Birth Stories

Index of Birth Stories

  1. Rachel & baby Aaron (Homebirth)
  2. Sarah & baby Beatrix (Waterbirth - Home)
  3. Marianna & baby Conor (Waterbirth - Hospital)
  4. Kerry & baby Matilda (Hospital - Normal)
  5. Emma & baby Rosie (Waterbirth - Home)
  6. Sophie & baby Theo (Hospital - Normal)
  7. Angela & baby Mark (Waterbirth - Home)
  8. Levin & baby Mirielle (Home Waterbirth - Dad's Story)
  9. Valentina & baby Aurora (Homebirth)
  10. Sean & baby Aurora (Homebirth - Dad's Story)
  11. Holly & baby Fraser (Waterbirth - Home)
  12. Rebecca & baby Benjamin (VBAC Waterbirth - Home)
  13. Joy & baby Jasper (Ventouse - Hospital)
  14. Josie & baby Lyra (Hospital Caesarean)
  15. Nicky & baby Annie (Birthcentre)
  16. Gina & baby Zach (Waterbirth - Home)
  17. Catherine & baby Twins Sophia & Isobella (Hospital Caesarean)
  18. Hanna & baby David (Home Birth)
  19. Jayne & baby Harry (Waterbirth - Home)
  20. Natasha & baby Jonah-James (Home Birth)
  21. Manta & baby Albi (Home Birth)
  22. Allison & baby Jonah (Hospital Caesarean)
  23. Annette & baby Isobel (Waterbirth - Home)
  24. Masha & baby Anton (Home Birth)
  25. Ralitsa & baby Giorgio (Ventouse - Hospital)
  26. Rachel & baby Belle (Waterbirth - Home)
  27. Breige & baby Sophie (Home Birth)
  28. Anna & Gabrielle (Hospital - Normal)
  29. Danielle & baby Oliver (Hospital - Ventouse)
  30. Rhonda & baby Jasper (Hospital - Normal)
  31. Heidi & baby Jasper (Waterbirth - Home)
  32. Jenny & baby Henry (Home Birth)
  33. Holly (Jennys' bestfriend) & baby Henry (Home Birth)
  34. Lisa & baby Christopher (Waterbirth - Home)
  35. Matthews' Story of baby Christopher (Dad's Story)
  36. Sally & baby Wilfred (Hospital - Breech Caesarean)
  37. Sarah & baby Nancy (Waterbirth - Home)
  38. Kate & baby Jessica (Waterbirth - Home)
  39. Ute & baby Leo (Waterbirth - Hospital)
  40. Emma & baby Valentino (Home Birth)
  41. Nicky & baby Flynn (Hospital Birth)
  42. Madlin & baby Gabriel (VBAC Waterbirth - Home)
  43. Jude & baby Ben (Waterbirth - Home)
  44. Yvonne & baby Valentina (Home Birth)
  45. Sally & baby Read (Waterbirth - Home)
  46. Francesca & baby Samuele (Waterbirth - Home)
  47. Katie & baby Robbie (Waterbirth - Home)
  48. Gina & baby Ella (Waterbirth - Home)
  49. Emma & baby Luna (VBAC Waterbirth - Home)
  50. Guillaume Story of baby Emmy (Dad's Story)
  51. Rachael & baby Halle (Waterbirth - Home)
  52. Ingrid & baby Christina (Waterbirth - Home)
  53. Christophs' Story of baby Christina (Dad's Story)
  54. Julie & baby Amelya (Waterbirth - Home)
  55. Lisa & baby Oliver (Waterbirth - Home)
  56. James' Story of baby Oliver (Dad's Story)
  57. Kirsty & baby Sebastian (Hospital Birth)
  58. Emma & baby Mia (Home Birth)
  59. Alice & baby Jessica (Waterbirth - Home)
  60. Natalia & baby Penny (Waterbirth - Home)
  61. Sophie & baby Sebastian (Waterbirth - Home)
  62. Freddies' Story of baby Sebastian (Dad's Story)
  63. Zoe & baby Sean (Waterbirth - Home)
  64. Pauls' Story of baby Sean (Dad's Story)
  65. Kirsty & baby Andrew (Hospital Breech Caesarean)
  66. Ruth & baby Frank (Home Breech)
  67. Evie & baby Ellie (Home Birth)
  68. Annette & baby Edward (Home Breech)
  69. Abby & baby Blake (Home Birth)
  70. Zara & baby Haider (Hospital Ventouse)
  71. Gemma : a Mum-to-Be's Experience
  72. Sara & baby Alex (Hospital - Ventouse)
  73. Lucy & baby Tate (Waterbirth - Home)
  74. Claire & baby Amelia (Breech/Caesarean - Hospital)
  75. Tracy & twins Toren and Mairead - (Normal Birth - Hospital)
  76. Carla & baby Charlie (Home Birth)
  77. Sally & baby Lilly (Waterbirth - Home)
  78. Jane & baby Nuala (Waterbirth - Home)
  79. Jo & baby Charlie (Caesarean - Hospital)
  80. Belinda & baby Jessica (Waterbirth - Home)
  81. Holly & baby Riley (Waterbirth - Home)
  82. Rachel & baby Austen (Waterbirth - Home)
  83. Gemma & baby Maisie (Waterbirth - Home)
  84. Claire & baby Charlie - (Normal Birth - Hospital)
  85. Lisa & baby Archie - (Water Birth - Home)
  86. Katie & baby Jamie - (Water Birth - Home)
  87. Miranda & baby Tacy - (Water Birth - Home)
  88. Anita & baby Jamie - (Water Birth - Home)
  89. Rachael & baby Florrie - (Home Birth)
  90. Rebecca & baby Harry - (Hospital - Forceps)
  91. Masha & baby Viktoria- (Home birth)
  92. Joanne & baby Daniel- (Home birth)
  93. Chiara & baby Sienna- (Water Birth - Home)
  94. Catherine & baby Thomas - (Home birth)

    A statement of Thanks

    We would like to thank all these amazing women for letting us share their wonderful birth stories and photos. We are so privileged to be able to share the most amazing and exciting part of their life with them. We never get fed up with reading about, or being part of a beautiful birth.

    Rene x and Sally x

Rahel & baby Aaron - Homebirth Normal

When initially meeting Rene and speaking about our various worries and concerns about birth, she made a comment which really stuck in my mind; "Birth is the easy part, it's what comes after that's difficult". How true this should turn out to be!

Rene provided amazing care throughout; she really took time to get to know us, to listen to our worries and wishes, to explain, encourage and empower us. She instilled the kind of confidence and trust needed to prepare ourselves for the birth we were really hoping for.

We had decided on a Homebirth and drew up quite a restrictive birth plan. On the day, Rene was amazing. She knew exactly when to leave the two of us to it and when to gently guide or get involved. The day unfolded like a dream and it was only afterwards that we realized we had achieved every single item on our birth plan; there wasn't a single thing we had been hoping would go differently!

Rene’s care however didn’t stop after giving birth. In fact, over the next few weeks she went out of her way to ensure baby and parents were looked after. She offered invaluable advice and emotional support we would not have wanted to be without. When it was time to say our good byes, she felt as if part of our new little family.

Rene played such a major part in shaping one of our most amazing moments in our lives. We're incredibly grateful to Rene to make our birth “the easy part” and treasure our memories of our birth day and the time spent with her.

Sarah & baby Beatrix - Home Waterbirth

I decided to hire an independent midwife when I started investigating what the post-birth experience would be like on the NHS.

Having a history of depression and generally being a bit of a control freak, I was really aware that I would likely find the birth fine, but quite possibly crash afterwards. What I read scared me regarding the apparent lack of support I would receive (without seeking it out in groups and so on) on the NHS. In the event, it was the best decision I think I've ever made.

Whilst the birth was wonderful (again, made possible as a result of the independent midwife care, in very large part), the afterwards has been rewarding and hard in equal measure - and I am fully aware that my baby is a dream compared to some!

Having problems with feeding - as we have had for the first couple of months - is amongst the most stressful things I have ever had to deal with. The support I received from my midwives post-natally was incredible - from the regular weekly checkups in my own home, which was the subject of jealously from all my NCT friends - to much more specialist care relating to breastfeeding, as I needed it - even if that meant multiple appointments in a week, or day!

Without this support, I honestly believe that not only would I not be breastfeeding my baby now, but I would have probably slipped into post natal depression, considering the pressure that every mother feels now to breastfeed (and being told that it should be easy, painless and enjoyable!).

I don't know how other women suffering the same problems that I have had manage by themselves!

Marianna & baby Conor - Hospital Waterbirth

From the minute I found out I was pregnant I was determined to have a natural birth. I set about endlessly researching the best means of achieving this, and it became an obsession. My research led me to Hypnobirthing for drug-free pain management, and it was during a session on fear release with my Hypnobirthing teacher that I broke down in tears, completely afraid of my inability to have a natural birth.

You see it wasn’t a doubt I held myself, it was 30-odd weeks of the worst hospital appointments imaginable, with various consultants telling me that a natural birth was highly unlikely in my circumstances. I am overweight, considered obese by the medical industry, I have a pituitary tumour and PCOS, which means that I have imbalanced hormones, and I’m over 35 (just!). So, I was slapped with the label “HIGH RISK”. This was despite the fact that I had had a model pregnancy, with perfect blood pressure, minimal weight gain, no sickness, no issues with my pituitary tumour, and very little discomfort at all. In fact I’d loved every minute of being pregnant aside from every hospital visit, where they would make me feel like a crazy person for even considering a natural birth with no medical interventions. They made me feel like I was taking risks with both my life and those of my child. At one point I even became afraid that I might die in labour if I made the wrong decisions.

I did two things at this point. My Hypnobirthing teacher recommended that I hire a Neighbourhood midwife and try for a home birth if I felt that the natural birth I wanted was beyond me at hospital. So I hired Rene and it was the best decision I ever made. Whilst my husband was never quite comfortable with the idea of a home birth, we compromised and decided for a hospital delivery in a birthing pool with Rene as my birthing partner. On the advice of my doula I changed hospitals and found that I was treated more like a human being than a high risk mother. I was told that I could use a low risk birthing room and that I was not considered to be high risk. I was signed off by the consultants back to midwife care. There was no mention of dangerous MRI scans like there had been at my previous hospital.

Rene provided the most amazing support and advice (all from the comfort of my home), and from the first minute I spoke with her on the phone she made me feel like a normal birth was not beyond me a that this is what I was designed to do as a woman. Finally someone who could see past my weight and hormone issues and treat me like a woman who was not in need of medical intervention and who could have exactly the birth she wanted. It was such a relief to me. I finally relaxed (well sort of – I’m a control freak!)). I had someone I could contact as freely as I wished with my questions, with Rene always being just a text or a phone call away. We wrote my birth plan together and she told me to be more forceful in my tone to ensure I got what I wanted.

I went into labour naturally and spontaneously at 38 weeks, despite being terrified of going overdue and being induced. I had my bloody show in the morning and Rene advised me to continue with my plans to go to London for my ten year wedding anniversary, as the action of the head pushing on the cervix would progress my dilation. By 10pm I was getting regular contractions and called Rene as I wasn’t sure if that’s what they were! By 2:00am I was starting to get a little scared as the contractions were more intense than I had been expecting, so Rene came and monitored me in my home for the next two hours. I wish I’d listened to her advice to stay home a little longer but I just wanted to get in the birthing pool at the hospital. The journey to the hospital definitely regressed my dilation as I was only 3cm when they examined me (something I allowed against Rene’s advice and against my better judgement). After a midwife shift change I was eventually allowed to get in the pool at around 8:30am and remember the feeling of immense relief the warm water brought. Throughout the labour Rene used her toolbox of homeopathy to help ease my discomfort naturally. I have clear memories of frankincense being put on a cloth and held up to my face when contractions faltered. I remember her voice constantly telling me to keep going and encouraging me and making me change positions to keep the labour progressing. At transition when I started making sounds about not being able to do this Rene was the voice of reason with her “you don’t have any other option” – this focused me and reminded me of my firm decision not to have an epidural. When after two hours of the pushing stage my baby’s head was still struggling to descend, I clearly remember Rene saying that the baby must have his hand by his head. As expected the baby came out on the right side – he never turned – with his hand by his head. There was nothing that Rene predicted that was ever incorrect throughout the whole time she was with me! Finally my beautiful baby boy was born into water, a lovely calm birth, and exactly how I imagined it would be. The only issue we had was the fact that the hospital midwife wasn’t happy with his breathing, and clamped and cut his cord almost immediately, before I really knew what was happening. He cried as soon as she put him on the resuscitaire, and in my opinion (and Rene’s) there was never anything wrong with his breathing. It was the only downside to a perfect labour and birth.

I honestly believe that I would never have been able to have the birth I wanted (and to prove all of those disbelievers wrong!!) without Rene’s involvement. Her focus on natural birth and her encouragement throughout completely eradicated any self-doubt I had about my ability to labour. Her services in the postnatal period were invaluable at a time when most new mothers are struggling to understand everything that is happening with their new baby. Again, Rene was just a phone call, a text or a visit a away. 6 weeks of this kind of support was the most amazing thing I could have had, especially as Conor had prolonged jaundice and was gaining weight very slowly. We discovered he had posterior tongue-tie, and the ever-invaluable Rene came back to cut that in the privacy of our home, with no doctors or scary people around. I was terrified of having this done but Rene did it quickly and with little fuss. He cried a little but soon stopped as he was put to the breast to feed. He is now gaining weight fantastically well.

I truly believe that all women should be able to have access to this level of care – one-on-one with the same midwife from the start of pregnancy until well after delivery. There is no doubt in my mind that I will be using Rene again should I be lucky enough to have another child. She turned what could have been a traumatic experience into a wonderful life event, so much so that I am now jealous of pregnant women who are about to go through child birth for the first time! Now that is saying something! Thank you for everything Rene and the Neighbourhood Midwives, from Conor and I.

Kerry & baby Matilda - Hospital Normal

Matilda our full moon baby who was in a hurry to enter the world....

Our pregnancy was a bit of a surprise and we hadn't thought about the type of care we wanted and accepted that the NHS was the only choice we had. Rene came highly recommended by friends but in the early stages of our pregnancy we hadn't made a decision if we wanted an independent midwife. However, this changed after a second NHS antenatal appointment which was disappointing and I felt disillusioned with the care on offer through the community midwifery team. At this point we decided to meet with Rene and after the our first meeting I was convinced that she was the right choice for us. Rene listened to my concerns and my hopes for a natural birth with no interventions, and most importantly my worries about the postnatal period, especially breastfeeding. As it was my first pregnancy I did continue to attend my NHS appointments as I didn't want to opt out totally.

During the pregnancy Rene's antenatal care was comprehensive and the best part was that she was at the end of the phone or text for any concerns no matter how small the query which was particularly reassuring. She also talked to me in depth about hypnobirthing to help me prepare for the birth. At 30 weeks my NHS antenatal care altered with the offer to transfer to a caseload team which we decided to take up and Rene was happy to work with this change and she continued to be our main midwife.

My waters broke at 35 weeks and I ended up in hospital. I can only say that this left me in a state of shock and I remember thinking that it was too early. I wasn't ready as I hadn't packed my hospital bag or had the 'birth talk' with Rene yet. Rene was a rock during this period as she came to the hospital that night to give me support and discuss the birth plan, just in case the birth happened that night. After 2 days of monitoring I was allowed home and Rene worked alongside the NHS midwife caseload team to monitor me in preparation for the birth and hopefully get me to 37 weeks.

But events took their own course and after just one night home labour started the next evening. Rene had been around in the afternoon and all was fine but by the afternoon I began experiencing low grade period type pains and by the time I went to bed that night the intensity of these had begun to increase and I thought that the baby would be here soon. I listened to the hypnobirthing CD and woke up at midnight with what felt like contractions. I called Rene to let her know and she told me to get some sleep and see what developed. At 2am the contractions were regular around 5 minutes apart and I had a show so I was back on the phone to Rene who said she was on her way to assess me. When she arrived and had done the assessment my contractions were 3 minutes apart and Rene said we needed to make our way to hospital.

When I was assessed by the on-duty midwife I was 7cm dilated and labour was progressing very quickly. At this point Sam, my NHS midwife, had not yet arrive and Rene was amazing as she took control of the situation for me while I was able to concentrate on the labour and remain in a hypnobirthing state. Looking back I think the labour was easy because of Rene totally understood what I wanted and with her help I was able to achieve this. My preference was to stay at home as long as possible to avoid any interventions and with Rene's support I had the confidence to do this. I didn't want any pain relief unless it was necessary and as it turned out there wasn't any time because it all happened so quickly. I also felt very strongly about a physiological third stage and delayed cord clamping and Rene really pushed for this as did the NHS caseload midwife. Our daughter Matilda was born a little over 5 hours after established labour started and just after the full moon!

We are so grateful for all Rene's help and support to achieve our perfect birth, a totally enjoyable experience (once I got over the shock of my waters breaking!!) and I remember as soon as Matilda was delivered I said to both of the midwives "that wasn't as bad as I everyone said, I think I could do it again.....well maybe not straight away" which made everyone laugh!

I also think the birth was perfect as I wanted as few people present as possible and in the end it was just myself, Rene and Sam, just 3 ladies doing what has been done throughout history. I was also so impressed and really respect both midwives for working together in the final stages of the pregnancy, during the delivery and in the immediate post-natal period to look after both of us especially as Matilda became jaundiced and we ended up having an all-inclusive 10 day NHS holiday at St Thomas's.

From my husband Mark's point of view he wasn't sure about his role at the birth prior to the event and was happy to be led by Rene's guidance. He was present during the initial labour when we were in hospital, but he left the delivery room during a chaotic 5 minutes when Matilda's heart rate dropped temporarily and was to return when things calmed down. Despite Rene texting him to return he didn't and we later discovered he left his phone in the room!! He returned once Matilda was born. Although he missed the arrival of Matilda he said we were in safe hands with Rene's presence.

Emma & baby Rosie - Home Waterbirth

When I discovered I was pregnant I knew that I wanted Rene to be my midwife. I had planned a home water birth for my son 3 years ago but unfortunately this didn't happen. We were under the care of our local community midwives and although they were very attentive and totally supportive of our plans,they were also constricted by hospital protocol and our son was born naturally but in hospital.

So, getting back to Rene. I called Rene and we arranged an initial consultation with my husband. Thankfully my husband agreed that Rene was the only person for the job and we both felt very confident that we would be able to have the birthing experience we had both wanted for the birth of our son.

Over the next 6 months Rene visited me at home and we built up a great relationship. I was able to text her anytime, day or night to ask advice for any of my pregnancy issues. Thankfully there wasn't many of these so my plans for a home water birth were looking very likely. I remember a couple of weeks before my due date,seeing Rene and joking that I hadn't even packed my hospital bag yet! " You won't need that" she said with such confidence, and she was right!

So, my due date was Sat 27th July. I distinctly remember this day and how tired I felt! I had been feeling like I was in my own little bubble for a few weeks. Luckily,my in laws were visiting and they,along with my husband took my 3 year old son out for the day. This enabled me to get some rest. I'm glad I did because I had a terrible nights sleep that night. I just couldn't get comfortable all night.

I woke the next morning still not feeling right. It was my mums birthday and we were due to go to my parents house for a BBQ. I stayed in bed whilst my husband took my son to my parents. At 12.30 pm my waters broke. By this time I was getting excited but also aware that I was home alone! So, I text Rene and called my husband who made his way back home (minus my little boy. We thought it was best for him not to be around for fear that he's presence would interfere with the flow of my labour).

For the next few hours as my contractions started to kick in I mainly paced the floor, did some yoga moves, ate, drank and tried to relax. All the while I was in constant contact with Rene via text, who advised me to go for a walk in the garden. This really helped my labour progress. Goodness knows what the neighbours thought of me on all fours in the garden in my nightdress on a balmy Sunday evening!

Around 6.30, things really started to step up a gear. I was making use of my tens machine and my husband was starting to get the pool ready. It was around about this time that my husband phoned Rene and she made her way over. I remember hearing Rene come into the house at approx 8.30 pm. At this point I was on all fours in the living room floor, not long after I had an almighty contraction and Rene whispered in my ear that it was probably time to get into the pool!

I do remember feeling a relief when I heard Rene had arrived. My husband had been amazing and knew just how to handle me but there was an instant relief when I heard Renes voice. Whilst on all fours in the living room Rene managed to carry out all the necessary checks on me. At no point did I have an internal examination. Much to my relief, as I distinctly remember how uncomfortable I found them throughout my first labour. Rene was able to assess what stage I was at, purely by my body language.

I just about managed to crawl down to the spare bedroom to get into the pool. What a relief ! It felt amazing in the water. With words of support and encouragement from Rene, Rosie was born in the pool at 10pm. I had pushed for 6 hours to give birth to my son it was long and very tiring. I can honestly say I can only actually remember a couple of pushes ( although I'm sure there were more!) with Rosie.

Rosie was passed through my legs and I cuddled her for the first time. I stayed in the pool for approx 1/2 hour for the placenta to be delivered but in the end I got out and the placenta was delivered down the toilet within the next hour. I was tucked up in bed by 12am with a glass of champagne and a packet of chocolate buttons!

Rene and Sally stayed with us and helped with Rosie latching on for the first time. I had difficulties breast feeding my son but although it hasn't been plain sailing I am still breast feeding Rosie now after 10 weeks.

The care I received from Rene has been amazing. She is a very special lady and I feel that the support and advice she has given me ( and my husband) throughout has empowered me to have the confidence in my body to give me the most special birthing experience that I had so wanted ! I cannot thank her enough.

Sophie & baby Theo - Hospital Normal

Well, well Rene... I bet you were surprised when I rang you out of the blue to say I was 35 weeks pregnant. Not me. Not again.

I know, I was adamant it was a one time only experience for me, but things change and here we are two boys later!

You don't have my first labour story because to be honest it was such an exhausting and towards the end - painful and frightening experience I just never wanted to relive it again.

Even though the first 15 hours spent at home were spent in a womb like state in my comfortable home with no drugs and just a tens machine and a pool to keep the contractions at bay - I was so overwhelmed by the second stage with the hellish transfer to hospital and subsequent 10 hours in an overly bright clinical room with doctors coming in and out and all the intervention - that my recovery afterwards didn't allow for looking back and analysing the experience for its two halves.

My first half home experience with Rene and Laura was calm and relaxed. Old school style with 3 women together doing what women have been doing for centuries - supporting each other at home in childbirth.

This pregnancy was different from the last. I was quite ill with one thing or another throughout that by the time I really started to think about the labour it was almost upon me. I had been told that I couldn't have a home birth anyway as I had gestational diabetes and there may be complications with baby after delivery. So I went along with the NHS system and a helpful midwife up until around 30 weeks when she promptly left. After that my experiences went downhill with on thing or another and I felt like my care was being compromised and the
fear of labour started to dawn on me.

My partner said just ring Rene and see what she can offer you in regards to support with a hospital delivery. As soon as I heard her voice on the end of the line I knew right then I wanted her to be my birth partner at the hospital. We discussed it and as ever she calmed me and talked me through my options.

I decided that I'd like to spend as much time as possible at home before transferring into hospital where she would be my support throughout the labour.

After a few anti natal visits a home - which we generally chatted for a couple of hours - sorry Rene I do like a chat! And many text messages back and forth at any time of the day to alleviate my fears or just talk through the pregnancy and labour issues - I finally went into labour at 8am on Friday 18th October - conveniently, just after I had made breakfast for the family, put the washing on and packed my little boy off to nursery. Ah, now I was ready for labour - and did it come on me fast! By the time Rene arrived I was already 6cm dilated and she was following me around the room laying plastic coverings over the floor in the spots that I was contatcting in!

Unfortunately for me my body likes to keep my babies in the back to back position so I couldn't progress. Rene tried to turn him a few times with no luck so we made a quick decision to transfer in whilst I was still compos mentis! My friend was here too, so it was a little like last time with all the women mucking in.

I must say that by this stage Rene was my backbone. She was my focus through each contraction, rubbing my back in all the right places and hypnotising me with her chanting voice taking me to a far off beach. In fact it helped both me and my partner relax as at one point I looked over and he was fast asleep!

I have no doubt of my weakness of demanding a c section as soon as the real pain kicks in (sorry Rene I should say 'pressure'!!!) so having Rene's support through this stage is invaluable.

After a short stint in the pool which was lovely, I knew that as soon as I got out the contractions would be even more intense so I took a quick decision to ask for epidural.

From then on my pain was controlled, I was more relaxed, my body was doing exactly what it should and my contractions continued without any further intervention or drugs and the labour progressed in a very civilised way. With much chit chat and story swapping. My amazing partner at my side for the whole 12 hours and baby's heartbeat strong in the background I progressed to the pushing stage in no time and before I knew it I had actually pushed my baby out. Sounds crazy, as this is the obvious end to this scenario, but I had no confidence in myself that I would actually be able to do this on my own without more drugs, ventouse or c section. I was elated. We all were. What an incredible experience. I remember seeing Rene in the corner of my eye literally jumping up and down as the baby's head became visible.

It was a moment in time captured in those last few seconds of labour. Hearing my partner willing me on, stroking my head. The background noise of my baby's heartbeat dipping as I pushed with all my might, and the whoosh of speed as my baby was delivered and placed on my tummy. Amazing, amazing.

I have said to you before Rene, your job is amazing, but the real point is that you make OUR birth experiences amazing. I could not have gone through this without you. It is an incredible 'service' - for want of a better word - you offer.

But this is not the end of the story. At the time of writing I am due to see Rene tomorrow for my first post natal visit. Aka chit chat and tea!! In all seriousness last time around the post natal visits were almost more important than the help and encouragement through labour. Being a first time mum I was clueless as to what to expect in breast feeding and like a huge majority of women nowadays who struggle with it I could have easily have given up at the first hurdle but Rene sat with me for a whole afternoon and persevered with baby and me until we had overcome our problem. Without her guidance and time I am sure I would have given up. What other midwives or health visitors can offer this kind of commitment and care?

Thank you Rene - for all your support, time, and genuine care.
If I'd had a girl I'm sure I'd have named her after you hahaha.

Lots of love, Sophie xxxxxx

Angela & baby Mark - Home Waterbirth

Back In February I was planning on having an elective c section because I was terrified of feeling out of control about birthing my baby. I felt like I understood a c section and mentally I could deal with that better than the unpredictability of natural birth. I, unfortunately, am a childhood sexual abuse survivor and I just couldn't bare the thought of constant vaginal examinations by people I didn't know or trust, nurses and doctors coming in and out of my hospital room, it just would of sent my adrenaline sky high! I found out about independent midwives through I couldn't quite believe that this service existed because it was exactly what I needed to feel comfortable, knowing that only one person instead of a team of strangers would be supporting my husband and I.

We kinda met Rene by accident when our other care provider didn't work out the way we planned and it was as if the planets had aligned and brought her to us because I couldn't imagine how I would of birthed my son without Rene's gentle supportive nature. She made sure I was fully aware the physiological stages of birth from start to finish and suddenly I had a full understanding of what was going to happen to me which is what I desperately needed! She researched relaxation strategies for childhood sexual abuse victims so I could make sure my mind was in the right place before I started my journey into motherhood. That is the resounding affect she's had on me, handing me all the tools to feel safe, confident and in control of my sons birth.

So. . . the actual birth. My waters broke at 1am without any contractions so I just went back to bed but an hour later they started. I left my Husband in bed because I thought that the first stage of labour was going to be t least 12 hours long so I'd see him in the morning. . .but it came on quicker than I expected. I just got up and milled around the house until I had the urge to get in the bath, where I stayed for four hours in my own dream world, welcoming the pain of every contraction because I knew it would bring my son eventually. By the time my husband got out of bed I was having contractions every 3 mins although when he asked me how often they were I'd said every 15mins. . . and boy did he panic, silently of course, the birthing pool wasn't even up!

When Rene arrived she brought a calmness through the door with her, my husband relaxed which in turn relaxed me. I didn't exactly have an easy birth, I had a longish second stage of active labour where I was pushing for around 3 hours, my darling angel decided he was going to suck his thumb on route to the outside world making slightly more complicated. I had no idea how long the labour was because I was in my own world with my husband supported me throughout. Often in hospitals the midwives feel like they need to 'coach' you on how to birth your baby but Rene was just gently encouraging. She had faith in my body so I believed in it too.

When my son was born I was so elated, I'd done it without drugs or medical intervention! Tears all round.
I needed more support than I thought I would after the birth. Rene even saved me a traumatic trip to A & E on a Friday evening by arranging with my GP for antibiotics without him seeing or examining me. I really couldn't of managed a trip into hospital. Rene had gone above and beyond her call of duty to ensure that not only did we have the perfect birth, but we also had the appropriate support to enjoy our baby boy with confidence.

Levin & baby Mirielle - Dad's Story

Home Waterbirth

The pregnancy

I’ve always had quite a simple attitude to childbirth. My wife Jessica was always going to have to do the hard work, and I just wanted her to feel as calm, comfortable and happy as she could during her pregnancy and throughout her labour. Whatever she wanted to feel as comfortable as possible would have my full support.

Initially, Jessica and I wanted to have our baby at Lewisham Hospital birth centre, though rather quickly it became apparent that we would find ourselves involved in a game of cat and mouse with our local NHS midwives as to whether this would be possible. It was never explicitly explained why Jess might not have been able to use the birth centre, but her slightly high BMI and some other medical history seemed to be very important. After a few appointments with the NHS midwives it was clear to us that the priority of the NHS was more about managing ‘risk’ than providing the most appropriate service to Jess.

Philosophically I struggle with the idea of paying for private medical care, but when it became clear that we wouldn’t get any commitment from the NHS about the type of birth available to Jess we explored other options. At this point Jess’ Mum remembered meeting a rather inspirational independent midwife at a Royal College of Medicine meeting and recommended we meet Rene to see whether this might be the best option for us. After meeting Rene, it became clear that a water birth – Jess’ dream – was not only safe, and possible, but that this was something we could do at home.

Throughout the pregnancy, the support and care Jess had from Rene was invaluable in putting her mind at ease and helping her approach her labour in an informed and confident way. We learned so much more from the three-hour ‘birth talk’ with Rene than we did in six weeks of our NCT course!

The labour

Rene had said to us that the baby would arrive when she, and when we, were ready. The early May Bank Holiday weekend was time Jess and I had set aside for just the two of us. We went to Blackheath on the Saturday, had lunch, walked to Greenwich, took in the museums and browsed the market. On the Sunday we drove to Hever Castle, walked miles around the grounds and returned home completely knackered but full of happy hormones and properly relaxed. Jess complained of feeling a ‘bit odd’ and as she was tired I gave her a massage. Jess went up to bed at 9pm, and at 11.30 her waters broke.

I texted Rene and tried to get Jess to go back to bed, but her surges had begun and became gradually stronger and more regular. Jess paced between surges but when they came she wanted to hold on to me and look me in the eye. I used affirmations from our hypnobirthing course, and reassured Jess that this was all natural, that our baby was coming closer with every surge, that she was safe, comfortable and all was well. By 4am, the surges were very regular and I asked Rene to come over. By 4.30am, Rene had arrived and labour was established. I began setting up the birthing pool and Jess, now much less keen on holding on to me through the surges, focused on her breathing and on making herself as comfortable as possible.

In many respects, the rest of the labour is a bit of a blur to me. Jess was able to focus on her breathing and her affirmations, but she didn’t want to be interrupted and I found that I actually couldn’t help very much – or at least not as much as I had anticipated. A couple of times Jess was very close to being able to birth the baby, but as a first time mum she got spooked by the latter stages of pregnancy and progress slowed. Changes of position and a healthy dose of gas and air were tried, and again, Jess got close, but she was spooked when it came to really pushing – this really was the one thing that nothing could have prepared her for – exactly how to push…

This time in the labour was the hardest thing for me as Jess’ partner. When Jess got to her transition she got very stressed and was clearly uncomfortable. Her notes say she ‘lost it completely’, and this was the point when she said she wanted to go to hospital so they could ‘knock her out’. At this point if we had been in hospital I am sure Jess would have ended up having a caesarean section.

At this point I am not ashamed to admit I was a total wreck. I had had to say to Rene that, frankly, I wasn’t really able to cope too much more with hearing Jess in such discomfort. It was really tough for me (and don’t worry, I completely appreciate it was ten time harder for Jess!!!) to feel so unable to help or make a difference. This was the time for me where the value of a midwife we knew, we trusted, who we had a meaningful relationship with was at its highest.

Over months Rene and Jess had built a relationship so Rene could help Jess through this time. I simply couldn’t give Jess the support she needed at that time. I was too emotional, too scared for Jess and too full of adrenalin. I couldn’t achieve the distance from how things were for Jess that was needed to move things forward – but Rene could. Rene could calm Jess down, explain that going to hospital would make thing even more uncomfortable, and steer her through what would be the last two hours of her labour.

Rene knew how important it was to Jess to have our baby at home and we did all we could to explain gently and logically what would happen if Jess went into hospital. Gradually, Jess calmed down and went back into her focus on breathing and her affirmations. Rene spent the next hour and three-quarters talking Jess through every breath, every surge, every push. And Jess did it. She worked so hard, she trusted her body and our baby, and at 4.45pm, after about 12 hours of established labour our beautiful daughter was born into water in our dining room, exactly how Jess had always wanted.

I will never forget the moment Mirielle was lifted out of the pool and placed on Jess’ chest, the moment she first opened her eyes, took her first independent breath, the moment we were a family for the first time. It was an incredible, profound and moving experience, and it could only be this way because we had an independent midwife who could build a strong and meaningful relationship with both Jess and I based on trust, respect, and a real personal understanding of what Jess needed.

Mirielle fed almost straight away, I cut the cord after 20 minutes or so and then Jess completed her physiological third stage. Before we knew it, Jess and I were sat in bed together with Mirielle and a glass of champagne… and that was that...

life will never be the same again!

Valentina & baby Aurora - Homebirth

As soon as I fell pregnant I started worrying about the birth. It wasn’t much the process itself that scared me but the fact that I might have ended up being treated like a number and not being listened to. Sean and I decided to look into hiring an independent midwife to secure us continuity of care and after a little research and a nice chat with Rene, we felt that we found the right person for us.

The antenatal care was great and we managed to have all appointments in the evening so that Sean could always be present. In the months leading to the birth we got advice on alternative therapies, nutrition, physical and emotional well-being etc. It all allowed me to relax and look forward to the birth with enthusiasm and a positive mind.

My waters broke at 2.00am and from then on until about 9.30am Sean and I managed to cope by ourselves, waiting for the contractions to intensify. For all of that time we were updating Rene via phone (her excitement was a breath of fresh air!) and once things started moving quicker, she came to see us.

It was amazing being at home, I felt relaxed, safe and in control. Rene was a comforting and reassuring presence throughout labour, her discreet presence made it possible for me to zone out in between contraction and for Sean to feel like a main factor, instead of just sitting to the side as a spectator. Holding on to Sean I managed to go through the contractions and eventually started bearing down. The delivery happened in the bathroom, the light was off and we only had a torch to give a little light. The confined space and the dim light created a very romantic and calm atmosphere and I really felt free to let my inner self taking over and getting on with birthing our baby.

At 3.52 pm we welcomed our wonderful baby girl to the world. What an incredible achievement!

Aurora was a healthy 7lb, 0oz and thanks to Rene’s directions we managed to exceed our brightest expectations and have the most natural, gentle and safe delivery ever. Sean, Aurora and I spent a good 45 minutes in awe of each other before the cord was cut and the placenta was delivered. I will always treasure those memories, we felt so proud! We ended the day having a lovely shower and getting comfortable with some skin to skin contact in our bed. There and then our family was born.

In the days following the birth we struggled a bit with establishing breastfeeding, I did underestimate how challenging it could be and we are extremely grateful we had Rene to help out. Rene came over once a day for the first week and twice a week afterwards, she supported and helped us so that once we reached the 3 weeks mark we almost felt like experts. I do not know how we could have done it without hers support, having someone available 24/7 in case of any problem, doubts or even just when you need a little reassurance, it made a real difference.

All in all, we managed to achieve the birth we wanted, the healthiest of all babies, and memories to treasure for a lifetime!

Sean & baby Aurora - Dad's Story

home birth

The months leading up to the birth allowed us to build a trusting relationship with Rene. She has a certain motherly aura to her which helped us both to relax. Rene helped with all aspects of pregnancy. Every subject was covered from what foods to eat and avoid, how to help the position of the baby, explaining the scan results, blood tests and going through the birth experience in details. Rene also explained how I was going to be involved in the birthing process and it was a lovely feeling knowing I was going to have a big part during labour and birth.

At 2am on the day of the birth Valentina's waters broke. It was an exciting time and at 3am we phoned Rene. Now, for being woken up at that time in the morning I was so happy to hear how excited Rene was for us knowing that the birth could be only a number of hours away. This helped us both to relax knowing that she was ready and waiting for the moment we needed her.

Things progressed nicely during the early hours and the mood in our flat was calm and really enjoyable. One of the advantages with being at home is you have everything to hand. No strange noises, or strangers checking up on you, no annoying distractions. Just you, your partner and an environment that is yours. Very peaceful indeed and it helped us get into a really good mood.

At 10am we needed Rene. One phone call and she arrived promptly. At this point I thought that Rene would take over a bit and I would hand over to her. The opposite happened. For a short period of time she calmly described to Valentina how to control the breathing and how to relax. Rene then monitored Valentina's blood pressure and the baby's heart beat and sat at the end of of bed just making observations whilst the contractions arrived, hardly saying a word. This allowed me to continue with the support I had already been providing which filled me with so many wonderful feelings knowing I was a big active part of this birth and not just sitting in the corner quietly watching and waiting like you see on some of those hospital birthing documentary's on television.

As the intensity of the contractions increased Valentina and I were in control and it was our birth. It felt very calming, relaxing and for me very romantic and empowering knowing that it was our moment together.

Rene just allowed Mother Nature to take its course. It was so relaxing for me knowing Valentina could concentrate whilst having Rene there for support when needed. At no point was there any danger to Valentina or the Baby as Rene frequently monitored them both via the heart rate monitor, checking blood pressure etc. There was no time schedule just the schedule of Valentina's body and the baby working together allowing a natural progression. It's very difficult to fully explain how relaxed and how happy I was having Rene with us, this was of course Valentina's big moment but also mine too!

The final stage was amazing. I was there holding Valentina close as she concentrated on giving birth. The pushing stage was done in our bathroom with only the light of a small torch, I was able to see the head being delivered and then with one final push our beautiful daughter arrived. Emotions high, I cried with happiness.

We spent the next 40 minutes or so sitting there with our beautiful daughter. I then cut the cord before the placenta was delivered. Rene took the time to explain the placenta before Valentina went for a shower. Now I bet not a lot of Fathers can boast the fact they held there baby daughter at home whilst they watched there partner shower and relax. We then cuddled as a family on our bed, talking about what just happened and our smiles stretched from ear to ear both knowing we had delivered our baby in the way we had hoped for with minimal assistance.

One huge relief was the check up after the birth. Valentina had zero complications, a slight graze and that was it. What a fantastic birth and what an amazing midwife!

I cannot emphasis and stress enough how wonderful a home birth is. Our home birth has provided us with the most amazing memories. I am very happy with the decision we took as a couple to have a home birth and if we were to have a second child we would use Rene again. Her confidence, experience, guidance, pre natal and post natal care is priceless.

Holly & baby Fraser - Home Waterbirth

Fraser Kim Nolan– 5th November 2012

Our 3rd baby, Fraser, was born at home in the pool at 3.56am weighing 10lb 1oz & was perfect, just like his 2 bigger brothers who slept through the whole thing! Sally was my midwife with my previous pregnancy because after struggling to get the NHS to “agree” to a home birth we decided to take matters into our own hands & started down the independent midwife route. Unfortunately due to a family emergency Sally missed Riley’s birth but Rene stepped in & helped me achieve the wonderful home water birth experience I dreamt of after a horrible hospital birth with my first baby. This time round I was desperate for Sally to be there for the birth as we have remained firm friends since Riley was born & thankfully it all worked out beautifully.

My pregnancy with Fraser was entirely different to my previous 2 right from the start with sickness being a big part of my life up until about 16/17 weeks, something I’d not experienced before & something I didn’t particularly enjoy! I also experienced a bleed at about 5 weeks & to my devastation was told by the early pregnancy unit that I’d had a miscarriage. Luckily they sent me for a scan & found a baby but no heartbeat as it was still a little early so after enduring 2 weeks of limbo a further scan revealed all was actually well, much to our relief. I muddled through to 36 weeks with the NHS antenatal care until it got to the point where they were increasingly trying to intervene as scans showed he was on the large size, no surprise considering my first had been 9lb 13oz! At this point money was fairly tight but I was still desperate to have Sally attend the birth and Sally very generously offered a package to suit us at a price & payment plan we could stretch to. I will be eternally grateful to Sally as she is always thinking of others & her main priority is to help all women achieve the birth they want.

By now Braxton Hicks were getting increasingly regular & uncomfortable, again something that was a bit foreign to me having never experienced them before! I was convinced he was going to be early for some reason but the closer we got to my due date with nothing seeming to be happening the more despondent I got but Sally was amazing helping me with homeopathic remedies & performing a stretch & sweep to discover I was a good 3cm & 40% effaced…yippee I thought won’t be long now! But Fraser decided to keep us waiting another 5 days!

It was a Sunday evening & we’d spent the day with the in laws had a lovely meal & were chatting about the impending birth when my husband asked whether it was possible I could wake up in labour in the middle of the night (my 1st labour was induced & Riley’s labour started at tea time) as he very much hoped he wouldn’t have to go to work the next day! I said no I doubt it as I foolishly expected it would probably start the same way as Riley but perhaps he knew something I didn’t because at about 1am I woke for my usual bathroom trip but was rather uncomfortable & as soon as I got up to go to the bathroom I was instantly in pain which didn’t seem to ease off & found I couldn’t lay back down again for the pain was taking my breath away. I sat on the edge of the bed for a few seconds trying to gather my thoughts & came to the conclusion that something was definitely happening! I felt shivery & had a little bit of a confidence crisis so decided to wake hubby & text Sally to say something was happening. We decided to go downstairs so we didn’t wake our 2 boys & time the pains. Once downstairs it became quite apparent that this labour was going to be entirely different as I constantly felt the urge to wee, I couldn’t sit on my birthing ball because the baby felt so low & I managed to time 4 contractions that were about 2 minutes apart & lasting a minute before I could no longer focus on doing that so I text Sally who offered to pop round to see me.

Dan set about filling the pool while I paced to & from the toilet as the pressure on my bladder was immense. Sally, Rene & my mum arrived pretty much at the same time at 2.10am & set about arranging their equipment. I was by this point massively doubting myself because the contractions were so intense so quickly & so close together I couldn’t imagine being able to cope for much longer but Sally & Rene soon reassured me & the time seemed to fly by although the pool was taking far too long for my liking to fill! By 3am I was begging the pool to fill, hanging from the door frame, having pretty much continuous contractions & I could feel my body starting to make involuntary pushes, so Sally said as long as my bottom was under water I could get in and much to my relief it was so I jumped in without even taking off my nightie. I have to admit I didn’t find as much relief from the water as I did previously but this labour was so intense & fast it was still far nicer being in the water than out. I was in the pool at 3.14 & within 10 minutes I was pushing, although I still didn’t really believe that the labour part was over I still thought I would have ages to go! The pushing part was also completely different to may last birth and was just as intense as the labour had been. Sally & Rene were constantly reassuring me giving me updates that they could see baby’s head & when my waters went reassuring me they were nice & clear & without that I don’t think I could have got through it.

After 30 minutes of pushing Fraser came peacefully into the water so I could scoop him up. He had the chord round his neck so a little jiggling was needed to unravel him & get him to my chest right way up! The relief was all consuming it was amazing and Fraser was just perfect! The superb care & attention continued from Sally & Rene & the placenta was delivered just over 30 minutes later so they set about weighing Fraser & clearing away. By 6.15 they left & we found ourselves snuggled on the sofa waiting for the boys to wake up so they could come & meet their new brother! Even though it was a tough birth I always found comfort being at home I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been having to leave the warmth & comfort of home to travel to the hospital & possibly not have the pool available to use. There are no words to describe the gratitude I have for Sally & Rene or how invaluable their care is & I feel so privileged to have had 2 wonderful home water births with them. It was also such a lovely experience for my other 2 children who always felt involved & were ecstatic when they woke up to a new baby brother without being disrupted at all. I am so happy that I found Sally & Rene as it enabled me to have 2 amazing birth experiences that I never thought possible & if I’m honest they are probably the reason we went on to have baby number 3!

Rebecca & baby Benjamin - VBAC Waterbirth - Home

I have two beautiful bouncing boys. However, my first experience of labour is something I would rather forget but which has left me with both physical and emotional scars. My second experience of labour however, is something I will always cherish and which has gone a long way towards healing the scars I had been carrying. I am so proud of my body and what it has achieved. And I am proud that I had the courage to trust my instincts. However, the reality is that I would not have been able to do that without the assistance of Sally Harley. I will forever be grateful to Sally for what she has done for me.

My first son was born by C section for 'failure to progress'. I was induced at 37 weeks because the medical professionals suspected that my waters had gone. This was never confirmed and it is my belief that neither my baby nor my body was in fact ready. The contractions brought on by the induction were incredibly painful, regular and immediate and yet I did not dilate past 4 cm despite enduring this for many hours. I felt completely out of control and as if this experience was something that was happening to me rather than something I was a part of. When a C section was suggested I jumped at it as I had long since lost all faith that I would be able to deliver the baby myself.

I found this experience extremely distressing. I felt that my body had let me down. When I became pregnant with my second son I wanted to be determined that things should be different but I was in reality simply terrified that the most likely scenario was that I would in fact end up having another C section. I read up on hypnobirthing techniques and natural birthing theories and hoped that adopting these would allow my body to respond differently this time. I was particularly interested to read that some consider that women who 'fail to progress' in hospital are not failing in their natural role as birthing women but are in fact responding to a deep natural instinct to protect their unborn child by only labouring where they feel safe. I read that the conditions our animal instinct would consider necessary for labour would be somewhere dark, quiet, private, warm and safe. This really spoke to me as when I thought back to how I felt during my first labour in hospital none of these words would apply.

I was concerned to find out from the hospital that because of my status as a woman attempting a vaginal birth following a C section, it was standard policy that I would have to be continuously monitored on the labour ward at all times during my labour. I felt very strongly that this would interfere with the approach I was hoping to take towards my second birth and so I began to explore alternative options. I started by talking to doulas considering that they may provide the advocacy within the hospital setting that I would be less likely to be capable of once in labour. One of these asked me whether I had considered an Independent Midwife. I had never heard of this possibility. She recommended Sally.

I telephoned Sally that same day and from that first conversation I knew I had found the answer to my concerns. Sally was a wonderful and warm voice of encouragement and reassurance. She came to meet me and my husband and we both felt that the approach she offered was exactly what we had been looking for. Sally was very positive about the possibility of a home birth which was something I hadn't even dared hope for. However, she was equally supportive of the fact that we considered that we may feel we wanted to go into the hospital at some point during the course of the labour. We agreed to leave the possibility open. The decision to opt out of the NHS approach was not one we took lightly and we were under some pressure as the hospital and some of my family and close friends thought that we were taking too great a risk preparing for the possibility of a home birth when I had previously had a C section. However, I did a lot of research into the realities surrounding the risks associated with VBAC and this research, along with Sally's ever-reassuring presence, enabled me to be confident that I was making the right decision for myself and for my as yet unborn child.

It was so lovely having ante-natal appointments with Sally in the run-up to my due date. I really enjoyed developing our relationship in the knowledge that this was the woman who would be present at my birth.

Three days after my due date I woke at 12.30am with some cramps. I was unsure whether this was labour as I had not yet experienced the natural onset of labour due to my previous induction. However, after a couple of hours I decided that this must be it as the cramps were regular albeit still far apart. I telephoned Sally to let her know. At about 5.30am I ran a bath and I began the hypnobirthing breathing techniques in earnest. I found these extremely effective and I felt completely calm and focussed on what was happening. I felt I was working with my body. In fact I lost all track of time and was only dimly aware of Sally's arrival some time later. It came as a surprise when Sally told me it was 9.30am and that my husband had filled the birthing pool downstairs for me. At that stage I was 4cm dilated and once I got into the birthing pool things seemed to go very quickly. I still felt very calm and totally focussed. After only an hour or so I began to feel the urge to push. However, at some point it became clear that something was not quite right and on examination it turned out that even though I was feeling the need to push I was in fact still only 9cm dilated. Sally told me I would have to resist the urge to push and allow the contractions to work on the cervix so that I would be fully dilated. This was a difficult moment as I felt like it was a step backwards. Not pushing was also very painful. I felt demoralised and lost focus. At this point both Sally and the other midwife in attendance, Rene Schwencke, really came through for me. They encouraged me using the hypnobirthing language I was used to hearing in my hypnobirthing practice and meditation CDs. This really helped me get back in control of my breathing and work through this difficult part of the labour experience. After a couple of hours Sally examined me again and confirmed that she could see the baby's head and that I could now push. This was the most amazing moment. After all that time of not pushing it was such a relief that I don't even remember it being painful and my son was born very quickly after that point whilst we were still in the pool. He was born at 2.40pm at a healthy 9lbs 8 oz. Writing this a month later I still cannot believe that we were lucky enough to have him enter into the world in this calm and peaceful way. I do not think I have yet come to terms with the magic of it.

