Birthing at Home After 2 Cesareans in Ireland

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Birthing at Home After 2 Cesareans in Ireland

 Home Birth after two Unnecesareans 

(and a hospital water birth with postnatal trauma)
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Seven years ago I became a mother for the first time.

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Despite baby and I both being in perfect health, after a straightforward, healthy pregnancy…. that birth involved bright lights, needles, machines, drugs, invasive examinations, strangers, scratchy hospital gowns, excruciating pain, exhaustion, tears, more drugs, more strangers and eventually a scalpel.  I didn’t see my baby boy for nearly an hour.

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Fifteen months later my second perfectly healthy pregnancy ended in surgery too. Cold, clinical and detached. I cried through most of the paperwork prior to what is referred to as my ”elective section”. I didn’t choose it though. They told me I had no choice. I didn’t get to hold my baby girl for forty five minutes and when I did my body was so cold due to shock she had to be taken away again until I was stable.

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When I learned that neither of those surgeries should have happened I promised myself I would do everything I could to prove that it was the system that was flawed, not my body.

So I read the right books, joined the right groups and asked the right questions. I found a supportive consultant, changed hospitals, hired a doula and fought for my right to birth on my own terms.

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Third time around I finally got to experience my own spontaneous labour after 40 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy. It was honestly thrilling to feel contractions and know the power was coming from me and not from drugs or machines. Thanks to the incredible support of my husband and my doula (and the confidence of my wonderful consultant) after a very positive labour and an extremely long, exhausting second stage, I pushed my baby girl out into a hospital birthing pool.

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She was born with a rare facial condition however and was immediately taken from me and brought to intensive care. I was in shock, traumatised by our separation and terrified for her health. I didn’t get to hold my baby girl for days. She spent five weeks in hospital.

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Her birth, nearly four years ago, was empowering despite the trauma we both endured afterwards. After two cesarean sections I had achieved my goal of an unmedicated vaginal delivery and with all the medicalisation that followed I was proud to have given her the gift of a natural birth and myself a much easier physical recovery.

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Five months ago I became a mother for the fourth (and final) time.

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Despite the two scars on my uterus labelling me ‘high risk’ and the emotional baggage from my last experience….that birth involved candles, controlled breathing, granola, pineapple juice, my own living room, movement, friends, essential oils, massage, hugs, siblings, love, unbelievable joy and eventually pancakes. My baby boy and I were never separated.

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It took me years to find the knowledge, confidence and support I needed to achieve the birth I had always been capable of, to prove that Ina May Gaskin had been right all along; My body is NOT a lemon!

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The absolute euphoria I felt as I lifted my baby boy to my cheek and kissed him for the first time, on my living room floor, is a feeling I will never forget.

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My Home Birth story goes something like this…

To protect myself from the negativity and ‘risk bias’ I felt would inevitably come from our healthcare system I opted instead to hire a private midwife from Neighbourhood Midwives Ireland. They had only just become insured for VBAC homebirths in Ireland and I waited anxiously to hear if I was a candidate for their care.

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Once approved only the cost gave us hesitation but we agreed that this was something worth investing in for the level of care, professionalism and absolute devotion we received as clients.  We were paying to protect our baby’s health and my own as I knew my chances for a normal, natural birth were highest if I stayed where I felt safe and with people I trusted.

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I was delighted to be under the care of a midwife that I already knew personally and who is now a dear friend. My pregnancy was very straightforward and my home antenatal visits were always a total joy especially when my older kids got to join in and play ‘midwife’ too !

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A highlight in my last trimester was the gorgeous Mother Blessing, my doula, Anne organised for me. It was such an emotional oasis of calm and beauty at a stage in my pregnancy when I was feeling little of either. Surrounded by my mama tribe I was pampered and adorned. There were delicious homemade treats, hand drawn affirmations and I was infused with positivity and good wishes for my birth. I highly recommend every pregnant woman be treated similarly.

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My ‘due date’ came and went as I knew it would. Having been so composed last time and despite fully expecting to go past 40 weeks, I found myself extremely impatient waiting on this baby. Maybe it was the summer heat, or the fact that the holidays meant the kids were all at home but I was frustrated, heavy and irritable -labour couldn’t come soon enough!

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At 40+1 there were a few positive signs. My daily walk had brought on some very uncomfortable sensations,  I felt pressure in my pelvis like never before and was weeing more often. This had to mean something surely! Tessa was still nursing at bedtime and while I had limited her feeding throughout pregnancy I now encouraged it in the hope that the strong braxton hicks it inevitably started would turn into something productive.

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After enduring hours of pressure and strong BH’s I was starting to feel hopeful ….. so when it all disappeared overnight and I woke feeling absolutely nothing, I was completely despondent. My daily power walk failed to have its usual effect too, I felt like I could have climbed a  mountain.

Baby was clearly never coming out and I resigned myself to being pregnant forever.

