Monday 9 December 2019

Irish mother Maria Saunders: What it feels like to give birth in a bus lane

Last month, a dad in Meath hit the headlines after he had to deliver his fourth child when his wife went into labour on the N2 motorway. The news struck a chord with Kildare mum Maria Saunders (32) who knows exactly what it's like to have a baby in a car

Baby on board: Maria Saunders gave birth to 11-month-old Gavin in a car at the side of the road. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Baby on board: Maria Saunders gave birth to 11-month-old Gavin in a car at the side of the road. Photo: Steve Humphreys

I'd been having cramps all week but didn't think too much about it.

My husband, Trevor, was working in town for Dublin Bus and I'd gone over to his parents in Knocklyon for dinner. I remember my mother-in-law saying 'you look a bit pale' and 'your bump's after dropping' but I just said 'ah no, I'm grand'. I was trying to have my scrambled egg and toast for tea but I kept having to stand up because of the pressure.

After tea I tried to read our little boy, Adam (now three), a book of nursery rhymes in bed but I couldn't focus and kept reading ahead. I think it was at about 7.30pm when I rang my husband and said I think things might be starting to happen. He said he'd head out to the Coombe and my father-in-law would drive me in.

I was only in the car about two minutes when my waters broke. My mother-in-law came out with towels and I thought about calling an ambulance but we decided to keep driving to the hospital. I was kneeling in the back of his lovely Mitsubishi because it was the most comfortable position.

We went along back roads and down bus lanes. Normally the drive from their house to the Coombe takes 25 minutes but we made it to Sundrive in Crumlin in about 15 minutes.

It was there, outside the garda station that I knew this baby was coming! By pure luck, there was a Dublin Fire Brigade ambulance at the side of the road and my father-in-law flagged them down.

I'm a midwife and a gentle birth instructor but I was so relieved to hear the siren because it would have been very hard to try and explain to my father-in-law what to do. And traumatic for him! The ambulance man, Andy, was great. He said to David, my father-in-law, 'just you go round the other side' and directed him up to the window where my head was at, thank God! He was lovely, standing on the other side of the window telling me 'you're doing great' and 'well done'. I think the shock hit him later that night and he had to sit down and have a whiskey. But he was so proud and loves sharing the story now.

When the baby went into transition, I felt a bit afraid, but that only lasted about 30 seconds and then, in about three contractions, Gavin was born, 8lbs 14oz on February 22, 2017, one day ahead of his due date, and at the side of the road. I remember finding it a bit funny that he was born in a bus lane since his dad is a bus driver.

It was actually a very calm birth. Yes, it was an unusual place, but the lights were really low and there was no disruption and no one telling me what to do and I felt I was kind of in control of what was happening.

I remember the sound of rain on the glass which I found very soothing and the ambulance men were really calm. I remember cars going past but not any passers-by stopping to have a look in. I was in the zone at that point so I don't know that I'd have noticed if there had been.

It was hugely different to my first birth when I needed to have an induction. Being a midwife myself, I suppose I kind of put pressure on myself that I was going to have this amazing birth. I thought I was well prepared but actually I wasn't because I was not prepared for when it didn't go to plan. The midwives were very nice and it was a positive induction, but even being informed as I was, you still feel very vulnerable. It's hard when there are things you've no control of and, psychologically, I think it took me a little bit of a while to recover from the birth.

This time - in the back of my father-in-law's car - I got the gentle birth I would have loved the first time round. I think I was more relaxed anyway - I think you often are on a second baby and I'd been listening at night to hypnosis tracks on the Gentlebirth app for fear release which I think helped pave the way for me to feel more calm and in control.

I'm glad I had the induction with my first though because I feel I've a much more balanced view of birth now. You just need to be prepared for every eventuality and be flexible.

My husband was standing in the Coombe car park and could hear the sirens because we were only a short distance away. His dad called him and said 'congratulations'. With our last baby he'd had about 10 cups of coffee and waited and waited while I laboured for 14 hours.

This time all the work was done and dusted. I'd have liked him to have been there and seen a nice birth, but I wouldn't change the birth itself for anything.

The ambulance guys joked that we'd have to call him Andy or Brian after one of them. But we ended up naming him Gavin after a friend of my husband's - we never considered calling him Crumlin! His middle name is David though, after his granddad and the two of them have a very special bond now. When he's a bit older I'll point out the place where he was born. I've been past a few times and it's quite surreal to think 'that's where I had my baby'.

Any time I read about another woman going into labour in the car, it's such a fresh memory for me, I can remember how it feels and all the emotions they'd be feeling. It definitely resonates.

We've a shared experience and a fairly unusual one.

But, for me, it really was an amazing experience. We're so strong as women and so resilient and after doing something like that, you kind of feel like you can do anything.

  • In conversation with Chrissie Russell

Irish Independent

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