The stuff of nightmares, right? Yet this is exactly how our beautiful baby boy came into the world, & let me first say it was one of the most amazing, surreal yet beautiful experiences of my life. Hypnobirthing played a key role in this, albeit in a rather unexpected way. But first, let me take you back a year or so. . .I should explain that my first labour with my daughter Vienna – although not traumatic (at least not at the time) – certainly wasn’t without complication. In short, I was induced due to suspected (and later confirmed) broken waters. When I was examined 7 hours later after contracting through the night to be told I was only 3cm dilated, I screamed out for an epidural, which was duly carried out. A pain free afternoon of passed before it was time to push. . .but an episiotomy following a third degree tear followed & not far behind, two blood transfusions, one fainting episode and a number of unsuccessful attempts to insert a cannula. At the time, it was lovely – painless due to the epidural, exciting, and of course, all but (temporarily) forgotten when I met my beautiful baby girl. But. . .recovery after was tough. Really tough. I was a first time mum, my tear wound became infected, I couldn’t sit down. I was bruised & blue from the spinal, I felt blue inside for a little while, and sleep deprived to the hilt. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and the more time passed, the more I wished so much I could remember the whole labour, birth and post birth experience with more clarity and positivity.
So, with my second pregnancy, I thought a little harder and a little longer about my birthing plan, and what kind of experience I hoped for.
I knew that I wanted to do as much as I could, go as far as I could, without intervention and within my four walls of home. I knew I wanted to be calm, focused and present. I knew I wanted to birth with confidence and without the fear that is so often associated with labouring. Fear that I had felt first time around. Of course, I wasn’t adverse to any type of pain relief or intervention if that was required for the safe delivery of my baby, but given the choice, I wanted a less invasive experience. I did a little reading, then a little more, watched vlogs, read blogs. . .& the more I read, the more I became enthralled with the concept of hypnobirthing. The mere idea that birthing a baby didn’t have to be painful, and that mindset could help to achieve this drew me in. I downloaded the Maggie Howell & Natal Hypnotherapy series (there are numerous tracks depending on what type of birth you have planned or are hoping for), & I would highly recommend them. I started practising some of the techniques from around the 30 week mark – late to the party I realise, but I was keen to give it a go. Work was hectic, life was hectic. . .practising the techniques was almost therapy, a form of meditation. I looked forward to slipping into the bath with my hypnobirthing track for company. At around 35 weeks, I took it up a notch, sticking my Laura Ashley post it notes all around our home, with my affirmations of choice slowly seeping into my subconscious mind, day after day. I’d chant them in my head on my way to work, walking the dogs, in the shower. . .hell, everywhere! I still remember the feeling of pure luxury padding up to bed at 9.30pm on a Saturday night in December with a hot chocolate, my hypnobirthing download & ‘I welcome each surge’ on repeat in my head.
Friday 24th February, started like any other. I was 5 days overdue, & after a week of pretty much no action despite a painful sweep (which I openly swore I would never endure again) and my kind midwife declaring ‘I think the next time I see you will be for your 4-day home check’, I had resigned myself to ‘going the distance’ and having to be induced at the 12 day overdue mark. So, on I plodded, dropping V at childcare, walking the dogs then heading into our local town going about my business as usual. Like the days that preceded it, I had no real pains or signs anything was about to go down. Until. . .I tripped over my own feet and took a tumble on the street, luckily managing to land on my left elbow and protecting my precious cargo. Ego bruised, I dusted myself on & abated the concerned passers by. The action started soon after this – I recall sitting in a rather relaxed state having my lashes & brows tinted and suddenly feeling very period crampy! Could it be? Wandering around the markets a little later, it slowly dawned on me that yep, this could be it! I felt. . . .excited! Really, really excited!
By the time I had driven to the local supermarket, the surges were coming reasonably regularly, around every 5 minutes lasting 30 seconds each. That said, they still felt very gentle and manageable. I called my sister as I wandered up the bread aisle, followed swiftly by a call to the maternity unit to give them the heads up that I ‘may’ be in later. I had a surge whilst talking to the midwife on the other end of the line, but was able to talk and breathe through it pretty well. I then drove to yet more shops for an all important iced drink (hell, nothing and nobody was going to get in the way of satisfying my craving for ice) and the surges continued. I continued to breathe, breathe & breathe some more, up and out through each one. I focused intently on the break between each surge, and the respite and pleasure that bought me. It worked! By the time I had reached home at 6.30pm, the surges were uncomfortable but manageable. I popped myself into the bath (which I’d called ahead to pre-order the running of) and settled in for the night. The warmth of the water was manna from heaven; I started to relax into my body and continued to breath through each surge as calmly as I could, sometimes counting in my head for effect. I genuinely felt at peace with my body; it knew what to do, it was capable of doing this thing. We could do this. We were doing this. Upon request, my husband Kev stuck a random selection of my faithful, dog-eared post it notes in my eye line & I stared at them intently, eyes burning, breathing getting more focused and intending.
