Colette Duff with her baby Jenny (centre) midwife Brenda O'Toole, husband Matthew and her other two children Evie and Matt. picture: Denis Byrne
While almost 1,500 babies were being born in Portlaoise hospital each year, the availability of the free HSE home birth service in Laois is little used.
Only about ten babies are born at home in Laois each year under the HSE’s free homebirth scheme.
Self employed community midwife and hypnotherapist Brenda O’Toole has lots of experience helping Laois mothers have their babies in the comfort of home.
“I trained in the UK and was doing it there, and in Ireland since 2013. It is so much more relaxed. Before I go I tuck the mothers into bed with their babies, skin to skin, with the whole family there celebrating the family occasion,” she said.
Recently she assisted fellow midwife Colette Duff in her own home birth.
Colette from Rosenallis lives in Portlaoise with husband Matthew and two young children. Her first was born in The Coombe as she worked there and the second at home. She opted again to have her third baby at home.
“As a midwife myself I know from studies and research how it is as safe as a hospital birth. You are also less likely to have intervention such as a caesarian section. I feel in the first 24 hours after birth that we should be a family unit. It’s very important to me to be all together from the get go,” Colette said.
The home birth service includes free checkups at home during pregnancy and after birth by the midwife.
Colette is also a hypnobirth practitioner and she used this technique to give birth without painkillers, also helped by the warm water of a birthing pool she used for the birth.
“You listen to relaxation and affirmation recordings every day from 30 weeks, they say things like ‘my baby is the right size for my body’,” she said.
D- day was January 2 and she went into labour on the button that day.
“I got a few pains, I knew quick enough, they were more intense that the others. I contacted the midwife and gave her updates. She was out to me within an hour and a half, at 8.45pm. My water went as she walked in the door and my baby was born at 9.15pm in the pool,” Colette said.
Her other children aged three and two were in bed but her husband was present to experience the birth.
“My eldest came back up the hall to meet her sister at 9.30. It was lovely they could meet so soon. My son slept through. When he woke nothing had changed for him, he just climbed into our bed and the baby was here. He was not knocked about,” she said.
She did not miss the rest some mothers of small children get in hospital after a birth.
“When the baby sleeps I sleep. In hospital other babies are crying or there are lights and noises. I have great support. My midwife called daily and I had my mam and my husband’s mam, I just stayed in bed resting,” she said.
She recommends it to other expectant mothers.
“I 100% recommend it. A lot of people just don’t know about it, we want people to know this is an option. Not enough people know this is free and available for the past 10 or 15 years. You get the same care as in hospital,” she said.
Baby Jenny is now almost three weeks old.
“She is doing great, flying it,” Colette said.
Her midwife Brenda believes home is the right place for a birth.
“Birth is a life event not a medical event. Just a generation or two ago it was all done at home,” she said.
“Partners can be with the mothers all the time, it hospitals it can be hard for partners to leave at night,” she said.
Mothers are assessed at the start of pregnancy when they ask for the HSE funded service to ensure they are low risk.
If there are any complications during the birth the ambulance service is on alert to come and bring them to hospital.
“People think hospitals are safer but it is so much better for them to be at home so they are not introduced to any infection that might be in a hospital,” Brenda said.
She is one of 20 self employed midwives registered in Ireland. She is also a lactaction consultant for new mothers.
“In homebirths we have a 96% breastfeeding result, because the care is so uninterrupted and relaxed, mother gets that continuity of care for two weeks after the birth to help breastfeeding become established,” she said.
She said their work emulates the National Maternity Strategy.
“It is to put the woman at the centre of her care. The service comes to her not her to the service. We as self employed midwives are the only ones putting that into practice,” she said.
Brenda founded the Midlands Birth Gathering, a group of about 370 mothers who meet monthly to share stories and chat, with their next meeting in late January , find it on Facebook.
Read about the homebirth option on www.hse.ie