Like most expectant mothers I was nervous, scared and excited all at the same time. Not for the sleepless nights ahead and looking after a newborn but for the birth.
For that built up fear of birth I actually blame other women & society. As this is all learned fear, not something we are born with. TV programmes like One born every minute (which I chose not to watch while pregnant) and other women telling me their horror stories or negative feelings of birth all added to that learned fear of labour. (Why do we always talk about bad news and not good news stories?!)
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I had all of my antenatal check ups at the Downpatrick Maternity Unit which is a midwifery led unit at my local hospital. I was lucky to have a smooth pregnancy and was classed as low risk (assessed during my antenatal checks). This meant that if I wanted to I could have my birth in the midwifery led unit as opposed to the main Ulster Hospital. This had pros and cons my husband and I needed to weigh up.
If I birthed in Downpatrick I would have one on one midwifery care, access to the home from home suite with birthing pool and active birthing equipment, one on one aftercare, facilities for my husband to stay with me and a more relaxed visiting policy. I also felt more confident that I would get a space in one of the home from home suites (they are like hotel rooms, dressing table and everything!) as it is a quieter hospital and I really wanted a waterbirth. I was also concerned about going to the Ulster and all of their home from home rooms being in use and that my opportunity to have a waterbirth would not be possible.
The cons were that if I needed surgery for any reason, a section or an epidural I would need to be blue lighted up to the Ulster (about 40minutes away). The available drug options were also more limited in Downpatrick.
Something that did reassure me though was that no risks would be taken what so ever and that if I needed to be transferred it would not be a last minute decision. The more I looked into it I discovered that as an out patient being transferred to the Ulster I would actually skip the queue for any surgery infront of someone who was already in the hospital, it would just be whether or not I would let the emergency situation take over my state of mind should it occur and that is something that would be difficult to manage or assume how you would react in an emergency situation. I also discovered that Downpatrick’s transfer rate for first time mothers was only 14% when the National Rate is 36% so I felt that it was less likely but at least the decision would be made for me if there was any doubt from the midwives.
I was actually sent to the Ulster for a growth scan on my due date and was told that until they signed me off as being eligible to deliver in Downpatrick I was not allowed to deliver there. So they were pretty strict. The consultant said that despite the baby having a spike in growth he was happy the placenta was healthy for a full term baby and that I was still eligible for the midwifery led unit.
I was not opposed to drugs at all but as I got closer to my due date and started to write out my birth preferences and as I weighed up which hospital we would deliver at I was feeling much more positive about birthing and had a lot more confidence in my body and in myself. This was all down to hypnobirthing and an amazing product called an epi-no! (I will do a separate blog on this!).
I had attended the active birthing classes at Downpatrick and signed up to 4 hypnobirthing classes with midwives Tracey & Karen. These changed my whole perspective of birth and I believe that the positive mental attitude I gained from these really helped me on the day and leading up to my babies birth. (Again I will do a post on hypnobirthing as there is so much that aided me in my birth from the classes and the books I read).
It was Thursday 2nd Feb 2017 and I was a 6 days over my due date. I had already turned down 2 sweeps but agreed to get one today. (I will discuss this more in my hypnobirthing blog post)
The sweep itself was fine, Aine who performed it was so lovely and had me at ease from the word go. Again people had geared me up for the worst, hearing things like take paracetamol beforehand ‘it wrecks’ Or ‘it’s worse than a smear’ etc etc. In actual fact I couldn’t believe it was over when she said it was. I simply lay back and used my hypnobirthing techniques to relax myself and it was over before I knew it.
I wasn’t overly convinced it would work and had hoped to go for a walk that afternoon to help move things along but the weather was awful, so I ended up napping at my parents house and enjoyed being waited on by my mum and sisters. It turns out those were the last guilt free naps I would take!
Baby Beattie (we didn’t find out the sex) was looking out!!
I had spent the evening bouncing on my ball back at home watching TV. We went to bed about 10.30 and I read the final chapter of my 2nd hypnobirthing book. I text my mum and sisters at 11pm to say I don’t think anything is happening tonight.
