Everyone has their sayings that they repeat in their head when they need a little pick me up. It might be a, “ Come on… You’ve got this!” before you stand in front of your team to do a presentation at work or “Stay calm, stay calm.” when you’re driving in the car and some douchebag has pulled out in front of you.
It’s commonly seen amongst sportsmen and women where they shout, “Come on! Come on!” when they are walking on pitch or warming up. We see it as patching themselves up but they’re actually just telling themselves to come on. They’re telling themselves that they can do this and they have got this.
It’s the phrase that you remind yourself when you want to behave in a certain way. Now, often these phrases are so engrained in us that we now don’t even see it as an “affirmation” as that’s just SOOOOO hippy. They are phrases that are so engrained in us that t’s just something we say or do. And this kind of familiarity is what we want to achieve in pregnancy through birth affirmations.
In labour, during contractions, there will be times where they are so intense that you will feel like you can’t do it any longer. Now, if you have been practising your birth affirmations throughout pregnancy then it will be at this point where you might start repeating over in your head, “I can do anything for 60seconds, I can do anything for 60 seconds, I can do anything for 60seconds.” (FYI – 60 secs is about how long a contraction lasts). You will say it till you believe it to be true. This is easier to do if you have read them to yourself every day or couple of days in the build up to your labour. It will be even more helpful if your partner knows them too as these phrases can then be reminded to you when you need a pep talk in labour.
My waters broke at 3.50am and we went to triage at 5.45am after my parents arrived to look after my 4 year old son. Mild contractions started while we were there. We went home with rough plans for either an induction or caesarean the following morning if things didn’t progress due to waters having broken and associated risk of infection. As a VBAC mum I wanted to keep my options open.
Once home I used my Hypnobirthing techniques to help bring the contractions on fully. Things that really helped:
– watching my favourite film eating doughnuts and chocolate
– having a bath with dimmed lights listening to Hypnobirthing script
– using TENs machine once out the bath listening to my favourite songs
– using the contraction timer from Freya
By 12pm I was finding the contractions intense and they were 3 in 10 minutes. As a VBAC mum I wanted to go to hospital so they could monitor me more closely.
In the car my contractions ramped up and I started to panic when we hit traffic so I used my breathing techniques and put the radio on (kisstory!) to keep myself in the zone
I contracted four times from the car to triage and just blocked out all the things around me. I never imagined I could stay focussed in the middle of GRH car park! We randomly bumped into my community midwife on the way in which was great to see a familiar face!
When I got to triage they hooked me to a monitor but didn’t offer any pain relief or gas and air so I kept with my TENS machine and breathing.
At this point things went a bit off plan, the monitor showed baby’s heart rate was dipping when I was contracting so I was admitted to the labour ward to be examined. I was allowed to use the jasmine room which is a special room with mood lighting and birthing pool a bit like the rooms in the birthing unit.
I was 3cm dilated but cervix was stretchy. I went on the gas and air and wireless monitoring whilst my husband set up the room with aromatherapy, photos and tea lights. The contractions were coming very close together and were very intense. The midwife and doctor were concerned about baby’s heart rate and the doctor examined me to find I was now 6cms dilated just an hour after the last examination. Labour was progressing quickly but baby’s heart rate was really worrying me and I found I couldn’t focus on my breathing as well. Then baby turned back to back and I had the overwhelming urge to push but knew I couldn’t. This is when this labour started to feel like my first labour. My first baby ended up being born by emergency c section and had a short spell in special care with no skin to skin for over 24 hours and my ultimate outcome I wanted this time was to avoid this baby being separated from me.
At this point my baby’s heart rate was recovering well from the contractions so I knew she was ok. My instinct was to ask for a c section. The dr explained there was no medical reason for this but they wanted to take a blood sample from baby to see how she was coping. They explained the results would take an hour. I agreed to the test but shortly afterwards decided an hour is a long time if baby is in distress so I finalised my decision to have a c section. Instead of feeling a failure as I’d expected if my VBAC failed I actually felt really empowered and that I was following my instincts for the best outcome for my baby.
