I love a good birth story. But then again, I kind of don’t.
I love hearing about how peoples’ little people came into the world and the pure magic of that moment. That is what I always also enjoy most about watching things like ‘One Born Every Minute’ at least (I always cry!)
What I don’t love about birth stories, however, is the competitive and often gruesome nature of them. They’re portrayed in extremes. Often blissfully perfect or utterly utterly horrendous. There is so much drama that surrounds birth, and it scares people. Well it scares me for sure.
I was terrified about birth this time round. Way WAY more scared than with my first baby. I think it was twofold in that I knew exactly what to expect. But there was also pressure to have a ‘better’ experience since I’d done it before. I guess there was also pressure to be ‘stronger’ this time and not beg for an epidural like I had with my first, because ‘second babies are easier’. Guh!
I know it may sound ridiculous after having actually pushed a small human out of my hoo-ha, but there has certainly been more than one person in my life who made me feel a bit ashamed for needing an epidural (for example, an ex-client in a meeting who went into great detail about how “strong” his wife was during labour not needing any pain relief, before turning to me in a room full of people and asking if I “needed” one…ouch).
For me this time round, however, it wasn’t about being stronger. It was about trying to keep at bay the overwhelming sense of fear that had engulfed me first time. The fear that I had felt since I saw that tiny + sign on the pregnancy stick and thought “Oh my god, we’re going to have another baby, yay! Oh holy f*ck, I’M going to have to give birth again. No!”
From the outset then, I want to highlight that this is not a birth horror story. It is neither a bragging post about how amazingly strong I was during labour this time. Instead it is a post about the steps I took to overcome (or at least try to overcome) my fear of labour, what I did to help stay calm when it was all happening, and my joy at delivering my daughter unassisted. (And if you want to read my first birth story, you can find it here).
Facing My Fear Through Hypnobirthing
Without further ado then, my baby girl was born 30th April this year (2017). I was A LOT calmer when it all got going. I had done a lot of preparation through hypnobirthing. I was educated on what was happening to my body. It was painful, yes, but not as painful as I remembered it to be. I’d say what was most important to me was that I didn’t feel a loss of control like I did when delivering Zachy. And because I didn’t lose control, I didn’t feel the need to opt for pain relief and was therefore able to ‘enjoy’ a faster delivery. It was, on the whole, a WAY better experience!
I hadn’t even heard of hypnobirthing when I was pregnant with Zachy. We undertook all the prenatal classes, but hypnobirthing classes didn’t even cross my mind. I first heard of it when my lovely friend from back home – Ashley – became a hypnobirthing practitioner, establishing Miracle in the Making – HypnoBirthing York.
After taking a positive pregnancy test, I decided that this time I definitely needed to be better prepared and decided to give hypnobirthing a shot. I looked into local Dubai classes, but the timings just didn’t add up with our limited childcare options for Zachy. Ashley therefore suggested I do an online course, recommending The Calm Birth School led by the lovely and very charismatic Suzy.
The classes were absolutely brilliant, and allowed me to watch and learn in my own time at my own pace (aka when hubs was watching Zachy!) Because of this, however, my husband was able to watch very few classes with me. I KNEW from first time around, however, how very important his role in my labour would be. I therefore had concerns he wouldn’t know the breathing and calming techniques to help keep me in the zone.
So I reached out to the wonderful Jasmine Collin, a Dubai-based hypnobirthing specialist who had offered a booster session since my husband and I were unable to attend her weekend classes. We scheduled a session, hubs took a morning off work, we bundled Zachy off for a playdate with his friend, and Jasmine came over to our house to show us the practical side of hypnobirthing – the calm breathing, the balloon breathing, the j-breathing, the birth positions, the massage techniques, the visualisations, and the pressure points – all things that could empower my husband to get me through the “freak out stage” of labour.
I’ll admit too, that until I went into actual labour with my daughter a few weeks ago, I really wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to get through it unassisted. I kept having flashbacks to my first labour and just thinking “I can’t”. It wasn’t the mindset that I had been hoping for with hypnobirthing. I confided in Jasmine about this, and her response was “you may just well surprise yourself”.
And surprise myself I did!
The Contractions Start…
The day before my due date, Zachy, my husband and I had gone to a housewarming party. It was lovely catching up with old friends, and I felt great! That night in bed, however, I started experiencing pretty intense ‘practice’ contractions. I had felt similar the previous weekend after having gone for a longish walk, so really thought nothing of it. But I woke that morning just feeling WAY more delicate than I had been – I put it psychologically down to being my “official” due date and my brain thinking I ought to rest. Turns out it was probably my body telling me that too, because Millie would be arriving less than 24 hours later!!
As they day went on the contractions continued and started to feel much more like the real deal. I had a scheduled appointment with my baby doctor who examined me and said I was still 1cm dilated (I had been for a week), and predicted Millie would be on her way in the next day or two and to call if the contractions got more intense (they had actually stopped at this point).
It was late afternoon by the time we got home. I felt like lazing so popped an episode of The Crown on Netflix and nestled down. As I relaxed, the contractions started again, getting more and more intense. Hubs took Zachy to the pool for a bit while I was chilling. I went to the bathroom around 5pm and found that I had lost ‘the plug’. Yep, things were happening!
I text my Dr, and she said to call when contractions were 5 mins apart so we could go and meet at the hospital. Hubs came home and we decided to eat our dinner as planned (steak for a bit of iron and energy, oh yes!) and then have an “early night”.
