My second pregnancy flew by – with a nearly two year old toddler in tow, I hardly had time to contemplate all of the birth preparation I had so diligently practiced before my first child was born.
I had a fairly quick and easy labour at Holles Street (National Maternity Hospital or NMH) on my first child so my partner and I decided to opt for a home birth for our second baby. My second pregnancy was very typical in that I felt nauseous for the first few months, until I finally did a pregnancy test and realised I had conceived some weeks before. I was still breastfeeding my toddler so I was not getting regular periods at this point. We knew we wanted another baby so we were taking no precautions and letting nature take its course and after only two irregular periods, our second child was conceived.
I remember the day I went into pre-labour very well. I had driven from Dublin down to Arklow for the day and on the way back, I noticed that my uterus was gently contracting at regular intervals. My toddler was asleep in the back seat and I listened to RTE radio as I drove along and blithely noticed that the surges were coming about every half hour or so, according to the clock in the car, and they were not too strong – just enough to alert me that things were beginning to happen.
I got home from Arklow around 4:30pm in the afternoon. My partner and I had been encouraged by one of his friends to go out and have a nice meal and see a movie as it was going to be a while before we would be going on a date again. I told my partner, Alan, about my stirrings and said that I still felt up to going out but I knew this was the the last night I would be pregnant as I could feel this baby was coming. We had a lovely meal together and then headed to the Screen cinema to see ‘The Kids Are Alright’. The movie was really enjoyable and I was happy to be transported into this wonderful world of parenting, relationships and of the “choices that are made in creating a family”. The song at the end of the movie was one of my favourites, MGMT’s “The Youth”. Music is so powerful and every time I hear this song, it reminds me of the excitement and anticipation of our baby’s imminent arrival.
We got home around 11:30pm from our night out and Alan and I chatted to our friend for a while before he headed home. He had rented a couple of movies for our son to watch while he minded him. Our son was now peacefully asleep but our friend said he’d leave them with us as our son really enjoyed them. These movies would prove extremely useful during the birth of our baby the next day.
Around 12:30am, I went to bed. I wanted to sleep on my own in the spare room. I felt that I would be restless and I would wake Alan and our son if I was sleeping with them and I also craved some privacy. I slept straight through until 7:30 a.m., when I was awoken by a strong surge. I became aware of my breath and I began to slow down and lengthen my exhalations to ease the feelings of this surge and then I decided to get up and go downstairs to the kitchen. I put the kettle on and soon felt another fairly strong surge. I noted that it had been about 7 or 8 minutes from the last one. I continued to make my morning cup of tea and I had a couple more of these strong surges before Alan came down to me. He looked both excited and a little scared when I said to him that the surges were coming quite regularly.
Call the midwife?
At around 8 a.m. Alan said: “Should we call the midwives?” We were booked into the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) Community Midwives Home Birth scheme. I asked him to hold off for a little while. However, after two more strong surges within 10 minutes, he said: “Just let me call them and let them know things have started moving”.
We called the NMH at around 8:15 a.m. Alan spoke to the midwife and told her the surges were now around 5 minutes apart. She asked to speak to me and I told her how I was feeling. She said they would get all the requisite equipment in their car, ready to drive the 5 minutes it would take them to get to our home (we only live a short walk away from Holles Street). I thanked her and said that we would see them some time in the next couple of hours. Alan and I were happy knowing the midwives were on standby for when we needed them.
Like all things birth related, it was hard to predict how things would go from there. That phone call to the midwives was significant because it gave me the confidence to continue labouring in the comfort of my own home along with the support of the Community Midwives’ arrival when we needed them. We put a log on the fire and the birth playlist on the stereo and enjoyed our morning cuppa together.
