I had a very straightforward and easy pregnancy and was hoping for as natural a birth as possible. I had a detailed birth plan outlining this, along with choices for pain relief and requesting for delayed chord clamping and a natural 3rd stage as well. I felt well prepared. My husband and I had also hired first-time Doula Tatiana Deage after being introduced to the concept by friend and doula-in-training (since qualified) Oisin Schots of RosyBirths. My due date was 19th June 2018 and we planned to go to CUMH.
“My Husband and I went to a barbeque with friends on 12th June. I ate as much steak and other goodies as my squashed stomach would allow and laughed for 4 hours straight.”
My contractions began at 4 on the morning of 13th 6 days early. I waited until 6 to wake Kieran to tell him the news. We chatted excitedly for a while as the contractions formed a bit of a pattern. Kieran zoomed off to Kenmare, half an hour away as an engine light had come on in the car the previous evening and we were a little worried we might break down on the way to the hospital. While he was away I started timing my contractions using an app. The contractions were coming quite close together, 6 minutes apart, then 5. My app urged me to contact the maternity hospital, the midwife I talked to told me to start making my way to the hospital so I could be checked out. This, of course, is standard protocol. I felt comfortable enough to stay put at home for another couple of hours though and took a lovely warm bath. Word came from Kieran that the mechanic had given the go ahead to drive the car to Cork, the problem would limit the cars power and speed but not leave us stranded on the side of the road!
I also contacted our Doula, who lived in Cork. She was excited too but reminded me that when we went into the hospital, we would be on their clock. She suggested that we call to her when we arrived into Cork so she could asses how I was doing. We headed off, nothing felt urgent at all but being a little over 2 hours away was a deciding factor. We thought we might get a hotel room to labour in if we felt like it, or possibly not but we decided we would rather be in Cork and make our decisions there.
The slow car journey was a little unpleasant as my contractions ramped up a fair bit in intensity, I think it was the confined space. But when we arrived to Cork and I got out of the car they eased again. We called to see Tatiana, who was readying herself, she was lovely, calm and collected and after a chat with her I felt much more confident in how I was managing my contractions, with breathing, and that I didn’t need to go to the hospital just yet.
So Kieran and I decided to head into Ballincollig, get some lunch and have a walk. We stopped at a market, strolled around, eating wild boar sausages and enjoying the sights. We were pretty giddy at this stage, lots of giggling and have a lovely selfie we took there. We grabbed a green smoothie to fortify us and I went to the loo.
“I noticed a show and felt something change a little, a bit more intensity and I suddenly felt that I wanted to go to the hospital, we were still feeling giddy and happy though and Kieran kept me laughing and chatting”
We went to the E.R. and after maybe half an hour I was seen, the midwives were lovely and I had a trace, along with the usual blood pressure tests etc. I was examined and found to be 3cm dilated so not ‘in labour’ enough to go to the labour ward but as we lived so far away they suggested I be admitted. I asked if I could go away again for a while which was no problem but they explained I would have to go through this whole process again on my return, and as it had taken the best part of an hour I decided to stay. A spot was found for me on a 4 bed ward. There were 3 other women who had already got to meet their babies in there so I didn’t really feel like lingering there either. This was at 4, I called Tatiana to meet us in the café on the ground floor. She was straight up and ready to go!
We decided to set ourselves up in the deserted tv/family room at the end of the ward. It was so hot and sticky that we spent most of our hour there by the open window with the wind blowing in. I remembered the TENS machine but couldn’t get it to work so Kieran flew over to the shopping centre for batteries. We got it up and running and it really helped with the contractions. As did the double hip squeeze that Tatiana showed Kieran how to do. I ate a date (which I had practically mainlined for the last few weeks of the pregnancy as I had read it can help the cervix dilate) big mistake! I ran (well waddled) to the bathroom to throw up, not pleasant but it felt like something had changed after that, sped up.
After an hour we headed down to the ward for an examination. I felt like the midwife was a little bit rough with her internal exam which stressed me out a little, but it was over quickly. Great news, she said you are 5cm so you can go downstairs, but the baby’s heart rate was up a little so they wanted to hook me up to the monitor for an hour, not ideal but neither too bad either, and at least I would have gas and air to help get me through! We were greeted by midwife Saidbh and student midwife Levi who studied my birthplan carefully, ‘so, what you want us to do is basically leave you alone as much as possible?’ Saidbh laughed, ‘that’s no problem’
So I settled onto an exercise ball and bounced gently for the next hour while Kieran and Tatiana set up my diffuser and music and we chatted and laughed, the gas and air really helped ease the contractions and made me a little lightheaded and giddy too. Baby’s heart rate came right down as well. The hour passed quickly in this way but it was a relief to be able to get up and move around when it was over.
