Our homebirth journey has been a long and messy one. I had hoped for a homebirth since my third pregnancy, but something always seemed to get in the way. After the birth of our fourth child, our family complete, I had resigned myself to the idea that I would never give birth at home. I held great sadness over this; that I would never give birth the way I knew was possible, the way I felt most comfortable.
In February 2012, I noticed that I was due to start my next pill pack but hadn’t had a bleed. I went to the chemist and he said it could happen some months but asked me to do a test before starting the next pack. I started feeling a bit panicked, I had noticed a patch of dry skin on my finger during the week that I only get in pregnancy…what were the odds? I couldn’t believe it when both tests revealed that I was indeed pregnant! I immediately rang the amazing Philomena, and was over the moon when she was available to take me on. I was really looking forward to having her there to support us at home. I was given an estimated due date (EDD) of Oct 28th.
I enjoyed a healthy, active pregnancy. Being my first homebirth, I couldn’t believe the difference between home and hospital ante-natal care. I was so relaxed and supported. I loved having our older 4 children so involved. Philomena felt like one of the family.
The weeks ticked by quickly but I felt fantastic. I was still playing GAA and going to my aerobics class in late pregnancy and walking most nights. The dreadful SPD I had on other pregnancies never surfaced. I was doing Gentlebirth and found it really amazing for any little stresses and fears that tried to creep in.
I rang a friend around 7am and she was great – said all the right things and gave me some confidence back. Once I relaxed a bit, I felt much more able.
In my head, I would have a lovely slow building labour at night. I would get in the pool at around 6cm and listen to music…our baby would be born in the wee hours and we would wake the older children when everything was all done and cleaned up.
In my 38th week, I started to crash…I always do this before birth. Emotional, lose confidence, irritable, you name it! On Friday, October 19th, Fergal wasn’t working and we had a ton to do in town so were running around all day. When we came home and got kids sorted I noticed I was getting a lot of mucusy jelly and then after dinner got a pink show. Hooray!!!!!!
I decided to head to Tescos around 9pm just to get some bits in *just in case*. In Tescos I started getting a lot of pressure and a few little twinges that were all in my back and coccyx. I got home and I told Fergal that I thought something was happening but that it felt really early. We started getting the room off the kitchen ready. Blew up the pool, put the water on, etc. I was getting excited, this was going just how I’d imagined it (what is that saying about making God laugh by making plans???). By 1am, I was having definite twinges but they were really irregular and weak. They were all in my back and bum. I was also getting plenty of now bloody show.
I deliberated with Fergal and we decided to ring Philomena despite things being quite irregular. I had been discussing labour with her a lot at my 38 week appointment and I was really worried about going fast. We had decided it was better for her to be there early, than too late, so I rang her and she said she’d be with us in the next hour. Things continued to stay the same, I would get twinges but they lacked intensity, regularity, and proper form. They were mostly in the back and I was getting lots of pressure. I continued having lots of show. Philomena arrived out to us after 2am and at that stage I knew I had rang her too early. I was really deflated and a bit embarrassed for dragging her out in the middle of the night! She checked me and my cervix was completely closed! She also said the head was really high and baby was in the OP position. I was really disappointed and then worried as I’d had OP labours before and knew they can be long drawn out stop/start labours with lots of back pain. My last OP baby was a week of stop/start.
I was really wired at this point, and I knew I wouldn’t sleep, so Philomena asked me would I like to go for a walk, which sounded great to me. We headed out onto the street – it was a lovely evening, really warm and misty and the sea was roaring. We walked a good hour chatting. I would get a few twinges but I could walk and talk through them without much notice. As we walked, the baby seemed to move higher and higher rather than down! About an hour later, I decided to head back and go to bed for a while. We got back to the house and any twinges and pressure that I had been having totally stopped. I felt really disappointed and kind of resigned myself that I was in for another epic pre-labour and headed to bed with the promise that if things changed, I would ring for her again.
Around 6am I woke with the same feelings I had the night before. Not contractions but periods of pressure in my bum and back. I tried listening to my Gentlebirth CDs for a while and then eventually went downstairs. I was finding the sensations really difficult to cope with emotionally. I had damaged my coccyx in a previous birth and I found the pressure and twinges were intense and painful in that area again. I started getting flashbacks to that birth and how strong the pain was, not from contractions, but the damaged coccyx. A strong sharp ache. I felt pretty demoralised at this point and was really wondering would I be able to cope once labour started as I was finding this bit so hard. I rang a friend around 7am and she was great – said all the right things and gave me some confidence back. Once I relaxed a bit, I felt much more able. I went back to bed to try to take pressure off the coccyx and back in bed, all twinges and pressure stopped!
I was able to sleep for a couple hours and woke feeling much more refreshed. I still got periods of pressure in the coccyx; during this time I felt very uncomfortable, but then it would pass and I’d have nothing for hours. I texted Philomena around 1pm to tell her nothing changed and that I was going to head for a walk, but then decided to just hang out at the house listening to music instead to reserve energy for the next few days.
