It took my husband three years to confess that actually he thought I had been something of a drama queen during labour. During pregnancy, I had attended the pre-natal classes at Holles Street and had fallen under the spell of enthusiasm for a drug-free labour. Given that during the class, when the actual nuts and bolts of labour were discussed, I had to leave the room to go lie on the ground with my legs up against the wall for fear of fainting, this seems in retrospect overly ambitious.
Within minutes of entering Holles Street, all thoughts of avoiding painkillers had been abandoned. It was at this point that I screamed "I can't do this" (hence the drama queen accusations), then a mere half a centimetre dilated. I now realise I had the easiest labour of all time. Pethidine was administered, and the head midwife on the labour ward agreed to write on my form that I could come back at any time for the epidural if I would only give the pre-labour ward a go. A veil should be drawn over that particular experience, suffice it to say.
Back in the labour ward, I had the most wonderful midwife who told me she wouldn't even consider going through this without medication. It was exactly the support I needed at that moment and for a week afterwards, I wanted to name our daughter after her. Twelve hours after we entered the hospital, Sarah was born, and as they placed her on my chest, making funny squeaking noises, I remember thinking "a lifetime of Christmases in one". Liadan Hynes
Designer, three children
I was 23 when I had my oldest, Chloe. I went in saying "give me all the pain relief", terrified. But your natural survival mode kicks in. You get this massive urge to power through. I thought I was going to give myself a brain hemorrhage, I was pushing so hard. The second was two weeks late. My friend told me about this yoga pose, I was doing that when my waters broke. I had been swimming four times a week and doing lots of yoga and walking so I think that really helped. But, by God, she was in no panic. Near the end, I said "I'm wrecked, I can't do this level of pain for much longer" and that's when I caved in and got the epidural. My third was nearly born in the car. By the time we got to the hospital, they said it might be too late to give me an epidural. I said "I don't care, give me one", and started shouting, and they did. The most difficult part is not giving birth, it's caring for the baby afterwards, it's so fecking hard.
Designer, two children
Eighteen weeks was supposed to be the first scan, but then I was two weeks' late, so at 20 weeks, I was told there were two babies in there. I cried for 10 days. I'm quite an organised person - every single plan was out the window. I went in at 9am and was induced, then at 5pm they whipped me up to the operating room for a caesarean. The next thing I remember was being handed the twins, then being whipped away to the recovery room. Eventually I was taken back to the ward, where I fell asleep. I slept the whole night, and woke up the next morning in a blind panic. I was like, "where are my babies?", leaping out of the bed. I was pointed in the direction of the nursery, and I went down to a chorus of nurses saying, "oh, here's mum now, dad's been fantastic".
Designer Fee G, three children
My first was a very normal first child labour. On my second, my son was born 50 minutes after I arrived in hospital; a precipitous labour. You feel like something has blown out of your body at speed. Baby number three, I went to bed and read until midnight. Woke at about 2.30am, achy and with pains. I had asked my consultant before, "does a baby ever just burst out of you?" He probably thought I was mad. At 2.40am I told my husband, "there's something crazy going on here". I remember standing up, and on contraction number four, her head came out. She came out in the caul. Her shoulders burst out on contraction six and her head hit my husband's hands, so the impact meant the sac burst. All of this happened in 20 minutes, but we're so blessed it worked out. The ambulance people said "wrap the baby up, put her on to the mother's chest". I put her up to my boob, she literally just latched on. She was still attached with the umbilical cord. The afterbirth contraction pains were worse than the labour. I had to try not deliver the afterbirth until I got to Holles Street. So even though she's out, I'm still having contractions. For a long time, four years, if my husband was telling the story, I had to leave the room. It was the shock.
Columnist LIFE magazine, wellness coach, one child
It started with a pain in my back. I'd had that all along, so I really wasn't sure whether I was going into labour or not. I expected it to be a bit more dramatic. I went in and they gave me pethidine, it made me feel very out of it and unwell. It was a long night on my own, I just remember feeling very lonely and scared. I got up in the middle of the night and my waters broke. I was kind of freaked out; "oh my God, what's happening?". After the epidural, I fell asleep for a few hours. I woke up fully dilated and ready to go. Going to the bathroom afterwards, I couldn't believe anything could be that painful. I became terrified of drinking water. You're so emotional afterwards. Directly after birth, I was in shock. I expected it to be like a movie scene; baby arrives and I feel this rush of love. I think I had more of an adjustment period, where I was like, what just happened, I'm in a lot of pain.
Journalist, three children
The closest I came to labour, as we know it, with contractions, was my third. It was a planned C-section because I'd already had two. I did feel contractions, and it made me very grateful that I could have C-sections. I found my first the hardest, trying to sit up in bed afterwards but you can't, and you're trying to breastfeed. That was very distressing. I was thrilled to be having a caesarean. I think it's shocking for women to have to open their legs. I know it's a natural thing but I do. God above, the indignity of it. Nick took pictures and it's lovely to have those.
