“Having had a difficult pregnancy due to severe sickness and some complications we attended a hypnobirthing course mainly because we wanted to make the remainder of the pregnancy and going into labour as positive as possible as opposed to being fearful. We were also keen for my partner Alex to have an active role in the birth as opposed to feeling like a spare part.
We learnt so much on the course, much more than we had anticipated, and it succeeded in making us feel prepared for the birth: Alex having a key role and giving us strategies to use during labour.
At 5.30am on the morning of my due date the 1st February, I was woken to my waters leaking. I went to the bathroom hoping I would feel a gush of waters like you hear people speak of but nothing came. I explained to Alex that I thought my waters may have started leaking but I felt nothing else. We agreed I would monitor this throughout the morning if it happened again we would know for certain that it was my waters and not a little accident! Alex went off to work and I told him I would keep him posted if anything else happened.
I had spent the 2 days previous to this lounging around the house watching tv and napping a lot because I felt exhausted and a little off. Looking back now I realise this must have been my bodies way of getting all the rest it needed ready for the big job ahead.
Alex left for work at 7am and I still felt completely normal. I was fully aware that even if my waters had begun to leak then that didn’t necessarily mean that baby was coming any time soon so I set myself up in bed with breakfast and a movie. At around 8.30am I started to feel mild period-like pains. I didn’t want to get excited as I was aware that this didn’t necessarily mean that anything was going to happen any time soon. I had had some Braxton Hicks tightenings previously, occasionally with mild period-like pains, so I was unsure as to whether or not it was just that. After being up and down constantly to the toilet, pretty certain that my waters had continued to leak, at around 9.30am I began to feel a little bit uncomfortable so I decided to run myself a bath. Remembering that I wanted to stay as relaxed as possible I soaked in the bath for a good hour with low lighting, candles, my aromatherapy room spray and listened to my hypnobirthing tracks. During this time the period-like pains became more distinctively like surges and grew in intensity so I knew something was definitely happening.
Again, not wanting to get too excited and preparing myself that the surges could stop at any time or go on for a number of days, I just text Alex letting him know that I felt that this was definitely the start of labour but there was no need to come home. Also, as I was more certain that my waters had continued to leak throughout the morning we agreed I would contact my midwife once I got out of the bath just to ask if that meant I needed to go to hospital to get checked out.
I got out of the bath, lost my mucus plug and the surges became much stronger. The comfiest position for me was to sit on the toilet and it felt as though every time I left the bathroom I just wanted to return to sitting on the toilet as another surge came. Very quickly I seemed to progress to having not very long between each surge. At about 11am I rang our midwife who didn’t answer so I contacted the birth centre directly.
I was now breathing through each surge trying to remain calm and focused.
I spoke to a midwife from the birth centre over the phone and explained the situation. The midwife said I needed to come into hospital for them to confirm my waters were leaking and then they would let me return home. I asked if it was really essential for me to come into hospital to confirm what I already knew and if I could just come in later as I wanted to remain at home for as long as possible but the midwife said it was necessary that I did so at 11.45am I text Alex telling him he needed to come home for us to go to hospital.
I was breathing through each surge the best I could – they were now becoming extremely intense. I remember thinking that this was only the beginning, so I needed to get a grip and deal with this! I didn’t take any paracetamol because I knew it would be another 4 hours before I could take it again, so I thought I’d wait until I absolutely really needed it.
I started timing my surges because it felt as though I had no time to do anything between each surge. I knew that the advice was to go to hospital when you are having 3 surges in 10 minutes and lasting roughly 45 seconds long but when I began to time them I was having 5 in 10 minutes and they were lasting roughly 1 minute and 5 seconds long so I was convinced that I was timing them wrong.
Alex arrived home and packed the car, I then had a dreaded panic about how I was supposed sit in the passenger seat of the car for the 45 minute journey to hospital! I asked Alex to put the tens machine on for me as I thought it may help with the journey.
We set off in the car and Alex put on the hypnobirthing tracks. I closed my eyes and focused on the relaxation, my breathing and the boost button of the tens machine! They all helped immensely in me managing the surges which were now very intense. My eyes remained closed as I wanted to focus on the task at hand and certainly did not want to know how far away we were or that we were stuck in traffic!
We arrived at the birth centre at 2pm and was greeted by the same midwife that I had spoken to on the phone. By this time it was very difficult for me to speak whilst trying to breath through each surge so Alex did the speaking from me. I remember the midwife commenting on how my surges had come along very quickly since she’d spoken to me over the phone.
