At 36 weeks, I'd had a lovely, smooth-sailing pregnancy and had one week of work to go. My husband's best pal was tying the knot in Wexford on Saturday, so we travelled up Friday night. The only clues I had that something was about to go down was that my mucus plug had loosened on the journey up Friday, and I was feeling exhausted and emotional. But I didn't think much of this until afterwards...
We were staying the Friday night at my sister's student house outside Wexford as my sister was away. When we got there at 10pm, my partner asked me to drive him to the pub to meet the bridal party, I naturally told him where to go!! So I retired to bed, and he was home again by 1am (sober, thankfully). I woke again at 3am with feeling soggy... didn't take long to realise my waters had broken in my poor sister's bed and things were kicking off. I woke my husband really excitedly (but quietly as there were other people asleep in the house). We lay there chatting and giggling for the next half an hour while we tried to decide what to do.
This being my first pregnancy, we were ready for a long drawn out affair. All the same, my contractions started within about 15 minutes so we decided to hit the road for Cork. We packed our bags which we had just unpacked, and headed downstairs. We bumped into a couple of my sister's flatmate’s downstairs and got chatting to them about their night out and a festival that we'd all recently been at. When we made for the door at 4am explaining that we had to go now as I was in labour, the look on their faces was priceless.
So off we went on our three hour drive to Cork. We started off with some Gentlebirth affirmations which set the tone for an upbeat journey. Then I DJ'ed the road trip and rode the waves of each contraction by singing along loudly to all my old faves on Spotify. At the same time I was drumming out the beat on the dashboard with my hands, and when the surge got too strong to sing through, my partner encouraged me to shout out 'I love it!!' at the top of my voice. We stopped for coffee and scones half way and I stomped around the car through more surges.
We were timing the surges and were surprised that they were 1 minute long and 4 minutes apart almost from the beginning. They were still manageable though, although we had to stop the car a couple of times on the way so I could stomp up and down on the side of the road - this was at 6am on a misty morning and there weren't too many passersby.
We finally reached our house in Cork. The minute I walked in the door, the surges ramped it up a couple of notches. I don't know if it was because I left the car and lost my rhythm, or because my body realised it was back on familiar soil (=> go time!!) but the pain was so suddenly hiked up that when I made the call to the Domino nurses at CUMH I was crying while trying to explain my situation.
The nurse on the line told me to come in after I had had a shower and eaten breakfast. I had the shower, the water helped a little bit but the contractions were still so painful. Trying to dry and dress myself was comical because the contractions were coming so quickly I couldn't get anything done. It took about 20 minutes, a TENS machine, and my husband’s assistance to get me dressed. He kept reminding me about my gentlebirth breathing which was so helpful. We have a video of him trying to persuade me to have some black pudding he'd cooked and me saying we need to go NOW!!
When we got to CUMH I was 4cm dilated, after about 6 hours of labour. John and my lovely midwife walked me to the delivery ward and I leaned on the CUB while they filled the bath. I climbed into the bath then. It was pleasant and enjoyable but definitely didn't take the pain away! What did help was the gas and air, which was amazing. I stood up in the bath and hung with two hands off the pole that looks like a stripper pole - this really worked for me.
John decided to leave at this stage to go park the car as we had just abandoned it outside on the roundabout. But a few minutes later I started feeling extreme pressure pushing down. I was worried that the baby was going to come while John was out but my midwife reassured me that my body wouldn't let that happen (I assume she had fingers crossed behind her back while saying this).
When John returned the student midwife was already letting the water out of the bath. I couldn't really believe it, but it was starting to dawn on me that it was time to push already. (I must have dilated 6 cm in 45 minutes?). I was helped out of the bath and over to the CUB, where I leaned on it with my elbows and had knees on the floor.
The feelings at this stage were so so strong. I just let my body take over. I totally trusted the process to my body, my midwife and my husband. My mind faded into the background. Everything was calm... however it was definitely not peaceful as I was a very noisy pusher. After about 20 minutes of pushing, I reached back with both hands and Roisín fell into my arms. John and I were awestruck and just sat there on the floor for ages just marvelling at our new 6lb2 little friend and the miracle of what had just happened. She locked eyes with me in the middle of all the hubbub, it was just the most surreally beautiful experience. I got the first breastfeed underway with John by my side.
I escaped without any tears, so no stitches required. That was not the end of the story though. My placenta wouldn't deliver naturally and I had to go to theatre and receive a spinal anaesthesia to have it manually removed. However the staff explained what was happening every step of the way and it was easy to remain calm and happy. John and Roisín enjoyed some skin to skin and quality time while I was gone. We spent the next week or so on cloud 9, reliving every awesome moment.
Credit goes to the Gentlebirth course (thanks Mary Tighe!) and app; the incredible Domino midwives at CUMH; Juju Sundin's birth skills; Ina May's spiritual midwifery; and of course my one and only John Phelan.
Aisling, John & Roisin, CUMH, November 2018