Preparations were made and my midwife, Beth, was fantastic at keeping me calm and had obviously read my birth plan as she informed the theatre staff what we wanted. My playlist was put on and I heard all the staff singing along to sex on fire and mr brightside! They were all so happy and relaxed. Everyone introduced themselves and said encouraging things to me. My tealights were put out and after the spinal was put in and I was lying down the anaesthetist asked me and my husband about our son and a recent holiday. I kept watching the tealights, thought back to the holiday and my breathing and trembling (from the adrenaline) calmed down. Not long after that my beautiful daughter was born. She had delayed cord clamping, was weighed in front of me and had skin to skin for an hour while they completed the operation.
Olivia had no health problems and she stayed with me in recovery (and every minute since😂)
The doctor visited me in recovery and explained the blood test for Olivia had showed she was in distress so they would have recommended a c section had I waited for the results. There was also something about my placenta which was unknown during pregnancy which could have resulted in a serious bleed and risks for me and Olivia as labour progressed. He was pleased I’d followed my instincts and it was absolutely the right birth for me and Olivia.
Without Hypnobirthing classes I wouldn’t have had the confidence or knowledge to decide on a c section and the techniques/toolkit helped in so many ways on the day I can’t recommend it highly enough!
If, like Emma, you want a toolkit of techniques to help you in all birth scenarios then…
I don’t really know where to start with the labour. I could potentially say I was in early labour for a few days, contracting on and off throughout the days and evenings prior to the birth with it not amounting to anything. For the sake of time, I’m writing this whilst the baby is sleeping, and to save your boredom I’m going to fast forward to when it finally and thankfully stepped up a gear. This was Friday evening. The evening started like all the other evenings before, me bouncing on my ball in front of the TV. Rob had gone to football and I was contracting as I usually did in the evenings. It got to 11pm and the contractions were coming regularly. I said to Rob tonight is the night, he rolled is eyes and carried on watching 8 out of 10 cats does countdown, as I’d cried wolf every day already this week. From how ‘stop and start’ my contractions had been this week I had lost all faith in my ability in judging whether it was happening or not. I went upstairs to take a shower and to have a word with myself. I was probably not going into labour at all.
Half an hour in the shower I rang my friend to come over. The contractions were becoming stronger and staying regular, I was still not totally convinced though and prepped her that it may all stop. I rang the birth unit too and said the same to them, “I don’t think I’m in active labour, but I think I may be getting there.” Being a fourth baby, I knew that being in active labour (from 4cms and regular contractions) to having a baby wasn’t going to be long and I wanted to be in the hospital as I bled last time. They invited me in.
This is probably a good time to give you a bit of background. My 3rd baby was born prem at 34 weeks and I lost more blood than deemed normal. So the advice for me was to have my baby on a consultant led unit as I was “high-risk” of bleeding again. I looked at all my options though and chose to go against this advice after having a conversation with the lead midwife on the birth unit. My last birth, I had polyhydramnios, prematurity, a suspected infection and the cord snapped on the placenta all things that mean you’re more likely to lose more blood. This pregnancy, I had normal waters, a normal size baby and was full term so I didn’t have the same risk factors. With this in mind I chose to give birth on the midwifery led unit and I was supported in this choice.
So back to that Friday evening… I was in the shower. I had my birth ball in the shower too. It was on the bath so that I could lean onto it to have the water on the bottom of my back. I used my breathing here that I’d learnt from hypnobirthing. Counting my in breath and my out breath gave me something to concentrate on and kept me relaxed. Things were going great guns, I was calm, comfortable and getting into the swing of the contractions. My friend arrived and so I got out of the shower and myself and Rob made our way to the birth unit.
It was about 00.30 when we arrived to the birth unit. My midwife was Brenda, she showed us into our room Poppy. It was dimly lit and the pool was half full. I again said to a Brenda that I didn’t think I was quite in labour but knew my contractions were getting there. They were coming every few minutes at this point but they felt manageable. She brought me in some essential oils – Bergamot and Frankincense- on a taper and I got back into the shower leaning over onto the birthing ball. Chui my birth photographer arrived at this point. My only concern here I remember was what happens if this all stops, what happens if I’m just in early labour and I’ve got my friend at my house and Chui’s here. I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time! Silly really looking back as it was obvious I was in labour!
