Being a midwife, I had planned my birth years before I actually fell pregnant. Pretty much as soon as I saw those two pink lines pop up, I was emailing a group of private midwives and hoping to plan a homebirth. My partner Joe initially had a few questions, but after a meet and greet with the women who would look after us throughout this journey and a screening of ‘Birth Time’, he was well and truly on board.
My pregnancy was low risk and very straightforward. I had all the usual anxieties in the first trimester and some ‘all day’ sickness, but nothing that I felt affected my day-to-day function. Joe and I attended Martyna’s Calmbirth classes when we were 23 weeks and really enjoyed them. Joe got the opportunity to learn the logistics of birth and how to be a really good birth support and I found the meditations and breathwork really helpful. From the time we finished the classes, I carved out the time to practise my breathwork once a day and also used this time to practice my visualisations. I really wanted a water birth and would visualise a calm, pink baby with big eyes, looking calmly up at me in the water. When things got hard during the pregnancy, I pictured this sweet baby and it helped remind me of why I was doing this.
To prep my body for birth I saw my amazing osteopath regularly. Not only was she amazing in the physical work that she did, but she gave me so much confidence in my body. She would assure me that everything was well aligned and my body was in a really good position to give birth. I also had some internal release work done by another osteo. The internal release gave me information about my body, released areas in the pelvis which were tight and allowed me to ‘practise’ feeling uncomfortable in my vagina and vulva.
By the time I hit 36 weeks, I was so excited to write my birth affirmations, eat my dates and express colostrum. I was really hoping my baby didn’t decide to join us early, as I didn’t want to miss out on doing those things! Our midwives came over to our house around 37 weeks and talked all things birth preferences. We left that appointment feeling excited and ready to birth this little baby.
By 40 weeks the birth pool was hired, the birth affirmations were up and the ‘just in case’ hospital transfer birth plan was written. I’d also written Joe a ‘cheat sheet’ of ways he could support me in labour and other helpful things to know, just in case I wasn’t in the headspace to help guide him whilst in labour. I was READY. I’d kept myself fairly busy on mat leave, but from about 39 and a half-ish weeks I’d felt the need to retreat into my own space and conserve my energy. Even though, as a midwife and pregnant woman, I knew that most people went past their due date and knew not to focus on it too much, I still found every day past 40 weeks challenging. I kept repeating, ‘I trust my body, I trust my baby’ and ‘my baby knows when they need to be born’. I’d figured that this baby grew essentially by themselves, I was really trying to trust them to know when to be born.
The day of 40+6 (the 13th of July) started off like a normal day. I went for a walk (curb walking of course) and a coffee with a girlfriend then managed to get a hair appointment. I was fairly comfy all day with a bit of light cramping that I didn’t think too much of.
By that evening I felt really tired at around 9:30pm which was unusual for me. I’d actually been sleeping okay in the last couple of weeks so I was managing to stay up much later. I kissed Joe goodnight and got into bed. Almost immediately, I felt my first contraction. It was like a strong cramp. I was so excited and kept willing them to come. I couldn’t really sleep and by about 11pm when Joe came to bed I was listening to one of my Calmbirth tracks. I excitedly told Joe I was having contractions and could he please warm up the heat pack for me. I then told him to go to sleep and not to get up unless I wake him, knowing how important it was for him to have some sleep behind him too. Turns out he was too excited and barely got any sleep either!
By about 1am the contractions were getting really uncomfortable but still inconsistent, ranging from four to eight minutes apart. I asked Joe to help me put on the TENS machine at this point and went downstairs to open my packet of lollies and have a sip of coconut water. I then kept trying to rest with the TENS (which was amazing!) and managed to doze and only wake for contractions between 2 and 3am. The contractions were around four minutes apart at this point.
By about 3am, I kept trying to rest but needed to turn over onto all fours when a contraction came. Joe and I decided to set me up downstairs on the sleeper couch and build a little nest. It was at this stage that my cat decided to jump on my head while resting and leave me with a lovely scratch across my forehead, which didn’t help to say the least! I could not lie still at this point and kept jumping onto all fours and using my TENS every time a contraction came.
