My lovely friend, Rachel, shared her birth story with me. I should mention that she didn't attend one of my group hypnobirthing courses...mainly because she lives in Norway! But we did communicate throughout her pregnancy and I shared with her a bunch of resources, positive birth videos and suggestions. I also recommended a few online hypnobirthing aids which she used to practice and prepare for the birth of her sweet daughter. Her story shows how sometimes birth takes a turn that we don't expect but that doesn't preclude it being positive and empowering. Please do have a read and remember that I am always happy to provide information and guidance, regardless of whether you take a course with me.
Clara Sofia was born on 6 October, weighing 7.2 lbs. (With GDD, managed by diet) at a Midwife-led unit in Bergen, Norway.
It's a long one :)
I had read a couple of books about hypnobirthing and especially enjoyed Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery during my second trimester, so I thought I’d sort of wing it, based on acquired knowledge and positive birth stories from these books. Then I got a sudden influx of negative birth stories and eye rolling from people when I explained my positive approach and I got anxious that I was being naive. Maybe I should add that I have a (very?) low pain threshold.
My friend Jana Phillips, also a hypnobirthing teacher in London, reassured me, sending me positive birth videos and kind words. She suggested I sign up for a hypnobirthing digital pack. I’m so glad I did! I watched many of the videos multiple times, read the positive birth stories on facebook every day, and listened to the MP3s every night. I felt really happy, relaxed and curious about my first labour.
I had two nights of surges in the run up to the main event. The first was at 41 + 2 weeks (Tuesday), at 2am, and it came as a complete surprise and left me quite shaken as it was so strong. In retrospect I must've slept through the build up so there was no warning and I went straight to adrenalin. It was intense, but just a one off. I listened to positive affirmations with a new understanding of what to expect and found these really reassuring.
On 41 + 4 (Thursday) I had four hours of surges which were much more manageable, I used surge breathing and watched comedy, bouncing on my ball. The following afternoon (41+5, Thursday) I lost my plug which was exciting as I was booked for an induction on 41 + 6. I had an upset stomach all day and a heavy pressure on my coccyx/tailbone. This lower back pain, plus period pains started at around midday and after a few hours it occurred to me that these might be surges so I decided to start timing them. They were just four minutes apart but mild.
My partner came home around 9pm and helped me put my tens machine on. My surges were increasing in intensity and I concentrated on my breathing and being on all fours, stretching a bit to relieve the pressure in my lower back. I used a hot flannel on my stomach for the “period pains” which really helped. Unfortunately I had already watched my designated oxytocin-inducing telly (comedy) and was at a loss for what to watch. This is a shame as I'd found it such a useful distraction the night before. I was at a bit of a loose end and so didn't use anything to distract me.
I started bleeding at around 21.30 and the surges were strong enough that I wanted to head to the birth centre. My partner had been rushing to cook dinner up until this point but we had to abandon it! The car ride was only 20 minutes and I was excited that things were finally happening, but also bit tense because I found reclining in the car very uncomfortable. I had a hot water bottle with me and this helped a lot.
We were met on the unit at 22.20 by our midwife. My memory is a bit hazy on what order things happened. My boyfriend set the room with room spray and dimming the lights. I hadn't eaten for 10 hours but was feeling nauseous and none of my snacks appealed, so just drank loads of squash. I was focused on being in an upright position but I was restless. The midwife suggested I lie on the bed because I was already exhausted and needed to settle. It felt counterintuitive but I did eventually lie on the bed after trying about five or six other positions. On the bed, on my side, was indeed the best solution and the one I spent most time in. I was already completely and utterly exhausted and desperately wanted to sleep. The midwife checked my dilation (something I thought I didn’t want but I changed my mind - it didn’t hurt at all though.) I was only 3cm dilated, but my cervix was apparently so thin and flexible, and I mentioned that my mum and sister had had fast births, she suspected I would progress quickly. She also commented multiple times that my membranes were bulging and that this was adding a lot of pressure. The only pressure I felt from the surges was in my coccyx, although I could feel my uterus tightening as well.