Joy & baby Jasper - Hospital Ventouse

Jasper Jovi’s Birth

After 4 days of labour our baby boy Jasper Jovi was finally born at 8pm on November 15th 2012, nearly 2 weeks late, weighing 7lb.8oz and with a slightly funny shaped head but otherwise beautiful!

The birth didn’t quite go ‘to plan’ – but I can honestly say that looking back (and even at the time) I don’t feel that it was a negative experience, and I know that this was due in huge part to Rene who patiently and expertly guided us through the whole process.

My husband Jon and I decided to look into homebirth with a private midwife because I don’t like hospitals, and I’d heard so many horror stories from my friends about the poor pre and post natal care they received at our local NHS hospitals. From the reading I’ve done it seemed to me that in most cases birth doesn’t need to be medicalised in the way that it often is in a hospital context. When we met Rene and she explained that 90% of births don’t actually need any medical intervention it made a lot of sense, and my husband Jon was reassured by the fact that we are a 5 minute drive from the QE, and that Rene knew the hospital well and would make sure we transferred there if we needed to.

I was SO determined to have the baby at home…but it turns out that it takes more than bloody-mindedness to birth a baby! I thought that keeping control over my environment, who was in it, and what happened there would help me manage the birth better. But not being able to control where my baby was born has been just the first in a number of lessons I’ve learned about motherhood over the past 6 weeks. And every day I am having to learn again to accept that I am really not in control of things!!

My labour started late on Sunday night (11th November) when my waters broke. I was 8 days overdue by then. I had a few mild contractions through the night but as I was expecting my labour to be quite long (my sisters had had very slow labours), we just stayed in bed and tried to sleep.

The following morning (Monday 12th) we called Rene. My contractions were very far apart so she suggested I just carried on as normal. Jon went to work and I spent the day walking in the park and baking and decorating a gingerbread house! Rene came round in the afternoon to check me and the baby out. We were both fine and there was no sign of infection, so although my waters had broken (and Rene had to explain the NICE guidelines) I was adamant that I wanted to stay at home and not go into the hospital for ‘augmentation’. That evening and overnight my contractions were getting stronger but I was able to get some sleep in between. By the morning they slowed down again. This was to be the pattern of the next 3 nights. By Tuesday morning (13th) I started to feel a bit upset and frustrated that there wasn’t much progress. Little did I know I had another 2 ½ days before I’d meet my baby!

Rene came round on Tuesday morning and stayed from that point onwards because I felt like I needed the support. Tuesday evening my contractions got closer together and stronger. Jon inflated and filled the birth pool and we all thought I’d be giving birth very soon! Although Rene didn’t do any internal examinations at that stage she reckoned that I was close to getting fully dilated. I didn’t have any pain relief at that stage – I had managed to convince myself that contractions weren’t ‘pain’, just ‘sensations’, and while they’re not exactly pleasant sensations they were totally manageable. I couldn’t take any paracetamol as it might mask a fever which would be a sign of infection which we needed to keep an eye on as my waters had broken. I tried the tens machine for a couple of hours, but I hated having wires attached to me. I absolutely loved being in the pool – that really helped, and I found that I could manage the contractions really well by walking around, leaning on Jon, squatting against the furniture and pulling on a rope tied over the door. The yoga exercises, hypno-birthing, visualisation and breathing techniques that I’d learnt were also really helpful, and Jon was great – he kept reminding me to stay positive, remember that the pain was productive, and to describe intense contractions as ‘good’ rather than ‘bad’ (!) as well as keeping me supplied with snacks, drinks and massage!

So on Tuesday night (13th) and Wednesday night (14th) we kept thinking I was about to have a baby, and were all set for him to be born…..but I couldn’t seem to get fully dilated. And in the morning when it got light my contractions would slow down to every 15 or 20 minutes and stopped progressing. Rene realised that his head was turned at a funny angle so she gave me some exercises to do to try and turn it….in fact we tried everything – exercises, walking in the park, cod liver oil, cold showers, dancing, homeopathic remedies, crab-walking up and down the stairs….now I know why they call it ‘labour’ - it was really hard, physical work……for 3 days -but still no baby! Rene was so patient – she was constantly checking my blood pressure, the baby’s heart rate, my temperature, and staying constantly positive and encouraging (even though she was also exhausted because none of us had slept much for days!).

Eventually when we were all totally worn out in the early hours of Thursday morning and I was incapable of making a decision about it, Jon and Rene decided that we needed to go to the hospital because they thought that I couldn’t manage another whole day and night without sleeping, and that my membranes had been ruptured for too long and there was too high a risk of infection. I cried because I was so adamant that I didn’t want to go to the hospital. But I just wanted my baby to be born by that stage and I didn’t have the energy to argue much!

Amazingly, when we arrived at the hospital Ruth, Rene’s supervisor, was on duty and she was so kind and welcoming to us, got us settled in a room with a lovely midwife called Nina who had just started her shift, and a student midwife called Ellis. The doctor on duty, Sinead, was also really understanding about the fact that I didn’t really want to be there! I hated everything about the fact that I was there – the bright lights, the lack of privacy, the absence of a birth pool, the fact that they insisted I went straight on an antibiotic drip and another drip for syntocin to speed up contractions….but it was made so much easier by the fact that Rene was there with us, explaining all the procedures and providing some consistency. We were very lucky that the midwife was happy to have Rene there and involve her in decision making. Although I had been 8cm dilated at home, when they checked me at hospital I was back to 3cm. I knew that given how tired I was by then I wouldn’t be able to handle the artificially intensified contractions without being able to move around (because of the 2 drips), so I decided to have an epidural. That meant I had to have a catheter (which was grim! Really painful and in fact the only way I knew I was having contractions was because of the pain in my bladder!) At that point I felt like I’d lost control of everything that I’d wanted for my natural, drug-free home birth, but Jon and I kept reminding each other that the only thing that mattered was that the baby was born safe and healthy.

Having Rene there at the hospital was so important – especially for Jon. Because we hadn’t ever thought that we’d need to go to hospital we hadn’t visited the ward or made any kind of plan for a hospital birth. So she was able to pass on what they needed to know about my labour so far, and what we wanted to happen. She reminded us to ask about delaying cutting the cord, and help us know what we could refuse, and what we could demand, and what questions to ask. Even though most of the staff on the labour ward were lovely, the whole hospital experience felt like this constant battle against interventions we didn’t want, and having to be on our guard about what was done to us.

I got fully dilated really fast (because I’d already been so far dilated at home) and was pushing by mid afternoon. I asked them to stop the epidural so I could feel to push properly. I pushed really hard for an hour (which felt like minutes) and I felt so glad that I’d be able to push him out even though we were at the hospital…. but he wasn’t budging because of the angle of his head. The next bit is all a bit of a blur for me, but because the baby’s heart rate didn’t recover well after a contraction, it suddenly became an emergency situation with lots more doctors and a lot of people telling me what to do.…..The doctors starting saying I had to sign consent forms for surgery. I really didn’t want a c-section but agreed to let them use the vonteuse to turn his head, but I said no to the forceps and that I’d only have a c-section as a last resort…..though they didn’t expect the vonteause to work and warned me they’d have to do a c-section if it didn’t. I was so tired and so gutted about the way the birth was panning out that I just zoned out while loads of people rushed around and they got me ready for theatre.

The doctor did an episiotomy (which I didn’t want but apparently it’s the only way they’ll do the ventouse) and she managed to turn the baby’s head. When they tested the oxygen levels in his blood they had to double check them because they couldn’t believe how strong he was after so many hours and all the pushing! But because he was doing so well and it wasn’t an emergency anymore she asked if I wanted to try and push him out – which I did.

By the time Jasper came out I was so exhausted that I didn’t really feel anything that I expected to feel. Just relief that he was ok. I felt totally out of it while they got him sorted out – there were just so many people in theatre and it was so noisy and the complete opposite of what I’d expected my birth to be like that I couldn’t really process what was happening.

Having Rene there every day after the birth to help me with breastfeeding, answer my questions, and reassure me was such a blessing – both with processing the birth itself, and dealing with those first few exhausting, painful, bewildering weeks.

Despite the fact that I wasn’t able to have the home birth that I’d prepared for, I feel that Jasper’s birth was a really positive experience, and I went into it so well prepared, confident and relaxed, and so in tune with Jon about everything. I know that this was in huge part down to Rene and her support throughout my pregnancy and I am so glad that we chose to have an independent midwife. ….I just wish everyone could have the kind of care that we experienced from Rene. Whenever I tell people that she spent 4 days (and 2 whole nights!) with us at our house and then visited almost every day for the first 2 weeks they can’t believe it.

So thank-you Rene….and I’ll try to be quicker next time!

Josie & baby Lyra - Hospital Caesarean

It took us six years to conceive our much longed-for daughter, Lyra, who finally arrived in December this year. Because of the uncertainties of doing IVF my pregnancy ended up coinciding with the final stages of my qualifying to be a teacher – looking back I can’t believe two such intense experiences happened simultaneously – no-one would plan it like that!

So in the summer I started thinking about the practicalities of getting to antenatal appointments 20 miles away from where I worked and taking time off school for them (why are they always in the middle of the day?!) and realised it was going to add greatly to my stress levels. I was also concerned about being neglected when I was in labour, as I had heard that NHS midwives might be looking after several women at one time. I was also worried about my husband not coping well in hospital – this being the man who had passed out on his third day of medical training, before deciding to become an engineer...

I was relieved to realise that Rene and her colleague Sally could solve most of these problems for us. I wasn’t hugely enthusiastic about having a home birth, as I didn’t know anyone else who’d done it successfully. However, I did know a number of women who had experienced a distressing “cascade of interventions” in hospital, so as time went on and Rene explained more about home birth, I began to think it was doable. Essentially, it seemed that home birth might be little different from the midwife-led unit at the local hospital, other than that I’d be in familiar surroundings and know my midwives. (Although I’m not sure I would have been allowed to give birth in the midwife-led unit anyway, as it seems that if you are “older” and have done IVF they automatically classify you as “high risk”).

After a false alarm in mid-December which turned out to be Norovirus (yuck), I started to joke that the baby would be bound to arrive on Christmas Day to cause maximum consternation. And then at 5am on Christmas Day contractions started! I was in established labour by midday, at which point Rene arrived with all her kit. After the false alarm I hadn’t wanted to put off my parents, who were coming over for Christmas lunch, so we had a really odd Christmas day with me upstairs pacing about between the bathroom and the bedroom, and my parents trying to enjoy Christmas lunch, with my husband running up and down stairs trying to support me and also be a good host! Later Sally joined us – we hadn’t wanted her to miss Christmas lunch again, as she had been at a birth the previous year.

I found the contractions painful but manageable, especially during the several hours I spent in the birthing pool. The main part of me that took a beating was my knees, from lots of kneeling by our bath on a bathmat made of stones – it looks rather stylish but I can’t say I recommend it as an accessory for labour! Lying on the stairs toward the end also resulted in sore shoulders and some painful carpet burns!

Things seemed very straightforward, and it seemed as though the baby would arrive by teatime. But then we waited and waited and it seemed that her head kept nearly crowning and then it would retreat again. By now my parents had gone home and it was getting to be evening, and Rene and Sally had me trying lots of different positions. I was getting very tired by now.

In the end I had to transfer to hospital as I had been pushing too long (it later turned out that Lyra was not only rather large but had managed to spin round in labour, ending up wedged in the back to back position).

This was the point where the real fun and games started, as the hospital felt I wasn’t an emergency and after an hour they still hadn’t sent an ambulance (presumably there were fewer ambulances available as it was Christmas), so my husband had to take me in our car. It was rather painful and more than a bit farcical getting out of our house, into and out of the car and then up to the labour ward with Rene pushing me in a wheelchair. At one point we got stuck in some double doors. I had imagined blue flashing lights and a stretcher, not limping around the hospital at dead of night in my Christmas outfit!

At the hospital I decided I wanted a Caesarean as I felt that I might end up having one anyway if they used the ventouse, which was the original suggestion. Also, an acquaintance’s baby had ended up with a distorted head from ventouse, which took a year of treatment to correct. We were told we’d have to wait while they dealt with more urgent cases, however, a little later Lyra’s heart rate started to fall (after having been fine for the previous 12 hours) and then we became an emergency.

From that point on it was all very efficient although I was a more than a bit out of it after having no drugs during the whole home part and then having lots! I do remember complaining that the operating theatre was very cold and the lights very bright and joking with the surgeon about how I never wear a bikini anyway so she didn’t need to worry about my bikini line, at which point she stated she was known for her extremely neat incisions and I had to promise to wear a bikini in future!

Baby Lyra was finally born at 2.22am on Boxing Day, 9.5 pounds and very healthy and screamy, although her (abundant) hair was green and stinky due to meconium.

My husband was brilliant and managed not to pass out or even go slightly wobbly!
Rene came to recovery with us and made sure we were okay and that the baby had latched on. She also came to see us several times while we were in hospital and made sure throughout that the hospital staff knew exactly how the labour had progressed. She was also really helpful in the weeks afterwards when we were working out how to feed Lyra and all the other things you need to learn.

My Mum commented that she wished she had had someone like Rene when she had me in the 1970s. She particularly liked that Rene supported us to make our own minds up about various issues and options rather than imposing her own views.

Overall I found it a great support to have my ‘own’ midwifes and would like to commend Rene and Sally’s incredible patience and good humour.
I also felt quite privileged to have essentially experienced both a home birth and a hospital birth and to feel that I was being looked after by top quality people in both environments.

Lyra is a month old now and very chubby and happy.
I would thoroughly recommend independent midwives to any woman who wants to feel fully consulted about the care she receives. My husband would like to add that it was nice that he was included and talked to, rather than ignored or talked about.

Nicky & baby Annie - Birthcentre

Annie Jean Archibald Robertson – 25th June 2012 -- Father's story

Annie being our second child we fully expected things to be different, but having the support of Sally helped us both feel fully prepared for whatever challenges Annie was going to throw at us. Nicky went into labour in the middle of the night & as usual Sally was the voice of calm via text and phone as soon as we contacted her. Nicky was relatively comfortable for the first couple of hours so we tried to get a little more sleep in preparation for the day ahead....that didn’t work out too well as Annie made it clear that she wanted our full attention and therefore sleep was not an option! Another call to Sally to let her know that sleep wasn’t an option for her either – as ever the voice of calm “don’t worry I’m on my way”

Sally arrived just in time for me to take our son to nursery & he was none the wiser as all was calm and normal and Sally was just here for another cup of tea :-)
The labour progressed through the morning with support and gas/air before transferring to the birthing centre. Again the transition was seamless and credit to Sally and the midwives at the hospital that the focus was 100% on Nicky, Annie and I. Sally was allowed to operate as part of the team which was exactly what we were hoping for.

Annie was in a hurry to say hello to the world, which was a very different experience to the arrival of our son, this was handled brilliantly by Sally. Helping to explain what was happening and that it was normal even though it was so different to last time – this kept Nicky calm and enabled me to stay calm and focus on supporting Nicky.

Annie arrived happy and healthy & Nicky was also in great shape. One of the highlights for us all was the fact that after Annie was born we were able to relax and bond with her whilst Sally co-ordinated everything with the team at the hospital to ensure that we could get home and introduce Annie to her big brother. All of the required paperwork was completed with the minimum of fuss and we were free to get home and start Nicky’s recovery and Annie’s bonding with the rest of the family.

Sally (& Rene) was on hand in the days after the birth to answer all of our questions and complete the necessary checks at home which saved on all of the stress of attending the doctors.

Thanks again for all of your help with Annie and Flynn – you have made the whole process so much easier for us & should we have another (still under discussion :-)) then we will definitely be looking for your support again.

Gina & baby Zach - Home Waterbirth

Zach is our second Rene baby, our first, Ella was born two years before also in water at home. When I fell pregnant with Zach having Rene as our midwife was a no brainer for us. 

My labour and delivery with Ella was great, straightforward and fairly quick-textbook, Rene called it! So I was confident about doing it again and looked forward to it during my pregnancy. Like with Ella, I started having twinges from 36/7 weeks but the contractions didn't turn into anything until 40+2 when I had a few very mild contractions which I would have disregarded except my mum was over having a cup of tea and she decided she'd time them as she was excited! They were regular but every so often the phone would go or the doorbell went and they'd disappear. Ben came home from work at about 4pm and 10 mins later I was playing on the floor with Ella and had a strong contraction followed by a show. I started to think at this point it was fairly likely this was in fact, labour! 

My mum said she'd take Ella and Ben phoned Rene to keep her informed. My mum had a very quick labour with her second so we were all aware I might too. At 4.20pm I remembered I had a reflexologist coming at 4.30 so I quickly called to cancel her saying I was fairly confident I was in labour but I'd let her know if nothing happened. 

My contractions really ramped up over the next 20 mins and at 5pm I had a huge contraction and was about to ask Ben to get Rene over urgently and like an angel she walked through the door before I could ask!! As soon as she was there I had two very long contractions with two peaks in each one, they were extremely intense and after the first Rene asked me if I wanted to get in the pool which due to gas men cutting our gas supply that day to do work(!) had been filled just in case in the morning. I felt like I just wanted my waters to break and then I could get back to the lengthy business of being in labour but actually Zach was wanting to come out but it was so so quick I didn't register! Rene and Ben pretty much lifted me up and put me in the pool and I pushed straight away. Zach was born at 5.38pm and by 7pm we were having a glass of bubbly and waiting for our takeaway! 

For such a quick labour it was remarkably undramatic, but I've learnt this from Rene, birth is in fact extremely normal and can be totally undramatic in many more cases than you'd imagine based on the media portrayal and the horror stories people love to tell pregnant women.

I feel strongly that my pregnancies and births have been so great as a result of Rene's care at home, however were they not to have been straightforward her care would have been even more important to us as she knows our family, and importantly, me, so well that she could safeguard my dignity and wishes in even a less than perfect situation.

I do have experience of the less than perfect in some sense. I had many struggles with feeding Ella, but Rene supported me through it. She's been doing the same with Zach, if it hadn't been for Rene, who despite his fantastic weight gain was still suspicious of a tongue tie, I wouldn't have got it checked out and it wouldn't have been dealt with before it became a real issue. I think I am just unfortunate in that feeding doesn't seem to come easily or naturally for me or my children, but I'm determined about it and Rene is hugely supportive of my choices. 

I have so much enjoyed my second pregnancy, birth and postpartum time with Rene, I find myself thinking about having a third baby as I go through all the experiences of having a newborn again and I have to remind myself that I shouldn't make that decision on the basis of wanting the Rene experience again but it is tempting! I would urge every pregnant woman to consider independent midwifery care; it's changed my perspective of life for the better as well as gifting metwo beautiful children by two beautiful births.

Thank you Rene xx

Catherine & baby Twins Sophia & Isobella - Hospital Caesarean

Pregnancy and Birth Story of Sophia & Isabella born 30th December 2011

I had a wonderful home birth with Rene for our first baby and so when we found out that we were expecting again I was straight on the phone to ask her to pencil us in her diary.

We went for our scan the sonographer turned around and said “well are you ready for twins?” !!

The scan showed that our twins were mono chorionic diamniotic (MCDA), which means they were in separate sacks but shared one placenta. I was told at the scan that most twins are delivered by caesarean at 36 weeks but after having a homebirth the first time I was still hoping to have another but it became apparent that I just needed to focus on getting the babies strong enough to get to a point where they could be delivered safely.

My blood test results came back with a boarder line (1/100) score for Downs Syndrome and so because of this and the fact that they were identical twins I decided to have a CVS test. The results of this thankfully came back clear.

Rene advised me to go on a high protein diet to help the babies gain weight.

At 14 weeks I was sent for another scan. The scan showed that Twin 1’s cord attached directly into the centre of the placenta but Twin 2 appeared to have a velamentous cord insertion, which basically meant that her cord inserted right on the very edge of the placenta. There was also a 14% size discrepancy and because of this I was referred to Kings College Hospital for a scan the following day.

When I was scanned at Kings the following day the size discrepancy had increased to to 17%. I saw Professor Nicolidas, who explained that because of the shared placenta and the increasing size discrepancy between the babies there were concerns that they may be developing Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) a potentially fatal condition for one or both twins. The blood vessels in Twin 2’s cord seemed strong and so he wasn’t concerned about the Velamentous cord insertion.

Because of the risk of the twins developing TTTS I was told I would have to have scans at Kings every week until delivery. Rene was brilliant. My husband couldn’t attend scans every week and so whenever I had to go alone, Rene came with me.

By 16 weeks the size discrepancy was 25% and the fluid in Twin 2’s sack had dropped slightly; both indicators of TTTS. Professor Nicholaides was fairly sure that I would need to have laser surgery the following week to separate the connecting blood vessels in the placenta. I was desperate not to have laser surgery as it carries a high risk for the smaller twin, and the possibility that neither would survive. Rene recommended I try a visualisation and meditation method, so I spent that week imagining the blood flowing to the smaller twin to make her stronger (I know how that sounds, but at that point I would have tried anything).

Miraculously, the following week the smaller twin had caught up a bit and the size discrepancy had dropped to 14%! At this point I was told it was safe to go on holiday and miss my 18 week scan, so we jetted off on a ‘babymoon’ for a week with my notes in tow and the name of a specialist near where we were staying, should I have any problems while I was out there (which thankfully I didn’t).

My relief was fairly short lived though as at 19 weeks the scan showed that the size discrepancy had increased again and that there was a large discrepancy in the fluid between the two sacks. The membrane appeared to be almost hugging Twin 2. Rene recommended I see a homoeopath, who advised me to try a Sycamore Seed remedy to help increase the fluid around Twin 2. I had never taken a homoeopathic remedy in my life, but again, I would have tried anything.

In the weeks that followed the fluid gradually increased in twin 2’s sack, the size discrepancy became fairly consistent at 20%-24%, and I continued taking the Sycamore Seed remedy and ‘visualising’ ?

28 weeks was a huge milestone for me as it meant the twins were, in theory, strong enough to survive if they were to be delivered. So from that point on, if the twins showed any more signs of TTTS I wouldn’t have laser surgery, they would be delivered early instead.

At 30 weeks I had an appointment at my local hospital to discuss my birth options. I had been advised by the consultants at Kings to have a planned C-section at 36 weeks, but I was still hoping to have a natural delivery. Rene had done loads of research, even going so far as to contact a twins specialist in the States. All came back with the same answer: if the size discrepancy is over 20% then they wouldn’t risk a natural delivery.
I was very disappointed, more so because none of the specialists could back up their advice with any statistics. It seems that it has become standard protocol to deliver identical twins with size discrepancy greater than 20% by caesarean at 36 weeks. So that’s what they do and because they do that there are no statistics to show the extent of the risk to the babies if you were to deliver naturally. I was disappointed, but I also didn’t want to be a Guinea pig and risk the health of my babies by going against the advice of so many.

At 33 weeks I was on my first week of what I thought would be four weeks maternity leave before having the babies. At my scan I was told that twin 2 was showing signs of struggling, and with the size discrepancy at around 25% they decided that the babies needed to be born. As they were still very tiny (and it was two days before Christmas!!) it was agreed that I would attend hospital every day for CTG monitoring (fetal heart rate) to give the babies another week to strengthen up before delivery. I was sent for Steroid injections to help develop their lungs and I was booked in for a C-section on 30th December. Rene advised me to start expressing to help my milk to come in quicker after the delivery. The hospital gave me some 1ml syringes and I gradually started getting enough colostrum to fill them. When it came to the day the girls were born I had twelve 1ml syringes of colostrum packed up in a cooler bag to take to the hospital with me.

My twin daughters were born at 34 weeks on 30th December weighing 4lb 1oz and 3lb 4oz. Sophia (Twin 1) was the larger and she was able to come home with me after a week in hospital. Isabella (Twin 2) spent the first night in NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and then four further weeks in SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) before being allowed home.

Rene came to see me every day that I was in hospital and she continued to come and see me a couple of times a week for four weeks afterwards.

Rene was amazing throughout my whole pregnancy, delivery and the difficult time that followed. I honestly don’t think I would have had the same outcome without her help and advice.

Hanna & baby David - Home Birth

We found out about independent midwives after a frustrating experience with the NHS. I was 20 weeks pregnant when we first met Rene and my husband Chris and I agreed immediately that we wanted to work with Rene. For the remainder of the pregnancy Rene provided excellent care and advice. We felt really well prepared and although this was our first pregnancy we felt confident that we could have a straightforward homebirth.

For some reason I had been convinced that our baby would arrive early however my due date came and went and there was no sign of the baby. I felt really frustrated and was getting bored at home. Six days later I had a show and finally some mild tightening. This continued throughout the day however the contractions were still almost an hour apart and more or less stopped during the night. The next day the contractions became stronger and during the following night they became more intense and more frequent. I kept listening to the hypnotherapy CD throughout the night and this helped me to relax and to stay calm. I also used the TENS and found it really helpful. At 5am the contractions were only five minutes apart and Chris phoned Rene who arrived some 40 minutes later. At this point I felt that I was coping well and I managed to breath through the contractions. Chris got the pool ready and by 7am I was enjoying the relaxing effect of the warm water. Labour was progressing and an hour later Rene called Sally and asked her to join us. I really expected the baby to arrive every moment. However it was another three hours before I felt an urge to push. Rene offered me some entonox and for some time this helped me to stay calm. By 11am Rene and Sally got very excited telling us that they could see the baby’s head and that he had lots of dark hair. Again I thought that the baby’s arrival was imminent but again I was wrong. Two hours later I was still pushing on and off but there was very little progress and the contractions kept stopping. Rene and Sally encouraged me to eat and Chris made sandwiches and kept offering me honey. However I didn’t feel like eating as I had been sick twice earlier in the morning when I tried eating a muesli bar.

After another three hours of pushing Rene suggested that I should get out of the pool and should sit on the toilet for a while however this didn’t work for me. I felt completely exhausted and Rene suggested that I should try to lay down to rest. However laying down felt extremely uncomfortable and I soon got up and knelt in front of the bed. I was very tired and felt that I could not possible continue pushing. I told Rene that I wanted to go to hospital and have a c section. Rene pointed out that the baby had moved down too far and a c section wouldn’t be possible. (The top of the baby's head could be seen) I really felt that I couldn’t go any further and at this point my contractions stopped. Chris and Rene continued to encourage me and convinced me to eat some chocolate biscuits. Eventually the contractions started again and I was pushing again (I had changed position and was now standing). Another two hours later at 19.16pm our beautiful baby son David was finally born! I was the first person to pick him up and to cuddle him (shortly followed by Chris as soon as the cord was cut).

The first night we all three were so exhausted that we slept through most of the night.

The days that followed were more difficult. I was struggling to breastfeed David (initially it seemed as if I was not producing any milk and then my nipples got so sore that I had to use nipple shields). I was very emotional and overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for a baby. I’m usually a confident person however all of the sudden I felt that I was doing all the wrong things and that I was incompetent as a mother. The lack of sleep did not help either and the first week of parenthood was a very confusing time. Rene was brilliant and her daily visits helped us to build our confidence and to discuss our worries. Until when being signed off after a month I was confidently breast feeding. I don’t know how we would have coped without her!

Jayne & baby Harry - Home Waterbirth

I was convinced I was going to be late and have a big baby! Due to the fact my sister, mum and nan were all late in labour, and had big babies, but my boyfriend (Nick) was convinced I was going to be early. As well as everyone else saying I will have a small baby because I had a perfect little bump! And luckily I lost weight everywhere else instead of gaining any! We were all so shocked when he arrived 8 days early though!

It all started the day before fathers day at Nicks nan and grandads 50th wedding anniversary. I was in constant pain whilst trying to sit normally at the table and without looking in pain, although everyone realised something wasn't right by my face, and the fact my stomach was rock solid all night and with huge swollen feet. I had to keep walking around, and being told to go outside so I didn't steal their thunder! Nothing happened though, thank god! My mum (also my midwife) said it sounded like the `latent phase` of labour. As soon as I got home I laid on my bed and fell asleep. I woke up the next morning feeling perfectly fine! Just a scare then, which I was happy with because we had nothing ready for him yet! It was fathers day so Nick and I just did the normal things, go see his dad and had a bbq at my dads, still no more pains so thought nothing of the night before. We got home and got into bed like normal, not prepared for what was about to happen...

It was about 2.30am and I woke up with the most strangest and uncomfortable feeling, so I went to the toilet, thinking if I did a wee the pain might stop, and it did for about half hour ! I then kept falling asleep and kept being woken up by this feeling, so I text my mum explaining it, (she was asleep upstairs) and she said, go time how far apart they are, I was having contractions! It got to 5.30am and they were getting closer and closer and more painful, so I woke Nick up, and he was pretty shocked! So we were lying in bed timing them, and before we knew it, they were 60 seconds long and 5 minutes apart. Mum came and put the TENS machine on me while I was sitting on the birthing ball. All I wanted to do was get in the birthing pool, but as he decided to come 8 days early, nothing was set up!
Mum said she was going to have a shower and then go to her appointment, as she thought she would have time. But by the time she was out the shower she took one look at me and realised she wouldn't have time! So Nick ran me a bath, and I got straight in there, within 10-15 minutes my waters broke, and the contractions got much stronger! Down stairs I could hear mum, Nick and my brother Luke running about like loonies setting the pool up in the front room, but as the contractions got stronger I was in my own little zone concentrating on my breathing. I asked for gas and air at some point, but I had no perception of time and all I knew was I wanted to be on my own and it to be quiet. Mum kept coming in to do checks and listen for his heartbeat, and the water was getting colder and colder, and because they were using the hot water to fill the pool up downstairs, my bath couldn't be warmed up, I was freezing! Mum thought my contractions might stop, but thankfully they didn't! Eventually mum came in saying the pool was ready, I jumped up and ran downstairs and jumped into the pool, I just remember it being so warm, calm and relaxing.

Before I knew it I had the urge to push, and 10 minutes later, it was over! Before Sally could get here. I looked down in the water (which was clear, no blood!), reached between my legs and there he was, my beautiful little baby boy in my arms, eyes wide open, looking about. The most amazing feeling in the world! Looking up at Nick, I could tell he was feeling the same as me. Neither of us could take our eyes off our little boy Harry David Mann, weighing 6lb 14 and a half oz, born at 11.06am.

After a while, when the cord had stopped pulsating, Nick cut the cord and gave his baby son a cuddle. I stayed in the pool for about 40 minutes, then came the afterbirth. A wave of relief came over me as it was all over. With my sister Emma cuddling Harry, Although I felt faint, I was all OK and got in the shower to sort myself out. I came back into the front room, and mum, Nick, Emma, Luke and Harry was all in there and Luke was opening a bottle of champagne to celebrate. We popped the cork and toasted to Harry.

One of the best days of my life! Such a natural and perfect birth, couldn't imagine being in the hospital, being told what to do and not being able to do it my way!

A few words from Rene (Jayne's mum and midwife)

When Jayne told me she was pregnant, with her first baby, I asked what she wanted to do about care, she looked at me as if I was mad, of course I want you as my midwife and I want a home water birth!
So no pressure then!

Her pregnancy was very straight forward, they didn't really ask many questions, I did all the normal appointments, giving lots of opportunities for questions. She was very laid back about it all, but of course I was always talking about the wonderful births I had attended, she also had her sister and sister-in-law who I had attended during their births, all being very straight forward. She just got on with it, having no fear, even though she had friends who were having problem births in hospital.

She then had the most amazingly perfect birth in just over 5 hours!

So then the comments started, well she was lucky! Its because she knew her midwife, its because of continuity of care, its because she was treated as normal without trying to find a problem, also the confidence to know she could do it, of course she could she is a woman, that's what we do!

Natasha & baby Jonah-James - Home Birth

We were really pleased when we found out we were having baby number 5 but then I started to worry about having the same bad experiences that I had with my last child with the midwife in my area. My last child had reflux and was slow at gaining weight. My midwife said his weight loss was because I had no milk, so she referred us to hospital resulting in putting my baby through blood tests and tests, then I was made to give top up formula .This really stressed me out resulting in a low supply of breast milk and I ended up suffering with postnatal depression. I did however manage to breast feed for over 2yrs.

My husband and I decided once we had spoken to Sally that we would have a better experience and support having an independent midwife. Jonah-James is now 8 weeks old and putting weight on nicely and breast feeding is going really well after a good start. I feel it is because I had such a lovely experience in pregnancy and a nice relaxed home birth with Sally's support and encouragement. I can honestly say having Sally as our midwife was the best decision ever. Sally has become a special friend to our family from our first booking in appointment to our last discharging appointment. My 2 youngest boys also enjoyed every appointment as Sally really included them talking and playing with their toys with them; they also loved listening to baby's heart beat.
All blood tests were taken at home making it easier and saved the stress of waiting in hospital waiting room with my lively boys. Both my husband and I suffered with bereavement during and after the pregnancy, Sally was a great support during this time. Having Sally as my midwife has been amazing, she really helped me to feel relaxed and calm through pregnancy and labour. I felt I was able to be relaxed and trust my body to just go with it, resulting in the natural home birth I wanted.

We were planning to go into the maternity led unit as my husband was worried about our 4 boys being around with a home birth. Sally reassured us all was well with the pregnancy and would be with labour. Sally gave a birth talk using visual pictures explaining each stage of labour & even though I had given birth before it really helped to see how the baby moves down during labour and how my body would prepare itself for the birth. This really helped me to feel strong enough that I would cope with having a home birth, my husband also felt happier to agree to a home birth.

A week before my due date I went into labour, all was progressing well. But then the contractions all stopped when my youngest two boys woke up in the morning. Sally was brilliant and helped me get through each day coming to do regular checks until labour started again. She reassured us that all was ok with the baby and that he would come when he was ready.

On the 6/6/12 my husband and I sat down to a curry; the older 2boys were at my sisters and the younger 2 asleep in bed. I enjoyed my curry and peace and quiet when I started getting contractions around 20.30. I text Sally to let her know and my husband phoned his work to say he would not be coming to work as he was due to leave for his night shift . Contractions become a lot stronger around 20.45 so I text Sally to come. At each contraction I was rocking on my ball or hands & knees, breathing through it. I felt relaxed and calm, with no surrounding noise and candles around the room I was able to concentrate and just let my body work through each contraction

Jonah-James was born with no problems and I did not need stitches. I really had an amazing birth and loved that I could reach down and bring my baby straight up to cuddle and begin feeding, feeling relaxed and proud of myself. It was lovely to take our time and enjoy our first cuddle before having a bath then snuggling up together in our own bed and seeing our boys faces when they woke up to a new baby brother.

Having Sally as my midwife has really given me a wonderful experience and enjoyable pregnancy and birth. I feel that because of Sally's support and encouragement I am enjoying breast feeding with no problems and love that he is gaining weight nicely feeling proud that his doing well just on my milk needing no formula top ups like my others.

I had my placenta made into Capsules. At first I was not sure but started taking them. I feel they have really helped with my milk supply and I feel energised and good in mood compared to after my other babies avoiding postnatal depression again.

I want to say thanks to Sally for being a wonderful midwife and a great friend. I really feel you have given me a wonderful experience and grateful to you for helping me enjoy an amazing home birth that I wanted.

Manta & baby Albi - Home Birth

‘I’M PREGNANT!’ I couldn’t have been happier. I knew the next 9 months were going to be an experience, I knew exactly what I wanted: hospital birth, lots of drugs and I wanted to be in and out and home with the bundle of joy in no time. Little did I know what I was really in for…

The first few months were smooth running until I was in my second trimester when the appointments at the hospital were getting more and more infrequent due to fault of the hospital and the staff became rude and vacant. I began to feel that the support that I had at the start had vanished. The feeling of being at the hospital made me feel uncomfortable rather than relaxed.

The constant disappointment with hospital drove me to believe that I needed an alternative if I was going to remain positive.

I had heard about ‘independent midwives’ and I was intrigued as to what to they could offer and if perhaps they could settle my nerves about the rest of the pregnancy, as the hospital midwives never answered all my questions properly.

After no hesitation and after a short search on Google I phoned Rene and a consultation appointment was made there and then. I was excited. I already felt at ease.
Rene, my husband and I all met and after the consultation we signed up. I already felt that I was safe-hands.

All the appointments were personal and informative. As the meetings were based at home, I became so relaxed and the worries that I had from the hospital, Rene covered and smoothed out all the fear and was at the end of the phone 24/7.

5 months later our beautiful daughter, Albi Lawton was born at home, with no complications and no drugs. A very different turn out than I had first planned.

The aftercare was incredible too. Nothing was any trouble. Rene certainly has patience of a saint.

It was the best decision I have ever made. The support, the genuine relationship Rene and I built up was amazing! Not only is Rene my midwife but a friend too.

So many positives to share about Independent midwives, I’m genuinely so happy to have a calm baby and I really believe it was because there was no unnecessary stress, of which the hospital created in my experience. The personal level and consistent care throughout made the whole experience totally magical.

Thank you to Rene and to Sally too for everything you did.

Manta, Jonathan and Albi

Allison & baby Jonah - Hospital Caesarean

Jonah Hopkins Hall : 11-11-11

Today is Jonah’s half birthday, and it is now time for me to write about our birth journey. It started 7 years ago with the birth of my first child. She came one week early via emergency c-section. Unfortunately, it was a case of poor management and coined “failure to progress.” Fortunately, she came out absolutely perfect and is an incredible little girl who is thriving in this world today. Two years later my husband and I were ready to have another child, and I was keen to have this baby naturally as I had very much wanted for my first pregnancy. So I researched hospitals and travelled to the other side of London hoping that I had found the best one to support me through a VBAC. Once again, I found myself in a situation of “failure to progress” and in theatre for another Caesarean delivery. Our second daughter was also a perfect blessing who is a loving 4-year-old sister today.

That is the background to Jonah’s story. It is necessary for one to understand how I came to truly need the support of Dany (a.k.a. my Hypnobirth Extroadinaire!) and my private midwives, Rene and Sally. I didn’t realise until one day how much I really wanted to have the natural birth that I had desired ever since I thought of having children. I met Rene and Sally via a friend when I was early in my pregnancy. I listened to Rene talk to others about supporting them through natural deliveries and found myself overwhelmed with Grief and Desire. Grief that I had never had a natural delivery that I really wanted and Desire to have this delivery with my third and final baby. I had started bleeding early in this pregnancy and was told by a private doctor who scanned me that “Any good doctor would tell me to have this baby by Caesarean, but we would have to wait and see.” In other words, he suggested that I would be lucky not to miscarry and a Caesarean was inevitable given my history. Rene and Sally had the supportive take on the situation that I needed. They told me how many women bleed early in pregnancy and to remain positive. And, that it is always a possibility to have a successful VBAC. They pointed out that the doctors don’t see the aftermath of a woman who has wanted to have a natural birth and has a Caesarean. They couldn’t have been more correct. That desire remained deep in my heart and I was lucky to find professionals to support me through the journey.

The pregnancy did indeed carry on in spite of a variety of physical issues. I bled for about 8 weeks, but my baby continued to thrive. I had a low lying placenta, but this moved up before the third trimester. I also have an umbilical hernia and split abdominal muscles from my previous pregnancies. Hence, my stomach was HUGE and my baby was in and out of a good position. In spite of all these physical challenges, Rene and Sally continued to be positive and supportive, and Dany bolstered my mental strength to stay the course. She helped me get over my many fears that I had developed over the years from my current and previous pregnancies. I listened to the Hypnobirthing tracks every night and attended Dany’s course along with my husband. Rene and Sally continued to reassure me with their exams and long, lovely chats in the comfort and convenience of my own home. They went to the hospital with me when I had to face the NHS doctors and midwives that I had grown to mistrust. This was also invaluable support. The pregnancy continued to progress well and I had a lot of long nights where it seemed as though our son was going to come at any time. All was going in the right direction. With Dany’s encouragement, I envisioned the healthy birth of our son. I felt it was going to happen. I wanted it more than ever. Two weeks and two days after my due date, my son came out beautiful and perfectly healthy. I should mention that he came by Caesarean for “failure to progress.” It was, once again, a mixed bag of emotions. In those last few nights I was on the phone a lot with Sally, Rene and Dany. They all listened and supported me as I tried to make the best decision for our son. Dany was up late the night before I delivered sending me tracks for Caesarian deliveries and breastfeeding (since I told her that breastfeeding was always my happy place post-delivery as it was my natural contribution).

I have such incredible joy and gratitude for my three amazing children. I am thankful for their existence every moment of my life. However, there was the aftermath of the delivery and hence the delay in being able to write about Jonah’s journey. There is still a part of me that looks at pregnant women with envy that they may have that beautiful, calm waterbirth that I wanted or even a vaginal birth with an epidural. I just wanted it more natural than it was. However, Dany also reminded me to be grateful that I did have access to medical intervention as needed. I think I am just about able to openly listen to other’s natural birth stories.

However, I know that had I not had the support of Dany, Rene and Sally, I would not even be where I am now. All three of them reminded me time and again before and after the birth that I needed to go through that journey. They helped me with hugs, kind words, tissues, herbal medicine, trips to the hospital, medical advice, and incredible listening skills. I needed all of that support for this journey and feel incredibly blessed to have found each one of them. It wasn’t the delivery I had always dreamed of, but the outcome was better than I could have ever hoped for.

Annette & baby Isobel - Home Waterbirth

The best way to describe Isobel's birth would be, fast! I put my two and a half year old, Edward, to bed around 8.30pm on Friday. I still had my hand on the handle to his bedroom door, which I was pulling shut, when my waters went very suddenly. That was about 8.50pm. I texted Sally who asked me to keep her posted. By 9pm I'd got my first contraction (a big one!). Then they came every five minutes for about 15 minutes. So husband hooked me up to a TENS machine and helped me downstairs. He set about blowing and filling up the birth pool, tacking up make shift curtains and moving the sofas to the sides of the room. All rather frantic!

By 9.30pm the contractions were every two minutes with hardly any breaks so husband phoned Sally and asked her to join us ASAP. My contractions became very intense. I felt some pressure to push and was consciously trying to cross my legs and slow things down. 10pm and a panicky husband called Sally to find out where she was. She was with us within 5 minutes.

The next 20 minutes or so were something of a blur. I had my eyes closed coping with the contractions while Sally brought in her equipment and she and Husband ensured the water in the pool was the right temperature. I thought baby would be born outside the pool as I couldn't fathom how I could move from my position standing at the island unit in the kitchen without giving birth there and then. However, in a sudden lull, I was helped into the water but once i was in I felt an immediate and overwhelming urge to push. Laura arrived just then. No time for observation of heart rates and blood pressure. I was panicking because a head-first birth with a baby who clearly didn't want to hang around felt very, very different to how it was with Ed (premature rupture of membranes, 4 days trying to get things started and 27 hours of contractions before an unexpected breech birth). So I desperately tried to slow things down because, quite frankly (and again in sharp contrast to Ed's birth), I feared more for myself than the baby!

Within minutes if not seconds the baby's head was born. A very short time later, at 10.51, Sally guided my baby to me and oh the joy of lifting her out of the water and holding her to me! It was blissful and emotional and the intensity and trauma of the previous hour and a half completely washed away. I was a little overwhelmed but absolutely delighted when I took a peep at baby's lower half and discovered we had a daughter. Isobel and I stayed in the water for about 45 minutes until the cord stopped pulsing and Husband cut it. Isobel latched on and breast fed within 5 minutes of being born.

The after pains were very strong, stronger than first time around, but it felt good to have a completely natural third stage. Finally some skin to skin with Dad before Sally weighed the baby. I couldn't believe she was over 9lbs but she was the pinkest baby I had ever seen. Then the best cup of tea ever and a few squares of chocolate before Sally and Laura helped Issie and I upstairs to have a bath. They put us all to bed around 3am and Edward didn't wake until 6, having slept through the whole event. He was overjoyed to meet his little sister and very excited when the extended family visited to help him celebrate "big brother day".

A huge thank you to Sally and Laura and to Rene for doing the paediatric checks.

Masha & baby Anton - Home Birth

"Our son, Anton, was born on Easter Sunday, 8 April 2012.

We were at first concerned about the logistical side of having a home birth No.4 , when our three older children (all girls, ages 10, 8 and 3) were at home and on school holidays. We were making plans with friends to be on standby to pick the girls up as and when things would start progressing.

I in particular was sure that my labour would not kick in until I knew that the girls were out of the house. Surprisingly, on the day that Anton was born, mild contractions began very early in the morning.

However, I was certain that everything will calm down the moment my older three children wake up (like it did in the previous couple of days). However, I was surprised to realise that throughout the entire day contractions were still happening (with various strengths and intervals), notwithstanding the fact that I went through the entire day doing the usual things, like cooking, playing with the girls and sorting a few things out around the house. At eight in the evening, the girls went to bed and I was playing in my mind the scenario of going into labour in earnest later that night, so that the baby is delivered early morning, after the girls would have been picked up by our friends, as I was sure that there will be some psychological barrier in my mind to deliver the baby at home at the same time as the older kids are asleep upstairs.

To my great surprise, as soon as the girls went to sleep, ie shortly after 8pm, I was truly in labour and Anton was born two hours later, just after 10pm. Trust me, I was not quiet and in the back of my mind did think that I may wake up my older kids, but once I was fully in labour, I just let it go in my mind and wanted the little one to be with us sooner, rather than later. The funniest thing of all is that in the previous days, the girls would burst into our bedroom first thing in the morning with the same question, "Is the baby here?" But that morning, when the baby was actually there, the girls tiptoed quietly downstairs to watch some cartoons without waking us up.

They had not heard anything at all during the night, even though I was pretty loud when delivering Anton downstairs and there was a fair amount of noise, when Anton and I had our bath together upstairs, which is located not that far from the girls' bedroom. We are now a very happy family with four kids.

Our biggest thanks are to Rene for all her support during the last two pregnancies and the safe delivery of the two of our kids, Anton and his sister, Viktoria, who was born three years before Anton.

Choosing to have all our kids at home was the best decision we have ever made. Rene has been fantastic and a total pleasure to have around to support us during this special time."

Ralitsa & baby Giorgio - Hospital Ventouse


I was 6 months pregnant when I interviewed Sally Harley. I had had a smooth pregnancy and felt well, however as the due date approached, I felt that I would like to have more support during labour and birth and especially postnatally, than the NHS was providing. At the same time I felt I wanted someone who considers pregnancy a natural state and birth a natural process and who would be able to support me in my choices and personal preferences. I also wanted to be looked after by the same person throughout, as I felt I needed to get to know and be able to trust them if I was to benefit from their care. With that in mind, I decided that an independent midwife was the way to go.

Hiring Sally

I found Sally's website via Independent Midwives UK. I interviewed a few independent midwives, and chose Sally because she seemed relaxed and warm and answered my questions in a way that convinced me she was experienced, felt comfortable with her job and most of all respected the Mother and the Baby. In turn that made me feel safe being looked after by her.

Sally's antenatal care

Antenatally, Sally would come to my house bi-weekly and then weekly (as is the agreement in the last trimester). Now that she was looking after me, I stopped my NHS antenatal appointments, which was a relief as travelling on public transport to go to my appointments was becoming difficult. She kept answering my questions thoroughly, giving me pros and cons about decisions that I needed to make (e.g. Anti-D injection, vitamin K, etc).


I spent the last few days before my due date in anticipation for any signs of labour. None were forthcoming as far as I could sense. When the due date came and went I tried to stay calm and relaxed as I knew that the due date estimations are not that accurate and also I felt that the baby knew best when he was ready. I knew the NHS advised on induction 10-12 days past the due date and I knew that I was reluctant to be induced. For the time being I tried to keep active - going swimming or walking daily in the hope that physical activity may encourage the baby to make his way out.

Five days passed after my due date and still no baby. I did not feel that the baby had dropped, and Sally confirmed that during the examinations. One thing that I could feel were occasional tightenings of my belly - totally painless, very irregular and not happening every day. I had had them every now and then even in the months of the second and third trimesters, so I was not that excited about them as being a sign of imminent labour.

The sixth day past my due date was Saturday. I got up in the morning and felt - for the first time in the pregnancy - that I had had enough of waiting. I did not mind being pregnant, it was the waiting I did not like.
I even had the thought of going back to work so I can do something with my time! (Unrealistic, but it did cross my mind!)

A friend with a baby called to ask if I was still pregnant and would I like to go for a walk - I jumped at this chance for diversion. I felt full of energy and desire to be active. My partner and I joined my friend and his family for a long walk along the Thames. During the walk I was feeling the familiar tightenings - still painless.

It did not occur to me to time them, as they seemed irregular and, well, painless. Around 7pm I was pleasantly tired and getting hungry and we started making our way home.

We got home around 8pm and as we sat down for a cup of tea and for the first time in the day were in a quiet place, I started thinking whether I had felt the baby move that day.

I had a glass of cold water to try to cause him to move, but felt nothing, even the tightenings had stopped. Considering he was 5 days late I started to get a bit worried.

I phoned the hospital, who said I should go in for a check-up if only to put my mind at rest; and I phoned Sally, who offered me to come home and check the baby's heartbeat with the Doppler. In the end I opted to go to the hospital as it would have taken Sally 40-50min to get home and if there was indeed a problem we would have had to go to the hospital anyway.

