Tag: hypnobirthing

High Risk vs. Low Risk

Pregnancy

Keeping with the pregnancy labels theme I want to know what you all think of the terminology ‘High risk vs low risk’ and have you been labelled one of these in pregnancy?

I remember doing my midwifery training and a friend told me that her sister was having a baby and she was told that she was “high risk”. My friends words were… “High risk of what exactly… becoming ill? A cesarean? Having a Stillbirth??” And this really stuck with me. What are midwives or doctors actually saying when we say this term?

Because even though you may fall into a category that may increase your chances of an intervention happening, you still can’t really say that the risk of that intervention is HIGH. It may be higher than others but for lots of things it’s still more than likely going to be very low. Take a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) as an example, you’d fall into the high risk category and be advised to have your baby on a delivery suite where Drs are present. But your chance of having a cesarean is between 25 and 28% which is only slightly higher than the uk average and the main risk is the scar rupturing which is in fact a 0.5% risk. A risk that I’m not saying should be ignored but carefully considered when weighing up all of your options.

If you have a raised BMI you could be classed as high risk, “too” young or “too” old, existing medical conditions the list goes on. My point is not that these characteristics go unrecognised but the classification and terminology used is improved. I wonder if telling someone in their pregnancy they fit a certain risk category what effect that has on their decision making during birth and the anxieties that brings during the pregnancy. We’re saying that the one category is free from concerns and will lead in a healthy birth, where as the other category will be filled with problems, potential complications and managed medically, often without considering a holistic approach. The term “high risk” gives reason to worry and encourages choices to be made from a place of fear and risk adversion.

Risk is not just about statistics and numbers it’s about a women’s experiences, her perceptions, thoughts and beliefs. Risk is subjective. One woman’s risk of a cesarean is another woman’s first choice. The risk of a stillbirth will always feel higher to a pregnant mother who’s had someone close by experience the heartbreaking effects of this, should the mothers feelings of risks be ignored in this situation if she fits the “low-risk” pregnancy category?

Words are everything in pregnancy. It’s as much about what we think we say as to what’s actually interpreted.

Photo creds Little Cheltenham

Dads… in the Birth room or in the pub?

Birth StoriesDadsPregnancyTop 5 Tips

Let’s throw it back to the 1950s where only the aristocratic Dads may have made an appearance in the birth room to welcome a son. The majority of Dads would be waiting in the pub for the news of the arrival of the baby at a homebirth or sat in the hospital waiting room, only to see the baby when their wives would be clean and decent. It was deemed inappropriate for the wives to be seen by their husbands behaving the instinctive, primitive way that labour brings.

Fast forward 60 years to now and Dads are thrown into the birth rooms with often not a scooby doo to what to expect or to do. With the role models from one born every minute spotlighting Dads to be jokers and a spare part in the birth rooms, more concerned with whether they’re going to eat the pickled onion monster munch or the sour cream Pringles. It’s no wonder with the media portraying Dads this way that they find their comfy chair in the birth room, open up their snacks and load up the iPad with the latest football match and settle down for the next few hours, leaving their other halves and the midwives to it.

What would you think if I told you that as a Dad, you are the best asset to birth? You can reduce the want for pain relief and make birth run more smoothly. Oxytocin is the reason why. Dads are the biggest source of oxytocin, with this hormone being the love hormone. A high level of oxytocin means a high level of endorphins (your body’s own morphine supply) and stronger, more regular contractions (oxytocin directly acts on your uterus muscles.)

So to the Dads out there that want to be that difference to the birth (that’s all types of births), here’s my tips for you…

1. Touch- Holding a hand, massaging the lower back, popping a hand on your partners shoulder. Touch increases the oxytocin and let’s her know you’re there.

2. Have a good poker face- No matter how you’re feeling underneath, bring out your best poker face. If she sees fear in you, she’s either going to feel scared herself or feel like she has to reassure you. Either of these are not ideal for her oxytocin levels.

