Caoimhe's birth, by Tric Kearney

My name is Tric Kearney and I live in Cork, Ireland. I had wanted a homebirth for my third child but was very sick during the pregnancy and my G.P was very against it so I pulled out thinking "maybe someone is trying to tell me something".. They weren't, I had an uncomplicated drug-free delivery of a little girl, 8lb 12oz, born with the waters still intact. We decided four years later to go for number four and I decided I wanted a home birth. Here is my story.

I am 35 years old and was expecting my fourth child. I live in Co Cork in the Republic of Ireland. In this country having your baby in hospital and being delivered by a consultant are very much the norm. All hospitals practise managed labours and there is a massive rise in C-sections, both emergency and chosen. So when I declared my intention to have a home birth most people thought I was either mad or selfish or irresponsible. When I challenged them, enquiring how much research they had done on the subject, they usually left me alone.

When I looked into it I found that in the previous May a pilot scheme had begun in my region where homebirths were being monitored and paid for by the health board. I had a great choice of local midwives and in the end went for Juana. She was a Spanish midwife who had been practising for over 20 years with 10 years homebirthing experience. I began to read everything I could about homebirths and was more than happy with the safety aspect of it. My GP was not impressed but said he would give me every support. My husband was delighted with the prospect, having felt a bit out of the proceedings in the previous births.

My pregnancy went well and at last the time was drawing close. I am not a happy person towards the end of my pregnancies, putting on over 20kgs and finding it very hard to move about. My babies usually arrive within 24 hours of my dates, which always differ from my scan dates. My date for this baby was 25 Feb - seven days after my scan date. In the two weeks before delivery I have very very strong Braxton Hicks and find sleep impossible. I was an expert on the Winter Olympics!!! We had one false alarm and set up the birthing pool, so at least I was aware how long that took.

Monday 25th began with steady contractions. I already have three children aged 10,7 and 4. I also mind three more, aged 4, 7 and 10. That day I decided I could not cope with the kids so my friend took them. I was beginning to get very demoralised. I was exhausted with the pains and lack of sleep and had reached that point that even another day was too long. The pains continued all day but at 8.30pm stopped. I wasn't too unhappy as I was too tired to cope with having the baby that night. I waited until 10.30 then had a large glass of wine and went to bed. As I got into bed that night I felt slightly exhilarated I was convinced that when I woke in the morning I would begin my labour!

I slept fairly ok - some pains woke me and I had four loo stops. At 7.30 I had to get up to get the little ones all set for school as Eamonn, my long-suffering husband, leaves for work at 8. I lay in bed an extra 5mins putting off getting up, still sure labour would begin just as soon as I put my foot on the ground. Sure enough I hadn't got as far as the bathroom when I had my first contraction.

I went downstairs and said nothing. Eamonn was used to seeing me breathing through contractions most of the previous days, so once I reassured him that I would ring if I needed him, he went off to work. I got a kind of pleasure bringing the kids to school, meeting people and hearing for the 10th day in a row "No news?" (I mean have these women had children? Would I still look like Nelly the Elephant if I had news?)

Once I got home I decided it was time to pay attention to these contractions. Juanna had asked me to write down a record of them once I started so I did.I watched telly and breathed through them. I also marked them in terms of pain level out of ten. At this stage they were every ten minutes but only lasting 35 seconds. I knew they were not very effective unless they lasted at least 45sec. I was rating them 5/10.

I rang Eamonn to warn him that I thought this was it and that I'd call again soon. He works 30 miles away so I had to allow him time to get home. I decided not to call Juanna yet as she likes to call and see you straight away and I wanted to be alone. At 10.30 I was sure this was it so rang Eamonn to come home. I continued to breathe through the contractions and began to fill the pool. I only used hot water as my labours are usually very long and steady and I wasn't expecting to deliver before midnight.

When Eamonn got home he was very excited but I was quite subdued and into myself. I still wanted to be alone but I liked knowing he was around and he came in and out to the tv room. We were also united in filling the pool, which took about 2 and a half hours!! I kept reassuring him that it would be at least midnight so he went off and bought supplies.

I rang Juanna at 1.30 and told her that the pains were now every 5min and lasting 45sec to 1min. I was still very in control and was rating them 6/10. She said she would be with me in about 45 min. As soon as I came off the phone the pains changed to every 2 to 3 min lasting 1 min to 1 and a half. I didn't panic as I was still very much in control and felt that I was less than 4cm as after that I usually don't like to talk between contractions. I got a hot water bottle and put it inside my jeans against my back, and got great pain relief.

Juanna arrived and it was fantastic. I felt like my best friend was coming as we had put so much time into preparing for this moment. I knew that when she would go back out that door again I would have my baby in my arms. She was all smiles and her enthusiasm gave me a great lift. She asked if it would be ok to examine me so we went upstairs. The pool was set up in the bedroom one of my favourite rooms in the house. I was 3cm but the cervix was still thick. I was quite happy with this as my own deadline was midnight and this was only 2.30.

We went back downstairs. The pains continued now every 1 min or 1 and a half lasting 45sec to 1 and a half minutes. It was very tiring but I was only rating them 7/10. I was still in control but walking all the time. It was something I felt I had to do, then every time I felt a contraction I ran to the window, why I don't know as I closed my eyes during them!!! Eamonn came in and out but I still didn't want to be touched or spoken to.

