I practiced hypnobirthing when I was preparing for my daughter’s arrival into the world- we wanted a calm, relaxing birth for our daughter and so we worked hard to prepare for this. I spent countless hours reading birth stories so I could learn about the process, and what I could do to facilitate a calm and relaxing birth. Here is my birth story:
Riley (our Little Pickle!), born at 3.13am, 7 pound 6 oz.
I had been given my due date, but I had done my own research and found out that the average first time pregnancy is 41 weeks and 3 days, so I used that as my own estimated due date, but I thought about it more as a ‘due month’ (most babies come within 38-42 weeks)- no need to focus on a particular date. I had a midwife appointment about a week before my assigned due date, where I had refused to be booked in for an induction, and also refused a membrane sweep (a more gentle form of induction where the midwife uses a gloved hand to sweep the inside of the cervix in a circular motion to try and bring on labour). At this point I wasn’t even at my due date, so I left the appointment wondering why she offered me an induction so early on? Was there something I wasn’t aware of?
The due date came and went (as expected) and I worried a bit about being induced- the midwife was a bit pushy when it came to me refusing induction, and she made it known that it was not ‘the norm’ for women to refuse induction. I came out of the appointment and e-mailed my hypnobirthing instructor to check I wasn’t missing something- was I wrong for refusing induction because ‘everyone else’ goes with it? She replied back and stated that I made an informed decision, I know the risks of induction and I didn’t feel that they outweighed the risks of having an ‘overdue’ baby. I felt much more reassured and carried on enjoying my maternity leave.
On Monday night, I felt a few twinges, and so went to bed to get some rest before labour started. I had a full night's sleep and in the morning, we went for a walk before Nat went to work, in the hopes that it would kick start things again- it didn’t! I had an appointment later that day, where I had a membrane sweep. They said I was already 3 cms dilated, and discussed induction dates with me. We had done more research into induction and we decided to refuse induction until 40+14 (the midwives wanted to book me in to be induced at 40+10, but being induced would have meant that I couldn't give birth at the Midwife Led Unit (MLU), so we wanted to avoid that if possible). I was booked in for a sweep on Thursday, and another on Saturday.
On Thursday morning I had the second sweep, this time at the MLU. The midwife was absolutely lovely and didn't make me feel at all weird for refusing induction. I used my hypnobirthing breathing throughout the sweep, and didn't feel any pain. It just felt a bit socially uncomfortable, but didn't feel uncomfortable physically at all. The midwife said I was 4cm and was doing really well. I had felt a few twinges between Monday and Thursday but nothing significant at all.
I had a few twinges throughout the day but they just felt like normal cramps. I started timing them at about 8pm, but I kept forgetting to time some of them because I was just going about my day! We went to bed at 10pm, and by 10 past 10, realised it was actual labour because I couldn't talk through the surges. I called the hospital to tell them we were coming in (the contractions were about every 4 minutes apart at this stage, but each contraction was getting closer than the previous one). I put my hypnobirthing tracks on, and just breathed through the surges while hugging Nat.
Things came to a complete halt during the journey to the hospital (as expected- due to the stress of travelling), and didn’t really pick up once we got to the hospital (around midnight). We were waiting in the waiting room for a while before they took me to be examined. The surges started picking up but eased massively when Nat hugged me (I didn’t know how well this would work)! I was examined and they said I was “only” 3 centimeters (even though my birth plan said to not tell me how many centimeters I was!). I was massively disheartened but remembered what I had been taught- that the current dilation gives no indication of what will happen, it just shows what has happened (which is why I didn’t want to be told in the first place!).
Once the midwife left the room (about 1am) the surges increased tenfold. It was quite scary but I didn't panic, I just tried to focus on the tracks and focus on Nat's hand on my back (I may have shouted at her for this at one point!). I didn't ask for pain relief, but I think that was mainly because I didn't have time to think! At one point I said "I can't do this" but Nat must not have heard me (“I can’t do this” is, according to our hypnobirthing instructor, the classic phrase that women say while in the transition phase- just before the baby arrives).
At about 3am, I felt a lot of pressure down below. I put my hand there and felt something. I told Nat and she calmly went to get the midwife. When the midwife came in, she said the baby was coming! They rushed to get the pool ready. Once it was half full, they said I could get in it. I had one surge and then somehow got into the pool (not before my waters burst all over Nat's socks!). It was only half full so I lay on my back (not ideal!). When I had surges in the pool, the midwife told me to push. I think it was about 8 surges and the head was out, then one more and Riley was born! We had put on the birth plan that we wanted immediate skin to skin, delayed cord clamping, and that I wanted a natural third stage, and we had all of this.
Riley was born so peacefully- she didn't cry or seem at all distressed, she was so alert and was looking around, taking it all in. We never expected her to be so alert so soon, it was surreal!
Although I did feel pain while I was in labour, I think a lot of this was to do with the speed of the labour (going from 3cms to Riley being born in under 2 hours!), and I think my body must have been in shock because of the speed of it! I also wish I had got into the birthing pool earlier on, as that definitely eased things. I didn't stress or worry during labour, which is why I feel the birth was so quick- the midwives were amazed, especially because Riley is my first.
I think my labour experience would have been so much scarier without the hypnobirthing knowledge, and without Nat being there. She was consistently calm, and knew the perfect thing to say to me at the perfect time. I also think that the hypnobirthing helped me in the build up to the labour- after speaking to a midwife since having Riley, I realise that there are not many women who would progress to 4cms without being in considerable pain- but I hadn't felt anything because I'd just been focusing on relaxing!
I've got no other pregnancy to compare to, but I honestly think without hypnobirthing, I would have been much more stressed throughout both pregnancy, and the labour. Our main aim in this was to have a healthy baby, anything else we considered to be a bonus- we just feel so lucky and proud that we had the relaxing, drug-free birth that we wanted, with skin to skin, delayed cord clamping and a natural third stage. It was a truly amazing experience for us all!