Since the birth of my eldest son, I had felt like I was carrying around a heavy weight. It was the memory of my first experience of childbirth, three and a half years ago, that loomed over me. A memory that left a feeling of unease, pain and discomfort and certainly an experience I didn’t enjoy talking about. My labour came on thick and fast and after panic buttons being pressed, medical interventions, failed pain relief, examinations, waters being broken, stirrups, theatre, forceps, episiotomy…. I felt like something had happened to me that I didn’t and still don’t fully understand. After describing my experience to a visiting midwife a few days after the birth, she looked at me and said, “a fairly average first time birth then.” I wasn’t sure how to take that. Coupled with feelings of complete joy at meeting my son and becoming a mum, I also felt flat, utterly disappointed and completely broken.
This time round, it had to be different. It took me a long time to even consider having a second child as the thought of going through the same again utterly terrified me. Then a good friend of mine suggested hypnobirthing and that she had a friend who taught a course. I read up on it and it began to become clear that this was what had been missing. I needed to better understand what was happening to my body and my baby and have some control over my birth experience. I jumped at the chance to do the course with Natalie. After the first session, our homework was to watch some hypnobirthing birth videos on Natalie’s website. That night, I plucked up the courage to watch them and burst into tears in my bedroom. I turned to my husband and said, “I can’t be that woman. I’ve been through it, I remember it and I can’t do it.” He said to me, “you need to believe you can do it, then you will.” And that was it, I knew I had no choice but to fully and completely commit to hypnobirthing. So I did.
At 41 weeks pregnant, I went to bed at 10pm, plugged in my headphones to listen to the hypnobirthing relaxations and affirmations, which I did every night. I felt a little ‘twinge’ and knew immediately that this was it. Without wanting to be too hasty, I just lay there for an hour or so, with my husband falling asleep next to me and Bertie fast asleep upstairs, gently tuning into my body and feeling the surges getting slightly stronger each time. There was something really magical about being the only one who knew I was in labour and just enjoying the sensations building within me. Tapping Adam on the shoulder, I suggested it might be time to start setting up the space. For the past month or so, I had transformed our living room into a birth room with photos and affirmations on display, my birth plan in prime position for the midwife, soft lighting and aromatherapy oils. I pottered about and spent some time on the birthing ball watching my all-time favourite comedy, Frasier, to get the oxytocin flowing while Adam set up the pool. Surges were getting stronger now and I began to really focus in on my ‘up breath’. My mum arrived at midnight and I could then relax about Bertie being taken care of if he woke up. I had leant the hypnobirthing book to my mum and she had seen our birth plan. She kept out of the way so Adam and I could get in the zone and would be available if needed. Things were getting a bit more intense now and I became unable to talk during surges. Whereas I had been doing a lot of upright walking and swaying, I now needed to get down low and lean forward. I found a position against the sofa that I didn’t stray from for quite a while!
I held off getting into the pool as I knew the midwife would be arriving soon and I guessed she would want to offer to examine me. After reading my birth plan, she wanted to start by observing me and said that I didn’t need to be examined unless I wanted to be. I didn’t. So I got in the pool. I didn’t have any vaginal examinations from then on. I was extremely fortunate to have a midwife who seemed to really take on board and understand our birth plan wishes.
Labour was well and truly established at this point and, given that, between surges, I could hear the midwife call for her colleague, I had a feeling we weren’t far away. Leaning over the edge of the pool, face-to-face with Adam, trying to soak up as much love and support as I could from him, I suddenly hit a wall. After a hugely powerful downward surge, I said, “I can’t do this anymore. No…no…” I heard the midwife whisper, “yes you can” and that was enough for all of my focus and concentration to return. My husband delights in reminding me that at this point I shouted, “YES, YES, YES” over again to remind myself that my baby and I were indeed working together in perfect synchronisation and in a powerfully natural way. My waters broke during this stage and it wasn’t long before Arthur’s head made its appearance (with a Superman hand too, just for a little extra girth…why not?!) Having not experienced this stage of labour first time round, it was new to me and totally intense in the most exhilarating way. I was nearly there. Out he came at 3.33am in the water, into my arms. I had done it. I was one of those women.
During the third stage of labour, I was surprised at the intensity of the surges that remained and, once again, had to put my up-breath and visualisations back into practice. What followed was a peaceful few hours of enjoying our new arrival on the sofa, taking a shower, tea, toast and MY OWN BED! Our eldest, undisturbed throughout, woke up at 6am and came into our bedroom to meet his new baby brother; completely none-the-wiser! The midwives quietly and respectfully helped to clean up and tidy away and left only when they were confident everyone was happy and healthy.
It was Natalie’s hypnobirthing course that equipped me for having a positive birth experience. She made me feel empowered and capable and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to have been taught by her. Thank you Natalie.