A Spanish Homebirth Story
I am Australian but have lived in Spain for the last 16 years. I had my 2 daughters here in hospital and the emotional trauma has stayed with me since. They are now 12 and 14 years old.
In August 2005 I found to my partner's and my delight that we were expecting a baby. It was not an easy pregnancy - I don't really know why - maybe the years are taking their toll (I'm now 36) or maybe I was just over stressed with work and so on but at 21 weeks I was having an awful lot of contractions and was put to bedrest. Basically I stayed that way until the end which was very draining on everybody in the family but at least proved worth it in the long-run.
I need to explain breifly how difficult it is to have a home birth here in Spain. It was not that I originally set out to do this but it turned out to be the best option. I quite simply did not want to end up in the hospital again, with the drip, the monitor tying me to the bed, the interference from all the medical staff, the hospital environment and worst of all the obstetric chair (lithotomy position). I tried to see if things had changed since my 2nd daughter was born, but the answers I kept getting were not at all encouraging. There is no state health service here for home births. I started to look around - there were a couple of private "alternative" type clinics that did water birthing etc. but both rather far away from where we live. My 2nd daughter had been born in 1.5hrs so we were concerned that my 3rd would be even faster. No time to travel 2-3 hours to a clinic during labour.
After much searching and discussion between my partner and I - he seemed to be coming round to the idea of having our baby at home if we could just find someone qualified to attend us - I came across an association for home births on the net and got in touch with the closest midwife, who was only 40 minutes away. By this stage I was 32 weeks pregnant - baby was doing ok.....everything had pretty much settled down and now we had a viable option at last for having him at home. I spent hours and hours on the net researching and reading all I could lay hands on - that's how I found your site - and getting to know all the possible complications and arguments for and against. I was not getting any encouragement from my gynaecologist or from the state midwife who was monitoring my pregnancy. Any little thing and they would say - "oh you shouldn't have a home birth if you have this (streptococo)...or that (breech presentation)..." or any little thing. It was really hard on my confidence level even though I was feeling more and more sure about it all. In the end I had none of the things that could possibly cause any complications - baby was LOT-LOA most of the time, no infections of any kind, only some nasty pelvic symphysis pain throughout the latter weeks of the pregancy. I wanted our baby to be born at home in our space, with our atmosphere around him without all the unavoidable hospital interventions. Because it's not that you can go to the hospital here and they respect your wishes - no - you can waste your time arguing with them but in the end they are in control and are running the show.
Anyway....less grumbling about the failings of the public health system. I had found a great private midwife (and her small team) and even though they seemed to cater for a slightly - lets say - "hippy" clientele, I felt I could trust her and that everything would be ok. It did of course mean coming up with the necessary 1500 euros to pay for it all. So we decided to sell my old car. We didn't really need it anymore, and put the money to something we both considered really worthwhile. The midwife and her team went onto guard duty for me at 37 weeks and we started the count down. They brought the kit of emergency equipment to the house and made sure we had everything else they needed prepared.
Then the drama started. I started having very regular but painless contractions one afternoon which continued into the evening, so we called the midwife (Helena) and she decided to come with her doula (Pilar) that night. We were pretty concerned about the birth being so fast that they wouldn't get here on time. My partner and my best girl friend were a bit jittery about having to deliver the baby themselves in the rush. We started timing and walking and breathing.....went on for hours....everyone went to bed in the end and in the morning everything had stopped. Oh well - just a false alarm. Helena was so nice about it despite having had to sleep on the fold-out sofa bed which is not that comfortable. "I'd rather come and it be a false alarm, than not make it on time", she said. This was at 38 and a half weeks.
Four days later the contractions started again, this time significantly more noticeable but still not the pain I remembered from my previous 2 births. So we walked and breathed and they gave me some acupressure massages to help stimulate the contractions....and then nothing happened AGAIN ! The next morning before leaving to go home Helena gave me a VE and at least this seemed promising - my cervix was effaced and 1cm dilated and the baby was enganged although not very low. She thought it was likely that labour would start that evening again. But it didn't. And the days went by.....some odd contractions - maybe 4-5 every day, but nothing to say that labour was starting.
Wednesday all day they started to hurt a bit more seriously but now I wasn't going to be fooled - I'd given everyone enough sleepless nights already. Breathed through them...took it pretty easy all day, went for a nice walk in the countryside with Gabi my partner..... Then soon after getting to bed that night my waters suddenly broke. I'd been expecting this for weeks since baby was so incredibly active and almost violent in his kicking. So much water !......Call Helena again. She and Pilar came over in the middle of the night convinced that now it would all pick up. That's what we all thought - that's how it goes isn't it? You break waters and labour starts. That's what had happened in my previous births - once spontaneously and once artificially. Helena didn't want to check again if there was any more progress for fear of infections....but now surely it was just a matter of hours? The next morning - you guessed it - still not in labour.
