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Raheny Dublin 5

By Gemma

The Happy Home Birth

The Happy Home Birth

 We would like to share the blissful birth story of our baby girl ‘Emma Rose Culligan’, born at home at 11.18am on Tuesday, 23rd May 2017.

 Early labour for most women can last anything from several hours to several days. For both physiological and emotional reasons mine lasted over for over 4 weeks. I cannot begin to describe how emotionally and physically draining this was on us. In order to prevent early dilation after having nearly half of my cervix removed a few years ago, I was on weekly injections throughout my pregnancy. In order to have a homebirth you need to labour between 37 and 42 weeks so we had everything crossed. Due to her near early delivery at 32 weeks after I had an unfortunate fall, we had been prepared for a premature baby. However our little warrior waited until 41 weeks and 5 days to make her grand entrance.

Emotionally I had felt drained towards my pregnancy after the fright of her near arrival so early, and the pain I was enduring in my shoulder and pelvis was tough. She wasn’t settling and kept repositioning herself right up until day of labour, possibly due to my alignment issues in my pelvis. As the recommended day of induction loomed I became quite depressed and withdrawn. I had done all the right things for cervical ripening; acupuncture, reflexology, evening primrose oil, raspberry tea, oils. At 37 weeks I was told my cervix was soft so I waited patiently for labour to begin, and waited, and waited. And yes, that was me skipping down Dollymount beach every day in an attempt to get things going 🙂

On the day before her birthday, I tried the one thing I had not given a go, homeopathy. I explained what had been going on for me and I was given pulsatilla, in an attempt to calm and balance myself. Makes perfect sense I was unsettled, we had just moved house and had an unfortunate time after the fall. This was perhaps why she wasn’t settling I was advised. So I got my partner to pick up the pulsatilla, with some caulophyllum for the next day if that didn’t work. Like a mad woman I drove in my pyjamas to meet himself. After I took one I started having tightenings and cervical pain within an hour. I didn’t dare get excited, they were mild contractions compared to what I had for the previous month. They kept coming and going but not increasing in frequency. So as advised, 12 hours later I took another one, this was just before I went to bed. I had broken sleep due to back pain, I was hoping this was her repositioning for the last time. At 1.30am I took two paracetemol and a hot water bottle to try force myself back to sleep. Luckily I did, as it turned out it was finally happening and I’d need all the strength I could get 😉


I woke at 4am with a really intense contraction and my waters trickling out. Himself knew by my shriek that this was it!!!! I was FINALLY getting to meet my baby girl. Get the pool ready!!!!!! Lots of sleepily gathering my labour tools and running around the house (neither of us are great when awoken from a deep slumber). I was listening to the app I had used to get me through the start of and middle of labour. Also my tens machine (seriously ladies, get one)! The were every 5 mins and lasting a minute so I didn’t get much chance I felt to rest or eat. I remember himself trying to force me breakfast but I couldn’t. I knew I needed energy though so I took a bite of my protein bars in between surges and asking him to run around to Centra for bananas. I usually don’t like bananas so he was very confused God love him 😀


The lead Self Employed Community Midwife for our home birth was the amazing Colette Donnelly. Our positive, life changing experience and tremendous after care for the following few days are thanks to this lady. The plan with contacting Colette if anything started during the night was to call her when contractions were every 5 minutes for 1 minute for two hours. When it got to 6am I still wanted to wait, in case this was another false start! So I rang her at 6.30am and filled her in. I was in between contraction and quiet calm, when she said she’d come straight over I said leave it an hour as I was ok. And I was ok, the surges required focus but in between I completely relaxed to give my body a break. I knew I wanted a bit more time just the three of us. We spoke to her, I gave her as much of my breath as possible and visualised my cervix gently opening to allow her through. I was on my hands and knees for 2 hours, nothing else gave me as much relief. So I did my cat/cow, child’s pose, hip circles and lunges to keep everything as relaxed as possible, and the breath of course. I knew when my tens was on full power that things were moving up a scale. I asked Tom to ring Colette back, I now need her here asap. I needn’t have worried, she knew her stuff, she was pulling up when he rang her.

I was starting to get teary, and felt I was drifting to a euphoric space. I was confused, this couldn’t be transition already could it? I didn’t hear Colette come in. She was standing patiently waiting for me to come out of a very powerful space. She knelt in front of me and gave me a hug and asked how I was doing. I bawled. I told her I felt very out of it. I lay down to allow an internal examination. She looked slightly taken aback and I asked what was going on. She said “you are doing well, very well in fact. I can’t fully tell due to baby’s head but I think you are fully or almost fully dilated. Time to get in the pool”.

Thank God!!!! At that point if I heard this wasn’t active labour I would have screamed.

We had filled the pool but as Colette recommended waiting until I was at least 5 or 6cm to get in to get the most from the pain relief, I hadn’t got in yet as I wanted an examination first and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get back out of the pool I should have trusted my instinct. Sure I’ll know for next time.

