Category: The Great British Birth Off

Birth at home on the toilet- Not quite the birth planned

Birth StoriesThe Great British Birth Off

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!)

Gemma’s Birth Story

Birth StoriesThe Great British Birth Off

You finally get the positive test and after the initial anxiety of getting to that 12 week scan has passed, thoughts turn to labour, or at least they do for most people. Me? I figured there was no point worrying about it – I would deal with it when I had to!

As time progressed, people started to ask me if i was nervous or scared, and of course lots of people started divulging their horror birth stories to me, whether I’d asked to hear it or not! At that point I decided it was time to get my butt in gear and start finding out what I was going to do about this labour thing. So I got us booked into the Bump to Baby antenatal classes, bought some positive hypnobirthing books and started to make a plan of action. I quickly decided I was going to be one of these boss mums who serenely breathed their baby out while in pool with plinky plunky music on in the background. Obviously. So when my consultant told me they would admit me to hospital and induce me bang on 40 weeks (due to my blood clotting disorder) I was absolutely devastated. I felt utterly out of control and all the lovely natural birth plans I had disappeared.

After a few days of holding a spectacular pity party, I decided it was time to pull my (seriously enormous) big girl pants up, and take all the great info we’d learned at the antenatal classes and make up a new birth preference. We’d learned all about boosting the all important oxytocin while in an unfamiliar environment and also not to be afraid to ask questions so I spoke to the consultant and asked that we delay the induction by just a few days to give my baby one last chance to make his or her own way. He agreed, and although I only had 3 extra days, it really gave me back a sense of control.

Sadly, despite endless frantic hours bouncing on the birthing ball like a mad woman, my baby was in no rush so on the morning of the 28th September we dutifully trundled into GRH, all ready for the inevitable 3 day long induction process I’d heard so much about.

I was examined and, at 2cm already (how secretly thrilled was I?) my first pessary was inserted at 1pm. After we were allowed to get up, hubby and I went on a 2.5 hour long waddle around the hospital grounds in the hope it would help speed things up. I needn’t have bothered really as within an hour I was feeling some discomfort and by the time we returned to the labor ward I was contracting regularly. By 10pm I was contracting every 2-3 minutes for 40-60 seconds and I was scared. Surely this was too much too quickly? Inductions were meant take days weren’t they? I was still 2cm (smug feeling from earlier now gone) and I was beginning to think I’d massively over estimated my pain tolerance. How on earth was I going to manage another 8+ hours of this? To add to my ever growing panic, the midwives were also telling me Alex would have to go home as men aren’t allowed on the ward overnight. How would I cope without my rock? Oxytocin had left the building and I was struggling.

Thankfully we managed to keep Alex there for another couple of hours and as I gladly accepted the offer of pethidine, I was told at now 3cm dilated, we could go down to the delivery suite. Hooray!!! Once wheeled down and settled in, Alex quickly got to work putting my affirmation bunting up and getting out our battery operated candles. I had my waters broken and then the fun really started! Within half an hour I was seriously contemplating an epidural – something I swore I’d never have but I was really doubting I could cope with much more. The midwife suggested gas and air which despite being quite nervous about trying, I found to be brilliant. With Alex and the midwife cheering me on, I soon found myself wanting to push at the end of each contraction. It wasn’t until the midwife brought it up that I even realised I was doing it and at that point I completely panicked – why was I trying to push at 3cm?? I’m sure I was told to trust my body during labour but at this point my body didn’t seem to know what it was doing, or so I thought. The midwife didn’t seem overly concerned but after an hour of increasingly more urges to push, she decided to examine me and I heard the words every desperate labouring woman wants to hear: “You’re at 9cm!”. Hallelujah! The midwife admittedly seemed as shocked as me and all of a sudden the room sprung into action. Other midwives appeared, the tray came out and the gas and air went away so I could really start to put all my energy into pushing. After a good half an hour of pushing and despite all my visualisations of my vagina opening up like a lotus flower (ha ha!!), nothing was happening and the team were starting to get worried about my baby’s heart rate which was distinctly elevated. A clip was put on baby’s head to monitor the heart better and the decision was made to call in a doctor.

The next few minutes passed in a blur, and before I knew it, the midwife was explaining that as my baby’s heart rate was elevated they wanted baby out double quick so they were preparing to give me an episiotomy. Prior to going into labour this would have been a horrifying thought, but I just wanted my baby here safely. I calmly consented to the episiotomy and the doctor acted quickly. Once the cut had been made I was urged on by the midwives and my husband – a few more pushes and we’d finally find out whether we’d got a girl or a boy!

That last stage of pushing was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I literally had nothing else to give and at one point I thought my head would explode before this baby came out! I remember Alex saying he could see the head and the midwife getting me to feel it. That meant my baby was so nearly here! I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and re-grouped. I’d doubted myself all the way through this but I knew now could do it, the end was in sight. A few more pushes and the infamous ring of fire sensation hit. I know it’s meant to be really unpleasant but for me it was a reassuring sensation, it meant the head was right there! At 3:40am we welcomed our baby girl, Eloise, to the world. She was here and I’d survived!! We managed to have a little skin to skin but unfortunately her breathing wasn’t great and after a few checks it was decided she needed to go to the NICU for further treatment. It turned out she had fluid on her lungs and an infection but responded really well to treatment and the following day she was out of the NICU and back with me on the ward, where we stayed for another 4 days.

My labour story was like nothing I ever imagined and I don’t think I did any of the things on my birth plan! To top it off I don’t think I ever considered how physically demanding it would be! Sounds ludicrous to say that out loud but at the end I really felt like I’d run two marathons back to back. In flip flops. On sand. I wasn’t prepared for the level of exhaustion that inevitably followed. I learned that I should trust more in my body (it really does know what it’s doing!) and trust less in other people’s stories. I’m so glad I attended the antenatal classes because despite being scared at times, I understood everything that needed to happen and felt comfortable with the decisions we made. The only thing I would do next time that I didn’t do this time is attend an actual hypnobirthing course, to really cement my belief. Oh, and maybe work out more so that I’m fitter for the marathon that is labour!!

I am incredibly proud of myself and my husband, we were a total team and he really showed how much he’d taken on board from attending the antenatal classes, which was so reassuring for me. We’ve stayed in touch with all the couples we met at the antenatal group and they have become firm friends and a source of comfort and support during those sleepless nights! Labour was an epic ride and I can honestly say I can’t wait to do it again!

Choose what to hold on to and what to let go of- Ellie’s Hypnobirthing Cesarean

Birth StoriesThe Great British Birth Off

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 essentials day.

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 on the essentials day 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…

Shani’s Birth Story

Birth StoriesThe Great British Birth Off

I suppose my birth story starts about 3 weeks before when I attended The Bump To Baby Chapter Hypnobirthing class. I remember saying to Beth, “I’ve only got 3 weeks left and I haven’t practiced at all yet!” but she was confident I would be ok. So after a lovely day, practicing breathing techniques, visualisations and having some yummy lunch I was sent off with the Hypnobirthing book, YesMum cards and MP3’s of the visualisation tracks to practice.

I would say I would probably manage to practice visualisations once a day and tried to do breathing beforehand and also with my husband before bed. This was so that he knew what rate I was counting at so he could be there to get me back on track when I lost focus. Turns out it was more help to him just to manage his stress levels when seeing me ‘in pain’!

Although I use that word loosely as I specifically said that I didn’t want the word pain used at all whilst in labour.

Contractions started just before I went to bed, however being a 1st timer I wasn’t quite sure if they were contractions or not so I just went to sleep as normal, waking about twice in the night with the same feelings… Again, not quite sure if it was anything other then Braxton Hicks/stomach ache, at 5.30am my husband got up for work, I told him about the tightenings and he quite helpfully told me I should maybe call the triage number….to which I replied, “I think you should just stay home from work instead!” 🙂

We spent the day burning Clary Sage, listening to ‘spa’ music and watching a comedy to keep the oxytocin flowing. I’m not going to lie when I think back it was quite a long day waiting but I didn’t mind. When the contractions started to get stronger and last longer, whilst breathing I started reciting the affirmations in my head, ‘Each surge brings you closer to holding your baby in your arms’, ‘The surges can’t be stronger then you because they are you.’

We finally got on our way to the maternity unit at around 7 in the evening. I was aware that sometimes things can slow down once you change your environment so we got settled into the room, put the ‘spa’ music back on and made a brew in true Yorkshire style. The contractions came thick and fast so I got in the pool at around 9pm. I wish I could say I had a water birth as that was the plan but, it wasn’t to be as after quite a few hours, I was made to get out to go to the toilet. Not what you want to hear when your contractions are barely a minute apart… how was I going to make it down the little steps and onto the toilet without having a contraction! The fear started to kick in at this point because I had to deal with something that wasn’t going to be at all comfortable, but thankfully, I managed to stay focused with the breathing and made it to the dreaded toilet. Needless to say, I couldn’t go for a wee (the midwife had thought my bladder was too full, therefore hindering baby coming out) but the toilet was my new favourite place! So much so that at one point the midwife had to pad it out just incase I gave birth on the toilet!! What a joyous way to enter the world that would’ve been! 🙂

After much coaxing I got off the toilet and tried the birthing stool. I would say to anyone when you go on the tour around the birthing units or wards, try out the apparatus just so you know what it feels like. The birthing stool was another unknown to me that throws you off your flow. I moved to the bed/kidney shaped foam thing, with my husband behind me to hold me as I perched on the edge…I was giving all I’d got by this point but my contractions weren’t lasting long enough so the midwife brought in some Jasmine as it’s supposed to help prolong contractions. I would say about 10minutes later my lovely little girl was born. I felt immense relief, joy, love and exhaustion. Amabell weighed 6lb 12oz and I managed the birth with no pain killers or gas and air, all down to the focus Hypnobirthing had provided me with, the mind is one powerful tool!

Oh and then my little bundle of joy wee’d on us…lovely end to the story! 🙂

What did Hypnobirthing ever do for us?

Birth StoriesThe Great British Birth Off

Channelling the sentiment of Monty Python, I am left thinking about exactly what we did gain from our Hypnobirthing course. I’ve read lots of blogs and testimonials about the benefits of hypnobirthing for labour and delivery and breathing and calmness. Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel it sells it a little short. I decided to write this as a ‘you’ll get a shed load more from this than you realise’ piece, but it actually turned into a celebration of what we as a couple got from the process we went through with Beth. If you’re unsold on the benefits of hypnobirthing, please consider the fact that the side-effects may be more wondrous and far-reaching than you could ever imagine.

What did Hypnobirthing ever do for us?

1. It helped us with team ‘US’ – oh my gosh did we build a team together…

My husband and I were together a year when we got married and have just celebrated our first wedding anniversary with a 9 week old. It’s been a wonderful whirlwind and I wouldn’t change a thing. What we didn’t have though was a decade of trials and tribulations to build up our joint resolve. We didn’t have that solidarity that comes from supporting each other through the good and bad times or a childhood of shared experiences and reference points. The one thing we were told by every other parenting team we knew was how important it was to develop that solid base. Beth helped us slow right down and look at the building blocks of what we had. We breathed together. We stopped and we held hands. We looked at one another and just gazed – it was nothing to do with the chaos of our lives and everything to do with the simplicity of living. When our daughter was born, that’s what we did too. We breathed together. We held hands. We looked at each other and we were a team.

2. It helped us carve out a shared approach to parenting …

We had dreamed about being parents for years (decades even) before we met each other. We had significant conversations about conceiving our daughter but the ideology, logistics and financials that made this the right time to start our family, didn’t touch on the minutia of day-to-day life. We hadn’t had chance to have the myriad of conversations about our thoughts on everything from breastfeeding to soothers and baby-wearing to cloth nappies that seem to crop up organically in most relationships. By working through the process of birth, we had those chats. During our sessions, we discussed what we expected from the first minutes, hours and days of our baby’s life and then we built from there. We used our conversations to dig deeper into the way we ticked. Why did I have the concrete views I did? Why was he so convinced about that approach? What were our non-negotiables and why? What hadn’t we thought of? This in turn lead us to explore our own very different childhoods and marvel at just how much we had in common and how many opinions we held jointly. It meant that no matter what was thrown at us, and how many plans went out of the window, we both knew what the end goal was and we could keep that in sight.