So out we went again with my partner. The hospital is 30min away by train and tube, plus a 10min walk. In the tube, I started feeling the tightenings getting more uncomfortable, and while walking from the tube station to the hospital I had to slow down whenever I felt a tightening. At that point I mentioned them to my partner, who seemed more certain than I was that I was in actual fact having contractions. When we arrived at the hospital, I went to the toilet and saw that I had a show. At this point I texted Sally to let her know. I felt quite excited - things were finally happening! While we were waiting at reception I felt the baby move (typical)! After a while I was let in a room and on to a bed and a midwife put sensors on my belly - one for the tightenings, the other for the baby's heartbeat - and we stayed there for about 1 hour.

Everything looked normal; the baby was not even fazed by the tightenings. We were told to go home and to basically expect labour to start.

We got home around 11pm and had dinner. On the way home Sally texted to ask for developments - we agreed that I would call her when I wanted her to come home.

The tightenings were getting more uncomfortable now. For some reason I was expecting that this early stage was going to last days - perhaps because they were still relatively painless, just uncomfortable. I guess I should have considered the fact that they were coming every 5-10min...

After dinner we sat on the sofa trying to watch TV. In an attempt to find a position that felt comfortable, I piled a few pillows one on top of the other and leaned forward on them, bum sticking up. After a while nothing felt comfortable and the contractions started to get stronger. By then it was midnight. I decided to take a bath as I thought being in water would help me with the pain. My partner prepared the bath for me and helped me get in. I stayed there for about an hour. The contractions were still coming every 5-10 minutes, but were quite bearable albeit uncomfortable. Around 1am I decided we should both go to bed and try to sleep as we were both very tired. However it was not to be as I felt most comfortable (relatively speaking) bending forward or walking around. Every now and then I was looking at the watch - strangely enough time seems to pass quickly when all you are doing is concentrating on the next contraction!

At some point I got tired of walking and bent over a chest of drawers moving my hips left and right during contractions. Then I started timing them and I noticed that they were coming either 2 min apart, in which case they were of similar strength, or - more rarely - 5 min apart, in which case the second one was stronger. Even with that frequency, I felt I was coping well so it did not occur to me to call the hospital. I had decided to call Sally at 5am (not sure why, perhaps to give her some time to rest as I was certain I was still in the early stages...). At 5am I called Sally and she said she was going to be on her way shortly. My partner got up and prepared the hospital bags, pillows and when Sally arrived 40min later, let her in.


Sally came in our bedroom and said I looked to be coping very well. She examined me and said I was 7 cm dilated! We were all quite surprised by that, I certainly did not think I was that far. Sally called the hospital to let them know we were going in, my partner called a taxi and a few minutes later we were on our way. It was around 6am, the streets were clear and we were at the hospital in 20-30min. I felt a few contractions in the taxi and a new sensation - a small urge to push. I think I told Sally that.

When we got to the reception area of the birth centre the receptionist recognized us from the evening before. Even so, it took 20min for someone to come and lead us in.

During that time I felt several contractions and felt the urge to push a few times, during one of which my waters broke.

Thinking about it later I thought I must have been in transition as I felt completely overwhelmed.
In the end I did the 1st stage of labour at home and the 2nd stage of labour in hospital. I ended up having a ventouse assisted delivery as the 2nd stage was taking longer than

2 hours and on examination it appeared the baby's head was not engaged in an optimal position. I did not use any pain relief during labour and for most of the 2nd stage, and I had spinal anaesthetic for the ventouse intervention.

My partner and Sally were with me all of the time and that was very important to me; there are moments during the birth when you feel very vulnerable and I appreciated their encouragement and also how they stepped in and took care of any questions the hospital staff had or any preferences they knew I specifically wanted expressed. With Sally's help my little son latched on and fed well soon after birth.

Sally's postnatal care

Postnatally Sally was of great help - listening to our experiences as new parents and answering our questions and providing encouragement. It's amazing how energizing it is to hear that you are doing well as a parent when you are a day or a week into it! Fortunately we did not have any major problems, but as a first-time parent I found Sally's presence (whether physically at home or at the other end of the phone line or email) very reassuring.

Rachael & baby Belle - Home Waterbirth

Rachael and Belle-Scarlett

I couldn’t quite believe it when I read the pregnancy test and it was positive, it was to be my second pregnancy. My first child Halle-Jay was 11months so I knew I would have my work cut out with such a small age gap between my babies but being close to my own sisters I was over the moon Halle would have a playmate in no time.

We choose not to find out the sex of our baby as I think its lovely making those all important phone calls once baby is born to tell family and friends. Before me and my partner even thought about telling anyone the first call we made was to Rene. Rene had been my midwife when I had Halle and we knew straight away we wanted another beautiful homebirth.

Between 36 and 38 weeks of being pregnant I’d had a few mild contraction pains getting my hopes up thinking baby was coming, only for contractions to stop again, my baby was teasing me. But at 38 weeks she was finally ready, I had a slight show in the morning and mild contractions all day whilst looking after my daughter, once my partner Daniel came home from work and I relaxed the contractions became regular and slightly more painful every ten minutes.
We spoke to Rene who said to start filling the birth pool and to let her know when the contractions where five minutes apart, Halle-jay went to bed and my contractions got slightly more frequent and painful, I phoned my mum to come over as she was going to be there during the birth, after all my false alarms I don’t think she believed it would all happen tonight never the less she made her way over.

My contractions became much more painful and as I made laps of the living room buzzing my tens machine I got a bit disheartened when my contractions became less regular. I spoke to Rene and decided to get some sleep and let what was going to happen just happen.
After every time I dozed off I was woken with a very strong contractions about every twenty minutes and with one fairly painful one my waters broke, that’s when I really believed I would soon meet my beautiful baby.

We made our way down stairs to the living room, my partner rang Rene who made record time and was here in ten minutes shortly followed by Laura. By this time little did I know I was fully dilated and with my next contraction ready to push. Luckily whilst Rene had been calming me down speaking gentle and stroking my arms, Daniel and my mum Tracy had raced frantically to get the pool at the right temperature using buckets as we had no hose.
The pool was ready and as I got in I felt relief straight away from the calming water, I was also having gas and air which is the best pain relief ever! As I gripped hold of Daniels hand I felt relaxed. My little baby knew just what to do I don’t even remember pushing, I just remember Rene saying to lift my leg up and next thing I was lifting my baby out of the water. Another beautiful little girl and another beautiful home birth I was overjoyed with emotion and relief I couldn’t believe it had all happened to fast.

It was amazing to see my two daughters meet for the first time the next morning as Halle woke up to be greeted by her new little sister Belle-Scarlett. I was pleased to have help and support from Rene over the next month although I was already a mum becoming a mum of two, everything changes. I’m writing my birth story while both my beautiful girls are asleep, Belle at only ten weeks old is sleeping through the night I’m sure it has something to do with her beautiful birth…Thank you Rene and Laura! x

Breige & baby Sophie - Home birth

When I was asked to write a birth story about the birth of our daughter Sophie- I thought- when will I ever get the time to do that now that our wonderful daughter is here and days and nights seemed to roll into one! I started to write this story when Sophie was just 4 weeks old - she is now almost 4 months!! and with the passing of this precious time I have been able to reflect not just on our birth experience but also the 41 week journey leading up to her arrival- the most incredible experience of my life!

Although not planned to arrive at home, Sophie wasn't for hanging about once true Labour began- birth plan of Birth Centre at Lewisham Hospital went out the window once we realised she was on her way and I handed myself over to the trusted and capable hands of Sally. With her continued reassurance I knew that Sophie and I would be just fine and after 1.5hours of labour Sophie calmly entered this world- so perfect!

So lets take a step back- why go down the road of choosing an independent midwife? With pretty demanding jobs my husband and I thought it might be worth looking at the private route for care during my pregnancy and delivery. As it would be our first baby, it was important to us to feel that we were supported strongly during our pregnancy and not seen as just another couple having a baby. We wanted to have consistency with the team looking after us during our pregnancy as well as flexibility to schedule days/times that worked for us. Having looked at this option, yes it was expensive but mostly we wanted to avoid if possible the full medical approach to giving birth. I have always regarded the process of childbirth as one of nature- one which my mother and both grandmothers had gone through many times! and therefore we agreed to explore other options which might be available. The team at my local GP's referred me to the independent midwife contacts- and from the outset this seemed to tick a lot of the boxes for my husband and I as regards being looked after during my pregnancy, approach to childbirth and aftercare once the baby arrived. Our plan and that which seemed to give most comfort was to work with Sally as our independent midwife and plan to have our baby in the Birth Centre at Lewisham- less medical in approach but close to help at delivery if needed.

Most of my Pregnancy was smooth sailing (only issue was heart burn at night time), however, emotionally it was a tough time as we suffered two family bereavements at the start and end of the pregnancy - Sally was an amazing support during those toughest of days.

Finally when my due date came and went- to my disappointment still no baby - Sally kept my spirits up and reassured me that things were on track and Sophie was perfectly positioned for delivery. So I continued with the daily walking, hypnobirthing cd's, homeopathic remedies, reflexology and massage with the hope that things would move along! Things were moving but very slowly and as we moved into our 41st week I was looking at the possibility of induction- but thankfully that was not to be- in the early hours of the morning 2am to be precise at 41 weeks exactly I started to have period type pains- nothing different from the twinges felt over the previous two weeks- but these were not going away and were getting stronger- so around 2.45am I woke my hubby and suggested that he get up and time my (what I now know were) contractions- they were more frequent than 3 each 10 minutes- the guide where we would be sure baby is on its way. While I sat on my birthing ball, I hooked myself up to the tens machine- Hubby called Sally who came straight away- I was so happy to see her and felt so relieved when she arrived- I knew i was now in safe hands and Sally would help me through this- firstly with some form of pain relief! Blissful gas and air! I was 3 centimetres dilated when Sally checked me but things were moving along quite quickly- we called the birth centre and they said hold off- first time baby- no need to come in only to be sent home! half an hour passed- Sally helping with pain and my breathing and having hubby play hynobirthing cd! All good but pain becoming quite intense and within 30 mins of Sally arriving, this incredible urge to push took over- Sophie was on her way!- no time for hospital or birth centre- the baby was going to arrive at home............... at that point i felt on the brink of panic but Sally managed to keep me calm and relieved any anxiety- she was here, I trusted her to help me through this! Active labour from 5am with Sophie arriving 6.35am- what an incredible experience- Sally encouraged and supported me the whole way through- later that morning- I wondered how I would cope when Sally (and Laura who had arrived shortly after S's birth) left- needless to say we wanted them to stay! The amazing thing though was the fact that Sally was of course coming back every single day for the next number of weeks- I felt safe, elated, relaxed and so thankful that we had such a smooth run during the birth- i give full credit to Sally for helping me to keep calm and allow my body to give birth to our beautiful daughter. The daily aftercare was crucial for me and my hubby as we have very few family members in London and we were on such a huge learning curve each day- I was delighted to see Sally every day- she encouraged me along- breastfeeding, skin to skin and generally helping to keep us positive when the sleepless nights were taking their toll!

I was introduced to Sally at around 15 weeks of pregnancy. I had no idea at that point how much trust I would instinctively place in her and how instrumental she would be in making my birth experience one of the most amazing life events that will stay with me forever! Sally is a very special lady and having gone through the months of pregnancy and birth with her I feel incredibly fortunate and blessed that she became part of our lives and made such an incredibly positive impact. I feel we have a very special bond with Sally and that has helped every step of the way!

Breige Bezian x

Anna & baby Gabrielle - Hospital Normal

Gabriel’s birth (04/10/10)

When I discovered I was pregnant, Rene was one of the first people I told. I’d known Rene for over a year and she is one of the most positive and inspiring people I know when talking about birth and pregnancy.

I looked forward to our appointments when she would listen in to the baby’s heartbeat and check me over. Her calm, pragmatic disposition was the perfect antidote to my usual tendency to neurotic introspection. As a result I was able to really enjoy most of my pregnancy. My brief brush with NHS midwives made me realise just how lucky I was to have such an encouraging advocate of natural birth, who made time to allay even my smallest fears. The one thing that Rene gave me that I wouldn’t have got on the NHS was time. Whether it was taking time to speak to me on the phone (whatever time of day or night) or taking to time to chat and prepare me for birth in my appointments.

My labour looked like it was starting around 34 weeks when I started having quite uncomfortable sensations that I thought were contractions. I hurriedly quit all of the work that I’d been doing thinking that our baby’s arrival was imminent. It turned out, however, that it was the first of many false alarms.

It turned out that I had a very long latent phase (days!) with contractions that always seemed to ramp up at night so it was difficult to rest. It was established that Gabriel had turned and was back to back which is why things were so slow. Rene encouraged me into positions to help the baby to turn and he did eventually right himself. By the time labour was established I was exhausted and had an anterior lip so when I felt like it was time to push I was unable to. We transferred in just 30 minutes before Gabriel was born (by ambulance men that were like the Chuckle Brothers). By the time we reached the hospital the urge to push was overwhelming. It is worth pointing out that there was a marked difference between the calm and peaceful environment we had left behind us at home to the chaos that ensued at the hospital. We’d initially planned a water birth at home. I liked the idea of being in my own surroundings. Thankfully, Gabriel was set on making his exit and no amount of bungling at the hospital was going to stop him. He was eventually born at 06.07am.

The aftercare we received was invaluable; Rene was patient and made us feel as though no question was too silly or neurotic. By the time she was ready to discharge us she had instilled us with enough confidence to continue our journey into parenthood on our own. Saying goodbye and knowing that Rene had no further reason to visit or check up on us was the hardest part of the whole process.

Danielle & baby Oliver - Hospital Ventouse

Myself and my husband were over the moon when discovering that after our first round of IVF we were expecting our first child! Our first few appointments with the NHS were appalling, and left us with little to no confidence in them when it came to my pregnancy and the birth of our child. My mum was very ill and wouldn’t be able to be present at the birth or through ante-natal appointments, and we were both first time parents, this left me feeling scared and very alone.

My husband and myself started looking for any additional support that we could get and came across the website for independent midwives, we contacted sally and arranged for a consultation.

The consultation meeting was great, Sally was all ears in terms of what we wanted and needed , and was very willing to work around us. We decided to book Sally on the spot as we immediately felt at ease with her.

My antenatal care was amazing, Sally was wonderful, she arranged regular visits at our home, the visits were not only to check on baby and me but a great opportunity for us to get to know each other and grow a trusting relationship. Sally was never rigid with time or never clock watched she gave me the time that I needed, she answered any questions or concerns that I had and reassured me the whole way through. She gave me confidence in myself and took away the feelings that I had of being scared and lonely. I never called or texted Sally often because I had a very smooth pregnancy, but the thought of knowing she was there on the other end of the phone made me feel so relaxed. Sally gave me lots of relevant information and recommended hypnobirthing to me as well, she let me borrow a set of hypnobirthing CDs which I started to listen to straight away. I really liked the hypnobirthing it further relaxed me and eliminated any fears that I still had. I also went to a workshop to further support what I was doing and my husband accompanied me which was brilliant. At no point did Sally ever force anything on me, she listened to my needs and used her knowledge and experience to recommend things to me.

At 39weeks and 6days I went into labour 2.30am Christmas morning! We didn’t call Sally until I felt the need to which was about 5am, she answered the phone straight away and after telling her the situation she offered to come immediately. I laboured at home until sally advised us that we could transfer into the birthing centre where we wanted to have Oliver at. After transferring in, my labour progressed very slowly, after many hours in the birthing pool my labour was still not progressing, contractions were coming thick and fast, sally was fantastic, she talked me through each contraction, she definitely has magic fingers!, just her touch and voice immediately put me at ease, she supported my husband and gave him the confidence to fully support me as well, I just could not of got through that phase without her or my husband. I finally had to be transferred to the labour ward, which is not what I wanted but my labour was not progressing as it should, I was put on a drip to stimulate my contractions and given an epidural so that I could rest, as at that point I had been through labour for 22 hours and needed to rest up. Sally reassured me and talked me through each step of the way, offering her advice where she felt necessary, so that my husband and myself could make informed decisions, I finally dilated to 10cms and was allowed to push but was only given an hour, in that hour sally guided me through the pushing, telling me what was happening with every push encouraging me on, after the hour Olivers heart rate went up and I was taken to theatre to have a ventouse delivery, after two pushes my son Oliver was finally born weighing a healthy 7lbs 10ozs, I cannot describe the feeling of holding him for the first time straight after delivery. I was put in the recovery room and then met sally in the ward afterwards, she immediately helped me to breastfeed Oliver which is something I had expressed that I was keen on doing. Sally stayed with me until I was comfortable and settled and reassured me that she will be back again the next day. Sally came everyday for the next seven days which was so so helpful, I was struggling with breast feeding but sally never gave up, she helped and encouraged me to eventually get there with breastfeeding, without her I would of probably given up after the first couple of days!

I still have 3 weeks of postnatal care left with Sally, and am absolutely dreading the day that she has to discharge me, I will miss her so much. Sally took on more than a midwife role in my journey of giving birth to my son Oliver, she was a mummy figure for me as my mum could not be present, she was a friend, a huge support, a huge bank of knowledge and I could not of gone on this journey without her. My husband and myself plan on having more children and we will definitely be calling Sally to share each journey with us, as her care is second to none ;)

Rhonda & baby Jasper - Hospital

Rhonda and Jasper's Birthing Day - Hospital Birth

We found Rene via the independent midwives website. I wanted to have as natural birth as possible and a home birth would have been my ideal but chose to have a hospital birth as this was my first pregnancy and I have a slight heart arrhythmia which can make me get a bit panicky.

As I did not know what to expect from labour I knew that I needed the security of knowing I was in hospital to keep me calm if any palpitations started and "just in case".

We had done a hypnobirthing course to try and stick to a natural birth and I was really pleased to find out at the consultation that Rene was experienced in hypnobirthing which was wonderful as she was able to prompt me on my relaxation techniques throughout my labour which I am sure contributed to my labour going so exceptionally well.

On our birthing day we were at home watching tv, at around 10pm my waters suddenly broke and I started getting contractions straight away.. we called Rene and she came straight over.. she examined me and suggested waiting a while to see how my contractions were going during which time she called the hospital to arrange for me to go in, the contractions kept coming faster and faster so at around 1am Rene suggested that we leave for the hospital.

On arrival they kept me in triage for a bit to assess if I was really in labour (which they soon realised I was!!) before moving me to the delivery suite.

Throughout my labour Rene kept reminding me of the hypnobirthing techniques and gave words of reassurance and encouragement that gave me the confidence I needed to continue without any pain relief other than gas and air.

We were very lucky to of had a hospital midwife that was happy to assist with the hypnobirthing and was happy to action Rene's suggestions of keeping the lighting low etc to keep me relaxed which made a huge difference.

Our Son arrived at 04:01 calm, healthy and happy.

The placenta ended up taking a bit more time to deliver, Rene asked the hospital to give me extra time to deliver it naturally per my birth plan which they agreed to but it took longer than they wanted and at one point the hospital midwife thought that they may have to give me the injection to assist the delivery, thank goodness Rene was there to suggest trying a couple of different techniques which allowed me deliver it myself without any intervention.

It was also very reassuring for my Husband to have Rene with us, it was quite something for him to see me going through labour and with Rene there he felt comfortable and relaxed that the discomfort I appeared to be in was fine and he had no reason to panic or worry.

I had no tearing and as the birth went so well and we were with Rene the hospital was happy to let us go straight home, I think we were back home by around 9am.

Rene stayed with us at home to ensure we were settled in and to assist with breastfeeding.. unfortunately Jasper didn't feed as well as he should of at first but Rene was on hand to ensure that we got it right and over the following days perfected it, unfortunately I feel there is no way that we could of got that kind of 121 support from the NHS and I actually think that if Rene wasn't there to help we could of got into a problem with feeding if I was left to my own devices as the books and breastfeeding classes the NHS suggest before birth cannot really prepare you for when your baby is here.

The aftercare visits were brilliant, it was great to have someone so knowledgeable and experienced right there in the days after giving birth when you need it most to answer any questions that we had about caring for Jasper (and we had quite a few) it was hugely reassuring to be able to call Rene if we had any problems and the convenience of having the 72 hour check at home was great as I couldn't think of anything worse than having to drag us out into the cold to get it done at the Dr's/hospital.

My Husband and I feel that we had the perfect birth and know that Rene played a huge part in helping us achieve that, her knowledge and experience is priceless and we cannot thank or recommend her enough.

Heidi & baby Jasper - Home Waterbirth

We never intended to have an independent midwife; however the NHS midwife was not supportive of me having a home birth. She seemed to try and find many reasons why I couldn’t have one – none of which were valid – and when I had an answer for all of her concerns she threatened me with a Gestational Diabetes test implying that I would definitely fail this! I never had a problem with my blood sugars so really there was no basis for this assumption. She upset me so much that when I came home I was pretty much hysterical about not wanting to go to hospital, I then realised just how strongly I felt about staying at home – something that I had known I wanted to do for as long as I can remember before I got pregnant. My husband contacted Sally and asked her to come and talk to us, he was already friends with Sally so knew she could help us and he felt unsure about a home birth so wanted to ask her lots of questions. Sally came to see us and answered all our concerns, explained how an independent midwife works and reassured us that she would support us in whatever decisions we made and provide as much info as we needed and never tell us what to do. It felt amazing to have someone on our side and we decided there and then that we couldn’t do this without Sally. I was about 22 weeks by this point. We were also being monitored for renal dilation and Sally came with us to all our consultant appointments to provide us with support. Our consultant was very happy for us to have a home birth and said there was no reason we needed to be in hospital, as baby could be monitored as an outpatient.

On 6th April I was already 4 days overdue so I started taking homeopathic pills that Sally had given me to try and help labour along. I took them at breakfast and then again at lunch. After I took the pills at lunch I had period like aches which were constant all afternoon. I felt that the aches were subsiding early evening so took my last dose of homeopathic pills and almost immediately they came back. I was really keen to go into labour soon and knew that I could have aches and pains for several days without going into labour so I made my husband walk round the block with me that evening in the hope it would start proper labour. I also had been cleaning like mad all day which at the time I didn’t think anything of but clearly I was nesting as I am not normally worried about housework that much!!
I went to bed and at 11pm the aches completely went away so I just assumed that they were like the Braxton hicks I had had before and nothing was going to come of it.

I woke up at 1:30am with what felt like contractions but I wasn’t 100% sure and didn’t want to get my hopes up. It felt like the kind of pain you get when constipated so I thought that maybe I just needed the loo. About half an hour after the pains starting I had a bit of a clear out and my husband came to ask if I was ok and I said I was fine just had an upset tummy and to go back to bed. He has later told me that he didn’t believe me and thought I was probably going into labour. After I had gone to the loo and the pains were still continuing I realised that I was definitely in labour. I thought I had ages to go as everyone says that with first baby you will be in labour for days so I decided to not get my husband up and let him rest.

The contractions got stronger and I could no longer lie down during them and was really having to breathe through each one and starting to make moaning noises. My husband came into me at about 3:30am and asked if I was ok, we decided to call Sally and let her know what was happening. Sally asked if I was coping ok which I said I was and let her know that the contractions were about 3 minutes apart and had been since they started at 1:30. I asked if she thought we should put up the birth pool and she replied that we might as well get started with it and to call when I wanted her to come out to us.

I helped my husband get all the birth pool stuff together and start filling the pool in between contractions which were getting more painful but manageable. At about 4am the contractions started getting stronger and I suddenly felt sick and ran to the bathroom and promptly threw up mid contraction. After this the contractions seemed to step up gear and were literally coming one on top of another. I had a huge contraction with loads of pressure that I thought I needed the loo again so I got on the toilet and screamed at husband to tell Sally to come now – at which point my water broke – well that explained the pressure, lol! This was at 4:45am. After this things seemed to move very fast I was on all fours in the bathroom wondering how I was gonna cope with the pain for hours (I assumed I had hours to go, what did I know?!!) I remember asking my husband to make it all stop and he tried to talk to me and ask what he could do but I couldn’t really answer. He put on my hypno birth CD thinking that he was helping and I screamed at him to turn it off, I just couldn’t cope with any distractions, any time he tried to touch me I screamed at him ‘don’t touch me’!! Poor guy he didn’t know what to do for the best. I also remember asking how long ago he had rung Sally and he said 20 minutes and I remember complaining that it would take her half an hour to drive and she had to get her stuff into the car and that she better have some gas and air when she got here. I think I was probably in transition but I didn’t know it. I sent him away to finish filling the birth pool. This was about 5am and within a few minutes I was kneeling up against the toilet and could feel that I was pushing with each contraction which felt so much better than before but I was also thinking to myself ‘I can’t be pushing yet, surely it’s too soon’ but I couldn’t stop myself.

Sally arrived at 5:30am and I complained that it hurt and was painful. Sally reassured me that labour was painful and it was normal. I told Sally that the pressure was unreal and with the next contraction I felt like I needed a bowel movement and Sally explained that it was probably babies head and then with the following contraction the feeling was so intense that I remember being quite emphatic to Sally that I really did need the toilet, I think I knew it was the head but I felt like I needed to convince Sally that I was needing to push already – of course she didn’t really need convincing! Sally suggested that I should get in the birth pool which my husband had just finished filling and that we should move as soon as my contraction finished. I knew that there would literally be seconds between the contractions so as soon as it finished I literally sprinted down the stairs yelling at my husband to get out of the way – he thought I would need help getting down the stairs – and pretty much vaulted the pool to get in!!

Sally had tried to listen in to the heartbeat a few times but each time she tried I had another contraction so it was impossible. Sally then explained that she would like to examine me because she needed to check that I should be pushing (Sally explained later that my contractions seemed to slow when I entered the pool which was why she wanted to check). I agreed to let her examine me and she said that the head was right there to which I replied ‘I know’!! lol.

I continued to push and felt his head start to come out, it took quite a long time to get his whole head out (although I think it felt longer that it actually was) and it was a feeling like no other especially when his head was about half way out and my contraction stopped and I had to wait for another one, Sally was brilliant during this part and reassured me that everything was fine and what I was feeling was normal, I was sooo glad she was there to talk me through that bit. At 5:52am his head was out and the rest of him followed at 5:55am. I lifted him out of the pool and straight onto my chest, I love that I was the first person to touch my baby and will never forget watching as sally guided him through my legs so I could get him. All in all he was born only 4.5 hours after my first contraction. I had no tears just small graze, which is down to Sally guiding me during the pushing stages.

I sat in the pool for a bit with baby but the water level was too high to breast feed so once the cord stopped pulsing my husband cut the cord and we got out of the pool so I could feed him. I sat on the sofa feeding baby whilst we waited for the placenta to deliver. After a bit I was getting quite strong contractions so Sally and I decided I should sit on the toilet and see if I could deliver the placenta, which worked a treat!!

I can’t believe the birth was so quick and was in a bit of shock for a while – my husband said he thought Sally was just being nice and encouraging when she was saying that baby was nearly here when we were in the pool, he had no idea how far along we were as he had been busy filling the pool. We are so happy that we had the birth we wanted and we got our gorgeous little boy. We have called him Jasper and he was 8lb 10oz.

Although I didn’t use the hypnobirthing cd during the actual labour I found it really helpful in the preparation and allowed me to relax in the last few weeks of pregnancy. The post natal support that Sally provided was fantastic and so reassuring knowing she was there for us. I also got my placenta encapsulated and found that it really helped with my emotional recovery.

With regards to the renal dilation, I called the hospital a few days after Jasper was born and they arranged for us to go in and see the paediatrician, he then had an ultrasound about a month later and all was fine by then with his bladder and kidneys within normal limits. We have continued to see the paediatrician every few months but Jasper has had no problems.

Jenny & baby Henry - Home birth

I knew I wanted and was ready to have another baby, but something was holding me back. After some soul searching I realised I just couldn't put myself into the hands of the NHS maternity services again – I was too scared. My first son, George was born in 2008. Antenatal care was adequate but I was not able to build a relationship with my midwife who never seemed to listen to me and who seemed to criticise me at every appointment for...well...being pregnant! Told off for having stretch marks, not drinking enough; I was anxious every time we met and it showed in my blood pressure readings. My delivery was the worst experience. Induced at 38 weeks after being told he was going to be a “whopper” and may not fit out if I went into labour naturally, I was admitted to a four-bedded bay at Darent Valley Hospital. My husband was told to go home as visiting hours were over that evening, even though I had told them I was already having regular painful contractions. He went as told, my labour slowly progressed and my waters broke naturally at 1am. I was in severe pain and yet they didn't believe I was in labour and refused to let my husband come back in. This continued until about 6am when I begged a midwife to check me – I was 7cm and ready to be wheeled around into delivery. They called my husband and he arrived just as I was saying I wanted to push. I was scared, anxious, alone behind a curtain, crying throughout my labour and pleading to see my husband. Their treatment can only be described as cruel. My son was born a couple of hours later at 8lbs – hardly a “whopper”.

Needless to say I couldn't put myself through that again. After a quick Google I found the site for independent midwives. Rene's description of the way she practised midwifery sounded ideal. This was the care I wanted, needed and deserved. We met and I liked her instantly. She came to my house for antenatal appointments, met and played with my son, scheduled evening appointments so my husband, Paul, could be there too and above all she listened to me. My blood pressure was always perfect as I was always so relaxed around her. Any worries I had, I was able to ring, text, email and even Facebook her if I wanted to. Over the 9 months I grew to trust her implicitly and completely.

Not really wanting a hospital birth and scared of having a home birth – I was in a difficult situation. Rene made it clear that she fully supported whatever decision I made and provided me with any information I asked for and answered all the questions I had, which were many and frequent. I finally decided I wanted a home birth and took hypnobirthing classes with my husband which really helped to relax me and focus on positive thoughts. At 34 weeks I had a scan which showed my baby was large – above the 95th centile for head and abdominal circumference. Before I could even discuss it with anyone, they had made me an appointment for glucose tolerance tests, I was being told (again) how massive my baby was and how I'd need to see a consultant to discuss a caesarian section or early labour induction. I phoned Rene front the corridor of the hospital. She calmed and reassured me that I didn't have to agree to any treatment or tests that I didn't want. She gave me the confidence to say that I wasn't going to be rushed or pushed into interventions I knew nothing about. That night, Rene's colleague, Laura, emailed me research papers and NICE guidelines about estimating foetal weight through scanning, giving birth to large babies, and the guidelines for glucose tolerance testing. Never pushing me into a decision either way, I was given the information I needed to make the right choice for myself – based on evidence, not scaremongering by the hospital! I made my decision – no glucose screening and I still wanted a home birth. If I'm honest, I still had niggling reservations about home birth, especially as most people who you talk to about it seem to think you're mad. Rene spent a lot of time answering all my questions and providing the facts. She talked about possible scenarios and ultimately I was happy to have the home birth as I knew that if I changed my mind at any point, she'd support my decision.

From 38 weeks onwards I had been having so-called signs of labour. I was totally fed up and talking of being induced just because of feeling so huge and the nagging thoughts that my baby was going to be gigantic. Rene came to see me just to reassure me and cheer me up – it worked. Rene had agreed to give me a membrane sweep to see if things would get going but they didn't. At 39 weeks I was 3cm dilated, having strong Braxton-Hicks contractions, nagging period-type pains. I'd been bouncing on the birthing ball and Rene had been advising which aromatherapy oils to use and providing homoeopathic remedies to encourage labour. Rene had said that what I needed more than anything was to relax to go into labour – she was right. At 40+1 weeks, having been out for a meal with family the night before, at 1.30am I woke to a different sort of contraction to that which I had now been used to. At 4.30am I decided it was time to wake my husband, Paul – they were now 9 minutes apart and lasting about 45 seconds. I wanted to go downstairs and lean on my birthing ball. Paul text Rene at about 5.30am to say what was happening. She phoned back and asked if I wanted her there – I said yes and she came straight away. By 6.30am Rene was with me and reassuring me. My son had woken and we had called his Gran to collect him. Also, I wanted my best friend Holly at the birth and she was on her way. Rene had warned us that things were likely to slow down or even stop until everyone had arrived/gone and we were all settled. She was right... again! With Paul by my side throughout, Holly, Rene, and my second midwife Laura all settled in my darkened living-room, with twinkling fairy lights, aromatherapy scents and leaning on my birthing ball, I felt very serene in-between contractions. I never for one moment felt scared. Rene gave me all the reassurance she knew I needed. Having gone for a walk around my kitchen the contractions suddenly came every 3 minutes and stepped up in intensity. I asked Rene for Entonox which she gave me straight away. Having previously thought I'd never want to give birth on my back again, I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to lie on my back (resting on Paul's lap) and have my legs pulled back (Holly and Paul had one each). Rene didn't try and stop me from lying on my back – she said after that she knew there must be a reason and I had learnt from her over the previous 9 months to listen to my body. I don't really remember much from this point onwards but I am told my waters broke quite spectacularly but that Rene was fully prepared kneeling behind a waterproof sheet!

'Little' Henry was born at 2.15pm and placed immediately on my chest. It was amazing. He weighed in at 11lbs exactly and I only had a small tear which didn't require a stitch (with 8lb George I had a large tear). Less than an hour later I was in a warm bath with Henry at my breast and Rene providing all the support and gentle encouragement I could wish for. After that, Paul made us all sandwiches which we ate in the clean and tidy living room (no mess) and I was relaxed holding my perfect baby. I remember that all I could hear during the delivery was Rene's voice – encouraging and telling me everything was okay. I had complete trust in her and it never once occurred to me to go into hospital – a complete turn around from the beginning of my pregnancy. If I had been under the care of the hospital I am quite certain they would have pushed me into a caesarean section due to Henry's size, which was clearly not warranted at all.

For me, I had the perfect birth. I could not have wished for anything more or anything different. Rene will have a special place in our hearts forever. A very special lady who I cannot thank enough.

Henry – 2 days old

Holly (Jennys' Best Friend) - baby Henry

I was absolutely honoured when Jenny and Paul asked me to be at the birth of their second baby, Henry Heracles. I have been close friends with Jenny since we were at playschool and was delighted to be able to share such an important event with her and Paul. As Jenny’s birth experience with her first son George was not a good one, I was so pleased that she had chosen to have an independent midwife the second time around, and I could tell straight away after her first appointment with Rene that she was already feeling less anxious and a lot more positive.

Throughout her pregnancy I know that having Rene available to her 24/7 made Jenny feel very safe and constantly reassured. When Jenny told me that she had decided to have a home birth I was very excited for her as I knew it would be a completely different experience for her in comparison to her unpleasant hospital birth she had with George.
I first met Rene when Jenny was 37 weeks pregnant and it was nice to have a chat with her before the birth. As well as her extensive clinical knowledge of pregnancy and birth, I immediately warmed to her very natural attitude towards labour and her use of complementary therapies.

When I arrived at Jenny and Paul’s house at 7:30am on Monday 17th October I was pleasantly surprised to find a very calm and relaxed Jenny in her front room leaning over her birthing ball. Despite the fact that she had been awake and having contractions since 1am she was in very good spirits. As her contractions got stronger Paul and I were there to support her, with Rene giving her lots of positive encouragement. After a walk around her kitchen a bit later on, Jenny’s contractions were getting stronger and more frequent. She went back to her birthing ball and requested some entonox to help relax her and ease the pain. Between contractions you’d never have known she was in labour as she was so happy, relaxed and even cracking the odd joke or two!

During her labour there was minimal intervention from Rene, other than that requested by Jenny, as her she was just allowing her body to naturally do what it needed to do. As the contractions became stronger, Jenny felt ready to push and eventually her waters broke (which was quite spectacular!). After this, her desire to push became stronger and it wasn’t long before Rene could see a tiny bit of Henry’s head appearing. After a short amount of time and a few strong pushes later we could see his head was almost out. Rene explained to Jenny that she’d now feel a small turn as his shoulders were delivered. The next moment, with Paul and me holding one hand and one leg each, Henry was born at 2:15pm, weighing 11 pounds! He was lifted by Rene onto Jenny’s chest. It was a magical and emotional moment which I will always treasure.

With some more contractions, Jenny’s placenta was delivered fairly soon after Henry was born and Paul was able to cut the cord. When Jenny was ready, Paul ran her a bath (which she shared with baby Henry) and she was soon dressed and sitting on her sofa eating a toasted sandwich (another benefit of a home birth!).

Throughout the labour and birth Rene (and the other midwife Laura) was so encouraging and positive and provided Jenny with the reassurance she needed, so that she was able to focus on her labour. Any stresses or worries that Jenny had were very quickly allayed.

In my opinion it was the perfect birth and I am so thrilled to have been part of it. Everything was so calm and peaceful, but more than anything I am so happy that Jenny was finally able to experience such an empowering labour and birth.

Lisa & baby Christopher - Home Waterbirth

The Birth of Kit (short for Christopher), and Why we chose an Independent Midwife

Our daughter Sally was born at home in water five years ago, attended by NHS midwives, and all went well. So when we planned our second child, why on earth would we choose to pay for midwifery care?

Well, although the birth was fairly straightforward, there were certain things that tainted the experience for me, and as my second pregnancy progressed I began to feel more and more uneasy. I wanted to make this - what would probably be my last birth - exactly as I wanted it to be. I didn't want to be telling the stories of my births with a sense that some chance had been missed, or that I wished things had gone differently. I wanted to feel that no matter what problems arose - even if I ended up with an emergency C-section - I was in control of what was happening to me. That was what I wanted, without the lottery of not knowing who would be caring for me and whether they would enable this to happen.

Rene provided the consistent care I lacked first time round. She was available to me when I needed her (I couldn't get through on the phone to my local ante-natal clinic for several days), offering help and advice and discussing with me my first birth and my hopes for my second birth. Throughout the pregnancy Rene and I talked A LOT! I felt totally confident and happy, because I knew that Rene and I were on the same page with regards to dealing with the many possible eventualities that may occur. So I could relax, concentrate on myself and my family, and look forward to the birth.

Kit's birth was everything I hoped it would be. I went 11 days overdue in the end, which began to put us under some time pressure as for various reasons my husband Matt had already started his paternity leave, and we began to worry that it was running out! Things very slowly started to happen, and niggles began to feel more like erratic minor contractions. I had a whole night of reasonably strong contractions which vanished in the morning (argh!), but by mid-afternoon it was clear they were beginning to return. When at 11pm I did not seem to be progressing any further we despondently decided to go to bed. Turning off the light was like turning the labour on! As soon as I flicked that switch, contractions became frequent and very strong and I needed to kneel and breathe through them. I couldn't get comfortable and decided to relocate to the sofa to make it easier to get up and down for contractions - Matt didn't want to leave me, so he came downstairs to sleep on the floor. Around 1am I called Rene to see what she thought, mostly because Matt needed reassurance that he wasn't about to be faced with delivering a baby alone! She told me it sounded like I was doing fine, and not to worry - and that everything she needed was packed ready in the car. Matt dozed off again, and I continued to breathe through contractions, doze in between, and frequently go upstairs to the toilet.

By about 4am I was making quiet noises during contractions and they were coming less than 5 minutes apart, and climbing the stairs brought them almost on top of each other. Matt got up, and I leaned forward onto him with my arms round his neck during contractions, which felt fantastically comforting. Shortly after this he called Rene again, and this time she came straight over. We turned the light on and Matt started to fill the birth pool...and the contractions slowed down and were less intense. I was really disappointed - surely this meant I wasn't yet in established labour and there was ages to go. The pool would have to be emptied again, and Rene would go back home! When she arrived she spoke calmly to me, and watched me cope with a contraction. She was confident that things were progressing nicely, but I refused to get into the pool without an internal examination to confirm I wasn't about to slow everything down further by getting in too soon! This was duly done and, to my shock, I was 6cm dilated and stretching to 8cm! Rene reassured me that the blip was simply due to being disturbed, and that my body would again find its stride. Still not quite believing it, I climbed into the pool - and the contractions changed immediately, becoming a more rounded sensation and powerful rather than punchy. Rene sat well back from the pool, and when Laura arrived she joined her. This was a lovely dynamic, as they were there to talk with me when I chose to chat between contractions, but essentially they left Matt and I to work together without interference - during contractions the world vanished and we were the only two people who existed. Monitoring was done quietly and discreetly with a minimum of disturbance.

Being left to allow my hormones to lead the way made the whole experience pretty blissful - Matt and I found ourselves watching the morning sun begin to shine through the window between contractions, and I clung to him tightly with my eyes closed as they washed over me. As transition began the adrenaline made me open my eyes wide, and the feeling was like standing at the top of a big hill and surveying the land below. The second stage was intense, and I became quite loud! Our daughter woke up and came downstairs to watch her brother being born - perfect timing! I was very aware of the burning of the baby crowning, but it was another couple of contractions before I heard Rene say, "Lisa, look down." And there he was - and I lifted my new son out of the water. Laura discreetly took photos of the whole thing, so I could concentrate on just enjoying the moment. Kit fed well, and the placenta was delivered easily. When he finally stopped guzzling, he was weighed...10lb 4.5oz! And we did it, without any drugs, interference, or doubts.

In the days that followed I felt tired, elated and generally emotional, as you would expect! Rene's short visits helped me to feel grounded and in control. She helped me to correct the latch when I experienced some discomfort feeding on one side - a really tiny alteration that made all the difference when caught in time - and provided a much needed burst of support and strength when on day 3 my family arrived to visit at the same time as my milk and all the attendant hormones!

I am so so happy to have managed to achieve the birth I wanted - it was the perfect start for my lovely son, and also wonderful to share a normal, healthy and happy birth with my daughter. Rene definitely facilitated this, helping to create an atmosphere without anxiety in which everything could progress as normally as possible. She supported me when at my most vulnerable, and I was happy to welcome her in to share my precious labour and birth with my family.

Matthews' Story of baby Christopher - Dad's Story

Dads story - Matthew and baby Kit.

If you’d asked me a decade ago how children should be born I’d have given the standard, suburban middle-class reply, “why, in a hospital of course,” and perhaps given you a strange look for thinking there was any alternative! Well since then, I’ve seen both my children born at home, in a birthing pool. The first was on the NHS and the second was done by Rene, at my wife’s request. On both occasions it felt completely safe and natural; neither involved drugs, or intervention of any kind, and the second time with Rene there wasn’t even a TENS machine or gas/air.

I do feel I now understand the argument for home birth: being at home, the mother is far less stressed that she would be in a hospital, and the chances of things going wrong are greatly reduced. Indeed, what impressed me about Rene and her assistant Laura was that for much of the labour they did almost nothing! - letting me give my wife full attention and support, with just the occasional word of encouragement. This showed that they understood there was no risk: they just needed to let the mother follow her natural instincts. Only when the baby actually came did they step in and make sure he was safely delivered, and that mother and baby were given the comfort and support they needed.

We now have two very happy, very healthy children - and I’m delighted my wife insisted on home births. Because she felt strongly it was what she wanted, it was the right choice for her, and I did the right thing in supporting her; no, it’s not cheap, but it is money well spent - what could be more important than the birth of your child? I would recommend home births in general, and Rene in particular, to any prospective parents, as a safe and special way of bringing their children into the world.

Sally & baby Wilfred - Hospital Breech Caesarean

I was about 16 weeks pregnant when I booked Rene – she came very highly recommended by a friend of ours whose first baby she had delivered in their kitchen – 8 hours, no pain relief and no stitches, sounded good to me! Will was a bit dubious about the idea at first – both his parents are medics and anything other than a hospital birth was an alien concept. But from our first meeting Rene inspired absolute confidence in both of us – there was not a question we could ask that Rene didn’t know the answer to, and she was always able to explain everything in a way that was easy to understand. I was a first time mum and pretty nervous, plus the fact I am a total control freak, but Rene always put my mind at rest and didn’t seem to mind my incessant questions! The regular check ups, and the birth talk towards the end of the pregnancy, were also great for putting my mind at rest.

We decided we were going to play the birth entirely by ear – being our first, I had no idea how I was going to cope with the pain. But as the weeks progressed I became more and more inclined to stay away from the hospital unless it was medically necessary – the idea of being able to have my baby in the comfort and familiarity of my own home really appealed to me. Because I felt like I was equipped with a decent amount of knowledge, and because I had Rene’s (and, obviously, Will’s’) support, I actually almost began to look forward to the birth, and was fairly relaxed about the prospect of going through the experience (well, as relaxed as I was ever goingt to be!)

So much so that, when I thought I started feeling cramps, about three days before my due date, I assumed it was a false alarm. I called Rene, who told me to try and ignore it and go to bed, but to keep her posted. So I put on my tens machine (ah, the wonderful tens machine!) and we went to bed but fairly soon the contractions got too noticeable to sleep through – not painful exactly, but definitely noticeable. Steadily throughout the night, the contractions got more and more uncomfortable, but I was still not convinced that I was in labour (although I do remember saying at one point, “if this isn’t labour, I’m definitely going to need an epidural when labour actually starts!!”).

It got to about 4.30am and I told Will to call Rene – I think by that stage I just wanted to know what was going on. Rene arrived about half an hour later with Laura and reassured me that I was definitely in labour! About an hour later I asked to be examined and was almost 8cm! I was feeling pretty confident, as I was coping well with just the tens at that stage.

After about 3 hours of Will filling the birthing pool from the kettle because we had no hot water (perfect timing!) I got in. I have heard so many people say how incredible the birthing pool was, but to be honest, for me, the single thing that got me through my labour was the tens machine. I liked the sensation of the water, but didn’t seem to cope as well with the contractions. Each to their own I guess.

After maybe an hour or so in the pool I started to feel that things weren’t perhaps progressing – I was trying to push but it was actually hurting more when I pushed than when I didn’t, and I didn’t have any urge. Eventually Rene suggested I labour on the bed for a while and then examined me, only to discover that what we had thought all along was a head was actually a bum! I had been breech all along! At this point (and Rene may have to correct me here because it’s all a bit of a blur) I think he had retreated back inside, after having been at +2, and Rene and Laura thought there may have been meconium. Also, by that stage I was starting not to cope very well. So we decided to call the ambulance and I went into hospital, where I was advised to have a cesarean (not that I needed any advising by that stage!) – less than an hour after arriving at the hospital, Wilfred was born, weighing 7lbs 14. Rene was there the whole time overseeing everything, which made me feel so much more at ease.

The after care that Rene provided was fantastic – it is invaluable to have that much support when you are feeling so hormonal and, let’s face it with a first baby, don’t really know what you’re doing! Friends of mine who had NHS care after their births have all been amazed at the amount of care I received, and the fact that Rene was basically on call whenever we had questions or were worried.

All in all I feel positive about my birth experience, even though in the end I was not able to have him at home. Partially I think this was because I had no pre-conceived ideas about how I was going to give birth, but also because I had total trust in my caregiver, and had been able to build up a proper relationship with her over a number of weeks. Rene is an absolute superstar, and I’m hoping that (at some point in the distant future!!) she will be there when I have my second.

Sarah & baby Nancy - Home Waterbirth

I was 32 weeks when I contacted Independent Midwives South East. “Too late in the pregnancy for an independent midwife” I thought, along with being 43 years old (“too old for the birthing centre”) with a, then, breech baby AND having had a haemorrhage during the thirds stage of labour with my previous child, I was surly too high risk for a hoe birth and therefore an independent midwife? I was immediately relieved when I was told none of that was a problem! Sally came round and we talked at some length about the hospital birth of my daughter, Elsie. I was encouraged by her confidence in me (in spite of the long list of negatives above!) She reassured me that should the baby remain breech I could still have a vaginal delivery AT HOME! I assumed a home birth would make my partner nervous but reading other birth stories on the website, I noted that Sally & Rene go to hospital too if desired/necessary. I never knew that about independent midwives. However within no time of chatting to Sally, I was hoping I’d be able to stay at home for the birth…and so was my partner! Without putting anyone off, my hospital birth hadn’t been the best experience.

Even joining this team fairly late in my pregnancy, the difference was huge: Sally gave me hypnobirthing cds which I started immediately; all my ante-natal appointments were at home over a cuppa and the odd bowl of soup! The relief of having an expert on hand was invaluable and helped me feel easier about the possibility of going to hospital. I was suddenly so relaxed, just thinking about the birth (my previous being a 22 hour labour) I felt calm and relaxed!?!
I was in denial when I appeared to have a tiny trickle of water 9 days before my due date. It was the middle of the night. I text Sally then phoned her shortly afterwards when I appeared to have regular contractions. I was in the bath listening to the birth preparation cd on my phone. Sally suggested ringing her again in 15 minutes time. Fifteen minutes later I was feeling like I was pushing. I was prepared for a long haul so told myself the baby must be pressing on the bowel and was sure Sally would find me 2 cm dilated! In that short space of time, I had climbed out of the bath and was in the yoga pose, downward facing dog (!) unable to stop pushing. After each push I was asking the baby to “stay in” and could feel it slide back down again! When I rang Sally next she asked me to try not to push, she was 10 minutes away. This is where the benefit of having Sally really paid off. I was calm and relaxed and it didn’t occur to me to panic! I wasn’t in any pain (honestly!) My daughter was sleeping next door and wasn’t disturbed at all. My partner was still downstairs pumping up and filling the birth pool! (He claims it was more difficult that anything I was going through!!!) He came into the bathroom and saw I was crowning….he legged it! He heard Sally’s case wheeling towards our house. Sally’s voice appeared in the bathroom “I’ll wait for the next contraction and then do the observations” I continued as before. “No time for observations” she said and called Jams upstairs, “your baby’s about to be born.” With some amusement, she suggested dropping to my knees might be more comfortable. She was right! In the next contraction, envisaging the model she had shown us at the birth talk, Nancy’s head was out. We waited some time for the next contraction and then she was born! Two and a half hours start to finish! I was a little nervous of the 3rd stage after my haemorrhage in hospital but sitting with my new little girl in my arms marvelling at the birth with Sally and James, it was another easy calm experience.

