Birth Story - Archie
One of the most important messages that I aim to get across to pregnant people and their families is that hypnobirthing is for ALL births. In fact, often the skills and strategies are most valuable at the times when a birth isn't straightforward or when circumstances take an unexpected turn. Hypnobirthing isn't about where a woman gives birth or how she gives birth or whether she is quiet or loud. It's about gaining the tools to be prepared, informed and confident. It's about ensuring that you are listened to, talked to and treated with total respect. Katy and Aaron's story is below and - once again - I am in awe of the people I get to work with. Katy's birth required deep reserves of patience, flexibility and strength. She utilised her hypnobirthing skills throughout and I especially love how she found the affirmations that underscored her needs at each stage. Please do read her story and recognise that even if (especially if) birth is unpredictable, hypnobirthing can still be hugely beneficial.
My journey to pregnancy wasn’t an easy one. It was filled with lots of medical interventions, loss and anxiety so I knew that I needed to find a way to soothe my nerves and calm my brain in order to give birth naturally. I had heard about hypnobirthing and how great it was, so I started my search and found Jana. Mindful Birth Project appealed to me because I wanted a bit of everything - antenatal plus the main focus being on hypnobirthing. For me, my mental health and state of mind was more important than how to change a nappy. I also knew that I needed to prepare for birth like a marathon. You can’t go into this life-changing event with no preparation.
My husband and I really enjoyed the classes and it was great to be amongst other like-minded couples who were on a similar path. In addition to the hypnobirthing work, we learnt a lot about actually giving birth and what our options would be on the day. This preparation really helped my state of mind being an OCD planner as i could start to imagine what my birth could be like. The hypnobirthing work was amazing and I listened to the relaxation track regularly and practised my affirmations daily. There was nothing ‘hippy dippy’ about it at all and I found myself applying the calm breathing to many situations in everyday life and teaching myself how to switch my mind off. I learnt to let go of some really negative emotions and fears that were holding me back.
We finished the course about a month before we were due and we both felt calm and ready for the big event. As my due date crept closer and closer, I was feeling good about it all but being asked constantly when I was due by people who meant well, did start to make me feel a little anxious that maybe I would go over and need to be induced.
I knew that induction can mean interventions and less chance of a natural birth so I did start to get a bit panicky despite all my hard prep work. What didn’t help, was I suffered from quite bad pregnancy insomnia and I got the flu in my last 2 weeks of pregnancy so with all of that combined, my state of mind was a little all over the show.
My due date came and went. My calmness started to decrease somewhat. Once I hit 41 + 1 weeks, my midwife offered me a sweep which I accepted. I’d been having the odd surge so I felt like this might move things along and felt positive about it. Nothing much happened so I sat tight and did everything I could think of to move things along myself - reflexology, eating curry, pineapple - you name it, I tried it. More so to keep me occupied while I waited patiently as many of these things have limited evidence of actually working.
My midwife was fab and she kept in touch with me daily but she did warn me that soon we would need to get things moving properly. She offered me another sweep 3 days later which I accepted, but still nothing happened. The next day we started to talk about induction and this is when I got a bit upset.
I got in touch with Jana and she very kindly did a relaxation session with me and helped me calm down. My midwife also talked me through everything and I realised that no matter what was going to happen, I was in safe hands and ready to take it head on. I kept listening to my relaxation tracks and practicing my affirmations and I felt ready and very calm.
I agreed with my midwife that I would come to the hospital for the prostaglandin gel on the Wednesday which was 41 + 6. I actually felt quite excited on the way to the hospital and knew that soon we’d meet our baby. I had the gel put in about 3pm and was monitored for about 30mins before being sent home to let things happen. We jumped in a cab and headed home. I started feeling a few twinges in the cab and by the time we got home, I was surging quite hard and regularly.
Feeling rather shocked and perplexed at how quickly it all came on and the intensity of the pain, I started my breathing, put on my relaxation track and jumped in the bath. I stayed in the bath for a couple of hours while Aaron timed the surges. By about 8.30pm, I was feeling overwhelmed by it all and also how close the surges were coming together, so we called our midwife and asked if we could come in. We also live a 40min cab ride from the hospital so that was playing on my mind - I just wanted to get there and get into the birth centre and the pool.
Our midwife met us at the birth centre and checked me - things were only just getting started and normally you’d be sent home but because of the intensity of the surges and the frequency, we were allowed to go to a room and settle in. I sat on a ball with some gas and air and bounced around for a few hours before our midwife came back and checked me about 1.30am. Things were not moving along at all and she gave me the option to stay where we were and labour peacefully into the night or move to the labour ward and speed things along.
I opted for speeding things along - I was knackered (from the pregnancy insomnia) and knew the tank was running low on fuel. Off we went to the labour ward, where we got our own room again, and my waters were broken.
This was the only time during labour where I felt like I couldn’t cope. The surges ramped up significantly so I asked for an epidural which came fairly promptly and once the drugs took effect, I was much happier.
Aaron and I dozed for the next few hours while the midwives checked me regularly and did their thing. I was super calm by this point and just focused on resting and getting ready. I even brushed my teeth and washed my face from the comfort of my bed! Aaron and I ate some food and joked around. It really wasn't that bad.
About halfway through the day, I started feeling quite hot and just generally unwell. My temperature spiked so the doctors came in and realised I had developed an infection so they treated me for sepsis. Even then, I still felt really calm and practised the affirmation “I am ready to take whatever turn my birthing may bring”.
By now, we were about 21 hours into labour and the doctors were regularly coming in to check me and they started suggesting that a C section was on the cards as my labour just wasn’t progressing. My midwife agreed with the doctors that we’d give syntocinon a try and see if that might help to get me through the final stages of labour.
Fortunately it worked and I was ready to push. I couldn’t feel much due to the epidural but I gave it all I had and pushed for about an hour. Our midwife was very clear that she would not let me push for too long, which I completely understood - also I was getting pretty tired by then. Our baby’s heart rate started to creep up by this point, so the doctor came in and said we needed to try a kiwi cup (ventouse). Despite that being one of my fears and really not wanting that intervention, by that point I was fine with it. I was still practising my affirmations in my head and was remarkably calm despite what was happening.
The doctor popped the kiwi cup on and I pushed our baby out in a couple of pushes. She asked my permission for an episiotomy which I didn’t have a problem with (you couldn’t feel it). Our son, Archie arrived safe and sound at 6.44pm after 26 hours of labour.
Despite our labour going in completely the opposite way of what we wanted and actually in
some ways fairly traumatic, not once did I panic, get stressed or feel unsafe. Because of the work I had done in Jana’s course and the preparation, I was informed of my choices, knowledgeable and felt ready to take on what was coming. I often get asked once I tell my story to friends if I’m traumatised from my birth and I can hand on my heart say, that I am not - nor is Aaron. We can credit hypnobirthing for this.
I would highly recommend hypnobirthing to anyone who is about to go on this journey - whether you have a natural birth, a birth full of interventions or a c-section, hypnobirthing combined with informative, realistic, no-nonsense antenatal classes will prepare you for it.