Aoife’s “due date” according to the hospital scan was 23rd November so by the time we got to 42 weeks we suspected that maybe the dates of the first scan done at Mount Carmel giving us the estimated due date of 2nd December might be more accurate. Coincidently both dates matched my own “possible dates”, which didn’t help! As I had been planning a homebirth from the beginning I was anxious to avoid induction, especially after successfully having her turned from breech by ECV (external cephalic version) at 38 weeks (or rather 36 weeks retrospectively).
So we embarked on a diet of raspberry leaf tea, fresh pineapple, hot baths, hot curry (well, given my abhorrence of curry, a spicy jambalaya!) and even recruited the husband for some of the 3rd type of “hot” 😉 But Aoife was on her own timetable, and on Thursday the 11th December I bit the bullet and booked in for a hospital check-up the following Wednesday, when I’d be 42+1 by the Mount Carmel scan. She was getting regular check-ups by Colm (my midwife) and moving plenty so I wasn’t worried (too much) about how she was. I also made an appointment for a reflexology appointment on the morning of the 12th as I had heard that it could also help move things along, and it would certainly be a last bit of “me-time” before her arrival. Guess what… I had to cancel both…
On the Thursday night, after meeting a friend for lunch and realising that my hip pain which had been quite bad was suddenly gone, I felt the first “twinges”. Starting at 12:30 I suspected they were just Braxton Hicks, but they kept being a consistent 20 – 30 minutes apart – just long enough for me to almost fall asleep in between but not quite. I listened to my Gentle Birth CDs about 3 or 4 times and quietly wondered if this was it. Alun was oblivious to all of this as I didn’t need him awake too, but by 6am he realised something was up. At that stage I thought he’d be better off at work as I didn’t think things would move very fast, but by 8am the Braxton Hicks were almost 5 minutes apart and we both agreed he’d better stay home.
…with Colm, Lisa and Alun’s encouragement I stood, walked the few steps out of the bedroom, and “slow danced” with Alun in the hallway. The ability to trust Alun to completely physically support me and our baby was overwhelming – I had my arms around his neck and effectively just hung off him!
We texted Colm to let him know something was happening and that we’d keep him posted as to how things progressed. Then I had a long soak in the bath and got as close to sleep as I had been all night. Expecting a long day we went for a short walk to the nearby shops – a funny sight as I was stopping every 5 – 10 minutes to deal with what we now accepted were “contractions” but very manageable. I remember breakfast as being a very tasty croissant with jam, and we just went with the flow until lunchtime, passing the time in-between “surges” by putting together the pram which we had left in its box until now especially so we’d have something to do in the early stages. Oh, and I cancelled my reflexology appointment!
Colm arrived at lunchtime and planned to stay for a couple of hours and see how things went. If progress was slow and steady, he’d go home for a few hours and come back later in the evening. Baby’s heartbeat was checked and was strong and steady and my contractions were still consistently every 5 minutes. I fell in love with my birthing ball in a whole new way – lying on it whilst on the bed, as well as building a “jenga” like tower with every single pillow and cushion in the apartment to lean over!
By 3pm Colm decided to stay, but left us to our own devices, just checking in on us every now and then to monitor baby’s heartbeat. I remember helping with crossword clues and being stumped by “edible fish” 7 letters… Alun was taking his timekeeping duties very seriously and meticulously recorded the length and frequency of every contraction. I didn’t need to tell him when they started or finished anymore, it was getting pretty obvious as I was quite vocal at this stage – God only knows what my neighbours were thinking! I had hoped to listen to my Gentlebirth CDs again, but the MP3 player had run out of batteries and we didn’t think to re-charge it. I was sick once or twice and beginning to realise things were definitely progressing. I didn’t feel the need for pain relief… yet, as I wanted to hold out for as long as possible as all that was available to me at home was gas and air.
As it was dinner time, the guys were tucking into some bean stew and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the smell – I was having enough issues keeping breakfast down. I always thought I’d be able to eat and certainly want to eat during labour but not so. I drank a lot of water but just about managed half a yoghurt all day, which wasn’t going to help when I got tired later.
I think it was about 7pm when Lisa, a midwife who was observing homebirths with Colm arrived after her shift at the hospital, and it was great to have another calming gentle person around us. I was beginning to wonder how far we had left to go or even how far we had come. I was dreading being told only “1cm” or something like that. Baby’s heartbeat was still a steady 140, never flickered.