Alan and I continued to chat and he contacted his work to let them know he wasn’t going to head into work that morning. Our son woke up around 9:00 a.m. and it was soon after he woke up that I got a very strong surge that took my breath away completely. I was in the middle of talking to Alan one moment and the next I was in this other world, feeling everything inside my body and sensing the baby moving down the birth canal. Alan immediately phoned the Community Midwives back and said “It’s time”. They were at the house by 9:15 a.m. They had asked for permission to bring a student midwife, so we had the two wonderful midwives and the student midwife, who did an amazing job of being present and of keeping an eye on our son while he watched a dvd.
It was around 9:20 a.m. when Teresa examined me and said: “Do you want to go somewhere private to labour?” I said, “Yes, I do” and I went to the same place I had laboured through my first born – the bathroom. I found huge relief in my lower back and perineal area whilst sitting on the toilet. The bathroom is a private room and this is where I felt I could completely let go. I took off all my clothes, as I had also done on my first. I didn’t want anything to distract me from what my baby and I were about to do.
I began to go inside myself very deeply. I wasn’t really aware anymore of the people in my home or even of my 2 year old son, as I knew he was being looked after. I began to make deep, low sounds as the surges began to come one on top of the other and by around 9:45 a.m., Teresa asked me if I wanted some water. I said: “Yes, thanks”. I drank some water and I think I began to look a bit distant and Teresa asked me: “What would you like to do?”
I said: “I want to push……but (I whispered) I’m afraid it’s going to fall into the toilet!” Alan and Teresa helped me to get on to all fours on my yoga mat, which felt good. I was ready to push, but I was distracted by the enormous pressure and stretching on my perineum. I asked for a hot compress and it was the most heavenly relief. For the next 10 minutes or so, I pushed a few times and our baby’s head emerged. Alan said: “Wow, the baby’s eyes are open and blinking”. This got me so excited! This baby was alive and well and I knew that there were only a few more pushes before we would get to meet our little one. I wanted to push, but the urge to breathe slowly overtook me. The midwife said: “Only a few more pushes. You’re nearly there. You’re doing so well”. I replied: “I just need to breathe”.
I took two or three deep, long, nourishing breaths and the urge to push came over me again. I pushed a few more times and said out loud, surprising myself: “This REALLY hurts!” It did hurt, but it wasn’t unmanageable or scary. It just felt ‘intense’, but it didn’t last long. With one final surge, our baby emerged into Alan’s loving and waiting hands just after 10 a.m. I reached behind me instinctively, while still on all fours, looking to hold my baby. I came on to my knees and looked, held and breathed in that lovely scent of a newborn baby and said to Alan, with tears of joy in my eyes: “It’s a girl! We have a baby daughter. She’s perfect and she’s beautiful”. Our son came in to see what the fuss was about and we showed him his baby sister. He was happy to meet her and equally happy to go back to watching the movie that had kept him enthralled during the entire labour and birth.
I walked over to our cosy sofa in our small sitting room with Sinead (the student midwife), Katie and Teresa (NMH Community Midwives), Alan, our son and our new baby daughter and lay back and put my feet up. Our baby girl latched on immediately and the birth of the placenta happened quite soon after I lay down and relaxed. I began to shake and my teeth were chattering soon after I reclined on the sofa. I found out that it was normal for the body to react this way for a few moments after birth, especially as the adrenaline receded and my body began to restore itself to a resting homeostasis.
It was an incredible experience to give birth in our own home. My first birth in Holles Street was lovely but the hardest part for me was getting in the car and making my way to hospital. It was wonderful on my second birth to have all of my appointments (bar the first booking appointment) throughout my entire pregnancy with the midwives in the comfort of my own home. The birth was the icing on the cake. I can’t praise the Community Midwives highly enough. They were there to support us, but they did not interfere with the birth at all. I am certain that this is a huge part of why the birth was relatively easy and quick. I was confident in my body’s ability to birth but I was equally confident in the wonderful women in our home. They gave me the privacy and space that I needed and they were always quietly and covertly letting me know that all was going exactly as it should. They were the quintessential definition of “midwives”, which means “with woman”. They were present but they quietly observed and let me labour and birth in peace.