Our first daughter, Mary, was born in a large NHS hospital in Hampstead. The antenatal classes had been very reassuring, we’d been to the lovely new birth centre where all appeared to be calm and relaxation. In the event when my wife, Ruby, was first admitted we were directed to the usual maternity unit, I think due to the baby lying spine to spine. I now realise that an experienced midwife could probably have done some simple manipulation to move her into a less painful position, and perhaps we could have used the birth centre after all.
It felt a little as if the rug had been pulled from beneath us, as the antenatal classes had emphasised the birth centre and the feeling that “you are in control”. Once we were in the maternity unit it seemed that things proceeded according to the convenience of the staff, which is understandable since due to their numbers the midwives had to split their time between mothers. I think they did a reasonable job in the circumstances, but having a midwife appearing and vanishing from time to time promoted a sense of anxiety rather than calm and relaxation.
In contrast, our second daughter, Kirsty, was born 4 years later at home in Oxford. We weren’t quite as prepared as we might have been, as she arrived 9 days early. But we had completed our Hypnobirthing course and practiced beforehand. We had initially planned for my sister to take Mary for the day, but we never quite got around to making the phone call, everything proceeded so smoothly. Mary was playing quietly in her room for the first couple of hours, and eventually came downstairs to find out what was going on, just as the midwives arrived. I think we briefly had four midwives in the room due to a shift change, which was a little chaotic, but things quickly settled down.
Everything about the second experience promoted a sense of calm. We were able to use the Hypnobirthing techniques and play relaxing music, Ruby was in familiar comfortable surroundings, with her family around her. Apart from the initial flurry of activity due to the shift change, we had the same midwives in the room for the entire time. There were no sudden transitions from home, to car, to hospital, to assessment room, to maternity unit, to postnatal unit with overnight stay, to taxi, to home as in the first birth.
The funny thing is, my first daughter was there for the whole thing – she’s under no illusions as to where her baby sister came from – and she took it all in her stride. I think she saw it as more of a mild inconvenience interrupting her playtime. It simply didn’t feel like “a big production”, but instead the most natural event imaginable thanks to Hypnobirthing.