At 8 weeks pregnant myself and my partner, Adrian, attended a Gentlebirth workshop where we were asked what aspects of our partners personality we would want our child to have. I have always loved Adrian’s flair for the dramatic, he’s animated, enthusiastic and hilarious, it’s one of his many personality traits that I adore and like a wish come true, I think its fair to say, with the birth of Locke, that our wee baba certainly takes after his father with his slightly dramatic entrance into the word!
In the weeks and days coming up to my due month I was becoming increasingly excited. The closer we got the more I wanted to get everything ready, myself and my partner spend time doing our vision board…not really a board, but a group of colorful affirmations that were going to be hung around the living room. We blew up the pool, just to have it ready, we got our ‘in case of emergency’ hospital bag ready. I was cleaning the living room every day on the off chance that I would go into labour. Everything was ready, we were just waiting on baby now.
We were visiting my partners mother, and stayed overnight, but during the day I noticed definite changes and stirrings. The need to pee was incredible, even after peeing and I found myself wondering if if I had a uti, after a quick texting session with midwife Dan we figured it was just the baby sitting heavily on my bladder. Typically enough, for some unknown reason, we both ended up staying awake until nearly 2 (god damn youtube!) that night and as luck would have it, I woke up just after 3 am to mild but noticeable cramps and a need to pee that can only be described as disturbingly timed! I was out sitting on that loo every 10 minutes. the closer to 4 am it got, the more excited I was becoming. This was it, I just knew it! I hadn’t had any real Braxton Hicks so I knew these cramps were my body getting ready.
I woke Adrian at half four after a slight show, he was full of sleepy questions…should we call Dan? Should we go home? Should we get the pool ready? Rubbing his eyes, he seemed excited but unsure if it was the real thing. I was quite hungry, so off I pottered to the kitchen for some food, if this was the real thing, I’d need my energy.
I managed to get back to sleep at around 6 after Adrian put on some gentle birth tracks, only to be woken at 8 with proper but delicate surges. Off we went home, with a quick detour to collect my sister, each of us excited, prepared but also not really knowing what to expect.
Once home, I stuck on some music and Mario Kart, only to lose every race!
After giving that up, absolutely defeated, we stuck on rude tube, the cat special…what better way to keep my spirits up than watching cats be utter assholes…
We decided it was time to call Dan, and while we waited for him (he was hosting his monthly Gentle Birth Class) Adrian and Jayde got to setting up our birthing room. Colorful affirmations were stuck up, the pool was brought downstairs, the curtains were drawn and I was on the birth ball. Dan arrived at 1 and while I listened to gentlebirth and breathed through surges that were getting stronger, Adrian and Jayde filled the pool. The surges were still irregular, but definitely getting stronger, and getting into the pool was the most relaxing experience. Adrian was in with me and for the next few hours we breathed through the surges, cuddled and I nodded off for the 5 minute intervals, which I cherished.
Our second midwife, Angela, arrived and I was getting even more excited. This meant things were happening! By around 5 the surges were pretty powerful and painful, they were lasting longer but still had a good few minutes in between. I was beginning to sound like an angry cow (I’m sure the neighbours were delighted) and it was about this time that I felt a need to poop, so off to the toilet I went, in all my glory, butt naked save for a small training bra, moaning through surges and trying to poop. It wasn’t happening.
I couldn’t poop.
Back into the pool, for another hour or so of crying and complaining about the pain before another trip to the bathroom for my second attempt. At this point I accepted a VE, I needed to know how far I had come, that it would be over soon, that my baby would be here.
I was 4cm.
I cried some more, I was exhausted. I didnt know how much longer I could do it. I could feel my pelvis open with every surge and it was agony. I was pretty much begging for pain relief so out popped the gas and air, and it helped! Ok I could do this, I was going to birth this baby soon!
Baby had other ideas.
Not long after, I think, I cant be sure (gas and air made me pretty fuzzy), I attempted to poop again, with gas and air tank by my side, crying on the loo. It was tough….really tough. Dignity be gone, four people had now seen me trying to poop, crying, screaming, and practically naked. It was a comical, yet pitiful sight.
Dan suggested I lie down, and try to sleep. I gladly accepted and hobbled to bed, finding solace in the few minutes of sleep I was managing between surges. As more time went on, the more I didnt think it would ever end. It was agony, and I was not taking it so well. I cried on Adrian’s shoulder for a good hour I’d say. I questioned whether I could even go through with it, I wasn’t looking for a finish line, I just wanted to quit and give up. This is what’s called transition, but at the time I honestly felt like I couldn’t do it, even though I knew there would come a point when I felt like that, it didn’t help me in that moment and it lasted hours. I was so sure the baby wasn’t ever going to come out, I had made too nice of a place for him in my womb!
After some time in bed, and the labour still not progressing Angela and Dan said I needed to get moving, I needed to move this baby down, so we were going to go and dance in the living room. Down I hobbled and tried to dance but there seemed to be no break in between surges, it was just constant pain. My body was pushing involuntarily with every surge (breathing my baby down obviously wasn’t happening) making it even more painful. From here things are pretty blurred, I remember Dan telling me it was no longer a normal birth, that an ambulance had been called. Adrian was upstairs packing a bag for me (because even though I had our in case of emergency bag for baba, I had neglected to pack one for myself). There was blood between surges that was not normal and I needed to be transferred. I was relieved and devastated at the same time. We had put so much into birthing at home, I felt it had all been for nothing. All those people who told me just go to hospital, or You’ll regret not having pain medication were right, I wasn’t able to do it. After 4 minutes Dan was back on the phone asking where the ambulance was. Within another 4 it was outside but Angela wanted another VE just to make sure I wasn’t going to birth right there. I was 8cm. I still thought it would be a while before baba arrived, but I was being brought onto the ambulance strapped in, Adrian was told to follow. Only now, two months later I realize there is a lot I have no recollection of in that last hour, getting dressed, what Adrian was doing, what I was thinking, what time it was, all I can remember is the intensity of each surge and how it felt so inescapable.
