When I was pregnant for the first time and attending my first antenatal visit I hadn't even thought about labour, never mind where to give birth to my baby. I was surprised when the midwife asked where I intended to have my baby and she put home forward as one of the options.
I moved soon after that and took up the discussion with my new midwife. I liked the idea of staying in the comfort of my own home, but my main worry was safety. Was homebirth as safe as hospital birth? I visited the labour ward at my local hospital and spoke to a midwife there who was very supportive of home birth. I did a lot of reading around and finally concluded that my baby and I would be just as safe at home. I also felt sure my labour would go more smoothly without a journey to hospital. All the arrangements for homebirth were set in place by the time I was 37 weeks.
Seven days past my due date I woke about 4.30am having strong braxton-hicks. I timed them to about every 20 mins. By 6.30 I had a show; I had a feeling I was finally on my way! I left a message at the surgery for my midwife and she came around at about 11.30. By this time I was having the odd contraction that took my breath away, and was very excited; I knew this was for real.
About 2pm a second midwife arrived. After that, I just seemed to focus down on the contractions and time seemed to speed past. My midwives changed shift sometime in the afternoon, but they left me alone most of the time as I had requested. I spent almost all of my labour in the bathroom sitting on the loo it was very comfortable! I recall reflecting that millions of generations of women had done this before me, and millions were doing this with me right now. For a moment I had the strangest sense we were all one.
Sometime early in the evening I was showing ketones in my urine, but I had some glucose sweets at hand for just that eventuality. I don't think I could have fancied eating anything else at this point.
As I went into transition I asked for the gas and air. Then, just as if somebody had flicked a switch, I began to push like a cavewomen I couldn't have stopped it if I tried! They checked my dilation and it was 8cm with my waters still unbroken. They advised me to have them ruptured at this point, because they seemed to be holding back full dilation. I agreed, and after some difficulty, they finally broke. It worked and I was able to start pushing my baby out.
After an hour and a half into 2nd stage my baby was just rocking backward and forwards. After one contraction her heartbeat remained low and, playing on the safe side, the midwives called the ambulance for transfer into hospital. However, I had been lying on my back and knew this could have caused her heartbeat to drop. I sat up into a squat and her heartbeat returned to normal.
The ambulance arrived in just five minutes. I couldn't believe it! I stood up and could feel her so low down I didn't think I could walk, never mind do the stairs. Then another contraction came on and I lay back down on my beanbag and pushed hard. I husband's voice became excited and I knew I must be close. I reached and could feel her head it was absolutely wonderful. I pushed again and her head came out, with the cord wrapped tightly around her neck.
The midwives cut the cord immediately and I could hear my baby trying to breathe. I wasn't getting another contraction so I just pushed, and out slipped Brigid Grace. My husband cried - it was wonderful! The paramedics, who had been hovering downstairs, had a cup of tea and went home. The midwives left my husband and me tucked up in bed with our new daughter. What a magical night that was.
I arranged a homebirth for my 2nd child too. This time my labour was much easier and quicker.
I was nearly 41 weeks when I woke at about 1.30am with uncomfortable braxton hicks. I went to the loo, but found I couldn't get back into bed. I had to go again, and then again and again and I had a show. I went downstairs to let my husband, Dermot, sleep and tried to get some rest on the sofa, but it was no good, the loo kept calling me! I was having mild contractions about every 5 10 minutes, but they were short lasting and not very intense. Dermot came downstairs after a while, as he couldn't sleep anyway, and I spent my time between cuddling him and sitting on the loo. He put the TENS on too, and I just kept it at a low level, because I wasn't really keen on the pulsing sensation. After a couple of hours I was in a dilemma. The contractions were coming every 5 mins, but they varied in intensity, and wasn't sure if this was real labour or a false start.
I rang the midwife who came out to assess me. She found I was 3cm dilated and she stayed until 5 am to see how I progressed. The contractions didn't really change much they were coming every 5 minutes and just lasted about 15 seconds. She decided to go home, but said she could be back in 20 minutes if I called. So Dermot and I were alone again. He dozed on the sofa, while I watched the dawn come up outside. The mist was rising over the fields and it was a beautiful scene to labour over.