So I got in the pool………haaaaallelujah. I cannot begin to describe the relief going into my hips and back. I even asked for the breakfast I had declined earlier. Now I threw it over the edge of the pool 20 seconds later when another strong wave came, but still. Several more waves came and went and I relaxed as much as possible. I had my favourite water sounds playing on my laptop whilst my affirmations were playing on my TV. Every time a wift of clary sage and lavender hit me I got a few moments of relief as I remembered all my baths and yoga practices whilst using these scents. During an intense one the second midwife arrived, and it was the lovely Carla whom we met at an appointment in the Rotunda. I asked when was it time to push and Colette said “when you feel ready you can push, take your time’’. During contractions I remember following a wooden labrynth I got, asking for massage and when my breath got out of control I remember Tom holding me and breathing slowly in my ear whilst Colette kept saying “slow breaths Gemma, slow breaths”. In between the surges Colette listened to baby’s heart and my little one was doing so amazing, so far unphased by the change of environment. I remember feeling so excited at every doppler check because in front of my eyes I could see the location of the heart beat changing. First it was left, then after every surge it rotated around to the front. Then got lower, and lower.

I started to feel flutters at the top of my bump, I felt ready to push. After a couple of surges, I was overcome with a feeling of worry for our baby girl. I called Tom over close so Colette couldn’t hear and I whispered “I don’t think I can do this”. Toms said “Yes you can, of course you can. You’ve prepared so well for this. We are going to meet her this morning”. I started to cry. Colette asked what was wrong and I relayed my fears. I can’t explain it, I mean I know the huge benefits for a baby of being squeezed out the birth canal but I couldn’t shake the idea that pushing was going to hurt her. Colette showed me her heartrate again, I could feel her move, she appeared to be using her feet off the top of my uterus to edge down. She was ok. But I felt tired, so I was given more homeopathic aids. A flashback of a tough race I ran when I was 14 years old came flooding to me. I was nervous of this race as my chest was at me that week from a cough and my Dad ran the course of the race and cheered me on when I got tired. Totally illegal in the world of athletics of course but try tell him that.

After a couple of more pushes I got out to use the toilet and walk around to try get her down further. I tried different positions and I realised I needed to be out of the the pool to get more ooomph for my pushes. The weightlessness in the water was divine for relief but personally I needed to feel more grounded. In the end squatting and humming were my allies in getting her to us. So we tried a few more times. And a few more times. And again. I wasn’t pushing hard enough, I got confused. I told them I was giving it all I have and I am strong. They said I needed to push harder. Then they checked her heart beat and I noticed the exchange of looks and couldn’t hear what they were saying as I was dazed from a strong surge, but it sounded like concern. “What’s wrong?” I asked. Colette looked me straight in the eye and calmly said “Gemma she needs to come out right now”. I don’t know where it came from, or who that woman was, but I ordered everyone to get ready that she was coming this second. And in that moment I used every ounce of energy I had, not caring if it killed me, and pushed her head out. I was asked to move onto all fours and do a lunge to facilitate her first shoulder. I could feel her rotating out, and we were excited. I asked why wasn’t she crying and they said she’s not out yet, and we laughed. I was asked to push again and then her body followed. I collapsed into Tom and I looked back and thought “She is huge how did she come out of me”. I noticed how like Tom she was. This all happened over a split second and then I held my breath as I noticed the cord was like a scarf around her little neck and she was limp. The ladies worked more quickly than I have ever seen anyone work. Rubbing her feet, chest. Then they had to get breathing apparatus and to resuscitate her for what apparently was 20 seconds but felt like a year. It was scary yes, but as I kept calling over to her to wake up that Mammy and Daddy were here, to take a deep breath, I just knew she’d be all right. She was my little warrior. She moved her head, took a breath and looked over at me and Tom. And we sobbed. The cord had prompted my clever little girl to hold her head to the side so her oxygen wasn’t inhibited. That was the difficulty she had getting down, she couldn’t tuck her chin which usually makes it easier to come down the birth canal. After initial checks were completed, we were both lifted over to the sofa where she was placed on my belly and we began the best two hours of my life, uninterrupted skin to skin contact. Once the cord stopped pulsing it was incredible to see the change in her size and colouring. Tom cut the cord, and we lay down, she was placed on my chest and she crawled up to my left breast to take a sip. There are no words to describe that feeling so I am not going to try.

Emma Rose Culligan, Superstar.





8 Comments on The Happy Home Birth

  1. In floods of tears and full of admiration for you Gemma. You super courageous girl. Labor is the most challenging thing you’ll ever go through as you feel so responsible for that little life inside you, but you did it. Be so very proud of yourself for what you’ve succeeded in doing and bringing a beautiful healthy baby girl into the world. Your life will never be the same again but will only be more fulfilled and full of laughter as you watch your little girl progress through life. Congratulations

    • Thank you so much Catherine. I really enjoyed sharing our experience. Labour is tough but with the right preparation is nothing to be feared. Sure aren’t we all Labour warriors 🙂


  2. What a positive beautiful story! Thanks. Colette is my midwife for the birth of my second baby .. with only a few weeks to go now I’m loving reading these birth stories!

    • Oh wow that’s amazing 🙂 Colette is such an unbelievable support, we are hoping she might move in ha ha.

      Wishing you all the luck and love in the world x

  3. Well done Gemma. Huge congratulations to you.

    • Thanks a mil Colm! I hope you are well 🙂

  4. Hi Gemma,
    It’s been years! Congratulations on your beautiful baby girl. Thank you for sharing such an empowering and inspiring birth story. You are such an amazing strong woman! I’m due baby number 2 tomorrow and it was just so lovely to read this tonight.

    Aisling x

    • Aisling thank you so much. Lovely to hear from you! Im glad you enjoyed it, I got a lot out of writing it. Wow number 2, Im so excited for you, let me know how it goes! I’m starting post partum classes soon in Raheny if you are anywhere near the area 🙂