At 3:30pm, my mate called around. I had totally forgotten we had plans to go for something to eat and a walk on the beach! I was in my grottiest tracksuit so we decided to ditch lunch plans but as it was such a gorgeous warm sunny day, decided to head out for a walk as planned.
We got down to the beach around 4pm and it was packed so we stuck to the dunes instead. She was only back from a girly holiday so we had a good laugh at her stories. It was a great distraction to keep me from thinking about how absolutely nothing was happening!
We walked for about 30 minutes and I started feeling a bit crampy. We decided to turn around. As we approached the car I started getting a few twinges. I could walk and talk through them but I was a little more encouraged in that they were less pressure in the back and more like a Braxton Hick. We walked over to the water’s edge for a minute and she took a few pics (she is a professional photographer). And we were both discouraged in that everything stopped again when I was not walking. Oh well. We walked back to the car and headed home.
I had a feeling my midwife would not make it. Surges were every minute and I could feel them starting to change from strong surges to open, to more spaced surges which pushed downwards.
I live two minutes drive from the beach. From leaving the beach to coming into the turn of my estate I became very uncomfortable and had a whopper of a surge, strong enough to need to breath through. We got home around 5:15pm and I told Fergal to fill the pool while I rang the midwife as I felt things were on their way. Philomena was in Dublin and said she would be there asap. Fergal and my mate Angela started filling the pool and I was walking back and forth in the kitchen trying to stay out of the children’s way, who were watching a film off the kitchen.
By 5:20pm the surges were increasing in intensity, were becoming more and more close together and were now totally in the bump rather than in the back. I remember feeling really relieved how much easier they were to cope with rather than the intense pressure in the back and coccyx of before.
At around 5:45pm the pool was warm and I had a feeling my midwife would not make it. Surges were every minute and I could feel them starting to change from strong surges to open, to more spaced surges which pushed downwards. I got onto my hands and knees on the floor and leaned over the cushioned wall of the birth pool. I didn’t want to get in the pool without Philomena but I let my hands and arms drag in the water during the surges, the warm water felt lovely and I was desperate to get in. I tried to get into a bum in the air position to delay things. The surges just kept pushing the baby down and the more I tried to fight it, the harder it became. Its mad the stuff you think of at this stage of labour – I demanded Fergal put on the Foo Fighters, for example! I also remember talking to my son about the film they were watching. Distraction, distraction, any distraction possible to try to give midwife the time to get here!
The next surge was mighty and I could feel the head starting to crown, holding back was agony and I told Fergal the head was coming and to get my trousers/pants off. No, try to breath through it he shouted back! The surge eased and I felt the head slip back slightly. I took the next lull to tell him, the baby is coming now, get the trousers off – cut them off if you have to! – and as he started to help me out of them, the next surge began. At that point I just knew I had to go with it, and before we knew it the waters released and the head was out. The next surge, her body slithered out and I told Fergal to check for a cord around the neck – which it was wrapped twice – and he unwrapped it and then handed her up to me. She let out a huge cry and we slipped her under my top as Fergal ran to get the towels and blankets to keep us both warm.
The cord was unusually long so I lay down on my side and we covered us both in blankets. We lay there in shock for a moment, Fergal, my mate Ange, our new baby and myself while the Foos played out in the background. Then the kids all made their way into the room and this is how Philomena found us as she arrived, all 8 of us chatting and laughing and gooing over this new baby.
Philomena did a quick check of the baby and then she suggested I get into the pool to relax for a while as we waited for the placenta. The water was so so warm, it felt amazing! The baby seemed to love it too and was kicking her legs and was totally chilled as we had our first feed. We all recalled our blurred versions of the labour and time of birth (6pm) for Philomena’s records and then around 7:30pm we clamped the cord and I got out of the pool to deliver the placenta, which came away immediately. I had a shower and then Philomena checked me over. I was worried I had torn but there was nothing, not even a graze. We got dressed and headed downstairs.
We named our little girl Éilis and then Philomena took her measurments – 21 inches and 8lb 13oz.
Philomena headed off around 8pm saying she would be back at around 11pm just to check in on us before bed. We all cuddled up on the couch in front of the fire and had a glass of bubbly and birthday cake before putting the kids to bed. Philomena came back out to us as promised at 11pm and with all fine, we all headed up to bed.
Éilis’s birth feels like a dream we are still trying to comprehend. In some ways I am disappointed it was so quick, I never got a chance to really savour being at home. I also went through a period of sadness that Philomena didn’t make the birth. It felt strange not having her there after all the support she gave us through the pregnancy … but then wonderful in that Fergal was the first person to ever touch our daughter.
I loved giving birth at home. It felt like the first time ever I found the right fit for us. It reconfirmed what I always believed birth could and should be…and also what was lacking from my previous 4 consultant led hospital births. Homebirth is amazing, the entire process is centred around the woman, the family, the baby – how we are doing in the moment and what is important to us – not routine practice, rules, policy, as was my experience in hospital. I felt listened to. I felt safe. I felt stress-free. I felt loved. I feel like we have ended our babymaking days on such a high.