This story to you may seem pretty uneventful to you… funnily enough we are not always that interested in listening or reading about straightforward births are we? Unfortunately drama, gore, trauma make for much more gripping reads. However I implore you to mix up reading about different birth stories to take the fear and dread out of birth and fill you with the confidence that birth is NORMAL. As in a normal physiological process. However I’ll tempt you with a disclaimer to this one; if you’d rather not read about poo, placentas and nipples then probably stop right here…
On Thursday 6th September at 2.30 am and 41 weeks pregnant, I was woken from my sleep by a surge. Nothing unusual as I’d been having Braxton Hicks consistently from 36 weeks and being woken through the night regularly. Like all organic processes, this pregnancy was such a different experience from my first where I barely felt the practice surges, or from my second pregnancy where they felt totally manageable. These had been pretty gripping to the point of having to stop through some of them. Despite being a Hypnobirthing coach myself and telling my clients that all this is so normal, when it comes to me and my own body it can be so easy to doubt myself. (I would say the same probably goes for teachers of most things!) I also should probably mention here that having a private midwife for the second time was like having a fairy God-mother. At any point of feeling anything I was unsure of I was lucky enough to have her on the end of a phone or actually on my doorstep! At 38 weeks after a night of thinking I could be in very early labour she came over to reassure me that my uterus was doing all the early work it needed to, to hopefully shave off some hours from the other end of the labour. And once again, I knew something else that I teach my couples, anxiety will get you NOWHERE in birth. Adrenalin is not your friend! For me it wasn’t about the birth that was holding me back, but about my youngest being around/having tantrums and preventing me from zoning out. I knew that this meant that from then on, whenever it felt like something might be happening, just to carry on about my day until labour would take over.
I attempted to go back to sleep. After the second surge and a rush of adrenalin there was no going back to sleep, so downstairs it was to make some mint tea. After drinking the tea and thinking it was probably just the usual ‘braxtons’, I laid on the sofa and promptly had two huge surges that I definitely had to breathe through. Ok, now I knew this was the real thing. My Calm Birth School breathing kept the exciting adrenaline at bay and I actually accepted, welcomed and enjoyed these sensations. At this point visualisations were so helpful. Not the visualisations I had thought I would use*, instead I Iet my mind wander to find something useful for my body to use to relax. My mind took me to a far away place, not of this earth, where I knew I had work to do to bring my baby back with me. Yup sounding a bit woo right?! I could not have rehearsed this, I let instinct take over. As I reached a far away place I repeated a mantra to myself; ‘relax, soften, open, bloom.’ Words that resonated with me and that I felt my body needed. Again, sounding a bit out there, I know. These are not words I could have seen myself writing 7 years ago. But certainly one thing Hypnobirthing will teach you is about reconnecting with your body and it’s abilities.
I took myself to our front room which had been set up for the last 4 weeks or so ready to welcome our baby there. Pool inflated in the corner, tea lights and fairy LEDs at the ready along with all of my favourite scents and oils. Sandalwood sitting in a bowl, frankincense, lavender and my diffuser already plugged in. The room had already been ‘saged’ a few times too. I sat on the birthing ball and rocked on it for a while, breathing, still welcoming the sensations and if you’ve heard the rumour that nipple stimulation to helps ramp them up- it 100% does! At 5am I decided to go upstairs to wake Jonny. I just made it to his side of the bed before gripping him and leaning over while I breathed through a really powerful surge.
I got into bed next to him and just like any good hypnobirthing partner (insert cheeky wink emoji) he began counting and timing the surges to get a rough idea of where we were at that point in time. At this point the surges were about every 4 minutes lasting 40 seconds (and that was a really rough idea just from counting) so he decided to just send a text out to the midwife and grandparents to prepare them. Jonny ran me a bath with a couple of drops of clary sage, went to get my frankincense and just dripped warm water over my back which was extremely soothing as well as some light touch massage to keep the oxytocin flowing. Although I felt very relaxed, in my head I was sure that I had hours and hours of this to go. I even had that little devil of doubt sitting on my shoulder saying ‘this probably isn’t even the real thing!’ But really my gut knew that it was. These inner monkeys are prime examples of our body/mind connection; whilst really connecting and checking in on my intuition I knew this was it, but corruption to our intuition so often give us doubt and fear. Luckily all of my hypno practice would just knock the devil right off my shoulder but not without making another appearance soon after!
Time/minutes/surges are all a bit of a blur from then onwards, as they should be, but I do remember getting out of the bath, stopping to sway side to side naked and having my eldest declare “look we’re both naked!”. The kids watched me for a very short time with intrigue, not directly talking about the baby coming but quite clearly knowing it was soon time. We had talked with Rory about him being present at the birth and he would have loved to, but with it being the second day back after school holidays we decided to send him in. And though before leaving he made us promise to call the school office we didn’t know then that there wouldn’t be time for that.
