It took me a few years to conceive my second baby. When I did get pregnant I was over the moon. The hospital scan at 12 weeks had estimated my due date as the 20th July. However, my own estimated due date was 29th July and as I had been charting my own cycle I was completely clear on my dates. As a result I had politely, but firmly, argued with the hospital that my dates were the most accurate and would not accept the scan date as my due date. I really didn't want to have the pressure of induction that I had faced on Sadbh's birth a few years back, and that was still very much in my mind. I was really glad I did as the hospital dates of the 20th of July came and went, as did my own date of 29th July. I was under no pressure though as I still had plenty of time.
For this pregnancy, I was not as fearful as with the first one. My panic attacks in general had improved, and were not as debilitating as when I was pregnant with Sadbh, I had also experienced a really positive birth experience and I knew a lot more about how GentleBirth worked as I was now teaching monthly workshop in Cork. There was still some fear though. I couldn't help but think that perhaps the first time round I was just 'lucky' and this time round I would see how birth really was - painful and excruciating (I mean that's what most people had told me it was going to be like, so maybe they were right!!!). It is amazing how strong fear can be and how much the brain can hold onto it!!! I went back to listening to my GentleBirth tracks and like the last time instantly I felt much better and more positive. For the residual fear I used the Fear Release track a lot more this time. I also brought David through the GentleBirth workshop so he would have all the helpful tools the Dads at the workshops learn while they attend. This also helped as I felt confident he could help me if I needed it.
On Saturday 31st July I did my usual Saturday routine – went down to the local market to shop for food for the week, bumping into lots of friends on the way for a chat. All were surprised I was still ‘hanging in there' (I was enormous on this pregnancy!) I felt perhaps labour was starting – I had been getting what felt like very mild tightenings in my abdomen all morning. However, I wasn’t sure, as they were so mild I felt they could have been warm up surges (Braxton Hicks). After shopping and lunch I went for an acupuncture appointment and explained to my acupuncturist (the amazing Pierce Hennessy in Midleton who had been treating me for the entire pregnancy) that I could be in labour. I had a lovely treatment, listening to my GentleBirth tracks while on the table. The treatment took about 40 minutes and I took note that I had 3 surges while there. They were still extremely mild – they still just felt like tightening sensations, however they did seem to be getting slightly stronger. After acupuncture, I went down town to do a few more bits and pieces before making my way home.
I went up to chill in bed for a while and debated with myself whether to call my friend Tracey who was one of my support team for the birth. She lives in Tipperary – about 2 hours drive away and was due to come down the next day for a visit. Eventually my gut told me to phone her, which I did. I explained my hesitation, but she said she would leave right away. I then went back up to bed and watched some TV. During a trip to the toilet I had what seemed like a very small show, but it was a miniscule amount.
Around 6pm my 4 year old daughter, Sadbh, and husband, David, came home from a birthday party and myself and Sadbh had a huge pillow fight upstairs. I was still having surges and they seemed to be getting stronger as I found myself having to stop playing for a second to take a deep breath while they happened. Then around 7pm Tracey and my other friend Gwen (who was staying locally) arrived. These friends along with my Mam and my husband David were my birth team. We all sat down to a lovely dinner cooked by David and washed down with some Prosecco (not for me!!!) It was a great evening with lots of joking and laughing, ending in us all dancing around the kitchen to my daughters favourite song at the moment - ‘All the Single Ladies’.
By this stage the surges were definitely getting stronger and I had to stop eating and talking while I was having one, to breathe through it. I still wasn’t sure I was in labour however as they were so manageable. Gwen suggested I call Mary Cronin (my midwife) just to let her know I was having surges and how close they were (about every 15 minutes). Then we all went into the sitting room to watch a Tom and Jerry DVD with Sadbh. After about half an hour of the DVD I had to leave the room, the surges were intensifying and Tom and Jerry was a bit too active for me!!! I had continued to use deep breathing during a surge and was feeling great. Myself, Gwen, Tracey and David went upstairs and set up the laptop to watch Glee – I had been saving episodes to watch during labour. After about 20 minutes my waters released (this was about 10.40pm). I phoned the midwife who said she was on her way. After my waters went the surges intensified. However, I still felt in control and that they were manageable. David, Tracey and Gwen are hilarious and they were making me laugh so much that the intensity of the surge would just dissipate with the laughter.
After a while the surges became very powerful and I needed to get up on the birth ball and roll. My doulas would rub my back in between with a lovely aromatherapy mix (which has become my Love and Labour Blend), which both felt and smelt great - again helping me to relax. I was also feeling extremely hot and Gwen rubbed me down with a cool cloth, which also felt great (needless to say I had stopped watching Glee at this stage). After a while I began to feel like I wanted to vomit, and asked for a bucket but thankfully this passed quickly without me throwing up. All the while I was listening to my GentleBirth tracks – and it is hard to accurately put into words how I felt really. I have heard and read stories from women who say they enter this powerful zone where their body is doing all the work. I suppose it is like what we says in the GentleBirth workshop – turn your thinking brain off. Ina May Gaskin says about birth – ‘let your monkey do it’ - well this is how it felt. My thinking brain was in me somewhere but it was hard to access, putting a sentence together was really challenging. At one stage I wanted a hair band, but found it really hard to formulate the sentence. I had managed to access this powerful primal part of myself and it felt amazing. All of my body was busy birthing my baby and I felt so full of power, so much a woman, so connected to that primitive part of me that just knew how to birth this baby. ‘I’ didn’t have to do anything - my body was working so effectively. The surges were taking over completely and they did indeed feel like waves (which is why the rocking helped me so much I think), coursing through my body and ebbing and flowing from my head to my toe. They were intense and so powerful.
