H and J were part of my September group class and completed 8 hours of hypnobirthing with me. They welcomed their son to the world at the end of October, and while the end of his birth wasn’t what they had expected, their story demonstrates why being informed, prepared and educated, along with the hypnobirthing techniques, can really help cope with and navigate birth when things change.
I was fairly sure my waters released at 7am on Tuesday morning. I’d woken up early with period-like pains in my back and belly, so I’d listened to one of the relaxations which I normally fall asleep to, but this time I was wide awake, right to the end of the music. I went to the bathroom and realised that my mucous plug had unplugged itself. I felt excited, but when this brief splash of water appeared it also felt a bit like everything was happening at once. I waddled into the bedroom and woke J to tell him. He looked decidedly alarmed. Even though we knew the baby should be coming soon – I was 40+1 weeks – it still managed to come as a surprise when things kicked off.
I’d envisaged myself walking round the flat, keeping active, perhaps leaning on the table or the birthing ball when a wave hit – but actually, I felt very quiet and very still, and sat rooted to the end of the sofa. We spent a few hours umming and aahing over whether to call the hospital, as I hadn’t felt any waves at this point, and any amniotic fluid was few and far between, but we decided that it was best to be checked. It was a long wait at the hospital’s Maternity Assessment Unit, and when I was about to be checked, my waters gushed magnificently over the bed. “I think we can say that your waters have broken,” the midwife said.
I was told to go back when in active labour, but if that didn’t happen, I’d have to go back at 6.30am the next morning, as they’d have to administer antibiotics. We went home – a 25 minute journey – and settled in for the long haul.
It wasn’t long before I began to feel waves that grew more intense fairly quickly. Again, I felt very quiet, as if I wanted to hide away in a little nest. Also, my senses had gone bonkers. As an example, J was eating a cocoa orange snack bar, and the smell of it was absolutely overpowering – it made me feel incredibly sick. I couldn’t bear to risk the clary sage so that stayed unopened. I found that I really liked having his hand on my lower back when a wave hit, because he has volcanic hands, and it helped if he pushed against me slightly, but if he massaged me or moved his hand anywhere else it felt unbearable. He massaged my neck at one point and I went mad because it felt like he was trying to strangle me. Poor lad! He was being so supportive and I know he was aware that my senses might be out of wack. I tried having a warm bath, but I hate being in water, and after the first five or ten minutes I just had to get out.
I was using the breathing techniques to get through the waves, and as they became stronger and more frequent, J was breathing with me, and calming me, and encouraging me. He was brilliant. I’d squeeze his hand when a wave hit, and he’d time it. We thought we’d reached the point of going in to the hospital, but J called the MAU two or three times and they kept saying, “no, I don’t think she’s far enough along, she’s probably not 4cm yet.” That was pretty tough, as I was coping, but I felt like I was getting to that point of “we need to leave now.” Eventually they said yes, come in, and I went to the MAU to be assessed, leaving him outside.
So here’s where the birth plan began to deviate!
They found that I was 7cm dilated, and dehydrated, so they put me on a drip and took me to the labour ward with J; I had to stay there until the drip was finished and then I could go to the Oasis Birth Centre. The two midwives who looked after us were great – they had my birth plan and so took a bit of a step back, whilst doing everything they needed to do. However, I stayed bone dry, even though I was drinking water as well, and had to go on another drip. I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to give birth in the Oasis Birth Centre but actually, at that point, I felt happy where I was. It didn’t occur to us to set out the tea-lights and affirmations. It felt like it was just me, and J, and our baby, and that's all I needed.
Looking back, things seem quite surreal. I was doing lots of controlled breathing, and I remember the sensation of a wave that isn’t pain, exactly, but an intense pressure, a spreading tightness, that began as a little niggle. I focussed on the end of the tightness, the lovely release that came right at the end. Time didn’t exist. Things were moving along well. I had the shakes during the transition phase, which I was prepared for, though I had no idea they would be so strong! J was concerned – was I cold? Should it be happening like this? – but the midwives said it was normal, and so I kept on shaking until it passed.
We got to the pushing stage. I pushed and pushed, and after a while, the midwife checked where baby was. She could feel his head, and it was hairy. It was a real boost to hear this. Birth felt close. She said I could absolutely continue on my own, but if I wanted a little guidance she could do that for me. I accepted the offer. I wanted to see my baby as soon as possible and I was getting tired. I kept on pushing but the baby didn’t make any progress. I changed position. Still nothing. Back to original position – and no further progress. My waves were getting shorter, and I was losing the chance to push. I was put on a syntocinon drip. I can honestly say that being on syntocinon without pain relief is quite an experience. The waves were incredibly strong, and they came on super-fast. I tried pushing some more. Nothing.