I spent a good hour at least like this in the shower. The next thing that happened was at 02.30 when I had my first vaginal examination. I know it was 02.30 because Rob text Emily at this time who was home with the kids. I still wasn’t sure at this point that it was it… I remember saying to Brenda, what happens if I’m just 2cms. If this was going to be the case I didn’t want to know! Brenda thought that would be unlikely and she was right. It’s funny how much you lose your ability to rationalise in labour! As a midwife, I should’ve been able to recognise the signs but I still had in the back of my mind that I may not be dilating at all! I was 8cms. Happy days! I got gas and air at this point which is when all of the fun started.
Brenda filled the pool and I got in. The water was instantly comforting. It was here that I remember really wanting to take it all in. As pregnant mothers, we are so desperate for this moment, desperate to feel the contractions and to know that after 9 months we are finally going to meet our baby. The labour and the birth we prep for, go to classes, pack 3 suitcases for which is more than what we’d take on holiday, we play it out how we want it to be in our minds but the reality is that it’s all done and dusted in a day. That moment in the pool was a nice one, I really appreciated what was going on, that what I’d been waiting for was actually happening that very night. These thoughts were helped from the fact that I was high as a kite too! I actually told Brenda all of this between contractions. She probs thought I was cuckoo!
It wasn’t long after I’d got into the pool that I’d started to transition. I remember saying “I can’t do this anymore!” Whilst thinking that’s a textbook ‘You’re just about to have a baby comment’ whilst uncontrollably pushing. I can’t remember “mooing” here but Rob assures me it happened! This feeling was overwhelming, I had this full feeling, which would have been her head coming through my pelvis. The only thing that helped this feeling go away was to push. All the signs were telling me I was just about to meet my baby and a few pushes later she was born under the water at 03.31. I got to bring her up out of the water myself. Holding her in front of my face, seeing her scrunched up face, feeling her skin, hearing her little cry and knowing that she was here safe in my arms was the most incredible feeling ever.
All went well after – no bleeding!🙌🏼 and we were back home by 7.30 am for when the other 3 children woke up.
There’s a couple of things that I’m so glad that I did.
1. Getting a birth photographer– I felt like a bit of a diva doing this but now I wish that I did it for all of my births. For me, remembering the birth is so much more important than say a wedding day, yet a wedding photographer is something we see at every wedding! The photos that i have are priceless and Delphi is lucky that she gets to see her first moments in the world. Thank you Chui 🙂
2.Hypnobirthing– Through teaching hypnobirthing I have inadvertently been practising the techniques for a lot longer than my 9 month pregnancy and boy did it pay off. Reinforcing that everything in your birth is a choice, learning the importance of keeping your mind calm and how to control pesky negative thoughts like fear and doubt that always seem to enter our minds meant that this birth was by far my most empowering, calm and magical experience. I could live it with such clarity and for me that was I really wanted, I wanted to be able to remember every minute of it and enjoy it! I’ll write another blog on what techniques I used that were most helpful.
3. Writing it down- this little story completes it for me, it’s something else that means I’ll remember what happened that night.
For me sharing birth stories is important. I want pregnant mothers to know that birth isn’t always the fear-filled, ear- piercing shrieks and painful experiences that you see on TV. It can be empowering, calm and beautiful. My births are by far my biggest accomplishments in life. I look back on this birth especially, and it was everything I wanted it to be and I would happily do it all again in a heartbeat.
If you want to know about ways to have a great birth, how to stack the odds in your favour to get the birth you want and feel calm in all births then…
You can get all the information from our award-winning hypnobirthing and antenatal classes but from the convenience of your own home on your own time, then you can get our online course.
After experiencing 2 births, I can safely say that it rarely goes according to our imaginary plan or so we believe when we reflect on it later on. Some plan a free-medical pain relief option and end up with emergency C-section, others elect to have a home birth but have to be rushed to the hospital for health reasons.
With this in mind, I drew a birth plan for my second baby with a few options marked in. My main point was to stay comfortable so all options remained on the table.
