Thursday, 1 September 2016

Call the midwife: a Home Birth in the Holly Cottage

Right so - those of you who are squeamish or who have no interest in the intimate details of getting a baby out of a woman's body...feel free to stop reading right now. All others, continue at your peril...

So. You're having a baby. You'd like to have a natural birth. You're forty. You've read all the stuff about how the scale of interventions and C-section in hospitals in Ireland are on the rise, and the odds of having a natural birth plummet sharply once you walk through those gaping doors of the nearest maternity unit. You're still wincing from the memory of the episiotomy (Google it boys...and cross your legs in solidarity with your women folk) first time around. Where do you go? Who do you turn to?

Call the midwife. 

And I did. I called a few in fact. And they were all wonderful. Forget the consultants. They are useful for when there are problems, real problems. The midwives are the superwomen, and supermen (of course). 

Having explored a few different avenues I settled on Neighbourhood Midwives, now known as Private Midwives Ireland. From week 30, after a few very debilitating and frustrating visits to the consultants in the HSE (I promised myself I wouldn't go on a rant about that here but I'm open to hours of such ranting if anyone wants to indulge me!!!) all my antenatal visits were held in the kitchen of our home, Holly Cottage. Tea being one of the important opening rituals of all the appointments, this was quickly followed routine checks, paperwork and the wonderful listening in to the baby's heartbeat. That was my favourite bit. Relief, joy, love - all those emotions rolled into those precious moments when baby Oscar - who was just baby at that time - was revealed to us by wonderful technology. No long hospital queues, no impersonal rigmarole, no processing line. The midwife visits were as easy and as casual as that, yet markedly professional and deeply respectful. I also have to mention the support from UK Birth Centres team - Linda in particular. This is the mothership behind Neighbourhood Midwives and the backbone for the limbs in Ireland. Even when my mother passed away five weeks before Oscar was born, Linda was there supporting me in my decisions and being a welcome friend from afar. 

So we got to know each other, a little bit at least, the midwives and the residents of Holly Cottage. And that was important, as delivering a baby is a pretty intimate act and one certainly needs to feel safe in the hands of the ones doing the delivering. And I did, we did. Sure there were moments when the scaremongering peeked it's ugly head into my steady thinking - but that's why I told only those few people around me who knew us best and knew to trust our decision. Who needs negativity at a time of such positivity?

And so, the due date came and went. Despite strong opinions that he would come early, Oscar arrived fashionably late on a bright and sunny afternoon. When the pains started at 3am, I called our primary midwife, Madeleine, immediately, and she was over in a flash - although I'd love to say she flew as superheroes do, she did arrive by car. And she watched and waited, and watched and coached patiently and discretely as I continued in very casual labour up until about midday...and that was when the fun began. 

Love Love Love
Pain is relative and while some would say it's in the mind, it sure as hell is manifested in the body. What worked for me? Breathing through the pain, letting go of each contraction one at a time, not thinking about the last one or the next one, not thinking, just being. Just breathe. And pressure from the man on the main action area for me, my lower back. With a few hours to go I sank into the birthing pool. OMG. These should be mandatory for all births - home and hospital, and anywhere in between. Such sweet relief and comfort in all that balmy heat. So I stayed there for the next couple of hours, breathing and doing plenty of oohing and aaaahing. Thank the universe there was no video! Tea was made and drank, the neighbours kids went and came home from school and I could hear them playing in the garden next door as Oscar pushed through for his final descent. Surprisingly and incredibly, I actually did try to escape in those last minutes - to who knows where, and to what purpose not even I know, but I did - it seemed perfectly rational at the time. And just as all about me had convinced me that an escape might not be such a good idea, the final descent was over and our little man was there in my arms. All eight and a half pounds of him. He was expertly guided out at 3.59pm on May 16th 2016 by Midwife Madeleine (no tears, no dreaded episiotomy - phew!) while Midwife Gail whispered affirmations in my ears and held me steady. Literally. 

And once he was out...well there was only great joy and celebrations. More tea was made, a placenta delivered and cord cut only when the last of the goodness was transferred back to Oscar. Holly finally relaxed outside once my distressing vocals subsided, Alannah came home from the minder and wondered why mumma and dadda had been messing about in a paddling pool in the kitchen without her all day, and who the hell was that bundle of joy pressed against my breast? And life just settled back quickly to its easy pace from there on and we all stared as the tiniest and newest of us quickly captured our hearts and our minds and it was like he had never not been there before. Baby Oscar. Beautiful, beautiful John Lennon might sing. 

And as we settled in to the music of his coos, our beautiful midwives packed up their bags, tidied up everything, and said their farewells. Midwife Angela tidied up the main man Oscar and checked him over - that was the last bit - and then they were gone. And four became five.

There's plenty of detail glossed over here but for the purposes of this piece here's the take home message: call the midwife. If in doubt, call the midwife. If not in doubt call the midwife. Call them anyway. They have the power to ensure that one of the most important events in your life is one that is safe, calm, peaceful and natural. What a gift and what a great skill to have. Use it! 
Beautiful Oscar


  1. Beautiful...such a lovely, empowering story. Thank you for sharing with us x

  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this and for the lovely mention. I am so pleased that all went well for you. Beautiful photos. You are a wonderful, strong woman. Linda

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing story! It was an absolutly honor being part of this great journey. Thank you for all your trust! Can't wait to seeing you again and having another nice tea in your beautiful Holly Cottage Kitchen. With Love, Madelaine

    1. you're always welcome but you look to be so busy now!!