is treated either prior to birth or immediately after, thus eliminating the risks of G B Strep infection. This scenario brings up many issues; many mothers would prefer that their babies were not subjected to antibiotics at such a tender age, other women do not want to have IV antibiotics in labour, and for many women if they want a homebirth most hospital trusts would rather they came into the maternity unit for the antibiotics, so the women’s choices are limited, there is also the question about the twenty five percent of pregnant women who are carriers, the majority of whom will not pass on the infection to their baby and will be unaware that there maybe an element of risk.

My third child was born almost 24 years ago at 31 weeks of pregnancy. She developed pneumonia almost immediately and for several days her life hung in the balance whilst the doctors fought to save her life. She was pumped full of drugs, antibiotics and intravenous infusions and blood transfusions and she finally pulled through,
There was mention of infection and I don’t remember its name but it could well have been Group B strep. As a mother I felt guilty that I had infected my child with this bacteria, and today I am glad that no one should be made to feel guilty with such a common infection, but from my perspective I think it would have been great if I had known about this bacteria and the risks it posed to my unborn baby. For women today the information is out there but is not discussed regularly in ante natal clinics for fear of alarming many mothers to be, but if you knew there was a potential risk you could then make the informed choice of whether to be tested or not.

Many mothers are asking why there isn’t a routine screening programme in the UK like there are elsewhere and the simple answer is that the government believes that a routine screening programme is not cost effective; some women maybe screened one day and be found to be positive for the bacteria and yet a few weeks later the same woman with no treatment in the interim will test negative. Therefore many women and their babies maybe subjected to antibiotics that they no longer need. Testing late in pregnancy could help to eliminate some of those who are no longer testing positive.

There is a petition being sent to the Prime Minister asking for routine screening in the UK which closes on the 11th March so if this is something you feel strongly about click on the link.

At the moment there are tests that women can obtain privately which screen for the bacteria; swabs are taken from the rectum and vagina (the mother can do this herself) and then sent off for analysis, details are on the site. My belief is that women should ensure that they are well informed about all aspects of their pregnancy, whether its making the choice to have a hospital or homebirth, screening for fetal abnormalities or the risk of passing on a very treatable bacteria.

If you have any comments or would like to contribute to the debate please do so, the more people who discuss the issues the better.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Maternity Units ‘Shut to Mothers’

Okay, I just opened up my home page which is always set to the BBC news; I tend to watch very little news on TV these days and tend to find my information on the net. A headline caught my eye in the Health section: Maternity Units 'Shut to Mothers'. A précis of the article states that nearly half of 104 trusts responding to a recent survey by the Conservative party said that in the last year they shut their maternity units at least once and diverted women to other hospitals. The total of closures for 2008 was 553 compared to 402 in 2007. It didn't say if any women who were affected by these closures had untoward experiences or complications in their labours and births associated with these closures. I hope not but I suspect otherwise.

Now, I have been filming pregnancy and birth matters for many years and this particular scenario does seem to be happening with increasing regularity. A woman I spoke to only a couple of weeks ago said that she had been booked to have her baby at her local maternity unit in Brighton, the unit was closed to labouring women so she was asked to call the next maternity unit in Haywards Heath which was also closed, she eventually found a maternity unit to take her in Eastbourne. Fortunately she gave birth in the maternity unit and not in a car on the way there, which has happened to so many women over the last few years. This is not a local problem to Brighton, it is country wide as the Tories report shows and the main cause is increased birth rate coupled with decreased midwives and facilities. So, I then remembered an article that I had seen only a couple of days ago dated 6 th Feb: NHS facing £700 million negligence bill, The shocking fact is that more than half of the payouts are for maternity related cases Now,it doesn't take a genius to work out that maybe one is linked to the other? This figure is for 2010 alone. Surely it must be obvious that when you have shortages of midwives and maternity unit closures due to lack of funding the outcome is going to mean more mistakes being made by overstretched staff leading to more litigation?

So, more than £350 million has been set aside for next year's litigation budget for maternity services. Can you imagine what our consultant led maternity units, midwifery led units and homebirth midwives could do with that money?

If for example £100 million was put in to training and employing more midwives in the most overstretched units, how much could be saved from this horrendous litigation budget?