Juanna did ask a few times if I wished to go into the pool but I wanted to wait until I couldn't cope any more on dry land. I had read so much about that moment when people first go in the pool how soothing it is and I was sure at the right time it would be a good boost to my morale (Don't forget I was not expecting this baby before midnight ).

At 3.30 Juanna wanted to examine me again. I moaned inwardly thinking, not again already, the hour felt like 5 min. However Juanna said that my contractions were strong and I had a good amount of back pain. We made our way upstairs (two contractions on the stairs!!!). I was 4cm and the cervix was ripe. She said I was flying. However we never said it to Eamonn who having heard 4cm continued to think in terms of many more hours.

Once the internal was over things changed. I was standing up leaning over the bed post with a pillow under my head and the intensity of the pains increased. They seemed to come one straight after the other. I now could not just breathe through them but had to say 0wwwwww in a long low voice. I was aware of Eamonn beside me and Juanna undoing packs and getting things organised. It was only about 5min after the examination but I suddenly felt very nauseated. Eamonn went for a bowl but then I decided no I was not going to be sick; I was shaking. In my head I told myself that I had read too much and was only imagining this as these were the symptoms of transition and that was impossible as I'd never had a baby in daylight before!!!

Juanna began to really plug the pool now but I resisted. I couldn't bear wasting my 30sec or 1min between contractions to undress and get into the pool, never mind how I was going to lift my leg to get in!!

The contractions really were like waves now coming and going. I went off at this point to some other place(or planet) and to this day that place is a pleasant memory. Eventually Juanna and Eamonn going on about the lovely warm pool got to me and I unclutched the bed post and looked around. In the flash of an eye Juanna had me changed and in it. What can I say - it was fantastic. The combination of the heat of the water and the weightlessness was incredible. As good as any epidural. I had a contraction instantly and because I was leaning forward kneeling with my legs so far apart I felt my waters break.

Then I heard Juanna exclaim as they were a dreadful black green colour. Everything then stopped. It was such a surreal moment. After continuous pain I was now pain-free. Eamonn and Juanna were sitting on the bed, I was in the pool looking at them, relaxed. I asked Juanna was everything all right as I was concerned with the state of the waters. She said as long as I began again soon we would be ok. I wanted to know what would happen next and she said I'd have my baby in a couple of minutes. I wasn't sure if I was ready but she reassured me and said if I felt like pushing it was fine.

Within minutes I felt that familiar urge to push. I did my best to do as directed "push hard, easy slowly, stop" etc. Eamonn was kneeling in front of me and at one point I had to shout, I think I roared "this is so hard" and he looked me in the eye and told me I was fantastic. In that moment I felt he really knew what I was going through and appreciated how difficult it was. Then I felt my baby leave my body and Juanna shouted "Your baby is here!"

I looked down and it seemed to take forever for her to appear, but at last I saw this tiny body with its arms and legs spread come under my legs. I scooped her up, keeping her body under the water, putting off any trauma she would feel from the cold air. She had a lot of thick mucus in her air passages and as poor Juanna was busy trying to manually suction her Eamonn and I were oblivious, so enthralled by our new bundle. I was struck by how tiny and helpless she looked. It was 16.15 pm.

I immediately apologised to her for creating a girl as she would one day probably have to go through childbirth!!!!!! We now had three girls and one boy. For each one of them I had been convinced I knew the sex, and four out of four were wrong!!

Eamonn then took her in his arms and reality kicked in. I hate delivering the placenta. I told Juanna I didn't want to do any more. She didn't bat an eye just said ok. Then I said "what about the placenta?" and she said don't worry that will fall out. That was news to me as I had vivid memories of my other deliveries. I stayed in the pool and watched as Eamonn and Juanna fussed at our new arrival. I was quite happy in the beautiful warm (filthy) waters.I had been given a cup of tea made with shepherds purse to aid delivery of the placenta. After a few minutes I began to feel like little Sally saucer sitting in the water. I decided I wanted out. Juanna said ok and I asked "what about the placenta?". Juanna said just stand up I did and next minute she showed me a bowl with a fully intact placenta in it. I couldn't believe it.

I was wrapped in a big towel but I had torn and was bleeding a lot. I needed syntometrine and stitches. This was a very unpleasant experience as the local anaesthetic did not take effect for some reason and it was very painful. Eamonn gave me the baby and that helped to distract me.

When all was done I couldn't wait for a shower. I felt such a mixture of emotions - shock, delight, pride and relief, to name a few.

I went back to a lovely fresh bed and my new arrival. We had a cup of tea and a sandwich at this point and the baby was weighed - she was 9lbs. We decided to call her Caoimhe(pronounced Qweeva), a sister to Aoife, Tiarnan and Naoise.

We rang the houses that homed our kids and told them the baby was here but didn't tell them the sex. They arrived soon after and were hyper for a while but soon calmed down.

Caoimhe is now 12 weeks old. She is an amazing baby. She has not cried more than 5 times since she was born and sleeps brilliantly at night and is happy to sit for ages in the playroom or anywhere the other kids are. My third child cried for her first year!

I am not sure if her happy demeanour has anything to do with her birth or the fact that she never went into a cot or left our bed or arms for 4 days. A lot of my friends, the sceptics, are convinced it's the homebirth, and whilst they would never consider one they are now its greatest advocates. I would recommend it to anyone.

Related Pages:

Meconium in the waters - what does it mean, and what are the risks?

The third stage of labour - your options for delivery of the placenta

Waterbirth at home

External links:

Home Birth Association of Ireland - (www.homebirth.ie)


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