My lovely midwife turned up and true to form the next surge or so was nowhere near as strong as they had been. It’s worth noting here that even when someone you love shows up as you are getting into your zone it can still throw things off if you have to be present. Imagine then if you are planning to birth in hospital or somewhere completely unknown how this can negatively affect your hormones!! Luckily, thats the beauty of having built up a relationship with an independent midwife, after one ‘weak’ surge they resumed back to normal pretty quickly. At this point, as the sensations became more intense I consciously shifted my visualisations to help me. The brilliant thing about hypnobirthing, you can always pull something new out of the tool kit. This time the visualisations were upward and soft (which help and aid the body of your uterus as it moves upwards) bubbles.
Another bath, more swaying in the bathroom and suddenly the need to go for a poo!! Uh-Oh. This did throw me off for a bit. 1- because I knew that I really did need to poo but when I sat down it was too intense. 2 – because I started to worry about how I was going to get this baby out without doing said poo. Honestly, if I could insert the hand over the face emoji I totally would.
It was at this point we decided that getting downstairs and into the pool was a good idea. The first toe dipping into that birth pool is pure heaven as any water birth mama will tell you! The front room was set up perfectly. Pool in the corner, diffuser nearby, a little shrine with fairy lights and crystals, mattress with covers on the floor for after or if I decided to get out. It felt cosy and comfortable, just what you want for the birth hormones to flow. However there really wasn’t much time for taking in the environment but we did dowse a towel in Frankincense for me to place rest my head on on the side of the pool.
Looking back I can see I was quickly in transition. I remember looking at J with teary and sad eyes telling him that it (birth/me/who knows??) wasn’t working, that nothing was happening. Ha- there was that little devil of doubt I told you about! My midwife informed me that everything was happening perfectly and that she had only been there for an hour. I couldn’t believe it! I thought we’d been at it all day. I started to switch my visualisations from the upward movement of soft bubbles to actually envisioning my cervix opening and baby moving down. My breathing automatically synced. In my thoughts (and hopes) baby was gliding down, I was opening up, and everything was working together. It was so useful and comforting just envisioning that my body and the baby were working together. I’m convinced that visualising what was actually happening to my body helped know that this was meant to be happening and therefore increased my comfort levels massively. After each surge I instinctively felt down to see if I could feel anything and was yet another example of how in touch I felt with my body this time around. I soon realised, that I would definitely needed to poo!!! However my midwife convinced me not to get out (afterwards telling me that she knew that if i was to get out, that baby would have been born on the toilet) and so after a quick apology to Jonny ( I actually asked him not to judge me) it was done, whisked away (thank goodness) and the very next surge, a huge unexpected roar, brought the babies head right down and out! I felt my waters release and the baby turn, such an amazing and strange sensation, and I leant over to my right side as ordered by the midwife, so that I could reach down and before the next surge bring my baby up to me. I will never forget that feeling as I felt downwards to where he was- I actually wasn’t sure which part of his slippery body I was grabbing- but with the final surge brought him upwards and onto my chest. Just 6 or so hours after that first surge, Rumi Sol was brought earthside.
The last part of the birth was so fast and unexpected and yet not rushed and beautiful all at once. So different to Huxley’s birth and still so so positive and empowering. I stand by my statement I tell my clients, no two of your births will ever be the same! I didn’t stay in the pool for long. This was a part of the birth that we had previously discussed with our midwife at length before the birth and we decided that having bled a little too much in my first 2 births that it would be good to get out so that blood loss could be more easily monitored. Another wish on my birth preferences was to have a natural 3rd stage (first 2 births were managed due to blood loss). My midwife had advised some herbal remedies one of which to help move the placenta along, which I drank immediately after birthing and after 5 minutes I got out of the pool and onto the mattress. Luckily bleeding was minimal, (though we also had a herbal remedy for that just in case), and we all spent the next hour just taking the baby in, examining his every feature and tiny fingers, and helping him onto the breast. After a while I decided that gravity might help and sure enough with a few small pushes the placenta was birthed. It sounds crazy and probably something many first time parents may not even think is important but I loved actively being present for this part. Last time I felt so green and shaky from the injection that I couldn’t bring myself to even look at it. This time we all had a good look before my mum sorted out the storage for it to be encapsulated. And after finally waiting for white, the cord was cut. Another new element of birth for me that felt so prominent and monumental. Almost as though we were finally being separated- I wasn’t sure I was ready for it, I felt sentimental and emotional, but of course we were and still are at one with each other. Me and little Rumi Sol. Both sunshine and peace. And another birth to teach me so much more about myself that I didn’t know before.
*during the course you get lots of ideas for visualisations at different stages of labour and just let you practice all of them so see which feels best for you.