Yvonne Hogan: From Fear to Maternity
As my house in Dublin was still a building site, I decided to decamp down to the mammy in Cork for some R&R. I had about 10 days to my due date and a strong hunch that the baby would be at least a week late.
The time in Cork was amazing. I slept and ate and slept and ate, my mother waiting on me hand and foot. A week went by and I was getting comfortable, so I stayed on.
Then one morning, I woke up and I felt different. Heavier. It was two days before my due date, but I just knew the baby was coming soon.
I rang my husband. "You would be better off staying in Cork for another couple of days," was his response. "The house is still full of dust and dirt and the work won't be finished for a few days."
But the lady was not for turning.
Builders or no builders, I was going home. I got the train up, got to bed at about 10pm and woke up an hour later to a pain that I can only describe as the worst period pain I ever had, multiplied by infinity.
I started to time them – they were about 50 seconds long and 10 minutes apart.
I got out of bed and went into the sitting room to watch telly, but I couldn't sit down.
So I walked around for a bit, ran a bath and at 2am went into the spare room to wake my husband – he had moved in there because of my snoring.
He made a fire in the sitting room, I cursed through the contractions and we waited. The contractions started coming quicker and then slower.
"It could still be tomorrow," I said to the husband, who wanted to go into Holles Street. "It could even be a false alarm," I said. "Let's wait a bit more."
So we waited. And then, at 11.30am, my waters broke. It was like Niagara Falls. "We had better go in."
As soon as I arrived in the hospital, they confirmed I was in labour and I went straight to the delivery room. It was lovely – bright, airy and clean.
"Would you like the epidural?" the midwife asked. At this point the pain was verging on unbearable and all my high notions of a birth without pain relief had gone well out the window. I would have taken heroin at this stage.
"Yes, please," I replied. "How soon can I get it and how long does it take to work."
By about 2pm, I was all epiduralled and lying back, relaxing. I napped as the midwife and a student nurse worked and chatted with my husband.
Everyone there was amazing at their job and made everything very simple and straightforward.
At about 5.30pm, however, the epidural started to wear off. "I need more," I told the midwife. "I can start to feel the contractions."
I could also hear a woman next door roaring blue murder for one minute every three minutes and that was making me nervous. "You would be better off without it," the midwife told me. "It is almost time to push."
Oh Jaysus! I looked at the clock. It was 6.30pm. The midwife and the student nurse got me into position.
I was sitting at a 45-degree angle with my feet in stirrups. Seated at one foot was the student nurse, the midwife at the other. My husband was at my head.
The midwife spoke. "When I tell you, you hold your breath and push as hard as you can."
I felt a contraction coming. I got ready. "Now Yvonne, hold your breath, and when I say push, you push and keep pushing."
"Now. Push. Come on Yvonne, you can do it, push, push, push, push, keep going, come on Yvonne, push, push, push, push, push, good girl keep pushing."
I pushed and I pushed and I pushed, but the phrase 'you can't shit a melon' kept going through my mind. I don't know where I heard it, but it wouldn't go away.
Then a breather. I looked to my husband to see how he was doing.
He looked terrified. "Don't you think the midwife sounds like Michael O Muircheartaigh?" he laughed nervously.
"Keep going, keep going, keep going Yvonne."
He makes jokes when he is overwhelmed. I was too preoccupied to tell him to f*** off.
Another contraction and another pushing session. And another. And another. And another. Nothing.
The baby was getting distressed. The doctor, who was in and out, decided to do a suction. And an episiotomy.
"You will still have to push," she told me. "This is just to guide the baby."
We went again and this time a baby came out. Eight pounds three ounces. At 6.50pm a day before she was due, a beautiful, big, fat girl with a full head of black hair. Screaming with indignation.
Just like her mammy.