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The following day at 40+3 I noticed a slight pink smear when I went to the toilet but nothing significant. The pelvic pressure and very strong braxton hicks returned while putting the kids to bed around 7pm. Having been fooled days earlier I was sure these too would vanish so did my best to ignore them.  A couple of hours later and I began to wonder if I should start paying attention… I washed my hair and messaged Nathan (who was at work) and my midwife, Paula to say I was on my birth ball and the BH’s seemed to be very frequent. At 9.30pm she asked how regular they were I downloaded a contraction timer app and began to keep track.

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I was stunned when the little timer showed that the surges were coming like clockwork every 5 minutes and lasting 50 seconds !!  I relayed this information and by 10.30pm my birth team were officially on their way.

Even so part of me still felt that this would turn out to be a false start and they’d have wasted a trip.

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The house was quiet and I was alone downstairs. Just me and bump, relaxed and calm, gently bouncing and rocking on my pink birth ball and appreciating the beautiful fact that I was right where I wanted to be.

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I was still using my Daisy Birthing techniques rotating and breathing through each wave,  when Paula arrived just after 11.30.  Although I could feel my breath getting ragged through some contractions I was coping fine. It was really only when Paula informed me (after a very gentle and respectful cervical exam) that I was 6 cm dilated that I began to believe this was really it …. all the planning, all the history that went into the decision to birth at home and the time had finally come, it was happening….I was having a baby!

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Nathan was home now and by 1am my amazing friend and doula Anne was on her way. Jessica from Hummingbird Photography arrived at 1.40. I’m so unbelievably grateful for the images she captured for the rest of the night/morning.

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My contractions continued to come every 5 minutes over the next few hours. The sling in my living room doorway (used as a kids swing normally) proved perfect for pulling on during contractions. I  chatted, ate granola and drank coconut water and fresh pineapple juice, joking with my champion-cocktail-maker-husband about the lack of ice for his labouring wife!! I was still coping well, breathing through each pain but was very grateful to now have Paula’s support.

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Midwife Dan was next to arrive and had brought a CUB inflatable birthing stool. I was keen to try it out as I’d seen it mentioned in birth groups. Around 2.30am I was kneeling over the CUB and breathing gas and air to help as the pain increased. The surges were definitely taking all of my concentration now and everything from here on is pretty hazy in my memory. I think this is what they call being in the ‘zone’!

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I do remember crying when I heard Anne, my doula come in at half three. Through a haze of hormones, relief and genuine gratitude that she’d made it, I sobbed happy tears and embraced my friend.

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Between surges I was freely eating, drinking and laughing with the world’s greatest birth team.

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During the surges I would breathe, rock and lean on the CUB. Anne and Paula were always on hand to talk me through as the contractions got more painful. They’d squeeze my hips, remind me to breathe and keep me calm.

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By 4am I was feeling really exhausted. I had some more of Paula’s amazing homemade granola and tried to rest briefly on the sofa with Nathan. I was glad of the opportunity to recharge a little but the pain was much harder to cope with in a reclined position.

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Once up again we were keen to make progress as my energy was fading and so the ever effective but painful pilgrimage to the toilet upstairs was called for! The stairs seemed to go on for miles and the trip always brought on the most painful (and I’m told most effective) contractions.

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To help baby into a better position Anne began using the Rebozo Sifting technique. The gentle, rhythmic lifting and shimmying felt really soothing and it was nice to feel the weight of my belly supported especially as I wasn’t using a birth pool this time.  Midwife Dan was also familiar with the method and after a little instruction Nathan was able to help too.

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As the intensity of the surges continued to increase I was grateful for the experienced and skilled hands guiding me. From reiki to good old fashioned hugs, hand holding and constant reassurance, I was supported physically and emotionally.

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I laboured through the early hours. Always upright, I moved around changing position often. Letting gravity work with my body to move baby down. Paula quietly checked the baby’s heart rate after each contraction regardless of my position. Professional and considerate as ever, these checks went almost completely unnoticed by me and never broke my concentration.

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The summer sun was peeking through the blinds when shortly after 6am, while kneeling over the CUB, I felt a splash as my waters broke over my knees. It was an encouraging sign of progress and one I needed as I was desperately tired and was letting fears of another lengthy second stage creep in.

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With my stamina fading it was the turn of the two incredible men at my birth to step up. Nathan and Dan provided vital physical support at a crucial stage. I’m so thankful they were there when I needed them.

My early riser Cassie (age 5) came down in time to give me quick hug before her brother was born.

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Around 6.40 I could hear my moans get low and guttural, the deep telltale groan that comes with feeling ‘pushy’ towards the end of a contraction.

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I was completely exhausted and in my head wanted nothing more than to stop and sleep …but my body was pushing. Not because I was 10cm dilated, not because someone told me to or because I was ‘allowed’. My body was pushing because it knew what it was doing. Half an hour and a good deal of primal noise later, a little head began to emerge.

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I remember feeling such relief that we were at this point. Paula used counter pressure and encouraged little pushes between contractions to prevent tearing. I tried to comply but the pushing was totally involuntary, I wasn’t doing any of it – it was just happening…..and at 7.18 out he came!

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Nathan announced we had a boy, Paula passed him through my legs and I got to meet my new son!

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He was perfect, everything was perfect and I was ecstatic.