Designer, four children
We have three girls and one boy. My eldest is five now. I didn't read any books, I just kind of said "well, whatever's going to happen is going to happen". I suppose I wasn't really aware of what was ahead of me, and that's the best way to be. I was having a bath when my waters broke, so I ended up in Holles Street at 35 weeks, and I stayed in for two weeks. I felt very safe. When your waters break, the doctors are nervous about infection, so they brought me back in shortly afterwards. The labour process was a completely bonding experience for John and I to go through together. I was hugely impressed with how great he was. Obviously he wasn't going through it in the same way but he got into the zone with me. I said, "let's see what happens". And I kept going, kept saying "no no no". I was 13 hours in, and then I panicked, because I was exhausted. They gave me an epidural. And she arrived 15 minutes later.
I had a still birth on my second baby, also a girl. We called her Etain. I don't really talk about it too much, but I think it can help other people. It's such a horrific thing to happen, and it does happen to people, unfortunately. I was 39 weeks. It kind of broke the magic, the bubble. I mean, it broke me, it broke us, it broke a lot of things. So my feeling now on pregnancy, it's a very personal thing, is that it's not as carefree as it was the first time. Etain is with me every single day, and we talk about her daily. She is buried in Killoughter, Co Wicklow, not far from where we live. It definitely does do something to you when you lose a baby. It does change your whole life. It was a huge thing to deal with. And I am still trying to deal with it. I dealt with Feileacain, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Association of Ireland. They are an absolutely incredible group of women who offer their time and services. Nobody asked me about it. It was like, I was pregnant, and then I wasn't pregnant. I really needed to recognise it; I wanted to shout out "does anybody hear me?". But it was difficult, because people are very uncomfortable. It's still a very uncomfortable situation for people to even acknowledge it. So a lot of people didn't say anything, which I understand. But it was very odd. That was October 2013, and I remember that winter, John and I just kind of staying in and it was very tough.
I've had three labours and two caesareans. I found my first caesarean hugely psychologically challenging, feeling quite robbed of the labour. But we had a healthy baby, it was great. I did have a panic attack, because I felt so out of control after the baby was born that night. Not being able to move - that was very daunting. I'm pregnant at the moment. I'm due now in 10 weeks but I will have a section at 37 weeks - please God. I could probably write a book on labour.
Designer, Co-host of podcast, Mother of Pod, one child
I was 10 days over, and my mum decided that a long walk was what was needed. So we took off towards the hospital. We got there, and the induction process took a hold. It was a nightmare. It's like your body isn't designed for it, you need time to get to the stages. Contractions come tight and fast. I felt I was dying. I couldn't believe how bad it was.
They put me in the pre-labour ward. I was completely naked, because the feeling of clothes against my skin was too much. I was 10 centimetres dilated, but nobody had checked me, possibly nobody wanted to come near me because I was so out of control. But I knew something was happening. Eventually, they said "get her upstairs now". They put the epidural in and everything changed. I was able to talk again. They said, start trying to push. I said "I think I'm pushing, I'm not sure, I need a mirror. If I can see what's going on, I can isolate the pushing". A midwife held the mirror. That was an eye-opener. It was like a David Attenborough film. I did the whole Kardashian thing, pulling him out myself. I got his head out and the body sort of slithered out.
TV presenter, one child
I kind of knew I was going to have a caesarean because I had placenta previa. There was always a chance I would have a haemorrhage. Holles Street were amazing. They insisted on me staying in hospital for a few weeks before the birth. I'm not a nervous person, but, in hindsight, I think I was naive in ways, thinking I was invincible. Because when it happened it happened bad. Cal was born six weeks early and I had a massive haemorrhage. It was 9.30pm and I was on the phone to my sister. I felt nothing, just this surge. I walked into the ward calmly in the middle of a pool of blood and said "call the nurse". It was really weird because, although I'm naturally calm in a scenario, my whole body went into shock. I was shaking uncontrollably, like jelly. They were amazing, they had Cal out in 15 minutes. I was knocked out, obviously. I didn't see Cal for 48 hours I was so ill, I had lost such a lot of blood. I felt like I'd been run over as it was so quick. The child was ripped out. I really didn't think Cal was going to make it when the bleed was happening. Those 20 or 30 seconds while I was lying on the bed, in blood, and they were looking for his heartbeat, I remember that like it was yesterday. Something went really wrong, but I had the right people there.
Xpose producer, two children
I had warning signs that I would get preeclampsia, because I was born very premature myself. I was in an incubator for six months. When it was diagnosed in my first pregnancy, I was very careful, not doing any exercise, minding myself with work.
