When we went for our first scan I was told that my due date was 22nd February. We were suprised as we had thought it would be March. I remember we asked the sonographer if the scan dates could be wrong and she said no. As first time parents we just accepted this, since we weren’t completely sure about our own dates.
February 22nd came and went and there was no sign of labour starting. I was fine with this as I was hoping my baby would be born in March. This would mean an extra 2 months of maternity leave for me, so I wasn’t unduly worried and felt very relaxed. By 8th March, however, the hospital were putting a lot of pressure on me to come in to be induced. (I had a horrible meeting with the consultant who was quite nasty about me asking for a few more days before induction and annoyed I was hoping to have a Home Birth). Under the Home Birth Scheme I would have to have the baby within 14 days of my official estimated due date. After that I would have to be discharged into the hospital. So I was feeling pressure all around to have this baby.
Mary Cronin (one of the 2 amazing midwives I had booked with) had given me a sweep to see if it would help move things along but it didn’t. I took some Castor Oil and I also went to see an acupuncturist who had a great reputation at helping to kickstart labour. I had the appointment for 5pm that evening (8th March) and just before I sat up on the bed for the treatment, my waters released. It was a strange sensation. On TV, labour usually starts with waters releasing and it always looks so dramatic. This was not – though I had a good joke with the acupuncturist that she was even better than I had heard as she hadn’t even put a needle in and things seemed to have started!!!!
After getting some towels and drying off, I had my treatment, which was wonderful by the way (I resolved to get acupuncture more regularly on my next pregnancy). I had planned to go out to dinner with my ‘labour team’ – my husband David, my Mam, and my two close friends Gwen and Tracey who were acting as my doulas.
I felt fine, so I just phoned my Mam and asked her to bring in a change of clothes for me, as well as some sanitary towels. David picked me up and we headed to Liberty Grill (one of my favourite restaurants in Cork) for a bite to eat. When the gang arrived I went into the toilet and changed my clothes. We had a lovely dinner and I could feel surges throughout the dinner, but they were so mild I was able to eat and have a fun evening. At about 8.30pm we headed for Midleton. In the car going home my surges began to pick up pace. We got back to the house and my 2 midwives, Mary and EllMarie, arrived to check me out. I changed into lovely white pjs (the midwives thought this was hilarious).
We set ourselves up in the sitting room: birthing ball, candles, music, TENS machine. The midwives left saying they would see me later at some point, and everyone – except myself and David – went to bed. I laboured throughout the night and to be honest it’s quite a blur now. I have snippets of memories: rolling on the birth ball (oh this was heaven), groaning, listening to my music, listening to the Hypnobirth CD, the relief of the TENS machine. The lovely smells from the aromatherapy blends that David would massage on my bump and back in between the surges. According to David I fell fast asleep between a lot of the surges, snoring away (but since I don’t snore I doubt this)! I felt so cosseted and cosy, so enveloped in peace – we ended up going down to just one small tea light, as I preferred it to be dark. Around 4am David was feeling tired as he was getting no sleep at all, so he went to bed and my friend Tracey took over. Fair play to her – modern technology of any kind is completely stressful for her, but she managed to operate both the TENS machine and the stereo remote control with just the one tea light!!! (This was no mean feat for her!!!).
When daylight came the mood changed. I was getting tired and Gwen came down and suggested a shower – this was great as it really revived me and gave me a change of scene. Then I had a bite to eat – I couldn’t manage much but it did help (again on Gwen’s suggestion, I probably wouldn’t have thought to eat myself).
Then it was on with the radio and we had Ray D’arcy and the team to occupy us (I love listening to his show, so it was great to be in labour during it – I even tried texting him in). I still felt so cosy. At one stage I was leaning over the birth ball and both Gwen and Tracey were massaging my feet – bliss. At times I would find myself struggling and I would just repeat one of the affirmations from the CDs I had been listening to and this would help. By this stage the TENs machine was just feeling itchy and was annoying me, so I took that off.
