How I delivered my own baby

In every pregnancy book there is one section that no parents-to-be, even in their wildest nightmares, believe will ever apply to them. Most birth eventualities, after all, they are prepared for. A caesarean? Well, perhaps. Forceps? It happens. Episiotomy? In extremis. But a DIY delivery? Are you kidding? It's just not going to happen to us, right?

Wrong. Or, as my husband put it, when I told him I needed to push despite the fact that our midwife was still at least 20 minutes' drive away: "No, no, no." He might have elaborated, but at that very moment Miranda, our three-year-old, started hammering on the door demanding a glass of water.

Gary went off to try to settle her down (it was 11.30 at night) while I stuck my bum in the air (which is what you are advised to do if you are caught short without a midwife and the birth looks imminent) and considered our options, which frankly, looked pretty limited. We had been planning a home delivery, but not a solo one. I had called the midwife in what I thought was plenty of time, but unfortunately my uterus had other ideas because just two contractions later I was feeling that unmistakable urge to push. Which is when I had to break the dreadful news to Gary (a squeamish television producer whose only previous experience of childbirth was looking away during the gory bits of my three previous deliveries) that things had more than hotted up: they were virtually boiling over.

My first thought, fortunately, was the carpet. Don't ask me why - it's not a family heirloom or anything - but I suddenly realised that if I didn't do something about it in the next 30 seconds, our floor covering would be history. Gary was still downstairs trying in an increasingly panicky voice to quieten Miranda down, so somehow - and this was a Herculean task that only women who have recently given birth will appreciate - I managed to dig a plastic sheet out of my birth box and spread a bit of it out underneath me, even as the next contraction began to take hold.

It was a good thing I did because with the next push the waters broke. Gary had reappeared, although the colour in his face had not. With yet another push, a minute or so later, I could feel the baby's head crowning. (Gary later confessed that he was at this point desperately trying to remember where to find the number for NHS Direct.) One more huge contraction later, and our fourth daughter shot out on to that all-important plastic sheet. If I had known we would be alone for the birth I would have worried endlessly - wouldn't anyone? - about what to do if the cord was round the neck, whether the baby would breathe, whether he or she would need help.

In the event, the extraordinary thing was how extremely easy and straightforward the whole thing was. Having been grunting like a demented pig two seconds earlier, I was immediately transformed - don't ask me how - into a perfectly rational, composed human being ready to do whatever was necessary to make sure this tiny newborn girl was OK.

The good news - the brilliant news, in fact - was that as soon as she was born she moved, so I knew she was definitely breathing. I picked her up and laid her over my knees with her head lower than her bottom, remembering from that once-glanced-at section of the pregnancy book that you have to drain the fluid from the nose and mouth. Gary found a towel, and we wrapped her up and gave her a cuddle. It was probably the most amazing moment of our lives.

Tina, our midwife, arrived about 10 minutes after the baby, in time to help with the delivery of the placenta and cutting of the umbilical cord - which is just as well because, while you can follow your instincts to push a baby out, you need to know what to do next. Apparently, I had done exactly the right thing by simply going ahead and pushing when I felt the urge: it is far more dangerous to try to stop a birth than to go with the flow. Once the baby is out, you simply keep her warm and leave the cord alone until professional help arrives - the question I have been asked most often since is whether or not we cut it ourselves: the answer is certainly not. I wouldn't recommend having a baby without a midwife around - it put 10 years on my husband, for one thing - but in retrospect it did strike me that for hundreds of thousands of years of history, this was how human beings arrived in the world.

Of course there are times when the skills of a midwife or obstetrician spell the difference between life and death for both mother and baby: but for many natural deliveries, and certainly most of those where a woman has been able to labour while moving around and without drugs or machines, it probably doesn't matter who is in attendance: when a baby is ready to be born she (or he) will come. You don't need medical equipment, you don't need boiling water, you don't even need a plastic sheet (although it is useful).

For Gary and me, the arrival of our latest daughter, Catriona, was a complete contrast to the birth of our first child, Rosie, 10 years ago. She was born 11 weeks prematurely in an emergency caesarean: it was the full-on, hi-tech experience, complete with dishy ER-style doctors running around in green wellies and telling us our only chance of a future was an urgent op, followed by weeks for Rosie in a special care unit. Baby number two, Elinor, was a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) in hospital: number three, Miranda, was a normal home birth, with two midwives present.

With Catriona's delivery we feel that we have completed the spectrum of possibilities, moving from one extreme to the other. Our experience is proof, if it were needed, that while childbirth sometimes requires the finest skills the NHS has to offer, on other occasions a couple of complete amateurs, plus optional plastic sheet, are all that is necessary to secure a perfectly wonderful outcome.

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.