My son was born on the 8th October 2018 and it was the best experience of my life. I felt powerful and connected throughout my labour journey to my body, baby and husband in a way I never thought possible before I fell pregnant. I was a person who had grown up seeing/ hearing in films and tv shows how painful labour is, how intense. And I very nearly swore off having a family because I was so scared of labour.
The power of breath
But my experience was nothing like that. Intense in an emotional way, yes. But not in an out of control, I can’t bear the pain way. It was only when I was holding my son in my arms and my wonderful midwife Pippa congratulated me that I realised I’d delivered him without any medicated pain relief. Not even gas and air, just using the power of the breath, a TENs Machine before getting in to the birth pool and a positive mindset. I had a clear desire in my head to have as little intervention as possible and the belief that I was strong enough to have my vision become a reality. It didn’t once occur to me that I needed pain relief. I felt in control, content even for the most part, cocooned in my little hypnobirthing bubble with my husband whispering words of encouragement in my ear.
Pregnancy yoga was my saving grace
I was very fortunate to have a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery. Which I’m extremely grateful for. I continued to practice yoga, modifying where appropriate, and exercising cardio using a spin bike up until I was 36-37 weeks. The intensity and frequency of spinning slowed right down in my last trimester.
But my yoga was always my saving grace at 2am when I couldn’t sleep for pregnancy related aches and heaviness. I actually miss those practices in the quiet of the night, flowing in the moonlight. But sleep these days is a necessity.
My husbands support and strong presence at the birth of our son; seeing him hold him for the first time with complete awe and unwavering love in his eyes is such a powerful memory that will stay with me forever. It was so powerful, I wish I could relive the moment every day.
We practiced hypnobirthing together from around 22 weeks of pregnancy using Siobhan Millers, The Positive Birth Company. And formulated a birth plan that included a water birth. I wrote down that I didn’t want to be asked questions using the words pain or contractions and pain relief wasn’t to be offered unless I expressly asked for it myself.
I can’t recommend Siobhan’s digital hypnobirthing course enough. It’s full of videos and content that make it easy to absorb the information and techniques. And you get life time access to the online course, so it’s freely available for every pregnancy you have. It’s also extremely affordable and you can learn everything in the comfort of your own home.
And so it begins…
My waters broke at 2:30am at 39 weeks 6 days. After being checked by the midwives at the hospital they were happy for me to go home and wait for surges (hypnobirthing alternative word for contractions) to start. My first surge started at 2pm but I wasn’t sure if it was the real deal as it was rather mild. By 2:30pm they were coming every 4-5mins so I knew things had started but they were extremely manageable.
I began to use my hypnobirthing Up Breathing Technique during a surge and chatted excitedly with my husband about who we thought our son would look like when he arrived. My husband decided to make pasta carbonara for us as a good energy source for the delivery to come. As we had no idea how long I’d be in labour. Turns out not very long as I progressed very quickly. My midwife later told me she thought this was due to how calm and relaxed I was during each surge. I allowed my body to do what it needed rather than fight against the surge.
By the time food was ready at 3pm I had noticed the surges were increasing in intensity (still manageable with up breathing though) and getting closer together. They were now coming every 3-4 mins and lasting 45 seconds each. They made me feel a little bit nauseous but nothing much more than that. I tried to eat the carbonara but didn’t manage a lot due to the nausea and being aware that my labour seemed to be progressing fairly quickly.
By 3:30pm, an hour after the first surge, I was speaking to the midwife at the birthing centre as they were already coming in under 2mins apart and lasting up to a minute. She advised to take a slow drive in. But we live 45 mins away from the hospital, and knowing my husband was nervous of not making it in in time, we decided to put on the TENs Machine, pack up the car and go straight in. The TENs machine really helped with the intensity of the surge and gave me a different sensation to focus on instead of the surge itself. I will definitely be using one again if we have a second child.
We were in the car by 3:45pm and I was being checked over by the midwife in the birthing suite by 4:40pm and I was already 4cm dilated. I was finding between the up breathing and TENs Machine the surges were still very manageable and I was happily getting in to my hypnobirthing zone, up breathing and reciting positive affirmations as my husband helped my lovely midwife, Pippa, set up the birth pool. He also put up my positive affirmations around the pool where I could see them if I needed them and turned off the harsh hospital lighting, closed the curtains and replaced it with the fairy lights from our Christmas tree and battery operated candles to create a more gentle mood.
The birthing pool
Once Pippa told me the pool was ready I slipped into the warm water and it felt like heaven. Everything eased and the surges felt dulled like the warm water was giving me a big hug and soothing any tension. Pippa read through my birthing preferences and chatted with my husband to check she understood everything. My husband knew exactly what I wanted to avoid if at all possible unless myself or baby were at any risk and he steered any questions for me so I could remain in my zone with my breathing.
Having him there quietly supporting me and whispering encouragement during particularly strong surges was all I needed to help me through. I did try a few puffs on the gas and air but I found it made my throat dry which obstructed my up breathing. And I felt fuzzy headed so I decided not to use it and managed to deliver with no medicated pain relief, just using a breathing technique. This for me cemented in my mind forever the power of the breath over the mind.
Every 20mins or so Pippa would check on the baby using a Doppler probe on my stomach to measure his heart rate. And that was the only monitoring I had after my initial internal examination on arriving at the hospital. From around 5:30pm I told Pippa I needed to push. But I didn’t trust my body because it felt too soon to be needing to push. It was only an hour since I was told I was only 4cm dilated. But Pippa reassured me to listen to my body and let it do its thing. So I switched to the down breathing that Siobhan teaches for the pushing stage and calmly breathed through every pushing sensation. I was still not sure if I really was at the pushing stage as it didn’t feel anywhere near as intense as I imagined it would.
‘I can’t do this’
At 6pm though Pippa asked if she could monitor babies heart rate after every surge as she thought he might be getting in to distress. And after 3 surges she confirmed she was concerned about him. And called a team in to help get me out of the pool and down to the delivery ward. This was about the point I had a bit of a panic. I couldn’t keep my up breathing going because I was focusing on what the midwives were discussing as I was worried about my baby. And it was only then that the surges got on top of me and I thought ‘I can’t do this!’ But my husband was amazing and helped me calm down and reminded me about my breathing. Helping me get back in to a good rhythm.
Once we arrived at the delivery ward, they confirmed I was fully dilated and they could see his head. They attached a heart tracer to the top of his head and it confirmed his heart rate was rising too high during a surge and dropping far too low once it was over. The team told me they needed to get him out quickly and they felt forceps was the best way. But they would prep me and take me down to theatre for the forceps in case they weren’t effective then they could go straight to c section without delay.
My beautiful baby
I was encouraged to continue pushing with every surge whilst they prepared to take me down to theatre. And I had an episiotomy in preparation for the forceps. But before I knew it my pushes had him arriving quickly without having to even leave the delivery ward.
He had wrapped the cord around his neck three times and once around his armpit which was the reason for his fluctuating heart rate during pushes. Once the cord was quickly unwrapped, he cried straight away and we were reassured he was totally healthy. So we could have delayed cord clamping until it had stopped pulsing and skin to skin straight away. Those first cuddles are the sweetest memories for me.
From the first surge at 2pm to delivery at 7:06pm I was only in labour for 5hrs and active labour 2 and a half hours. So we were glad we didn’t hang around at home. And overall my feelings about the whole experience are extremely positive.