Some of my favourites included:
’Every surge brings my baby closer.’
‘My body knows how to give birth.’
‘I am present. I am doing this. We are doing this’
‘Breathe in love, breathe out pain’
I was deeply relaxed and in my zone. Kev affectionally recalls me telling HIM to relax when he dared to ask what time I might be ready to go to hospital! Continuing to fuss around me, I sent him out for an all-important carb fest.
The strange thing about labour is, although brief and fleeting, you feel very little in between surges. This kept me going for a long while, but the tightenings started to get more and more regular, and longer – up to 50-60 seconds with very little break in between. Whilst Kev was out doing the chip run and with our first born sound asleep unawares upstairs, I felt an overwhelming wave of nausea sweep over me. Changing my position sorted in nicely, but with the surges now coming thick and fast, I managed to snaffle a few chips in-between, and on we ploughed. Eyes closed, humming, breathing, counting. Warm bubbles on my back, my senses were engaged & I recall feeling. . .liberated. Present. Relaxed. I was labouring, I was calm and everything was going to be ok. We were going to meet our baby, and soon by the measure of things! After timing a few more surges, thoughts turned to making the transition to hospital. Kev made a phone call to the maternity unit and we were good to go. Or so I thought! Jumping out of the bath, I hopped upstairs, threw on a dress, grabbed my hospital bag, dashed back downstairs, leant on the dining room table through another surge – the most uncomfortable yet – before our lovely neighbour arrived to take care of our daughter. I was still able to breathe through each surge but my vocal pitch was cranking up a notch by this stage. What she must have thought at that time!
Then it came, the needing to pee sensation. Which wasn’t needing to pee at all. Was it needing to poop? Nope. I sat down on the loo and immediately jumped up again – cue waters breaking. Not a drip, or a splash; a gush. I immediately started to feel immense pressure as my body drew our baby down. In that very moment, it dawned on me that hospital wasn’t going to happen. It was happening and happening now. ‘Oh my goodness, we aren’t going to make it’ (or words to that effect, think slightly stronger) left my lips in a less than hushed tone. The hospital is only a 15-minute drive away from our home but alas, my body and baby were ready. Yikes. I knew what I had to do. Hold on to a surface, breathe through and push. Stop screaming, stop shouting, focus the energy to where it is needed. For the first time in my life, I actually listened to the voice in my head. I zoned in and breathed it through. The immense pressure was like nothing I had ever felt before, but it was manageable, my body was doing it’s job. I had such clarity of thought at that time, completely unthinkable pre-epidural with labour number one.
Kev called 999, who promptly transferred his call through to the fantastic midwifery team at our local hospital, one of whom was lucky enough to talk him through how to deliver a baby! Seriously, a crash course. There was talk of a cord around his neck, and how to de-tangle. There was desperate pleas to ‘get her onto the floor, she needs to be on the floor’. There were warnings of ‘he’ll be a slippy little fella, get ready to catch’. There were demands of ‘fetch towels, make it soft, get her as comfy as you possible can’. My neighbour was hushed into the sitting room to babysit the dogs. All the while, I was sweating, panting, silently screaming but maintaining my breathing & letting my body birth our baby. With the midwife on speaker phone and Kev doing what had to be done right there right now, Bodhi Ray Stallion was born at 20:24, on our kitchen floor, surrounding by various and random cushions, throws, blankets and towels. There was blood, mess, water everywhere. It didn’t matter. Nothing else mattered. Our boy was with us. Against all odds, he was delivered safely by an alpha male with not a day of medical training in him. All credit to the utterly amazing midwives coaching him through, they were absolute stars. So to, the love I had for my husband grew ten fold in that very moment. Kev is and always has been my hero – he has overcome so much in his life and is the strongest, kindest, most selfless person I know – but this really had pushed him to the limit. He was utterly amazing. inspiring, even. Our real life super hero. The sense of calm he emitted, his confidence and focus was just. . .wonderful.
