I had a pretty rough start to pregnancy with horrendous sickness that lasted all day, every day, for about 3 months and left me unable to eat anything but dry toast and satsumas for just as long. It wasn’t much fun! When I eventually emerged from that at about 20 weeks I realised I was quite nervous about actually giving birth. I’d heard about hypnobirthing but didn’t know much about it, until Hayley came along to the (really great!) pregnancy yoga class I’d been going to. What really attracted me to hypnobirthing was the idea that I could have some control over birth – being a complete control freak the idea of labour terrified me and I wanted something that I could do in advance to help me prepare, stay calm and hopefully even help with some pain – if that was even possible?! My husband Matt was sceptical at first but went along with it! Even just booking the hypnobirthing course instantly made me feel a lot more relaxed as the calm and positive birth I had read about seemed within reach! However, at 30 weeks we were thrown a curveball when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes completely out of the blue, despite not having any of the risk factors. Extra scans showed the baby had extremely accelerated growth and I was put on a diabetes diet and medication to avoid the baby being too large at birth, and also had to test my blood daily to make sure my blood sugars were within range. This gave me the label of “high risk” and meant I couldn’t give birth in a birthing centre, something I was really disappointed about. It also meant I was booked for an induction at 40+6 in the event I hadn’t gone into labour by then, and that made me even more anxious. Suddenly I was back to feeling terrified of the birth again as it felt like we had been set down a path where I would have even less control. Hayley was fantastic and gave us lots of extra support through this making sure we knew our rights around induction and how we could apply everything we’d learnt in hypnobirthing if I did go on to be induced, and how we could apply it still in a more clinical environment rather than birthing centre. After doing the course with Hayley, Matt and I religiously practised the breathing techniques, listening to scripts and honed our birth preferences in preparation. It was a relief knowing that when I went into labour I knew what to do to help stay calm and Matt knew how he could support me.
Having GD, I was offered a sweep from 38 weeks and after careful consideration I decided to have one at 39 weeks. I went into labour a couple of days later. At first I thought it was more Braxton Hicks, and spent the first 24 hours carrying on as normal. When the contractions started to intensify after 24 hours I realised it probably was the real thing and started applying everything we’d learnt in hypnobirthing. By then it was late Saturday night – I had a bath, we watched a funny film and I started to listen to some pre-prepared calming music and scripts whilst concentrating on my breathing. My the middle of the night the contractions had ramped up, I still felt able to manage them well with breathing but they were getting a lot closer together so I decided to call the hospital. The midwife said they weren’t close enough together yet and told me to get some rest. Somehow I managed to get some sleep, which now I am very grateful for as it gave me energy for what was to come, but the following morning when I woke up to find the contractions had pretty much stopped, I felt like my hard work of the previous night had come to nothing. This is where a lot of the things we’d learnt on our hypnobirthing course especially helped as I knew what I needed to do to get things moving again, and the environment that would be most conducive to that. Several hours later the contractions were back up to a few minutes apart, I focused on my breathing throughout and made sure I stayed as relaxed as possible by listening to scripts and some pre-prepared playlists. By late afternoon when the contractions were 3 mins apart, I called the hospital again and spoke to the midwife. I told her I was hypnobirthing but despite that she didn’t think I sounded “in enough pain” yet so it probably wouldn’t be worth us going in yet! I was worried the trip in might set me back so I had a bath as the contractions were getting a lot more intense. Another hour later, at 6pm, by which point my bladder had stopped working (which I later found out was due to the baby’s head being so low), and I was starting to struggle to manage the contractions, we decided to head to the hospital. Matt quickly gathered the rest of the things for our bags (we had A LOT!!) and I struggled out to the car. I spent the 30 mins car journey listening to a script with my eyes shut, occasionally yelling at Matt to brake more softly!! This really helped as it had been something I’d planned to do, and having listened to the scripts daily in the run up the familiarity put me at ease. We finally arrived at the hospital and I hobbled in to maternity triage. I was trying my hardest to stay in my zone and focus on breathing but it was becoming difficult. I was asked for a urine sample to which I told the midwife I couldn’t provide as my bladder had stopped working – she took one look at me and declared I must