Healing Gentlebirth for Second Time Mum in CUMH

Birth story of Louis 

There were two main reasons why I decided to do a GentleBirth course, the first being the birth experience I had with my daughter four years ago which involved an induction due to high bp, my partner being sent home and arriving back just an hour before she was delivered so I laboured alone, coached pushing on my back, pethadine, gas and air, an episiotomy and vacuum delivery, a room full of people as she was in distress which resulted in the experience staying with me for a long time after. I wouldn't say it was traumatic but it certainly didn't feel empowering or beautiful, it was panicky and scary. We also had some difficulty in maintaining a second pregnancy and had quite a lot of medical intervention early on in this pregnancy so I had a strong urge to have as little intervention as possible during the later stages of pregnancy and the birth. I was in the high risk clinic due to the previous history so I was not too hopeful of having a natural delivery but after completing the course I felt that I would be prepared for whatever path the birth would take. At various hospital visits induction was mentioned as they didn't want me to go too far over, the baby was consistently measured and monitored but as I came to the end of the pregnancy there had been no complications and I'd made my birth preferences very clear so by my 38 week visit the clinic were very happy to leave me to my own devices.

I had a check up with my gp at 39+4 and my bp had crept up a little which caused a bit of concern as I had be induced on my daughter for the same reason. She asked me to come back two days later to monitor again and we'd take it from there. So I went home and relaxed as best I could for the next 48 hours, my mother took my daughter for a sleepover, I had a bath, got early nights and prepared mentally for the possibility of induction again which included listening to the gb affirmations. I went back to my gp two days later and as my bp hadn't gone up hugely from the previous day she was happy not to send me to the hospital as I had an appointment a few days later anyway but we discussed the possibility that an induction might be likely at that point. My due date was the following day and as I knew that my bp wasn't too high I felt instantly more relaxed. Interestingly enough I had had one quite strong pain while I was waiting for the gp but didn't think anything of it at the time. 

“The course I did with Mary worked especially well for us in terms of writing birth preferences and feeling really confident about asserting these, my partner would especially endorse this and we would both really recommend the course to any prospective parents.”

That afternoon I had my final session of reflexology that I had started in week 32 and felt so relaxed that I fell asleep on the chair, I went home and one of my best friends visited with her two kids and my mum dropped my daughter back. I spent that afternoon laughing and joking with them, the biggest laugh coming from the fact that my mother had a feeling that I would go into labour that night and have the baby the next day on my due date. Later that evening I ended up watching some comedy shows, so basically I had a lovely day feeling very relaxed. By the time I went to bed at midnight I'd had a few more little pains about half an hour apart but didn't think much of it. I tried to sleep but couldn't get comfortable and at about 2am I started getting stomach cramps and had to run to the toilet a couple of times, again I didn't think much of it as this had happened a week prior however after a short time both the cramps and pains started getting stronger and closer together maybe around 12-15 minutes apart. At roughly 2:30am I felt a pop very low down in my tummy and got a bit of fright, I think I was in disbelief that I might actually be in labour! My waters didn't release straight away but about 10 minutes after that pop I felt a trickle when I stood up. The pains were now 9-10 minutes apart so I decided to wake my partner, I had a feeling that things would move quickly so I told him to call my mum straight away and call the hospital to tell them we were coming in. My partner was so funny at this point, he had just come off back to back shifts and had gotten such a fright when I woke him that he was running around the house panicking, I had to stop him in between surges and tell him to relax and calm down. My mum arrived 15 minutes later by this time the surges were 5-6 minutes apart and very intense so we headed immediately to the hospital feeling really excited! 

Pic courtesy of Pexels.com

Pic courtesy of Pexels.com

On arrival I was examined and told that the baby's head was still quite high and they never mentioned a figure on how much I was dilated, I'm actually quite glad they didn't talk numbers as I may have been disappointed if I was only a couple of centimetres, I knew myself that regardless of this things were moving fast and the baby wouldn't long coming, I actually didn't care about figures or timing, I just knew. My partner having calmed down by the time we got to the hospital also made sure at this point and in fact at every other point where we met another midwife to make sure they read our birth preferences. I was brought to the antenatal ward to continue labouring, I was only there for perhaps and hour and a half and things really started moving, my partner had to call the midwife eventually and when she checked me she said ok baby's head is right down and you're 7cm, all I remember is her talking to someone saying we need to bring her down she's bombing along! This whole time I was really focused on the surges, I breathed through them and tried to move as much as possible, I was upright the entire time which really helped. My partner totally took over on every other front, he spoke to the midwives, kept offering water and had a damp cloth ready for my forehead and neck. 