In the ambulance the only thing I really remember was that with every surge the feeling that I was going to poop got crazy intense and I just kept thinking to myself ‘why the fuck couldn’t I do this on the loo?!‘ This was my biggest fear, and even though mothers had told me that in the moment you wont care, I can honestly tell you all…it was all I can think of. The paramedic was asking lots of questions. Then suddenly a POP!! My waters released…finally. I tell Dan I’m going to poop, (I felt the need to both warn him and apologize) and then I pooped. I looked at Dan horrified, my biggest fear had come true. His face lit up, ‘I saw the head!’. He was smiling, I was smiling. We were going to have this baby!
With the next surge the head was out. I don’t remember any burning, but I certainly felt a tear. Waiting for the following surge felt like an eternity, but when it finally arrived, out came a little baby. I cried, I laughed, I did it! I had a baby. He was put onto my chest and I just held him (still not actually knowing it was a boy) and watched him look around as the ambulance filled with midwives, and doctors and who bloody well knows, there was a lot of commotion. I looked around for Adrian who was outside looking in with huge eyes. As I was wheeled into the maternity unit I remember hearing Dan tell the hospital staff that I wanted a physiological third stage, I told a midwife I didn’t want immediate cord clamping, but unfortunately the cord was cut, and before the nurse could ready the needle to manage the placenta delivery, it was out.
Locke Leon Kelly, born at 11:42 pm, Sunday the 10th of January, in an ambulance!
And I know, the pictures taken of the birth and after look pretty serene and calm, they make Locke’s birth look tranquil and beautiful. But I promise, Jayde didn’t feel right taking pictures of a woman clearly in distress, and so stopped once things got less calm. And after 6 or 7 hours of picture taking and no sign of baby she probably thought she should take a break.
So, technically I didn’t have the home birth I so wanted, but what I did have was an intervention free, natural birth under the care of midwives who understood my needs. The hospital staff, although prepared for an emergency situation, and very thorough in their examinations of myself and little Locke, didn’t quite hear my preferences, I am disappointed that not only was my request for delayed cord clamping ignored, but the placenta was thrown out before I could even tell them what I wanted.
After the birth, although I was ecstatic to have Little Locke in my arms, I felt slightly defeated. Like I had failed Gentlebirth, failed to bring Locke into the world peacefully, and in a quiet, friendly environment, and failed to have the right of passage cord burning I had so wished to have. I felt I had failed my partner who had put so much, financially and emotionally into our home birth, and who in the end missed the birth of his first child. I was a little heartbroken at all of this. But the more I thought about it, and the more my midwives and partner talked about it, the more I came to realize that even though the birth didn’t go exactly the way I had imagined, the main reason I wanted a home birth was because I wanted to be in control, I wanted to have a midwife who understood my physical and emotional needs, a birth without unnecessary intervention, and a birth where I could be close and intimate with my partner. Even though I didn’t birth in water, and it was in a lit up, medical, moving room instead where I was strapped on my back, I still managed (for the most part) to have the natural birth I had dreamed of even in a possible emergency situation, and that’s pretty god damn impressive!
That night I couldn’t sleep, I held Locke until Adrian arrived the next morning. I looked at his huge, buggy, grey eyes. His very prominent hairline, just like his dads (before he lost his hair). I examined his tiny, delicate fingers and toes. Noticed his mamas button nose, his wrinkled arms and legs. We had made a perfect little human. After nine months of waiting, of complaining about headaches, of researching everything about babies and birthing, of then complaining about back ache, sore feet, sore pelvis, sore everything, he was finally here, asleep in my arms.
So, yeah. It was an experience, one I wont be forgetting any time soon. And even though it was pretty crazy, I know that in the future, if I happen to fall pregnant again, I would still choose a home birth with my midwives who really took on board everything I wanted, who let me make informed decisions, who asked permission before they did anything, who acted fast when things changed, and who stayed by my side speaking up for me in the hospital when the staff blatantly didn’t want them there. I got to have my sister with me, who rubbed my hair, and told me I was doing great. I got peace and quiet with Adrian who made me feel safe and loved and in control (at the beginning!).
Nearly everyone who originally questioned my home birth choice had a knowing look in their eyes when they saw me and Locke, the ‘we warned you‘ look, and that is possibly the worst thing to come out of the entire experience. I had hoped my birth would open these people up to alternative birthing, and unfortunately it only reassured them that hospital births were necessary and the only safe option. All I can say to these people is that my home birth was as safe as hospital, which is why an ambulance was called when there was a possible complication. I was in good hands, hands that were exceptionally experienced and yet thoughtful, compassionate, caring.
It may have gotten crazy…
But in the end I got a pretty cool birth story out of it all!!
For those who are interested in alternative birthing arrangements, home births are possible with the HSE but I had a lot of trouble with them (a supposedly free service, some of them are free while others ask for a fee of €2500..not sure what the deal is with that), and know women who have been refused for utterly ridiculous reasons. You can be disqualified very easily, so for those of you who are adamant I cannot recommend Neighborhood Midwives enough. The care they offer is incredible and patient centered. They offer payment plans and are extremely understanding of unforeseen circumstances (I lost my job half way through the pregnancy). Everything is catered for from the birthing pool and all of the bits needed for that, to personal preferences (like the cord burning). They are with you building up a relationship long before you birth so that you are comfortable with them. You can contact them at any point which I found hugely important and reassuring, especially after the birth.
So if there are people out there interested you can contact them on facebook:
If you do want to try the HSE midwives then here is a list of ones currently available: