TAHNEE’S POSITIVE BIRTH STORY
When I first found out I was pregnant it was a total surprise. My husband and I hadn’t been trying. I was on the pill, we had just moved from London to the Isle of Wight and hadn’t really got our roots down yet. If I’m honest I was really scared, not sure if I was ready to be a Mum, definitely not ready to start thinking about the idea of giving birth! Once the initial shock of being pregnant wore off I became borderline obsessed with having the most natural birth possible. I read countless books, studied hypnobirthing, watched endless natural birth videos and became a self confessed birth geek. The closer I got to the due date the more excited I became. I went from being petrified of the thought of birth to feeling completely confident in myself and the natural birth I could achieve.
Fast forward to November 2017 and I couldn’t have been more prepared. I had the pool at home ready to inflate when needed. My birth space was set up with affirmations dotted around to keep me focused. I was more than ready in case Gus decided to make an early appearance which I was expecting he may. On the morning of the 21st of November I had just reached term when I was pottering around the bedroom and I noticed a wet patch on my grey jeans. I felt a trickle, not a huge gush. I called the midwife to explain and she came round a few hours later to check in, she was able to do a test with a swap and solution to tell if the fluid was in fact amniotic fluid. She confirmed that it was amniotic fluid and that should mean that I would probably go into labour within 24 hours. A vaginal examination was offered to check if I was dilated, often hypnobirthing mothers don’t realise they are in the early stages of labour due to being able to pain manage so efficiently. I opted in to the examination and the midwife found that I hadn’t dilated at all. I really wanted her to be there for my birth as she had been my care through my whole pregnancy and we had built a beautiful bond but she had to break the news that she was off duty that night and had family visiting so wouldn’t be able to be my birthing midwife. This threw me off a little but I was prepared that may be the case. She advised if nothing happened within 24 hours I would have to call the hospital to let them know. At the time I didn’t realise that once your waters break the risk of infection increases as time goes on and having a vaginal examination early on leads to a possible higher percentage of infection risk. Had I known this I almost certainly wouldn’t have opted for the first examination.
Saying Goodbye to my Birth Plan
I was obviously really excited to meet my son but tried to keep myself calm and do things to help the production of oxytocin in my body as this is a natural form of inducing labour. It came to 30 hours after I had first felt my waters leaking so I spoke to my midwife again she said to call the hospital and and I asked if I should bring my birth bag with me to which she replied “The hospital won’t let you leave at this point so go in as if you mean to stay”. At this point I realised I was saying goodbye to the birth that I had planned meticulously for. I had this overwhelming feeling that my body had let me and my baby down. When we got to the hospital I was brought to triage strapped up to the continual monitor to check Gus’s heart-rate and offered another vaginal examination. The word induction kept coming up and if there was one thing I was sure I really didn’t want it was an induction. Everything I had read about them were negative but I had only really done my research on inductions after 40 weeks, I didn’t realise that they suggest them for PROM which is what I had and wasn’t aware of at the time. PROM – Pre-labour rupture of membranes (PROM) is a rupture (breaking open) of the membranes (amniotic sac) before labor begins. The care team were keen to get things moving but I was so reluctant, I kept asking if there was any chance I could go home, what were my options, what else could I do? Every-time a midwife or a consultant checked in all they could talk about was starting the induction. I wanted to be informed in every step so I asked the consultant to explain every step to me. I hadn’t prepared for this, how could I still have a positive birth experience when everything I had pictured the birth to be was slipping away?
Induction is like a package, You can’t opt into one thing and opt out of another. So continual monitoring is a necessity this gives you less freedom to move around during labour. To be honest everything they described it would be made me more and more anxious, even if I would have spontaneously gone into labour the likelihood of it happening now was slim with so much adrenaline racing through my body. My husband saw I was getting overwhelmed and asked the staff if we could go for a walk. We went out of the hospital for some time alone to gather our thoughts and I was in bits. I just kept feeling as if I had failed. My husband managed to get me to snap out of it, reminded me how strong I was, I was in good hands and that I could still use elements of my hypnobirthing practise to stay calm, comfortable and confident. After this motivating pep talk we went back to the hospital and agreed to the induction, this was 3pm on the 22nd so 32 hours after my waters initially broke. I was given a suppository and waited in triage for 8 more hours and still no surges. I was then moved to the labour ward and given syntocynon (synthetic oxytocyn) via a drip. I decided to opt out of pain relief for the time being and use my relaxation techniques. We explained to the care team that we were hypnobirthing and they were supportive but really had no knowledge of what it entailed. We felt really let down by the team we had caring for us from the moment we got moved to the labour ward. There was a lot of miscommunication between the midwives and the obstetrician about the dosage of medication. The surges came on fast and very powerful, but I managed to using my visualisations throughout. It really was amazing how in control of the situation I was even though I felt as if the care team weren’t.