3. It helped us tackle and overcome our wider fears

Hospitals as buildings are somehow magically impregnated by the full range of human emotions. They are places that we go when something is wrong in order to be fixed and sometimes, it just doesn’t happen like that. My husband hated hospitals. They were places of pain and death and heartache for him. Hospitals provided the backdrop for some of his most difficult times and now we needed to find a way to walk into one without that emotional baggage weighing him down. I am somewhat of a control freak. I cannot stand the idea of not having a clear command of the outcome of a situation. I hate not knowing everything to know about a project and I didn’t have time to train as a midwife. Between us, we needed to do some serious work on balancing out our adrenaline with oxytocin. We were guided with a combination of understanding and humour through some of the rawest parts of our private lives. My husband learned to focus his efforts on the positives of a birth surrounded by the best medical professionals around. I learned to look for the wins that mattered and to let go of what didn’t. Together, we built our ‘joy bubble’. A selection of smells, sights, sounds and textures that made us feel safe and at home. We practised feeling safe and happy and loved and we spent ‘date nights’ building our oxytocin reserves. We ended up meeting our daughter in a space that felt like ours. It smelled of home (lavender oil and coffee). Examinations were punctuated by the familiar sounds of Family Guy, South Park and American Dad that signal our ‘down-time’ (Mozart is also an option if that’s where you find your calm!). A favourite picture of us was blu-tacked up like a little Polaris on the wall of our room. In short, we found out what made us feel safe and we took it with us. Since then, we’ve found ourselves reaching for our ‘joy bubble’ after long days or long nights. Currently we’re living on a building site with layers of carnage and chaos around us, BUT we have our smells and sounds and focus and so we’re safe and we’re ‘home’.

4. It helped us define our shared goals

We joked many times that if I had my way, I would give birth in a yurt in the middle of nowhere and if my husband had his, we would be in a sterile and controlled environment where nothing could go wrong. As my pregnancy progressed, we went from discussing the merits of a water homebirth to being closely monitored and consultant-lead with induction as a ‘best case scenario’ and a caesarean section as a distinct possibility. It felt as if everything I had ever dreamed of was taken away one test result and appointment at a time. Beth helped us drill down into what it was that we wanted and why. She then showed us how they could work in any situation. For example – we were insistent that my husband should cut the baby’s umbilical cord. Beth helped us to see why – having properly stamped my foot about not finding out the gender of our baby, I wanted my husband to tell me. I wanted him to know first. I wanted him to introduce me to our child and the thought of someone I’d never met doing that made me feel somehow desperately sad. So we made it happen. It was in our birth ‘preferences’ document and no matter how our child was delivered, he would be the one to introduce us. There were many other ‘strong’ feelings that we had and we managed to find a solution for all of them. If I was not able to do skin-to-skin, he would. If we were in theatre, we could hook up the ipod. If I had a cannula and therefore not be allowed in the birthing pool, I could still have a bath. The list went on. The process though, wasn’t about allowing a diva to have things her way, it was about understanding why they mattered. My husband and I were able to drill down into those core aspects, understand their significance and make them work.

5. It helped us stay in control

I did mention that I was a control freak? Like most people I know, I work in a setting where I am fully accountable for the results of my team and I work hard putting strategies into action, evaluating results and then amending the process. I was really frightened that I would lose all control of my labour. I was afraid that birth would be done ‘to me’ and not ‘by me’. So we worked through that. We learned about our options. We learned about processes. We went into hospital feeling as if we had done our homework and that we’d had the inside scoop from someone ‘in the know’. Three days before my waters broke and filled with the confidence from our sessions, I successfully convinced the consultant to push back our planned induction. The fact that he listened and we talked through options together made me feel so much more positive. In fact, our little lady decided to kick start things on the very day I had fought NOT to be induced, but she did things her way. I said ‘no’. I said it to a midwife who wanted to induce me after my waters had broken, but before the 24 hour limit. It was medically safe for us to wait and we wanted to see if my body would kick in by itself. It did. We said ‘no’ to the doctor who wanted to intervene with either a ventouse or an episiotomy when I was getting tired. We wanted another half an hour of pushing to see if we could do it. She said that wouldn’t make a difference. So we took that half an hour and managed to avoid either intervention. We were in control because we had the confidence to ask the questions and ask for the alternatives. Our hypnobirthing and antenatal courses gave us that confidence. We were in control. When I had to go to theatre for a retained placenta, we still felt in control because we understood everything. We weren’t afraid. We explored the options and made the best decision for us. The bonus was that our baby got extra skin-to-skin time with her daddy and their bond is so incredibly strong. It was our birth and we were imbued with the confidence required to make sure that it remained so. We owned it. We nailed it!

So in short … I’m not sure how to describe what our hypnobirthing experience gave us: whether it was counselling, philosophy, meditation, science, ideology, or just a chance to sit and put the world to rights with a kick-arse midwife. What I do know though is: it was EXACTLY what we needed. We have so much in our lives as a result: the investment was in far more than ‘just’ the awesome birthing experience we had!

Jamie’s Hypnobirth “I managed to reach 10cm dilation with just co-codamol.”

Birth StoriesThe Great British Birth Off

Like most Mums to be, the thought of giving birth made me feel anxious. However, in equal parts, I felt strongly that my body would know what to do. I felt it was important to focus on the positive feelings I had and so, I decided to enrol on a Hypnobirthing course. The Bump to Baby Chapter caught my eye because they offered a midwife-run women only Saturday course in a beautiful venue – what’s not to love?

Beth and Kate were wonderful, welcoming and instantly made me feel at home. The other ladies were absolutely lovely too and we spent the day giggling, relaxing and working through our hopes for the day our babies would enter the world.

The most important thing I learnt on the course was how to breathe. It sounds simple right? We do it all day, every day. However, I am 100% sure that the breathing techniques I learnt on the course enabled me to have the positive birth experience I enjoyed.

When I was pregnant I had a feeling that I would deliver early rather than going overdue. I knew to trust my instincts.

The day I went into labour I had slept in, listened to my KG Hypnobirthing MP3 tracks, had a pregnancy massage and bounced on my birthing ball. I was 39 weeks pregnant and I had a light show in the evening followed by my waters breaking an hour later. By 11:30pm we were in triage where I was checked for the presence of meconium and then transferred to delivery suite. I was unable to have the water birth I had dreamt of but I didn’t mind!

Most importantly, during the hypnobirthing course, Beth and Kate had prepared us to feel empowered if the unexpected were to happen. This proved priceless. We had spoken at length about how to remain calm and in control despite obstacles and to remember your BRA – what are the benefits? What are the risks? What are the alternatives?

As my contractions were not yet regular, we made the informed decision to introduce a Syntocin drip to encourage my labour to continue and minimise the possibility of baby becoming distressed.

I knew that this could mean that my labour would be faster and more intense than usual but I felt happy with the decision.

Unfortunately, gas and air made me sick during my first examination. I’ve always hated being sick so I did have a panicky moment at that point before a saline drip was given and I began to feel much calmer. Even though I didn’t want to listen to my hypnobirthing tracks whilst in labour, everything they had taught me whilst pregnant was replayed in my mind during those precious moments between pregnancy and motherhood.

