Birth really has been one of my biggest adventures and something I’ve become so passionate about. So, I personally have done it three times now, and ranging from horrific to brilliant, I reckon if I had a fourth go it could be pretty damn perfect! But, I’m not saying there’ll be a fourth!!! A positive birth is hands down one of the best gifts as a woman you can get. Positive comes in many, many forms and I believe it really comes down to what a great birth means to you!
So here’s the deal…..My first birth was traumatic, my second birth was better, but number three was, well, pretty amazing! My first birth took place in Holles Street as a semi-private patient, I didn’t have a clue! I thought birth was going to be horrendous. And guess what, that self prophecy came true. It was. Awful. But I got my baby girl at the end so I should be happy, right? Well yeah, but not actually. Of course I was happy with my beautiful child but the horrors of my labour really haunted me for quite sometime. Not long after I decided if I ever had another child it would be so different, and it was. I became really educated on birth and did a huge amount of reading and research.
On my second pregnancy, I booked in with the dominoes midwife-led care, in Holles Street. And this time I opted for a homebirth. I was low risk, so qualified for midwife led care and all going well I’d birth at home, in my own space. This REALLY excited me! Thankfully David was also fully on board. Like, we knew it would freak some people out and it does. But most people are interested, in my experience. We did the research, we knew the stats and they are really, really good and guess what, homebirth is safe! I know who knew?! Next part of the jigsaw was sorting out the fears that were still very much alive from birth number one.
That’s where Gentlebirth came in.
A friend mentioned it casually one day, well before I was pregnant. She kind of half muttered it, and later came clean that she was worried I’d think she was a hippie. Wrong. I thought she was a superhero! Birth number two, took place at home with the domino midwives. It was good, it was intense, more than it needed to be because I was afraid I wasn’t progressing quick enough and they had me squating. Yeah, not something I’d advocate! It got very intense, very quickly but overall was a good birth. What really was lacking for me was the continuity of care. That’s where I nailed it third time around.
As soon as we found out I was pregnant, I booked Liz from UK Birth Centres, also known as Private Midwives Ireland. The care I received was incredible from start to finish, and it was so hard to say goodbye to my midwife Liz, two weeks after Nathan’s birth. Liz did all my antenatal visits from 20 weeks at home, generally on a Sunday morning. When I say visit, it was more like a leisurely morning chat with a friend, who happened to really know her shit when it came to all things birth. She’d stay for two hours-ish at every visit and we discussed everything from my wishes for the birth, to my fears about the birth, to how all eventualities could be handled. I was involved with everything! We knew we were in the best hands, and that my friends is the best feeling, whoever your caregiver is. During the visits, Amelia got to play with the stethoscope and the whole family eagerly listened to the doppler echoing Nathan’s heartbeat. That sound is one I’d never tire of. Liz was able to recommend endless helpful things to me. One, amazing woman she introduced me to was Ros Drake from Drake Chiropractic. She works wonders with everything from SPD I had to optimal fetal positioning and has a very impressive rate of turning breach babies through her work. Definitely worth a visit pre labour to ensure you are all lined up for your best birth.
During Nathan’s pregnancy I listened to my Gentlebirth tracks, later did perennial massage whilst listening to my tracks (this really helped me relax and trust my body).
So, baby number three gave me a couple of false starts, I know you’d think you’d know it’s the real thing by your third but he was very convincing I swear! In the two weeks before Nathan’s birth I noticed a LOT of fears surfacing from big baby to fast birth to can I actually do this??! I went through the motions and listened to my tracks most evenings in bed, but worried was this enough! I did focus on some relaxation techniques and found counting down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 to bring me into a state of relaxation most effective! I did also this time use and practice a breathing technique called J breathing which worked for me amazingly in the second stage.
Finally, The Birth Story
On the afternoon of 18th October I started getting mild surges but put them down to strong braxton hicks and refused to think it could actually be happening this time. I was 40+2 and by 8pm I noticed they were coming every 3 minutes but still refused to even share the news with David! I was craving affection and love though and thankfully the toddler went down easy and we had some time chilling out together. At around 10pm he asked me if I’d been getting surges all evening. Turns out he can read me pretty well even when I’m trying to hide it! Anyway we went to bed but I wasn’t expecting to sleep as I was defintely uncomfortable by this stage but I put my Gentlebirth tracks on and I must have drifted off because I woke up in the middle of a dream timing my surges in my head lol! The surge that woke me gave me a fright as it just went on and on and another followed. I was a bit shaky and thought what the f@*# am I doing! I was freaking out as David fumbled with the TENS machine, and he timed surges. They were in fact coming every 3 minutes lasting 45 seconds just as I had been dreaming.. Weird eh! We decided we’d better call Liz but que in all the freaking out, I couldn’t remember where I’d left my phone. By this point my body was a bit shaky and in hindsight reckon active labour was kicking in although I feared transition for a moment. David found my phone which I had put into the wash basket. In my defence, It was 12am!
I spoke with Liz and she decided to make her way over, my mom was also en route in case the kids woke as my toddler regularly does and my youngest sister Sinead who was going to take pics for me.
We came downstairs & David started filling the pool. I put the TENS machine on too. So I noticed that I was going up the TENS notches quick and was at 5 (this is half way). This worried me, thankfully it was around this point I got my shit together and started breathing, and relaxing into it and generally calming down. This my friends made the biggest difference of all! I put the labour companion track from Gentlebirth on in the background, used my 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 relaxation technique and breathed. Now I was in control, now I was doing this, now I was enough!!