At about seven months, I didn't feel well and they hospitalised me at that point. I'm very active, I've a busy brain. I found that really hard, very stressful. There's nothing to do and they can't let you out. He came six and a half weeks early. In the middle of the night, my blood pressure spiked, and I had to have an emergency caesarean. The preeclampsia was very bad. I got a terrible fright. Your blood pressure goes up to a level where it's really dangerous for you and the baby. An emergency caesarean is very traumatic. You're into a full surgical team of people. You just want your baby to be okay. I was very lucky, Marcus was absolutely perfect. The whole thing was very traumatic, that's why we left five years between. I did get preeclampsia again. It wasn't quite as bad as the first time around. In the end, I had an elective section. That experience was totally different, there was a lot more calm involved.
Model agent 1st Option Models, three children
Hand yourself over to the experts, and leave your dignity at the door. Nobody talks about the aftermath - to be prepared for the pain when you're peeing and moving your bowels. Your first bowel movement is worse than labour in my experience. But why don't we talk about it and warn each other?
My third didn't go the way the other two had. When I went to get a scan done at 15 weeks, I remember them saying "well Jules, the good news is that one foetal heartbeat is alive". I had twins, I had lost one just that week. That was horrendous, I was pretty devastated. Then six months into my pregnancy, I had 12 days of excruciating pain. I actually didn't want to live any more, only that I had two other children. I ended up at Holles Street, with Rhona Mahony at the front door waiting for me. She had a team of, at one stage, about 24 people in the room working on me. I had preeclampsia toxemia. If I hadn't gone to the doctor that day, most likely I would not have survived that night. When they took her out, she was smaller than the palm of my hand. I didn't see her for a couple of days because I was so sick. And then eventually they wheeled me up in a wheelchair. She was connected to so many machines. There were needles in her feet, in her hands. But we definitely won the lotto. Because they warned me that she would most likely have cerebral palsy, communication problems, problems with her eyes, a whole list of issues. And there is nothing wrong with her at all. We had a few stints in hospital. The first year and a half wasn't too easy, but now when you look back, it was a walk in the park in comparison to what I did see with other babies. We're so lucky to come out the other side with the perfect six-year-old. They let us sign out of the system when she had turned two years and five months. They said, go off and live your life. She is genuinely a walking miracle.
Divine boutique owner, two children
I had two very different experiences getting pregnant, and then in labour. Leo was IVF, we were trying for 10 years. Very tough years. I was just so thrilled to be pregnant that nothing would have bothered me. I was five days over. I went in for my check up. They discovered the fluid around the baby had gone down, so they weren't happy to let me leave. They induced me. I had gas and air and then the epidural.
From the years of counting every day on the calendar, when I was due injections and drugs and all the rest, once I had Leo, I didn't care about anything then. My period was late, so I thought I'd do a test just to rule it out. All the hundreds of tests that I had done previously and they were always not pregnant, and this was positive. I just couldn't believe it. I thought Leo was going to be an only child. He was our last embryo. We couldn't afford to do it again. I had said to Ray, let's just be happy with one child. I genuinely believe that I would have been content because I was just so happy to be blessed with Leo. For that decision to be taken out of my hands and for him to have a little brother, I was just over the moon.
Model, two children
Both of my labours were really similar. I didn't have an epidural on either. I decided that beforehand. In the first place, I wanted to have it quicker. With Kyle, I was in the gym in the morning, with Nicolette, I felt pain in the night, but I went back to sleep. I knew there was no need to panic. I preferred to stay home, have a shower, no point staying in the hospital for hours. Before you get pains, you're kind of nervous, but when you're in it, there's no nerves anymore. I pushed Kyle out in two pushes. Because I didn't let go. From the minute I could push, I didn't let go, I thought, I'm going to push him. I was very fit. I think that made a difference. Afterwards I wasn't in a really good space, to be honest. Although my pregnancy was amazing and I was strong and I felt so good, after having the baby, I crashed. Like most of us, I got depressed. I didn't know why I was crying. I was afraid to leave the house. The fear is so physical. I'd never experienced anything like this in my life. You have to look for help.
Dancer, two children
I was 19 when I had my daughter, and hadn't a clue what was ahead of me in the labour ward. My dad drove me in at 3am. My aunties had told me to book the epidural, I did ask at one stage if I had to book it and they laughed and said no. I was scared but I was naive. On my second that's when the real nerves kicked in. When I was pregnant, every time I walked into the Coombe I would start shaking. I was quite traumatised from the first birth. The epidural only worked on one side. It was long and there were slight complications. In saying that, just after having Taylor, I remember feeling like superwoman. Like if I can do that, I can do anything. The thing is, remember it can't last forever. It can't go longer than 48 hours. I definitely found my second one easier. I felt that mentally, I'm older, I had been through trials and tribulations in my own personal life. On my first I was quite scared, I thought I was dying.