From here on in I was able to breathe through each contraction, hugging the head of the bed, on my knees to allow gravity to assist. While I had packed a myriad of items in my hospital bag, I found the cheapest item – a 29p flannel – the most useful in the May heat. My husband massaged my back as hard as he could with the heel of his hand and I managed to reach 10cm dilation with just co-codamol. In fact, when it came to the midwives changing shifts, they thought I had been given an epidural because I looked so relaxed (I didn’t feel it!).

Bizarrely, I had envisaged the pain getting worse up until the point of pushing but, for me, I found the initial stages of dilation the most uncomfortable. Once I was pushing, the pain felt productive and I still felt in control using just my breathing and the encouragement of my fantastic midwife.

After two hours of pushing it became clear that baby wasn’t moving any further forward and that intervention might be needed.

When you’re pregnant, you write your birth preferences even though you have no idea what might happen in labour. I had thought that I wouldn’t like my legs in stirrups (did it!), that I wouldn’t want to lie on a bed (tried it!) and, finally, that I wouldn’t want to go to theatre (tick!).

In actual fact, going to theatre wasn’t the scary situation I had seen on one born every minute or holby city – it was calm, quiet and the staff couldn’t have been nicer to me! I remember laughing with the doctors and the radio was even on! Although, my husband and I are still wracking our brains to remember which song played as our baby was born with the first try of forceps…

Nothing can prepare you for the first time you see your newborn baby and the magical moment in which you become parents. It is the most wonderful, natural thing in the world. Simply indescribable.

Similarly, you gain a newfound respect for your body and what it is capable of despite the hang ups you may have had before. You have given life and that is the greatest gift there is.

I was a first time Mum who gave birth a week before my due date, had a quick labour and left hospital the next day. I am in no doubt that the hypnobirthing techniques I learnt with The Bump to Baby Chapter empowered me to have such a positive birth experience despite the obstacles faced. As everyone will tell you, every birth and each person’s experience is different but the important thing is to trust your instinct and know your body.

 

Gloucestershire born and bred Jamie lives in a leafy Cotswold village with her husband and five month old daughter. When she’s not looking after her family, working as a primary school teacher or searching the charity shops, you can usually find her on the beach. For more hints, tips, bargains and finds follow Jamie on

Instagram @thriftymummathriftybubba,

Twitter @Thrifty_Mumma_ or

subscribe to her dedicated blog Thriftymummathriftybubba.blogspot.co.uk

“My body knew exactly what it was doing and I remember thinking, ‘my body can do this. I was built to do this’.” Danni’s Birth Story.

Birth StoriesThe Great British Birth Off

In 1982 my mother gave birth to me with the assistance of hypnobirthing. She told me the birth experience was beautiful and she was in control throughout. 30 years later, I was in labour with my first child and I thought my experience would be similar to my mums. That I would be in control. That I would enjoy the experience of bringing a new life into the world. Well, the birth was awful. I felt I was not in control of my body. I was terrified. I kept my eyes shut throughout. I demanded all drugs going and completely lost all faith in myself. It took me a long time to recover physically and mentally. Hence, the long gap of five years before we decided, it was time to try for another.
 
Determined to be stronger this time and take control again, I was recommended a taster session in Hypnobirthing. I only did NCT previously and didn’t look into Hypnobirthing properly. The course was incredible. I talked through my first experience with other mums and the wonderful Beth from Bump to Baby Chapter. I came away from the meeting feeling empowered and ready to go.
 
Between the hypnobirthing course and yoga classes, I learnt how to breath, relax and focus. I also met some absolutely fabulous women. I felt that I was stripping back everything medical thrown at me and remembering, as a woman, my body is built to grow a human. An actual human AND its built to give birth. That I should not be scared of the birth, my body will know what to do and I just need to breath, focus and work with it and my baby to get through labour.
 
9 months and 3 days later, I woke up, got my daughter ready for school and felt a ‘twinge’. The period cramp kind of twinge. The ‘oh yes its finally happening…oh sh*t its finally happening’ kind of twinge. I was meeting a friend for coffee that morning, but as I got to her house, the cramps stopped.
 
I cracked on with my day as usual, but let the husband know that things might be on the move soon…at some point.
 
I demanded a curry for tea. But I couldn’t eat it. Not like me at all to refuse food. 9pm came and the cramps returned. We called ahead to my parents who live an hour away, to get over quickly to help look after my daughter. They arrived just after 10pm. I sat bouncing on my ball, visualising, breathing, eating (to keep the energy levels up). Had a few cat naps and by 3am, I was ready to head into hospital.
 
We arrived at the birthing centre in Gloucester and I explained to the midwife, I wanted a hypnobirth. At this point, everything was manageable. VERY uncomfortable, but manageable. I walked about the room, had a bath and ate some more. But not much was happening with the contractions. They were remaining at the same constant, manageable level of pain. At shift change over we had another midwife. She asked if it was OK to examine me. I agreed. Unfortunately, I hadn’t progressed any further. She gave me another stretch and sweep and said I had two options…. Go home or go out for a few hours. I felt a complete failure and just wanted to go home. So we packed everything up. Walked out of the birth centre door and WHACK a MASSIVE surge. I stopped, cried, breathed and walked further….WHACK….another surge. This happened all the way to the car park. My husband asked what I wanted to do, but I said I had been told to go home, so we were going home.
 
The journey back to Cheltenham was interesting. I cursed every road bump and pot hole.
 
As we pulled onto the drive, I thought the baby was about to pop out. I made it to our downstairs toilet, goodness knows how, but I made it. I had a quick wee and then said, HOSPITAL. Well, I screamed HOSPITAL at my husband. I didn’t want to go back to Glos and to be honest, I felt like we wouldn’t make it.
 
We headed straight to Cheltenham where we were greeted by a midwife at the front entrance. Lisa was incredible. She was the calming, soothing, chilled out midwife I needed. My husband set up the music, so I could listen to the tracks from my yoga classes. I plonked my massive (I was massive) tired body in the birthing pool and I cried. The water was so relaxing and relieved my body straight away. I don’t think I have ever felt such a sensation of relief. I felt, safe.
 
The contractions remained intense, however, things progressed slowly. I was in the water, on my side out of the water, leaning against the wall, leaning against the husband, on the loo…everything. It was now the afternoon and I was exhausted. My breathing techniques were being helped by gas and air, but I had reached my limit. I asked for my mum…which I never do. I needed some time to recoup ready for the final leg. So they gave me diamorphine. It took the spikey edge off every surge. I was able to have a snooze in between the waves and my hubby even managed to eat a chicken sandwich. Which, I wasn’t aware of.
 