“My partner totally took over on every other front, he spoke to the midwives, kept offering water and had a damp cloth ready for my forehead and neck. ”

We were then rushed off to delivery where I was greeted by two amazing midwives, they had the bed already raised up so I could lean on it and had ice water at the ready, the room was calm, quiet and they spoke in whispers, they offered gas and air but I didn't take it as I felt it would distract me. The surges were so intense at this stage that I was making quite a lot of noise, but it was helpful and felt productive. As the intensity ramped up again they encouraged me to kneel on the bed and raised up the back of it so I could lean over it and deliver upright. After about 30 minutes I started to feel the urge to push, for the first few urges I just let them come but then the midwife reminded me to push into them as well which instantly made a difference, I can be scary to push with them but when you do it makes it feel like the baby is actually moving. I can't say that I didn't feel pain or that the whole room was like an oasis of calm but it was happening gently if that makes sense. I felt like I was pushing for a long time, even though my partner says it wasn't that long, and at one point I did get quite upset as I felt like the baby was never going to come. At this, one of the midwives came to me squeezed my hand and just said 'you are doing amazing, really, your baby is nearly here, just another couple of pushes', the other midwife kept saying 'he's making his way gently and beautifully, don't worry', it was all I needed to hear and sure enough a few more pushes the head was born another push and the rest of my little boy Louis landed softly on the bed at 7:50am weighing 6lbs 10oz. I was so shocked and elated that I started screaming with excitement, the midwives had to almost shake me back to reality to actually pick up the baby, I was just so shocked that I had done it and he was here, we had waited three years to have a second healthy baby, I'll never forget that feeling! 

“...one of the midwives came to me squeezed my hand and just said ‘you are doing amazing, really, your baby is nearly here, just another couple of pushes’, the other midwife kept saying ‘he’s making his way gently and beautifully, don’t worry’, it was all I needed to hear”

We had delayed cord clamping, immediate skin to skin, my partner then cut the cord and the baby then breastfed for over an hour! I had a second degree tear which was stitched up quickly by another amazing midwife, compared to the episiotomy it really was a walk in the park and has healed so well. In fact he's now two and a half weeks old and other than that wicked tiredness I feel great! I do believe it's probably a mix of that high from having a wonderful intervention free and fear free birth and the fact that I have a very busy four year old! 

I know this was a very long birth story and well done if you're still reading but I really wanted to include my experience leading up to going into labour, I was so anxious about being induced that when I finally gave in to the possibility of it I actually relaxed a lot more, the affirmation 'I accept whatever path my birthing takes' kept playing in my mind. Ironically not long after I felt really relaxed I went into labour naturally anyway! As the labour was quite fast, I didn't have time of the tracks or the tens machine I had ready, or any other little tricks I had planned for labour and in fact during my surges I just wanted quiet and stillness so I could focus. The course I did with Mary worked especially well for us in terms of writing birth preferences and feeling really confident about asserting these, my partner would especially endorse this and we would both really recommend the course to any prospective parents. Mary was a wonderful support after the course also and it was lovely to go to the meet up just a few days before Louis arrived. Throughout the pregnancy I also did yoga with a fantastic and very experienced instructor which I feel helped with positions and breathing. Lastly I think it's worth mentioning that as someone who's only birth option is a hospital birth due to medical history the staff in CUMH from before conception, pregnancy, birth and on the post natal ward were all incredible, I think they often don't get enough credit, it was so different from the experience we had four years ago. I felt supported and listened to every step of the way. 

“Lastly I think it’s worth mentioning that as someone who’s only birth option is a hospital birth due to medical history the staff in CUMH from before conception, pregnancy, birth and on the post natal ward were all incredible... ”

I'm still a bit in shock at how well and how text book everything went, after a really difficult few years I didn't think I would get a gentle birth but I did, it was tough but it was amazing and it has definitely healed the hurt and fear I felt after the birth of my daughter.

Odhran's Birth

It took me a few years to conceive my second baby. When I did get pregnant I was over the moon. The hospital scan at 12 weeks had estimated my due date as the 20th July.  However, my  own estimated due date was 29th July and as I had been charting my own cycle I was completely clear on my dates. As a result I had politely, but firmly, argued with the hospital that my dates were the most accurate and would not accept the scan date as my due date. I really didn't want to have the pressure of induction that I had faced on Sadbh's birth a few years back, and that was still very much in my mind. I was really glad I did as the hospital dates of the 20th of July came and went, as did my own date of 29th July. I was under no pressure though as I still had plenty of time.

