Completely Life Changing and Incredible!
When I was 21 weeks pregnant I heard about ‘Hypnobirthing’ through a friend back in the UK. My daughter, who was one and a half at that time had been birthed via emergency c section and I was very keen to do all in my power to avoid having that experience again.
After speaking with my friend I organised two FaceTime sessions with a Hypnobirthing teacher in the UK and this is really where our hypnobirthing journey began.
Something that had stuck with me from the birth of our first child was that after being induced, birthing felt like something that was happening ‘to’ me as if the synthetic hormone, syntocinon had literally possessed my body and there was nothing I could do about it or the literal fear I had of dying. After an epidural, all my faith was literally placed into the hands of the doctors as I could not feel my baby moving down, little alone the ‘surges’. This birth was a typical example of once you open the doors to intervention - be prepared that ‘intervention’ will no doubt navigate its way into the whole of your labour and birth.
Through these early Facetime sessions I was excited to read about self-empowerment by gathering information, asking questions, talking and dealing with your last experience, if you had one, in order to work through the fears. I learnt through this that it was important for my body to be able to produce oxytocin (our happy hormone) and this cannot happen if the body is in a ‘fear’ response - that we cannot be in a fear response and calm response at the same time. This was all making so much sense to me.
I learnt about BRAINS - to be able to ask the right questions so that you could make an informed decision on what was right for you and your baby.
Hypnobirthing gave me the confidence to ask these questions. First time round I was like ‘well they’re the Medical professionals, who am I question them?!’ Second time round I came to realise and understand that, just like in any profession, different Doctors and indeed midwives practice differently.
I bought Katharine Grave’s Hypnobirthing book and practiced simple techniques such as relaxation methods everyday for 20 minutes - as she suggests - a realistic amount of time per day for anyone to find time to practice. I printed out a number of photographs that had a positive and calming effect on me and had positive affirmations all around the house such as ‘each surge brings my baby closer to me’. With the benefit of hindsight I realised that this book was brilliant preparation for my subconscious
By the time I reached 39 weeks I had completed my birth plan. I had worked hard to gain consultant support as a water birth, which was what I wanted, had been against hospital policy at some point and we kept having to revisit what the current ‘policy’ was. I knew that I wanted a physiological third stage - (allowing my placenta to birth naturally) as the homecare midwife had told me that it would have to be induced (Active third stage where they inject syntocinon at the top of your leg as baby’s shoulders emerge) to make the placenta come quicker - made no sense to me if the birth to that point had been ok and safe - why intervene all of a sudden?! My midwife was wrong.
At 40 weeks I had an appointment at the hospital where the Doctor said we could go until 41.5 but booked me an appointment at the Maternity Day Unit at 41 weeks on the dot to discuss our options if I was still pregnant then. Between 40 and 41 weeks I started getting very nervous!
The night before my appointment, or should I say early morning Friday I woke up to tightenings in my lower stomach at about 2.00am. This had happened at exactly the same time on the Tuesday before. I got up and just started to walk around to see if they would pass. Our daughter was asleep and I was eager not to wake her up. The house was very quiet and still. At about 2.30am I said to my partner that it was feeling a bit different to the other night and he quietly got up and started doing his thing. I text our doula as the surges started getting closer together and most of them bringing me to my knees and asked her to come over. She arrived at about 3.30am, Chris had rung the hospital and shortly after rung our friend to come and pick Kahi (our daughter - who was still asleep) up.
I knew I wanted to stay at home for as long as possible and through my hypnobirthing practice had ingrained in my subconscious to stay calm, not to panic try and to keep gently mobile.
I remember answering the door to Carmel (our doula - who is also a midwife at the hospital we were going to birth at) and straight away having a strong surge that brought me to my knees. She asked what I needed and I asked her to run the bath with some lavender oil. I spent pretty much the next 2 hours in the bath whilst our friend picked up Kahi and Chris got the car ready whilst Carmel was breathing with me through surges that were getting stronger, longer and closer together. I remember just trying to take each surge one by one, not to wonder how many would there be or think about time. I felt my waters break in the bath and lost my mucus plug on the toilet. At about 5.30am Carmel suggested we should start thinking about getting to the hospital. She was so calm and I could see her eyes were gentle, kind and positive. Even though the surges were very powerful by now I was ultra aware of my environment and could feel if I got anxious or stressed it made the surges much harder to breath through.
I knew I had to get to the hospital for safety sake given that I was having a VBAC and as I mentioned earlier I was very very aware of the risks. At about 5.30am I finally got out of the bath (I didn’t want to leave it) managed to grab my dressing gown and moved as fast as I could with Carmel ad Chris (my partner) to the garage. I had about 3 surges in the garage as there was not enough room for me and Carmel on the backseat with the carseats up so Carmel reclined the passenger seat and she squeezed into the back and off we went.
When we arrived at the Birthing Suite we were told I would not be allowed a room with a bath as I was a VBAC woman - my doula promptly said I had consultant support, to check my obstetric notes, coupled with my cry to ‘get me out of this chair’ landed us in a room with a bath - (this may not have happened if I had not prepared the way I had learnt through hypnobirthing).
As soon as I entered the room a midwife asked to do a VE - I was expecting this so no shock to the system or concern and she concluded I was fully dilated at which point I got my gown off and straight into the bath, on my knees, with my hands gripping the front of the bath. I felt a wave of relief ripple through my body and knew this is where I would stay.
Somewhere between here and when I felt my baby crowning two seperate doctors asked me to get out of the bath as they wanted to put a fetal cap on the baby’s head to get a continual heart rate. My body worked with them as best as could, every time I had a surge I had to be in the water - there was no question of this. When I heard the male doctor say again ‘You are going to have to get out of the bath’ it was all I needed to breath out as hard as I could with the surge. The front row of my support team said that they could see the baby’s head and then I heard ‘the head is out’ and then I felt the midwife pull my baby out! Both Doctors were behind the midwives watching this natural birth unfold into a success. The photo is of this moment, as soon as Mana was out and placed onto my chest. We had done it, him and I and our team right up until the last minute we had to stay focused and fight for the birth we believed in and in the end, nature prevailed, ‘Baby will come when Baby is Ready’.
I remember feeling overwhelmed with love, gratitude and relief. I will never ever forget that moment for the rest of my life. The room was darkened and still, I told Chris I loved him and held little (or not so little - 4.26 kilos) Mana Michael close so I could kiss his head.
A little while later Chris cut the cord and I birthed the placenta naturally as we had planned for, no need for an Active third stage as the midwife had told me was ‘policy’.
I can honestly say, as a woman who has given birth twice, with two absolute polar opposite experiences for any woman thinking about a VBAC it is possible and not just possible but completely life changing and incredible!
Hypnobirthing gave me confidence and empowerment. As I reflect, I find it strange, on my part, that first time round I didn’t think to ask questions etc…., if I purchasing a new car I would shop around, ask questions,, get really informed about the pros and cons of the vehicles before I made a decision. However, yet, with my own body, first time round, I lost all confidence of my self knowledge and put all the control into the hands of others so the birth was completely out of my control on all levels, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Dont get me wrong I am highly appreciative for the care and attention I received from all Medical Professionals, I am simply sharing my experience for those women, who like me, feel like they want to get their power back, before it is taken from them altogether. You can do it. You and your baby along with your trusted support team can make this happen! Go for it!