What followed will make me smile forever more: Nancy and I sat in the (post) birth pool in our lounge for over an hour. Elsie woke at 6am and came downstairs to see her nw sister had arrived. “You’re kidding me?” ...she’s 4???...”my new sister is born?” I then moved to the chair ( I got a bit giddy so had to have some cereal and juice quickly) I did Elsie’s hair for school then went upstairs for a lovely bath! The joys of a home birth. My parents arrived an hour or so later so we had champagne around the bath as I lay in it like Lady Muck! The rest of the day I lay in bed chatting to everyone. It was fantastic.

On hearing Nancy was born 7 minutes after Sally’s arrival, a friend of mine said it was the most expensive 7 minutes ever! How wrong she got that! Sally was much more than the deliverer of our baby, she was the reason my birth was smooth, easy, calm and relaxed. That day and the remaining extensive postnatal care days were a joy as well as being reassuring. Sally was like one of the family (she got to know half of mine!) and we were sorry to say goodbye a month later…actually she’s popping in for a cuppa tomorrow! She will always be very special to us and I urge you, if you’re in any doubt, to go ahead and book her now. It will be the best thing you ever do…and what could be more important?

Kate & baby Jessica - Home Waterbirth

After leaving my third NHS midwife appointment in tears, this being my first pregnancy and not having my mum or close girlfriends living nearby I decided that I would investigate the recommendation I had received for an independent midwife from my pregnancy yoga teacher. I had never even really considered this route or the option of a home birth. I started reading up on the options available to me and on meeting Rene we were sold - not just on her but also on planning on having our baby at home. More surprisingly to me it was Simon my husband that was more convinced that it was the way to go that I was.

At eight days overdue I was beginning to worry about the implications as I was determined that I did not want to be induced. I was putting into practise all the normal advice regarding ways to try and induce labour naturally, not that I needed to find much of an excuse to have another reflexology session! I even tried a few tricks I had not heard of; boiling three eggs in water for 15 minutes and then drinking the water once cooled (something to do with the calcium being drawn from the egg shell.???..) I was having odd twinges but nothing to make me get excited. I had a sweep and scan booked for the Friday. On the Wednesday night I had decided that I was going to try the castor oil trick (25ml of castor oil and the same amount of lemon juice). Simon got home from work and thought that I was behaving oddly in any case; so he decided to move the dining room table and at least inflate the pool. I took the castor oil at about 9pm, expecting to be unwell quite quickly from what I had read, but nothing. So we both went to bed. I woke up at 11 pm with what must have been mild contractions. After a while I tried to get some sleep. By about 3 am the contractions were a lot more regular and stronger and I could no longer sleep through them. I woke up Simon and we put on the tens machine and found I was lot more comfortable walking around and doing my yoga figure of eights. I texted my midwife Rene. I was upstairs and lit my candles and burner and switched on the iPod. We found a great app for the iPod for timing contractions! By the time Rene arrived my contractions were 45 seconds long and every four minutes or so. Renes arrival settled Simon and she got him started on filling the pool (and apparently flooding the kitchen - which thankfully I was totally oblivious too and didn’t find out about until the next day!!!).

At this point the contractions felt like strong period pains and my lower back ached – I decided that I wanted a shower and the warm water really helped (remembering to take off the tens machine). As the contractions got stronger I found that my yoga toning helped me to count through the contractions. After what felt like not very much later I was unable to stand through the contractions so I knelt on the floor leaning up against the bed whilst Rene was massaging my back.

Jenny (the second midwife arrived) at about 630am and after another hour I got into the pool which felt wonderful – lovely and warm. Simon poured warm water onto my lower back through the contractions which was great. All the way through I was conscious that I was toning and gradually getting louder and more vocal. Other than getting the odd leg cramp being in the pool was incredibly comfortable. As the contractions got stronger I don’t remember ever deciding that I wanted to die because the pain was too much – but I do remember snapping at Simon when he cracked a joke about biscuits with Rene and Jenny (he was only trying to be hospitable – they hadn’t eaten in hours!!). Rene was massaging my forehead – to stop me frowning – I remember trying to smile and relax my face and even managed to do some of the yoga wide mouth frogs! At 830am I felt the urge to push. I remember being asked if I wanted to feel the babies head but not wanting to – not sure why. After another few pushes she was born. It all seemed to happen so quickly – before I worked out what was happening I was being told to pick her out of the water. It took her a few moments for her to cry/breath; we had forgotten that we had been warned that this often happened with water births. She was then put on my chest. The cord was cut after a little while and we sat in the water for some time longer. Jessica Rose had arrived at 0912 weighing 8lb 7oz. I delivered the placenta and despite a few grazes required no stitches.

Within a couple of hours I had had a shower, Rene had done all her checks on Jessica. Simon and I were sat in bed with her and we were all eating bacon sandwiches.

Even now 12 days later I am still a little humbled by how well Jessica’s birth went and how it was just how I had wanted it to be, if not more so. My memories are nothing but positive. I am certain that this had a huge amount to do with the fact that I had built a relationship of trust with Rene and Jenny during my pregnancy and felt totally comfortable and safe with them and in my surroundings. I was also pleased to find that I naturally found myself using the yoga techniques I had learned during my pregnancy which without a doubt helped.

However, I had never, during my pregnancy, put anywhere near enough value on the post natal support that Rene offers. It had always been my intention to breastfeed but I had an open mind as to whether I would be able to. Despite a little bit of a rocky start, texts to Rene at 2am on the 2nd night and her visiting first thing in the morning on day 3, we are now feeding happily and when weighed on day 11 Jessica was 3oz more than her birth weight.

I am still surprised at how many people have said how brave I was to have my first baby at home – because in my mind I wouldn’t have wanted her arriving any other way. Being brave had never crossed my mind.

I will never be able to thank Rene enough for what she has done for us and hope that we remain in touch once we are signed off!

Ute & baby Leo - Hospital Waterbirth

When I found out that I was pregnant, my husband Robert and I had only been in the UK for about 1 ½ years. We had no experience of the NHS system, except for registering when we first arrived. In Austria, where we come from, you stay in hospital for about a week after giving birth. Your husband stays in the same room with you and the baby, and the midwives see you a couple of times a day to help you with breastfeeding, bathing and so on.

So I was a bit shocked to learn that here they encourage you to leave hospital as soon as you are able to walk. (When I talked to my obstetrician in Austria he told me that the Austrian system is complete madness, as it costs a fortune ! He admitted that it is quite convenient for the new parents, but other than that it is not better in any way.

However, with my mum living in Austria I knew I needed some additional support. My first thought was to go to a private hospital and stay there for a couple of days, but my husband and I needed more than that. For our first child we needed either my mum or professional support throughout the pregnancy.So after some thinking we finally came up with what turned out to be one of the best ideas in our life so far: we hired an independent midwife. Not just any independent midwife, but Sally!

We were so lucky we found her, we had a very good connection right from the start. Her visits were more like a friend coming to see me. We always had some private chats as well as the professional stuff. Oh how I miss her already!

My pregnancy was a very easy one, which does not mean that I did not panic from time to time. Whenever I did, Sally came promptly without judging me. She took all my concerns seriously. She really means it when she says you can call me 24/7.

When I got into my 40th week of pregnancy I started feeling a bit impatient, even more so when it went by and nothing had happened.

Sally accompanied me to the monitoring sessions at Lewisham Hospital. Baby was moving well and the heartbeat was fine, too. I was a bit worried as I knew there are some risks involved when the baby is overdue. Sally and I discussed all the risks and she gave me some very good advice which I will never forget.
She said: 'Your body hasn’t let you down once in your entire pregnancy, so trust your body.' She was right. I knew everything was ok with the baby. I just flt it. Sally did a sweep and noticed that I was already 3cm dilated. So I relaxed and trusted my body. For another week at least.

In week 41st plus I had another monitoring session and the midwife there really scared me. She told me that we were behaving irresponsibly and that we would be risking the baby's health if we didn't act soon. She arranged an ultra sound, everything was fine, but my trust had left me. I agreed to have an induction 2 days later.The next day Robert and I tried everything: We started with the castor oil cocktail, followed by walking up and down? stairs for hours, then sex, then very hot curry. We had tried everything individually, but thought maybe combining all the remedies would do the trick.

Nothing. At 2:30am I was about to give up. I had only one more day before the induction and only the same amount of time to give birth at the birth centre where they only accept you between week 38 and 42. I tried to come to terms with the idea of giving birth at Lewisham Hospital, but was still very disappointed.

We went to bed and Robert tried to comfort me , when all of a sudden my waters broke. I texted Sally, she was very excited and suggested to I get some sleep as soon as possible. I texted back, that sleep wouldn't be an option any more as contractions had already started. Not only had they started, but they were also quite intense and there was almost no break in between. Sally offered to come immediately and I was very glad when she arrived just 30min later. She examined me again and diagnosed that I was 4cm.We decided that it was time to go the birth centre. At the birth centre I went into the pool. Robert and I had done some Hypnobirthing in preparation for the birth, but during labour I didn’t want to listen to my CDs, all I wanted was Sally talking me through the contractions. And that’s what she did, for 5 ½ hours.

In the end it took me only two contractions to deliver little Leo

I lifted him out of the water myself. It was the best feeling in the world

Right after giving birth I felt so good, I wanted to do it all over again and I still feel the same. I hope that Sally will be by my side again when Robert and I are expecting our second child.

Emma & baby Valentino - Home

Our Birth Story

Reasons for choosing Independent Midwives

My husband and I were over the moon when we discovered we were pregnant and were really excited to get the whole process going and meet our NHS midwife. This however was not what we expected and we felt like we were herded in and out as quickly as possible with our questions and concerns left unanswered. Here follows a little moan about the NHS, apologies, but I’m sure there are others out there who will read this thinking they have experienced similar mistreatment.

Our dissatisfaction continued after we were treated appallingly at our twenty week scan, being told that there ‘could be’ a number of conditions our baby was suffering from as they deemed him to be an ‘oversized’ baby. After being giving such news we were left to wait in the main waiting area (myself distraught with worry) whilst they compiled a report of their findings. We were then told by the sonographer that a consultant would not be available to discuss their ‘findings’ for another week. Understandably we couldn’t wait and booked a scan at a private hospital where a consultant carried out all of the necessary checks and concluded that he had absolutely no concerns and that we were having a large baby as my husband is 6” 5! At this point we started to look at the prospect of private care.

At twenty four weeks I had a slight show and ended up in our local NHS hospital with a doctor giving me an examination, giving me steroid injections and stating that they may have to deliver our baby. After being kept in over night I was seen by another doctor who stated that she didn’t understand why I had been kept in and was concerned that I had been given steroids that were not needed.

It was at this point that we found Sally and our complete pregnancy experience changed for the better! She came for a booking consultation and we both immediately warmed to her. She listened to our story and talked through the service she could provide us with. When Sally nipped to the loo, (sorry Sally!) my hubby and I looked knowingly at each other and both said ‘she’s fab, lets book now!’ From that moment on everything went brilliantly and it’s all due to Sally’s care.

Antenatal Care

Sally came to the house to do all of my checks, (including taking blood so I didn’t have to go back to hospital) they were all very relaxed sessions where my husband and I could take our time to discuss things and ask questions.

In the beginning I wasn’t really considering having a home birth, I thought that we would have Sally with us at the local hospital to advise us, but as the weeks went on I became more confident in my own ability to give birth at home and was totally reassured that I could do it with Sally’s expertise and support. I’m also a bit of a clean freak so Sally pointed out that I would probably be much calmer and less stressed in my own environment; boy was she right!!

The private consultant the we saw recommend that we have another couple of scans closer to my due date just to check that the baby hadn’t got too big, so Sally accompanied us to the NHS hospital for these. They began to mention induction etc after the first, so back at home Sally talked us through the process, provided us with reading material and answered our questions. This was exactly the care that we needed, Sally had got to know us and realised that I am one of these people that like to be prepared and have all the facts and that my husband likes to research every little detail before making a decision!

Fortunately the second scan showed baby was big but fortunately we had a sensible sonographer who agreed size was due to the daddy!

Sally suggested trying hypnobirthing as a pain relief option and quite frankly, it’s brilliant! I listened to the CDs before the birth which really helped me to chill out and it really helped with the pain of labour.

The birth talk was another relaxed, informal chat with visual pictures. Sally talked us through all the things to expect which I found really settling. She discussed pain relief options and provided us with info on the vitamin K injection. My mum was also present so it was a real family affair.

Sally was on call 24/7 answering our texts/calls quickly if we had any concerns. This was such a relief before and after birth as I am such a worry pot!

Towards the end, I was so fed up with being preggers that Sally suggested some methods to speed things up! In the end, the homeopathic remedies that Sally left with us seemed to do the trick.

The Labour and Birth

Weds 18th Nov: I woke at 3am to discover a little water trickling and a show with period like pains. I just rolled over and went back to sleep. I text Sally at 7am to let her know and she advised me to have a normal day and keep her updated of any changes. Hubby went to work and I cleaned the house from top to bottom, (My grandma had said that to make labour quicker, you should get on your hands and knees and scrub your floors!)

11am: My Mum came round and we spent the day together chatting and drinking tea!

2.30pm: Called hubby to say it was time he came home from work. Period pains becoming more frequent and a little more uncomfortable.

4pm: Hubby called Sally to say that I was having around two contractions every ten minutes for around 20 seconds. Sally advised us that contractions needed to be at least sixty seconds long to be doing anything significant so to keep rolling on my birthing ball, use my tens machine and hypnobirthing techniques and keep her posted when they reached sixty seconds in length.

7pm: Hubby called Sally to say that contractions were lasting over sixty seconds and coming every five minutes and were becoming quite uncomfortable.

7.45pm: I was still rolling around, chatting and using the hypnobirthing when Sally arrived. Sally asked if I would like her to check me which I agreed to as I was dying to know how things were progressing!

8.30pm: I was six centimetres which really surprised me! Sally showed me what this looked like with a special card she had and gave me lots of praise for how I was coping and progressing. This really spurred me on! Hubby and Mum started to fill the birthing pool.

I found the tens machine and ball had been great up until this point but I was starting to feel the pain more. The warmth of the water really helped to ease this and I continued with the hypnobirthing, now with the relaxation CD playing.

9.30pm: Contractions were stronger and I began to feel nauseous. Hubby and Mum were sitting next to the pool offering me encouragement and plying me with drinks. Sally kept an eye on me and reminded me to wee regularly and to keep breathing when the pain got really intense.

10.20pm- 12pm: Had a two minute plus contraction and felt Valentino’s head turn! Started to feel a bit panicky and began to say things like ‘I can’t do this!’ Sally was brilliant at this point, she had warned me that this could happen as part of transition so she reminded me of this and calmed me down reassuring me that I could do it. I was so glad she was there as I completely ignored my hubby/mum when they were saying the same thing. I needed someone who knew what they were talking about to tell me before I would believe it!

12.15am: Found contractions really painful so Sally suggested Entonox. Had one puff and decided it wasn’t for me as I was already vomiting.

12.40am: Was really feeling the pain and needed to go to the loo so went upstairs to the bathroom. I still had an anterior lip left so Sally said to breathe through without pushing until it had gone. This was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Who would have thought that NOT pushing would be the most painful part?! I found the only way not to push was to stomp around like an elephant, (God knows what the neighbours thought!)

1am: My waters broke and I was still stomping trying not to push.

1.15am: I couldn’t hold it anymore and started to push! I was leaning over the side of the bath with hubby sitting on the loo, Mum and Rene on the landing and Sally tucked around the side of the toilet (bless her!) so she could get behind me. I remember watching the reflection of Valentino’s head coming out in the bathroom floor tiles!

1.32am: Head born, ‘the burn’ was uncomfortable but pushing didn’t hurt that much.

1.34am: Valentino was born! He cried almost immediately and was passed through my legs for a cuddle. I asked what it was and Sally (knowing that we had stated at the birth talk that I wanted Chris to tell me what it was) told Chris to have a look.

1.42am: My placenta slipped out (no effort) into the loo so had to sit there for a bit while the cord stopped pulsating. Valentino started to feed at this point and hubby cut the cord. He took Valentino, wrapped in his T-shirt for cuddles while Sally cleaned me up and got me in the bath.

2.30am: Valentino and Mummy had their first bath together!

3.15am: Valentino weighed and checked. Sally got us into bed and explained about feeding and safety. She then went on to show us the placenta and explain all of the different parts. Hubby got right in there feeling the membranes etc!

3.50am Champagne and bacon sandwiches all round!

Postnatal Care

The standard of post natal care that Sally and Rene provided us with was second to none. Sally came in everyday for the first week to check on us, helping Valentino to latch, showing us how to bath him, answering any questions we had. She genuinely cared for us as a family and we can’t thank her enough for everything that she did! Even when I was finding breast feeding really hard she was at the end of the phone to offer support and we always knew we could call at anytime and she would be round to help.

When Rene came to do the baby check she talked us through everything she did and why, she even let us listen to Valentino’s heartbeat with her stethoscope! This was really informative and reassuring.

Sally continued our care for a further three weeks offering support and advice. I know that without her care I would have given up on the breast feeding and would have been a complete wreck by now. Instead I’m absolutely loving being a mummy and am really enjoying breast feeding!

Sally has become a family friend and we wouldn’t trust anyone else but her and Rene to deliver our babies. We have kept in contact and sent pictures and Sally will definitely have an invitation to the Christening and first birthday party.

After our initial traumatic time with the NHS, Sally turned our pregnancy and birth into a calm, relaxed and positive experience. We would thoroughly recommend her services and will hopefully use her again for baby number two!

Nicky & baby Flynn - Hospital birth

Flynn Archibald Robertson 12/11/2010

Mum's Story

I first thought about having an independent midwife very early on during my pregnancy as I had concerns about the level of support & help I would receive from my local NHS hospital. I met an independent midwife when I was about 16 weeks but decided that she wasn't right for me as she was insistent that I should have a home birth, which I knew I didn't want for my first baby. This wasn't because I had concerns about homebirths but because It was my personal choice to choose the safety of a hospital.

Anyway at 34 weeks I had a bit of a scare so I decided that I wanted to consider an independent midwife again as I did not have a particularly good experience with the NHS service at the hospital. Also leading up to this I felt that seeing several different NHS midwifes was causing more stress than not. I continued to have concerns about the level of support that I would actually get when I went into labour.

Sally was recommended to me by my NCT tutor and we hit it off from the first time we met. I had some strong views on what I did and didn't want. Sally listened and made it clear that she was there to support me and would offer her advice but ultimately it was always my choice despite that fact that I was probably challenging some her views and beliefs. On reflection I think I probably gave some strong views that were not in line with Sally's and where due to my lack of experience & naivety. But Sally didn't once make me feel inadequate or inflict her views. She did however have a very nice way of getting her point across, which has been very welcome and extremely useful.

I didn't have long to get to know Sally before I needed to rely on her heavily for the birth of Flynn but she is such a welcoming person that it was so easy to get to know her and build a rapor. I found having a consistent view and one to one support from Sally for the last 6 weeks of my pregnancy made all the difference. Whatever questions I had I could call or text Sally and did so at all hours, when needed. Having Sally meant that all my medical tests and examinations were done in the comfort of my own home and any concerns or questions I had were dealt with calmly and unnecessary trips to the hospital were avoided. Having personal monitoring meant that any issues were dealt with pragmatically and compassionately.

When I went into labour Sally was on call until I asked to come to the house. Just having Sally there meant that I stayed calm and really didn't panic about the stage of labour I was in or what was going to happen next. I stayed at home for more than 15 hours from when my contractions started before making the decision to go to the hospital. I can't tell you how nice it was to stay at home as opposed to sitting in a hospital. My husband and I did consider staying at home to have a home birth and had full confidence in Sally but I decided that I wanted to go to hospital as that is what I had set my mind on. Because Sally had contacted the hospital previously they were expecting us and worked well with Sally as part of the team who delivered Flynn. Although I managed to deliver a baby that had tilted his head, moved to the wrong side of my tummy in the last stages of pregnancy and decided he wanted to hang around for a bit longer than expected, I did it with just gas and air. I believe that I wouldn't have been able to do it without Sally. During the late stages of labour when I thought I couldn't go on anymore it was the strong, kind and supportive words of Sally that kept me going (and my husband).

After Flynn was born I was home within three hours because I had Sally to help with everything. This meant that the usual hanging around and sitting on a ward was avoided. This made all the difference to how I felt bringing our son home. I then saw Sally everyday for the next two weeks and didn't have to worry about anything or seeing anyone else, which was lovely. In summary I can't fully explain the peace of mind that having an independent midwife gives to having a baby but I look back at the time where I thought I didn't need one and I can't believe that I nearly went into the biggest experience of my life without having the best advice and support available!

----- oOo ----

Dad's Story

Engaging private midwife
We had initially looked into a private mid wife as our closest friends had had a fantastic experience with them for both of their children. The first midwife that we met was very experienced but did not really take on board our desires & fears. We arranged to meet up with Sally after we came very close to losing faith in the NHS system. Sally listened and took on board exactly what we wanted & didn’t want, she gave us options but everything was our choice. The support for both my wife and I was fantastic in the weeks before the birth from the regular meetings to the irregular queries and concerns that we as novice soon-to-be parents had.

My wife went into labour in the early hours of Thursday morning, she kindly waited to wake me up and tell me till about 6am. We contacted Sally and she gave assurance and advice about what to do next – the slightly frustrating answer at that stage being wait and let nature take its course. We agreed a plan with Sally and she joined us at home at lunch time as there was still a reasonable time between contractions.

Once with us Sally took control of us – as a helpless bystander for most of the process I valued the reassurance that Sally was giving my wife but also me. Nature took its course with the assistance of gas & air at home & by 9pm it was time to go to the hospital. The transition to the hospital was effortless as Sally provided continuity of care (for both of us) & worked fantastically with the NHS midwifes.

I don’t think that anyone can really prepare you for the birth process but what they can do is be with you every step of the way. Sally was with us through out, helping my wife through every contraction, keeping us both calm and reassured & giving technical advice when needed on issues such as what medication you can or should take and at what stage of the process.

Immediately after the birth Sally was brilliant at helping us start our life with our son, as novice parents you have so many questions and she was there with the answers. She was also able to speed up some of the administrative processes that need to take place and as we had had no real issues with mum or baby we were able to leave the hospital 3hrs later to begin life as parents.

Post birth care
The service that you receive in the first weeks after the birth is invaluable – as adults you are competent in many areas, as parents you are complete beginners and it is fantastic having support every day and on the end of a phone when needed.

For me the biggest positive that Sally provided us was removing many elements of stress from the process and allowing us to focus on each other and our son. I feel very strongly that we would not have had such a positive birthing experience were it not for the support that Sally provided us.

Madlin & baby Gabriel - VBAC Home Waterbirth

I have been lucky enough to have an independent midwife for my last two children, after a very difficult first birth, which ended up as an emergency C section. I strongly believe that without the professional and moral support of my midwife I would have been pushed down the route of elective C sections for all my births. But Keir, my seven year old was born in a birth pool in Lewisham’s home room and Jude, my four year old was a vaginal delivery at QE – (though registrars hovered on the peripheries keen to get me in to surgery). What I had never managed, but always longed for, was a water birth in my own home. If that was going to happen with anyone it was going to happen with Rene. I felt such support and confidence in her that I knew my baby and I would be safe in her care. We were.

Rene had encouraged me to listen to hypno-birthing CDs throughout my pregnancy. I say encouraged but in fact she was pretty adamant so I gave it a go as she seemed really convinced. 9 days overdue and after 24 hours of on/off minor contractions labour seemed to finally kick off at 7.30pm in the evening. The kids were at my Mum's and we were preparing for a long night. By 8.30pm, as the contractions became stronger, I was beginning to dread the many hours of painful labour that I had experienced in the past and was worrying about my stamina for the long haul. Then my husband, Ru, put the hypno-birthing CD on and I sank in to a state of relaxation just as easily as I had done in the weeks before. So relaxed was I that I told Ru that Rene shouldn’t come yet as the contractions appeared to be tailing off again. I began to walk the room to try and get them going whilst listening to the hypno-birthing music. The reality was they were coming thick and fast but I was so focused and relaxed that I was hardly feeling the pain. Against my advice to both husband and midwife Rene arrived shortly after 10pm. She took one look at me and asked why the birth pool wasn’t up. The fact is that I told Ru it would be hours yet so not to bother. As soon as Rene walked through the door the contractions really strengthened. I am sure that it was my baby and I saying – Rene is here so we are safe to get going now. As I transitioned Rene helped me through the strongest contractions, exuding calm and kindness, gently stroking my back, talking me through the breathing, and alleviating my anxiety. I could hardly believe it when, at shortly after 11pm, she said to me ‘Not long now’. I assumed I would be doing this all night and figured she was just trying to keep me upbeat. But Gabriel was truly on his way and I had to pant through the first urges to push as there were still only a few inches of water in the pool. Ru managed to get the pool sorted and the sensation of getting in to the warmth was blissful as the water supported the weight of my bump and provided me with immediate relief. Then Gabriel started his journey in earnest. After only a few pushes his head was out. One more and at 11.45pm Rene gently pushed him through the water in to my waiting arms. He took his first breath, looked up at me as we lay together in the warm water and promptly fell asleep! I couldn’t believe the sense of calm in the room. Soft lighting, just me, Ru, Gabriel and Rene (it had all gone so quickly that Sally arrived just after Gabriel), the birth music still playing and the warmth of my home around us. The placenta took a while to deliver but I stayed in the pool with Gabriel and just enjoyed the closeness. Afterwards we sipped Champagne and ate chocolate biscuits and Rene and Sally checked and weighed Gabriel and sorted everything out. By 1.30pm Gabriel and I were tucked up in our own bed feeling enormously pleased with ourselves and Ru at our side looking really relaxed, all knowing that Rene would be back the next day to help us as we started out on the path of Gabriel’s first days.

It was the most incredible experience. I know that neither Ru nor I would have had the confidence or the security to have done it without Rene at our sides.

With my previous three children I had established breast feeding quickly and had no problem producing milk but the first two weeks had been agony due to cracked nipples. Rene came over on day 2 as I sensed that I was heading in that direction once again. We tried all the usual positions, rugby ball, tummy to tummy, lying on my side but nothing seemed to be working. So Rene asked me whether I would be up for trying something a bit different. She put Gabriel on my chest and told me just to lie back against the pillows in bed and see what he did. At 2 days old Gabriel zig zagged his way down my body like a little piglet hunting for truffles. Eventually he was on my tummy with his legs curled underneath him. He raised his head and latched on with a lovely wide mouth and … virtually no pain. For the first time my nipples didn’t crack and rather than watch my baby feed through tears of pain I could relax and bond with him without any pain at all. I had more sleep with a newborn baby curled against me than I had ever had in the first weeks before. Apparently this method is called ‘biological nurturing’ and it is the most incredible process. Thanks Rene.

Jude & baby Ben - Home Waterbirth

Six months ago I would have dismissed the idea of a home birth, thinking that was something our grandmothers did, and with no chance of an epidural it wasn't for me! Then a good friend had a very positive home birth and encouraged us to consider this option. The research bore out the anecdotal evidence that in the more relaxed environment of home, birth is faster and requires less intervention and pain relief. We then found Rene Schwencke, our lovely independent mid wife, who gave us confidence that a home birth would provide a safe and pleasant place to give birth.

We were very excited and a little nervous as the due date approached. Then one morning I had some period like pains and a show, which I thought meant the very early latent stages of labour. Happy in the knowledge that things might be starting in the next day or so I headed off to my hair appointment. No need to cancel the chance to get my highlights done I thought as the baby wouldn't be here for ages! Pretty much as soon as I arrived home contractions started in earnest. A warm bath helped to relax me and Mark started to time the contractions. Rene arrived just as I was desperate to push and confirmed that I could as I was now fully dilated. Mark then ran around with a garden hose and the kettle trying to fill the birth pool in a race to get it filled before the baby arrived. Success at last, with the pool filled I jumped in and soon after baby Ben arrived much to our delight. The labour itself lasted under 5 hours as Ben was keen to join us. The placenta was less punctual and took another 2 hours, not that we minded as we had our little bundle of joy to cuddle.

One of the highlights of our home birth was sitting up in bed with Ben, Mark, Rene and Sally, to drink a toast to our little one and then falling asleep in the clean and familiar environment of home, rather than in a noisy hospital ward.

Many many thanks to Rene and to Sally, our very professional and caring mid wives who ensured we had the lovely calm home birth we had hoped for (

Ben brings us so much joy every day. He is an inspiration to us and most importantly to his Grandma who was diagnosed with breast cancer on 20th December, exactly four weeks after his birth. We are praying for a full recovery.

Jude Mladek
21st December 2010

Yvonne & baby Valentina - Home birth

From the moment I discovered I was pregnant with our second baby, I knew I wanted a different birth experience compared to the one I had with our first daughter Leni. Leni was born five weeks premature by forceps delivery. I suffered a third-degree tear. Leni had to stay in intensive care for the first week of her life, and then she was transferred to special care for another week. On top of this, Leni didn’t take to breastfeeding easily, thus my milk supply was insufficient. I found myself struggle with so many issues, however, received little support once we got home.

So when I heard about Rene as independent midwife my husband was very supportive of my intent to meet her and ultimately hire her. In hindsight, this should prove to be a perfect decision.

During the pregnancy Rene was excellent in supporting me and answering all the many questions we had. She always had utmost understanding for our position and concerns. She provided much comfort and reassurance when needed. Early on we found out Rene is a big supporter and beliefer of home-birthing. We spent much time discussing the pros and cons with her. However, she was ultimately fully supportive of our decision to go for a hospital birth with her attending as a doula.

I very much feared the second birth could be another premature birth. Once I got past the 37 week mark I was so relieved. The following Thursday night was full moon. When I noted that I am receptive to full moon and have sleep problems on those nights, Rene joked that that might be the day our second daughter, Valentina, chooses to be born.

On that Thursday afternoon I noticed little twinges in my tummy but neglected them as more “Braxton Hicks” of which I had quite a few during the previous weeks. Early evening, the twinges became more regular but were not painful and still very short. At 19:30 I phoned my husband at work to let him know what was going on. I was still not sure whether it was starting to get serious or not. I also phoned Rene who asked me to monitor the length of the twinges. Also, she predicted that the twinges in her view were proper contractions and that they could become stronger once Leni would be asleep. Rene was right. The contractions became more frequent but were still not painful at all. We went to bed at around 22:00.

When I woke up around midnight the contractions had become a bit stronger and longer. I still postponed phoning Rene as I still wasn’t convinced I was in real labour. When I finally phoned her at 2:00 in the morning the contractions came every four minutes and lasted over a minute. Rene rushed to our home. By the time she arrived, which was only 20 minutes later, the contractions were quite intense. She examined me straight away and advised that if we drove to hospital there was a high chance I could give birth in the car. At the time I was already approximately nine centimetres dilated. I still wanted to go to the hospital. So we rang the ambulance which arrived after a few minutes. Shortly after their arrival I had my first pushing contractions. It was a tough decision, but together with my husband we did decide to stay at home for the birth. The ambulance crew stayed as “second midwife”.

The contractions were now quite strong and I requested Entonox which worked brilliantly. Apparently I was very adamant and shouting to keep it when Rene took it away to encourage stronger pushing. My waters broke on the sofa. I had always been afraid of all the mess a home birth may entail. But in fact it was not messy at all. Rene had covered the sofa with protective sheets and all stayed clean. To move the pushing along Rene moved me to the toilet. With the bad tear of my first birth still in my head I subconsciously held back and couldn’t push Valentina out. Only when Rene moved me onto all fours on the bathroom floor I finally realised that there was no other way than me pushing her out – no matter if I would tear again. In that moment, a switch in my mind seemed to turn. I suddenly felt Valentina’s downward movements inside me. With every contraction I felt exactly what I had to do and how to push. She was now moving slowly and steadily down and out. And amazingly, I didn’t feel much pain anymore. All my thoughts were focussed on the contractions and working with Valentina to finally meet her. At 5:55 she was born — after only 1 hour 25 mins of pushing.

The placenta did not deliver easily and I lost quite a bit of blood. Rene gave me syntometrine to help deliver the placenta. I had a 2nd degree tear but was not sutured to allow healing naturally. After taking a shower I went straight to bed and cuddled up with our little baby girl for the first feed.

The next day we found out that Valentina was born with a severe tongue-tie. Feeding her was utterly challenging. Besides, my nipples were sore and bleeding after only two days. Rene once again was an angel. Without much discussion, she arranged for an appointment and treatment for Valentina at the tongue-tie division at Kings Hospital. Shortly thereafter, breastfeeding became a very easy routine. Knowing from previous experience, had we had to seek treatment through the usual GP route, things would have taken ages.

Until the tie was cut it took a lot of courage and perseverance on my part to continue breastfeeding. I was dreading every cry Valentina made which meant another painful feed. I cannot count the numerous texts I sent Rene crying for help and support. She would always text or call back the next moment. No matter if it was during the day or the night. I am more than thankful for her support during those difficult times.

Rene’s support during the birth and afterwards was invaluable to us. I can only but praise her passion and commitment to her duties and we thank her endlessly for helping us with all the difficulties we encountered.

Sally & baby Read - Home Water birth

Sally’s Birth Story
When we arrived in the UK in January of 2010 I was 11 weeks pregnant and immediately began to research my health care options. As I learned more about the NHS system and what services were provided in terms of pre and post-natal care, as well as during the birth itself, I became very distressed. My first child was born in the U.S. and we had had a very positive experience with a small practice of midwives and were looking for a similar experience in regard to continuity of care and a relationship beyond the clinical sense. I was also after a natural birth experience and knew that I needed support while laboring.

After doing some research online I found out about independent midwives and then started to make some calls. Initially, I was after a hospital birth but wanted one midwife to provide all my care as well as support during the birth. When I found Sally Harley I was immediately comforted by the fact that the birth I was after would be possible. Gabe and I were impressed with Sally from the very start and found her to be very professional while at the same time personable and open. Once we booked Sally I began to sit back and really enjoy my pregnancy.

As we started to talk more and more about my concerns about birthing at a NHS hospital (not having the support I wanted since Sally would have medical limitations, room sharing, and concerns about the use of pain relieving interventions) Sally started to talk to us more about a home birth. I have to say that at first the idea seemed really “out there”, but in retrospect I believe this is due to how home births are viewed in the United States. People who want home births in the US are seen as real hippies who are more concerned with being natural then providing a safe environment for the birth of a baby. After some education from Sally—as well as taking out some books from the library on my own—I confidently decided that I wanted a home birth. I was really excited about the decision as I truly felt it was the best option for my unborn baby and me. The next step was convincing my family in the U.S. that this was a good decision!!

Even now— 5 weeks after the birth of our son, Read— I am still in a bit of shock and awe that my labor and the birth went so well; it was by far one of the most incredible and empowering events of my life. I remember after the birth I sat in my bed in a daze and said to Sally and Rene, “I can’t believe that was it! That was incredible!! Why aren’t all women doing it this way?”

My whole labor was 4 hours and 21 minutes (from the time contractions started to the time Read was delivered) and it was so relaxed being at home with our two midwives, Sally and Rene. I was laughing between contractions up to about 30 minutes before he was born! This was a shock considering the birth of my first son in hospital was almost 30 hours and no laughing matter! When my labor started around 9pm, I didn’t believe I was having real contractions because I had been having regular Braxton hicks, or early contractions, for weeks that had often left me disheartened. So, when they started on that Tuesday evening I ignored them; however within an hour they were taking on a different edge and I found I could no longer sit through them. I called Gabe at work at 10pm and told him that I thought I was in labor. Next I called Sally, which I was reluctant to do since I had already had so many false starts, but I decided to give her a call and she determined from talking to me that this seemed to be the real deal. Gabe arrived around 10:30 and I think he was a bit surprised that it was really happening!

While waiting for Sally to arrive, Gabe and I tried to set up the birthing pool, but found that it was taking too long and the hose was not fitting properly (another whole story) and during this time my contractions were every 3 minutes or so. My waters broke at 10:50 and Sally arrived around 11pm. Due to the birthing pool not working out, I got into my bathtub and labored there with Sally’s support for a little over an hour. The pain was nothing compared to the pain of the induction labor I went through with Henry. It was manageable and I never ever thought that I couldn't do it or that I needed something to cope with the pain. I pushed for about 60 minutes and when Read came out, I literally took him from between my legs and pulled him to my chest. He was born on our living room floor and cried the second he came out. He latched on while we waited for the placenta and it was just amazing.... I felt so empowered. No monitors, no drugs, no vaginal exams, just me--laboring in the comfort and safety of my home with supportive women and my husband. Listening naturally to my body and what it was telling me to do. It is an experience I will have with me my whole life and one that I believe has changed me, and my perspective on what my body is capable of doing when it is left to do what it was meant to do! Once the placenta came, I took a bath in my tub with Read while the midwives cleaned up (you would NEVER know there was a baby born here—white carpets and all!) and then climbed into my bed with Read, skin to skin, and had a glass of champagne with Gabe, Sally and Rene, and then fell to sleep. Henry came into our room at 6am to find his new baby brother in bed with Baboo and Papa! He slept through the whole thing! He was amazed and we were just thrilled.

THANK YOU Sally Harley!!
You’re the best!

Francesca & baby Samuele - Home Water birth

I have to be honest the reason why we had the extremey beautiful experience of waterbirth at home is thanks to my mother who, after the birth of our first child (Isaac 2yrs old) at Darrenth Valley would not sleep at night and was driving me crazy as to the problems we would incur if I had my second child in a hospital again and with the type of care the NHS has to offer nowadays...(imagine the whole italian drama) So, after telling her that she shouldn't come for the birth because she would stress me out with that kind of attitude and make things worse, she panicked and asked me what other options were there...and I told her about having an independent midwife...i told her the cost and she accepted to help...So there we were, as soon as I came back to the UK from my easter holydays I met wonderful Sally and we started our journey when I was 36 weeks pregnant...Obviously my mother stayed in Italy...I was sure that this time I would't use any drugs since the first time at the hospital I got so high and confused that I could't understand at all what was going on and it took me two weeks to recover fully. So we armed ourselves with the hypnobirth CD which I listened to every day while Isaac was having his afternoon nap. The CD took about a week to take effect and i started to feel much more relaxed, my back pain was gone and confidence about the birth grew stronger each passing day...Sally came to see us regularly and talking to her used to make me so happy and relaxed about giving birth I was super excited just thinking about it! We listened to the baby heartbeat everytime and Sally really did listen not just check if there was one. It was reassuring when she told me that to listen to the heartbeat was the way to get to know the baby...those simple words said so much to me about her and I knew I was going in the right direction and with the right person next to me.

Things developed quite smothly from then on, as my body was starting to actively prepare for the birth and my mind was starting to let go of its influence upon it. I was having light contractions as we were getting closer to the18th of June, when Samuele was born, expecially at night but i just slept through them. My hypnobirth CD was really working I thought, but there was still something blocking me: the fear of my mother coming to the UK as I booked her flight for sunday the 20th of June! Sally comforted me with so much love and understanding and she always reassured me that we would make it before the 20th and after a couple of swipes, clary sage essential oil and my homeopathic kit on the morning of the 18th of June all kicked off, I called Sally to let her know and she arrived as I was immersed in the bath and lavender oil breathing the contractions out calmly and keeping my focus. I knew Sally was there to help me through and so I relaxed even further allowing myself to let go and the contractions to become stronger, I was accepting the whole process as it came step by step (by that time Isaac was with the grandparents and my partner came back to help) the pool was ready, the hypnobirth CD was playing continuosly and I just let myself go listening to Sally's words reassuring me all was going well and to breathe. Between wanting to watch a DVD and talking quite a lot of nonsense just to have a laugh things were really getting serious and I was drifting off to sleep between contractions in the knowledge that my focus, my lead and my friend Sally was going to be there when I would wake up to show me the way. Rene came to help around this time and at the only time I was out of the pool I gave my consent to check the dilation and Rene did the the CD to allow Sally to check and that is how I know that CD really worked for me....because I really relaxed and we found out we were 9cm!!! Back to the pool and we enter the THIRD STAGE...didn't use any drugs so far but I started to ask now for the gas and air and Sally reminds me that I would get a dry mouth and since I was unable to drink without being sick just the thought of it put me off...

So there we were and the most beautiful experience of my life so far took place...I could feel everything!!!! My baby moving, making its way out, my body doing its magical thing...the feeling of openess, release, strenght, a forgotten ability coming back...Sally was talking to me through it and her fresh hand on my face used to wake me up reminding me to keep going (by this time I even had left a permanent mark on her hand with my nails but we still joked as she would say that she will send me the doctor's bill later on...) Then she says : if you want to push then push! The magic word...we did, both baby and I...I can't describe the unity of efforts in that room that night just before 9:10pm when Samuele came to this world and his first magical glance was for our beautiful Sally who picked him up and handed him over to me and by God I was high in happiness, joy, satisfaction, love...and I called out for my partner (whom I kicked out of the room long time ago) and I said: hurry, come and see your baby! He cut the cord...who would miss such an opportunity?? Both Rene and Sally stayed with us till we were all good and we had an incredibly good look at the placenta (we still have it in the freezer and no, we are not going to eat it...)

I was so proud of myself...and so happy to have met Sally that I still can't let go of her...she is truly a midwife like long time ago when women were still in charge of their bodies and men wouldn't dare say a word in how a woman should give birth...we know how to do it and women like Sally and Rene are here to remind us of that...XXX

Katie & baby Robbie - Home Water birth

This was my second pregnancy, and I was lucky to be fit and well throughout, with the exception of some severe acid indigestion. I was convinced I was going to be several weeks early but Robbie actually arrived just one day early............

It was Saturday night and I had gone to bed feeling a little restless, several wees in the night, and the baby seemed to be doing a slow cycling movement in the tummy. I didnt get much sleep and then at 7am I felt a gush of fluid, it wasnt a a huge amount but enough to make me realise that it was my waters breaking ! I texted Rene and she replied 'Excellent – keep me informed !' so I spent the whole day with the odd gush of fluid every time I coughed or moved suddenly. We went and took my little boy Jamie to a Nature Trail for the afternoon, it felt very strange to be walking about with 2 giant sanitary towels & the excited feeling that my baby was coming soon!

The plan was for Jamie (age2) to go to his Nanas for the night, so as I knew something was happening, Carl my husband dropped him to her house at 7.30pm, and my body must have been waiting as the moment he got back my contractions started quite aggressively. They were 9 mins apart, and this increased very rapidly over 3 hours going from 9 mins to 6 mins very quickly. I used the TENS machine but I got confused with trying to time own contractions – so I handed this job to Carl. By 1030pm I was lying on the floor with my head in my husbands lap with my hypno therapy CD playing in the background. At this point the contractions were really coming fast – approx 3 mins and Rene was on her way. Rene arrived at 11.30pm and found me with Carl – we left a key in the door for her. Carl had been with me, so the pool was inflated but he had not had time to get the temperature right, so he ran off to sort the water out.

Rene thought I was about to have the baby in the bathroom as my contractions were now almost continuous. She did fabulous breathing exercises with me – take one big deep breath in & blow it away slowly – she was amazing and totally calmed me, the hypno CD was also playing & so loudly I think the whole street must have heard!!!! At this point I really needed the pool, Carl said it was nearly the right temperature so in between contractions we ran downstairs and I literally leapt into the water! I was worried it wasnt deep enough, but Rene said it was fine. It was now middnight and Sally had arrived.

The hypno CD was moved into the kitchen (where the pool was) and I was instantly soothed by the water. It is amazing the effect the water has it is so calming, I do love the gas and air and asked Rene to get it ( I may have demanded it at the time quite agressively !!!!!!) out of the car. I had the feeling of needing to push almost immediately, and with Renes encouragement and Carl splashing water on my back, my baby was well on the way. He was born at 0032 on the Monday morning, I had pushed for 12 mins in total.

Robbie was passed up onto my chest, and it was so lucky the water was not too deep as the cord was the shortest that they had ever seen. If the water had been any deeper I would have had to get out immediately! We then had first mummy cuddles and then Carl was able to cut the cord with Renes assistance.

At 0045 we were all having tea & choccy biscuits and Carl was having some skin to skin cuddles with Robbie. I remained in the pool with my tea, as I was hoping the placenta would come quicker if I stayed in the pool. In the end I got out and fed Robbie his first feed, this seemed to do the trick as the placenta came out when I went to the loo, sorry Rene that you then had to fish it out !!! When we looked at the placenta we saw two tiny holes which must have been where the leak was coming from that I had all the previous day. The rest of the placenta was all intact and Rene packed it up to take to dispose of at the hospital.

We then weighed Robbie and Rene did her checks that she had to carry out, and all was fine. He weighed 8ibs 8oz, and was in excellent health. It was such a magical time of night as we had to wait to tell everyone all our news in the morning. Rene and Sally took me upstairs and I had a lovely bath, and then they examined me for any tears, I was extremely lucky to not have even a scratch.

Rene & Sally left at 3am, the pool was away, the kitchen was immaculate, Carl had even got a wash on !!!! We then had time to rest, we couldnt really sleep as we were so excited but we did manage an hour or two. …...............The next morning we announced our news to the world !!! It really was the most amazing, magical, special experience. THANK YOU RENE and SALLY for making this possible. x x x x x

Gina & baby Ella - Home Water birth

When I found out we were going to have Ella I wasn’t sure about where I’d want to have her, but I knew two things, 1) I wouldn’t be having her at home, and 2) I wouldn’t be a hero, I’d take all the pain relief on offer.

The problem was though that each time we saw the NHS midwives, we had a long wait in the waiting room, followed by an appointment with a different midwife to the time before, and appointments were never more than 10 minutes. None of this inspired much confidence and being an anxious person I knew I had to find a better option.

The Portland was looking like the best choice for us; they had a midwife led delivery package, so as long as I had a straightforward pregnancy I could go with that. I was given a menu of options for pain relief, and the associated costs which would be tallied up during my stay, costs not just of the pain relief but of the various consultants who would be required to administer said pain relief.

At about the time when we started telling friends and work colleagues we were having a baby, so many people seemed to want to vent in therapeutic detail their birth stories, most of which were horrific. They were usually a catalogue of medical procedures and drugs, endured over hours and hours, if not days.

Then my friend Katie told me all about her amazing birth at home in a pool. And then another friend came out of the woodwork to say that actually, they had had an amazing birth too, at home. They didn’t talk about the pain, or the drama, just how amazing it is to have a baby, and how brilliant it was to be at home, eating your own food, bathing in your own bath, and sleeping in your own bed.

Weeks of research were culminating in considering a home birth, something I NEVER thought I would consider. I couldn’t believe that it was just coincidence, or luck, that friends with home births all had positive birth stories and those who had had hospital births mostly had horror stories. I was beginning to realise that it was odd that something so natural was so medicalised; and that hospitals perpetuate this myth. I would have been eternally grateful of the hospitals help should I have needed it, but I didn’t want any ‘help’ to be given without knowing there was a real need.

We met Rene for a consultation and I was sold. Not necessarily that I would have a homebirth, but that this needn’t be the horror that birth had been for so many of my friends. I hadn’t known it to start with but Rene was what I was looking for; I thought pain relief and a plush hospital would comfort me but actually what I needed was continuity of care, someone on hand to answer my questions, and a better more realistic perspective of what it was to go through labour and birth whether at home or at hospital. The most reassuring thing for us about Rene was that if we ended up going for a planned hospital birth, which was what we were veering towards, she would come to us at home, transfer in with us when she could assure us I was well dilated and not likely to stop labouring or dilating, and then bring us home asap too, so we spent as little time in hospital as possible.

My pregnancy progressed, I did everything Rene told me to do, she was on the end of the phone or email 24/7 the whole way. If anything happened that frightened me I’d text Rene quickly and within a couple of minutes my fears would be allayed, usually by a text back that said ‘That’s completely normal’. Never were my fears allowed to become irrational or stressful, and as such I was totally chilled out, the whole pregnancy. (Rene might look back over all the emails, texts and questions and dispute that, but relative to my normal self, I was relaxed!)

I had signs from about 35 weeks that I might have Ella sooner rather than later, and Rene came, despite a horrible cold, to do the birth talk with me at 36 weeks, which calmed me down a lot. By this point I knew I’d be most relaxed at home probably and I had decided to get a birthing pool and set ourselves up so we could have a homebirth if we wanted. All my options were open and we could decide on the day. I was keen on the homebirth, but I wanted Ben to be 100% on it too.
I continued to have pre-labour signs for a few weeks, I’d have contractions every evening, just mild period pain/Braxton hicks type contractions that would stop at 11pm every night. I was very frustrated!