Colm suggested he could do an internal if I wanted, and at that point I needed to know where we were and agreed. It wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but found out I was about 8cm which was a relief! I was getting more and more tired though, and the contractions weren’t waves any more, but felt more “square” – just one intense pulse that my entire body was fighting against rather than working with. We had tried the TENS machine earlier, but it had been entirely useless (think mobile phone strapped to back, or even mild electrocution!) Now I found myself with my head buried in the pillows on my bed and my bum in the air, probably trying to slow things down so I could get a rest!
Colm mentioned that hospital and the epidural were still an option if I felt I needed it, which was all well and good – it would have been getting off the bed and out the door that would have been the problem! I remember seeing Alun sitting dejected on the loo at this stage and I thought to myself I’d better perk up a bit, cause if he was about to give up, then I was going to have no chance. I considered using the gas and air, but as I still felt queasy, and I didn’t want to be tied to anything it really didn’t seem worth it at this stage. I think it was around now that Colm mentioned the need to change the energy in the apartment – and he was so right. Everything had become stale and tired. Apparently baby hadn’t quite turned it’s back to my front so a “walk” was suggested. I thought getting up to standing would be a major achievement!
I don’t often admit that I am frightened, but don’t think I will ever forget looking straight into our midwife’s eyes and on finding them realising that it was all going to be fine. And it was…
But with Colm, Lisa and Alun’s encouragement I stood, walked the few steps out of the bedroom, and “slow danced” with Alun in the hallway. The ability to trust Alun to completely physically support me and our baby was overwhelming – I had my arms around his neck and effectively just hung off him! They coaxed me out onto the balconies outside and even down 8 steps and back up again – how I did this I will never know, but it was exactly what was needed.
Within an hour I was pushing our baby out and I don’t think I have ever been so scared in my life. Until that moment just before her head crowned it seemed like I had everything planned and in control, and at that precise moment something was about to happen that was going to change everything beyond my wildest dreams and I suspect that all just dawned on me then! I don’t often admit that I am frightened, but don’t think I will ever forget looking straight into our midwife’s eyes and on finding them realising that it was all going to be fine. And it was… All of a sudden (how after almost 24 hours, anything can happen suddenly is still puzzling….) at 22:44 our beautiful baby was put into my arms and all the pain was gone and forgotten. She was wide eyed and amazing, it took us a few minutes to even think about checking if “baby” was a boy or a girl! When we did I made Alun double check I couldn’t believe I had a little girl. Completely alert and perfect. The first hour with her, with Alun holding me and me holding Aoife, all of us holding onto each other, is etched in my memory. The placenta was delivered about half an hour later (somehow it end up in our freezer, and I’m still not sure how or why!?!). Alun cut the umbilical cord after managing to render the 1st clamp useless by closing it on itself… I had always wondered why there was a pack of 2 in the homebirth pack!
Of course me being me I wanted to let people know our fabulous news that night, and soon I was texting the relevant people i.e. parents, my friends, etc. Whilst Colm and Alun checked everything was ok with baby Aoife, Lisa helped me into my shower, which was undoubtedly one of the best showers I’ve ever had. I remember being able to see my little girl in the mirror of the en-suite while I showered, watching her being given the once over – 10 fingers and 10 toes, simply perfect.
It’s incredible how you go from intense pain to complete amazement and joy in a heartbeat. The moment I had Aoife in my arms every second of discomfort was worth it. I ended up with a small 1st degree tear, but nothing worth worrying about. After a lovely slice of tea and toast, Aoife was weighed and Alun and I were left for our 1st night as a brand new fanily. I was up and about the next morning, delighted to have close friends and our families meet our new baby daughter.
What I’d say to other first time Mums, whether you’re planning to have your baby at home or in hospital, is to trust yourself – you know what is right for you and your baby. Accept all and every piece of advice offered by everyone around you (and this counts for 2nd hand baby clothes and equipment too), but keep only that what you really know you need. It’s hard to believe it’s already been 5 weeks and scarcely how much Aoife has already changed. She’s looking around, taking everything in, and loves being out and about with her Mum. She has Alun wrapped around her little finger and I don’t think there is anything he wouldn’t do for her.
And last but not least the 2 best buys – rosewater to sooth tenderness for the first pees, and maternity bed protectors to save the carpet for anyone planning a homebirth!
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