About 6.30 I retreated to the loo again and was wondering if I was making any progress at all when I had another show. I was reassured something must be happening! The contractions were getting a bit more intense too, though still lasting only 20-30 secs. I asked Dermot to ring the midwife back, as by the time she arrived I might want some gas and air. It took him about 15 minutes to get through to her as there was something wrong with the mobile connection. All the time the contractions were getting a bit stronger, but still manageable. I made all manner of noises to accompany them, moaning, mooing and growling like a tiger!
Then at about 7, my waters went with tremendous force. For a split second the tight sensation released completely. Then I was hit with the most intense physical sensation I have ever experienced. I felt my brain smash though my skull and hit the ceiling with tremendous force accompanied by a blinding white light. For a moment I was stunned. However, even knowing it wasn't possible, I found my eyes drawn to the ceiling, just to double check there were no little grey cells clinging to the ceiling. I had to chuckle to myself.
After a couple more intense contractions I realised I was pushing and suddenly worried my baby might be born on the loo. I decided I had to get upstairs somehow, and crossed my fingers I didn't get a contraction on the way up. I didn't and I made it! I clung onto the side of the bed and turned into a cave woman this baby was coming. The midwife arrived with 10 minutes to spare. Dermot caught his son and the midwife passed him between my legs for a cuddle. My sister heard his first cry as she walked through the door (we'd called her to look after my daughter), and the second midwife turned up soon after. My daughter had slept through the entire labour.
I had decided to go for a natural 3rd stage, and so waited for the placenta to arrive while I cuddled my son. He wasn't interested in feeding though, which would have helped to encourage the placenta to appear, and after an hour my midwives were getting worried and I was just plain fed up I was more than ready for a bath. So I opted for the injection It worked OK, but it did make me sick. The nausea took about half an hour to pass away, but I relaxed in a hot bath and finally interested my son in his first feed. Bliss!
I was 41 weeks and had had a visit from my midwife that day. She had cared for me through all three pregnancies and one miscarriage, but hadn't been at either of the births of my son or daughter. She had decided to be 2nd on call whenever I went into labour, but that evening she had a very late clinic, so felt she would be too sleepy to come out. But I wasn't worried. I had no signs of labour at all and she was on call the next night, which I felt might be *the* night. Just to make sure, I planned to do a bit of baby dancing that evening.... an exercise that turned out to be more slapstick than passionate!
I'd only been asleep half an hour when I woke with a strong Braxton Hicks contraction and needing the loo. This had been a nightly routine. However, once on the loo I wasn't inclined to get off it and had a few more uncomfortable contractions. Then I began to shiver although I didn't feel cold and I started to suspect this was the start of labour. I went back to my room and checked the time.... it was midnight.
I told Dermot I was heading downstairs to see if the contractions would settle or not. I headed straight for the loo again and began to time the contractions; 3 minutes apart, but only lasting about 15 seconds. Feeling a bit confused by this I asked Dermot to get the pool ready, just in case. The contractions stayed consistent and at 12.30 I decided to ring the on-call midwife to get advice. For some reason I couldn't get a connection and it took me about 15 minutes to get through to her. It turned out to be the same midwife who had supported me in my previous 2 labours fate had a hand here!
The contractions were quite uncomfortable and I began to feel apprehensive. I felt this might be a good time to put on the relaxation disc. I tried to help Dermot get the room ready, but pulling the furniture about made the contractions come on more strongly, so I retreated back to the loo.
My midwife must have arrived about half an hour later and I eventually emerged from the loo. She checked the baby and me. Everything was spot on and the pool was looking inviting! Although the contractions were still very easy to cope with, I wanted to get in that pool. My midwife asked me if I wanted a VE and I accepted; I didn't want to get in the pool too early and slow the labour down. It wasn't a problem. I was 'well dilated' and took to the water at 2 am. It took a few contractions to work out the possibilities for positions in the water. Eventually I settled on lying on my side with my arm slung over the side of the pool.