Then at 39 weeks exactly I saw Rene in the morning and we talked about the signs and the frustration I was feeling, by the time she left, I was resigned that the baby would come when it came and I was okay with that. That afternoon I went to the gym for a swim and in the evening Ben and I went out for dinner with friends. When we got home and into bed I felt very strong Braxton Hicks contractions and then I woke about 1am thinking I’d wet myself but it was my waters (much less embarrassing). I phoned Rene feeling a bit shaky, excited and scared at the same time. She told me it was completely normal and to go back to bed and listen to my hypno CDs and to let her know if contractions started. They started almost straight away but were unexpectedly un-painful(!) and I stayed in bed until about 4am when I felt I wanted to pace around with definite, regular contractions. Ben asked me at this point whether I wanted to stay at home, and I definitely did. From this point I think he was 100% behind me, and despite probably still being anxious about a homebirth, put aside his concerns and was really supportive.

Ben got the TENS machine sorted for me and the contractions started to be a minute long and 5/6 minutes apart. But they still weren’t as bad as I was expecting them to so we waited to call Rene, sitting on my birthing ball buzzing the TENS machine through the contractions. At about 6, half 6ish Ben called Rene and asked her to come. She was on her way and told Ben to fill the pool. I was still convinced I had hours to go and was probably about 3-4 cm dilated. But I was zoned out and feeling fine so I wasn’t too worried. Rene arrived about 7ish and gave me a hug and sat down with a cup of tea. I was still fine, buzzing away…

The contractions started feeling stronger and closer together; Rene rubbed my shoulders and back a bit reminding me to let my muscles loosen and slow my breathing, she said I could get in the pool if I liked but I was quite happy on my ball, with my TENS machine, Katie had said the pool was ‘her epidural’ so I didn’t want to use it up too quickly! I was still thinking I would be there a lot longer, and that it would surely become really painful at some point!

I started to have a craving for bacon sandwiches I think about now, and we didn’t have any bacon in the fridge (crisis), so I sent Ben out to get some bacon so I could have a bacon sandwich. By the time he was back though the craving had gone and I felt like dry Cheerios, so Ben got me some of those instead!

Shortly afterwards Rene suggested again that I got in the pool, I said again I didn’t want to get in too soon. I asked her to examine me and I was amazed that I was about 6-7 cms. I got in the pool and for 5 mins or so the contractions eased, but they came back with a vengeance and I was quite overwhelmed. I was sick whilst the contractions were happening but it wasn’t from the pain, the sensation of the contractions were just so strong they were overwhelming; I could feel the more I relaxed my muscles, the easier they were to manage. I did the last 4 cms very quickly. Rene, Laura and Ben kept telling me how well I was doing which was really encouraging.

Rene told me I could push if I wanted to and every few contractions I did feel my body start pushing so I went along with it. The pool was brilliant as you can get into any position you need easily. Not long after Rene said she could see the baby was moving down and I could feel her coming down too, by this point I was in shock I was having a baby, I felt like I’d been in labour such a short time and I still felt fairly in control! I do remember concentrating quite hard on staying in my zone at this point, and trying not to think about things too much and let my body do what it wanted to do. During my pregnancy I had worried most about losing my focus and my labour rapidly descending into chaos but again, Rene, Laura, Ben, and the familiarity of our sitting room made me feel very safe which helped a lot.

I remember feeling quite full of energy when Ella was truly on her way out, almost annoyed I had to come out of my zone I was in with my contractions. I remember feeling an incredibly strong urge of wanting to meet her and wanting it to be over. Each time the pushing contractions stopped I almost willed another one to come despite willing them to end while they were happening. I understood what Rene had meant when she had said even I was in a coma I would be able to push her out.

I was pushing in total for 1hr23mins and honestly it felt like 10 minutes. She was born at 10.07am and I felt higher than a kite. I couldn’t believe looking down into the pool and seeing Ella float under me; I wasn’t tired, or numb, or drugged up. I scooped her out of the water for a cuddle. It took several minutes before I even thought about whether she was a boy or a girl! The feeling of achievement and love was just incredible.

We waited for the cord to stop pulsing and Ben cut it. The placenta wasn’t showing any signs of coming just yet so I decided to get out and have a shower and see if gravity would do it’s thing; it didn’t! Rene set me up on the sofa with lots of towels and Ben made cups of tea. Eventually the placenta came with a contraction and I was done! My labour was 7.5 hours.

The day passed in a blur really; finally the bacon was put to good use in some sandwiches, we had some champagne and Rene and Laura helped me to have a bath and get tucked up in bed with Ella, trying to master the feeding and so on.

I couldn’t quite believe it, as I thought the most difficult bit had been and gone, and that Rene’s job was mostly done, but I totally underestimated the value of the postnatal care Rene gives you. Ella and I struggled to master the feeding but Rene is so passionate about helping you succeed that in time, we got it, and now Ella is doing just great. I was so absorbed with pregnancy I forgot to think about what to do when the baby is born, I had so many questions and worries that Rene answered in exactly the same reassuring way she had done in my pregnancy.

I would strongly urge any couple having a baby to consider an independent midwife. The over riding feeling I have now about child birth is that if more people heard positive stories like this one, and all the ones here, women wouldn’t be so scared of it, and this in turn would lead to less pain and intervention during childbirth, which is what creates the horror stories in the first place. If you are relaxed and confident and aware of what your body does during pregnancy, labour and birth, I am sure you are well over half the way to having a great birth, whether it’s in hospital or at home.

I really well up thinking about the fact that my next appointment with Rene is my last. Like I can’t imagine not having Ella now, I can’t imagine not having Rene popping in each week; she’s the best mix of midwife meets mum meets friend that you could ever ask for, and has made the experience of having our first child the best experience of our lives.

Thanks Rene xx

Emma & baby Luna - Home Water birth VBAC

The cast :
Kath – My Stepmum
Lynda – Yogabirth Instructor
Rene – Independent Midwife, my saviour, recommended by Linda
Nic - The Daddy
Coleman – The Big Brother
Barnaby – The Medium Sized Brother
Luna - The Baby
a little mouse

Sometime back in January, Kitchen of United Reform Church, – Advice from Linda about the birth:
So Linda was quite ‘firm’ when she said that to get this baby out, I absolutely had to let go of my analytical brain, stop thinking, and instead just have a bloody good time. I thought about that one a lot...

Fast forward to Friday 28th May 2010
So Kath was quite ‘scary’ when she said this was the last day she was letting me run around doing inane jobs – said I was talking the talk “I have to ‘dumb down’ and relax Kath”, but not walking the walk (reminded me of Lynda, ho ho). But anyway, I needed to get a cricket hat for Coleman, needed some large sheets of black art paper for a project I’m doing, and couldn’t possibly give birth without getting my feet done first. Then we had to go up to the school because Coleman had casually mentioned that he had been picked to be the cat in the house music competition and could I come in and do his makeup? How could I refuse?

I got home just in time for my 4 o’clock appointment with Rene and was virtually asleep as I was talking to her. I said “It’s not that I’m desperate, I’m happy to be pregnant for another week but I would quite like to meet my baby – have you got any clary sage?” With that, Rene produced some clary sage from the car with the advice just to put it in my bra on a tissue because after a while, “It smells like wet dog (true) so you don’t want to be sprinkling it round the house...” I went off to bed and had a nice sleep but was (somehow) a bit surprised not to be feeling anything when I woke up. I had some dinner with Kath about 8pm and then started tidying the kitchen.

I didn’t want to say anything but by 9pm told Kath that I was getting tightenings (the best way to describe them – with more pressure than Braxton hicks but not painful). She just gave me an odd look.

So while I was ignoring these sensations (™ Lynda Hills), somewhere in the back of my mind I must have been hoping because I started drinking a lot of water. Rene had said how important it was to keep drinking and weeing and I was enjoying the opportunity to keep trotting off to the loo, as I really wanted to ‘see’ something so that I could start to feel excited.

I should also say that I had been on a ‘Mongan Method’ hypnobirthing course and that one of the things about hypnobirthing is that you’re not ‘supposed to know’ that you’re in labour then you find your 10cm by the time you get to the hospital only no one believes you etc. So I’m waiting for period pains, looking for a show, wondering if I’ll have diarrhoea, but, nothing. In the end, the show came out with Luna’s head.

At 10pm Nic arrived home from Zurich (yes really!) wanting to tell me all about the trip. I tell him about these tightenings and say that I’m not going to talk because I don’t want it all to stop again. (I had had seven hours of mild but regular sensations a couple of weeks before (enough to make me go out and buy nappies), and then, nothing and it had really thrown me.)

So I sat there with Nic while he ate his dinner in silence. Which was weird. Kath and I had been half-heartedly putting the boys to bed and half letting them stay up for Nic so I was a bit irritable with them to be quiet while they were going down. I still hadn’t finished tidying the kitchen, you know, scrubbing the hob, wiping the skirting boards, polishing the chrome light switch by the door. Later Nic said he knew something was up because I kept commanding him: “Take the bin out, use that granite spray, get the crumbs off the toaster!” (Such a parody of my pregnant self, funny really!)

Finally I thought the kitchen was up to scratch and really fancied the idea of getting in the pool (which I hadn’t fancied until then). So we faffed around with various lamps getting the lighting just right (dark enough) and I timed a few surges (™ Hypnobirthing) which still weren’t painful and only lasting 30 seconds but were coming every few minutes. I really wanted to get in the pool so I didn’t have to keep going to the loo to wee (you wee in the pool), and so that I could be a wide mouthed frog which I didn’t fancy doing on land.

Rene had said earlier, could I try and not get in the pool until she was there because it would be better if she checked the baby’s position first.

So sod it, I called her. She said I sounded OK but what did I want her to do? I asked her to come over.

While I was waiting, I lay down on my bed with my ‘Meditate Like a Buddhist Monk CD’ which is supposed to have the knock-on effect of making you produce endorphins (hey, works for me..) I was quite zoned and Rene arrived at 11.40 just as it finished. She was looking ready for business with her hair tied back and one of those midwife thingies pinned to her top. That’s weird I *thought*, she thinks I’m going to have a baby!

Rene started doing her checks and I realised that I was shivering a bit, although not from the cold... I did wonder at that point whether this was the beginning of things.

Rene finished her checks and I literally flew down the stairs into the pool, taking my knickers off as I went... It’s always best to take your knickers off to give birth ;-)

I got into the pool, had a cup of tea, and was enjoying sniffing on a flannel sprinkled with clary sage. I put on the hypnobirthing CD with headphones and switched on the wobbly old woman who repeats the birthing affirmations I had been listening to for months. (God knows why they didn’t choose someone sounding vibrant and empowered but there you go.)

Off she went: “I put all fear aside as I prepare for the birth of my baby. I am focussed on a smooth, easy birth. I am relaxed and happy that my baby is finally coming to me. I feel confident, I feel safe, I feel secure.” And I did. I got into that for a bit but looked up to realise that Nic was sitting on the sofa with Rene (I don’t know where I thought he was) looking absolutely knackered. I still didn't feel sure that this wasn’t all going to stop again, so I sent him upstairs for a sleep.

I listened to the affirmations for one cycle (40 mins) and then put them on again but with no real awareness of time, or of anything else just breathing through the surges as they came and went and visualising 10cm. At some point I got sick of the stupid old bag on the CD player and flung the headphones off. (That reminded me of my first labour when I had declared the TENS machine to be shit and made Nic run off to get some new batteries for it...).

I start toning at then and I’m surprised ‘cause it was really quite helpful and it sounds quite nice, a sort of multi pitch tone, getting lower - ah , aah, aaahhh. Then I start to feel really hot. I don’t want to get my shoulders out of the water but it was the only way to cool down so I stood up a bit. “Hot.” I said to Rene and she went off to the kitchen to get some cold water which she dipped the clary sage flannel in and sprinkled onto me. The clary sage flannel was now wet and it tasted nice (!) so I sucked on it for a bit which was very comforting apart from I was still feeling hot .

So I stood up, and squatted down, and stood up, and sort of jumped up and down on my toes for a bit, holding onto the side of the pool. (After I realised this was Lynda’s ‘yes, yes, yes” move but without my hands in the air.... Amazing really, that’s instinct trying to move the baby down, and Lynda, I can’t have been thinking because I didn’t realise what I was ‘doing’ although Rene recognised this as ‘something going on’.)

I’m standing up now and the contractions (let’s not mince words here) are hurting. I’m honestly still not convinced though that this isn’t all going to stop, or that, if we checked I’d even be 4cm because that’s been my experience before with a slow, back to back labour.

And, oh oh, my brain has kicked in and I start thinking about pelvic stations. I wonder whether the baby has moved past zero cause I’m looking at the shape of my bump and it looks the same. “Rene.” I say rudely, “Can you tell from there whether she’s moved down?” Rene just looks at me. “Why don’t you have a feel, can you have a feel from there?” No response. In the end I realise she’s not going to talk to me. Right! I think, I’ve had enough of this water. I’m getting out. “Please,” I say nicely to Rene “can you go and get my grey nightie – it’s on the cot?” Rene didn’t even bother to ask why (no point in arguing she said later), and just went up to get the nightie.

In my head I need the nightie because I’m GOING OUTSIDE to hang on the boy’s trapeze in the garden, in the moonlight. But in reality I can’t actually move from where I am and a weird thing is happening with the contractions, they’re intense but the intensity doesn’t last long and they’re taking ages to tail off but that tailing off is really nice... which is a pity cause I really want to get out of this bloody pool, and go outside and I’m really tired and I really want to go to bed and I want to go home!!!

01.14 Rene writes in the notes ‘Getting a little more vocal with contractions.’ Yes I was, they were more like Ah , AAh, AAAhhhrrrrrrrrrr. Then, true to form (for anyone who knows me), I try singing for a bit and that’s nice but it soon goes back to Ah , AAh, AAAhhhrrrrrrrrrr. Ah , AAh, AAAhhhrrrrrrrrrrIwantsomegasandair. I get the gas and air immediately (not like the bloody hospital) and no sooner have I taken a ‘swig’ I hear myself make an urrrgh noise. I was thinking here because I knew it was a pushing type noise and I was worried because in my other labours as soon as I made this noise they told me to ‘stop’ because I wasn’t fully dilated – actually both times it had been the pressure of the baby turning back to back and the start of all hell breaking loose.

But I know she hasn’t turned and besides, I’m having such a lovely long break in between this contraction now, it's the most peaceful place I've ever been to and I remember hoping that I’ll get another break like this when, SUDDENLY, it’s as though I’m being dragged backwards out of heaven by my ankles....

So I’m clinging onto the side of the pool for dear life and, Rene what are you doing? Let go of my bloody ankles, “Urrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggh!” Stops. Oh my God, this is really happening, Rene’s talking about getting Nic – “Rene, don’t you dare leave me to go and get Nic!” ... holds onto side “Urrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggh, go and get Nic!” Nic arrives and I don’t feel self-conscious at all – “Go and get Kath” – Kath arrives and it goes something like this: Ready, hold onto side, Urrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggh, (gets dragged backwards by ankles in Superman pose), Urrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggh, looks up at Kath “I’m OK, I’m OK, It doesn’t hurt!”

And that’s what the second stage was like, for me it should have been called PULLING! I was actually in froggy’s pose with knees wide on the floor and ankles wide at the back, and Rene was nowhere near my ankles but she’s telling me (with the use of her mirror), “I can see a lot of movement... Lots of membranes at vulva... Lots of baby’s head, she’s stretching you gently Emma, she’s doing exactly what she needs to do, you’re going to get HUGE.” Rene says that her nose is out and to just hang on and I say (I can’t believe I say this) “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes yes!” until the next contraction cause I know there can only be one more and suddenly I feel the rest of the baby whoooosh out of me and I don’t even remember looking down to see her, she’s just there in my arms, wailing and it feels really natural to go and get the boys. It was 2.12 am.

The boys come down and I feel great but someone’s tickling me and I realise it’s the cord in between my legs, which is really the last thing I wanted to feel at that moment so I get out of the pool and Kath cuts the cord as soon as it stops pulsating. Coleman gets the first hold of the baby while I ‘deliver’ the placenta (it just plops out onto the floor). I get the baby back and she’s licking my breast which is so cute – Rene says it means she wants to feed and I discover I’ve forgotten how (tummy to mummy, nose to nipple) but we get there in the end and she stays there for ages, and the whole thing has been absolutely blissful. I really enjoyed it!

After, I have a bath and Rene checks me (the worst bit) and I’m absolutely amazed when she says I have a little tear (cause I didn’t feel anything) but as long as I absolutely promise to stay in bed for a five days (that’s how long it takes to heal), then she doesn’t have to stitch it. There are (Google it), two lots of opinion on whether to stitch or not to stitch but I had stitches in Hong Kong and by day 5 they were gaping open (Rene told me this can happen sometimes as the stitches actually push the two sides apart). So because of that, and since 5 days in bed seems like a no brainer, we don’t stitch. In the event it healed beautifully. It took 5 days.

I have since read that if you put two pieces of perineum in a room they will knit back together...

Luna is just over two weeks old today and everyone has been absolutely brilliant, especially Nic who’s been up with Luna, made me lots of delicious, nutritious meals (ask Tanya, she’s had one!) and generally run around after the boys making sure they didn’t feel left out. We even managed a 30 second hug the other day. Kath got very fit running up and down the stairs after me and Rene's love and support in the post-partum period has been invaluable. Most of all I can't believe how totally bonded I feel with this baby and I don't want to put her down at all.

As for the little mouse… we’ve been trying to catch him for ages. The organic peanut butter was left untouched on the ‘Big Cheese’ mousetrap (note to self – try Sunpat), and that mice like actual cheese is a complete myth, but he does love Lindt chocolate bunny which he is able to get off the ‘Big Cheese’ mouse trap without setting it off. Nic said that while I was in the pool he was happily chasing a bit of tin foil around the kitchen… seems a shame to kill him now…

Google link to Luna's Song - 'Whispers' by Fairground Attraction

Guillaume & baby Emmy - Dad's Story

here is the birth story !!!!!!!!!!! ( Emmy’s birth according to Dad Guillaume)

The story begins around 9:45 pm when Maia is in bed. I was fighting in a huge battle on Final Fantasy XIII, Charlotte arrived saying “ready for tonight?”. After a classic “of course my love”, I realised she’s speaking about THE thing…. She broke the water !!

Hurry up !! I turn off the video game (after the end of the battle of course), we call Sally, we check the bags, we call our Mexican friend to take care of Maia and we sit down calmly waiting for the following… (It didn’t take Sally 2 hours to get to us, we chatted a few times on the phone over the next couple of hours. Then when we needed her she arrived within 20 mins. )

2 hours later, the labour is going faster but faster than we’ve thought about ! Sally arrive, Charlotte need to stay on her feet to deal with the contractions, I begin my job of water’s holder, masseur, coach, supporter (sport is everywhere…). I even have the warm up music, we can imagine to be at the Emirates Stadium.

After few minutes and several exams, THE question “could you lay down or sit down to let Sally examine you ?” and the answer “no way”. Conclusion : we will go to the hospital next time, this one will be old fashion!!!

So here we are, at home with Sally and a Mexican friend but without all medical stuffs you have in a hospital.

I say to myself : “ guy, you need to be good because Charlotte will suffer…”

Relax music turn on, glass of water on the table, labour guide for dummy in my mind… we are ready (er… we act to be. A home birth wasn’t in our plans but you need to be strong. You can’t show anxiety to someone who is going to climb a cliff without rope).

Then, everything is going very fast (Mum’s word : You say that !!!!) :

A hand on the diner table ....... The other one on the dresser

Stand up position ......... A little bit leaning

That’s the way the evening crucial moment happened.

Between 2 gas breath

Sit down, With for only support, My body

Charlotte did this miracle in the living room and Emmy showed her nose.

Maia was still sleeping Peacefully When Emmy get out her feet.

Emmy was finally there, Quiet when I cut her cord.

It was the poetic moment of this extraordinary evening. It was a intense time of joy, of discovery and a back to nature.

Bravo to Charlotte and Emmy, thanks to Sally to help us and to Maia to stay asleep.

Guillaume, the happy dad

Rachael & baby Halle - Home Water birth

Before I met Rene and had the great experience of such a personal service I can only describe what I thought I knew about pregnancy and labour as what I'd seen on TV, expectant mother's rushed into hospital on stretchers screaming, surrounded by doctors in surgical clothes. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to have an independent midwife like Rene to make sure that wasn't the experience I had.

This being my first pregnancy, I was open minded to suggestions of where to have my baby but when we discussed the option of a home birth the more it felt like the right option for me. I have never been a great lover of hospitals, in fact even going for a blood test makes me nervous so the thought of not having to go in was a relieving one.

I was thought to be 35 weeks pregnant when my waters broke, it was a late Thursday evening and exactly a month before my due date, so we made that all important phone call to Rene, she told us to monitor any contractions, call her with any major updates and if nothing had happened over night she would be round in the morning. I couldn't believe it, my baby was on its way!

No major contractions happened over night it was all very mild so Rene arrived ten o'clock the following morning, she confirmed I was in labour but the early stages. Unfortunately because my waters had broken and my baby was coming early we thought we were going to have to have a hospital birth but after further discussion of dates we realised I was more 36/37 weeks so a home birth it would be!

I still had a few last minute bits to buy for the baby so Rene said it was fine for me to go shopping with my partner then come home and try to get some sleep before the contractions became more frequent, I couldn't quite believe I was walking around Bromley shopping centre in labour knowing by the next morning hopefully we would be a family, what a fantastic feeling!

I got home after shopping but I couldn't sleep, I had my tens machine on to help with the contractions which was fab. My mum came over at this point as I had asked her to be there at the birth, there is nobody quite like your own mum when you need to be looked after, she was excited that soon she would be a Nan but still a bit apprehensive of me having a home birth. Over the space of the evening my contractions got worse Rene came back when they were around five mins apart, my partner Daniel was fantastic knowing all the right things to say.

My contractions became more frequent and painful and I felt like I wanted to get into the birth pool, Rene suggested examining me just to make sure I was ready to go in the pool, I was 7cms so she suggested a few more laps around the garden just to bring the baby’s’ head down more before I got in to the pool, so as our neighbours waved over the fence I walked around buzzing my tens machine to every contraction.

When I thought I was ready I got in to the birthing pool, my partner had lit scented candles, the lights were off, everybody was so calm the atmosphere was lovely. The pool helped relax me straight away being in the warm water was like a relaxing bath. My contractions soon became stronger, Rene was amazing her voice stayed so calm when ever she spoke she helped talk me through the contractions and eventually suggested some gas and air and when you haven't had a drink for eight months it was the most amazing pain relief ever! My head went light and the contractions eased.

I started to feel like I wanted to push and was encouraged to do exactly what my body was telling me, I gripped hold of my partner as I felt the burning, tingling sensation of the baby coming. It wasn't that long before the head was out with a yelp of relief, it was amazing to think my baby was almost here. I remember Rene saying one more push and your baby will be born. The next thing I know their I was picking her up out of the water, amazed to find out after everybody thinking she would be a boy in fact I had a beautiful little girl who had slept through the whole labour because of the relaxing atmosphere.

She was content and healthy and with in about ten minutes of my partner cutting the umbilical cord she was already making sucking movements with her mouth to be fed so all was well.

I still had to deliver the after birth which took over an hour, we had almost given up when right at the last minute I had a contraction and out it came. Rene and Sally helped to bath me and get me comfortable in bed. Rene then examined me and I had no need for stitches, she said if she hadn't seen me have the baby she wouldn't have believed it, which i was very grateful for. My mum was converted and she will be recommending home births to everybody now I'm sure!

After having Halle-Jay I realised it was not just the fantastic support during pregnancy and labour that was so important but also the post natal care, suddenly I was a mum with so many questions, it was lovely to be able to see Rene everyday for comfort and reassurance for me and my partner, that we were doing well. Halle is now three weeks old and I find it devastating to think I only have one week left with Rene as she has become a major part of my life and my family's ,the one thing I do find reassuring is that she's only ever a phone call away when ever I need her and I only hope that after reading this somebody else takes the opportunity to have such an exceptional handful of women to make this experience as magical as it was for me and my partner and for that Rene; me, Daniel and Halle -Jay thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Ingrid & baby Christina - Home Water birth

When I became pregnant with my second child, I knew that I did not want to repeat the experience I have had with my son, Magnus, 4 years ago. My waters had gone and I was induced 2 days later. It was a horrendous experience, not so much because it was incredibly painful and exhausting, but due to the circumstances and the hospital environment. I spent 2 days and nights on the postnatal ward surrounded by mothers holding their new babies, waiting for the induction to actually work, for consultants to turn up, with midwives constantly changing, my husband having to leave in the evening. By the time I was finally classed as in labour and transferred to the delivery ward all I wanted was to get it all over with and leave the place asap.

About a year ago, one of my friends had a lovely water birth at home and she very warmly recommended Rene. It is fair to say that at that initially my husband and I were not in any way fervent believers in the advantages of home birth. But we knew that we wanted a better birth experience, continuity of care and proper post natal support and having Rene as a midwife has made all of that possible to a degree that was beyond anything that I expected or anticipated.

My pregnancy was straightforward and uncomplicated. Magnus had been a week early and I felt that the baby would probably be a bit early, too. My waters broke at 38 weeks, the night just after Magnus’ 4th birthday party. I am sure I would have panicked at that point had it not been for Rene. The last thing I wanted was another induction in hospital! But Rene came round the next day to check on me and she just did what she had done throughout my pregnancy. She instilled confidence in her unique, very unobtrusive, but effective way which is testimony to both her professionalism and a passionate believe that giving birth shouldn’t and needn’t be the terrible experience it sadly currently is for many women in Britain.

Rene gave me some homeopathic remedies and left, having said all the right things to make me stop worrying about what would happen if I didn’t go into labour within the next couple of days. Throughout the day I had some mild contractions when I walked which gave me hope. Around 11pm I was woken by a single, but quite painful contraction which was followed by another one an hour later. Within half an hour, I had regular contractions. I listened to my hypnobirthing tape and got a hot water bottle for my back. Just after 2 am my husband phoned Rene and got the pool ready. When he called her again just over an hour later I had contractions every 3 minutes.

Rene arrived half an hour later and things where progressing at surprising speed. Rene hat told me before that on average, ‘her’ second babies delivered within 5 hours but to be honest, I had been sceptical. The pool was waiting downstairs but I wasn’t even sure if there was still any point in getting in. A couple of minutes later, I thought this is getting pretty intense now, I might as well get in the pool.

Christina was born barely half an hour later in the pool, and it had taken no more than 4.5 hours to deliver her with the second stage lasting less than 10 minutes. I picked her up and the way she looked at me I can only describe as happy. She was rosy and alert, wanting to feed immediately. This was quite a contrast to Magnus who had passed meconium and was all blue when he was born, clearly not happy at all!

Equally, the first few weeks after I had Christina were very different. Rene offered brilliant support with breastfeeding after I had struggled for months to make it work with Magnus. To every problem she had about three potential solutions, at least one of which would certainly work. There was nothing of the usual madness and feverish activity that everyone seems to accept as normal with a newborn baby. Apparently, with the right support, things can be very different.

Also we were able to make informed choices about a whole range of issues where at a normal hospital birth you would simply be presented with a ‘one size fits all’ NHS policy which you may or may not agree with.

I have been really impressed with Rene’s calmness, professionalism and her amazing ability to offer exactly the right support. The whole experience was very personal and also empowering in a way that I am convinced would simply be impossible if one gives birth in a hospital room full of strangers.

Christophs' story of baby Christina

When Ingrid told me about the possibility of having an independent midwife, I could understand that she wanted to avoid making the same experience with changing midwifes during and after the birth of our first child. When she told me that she was also quite keen on having a home birth, I was sceptical – as most men tend to be. Surely, not having access to all the gadgets and expertise must be bad idea? I thought about the situation at the birth of our son, when he was born blue and not breathing – the delivery suite was suddenly full of doctors who worked together like pit-stop team, making sure our little one was fine.

What I did not realise at the time and only gradually understood in the course of conversations with Rene was that having a home birth actually reduces rather than increases risks in comparison to the hospital with its changing personnel, limited resources, and standard procedures, not mention all the bugs around. Hospitals are efficient institutions for treating ill-people, but pregnancy is not an illness and giving birth is something that women are under most circumstances able to do on their own – if they feel safe in their environment and trust the people with them. This trust was gradually built up in the course of the pregnancy as Rene came to visit and served us well when Ingrid’s waters broke two weeks early. We were afraid that labour would not start naturally and that she would have to be induced again in hospital, but Rene said all the right things (and I dare say, so did I), which fortunately helped Ingrid to relax so that labour started 24 hours later. This was already a positive sign and I felt positive from then on that Ingrid would have her desired birth at home. We checked with Rene on the phone about the progress of labour. The only anxious moment was for me when contractions seemed to be getting more frequent and more intense very quickly and we were waiting for Rene to turn-up. Not that she was slow or held up – we had just left the call a bit late. So for 25 surreal and long minutes I contemplated the prospect of delivering my daughter myself until Rene did finally arrive.

From then on, everything really went quickly and without any problems. I had already filled the pool two hours earlier and covered it with a special cover (must-buy!), so that it stayed hot. After adding a little cold water it had the perfect temperature and Ingrid had our daughter just half an hour after entering the pool. It went so quickly and without any complication that I could not believe it. Afterwards, everything was calm, warm and beautiful. What a contrast to the birth of our first child in hospital! The positive experience continued for me throughout the following days when Rene came to provide reassurance and practical breast-feeding advice. Overall, it should be clear by now that my experience has been very positive. I cannot judge how representative it is, but I hope reading this might give prospective fathers at least a nudge towards seriously considering the option of home birth supported by a professional midwife.

Julie & baby Amelya - Home Water birth

Giving birth was the best experience I have ever gone through, and I have no doubt in my mind that it was made that way by the people surrounding me.

Not once did I feel rushed, stressed or frightened as Sally’s confidence and professionalism guided me through natural child birth.

I had little Amelya in the comfort of my own home, in the living room, at 4.22 in the morning, in a warm pool my silly husband kept tinkering with to keep at the right temperature. In total, about 6 hours was all it took, from the time of calling Sally to my baby popping out.

I have never liked hospitals, and the whole thought of being in a place where sick people were kept, was really unpleasant and was not what I wanted the first environment my child to experience. I also had never had great faith in the NHS; all statistics, schedules and procedures. In my eyes, having a baby wasn’t a medical procedure; it was a natural process of life. IF at any point it would have been necessary for me to go in, I would have listened to Sally and trusted her that that is what I needed to do. As it so happened, hospital was not called for, although during transition, when I thought, as most women do I’m told, I couldn’t do it any more, I wanted to be knocked out.
I went 41 weeks before I decided that I had had enough waiting, it was time for her to come out. I had been 2 cm for a whole week without feeling a thing, and did think (and half hoped) that if I could do the next 8 like that, it would be good. However, that was not the case. I started getting contractions every 5 minutes on the Wednesday evening, which felt like period pain, so my husband rang Sally. I could talk to Sally during these, and she told me it was probably going to be a while. A few hours later, and every 3 minutes now, I could definitely not mistake labour pain. At 11o’clock my husband rang sally again and she thought it would be a good idea to come over. When she arrived, I was rocking on my big ball as sitting on it was the only real position that was comfortable. I was listening to my hypnobirthing cd and feeling in control. I asked Sally if she could check my progress and I was a little disappointed when she told me I hadn’t really changed. She reassured me though, and told me to try to go to bed and get some sleep; she would stay on the sofa. It really didn’t seem that long from the time I went upstairs to the time I had to get my husband to call sally. I couldn’t get comfortable and I didn’t seem to be getting a break from the contractions. I thought I needed the toilet, but couldn’t go, I couldn’t bare sitting on anything that wasn’t the birthing ball. Sally made me laugh when she told me that while I was in the bathroom telling my husband to knock me out and that and that I couldn’t do it any more, she was listening to me and thinking I was in transition.

On exiting the bathroom, Sally suggested that she examine me again, just to see. I remember telling her that if I hadn’t moved much from 2cm, that that was it, she was going to take me to hospital for an epidural. Sally reminded me that going to hospital was not what I wanted, and that I was “doing it”! When she said that she couldn’t feel my cervix any more, I thought that meant that I had gone back to nothing again. She had to then tell me a few times that “it was time” and it would probably be a good idea that I got into the pool. After she had said this to me and told me I was doing it, I don’t remember any more pain. It was like I had been told I had made it this far and now I was at the home stretch.

I got downstairs and no sooner had I got to the edge of the pool; I suddenly got this overwhelming urge. My body seemed to take over and I said to Sally, “Something’s happening”. I wish I had recorded the next bit. A noise I have never made, or can make again to this day came out of my mouth. A low, primeval groan vibrated through my whole body. I got into the water and the weightlessness was pure bliss. The warmth and the lightness made any feeling of discomfort I have leave me.

The regular low noises indicated my little one was coming, and I was unaware of myself “pushing”. My body seemed to take over as if it knew what it was doing, watched over silently by Sally who told me she didn’t need to tell me to do anything as I was already doing it?!? I remember her saying that she thought she had better give Dorothy (the second midwife) a call otherwise she might not make it. Dorothy turned up with 10 minutes to spare. I didn’t realise Amelya’s head was out, and Sally told me that one more push and she would be out. All I could say was “really?” Next thing I know, Amelya was in my arms and all I could say to her was “hello!”

Lisa & baby Oliver - Home Water birth

When I fell pregnant with our third child, Oliver, I was very keen to have a good birth experience having had disappointing experiences with my previous two births. My older sons, Thomas and Luke, were born in hospital and with both births I felt I had no connection with the numerous hospital midwives responsible for me and that the level of care and consideration for me or my wishes, during labour and postnataly, was unsatisfactory.

Despite my previous hospital experiences my husband, James and I didn’t have strong feelings towards home birth either and we spent a long time researching hospital vs home birth and considered doulas, community midwives, several hospitals (NHS and private) and independent midwives. During that process we met three midwives, Rene being the last. I had been getting pretty anxious that we hadn’t resolved the issue of where and how to give birth but on meeting Rene, with relief, we knew she was the right option for us.

We were really impressed with Rene’s extensive experience and felt that she would offer a high level of care and support as well as giving us the flexibility to decide during labour whether to go for a hospital or home birth. We had booked Rene fairly late in the pregnancy and she invested a significant amount of time during antenatal appointments in getting to know us so that by the time I went into labour Rene had become part of the furniture and we felt very comfortable having her around. This along with Rene’s professionalism gave us the confidence to try for a homebirth.

It was super having antenatal appointments at home – I didn’t have to drag myself and the boys off to the doctors and no chance of picking up any nasty bugs at the surgery. During the last difficult weeks of pregnancy Rene was particularly helpful in advising me on how to encourage labour and she provided support and a good ear for me to moan to!

At 40 weeks plus 2, after a sweep courtesy of Rene and a reflexology session the boys were safely despatched to bed and contractions started about 7.00pm. Contractions gradually increased and were fairly consistent but not lasting any longer than 30-40 seconds. Rene had given me a homeopathic remedy to take during early labour to keep contractions going however I still daren’t sit down fearing that if I relaxed the contractions might stop and I was determined that the baby HAD TO come now. Having literally bounced around the house for a good five hours Rene suggested I try to rest. By 5a.m, the contractions were lasting about the same time but felt much stronger so we called Rene who arrived quickly and quietly to assess me. While James was engaged topping up the pool Rene provided me with support through my contractions helping me relax and breathe properly – I had pretty nasty back pain and Rene helped ease it by massaging my back.

Compared to my previous births I felt very relaxed throughout labour and with Rene’s support, felt I was managing the contractions comparatively well. I heard Rene call Sally suggesting she came over because I may be in transition – I was quite surprised and excited to hear that because I felt I was still coping quite well and didn’t think birth was that imminent. Rene suggested I get into the pool and Sally arrived soon after. Unfortunately getting Oliver out took longer than expected and the boys woke up at 6.45am so James cared for them while Rene stayed to support me. This is where the time Rene spent with me prior to delivery really paid off as I felt completely relaxed about James not being there – fully confidant with Rene’s support. James despatched the boys to a friend’s house and re-joined the fun. My contractions almost immediately intensified and after a few pushes the membranes were born – a bit disappointing that it wasn’t the head!! Unfortunately that pleasure was still to come. Having had two episiotomies with the boys I was pretty alarmed to experience crowning and found this bit the hardest part to deal with. I was glad it was a Saturday morning and not too many people about or I’m sure the police would have been round investigating a suspected murder! Again Rene provided the encouragement and support I needed to continue pushing to get Oliver out. It took a whole hour of pushing before Oliver arrived with his hand squished at the side of his ear – hence the delay! He was born at 8.30am, in the pool and passed directly into my arms which was just wonderful. It was so very special to have been the one to lift our beautiful son from the water to take his first breath of air. I still love looking at that moment captured in a photo and showing the enormous sense of relief and joy.

I cuddled Oliver while James cut the cord after it had stopped pulsating. Shortly afterwards contractions started again so I stayed in the pool to deliver the placenta. The whole process felt so relaxed and natural - what a huge contrast to a hospital birth!

After the hard work was done Rene, Sally, James and myself, (still in the pool with Oliver), toasted the occasion with champagne, chocolates and bacon butties after which Rene and Sally helped me upstairs, into a nice bath and then bed – they looked after me so well I felt like a princess!!

In conclusion, despite our initial reservations about homebirth, Oliver’s birth experience was a complete success – even my recovery was markedly easier – not even a stitch to be healed! My only regret is that we hadn’t booked Rene somewhat earlier in my pregnancy. Thanks Rene and Sally for making my last son’s birth such a wonderful occasion, as these things should be.

James' story of baby Oliver

With two hospital births under the belt and being dissatisfied with the NHS experience, we considered a number of birth options. We knew that a return to the same hospital was the last thing that we wanted to do. We had started out with a hospital birth with our first son, we lived close to the hospital and I in particular had worried (unnecessarily) about complications in childbirth. After the birth of our second son at the same hospital, having become pregnant with our third child Lisa didn’t want the same impersonal treatment and so we started to look at other options. We looked at private birthing suites, NHS community midwives, other hospitals and independent midwifes.

The private birthing suite didn't seem that different. The community midwives seemed to be under resourced and with hospital as the fall back to a lack of midwives “on the night”, an independent midwife seemed to be a more certain option. Lisa had delivered naturally with our first two sons without any particular complications and so we ignored the hospital consultant’s hearty endorsement of the hospital (“it will be different this time”) and followed instinct. For us there were four main areas of concern. The most obvious one was that a complication would develop in childbirth and critical time would be wasted getting to the hospital. The second was that Lisa wouldn’t get on with the midwife or that we would have reservations around competency. The third one was that our young sons would be in the house and we’d have to get them out of the house while the baby was being born. Finally, we also wondered if we would end up paying for a service we wouldn’t really use if Lisa ended up having to have a c-section.

We did research on the internet, met thee midwives, and decided that Rene was clearly the right person for us. Like many things, it’s a personal choice as all the midwives we met were nice, professional people. We felt Rene’s attitude was just right - she didn't need to sell herself - and could answer the questions we had just right. A plus for us was that Rene could do the post birth checks - meaning that if we did go into hospital we could get out again swiftly without having to wait for a paediatrician. However, of most importance to me was that I felt happy that if something did start to go wrong, that we could trust Rene to either deal with it or anticipate it soon enough in order to get to hospital in time.

We got to know Rene through her frequent visits and these made Lisa relaxed and more confident about our decision. We had time to get a birthing pool and all the other things we needed for a home birth and drew up a plan of action, depending on time of day and day of the week. When the time came Lisa felt comfortable calling Rene late at night when her contractions didn’t seem to be picking up enough and again when they did pick up. Rene was around very quickly and we had a real calm sense of purpose as Lisa began giving birth in earnest. The birth happened more quickly than in hospital and wasn’t punctuated by bundling Lisa into the car and getting her up to the hospital ward. By the time our young boys woke up and were sent off to spend the day with a friend, Sally had appeared swiftly and an hour later Oliver was born. He had his left hand up by his ear and so made it more difficult for Lisa than it needed to be, but he was born just fine in the birthing pool. It was very weird to see his little head poking out and underwater for that short time before his body was born. It was an amazing experience to see Lisa have little Oliver born into the water and pushed up to her between her legs and into her arms. It felt so much more relaxing and enjoyable to sit on the sofa immediately afterwards and have a chat over a bacon sandwich and glass of champagne. Rene and Sally really looked after Lisa and helped bathe her and get her into bed. Rene’s follow up visits were also great for us, as you forget a lot about new born babies quite quickly. Overall, Rene spent a lot of time getting to know us, helping Oliver be born and then checking up on Oliver and Lisa afterwards.

We both felt that the decision to go with Rene was absolutely the right one, and we were pleased that we went with our instinct and didn’t listen to those few unhelpful people who cast doubt on the homebirth option, for the most part out of ignorance. Oliver’s birth was a wonderful experience and we’re all very happy !

Kirsty & baby Sebastian - Hospital birth

We always wanted a hospital birth for our second child. We felt that, should something go wrong, the most important thing was to have the best and quickest medical support, for me and the baby. However, during early visits with the local midwife and with the hospital, I realised that the level of personal, consistent care, and information sharing was very poor.
We decided to have an independent midwife to guide us through the ante natal experience, support us during the birth and help us with those most important early weeks with our new baby.

The months of support from Sally before the birth, prepared me both intellectually and emotionally for the marathon of child birth. Her explanations of what was happening to my body, the possible risks and procedures, and the decisions that we would have to make during labour, prepared me for the experience. And my husband and I felt that we made informed decisions all the way through pregnancy and birth thanks to Sally.

The labour did not go as hoped. I chose to have an induced labour, when I was 8 days overdue. I felt that the baby was too big and “needed” to be born. I knew through Sally’s guidance, that this meant the probability of a long, painful labour, and more medical intervention than I had hoped for, but I was prepared for the experience.

It was long, and painful, but I gave birth to a 9 pound, 7 ounce beautiful baby boy on Christmas night.

I had breast fed my daughter for a full year, so I thought that it would be easy to do it for my son. It wasn’t. I had forgotten how painful those early feeds are. My son has a very strong suck, and had ruptured something internally in my breast, and was ingesting my blood. Sally knew that I was determined to persist. She encouraged me, taught me different techniques to alleviate the pain, and within a fortnight, it was smooth sailing again.

Sally’s support alleviated so much stress during the entire experience. I would encourage any woman who is contemplating a hospital birth to also have the consistent support, information and care of an independent midwife.

Emma & baby Mia - Homebirth

This baby is my 3rd, My first baby Alfie who is now 8 was born at QM with a ventouse as his head was rather large, although I cannot really remember most of the birth, I do remember my husband and mum being there for me and through the pain it was their voices that I could hear and I listened to, I also remember there being a lot of people coming in and out of the room which really annoyed me! I had to have stitches after with alot of pain afterwards for at least 6 months! I tried breast feeding which lasted for about 5 months as it was so painful, the midwives were not much help and I didn’t feel very supported. If it wasn’t for my mum and husbands support I wouldn’t have carried on for so long.

My 2nd baby Skye who is now 4 was born at Darenth Valley hospital as I didn’t want to go to QM, I decided I wanted a water birth but was told I needed to arrange my own midwife as theirs didn’t cover my area! So with mums help as she was training at the time I arranged to meet the lady who was going to attend before the birth. When I went into labour I called mum, she arrived then we made our way to the hospital, the midwife we had asked to help arrived and filled up the pool, I felt much more relaxed this time, I got into the pool and the contractions were strong. The midwife sat back and let us get on with it, we didn’t have many interruptions from other staff I seemed very relaxed, after 4-5 hours my mum suggested I go to the toilet as I had drunk 2 jugs of water but I really didn’t want to get out of the pool. By this time the midwife was checking her watch all the time as I later found out there was somewhere else she had to be! Obviously more important than me! Eventually I got out of the pool and went to the toilet, helped by my mum, I weed for about 10 minutes (I didn’t realise I needed to go so much) as I walked back to the room the baby’s head touched my cervix fell and I was in agony, the midwife suggested pethidine without me realizing she had stuck it in my leg, 2 minutes later there was no time for the pool and I ended up having her on the bed. Then the pethidine kicked in and I was asleep! I missed the first few hours of my daughters life and that crucial bonding time, still my mum and husband talk about things that happened and I slept through the lot! All because the midwife had somewhere better to be. It took me nearly 2 years to properly bond with my daughter and feel true love for her it was really hard for me and the rest of my family. Now I love her to pieces.

I was really scared to have another baby but 4 years later I fell pregnant again. This time at 4 weeks pregnant I knew my mum was going to be my midwife and there was no way I was going to hospital at all! I had lots of worries and concerns about how I was going to cope, both with the birth and after, although I had 2 pretty easy births they were both quite short and moderate pain with only gas and air it’s the after bit I find really hard to cope with, the pain down below and the breast feeding. I was very disappointed with myself for not feeding my other 2 for as long as I should and I really wanted to get it right this time. My mum assured me she will be there to support me all the way which I knew she would do anyway as both my mum and midwife. I feel I can tell my mum anything at all which is very handy when you give up all rights to privacy when you’re pregnant ;-).

If I ever had any worries I would just phone her up and ask even though this was my 3rd pregnancy I still had loads of questions, its strange how you forget. My husband was a bit worried about a home birth as he was bought up to believe hospitals were best etc!

My mum came over to do a birth talk at 36 weeks and sat down with both of us and answered all the questions that had been worrying Darryn about homebirth, he said he felt a little better but still wasn’t convinced. The birth talk was amazing, I’m on my 3rd pregnancy and I didn’t know most of the things that were going on inside my body, I learnt so much about birth and what was going to happen at each stage, I cannot believe that I didn’t know this before, but that’s the NHS for you! Darryn also said it was a really good talk and he now feels as though he can help me through as he also knows what’s going on inside my body and what to expect. As Darryn was still a bit worried about having a home birth, I brought him along to a Homebirth group which one of my mums friends, Jan, runs. He said that also helped him to hear other couples stories and was able to ask questions without a professional answer but from a dads experience.

Mum suggested I listen to hypnotherapy Cds to help me relax which I did to prepare for the birth, I also took herbal remedies a few days before the birth to help with the contractions and to heal the bruising after.

Through out the pregnancy Darryn supported me although I knew he wasn’t 100% convinced, he said as long as mum was happy then so was he. I decided on a water birth as I missed out last time, mum went through the birth plan and that was my only requirement was to make sure I had my baby in the pool. Sally lent me her birth pool which we set up and practised with at 37 weeks. At 39 weeks I thought I was in labour, the contractions were quite strong but not regular, I phoned mum and told her, she said it sounded like the beginnings of labour so fill the pool up. This was at 5am, by 6.30 the noise had woken my daughter up, then it all stopped. Mum said this happens when a lady is disturbed it makes the labour stop! So that was it! For another week I was having strong Braxton hicks but nothing to shout about, my due date came and went and I was getting annoyed. The pool had been up for a week so we emptied it and left it inflated in the front room. My other kids thought it was a new addition, an indoor pool.

Then the Sunday after my due date I had strong contractions again this time with diarrhoea which is another sign of labour, so getting all excited I phoned mum and this time she came over and we refilled the pool, but once again it stopped and I fell asleep! 3 days went by and nothing, then I was fast asleep in bed with my daughter next to me as I had chucked my husband out of the room for snoring I turned over and heard a loud popping noise inside me, I froze as I had never heard anything like that before, I thought it could be my waters as my belly shook but nothing else happened, then I moved and water poured out of me, I didn’t know what to do as I couldn’t move or shout as I thought it would wake my daughter up and it would all stop again, so I tried phoning Darryn’s phone but still nothing, so I grabbed an Inco sheet that mum gave me to protect the bed and wrapped it round me like a nappy and hobbled down the hallway to wake him up. He jumped out of bed like it was on fire, I told him my waters have broken but there is still no pain, this was at 3.50am, I went to the loo at this point and he followed me asking whether he should phone mum, I still wasn’t sure but as I sat on the loo I had a massive contraction, Darryn looked at me and said I’m phoning your mum. She said start heating the pool (as it was already filled up). She was here in 5 minutes, my sister in law Chiara, who mum had also been midwife to, came 2 minutes later, by this time I was on the birthing ball downstairs. Chiara phoned Sally who was on her way, Darryn was filling the pool with hot water and I had only had 2 contractions.

Mum checked me over then asked if I had been to the loo, I said not since phoning you which was 15 minutes before, but I felt I needed to go, as I stood up I had an almighty contraction, all I remember from then on was mum telling Darryn to stop with the pool as there wasn’t time, then mum saying breath as the head is crowning, then my baby was on the floor! I was in shock it had all happened so fast, from the moment my waters went to giving birth it took 1 hour and 17mins. Weighing in at 9lb 7oz.

I had no time for the hypnobirthing and once again I missed having my baby in the water!

Mum covered me up and Alfie came in to see his new baby sister, I was still on the floor at this point so I was helped onto the settee where I stayed until the blood had finished passing through the cord, then Darryn cut it, Sally arrived 5 minutes too late, she helped mum write up the notes and took loads of pictures for us. I then passed the baby to her daddy as I went to the loo and delivered the placenta completely pain free. Then we all had a glass of champagne and a bacon sandwich

When I came back in I sat down to a nice cup of tea, Skye had come down and was cuddling her new sister all while mum and Alfie explored the placenta.

I was so happy it was all over and although for about 15 minutes I was in agonizing pain it was all over really quickly and really didn’t hurt at all. I believe this is because I was completely prepared for the birth and was so relaxed with the people around me and being at home. By 8am I was bathed and in bed with my new baby happily breast feeding her.