I tried out some different positions and Tatiana showed Kieran how to use the robozo that she had brought. By now I was flagging a bit so lay down on the bed for quite a while with a peanut ball and my gas and air. Everything slowed down for a while. Tatiana encouraged me to get up and get moving again, which proved to be the perfect thing to ramp it all up again. She used a heat pack on my back and showed Kieran how to apply counter pressure to my hips during a contraction. A little later she massaged my lower back with a pair of spikey balls. The blissful feeling this brought has really been a stand out memory for me. I felt as though I had to go pee every few minutes but on one of my many pee breaks I actually had to throw up, which is never pleasant but the force of it broke my waters. Saidhbh told us that it was likely everything would really ramp up now that cushion was gone! She wasn’t wrong.
“Contractions were coming thick and fast now with very little recovery time. Tatiana suggested a shower to ease the intensity and she lit lots of electric candles in the bathroom and lowered the lights.”
Very calming. I came out with renewed energy for the next leg. I tried a few new positions and settled on laying across the bed with Kieran behind me rubbing my back and Tatiana holding my hands, I actually managed a tiny snooze at this point I think. At about 11.30 I was examined again, I remember telling Kieran ‘if I’m not as far along as I think I am, I’m taking ALL the drugs!’ I was only half joking! 7cm, I can do this I thought, not long to go now.
I threw up again and it brought another transition, longer contractions, practically back to back, Kieran reminded me that I didn’t need to be polite, that I could make noise. Id barely been moaning up to this point, focusing on breathing and sucking on my gas and air. It was what I needed to hear, I let out some truly animal grunts and moans and I feel like it really helped me let go.
I got onto my knees on the bed with the ball in front of me, I had my crack team with me every moment of the journey, Kieran giving me sips of coconut water, and constant encouragement, Tatiana holding my hand and putting cold cloths around my face and chest, this felt like the best position for me although my knees got sore at some point. Contractions were back to back and the urge to bear down was getting really strong by now. I remember exclaiming ‘I am fucking superwoman!’ and at that point I really felt like I was. ‘you can do it! Nearly there! You’re about to get your reward’ Kieran told me. Both midwives were now in position, the urge to push was now undeniable and babas head was born really quickly, with the rest of him following a minute later at 01.42.
‘It’s a boy, Jess!’ Kieran let me know.
‘A boy?!’ I was truly shocked for a brief moment as I had been convinced I was going to have a girl. ‘I have a son.’
The midwives passed up the squalling baby, he sounded a little like he was underwater as he was gurgling. I put him under my top and used the fabric to clear out his mouth a little, he decided now was the time to baptise me as a new mother and pooed his sticky, black muconium all over me! I was exhausted, covered in sweat, blood, fluids and poo and I couldn’t have been happier. I laughed and said ‘that’s my boy’, I was helped to lay back with my baba on my chest and Kieran finally got to meet him properly then. We cried and laughed and Tatiana took pictures.
“I had requested delayed cord clamping and this was respected as was a natural 3rd stage of delivery.”
The cord had stopped pulsating and was white when Kieran was asked if he would like to cut it. He declined and snuggled with us instead. The placenta was delivered with a gentle tug from Saidbh (the time for intervention was approaching and she wanted me to have my wish of having an all natural birth) such an amazing sight to behold the incredible organ grown especially to give my baby life! Kieran laughed and said ‘its just like a sheeps!’
At this point we told Tatiana she could get home for some much needed rest and after making sure I didn’t need anything else, she gathered her things and went. She had played an absolute blinder, being so very present with us every step of the way.
I had suffered a third degree tear during the birth, not large but deep, probably due to the speed with which his head was born and a doctor was called to suture me up while baba was weighed and given his vitamin K injection. Then he was back to me for more skin to skin and another attempt to feed him. The poor baby was very tired and found it hard to latch so student midwife Levi helped to show me how to harvest some colostrum into a syringe and he had his first feed at about 6 o clock.
(I was to use this technique for the first 2 days as he was unable to latch properly until day 3, which was when my milk came in. I felt quite secure in the knowledge that he was getting enough in the little syringes of colostrum as I had done a lot of reading up on the size of a newborns tummy and needs, and felt confident in gathering the colostrum up, with the help of my wonderful hubby due to being shown in such a no nonsense way by Levi).
We were brought up to the ward about 7 o clock in the morning and settled in. Kieran went to the car for some well deserved shut eye and although I should have been (and was) tired the adrenaline after affects and the sheer wonder of having finally gotten my amazing little person on the outside, next to me had me gazing at and snuggling my boy for another few hours.
I had an amazing experience with my pregnancy and birth, some of this was down to pure luck, I’m sure but I feel that some of it was down to empowering myself by educating myself on everything that can, will and could happen during birth, and more of it was due to having such an amazing birth team in my fantastic and attentive husband Kieran and birth Doula Tatiana Deage, and the wonderful midwives Saidbh and Levi who fully supported my birth plan. I felt in control, empowered and at ease all the way through to the end.