I’m finally sharing my positive birth story now that I have mastered the baby wrap and have some hands free to type!
Quick Disclaimer – Anything can happen in birth and even though I did a lot of preparation, much of it is down to luck on the day and I got lucky that things went to my ‘plan’. I’m also privileged to have been able to afford a doula and to have the time and resources to be able to prepare with hypnobirthing, breathwork and yoga. I’ve nothing against pain medication and would have happily taken it if I’d needed it but in the end I didn’t feel I did at any point. I’m actually quite sensitive to pain, nearly every time I get a massage I have to ask them to go more gently on me so I was half expecting to need some pain relief.
I wanted to share my positive birth story as someone who used to have a LOT of anxiety about giving birth. I’d wake up in the night with the horrors thinking about it and questioned if I could even go through with it.
But being a hypnotherapist I wanted to see if I could use hypnobirthing, hypnotherapy, visualisation and affirmations, tools I often use with my clients, for my own birth experience.
My Mum also had quite a traumatic, anxious and difficult birth with me and I wanted to have a good go at having a different experience for B’s birth.
In the run up to baby B’s birth I read dozens of positive birth stories and they were a huge help, giving me confidence that I was capable and that a positive birth could be possible for me.
At 2pm on the Wednesday at 40 weeks + 6 days I went for a walk up the hill and had a chat with my friend Vicky. I was starting to feel a bit fed up of being pregnant, having pelvic pain and needing to get up to go to the loo 5 x during the night. After getting off the phone with her I noticed some lower back ache and cramping.
Aidan had been asking me to ‘try’ not to go into labour until after he finished a webinar at 4pm and things started around then so it was great timing! I knew this was it, so I bounced on the birth ball, diffused some clary sage and did some yoga stretches. I had a shower and washed my hair, packed the last bits in my hospital bag and baked some lactation cookies (which Aidan mostly ended up eating) from Shakira Akabusi ‘s book while Aidan was on his call.
At about 7pm the contractions started properly and me and Aidan watched some comedy on Netflix. By about 9pm things hadn’t progressed much further and we made the decision to go to bed to try and rest in case it was going to be a long labour. I strapped on the Tens machine which I’m not sure did much other than create a distraction, and tried to sleep.
It was a LOOOOONG night with my contractions happening every 7-20 minutes. I could sometimes remain in bed to breathe through the contraction but would often get out of bed and bend over the bed and rock back and forth while breathing in for 4 and out for 8. The breathing massively helped and gave me something to focus on and I reminded myself that every wave has a purpose and was bringing me closer to my baby (things I’d learned from hypnobirthing). Things did slow down in the night and I slept for about an hour from 4-5 am but it was a pretty tough night. I also must have gotten up to go to the loo about 40 times no joke!
In the morning things were still the same, moderate contractions but quite spaced out. We went for a walk in the woods and things seemed to pick up during the walk but then died down again when we got home. By about 2pm I was starting to feel a bit demoralised by my lack of ‘progress’ and slightly worried that I was in for another night of slow labour and no sleep.
I had a little cry, then decided to call my doula Jenie Scholes from empoweredbumps to see what she advised. Jenie said that she would head over and as soon as we hung up the phone I decided to get on my feet and move around some more and things started to ramp up. The surges became stronger and Aidan said he knew that something had changed because of the noises I was making. I used the Freya app to track the time between surges and they were less than 3 minutes apart and lasting for over a minute which meant it was time to go to the hospital. When Jenie arrived she helped us pack up the car and we made our way to Whiston Hospital.
On the car journey things slowed down again so it was a really comfortable journey. We listened to some chanting and sang on the journey. I felt relieved to be finally heading to the hospital after nearly 24 hours in slow labor. When we arrived there was some concern over my scans. Because the growth scans had been done at a different hospital and they had a different policy, they were worried that his growth was not ok and wanted to induce me right away. We had quite an intense and long discussion with the midwife and obstetrician about the pros and cons of doing this, using the BRAIN acronym from hypnobirthing to determine the benefits, risks and alternatives. It didn’t make sense to me to induce me since I was already in labor, and Jenie our doula was amazing at asking questions and getting clarity as it was all quite confusing. I had the sense that if the other hospital thought everything was ok with his growth that it was and really wanted to avoid an induction as I knew that would likely lead to an epidural which I wanted to try to avoid ideally.
They examined my cervix and I was 2 cm dilated; I needed to be 4cm to be considered in active labor and allowed into the birthing centre. We eventually agreed to give it 4 hours whereby we could see if labor progressed and reassess after that. We got given a room and Aidan and Jenie got to work on arranging the LED candles, fairy lights and my birth affirmations board to create a calm environment to help get the oxytocin flowing, the hormone that aids with dilation.
Aidan got some questionable snacks (samosas and onion bajis!) from the hospital canteen which I forced down between contractions. I’m sure the midwives were thrilled about the stink of onion wafting through the ward!
We decided to walk around the hospital and found some stairs to walk up and down. I was doing the ‘camel walk’ – a kind of pelvic thrust move which apparently helps with dilation and baby’s positioning that I’d learned at an antenatal yoga class – it looks ridiculous but at that point i didn’t care.