For this pregnancy, I was not as fearful as with the first one. My panic attacks in general had improved, and were not as debilitating as when I was pregnant with Sadbh, I had also experienced a really positive birth experience and I knew a lot more about how GentleBirth worked as I was now teaching monthly workshop in Cork. There was still some fear though.  I couldn't help but think that perhaps the first time round I was just 'lucky' and this time round I would see how birth really was - painful and excruciating (I mean that's what most people had told me it was going to be like, so maybe they were right!!!). It is amazing how strong fear can be and how much the brain can hold onto it!!! I went back to listening to my GentleBirth tracks and like the last time instantly I felt much better and more positive. For the residual fear I used the Fear Release track a lot more this time.  I also brought David through the GentleBirth workshop so he would have all the helpful tools the Dads at the workshops learn while they attend. This also helped as I felt confident he could help me if I needed it.

On Saturday 31st July I did my usual Saturday routine – went down to the local market to shop for food for the week, bumping into lots of friends on the way for a chat. All were surprised I was still ‘hanging in there' (I was enormous on this pregnancy!) I felt perhaps labour was starting – I had been getting what felt like very mild tightening in my abdomen all morning. However, I wasn’t sure, as they were so mild I felt they could have been warm up surges (Braxton Hicks). After shopping and lunch I went for an acupuncture appointment and explained to my acupuncturist  (the amazing Pierce Hennessy in Midleton who had been treating me for the entire pregnancy) that I could be in labour. I had a lovely treatment, listening to my GentleBirth tracks while on the table. The treatment took about 40 minutes and I took note that I had 3 surges while there. They were still extremely mild – they still just felt like tightening sensations, however they did seem to be getting slightly stronger. After acupuncture, I went down town to do a few more bits and pieces before making my way home.

“It was a great evening with lots of joking and laughing, ending in us all dancing around the kitchen to my daughters favourite song at the moment - ‘All the Single Ladies’.”

I went up to chill in bed for a while and debated with myself whether to call my friend Tracey who was one of my support team for the birth. She lives in Tipperary – about 2 hours drive away and was due to come down the next day for a visit. Eventually my gut told me to phone her, which I did. I explained my hesitation, but she said she would leave right away. I then went back up to bed and watched some TV.  During a trip to the toilet I had what seemed like a very small show, but it was a miniscule amount.

Around 6pm my 4 year old daughter, Sadbh, and husband, David, came home from a birthday party and myself and Sadbh had a huge pillow fight upstairs. I was still having surges and they seemed to be getting stronger as I found myself having to stop playing for a second to take a deep breath while they happened. Then around 7pm Tracey and my other friend Gwen (who was staying locally) arrived. These friends along with my Mam and my husband David were my birth team.  We all sat down to a lovely dinner cooked by David and washed down with some Prosecco (not for me!!!) It was a great evening with lots of joking and laughing, ending in us all dancing around the kitchen to my daughters favourite song at the moment -  ‘All the Single Ladies’.

David holding Odhran shortly after he was born

David holding Odhran shortly after he was born

By this stage the surges were definitely getting stronger and I had to stop eating and talking while I was having one, to breathe through it. I still wasn’t sure I was in labour however as they were so manageable. Gwen suggested I call Mary Cronin (my midwife) just to let her know I was having surges and how close they were (about every 15 minutes).  Then we all went into the sitting room to watch a Tom and Jerry DVD with Sadbh. After about half an hour of the DVD I had to leave the room, the surges were intensifying and Tom and Jerry was a bit too active for me!!! I had continued to use deep breathing during a surge and was feeling great. Myself, Gwen, Tracey and David went upstairs and set up the laptop to watch Glee – I had been saving episodes to watch during labour. After about 20 minutes my waters released (this was about 10.40pm). I phoned the midwife who said she was on her way. After my waters went the surges intensified. However, I still felt in control and that they were manageable. David, Tracey and Gwen are hilarious and they were making me laugh so much that the intensity of the surge would just dissipate with the laughter.

“David, Tracey and Gwen are hilarious and they were making me laugh so much that the intensity of the surge would just dissipate with the laughter.”

