When I was pregnant with my son I searched far and wide for positive birth stories. I was taking a hypnobirthing course and I wanted to immerse myself in stories that would put me in a positive headspace and avoid the horror stories people love to share.
I am not naïve, I was fully aware that labour does not always go to plan and if you continue reading you will see that my second birth ended with my baby girl in intensive care and a birth that was wrapped with intense fear. However, I truly believe in the power of positive thinking and I have started this positive birth story series to help encourage and empower pregnant women with birthing stories that invariably still include messy parts but all have a common theme. Positivity.
And so here goes, the starting point is my story…
I’m Hannah and I have had two beautiful babies. When I was pregnant with my first, my husband and I joined a childbirth class. At around 33 weeks we had the session on childbirth and pain relief and the class left me really fearful.
I’ve always been terrified of needles so the thought of an epidural brought pure terror. They also talked about the risks involved, one of which being paralysis. Now I used to work as an actuary (think finance, maths and statistics) and so I am super risk adverse. I remember walking out of the class and saying to my husband that I wanted to ensure the greatest probability of having a medicated free birth. And the stats suggest that this should involve hypnobirthing, a midwife led birthing centre, a water birth, a doula and a clear birth plan. So that’s what we did.
TWO PAGE BIRTH PLAN
I spent the next 6.5 weeks practicing my breathing and visualisations and reading both Una May’s ‘Guide to Childbirth’ and Marie Mongan’s ‘Hypnobirthing’ multiple times (I couldn’t recommend these books enough). I wrote a two page birth plan and made sure my husband knew the main points:
- no questions about pain scales or asking me to search for pain;
- don’t mention pain relief unless I ask for it;
- minimum physical examinations;
- skin to skin after birth; and
- cord to be clamped after pulsation has ceased.
We were extremely lucky and for that I am so grateful. I went into labour naturally at 39.5 weeks and after 7 hours my beautiful and healthy baby boy was born in the water. Pregnancy yoga, hypnobirthing and an incredible husband were what helped me get through it without medication. This is one of the reasons I LOVE pregnancy yoga and wanted to teach it to help
When I look back at the birth there is only one thing I would change. The second stage lasted two hours, and the midwife at the time was steering me when to push. After reading a lot on the topic and having had a second child, I really believe in the effectiveness of the birthing breath rather than pushing. I recommend anyone interested in hypnobirthing reads about it and speaks to the midwife about trying to use it instead of pushing if at all possible.
So now we move on to my tiny but perfect baby girl.
I learnt a valuable lesson when pregnant with my second, you can do all the right things – healthy eating, staying active, reducing stress – and still things can go wrong that are completely out of your control.
At 35 weeks, four days before my little girl was born, I woke up at 3am and thought I was having a miscarriage. The amount of blood I lost was terrifying and within ten minutes I was being rushed to hospital in an ambulance.
I had suffered a partial placental abruption (my placenta started detaching from the uterus) and after two days in hospital the doctors decided to induce me. The risk was too high that it would completely detach which can be fatal for both mum and baby.
My birthing centre water birth and two page (re-used!) birth plan flew out the window. Instead I was preparing myself for a 50% chance of having a c-section and if I could have the natural birth I wanted, it would be one of constant monitoring.
INDUCTION & WHAT HELPED ME
One of my worst fears was to be induced but honestly the reality of it wasn’t as bad as I had thought. I remember researching all I could on hypnobirthing and induction and pretty much all I could find was to avoid it if possible. Not helpful at all! What helped me was to go and visit the labour ward so I could visualise where I would be and I took Bach’s Rescue Remedy (a natural flower remedy) to keep me calm. I also listened to as many birthing and meeting your baby visualisations as possible. I’d really recommend the Expectful meditation app for fertility, pregnancy and motherhood, it was a life saver in the 24 hours before baby girl was born.
The induction began and I was given the 24 hour pessary to ‘ripen my cervix’. I was lucky that my body immediately started preparing for labour with contractions every 3-5 minutes throughout the day. By around 1am the contractions had intensified and I’d put on a TENS machine. I hadn’t used one with my first birth but would really recommend it as a pain relief alternative.
When they examined me after the 24 hours I was only one centimetre but they put me in the queue to go onto the labour ward to break my waters. It was at this point I started bleeding again and I became terrified. They weren’t sure why I was bleeding and they immediately took me to the labour ward.
It was only 60 minutes between my waters being broke to my baby girl being in my arms. I was extremely lucky not to have had a C-section. In a strange way this birth felt a lot more natural. Even though I was plugged to every machine possible, I was able to stand and just do what I knew my body needed to do. It was much more intense than my son’s birth partly I’m sure through fear but also due to the speed. I remember the feeling just before she arrived of thinking ‘I can’t do this, I’m going to have to have an epidural’. But then she was here.
A beautiful, crazy and intense labour which made me appreciate how miraculous the female body really is.