I still prepared myself for the birth unit, practising yoga and religiously listening to my hypnobirthing track. I visualised almost to perfection how I would deliver the baby myself in the warmth of the pool surrounded by professional midwives and my husband (OK he was in one corner of the room, just like the first birth).
Little did I know…
In a nutshell, this is how it went: I gave birth to our second daughter in the ensuite bathroom, without any kind of medical pain-relief (no not even a paracetamol). Child number 1 was fast asleep in her bedroom. My husband being downstairs to call 999 (he had the nerve to ask me ‘who should he call?’ while the head was crowning… Ghostbusters maybe?).
When I talk about my unexpected home birth to people I always feel stupid with the following remarks:
‘Did you not notice you were in labour?’ Yes I knew.
’Why didn’t you go sooner to the hospital?’ Contractions every 5-10 minutes, and I live 10 minutes away.
‘Were you not in pain? It only became unbearable 15 minutes before birth, by that time the only reasonable thing to do was to stay home.
I thought that as long as my daughter was in the house, I wouldn’t believe it would actually happen. But my body/mind interpreted it differently: She is in a safe place so bring it on.
I strongly believe hypnobirthing brought me comfortably up to the pushing phase. I’m not gonna lie, when it was game on I was dreaming of an epidural. Weirdly enough, I think my body knew. I installed a maternity mat on the bathroom floor and thoroughly washed my hands an hour prior to fun time.
Tip for any future second time mummy: Get rid of child number 1 after a few contractions in a row (Mum of the Year Award anyone?).
The community midwife who arrived 20 minutes after birth managed to diffuse the touch of drama that was going on in my head. She asked to have a look at my birth plan, I laughed and enquired why as I clearly didn’t follow it. She went through it point by point and made me realise that if you twist things a little bit, you always nail your birth plan.
OK I didn’t plan to stain the carpet with blood. Yes having strangers (paramedics) looking at my fresh-from-birth-vagina is not what I had in my mind. Nor panicking the neighbours (two of them pregnant at the time) in the early morning with the ambulance (thank god to paramedic who prevented anyone to go inside the house…see point about strangers and my vagina). Finally, I certainly didn’t plan that baby’s first trip in the car seat would be in the ambulance going TO the hospital. But I did plan for a calm, comfortable, straight forward birth, which was exactly what it turned out to be.
My husband said that he curiously enjoyed it more than birth 1: It was quick and he was the most useful person in the house, organising ambulance, midwife, babysitter, throwing towels at me to warm the baby, and cleaning the whole room!!
If only I could have photographed his face when he found me sat on the toilet holding a baby, priceless!
So if you ever find yourself in this situation, at home or elsewhere that isn’t a hospital, keep this in mind: If it goes that quick, it means it’s all fine! (That’s not from me, it’s from the pediatrician!)
Two and a bit years ago I was bouncing on my birthing ball watching Bake Off, feeling a bit peeved that it was my due date and nothing seemed to be stirring. I’m a very punctual person and spend a significant portion of my life (pre-children anyway) waiting around for people/transportation/appointments. So although I knew statistically things were unlikely to kick off at exactly 40 weeks, it still irked. And then – splosh – my waters came gushing out just as Mel or Sue announced star baker. Talk about a soggy bottom.
We were living in Cornwall and it was a quick 10 minute journey to the hospital for a check. I was excitedly waiting for the first contractions and felt unnerved when the two options were to have an immediate induction or wait 24 hours to see if things started naturally. Another deadline for my poor pedantic brain. Anyway, despite some epic hoovering, nothing occurred and we trundled back in the following evening.
From that moment everything becomes a bit tumbled and jumbled in my memory – like an amazing night out but with fewer shots and more vaginal pessaries. My ideas about an active labour, ideally in the birthing pool, were usurped because I needed to lie on my back and be monitored. As the intensity of the contractions increased I moved from gas and air to Diamorphine to an epidural in a blur. After a day of this and less than 2cm dilation, a wonderful surgeon examined the baby’s heart rate and said it was time to get her out.
The caesarean was smooth and quick, our daughter burst onto the scene in perfect health and two days later we were home.