After a while the surges became very powerful and I needed to get up on the birth ball and roll. My doulas would rub my back in between with a lovely aromatherapy mix (which has become my Love and Labour Blend), which both felt and smelt great - again helping me to relax. I was also feeling extremely hot and Gwen rubbed me down with a cool cloth, which also felt great (needless to say I had stopped watching Glee at this stage). After a while I began to feel like I wanted to vomit, and asked for a bucket but thankfully this passed quickly without me throwing up. All the while I was listening to my GentleBirth tracks – and it is hard to accurately put into words how I felt really. I have heard and read stories from women who say they enter this powerful zone where their body is doing all the work. I suppose it is like what we says in the GentleBirth workshop – turn your thinking brain off.  Ina May Gaskin says about birth – ‘let your monkey do it’ - well this is how it felt. My thinking brain was in me somewhere but it was hard to access, putting a sentence together was really challenging.  At one stage I wanted a hair band, but found it really hard to formulate the sentence. I had managed to access this powerful primal part of myself and it felt amazing. All of my body was busy birthing my baby and I felt so full of power, so much a woman, so connected to that primitive part of me that just knew how to birth this baby. ‘I’ didn’t have to do anything - my body was working so effectively. The surges were taking over completely and they did indeed feel like waves (which is why the rocking helped me so much I think), coursing through my body and ebbing and flowing from my head to my toe. They were intense and so powerful.

“All of my body was busy birthing my baby and I felt so full of power”

I have no idea how frequently the surges were coming.  I did manage to ask to get the pool filled as I wanted to float in water – I had bad oedema in my legs and I thought the water would be a chance to rest my legs. I asked Tracey and Gwen to fill it as I wanted David up with me.  At  11.40pm the midwife arrived and examined me – she put the lights on but I couldn’t bear them, so I managed to ask to turn them off which she did. I found out later I was 9cm at this stage (I didn’t ask on the night – I didn’t want to know and didn’t even think to ask).

I do remember at times thinking that the surges were so strong I would not be able to handle the next one – thankfully, however, the other part of my brain would kick in and override the doubt and go with what was happening to my body. All the time I had the GentleBirth tracks on and this helped immensely as I associated them with relaxation and calmness, and the affirmations were great. 

“ll the time I had the GentleBirth tracks on and this helped immensely as I associated them with relaxation and calmness, and the affirmations were great. ”

odhran - A few days old

odhran - A few days old

At some stage my daughter came into the room to see me – David explained to her that I was having the baby and that although I was being very vocal I wasn’t in pain. ‘I know’ Sadbh replied – she was not a bit phased by me in labour. She sat down on the bed beside him and 10 minutes later fell asleep!!!

 David was a great help as well – reminding me to breathe, and telling me how amazing I was. That really helped me a lot, he felt so reassuring I just knew I could do it.  At some point, a short time after the midwife arrived, we transferred downstairs. I was still hoping to use the pool – little did I know I wouldn’t have a chance at all. Although I had no idea how dilated I was the surges felt different. They felt more like I was bearing down so I presume I was in second stage labour at this stage. I don’t remember walking downstairs – the sitting room was dark, but the pool was nowhere near ready. I knelt on the couch for a while – with David supporting me. Then I went and sat on the birth stool I had borrowed from a friend (thank goodness for it, as it helped so much with my swollen legs and it had a lovely cushion so it was comfy) while leaning into David who was on a chair. I didn’t realise it, but at this stage the baby’s head was at my perineum and I was trying to push him out. Forty minutes later (around 1.15am), we were still in the same boat – the baby’s head at my perineum but he couldn’t get past it. My perineum just wouldn’t stretch to let him out. Towards the end of this period I did start to feel pain – he was pressing against my bladder and I felt like I needed to pee but couldn’t. I was panicking a bit as well as in my first labour I had been in second stage labour for over 12 hours at home and had had to transfer to hospital. I didn’t realise at this stage that this baby was right down at my perineum (the midwife told me to reach down and feel his head but as this seemed to me to be a replay of what had happened with Sadbh's birth I didn't want to. I don't think I realised how different this was as Odhran was just about ready to be born, not slowly making his way down my birth canal).   The surges were powerful this time (unlike my previous birth), but he just could not get past my perineum.

