This mum really did experience the kind of birth that the rest of us can hardly believe is possible
Lindsay Gale, 35, an antenatal teacher, lives in Leeds with her partner Andrew, 39. She is mum to Arthur, one
‘I had midwife support throughout my pregnancy but, when it came to labour, I wanted to try freebirthing – giving birth unassisted by medical professionals. I had read that having strangers present can slow labour down, and I felt sure that I wouldn’t need a midwife. If I needed medical help, I would accept it, otherwise I wanted only Andrew and a friend with me. Although this is legal, the authorities advise against it. However, I didn’t feel anxious, because I was confident that my body could do it.
‘At 38 weeks, my waters broke one morning and I began to feel mild contractions. They weren’t painful, so I went for a walk. I’d made arrangements with my friend Hannah, a doula, so I called to let her know things had started. I wanted her there for emotional support – doulas aren’t allowed to give medical advice, as they’re not trained to. At home, the contractions became more intense. I dimmed the lights and practised my pregnancy yoga breathing. With just Andrew there, I felt relaxed.
‘As the day wore on, the contractions grew stronger, but I was coping. At 6pm, I eased myself into the birth pool in our lounge. I was instantly soothed by the water but, in the next hour, the contractions became very intense, so I called Hannah. When she walked in, I felt a sense of relief. The pain was full on, but I didn’t feel panicky about not having a midwife there. I was wrapped up with my breathing as the strength of each contraction flooded my body.
‘Around midnight, I could feel the baby moving down. Hannah and Andrew were with me and I knew from reading about birth that the baby was getting into the best position. Then there was a fluttering sensation, as if the baby was swimming to get to the right place. Feeling elated, I moved to the bedroom. I had no medical examinations, so relied on my instinct when it came to pushing. And, as I taken had no drugs, I was lucid, kneeling against the bed.
'As I squeezed Andy’s hand, I pushed the head out. It hurt momentarily, then, in the next push, the body followed. Andy excitedly caught our baby and the relief we felt was incredible. I had given birth to a beautiful boy. I lay down, holding him against my skin, while Andy wrapped a towel around both of us to keep us warm. We stayed like that for an hour, with Arthur feeding while I delivered the placenta, which was problem-free.
‘A few hours later, we informed the hospital. When the midwife arrived to do her newborn checks, she was horrified, telling us it wasn’t normal procedure. But, since the birth had been straightforward, I was able to stay at home to receive my postnatal care. Unassisted births are definitely not for everyone, but I found mine empowering. I’d do it again without a doubt.’
What I Would Tell My Friends
A freebirth is not for everyone. I felt very strongly that it was the right thing for me – but medical professionals advise against it, so make sure you’ve done all your research.
Hire a doula. Having emotional but hands-off support from an experienced female birth companion was invaluable to me.
Prepare as much as you can. Planning every last detail and visualising labour in my mind helped me feel confident and in control throughout it