During labour

Cutting the cordFirst FeedDaddy and babyDaddy and babyWeighing babyBabyIts all over and we can relax ...Alun’s Journey through Aoife’s Birth

I woke up early Friday morning, probably around 1:30am and Anna was awake. She was restless, fidgeting, uneasy. I asked her what was up; she said she couldn’t sleep properly. I went back to sleep for a while and woke up again at 3ish. I too was not sleeping well. Anna had said she felt funny and had been timing some pains in her stomach region. Without leaping out of the need in a panic I calmly talked with Anna about how she felt. She was pessimistically optimistic about what might be happening. Maybe it was the start f labour or just Braxton Hicks (false labour). I woke up a few times more before my alarm; Anna was in a shallow sleep. At the 3ish wake up I said I would stay at home but Anna said there was no need.

At 5:30ish when we were both awake again, I said again that I would stay at home. I think this time Anna was glad I would be around as the pains were oc¬curring regularly and at shorter intervals.

As Aoife was a week over her December 2nd due date and way over her 23rd November due date we had learned to be patient. At this stage though we both wanted labour to start yet still in a natural way. Now it had started we were excited, scared, quietly confident and apprehensive all at once. We did or best to be calm and relaxed about the process. We kept going with the timing, Anna texted our midwife at 8am and he called back, asked a few questions about tim¬ing and how Anna felt. He too wasn’t going to rush over, so on it went, Aoife’s labour.
We kept a close eye on the contractions; I was noting the time and duration of each one. By 9am the contractions were happening about every 5 minutes, Anna was dealing with them very well. At this stage we had accepted that Anna was in labour and that it wasn’t a false alarm.
It’s a funny feeling knowing the labour has started and that a child is about to be born. You fear for its safety and hope for the Mama and the babba to do well. You think of all the potential problems and pit falls. All these things we prepared for, but caution always tells you to be aware of anything. From the moment we decided to have a child we worked hard on trying to be as healthy as possible. Healthy from a physical, mental and emotional point of view. A lot of hard work goes into the whole process from trying to conceive, feeding Anna a healthy diet of Smoothies with cabbage in, to lots of chocolate and of course choosing the birth path. We were fortunate to be in the area of a very good midwife. He attended us on numerous occasions before Aoife’s birth and was a calming balancing force during the pregnancy. Lisa was also a positive addition to the team but didn’t join until the last month.
The timing of the contractions continued until lunch time when Colm turned up. Anna was dealing well with them and Aoife seemed to be doing well also.
When he got here he did all the checks, wanted to see how we were doing. He wanted us to get out and have lunch but the weather was really crap, rain and we had managed to go out for a walk at 9:30am to the local shop. Colm wasn’t sure if he was going to stay or go, then come back later when things speeded up. He stayed in the end, and set about relaxing and doing Suduko and the Irish Time crossword :o)
Anna’s contractions were slowly getting closer and more intense but at a rela¬tively slow pace. This continued on into the evening when Lisa turned up after work at 7:30ish. Colm continued to monitor Anna and Aoife and kept an eye on the intensity of the contractions and their intervals. My job was to continue supporting Anna, encouraging her and sending good vibes. At this time of the evening things were starting to ratchet up, contractions were coming quicker and becoming more intense. Anna was continually moving around the bed in various positions trying to find a comfortable one. She was feeling nauseous and vomited several times. My Mum and Dad turned up a little earlier at 5ish and dropped off Aoife’s little bed but didn’t hand around due to the noises com¬ing from the bedroom!
When we got to about 9:00 / 9:30 we had “hit the wall”. Anna was in an inverted position and was saying “I can’t, I can’t”. I had run out of positions and was glad when Colm stepped in to pep us all up for the last push! He got us out into the hall, to walk around. He then got us to dance a bit to get Anna’s hips swaying and generally moving. Little Aoife was as she had been all along; feeling good and giving a constant 155 beats per minute. We walked down one flight of stairs and back up, danced a little more, then made or way back to the apartment.
We were refreshed, reenergised and ready to move on with the birth. We were all exhausted too, but we weren’t going back or to the hospital. Colm did an internal examination on Anna to check her dilation; I think he said 8 – 9cm and could feel Aoife’s head. Anna could feel / sense that the time was approaching and moved from the bed to sit on the loo and back to the bed. Colm and Lisa were always supporting, not pushing us but still moving us along. While Anna was on the loo in the bathroom, she got some fluid discharge and some blood. We sensed that birth was close, her contractions were close together and you could see the swelling in her groin area. I remember Colm saying “where do you want to have this baby”. It’s not a question you get asked every day! We went to the bed, Anna wasn’t sure she could walk but made it by waddling to the bedroom. 
Anna sat on the edge of the bed with her face down. I was by her head encouraging and supporting her, Lisa had been given the camera at this stage to photo the event. Aoife’s head was starting to appear now, still in the “caul”! We turned Anna around, with me sitting on the bed and Anna on the edge of the bed between my legs. Within 5 minutes of this position change Aoife was born. It wasn’t easy as Anna will contest but when the head started to appear she came out quite quickly. When she did pop out, Colm caught her, put a towel around her and gave her to Anna; she cried a little. She was and is so beautiful, we were blown away, exhilarated, relieved, and exhausted. We were so happy we almost forgot to check what gender she was! A little girl. Wow! Aoife’s name then got decided on very quickly.
I cut the umbilical cord a short while later. The placenta followed on after that and so the birth was over in effect. Anna was in really good shape and had very minimal damage. Colm and Lisa tended us and the baby for a while to make sure all was well. They then left us alone with Aoife, we were so happy. Tea and toast was brought in a little later and by 1:30am we had been left on our own with Aoife; life moved on and now our little family was three.


