Women hear such negative stories about labour, filling them with fear and dread for the event that will bring their baby in to the world. I decided to blog about my birth story because I believe that women should share positive birth stories to help break the cycle of fear. My story is a positive one, despite my entire birth plan flying out the window!
As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to practice hypnobirthing in preparation for birth. I waited until the 12 week scan and then I purchased a book called 'Your Baby Your Birth' and slowly began reading it. I also purchased an online course called 'The Bump To Baby Chapter' and I dedicated my time to creating a positive headspace for pregnancy and birth. As well as learning a lot about what to expect from birth and how to understand my options and make well informed choices, the biggest thing I took from the hypnobirthing experience was the importance of oxytocin and endorphins during labour and in the weeks leading up to it.
In the weeks leading up to birth I would make time for all of the things that made me feel happy, loved, safe and calm. I practiced yoga, I meditated, I sat in my favourite spot in my flat, I ate my favourite foods, I snuggled with my husband, went on lovely walks, I painted and listened to my favourite music. I allowed myself to indulge as much as possible to regularly release those happy hormones. It was this knowledge that lead me to the decision to have a home birth water birth. There was so much evidence that going to hospital slows the release of oxytocin and endorphins, increases the release of adrenaline, slowing down labour and leading to interventions. So, with the support of my midwives, I got really excited about giving birth in the comfort of my own home.
However, my due date came and went. Then a week passed and at 41 weeks I was still pregnant. Then day after day passed and my boy still hadn't arrived so at 41 weeks and 5 days, I decided to go to hospital for an induction. I knew that this would mean having to say goodbye to the home birth I had wanted, but my boy arriving safely was my top priority and I didn't want to go past 42 weeks.. I had the pessary and was then sent home for 24 hours to see if it would work. I was so lucky to be allowed home because it gave me a chance to indulge in all of those things that made me feel relaxed and happy.
When I got home, I relaxed with my husband and we ordered a Chinese take away. I did some yoga and meditation and then got in to my comfy bed and fell asleep. I woke at about 3am with 'period pain' like surges and started to feel so excited! I kept thinking 'I think this could be it!' - but I wasn't sure. I tried to sleep over the next hour or so but the surges were difficult to sleep through so I ran a bath, got my favourite chocolate bar (that I was saving for this very occasion) and soaked in the warm water while listening to hypnobirthing affirmations.
At about 6/ 7 am (I was too in the zone to note the time!) I was experiencing more intense surges 3 in 5 minutes and realised we needed to get to the hospital! So we grabbed all our hospital bags and got in the car. It was about an hours drive to the hospital during rush hour and we put my birth playlist on loud in the car. All of my favourite songs filled the silence. I sang along in between surges through tears of overwhelm, excitement and the knowing that I was about to do something incredible and bring my son in to the world! I was using a TENS machine for every surge and put voice to breath 'ahhhh'.
When we got to the hospital, I was directed straight to the delivery room where I was greeted by two lovely midwives. My husband handed them my birth preferences and, after reading, they told me that I wouldn't be able to have a water birth due to the baby needing continuous monitoring. This hit hard, I had lost the home birth and now the water birth and, for a moment, a little fear crept in. I was counting on water for my pain relief. I had a little cry in to my husbands arms before drying my tears and realising that I still had tools for an empowering birth. My husband got the fairy lights we had packed and draped them over the table, dimmed the lights in the room and put my calming music on. Immediately, I felt better.
I was labouring in a limited space because I was attached to a heart rate monitoring machine, but I could still move in to different positions. After a while of surges using the TENS machine, I found out that I was only 2cm dilated and I felt a bit defeated. I asked for gas and air and immediately loved it. I felt floaty and happy. I sat cross legged on the bed, closed my eyes and breathed in the gas and air with every surge. I visualised my happy place every time a surge reached its peak which was one of the most powerful forms of pain relief for me. I got in to a rhythm with my breath, gentle noises and swaying my body side to side. For a while I reached a state of serenity and empowerment, feeling like a birthing goddess. It wasn't painless by any means. The surges were very intense and powerful, but I embraced them and breathed through them.
The midwives broke my flow to do a V.E. Being moved on to my back was very painful and I was irritated that I had been moved when I was in such a good rhythm. But then I discovered that I was 9cm dilated! My husband and I burst in to happy tears and I collapsed in his arms! I was getting tired and knowing I had come so far was really encouraging! I had gone from 2cm to 9cm in my zen filled state using only gas and air and we were so close to meeting our boy!
The next bit feels like a bit of a blur. The midwives were having technical issues with the heart rate monitor and I remember being moved around a lot to help them find the babies heart beat.
Before I knew it, I was in the pushing phase. Wow! This was tough. My body took over completely and began pushing down the baby. I couldn’t have stopped it if I tried. It was completely primal and I just had to surrender and let nature do it’s thing. This phase was an incredible reminder that we, humans, are just animals. We are part of nature, just like every other species on earth. No amount of will or thought could have stopped me from pushing with every ounce of power I had left in me. And so I pushed and pushed and pushed some more.
After an hour or more, the baby was still not here. His head was twisted in a way that was stopping him from coming out! I was exhausted. I wanted rest but my body wouldn’t let me. With every surge, my body pushed and, as if I was possessed, I had to go with it. It was at this point that the midwives told me I would have to go to theatre for a forceps delivery and, in a short moment, the room went from my hypnobirthing bubble to a room full of doctors, all asking me questions and asking me to sign forms! At this point, I was so tired, I was begging for a spinal block and forceps delivery so I welcomed it with open arms.
I was wheeled in to theatre and, feeling really overwhelmed with the amount of people in the room and the ‘hectic’ atmosphere, I put my headphones on and listened to my favourite music. Pre birth, my biggest fear had been having a spinal block because I hated the thought of being numb from the waist down, and yet, here I was, that worst fear coming to life. I breathed through it and remained surprisingly calm. The relief was wonderful as, very quickly, the surges stopped, making the fact that I couldn’t feel my legs much more bearable! My husband was by my side, my music was on and I knew that I was about to meet my boy. This is all ok. The doctors told me to push. It was strange because I couldn’t feel myself pushing, I just had to pretend as best I could, but it obviously did the trick, because 3 pushes later, my gorgeous boy was lifted up and placed in my arms. The most surreal moment of my entire life. I was in complete shock. I knew I had grown a baby in my my womb for 9 months, but I was surprised to see him in the flesh. I looked over at my husband who had tears in his eyes and I looked back at my boy. He was so big! How had he been in my belly?! He was whisked away to be checked over and weighed while I listened to him cry from the other side of the room. Total disbelief, relief and love flooded through me.
As I was stitched up, my boy was handed to me and we snuggled, skin to skin. He was here. I did it! I grew a human in my body and birthed him! I was so proud of myself and so in awe of my body. I have never felt so empowered- so strong.
Though my birth was nothing like the birth I had visualised and hoped for, it was an incredible experience and the best thing I have ever done. It gave me a new respect for myself and my body. It made me feel more connected to nature than I ever have before, and I didn’t need a natural home birth to feel that connection, because it was within me. Within my body. I believe that hypnobirthing allowed me to enter the whole experience without fear and embrace the twists and turns with a positive mindset. I will never forget the day my son was born and I will cherish the memory of it forever.