When the final moment came, I was led on my side, legs, arms, bum entwined with midwife and hubby. I felt like I needed a massive poop. I didn’t experience this sensation in the birth of my daughter, as I had an epidural and by this point had my legs in stirrups in the operating theatre. She was stuck and needed a little helping hand to get out. But, this time round I could feel everything. My body knew exactly what it was doing and I remember thinking, ‘my body can do this. I was built to do this’. Lots of banshee screaming erupted (I had been vocalising my surges most of the birth, but this was on another level of loudness) I could feel the head coming. It didn’t sting. It didn’t hurt. It felt like a HUGE relief, finally I was at the end of this. I was finally going to meet my baby. One last push and out my gorgeous baby came. All 9lb 9 of him! No wonder he had taken so long to get down the birth canal.
 
My midwife, lisa was such a special lady. She helped calm me down and remind me I can do it in moments when I lost my positive thoughts. She understood hypnobirthing techniques and even had the music we were listening to on her phone. It felt like we were meant to give birth in Cheltenham in the midwifey unit. This was the birth I wanted first time round.
 
The birth was amazing. Long, painful but amazing. I had given birth to an absolutely beautiful baby boy. I did it naturally (apart from the diamorphine pain relief, which I think helped to save my husbands blood circulation to his hands. They were squeezed a lot during labour) The hypnobirthing along with meeting incredible women, reminded me of what I had achieved with my daughter and what I CAN achieve. Our bodies are incredible, we have got this. 
  

Photo credits Chui King Li Photography

Ruth’s Birth Story

Birth StoriesThe Great British Birth Off

I had been very apprehensive about this, my 3rd birth. After experiencing two very different, but equally long and difficult, births I wanted my final birthing experience to be…well amazing. I won’t lie in my head I wanted the magical and special birth that you see in films and hear about from that friend of a friend. I wanted someone to guide me and I was running out of ideas. I had read every book there was available on having the ‘best/calm birth’ and then a friend suggested we attend a hypnobirthing taster session at The Wilson. I went there honestly thinking that even if I came out with something…anything, that would help me look on the birthing experience in a more positive way, then it was worth spending a few hours of my Saturday morning there. 

Once we got to know the other mums, some of which already had children like me and some first time mums, I began to talk about my birth experiences with them. Something I hadn’t done in detail before. No one wants to listen to your horrendous birth story do they? Especially not a first time mum already apprehensive of her impending experience. This was different. Beth and the ladies gave me time to talk about it, work through it and actually find the positive in what I thought were totally rubbish births. My opening statement to Beth was ‘I’m no good at giving birth’ Beth changed that. Yes I had two different and not so great experiences but no I wasn’t rubbish at giving birth. I had, with my first, been unprepared (and not had the best support, but don’t worry ladies it was not a hospital in Gloucestershire!) I had after a horrible 21 hours of labour came out of hospital and straight into postnatal depression with a sprinkling of psychosis. My second birth I had wonderful midwives (Gloucester) who had been tremendous throughout. I had a very long birth, which happens, but I had been unprepared and panicked, fighting it the whole time. With Beth, I was finally able to talk about it.

I left after the 2 hour session feeling totally positive about my next birth. Feeling reassured that my last two births I had been brave and, although unusual experiences, I had done the best I could under the circumstances. I felt EMPOWERED!
So I enrolled on the day course. A whole day of amazingness. I learned about breathing…yes breathing! Something that we do every day but I learned how to use my breathing to help go with the contractions and to think about them positively. Now, not until I actually used them in birth did I realise the power of these breathing techniques (more about that later!). We talked about how our hormones help and adapt during pregnancy and birth and how our minds play a huge part in the whole birth experience. Overall I came away feeling ready, positive and prepared. Why, I thought to myself, had I not embraced hypnobirthing before? Why had I struggled through, alone? I no longer felt apprehensive or scared. For the first time, I was so excited to give birth. It was like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I was now totally ready to have the incredible experience I had always hoped for.
Cue 2 months later…

I was in TGI Fridays with my other two munchkins and my amazing mum who had been living with us for a few weeks (travelling back to Yorkshire to feed dad at the weekends….Dad, if you are reading this, you’re 73 please learn to use the toaster!) I had been having Braxton Hicks from 2pm just tightening and not painful…but they became quite regular, between 5 and 10 minutes. I ordered an Oreo milkshake…it was time and I needed sugar! Then around 6pm they turned into mild period pains again regularish. The breathing techniques were so useful at this point. I was calm, my breathing helped me focus, I enjoyed the experience knowing that with each contraction I was one step closer to having my baby in my arms. I was happy at home imagining what my daughter would look like. I flipped through my YESMUM cards, Beth had added to our box of goodies on the course. Reminding myself I was strong, I could do this, I was totally ready, I was happy and positive. I checked my bag and waited.

Then at midnight the contractions literally changed instantaneously they turned strong and powerful. To Gloucester hospital we went.
After a comedy of errors; such as the motorway being shut, us getting trapped between the swinging doors of the hospital and let’s not forget the wheel chair that had a mind of its own and in our rush decided to behave like an out of control supermarket trolley. All the time reminding myself to breath. Remembering the hypnobirthing techniques and stories from the MP3s I had downloaded, I breathed with the contractions.
We got to delivery suite. I was so relieved. The midwife Hannah was amazing. She asked if she could check to see if I was ready and as she did so, my waters burst…well flooded! ‘Right’ she said, ‘Baby is on its way’. She asked how I would like to give birth and in what position. I told her that my other two births were fairly long and requested to get my hypnobirthing cds on. She gave me a look and I understood I would have no time and with that I stood up…I was calm, I was ready and I was excited, all the feelings I had longed for. I managed to have a few sucks on the gas and air before I could feel the urge to push. I used the breathing techniques we had been shown and breathed into the contraction. It doesn’t feel like you should be doing it at all but it really works ladies! I stood up and leant over the bed to let gravity take hold and 4 pushes later and much to the surprise of everyone she suddenly arrived!! It all happened in 30 minutes. I was elated and shocked and in love and my partner just kept repeating ‘she’s here, I can’t believe it she’s already here’. 
I’m so grateful for the breathing techniques, they made the contractions endurable. I wish I had practiced hypnobirthing before with my others. The birth was beautiful and funny and incredible. 

