Birth Story - Levi
Eleni and Ben were participants on a course I taught back in March 2019. I am so thrilled that Eleni has sent me her birth story now: as I get ready to begin teaching again after my own maternity leave, her words have reminded me why I love my job so much. It really is such an honour to work with parents as they prepare for one of the most important and impactful days of their lives.
Eleni's experience really highlights the value of hypnobirthing: she explains how the skills she learnt supported her through a labour and birth that took many unexpected turns. She and her husband advocated for themselves: choosing to return home to continue their labour, choosing to create a birth centre atmosphere in the labour ward, choosing an epidural to gain some much-needed rest and choosing to birth in an upright position.
Please have a read of Eleni's story to gain a real appreciation of how hypnobirthing is for every birth in every setting.
We found out we were pregnant shortly after getting married and just after I had just left my marketing job. Surprises can be scary and this was not our plan…
My approach was to try to gain some control back into my life by arming myself with information. I researched hospitals, joined pregnancy yoga classes, subscribed to birthing podcasts; hypnobirthing was just another avenue I explored.
The more I read about women-centred birthing experiences, the more I realised birth was a verb -an action- something that I hoped I would be lucky enough to experience well. Birth wasn’t something I was going to give away or let happen to me, but something that I hoped to accomplish.
I came across one of Jana’s flyers in a local Waitrose. Looking back, I can now say that without her, one of the most precious moments of my life would have not unfolded the way I had dreamt of.
I felt an unmedicated birth centre birth would suit me best, so naturally hypnobirthing was going to lend itself well to my hoped-for experience. My husband (and wider family) had to be convinced, initially, as they battled preconceptions that babies were born in hospitals and delivered by doctors. Working through the Mindful Birth Project syllabus really helped us as a couple; we didn’t just learn about relaxation techniques, we gained knowledge and tools.
Despite having a very straightforward pregnancy, birth didn’t go as expected: at 41 weeks and 3 days my waters broke suddenly in the middle of the night, just like in the movies!
Excitedly, we called St. Mary’s Birth Centre who said to come round in the morning. One of the midwives, who we’d already got to know quite well, said: ‘Congratulations, your labour should start within 24 hours and you’ll meet your baby’. What she meant was, as long as I went into labour during that period I could birth there. She booked me an appointment at the labour ward for the following morning as a precaution. We didn’t think we’d need it.
When membranes release, there is an increased risk of infection, which is why they wanted to ensure the baby would be born within 48 hours of that period. A day and night had passed and despite eating hot curries, walking up stairs and drinking castor oil, nothing happened.
The following morning, we found ourselves reluctantly heading to the labour ward’s triage unit for what we thought would be a check-up and ended with me lying on a bed surrounded by specialists convincing us that an immediate induction had to be done. As I had literally become high risk overnight, the only option was synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) intravenously, without access to the birth centre.
I knew in my gut that it wasn’t right – my baby wasn’t ready yet. This is where the knowledge gained from the Mindful Birth Project really helped us navigate this tricky situation. We used the BRAIN acronym we learned in class to ask the right questions and assess the risks. We knew our birthing rights, and although it wasn’t easy, we chose to go home to allow things to happen naturally, whilst agreeing with the staff that we would not go past the 48-hour mark. Just being in that situation made me feel scared and anxious. I learned about how important keeping a relaxed mindset was and just had to get away from that triage room. On the way out, I’d asked to see one of the labour rooms. This highly medicated, sterile environment was a far cry from the cosy birth centre setting we had been familiar with up until now.
Deflated, nothing happened and we were beyond terrified. It’s as if I was punched in the gut and I was spiralling into a pit of helplessness on what was meant to be such a joyous occasion. After a good cry on the bathroom floor, we decided to enjoy our last meal as a couple together and head back to the labour ward that night.
This time we came armed with essential oils, cushions, throws and a playlist of our favourite music. We decided we were going to bring the birth centre experience to the labour ward. In hindsight, being able to visualise that room adorned with all our bits helped get us in the right frame of mind.
I couldn’t tell you what happened that time in triage as I totally zoned out. I unapologetically laid there with a mask over my eyes and hypnobirthing affirmations playing in my ear, whilst my husband courageously took charge of stakeholder management.
After a while we were walked into ‘the room’ and we quickly started settling in. Despite having a fear of needles, the drip wasn’t too bad and the staff were incredibly friendly.
The surges grew stronger and I knew I wanted to save my energy for the journey ahead, so I accepted an epidural. What a wonderful choice that was! We hung out, told stories and laughed as my body surged like waves flowing in and out of the room through the night. As daylight started to break, I had my first-ever ‘examination’. I was fully dilated and ready to push. We were given an hour for the baby to ‘descend’, which to me sounded pretty cool. A fitting term for a new human preparing for landing into this world, we thought. The atmosphere shifted from tranquillity to excitement and we all had a boogie to Stevie Wonder who was blaring in the background. We decided to stop the epidural at that point and I started moving and dancing around getting ready for the physical work ahead.
The pushing was intense and lasted for just over an hour. They tried to get me to lay on my back, but I knew I needed gravity on my side. I pushed everywhere: on a birthing stool, on the toilet, over my husband and against the bed. Each push felt like a jolt of power rather than pain as new life worked its way through me.
The next thing I remember is standing there in the middle of the room and the nurse holding out my baby to me. Our faces met for the first time, but our souls had known each other for far longer. It was magical. And that’s when baby Levi joined our family.
We were able to stay in the room and enjoy skin-to-skin whilst getting to know our son and our hearts burst with love.
I’ll be forever grateful to the Mindful Birth Project for all it has given us. Without it, we’d have blindly followed the lead of the medical staff and our family’s story wouldn’t have been the same.