This was the perfect birth experience and it was all down to my wonderful mum.

Mia is now 4 weeks old and I am breast feeding her without any pain at all, this is down to mum who taught me how to do it properly, I had to stay in bed for 5 days which was luxury as my husband ran around after me and the other 2 kids, I felt completely relaxed, I didn’t tear so I didn’t need stitches and I was completely healed within 2 days (although the after contractions were quite painful for 5 days) when they stopped I was back to normal and back in jeans I hadn’t been able to fit in for over a year before I fell pregnant!

I feel I do not need to have another baby as I did after the others as I believe I have achieved the perfect birth, (Although I still wouldn’t mind experiencing a water birth!!!) It was an amazing experience from start to finish and I want to thank my mum for making it possible for me and I’m glad she is there to help all the other ladies to have the birth they want.

Alice & baby Jessica - Home Water birth

with Obstetric Choleostasis (OC) and Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

My first baby was born in hospital and as I felt bullied by the midwife and put under pressure to take pethedine I decided that I would like to have a water birth at home with a supportive midwife this time.

The pregnancy was going fine until I reached the third trimester and started to get intense itching on my palms and soles of my feet, particularly at night. This turned out to be obstetric choleostasis, a rare pregnancy condition that affects the liver. There are links to stillbirth and although the latest research suggests that these links cannot be proven they also cannot be disproved.

The baby’s heart had to be monitored regularly on CGT machines at the hospital and I was referred to an obstetrician. I started a diet low in fat and refined foods and high in protein, which anecdotally seems to help the condition. This helped me to feel like I was doing something as there is no treatment for the condition and in fact my bile acid and liver enzyme levels had started to go down towards the end of the pregnancy so it did seem to be working.

At 34 weeks I went into premature labour (a risk with the condition) and as it was so early I had to go into hospital. Fortunately the labour stopped without any intervention and after another night in hospital I was able to go home. I was very sleep deprived at this point as I was only able to get a maximum of 3 hours sleep a night due to the intense itching. Rene was a great support and said that if I made it to 36 weeks I could still have a homebirth.

I was told by the obstetrician that because my levels of bile acid and liver enzymes were so high I was not recommended for a homebirth and would be induced at 38 weeks. I decided that to have a calm home birth would be safer than a hospital birth where I would be monitored constantly and probably end up with a cascade of intervention. The doctors admitted that if something goes wrong for the baby with OC there is nothing that they can actually do so being in hospital would be no safer for the baby. Also as OC can affect the baby’s heart I felt that the most relaxed birth possible was in fact the safest thing for the baby. Rene reassured me that it was my decision and as long as I was happy to go to hospital if there was the slightest indication that something was wrong then she would be happy to deliver me at home from 36 weeks.

I then had two weeks trying to keep my legs closed as I was having contractions on and off. When I was 35 weeks and 5 days I went into labour. The labour was slow and the following day it had almost stopped. By that evening the labour started again and I was hoping I could make it to midnight and still have the homebirth.

I did make it and Rene came over about 3 am. I listened to my hypnosis cds and although I was far from being in a trance I think it helped to keep me calm and in control. I was able to cope with the contractions and it was a totally different experience from my labour with my previous child where I felt the pain was overwhelming. When Rene examined me I was 7 or 8 cm already and although she said I could get in the pool I felt I didn’t really need to at that stage as the contractions were manageable. When I did get into the pool it felt lovely. At this stage my husband said the birth was so relaxed it was boring!

A little while later Rene told me I could start to push if I felt like it. As I had no urge to push (I didn’t with my last labour either) I thought I would just try breathing the baby down to start with. But I soon realised that wasn’t going to work! At this point (6am) we heard my toddler over the monitor asking if it was time to get up yet! My mum had not yet arrived to pick her up so my husband had to go and look after her. At the same time Sally the other midwife arrived and all this disruption took me out of myself and slowed the labour down.

Eventually with Rene’s encouragement I started to feel the baby coming down with the membranes still intact but I had to push very hard to make any progress. Finally I pushed out what we thought was the head but turned out to be the membranes, which burst with a dramatic explosion! I was expecting the second baby 4 weeks early to be easy to push out but it turned out that she was OP (back to back) just like my other daughter, although just like last time I had no back pain! Rene kept me going when I felt like giving up. It is amazing the difference that having a supportive midwife can make.

After an hour of pushing Jessica Myla was finally born. After a few minutes she started to go a bit floppy and stopped breathing. As the cord was so short Rene and Sally quickly clamped the cord and took her into the other room to give her oxygen. This was a really scary moment especially with all the concerns we had over the OC but within a few seconds we heard a strong cry. She had started to cry almost immediately, before they had the chance to give her any oxygen and was back in my arms straight away.

Having a lovely home birth with Rene and spending five days in bed with Jessica really helped me to bond strongly with her. The fact that I had been through so much in the pregnancy to have her really made her feel precious. Rene came to see us every day for the first week and supported me through my anxiety over breastfeeding, which had been a major problem with my last baby.

When Jessica was 6 days old Rene phoned to say that there was another problem with my pregnancy. Not only had I had OC, I also had a virus called CMV which is harmless as long as you do not have it in pregnancy. We had to test Jessica’s urine to see if she had contracted it. The results came back and they “suggested” congenital CMV which means she contracted it in the womb. Complications that she could have or develop include hearing loss and less commonly sight loss and brain damage. At this stage when I was still dealing with all my emotions over potentially losing her in pregnancy with the OC and being hormonal I found this very hard to take. Rene has been fantastic in helping us to understand what is going on, mediating with unhelpful hospital staff and offering emotional support. I don’t know what I would have done without her. Jessica has had a brain and retina scan which have been clear of any signs of the infection and we have been seeing a paediatrician who is very happy with her development and hopes to discharge her after her next appointment when she is one. It has been a rollercoaster pregnancy and post natal period and we feel so lucky to have been so conscientiously supported through it all and to have such a beautiful happy little baby.

Natalia & baby Penny - Home Water birth

Penelope Scarlett Dearnley kicked off her contractions at about 1pm on Friday 6th November, 5 days after her ‘guess date’ of Sunday,1st and after the full moon having had no effect on the Monday. Andrew and I had gone to visit and cuddle Corrin’s son, Luca so all credit to him getting Penny off the starting block! I’d had a few bouts of period type pain that morning but nothing dramatic and it took me three goes before I realized that I was having regular contractions. By the time we got home I thought I’d better check the time they were coming and was surprised when I was checking the clock at 1.38pm, 1.48pm and 1.58pm. By 2pm I was on the phone to Rene Schwencke, our independent midwife to let her know that they seemed to be coming every ten minutes and asked how long exactly they were supposed to last for. She told me to call her back when they were lasting about 60 sec every 10 minutes. Belinda Neal, our doula was coming over at 4pm anyway for tea and she had planned to give me a head massage to try and get Penelope moving so I knew I’d be fine until she arrived anyway.

I fussed around in the dining room finalizing how I wanted my ‘birthing’ room until Andrew told me to go and have a lie down in bed and try to get some rest as I was sure to be in for hours of the latent phase of labour. Lying down was fine between contractions and I was listening to my hypnobirthing relaxation tracks but within 30min I was up and on all fours on an exercise mat at the foot of the bed! I decided I wanted to know how long the contractions were lasting so Andrew and I tried to time a contraction and they seemed to be lasting 2½ minutes. At 4pm Belinda arrived and while I could still talk to her between contractions I was convinced that I must have been timing the contractions incorrectly because they shouldn’t be this intense this quickly. Belinda told me not to worry about timing them and took the timer away saying that it didn’t matter at all how long they were lasting – Penny was getting ready!

We headed down to the dining room to start labouring with the tens machine on the birth ball and the birth chair that Andrew built played a staring role! Andrew had finished off the room for me as he knew exactly what I wanted, the lights were dimmed and the candles were out and music was playing and he’d brought down the basket of bits I’d been collecting and not had a chance to bring downstairs. From this point, time seemed to have no relevance and I have only a hazy recollection of the dark room with Belinda and Andrew helping me to focus on my breathing as each contraction got stronger and closer together. I vaguely remember Belinda now being interested in timing my contractions with Andrew as he was then sent to phone for Rene at 5.50pm. From my birth notes my contractions were lasting between 2 minutes and 3 minutes 10 seconds so I was well into established labour when Rene arrived at 6.25pm. It took 30min to complete the ante natal checks, but once that was done I was so relieved to be able to get into the birthpool at 6.45pm, it’s completely true what they say about the water providing immediate relief!

Andrew was in the pool with me pouring water over my back during each contraction which was absolutely perfect – I’m so grateful he thought to do that as it was just what I needed. Except that the water level in the pool was about an inch too high so between contractions I tried to give instructions that came out as “keep going but no splashes and don’t move the water!” Rene and Belinda thought I was hilarious but luckily Andrew was able to work out that what I meant was that if he poured the water from too high up onto my back it splashed my face and if he moved around too much he made waves and the water level got rather close to my chin!

I definitely have to say that while we had a few issues setting up our pool a week before (the first liner they sent leaked and then the filter didn’t fit the replacement liner!), it really was the most fantastic pool. We hired it from the Beautiful Birth Centre in Brighton and it was a solid wall pool with a padded rim, heater and filter. It meant we were able to set it up a couple of days before Penelope was actually due and I used it each night to relax. Each day you add one oxygenating tablet to the filter and it keeps it clean. As we’d had it up for a week, I wanted Andrew to change the water that Friday and luckily he did it first thing in the morning so it was ready again by lunch time.

Between 8pm and 9pm apparently there were fireworks going off all around our house and my contractions were still getting stronger but not getting any longer. I was still breathing through them, using my hypnobirthing techniques and nodding off between each one. Every time a contraction would start I’d wake up and think “Oh, I should have paid more attention to the lack of pain during the break!” forgetting that I’d actually been asleep (or in a deep trance). I’d been drinking lots of water but no matter what I tried I couldn’t pee – I tried visualizing, Andrew poured water to try and get me to go but nothing was working.

I got out of the pool at 9.10pm when Rene apologized and said she was going to have to do a catheter to drain my bladder as that was probably what was stopping Penny moving down. Because I had such complete trust in Rene I didn’t have to think about anything, Andrew just helped me get out of the pool and they all helped me to get onto the floor. The catheter itself wasn’t painful but being on my back was horrific, especially as I had a contraction as Rene was pressing on my tummy to drain the last of the urine. I cannot imagine the poor women that go through an entire labour on their backs – I only had to do one contraction like that and I practically growled, “get me up!” as soon as it was over. Even though later contractions were obviously more painful/intense that one is the only one that I really remember.

Staying out of the pool, I tried labouring on the birth chair and I started to get some much stronger contractions which made me a little panicky as they were so much sharper and I also had lots more pressure in my bum now. But I had great support with Belinda in front of me holding me in a sort of hug as I breathed through each contraction on her shoulder. She got Andrew to replace her after a little while and I had to tell Andrew I wanted Belinda back as she was the right height and much softer! Andrew was quite relieved actually (he said later) as his knees were killing him! We tried the labour dance and then onto the birth ball with some nipple and clitoral stimulation but I could barely feel anything when I was relaxed let alone having a contraction! But whether it worked or not, my body started giving me the message to push and by 10pm I was back in the pool.

It felt like I’d been going forever and the contractions were so intense and I started having thoughts like, ”I understand why people have caesareans” and “Gas and air might be nice, but it will take too long to get it, and it might make me feel sick.” But then I heard someone say it was 10pm and immediately I felt like, “Oh is that all, I can do this, we’ve come this far and I’ve had enough now, she’s damn well coming out now!” Rene was telling me to let go and let her come, apparently I was holding back though I was struggling to work out how I was managing to do that. There’s a fine balance of relaxing in between contractions but not allowing her to pop back up which took me a while to find.

But eventually it felt like I was being split in two which I knew was a good sign and that this was it. Looking back I didn’t realize that I had a real fear of tearing which I think is what was holding me back from just letting go and letting her come. But once I’d decided that I didn’t care and she was coming no matter what, Penelope crowned at 10.29pm, with one hand up by her face which Rene had to push back in and then she was born at 10.31pm. We have some amazing pictures of her face appearing but they are certainly not ones that are shareable!

Rene was behind me to make sure Penelope floated forward through my legs and Andrew was in front to catch her and lift her to me. Andrew was amazed that in seconds I had gone from rather out of it to kneeling holding Penny as he handed her to me and then completely alert and getting out of the pool to start biological nurturing in the nest of soft blankets, duvets and pillows we’d arranged on the floor.

Penelope took a little while to become interested in breastfeeding the biological nurturing way, she was more interested in just crawling from my tummy straight up my chest but without the detour! The cord pulsed for 20 minutes and Rene helped Andrew cut the cord, we love that we were able to keep the scissors instead of them having to be destroyed. Even though I was doing lots of pushing, the placenta still wasn’t delivering so we decided now was the time for the birth chair to come into its own. It took another hour but the chair allowed me to sit comfortably, let gravity help the placenta drop and with Penelope breastfeeding and kicking my tummy, the placenta finally delivered fully intact. I didn’t realize how intense the pushes needed to be to get it out, I had just assumed it would sort of just happen! And you’re just not prepared for how big it is! Once that was finally done and with Penny still feeding Andrew was able to feed me homemade apple muffins and orange juice while Rene had to spend ages siphoning off tiny amounts of Penny’s blood from the little veins in the placenta as it needed to be checked because I am B Rhesus negative and Andrew is O positive. We were amazed to discover the next day that Penny had managed to make her blood O negative – meaning no need for an Anti D injection and also turning her into a universal blood donor.

Penelope and I had a quick bath so I could clean up a little and then we got into bed where I was checked out and found to my relief that I hadn’t torn (even with Penny’s waving hand!). Andrew weighed Penny (face down on the scales which meant she was a lot calmer) and she was 7lbs 9½ oz and 51cm long. So in total my labour, from 1st stage to 3rd lasted 7 hours 5min which is surprising for a first but we were so well prepared and the team of support with Rene and Belinda made it the perfect birth that we had planned. It wouldn’t have happened without them both – Andrew and I are eternally grateful for them. Penelope is so calm and content after such a perfect birth, its almost like she doesn’t even know she’s been born!

I was expecting Penelope to be on a 45min sleep cycle so I was really surprised to find that she sleeps in consistent chunks with our last feed finishing at about 10.30pm/11.00pm, wake for a wee and a feed around 2am and a wee and/or poo and feed at 5am before finally waking again between 7.30am/8am for another wee and feed. We’re practicing Elimination Communication which is about recognizing and responding to elimination needs as well as the hunger, sleep etc needs which culturally are the norm in western society. So we’ve been observing her patterns and signals and on Day 8 I offered her the potty with the cue sound which is “pssst” when she farted (and woke me up as she sleeps on my chest) at 5.45am and we caught a wee and a poo! As she hadn’t been disturbed by feeling a flat, wet prefold underneath her for a few seconds (which she hates) after a quick wipe of her bottom she went straight back to sleep. I had to wake Andrew to share my excitement as he had slept through the entire thing! Since then, I offer her the potty and cue sound roughly every half hour if she’s awake and definitely as she stirs from every nap and she goes almost every time. If she’s not ready, she’s just relaxed in the ‘in arms’ position and if something’s building she’ll have stiff legs, a little grizzle and pulls a real frown and waves her left arm (particularly if it’s a poo!) Sometimes she gives me such a big smile after she’s been, its incredibly obvious how much she prefers going in the squatting ‘in arms’ position.

The next thing we have to practice now is lying on her back as she’s not used to it being always on me or Andrew in bed or in the sling. While Rene has the most fantastic rules of 5 days in bed (with no visitors!), I only started going downstairs with Penelope on Day 8 – it’s much nicer skin-to-skin in bed all day! Maybe next week we’ll even try clothes!

Sophie & baby Sebastian - Home Water birth

When I found out I was expecting a baby, I was completely in the dark about the world of pregnancy, birth and motherhood. None of my friends have children, I have no young cousins, and until this year had no nephews or nieces. Basically, I had absolutely no idea. However, what I did know was that I was a cautious person and wanted a mainstream birth experience with the least amount of pain possible. Low risk and no pain surely meant a hospital birth with an epidural? Well, believe it or not (and those who know me well still do not believe it), I ended up having a wonderful water birth at home with the help of hypnotherapy, and that is all down to Rene and her support! I could not have asked for a better birth experience.

My initial session with Rene was really comforting and informative and I immediately felt that enlisting Rene’s help would ensure a better birth experience by having a familiar face throughout. So far, the majority of my ante-natal appointments had been during work hours and for me alone; my husband Freddie hadn’t really been involved although he was very keen to play a big part in my pregnancy. The fact that Rene offered appointments when it suited us as a couple made a huge difference and meant that Freddie and the bump could bond well before D-day and the years beyond. On top of that, Rene was very generous with her time and we both felt we could contact her at any moment and she seemed only too happy to help or pop over if we wanted her to.

Rene’s manner was brilliant throughout and she was so knowledgeable that it was not long until she had earned my trust completely. I think this is how I ended up considering the idea of a home birth. Although Rene was fully supportive of me choosing to have a hospital birth, I became more and more intrigued about having a birth with as little intervention as possible. It took me a long time to seriously consider having one myself mainly because of the fact that it wasn’t the social norm. I imagined that there would be a reason for this. Surely giving birth was dangerous, or else people wouldn’t routinely go to hospital for it? Surely the pain was horrendous and that’s why so many people ended up having epidurals? There must have been a reason that people always said that childbirth would be the most painful thing I would ever experience and that my doctor friends insisted that a home birth was dangerous and to consider it would be to put myself and my unborn baby at unnecessary risk.

As my pregnancy progressed and I asked Rene more and more questions about the birth process, I started to see the logic in Rene’s way of thinking. Non-intervention seemed to make a lot of sense to me. However, I didn’t know whether I had the guts to have a home birth. A huge part of me still clung on to that hospital birth and the king of pain relief, the epidural. As Rene pointed out, I would never have to make a decision to go for it as I would have a hospital bag packed anyway, and would stay at home with Rene for as long as possible during the beginning of labour, then if I felt like it I could transfer in to hospital, or if I wanted to, I could stay at home. I bought a birthing pool as it seemed like a good method of pain relief, but was adamant that I wouldn’t give birth in the water, though Rene said to me at the time “Ok, but once you get into the water you won’t want to get out!” That was as much as I had decided by the time my due date arrived.

I had been having cramps on and off for about 2 weeks prior to my due date, so when I got similar cramps one Monday morning, I thought nothing of it. I attached the Tens machine to my back and tried to get some sleep as Rene had advised. A couple of hours later (and not a wink of sleep since), lying down became too uncomfortable and so I tip-toed downstairs to walk around and roll on the swiss ball. The pain seemed to be getting worse but I still wasn’t 100% sure that I was in labour. I woke up Freddie at 5.30am feeling terribly guilty. “I know you have to go to work today but I’m in quite a lot of pain”. We dithered for a while and eventually decided to call Rene. Rene asked some questions which I answered most unhelpfully. I’m in quite a lot of pain, I think I’m having contractions but I’m not sure, I don’t know how far apart they are and how long they’re lasting (though I think I made something up because I honestly had no concept of time by that point).
Rene said she would drive over “just to check”. By the time she arrived, it was about 7.00am. I felt like I really wasn’t coping very well with the pain and had decided in my head that I would indeed need to go to hospital for an epidural. If this was pre-labour, there was no way that I’d be able to cope when things really got going. I needed to know how far my labour had progressed before voicing my thoughts. Rene agreed to examine me and to our amazement I was 8cm dilated! I decided I definitely was NOT going to go to hospital.

Rene called down to Freddie to fill the pool and called Sally to come over. Once the pool had been filled, I got in and the feeling was incredible. I couldn’t believe the effect it had – it was as if all the pain had washed away. The hypnotherapy CD was playing in the background. Rene had suggested the CD to me about 6 weeks before and I had been listening to it every day though was very cynical about it- hypnosis is really not my thing, but I had to eat my words as I fell asleep between contractions (though I wasn’t aware of this at the time – I was told afterwards) and felt very relaxed. The second stage of labour was surreal and I don’t remember it particularly clearly, though I remember clinging on to Rene for dear life (I hope my nail marks have disappeared from her arms) and that having Freddie standing next to the pool was incredibly distracting and I had ordered him out of the room. This is something that Rene had talked to us about, and Freddie and I had discussed with each other, so he was prepared for this. About 8 hours after I had woken up with the initial cramps, our gorgeous son Sebastian was born. The pain had been completely manageable thanks to the incredible support of Rene and Sally – a truly brilliant team.

My placenta took over two hours to deliver and I had to have an injection of synthetic hormone to help it along, but Rene gave me the choice (this would be done as standard in hospital) and explained the effects and consequences before I decided to have it. Following the birth, Rene and Sally checked me, drew me a bath which I lay in with Sebastian while we both learned how to breastfeed. Freddie, Sebastian and I then got into bed and spent the afternoon snuggled up together in post-birth bliss. This was a huge factor which drew me to having a home birth – the fact that Freddie would be there to look after us from the minute our baby was born, not wasting his paternity leave twiddling his thumbs at home due to restrictive visiting hours while we were stuck in hospital alone.

The weeks after Sebastian was born were overwhelming but I felt I could always contact Rene with the most basic questions. Having not had any contact with babies before, it was reassuring to have someone physically there to tell me that the rotting cord stump looked normal, that the rash on his tummy was just a result of a tight nappy and not meningitis or some other similarly frightening ailment. There’s only so much comfort you can get from a book.

I was dreading the day that Rene was to discharge us, but we have kept in touch and I have spoken to her a few times for a second opinion and she has been only too happy to help me. Compared to most other birth experiences I have heard about, I think mine was one of the most relaxed and positive ones and I believe it’s all down to the hours of preparation and education from Rene and the wonderful support and trust that developed over the ante-natal period.

Freddies' Story of baby Sebastian

We are not a particularly anxious couple and as such we rather floated through the first four and a half months of Soph’s pregnancy with Soph doing all the recommended things (no alcohol, gooey cheeses, cured meats or raw fish) while assuming she would end up at QEH (Woolwich) having the standard ‘TV’ birth involving maximum intervention and an epidural (as and when the pain became too excruciating). This is not to say we did not read up on pregnancy and all its trappings extensively, but we focused on the uncontroversial pages and methods – those spoon fed to us day to day by the media. As two lawyers we are, by nature, hugely cautious and assumed that birth would be an event involving numerous hands on medical staff because we (or at least I) assumed that was the best way to minimise the risks involved.

So, quite how Soph ended up giving birth in a pool in our basement with just two midwives, a hypnosis cd and our two cats watching through the window probably needs some explanation.

It all started one morning at the end of April when I bumped into our neighbour (who also happened to be a colleague) coming out of her house, proceeded by a beaming baby boy in a little blue bugaboo. A few superlatives later I mentioned that Soph was pregnant, so we had all this to look forward to. Within the five minute walk to the station I had been assured that having an independent mid-wife would make our lives so much more manageable – particularly after the birth and that it was worth contacting Rene for an initial consultation. Judging by said neighbour’s smiling, cooing baby I decided it may be no bad thing to make at least some preparation for the coming months – little thinking we would come to embrace a whole new ethos…

Having decided in our heads that this actually was a very good idea, we met Rene and began a ritual of tea, biscuits and birth/baby preparation which was to prove invaluable. No longer was this just Soph’s pregnancy, but suddenly I became a part of it – lapping up the new terminology and concepts that were bandied about during these sessions. I could be there for the numerous discussions and formulate my own views which Soph and I could then discuss over the coming weeks and months. Each mile stone became more exciting than the last – Rene suggested something would happen in the next week and duly , by her next appointment it would have. I was excited about being an involved father even before the birth, but did not imagine that the pregnancy could be such a team experience.

As time went on Rene helped to open our minds so that we were as well informed as possible and could eventually make what we deemed to be the ‘right’ decision. In fact, the first time we listened to the hypnosis cd, it was me who bought into it while Soph sniggered and erroneously declared it to be ridiculous and ineffectual.

During the months which followed our initial consultation, our trust for Rene grew and grew to the extent that even the endless nay-sayers who told us we would never go through with a home birth (which was what we were leaning towards) no longer perturbed us.

Things went smoothly as our due date approached. A little too smoothly. The due date came and went without the slightest sign that Baby B was on his way. This was worrying because it could lead to what was now the dreaded ‘intervention’. Having originally convinced ourselves Baby B would be early, by the weekend (3 days post due date) we had given up waiting and decided to begin socialising again. This was partly a cunning ploy so I could play in the Greenwich tennis tournament on the Saturday and Sunday but also a way of reducing the stress of waiting for the unkown.

So to Sunday night – September 13th. Following two exhausting days of tennis, I was soundly sleeping when at 3am, Soph turned on the light complaining of a stomach ache. Being tired, I assured her it was nothing and returned to my reveries. However, at 5.30am, the main light came on to reveal Soph in quite a bit of pain – “if this is pre-labour then I’m definitely going to hospital ad having the drugs.” Assuming it was indeed pre-labour , I leisurely got out of bed and called Rene to say something was happening although it was not at regular intervals. Between the three of us, we just about decided Rene should come over and have a look.

During the next hour I made some coffee and began pumping up the birth pool – just in case. Rene arrived at 7am and sat with Soph until I heard my name shouted at 8.15. “Fill the birth pool – I’ve just examined her and she’s 8cm dilated” came a rather surprised voice from upstairs. Birth pool full, Soph gingerly made her way to the basement. However, her grimace immediately evaporated on entry into the pool. “Oh my god, that is the most amazing feeling.”

The ensuing hours were surreal. While the hypnosis cd played in the background, Soph lay in the pool semi-asleep except during her contractions and I sat upstairs watching ski dvds. She was keen that just Rene and Sally should be with her during this time (something I had expected and had learnt from the numerous pregnancy tomes in the nursery is very common). The atmosphere in the basement was one of utter tranquility and when Sebastian forced his way into this world at 11.35am on 14 September he was entering the kind of environment I could not even have dreamed of. He was immediately placed on Soph’s breast and fed as though he had done it a thousand times before. He had arrived in the most natural way possible thanks to a wonderful mother and in Rene and Sally surrounded by the most dedicated and sagacious team imaginable. It was hard to believe that just a few hours after his birth we were tucked up in our bedroom with Sebastian lying alternately on our chests while the five of us sipped champagne and watched his every move.

By way of postscript, for those of a more squeamish disposition, you will be surprised to learn that the birth pool was almost completely clear following the delivery and the house was not the medical mess that many had warned me to expect!

Zoe & baby Sean - Home Water birth

I started looking for an independent midwife after the first two appointments at my local hospital left me feeling confused and frustrated. Long waits for appointments (on one occasion three hours), cancelled appointments and difficulty in getting information made me realize I was not going receive the continuity of care that I wanted during my pregnancy.

I found Independent Midwives on the internet. Renee visited us at home outside of working hours and explained the service she and Sally provide. Both Paul (my husband) and I were impressed by Renee’s professional approach and willingness to outline all our options in an unbiased, non-judgemental way. We decided on a water birth at home. Renee provided all the information we needed and answered all the questions that we had as first time parents. She dealt everything from informing the hospital that I had an independent midwife to taking blood tests at home.

My waters broke a week before my estimated due date about 5.30 in the evening. We kept in touch with Renee throughout the night and even managed to get some sleep as she suggested. Paul called Renee at 5.00 am to say my contractions were every three minutes and lasting for over a minute. Renee arrived half an hour later and showed me how to use the boost function on the tens machine making it even more effective.

At about 7.30 Renee examined me and said I could get into the pool. I had been told that the water was good for pain relief and it worked brilliantly for me; helping with the pain during contractions and relaxing me between contractions. Sean was born at 12.05 with plenty of help and encouragement from Renee and Sally.

Over the next 30 days Paul, Sean and I all really benefited my Renee’s help. The reassurance of knowing that Renee was either on the end of the phone or would shortly be arriving for an appointment was priceless. It is only now, with the benefit of a bit more sleep and having met other mums with babies the same age that I really appreciated how much help and support Renee provided.

And a story from Dad - Paul below ......

Pauls' Story of baby Sean

I should say from the outset that the most prevalent emotion throughout Zoe,my wife’s, pregnancy was fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the safety of my wife and my unborn child dominated my emotions more than the excitement of becoming a father for the first time. I suspect that this is all very normal and was my initial response on how I wanted to cope with Zoë’s pregnancy, which was to let the medical professionals take charge. After all they are meant to know what’s best…

In truth if the NHS had shown itself to be any good, or even remotely responsive to our needs I would probably have encouraged my wife to let the medical professionals have their way. However the NHS proved itself to a slow moving blunt instrument, heavy handed, and wholly focussed on the health risks of pregnancy. We were given appointments that were cancelled without notice, and we endured hours of waiting for blood tests or scans. The more normal the pregnancy the less interested the medical professionals became, which in hindsight is reassuring, but at the time just seemed to add up to a whole lead of stress without any benefit.

Within a short period of time both Zoe and I concluded that being a number in the NHS pregnancy queue was not working for either of us. Eventually I suggested going private, but Zoe came up with the idea of engaging an independent midwife - Renee. In truth I had no idea that you could employ an independent midwife, but from the time we engaged Renee, I started to really enjoy the pregnancy. Zoe was in the hands of medical professional who visited regularly and who was on call constantly to advise us not only on the pregnancy itself but also n our options for the birth. There were no missed appointments and the advice was all very practical and rational and not all new age. I should also stress that while a home birth was the ultimate goal, for this to happen the pregnancy had to progress safely and it was not until week 38 that it become clear that we would get the chance to have a home birth.

My actual memories of the birth are as follows. The house was very calm especially the room where we had the birth pool. Zoe was a completely focussed on giving birth and she was being quietly supported by Renee. I should point out that we actually had two highly experience midwives with us for the virtually the whole of the birth and I defy anyone to try and tell me that Zoe and our as yet unborn child were not in the best possible hands. The net result was that our son Sean was born quietly and with fuss or stress some 12 hours after Zoe went into labour. Just as importantly Zoe had the labour she had so badly wanted and which seemed so difficult for the NHS to provide.

Of course the support of Renee did not stop with the birth, but she was visiting and on hand for the next month to help guide us through the initial stages of parenthood. As first time parents her insights and advice during this time were invaluable.

All in all, and at a very person level, having and independent midwife, and a home birth worked for me both as a husband and a father. I did not feel that my wife lacked care, or that undue risks were being taken with my son’s welfare. On the contrary, I feel that my wife and had the highest levels of care, and pragmatic and uncomplicated approach to the pregnancy led to a birth with positive memories and of course the legacy of beautiful son.

Kirsty & baby Andrew - Hospital Breech Caesarean

"By the time I conceived I had gotten myself worked up into a real state about the standard of maternity care in London I was desperate to find a solution. When the midwife at my local GP's mentioned Rene I was thrilled and got on the phone straight away. My husband was also thrilled that I had found a solution and could stop complaining about how "terrible" it was to be pregnant in London.

During the months that followed I was so pleased to have Rene there and by the end of my pregnancy I was well and truly looking forward to giving birth (a far cry from my state of mind when I first discovered I was pregnant). Rene immediately appreciated that I liked having ALL the facts and had a never-ending supply of resources and books that I could read for myself, to back up the information she imparted during our regular appointments. Due to the nature of my job, Rene's ability to fit appointments in around my schedule was fantastic and took away a lot of the stress of being pregnant and trying to work full time in the City. My pregnancy went very smoothly; no morning sickness, no real aches and pains and right up until the end I enjoyed aqua aerobics, yoga and pilates. I felt great!

Towards the end, I was a bit worried that "Charlie" (as we called Andrew) didn't seem to move much - I called Rene one evening and she came around to see me at home straight away. She thought Charlie was a bit quiet too; I went to hospital, was monitored and assured that everything was fine. It just seemed that "Charlie" was quite content to hang out and not wriggle about like most babies. Charlie was also breech but I thought that we had a fair amount of time to move him so I persevered with moxibustion, acupuncture and watching tv on all fours. He did move but one night I felt him make an out of character wriggle and I had a sneaking suspicion that he had flipped back into breech position.

I was coming up to 36 weeks when Rene suggested I go in for a scan to check Charlie's position but I was too busy at work (!) so I decided to go in the following week and had an appointment with Rene scheduled on Monday night to discuss our options. We had a busy weekend constructing flatpack nursery furniture and raiding Mothercare and John Lewis and I finally thought that we were ready for the baby now that we had the cot up. Sure enough, I woke up at 4am thinking I had wet the bed...just to be sure I called Rene who talked things through with me and gently suggested that my waters had probably broken. Argh! I hadn't packed my hospital bag so it was a mad rush trying to pack things while the whole time not really accepting that I was possibly about to have my baby nearly 4 weeks early.

At the hospital they confirmed that I was indeed leaking amniotic fluid and a portable scan revealed that Charlie was back in his favourite breech position. Rene arrived shortly after and we set about discussing what we wanted to do. Rene had given me enough information for me to feel confident enough to request a natural labour despite the breech presentation. This caused a bit of a flurry with the staff and during ward rounds I had the head consultant, registrar, several midwives, medical students etc all in my room trying to convince me that c-section was the only option for breech birth. The consultant even printed off a medical journal article for me to read (he too realised that I liked to be fully informed!). With Rene by my side, I felt confident in what could have been a very intimidating situation. Rene, my husband and I were left alone to weigh things up and decided on our course of action. However, as a more detailed scan then revealed that Charlie was in fact in a footling breech position, a C-section was the most realistic option - but it was fantastic to have Rene there to explain to me exactly what that meant and why a c-section was the safest form of delivery for this particular breech position. All day I had been having gentle contractions which would stop whenever a Dr came into my room and start again when it was just me, Rene and my husband! I was being monitored and the machines did not show that I was having contractions but I knew that I was...sure enough when I had an internal exam I was 5cm dilated and I was rushed in for an emergency C-section. Unfortunately, due to the policy of the particular hospital I was at, I could only have one person in theatre with me so my husband was holding my hand when Andrew arrived. Andrew didn't breathe for a few minutes and didn't make the cries I was expecting so I was pretty scared right up until the moment he was eventually brought over to me.

Rene was there waiting for us in recovery and quickly unwrapped Andrew from his swaddling and put him on my chest so we could have skin to skin contact and start breastfeeding. Seven months on, Andrew is a chilled-out, happy baby and still exclusively breastfed (and has more than tripled his birth weight) - my success with breastfeeding I attribute solely to Rene's expertise, support and encouragement. Rene's postnatal care was a godsend and both my husband and I will be forever grateful for her many many visits in the weeks following Andrew's birth. I now encourage all expectant parents I meet to engage an independent midwife (and ideally Rene), if only for the one-on-one post-natal care which is so essential but sadly lacking within the NHS."

Ruth & baby Frank - Home Breech

My birth story. Home Breech birth.

Hmm right I think this must be it! 7.30am Saturday 22nd November. Sharp pains very low down, not the same as my last labour , so I just kept it to myself and carried on! But by 9am the pains were more frequent and I'd had a show, and lots of diarrhoea! I mentioned this to my husband who said 'Oh right – I'm going outside with Wilf (our first son – now two also delivered by Rene at home) to mow the lawn'! Typical!
I decided to have a bath and slowly get myself ready.

By 10am things were definitely moving the contractions were approx. 5 minutes apart and getting more painful. I rang Rene to let her know, she was (as always) extremely calm and told me to let her know how things go.
I rang my sister in law who offered to look after Wilf when the day or night came! She said that her second baby had come really quickly and that I should get Wilf to her asap. Well things started to go mad from that moment on.

My mum came over to be with me whilst Nick took Wilf to drop him off.
Mum took one look at me having a contraction and asked what time Rene was coming? I told her I hadn't asked her to come yet! I then rang Rene straight away and she said she would leave now and be with me soon.

Well the next hour was like a comedy sketch. Mum asked what could she do to help, so whilst she was upstairs changing my bed, I was downstairs trying to get the room sorted out. I needed to move all the furniture around and get the plastic sheeting on the floor ready for the birth pool, all the while having to stop every few minutes during a contraction! Rene rang to say that Nick should be filling the pool now! I didn't tell her that he wasn't even here and that the pool was still in the garage! Mum appeared then and said could she get the pool out the garage? Well the pool is quite large and it was pumped up ( thank goodness I had at least insisted that was done – a few days earlier!) and my mum is not much over 5 foot tall! The day was fairly cold and blustery and as she appeared trying to hold the pool I had visions of her taking off and my pool ending up in a nearby field! Instead she tried to bounce it along the gravel outside, so then I had visions of the pool being punctured!

Well I think Nick arrived back then (he had even managed to stop off at the shop!) and he starting filling the pool. Rene arrived about 12 noon along with my sister (a homoeopath) who was to be with me during the birth.

By this time I really thought things were going along quickly and I felt it wouldn't be long before I met by baby! I was using the birth ball to lean on during contractions. I asked Rene to help me focus on opening up, because I remember last time I felt like keeping my baby inside rather than pushing him out! She was great and talked me through each contraction and I really did relax – I felt totally calm and in another place, and I was able to cope with each contraction. I now wanted to get into the pool (which was almost ready!). It is such a wonderful feeling getting into a lovely warm pool and I was feeling very relaxed.

Things were going along fine and contractions were getting stronger and lasting a lot longer. Rene had called Sally to come and all of us felt the end was near!

But then I started to feel that things seemed to be slowing down and I was desperate that 'Frank' (convinced we were having another boy) be here before 'strictly come dancing' started! I also felt that my tummy shape was a little strange, I can't explain in words it was more feelings that were strange to me. I remember saying to Rene is there something wrong – it seems to be taking too long, considering we all thought 'Franks' arrival was imminent about 3 hours ago! I was also aware that I hadn't passed any urine for some time and that it was difficult. So we decided to get me out of the pool and try and go upstairs on the loo, which I managed to do. Rene suggested an examination – which I agreed to. We were then surprised that I was only 9cms dilated, and apparently my membranes were bulging because my water had not yet broken. Rene encouraged me to stay up and mobile and the contractions seemed stronger and I started to really feel the urge to push!

I then wanted to kneel down in front of the sofa – it was at this point that I just felt I couldn't carry on it was extremely painful and I felt that nothing was happening. And that is when Rene said that she could see the head with each contraction. I was now in a squatting position with my sister and Nick on either side and Rene had placed a mirror so that I could see the head. I gave another push and Rene suddenly said 'we have a breech', at that moment my heart leapt into my mouth! The mood in the room changed Rene instantly told me to do exactly what she said. She told me get onto all fours not leaning on Nick ! I felt very scared but also very focused to push my baby out it was all up to me now. 'Franks' bottom came out followed by his legs – I will always remember looking through my legs and seeing his body and legs just hanging there – time seemed to stretch on forever but it was only minutes – I was very aware that I now had the task of pushing his head out and I can say now that at the time it felt very much like a life and death situation. I remember screaming with those final contractions and those screams came from very deep within. Then finally the head was out and Rene instantly had him on the floor and was rubbing him – but Frank wasn't breathing- I was being re -assured by sally that his heart beat was still fine and he was still attached to me and he had a good pink colour – but those minutes felt like a lifetime. Then finally after 5 minutes he started to breath! I cannot even attempt to put into words how I felt at that moment (it makes me cry now to remember it all) but the love I have for my precious boy is indescribable!

I know we were all in shock – and we needed to keep chatting about the birth, my sister found the whole experience amazing and was so glad to be there. I felt overwhelmed and so so grateful to Rene who was wonderful and calm the whole way through.

I have to finish by saying that I am absolutely privileged to have had a breech birth at home. The literature that I have since read indicates that I am in a 1% category of women giving birth to a breech baby and extremely fortunate to have done this at home. I am now aware that I had 'a text book' birth, and that breech babies very often take a while to breath!

However I will say that I am staggered by 'peoples' reaction to my birth. Friends, family and strangers don't often believe my birth story and almost laugh in disbelief that I had a wonderful breech birth at home without any pain relief. They sometimes like to give their unwanted opinion of what should have happened! One person even said that I was stupid and my midwife ignorant for not taking me to hospital, and for putting my baby under undue stress! How little do they know!!

I can't stress enough my admiration and thanks to Rene for being so amazing and such a terrific midwife and now friend.

Evie & baby Ellie - Homebirth

First birth

(36ish hours pre-labour and 18 hours active labour)

I don’t remember labour being as painful as it sounds in my notes – or as painful for so long! I can’t wait to go through pregnancy and labour again! Thrilled I did it without drugs and only a little gas and air (which I didn’t like).

It was much better/less painful than I had expected. I was surprised that the mucous plug came away in bits rather than at one go. Struck by how ‘3D’ the pains were internally – I remember Dorothy talking me through a contraction early on and I could see an ‘0’ in my mind’s eye – it was fascinating. In fact I found the whole labour fascinating. I think I hallucinated at times – could see blue and green colours. Could hear Trevor and Dorothy talking but I was so far away a lot of the time. I loved being warm, loved the heated pad they put on my back. I only realised over a week after labour that there was a boost button on the TENS machine!

Trevor was wonderful – but I remember feeling very annoyed that he had fallen asleep when it hadbegun to get very painful for me. Hated the internals, particularly the last one, but I’m pleased I had them. Pushing was wonderful. I felt in control throughput, apart from the period where I needed the entonox. I began to be overwhelmed then. I remember Dorothy being thrilled with my long, painful contractions – her enthusiasm was not that infectious! Was surprised to find that I could lie down in bed and actually doze off between contractions. I hadn’t realised how tiring labour would be. I enjoyed watching videos and walking around the house in early labour, beginning to withdraw. I wish I’d had the energy to watch Ellie’s head coming out – but I was too shattered. I was surprised that I just knew when to push. I was shocked to find I was pushing for over 1 hour because I thought it was only 15 minutes. We will always remember Ellie on the towel, a bit bloody, eyes open, cord around her body. Fantastic support from Dorothy. I feel very nostalgic for the birth and the first week. I’m very grateful for my birth record. Feel very privileged to have had Dorothy attending – it was the best birth I could possibly have had.

Annette & baby Edward - Home Breech

I wanted to have a home birth because thus far in life I have avoided going to hospital and I wanted to maintain that record for as long as possible, but that wasn’t my only motivation. Having my baby at home and as naturally as possible just felt like the right thing to do. It was a sort of instinct. Still we had our doubts; what if something went wrong and as I was a first time Mum maybe I should go to hospital, just to be on the safe side. Sally and Rene completely won us over at our initial consultation, assuring us that first time mums are ideal candidates for home births. They really inspired us, so we booked them the same day. We knew we had made the right decision with each of Sally’s visits. Her ante-natal care and the time she took to reassure us at every stage were wonderful. The best part of each visit was listening to the baby’s heart beat, not just because that is incredibly special and comforting but because seeing Sally’s face light up at the sound of the little life she would bring into the world, really helped me to look forward to the birth experience in her care.

...Premature Rupture of Membranes! My waters went at 8.45am on Tuesday 25th November. I was making our bed when I felt a trickle of water. “Great!” I thought, “39 weeks of trouble free pregnancy, and now my pelvic floor gives way!” I tidied myself up, but as soon as I had, it happened again. Two or three trickles later and I was panicking in a heap on the bathroom floor. I wasn’t afraid of giving birth; Sally had reassured me on that front; I was worried I might have to go to hospital because the builders were downstairs and our birthing room didn’t have any heating; something of a prerequisite for a home-birth!

I tried contacting husband, Dave, but he wasn’t available at first so, in a desperate bid to avoid going to hospital, I called the plumber. In hindsight I should have phoned Sally! I intended to be calm, but when the plumber answered his phone, I wailed "you have to get here now, I'm having the baby!" I eventually explained I needed him to fix the heating rather than deliver the child! He did a sterling job and by 6pm our house was toasty warm. Dave had shooed away the builders, put up some makeshift curtains, filled the birth pool and transformed our half painted extension into a very presentable birthing room. Sally visited in the evening and said everything should get going in the next few hours.

On Wednesday morning Sally visited and told us about the NHS guidelines on going to hospital within a certain time of membranes rupturing. The guidelines were not helpful; some said we should go in within 24 hours, some said 48 hours, the head of midwifery at our hospital said 72 hours, and yet other guidelines said 96 hours, after the waters go. We decided to monitor my temperature every four hours to check for infection and, providing all was well, to stay at home as long as possible. Sally recommended I keep mobile and she gave me the number of a local reflexologist whose treatments had got some of her other ladies into labour. The reflexologist was marvellous, but despite her best efforts, a long walk, a hot curry and fresh pineapple, I went to bed without feeling the slightest twinge.
By midday on Thursday there was still no sign of the baby other than an ever present trickle. Cue an appointment with one of Sally and Rene’s colleagues, Glenis Paulette, another independent midwife but also a trained acupuncturist and homeopath. On Thursday evening Glenis performed some acupuncture and gave me homeopathic drops to take hourly with water. She also taught Dave how to move my bump much like a human yo-yo. This involved me going on all fours while Dave held the ends of a sarong under the bump and yo-yoed it from side to side! The theory is that that helps to move the baby which in turn helps to start contractions. Perhaps it worked, or perhaps it was the madras I opted for that evening, because a little before 1a.m. on Friday I felt my first contraction. At last!

The contractions were fairly irregular all day but given they had started so early on, we felt sure we would have our baby before the day was out. Sally visited at lunchtime and again advised me to stay upright and mobile to help move everything along. She also recommended we go for a walk, which seemed impossible at the time, but I think it helped take our minds off the waiting, which was all a little tiresome by this stage. I found the contractions intense when they came, but I was pretty relaxed in between each one. We walked to our local Boots to ask about hiring a TENS machine. I didn't think I'd need a TENS because I'd heard they don't work on everyone, but I figured it wouldn't do any harm to have it to hand, and we needed the walk out. When we got to the shop, the assistant asked when our baby was due. When Dave said “anytime now”, she looked shocked, but not half as shocked as when I had a contraction whilst standing at the counter and gripped onto Dave’s arm for dear life. Contraction over, we continued on our walk and browsed the bargains in Woolworths before heading to Costa for a coffee (and more hand and arm squeezing for Dave).

By midnight the contractions while more intense were less frequent than earlier and I was anxious I would have to transfer to hospital if the labour stopped altogether. Dave phoned Sally. We were both feeling quite desperate. She said I should take a paracetamol (!) and go to bed. In hindsight I think this was a cunning ploy to shock me into established labour! She’s good like that, ole Sal!

The birth
No sooner had I climbed into bed, than the pain stepped up several notches. At 1.20 a.m. on Saturday Dave called Sally again explaining that my contractions had been coming every five minutes or less for the last forty minutes. She arrived around 2 a.m. and immediately helped me get my breathing under control. When Sally examined me she said she wasn’t entirely sure what she was feeling, but she thought I was ready to get in the pool. Sally later confessed she’d had her suspicions that she might not have been feeling the baby’s head, but she didn’t want to alarm us. She told me not to push, but the urge to do so was overwhelming. No wonder it had been so very intense; Sally later reckoned I went from maybe 3 or 4cm to being fully dilated in a little over an hour. That would explain why Dave had had to crank up the TENS machine (so glad we got that) from its lowest setting to one that nearly sent me into orbit!
Rene was off duty that night so Sally was helped by Glenis who had visited earlier in the week. She arrived around 3.45am. I had been in the pool and pushing since 3.00am. The gas and air which Sally set up, was more of a hindrance than a help, so she and Dave took it away. I hadn’t reckoned on the birth being quite that natural!
When I got into the pool, the intense pain of the earlier contractions was replaced by regular urges to push. I kneeled at the edge of the pool and tried to get as low down in the water as possible, resting my head and hands on the side. I was very aware of everything that was happening around me. I could hear Sally, Glenis and Dave talking and I could see them moving around, but I didn’t feel a part of what they were doing. Sally monitored the baby’s heartbeat every few minutes and, as had been the case throughout my pregnancy, the baby was very relaxed. Sally said she could see the head. She said there must be a lot of wax because it was very white. Dave was knelt at the side of the pool, pushing strands of hair from my face. I made a lot of noise. I actually mooed like a cow (!) but it really helped me put as much oomph as possible into each push. Sally said I was doing brilliantly and that our baby would be with us very soon, but I felt frustrated that the pushing seemed to be taking such a long time, although I now realise it wasn’t that long at all. I had a lot of mixed thoughts. I dreaded each push, but as soon as one was over I was both anxious and eager for the next one to start. I remember inwardly questioning: “will I ever be able to do this and, if so, will I be able to do it again one day; how could I ever put myself through this again?” Yet I also thought back to Sally’s birth talk when she explained that the gentle rocking of the baby, in and out, minimises the risk of tearing, so it’s no bad thing to push for quite a while.

Quite a shock then when at 4.12am Sally changed the tone of her voice, broke through my thoughts and said "that's not the head; it's the bottom” and asked me to get out of the pool immediately. I felt a scratchy, stinging sensation and I shouted out that it hurt, but with the midwives’ help I got out of the pool and went on all fours. The baby’s bottom, legs and torso were born very quickly and although things weren’t going to plan, somehow I knew all would be well as long as Sally and Glenis were there. When I looked between my legs I could see we had a baby boy. At 4.15am his arms were born. I could see he was dangling by his neck and in my confusion I couldn’t understand why Sally didn’t pull the baby’s head out, but of course she couldn’t do that. I had to muster up the energy to push his head out with the next contraction. My contractions were slowing and as hard as I pushed, the head wasn’t coming. Glenis gave me a homeopathic pill to help keep the contractions going and Sally told me I had to do it on the next one. I pushed with every ounce of energy left in me. It sounds melodramatic, but I actually began to think it wouldn’t matter if I died there and then. With that final push, at 4.18 on Saturday morning, Edward was born.