About the same time my daughter had woken up and come down to see what was going on. I had been a bit worried about how she would cope with seeing me as she was only 4. We had read some books about homebirth and she had seen the Discovery Homebirth Diaries on Video. We had decided to let Dermot watch her reaction and go from there. I needn't have worried. She just chatted to me, pointing out the pictures of fish on the poolside and so on. She was a very pleasant distraction and didn't seem bothered by the noises I was making.
Quite abruptly I had a couple of more intense contractions and my waters burst. I began to push immediately and changed into a kneeling crouch. I grabbed the gas and air for a couple of contractions while I got my head around the sudden change of pace, but that got thrown to one side as I focused down on what was happening. Bizarrely, I instinctively clenched my knees together while I pushed. I wondered how my baby would get out, but I couldn't over-ride this instinct! Once I could feel the baby's head, I didn't need to do this anymore. I was vaguely aware of my daughter observing that it was like having a big poo, and everyone laughed!
As my baby's head emerged the pressure was enormous - I felt I was going to tear forwards and put my hand down instinctively on the back of his head to ease the pressure. Unlike my other babies the pressure didn't seem to go once his head was out. My midwife put her hand down to him and he grabbed her finger with his hand. I had 3 more contractions sitting in this squat position, but his body wouldn't come out. I remember being so confused. In my previous 2 labours this had been the easiest bit; why wouldn't his body come out? My midwife told me to listen to my body. I felt I wanted to be more upright, so I asked Dermot to support me from behind. He got into the pool socks and all! But my baby still didn't budge. I could feel him moving though, so I knew he doing OK.
I wanted to stretch out even more, so I leaned back in the pool and arched my back for this 5th contraction. Finally his body was slowly born. I picked up my baby and looked to see what it was... a boy!
I felt brilliant. I was on one of those highs that people talk about after labour, but I hadn't experienced myself before. And a little shocked. I was holding my baby already. Apart from the last bit, the labour had been far easier than the previous two and very quick; just two and a half hours. My midwife also seemed on cloud nine too, which was really lovely to see.
My baby boy was so calm and alert. I sat and cuddled him for a while and just ignored 3rd stage. I had 'waited on it' last time and nothing happened. I was determined just to enjoy my new baby this time and not get wound up waiting for a placenta to appear. After a while I began to get a bit cold and decided to leave the pool. I sat on the sofa and Fiontan began to look for a feed. This started off some more contractions and I needed to stretch out again. I asked the midwife to cut the cord so I could hand Fiontan to his daddy. The placenta came out naturally after just 30 minutes. It was 3am.
I phoned my sister while the midwife weighed the baby. She asked how heavy he was and we waited while the scales settled.... 9lb 10oz. Wow, my son and daughter had both been under 8lb, I would never have believed I could grow such a big baby.
My daughter held her brother for the first time and my parents arrived as the midwife left. Brigid, Dermot, Fion and I finally went to bed together at about 5.30am. Pure magic. As I dosed off I said to Dermot "Potent stuff you have there..."
But here's a strange thing. My own midwife told me later that she wasn't sleepy after her late night clinic. In fact, she couldn't sleep. She lay wide awake in bed until she saw her clock turn 3am, then turned over and finally slept. Perhaps part of her had been with me after all :-)
Can you tell us more about the birth of Fiontan's shoulders? It sounds like shoulder dystocia, but how was he holding the midwife's finger?
I'm fairly sure his shoulders were not born at this point. His head was still tight against me. When his head appeared, one hand was up by his face (strangely enough, all three were born like this), and this is the hand that the midwife held. The hard bit was getting his shoulders and chest out.... he's broad shouldered and chested like his daddy! My other 2 are scrawny like me, so that part of the birth was supper easy with them. My midwives didn't seem worried however, so I'm assuming it wasn't an obvious shoulder dystocia that can cause so much concern - unless they were just very cool headed!
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