have a water infection that had brought on contractions….I agreed to an internal exam and the same midwife seemed slightly surprised when she told me I was 4-5cm. My seemingly calm state (not that I felt it) must have thrown her off but thankfully we could then be admitted to the labour ward. In the 30 mins we were waiting to go through I started to really struggle with body shuddering contractions, I wanted to keep an open mind to pain relief but at this point I declared to Matt I would need an epidural ASAP! I think we both knew there wouldn’t be time for that, but he gave me the reassurance I needed telling me I could do it and reminded me to focus on my breathing. When we got into the delivery room, we were handed over to our midwife, who was absolutely fantastic and followed our hypnobirthing plans perfectly. I noticed the baby unit in the corner and it hit me that it wouldn’t be long before we met our baby – I had been focusing so much on the labour and breathing my way through it that I think I’d forgotten what the end result would be! After a few minutes of arriving in the room my waters broke and I felt the contractions intensify even more. I was relieved to hear the midwife say that she thought the baby was in a hurry and would be here very soon. She started monitoring the baby’s heartrate and I had some gas and air which felt a very welcome relief, and really helped me in the last stages of labour. The midwife told me I could start pushing when I felt ready and Matt reminded me I had said I didn’t want to give birth lying on the bed but I felt tired and in very safe hands with our midwife. When the contractions started to slow she suggested I kneel on the bed to allow gravity to help, so I moved and they sped up again to allow the baby to continue moving down. I had been worried that due to the GD there would be extra monitoring and more people in the room at this point in the labour, so I was really happy that it was just Matt, the midwife and I for the duration – it felt very calm and our incredibly encouraging midwife really helped with that. She kept telling me to follow my body and that I knew what I was doing, and was there but really did just let me get on with it! She helped remind me when to breathe and when to take a break and it all felt very calm. Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, Matt told me after he did light tough massage the whole way through, so that must have helped too 🙂 About an hour after we arrived in the delivery room, the head was almost crowning and with a few more controlled pushes, Mollie entered the world at 9.10pm. We both looked at her in amazement, with disbelief that she had just emerged from my body! I was able to have immediate skin on skin, delayed cord clamping and had a natural delivery of the placenta as we’d hoped for. The midwife knew I’d been nervous about any assisted delivery or tearing (although in the moment I honestly wouldn’t have cared), and thanks to her help ensuring a slow and careful delivery I managed to completely avoid this. In our bags we had LED candles, oils for relaxation, calming sprays, music and all sorts to help maintain the calm birth environment but the later stages of my labour and the birth itself happened so quickly that we didn’t have chance to get any of it out! At 6lb 9oz she was smaller than we’d been lead to believe but the diabetes diet and medication must have done its job. After some alone time with our new bundle of joy, some toast (and chocolate – diabetes gone!), we were moved to the ward for the night where we had the support of yet more fantastic midwives and were discharged when both mine and Mollie’s blood sugar levels were in the clear (the main risk of GD post birth) less than 24 hours after arriving the previous night.
When we look back at Mollie’s birth, we are filled with fond memories. It was the positive birth we had hoped for – yes it was incredibly difficult but by using the breathing techniques we’d practised, and with Matt’s support as a well-informed birthing partner, I felt strength I didn’t know I had. My early stages of labour were long but having the knowledge of how to create the best environment made me relax and feel in control, got things moving again when they slowed and I think that was a big contributor to my later stages of labour being so short as the relaxed state allowed body to just get on with it. I don’t profess to staying calm throughout the whole labour and birth, and Matt was crucial in helping me get back on track when this happened. We’re both so glad we did the course with Hayley – the GD left us quite anxious about the turns Mollie’s birth would take with more intervention and potentially a large baby, and as it turned out we needn’t have worried, but the knowledge and tools Hayley equipped us with made us feel a lot more confident in dealing with whatever turn things took. When I was pregnant, labour and birth felt like a completely unknown, scary and stressful situation but hypnobirthing made us both feel like we had a plan, and that my body was more than capable of what it was about to do – without it, I really think the birth would have been a very different experience. It makes me look forward to hopefully doing it again one day, and I never thought I would say that!