An ambulance eventually arrived, & with a little help from my now nervous wreck of a husband and a kind but rather nervous looking paramedic, I was helped onto the stretcher where my placenta was delivered. My knees were knocking together so hard I could almost hear my bones. There was talk of shock. I just felt. . .happy. Tearful and emotional, but in a ‘look what we’ve just done’ kind of way. It was then time for a little trip to the hospital to get us all checked over. At that point, I could have just crawled upstairs to bed with my precious little bundle but, needs must. Being wheeled out of our house was an experience I’m not in a rush to repeat, but in that very moment, all i remember was laughing nervously, cooing over our just born & silently praying they wouldn’t remove him from my grip for the ride. Thankfully, he was allowed to travel with me, so we cuddled in tight for the trip. With the ambulance driving at 15mph, one of the three kind paramedics that tended to us held my hand and chatted away. I was flitting between shaking like a leaf and acting utterly delirious, but quite frankly she could have told me she was travelling to space the very next day & I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. My delicious babe in arms was with me, skin to skin, and he smelt so good, it felt so good. My precious cargo, bumped from the inside earlier on in the day, now clinging onto me on the outside as we bumped along in an ambulance. I will probably never again experience a feeling like it. I couldn’t stop shaking, through tears of elation and joy. I was on a cloud, and really my surroundings were just noise.
I arrived and following the customary checks, needed a couple of stitches so was given a quick local anaesthetic and a little bit of gas and air. Kev left the hospital at around half past midnight, and I was given a chicken and leek pie with a ham cheese and pickle sandwich. I’m not a big meat eater, but hell it tasted so good! It’s funny the things you remember. At this point, baby Blue – as we affectionately named him in lieu of an actual name (we didn’t actually name him until he was almost three weeks old) – was still sleeping contently next to me, and I spent the next hour or so gazing dreamily at him,
Amidst all of this ‘action’, Blue had his first breastfeed with much help from the fantastic midwives to get him latched on and feeding. It was just magical. What of me at this stage? Well, my chest and shoulders were aching because of my rather tenuous position on our kitchen floor. A bit sore of course but just. . .exhilarated, pumped, fantastic. We had done it! With no pain relief! At home! Even at that early stage, I concluded it to be one of the most amazing, surreal experiences of my life. I felt so proud of what we achieved together. A little while later, around midnight, I remember taking a shower, washing my hair with the free Persil fabric softener sachet given in a random Bounty pack lying around (in the crazy rush, I forgot to pop my everyday bits into my hospital bag) & brushing my teeth with toothpaste on my finger but I felt AMAZING! Seriously, amazing.
Things then moved quickly & formulaically. . .we were moved to delivery suite, two more breast feeds followed, we dozed on and off through the night, in a sleepy daze of happiness. We stayed in hospital for two further nights at my request to get much needed support with breastfeeding. Monday came, we were discharged, and on our way home, popped to the supermarket for supplies. I was walking, I was talking, I felt almost human! No scrap that, I felt blooming invincible, if a little vulnerable – is it just me, or does that feeling naturally follow on from carrying such precious cargo within your person for the 40 weeks prior?
The days that followed were simply blissful, spent at home, just the four of us – sometimes just the two of us – getting to know our beautiful new addition. It is no exaggeration to say my second experience of labour, birth and post birth couldn’t have been more different to my first. I was euphoric, on cloud nine. My body was sore, but recovered quickly. I felt strong. Bodhi was, and still is, the most content, relaxed baby. From day one, he has fed well, slept well, and has been happy to be dragged along to whatever we happen to be doing (which is just as well, as having two under two is pretty full on). I don’t know whether we can attribute his relaxed personality to his birth, but my husband certainly likes to weave it into his story!
I wanted to share our positive experience simply because positivity and mindset are the pillars of hypnobirthing. The principals that I learned & adopted throughout my labour and before it made my birth experience relaxed, enjoyable even. I never intended to give birth at home, but nature has a funny way. I wanted to do ‘as much as I could’ on my own, and by golly I did! It was a slight unintended consequence of my rather relaxed state, and I would not in any way recommend a planned home birth without the presence and supervision of medical professionals (sorry Kev, as much as you like to think it – you’re still not a qualified midwife nor are you ever likely to be!), yet I reflect on the birth with a sense of achievement and empowerment, and with a big old lump in my throat. It was everything I could have hoped for and more. Practising hypnobirthing, even for the short time that I did, focused my mind on how positive and beautiful labour and childbirth can be, and it certainly delivered this for me.
There are many quotes & sound bites given on the topic of hypnobirthing, but I thought it apt to sign off with one of my favourite, most empowering pieces of advice:
“The point of hypnobirthing is not birthing without pain. The point is to birth with love and confidence, without fear, without unnecessary intervention, and with a supportive team who shares your birth vision. That is the definition of a successful hypnobirth. The wonderful side-effect of this type of gentle, mother-centered, empowered birth is more pleasure and less pain.” – Lauralyn Curtis HBCE
Thank you to Emma for sharing her beautiful story and for her vision-That birth doesn’t have to be a painful experience- at all. Women should hear birth stories that empower them and tap in to their strength within to achieve a birth filled with positivity and where they felt in control. We hope that you have been inspired by this story. You can check out Emmas instagram of her and her 2 beautiful children here.