`I said I'll have the baby on the sitting room floor'

After a difficult first labour, Sarah Jewell decided to stay home second time around
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The Independent Online
My first labour lasted 36 hours and ended up with me lying flat on my back on a hospital bed with a drip to speed up the contractions stuck into my hand and a foetal heartbeat monitor tied around my belly.

The pain was so intense and lasted for so long that I felt very apprehensive about booking in for a home birth for my second child, but I also knew that I wanted to try and avoid the whole horrible hospital experience.

When my waters broke in the middle of the night, a week before due date, I thought I was in for another incredibly long labour. But by the time my midwife arrived an hour later the contractions were so strong and frequent that I was unable to move from the position I had found the most comfortable - kneeling over the sofa in the sitting room.

The midwife examined me and to my surprise said that I was already in established labour and that the baby would be with us soon.

She asked where I wanted to have it and I said just here, on the sitting room floor, and my husband laid out a huge plastic dust sheet - the only thing that I had bought in preparation for a home birth - over the carpet.

I grabbed the nozzle of the cylinder of gas and air that the midwife had brought with her and sucked hard to try and cope with the increasingly bad pain of each contraction.

I felt a moment's panic at the thought that this was it, I really was at home and giving birth and there was no way now that I could get in an ambulance or go to hospital. But my fears rapidly turned to elation when the midwife said that I was ready to start pushing the baby out.

The intensity of the labour was matched by the intensity of peace and quiet in my own sitting room.

This was what made having a home birth so special. In the silence of the night with the lights dimmed and the midwife beside me, I could totally concentrate on working through the pain of each contraction and I could even visualise where the baby's head was inside me.

I felt relaxed and in control and when I felt the urge to push I gave one massive heave and then felt an incredible, explosive "pop".

"That's it, the head is out," said the midwife. My sense of joy and relief was overwhelming and on the next contraction the body slithered out and she said: "It's a girl".

Minutes later my toddler came in the room and said that he didn't like the cream (the vernix) on her head and he went off with my husband to make tea for us all.

Perhaps the greatest luxury of a home birth is not having to be moved to a swelteringly hot maternity ward full of screaming babies.

An hour later, after a hot bath, I was lying snuggled up in my own bed with my baby in my arms and a big smile of contentment on my face.