In the beautiful chaos of life with a newborn it took a while to address the fact I wasn’t ok with how the birth had gone. Countless well-meaning people said nice things like ‘well you’re both fine and that’s the main thing’. And it truly is, but I still struggled to talk about it truthfully. The strongest feeling was a lack of control; it was like something that happened to me, rather than by me or even with me. I read lots of helpful things about not letting yourself feel like a failure… made less easy when the phrase ‘FAILURE TO PROGRESS’ is written all over your medical notes.
When I fell pregnant last year I was very keen to have a different experience. The doctors said there was no reason not to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) and I tried to walk the line between hoping I could labour and deliver ‘naturally’ and bearing in mind that it might not happen. Pregnancy yoga was a great help (big up Ann at Lotus Bud Yoga in Cheltenham) and then the opportunity came up to attend the hypnobirthing with The Bump to Baby Chapter.
Aside from meeting some lovely expectant mums in a beautiful setting with regular tea and shortbread breaks, it’s no exaggeration to say it transformed how I was feeling about the birth. I had expected to learn about breathing and visualisations – and did – but it was also the practical toolkit of methods and information which enabled me to feel more prepared, calm and positive. The entire day and the book we trotted off home with made me confident that although I might still encounter the same circumstances and language and influences, I’d be in a whole new position to question them and deal with the upshot. Beth gave us each a set of the excellent Yesmum cards and the one I held uppermost in my mind from then onwards was: ‘I make informed decisions that feel right for me and my baby.’
In this new mindset I felt comfortable making contingency plans in the days running up to my highly inconvenient Boxing Day due date. As induction wasn’t a good option the consultant, midwife, my husband and I had a discussion about what to do if I was overdue. They were keen for an elective caesarean earlier rather than later but as I wanted to give the baby as much time as possible to make an appearance we compromised at eight days. As it was, on the evening of day four I had a show and on New Year’s Eve I started having contractions. I felt warm and calm and excited that things were progressing. In the car on the way in I used the time between contractions to make a new playlist of songs which suddenly seemed the most obvious tunes I would want to give birth to in the world.
I would love to tell you we rocked up, whipped out our LED candles and hopped into the birthing pool for a quick delivery with no pain meds in time to watch Jools Holland. In fact, I pretty much saw in the new year with a lovely midwife’s hand up my lady parts discovering my waters had broken discreetly some days ago (that cheeky little trickle I’d thought was an excitement wee perhaps). Knowing the risk of infection and with the knowledge there was nothing doing on the dilation front, I allowed myself to feel a moment’s disappointment that I wasn’t going to get my preference (again) and have a crack at pushing this one out, and then we moved on. That was one huge difference hypnobirthing made – months of resentment and feelings of failure reduced to about a minute of slight grumpiness. Then we got excited that we were about to meet our new daughter and made sure we could bring our playlist into theatre.
Everything we had learned and practiced during hypnobirthing came back out to bat for me during the operation. I breathed through the contractions in order to stay still during the initial spinal injection. I stayed calm when my heartrate dropped and everything swam and flickered about. When they needed to use forceps to pull out our stubborn baby and the weight and pressure felt untenable, I made myself imagine I was paddling out towards a set of waves on my surfboard, feeling the swell picking me up and then carving through the water towards the beach. It was one of the most powerful sensations I’ve ever known.
Ultimately, we have to choose what to hold on to and what to let go of. Things didn’t happen as I would have wished but, thanks to the steps and help I had taken this time, I was present and focused for the whole shebang. I wasn’t a passenger and that counts for a lot. And I got to whip out my tarpaulin-sized c-section knickers for a second outing. Every cloud…
If you want to know about ways to have a great birth then…
Winner of 🌟The Best Pregnancy Support Service in Gloucestershire 2017🌟, The Bump to Baby Chapter has something for everyone.
🌟For expectant couple wanting to know all you need to know about labour, baby and those early days we have midwife led antenatal courses.
🌟For a second or third time mother wanting to birth without fear after a negative birth experience. There’s hypnobirthing one day classes for the busy Mum.
🌟Free blogs with tips on birth and baby for all
🌟Buggy walks in Cheltenham for new mothers to bring the sisterhood in motherhood.
So whatever stage of pregnancy and whatever number baby have a look at the page, website and get involved 🌟