Half an hour later I started to get period like cramps and could not get comfortable and was tossing and turning. My husband in a daze asked if I was OK and I brushed it off saying I just couldn’t get comfy. (I had been tossing and turning a lot in the final weeks so it really wasn’t anything out of the ordinary).
I decided to get up and go back into the living room and onto the ball. I listened to my hypnobirthing tracks and practiced my breathing. I hope this isn’t TMI but I then went to the loo (they say your body has a clear out before birth). I just thought ohh I really needed that and felt better so got back into bed, but the cramps continued. So I brought the ball into the bedroom and tried out some of the posistions I had learnt in my active birthing class and did my breathing.
I just could not get comfy. The surges or cramps as they felt to me were lasting longer and coming on faster. The only place I could get comfy was sitting on the loo doing my breathing and rocking myself like something out of the exorcist.
It was about 2.30am and my husband started to take it seriously as I had stopped brushing it off at this stage. I was now saying ‘I hope this is it!’
He googled how far apart contractions should be before you leave for the hospital. (I had actually downloaded an app to record your contractions but I was very much in ‘the zone’ and let him get on with it!).
He made himself tea & toast (thinking we are in for the long haul here!) and rang the hospital about 3 am and the on call midwife rang us back. He explained this was our first child and we understood it can take time. Chris is a farmer and delivers calves often so he was very calm about the whole thing which meant I did not get worked up. I was convinced we were not leaving until at least 5am as my biggest worry was arriving and being told I was only 3cm dilated and to go home.
The midwife Teresa suggested we give it the hour, take two paracetamol and call her back to let her know how it was going but to ring back sooner if we thought things were progressing. I actually spoke to Teresa too briefly but was mid contraction and had to get Chris to do the talking.
It was about 3.30am and Chris was timing my contractions, they were coming every 2 minutes lasting about a minute and a half. He decided to phone his mum who lives next to us on the farm (she used to be a midwife), so he got her to come up to reassure us.
When she arrived I was rocking myself on the loo breathing and saying all of my birth affirmations to myself. It was around this time I said to my husband ‘I don’t think I can do this’. This was a turning point and I chose to turn this into a positive as from all of my hypnobirthing I had learnt that this stage was called the transitioning stage and at the point were you are drained and can take no more is when you are ready to have your baby.
I knew it was close and I felt like I either needed to poo or push, but I was still convinced we were not leaving just yet. Thankfully my Mother in law was there as she could feel my tummy and gauge the surges as they came. She helped me breath my way through each contraction and inbetween each one basically dressed me for the hospital an item of clothing at a time between each surge. I was set on getting a shower but she knew I was close and had no time for that.
Meanwhile Chris had phoned the midwife to say we were coming in, fitted the car seat and got all of the bags (while I demanded hair straighteners, a make up bag and a charger as my last minute items to be packed!)
The car journey for me was the worst part simply because I could not get comfortable as could not physically sit down.
When we arrived at the Downe Teresa who we had been speaking to on the phone already had the room set up, pool full and drugs set up should we need them. Lisa our other midwife had arrived as I was in a wheelchair being taken to the maternity unit.
Teresa and Lisa were amazing, they made us both feel so calm (the gas and air helped too!) I had to get on the bed to get checked and so they could monitor babies heart. I at this point was having none of it I wanted into the water as I needed to push, but they assured me as soon as all checks were done I could get in. I got gas and air as I could not lie comfortably for them to do their checks. The stuff was amazing! First off they checked babies heart beat and it was even better to hear it then than it had been in any antenatal appointment.
Then I felt like they were whispering and I remember feeling anxious that they would say ‘sorry your 3cm go home’ but to my surprise and delight Teresa said ‘Tara you are fully dilated, you are ready to have this baby!’ All I could say to myself was ‘I know!’.
I was so proud and shocked at myself. They were asking Chris about our birth preferences and looking over my green folder and I remember Teresa saying! ‘That hypnobirthing is why you are in here at 10cm Tara well done!’ and I was so pleased with myself.
Once I got into the pool Chris said he just watched the tension drain from my face and my body totally relax. I felt much more in control and felt the surges were more manageable now I was in the water. I had the gas and air in the pool too and really started to get my own rhythm.