At 7:30pm things were feeling more intense and I asked to be examined again. Laying down for the examination was very uncomfortable and it was amongst the only times I felt out of control as I couldn’t move and sway my way through the contraction like I could with the others. Thankfully the midwife said I was 4cm dilated and it was time to go into the birthing room with the pool. I was elated and couldn’t wait to get in the pool and hit up the gas and air!
We packed up our things and moved to the spacious and softly lit birth room in the midwife led unit. The midwife filled up the pool but said that because of the issue with the scans, they wanted to do continuous monitoring of the baby’s heart rate. A new midwife took over called Rebecca, and while I was in the pool she was having a difficult time with the continuous monitoring since it wouldn’t stay in place, the straps around my belly kept slipping around.
After a while she asked me to get out of the pool and in came some more doctors who looked quite serious and wanted to talk about the ‘plan’ going forward. It was an interesting experience trying to make a rational decision and weigh up the facts while naked, on all fours and mooing like a cow every 3 minutes.
They suggested breaking my waters and placing a monitor on the baby’s head. Again, their reasoning was because of the scan discrepancy of earlier. This would have meant I couldn’t get back in the pool. After a discussion with the midwives and the doula I asked if it would be ok to have intermittent monitoring instead as I had a strong sense that I didn’t want to go have any interventions unless necessary. Another senior midwife came in and agreed that would be ok.
I happily got back in the pool and Rebecca the midwife checked the baby’s heartbeat every 15 minutes using a doppler in the water.
At one point I remember having the thought, ‘Why didn’t you go for a caesarean?!’ but it was only fleeting and I brought my focus back to just getting through each contraction one at a time.
I remember saying to Jenie and Aidan ‘This is hard’ and Jenie reminding me ‘It is hard, but you can do hard things.’
From all the reading, positive birth stories I’d read and affirmations I’d said to myself, even though it was challenging, I knew I could do it.
I *was* doing it.
It felt great being in the water, my body supported so I could get into comfortable positions. Jenie laid a towel over the side of the pool so I could rest my head and the gas and air gave me something to focus on as I breathed through every surge while rocking back and forth. I then felt as though the contractions changed and I knew the ‘pushing stage’ had begun. It was fascinating to feel how my body just ‘knew’ what to do.
When you see birth on TV there is a lot of straining and forced pushing, screaming and the midwife shouting PUSH! But there was no screaming and I didn’t have to ‘consciously’ push at all, my body just did it automatically and the midwife was totally hands off and let me get on with it, telling me to trust my body.
As I could feel the baby’s head starting to move down slowly with every surge and it was a huge relief to know he’d soon be here. I felt completely calm between each surge, resting my head on the side of the pool and giving the odd side eyed glare to Aidan who seemed to constantly be on his phone (although he was amazing and supportive most of the time!)
It was an intense feeling but I didn’t feel scared and it wasn’t unmanageable for me. Although I expected to be begging for an epidural, I never felt I needed one. Jenie the doula was amazing, fanning me with a fan infused with peppermint essential oil, pouring warm water on my back, telling me I was doing a good job and offering me sips of coconut water. She is worth her weight in gold.
Finally the baby ‘s head came out and then his body very quickly afterwards which was a bit of a shock. He was born in his amniotic sack which burst as he came out into the pool. I felt slightly shell shocked as he arrived and was surprised to see his little face, open mouth and eyes staring up at me from below the water’s surface.
‘Reach down and pick up your baby!’ the midwife said and I grabbed him and put him on my chest. It was something I’d visualised dozens of times in the hypnobirthing hypnotherapy sessions and watched in a lot of birth videos on @badassmotherbirther ‘s Instagram page but it still felt so surreal. The midwife told me it was one of the calmest births she had ever seen!
However, despite feeling very calm during the birth, afterwards I felt overwhelmed. I was slipping around in the pool while holding a slippery baby and wanted to get out. The placenta was coming and I was getting more contractions which felt quite painful to me and were harder to manage with a baby in my arms and not being able to focus so much on my breathing. We had a few minutes of skin on skin as I birthed the placenta and after the cord had gone white Aidan cut the cord. I then asked Aidan to hold him skin on skin as I tried to get my shit together and Jenie fed me Lucozade.
The first week was a whirlwind of very little sleep, lots of tears, overwhelming love and awe, eating chocolate for breakfast and watching several seasons of ‘Below Deck’ at 4am.
I feel unbelievably grateful that the birth had gone to ‘plan’, amazed at what my body was capable of and how it just knew how to birth my baby. I know how lucky I got but it’s also proof that mental and physical preparation and hypnobirthing can help, too.
Thanks for reading! I hope this can inspire some people who have anxiety and lack confidence to know that it is possible to have a calm and positive birth even if you struggle with these things.
Here are some of the books and resources I found helpful!
Calm Birth School – Book and hypnotherapy sessions (some of which were gifted to me by Liz
I read a lot of Positive Birth Stories on the Positive Birth Co website and read their book and used their Freya App.
Jenie from Empowered Bumps was my Doula and I did her Hypnobirthing course
I did this free yoga class most days in the third trimester on Youtube