Helena said in the hospital they will only wait a maximum of 24 hours before inducing labour once the membranes have broken. She knew that for many home birth midwives up to 72 hours was still ok but that I had to make the choice. It was my decision. This was pretty hard. She had left us a monitoring device - a doppler I think - and I had to take my temperature on the hour and listen to the baby just to check nothing was going wrong. He sounded really good all the time and there were no other signs of infection. But time was running out. All day Thursday and nothing, the night passed and still nothing. Helena called to know how long we were prepared to wait before going to the hospital. She was not in a position to induce me at home, unfortunately. We'd decided Saturday morning which still gave us until midnight Saturday to complete 72 hours.
Friday afternoon I was having some stronger contractions but only every hour or so. I was getting desperate.....it was not fair, after all we had done to be able to have our baby at home to have to end up in the hospital to be induced ! I started to breakdown....burst into tears and felt so defeated by it all. It seemed ironic that after half a pregnancy of panicking that the baby would be born premature in the end he would be forced to come out. I was 40 weeks now. But what was wrong? Why didn't I go into labour? After having a big cry about it all, Gabi and I went for a night time walk and came home to shower and go to bed and face the inevitable the next day. I was having more contractions but nothing really regular and with so many false alarms I didn't know how to interpret what I was feeling anymore but Gabi decided it was time to call Helena again. By this stage it was past midnight.....she wasn't really keen on coming out again unless we were really sure it was starting but quite frankly, I wasn't sure of anything anymore. The contractions started to be longer and more painful - lasting about 1.5 minutes each....just maybe, maybe things were starting to move. I lay down to wait for Helena to arrive and the contractions continued, getting more regular and stronger all the time. This was a good sign, at last.
An hour later Helena was here and she checked me this time to find I was 7cms dilated - so thank goodness, baby was coming ! The last 3cms were much more painful and harder to deal with than I had expected. I don't know if the drips they'd put on me in the hospital for my daughter's births had something to do with it or my age or what but this was getting excrutiating. One contraction would run into another with waves of pain in my pelvic bones.....I kept waiting for them to end like they had with my daughters....but this time was different.They didn't end. I went from severe transition contractions to pushing, something that hadn't happened to me with my other births. But I was so sore I couldn't move to get into a better position and lying on my side I was getting nowhere. I managed to find the words to let everyone know that I couldn't push like this and they immediately pulled me up into a sort of squat with Gabi supporting me from behind. This was better, but boy, did it hurt to feel the baby's head coming down.
I was feeling half conscious of what was going on. I knew I would feel the "ring of fire" like I never had before because they'd given me aneasthetics and an episiotomy in the hospital but this time I sure felt it. But somehow amid all my panting and sweating and feeling pretty delirious I managed to control the pushing so that I didn't tear and soon I could see his little (not so little ! ) head sticking out and then his shoulders and then he was screaming his little lungs out even before the rest of him was born. It was so incredible. We had so longed to see him finally and here he was, all red and slippery and very cross ! He wouldn't feed at first but did settle after a minute or 2 - then he covered me in meconium.
Helena clamped the cord and Gabi cut it so I could get into a better position to push the placenta out. On my hands and knees - as I would have liked to have given birth - I got the placenta out really easily despite it being pretty huge too. Then Baby was happy to feed at last and latched on beautifully and totally relaxed. It was so so so much better than the hospital - no bright lights, no noise (other than mine) no injections or drips or interference and just the 4 of us to welcome him into our world. My daughters had not wanted to witness the birth so we woke them just after - they hadn't even realised it was happening ! I'm sure I made a hell of a lot of noise but Gabi said I really only moaned through the contractions. Anyway - a warm shower, change of sheets and everything was cleaned up and we all cuddled into bed. Lyorel was born at 4.30 in the morning on the 22nd of April. I was a bit in shock from the pain still all that day but by the next I was so elated and so happy that we had done what we really felt was right. I'll do it again any day.
Lyorel's temper hasn't improved much I must say even though he's now almost a month old. His insides bother him a lot - makes a terrible fuss just to get a burp out but all this will go away, we know.....
I would recommend to anyone thinking about home birth to make the effort and do it....I was emotionally scarred from my experiences in hospital and they didn't help in my relationship with my daughters - especially the first. I was so detached, didn't even feel like that baby over there being examined by the nurse was anything to do with me. I now look back and feel so sad about it - so angry at having been manipulated and treated just like another body instead of like a whole person going through one of the most important moments of my life - giving birth to my first child.