3. Encourage her to eat, drink and wee often. Eating and drinking because the uterus is a muscle that needs nutrients to work effectively. You wouldn’t run a marathon without fuel. Wee often because if the bladder is full then baby’s head can struggle to get past it- women in labour often don’t get the same urge to wee as they do in pregnancy so need reminding to go.

4. Help pack the hospital bag- during birth if she asks you for her flannel for her forehead, or her Vaseline as the gas and air is drying out her lips, you’re going to want to know where it is in that bag. If your partner has a cesarean then all the baby clothes/hats/nappies are going to be your responsibility to find afterwards.

5. Get involved in the birth prep too. Help make the playlist, help research the birth plan. Knowing what will be happening in all avenues of the birth will mean that you can be confident and provide reassurance. Antenatal class can help you with the knowledge that you’ll need. If you know the choices she’d like then you can work with the midwife to make this happen. In the thick of contractions it can be a challenge to make and voice decisions so you’ll be the main communicator.

6. Tell her she’s doing amazing, tell her everything is going well, rather than asking her if she’s ok. If she’s feeling uncomfortable with contractions then she’s probably not going to say she’s fine and dandy.

7. Be a leaning post. If your partner is upright and leaning forward her pelvis will be open an extra 28% meaning more room for baby to pass through. And again the closeness will increase the oxytocin.

8. Be present. Try and limit the use of phones or iPads. When you’re trying to birth a baby and your hubby is scrolling Facebook it can feel a tad isolating.

9. Get your dose of skin to skin after with baby. It can be great for your bonding with baby, helps regulate their temperature, heart rate and breathing. Plus it gives your partner the chance to rest after birth and have two hands to eat the well deserved tea and toast.

10. Look after yourself. There’s nothing worse than having a hangry Dad in the birth room. Pack yourself lots of snacks and drinks so you can stay well fuelled too. Pack yourself a change of clothes too and maybe a toothbrush as labour and birth can take a while.

12. Practise the techniques with her in pregnancy. This can be breathing techniques, counting, visualisations or relaxations from hypnobirthing. What ever coping techniques you are going to use, you’ll need to know what they are to be able to prompt them when the going gets tough- this can be in the car on the way to the hospital, in the waiting room or during transition when birthing mums tend to momentarily lose control.

13. Sort the practical stuff- know who to call, where to park, how to get there, how to get the car seat in the car for the ride home. This will take lots of the pressure off.

Remember YOU are the biggest source of oxytocin in the room. Don’t underestimate your role in the birth room.

Robyn’s Way Into The World

Birth Stories

Fayes birth story.

So…. We didn’t have a birth plan we were just happy to go with the flow and it’s a good job we did! My due date had passed, and I was starting to feel a tad inpatient so I had a bath with a ‘sex bomb’ (bath bomb from Lush!) which was recommended to me by a new mummy friend I had made on the Bump to Baby Chapter antenatal course. I even had to go to my mother in law’s for the bath because the previous week I had got stuck in our bath due to the taps being in the middle!! 

 

I was 5 days overdue so my partner and I went out for a thai curry at lunchtime, again in a bid to get things started. By 4pm that day the contractions had started…. 10 minutes apart and not very consistent however it was all starting to happen. My partner went off to five-a-side football at 5.30pm and when he returned at 7.15pm they certainly felt stronger and were more like 7 minutes apart however still not always consistent.

 

I had a tiring night, however I managed the pain using my hypnobirthing breathing and visualisations, paracetamol and a tens machine. Sleep was tricky though because well… I was a tad uncomfortable and I was needing to time my contractions. By 4.30am the following day it was time for us to make our way to the birth unit at Gloucester Royal, things seemed more consistent and my pyjamas bottoms suddenly appeared wet! My partner drove us to the hospital saying ‘this is it!’, it reminded me of that early morning trip to the airport when you are feeling a mixture of excited and nervous!!

 

We arrived at the birth unit and after being assessed I was advised I was 3cm dilated and only part of my waters had broken, therefore diamorphine was recommended to me so that I could rest and catch up on some sleep for the day that was ahead of me. They also started me on some IV antibiotics because I had Group B strep.

