I have had 2 children – both born in very different ways. My first, a long labour ending with emergency services speeding me to hospital for a caesarean. My second, a calm HBAC. Both, however, were amazing experiences as both used hypnobirthing techniques to keep me happy, relaxed, and confident throughout.
OUR FIRST BIRTH – 2011: Our 9lb 7oz boy was born 10 days past the ‘due date’. We had planned a home birth using the birthing pool. However, the midwife strongly advised we have a sweep on day 8 in order for us to be able to have our planned home birth. We were told if we went 10 days overdue we wouldn’t be allowed a home birth. I wasn’t in favour of any sweep but I was worried about having to birth in hospital so we gave in as we really wanted the home birth.
I started contracting/having surges that same evening (Tuesday). We then over the next 24 hours went further into labour using the rainbow relaxation and birthing affirmations. My husband was brilliant support and I have to say we both enjoyed being together and feeling so close to each other throughout this labour.
The midwife came out to us (early hours Thursday) once surges were very regular. She was amazed at how calm I was, and even more so to realise on examination that I was 7cm dilated. It was another 5 hours before I was fully dilated, but again the midwife continued to be astounded at my calmness. She had to ask me to tell her when I was contracting/surging as she couldn’t tell otherwise! I ended up using a straw to breathe through during my surges to help me control the slow breathing. My husband was grateful for me actually using the straw as he could then tell when the surges came!
The hypnobirthing gave me a sense of control over the pain – although I did lose focus midway and the pain increased substantially! My husband soon had me back on focus and calmed me down and the pain became manageable again. The birthing pool helped a lot with the pain – and was such a relief when I got in to it. I didn’t have any pain relief during this labour.
Unfortunately, 30 hours from initial surges beginning I still hadn’t felt any urge to push. I was consequently rushed to hospital by ambulance. With panic all around me, I was still able to remain calm and in control of the pains. On arriving at the hospital I was immediately given a drip to induce further contractions (I didn’t realise at the time what this drip was) – to no avail. All this achieved was a substantially higher level of pain as the surges were more constant and less effective. The drip was forcing my body to contract when it just didn’t want to. I was then taken to the operating theatre for spinal block etc. and a ventouse birth attempted. This also failed, so an emergency caesarean was completed.
It turned out that not only was my baby bigger than average, but his head was slightly turned so the largest part of his head was trying to birth. While, this wasn’t quite how we had planned our first birth, it was still a relaxed birth. I enjoyed the experience and throughout this stressful time in hospital where panic set in, my husband was brilliant at continuing with hypnobirthing and keeping me relaxed.
I do, however, wonder if I had been allowed more time to ‘rest and be thankful’ once I was fully dilated, would my baby and my body have been able to prepare fully to achieve a successful birthing…..rather than experiencing the surrounding panic and forced contractions that ensued?……
OUR SECOND BIRTH – 2013: Our 8lb 9oz baby girl was born 10 days overdue (as was our previous baby!). We again planned a home water birth, but this time it was much more taboo as this was to be a home VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean).
We had various consultant and specialist appointments throughout my pregnancy to assess that we were ‘allowed’ a home birth, with statistics thrown in our faces telling us that there was a 1 in 200 chance of scar rupture during labour. This seemed quite frightening to start with, until you turn it around and realise that means there is a 99.5% chance of it being fine!
My husband was understandably still quite worried about a home birth this time, so I arranged for a consultation with Independent Midwife, Virginia Howes (from TV ‘Home Delivery’ programme, and author of book ‘The Baby’s Coming’). She was able to give us both the confidence to continue our plans once she had told us of her many years of assisting successful home VBACs.
After my previous planned home water birth that ended up in a transfer to hospital for ‘failure to progress’, we were determined to have as little involvement from midwives and doctors as possible. We wanted to remain in control of our baby’s birth with minimal intrusion of medication or one size fits all ‘procedures’. Which I guess is pretty much a freebirth.
My contractions started at 5.30am, quite mild so I carried on sleeping. Getting up as normal with my toddler at 7am to go and get breakfast. Contractions by now were every 10 minutes, but nothing I couldn’t deal with so I carried on pottering about. By 9am they had become a little more intense so I went into another room on my own and listened to my hypnobirthing relaxation cd so that I could focus on relaxing while my husband entertained our toddler. Listening to the cd had an immediate effect on my contractions, once relaxed they were significantly milder.
By 9.30am they were every 5mins. The next hour I spent pottering about, stopping to breathe through each contraction. My toddler went up for his nap at 11am, at which point my husband was able to return, start setting up the pool and sit down with me to read me the relaxation script that I had written for myself. By 12.30pm my contractions were every couple of minutes and had become more intense. My husband rang the midwife at this point just to let them know progress, he assured them we didn’t need them yet though.
As soon as the pool was ready, I got in and felt such a relief, I can’t tell you how good it felt! It was immediate bliss. My waters went straight away. My toddler then woke and my husband took him over to my neighbours.
1pm now and since my waters broke, I noticed a change in my contractions. They were less ‘sharp’, but much ‘deeper’. My body completely took over and was ‘pushing’ down with each surge. I change the terminology now, as the earlier sensations were sharper, period pain like contractions around my lower tummy. But they changed to a downward intense ‘squeezing’ of my stomach muscles that really felt like they were surging down my body.
The midwife suddenly turned up on the doorstep, just as my body has started these downward pushes. I was still calm and relaxed, but the midwife had a look of horror on her face and immediately got on the phone to get another midwife out! I carried on focusing on my breathing and visualisations for down and open, my husband comforting, gently stroking me all the while. With my relaxing music on in the background, I seemed to doze off in between surges until my body started pushing down again.
The midwives kept fussing with my temperature and baby’s heartbeat and wanting to examine how dilated I was. I refused any examinations as the other checks were enough distraction! There was also some heated debate between my husband and the midwives about the pool not being warm enough (it had gone down to 35 degrees…..which was fine!). They said I should get out until the water had been warmed up. I felt quite warm enough and was not leaving the bliss of that pool!
By now the surges were really, really intense in my back and I’d taken to letting out an involuntary loud groan with each one. My husband said I sounded like a weightlifter! This had been going on for 2 hours now and the midwives were getting worried. But with each surge I could actually feel my baby gradually getting lower and lower, so I was confident all was progressing ok, albeit slowly.
I did make the big mistake of giving an additional push at this point to try and hurry it along…which I felt as a really sharp pain in my vagina. Then the midwife suddenly said ‘small gentle pushes from your bottom now’…which I did…and then, at 3pm, my 8lb 9oz baby girl emerged!
My placenta slipped out effortlessly an hour later, only after I was left alone for a minute and able to relax again! I later had it encapsulated so I could take the pills to help with my recovery.
I later learnt that the extra push I gave to try and rush things on had resulted with my vagina tearing quite badly, so I was transferred to hospital for surgery. How I wish I hadn’t pushed! I didn’t feel any ‘ring of fire’ or burning from my vagina stretching, and neither did my perineum tear (the perineal massage exercises I had been doing certainly paid off!). The most intense sensation was in my back, but never did I feel that I wanted any pain relieving drugs for it.
I am proud to say I felt it all…..and am proud of my amazing home VBAC water birth! None of which I would have done so calmly and confidently without hypnobirthing 🙂