He was quite grey at first and he didn't breathe by himself for a couple of minutes. My heart was in my mouth waiting to hear his cry. The silence was awful, but Sally and Glenis were busy working on Edward. Dave kept telling me he was still attached to the cord and his heart beat, which Sally was monitoring, was good. After a couple of minutes Edward whimpered and started to pink up. Before we knew it he let out his first hearty cries; music to our ears! Sally put Edward in my arms. He felt and looked so small and vulnerable; what I had just done and what I had been through were immediately pushed to the back of my mind, the pain had completely disappeared. Edward was all that mattered.
Sally waited for the cord to stop pulsating before she helped Dave to cut it – around 4.30am. I think Glenis, Dave and I were all surprised that Edward was a good 7lbs 7oz, because he looked smaller, but Sally had always predicted he would be seven and a half pounds. I only had one minor tear and it healed really well without any stitches, something that really impressed our health visitor when she visited three weeks later. I remember her remarking on how mobile I was even though I’d had a breech birth. My recovery was much speedier than I thought it would be; I really felt fine after just a couple of days.

By 5.30am we had moved to the lounge where Dave lit the fire. He made himself and the midwives bacon sandwiches and I enjoyed plain toast with the best cup of tea I have ever had. Sally and Glenis helped me to feed Edward for the first time. He latched on after a little coaxing and has fed really well ever since bar a lazy spell on days 2 and 3 which Sally helped us overcome.

With everyone fed and watered, it was time for our little family to get some rest. Sally and Glenis gently bathed Edward and me before putting all three of us to bed, although I didn’t get much sleep for staring at Edward sleeping soundly beside me. Giving birth was an amazing experience. Having done so in the familiar surroundings of our home, without intrusion by people we don’t know and with Sally’s help was so special. I didn’t think I’d want to see the photographs Sally took during the birth, but in the days and months afterwards I kept going back to them; they give me such pleasure. They are quite discreet; in fact so much so; we have shown them to close friends who have remarked on how happy and relaxed we looked.

The last month
Sally and Rene’s post-natal care was fantastic. Sally visited in the evening on the day of the birth and Rene visited the next day to perform the usual paediatric tests which Edward passed with flying colours. Sally came to see us every day for five days after that and then twice a week for three weeks. It was wonderful to have her reassuring presence in what might otherwise have been a very stressful month. After two weeks Edward had gained over a pound in weight and he has thrived ever since. He sleeps really well and is a very happy baby with what one friend has described as “a very mellow cry”. We have been told by others and we are convinced our little boy’s placid temperament is directly attributable to our wonderful home birth. Our eternal thanks to Sally who was an angel every step of the way.

Abby & baby Blake - Home Birth

My first child was born at home with the support of an NHS community midwife and I felt I had received really good care, the best the NHS could provide, although I had to transfer to a hospital that was further away in order to get this. However my birth was relatively quick (only one midwife got there in time) and I was afraid that second time round I would be too far away from midwives and anyway, I would struggle to make antenatal appointments at a distance. I therefore opted to use local NHS services.

I soon found a coolness towards homebirth despite the fact it was my second time round. Quibbles about blood pressure became an issue that could prevent me from being "allowed" to give birth at home and I felt very frustrated with the rather inflexible adherence to policies that seemed to prevent anyone listening to what I wanted. The final straw came when it was discovered, at 36 weeks, that Blake was breech. Though not bullied, I was pressured into thinking seriously about a c-section by the hospital, but rebel as I am, decided there must be alternatives and didn't take what they said at face value. Alongside attempting several alternative treatments for breech we contacted Sally and Rene. Talking with them was a great relief as at last my concerns and wishes were being heard and I didn't need to spell out or defend my natural birth philosophy - phew! The books and articles Rene and Sally supplied were invaluable in helping me make informed decisions about breech birth.

At week 37 Blake was turned by a doctor in the hospital - an intense physical and emotional experience. Although I would have considered going ahead with a home breech birth with Sally and Rene's expertise giving me the confidence that it was both safe and possible, the situation had changed. (Well done breech ladies whose stories are above - you are incredible!)

Time ticked by and the issue shifted to the threat of planned induction - so lots more books to read and more NHS pressure to take with a pinch of salt!

After a week of mild to strong tightenings Blake was born on good Friday in the evening after a 3 and a quarter hour labour. Birth to me feels ecstatic on one level and undramatic on another - I am fortunate to be able to let my body do its work without any fear as long as I feel 100% confident in my midwives which I truly did. Therefore the experience was calm and easy. The pattern I had followed with my daughter's labour repeated almost exactly. That is, first stage TENS, rocking and breathing (better this time from yoga!) in the kitchen followed by entonox, kneeling and earthy sounds for stage 2 onwards in front of the sofa. I yelled so loud at one stage I couldn't hear what Rene was saying so my husband calmly repeated her wise instructions helping me to minimise tearing.

I was pleased with my first birth experience but this second try was even more relaxed, natural and less invasive. I was amazed how Rene knew exactly how things were progressing without needing to examine me internally. A physiological 3rd stage was a real bonus, allowing the whole birth to feel unhurried and obeying its own pace. No painful suturing this time either - I healed more comfortably with bedrest.

Giving birth is so powerful and personal it seems crazy to me to be supported by strangers - a recipe for stress. It felt like such a relief to be working with Rene and Sally. It was transforming not to be treated as just another anonymous number. Between them they possessed everything I needed to see me through the ups and downs of late pregnancy, through birth and the tricky early baby days - vast knowledge and skill, such enthusiastic commitment to their work, the ability to be really funny when need be and patient with my frequent, probably rather annoying, anxious text messages and late-night phone queries!

Couldn't have done it without you two special ladies!! A x

Zara & baby Haider - Hospital Ventouse

I knew I wanted a midwife and a home birth long before I was pregnant. I never had much faith in the public health system and always thought of giving birth at home to be quite natural. So when I got pregnant, I immediately started searching for midwives in my area. Although most midwives charge a very reasonable fee, my husband and I decided we couldn't afford to get one. So I went to the NHS and had my visits with the NHS midwives. Let's just say that by 30 weeks, my husband ordered me to find an independent midwife as soon as possible! To say we were disappointed by the NHS care would be an understatement.

Then at around 33 weeks, we were fortunate enough to find Sally. Ah, I smile every time I think of her! We knew Sally was the one as soon as we met her. What we didn't know was just how great she really is.

My water broke on a Monday morning. I was 8 days past my estimated due date. I was quite shocked since it was not at all what I expected. It kinda came out of nowhere. I hadn't had any contractions or pains or anything. It just happened and I just felt a surge of wetness and that was it. I jumped into the shower, washed myself, shaved my legs (didn't wanna be hairy lying naked in front of everyone...and don't forget those pictures!), then i put on a sanitary pad and called Sally. I was feeling happy and excited and couldn't wait to feel my first contraction...little did I know! I set up the birth pool and took out the extra towels and my tens machine and everything that I thought I might need. Then I waited and waited and waited some more. Nothing. I began questioning if that clear odourless liquid really was my waters breaking! Not that I could think of another reason. So I went to bed that night and then at 2 am, woke up from pains...yup, contractions. Yay! Quickly got out of bed, made sure not to wake my husband since he needed his sleep, put on my hypnobirth cd and visualized a calm, safe, and easy home water birth. I got out a notepad and pen and wrote down the time of each and every contraction so I can see how I'm progressing. At around 4 am, I phoned Sally to let her know that my contractions had begun. I should have waited till later that morning to phone her, but I guess I actually thought I might have given birth by noon and that I should give her a heads up! I had no clue what was to come. By 5 am, the pain had increased so I decided to start my tens machine. I read that it's most effective when you start using it early on. I needed my husband’s help so I had to wake him. When he woke to see me by his side, he jumped and knew my contractions had begun before I could even say anything. He helped me put my tens machine on and got up to make tea. Then his wait began.

Sally arrived 10:30am. It was really exciting seeing her because it meant baby was going to arrive soon. Or at least I thought so anyway. We were chatting and laughing and after Sally checked me, she said I still had a long way to go so she was going to leave and come back later.

Sally was gone less than 2 hours when my husband had to phone her to come back with me crying in the background. It felt like the pain had quadrupled and I was shocked at the intensity. I was sure that this meant I was going to give birth before the time Sally had said. Sally came back and examined me only to tell me that there was NO change. I was stunned and horrified at the same time. I thought if I'm crying now at 2 cm, HOW am I going to cope through another 8 cm?!?! Without drugs! Not even Gas and Air. So I just kept telling myself that God has created our bodies to be able to cope and that giving birth without intervention was natural and so on and so forth.

I didn't want to get into the pool too early as I read that it could slow down labour and that was the last thing I wanted. But at the same time, I was in a lot of pain and the tens machine wasn't doing enough to ease it. Sally let me get into the pool at 2:20 pm. As soon as I was fully in, I felt immediate relief. I was still in pain, but not as bad as out of the water. It almost felt as if my pain was being lifted as I was floating. That calm feeling quickly passed as I got another sharp contraction. Sally offered me Gas and Air and I accepted. That was the beginning of my love affair with those shiny steel tanks. Or what my husband calls, my addiction.

25 minutes later, Sally called Clare to bring more Gas and Air. Sally's wasn't full since I had told her previously that I did not want to use Gas and Air. I was so naive. A while later, I had run out, Clare was late and I was losing it! Sally suggested I listen to my hypnobirth cd again, and so I agreed. I didn't feel it working at all. I just couldn't look past the pain. At that point, I just wanted to yell. I never understood why women yell and scream during labour till then. Wow, I shocked myself at how loud I could yell and scream. Didn't know I was going to get even louder as the hours went by! (Addition by Sally: Zahra’s recollection of this is slightly inaccurate and she didn’t actually make that much noise!!)
Sally was amazing and calm. My husband was so incredibly supportive even though I could see he was scared. But even so, I was making death threats, at everyone and anyone. Before labour began, I had tried exercises where you visualize yourself during labour and you practice breathing and imagine what you would do to cope through contractions and imagine seeing your baby being born and scoop it into your arms and place it against your chest. I knew that it was going to hurt. I knew it would be pain like I had never experienced before. But I truly thought I was somewhat prepared. Let me tell you now...I was NOT prepared.

Clare had finally arrived with the Gas and Air. My eyes were closed most of the time from the pain and dizziness from the Gas and Air so all I remember was Sally telling me I can suck in that sweet, cold air again. Not in those words of course. I began to feel the need to push, and with Sally's consent I did. But after an hour of pushing, nothing. I didn't feel like I was coping. I couldn't visualize an end to it all. I definitely wasn't coping with the pain. Sally reminded us that we can always transfer to hospital. I told her I wanted to wait. Within 10 minutes, there was visible meconium. My husband called for an ambulance and I was transferred to the hospital.

In between the pain from the contractions, all I could think about was how my worst fears were coming true; giving birth in a hospital, loss of control, epidural, high risk of caesarean. I was really upset. I really thought I could have had a home water birth and I felt like I absolutely failed. Sally remained by my side. She came with me in the ambulance while my husband drove. Clare stayed behind to clean up and then handed the keys to our neighbours. On a side note, I couldn't look any of my neighbours in the eyes for months afterwards due to the sheer embarrassment of knowing they heard all my screaming! As I said before, I was shockingly loud. (No she wasn’t – Sally)

We got to the hospital, and the next thing I remember was waking up in a room with my husband and Sally by my side. The NHS midwife claimed that there was no meconium. My husband was quite upset because we all saw it, and we had a professional midwife that's been with us for hours, and this lady who has just seen me claimed to know better. Poor Sally didn't say a word, just listened and we went along with whatever they said. The pain was unbearable. I was in and out of consciousness. I think I just kept falling into heavy naps. I don't even remember asking for an epidural. But that was the second fear coming true. Then I remember a surgeon speaking to me about the likelihood of them having to perform a third fear almost coming true! I begged them not to. They said that the baby was back-to-back meaning that he hadn't fully turned and that was most likely why all that pushing wasn't really productive. And apparently why my pain was so severe. At least I wasn't as weak as I thought I was. They prepped me for theatre and told me that they were going to attempt getting the baby out with a vacuum, or as it's also known, ventouse. But they were only going to try twice and if it didn't work, they would perform an immediate caesarean. Oh, and at this point, it was confirmed that there was meconium...took them long enough! Aside from that, the hospital staff that I remember were great, very kind and very understanding.

I went into theatre with my husband by my side. They wouldn't let Sally come in and made her go to a waiting room outside the labour ward! I really wished she could have been there. Thank God, after almost 4 hours in the hospital, our baby boy was born at 12:14 am weighing 7 lb 2 oz. I'd like to say it was the happiest moment of my life, but it wasn't. It was however for my husband. He was beaming. He couldn't stop smiling and couldn't stand still. Me on the other hand, I kept going in and out of consciousness, I was exhausted, I was trying to make sense of everything that had happened, and to come to terms with giving birth in a hospital and so on. Next thing I remember is seeing Sally with our baby. She was so happy holding him.
My husband and Sally stayed with me till around 3/4 am. They were exhausted. They were by my side pretty much throughout the whole thing and hadn't had anything to eat. I felt so bad keeping Sally for so long. Especially since it was her son’s birthday and she had been away from her family the whole day just so she could help our little guy come into the world.

Sally...thank you so much! I could never thank you enough!! And oh...we LOVE you!!!

Gemma : A story from BEFORE the birth ......

Hi Natalie/Lynda,

I'd also be willing to have a chat with you, as I am lucky enough to be using an ind. midwife (Rene, whom Lynda has recommended in her email, and who also delivered my nephew, last June!).

I basically had all the concerns you have, being our first child, I wanted to be guided and have complete peace of mind that I was getting the best possible treatment. I wanted to have just the one midwife throughout my whole pregnancy, that we could get to know and trust, who knew all about me and my medical history (and not just a number on the NHS). I also was considering home/water birth something that isn't guaranteed on the NHS.

I don't want to put anyone off who is having a baby with the NHS, because I know many people who have been lucky and have had a very good experience, although I haven't heard of many people having home births with the NHS, however, after Jan's talk at the class on Monday, it seems that this is becoming more and more available.

But for me I suppose I had a bit of bad experience with the NHS, and had no confidence in the system at all. At 6 months I still hadn't met a midwife and only had my urine sample taken once - at the 3 month scan. When I went for my second scan I realised I should of had several appointments and a whole folder of full of notes - none of which I knew anything about!! How was I suppose to know - this is my first time (maybe I was naive!)!? When I asked at the hospital about these missed appointments I was basically told that it was down to me to organise and all these were in my folder (I didn't have a folder!!!). This was really the icing on the cake for me and thats when I called Rene.

I was recommended by Rene by my brother and sister-in-law - they had the most amazing home/water birth - for their first child and they raved about her!

Rene came round to our house for a free - no obligations chat and we talked about our concerns of hospital/home births etc. We too were a bit nervous about a home birth and my partner was adamant that he wanted us to be hospital as he felt this was the safest place. However, it didn't take long for Rene to persuade us that home birth was the most safest option (providing there were no complications). She told us that this way we had the best of both worlds, because at any point during labour for any reason at all - be it a medical emergency or even if I just changed my mind and thought I'd be safer in hospital, we could go. The only thing with this is, that Rene couldn't deliver the baby in hospital, but she would be there as a birthing partner.

Another reason we were sold on Rene was that she strongly believes post-natal care is as important as the antenatal care. Her care doesn't just stop at the birth... if I remember rightly, she comes every day for the first week or two and then 2/3 times a week for the next few weeks. Again, being our first and a little nervous, we felt we needed someone like Rene around to guide us through and be on call.

We signed her up there and then and was lucky enough that she had a space for us in March as she only takes on two births a month (I think!). We haven't looked back since, she's been absolutely amazing and I feel like I've had a complete weight lifted off my shoulders and no more sleepless nights! She wrote to all the necessary people informing them that she was taking over my care, I haven't had to do or worry about a thing since, all my appointments are taking of, and don't need to worry if I've missed something, she would even attend hospital appointments with me if I wanted. She comes round to the house for all the antenatal appointments and really makes an effort to get to know you. Its nice that she's got the time for you to sit and chat - I love hearing about all her birth stories! She's on call 24 hours a day to me and I know that I can call her with any concern I have no matter how little, big or stupid it may seem!

However, Rene does come at a cost, and I understand that not everyone can afford to have an Ind. mid wife, but she really is worth every penny, and I'd rather forefit a summer holiday to have peace of mind, knowing that we are having the birth we want and that we are receiving the best possible treatment before, during and after!

We feel completely relaxed and excited about the whole home birth experience - Rene has given us complete peace of mind and we can't wait !

I hope this helps!!
Feel free to ask me anything!!
Gemma x

Sara & baby Alex - Hospital Ventouse

I will make my story short. I have never had much faith in the health service in this country and in particular in our area.

When we finally got pregnant I already had a feeling that I was not going to receive the care I wanted and that I would end up stressed and unhappy. Sure enough the further into my pregnancy I got the less I knew about what was going on and there were no anti-natal class spaces and I never got to see a midwife, so I hunted on the internet and came across Saint Rene!!

Rene was great throughout my pregnancy, answered all my questions, be it night or day, but it was at the labour and after that without Rene I am not sure how I would have coped. I didn’t know if I wanted the baby at home, to be honest I think I preferred the thought of being in hospital in case anything went wrong. In the end I started at home and we ended up transferring in because there were complications (I was able to do it like that because I had Rene and trusted she knew what was going on, had we been alone I would have been in the hospital hours earlier) . The hospital staff did what they could to give me a natural birth and in the end it was all ok, but had Rene not been there talking me through everything, I would not have know what was going on. The docs and midwifes were working around me not with me. They were making all the decisions for me not with me. I really had little to do with the birth, at least that is how it felt.

Anyway once my beautiful baby was here, I thought that would be it and everything would go back to normal. Thank God for Rene because I did not have a clue what I was doing, she taught me and helped me with breastfeeding- which does not just happen naturally. She spent ages reassuring me and talking to me about my feelings, I was an emotional wreck and that is all stuff that I didn’t expect and that I am sure you would not receive support with once you are home on the NHS.

Having a baby has to be the most overwhelming thing I have ever done and I don’t think you can imagine the emotions that come with it until it happens. Having someone you can trust completely to do the best for you as well as your baby, allowing you to be completely honest and not feel judged or that you are not coping is what Rene gave me. She was worth every penny!!!

Lucy & baby Tate - Home Water birth

I have 2 children already and both were very quick births so I was preparing for another speedy delivery.

My second child had arrived in an hour from my first twinge and the midwife missed it so I was concerned that this time my homebirth didn't turn into another unattended birth.

I spoke to the NHS midwife and she gave me no confidence that she would rush to get to me which made me very nervous. I therefore hired an independant midwife (Rene Schwencke) who was absolutely fantastic.

She talked me through breathing exercises that I could use to slow the birth down which proved invaluable on the night.

I woke up at 1.10am with period type cramps, not even knowing if it would lead to established labour at 1.15 I called Rene who set off immediatley.

By 1.25 I was having full blown contractions with hardly a break between. I began using the breathing exercises that Rene had taught me and lay on my front with my bum in the air to get a bit of help from gravity to slow things down as I was already feeling the urge to push.

It was occuring to me to call an ambulance so I called Rene back at
1.35 but she said that she was 15 minutes away.

When I had a brief break in contractions I rushed downstairs to my birthpool but Rene told me not to get in before she arrived.

At 1.50 Rene arrived, I leapt into the pool and with the gravity of standing up and one push the baby arrived at 1.54.

It was a fanastic birth experience but so quick that it was over and I had my baby in my arms before it had really hit me that I was in labour.

I am so pleased that I hired an independant midwife as without the breathing that Rene taught me I am sure that the baby would have arrived 20 minutes earlier. With the NHS it would definately have been an unattended birth.

If you want to read my other two birth stories they are at I have had such positive homebirth experiences that they inspired me to set up my own company :)

Claire & baby Amelia - Breech/Caesarean in Hospital

It was the weekend of a full moon and I woke up Friday morning to find I had had a show. Despite having some tightenings in my stomach I didn’t get my hopes up as I had heard you can still go 2 weeks till baby makes an appearance from having a show and I still had 2 weeks left to go.

That evening I went to bed earlier than usual as I felt a bit nauseous and extremely tired, I woke an hour later being very sick and a little while later my waters went. It was at 2am on the Saturday morning when my contractions started. At this point Andy my husband attached the tens machine to my back and with a mixture of tens and the breathing techniques I had learnt at yoga I kept myself going and Andy filled the birth pool.

By about 7am we felt it was time for Rene, our midwife to come and give me a check up, though I was a little apprehensive worried that I wouldn’t be too far along. However, it turned out I was 8cm dilated and it was time to get into the pool. The warm water was a huge relief and it was nice to have a warm, comfortable place to relax a bit between contractions.

When the second stage started, I had high hopes that the baby would be born by lunchtime but it wasn’t to be the case. I spent 3 hours pushing and could feel myself becoming more and more frustrated and disheartened. It was then that Rene suggested we go to hospital for a ventouse and hopefully be home again by dinnertime, by this time I was exhausted and thought it was a very good idea. The ambulance arrived and the gas and air they provided was, at this point, a real treat.

Unfortunately the ventouse was not to be. After a quick scan at the hospital it turned out that the baby was breach (with legs up behind ears holding the head in place) and needed to be born via caesarean section as no amount of pushing was going to work. We were taken down to theatre soon after, fortunately both Andy and Rene could stay with me. Having them both there really gave me strength, and at 14.19pm Amelia Caitlin was born, weighing a healthy 8lbs 2oz.

Although not the home birth that we had originally planned, to have had the labour at home I feel really helped me remain positive about the trip to hospital and the c-section outcome. Next time we’ll hopefully get the full home birth experience and I hope that Rene will be there to hold my hand again.

Tracy & twins Toren and Mairead - Hospital Normal Birth

When I was pregnant with Conall, one of the very first things I started to worry about was the birth and whether I would need to go into hospital. Things were no different this time. When we discovered it was twins, my emotions were a mixture of huge relief that the bleeding I’d had wasn’t a miscarriage, and a realisation that my hope for a home birth with a pool was probably out of the window – as it was in the end with Conall due to my thrombosis and treatment with blood thinners. This time round, though, I knew that it wouldn’t be possible to arrange an independent midwife to deliver me in hospital, as the rules have changed.

You might think that having been through so much to get pregnant, that I’d be happy just to know the babies would be born safely, but things just aren’t that easy for me when it comes to hospitals. For a start, I do doubt whether a hospital can be relied on in that respect… but also I feel terribly stressed at the thought of being in the clutches of the medical establishment especially relying on the random allocation of a doctor and midwife, subject to the vagaries of hospital policies, let alone at a vulnerable time like being in labour.

So despite the cost, I went ahead and arranged an independent midwife to at least act as my friend and supporter throughout the whole process (and I suspected I’d get my money’s worth from the post-natal support and help with breastfeeding twins, if nothing else!) I chose the midwife who had taken over from the one who delivered Conall (now retired) and I also got myself referred to an obstetrician recommended to me as progressive, by another independent midwife.

So the pregnancy progressed with me going regularly to see my haematologist (on blood thinners again) and for scans (monthly from 20 weeks then fortnightly once twin I’s growth and low fluid began to be a concern) but with my ante-natal care carried out by Rene and her partner, another midwife called Sally.

I found things surprisingly easy, no doubt helped by me working at home from about 28 weeks. And maybe I was less inclined to complain about inconveniences like swollen legs, because I was just so happy to be pregnant with no complications. I was lucky though, to escape many pregnancy ailments, with the exception of killer heartburn/retching and feet that seemed to get bigger by the day.

With the support of Rene and Sally we planned for the sort of birth I wanted. I was very concerned that I should have a natural birth with no unnecessary intervention, and we therefore sent my birthplan to the supervisor of midwives and discussed it with my consultant as well as meeting with the manager of the labour ward. We obtained the twin guidelines from the hospital and discussed my desire not to have continuous monitoring.

My other main concerns were about no unnecessary induction, being able to use the pool, letting the cord stop pulsing before cutting the cord, and letting twin II come naturally in their own time, plus Andrew taking twin I skin to skin while I delivered twin II. As well as no unnecessary staff in the room, pediatrician called in only if needed, etc. I did have some very anxious moments and bad dreams about the whole idea of going into hospital which culminated in me basically sobbing my way through a consultant appointment a few weeks before the end but Rene and Sally did their best to reassure me that they would be there and nothing would happen to me without my consent. My consultant was on the liberal end of the doctor spectrum and agreed with my requests, although she did keep reminding me of hospital policy to induce twins at 38 weeks.

I did acupuncture to prepare for birth as well as hypnobirthing and had an mp3 made for me by my hypnotherapist.

Everything was fine, apart from rather low fluid on twin I and slower growth than twin II, until just over 37 weeks when I had some visual disturbances one evening. Rene came to check me, my blood pressure was fine though there was some protein in my urine. We decided it was hopefully just a migraine. However at 37+2, the symptoms came back and when Rene same to check me, my blood pressure was up, not dramatically, but combined with +3 on the urine dipstick, it was enough for her to suggest we went into the labour ward to be checked.

They decided to keep me in for monitoring in case of pre-eclampsia and a 24 hour urine collection. I took this news quite well, considering. The 24 hour urine collection showed I had mild-pre-eclampsia but my blood pressure stayed stable, albeit elevated. I declined to be induced, and agreed that I could go home, after my regular scan, scheduled for 37+6.

Rene and Sally came with me. Twin I was still something of a concern, but now at almost 38 weeks and with the pre-eclampsia, they scrutinised blood flow to the placenta and the baby’s brain etc much more thoroughly. They then declared he had pretty much stopped growing, that he was estimated at 4lb 8 while twin 1 was 6lb 14 and that he was beginning to suffer.

So we agreed to be induced. But then it turned out not to be such an emergency… in fact they couldn’t find a slot, right off. After I’d had the fear of god put into me by the scan dept, my own consultant came to see me on the ward and reassured me that the baby was only showing the very early signs of difficulty. We agreed I’d go home, be monitored the next day, and come back probably the day after for induction.

I was so relieved to get home and into my own bed and bath … I’d been in hospital from Saturday/Wednesday and not slept more than an hour in one go.

However I woke up before dawn struggling to breathe and nothing seemed to help. When Andrew got up we decided to go back to hospital and called an ambulance. I was admitted again via the labour ward and they checked my heart via an ECG as well as testing for pulmonary embolism (due to my history) Andrew had to leave me there alone as Conall was off school ill.

At teatime they took me back to the ante-natal ward, with induction planned for the next day, 38+1.

I spent the night pacing the floor, interspersed with hot showers to relax my stiff neck.

Andrew came to the hospital mid-morning, but there was no space in the labour ward. It was late afternoon before we were taken up. A lovely hospital midwife checked me, Doriscilla, and she said I was fully effaced and 2-3cm dilated. She suggested not having the pessary they had prescribed, but instead having a sweep and waiting for a few hours. So she gave me a sweep and I got into the pool to read my book. Sally and Rene arrived a few hours later and at shift change we got a new midwife, Harriet. I was visited in the pool by the consultant covering that night and her team, including her SHO Ranjit. The consultant was very keen for me to be continuously monitored but I reiterated my wishes and we came to a compromise for occasional monitoring via the CTG. (In the end , no one really came in and pushed monitoring on us, a couple of times Rene had to go and remind the midwife that I needed to be checked)

We relaxed for a while, and I had a few twinges, and possibly some leaking fluid, but nothing much happened despite Rene doing reflexology on my feet. I was enjoying having access of the pool, and was tempted just to wait for nature to take its course and not have any further intervention, but in fact, I was keen to go ahead and have the babies during the night, and Sally and Rene were there… I wasn’t sure if we’d get kicked out of the labour ward if we refused any further induction!

So just after 10 when Harriet came back, I was quite happy to have my waters broken. It was quite painless, and Andrew and I walked about for an hour or so. Contractions started at about 10.30 and by 11 o’ clock were 1:5. I was on the birthball, listening to my hypnotherapy MP3 and very relaxed.

At about 11.30 I started to want to get in the pool, which I hoped was a good sign. I got into the pool, by midnight the pains were quite intense. Rene called Harriet to say she thought I was close to transition. Harriet was surprised but checked me and I was almost fully dilated. I was finding the pains quite hard and I hoped I’d get the urge to push soon. I remembered from Conall’s birth that the time just before pushing was the hardest. 00.45am and I felt the urge to push.

There was a rush to get me out of the pool, I chose to kneel on the bed leaning forward and got a bean bag to lean over. A doctor appeared at 1am, hurrying to place a cannula in case I needed any drugs. I was pushing. Toren was born at 01.10, and I took him in my arms. Andrew cut the cord when it stopped pulsating.

Twin II was monitored via the CTG and scan, and was still quite high.

I relaxed, Toren fed and we enjoyed meeting him. At 1.50 the doctor came back and suggested a drip, but I refused. Andrew took Toren under his tshirt and I tried various positions to stimulate contractions. At 2.30am I got back onto the ball and took Toren to feed, which did stimulate some contractions.

At 2.55 the doctor examined me again, Mairead was still high and seemed to be coming feet first (legs over head) This was confirmed by a scan.

The doctor managed to turn Mairead to head first, while I had a quaff of the gas and air, which made me feel quite spacey. The doctor suggested I have the syntocinon drip to bring Mairead down and keep her head down. At 3.30 Mairead still hadn’t descended. The doctor then suggested going to theatre to rupture her membranes, which I agreed to.

I was quite upset to hear that the journey from the labour room to the theatre (although not far!) would need to take place without gas and air… as the supply was not mobile… I recall taking several deep breaths and chucking the mouthpiece at the midwife and shouting “Go, go!” The drip was so much more painful than my natural births with Conall and Toren had been!

Anyway, just before 4am we were in theatre, Sally, Rene and Andrew were all allowed in, Toren was there in a cot. Being the middle of the night the place was very quiet. Mairead’s waters were broken at 3.57, I started to push and she was born at 4.11 – just over 3 hours after her brother. If we’d have started earlier, they could have had different birthdays!

I remember just carrying on pushing until someone told me it was all done and the placenta was out. It was such a relief it was all finished!

In recovery both babies were weighed – Toren was 5lb 5 rather than the estimated 4lb 8 and Mairead was 6lb 4 rather than 6lb 14.

Andrew came up to the postnatal ward with me at 7am and refused to leave. It was so lovely to have him there with me and the babies. I dozed off, feeling so happy and amazed that we had finally done it.

Two beautiful babies, and a beautiful birth. It wasn’t without complications but I knew that nothing happened that didn’t have a good reason.

Carla & baby Charlie - Home Birth

The pregnancy...
The support I received from Rene before my son was born was surpassed only by the care I received from her in the weeks afterwards. Luckily I didn’t have any real problems during the pregnancy but whatever was niggling me, especially towards the end, I felt completely comfortable discussing with her. It was so nice to be able to talk so openly to someone who was interested and helpful, no matter how minor the worry. It was also so lovely knowing that this was the midwife who was going to be with me right the way through the pregnancy, through labour and beyond and this gave me the reassurance and confidence to face my second labour without too much trepidation.

The Birth..
I was getting on for four days late which was starting to irritate me because I knew that the baby was ready to come out - it really had absolutely no room in there and for the previous couple of weeks the bump was so solid, it was like sleeping with a boulder. I was also starting to get nervous the longer it went on, not about the birth necessarily but about when I would have to start making decisions about interventions which I really really didn't want.

So during the day on Saturday I collated all the bits and pieces I had heard about how to get labour started - 3 raspberry leaf teas, half a pineapple, walking up and down the stairs in the house several times, a glass of champagne with dinner, eye of newt, wart of toad etc etc...

About 1.15 am on Sunday morning I got up for the usual bladder stop. As soon as I went back to bed I needed to go again - this time number 2's..(sorry to be gross, but it is a sign..) then nearly back in bed when I had to go again and I started to get lower back pain and then lower/under bump cramping. Knew now that this was labour starting - got Richard up but thought I would have hours of this (It was just past 1.30am by then).
I rang my midwife at 2am who said to ring back in half an hour or before if I needed to.. In the next ten minutes I was having almost constant contractions so I rang the midwife back and said please come sharpish. Richard in the meantime was busy preparing the living room and sorting out the pool. I called my friend to come and collect Leah (bless her!) and made friends with the bathroom floor to deal with the contractions which were coming fast and furious..

I found my way downstairs somehow and knelt by the pool which was just starting to be filled - it was about 2.20 I think by this time. The contractions were incredibly painful at this stage but I was able to deal with them with long exhalations.. a bit surprised they were that painful so early and very worried about how I was going to be able to deal with that level of pain for several hours.. Rene (my midwife) arrived at about 2.35 and assisted me with the breathing as the pool was still being filled. Without needing to check me she said she estimated I was about 7cm dilated just by how I was acting - which was quite a relief as the pains were so strong and lasting for well over a minute. By this stage Richard had abandoned the pool filling and came to support me. I knelt in front of him and tried to elongate my breathing by adding noise - my version of toning I suppose, although it was more like warbling, but it seemed to work - and then I tried to visualise desert islands etc anything to distract me from what was going on. Just when I thought I was going to give up, I started to feel the baby descend - which was incredible and gave me the courage to keep going as I realised that it wasn't going to continue for hours as I feared but was going to be minutes!

Anyway, I think I pretty much breathed him out, pushing only a little at first - then my waters broke followed by the head appearing (ow!) and I held back a little then pushed hard to get the body out (really ow!) - and there he was all 8lb 4oz of him!!! It was 3.10 am and I had been in labour for 1 hour 40 mins.. I then had a natural 3rd stage and when the placenta finally came out the whole thing had lasted just over 2 hours - how lucky was I?? I had no tearing and not even any grazing - think it must have been helped by my waters remaining intact to help with the descent and the fact that I was at home, happy not to be in hospital (I hate them) and had hardly even a blip in my blood pressure. My body was trembling and I started to feel cold - think I was a little shocked but was soon fine again.

Trust me, I am not a brave person, quite a baby when it comes to pain actually, I just felt safe and relatively in control, which worked for me. Rene was great - made me feel safe and guided me through it wonderfully - pretty lucky actually as if she had arrived 40 minutes later she would have missed the whole thing and probably been faced with a shell shocked Richard and Carla holding the baby...

The second midwife arrived while we were waiting for the placenta to come out - she couldn't believe she had missed it.. I was a little sad not to have had the water birth that I had wanted but I was over that really quickly when I thought about how quick the alternative was! Ah well.

The following weeks..
Despite the fact that I had breastfed my first baby, it seems that every baby is a different experience. I entered into it quite confidently but before long I was incredibly sore and needed so much help in positioning him so I could feed him without the pain being too excruciating. I don’t know how many times I nearly gave up in the early days/weeks, especially when I started bleeding into the breast pump which was nearly the final straw. However I have to say that because I had such frequent visits from Rene, I kept trying out her various suggestions until finally it all worked. Rene’s patience and constant support made me feel like I was not alone, a very easy feeling to have when you are feeding in the middle of the night curling your toes into the carpet with pain and wondering why you were born female.... But what was almost more important was knowing that whatever I decided to do, continue or stop, I would have the same support and understanding and I actually think that was one of the major reasons I didn’t give up. I would look forward to her visits as I would to a friend – even better because you get to talk about yourself the entire time!

Rene is a wonderful midwife. She makes you feel that your experience is as unique and special to her as it is to you - despite the fact that she must deal with this every day, and that is invaluable.

Sally & baby Lilly - Waterbirth at Home

I first decided to contact an Independent Midwife, after my sister had one for the care of both her children. Rene came around and basically explained everything they do. I was especially impressed by the amount of support and aftercare I would receive and my partner was pleased, as all the visits were done at home, so it was much easier for me and him. Throughout my whole pregnancy Rene was there for me at every stage and the closer I got to my due date the more grateful I was that I had so much support.

This was my first birth, so I didn’t know what to expect, so it was quite scary at times. My waters finally broke on 30th November 2007. Rene came round in the morning, as I felt very frightened and wasn’t sure exactly what to do. She reassured me and comforted me, which really helped calm me down and feel a lot more relaxed. I had already started to use the tens machine after my waters had broken, which I was finding quite effective. Rene explained It could be today or tomorrow, so for me to relax as much as I could and she would be back in the afternoon to check on me.
After she left the labour started to progress at a quicker pace than expected, so my partner got the birth pool ready for me. Around lunch time the contractions started to increased rapidly, so my partner called Rene and she arrived shortly after. I tried to use the gas and air, but I couldn’t seem to get to grips with it, so I just carried on with the tens machine. Rene said it was time for me to be checked over and that is when it all began……I went from 6cm to 9cm, so It was now time to get into the pool for the final stage.

Getting into the birthing pool was a big relief for me and I was so thankful that I had decided to purchase one in the end. All the labour pain was in my back, so Rene and my partner helped sooth my back at each contraction. After contractions and sleeping it was time to start pushing! And finally my baby girl was born at 4.08 in the afternoon. She was completely calm when she arrived and I think that was due to having her in the water. I just held her in the water for a while, half in shock, half exhausted, but extremely happy and overwhelmed.

Afterwards Rene and Sally, the other midwife, helped me get out of the pool and after I had delivered the placenta, they were there to help me have a bath and get ready for a good earned rest! I did unfortunately have to have stitches, but I was very lucky that another midwife came around to do them. It was painful, but they have now healed very well and again Rene and Sally were there ever step of the way.

The next hurdle for me and my baby girl Lilly to overcome was breastfeeding. I think it is one of the most hardest things I have done. I thought it would be really easy, but you both have to work at it. I struggled for the first few weeks, but with a lot of support from the midwifes, friends and family and a lot of perseverance from me, I have to say I think I have finally cracked it! So if you do have problems, your not alone, I have since heard many stories of how difficult it can be, but it is definitely worth it in the end.

I would like to give my thanks to Rene and Sally for all the help and support they have given me throughout my pre and post pregnancy and I would recommend them to anyone, it is so worth it. I never thought I would say this, but I would definitely have another one!

Jane & baby Nuala - Waterbirth at Home

I had woken up at 4.15am on the Sunday morning because Sam was coughing and after sorting him out and tucking him in I got back into bed and realised I was having pains – very irregularly and not too painful but stronger than braxton hicks. I couldn’t get back to sleep properly so lay there trying to time how long they were and when they were coming.

I suspected that the pains were the really early start of something but considering I was only 38+5 weeks couldn’t really let myself believe it.

This continued throughout the rest of the morning. We went to church and a few people prayed for us there. One couple prayed that things would start that day and one man prayed that this baby’s birth would be wonderful and that it would be like bathing in a pool of warm water – he didn’t know I was planning a water birth!

Again things carried on quite irregularly for the rest of the day, I knew I wasn’t in established labour but the contractions were getting more painful, so around 3.00pm, I took myself up to my bedroom. I felt I needed some quiet time away from the noise and bustle of the children. I also text Sally, my IM and Hayles my doula to let them know that whilst it wasn’t happening right then, it might happen later. Sally text back that I was to let her know when the contractions got to 10 minutes apart but if I felt I needed her in the meantime, to let her know. This is when I was so glad she just lived across the village from me.

Hayles phoned me to say that if I wanted her to come, then she would but I didn’t feel that things had kicked off at this point enough to warrant it. We still had the children to feed and put to bed. I kind of knew my body wouldn’t let things really kick off at that point.

Brendan made tea for the children – albeit quite late because he was watching the motor racing. He didn’t believe it would happen until the following weekend. I don’t know when that boy will learn to listen to me! By the time the older children were getting ready for bed and I was getting Sam ready, the contractions, though irregular were really quite painful. I put Sam to bed and went downstairs and told Brendan he needed to put the pool up – I still don’t think at this point he thought it was happening. I think he thought it was a ruse to get him to practise filling the pool. While he did this I bounced on my ball and watched Wife Swap and walked around to try and regulate the contractions. Hayles in the meantime had phoned again and offered to come and I thought at this point it would be quite good to have her here.

When Hayles arrived I explained about the contractions being painful but still really irregular. She said that the baby’s head probably wasn’t quite in the right place and gave me some different positions to try and move her to where she should be. I on the other hand at this point was still worrying that everything would stop and I would have got everyone out and on alert for nothing. I had phoned Sally at 9.00pm to update her and I think she could tell from my voice that things weren’t hotting up just yet. She had said to phone back when contractions were 5 mins apart, so that gave me something to aim for but still couldn’t quite believe I’d get there. In between contractions I was absolutely fine and chatted with Brend and Hayles. The contractions however were extremely painful, Hayley was saying how she could see my toes curling with the pain during them.

I was telling Hayles about when I was in labour with Molly and Brend and I were walking round the village to get the contractions going when Hayles said ‘well let’s do that then’. I will be eternally grateful she did that. So while Brend continued to fill the pool, Hayles and I went out for a walk – me in my pyjama bottoms. It was around 11.30pm at this point. We walked around and around and I actually got us lost, the village is like a maze and it was really dark! Hayles made me walk up hills like a crab and I kept walking up the wrong paths to people’s front doors. We were sure we’d end up arrested. Hayles made me laugh so much I nearly wet myself.

I had a couple of big contractions while we were out and a couple of big pains that weren’t quite contractions. Hayles suggested it could be baby’s head moving into position and boy was she right. We got back to the house (once we found it) and I started bouncing on my ball and the contractions started coming every 9 minutes, very strong. Then I started having one big contraction, a smaller one after 5 minutes and then another big one after another five minutes. I was still worried at this point that it would all stop. Hayles kept saying to me, ‘Jane, you’re having a baby.’ The lights were low in the room and Brendan had finished filling the pool. We had a worship cd playing and just the low murmer of Hayles and Brend chatting while I concentrated on contractions. These were getting more intense. I wondered if I should phone Sally again and tell her to come. I didn’t want her to come and say I was only 1-2 cm and baby was still high and free. Hayles said that often if you’re not sure whether to call the midwife or not then it probably means not. A couple of powerful contractions later and I said ‘I think I should call her’ It just felt like things were suddenly stepping up. It was so lovely to know that when I phoned, I would be getting Sally and not somebody unknown to me. I also knew that whilst I was panicking about calling her out too early for her it would be no problem so I had to just get over my worries.

I phoned Sally at 2.00am and she said she’d come straight round and phone her partner Rene who would also come and bring the gas and air.

Sally got here at 2.15am and checked me over. Bp and urine were fine and baby’s heartbeat was spot on even through a contraction. Now for the big moment, I had my one and only vaginal exam (completely different from my previous hospital births and my last home birth with the community midwives when they isnsisted on regular and frequent examinations) and I was……6-7cm! I couldn’t believe it. I had never gone that far without pain relief before! Sally also said baby’s head was very low down and the membranes were bulging. I knew Sally wasn’t keen to artificially rupture the membranes but I was willing to beg if things went on too long and they didn’t rupture naturally. I was happy to see how it went for the moment though and was completely trusting of Sally and what she was telling me. I really felt in control of what was happening. I could also get in the pool now though which I did. The warm water was lovely and I started lying leaning against the side. I then moved onto my knees leaning on the side of the pool, which seemed more comfie for me.

At 2.55am Rene arrived but I didn’t pay much attention as I was concentrating on getting through contractions then almost going into sleep mode in between. I could hear rhe low murmer of Brend and Hayles and Sally and Rene in the background but they didn’t really intefere in what I was doing and allowed me to completely focus on birthing my baby. Even when Rene checked the baby’s heartbeat I remained where I was in the pool and wasn’t really aware of what was going on, it was so lovely. At this point the contractions got more painful and Rene set up the entonox for me – they just seemed to know I needed it as I blurted out ‘they’re getting more painful!’ After this, I sucked gratefully on the entonox through contractions until to my surprise, at 3.35am, I felt a pop – I blurted ‘I think my waters have gone!’ not knowing that they could see my waters had gone. I was so surprised they went in their own time on their own This had only happened in my first labour when my waters went before my labour actually started. All the other times they had been artificially ruptured..

Now was the test to see if what had happened in three of my previous labours would happen again. Would the baby would be born straight away. Another contraction was building and suddenly there it was, the urge to push. It took Sally and Rene by surprise but they flew into action. Brendan said he looked at Hayles because they could hear a difference in my breathing and they both knew what was going to happen next. ‘I’m pushing’ I yelled as I dropped the gas and air and just put my head down and pushed for all my worth, knowing that that was the only way out of the pain and suddenly Sally was saying, ‘take the baby Jane and lift her to the surface.’ I couldn’t believe it, I looked down and Sally was passing a baby up between my legs.

Nuala Grace was here, born at 3,40am, just 5 minutes after my waters went. Apparantly she shot out like a torpedo! She didn’t breath immediately so Rene and I blew gently on her face until she took her first breath. She made a few little sounds but didn’t want to cry. She was so chilled out and contented. I sat back in the pool and leant against the side with my baby girl on my chest. It had all happened so fast there hadn’t been time to wake the children, so Hayles went and woke them for me so they could meet their new sister. Sam slept through the whole thing.

The children came in and looked in amazement at Nuala. They each came and gave her kisses. Then we encouraged them to go back to bed while I got out of the pool and delievered the placenta but they were too excited by this point and came back down. We waited for the cord to stop pulsating before it was clamped. It was all so relaxed and calm, it was gorgeous. We all wondered how much Nuala would weigh because she looked so tiny and she was a teeny 5lb1oz, she looked just like a little doll. She didn’t even really cry until she had her vitamin K injection. I managed to latch her on the breast and she had a few good sucks. We all sat around chatting and laughing with the children, it was so lovely and relaxed. Eventually the children did go back to bed and I went and had a bath and got into bed. I just had a graze, so no stitches, which was wonderful.

Hayles made me toast and then went home and the midwives gave Nuala a proper check over and then left not long after. I was lying in bed with my gorgeous, little girl. I am so thankful to Hayles, Sally and Rene. This was my most amazing labour and birth yet and they helped to make it that.

Jo & baby Charlie - Caesarean section

After finding out I was pregnant, I decided to enlist the help of private midwives as I felt that I couldn’t get the one to one care that I wanted from the NHS. Right from the start Sally & Rene were really helpful and informative. I found it so nice to have my ante-natal appointments at my home at a time that suited me so it fit in around my work. To have someone always on the end of the phone or on email for quick questions was really reassuring and I found the fact that the same people were caring for us throughout, very comforting.

After a very straightforward pregnancy baby Charlie was born 1st February 2008 by emergency c-section at the PRUH. We had hoped to have a home water birth, we had the pool already to go and were looking forward to a natural birth at home but unfortunately my waters broke, and after 4 hours of labour at home there was meconium in my waters. I knew what it was immediately as Sally & Rene had spoken to us in depth about all the things that may happen, so when Sally came to the house at 9am she decided that we should go into hospital in case the baby was distressed (as it turned out he was perfectly fine all the way through my labour but we had to be safe!). We transferred by ambulance and arrived at the hospital and were taken to a room.

I decided that I would try and manage using my Tens machine for as long as I could, which I had put on immediately when my waters broke (my other half was using the gas & air before I was!). After about 6 hours of labour, I was 6cm dilated and managing my contractions well. I tried to keep myself relaxed and breath through them and Sally & Rene were very quick to remind me when I wasn’t doing it right which was great as it really did help. I used gas & air for another 2 hours until I was 8cm dilated and the contractions were strong and coming about every 5 minutes or so. I found the most comfortable position to be on my knees, resting on the back of the bed with the support of my partner and my midwives to help me through the contractions as they came ... we were actually having a bit of a laugh in between, the gas & air was making everything seem rather hilarious (to me anyway)!

At this point the registrar at the hospital told me that I wasn’t progressing very well and the contractions were becoming increasingly more intense (we later discovered that Charlie was back to back) so I asked for an epidural. Unfortunately the epidural slowed everything down and I was forced to be on my back as I couldn’t feel my legs, my contractions progressed over the next 4 hours and when I was fully dilated, I stated to push which was quite difficult as I couldn’t really feel my contractions but my midwives helped me to gauge when to push and encouraged me to push in the right way for as long as possible.

After 2 hours of pushing I was very tired and they decided that the baby was in fact back to back and was going to need some help to be born so they took me to theatre for an assisted delivery. Unfortunately, when the surgeon examined me he decided that baby was not far enough down for an assisted delivery and that I would need a c-section. Charlie was born at 8.20pm and was fit and well.

Sally & Rene were a great help to me in the days after the birth, they visited me in hospital while I was there due to having had a c-section and helped me to establish breastfeeding straight away. They helped me to get up & move around after my operation and spent time with myself & Charlie that the NHS midwives just didn’t have time to do. I found the 28 days of postnatal care invaluable, and to have someone to ask questions, however silly they may seem, was very reassuring.

Even though I didn’t manage to have the birth I had hoped for, I found the help & support of my midwives invaluable and will certainly enlist their help with the next one!

Belinda & baby Jessica - Waterbirth at Home


I had an independent midwife - Rene Schwencke - when I had my baby girl in April, and I am so glad that I did. I know it is a lot of money and I was worried about whether it would be worth it or not, but I can honestly say that it was definitely worth the money and I would use her again next time round.