The midwife examined me then said that she needed to go and get the senior midwife to come and examine me because she thought that I might be 9cm dilated. The senior midwife came and said that I was fully dilated. I was so shocked but over the moon as I thought I was only right at the beginning stages and expected her to say I was maybe only 3/4cm dilated. Now realising that I was much further on than I thought, I asked the midwife if I could have some paracetamol to which her reply was, ‘that’s not gonna do anything for you now love!’ Part of me wished she would have given me some just for the placebo effect!
Having realised that baby was on its way much quicker than they and we had thought the midwives agreed to run the birth pool for us.
In the meantime, I sat on the toilet in the ensuite to the room we were in and as I sat there I could feel my body begin to bear down and start wanting to push. The senior midwife said that she had been a midwife for over 20 years, she’d never delivered a baby on the toilet and wasn’t going to start now! So both midwives assisted me off the toilet and we made our way into the room with the pool.
The room was just as I had hoped with one dim light providing a lovely glow. It was time to remove the tens machine. I was dubious of doing this, as it had been fantastic up until now but I knew the pool was just where I wanted to be so Alex removed the pads on my back, I undressed and was helped into the pool by 2.30pm.
It was so much warmer than I had anticipated it would be and as soon as I sunk into it I instantly felt calm and relaxed. I got into a comfortable position on my knees leaning against the side of the pool. Alex faced me and put on the hypnobirthing relaxation tracks. I closed my eyes and Alex talked me through maintaining my slow, calm breathing. By now my body began to push with each surge. I was focusing on my breathing and I felt great allowing my body to do what it needed to do. However as I now felt the pushing sensation with each surge I knew that I needed to switch to birth breathing. I was finding it difficult making this switch as I found the calm breathing much easier to do and I had got into a bit of a rhythm with it. I decided to tell Alex that I knew I needed to start my birth breathing as I knew he would help me to make the switch. He was fantastic in talking me through each breath, keeping me focused. He reminded me of the positive affirmations making me feel confident and reassured that I was doing a good job. We had written quite a specific birth plan and the midwife was great at respecting our wishes of this plan. She remained in a part of the room behind me and completely silent the whole time, so much so that I began to forget she was even there and I was fully immersed in this calm, intimate environment we had created. Occasionally I felt the Doppler touch my tummy as she monitored the baby but this was done very swiftly and didn’t disturb us. At this point I felt great allowing my body to do exactly what it needed to do.
At 3.30pm the senior midwife came into the room and explained that in the birth centre they could only allow you 1 hour to deliver your baby once you are fully dilated. She said they had already stretched this to 1 hour 30 minutes for me but because baby had not arrived yet I would need to be moved to the labour ward.
I was absolutely devastated! Everything was going well in the pool, baby was fine and so was I, so I couldn’t understand why things had to change. I was told it was their ‘protocol’ which really irritated me.
I continued to breathe through each surge so I think the midwife realised that I was ignoring the instruction to start making my way out of the pool so she said that I needed to begin actively pushing during each surge.
I decided that baby needed to arrive sharpish because there was no way I was getting out of the pool and being moved to the labour ward for no good reason. I changed position into more of a squat and all of a sudden it felt as though everything just stopped, my body stopped surging and all the sensations in my body just disappeared and I felt completely normal. I had a dreaded feeling that I had regressed some how and that was it, I was going to have to start the whole process all over again. However, this feeling only lasted for a couple of minutes before a surge returned (looking back now I realise that this was the ‘rest and be thankful’ moment that some women get). As my body naturally pushed I added to this using the birth breathing technique and trying to hold on to the push for as long as I could. After doing this through 3 or 4 big surges our beautiful baby was born into the water at 4.05pm and as per my birth plan I caught baby myself, lifted the new arrival to my chest and began our uninterrupted skin to skin contact.
I sat down and lent against the wall of the pool, I was so overwhelmed by the fact that our baby had now arrived safely into the world I completely forgot to discover what gender we had! So much so that the midwife said, ‘Well, what have you got?’ We had a beautiful baby boy! He weighed a healthy 7lb 10oz and we named him Grayson.
I went into labour feeling fully prepared and the whole experience exceeded my expectations in being truly amazing. Not at any point would I say that I experienced excruciating pain I would describe it more as uncomfortable. We definitely feel that hypnobirthing massively contributed to us having the positive birth that we hoped for. The strategies played a key part in us remaining calm, relaxed, focused and most importantly in control.
I have never felt such overwhelming feelings of love as I did on that day and I am forever grateful that my experience of labour was extremely positive and we were lucky enough to have had such a quick, natural and safe arrival of our baby boy.
Nicole and Alex.