My first son was born through a natural birth in hospital with the Holles Street Community Midwife team. This time around I felt empowered by my successful delivery and decided to try it at home. I was with the community midwives again and I can’t imagine giving birth without them by my side.
I know there are a lot of critics of home births, but I don’t think that many people understand what it means. In the scheme I was on, you are only allowed to deliver at home if you meet certain requirements. You must have no complications to your pregnancy, have a high enough iron level, the baby cannot be too big or too small, you must be over 37 weeks and under 42 weeks. At any point if the midwives feel you need to deliver in hospital, you are transferred immediately. Two midwives are dispatched to your home to assist during labour and an ambulance is on call to take you or the baby to the hospital if needed, but this is very rare.
My favourite part of the scheme is that all your antenatal appointments are at home so that the midwives get to know you and where you live. They treat the woman as much as the womb. By the time Alex was due to arrive, I’d developed deep relationships and trust with the midwives, and I believe this is essential to a successful delivery.
We had a rocky couple of weeks leading up to Alex’s birth. I stopped working at 36 weeks, just in time for Nate to get pneumonia and Chris and I to get stomach bugs. On Easter Sunday, Chris cooked a lovely breakfast only to give us both food poisoning. I think this helped kick-start things. Early Tuesday morning I started to get the pre labour contractions and things seemed to be progressing well. I checked in with the midwives and woke up Chris do we could start getting the house ready.
When we came home I bounced on the ball, climbed the stairs, squatted and tried to nap. Sometime after lunch I finally stopped worrying and wouldn’t you know, the contractions came back.
Around 7am, Nate woke up and the sudden shift of focus from labouring to getting him settled totally slowed things down. We got him off to crèche and packed an overnight bag for a stay with his uncle. The contractions completely dissipated and I was pretty bummed out. Chris suggested we go for a walk down to the Corner Bakery in Terenure to get my mind off things. It helped a little but I was starting to panic that I’d stopped contractions and it would be another week until he was born.
When we came home I bounced on the ball, climbed the stairs, squatted and tried to nap. Sometime after lunch I finally stopped worrying and wouldn’t you know, the contractions came back. Chris and I were super prepared for labouring at home thanks to Lou Horgan’s outstanding active birth class. Chris was by my side taking every single contraction while filling up the birth pool in our kitchen.
At 8pm the contractions were strong and frequent enough to call the midwives over. Clodagh and Kate arrived to coach me through it all. They were my birthing dream team. Clodagh was calming and whispered in my ear “breathe, you can do this, be strong” and Kate was tough, coaching through squats to encourage the baby’s head down further to get things moving faster.
By the time we reached this point Chris and I were exhausted. I hadn’t properly rested and wasted a lot of energy going up and down those stairs. Chris was still sick with food poisoning (although he hid it very well) and had barely eaten that day. The midwives worked some magic with their coaching and getting me off my comfortable place on the birthing ball to encourage very strong contractions. I did most of my labouring standing up, totally dependent on Chris for support. Its moments like that that true intimacy and trust are born.
At about 9:30pm I was around 5cm and they let me get into the pool. My contractions were really taking off at that point, so I’m not sure if the pool helped ease any of the intensity because as soon as I stepped in I entered that out-of-world place just before you make your final push. I did find the pool amazing for allowing my body to get into positions not possible on dry land (especially with my dodgy knees). I also could completely rest during the break between contractions and didn’t expend any extra energy on holding my body up. It felt very natural in the water, and hot. So. Freaking. Hot.
Chris was worried all day that the pool would get too cold, so he filled it up and boiled and boiled and boiled water. When I got in, they poured more warm water on me. I thought I was going to pass out from the heat, but I couldn’t get my mouth around the words to tell them to stop. I was only able to look at Chris and gesture, and he got the message right away.
I did find the pool amazing for allowing my body to get into positions not possible on dry land (especially with my dodgy knees)
I took a few deep contractions in the pool and then we were ready to go. According to policy, you cannot deliver in water. You can labour all you want in water, but you must get out of the pool for the magic moment. Well, anyone that has given birth naturally will tell you that by the time you reach this stage you are hardly capable of a scene change. The compromise is that you deliver standing up in the pool. So with one arm around Chris and the other around Kate, and with Clodagh poised to deliver the baby I took three big pushes and out came the baby.
Now, I was ready for all this but not for what happens after the baby was born. In true Dare fashion, we were clumsy and awkward about it. So there I am standing up in the pool with a woman behind me holding my baby between my legs. She told me to take the baby from her arms, and sit back in the water to warm up and have a little cuddle with him. Of course I couldn’t figure out how to do this and Chris had to coach me through it again. Back in the water Alex started feeding right way and I turned to kiss Chris only to dunk the little guy’s head in the pool. Water Babies training starts young you know!
The absolute best part of the experience was getting to shower at home and curl up in my own bed with my new little baby. Kate stayed until 1am making sure we were all doing well, Alex was feeding and helping to get the house in order. She even tucked us in. The next morning I woke up before the baby and Chris, totally buzzing on endorphins and over the moon to see my little angel in my bed.
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