I asked the birth team to go into the kitchen – perhaps everyone watching was slowing me down? To no avail. The midwife had me change position as well, to widen my legs, again no joy. She tried to help me stretch and give the baby some more room to pass with her fingers. Eventually she suggested an episiotomy – after consulting with the other midwife there (Ellmarie) - they were all agreed that this was the best option and so I agreed to it. I was hesitant since I had had to have one last time as well, and really was hoping to avoid it. However, she could not think of anything else to do at this stage, so I agreed to it and she gave me a small cut first – to no avail. She then widened the cut. It took another two or three surges and the baby’s head finally came out. It felt amazing – now I reached down and felt my babies head. With the next surge the body came out – it was so long and it felt so warm.  I took my little boy in my arms and felt so exhilarated. It was such an amazing feeling – here I was holding my new son in my arms – I felt like a warrior. I was on a high. I hobbled over to the couch (cord was still attached at this stage) and lay down holding him in my arms. He was so warm and wet and gorgeous. The rest is a blur – Mary let the cord pulsate for a few minutes then cut it as she had to get cord blood (I am Rhesus Negative). David cut the cord. Then we waited for the placenta to birth.

“It was such an amazing feeling – here I was holding my new son in my arms – I felt like a warrior.”

Mary sewed me up as we opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate. The birth team got busy cleaning up the house after the birth and when Mary was finished, cleaning me up as well. We were all on a high. Although he was born at 1.31am, we didn’t go to bed til 5.30am – I was high on hormones and excitement after such an amazing birth. Even now typing it up I am in tears remembering how powerful it was. I feel so blessed and honoured to have been able to experience and tap into this part of myself. I know it probably sounds corny but it feels like I accessed a connection to a powerful goddess in me  – it’s hard to put it into words. We named our son Odhran and he was 9lbs 15 oz. He started breastfeeding soon after (and still is nearly 3 years later  I loved my birth and one of the first things I said to David after he was born (before the cord was even cut!)  was – “oh I need to do that again, can we have a third one!!!!! Seriously!!!”

My fab birth team - Gwen, David, Mamó, Sadbh and Tracey (minus the midwives Mary Cronin and Ellmarie Coleman) 

My fab birth team - Gwen, David, Mamó, Sadbh and Tracey (minus the midwives Mary Cronin and Ellmarie Coleman) 

For such a short birth this sure is a long birth story, but I want to try to remember it all myself and capture it as best I can in words. Like my first labour I found the GentleBirth programme so helpful. It helped me during my pregnancy to allay any fears I had and to give me the chance to take some time for myself every day to listen to the CD (with a 4 year old and working outside the home part-time, it was a challenge to find the time but it was so worth it). When my labour started I felt excitment rather than fear, and this allowed me to trust my body to birth my baby for me.

“As with Sadbh’s birth I am still thrilled to look back with such great memories of his birth and to have had such a positive birth experience. Gentlebirth is amazing ”

We named our boy Odhran and he was a whopper at 9lb 15oz. He started feeding soon after and all of that went really well. As with Sadbh's birth I am still thrilled to look back with such great memories of his birth and to have had such a positive birth experience. GentleBirth is amazing. 

'We had the tools to cope with the spanners': Positive GentleBirth with Epidural for First Time Mum in CUMH

Our little bundle arrived to us on Friday, November 27th. Baby came into the world at 6:09 pm, weighing an impressive 8lbs 12 oz. Our birth preferences went somewhat out the window but we could not fault our treatment and made informed decisions along the way. 

My waters released Thursday morning, Nov 26th. My partner came home from work and we chilled out and watched a movie and I went working on my college assignment! That evening we headed into CUMH. I was admitted and we hung out in a quiet TV room with our music and candles. 

“we could not fault our treatment and made informed decisions along the way. ”

The surges didn’t start until midnight and they were coming thick and fast! At about 4am, I was wanting help in managing and we were sent downstairs. I didn’t like the reaction of the gas and air so was given Pethidine to help. Unfortunately, the Pethidine had me in such a way that I couldn’t even sit upright, let alone, walk around! 

At about 9am, exhausted, and struggling again, I decided I want an epidural. I am delighted I got it. I got some much needed rest. At about 4pm my contractions were coming thick and fast again and baby was well on his way. We were back to back making it more difficult and we had to be assisted with a ventouse delivery. 

“We had the tools to cope with the spanners and I felt very calm throughout the whole birthing experience”

Baby is perfect! Super long at 53.5cm with a beautiful head of blonde hair. I couldn't imagine life with out him. Although, labour and birth didn't go as we had hoped, we are super delighted and regret nothing. We had the tools to cope with the spanners and I felt very calm throughout the whole birthing experience.

Thank you so much for all your help. I would recommend a workshop to everyone!