Lottie Keble-Wyatt Birth Story

Birth StoriesEventsThe Great British Birth Off

I was so over pregnancy. So over being a waddling, water hog unable to lie on my tummy and restricted by my own body. Ungrateful mummy to be, just desperate to meet my little girl and hold her in my arms. The longing to see her was a constant gnawing ache and when that wait went over the finish line, well frankly I was like an ants nest on the attack. For my personal sanity I taught my final spin class at 40 weeks and hoped to ride her out… but no cigar… no little baby.

The greatest achievement of my ridiculous life so far came into the world three days late, doing even better than her mother when it comes to poor time keeping, and that, you gorgeous people, is my focus in this blog… my daughter’s helter skelter journey head first into life.

Before I go into full gory details I want you to hold this thought in your mind, especially if you are a preggo and bossing it but worried about labour… I would genuinely a squillion, million times go through my labour again over being pregnant, genuinely.

It started off as a hope, I hoped my waters had broken but it turns out they hadn’t. However, the midwives were concerned about the lack of fluid surrounding baby girl so it was agreed induction by pessary would be tried. My body was so desperate to meet my girl though that it got too excited, hit overdrive, and intense contractions started after about ten minutes. Buglet wasn’t happy and had a “braddy”, queue panic and me being prepped for an emergency c-section with hubby and I staring at each other super worried about this little life that we had created. Initially I had thought the midwife had said she was having a “paddy”, assuming she was just kicking off, and having a tantrum, thinking like mother like daughter, but, turns out her heart rate had dropped and things needed to pick up quickly. The little tease did pick up and the pessary was whipped out and c-section aborted.

Personally, I wanted to do everything to avoid a c-section so I sobbed with relief. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a c-section, just a lot wrong with me and an incapability to stay still and not be an idiot when it comes to any healing process. I just knew if I had one I would be a nightmare and would put my family through constant worry that I would get an infected wound, whereas for some unknown reason, natural labour I felt would put m more in tune with my body and its capabilities. I really can’t explain the logic, as there is none, but that’s just how my thought processing works.

I was then induced very slowly by a drip and it was really at this point that I fell in love with every midwife and member of team there, especially the incredible Nina Kellow, who held my hand while my husband stroked my head during my terror at having my waters manually broken. It’s amazing how fear is simply a manifestation of the unknown, the mind always imagines a monster when given the chance to brood and worry, and that is where education from antenatal classes combined with lovely, caring midwives are essential, with their ability to swoop down and knock those demons away.

For four hours I laboured, breathing my way through contractions and using gas and air… even hubby had a cheeky sneak of it! Then after about two, I asked for an epidural and it was dreamy! I couldn’t feel the pain and the sickness of the gas and air was a distant memory. I was checked after four hours and had barely dilated any more… there was a history of a stubborn cervix, too scarred to budge so the lovely midwife and registrar gave it a helping hand as they knew how much I wanted to push her out myself and I was allowed another four hours. I’ve got to say all through his my man was a super hero… he did not leave my side, we lost all concept of night and day, we were just a team, I felt so supported, so safe and so loved. He cocooned our little family and together we watched our chrysalis reveal a butterfly. My parents, the amazing, Houdinis that they are, also dropped by, and seeing their faces, especially my mother’s, as my father was so close to the furthest wall from the bed that you’d be forgiven for mistaking him for the latest wallpaper design, made my tenacity harden and my mind strengthen. Still, Dad asking if I had watched “warship” mid contraction was answered with an eye rolling “bit busy now dad”.

So another four hours had passed and blessedly my cervix was fully dilated and I was given two hours to rest before the final push. Hubby took a towel and laid in the bathroom and I chatted to the latest amazing fairy godmother of a midwife in a surreal limbo knowing my daughter was just a couple of hours away from meeting her mummy and daddy.

When the big push came I had the cheerleading squad on hand. All the team were encouraging me to push, my husband was telling me how proud he was of me, I felt such a lioness as I pushed with all my might till I felt my eyes might pop out of my head. Little one teased again with a ‘Braddy’ so it ended up being forceps and an episiotomy, but I will never forget that final push. The overwhelming urge to get it done, to see my girl, to hold my husband’s hand, to end the labour, it’s like a cacophony of emotions coupled with a raw, primal instinct. That last push, oh that last push, I roared like a tiger and the registrar pulled with the forceps like an alligators death roll and my girl, my girl, my baby girl, was there, she was there; the IVF, the arguments, the heartaches, the failures, the issues of pregnancy, the months of going into the nursery fingering tiny baby grows wondering if I would ever get to meet her, the nights of tears, the nights of anger, the fears and the nerves, everything collided together and exploded in the moment I got to hold her in my arms, this perfect little creation, I looked into my husband’s eyes as if to say “look what I’ve done, we did it, we made it.”

That night at 00:50 on the 13th April 2017, Scarlett Evelyn Keble-Wyatt came into our lives, and she totally and utterly completes me, I have a love for her that overwhelms me. She has made my husband a Father and I am so unbelievably proud to say she has made my dreams come true for I’m a Mother now, and from now on it’s me and my girl.

Lottie Keble- Wyatt a.k.a Just The Girl Fitness is bringing a new exercise class called BABIES AT THE BARRE to Cheltenham. She will be hosting a Barre exercise class for all mamas who have young babies. Cheltenham and Gloucester Sling library will also be there to provide you and support you with choosing a sling that suits you and your baby. The launch of these new classes is on 25th June at the Wholefood Market Cheltenham. For more info or to get your tickets visit here.

Do It Like a Mother – Welcoming Rory

Birth StoriesThe Great British Birth Off

I often tell my clients that no two pregnancies or labours are the same. So I shouldn’t have been surprised by my recent experience, but somehow I was caught off guard. I imagined when the birth came round there would be an element of predictability in how it would unfold. Not so. You can read about the arrival of my first born here.

This little tinker had plans of his own, looking to start as he means to go on I imagine, make his mark, step out of his brother’s shadow.

On the surface, it seems like it started at 1.30 am on Wednesday. This is when my waters went. (An unexpected start). But no. NO. This labour began at least 2 weeks before, in my mind at least, and let’s face it I’m the only one with a reliable view on this. Prodromal labour. I knew about it, of course. When it began, I wrote about the importance of framing it positively as warming up, rather than a slowing down of our expected experience. That was all well and good, but as the days ticked by, it became harder and harder to stay positive and grateful.

A week into this, the Thursday that was our EDD, I was quite convinced that the gentle surges I had been experiencing had stepped up a notch, and that baby was on his way. Begged hubs to stay home as I was “sure”. And then at some point, everything died off. AGAIN. And so it went on over the following 5 days.

