Prior to my second birth if someone had told me that they had enjoyed their labour or felt empowered by their labour I admit I would have rolled my eyes or muttered something about “Crazy Hippy” under my breath. To me finding birth empowering was even more insane than those women who enjoyed being pregnant! And even though I found some of the material on the hypnobirthing course challenging, here we are after the birth of my second child and I am now one of those “Crazy Hippy’s”! I found my second birth truly one of the most empowering, incredible and inspirational experiences of my life and yes I am truly very tempted to do it all again! I believe the credit for this experience goes almost entirely to hypnobirthing!
After completing a fast tracked Hypnobirthing course with the lovely Natalie, in the final few weeks pre-birth, I was certainly heading into my second birth with a considerably more positive attitude than the one I had two weeks earlier.
Despite my wishes for a natural birth, my first birth experience was a 3 day induction with an assisted delivery, every drug, a full emergency team, a baby in distress and complications post-delivery. I was left feeling that I had not managed to give birth to my baby myself and quite frankly a complete failure.
When I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes late in my second pregnancy, I realised we would be told we should be induced again and every memory of the first time came flooding back. I was left in major panic mode. What hypnobirthing made me realise was that while very few births are perfect, you can make every birth as perfect as you can, as well as an amazing experience.
On the morning of my induction we went into hospital nice and relaxed. We had a bag full of hypnobirthing CD’s, funny TV shows and a CD of relaxing piano music, that had been on almost permanently in my house leading up to the birth whilst I practised my breathing. I was not allowed to leave due to the type of induction I was having, so I knew I was going to have the whole labour in hospital and I was determined to make it as normal as I could.
Before lunch they put a pessary in and told me that in 24 hours they would put the next one in for another 24 hours, (here for the long haul), and then break my waters. I politely informed them that I would not be having my waters broken. My surges started at 20 minutes after the pessary, but that was no different to my first birth, so I tried to ignore them and focus on relaxing and my breathing.
I really hoped that I would not need the next one in at 24 hours, so I determinedly ignored the medical surroundings and focussed on increasing my oxytocin in any way possible, in order to move my labour on naturally. My husband gave me a massage while I listened to my CD and practised my breathing. Then he brought my daughter in to meet me and we all went for lunch in the canteen.
When they left for a couple of hours, I listened to my wonderful piano music as I sat on the birth ball to help try to encourage baby down and also watched some funny TV shows. Then Paul returned and gave me another relaxing massage while I carried on with my breathing. Throughout the afternoon my surges continued as I focussed on my breathing and my ability to achieve the birth I wanted.
My surges were getting stronger and one of the midwives suggested I should have a bath to take the edge off the “twinges” – it would be fair to say that with how relaxed I was and my calm breathing, they were not taking my surges very seriously! But I figured I needed to get some sleep for the time ahead so I had a bath with my kindle to try to calm the surges down so I could sleep and I sent Paul home. He didn’t want to leave because I was uncomfortable, but I reassured him that I was ok and he should get some rest too.
Honestly I think the nurses forgot I was in the bath because when I walked back and checked the time, I had been in there for about 2.5 hours! My surges did feel less strong, so I got ready for bed and lay down intending/hoping to get some sleep. It soon became apparent I was not going to be able to sleep and that the surges were becoming more intense. After an hour I decided to get myself in an upright position, so I put the back of the bed up and rested over it on my knees, in order to let gravity “do its thing”!
Within 10 minutes there was a big pop and my waters went all over the bed! I pulled the emergency cord and the midwife came in, it was 1.15am and at this point we rang Paul. I now knew that we were progressing so I figured get back on the ball to help baby down. The surges were picking up in intensity considerably, and my breathing was helping me through each one. With every surge I breathed and counted and realised that I did four full breaths for each surge. I focussed 100% on those breaths during every surge to get me to the end. Apart from crushing Paul’s fingers at this point, I was so in the Zone that there wasn’t much communication!
The surges were now very powerful and the paracetamol I’d taken wasn’t really helping! I needed gas and air. I knew this meant going to the labour ward and was actually quite confused why they hadn’t moved me to the labour ward after my waters went, as I’d told them it would be very quick after they’d gone based on my experience the first time. But it seems my calm breathing technique had them all fooled!!
Paul went to ask them if I could have gas and air. A new young midwife came, observed my contraction and then informed me, (in what I believe was supposed to be a helpful comment, and consequently my only moment of true annoyance); that I could not have gas and air on the ward, so IF I really wanted it she could check me and if I was not 4cm, which they doubted I was, then I would have to have something more, “suitable for my phase of labour”…
I honestly almost laughed at her. I was like, go on then – you check. I knew I needed to be moved.
Luckily my focus on my breathing was not thrown and needless to say after she examined me she went to get me a room on the labour ward and they came to move me pretty pronto!
My midwife asked if I could walk and I figured I should in order to stay upright. I got one metre from the bed before I realised that I needed to push NOW – the baby was coming. Needless to say being very sensible she believed me straight away and quickly got me lying down and through to the labour ward urging me not to push and to hold on.
Trying not to push at this point was the worst bit of the experience and the breathing allowed me to remain in control, focussing purely on every breath for the four breaths through every surge. Despite this, I do have some very clear memories of that hurried journey and the time leading up to when I was finally allowed to push.
One of which, I admit, was the relief of getting my hands on the gas and air literally minutes pre-birth! Others were the midwives discussing my incredible breathing techniques amongst themselves! And my most favourite was my husband asking the midwives, (while they almost sprinted my bed between the two wards and argued amongst themselves whether they needed to pull the bed over to deliver right now), whether the birthing pool was free, and hearing them explain to him that his wife was giving birth NOW and it takes 30 minutes to fill. He tried for me though – my champion till the end!
After trying desperately not to push, I insisted firmly that I was not lying down to give birth and got up on my knees. I was determined even then, that I was going to give birth to my baby myself this time! I could do this!
As the midwives urged me to “push,” I breathed out my baby, using the techniques I had learned from hypnobirthing. I had about 5 minutes of gas and air, unlike the drug concoction of baby number 1! My head was clear and I was aware of every bit of this experience – It was primal, it was incredible and it was beautiful. My body knew exactly what it needed to do.
I breathed out my new beautiful baby’s head and actually laughed when the midwives announced the head, and my husband said, “WHAT… the heads out?” – clearly he was also fooled by my breathing and had no idea what was going on and hadn’t taken seriously where I was in labour! But I was 100% in control this time.
Then I breathed out the rest of my new daughter. It was an incredibly powerful moment as she was born and I knew I had managed to give birth myself.
It took a long time before she cried, (actually not until we were feeding), but I wasn’t worried. (I knew if anything was wrong she would have been whisked away). They said after she wasn’t squashed enough to cry. I was keen to hold her and build on my bond with this little angel who had given me such an amazing experience. I firmly believe that the birth experience also helped our bonding post-birth considerably.
The midwife I had on the labour ward was great. She gave me the space I needed and trusted my instincts. And apart from using the word “push!” she was very supportive of letting me do what I needed, really supported my skin-to-skin and feeding straight after, and I told her all about my hypnobirthing course!
My experience with hypnobirthing gave me the birth I wanted, (despite the medical interventions of being induced etc.), by enabling me to focus on my breathing techniques and visualisations. Now every time I hear that someone is pregnant, I urge them to give Hypnobirthing a try. Without it, I truly don’t believe I would have experienced the most beautiful and empowering moment of my life. And while I am now one of those, “Hippy mummies,” I couldn’t be more proud of what I achieved.