The Kings Fund has launched the Safer Births Initiative to improve safety in maternity services, it will be launched in October 2009 and I hope that when they have completed their research their recommendations will be implemented.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Filming a beautiful homebirth

Okay I was in the middle of writing a piece for my blog about Group B Strep as we’ve had so many queries on the website, when events took over. I shall do a blog on Group B strep next time, but I thought I’d write about this instead as it is fresh in my mind and I have lots to say.

Yesterday evening Katherine texted me to say that she'd been having period like pains all afternoon and she thought 'tonight could be the night' I texted back and said 'bring it on'. Last time I filmed Katherine she went 26 days past her due date (Birth Diaries - Katherine and Brian's story - on ) and I had half expected her to do the same this time, so with that in mind I had already booked the dog into kennels for the end of the month for a weekend away, as being on call 24/7 can be a bit tiring, I don’t know how the independent midwives cope with it all year round!

Anyway, back to Katherine. At 6 O'clock she called me to say that she was definitely in labour and finding it hard to talk through a contraction (a good sign), so I grabbed a sandwich, packed the camera and set off for Kent. On Monday we had had the heaviest snowfall in the South for 18 years so I was a little worried about the roads, but other than her road where she lives, the Highways Agency had done a good job on gritting. At 7.15 Brian called me on the mobile to tell me that her waters had just broken, luckily I was only ten minutes away by that time.
When I arrived, Katherine was leaning over the sofa with her Mum Pam rubbing her back furiously, little Beatrix was running around the room totally oblivious to her mother’s labours and Brian was there making a cup of tea. The pool was nowhere to be seen, as the labour had started up so quickly Brian hadn’t had a chance to inflate it. Katherine’s contractions were coming thick and fast and between her Mum and Brian her back was looking sore with all the rubbing, but that is what she wanted. I got on with the filming and when Kay her midwife arrived a short while later, there was nothing to hold Katherine back. The labour stepped up a pace, Kay checked the position of the baby, its heartbeat and Katherine’s blood pressure, everything was perfectly normal. Katherine also hadn’t had a chance to put on her TENS machine, but to be honest I don’t think at this stage it would have been of much use. Kay had brought in her infant resuscitation kit and also the entonox for pain relief, none of which were needed I am pleased to say. Katherine was experiencing some very strong contractions and couldn’t get comfortable, it was obvious she was close to giving birth, and Kay observed patiently beside her. Brian continued to rub her back and Pam took Beatrix up for a bath. It seemed like no time at all before Katherine was pushing with her contractions and at 9.19 she gave birth to a lovely baby girl, Beatrix had just fallen asleep and missed the whole thing, Katherine lifted her up and they sat on the floor recovering from the surprise and shock of it all, Kay waited for the umbilical cord to stop pulsating before Pam clamped and cut it, a short time later the placenta was delivered and Katherine went for a bath while her Mum dressed the baby. Half an hour later Katherine came back downstairs, by which time Kay had cleared away her things, the towels were already in the washing machine and Pam had brought in dinner and pudding from the car which she had prepared earlier.

By midnight everything in the house was as it had been at 5 .00 that evening, except that Katherine and Brian’s baby was here, delivered safely in her own home without a fuss and leaving very little mess except for a damp patch on the carpet where her waters broke.
I have filmed many homebirths over the last five years and it never fails to amaze me at how natural it all seems. That is not to say that I have always witnessed straightforward births; some have been complicated and a few have transferred to hospital for an instrumental delivery, and for these few women the maternity unit was the right place to be, but for the remainder a homebirth was wonderful. I practiced as a midwife in the 1980’s and returned for a short spell in 2003. My observations are that there is such a strong contrast between a hospital birth and a homebirth, and I feel saddened that more women don’t experience homebirth and all that it brings. I have to put my hand up here and say that my own four children were all born in a maternity unit; the care I received was second to none and definitely with my third child (born at 31 weeks) I know that she would not have survived had it not been for the technology and medical care that she received at that time. For me, having a baby in a maternity unit was not scary- I knew the environment intimately and the machines that go Ping held no fear, but for many women these contraptions take away the natural instincts of a woman to birth her child, and it is no surprise that our induction, instrumental and caesarean section rates are increasing exponentially. Perhaps it is time to have a very grown up discussion about maternity services in our country and forge a new way forward?