My pregnancy journey was fairly straightforward until a routine Lucozade test at around 30 weeks led to me being diagnosed with gestational diabetes. We had attended NCT classes and were considering a water birth at home, and I very quickly felt that we were being put into a diabetic ‘box’, with our options limited and choices taken out of our hands. As well as regular appointments, blood tests and scans at the hospital, home birth was suddenly ‘not an option’, and we were to expect to be induced at 40+3 weeks. My husband Stu and I did not feel that the diabetes protocol was always in our best interests. I am a generally healthy person and my blood glucose levels were fairly borderline. As a result, we decided that we would weigh up all the information given and do what we felt was right for us and our baby.
We spent the summer working very hard to keep my blood glucose levels within the recommended parameters, and were thrilled when my diabetes management was able to stay diet-controlled. The extra growth scans that we had showed that the baby appeared to be growing at a normal rate, and all other tests remained normal. As a result, we decided to fight for our home birth, doing a lot of our own research to back up our decision-making.
I had been interested in hypnobirthing for a number of years, after hearing about a friend’s positive experiences with it, and after my own experience of hypnotherapy. As an anxious person and with my gestational diabetes diagnosis taking things out of my control, I decided to once again look into hypnobirthing as a way to refocus my thoughts. I contacted Natalie and was thrilled when she managed to fit us in for an intensive course, late in my third trimester.
We only had a few weeks to embed the hypnobirthing techniques, and worked hard to find the time to practise breathing, affirmations and massage – not easy with major building work happening in our house at the same time! We both immediately felt calmer and more positive about the birth, and refocused on meeting our little baby. The content of Natalie’s sessions also cemented our belief that we were making the right choice for us to plan for a home birth as they taught us to always research our own choices and make decisions that were best for us as opposed to following one size fits all protocol and guidelines.
I didn’t start my maternity leave until 39+2, and then spent the following few days trying to get the last bits ready for the baby’s arrival. I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable, and any activity involving walking or standing was taking me an age! After a long, slow trip to the supermarket on the Thursday night at 39+5, we ended up sorting the baby’s clothes and went to bed far too late. It was fine though, as there was no chance that the baby would come yet; it was a first baby after all, and Stu and I are always late for everything!
That night I woke up at about 4.15am needing the toilet – nothing unusual there. I lay in bed for a while, summing up the energy to move, when I suddenly felt my waters break! Yelling at Stu to grab towels, we waited for the flow to slow down, and I then waddled downstairs to the bathroom. Returning about 20 minutes later, we remembered our NCT and hypnobirthing learning, and settled back into bed to rest and sleep during the first, long, latent stage of labour.
Not long after laying back down, I felt my first surge, and it was immediately clear that there wasn’t going to be any sleep! The first surge hit me like very intense period pain and I immediately turned the light back on.
What happened next is a bit of a blur as far as details are concerned, as everything happened very quickly. The surges came very strongly, and after only a few of these I was out of bed and trying to find a comfortable position on the floor. Remembering the importance of being ‘Upright Forward and Open’, I tried a few different positions, including the birthing ball (that was quickly discarded!), and ended up kneeling on the floor whilst leaning forwards on the bed – the only position where I could get remotely comfortable.
The surges came thick and fast, with very little respite, and the hypnobirthing breathing really helped me throughout. After only about 20 minutes, they were very close together and I asked Stu to keep an eye on their frequency. He was soon telling me that the gap was 8 minutes……5 minutes.…….and then 3 within 10 minutes. This was not what we had expected following our antenatal classes!
As we were planning a home birth and needed to inform triage early on, Stu called the hospital. They told him that they would inform the home birth team, and to call back if anything changed. Only one surge later, things progressed further, so he called back and was informed that the midwife would be on her way. No sooner had he put the phone down for a second time, then I suddenly felt the intense feeling of the baby bearing down – the so-called ‘need to push’. Stu rang triage for a third time and spoke directly to the midwife, who told him that she was on her way and would be 15 minutes!
It was actually more than 20 minutes until our first lovely midwife arrived and I’d be lying if I said that I was 100% calm throughout. My immediate feeling was that it was way too soon for this stage of labour, as it had only been about an hour since my waters had broken. However, there was also a big part of me that knew that I needed to allow my body to do its thing. Things were moving so quickly that I had forgotten to consciously use the technique of ‘breathing down’ the baby, but I ended up groaning the baby down, with long grunts into a pillow – breathing down with noise, I think!
When the midwife arrived, she immediately put my mind at rest by reminding me to trust my body. I continued with my technique of ‘groaning down’ until the midwife asked me to turn over as the baby was a little stuck and needed a little help. The second midwife arrived just in time for this and at this point I followed their instructions to ‘push’ when I felt a surge. Only a few pushes later, our little boy was born.
Ollie arrived at 6.35am – about two hours after my first surge. Our birthing pool remained unused downstairs, along with lots of supplies for a long first labour, and he instead arrived on the floor next to our bed. It was very surreal to be back in bed with our little boy less than three hours after first waking up, and I think we were all very much in shock for a while! With no examinations or pain relief, and minimal midwife support, he was here!
Ollie’s fast arrival left us very little time to think and, looking back, we did not use hypnobirthing techniques all of the time. However, those that we did use allowed us to remain much calmer in a situation that could so easily have been anything but! Although things didn’t happen quite as expected, we were thrilled to have had as much of a positive, natural home birth as we could have hoped for.
As Jen mentioned, she had been aware of hypnobirthing for a while but, when she suggested it, I really wasn’t sure what it was or what to expect. Visions of staring into the centre of a spinning spiral came to mind while Mystic Meg whispered incoherently in the background… and having spoken with friends since, I suspect this is the standard reaction to the word ‘hypno’!
However, we were keen to arm ourselves with as many strategies as possible as our options seemed to be diminishing, so we booked Natalie for our intensive course. Having completed NCT, I had a good idea of what to expect during labour, which was great, but I had no real idea of how I slotted into the birthing experience…. perhaps I’d keep everyone topped up with tea?
I think it’s fair to say that we both found the course absolutely invaluable for different reasons; Jen for mindset, breathing etc, but for me I learnt what I could do to actually help and support Jen through the birth, which is something that NCT simply didn’t cover. It gave us both a method of refocusing in a way that we were both familiar with, something which is quite important when there are so many unknowns happening at the same time.
Would I recommend Natalie and hypnobirthing? 100% yes, I already have.