Joe convinced me to call my midwife Danielle at 4:08am as I really didn’t want to wake her if it was too early (midwife brain!). We spoke for about nine minutes and I had a few contractions whilst on the phone. At this point I could still talk through them if I absolutely had to but preferred not to. We decided it was still probably early labour and we would see what would happen when the sun came up. Danielle reminded me it would be normal for the contractions to fizzle off when the sun came up and at that point I would have welcomed a few hours of rest. Spoiler, I didn’t get it!
After I got off the phone with my midwife I decided that there was no point in me resting anymore and decided to try the shower. I sent Joe back to bed and jumped in the shower which gave me some relief, as the contractions were all in my back at this point. I was in the shower for about 45 minutes before it stopped helping. At this point I walked back into the bedroom and had my first big cry. It felt really good to release some of the emotions I’d been feeling.
Joe let me have a big cry without trying to stop it and set me up at the edge of the bed. By this point I could only get comfortable on my knees, leaning over the bed. I was getting quite vocal by this point and by 6:49am I needed to hear my Mum’s voice. I called Mum and again had another big cry to her, telling her how hard it was. At this point Mum played a very dangerous game, telling me she thought I’d have my baby by 2-3pm that afternoon. I really hung onto that and would look at the clock and count back the hours. We planned for her to be at my birth and she asked me to ring her back when I wanted her there.
At 7:22am Joe called Danielle back. The contractions were every three minutes apart at that point and I could no longer talk through them. Joe asked Danielle to come but my midwife brain kicked in again and I called out “no no no”. I couldn’t gauge whether it was still early labour or not and didn’t want Danielle to come too early and be tired by the time the baby was ready to be born. Danielle suggested I get in the bath and she would get ready for the day and be ready to leave whenever I needed her.
Joe helped me fill up our bath tub and lit some incense and candles and I had the best bath I’d ever had. It was the best thing to do at that point because it relaxed me enough to be able to have micro sleeps in between contractions. Joe finally got some rest at this point too. Eventually though, the bath stopped working and I got back into my position at the edge of the bed. I was really struggling at this point so called one of my closest girlfriends who I had teed up to provide some words of encouragement if I needed it - and I really needed it at this point. She listened to my concerns and let me cry and then suggested we get the robozo out and use that to lift up my belly and take some pressure off my back. That worked well for a while but I was really needing extra support at that point so we decided we would call Danielle and ask her to come. I then spent the next hour counting down the minutes until she got there.
After I hung up the phone I felt a gush of clear fluid run down my legs. I thought it was my waters and that was the first time I let myself believe that this might be established labour.
Danielle got there about an hour later and I felt the biggest relief when she walked into my room and gave me a big hug. I then 'word vomited' all my worries on her. I told Danielle: “I’m worried this is still early labour and I’m not coping and it’s all in my back and I might need an epidural and a transfer to hospital”. Danielle just replied, “well none of that is happening right now”. I then asked her to check me, knowing full well that a vaginal exam only shows you where you are in labour and is not predictive. Danielle was reluctant to check me, probably knowing that I was already so in my head, that a vaginal exam wouldn’t help my get out of my thoughts and just surrender to labour. She said she’d do my observations first and then we both never mentioned her doing a vaginal exam on me again.
I then laboured with my TENS and comb while Danielle and Joe set up the birth pool and fairy lights. Just having Danielle there helped me get into a better head space and I continued to walk up and down the stairs with my tens and my combs. I did not let go of my combs until my baby was crowning
At this point I was in a much better headspace, I was even able to make a few jokes. I really wanted to get in the pool but it seemed to be taking AGES to fill up. I really wanted to get in so we felt the top of the water and it felt nice and warm so in I got. To our absolute shock, the bottom of the pool was freezing cold. My midwife brain kicked in again and I was like “It’s too cold for him to be born in!”. Danielle said with gentle firmness “well he’s not going to be born in the next two minutes”. Then Joe and Danielle started the process of scooping saucepans of cold water out and boiling kettles of water to get the pool to the right temperature.