Aoife’s Birth by her mother Anna
Aoife’s “due date” according to the hospital scan was 23d November so by the time we got to 42 weeks we suspected that maybe the dates of the first scan done at MC giving us the EDD of 2nd December might be more accurate. Coincidently both dates matched my own “possible dates, which didn’t help! As I had been planning a homebirth from the beginning I was anxious to avoid induction, especially after successfully having her turned from breech by ECV at 38 weeks (or rather 36 weeks retrospectively)
So we embarked on a diet of raspberry leaf tea, fresh pineapple, hot baths, hot curry (well, given my abhorrence of curry, a spicy jambalaya!) and even recruited DH for some the 3rd type of “hot” ;-) But Aoife was on her own timetable, and on Thursday the 11th December I bit the bullet and booked in for a hospital check up the following Wednesday, when I’d be 42+1 by the MC scan. She was getting regular check-ups by Colm, (my midwife) and moving plenty, so I wasn’t worried (too much) about how she was. I also made an appointment for a reflexology appointment on the morning of the 12th as I had heard that it could also help move things along, and it would certainly be a last bit of “me-time” before her arrival. Guess what... I had to cancel both...
On the Thursday night, after meeting a friend for lunch and realising that my hip pain which had been quite bad was suddenly gone, I felt the first “twinges”. Starting at 12:30 I suspected they were just Braxton Hicks, but they kept being a consistent 20 – 30 minutes apart – just long enough for me to almost fall asleep in between but not quite. I listened to my Gentle Birth CDs about 3 or 4 times and quietly wondered if this was it. Alun was oblivious to all of this as I didn’t need him awake too, but by 6am he realised something was up. At that stage I thought he’d be better off at work as I didn’t think things would move very fast, but by 8m the Braxton Hicks were almost 5 minutes apart and we both agreed he’d better satay home.
We texted Colm to let him know something was happening and that we’d keep him posted as to how things progressed. Then I had a long soak in the bath and got as close to sleep as I had been all nigh. Expecting a long day we went for a short walk to the nearby shops – a funny sight as I was stopping every 5 – 10 minutes to deal with what we now accepted were “contractions” but very manageable. I remember breakfast as being a very tasty croissant with jam, and we just went with the flow until lunchtime, passing the time in-between “surges” by putting together the pram which we had left in its box until now especially so we’d have something to do in the early stages. Oh, and I cancelled my reflexology appointment!
Colm arrived to let him know something was happening and that we’d keep him posted as to how things progressed. Then I had a long soak in the bath and got as close to sleep as I had been all nigh. Expecting a long day we went for a short walk to the nearby shops – a funny sight as I was stopping every 5 – 10 minutes to deal with what we now accepted were “contractions” but very man¬ageable. I remember breakfast as being a very tasty croissant with jam, and we just went with the flow until lunchtime, passing the time in-between “surges” by putting together the pram which we had left in its box until now especially so we’d have something to do in the early stages. Oh, and I cancelled my reflexology appointment!
Colm arrived at lunchtime and planned to stay for a couple of hours and see how things went. If progress was slow, and steady, he’d go home for a few hours, and come back later in the evening. Baby’s heartbeat was checked and was strong and steady and my contractions were still consistently every 5 minutes. I fell in love with my birthing ball in a whole new way – lying on it whilst on the bed, as well as building a “jenga” like tower with every single pillow and cushion in the apartment to lean over! By 3pm Colm decided to stay, but left us to our own devices, just checking in on us every now and then to monitor baby’s heartbeat. I remember helping with crossword clues and being stumped by “edible fish” 7 letters... Alun was taking his timekeeping duties very seriously and meticulously recorded the length and frequency of every contraction. I didn’t need to tell him when they started or finished anymore, it was getting pretty obvious as I was quite vocal at this stage – God only knows what my neighbours were thinking! I had hoped to listen to my Gentle birth cd’s again, but the MP3 player had run out of batteries and we didn’t think to re-charge it. I was sick once or twice and beginning to realise things were definitely progressing. I didn’t feel the need for pain relief... yet, as I wanted to hold out for as long as possible as all that was available to me at home was gas and air.
As it was dinner time, the guys were tucking into some bean stew and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the smell – I was having enough issues keeping breakfast down. I always thought I’d be able to eat and certainly want to eat during labour but not so. I drank a lot of water but just about managed half a yoghurt all day, which wasn’t going to help when I got tired later.
I think it was about 7pm when Lisa, a midwife who was observing homebirths with Colm arrived after her shift at the hospital, and it was great to have another calming gentle person around us. I was beginning to wonder how far we had left to go or even how far we had come. I was dreading being told only “1cm” or something like that. Baby’s heartbeat was still a steady 140, never flickered.