Each time I went to my doctors for a check, I would end up seeing a different midwife and so felt I was having to explain everything about my pregnancy all the time. I found it really difficult not being able to form a relationship with one person, so I decided to look into independent midwives.

As soon as I met Rene, I felt relaxed and confident with her. I didn't feel silly asking any questions and she was always at the end of the phone whenever I needed her.

I ended up having a home water birth, which was a wonderful experience.

I would definitely recommend Rene as an independent midwife.

If I can help you with anything, just let me know.

Belinda xx

Holly & baby Riley - Waterbirth at Home

I booked Sally to be my midwife quite late on in my second pregnancy, at about 33 weeks, after losing faith in the NHS and their ability to do what was best for me and my baby and not what is best for them! I had some pieces of retained placenta after an extremely long and painful delivery of my first son which had to be removed manually but after some research I felt was down to the fact that he was a large baby, I was induced, had an epidural and had the syntocinon injection at delivery and therefore decided that I was at no greater risk of this happening again. Problem was my NHS midwife didn’t agree and said I would have to get the consultant to agree to a homebirth! I decided on a homebirth because my first birth was so horrendous the thought of the same thing happening again petrified me and I felt the only way I would remain in control was to be at home away from the theatre happy hands of the doctors on delivery suite!

Anyway, as you can imagine the consultant (well registrar because you must know actually seeing a consultant has to be rarer than meeting the queen!) tried to convince me I was at great risk of PPH because it had happened once so was likely to happen again but couldn’t tell me why or how more likely it was to happen or even give me any confidence that she actually knew why it just seemed that was what she was told and she just believed it to be fact. So after many arguments, tears and distress on my part I thought to myself why am I battling for a homebirth when actually if they did agree and a midwife turned up at my door when I went into labour I had very little faith that the midwife would have the experience of homebirths and the positive outlook on them that I knew I needed to be able to succeed in achieving a natural birth. From the minute I met Sally and Rene I felt at absolute ease and so did my partner who was actually rather anxious about a homebirth until Sally made him realise how safe it is and what a positive experience we could have.

After a problem free pregnancy I finally went into labour 3 days over my due date and sadly Sally was in hospital with her daughter so it was Rene who we called after much debate from me as to whether this was it or not and fearing that ringing her would make it all stop! The contractions started at about 6.15pm on what turned out to be the day before my birthday and were fairly long, regular and frequent from the start but I coped well bouncing on my birthing ball until I felt Rene should really be there and she arrived at just after 10pm. After examining me (not internally) she put me at ease that everything was fine and to carry on breathing through the contractions, which I did until about 10.45 when I decided that I wasn’t comfortable anymore so we decided I could get into the pool which was an amazing relief with the water providing great support. Just after I got in the pool Nanette arrived to support Rene although by this point I didn’t really notice her arrival! About an hour later I felt my waters pop in the pool and immediately felt myself pushing and Rene and Nanette encouraged me to go with my body and to do whatever felt right which was just the support I needed and I managed to push my baby out in just 12 minutes without any pain relief.

My second son, Riley, arrived 6 minutes into my birthday and it was the most amazing experience of my life and I have absolutely no doubt it was thanks to the support of Sally during my pregnancy and Rene and Nanette during my labour. As it turns out I did have a problem with the placenta again and I actually fainted in the pool and ended up going into hospital by ambulance because the cord snapped on the placenta so had to have it removed manually but we have since realised that it must be a genetic problem with me and would have happened regardless. I am just grateful I got the birth I wanted and wasn’t forced to endure a hospital birth as well as the manual evacuation of the placenta! Again Rene and Nanette’s support provided invaluable here as they actually managed to get the doctor to remove it on delivery suite with just gas and air rather than having the upset of an epidural and a trip to theatre which I am eternally grateful for.

I have managed to breastfeed exclusively for 3 weeks now and have every confidence that will continue thanks to Rene’s wonderful advice and making sure we still got skin to skin and a feed as soon as possible despite me going into hospital. The support and care I have received from Sally and Rene has been much much more than I anticipated and I will be very sorry to see this chapter in my life close but so so grateful to have been lucky enough to experience the care of independent midwives. In my opinion everybody should be given the choice of this care rather than being forced onto the conveyor belt of consultant led care and treated like an inferior human being who has no ability to do what every woman IS capable of if they were to just be given the chance. I could waffle on forever because I feel so strongly about this and it may already feel to you that I have (if you have not fallen asleep by now!) but it really has been worth every penny and if you have any doubts about any aspect of homebirth/waterbirth or using an independent midwife I would strongly urge you to overcome them and go for it, I have no doubt you will be so glad you did because they really will give you and your baby the best care possible!

Rachel & baby Austen - Waterbirth at Home

At 7:30pm I was in bed watching a film with Martin and the kids when I suddenly had three contractions 5 minutes apart. I mentioned it to Martin who immediately told me to call Rene our midwife. I said to wait another 10 minutes or so just to make sure. I went downstairs and started pacing up and down the living room. I soon realised that I was definitely in labour.

I phoned Rene at 7:55pm. I told her not to rush as although they were 5 minutes apart they were only lasting about 30 seconds and I was coping well. I then phoned my friend Lynda at 8pm who was a birth partner.

Martin started to fill the birth pool and I put on Lynda's Birthing Relaxations CD. I also took an arnica tablet and 7 drops of rescue remedy. By 8:15pm I believe I text Rene to say that they were now coming 3 minutes apart, although still only lasting about 30 seconds, we confirmed by text that the pool was being filled.

By now I was leaning over my birth ball through each contraction and was concentrating on my breathing. By 8:30pm I put on my Tens machine as the contractions were lasting 60 seconds or more.

Looking at the call log on my mobile, Martin phoned Rene at 8:31 (she confirmed she was about 30/40 minutes away) and at 8:32 to Lynda (he was starting to stress believing he may have to deliver the baby on his own). Lynda told him she was 15 minutes away and was doing 95mph, he told her to go faster and that if this had been a hospital delivery he would definitely have me in there by now!!

Lynda arrived at 8:45pm. By now I was desperate to get in the pool and had an urge to push. Martin called Rene again at 8:59pm and she confirmed she was about 5 minutes away but not to let me in the pool until she arrived. I knew a way of slowing it down was to lean forward on all fours with my bum in the air but just couldn't do it when I tried. I was on my knees leaning back on my hands with one leg and foot tucked underneath. I don't know if I thought this would hold him in!!

Rene arrived at 9:08pm. I immediately turned off the Tens machine and it was taken off. Rene asked me to lay down very quickly to check the position of the baby, which took seconds, then I got into the pool.

I was rocking slightly on my knees with my hands resting on the bottom of the pool. I was moving my hands from the side to leaning them back behind me, trying to find a comfortable position. I was instinctively placing one hand between my legs as I knew he was nearly out, but am not sure whether I actually felt his head. I remember Rene shining a torch to check what was happening as the room was dark. After about 5 or so pushes Austen was born under water at 9:17pm, 9 minutes after Rene arrived. He was placed directly into my arms. The labour was about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

I had a physiological third stage. At 9:31pm the cord stopped pulsating and Martin cut the cord. After nearly an hour in the pool I decided to get out and hold Austen, hoping this would speed up delivery of the placenta (as by this time he was cuddled up with his dad). To my amusement, as I stepped out of the pool, and with gravity, the placenta fell to the floor between my legs.

I feel very honoured to have had the birth that I wanted. Having had two other very different labours, I can honestly say that a home birth and especially a waterbirth is amazing, I would recommend it to anyone. I felt a real sense of privacy being in the water and mobility is for obvious reasons so much easier. I really wouldn't want to give birth in hospital again - not that there are plans for any more!!

Finally, I was also very privileged to have had Rene as my midwife, she too is amazing!! Having such a fantastic midwife makes all the difference to the birth experience and the end result is a much happier mother and baby.

Gemma & baby Maisie - Waterbirth at home

Sorry its taken me soo long, but I'd like to announce the birth of a beautiful baby girl, Maisie!
She arrived on 20th March after just 5 hours!!

As you probably know, I was lucky enough to have Rene (a private midwife - for those who don't know) and a home water birth as planned and it was the most amazing experience I've ever had!

Well to keep it short and sweet......I didn't even know I was in labour, Rene came round for her usually weekly antenatal appointment and ended up staying and delivering!!! I had had a huge contraction just before Rene got here.

I had a bit of back ache the night before but just thought it was...well back ache.. when Rene came round for the appointment, I just mentioned it and she said that she would examine me before she left! Anyway to both our horrors she told me that I was in labour and 4cm dilated! Rene couldn't believe that I had had only 1 contraction and already I was this far! She told me to call Ben (my partner) back from work straight away. Ben arrived quick enough and Rene said she would leave it about 2 hours before she examined me again... anyway these hours quickly passed and still not much happening... one or two tiny twinges about every hour... then another huge 1 so she examines me again before she thinks she maybe able leave and go home and come back later.. but when she examines me, again to our horror (and joy!) I was now 8cm dilated!!!! By this time we thought the baby was going to come there and then but I was still watching tv, talking on the phone to my mum and dad!

Rene instructs Ben to get the pool filled up as quickly as possible as she thought it could come at any minute without any warning, she was also preparing me for shock as it was all happening far too quickly and not allowing those strong painkilling hormones to take effect! Rene was so amazed at was happening (or what wasn't happening should I say) that she phoned her supervisor to advise of a fast birth! She told me that at this point in labour most women were in absolute agony, and there I was sitting on the birthing ball with all my clothes on, smiling for the camera (yes she took pictures too!!). Anyway Ben quickly filled the pool up and I got in, all really calm and tranquil, just amazing! By this time I was getting more contractions, however still not very regular and some more painful than others, but still bearable. Rene has since told me that the only way she could tell I was having a contractions was because I screwed my nose up!! So all pretty silent and calm, and I made sure I sat very still! After a couple of hours in the pool, Rene asked me to move around a bit as I had been in the same position for quite some time, and as soon as I did, that was it, I could feel the baby coming and I felt this amazing urge to push, and before we knew it the head was born and baby Maisie was born into the water, and I scooped her up into my arms!!! Rene didn't even touch the baby until about 2 hours after the birth to weigh and check her over.

It was the most beautiful experience I've ever had! It literally happened all on its own, just all so naturally, I pretty much delivered her myself! No gas and air and just one slight tear that didn't need stitching!! Just AMAZING!

I wanted to breast feed too and Maisie latched onto the breast straight away within a couple of hours, and Maisie has been feeding really well since, at just two weeks old, Maisie had already put on 1lb!!

Anyway, must dash now as Maisie is crying for a feed!

Feel free to pass on my story to the girls, love Gemma x

Claire & baby Charlie - Normal birth in Hospital

We first met Rene when I was just 20 weeks pregnant. We had heard about Independent Midwives from a family friend who had positively raved about having one midwife who saw her through her antenatal visits and more importantly the labour and post natal care. Thank God! What started as a nice ‘perk’ of pregnancy soon became an invaluable and indispensable experience.

My pregnancy went forward without complication. Rene was so reassuring and informative and we built up a complete trust in her. We decided to go ahead with a home birth, something I would not have considered without Rene’s support.

I confidently waited for my due date, both mentally and practically prepared for the birth. The birthing pool was inflated, snacks in the cupboard, birth ball in the front room, along with a mountain of sheets and towels! 1 week over... 10 days over... 12 days over... the waiting was agonising but Rene was there to encourage, support, wipe away the tears and administer the sweeps! However, at 41 weeks + 6 days the baby was showing no signs of entering the world and I was booked for an induction at the hospital. We were extremely disappointed and tried every last trick in the book to get it moving but found ourselves, to our bitter disappointment, walking down the hospital corridor with my suitcase. Rene had explained about induction in great detail and had given us lots of literature on it so we at least felt we knew what we were letting ourselves in for.

A gel was inserted at 8.00pm and I was told to rest and wait for contractions. By 7.00am the next morning I was having some mild tightening but little else. Hooked to a CTG, Charlie’s heart was monitored and due to some decelerations on the trace I was whipped into the labour room for closer monitoring and preparation. I rang my husband Richard to come in and then calmly called Rene to update her. Encouraging as ever, she told me to call whenever I felt I needed her. Half an hour later words like ‘Syntocinon’, ‘epidural’ and ‘ARM’ were being thrown about and mild panic set in. Richard was told to call Rene asap!

It was amazing for both Richard and I to have someone who knew us and our history advising and explaining the various procedures being suggested. When I was told I would need a drip I turned to Rene. Pain relief, breathing, positions... my mind was so confused it was wonderful to have not only a professional but someone I considered to be a trusted friend to guide us personally through it.

5 hours into the labour the contractions were strong and painful. Armed with only gas and air, Rene massaged my head and told me when to breath in and out, whilst Richard stroked my arm. After some involuntary pushing I was told to get onto the bed. Excited that I may be drawing close I was shattered to discover that I was still only 5cms dilated. It was at this stage that I began to panic. I started to beg for an epidural. “I can’t do it!”, “It really hurts”, “I’m too tired”, “I want it to all be over”... If Rene hadn’t been there to tell me that “I could do it” and that it would be safer for me and the baby and I would have a better chance of the natural birth I had so longed for, I know that I would have relented under the pressure. Rene did not leave my side the entire time. In fact, I ordered my husband to move cars, gather food and generally run around whilst I stayed close to her.

At 8cms the contractions were coming thick and fast. Lights were turned down and I was once again moved to the bed and the real ‘fun’ began. The hospital doctors and midwives so rarely see a ‘normal’ birth I had quite an audience when Charlie Cosgrove finally entered the world at 12.30am, something that I am immensely proud of. Before I knew it I had a beautiful baby boy placed on my chest and he began to feed. A warm bath and several chocolate biscuits and the best rounds of toast ever (I was ‘nil by mouth’ the entire labour as they thought I’d need to go into theatre) I was taken to the maternity ward. I so longed to be at home at this point but it just wasn’t meant to be. It was quite an experience and certainly nothing could have prepared me for it. I am sure a home birth would have been a totally different but I know that everyone from Rene to the hospital staff made it as natural and comfortable as possible under the circumstances and for that I thank them all.

If this support wasn’t enough, we then had the invaluable help of Rene for the post natal care. There is nothing more frightening then coming home and being responsible for this tiny baby but to have someone in and out of the house and on call 24/7 in case of any worries or concerns, well... I can’t describe how fantastic that is. I was eager to breastfeed but it was so exhausting and challenging but with Rene’s guidance I felt more uplifted and self-confident every time I saw her.

Needless to say, Rene is truly worth every single penny and I would encourage anyone to benefit from her extremely professional and, more importantly, caring nature. You’d be lucky to have her!

Lisa & baby Archie - Waterbirth at home

As a 39 year old first time mum, I got used to being called an ‘older mother’ by the professionals I saw in the early months of my pregnancy.

After my Nucal scan at Kings, where I was given very good odds, my care was put over to my doctors, where I was to see the Midwife there.

When my next appointment was due, I rang up my doctors 3 weeks before to book an appointment, only to be told there were none available for the next 2 months and I couldn’t book for the 3rd month as the books hadn’t opened yet.... How was I to get an appointment I asked? I was told to ring up the 1st of the month when they open their books. This would be passed when my next check-up was due. I rang at 8.30am the next month on the 1st, and was told all the appointments were gone ...again. The doctors had only just opened, so not sure how this happened?! Considering I was an ‘older mother’ I wasn’t doing very well in having regular checks by my midwife. I was told I could see the doctor instead.

The midwife works at my doctors 2 days every 2 weeks, as they are so few and far between, hence why it is so difficult to get an appointment.

By 30 weeks I still had not managed to see my midwife, and was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the NHS service. A friend asked if I had thought about an independent midwife.....

I emailed the Independent Midwifes and arranged an appointment for a chat and haven’t looked back since!
Sally arrived and I liked her immediately, she seemed just like the sort of person who I would like to have throughout my pregnancy, answering all my questions, however stupid. Putting my mind at rest and didn’t seem bothered by my age or that I wanted a home water birth.
My pregnancy progressed trouble free, I was relaxed with my care, and hence a relaxed baby.
Sally gave me my 36 week check, and delivered the pool. All was going well, I had just given up work the week before, and was looking forward to a few relaxing weeks with my swollen feet up.
The next day my waters broke, which was a bit of a surprise! I phoned Sally, and she assured me I wouldn’t have to go hospital if my contractions started within 72 hours. She advised me to go for a walk and to eat some pineapple. The next day my contractions started.... I was to phone Sally when they came every 4 minutes. I felt relaxed in the knowledge that I didn’t have to worry about getting to hospital, or that there wasn’t a bed and I was in my own surroundings.

Sally arrived that evening, and put me very much at ease and told me I was doing all the right things, such as walking through my contractions, all of which would be difficult to do at hospital.

As I got into the pool, the pain eased immediately. It was a relaxing experience, to have the water around me. So much so I didn’t have any drugs or stitches...

A couple of hours later my beautiful baby boy was lifted onto my chest, eyes open and looking happy, not a scream in sight. My partner cut the cord, and had felt very much part of the whole experience.

The aftercare I received was amazing, having someone come in everyday the first week to talk things through, show you how to breast feed, and generally look after you really puts your mind at rest. It’s difficult enough being a first time mum, what with the lack of sleep etc, it makes it so much easier having someone each step of the way.

I would recommend the services of the Independent Midwives any day, and have done so to all my friends!

Katie & baby Jamie - Waterbirth at home

My labour began 3 days early at midnight on Friday 14th sep 2007, we had got into bed as normal about 10pm , and i didnt feel quite right. Just after midnight i felt a tiny 'popping' sensation &sure enough this was my waters going and i was suddenly sat in a huge puddle ! I phoned my independant midwife Rene and explained what had just happened, she said to stay calm and keep her informed of any further progress, i felt really frighetened but also excited as i knew this was it ! I stayed in bed for a while sitting on heaps of towels and then got up & started to note down my contractions as the pains had started about 30 mins after my waters had broken. At 02:00 i texted rene and said that i was ok but why didnt anyone tell you how much it really really hurt !!!!!!!! She told me to get my TENS machine on as the earlier you started to use it the better, and get carl to fill the pool. I screamed up the stairs for carl to get up and fill the pool as I had left him asleep until now, wanting him to get as much rest as possible. It was now action stations, and i will never forget sitting at the kitchen table and trying to figure out the tens machine while carl was filling the pool - i had stupidly never taken it out the box for a practice run and as such i was sat there trying to work it out between contractions - ouch !! The contractions were getting stronger and stronger and much closer togther but the tens machine was really helping me and i just kept pushing the boost button when i needed it !. I moved to the lounge on the floor with a pen and my little scrap of paper noting the contrations, and at 4am I said to Carl to call rene as i couldnt cope with the pain anymore. We live in a town house and the plan was always to have the baby in the pool in the kitchen - ground floor, and the lounge is the first floor, which is where Rene found me when she arrived......... this point we ran out of toilet roll ........yes, the whole house none anywhere , which was awful timing !!!!!

Rene arrived at 0430 and i was lying on my left side on the floor. I had spent 2 weeks prior to this, in this position as she had told me it was the best way to lie to get the baby in the best position for birth. During each contraction I couldnt speak and on arrival Rene put on my hypnobirthing CD, this helped so much as it helped me focus on something and really clamed me down. I had been listening to it for 8 weeks prior - i totally recommend this as it was brilliant throughout. During this Carl had the TV on and was actually watching Jodie Marsh 'take me up the aisle' whilst lying on the sofa !!!! The hypno CD actually zoned me out even from that tv rubbish - so it must have been working !!!!

Rene was monitoring me continuously and listening to the baby with the doppler, but I hadnt had an internal exam yet as i couldnt bear the thought of having to lie on my back. I eventually let Rene examine me at 0630, it was awful as the worse position was lying on my back, but when she said i was 8 cm i was in total amzement ! Rene then reminded me how well I had done so far and told me i was doing wonderfully. I really needed this encouragement and I also forgot until this point that i still had gas and air and also the pool to help with the pain - i really thought Rene would say i was only 2 cm dilated and was prepared mentally for this - so when she said 8 cm i could have cried! Rene said the pool would be my epidiral eqivalent so I very very slowly made my way downstairs to the kitchen !

Carl had been working hard to get the pool to 38degrees using the kitchen taps and the thermometer that came with the pool kit. At first i didnt like the pool, i felt uncomfortable and awkward but after a while it was very soothing and really helped. After 2 contractions in the pool i started on the entonox and that was wicked , but all along i had the hypno CD playing this was just brilliant and really helped me stay calm.The second midwife sally arrived at 0715. I remeber feeling very scared and focusing on the baby not being able to fit - rene was amazing and said i must trust my body and not panic. I was now on my knees and up agaist the side of the pool with carl on his knees the other side helping me with the gas and air. He was amazing and stayed there throughout ( which he said was agony ...hmmm) , i had a little bite of toast and some milk and then went back to trying to stay calm through the contractions. Rene was constanlty checking the babys heart beat and that was so reassurig to hear. All I rememeber was total focusing on the CD, carl splashing water on my back, and rene telling me to stay calm. I had to try and remove myself from the pain, and the water, was really helping. Rene was telling me when to push , pant , not push and did exactly what i was told until i felt a total urge to push that i couldnt control............

Jamie was born at 0825 weighing 8Ib 5oz and was passed up onto my chest , I just felt in total amazement and wonder, it was incredible !! A total rush of love overwhelmed me and both carl and i were crying. At this point we still didnt know if it was a boy or girl, so it was so special to lift the tiny little leg and discover a boy !! We were both still crying and i had called my mum in the water before carl had even cut the cord!!!! It was so special, and so amazing. I stayed in the water to deleiver the placenta , which took about 20 minutes (i didnt have the injection) and carl had skin to skin contact with jamie for this whole time. I finally got out of the pool at 0850 and was snuggled on blankets & duvets on the floor, I lay there a good while and I think my body was in a bit of shock by now, I still managed to ring the world & his wife from my spot on the kitchen floor to tell them the news though ! I was examined on the floor, and was very lucky not to need stiches, i had a few small tears . Jamie was passed down to me after this and rene managed to latch him on which hurt so much - almost as much as a mini contraction which i had not expected at all.

Then we had the most amazing fry up from carl, while jamie was asleep in his moses basket ! I was totally starving and I dont think i ever deserved a fry up like i deserved that one after all my hard work !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Carl felt totally overwhelmed but he was so supportive of me & a home birth , there is no way I could have done it without him. He wanted me to have a quiet , calm, stress free birth and this is what I was very fortunate to have. Rene works with the independant midwife association and is a miracle worker !!! x

Miranda & baby Tacy - Waterbirth at home

With the birth of our first daughter was had hoped for a water birth at home, instead we ended up with a forceps delivery in the hospital. Looking back, we felt that the NHS midwife attending the birth could have done more to enable us to have that homebirth.

So when I fell pregnant for the second time, the decision to choose an independent midwife was easily made. I wanted someone that I could trust, who would respect my wishes and who would provide continuous care.

I had a great pregnancy and could not wait to meet my baby. On a Thursday morning I was having tea with a friend who practices acupuncture and we talked about how acupuncture could help move babies in the right position and that acupuncture could help start labour as it is all about channeling energy. At that stage that sounded really good to me. Although I wasn’t overdue this would definitely be something that I would consider. In the afternoon I went to see a friend who had an NCT open house where mums and babies meet. We talked about old wives tales on again how to get labour started. I was so ready to have that baby. Sniffing a baby’s head might do the trick, so I actually had a sniff or two that afternoon.

We decided to have an early night and while I was brushing my teeth I got my first contraction. I kind of knew that it was a contraction, but wanted to see what would follow and yes … every five minutes and they were not even uncomfortable .We did not want to ring Rene too early, but on the other hand thought that we could better let her know that things were moving before she went to sleep.

When Rene arrived, she checked my blood pressure and the baby’s position and told me that I could get in the birth pool. She was right in that the contractions would stop once I got in the water … but were to come back even stronger. Sally, the second midwife arrived soon after and by that time I asked for entonox as the contractions were coming fast and very strong.

Rene could see by the purple line running up my back that I was almost fully dilated. Apparently this is something that is not always visible or clear, but then again very helpful. A shame I could not see it for myself.

I did not have very much breathing time in between contractions and Rene and Sally did let me get on with things. My body did its work perfectly as did my voice. My husband came round to tell me that the baby’s head had appeared and that she looked very serene. As if I did not know that the head was out! The rest of her arrived in the next push. While admiring our beautiful daughter, the placenta arrived, also naturally.

I stil cannot get over the fact that the whole labour was just under two hours. Rene and Sally stayed to ensure that I was comfortable and that Tacy was latching on to feed.

Mattie, our first daughter slept through the whole thing and looked pleasantly surprised when she came into our bedroom to meet her baby sister early the next morning. She immediately wanted a cuddle.

This is not where Rene and Sally stopped caring for us. The regular visits to check up on both me and Tacy were very much needed as the baby blues kicked in, Tacy was fine though. Even though I breastfed before, I could not have been prepared for all the aches and pains that can accompany breastfeeding. So there was a lot of crying from my end and a lot of comforting from Rene and Sally’s end. Exactly what I needed.

As I told Rene, if we decide in the future to have another baby, she will be our first port of call.

Thank you.

Anita & baby Jamie - Water birth at Home

I am the first person to admit that, I probably approached researching a midwife in completely the wrong way. I initially looked to engaging the services of a private midwife, as I thought that having midwife who antenatal appointments at a time that I needed (and bypassing the doctor’s waiting room in the process) would mean that I was in control of when I would have my check-ups and I could fit them around my working day. This is true, but having a midwife such as Rene has meant so much more.

I set out at the beginning, steadfast in the belief that I would give birth at hospital. The hospital was nearby, had huge stocks of pain relief and, let’s face it, I was not brave enough to be a trailblazer and give birth at home (especially as this was my first child).

I started off with the conventional NHS visits – long waits at the hospital entailed, my booking-in appointment never arrived, doctors baffled (and scared me) with jargon, which I had to look up on the internet. It was a hard slog… and this was just a month into the pregnancy !!! I then met Rene. She is one of those people who instantly puts your mind at rest. She really knows her job, providing you with books and handouts to answer your questions and will spend as much time as needed to make sure that you are happy. Pregnancy is wonderful, but to a new mum, it is so scary ! Everything is new and nobody, other than Rene, seemed to have the time to explain things properly to me. I never felt that she had the meter running when she visited me, she stayed as long as I needed.

Being pregnant and giving birth is all about trust. You have to feel prepared for the birth and knowing that someone like Rene (and Sally) were going to be there at the birth, not some anonymous midwife or, even worse, a spotty student doctor, which really didn’t put me in the best frame of mind. I never questioned Rene’s knowledge and trust her totally. It has been a very short period of time to get to know a person, but I hope that I can count her as a friend. She is not judgemental and if you strongly believe in something (as long as it is not going to harm the baby or you), then that is fine.

When the birth arrived (very quickly), it signalled a complete u-turn in my views about giving birth at the hospital. The actual birth was a very calm and spiritual experience. The fact that I could give birth at home and snuggle up in bed with my new-born baby was priceless. Baby James was born calmly and barely cried for days. Everybody commented on how content he was. Initially, I had been terribly concerned that home births meant that you didn’t have access to all the medical facilities which you could have at hospital. I realised that this is not necessary, if you are healthy. Naturally, if there are any complications, Rene will always be the first person to take you to hospital. I never felt in any danger, but always in control. It was a perfectly natural thing to give birth at home, as it should be.

The post-natal care, was also exceptional. Rene took great care to involve my husband at all times when she visited (every day for the first week) after the birth. Again, she spent as much time as was needed explaining everything we needed to know. I could have felt terribly isolated and bewildered in those first few weeks, but Rene was always there; someone to talk to and explain all these wonderful things that were happening to me and my baby as I began to learn how to be a mother.

I fully intend to keep in touch with Rene and keep her posted about how James is growing up. I would definitely say that having a private midwife and having a home birth is a life-changing experience. Let’s face it, for the cost of a holiday or a second-hand car, you can make sure that you give the best start possible to your child. I would not hesitate for a second in choosing Rene or Sally again to help me or my friends again. Many thanks !!

Rachael & baby Florrie - Home birth

Emily, 23/2/2003, 7lb 4oz

Emily was born in hospital and although the birth was straightforward we stayed in hospital for one night because Emily was covered in meconium when she was born and I had been given antibiotics during labour because of a leak in my hind-waters three days earlier. Emily was a sleepy baby and wasn’t hungry for about 15 hours after birth, despite a couple of attempts and skin-to-skin contact after birth. When she was hungry at midnight on a noisy postnatal ward I asked the midwife on duty for some help and on a closer look at me she told me that I had the wrong sort of nipples to breastfeed and asked which type of formula I would like to give her. Having been awake for three days by then (it had been a long pre-labour and labour) I chose one and tried to feed Emily the entire bottle not knowing how small new-born tummies are and of course the midwife had wandered off by then. Needless to say Emily spent the rest of the night regurgitating it.

The next day a helpful breastfeeding counsellor came along and helped me to get Emily latched on and gave her a reasonably successful breastfeed. We went home and soon got into difficulties. When Emily was weighed at 3 days she had lost more than 10% of her birth weight and the community midwives suggested that we used a formula top-up. They also suggested that we visit a breastfeeding counsellor which we did and she seemed to think that we were on track. However, very soon afterwards my nipples started to bleed at each feed, perhaps as a result of trying to feed for long periods at a time with a poor latch. When Emily was latched on, it had become an agonizing 20 minutes before I just had to take her off again. We had a few visits at home from midwives who all tried very hard to help with positioning, but they didn’t have time to sit down with me to work out what the problem was. They suggested nipple shields, which didn’t help at all. At ten days I discovered spots all over my breasts and was diagnosed with thrush (a side effect of the antibiotics given in labour). I was in a great deal of pain. We made the decision that the only way that I could continue giving Emily breast milk was to express and feed her with a bottle, giving a formula top up, with the idea that I might return to direct breastfeeding when my nipples had healed up a bit more. I never did although continued to express until Emily was 6 months old, confident that this effort was giving her the same benefit as if she had been breast feeding.

I felt pretty wretched at the time, that I was somehow letting Emily down because I couldn’t provide her with the best possible milk, but looking back I did the very best that I could and she’s now a very healthy little girl. I was left with not only the physical scars, but emotional ones too, dreading having another baby and having to repeat the experience.

Peter, 1/1/2006, 9lb 6oz

After the difficulties breastfeeding first time around, we decided that I really needed some extra help to get breastfeeding established. I didn’t think that I would have had enough time to express and look after a toddler. When we heard that some friends had got in touch with an independent midwife to help with their second child we decided to find out more and quickly decided to employ her services. What a treat! She and her midwife partner came to the house for ante-natal visits, which lasted a very spoiling hour with no sense of rushing.

We had always intended to have Peter in hospital, but when it came down to it I changed my mind and decided to stay at home, which is exactly what happened. Contractions started at about 5pm on New Year’s Eve, about 2 hours after Nick arrived home from a wedding in Ireland and after a delicious supper with Nick’s parents and a couple of friends (who left early) Peter was born at 9.20am on New Year’s Day, 10 days before his due date.

Peter had skin-to-skin contact (as did Emily) and was placed on the breast for his first feed which lasted around 30 minutes. He wasn’t particularly hungry for the next 48 hours, like Emily, although this time we managed a few good feeds, with lots of help and advice from my midwife who visited every day. When my milk came in my nipples got very sore, but with the help of some lansinoh cream, we battled through the physical toughening up stage and through the memories of perceived failure from the first time around. The psychological battle was harder, but with each day that passed it got easier.

One morning I woke up with extremely full breasts only to find that I couldn’t get it out. After a panicked phone call to my midwife and one warm bath later we were back on track. The beauty of having an independent midwife meant that I could call her if I felt anxious and she would try to time house calls with feeds and even came out twice on one day to observe and help which turned out to be a break-through day in getting feeding established. She would even call me with a new idea to try because she had been thinking about my particular issue and concern of the day and it really felt as though she was on my side. I ended up feeding Peter for a year, was somewhat sad to end it and felt that it had been a satisfying experience.

Florence, 17/2/2008, 7lb 11oz

After the success of feeding Peter I realised that I had really benefited from having the extra help, and having enjoyed the luxury of having an independent midwife, we went down this route once more. Sharon, who had delivered Peter, had retired by this time, but Rene, who had assisted at Peter’s birth had taken over. We got in touch pretty much as soon as we found out that I was pregnant (at around 6 weeks), keen not to miss the slot in Rene’s diary. After a pretty straightforward pregnancy (despite an unexplained bleed at 27 weeks leading to a night in hospital), Florrie was born at home after a 3.5 hour labour with virtually no pushing (thank you Peter!) a week early. Like her siblings, she wasn’t at all interested in feeding despite skin-to-skin contact and continued to be very sleepy for the next 48 hours or so.

The day after she was born Rene came out and we tried to feed her in a lying down position. It took ages to get her latched on, which was very frustrating, and then when she finally got going, the doctor turned up to give her a post-natal check-up. After taking her off and getting her checked she was declared healthy and we managed to get her latched on again.

The next few days proved a bit of a roller coaster. Just as I thought we were getting the hang of it, my milk came in and my nipples were a complete mess, showing that we hadn’t quite got it right. In order to get a better latch I tried a rugby ball hold, with lashings of lansinoh cream and a great deal of nerve for the next few weeks. After a couple of weeks I felt confident enough to change position on one side to a tummy-to-tummy hold, but not on the other.

Then at about week 4, just as Rene was going to sign me off, I suddenly got several blocked milk ducts on one side. I tried hot baths to massage them away and then about 4 days later I started to get shivery and it all went very red - mastitis had taken hold. Rene helped to unblock the ducts, but within about half an hour it had all flared up again with a vengeance. The next day I shivered my way to the doctors, who put me on antibiotics. The antibiotics hadn’t kicked in a couple of days later and a soft area had started to form on the affected side, so we called the GP out for a home visit who told us to head off to the local A&E department. We saw an obstetrician who sent us away telling us to wait for the antibiotics to work.

The pain intensified each day, however we persevered until the antibiotics had run out when we went back to see the GP who prescribed another dose. By the end of the week the redness and hardness and pain were still pretty obvious so we went back and this time rather than simply sending us back to A&E she spoke to a surgeon at Lewisham hospital and sent us in with a letter of referral. When I peeled back my bra and cabbage leaf to show the surgeon the sorry state of affairs, a whole load of pus oozed out of the side of my breast. The abscess that had been unhappily growing for the last couple of weeks had burst. While it was a bit of a shock, it was good to finally have a correct diagnosis and for some of the pressure to be relieved. The surgeon eased out as much pus as he could and sent us home with a letter to pass on to the GP suggesting a referral to a breast clinic. Once we were at home I fed Florrie and a whole load more pus came oozing out. So, while I fed her, Nick passed me tissues to mop up the mess and tried to keep her hands out of it. It was all pretty unpleasant but seems comic in retrospect! Even though in agony I kept feeding throughout as everyone emphasised that this could only help and it would get even more painful if I stopped.

The next week I went back to the GP who didn’t seem to think that a referral was needed, but by the weekend the pain was getting worse and the wound had still not healed and so I went back the following week. This time having found out which particular nasty bacteria had found its way into my system I was prescribed antibiotics once more and referred to a breast clinic. A few days later we went and were sent for an ultrasound scan after the following weekend. This showed that there were no serious blockages and that it was just going to take some time for the breast tissue to soften up, for the wounds to heal and for the redness to fade. It was all very reassuring and since then, despite the odd blocked duct, all of which I have managed to clear using hot baths and firm massage, we have been feeding more easily since about week 8.

So, here we are at week 14, planning to go the whole year. It is so much easier to breastfeed than bottlefeed now. Florrie no longer has the mammoth feeds that she enjoyed as a new born, I don’t have to prepare feeds and sterilise bottles and I can feed her wherever we happen to be – we can even be spontaneous and not worry that we haven’t brought enough formula with us, or worry that the formula was prepared too far in advance. Life is very flexible and even enjoyable. Emily and Peter love their new sister, who is as delightful as they are and has even been sleeping through the night for a few weeks now. The last word should really go to Nick who has been amazing – loving, supportive and encouraging through some tough days and nights at times of real agony and exhaustion – frankly, I would have given up long ago if it hadn’t been for him.

Rebecca & baby Harry - Home birth

I was due my second baby – a boy this time, around 18th November 2008. I already have a daughter – Amelia, whom I had an easy pregnancy with, tried to have a homebirth, but didn’t go according to plan, so I was transferred to hospital. This time I really wanted to try again for my homebirth – which I thought would be quite straightforward and realised when it came to it, that the NHS midwives are so stretched, that when it was time for my homebirth pack to be delivered, my midwife went through the formalities with me etc and for the first time I started to panic about not knowing whether I would have the same midwife present at the birth. Andy and I discussed the possibility of having an independent midwife – something that we did contemplate in the beginning, but never really did anything about until 5 weeks before baby was due.

I did a search for independent midwives within close proximity to my home and made a few phone calls and one person – Sally Harley, really stood out from the rest – she put mind at rest straight away, was very down to earth and listened to my fears and answered my many questions that I’d had! We made arrangements for her to come round and meet Andy, Amelia and I. We decided there and then that we really liked her and wanted to book her in – luckily, she didn’t have another birth booked for around the same time.

Sally visited once a week for ante-natal appointments and on each visit, made a real effort with Amelia, whom I was worried would be left out – but she really involved her.

My due date came and went but then 2 days after (by this time I was soooo ready for baby to be born!) I had a reflexology session at 8 o’clock that evening and by the time I’d got home at 9.15 – I was starting to get mild contractions. I’d had quite strong Braxton hicks for a few weeks, so just thought it was another bout of those!! By 11pm, they were getting fairly regular – about 10/15 minutes apart, so I went to bed with my hypnobirthing cd and managed to sleep through most of the contractions until 4.30am the next morning. By this time, they were coming slightly quicker and a lot more painful! I made the decision to call Sally and explained that they were about 10 minutes apart lasting about 30-40 seconds. Sally said to try and get some more sleep and to call back when they were about 5 minutes apart and lasting up to a minute – which was only about 45 minutes later! I called back and Sally said she was on her way. Andy had then thought it would be a good idea to start filling the pool.

When she arrived – around 6am, I was practically begging for the gas and air – which I was so grateful for when she got it connected up! This became my best friend throughout the whole of my labour! Sally examined me soon after she arrived and I was 6-7cm dilated – which I was really chuffed at! A few minutes later, Rene – Sally’s colleague arrived. I then got into the birthing pool – which really helped with the contractions – again, I managed to breathe through with the gas and air and the techniques that I’d learnt with hypnobirthing. With each contraction, both Sally and Rene were really encouraging me to go with it and listen to my body. By 8.30am I was getting pressure and urge to push – which I started to do inside the pool. I’d decided to get out of the pool and try some other positions. By this time it felt like hours had passed and I can remember saying “where is he, it’s taking too long”. Sally and Rene kept encouraging me all the time – which really helped. Unfortunately, by 10.30am, I was examined again as I didn’t appear to be progressing even though I was fully dilated – but Harry obviously had other ideas and he was actually in the back-to-back position. By this time, I decided that I wanted to be transferred into hospital, as I was getting tired.

Sally had called them in advance to warn them we were coming in and an ambulance was called. Once we arrived the care was unfortunately handed over to hospital staff, but Sally and Rene were still able to be in the room with Andy and I. An hour or so later, gorgeous baby Harry was born by forceps – so not the birth I had anticipated, but was relieved that we were both ok. As soon as he was born we did skin-to-skin and he fed straight away – he was then feeding extremely well (and extremely often!!) afterwards.

In the days after Harry was born, Sally visited every day for a week – which was a godsend, as she helped me with different positions to try for breastfeeding, as I didn’t have a clue. I was extremely proud to have breastfed for 9 days – all thanks to Sally’s help, but unfortunately decided to give up, as he was just such a hungry baby and with a two year old to look after too, it was too much. He is now happily bottle-fed and is doing really well.

Thank you again to Sally and Rene who do an absolutely fantastic job. Please keep in touch!!

Masha & baby Viktoria- Home birth

Our little Viktoria was born at home on 11 November 2008 and Rene was there to look after her safe coming into this world. This was our third home birth with an independent midwife. We've always thought that one of the best decisions that we have ever made as a couple was to choose a home birth. The added bonus was the support of an independent midwife in the case of each birth, which has proved to be invaluable, incredibly helpful and made the whole experience of bringing a little person into this world such a wonderful experience. We cannot praise enough the support that we've received from Rene when we were expecting our little Viktoria, the support that Rene has given to us during the labour and during the postnatal care. Thank you very much, Rene, for everything you have done for us! You've played a huge and a very positive part in our lives and we are most grateful for everything! Merijn & Masha "

Joanne & baby Daniel- Home birth

John and I felt woefully unprepared for the birth of our first child. We didn’t know anyone with children and we didn’t have any family close by. We saw a different NHS midwife at every antenatal appointment and, although each of the midwives that we saw was very nice, there was no real continuity and our Birth Plan was only given the briefest of glances. It wasn’t the “close” experience that we wanted for our first child but we just thought “that’s just the way it is these days”. In fact, we felt very much alone.

Then, with just two weeks to go (or so we thought at the time!), someone at a Saturday morning NCT sale recommended independent midwives. We’d never heard of them, or really considered a private option, but her recommendation was so strong and appealed to all our doubts about the normal hospital system, that we made a short appointment to see René on the Tuesday, liked each other, and agreed that we would meet again on the Friday to discuss the Birth Plan.

But just 2 days later, on the Thursday, I went into labour! When the contractions started we drove to Queen Mary’s but were sent home around 8am as I was only 2-3 cm dilated. René and Lisa (student midwife) came straight out to the house. We ran through the Birth Plan as I crawled around on all fours in our bedroom! Our plan was to stay at home as long as possible and then transfer to Queen Mary’s Midwife-Led Birthing Unit with René accompanying John and I as an advocate and birthing partner. But while we were at home, I set up my music, dimmed the lights, breathed, sang and swayed. Whenever the music came to an end, René or Lisa dived across the room and pressed ‘PLAY’ again as I wasn’t using any pain relief other than TENS and they could see that I only felt pain when the music stopped. My husband John and I even had a slow dance to some Roberta Flack music and it was wonderful for us to be in the relaxed surroundings of our own home and able to hold each other and be together.

Within two hours I was 8cm dilated. I was so comfortable that I now wanted to stay at home and have the baby there - much to my husband’s horror. But René reassured us that it would be OK. It was more than OK. René & Lisa created a calm and relaxed atmosphere in which I felt totally safe. They had the skills, experience and equipment to cope with any eventuality. It’s like running a marathon and having two wonderful coaches running alongside, shouting words of encouragement and egging me on to the finishing line. They were unobtrusive when I wanted then to be and full of great suggestions when I started flagging. I was able to trust them implicitly, let go and retreat into my own world.

The second stage took longer than expected and we know from hospital guidelines that if I’d gone to hospital, I’d have ended up with a ventouse or forceps delivery rather than a natural delivery in its own time. Daniel was born eight hours later with John and I holding each other. René & Lisa took photos for us, tidied up, and talked us through putting on Daniel’s first nappy, winding him and bathing him – they even took care of the stitches quickly and painlessly.

René continued to see us over the next 30 days, visiting regularly and answering all our queries on breastfeeding, expressing, getting Daniel to sleep and soothing him when he cried. Nothing ever seemed too much trouble or beyond her. She even came out late one evening when we were worried that Daniel wasn’t getting enough milk. She spotted that he had a tongue-tie and organised for him to have it cut. Since then,he has fed properly and steadily gained weight. Very importantly, René bolstered our spirits when we were sleep deprived and feeling low.
Overall, René and Lisa helped John and I to have the most wonderful birthing experience – better than we ever thought we could have. Words cannot express how grateful we are. THANK YOU!!!

Chiara & baby Sienna - Water Birth at Home

Not only was Rene my Midwife but she is also my mother in law and was an excellent support to me and my partner (her son!) through out my whole pregnancy and during and after the birth. We have built up a good close relationship and I trusted her completely with my life and my baby’s. I faced a lot of opposition not from the NHS but from other family members to have a home birth with Rene as she is close family, but we fought against them and I’m glad we did as Sienna’s birth was perfect, Rene was a godsend and I would go through all of that again just to relive the experience.
She was always there for me if I needed her no matter how small or trivial the problem seemed she never made me feel like I was wasting her time. This baby was my second baby but my third pregnancy and I had a hard time accepting it as I fell pregnant only three months after having a miscarriage and I was worried something would go wrong so I had difficulties bonding with her. Rene supported me through my miscarriage and this pregnancy. She came to all my scans and hospital appointments with me as Sienna was quite big so I was frequently scanned as the hospital were looking for problems that weren’t there! Not only that but she was also taunting them by being breech and if she stayed in that position there was no way I could have a home birth according to the experts so Rene gave me a book on ways of turning her into a head down position which Harrison my 3 yr old found quite amusing!

Sienna was only a day late which I was quite glad about as she weighed 9lb10! Rene came round on the Friday the day she was due and gave me a sweep which seemed to start things off. I was having niggles during the evening and through the night but it was about 6am Saturday the contractions became more regular. Kiel phoned Rene at 6:30 and she came straight round. I made tea and toast between contractions and was ready to get in the pool about 7:35. Sally turned up about 5 past 8 to assist although apart from sleeping and being sick I wasn’t doing much. Harrison and Kiel were busy watching Mickey Mouse so they were keeping themselves entertained whilst waiting for Sienna to arrive. I started pushing about 9:10 and Sienna was born at 10:05. Rene passed her up to me and I immediately fell in love with her, she did look a bit like the crazy frog because she was grey with bulgy eyes but she was gorgeous and I couldn’t believe how easy and relaxing her birth was. I also had the physiological third stage which only took 15 minutes. I would definitely recommend a home water birth to anyone as it is amazing not only was I really relaxed but sienna was too and she really is the perfect baby.

Sienna’s birth was perfect and a wonderful experience so thank you Rene and Sally for being there and supporting me through it. And thank you Rene for all the support you also gave us after the birth you are one in a million and we are lucky to have you xxx

Catherine & baby Thomas - Home Birth

As this was our first baby we didn’t really know what to expect and when. I had my pregnancy confirmed by my doctor at around 6 weeks but didn’t have my 12 week hospital scan as they could only offer me one day and one time which I couldn’t make, so I went to the Foetal Medical Centre in Harley St instead. However, it seems that because of this I fell off the NHS radar and after chasing my doctor I was finally booked in at 21 weeks, by which stage we were rapidly losing confidence in the system.

That was when we were told about Rene. We liked the idea of having someone who could tell us what should be happening and when, and who could put our minds at ease. I liked the idea of having a home birth, but David had looked at me as though I was a fruit loop when I suggested it and said so when Rene turned up for our consultation we were intending to have her as a birthing partner in hospital. She left us both convinced that a home birth was an achievable and safe option and so we booked her hoping to have a home water birth. Rene was a godsend from the moment we booked her and was there to answer all the silly questions that I probably would have just brooded over or spent hours googling otherwise. She was able to do my antenatal appointments at my convenience in the evenings and I looked forward to them every time - it was like having a friend over for a cuppa who let you talk about yourself and your bump the whole time - brilliant! We were introduced to Sally and Claire who work alongside her; Sally would be the 2nd midwife at my home birth and Clare was on call in case I went into labour early when Rene was on holiday, so we felt very confident that I was in good hands.

By 38+5 Rene was back from holiday and I was getting into the swing of my first week of maternity leave. I didn’t feel like I was going into labour any time soon so I decided to go for a walk, I must have walked at least three miles and when I got back I decided to practice making my baby a birthday cake as my NCT teacher had said it was a nice thing to do while in labour. I made a cake and then decided that the bathroom floor was looking a bit grubby so I cleaned it, not really noticing that the back ache I’d had since returning from my walk was gradually being accompanied by period pain, but you get so many aches and pains at that stage it never occurred to me that I might have been going into labour. The following morning, at 5.40am on the 2nd October (the day that we had joked would be a convenient day for him to be born on), I got up for the umpteenth wee of the night and my waters broke just as I got to the bathroom door. Contractions started straight away, but they weren’t too bad so we monitored them and Rene came round at 11.45am and I spent the next 4 1/2 hours on my ball with my tens on before getting in the pool. I didn’t find the pool as much of a relief as I thought I would but I don’t think it was quite hot enough. Just as I got to the pushing stage the doorbell rang and it was Sainsbury’s with the food shopping! Timing! After that my contractions slowed down a bit and I went upstairs for a wee and decided I didn’t want to come out and an hour later I delivered my 7lb 1oz gorgeous baby boy, Thomas, on the (recently scrubbed) bathroom floor! After David had cut the cord and I had delivered the placenta we all sat in the bathroom (Thomas and I in the bath) eating his ‘practice’ Birthday cake! It was perfect and I was so relieved to be in the comfort of my own home.

It was such an amazing experience and we have some lovely photos thanks to Rene and Sally to remember it by. I am so happy that I was able to have Thomas at home and it was all down to the fantastic help and support that Rene and Sally gave me. I couldn’t have wished for and better birth experience and can’t thank them enough!

We will be calling Rene straight away next time!

Catherine, David and Thomas xxx