On the bed, I slept between surges. This helped to chill me out a bit. I didn't want my boyfriend to touch me at all (sad!) so I took some paracetamol, used the tens machine and had two more hot water bottles which we used on my back - mostly my coccyx. I really needed the sleep to help me keep focussed and it grounded me. I used surge breathing and was quite noisy on the out-breath, which I found reduced some pressure. I also used the words “relax, relax, relax” on the out-breath and asked my partner to keep saying this.
I was desperate to get into the pool as so many people say it's a huge relief. The midwife encouraged me to wait. I waited a bit but asked again and went in. Unfortunately it did nothing for me - it was too cold and I just couldn’t get comfortable. I remember saying “I just want to go to sleep!” and feeling exhausted. I wasn't sure that I would manage as I was so tired so I asked if there was anything else I could take - I had codeine or something similar in mind. There's no gas and air where I live, so they gave me some acupuncture in my lower back. This took the edge off for a while but I still wasn't able to find a comfortable position in the pool and I was still exhausted, so I got out, got back on the bed, and used the hot water bottles along my back. The heat was absolutely the best thing for me. I was shivering a lot (apparently very common). It was nice lying down on the bed and I slept again between surges.
At around 1.30am I asked for a VE. I felt that if I was less than 5cm I would need some more help, although I wasn't sure what the options were (I didn't want an epidural), but I was 7-8cm! This was a great confidence booster! I tried the TENS machine again but I didn't like it anymore. I tried a few kneeling positions, and went back into the pool at one point. In the pool my waters broke. I didn't notice much relief from this but quickly started transitioning. These new surges were initially quite strong and seemed to last a long time. The first one took me by surprise and I felt quite overwhelmed and had a wobble. There was meconium in the water so a second midwife was called in to monitor the baby. We tried various positions - kneeling, lying on my side, one leg up. After we'd tried a few different positions they brought in a delivery bed, with leg stirrups (like when you're getting a smear test), and I was put in there so they could monitor the baby better. It was then that I started to feel her move down which felt great and I understood how I was supposed to push. It required roaring like a lion at the same time! The midwife encouraged me to feel the baby's head with my hand. After an hour of pushing, the midwives were getting a bit anxious to get her out fast. (I don't remember any pain at all, but I was still complaining that I wanted to go to sleep!!) They called in a doctor and anaesthetised me for an episiotomy. The doctor arrived but seeing the doctor and the episiotomy scissors made me determined to push her out myself. I knew I could do it, I just needed a bit more time and energy. But, there's nothing like a deadline and finally, on a small surge, I pushed, pushed and pushed (and roared!) again and, at 04.35am, felt her head come out and then her slippery little body! Sooooo satisfying!! It didn't hurt at all, even though she had a hand up next to her face. I had no ring of fire. They passed her up to me, wrapped in a towel and immediately my tiredness, which had plagued the whole labour, completely lifted. It was amazing and surreal! We had delayed cord clamping. I accepted an injection to get the placenta out, I can't remember why but it wasn't important to me. My partner cut the cord and I had a few stitches in the front (urethra) but no tearing otherwise. The stitches I had were superficial and only stung a tiny bit a few days later (they're not even worth mentioning as they didn't hurt, but I know I was worried about it beforehand so mention it to allay any fears about tearing). And then we had three golden hours together and she breastfed immediately.
Initially I wasn't sure if I'd had a positive birth, because I was so noisy (I lost my voice after!) and felt a bit disorganised and out of control at times. I also thought I'd love the pool and never dreamed I'd spend most of the labour lying down or that I'd give birth in the 'smear-test position'. But after a debrief with the midwife the next day I realised how incredibly well it had gone - and we did it! I feel immensely proud that we managed to have a natural birth and so grateful and so lucky that we managed it without complication. We were handsomely rewarded with a family room for the three of us and stayed for three-nights at the unit (which is standard in Norway), and were really well looked after during these days.