 

Several hours passed, my waters hadn’t broken naturally, I felt super relaxed and drowsy and I hadn’t dilated anymore. I felt at this point a little frustrated and waved goodbye to any hope of a water birth because I needed to be looked after in the delivery suite and have the rest of my waters broken. It was at this point that I was started on the hormone drip to try and increase the intensity and frequency of the contractions (or so I thought this was).

 

The level of hormone drip changed throughout the day, and by 10pm that evening I was 6cm dilated, this felt so wrong to both my partner and I at the time after such a long day. However, earlier that night we had a wonderful surprise when Beth came on shift and was assigned as our midwife. Seeing a friendly face was just the best we could have hoped for and my partner was pleased because he could straight talk with Beth! I was shattered and was only using gas and air as pain relief, otherwise I was managing with my hypnobirthing techniques. I remember feeling really quite insular and just focussing in on my breathing. A cesarean was offered and discussed at 11pm however we declined this suggestion on the basis that I didn’t want the recovery afterwards. Albeit, I was very tempted and did ask whether they could guarantee our baby would be born in the next hour so that it’s birthday could be the 16th of the month the same as her dad- barmy I know!! My partner laughed at this reasoning, in my head it was justified given the day I had experienced! Instead we were advised the hormone drip would be increased and we would be assessed again in 2 hours.

 

Those two hours I remember being really tough, however both Beth and my partner were very supportive and I remember them both being really positive. Finally, at about 1.30am I was more or less fully dilated, however (there are lots of howeversin this story!!), our baby’s head was facing 10 o’clock as opposed to 6 o’clock and therefore I needed some help from a doctor to move baby into a more optimum position for birth. I have also learned since that her heart rate was also creating an odd pattern and I wasn’t in any fit state to take instructions on how to push because I was attached to the gas and air for comfort and was exhausted! Therefore, the next part of the story involved signing a consent form and going to theatre. The two options I had were forceps and C section- both of which I had prayed I wouldn’t need so I remember feeling like a failure. Given our feelings about the recovery after a C section, we opted for forceps first.

 

I recollect being in theatre feeling like I was on Holby City- surrounded by lights, legs in stirrups and lots of clinicians around me including an anaesthetist trying to get a spinal block into my back however I couldn’t sit still due to the contractions. I recall him getting more and more cross and frustrated with the situation and perhaps me due to my lack of cooperation (not on purpose I might add!!). Once the spinal block was in, the process started and the one doctor could not turn her head, nevertheless I was lucky enough that another doctor was available to try. She was successful, however our little baby turned back! At this point, I remember Beth saying ‘you are definitely having a girl because she is being a right diva!’ this made me smile because we didn’t know at this point what we were having. The same doctor managed to turn her again and very much gave the impression that this was my opportunity to push my baby out. Beth was monitoring the baby’s heart rate and feeling my tummy for contractions, when a contraction came I was supported, encouraged and motivated to push as hard as I could three times. I am pretty sure after 3 lots of 3 pushes our baby was born! Forceps were used to help direct her out and I had an episiotomy. 

 

Beth told us we had a baby girl and I was ecstatic because my partner already had a boy so I secretly hoped for a girl! Unfortunately, she was born very startled and with a slightly disfigured chest so was whisked off to the corner of the room for checks. My partner recalls how anxious he felt at this time, nevertheless within 15 minutes of being checked over by the doctors, her chest had recovered and all was good in the world. Well for her anyway… I on the other hand was still lay on my back, legs in stirrups feeling quite uncomfortable whilst the doctors manually removed my placenta which got a little stuck, hence my 1.7 litre blood loss. Due to this loss I started to feel more and more unwell- shaky and sick. By now, our baby girl was in my partner’s arms having lots of lovely cuddles and I couldn’t control my shakes whilst in recovery so had to opt for looking at her and stroking her hand for the first hour and a half of her life. Once I felt better I made up for it with some skin to skin contact and a good feed. Holding her for the first time was just the best medicine for feeling better and this is how I have decided to remember her birth.