There was a gradual building in intensity to what I was feeling- surging, period type back aches, nausea, the other thing, emotional outbursts, etc. I could actually feel my cervix softening.

Tuesday evening, the saga continued and off we went to bed. Around 1.30, Louis woke up to come in our bed (semi- regular occurrence). As I settled myself back into bed after the obligatory bladder empty, I experienced a couple of these now familiar surges, and thought about what could be holding me and baby back. I reflected on a wonderful EFT session I had a couple of months before with my fantastic friend Gemma Bennett, where we worked through some of my negative emotions and musings surrounding the pregnancy. So I started to speak to myself- the positive, affirming statements I could hear her making in my memory, filling my mind. I smiled to myself, relieved by the release, and in moments, felt that first trickle of waters. Hurrah! The mind really is a fricking powerful thing.

I alerted Nick, as I felt that with such a long build up, things might happen quite quickly. When I got to the bathroom I was relieved to see the waters totally clear, and headed downstairs to get set up.

For my part, this meant getting the snack zone ready, and gathering my comforts. My essential oils, hot water bottle and candles. I also emptied the dishwasher so that there were clean bits for us and midwives and anyone else who might turn up. Through this time the surges continued to appear sporadically, but I could move comfortably through them.

Around 2.30 we settled down to watch some comedy (Peter Kay’s tour that didn’t tour, if you’re interested). I sat on my ball through this time, a blanket wrapped around me and hot water bottle on hand as we waited for the house to warm up a little.

There was no pattern whatsoever emerging. 2 surges might come along within 30 seconds of each other, often very  intense and shortish (20-40 seconds). Then I might go 15 minutes with none. Then maybe a few long but gentler ones (60-90 seconds) with 5 minutes in between. Totally random.

After a good laugh and oxytocin hike with the comedy, we put my Calm Birth School mp3s on as I knelt on the floor leaning forward onto my ball, rocking and rolling with the surges. I picked this up at our HAPPy Bumps workshops, it’s one of Jade’s faves and I know why. It was nice to take some weight off of my back, and I felt my pelvis widening  and loosening.

I think this was when Nick started filling the pool. I had no intention of getting in any time soon, but our boiler can be wimpy  and we hadn’t done a wet run so didn’t want to chance it. He covered it over to keep the heat in and we carried on.

I was drinking lots, (and munching fruit and oat cookies) and frequently needed to empty my bladder. Each trip up to the toilet brought a good few intensive surges.

I felt tired, wanted to lay down and rest, but as soon as I attempted to lay, even sideways on the sofa, I was very uncomfortable and sprung back up. Needed a new plan for rest, so sat on the ball and got my light touch massage from Nick. The surges continued irregularly, and I embraced some clary sage action (inhaling) in an attempt to gain some momentum. I also found it really helpful to breathe in lavender oil from a tissue during the most intense ones. I’ve used lavender a lot through the pregnancy to aid relaxation, and have conditioned myself to calm with it.

I had called my mum as she had a 3 hour drive to get to us and be on hand for Louis, (who had thankfully remained asleep) and around 5.45am, she and my dad arrived.

I wonder if this allowed me to relax a little more, knowing that if he woke up we had help, as although still very erratic, the stronger surges got stronger still after they arrived. I realised that walking around seemed to be the best way to gain regular progress, so wandered around the living room in tiny laps and my body responded.

Each surge was now fairly significant, requiring me to stand and sway, swivelling my hips, bending my knees instinctively, listening to my body and seeking the most comfortable posture, and for the first time begin to vocalise through them alongside the breathing. During these, Nick would stand by me so I could lean into him while he stroked my back and neck and offered me encouragement.

Around 6.15, I told Nick I thought it was time to call for a midwife. I honestly had no idea how long things might go on for, but was reaching a level of intensity that spelt progress. Each surge now had more and more power, although they continued to vary in length and frequency.

Within about half an hour, 2 midwives, Maria (who had already welcomed a baby earlier in her shift) and Denise arrived, but explained there would be shift changeovers soon, so we would likely see 2 more faces.

Maria suggested she do some checks, and we did my bp sitting on the ball, choosing a moment immediately after a surge to lay back on the sofa for baby to be checked. I had to jump up pretty quickly as another came along, but all was well.

I was clear that I didn’t want any vaginal examinations all being well, and this was no issue.

I think around 7, Denise left and Jill arrived, although I didn’t see her at first. I’d gone back to leaning over my ball on the floor, as Nick reminded me I had seemed to make good progress in this position. I was keen to get things going as I could feel myself tiring- let’s face it, even if we just got up at 1.30am to sit round chilling we would be sleepy again by 7.

I could hear Louis up and about with my mum and dad upstairs, playing happily, it was great to know he was settled.

Leaning over that ball, being stroked through the surges, breathing and ahhhh-ing along, I remember saying, when asked, that I couldn’t tell if it would be another 6 hours or if I would birth within 10 minutes. But I suspected I was in transition. I could feel the adrenaline seeping in, a slight sense of vulnerability.

Around 7.30 I think, another surge came, the very beginnings of the urge to bear down appeared, and the remainder of my waters gushed out. I instinctively called out for the midwives who were catching up on the playroom to come in. I had been really happy to have privacy and space up until this point, but now wanted them close.

They came and checked the colour of the waters, everything still looked good. I looked to them for guidance- part of me wanted to get in the pool, something was holding me back. Looking back I think it was hearing my mum and dad getting Louis ready to go out for an 8 o’clock brekkie. I think I knew once I got in it would be all go, and would have liked him out the house. But my body was taking over, and around 7.45 I stripped off, (pausing with a surge that soaked Nick’s feet…) before being helped in.

I was pleasantly surprised  by the warmth of the water, it felt so good. As I looked to settle myself into a comfortable posture, Nick suggested he would get in to raise the water level and support me. I was really happy with this, and as he dripped the water up and down my back through the next surge, I settled onto my knees spread far apart, leaning forwards with my hands on the base of the pool and my face resting on the side.

This was definitely it- not too soon to be in the pool…

These were now some serious surges. Louis popped his head round the door, and Nick told him I was having a wash… He was just about to leave the house, when the next one came. I breathed through the rising of it, then the primal urge to roar kicked in as I felt the baby’s head descend. Mouth wide open, sphincter law in mind, it felt great to let go of that energy.