EllMarie came out and checked me and said I could put the La Bassine pool up (Mary had flown off to Prague at this stage as I had gone much further over my dates than anyone expected). The pool was lovely, the heat really helped and I could just float back and forth when a surge came. Gwen put hot towels over my back – this was divine and I would nearly go through labour again for this! The day is a bit of a blur, I remember feeling so cared for and loved and enjoying the labour. I have to say that even having done the hypnobirthing, I was dreading transition slightly. I needn’t have worried. This was probably one of the nicest parts of labour for me as I went totally into my own world – I was in a blissful haze and it wasn’t unmanageable at all – I didn’t realise it was transition until later – so there you go. It was a very dreamy state and I felt so spaced out (in a good way). I was super relaxed and being in the pool helped immensely. It was amazing and not at all like I had imagined (thankfully!)
After this I came back totally into the room – everything cleared up – this was about 4pm. I was really excited at how easy the labour had been – I had no fears around the pushing, I had made it through transition. Little did I know!!! Unfortunately for me, the 2nd stage of labour never really kicked in for me. We tried everything: dancing, sitting on the toilet, running (well walking as fast as I could) up and down the stairs, I got back into the pool again. I did lots of squatting over the midwife’s birth stool. I took herbs and homeopathy….the list was endless. I had a fantastic birth team of very experienced people and I tried all their suggestions.
I would get a few contractions and then nothing – I never had that overwhelming urge to push that I believe normally happens. My baby was making her way down the birth canal but it was SLOWLY! She was in great condition for all of this, her heartbeat never got erratic, but I was getting very tired. Ellmarie suggested going into hospital, but as both myself and baby were OK I wanted more time, so I declined.
I stayed at home until about 6am and then EllMarie suggested for the second time that I should go into the hospital. I was absolutely exhausted at this stage and though I could feel my baby’s head, she was nowhere near crowning yet, so I agreed. I was worried myself at how tired I was and knew I needed some extra help.
After transition, having to transfer into hospital was probably one of biggest fears. I worried that the hosptial staff would be dismissive of me for trying to have a home birth and ‘failing’. Thankfully my worries were groundless. The midwives could not have been nicer to us. Ellmarie, who drove us in, was able to stay which I appreciated. I was given pitocin (synthetic oxytocin) to strengthen contractions. The hospital was not as cosseted as home. There were so many people around – doctor’s in and out advising me to take antibiotics, telling me I would have to have a forceps if things didn’t move along. It was harder to focus but I managed to stay calm and found the midwives enthusiasm and confidence that I could do it really helpful. They were really supportive. At this stage I was exhausted, I wasn’t in pain I was just so tired and I wanted the labour to stop. In the end I agreed to an episiotomy and Sadbh came out at last immediately after. I had my beautiful baby girl.
All of a sudden the exhaustion vanished. I was elated and so so happy to have my baby.
Looking back now nearly 8 years later I wonder if my fear of becoming a parent for the first time slowed things down. I remember Ellmarie saying that my baby would probably be here by tea time and being excited but deep down a bit fearful. As Ina May Gaskin points out in her book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth strong emotions such as underlying fear can impede the progress of childbirth (she talks about this specifically on pages 134-135). Although I had dealt with the fears I had around being in labour, I perhaps hadn’t dealt with my fears of becoming a mother.
I was disappointed that I didn’t get to have my home birth and that I had to have an episiotomy but I was thrilled I was able to my stay calm throughout my labour. I was also very happy that I had such a positive labour experience, something I would never have imagined possible before I did the workshop with Tracy Donegan. I felt I had been given the chance to make decisions regarding everything that happened and was very happy I was able to labour at home for so long with such a great team of friends and family. Ellmarie was incredible throughout, she was so supportive and positive and full of advice. She must have been exhausted when we got to the hospital, but she stayed with me until Sadbh was born and even came back again that night to check and see how we were doing. The level of care with the Home Birth Scheme is absolutely fantastic.
I am so glad to have such positive memories of my first birth, it is amazing how vivid the memories still are.
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