 

 

 

 

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!

“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

My husband delivered our baby, alone, with no medical help, on our kitchen floor….

Birth Stories
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,

delirious.
 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

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.

 

Father of Daughters – Birth Story

Birth StoriesDadsThe Great British Birth Off

I’ve never been asked about my birth story. Not surprising really seeing as I’m not the one that did the pushing, but like most things in life, there are 2 sides to every story – granted, mine isn’t the one that people immediately gravitate to – I don’t think anyone has ever come up to me, ignored Clemmie, and asked me how the birth was – it would just be weird.

All that said, I’ve been present at the births of all 4 of my girls. I’ve been there at the classes, at the antenatal checks, at the scans and have witnessed first-hand the emotional roller coaster that Clemmie went through.

My approach and understanding of birth has, unsurprisingly, evolved over the years – I’d be shocked if it hadn’t to be honest – I’m married to a midwife and I have 4 children, if I’d not learned anything from one to the next then it’s not a good reflection upon my grey matter.

Birth No. 1 – I was 24 and bricking myself. Clemmie and I had been together for a total of just over 2 years when she was about to go into labour. You’d think that with Clemmie being a midwife, I’d be clued up and completely at ease with what was about to happen. Well, it’s true what they say – ‘a  little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ I knew the basics of what to do not to get in the way and actually help, but I’d also educated myself on what can go wrong and was nervous that everything that could go wrong, would go wrong. Our midwife, who was also Clemmies Mentor at work, travelled back from Glastonbury to deliver Clemmie – she still had mud in her hair and smelt like bonfires. We’d done all the preparation you could, including making a birthing CD (how mid 2000’s) . Clemmie had also developed a craving for ice which I hear is not uncommon, so I spent a lot of my time running to and from the ice machine to ensure she was fully stocked up.

Knowing Clemmie was surrounded by her colleagues, I knew she was in safe hands and it helped relieve my stress levels immensely (that said, I rarely get stressed about anything) and focus on just giving Clemmie reassurance that we were ok and that she was doing brilliantly. She did get in the pool several times throughout Anya’s Birth (we don’t tend to call it labour as it makes it sound like a hideous chore, when in actual fact it can be a lovely experience). I made the mistake of pouring warm water over Clemmie’s back while she was on all fours and commented that it was ‘like pouring gravy over a big fat turkey’. If looks could have killed, I’d be 6 feet under right now, that’s for sure.

Finally in the end, Clemmie delivered Anya while squatting and hanging off my waist. She’d been active throughout the whole birth so I was glad not to see her on her back– being married to a midwife, I would often hear while watching a birth in a film, “oh she should be up and about and getting active, not lying on her back, she’ll find it harder to push and contractions might drop off” (I have picked up a lot since osmosis!)

Clemmie held her straight away, I then cut the cord which I liken to cutting the rind off of bacon. With that done, whipped off my shirt and had skin to skin with my first born – It really was amazing. The one thing that I know Clemmie is still annoyed with me about is that I didn’t shed a single tear throughout the whole birthing experience. Apparently I’m an emotionless robot father, but I know that I was feeling choked up on the inside.

Birth 2 – birth number 2 was supposed to be straight forward. We wanted a home birth but due to some complications, that option was taken away from us (which I was quietly happy about – I didn’t fancy a big paddling pool in my house to be honest, I had visions of it bursting and me clearing up after birth from under the sofa!)

We now had a different plan as Clemmie had developed obstetric choleostasis, so we were going in 2 weeks before our due date to be induced. Going to the hospital on the bus with a bag and a pillow tucked under my arms while not contracting was an odd experience. I’d never given any thought to the fact that some people don’t naturally go into labour but have to be encouraged so that one was a new one on me.