I spent the next half hr or so breathing, ahhhhing, roaring, horse-lips-ing, swaying through the surges. Maria was excellent at gently reminding me to check if the sounds were helping me, sometimes they were, sometimes it was better to return to the calm breathing. “Ride the wave, listen to your body”, she told me quietly and gently.

Her kind encouragement by my face, Nick behind me stroking my back and trickling water on me, telling me how well it was going and reminding me to relax. I was reassured knowing Jill was keeping an eye on what was happening, and gave me guidance when I asked for it. I felt encircled in support, calmness and confidence.

Maria intermittently checked baby’s heartbeat and reassured me he was consistently calm.

As my body worked hard to bring baby down, there were moments of fear, for sure. Pain, definitely. A sense that I wanted it to be over. Adrenaline was doing its work to bring that vital surge of energy. These moments of extreme intensity, came and went throughout this period, in between I was calmed by visualising my calming colour, by Nick’s reminder of my favourite affirmation- “My surges cannot be stronger then me, because they are me”, by various calming breathing techniques, whatever felt right in the moment.

I never felt I was pushing, only ever that I was allowing my body’s natural reflex to kick in.

When Nick said afterwards that I’d not even asked about gas and air that I considered this- it had genuinely never crossed my mind. Although the pain was significant in those final 20 minutes, I never had a sense that I needed anything extra to manage it. I knew I had the strength to absorb the sensations, I can even say I enjoyed the pain of those moments- I know it sounds odd. It was a productive sensation, it told me I was soon to meet my baby.

It told me I had achieved so much, that the calmness and confidence of the past 6+ hours were a real experience of a complete labour. Up until this period, I must admit to wondering whether I could really be coping so well, whether the trickery of the weeks of prodromal labour was drawing on, and I might only be establishing.

I felt his head emerging, then retreating as I waited for the next surge, my body gradually accommodating him. I had doubts and called out “I don’t feel like there’s enough room!” And was reassured by Jill, “there always is, your body will find a way”.

As the next surge came, I felt the head crown, and cleared my mind to let my body entirely take control. The water really eased the sensation, and I was reminded to pause if I needed to. I just waited, let go, and let my body do its thing.

Eventually, I heard Jill say that the head was out, but this was confusing- I’d been waiting for the relief of closing a little around the neck, but it never came. I later learnt this was because he had emerged compound- superman style with his hand on his head. This also explains why I also shouted out “someone is pushing him back in!” As I felt fingers on my perineum his of course, and my body just holding off the final surges to allow him to rotate a little.

I’m glad no one told me this in that moment- no good could’ve come of knowing this! I felt it was another mark of excellent midwifery care.

In a few moments, the surging returned, the baby’s body started to slip down, and I felt Jill and Nick support him on his way out.

I didn’t turn round immediately, I felt I needed a moment to absorb what had happened. When I then looked over my shoulder, it was so strange and wonderful to see Nick holding our baby. Watching him falling in love with this perfect vernixy bundle. Realising his own part in this experience- it would be wrong to say he supported me, it felt more like an absolute team effort- totally in it together.

“Give me the baby!!”. As I climbed over the cord and Nick handed him to me, the rush was incredible. We sat huddled together, in awe and in love. These moments are a bit of a blur, the thinking mind obscured by the haze of the hormones. I just remember sitting there cuddling, with the midwives watching on quietly, feeling so grateful.

After some time, Jill showed us that the cord had stopped pulsating, and suggested we clamp and cut. Nick went to grab some dry clothes so that he could cut the cord then take the baby whilst I got out. I ordered in the paracetamol- people weren’t kidding when they warned me that the after pains with number 2 could be strong.

I was happy to get out of the pool to deliver the placenta, I wanted to move towards warm cuddles with my baby, and a more normal situation for Louis to come home to. I was helped out of the pool into the sofa, laid back ready to drop the placenta off the edge (seriously, this is the detail we are doing). Nick sat next to me cradling Rory so that we were all close. But the reclining was uncomfortable- once again, I just knew I needed to get up.

So I stood, leant forwards slightly with my hands on my thighs. Jill checked the tautness of the cord, and suggested I might try a little push. I did and it was more than enough…

Placenta and surrounding products launched to the floor like a rocket (into awaiting bag to be checked and put aside for encapsulation). Spattered Nick’s legs- they really went through it…

I was delighted to achieve a natural 3rd stage, and desperate to get back to holding my baby.

But I had a feeling I had torn during the birth, which Jill confirmed. Not surprising given that superman presentation entrance by baby. I prayed for second degree that would keep me at home to get sorted.

Wahhhhhh- 3a tear was diagnosed, and an ambulance was called to transfer us in. Obviously it was a huge disappointment to leave the comfort of our home and abandon those early family moments I had dreamt about. I will write another time about the difficulties I experienced given how overstretched the postnatal unit seemed to be, and how this has affected our journey, as I think it’s important to recognise. This early postnatal period is often overlooked, and my experience has given me food for thought about how I can support my mamas more comprehensively going forward. But I’ll save this for later.

Because this is about the most empowering experience of my life. The contrast between this, and the arrival of my first little love, was incredible. This time, I had much more good luck- no bleeding, wonderful midwives and timings that worked out just perfectly. Both were hypnobirths. In some ways, I leant on the techniques more in Louis’s birth because things were more difficult. Everything that was good about his birth was because of hypnobirthing.

This time felt like how birth should be when all is well with mother and baby. Felt like I was so deep in the philosophy of what I teach that I didn’t think of it as hypnobirthing, just birthing, naturally dipping into the supportive tools when I needed them. No examinations, no timescales, no rules, no suggestion of drugs, or intervention. It felt like how our ancestors might have done it.

So this post is loooooooonnnnnnnggggg. And when I review it again I’m sure I’ll find more I want to say and add a little in.

As I finish this, I’m on the sofa (right at the site of the placenta deluge) with Rory sleeping on my chest. Breathing in his head, it’s magical and a bit surreal to be just a couple of feet from the spot where he was born.

I am already giddy to bring these refreshed feelings of empowerment to a new set of super parents…

www.doitlikeamother.co.uk

Keri Jarvis is a Mother (of a 3 year old tyrant, and a big fat baby), Wife, Birth Addict (not that she wants to keep doing it forever- thinking 2 littles will be quite enough. But addicted to, obsessed by, totally dedicated to enabling parents to give their babies births that they all feel great about). She has been SO LUCKY to have supported around 150 families in welcoming their babies so far, and she continues to be amazed at the power of a couple who are well prepared and in it together- always in awe of her amazing gang.

Find out more about Keri on Instagram  or Facebook.

 

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