Amanda Owen, 40, a shepherdess, lives in North Yorkshire with husband Clive, and children Raven, 14, Reuben, 11, Miles, nine, Edith, six, Violet, five, Sidney, two, Annas, one, and Clemmie, two weeks. She says:
We live on a remote farm, a two-hour drive from the nearest hospital. I’ve given birth four times in countryside lay-bys because we couldn’t make it to hospital in time. My labours are incredibly quick, lasting just minutes, without pain or warning. And due to our remoteness, midwives won’t come to me for a home birth.
When I got pregnant with my eighth baby, it made sense for me to have a freebirth
When I got pregnant with my eighth baby, it made sense for me to have a freebirth – delivering my baby myself without medical assistance. When I told my midwife, she followed NHS procedure and strongly advised me not to go through with it. But she understood my position and talked me through how to deal with different scenarios.
I’m not a smug ‘Mother Earth’ type and I’m not anti-hospitals. A freebirth was simply the most practical option. I knew I could cope – delivering lots of baby animals on the farm had been good training!
In late pregnancy, I felt the baby move into the head-down position and the kicks slowed down. Three days later I had a strange feeling that things were starting to happen. It was 9.30pm and Clive and the children were asleep, but I couldn’t settle. I crept downstairs, put some coal on the fire and sat reading a paper. The feeling in the pit of my stomach wasn’t painful, but more of a dull, heavy sensation.
After a couple of hours, nausea crept over me, and my stomach started to feel unsettled, like I’d eaten something dodgy. In that moment, I knew it was crunch time. I hadn’t told Clive about my plans to deliver the baby myself, but throughout my pregnancy we’d agreed to ‘see what happens’ when I went into labour.
Feeling calm, I decided to go through with the birth on my own. A low-down pressure crept up on me and I grabbed the cushions from the sofa, lay them on the floor by the hearth and placed clean towels on top. I got onto the floor in a squatting position to let gravity help.
The pressure grew down below. Instinctively I put my hand down. Touching the baby’s head made me relax. As I pushed, I felt totally focused. Within a few quiet contractions lasting just a couple of minutes, I felt a huge pressure and the baby’s head came out.
My labour had lasted four minutes
By the light of the fire, I saw my baby’s face looking up at me and blinking. It was an incredible, intimate moment. In the next big push, the body slid out onto the cushion. I scooped my baby girl up, listening to her soft snuffles. My labour had lasted four minutes.
The midwife’s words rang in my head: I needed to deliver the afterbirth too. Supporting my baby on the cushion close to me, I pushed again until the placenta came out. Straight afterwards, my thoughts turned to Clive.
Carrying the baby and the placenta wrapped in towels, I went upstairs to tell him. I can’t repeat Clive’s words when I woke him!
I suddenly remembered my dates and realised that Clemmie had arrived five weeks early. Two hours later, we went to hospital. Clemmie was perfectly healthy, weighing 6lb 7oz, and we were back home that morning. The way I gave birth isn’t for everyone, but it made perfect sense for me and my family.
Three things I’d tell my friends
- Relax and have confidence in your body, don’t panic and rush.
- Listen to other people’s advice, but remember that ultimately how you choose to give birth is your decision.
- Familiarise yourself with what to do if you have to deliver the baby yourself. You never know what might happen!