After 14 hours of induction by drip my surges were very close together and the dosage was very high. I had a vaginal examination (I’d had several by this point) and I still hadn’t dilated. There was a lot of negative language around me like ‘failure to progress, fetal distress’ etc. I tried to take in the information and be wise with what I was being told without becoming alarmed as I knew this would have a negative effect on my body.
The tension between midwife and obstetrician was building and I felt myself losing control then the pain started to creep in but until then I really had it managed. I asked for some Gas and Air which helped me to deal with the shift change and feel comfortable with the new team taking over my care. Instantly the new team looked at the drip and changed the dosage as they felt it was far too high and they called in another obstetrician by this point we were desperate for some clear communication and someone to take the lead in a sense. After hours of miscommunication we needed some clarity of what was actually happening.
At a point that I felt pretty deflated and was loosing hope on a positive birth a new consultant entered. He actually read my birth plan which no one else had done until this point. He sat down and had a chat with us and really made us feel at ease. He explained that I wasn’t suffering from failure to progress it was actually failure to induce as it was the induction that wasn’t working, I was doing everything right. He explained all the possible outcomes and suggested that the way things were going it would probably take quite a few more hours of the drip before I would dilate and I would most likely be quite tired by that point and intervention such as forceps or ventouse would be likely. He then went on to explain what a gentle C-section was and that it would probably be the most like my initial birth plan as I would be calm and so would baby. He reassured me that we could have the room how we wish, meaning we could have our audio playing, our LED lights and anything else that made the environment a positive one for us. He totally supported my choice but just gave me all the evidence I needed to make the best decision for us. So we decided to have an elective C-section although it shows on my notes as an emergency C-section due to failure to progress it was very much my choice.
Definitely Not the Easy Way Out
We were brought to the theatre the whole team introduced themselves and were so welcoming and supportive. I really couldn’t have asked for a more positive birth environment considering the circumstances. I felt in control and empowered throughout. My husband watched the whole thing (luckily he’s not squeamish). I heard Gus cry for the first time and we instantly had skin – to – skin. When they first put him on me I remember looking down and thinking he looked a bit odd. I really didn’t bond with him at all and I just wanted someone to take him off me. It all becomes a bit of a blur after that with visitors coming in and out and I had so much morphine, no sleep and trying to breastfeed a baby I didn’t connect with it was all so odd. My husband was besotted by Gus, naturally. I couldn’t help but feel annoyed at how well he was bonding with him. I’ve done a lot of research into why I struggles to bond and I believe the reason could have been how much Syntocinon I was given. Synthetic oxytocin can have an effect on the natural oxytocin our body produces, in my case I feel this could have been the reason I didn’t get that instant connection.
The 2 weeks that followed were pretty rough. I spent most of the time in my room alone while my husband and his parents cared for Gus. They would bring him in for a feed and I’d ask them to take him away when he was done. It was breaking my heart that I couldn’t connect with him and I remember one night I turned over in bed and I wasn’t sure if he was breathing and for a second I thought that that was ok, everything could go back to normal. Then 2 weeks after birth I was rocking him to sleep in our sitting room, just me and him, and I looked down at his big blue eyes. All of the oxytocin that I didn’t have during and after the birth came flooding in like a tidal wave, I was overcome with love for him. I finally felt all the built up emotion and I cried cuddling him and saying “I really do love you!!”
It took me a long time to come to terms with the birth and labour. Initially looking back at it I would pick out the negative points but as time went on I allowed myself to rephrase the memories and see the positives and there was so much to feel positive about. It’s important to acknowledge the negatives to give feedback to the maternity services but allowing yourself to accept what went right is the difference between a negative and an empowering birth story.
Hypnobirthing helped me so much that I actually enrolled on a course (KGH) and have since become a Hypnobirthing Teacher. There were quite a few times when I was considering training that I felt I couldn’t teach as I hadn’t had a natural birth. How could I be an advocate for Hypnobirthing? As time went on I realised that it’s about having a calm, comfortable and empowered birth which in fact I did and I felt even more passionate about passing on these incredible techniques to other expectant parents. I now run my own company called Bump & Mind. We offer retreats every 2 months to educate Mothers and Birth Partners on all areas of pregnancy wellness. I also teach Hypnobirthing Courses in London and on the Isle of Wight. My son is a joyful, cheeky, loving toddler and my best friend. The challenging first weeks make the good times that much sweeter.
To learn more about Bump & Mind head to – www.bumpandmindretreats.co.uk or follow @bump_and_mind for free birth support posts and videos.