First, a little background as to why we signed up to hypnobirthing…Tommy is my 3rd and last baby, I wanted to finally have a natural and calm birth, with as few interventions as possible, both before, during and after labour. My first birth became an assisted delivery after I followed the advice of the midwife on call. I was in a labour ward as my “big” baby made me “high risk”. She was delivered with at least 10 medical staff members in the room and after the briefest of cuddles I was whisked off to theatre whilst she was given the all clear by paediatricians. My second labour was super quick at 37 weeks and completely natural, but followed many tense discussions with professionals about what interventions they thought I needed – the least helpful of these was in the triage area literally minutes before I gave birth! Luckily the sister on call realised baby was coming and literally ran us to a room, otherwise I would have had him on the floor of triage with one midwife still asking me for urine samples and insisting I needed a scan!
So, I went in to this pregnancy knowing that my labour could well be quick, my baby could be “big” and that I didn’t want any medical intervention, short of emergency necessary procedures. Hayley was amazing at helping me focus on what I wanted and how best to achieve this. She also pushed me to create a close relationship with the head midwife at our local birth centre, which proved invaluable.
At 39 weeks my close relationship with the head midwife meant that I met her for a check up and discussion – I had been having signs of early labour for a fortnight and was uncomfortable. We were both concerned that if baby didn’t arrive by 40 weeks that the consultant doctors may become stronger with their insistence that I needed to at least consider a caesarean section or admission to the labour ward, both of which I wanted to avoid. At this meeting I consented to an examination where we discovered I was 1-2cm dilated but not very effaced. However, my midwife was adamant that baby would come soon and fast! She even gave me a practical lesson on how to give birth on the kitchen floor by myself! I was both excited and a little daunted and under her guidance I agreed to let her sweep the membranes to help encourage the so far slow progression of labour. In all honesty this felt no different from the examination she had already done.
We left her office at lunchtime and being child free, husband and I decided to enjoy a leisurely lunch before picking up the children from school/nursery. Luckily my mum lives nearby and was already planning to visit – on advice of the midwife we asked her to come prepared to stay over should my labour start.
At 7.30pm, out of nowhere whilst watching a sitcom in my living room, I got my first contraction/surge/twinge that made it clear something was happening. My initial thought was that this could be discomfort from earlier but they arrived with a bang and were coming every 4/5 minutes. I immediately got up and got active and started up-breathing and visualising – everything Hayley had talked us through. My husband came in the room to see this and was insistent that we leave for the hospital birth centre – I was so calm that I tried to refuse – I was convinced that we would be a while yet but relented when it was clear that although labour had only started about half an hour previously, I had already had at least 6 strong waves of contractions and things didn’t appear to be slowing down.
So quick was our departure that we had to text my mum from the car as she was upstairs reading bedtime stories – she thought we had popped out to pick up food!
When we arrived at the birth centre we were sadly faced with an officious midwife on triage reception, who despite me having written all over my notes that I was to be allowed directly in to the birth centre and quickly! And despite clearly being in established labour, insisted that I wait in a side room for “checks”. Only when I stated (shouted?!) clearly at the height of a surge that “I DO NOT CONSENT TO YOU TOUCHING ME!” did she take us seriously and go and get the head midwife on call at the birth centre. Luckily as soon as she arrived she sent me straight to a room in the birth centre with a pool and started filling it up – we were worried I may not have time to get in! I am ever so grateful that Hayley gave me the knowledge and confidence to clearly make my voice heard. I’m only sad that it took my raising my voice to do so. It’s also an encouraging sign that the birth centre are reviewing their policies about the triage area and hoping to allow mothers to bypass it altogether in future.
Once in the birth centre the lovely midwives took time to read our notes and smiled encouragingly when we explained we were hypnobirthing. They filled up the pool and it was a huge relief to get in. this was my first time labouring in a proper birth pool and a whole different experience to being in a medicalised labour ward. Up-breathing and visualisations helped me cope with the ever increasing and intense labour as it progressed quickly. Light touch helped me stay connected and feel safe with my husband. At one point the realisation that things were so different played to my paranoia and I made my husband approach the midwives to ask why they were staying in the corner whispering over my notes – so convinced was I that something must be wrong –they smiled reassuringly and explained that they were keeping a distance and lowering voices as that’s exactly what we had asked for in our notes!
Within the hour I was ready for the second stage of labour and, as with all of my births, the most intense minutes was just before my waters broke (quite dramatically) and literally a surge ahead of the arrival of baby’s head. I remained in the water with husband stroking my head and repeating practised phrases and with hands off midwives smiling encouragingly and simply watching from the other end of the birth pool. I may not have been silent (and may have swore!) but I’m told I appeared calm and relatively quiet – clearly a sign I was in my hypnobirthing “zone” and not succumbing to any panic that I had been anxious about.
During the second stage baby emerged slowly and the only words the midwife spoke were a gently encouragement that he “needs to come” on the next surge – as he was larger than average there had always been a medical worry of the risk of shoulder dystocia so I assume she wanted to ensure he was indeed just relaxed about his entrance and not actually stuck. When he then emerged in to the water I clumsily scooped him up and on to my chest. He was so relaxed that he didn’t scream, but just stared up at me making a few little gurgles so after a little blowing on his face and rubbing for encouragement the midwife stated calmly but firmly that we needed to check him over. She took charge in a way that was reassuring and not intrusive, but necessary. A team came rushing in only to laugh and smile when Tommy screamed at them immediately as he was lifted from my arms. He was given back to me immediately and we climbed out of the water and on to the bed for more cuddles, skin to skin and breastfeeding. Due to the possible emergency I had been injected and the placenta delivered as I climbed out of the pool.
We were then mainly left alone, save for congratulatory visits from midwives and delivery of tea and toast. This time was amazing and so needed as the quick labour – 90 minutes is on my official handover sheet! – had left us all in a bit of shock.
I am ever so grateful to Hayley for giving me the tools and confidence to help me get the birth I wanted. It may not have been perfect, but it was pretty close and what in life ever goes exactly to plan – especially when babies and bodies are involved. In the end Tommy was born without any interventions, weighing 3.9kg and I had no injury except for a little grazing that needed no treatment (I’d had stiches after both previous labours). We were home the next day to introduce the children to their little brother and start our life as a family of 5.