A doctor came in to try to help me push more effectively, and she checked the position of the baby. I didn’t hear her ask the midwife to push the emergency button; I just heard the midwife suddenly say that some more people were coming into the room. It was quite a few people, I think including another doctor. The original doctor said they were going to need to speed things up.
The doctor (who thought I’d had an epidural and seemed quite surprised that I’d had no pain relief) tried the ventouse but I was so tired I kept pushing ineffectively, and the baby was being sucked back up. It was really hard at this point to stay positive and focussed. And so, my greatest fear – the forceps. The doctor said it was too late to have an emergency caesarean, and they had to get the baby out immediately.
I remember focussing on this one doctor. I was aware that J was there but I blocked him and everyone else out; it was me and baby and the doctor.
The doctor did the necessary numbing for an episiotomy. I don’t remember feeling any pain as she worked the baby out but I could feel a sensation that I believed was the baby, and I thought, “is this what it feels like to give birth, to feel the baby moving through and out?”
When the doctor was pulling, and I was pushing, at some point I completely left the room. It was bizarre. It was like I blacked out – I just wasn’t there for a moment. I came back to a bunch of people encouraging me to push, and saying “well done, keep going”, and then I was asked to stop pushing.
I hadn’t realised (J told me this afterwards) that the cord was round baby’s neck and that was why they needed me to stop pushing, so that the doctor could cut the cord, free the baby and avoid pulling the placenta out. I was swiftly given the injection to speed up the placenta birth.
Our baby was placed on my stomach. I could barely believe it. I turned to J and said, “It’s our baby.” It was a little boy. He was very purple and white. I only had a very small amount of time with him before he was whisked away to the monitoring station, with J, where they checked his heartbeat and oxygen levels, and sucked away some mucous. Afterwards, J told me they were surprised he was so well; they seemed to expect to have to resuscitate him and yet he was fine. The cord had been cut so quickly it was a bit long, so J cut it shorter while one of the midwives took photos.
I was stitched up and given baby, and we were wheeled to the Maternity Ward. I was lucky enough to have a room to myself, and the three of us settled in as a family. Baby was being checked every two hours, so I had to stay in overnight – J had to leave at 8pm and come back at 10am the next day. I was discharged late afternoon and we took our little son home.
In retrospect, it was a very busy time for the maternity unit. The midwife we had was a community midwife who was out of area (her name was Nicole; she was brilliant) but she knew about hypnobirthing and took the birth plan seriously, at least whilst matters were still in her hands. There was another midwife helping Nicole called Alison. Alison has five children from five separate births (no twins, triplets, etc.). I know this because she had her children's names tattooed up her forearm :-) Alison watched us throughout the waves and kept saying how much she wished she'd known about hypnobirthing for her births. Every wave, I put my hand on H's arm and, very pointedly, synced my breath with hers, breathing in strongly through the nose and out through the mouth loud enough for her to hear. H, consciously or otherwise, followed my lead and, after the wave started, settled into following the breath.
It feels like you are doing nothing but it really, really helps. Nicole and Alison couldn't believe that H went without any pain relief. Nicole said, "you are really smashing these contractions". I said that I didn't feel I was doing much and Alison almost shouted at me "you are doing a LOT; what you're doing is just amazing".
So, breathe with her. After all the relaxation and work you too have done, it really is all you need. It doesn't seem much but, for H and the midwives, it was everything.
As it turned out, baby had a very short cord, which was pulling him back every time H pushed. To make matters rather more exciting, what cord there was, was wrapped around his neck. So... the cord was cut from his neck to free him and complete the birth. The placenta then had to be birthed straight away, I think in part, so that the doctor could get on with attending to H. Yes; it was way off the birth plan but we have a truly gorgeous, happy and healthy boy.
Also, and I can't emphasise this enough; although we needed interventions and it wasn't ideal, we wouldn't have got through it without the hypnobirthing. I really don't know how we would have coped and baby calmed right down when placed on H. Again, I am sure that hypnobirthing played a large part in her ability to soothe him even after all that had happened. When the nurse took him away from H to put him on the monitor she was genuinely surprised at the readout - "Oh. He's absolutely fine." She just didn't expect that from a baby that had just been born that way and that, I am sure, came from using the hypnobirthing earlier.