Colm suggested he could do an internal if I wanted, and at that point I needed to know where we were and agreed. It wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but found out I was about 8cm which was a relief! I was getting more and more tired though, and the contractions weren’t waves any more, but felt more “square” – just one intense pulse that my entire body was fighting against rather than working with. We had tried the tens machine earlier, but it had been entirely useless (think mobile phone strapped to back, or even mild electrocution!) Now I found myself with my head buried in the pillows on my bed and my bum in the air, probably trying to slow things down so I could get a rest!
Colm mentioned that hospital and the epidural were still an option if I felt I needed it, which was all well and good – it would have been getting off the bed and out the door that would have been the problem! I remember seeing Alun sitting dejected on the loo at this stage and I though t to myself I’d better perk up a bit, cause if he was about to give up, then I was going to have no chance. I considered using the gas and air, but as I still felt queasy, and I didn’t want to be tied to anything it really didn’t seem worth it at this stage. I think it was around now that Colm mentioned the need to change the energy in the apartment – and he was so right. Everything had become stale and tired. Apparently baby hadn’t quite turned its back to my front so a “walk” was suggested. I thought getting up to standing would be a major achievement!
But with Colm, Lisa and Alun’s encouragement I stood, walked the few steps out of out of the bedroom, and “slow danced” with Alun in the hallway. The ability to trust Alun to completely physically support me and out baby was overwhelming – I had my arms around his neck and effectively just hung off him! They coaxed me out onto the balconies outside and even down 8 steps and back up again – how I did this I will never know, but it was exactly what was needed.
Within an hour I was pushing our baby out and I don’t think I have ever been so scared in my life. Until that moment just before her head crowned it seemed like I had everything planned and in control, and at that precise moment something was about to happen that was going to change everything beyond my wildest dreams and I suspect that all just dawned on me then! I don’t often admit that I am frightened, but don’t think I will ever forget looking straight into our midwife’s eyes and on finding them realising that it was all going to be fine. And it was... All of a sudden (how after almost 24 hours, anything can happen suddenly is still puzzling....) at 22:44 our beautiful baby was put into my arms and all the pain was gone and forgotten. She was wide eyed and amazing, it took us a few minutes to even think about checking if “baby” was a boy or a girl! When we did I made Alun double check, I couldn’t believe I had a little girl. Completely alert and perfect. The first hour with her, with Alun holding me and me holding Aoife, all of us holding onto each other, is etched in my memory. The placenta was delivered about half an hour later (somehow it end up in our freezer, and I’m still not sure how or why!?!). Alun cut the umbilical chord after managing to render the 1st
clamp useless by closing it on itself... I had always wondered why there was a pack of 2 in the homebirth pack!
Of course me being me I wanted to let people know our fabulous news that night, and soon I was texting the relevant people i.e. parents, my friends, etc. Whilst Colm and Alun checked everything was ok with baby Aoife, Lisa helped me into my shower, which was undoubtedly one of the best showers I’ve ever had. I remember being able to see my little girl in the mirror of the en-suite while I showered, watching her being given the once over – 10 fingers and 10 toes, simply perfect.
It’s incredible how you go from intense pain to complete amazement and joy in a heartbeat. The moment I had Aoife in my arms every second of discomfort was worth it. I ended up with a small 1st degree tear, but nothing worth worrying about. After a lovely slice of tea and toast, Aoife was weighed and Alun and I were left for our 1st night as a brand new family. I was up and about the next morning, delighted to have close friends and our families meet our new baby daughter.
What I’d say to other first time Mums, whether you’re planning to have your baby at home or in hospital, is to trust yourself – you know what is right for you and your baby. Accept all and every piece of advice offered by everyone around you (and this counts for 2nd hand baby clothes and equipment too), but keep only that what you really know you need. It’s hard to believe it’s already been 5 weeks and scary how much Aoife has already changed. She’s looking around taking everything in and loves being out and about with her Mum. She has Alun wrapped around her little finger and I don’t think there is anything he wouldn’t do for her.
And last, but not least the 2 best buys – rosewater to sooth tenderness for the first pees, and maternity bed protectors to save the carpet for anyone planning a homebirth!

First birth and born at home, Midwife Colm, breech but turned, birth pool, father's perspective