Our birthing adventure started at 11:30pm on 17/04/18 when I was exactly 38 weeks pregnant. I was woken in bed by my waters breaking (in comedy ‘gushing’ style). I calmly but excitedly woke Lee & told him we were going to be having a baby in the next day or two! I was not yet noticing any other signs of labour, but was confident things would progress soon. I had a shower, shaved my legs, washed my hair & then rang the to notify them, get advice & to check their pool room was likely to be available. I knew we had plenty of time to relax at home.
After finding out I was pregnant, I had done lots of googling and come across hypnobirthing. Having run a marathon & competed in other endurance events before, I know how important positive mental attitude can be, and wanted to be as prepared for birth. The course not only ticked that box, but also added extra scientific level of understanding to birth. and Lee was happy he had specific ‘jobs’ to keep him occupied & included.
Because I had been expecting a large baby (after numerous growth scans), we had been trying various natural methods to encourage natural labour to start before 40 weeks (including acupressure, lots of birth ball bouncing & lots of long dog walks on the beach), so her arriving at this point was perfect.
I was completely ready to meet our baby & felt no fear.
One small hiccup was that I hadn’t yet finished work (where my birthing ball was), so at 12:30am on 18/04/18 Lee & I made the 57 mile round trip to my work to get the ball!
By the time we got home it was 2am & I was feeling only mild cramps. We decided to relax & get some sleep. I put the positive affirmations on my phone & drifted off. At 6am I woke to stronger tightenings & knew things were moving.
Lee (who is self employed) decided to cancel his customers that day (they had all been warned in advance). We relaxed in bed with coffee together & the radio on, then I got dressed & sorted out my hospital bags.
The tightenings very quickly grew in strength. I began using the TENS machine & listening to all my positive birth affirmations on repeat. I could really feel the changes in my cervix with each surge, which felt strange, but empowered with the knowledge from the digital pack I understood exactly what was happening & knew it was bringing me closer to meeting baby. With each surge Lee counted me through the ‘up-breathing’ out loud like we had practiced.
By 9:30am my best friend arrived to collect our dog. By this point I was rocking on my ball in my own little ‘calm zone’ listening to my affirmations & I apparently appeared pretty out of it. I had planned to go for a short walk on the beach (my favourite place), but things progressed quite quickly & we never got there.
Not long after my friend left, we decided it was time to head to the hospital. They suggested on the phone I could stay at home - but I knew things were progressing quickly. Surges were roughly coming every 3 minutes, lasting about 50 seconds & were growing fast in strength. It sounds silly but I could feel my cervix opening with each one. Deep down I was pretty certain I was in established labour, so we told them we were coming in.
I continued using the TENS machine & listening to the birth affirmations on the 30 minute drive to the unit. By the time I arrived at about 10:30am I was struggling to walk, but was maintaining control & staying in my positive, ‘calm zone’. They had got one of the pool rooms ready for us & it was perfect.
The midwife introduced herself & read my birth preferences, which she completely took on board. Lee got busy setting up our birth playlist & speakers (& putting some tea lights out - despite it being very light outside & the first hot & sunny day of the year, meaning even with blinds down the room was hardly dark!)
Although I had said I didn’t want any vaginal examinations, when the midwife offered me one on arrival, I decided I wanted to know if my gut instinct was right, so I asked her to examine me.
I was shocked - but elated - when she told me I was about 6cm dilated. She ran the pool for me while I got undressed & into my bikini.
Getting into the pool was absolute bliss. After a short time in the pool I realised I wanted some gas & air, so I asked for it (I had asked not to be offered any pain relief). Lee had been counting me out loud through my up-breathing, which had worked amazingly well. However, once I started on gas & air, although I continued focusing on controlling my breathing through the surges, I no longer counted breaths. Surges were very strong, but I focused on the music & saying my favourite positive affirmations to myself. I knew each surge was doing a job & it was entirely manageable.
At some point I felt a change & knew I was heading into the second (‘down’) stage of labour. I remember saying ‘it feels different’. As the surges came I tried to focus on ‘down breathing’, but I admit I struggled to achieve successful down breathing, or to understand how best to successfully ‘use’ the power of the surges to push baby down. After some time it became apparent things had slowed. The midwife was tactful, but I knew things were not progressing as quickly as she would have liked from the way she suggested a few position changes in the pool. As things continued, the midwife wondered if my full bladder might be obstructing getting baby round the ‘bend’ in the birth canal, but I was completely unable to urinate. In the end I temporarily got out of the pool & had a catheter fitted to allow me to empty my bladder, the midwife then checked I was definitely fully dilated (I was) then I returned to the pool. (I did not enjoy being out of the pool & I very nearly lost control on getting out - constantly using positive affirmations in my head to stay on track).
On returning to the pool I continued to attempt to get baby down the birth canal. Each surge was so strong, I was sure baby had to be getting there. An hour & a half later the midwife could still not see any sign of baby’s head. It was getting very tiring & for a short time I wondered if I could do it - a thought I chose not to vocalise - instead focusing my frustration on using the surges to get her out. The midwife then said something I didn't want to hear - that I had been pushing for a reasonably long time without any apparent success in getting baby round the bend and I might need assistance. I asked what this would mean. She replied most likely forceps or ventouse. She went on to say that she knew how much I wanted to stay in the pool & she could see I was determined to do so, so she would give me an extra 15 minutes to see if I could make progress. I again wondered if I could do this, but again used all my frustration to use the power of my surges to push baby.
I became totally focused on using every single bit of the surge. After some time I felt a burning, stretching feeling & was certain baby must be visible. The midwife then said the magic words ‘you’re not going anywhere, you’re going to have a baby’. This was the most amazing feeling ever. I allowed myself to feel elated & to enjoy - rather than fear - the burning / stinging sensation as baby’s head appeared. Before I knew it, the midwife was telling me that with the next surge baby would be born.
I was completely in awe & exhausted as baby emerged calmly into the water, I tried to catch her, but I wasn’t quick enough & the midwife caught her & brought her up into my arms. I held her there on me for a while in the pool, before climbing out & drying off ready to deliver the placenta. All the time holding baby to me. After the cord finished pulsating, I cut it myself.
I aimed for a physiological third stage, but after nearly an hour I hadn’t delivered the placenta, so I accepted the injection & delivered it using gas & air while in bed holding baby. The next few hours passed in a blur as I relaxed in bed with baby. They delayed weighing baby & stitching me (I had a non serious tear) to allow both Lee & I to have that golden skin-to-skin & quiet time together. The tear & stitching was no problem at all & is certainly nothing to fear - I really didn’t notice I had torn, although I did use a bit of gas & air during stitching.
Blossom was born at 4:48pm on 18/04/18 (the first warm sunny day of Spring). She weighed 6lb 10oz. Despite the tough bits, it was the most amazing, empowering & perfect water birth that I had always hoped for. I am truly grateful to hypnobirthing for giving me the tools to achieve this.