When Liz arrived I was settled and enjoying the surges, dropping my head and zoning out only for the “peaks.” I was enjoying the surges, feeling the power of birth wave through me. In previous labours I fought against this and that’s when I experienced pain. If you go with it, it’s completely different I swear! It’s really an incredible sensation and experience! We decided to do a cervical check and on first check she said I was 5cm, I then got a contraction and visualised my cervix opening (yup, full on hippy shit) and Liz said oh you’ve just gone to 6cm and it’s very stretchy could easily stretch to a 7.
This is the power of the mind I’ve no doubt!! Visualisation is an awesome tool to use.
For the next short while, I swayed my hips, leaned on David during surges, hugged and kissed and generally enjoyed the labour experience. I could sense things were changing and took a homeopathic remedy called aconite which was fantastic for keeping fear at bay. Liz told me if I’d been in Holles Street they wouldn’t have believed I was in active labour! Talk about empowering a woman, I believed I was going to rock this birth at this stage!! In between surges and sometimes during I was smiling and happy. One of my affirmations was to smile an David kept reminding me of this annoyingly, at times but it did refocus me.
The only sign of transition was a slight tear up in my eyes as I felt emotion rise up in me after a surge. Liz spotted it with her trained eye. There was a few surges at this point where I felt the energy change as it was directed downwards. This followed by that guttural birth sound at the second half of the surge, you’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve given birth before naturally. It’s a mad sound, the first time on Amelia, I almost looked around to see who’d made the noise lol! This time I instantly recognised it and felt excited knowing we were getting close.
It was 3.30am and I knew it was time to get into the pool. I was nervous taking the TENS off but I shouldn’t have been because oh. Wow. That water felt amazing around my body! The warmth and support was incredible. My second midwife, Ursula arrived and was a lovely addition to the birth space. Everything was so calm and I felt excited as the second stage began.
I find it hard to explain the second stage as the energy was very powerful, but very empowering at the same time. I felt I was working with the energy and it felt good! I know, slap me. I’d have wanted to slap me if someone told me this after my first birth experience. But I swear, it’s true. This was very different for me from my previous births and I believe it was the absence of fear and the support I had that made the difference. My waters bulged and I could feel them and the head with my hand, I found this very encouraging and then there was a pop; my waters released! Again, on my previous two births I’d have been terrified to feel the head, but this time I was so cool about it.
As the surges came I dropped my head and leant into David, breathing and telling myself to open to birth. I cherish those memories as it really felt like we moved through labour and brought our baby into the world together. It felt very intimate at times and I forgot there was anyone else around. This I will say was short lived and as much as I was disappointed, I’m also glad of what came next. Amelia woke, yep my just turned two year old decided that just as mommy was starting to show signs of crowning that she wanted to watch her baby bro being born! I felt calm and that it was best to let her in. I had shown her some waterbirth videos in case this happened and thank God I did! When she came into the room she kinda knew what was going on, she wanted to be close to me and said “you ok mommy?” and rubbed my arm! Bless her! I asked my mom to wake our 10 year old daughter for the occasion seeing as the birth was taking this turn. I’m glad I did as she found it amazing and calm and is full sure she’ll birth her babies at home. I’m actually so glad she got to experience this, as she has no fear now. What a gift that is!
I had turned onto my back and baby was almost crowning with each surge, but it was only when I mentally decided that I was doing it NOW that he was born. I turned into my husband and zoned out from all the people. With the next surge I felt the power of birth rushing through me and using my ‘j breathing’ brought baby Nathan to crowning. Liz told me after my perineum didn’t stretch as such, she said it opened which I’d read about in Ina May’s book but couldn’t believe it happened to me. Liz said she’d only seen it once before. It did however still sting like a LOT for like 20 seconds and then I felt his head born.
Soon after the next surge came and before I knew it baby Nathan was swimming up to me in the pool! What an incredible sight and feeling! He was covered in vernix and appeared to be sleeping as he was so calm Liz reckoned it was so calm a birth that he hadn’t even realised he’d been born! To our shock we discovered we’d a little boy! Amelia was thrilled saying “baby baby baby!” His big, big sister Alannah couldn’t believe her eyes.
It was a bit manic I’ll say that and myself and David had really wanted that first undisturbed hour together with our new baby but it just wasn’t to be. Amelia was stripping off and joining me in the pool and that was that!
Within a few minutes I got more surges and at 15 minutes felt the urge to push and out came the placenta all by itself! Was seriously loving this birth!
I stayed in the pool for almost an hour getting to know my little prince and he did the breast crawl and fed, but he was so sleepy still no crying at all! We got some pics of us as a family of five and then my mom tried to bring Amelia back to bed. That wasn’t happening, so unfortunately David had to leave me at this point which does make me a bit sad.
Nathan had his chord ready and waiting for his Daddy to cut on his return and to my shock he weighed 9lb 2 almost 2lb heavier than my last! And this pregnancy I was a vegetarian…stunned doesn’t come close! It was also my easiest birth, no perineal trauma, no fear and I mean you just can’t buy that!!
A while later I had a gorgeous hot shower in my own bathroom and was tucked up with my two men soon after in our bed. My midwives were unreal and I honestly can’t thank them enough!
I’m trying to cherish the moments as you never know it could be my last but I’ve a sneaky suspicion with a birth that good it might not be…
Baby Nathan David Hamill born 19th October 2016 at 4:06 am in a room full of love
Birth experience and photographs submitted by Aisling Hamill.