I asked Chris to play my hypnobirthing tracks but he was struggling getting the wifi to play the link I had saved. Before I knew it Lisa had the tracks playing on her phone for me in order for me to get ‘in the zone’.
It was Teresa who gently suggested after a short time ‘Tara you could have this baby in the next 5/10minutes if your ready’. It was this gentle suggestion that I needed to just mentally prepare myself to push. I feel now that I had been treading water as it were and needed Teresa to say this to get me to begin the final stage.
I remember Lisa saying don’t worry the head will feel like it is going back in after each surge but this is normal. It took 3/4 contractions to get the head to pass to the point of no return. That point felt great as there was no going back.
I think it was only 2-3 surges later and Teresa was guiding our not so little (8lb 11oz) baby boy up into my arms through the water. I just remember thinking how perfect he was and looking into his eyes and as cheesy as it sound realising love at first sight really does exist. His little finger nails were so perfect and I looked round at Chris and we were both filled with so much pride and love. I am not a very emotional person and get called the ice queen but the whole experience and holding our baby boy truly melted me.
Teresa and Lisa had asked if we knew the sex (we didn’t) so it was so lovely that Chris was the one to tell me what we had (I was too busy looking into his eyes but Chris instantly announced ‘it’s a boy!’).
To give you an idea of the timeline:
4.30am: We arrived into the maternity unit
I was having 3 contractions every 10minutes.
4.50am: I got into the pool
5.15am: my waters broke in the pool
5.25am: the vertex was delivered (babies head)
5.29am: Sam John Beattie was delivered and scooped into my chest for skin to skin
5.41am: we delayed the cord clamping and Chris cut the cord.
5.45am: I delivered the third stage (placenta)
5.50am: I got out of the pool and walked aided to the bed but due to blood loss was a bit faint so was given oxygen.
5.55am: I was checked over (I got some gas and air as they did this it was just a bit stingy) to my delight had only a superficial graze and no tearing!!
Once baby and I were checked Chris and I were left to enjoy him and tell our friends and family. This time was so special we were just in awe and it felt so surreal!
We’re were brought tea, toast and orange juice which was the best slice of toast I have ever had!
Deirdre was the midwife on day shift once Teresa and Lisa finished later that morning. She helped me get bathed and dressed as our room was cleaned and bed changed. Your dignity goes out the window but she chatted away so it wasn’t awkward asking me where I got my pedicure while she was on her hands and knees drying me! (Midwives don’t just deliver babies!!) She also did all of Sam’s observations along with Briege who helped me get breastfeeding established.
Chris and I were both on cloud 9 and started to spread the news and FaceTime family. My mum and sister arrived at 9.30am followed by Kerry and Zac 10 minutes later! Hearing my mum and sisters say how proud they were had me in tears as we introduced them to Sam.
Chris’s brother, my sister in law and niece arrived a bit later and we all were able to celebrate the news together and enjoy the moment. It was so relaxed. We even had Aine who gave me the sweep the day before pop her head in and also my hypnobirthing midwives Tracey and Karen drop in to meet Sam and say well done!
There was such a community feeling about it all. The aftercare was amazing, both Chris and I were fed breakfast and lunch and there was a sofa bed for him. We decided though by about 4pm when all checks had been made and Sam had his Vitamin K injection and Deidre had gone over a few notes we were ready to go home. We were of course allowed to stay but we were ready to get home and introduce Sam to the rest of the family.
We left exactly 12 hours after we had arrived at the Downe and couldn’t have been happier with our decision to birth there. I realise not every birth goes as quickly or as smoothly but I honestly believe the hypnobirthing and positive mental attitude towards birth played a huge part in my experience. Not once did I feel scared and I felt safe in the care of my midwives. I have so much respect for them and could not stop thanking them.
We have already popped in to visit them with Sam and enjoyed our midwife visits at home. Sam is doing really well and is up above his birth weight. The past 3 weeks have been incredible and we can’t help but feel so blessed to have had such an amazing experience and have such a beautiful healthy baby boy.
(Sorry this was an essay and not a blog post!)