I tried to relax and practice my breathing exercises, but as previously blogged…it can be somewhat difficult to relax with your toddler in the vicinity (especially when said toddler keeps pulling your birthing ball from underneath you and exclaiming “IT’S MINE!!”)
So, basically, I didn’t get to start the important hypobirthing process of relaxation in the early stages. Instead we ate dinner, timed my random contractions, then went up to bed to start the bedtime process with Zachy (which, whether he sensed excitement in the air or not, just wouldn’t drop off to sleep – typical!)
By this point the contractions were coming thicker and faster – every 6-8 minutes. I managed to listen to a fair few of my relaxation tracks, and they certainly helped manage the pain somewhat (I even had a couple that didn’t hurt!)…but I got no sleep. I had really really wanted to get some sleep prior to delivery this time around!
Around 10:00pm I was out of bed, on my knees with my elbows on the bed trying to breathe through the contractions. I must have been making a few noises as hubs woke up and ran me a bath, put on some candles and my music. The bath helped a lot to ease the intensity of the contractions. I was in there for perhaps an hour while hubs sat next to me trying to keep me relaxed. He was timing contractions and we decided to call my Dr when they were coming steadily every 5 mins.
Time To Go!
My parents were due to come the day after Millie’s due date and I had been hoping to hold on until their arrival to make things easier on Zachy. Not to be! So Zachy – bless him and his little aero plane pyjamas – went to have his very first sleep over at our friends’ house down JBR.
It is a fair distance from our house, so we got him dropped and headed to the hospital – a 40 minute or so roundtrip. It was just gone 12:00am by this point and I was in full blown labour. I had kept my eyes closed most of the journey and had really tried to focus on my breathing and relaxation. Alas, because of my limited time to sit and focus, I really didn’t feel I had been able to reach the state of zen I had been hoping for with all my hypnobirthing practice.
So I’m not going to lie…I was in a significant amount of pain by the time I got to the birthing suite. My husband got my relaxation music on, and I lay in the lateral position on bed getting my breathing under control while trying my very hardest not to punch him in the penis as he stood next to me (well he got me into the mess, right!!??)
I had planned to ask the staff to run me the water for the birthing pool after my Dr had examined me to help get relaxed, but to my amazement I was already 9.5cm and “ready to push”. As I recall, it was around 1am. “She’ll be out in an hour” my Dr said!!
Time To Push!
So first of all, it was too late to ask for an epidural. Second, I had already gotten way further past the “freak out stage” that I reached with my son at 6cm! You cannot believe how much that feeling empowered me to do the next bit!!
That feeling of strength was important. And I mean really really f*cking important. Because Millie had other ideas about coming out within the hour…
I tried my very very very best to ‘breathe her down’ as per my hypnobirthing practice, but it just wasn’t to be. I therefore started to push as per my Dr’s advice (someone whom I trust wholeheartedly). Around 3:00am, after pushing for more than two hours, I was exhausted. Really exhausted. I was completely naked, and had been in every position imaginable to try and encourage Millie down. She just wasn’t coming. I recall saying to my husband “I don’t think I can do this much longer”, though it hadn’t really dawned on me that something may be off…
My husband, Dr and midwife were amazing though. They helped keep me focused and hydrated, and encouraged me into different positions, even though each was as uncomfortable as the last. At around 3:30am, however, Millie finally FINALLY began to crown. THANK GOD!!!!
At 3:45 am she emerged sideways with a big bump on the right of her head, the poor little thing! She’d also lifted her head slightly on the way down, meaning I was delivering her in a far from optimum position. But she came, and she was perfect, and that’s all that mattered!
My Feelings After Birth
Gosh! Elation, pride, love, exhaustion, awe, soreness, relief. So so many feelings and emotions!
Mainly I was in awe that I had done it! I had delivered, I had overcome my fear, and you know what? Despite the length of time I was pushing, it wasn’t anywhere near as scary or as painful as I remembered!
But that is what hypnobirthing is all about – training your subconscious to believe you can do something, regardless of what your silly conscious self may be telling you for 9 months!!! There was something in me, once it all got going, that was able to dull my rational thought process of “oh f*uck” and instead switch to a more “right, game on, let’s do this” mindset. And while it was not the uber zen birth I have heard people talk about, I did reach the end I desired. Pretty incredible really!
Now, I do plan to do another post on what hypnobirthing taught me in the next few weeks (there are some seriously fascinating facts about the female body, the subconscious mind, and also the whole history of birth and medical interventions…), but for now, I will just say that without my hynobirthing practice, I wholeheartedly believe I would have asked for an epidural again…and because of the position Millie came out in, I would have needed an emergency c-section because I wouldn’t have had the muscle strength to push her out (my Dr confirmed this herself). In other words, it would have been a traumatic birth experience with a much longer recovery.
I don’t know if there is a third baby on the cards for us. The idea is lovely, but the thought of going through severe morning sickness again is not. However, if that twinkle in my eye ever does become a proper baby, I will 1,000,000% be practicing hypnobirthing again. It relaxed me, it empowered me, and it go me through my fear of birth.
In short, it helped me get out of my own way. Magical! And the end bit when you finally get to hold your incredible baby is always always always going to be magical and completely worth it!
Did you practice hypnobirthing? What was your experience?
Millie’s first hour