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High on endorphins, I kept thanking everyone, crying and repeating “I just had a baby in my living room!”

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Cathal, Cassie and Tessa were introduced to their baby brother  Naoise (nee-sha) right there in front of our fire place. A newly formed family of six, we hugged and gazed at the new arrival surrounded by love and captured beautifully by Jessica.

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I finally got my crazy, beautiful ‘I did it moment’. I got to experience what it was like to have zero separation, completely uninterrupted skin to skin and I finally got to give this baby his full blood volume. #waitforwhite

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With help I shakily carried my prize to the sofa to continue our snuggle with his brother and sisters.

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Naoise latched and fed as naturally and easily as is humanly possible… the ease of it in stark contrast to my last breastfeeding journey and such a natural continuum from the birth. This was how things were supposed to be. I savoured every second.

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My midwives kept an eye on blood loss as Naoise happily got his first bellyful of colostrum, his little newborn sucks helping my uterus contract. I’d planned a physiological third stage so we waited for my body to be ready and just after 8am without any intervention I birthed the placenta. Midwife Dan offered to make me a placenta smoothie to help reduce blood loss and I gladly took him up on it. The rest of the placenta and it’s lovely long cord went to Sunrise Birth Apothecary to be returned as a jar of capsules to help in the weeks after birth.

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My mummy arrived a short while later to find me on the sofa nursing her new grandson. Seeing her was incredibly emotional and perfectly timed.

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By 9 o’clock Anne and Paula were quietly tidying and packing up, mummy was dressing the older kids and midwife Dan was busy in the kitchen making me pancakes, as if this day couldn’t get any better!!

And soon the only sign that anything incredible had happened here at all was the new 7lb 6.5oz baby boy… and his mummy and daddy …quietly falling in love.

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I had got everything I wished for. No drugs, no strangers, no needles, no stitches. From start to finish it was both ordinary and extraordinary. My very own ‘everyday miracle’.

And for the rest of my life when something is hard or I’m told it can’t be done I simply have to remember how impossible a dream having a homebirth seemed after two cesareans. I just have to remember how strong we women really are … how strong I really am.

Later I would discover that his birth was the first home birth after 2 cesareans in Ireland. If that’s true I feel immensely proud but also incredibly sad for the countless other mothers just like me who aren’t supported in our system and told they “can’t”.

If you are one of those women I want to share our story so that you know it can be your story too.

You are just as strong and capable as I am.

Surround yourself with people who believe in you, fill your head with positive birth stories and listen to your heart… !

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7 responses »

  1. Congratulations! Thanks for sharing your story. It is very strengthening to all women who have suffered through the medical system to know that this is possible. God bless.

  2. This is such a beautiful, inspirational story! I have been in tears reading it from the beginning when your first two births were out of your control, to the third where Tessa was taken away from you, all sad tears. Then pure wonder, awe and joy at your beautiful fourth experience at each stage. It was magic to read. The photos are amazing, they have captured emotions that words could never do justice to. Such a special magical time, and to such a deserving, inspiring family. I felt all the emotions you described and wish I could have been more grateful in my own birthi g experiences as you were. I dreamed of a home birth since I was in secondary school and akways thought I would have one, but was afraid to pursue it as I knew my partner wouldn’t have been comfortable with it. Reading your story of a labour surrounded by such love is just so moving. Little Naoise is a truly blessed little boy. Thanks for such a motivating read it’s set me up for the dayxxxx

  3. Congratulations on the beautiful birth of your baby boy. It is heartwarming to know, as a midwife, that some women, despite having suffered immeasurably at the hands of the system, have the strength to follow their instincts to achieve a result like yours.

  4. Wow! Such an amazing story! It really brings hopes to all us moms who have been where you have been! Thank you for sharing!❤️💕Many blessings to you and your beautiful family of 6!!!!!! 🙂

  5. I’m crying reading this as I I’m putting my lil 6mth t bed..I hated every second of the process. They wanted me induced on Fri & I ran away til Wed when they said I had t stay.I wanted a natural birth so badly! I watched the business of being born on youtube n understand that it’s just that! I wish I never went near a hospital! Had a cruel midwife who looked more like a beautician, I was so against epidural as I’m big into fitness & it still haunts me t this day that I got it when I did all the hard work, once they did it they said I was fully dilated, so it was such an.unnecessary risk that could hav been avoided if they checked before they gave it! No time to.push, they only allow you 2 n then its cut you and suck him out! We wer all induced in my ward, I was only vaginal..lady beside me, her leg was botched from epi, n me, I’m suffering more this last month than ever n dread t think it might get worse! My mam died 14days before my first son was born & the hospital experience just added to the trauma of losing her..then they push formula bottles on us with no help in there for bfeeding as it’s the wkend! I’ve never had any regrets in.my life up.to now but big one is gettin epi & if I ever get pregnant again I.will not go near a hospital! what horrifies me the most is that many think this is normal & nothing to worry about..no, nothing of what I experienced was normal..I’m so delighted for you that you got to experience a natural birth in the most beautiful place, your home

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