I have no idea how frequently the surges were coming. I did manage to ask to get the pool filled as I wanted to float in water – I had bad oedema in my legs and I thought the water would be a chance to rest my legs. I asked Tracey and Gwen to fill it as I wanted David up with me. At 11.40pm the midwife arrived and examined me – she put the lights on but I couldn’t bear them, so I managed to ask to turn them off which she did. I found out later I was 9cm at this stage (I didn’t ask on the night – I didn’t want to know and didn’t even think to ask).
I do remember at times thinking that the surges were so strong I would not be able to handle the next one – thankfully, however, the other part of my brain would kick in and override the doubt and go with what was happening to my body. All the time I had the GentleBirth tracks on and this helped immensely as I associated them with relaxation and calmness, and the affirmations were great.
At some stage my daughter came into the room to see me – David explained to her that I was having the baby and that although I was being very vocal I wasn’t in pain. ‘I know’ Sadbh replied – she was not a bit phased by me in labour. She sat down on the bed beside him and 10 minutes later fell asleep!!!
David was a great help as well – reminding me to breathe, and telling me how amazing I was. That really helped me a lot, he felt so reassuring I just knew I could do it. At some point, a short time after the midwife arrived, we transferred downstairs. I was still hoping to use the pool – little did I know I wouldn’t have a chance at all. Although I had no idea how dilated I was the surges felt different. They felt more like I was bearing down so I presume I was in second stage labour at this stage. I don’t remember walking downstairs – the sitting room was dark, but the pool was nowhere near ready. I knelt on the couch for a while – with David supporting me. Then I went and sat on the birth stool I had borrowed from a friend (thank goodness for it, as it helped so much with my swollen legs and it had a lovely cushion so it was comfy) while leaning into David who was on a chair. I didn’t realise it, but at this stage the baby’s head was at my perineum and I was trying to push him out. Forty minutes later (around 1.15am), we were still in the same boat – the baby’s head at my perineum but he couldn’t get past it. My perineum just wouldn’t stretch to let him out. Towards the end of this period I did start to feel pain – he was pressing against my bladder and I felt like I needed to pee but couldn’t. I was panicking a bit as well as in my first labour I had been in second stage labour for over 12 hours at home and had had to transfer to hospital. I didn’t realise at this stage that this baby was right down at my perineum (the midwife told me to reach down and feel his head but as this seemed to me to be a replay of what had happened with Sadbh's birth I didn't want to. I don't think I realised how different this was as Odhran was just about ready to be born, not slowly making his way down my birth canal). The surges were powerful this time (unlike my previous birth), but he just could not get past my perineum.
I asked the birth team to go into the kitchen – perhaps everyone watching was slowing me down? To no avail. The midwife had me change position as well, to widen my legs, again no joy. She tried to help me stretch and give the baby some more room to pass with her fingers. Eventually she suggested an episiotomy – after consulting with the other midwife there (Ellmarie) - they were all agreed that this was the best option and so I agreed to it. I was hesitant since I had had to have one last time as well, and really was hoping to avoid it. However, she could not think of anything else to do at this stage, so I agreed to it and she gave me a small cut first – to no avail. She then widened the cut. It took another two or three surges and the baby’s head finally came out. It felt amazing – now I reached down and felt my babies head. With the next surge the body came out – it was so long and it felt so warm. I took my little boy in my arms and felt so exhilarated. It was such an amazing feeling – here I was holding my new son in my arms – I felt like a warrior. I was on a high. I hobbled over to the couch (cord was still attached at this stage) and lay down holding him in my arms. He was so warm and wet and gorgeous. The rest is a blur – Mary let the cord pulsate for a few minutes then cut it as she had to get cord blood (I am Rhesus Negative). David cut the cord. Then we waited for the placenta to birth.
Mary sewed me up as we opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate. The birth team got busy cleaning up the house after the birth and when Mary was finished, cleaning me up as well. We were all on a high. Although he was born at 1.31am, we didn’t go to bed til 5.30am – I was high on hormones and excitement after such an amazing birth. Even now typing it up I am in tears remembering how powerful it was. I feel so blessed and honoured to have been able to experience and tap into this part of myself. I know it probably sounds corny but it feels like I accessed a connection to a powerful goddess in me – it’s hard to put it into words. We named our son Odhran and he was 9lbs 15 oz. He started breastfeeding soon after (and still is nearly 3 years later I loved my birth and one of the first things I said to David after he was born (before the cord was even cut!) was – “oh I need to do that again, can we have a third one!!!!! Seriously!!!”
For such a short birth this sure is a long birth story, but I want to try to remember it all myself and capture it as best I can in words. Like my first labour I found the GentleBirth programme so helpful. It helped me during my pregnancy to allay any fears I had and to give me the chance to take some time for myself every day to listen to the CD (with a 4 year old and working outside the home part-time, it was a challenge to find the time but it was so worth it). When my labour started I felt excitment rather than fear, and this allowed me to trust my body to birth my baby for me.
We named our boy Odhran and he was a whopper at 9lb 15oz. He started feeding soon after and all of that went really well. As with Sadbh's birth I am still thrilled to look back with such great memories of his birth and to have had such a positive birth experience. GentleBirth is amazing.