My second midwife Dina arrived at around 1pm and it felt like my birth support team was complete. At this point I think I must have been transitioning and I asked Dina “Do you think I’m getting close?!” I had the typical transition phase where again I didn’t think I could do it. I was still worried the baby was posterior and I’d have to transfer. At this point everyone was telling me quite firmly to get out of my head, and stop being a midwife. My partner Joe knelt right in front of me and was whispering my birth affirmations in my ear, telling me ‘you’re ready, your body is ready’, ‘trust your body, trust your baby’. Eventually Danielle said that there looked like there was a lot of bulging in my vulva and asked me to have a feel inside. I felt inside and my baby was right there, still in his bag of waters. That was such a cool feeling to be able to feel that on myself. I started involuntarily pushing on all fours and could feel my baby getting lower and lower.
At one point I said I don’t think that baby is getting any lower and Danielle suggested we change position so we changed to a supported squat. During this stage my body just pushed my baby through the birth canal. My midwives suggested that I feel my baby crown, that way I could feel how hard to push and when to pull back.
Eventually the head was ‘on view’- i.e. not retracting anymore, I knew the baby’s head would be born with the next contraction. My baby’s head came out slowly as I breathed him out. I felt so relieved when his chin was born then he started to turn. I could also feel him kick inside which was the strangest sensation ever! With his head out, feeling so close to meeting him, I started to get emotional again as we waited for the next contraction. Hi baby. 2:37pm - his head was born.
The next contraction came and I pushed but his body wasn’t born. Once it became clear he wasn’t going to be born in the position I was in, I stood up as quick as I could and instinctively put my leg on the edge of the pool and his body was born really easily in that position.
He was here! I reached down as Danielle passed him to me. I kept saying “you’re okay, you’re okay, you’re starting to cry”, reassuring myself. His cord was tangled around his legs and feet, so when Danielle went to untangle it, I saw between his legs and called out to Joe “Joe look! It’s a boy!”. I was in absolute shock that it was a boy as for the last week particularly, I thought we were having a girl. It was at this point that he gave out a big cry and I pulled him off my chest to look at him properly. Hi baby. 2:41pm time of birth.
Joe and Danielle then helped me to set myself up on the couch. Joe and I then sat there with our baby, just staring at him for at least 10 to 15 minutes. I was ecstatic. I can only describe that feeling as complete euphoria. I was laughing and crying at the same time, not quite believing I’d actually birthed an actual baby. It was the most amazing feeling.
My midwives just observed from a distance. They could see Malachy was pink and crying and I was sitting up, talking and not bleeding, so there was no reason to do our observations or interrupt this family bonding time.
About 30 minutes later, I could feel some pressure in my bottom. We decided to try and stand up to birth the placenta. I stood up, beared down and pushed my placenta out into a bowl that Danielle was holding in-between my legs. There was very minimal bleeding with the placenta. 3:25pm - third stage was complete.
We then checked my perineum and I had labial tearing and a small vaginal wall tear that didn’t need any suturing.
Malachy and I then enjoyed skin to skin for another two hours. The cord stayed attached until about 4:10pm. We really ‘waited for white’! Malachy had his first breastfeed and we called my Mum and said that she could start to make her way over.
Joe then had skin to skin with Malachy whilst my midwives helped me have a shower and get changed into my pyjamas. We then got tucked into bed with our baby and ordered a massive platter of sushi. People talk about the moment they bring their baby home being a really surreal moment. For me, the moment we got ready to go to sleep and we put Malachy in the bassinet next to us, that was my moment.
Reflecting on my labour and birth I am so happy with how it all turned out. I wanted to share my story as it's my wish to normalise positive physiological birth. I want to talk about homebirth and normalise this option of care. When I told people that I was planning a homebirth, people would say "Gee you're brave". Truthfully, I didn't feel brave, as I knew that as long as I stayed low risk, statistically my birth was more than likely to be straight forward and my baby was just as safe being born at home as in a hospital. In a country where one in three women consider their birth as traumatic, it is my hope that the more positive stories are shared, perhaps this might play a small part in reducing that number.
There were parts of my labour that took me by surprise and parts that were similar to how I expected. It was everything I could have asked for- intense and challenging but also empowering and joyful. I felt supported and safe and feel so grateful that I was able to birth him in the comfort of my own home. The moment I saw my son for the first time was the single most incredible moment of my life.