Things were progressing well and I remember a doctor coming in to perform an ARM to get the birth moving along, she then scurried away leaving us to get on with things. Things ramped up quickly and it was at that point I looked around and realised all the midwifes had left the room. Clemmie had gone into transition, seeing the speed at which she changed really had me worried, I felt out of my depth and without anyone to call over and not wanting to leave her, I pulled the emergency cord to get people back in to the room. I helped Clemmie over the pool and after slipping on iced water (she still had the ice craving) and wearing a vomit bowl on her head for about 15 minutes, she gave birth to Marnie in the pool. Clemmie was so loud, but after her head was out, we peered into the water to see a screwed up red little face. The rest of the body was born in relative slience and she slowly drifted up to the top of the water to be held by Clemmie. I was on hand to capture the whole thing on camera as I’d been told that I didn’t take enough photos at Anya’s birth (in all honesty, Anya’s birth was my first birth and I was a bit grossed out by the whole thing, Clemmie wanted photos from all angles and I wasn’t quite prepared to do that! It’s not like we would have sat down and gone through them again together over tea and cake or sent them to my family!)

Birth 3&4 – by the time I’d gotten over the shock that we were having twins, the due date was already in sight. Being twins, and with the added complication of Clemmie’s obstetric choleostasis coming back to haunt us, we were looking at a 36 week induction. This time we’d been studying hypnobirthing – I was incredibly sceptical of the whole thing, until I realised that the work Hypno is misleading. It’s actually about relaxation and breathing, rather than Derren Brown making you believe you were a chicken in a past life, back in 1843.

Once again I was on ice duty, but with no ice machine in sight and the birth taking a bit of time to get going, I walked about a mile into Camberwell to get my lunch and fill several large cups with free ice from the local Subway. All that time, in the back of my head I was thinking, “she better not give birth while I’m away or I’ll never ever hear the end of it!”. I got back and Clemmie was stood up, rocking over the bed with her headphones in. I walked over and rocked with her from behind her, holding her neck and counting her breaths. The smell of lavender was thick in the air.

After about 4 or 5 hours, Clemmie finally started to get regular contractions and she got into the bed. Held her hands and looked into her eyes. I told her that it was only her and I there (when in fact there were a good 5 or 6 other people there!) and that she just had to concentrate on my voice. Within 10 minutes, twin No.1 had arrived. I cut the cord and was holding her for what felt like seconds before a midwife tapped me on the shoulder and said the other one is coming – I’d genuinely forgotten that we we’re having 2 babies – while staring at my newest daughter, I’d somehow allowed that rather important piece of information to be forgotten. Within 5 minutes, twin no.2 was out into the world and before I knew it I was topless, holding not 1, but 2 new members of the human race. Looking at both of them, and then at Clemmie, I almost squeezed out a tear, but I was too happy and nothing would come. I truly am a robot.

Dad bloggers are taking the internet by storm with Simon aka. Father of Daughters leading the pack. If you have not yet seen his hilarious and real squares of dad life then you need to visit his Instagram and Facebook. It is a MUST. For the other side of this story you can read Mother of Daughters, Clemmie’s account of birth 3 &4, Ottilie and Delilah, here.

 

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The Bump to Baby Chapter

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 🌟
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I’ve cancelled most plans this week thinking that labour was happening. Each day with my start/stop contractions/braxton hicks I’ve been so sure that this was it. So I’ve stayed home, bounced on my ball, drinking my raspberry leaf tea and smothering myself with clary sage thinking ‘yesss 🙌🏼 early labour’ LIKE THE MUG THAT I AM! This baby is already making a fool out of me!

Today however, was different. I did not sit and wait around, contractions or no contractions. I got up, put my make up on, got dressed and went for lunch and have felt so much better for it. It also meant that Nancy got to spend a bit of time with her new boyf Grayson.

I know early labour can be like this and it’s normal. At TBTBC antenatal classes and hypnobirthing we always say how this bit can take a couple of days, sometimes a week with irregular contractions. And we always say that the worst thing to do is to stay at home and wait for them to become regular 🤦🏼‍♀️. Normal is one thing though and liking it is something totally different. Today though, thanks to these two little sweethearts, was a good day.

What were your experiences of early labour?
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