What if women emerged from their labour and births with an amazing sense of accomplishment? A new-found sense of power and determination, and feelings of strength and capability in themselves and their bodies?
That is how I felt during and after my labour and birth, and that is what I want other women to feel also.
My son’s birth inspires EVERYTHING that I now do as a hynobirthing teacher. And hypnobirthing made such a huge difference to my labour and birth experience, so I know it can for others too.
And each and every year, on my son's birthday, I will enjoy reliving those memories.
This is my birth story. I wrote this last month in the run up to Sam’s second birthday and logged on social media what was happening at that moment in time “two years ago”. It was really emotional reliving those amazing memories and I got a bit teary eyed typing some of those words!
Thank you to the women who messaged me who said they enjoyed reading it, and who said it open their eyes to how birth can be gentle and empowering….this is what hypnobirthing is all about!
Here goes…”This time two years ago”.
17th May 17.00 hours
This time two years ago, I was heavily pregnant (term plus 4 days) with my first baby. I didn't know at that time if we were having a little boy or girl. Though I was imaging a little girl who would most likely have been called Isabelle.
During the last couple of months, I had gone from being absolutely terrified of labour and giving birth (thinking “how will I possibly cope with all that pain?” and “what if XYZ happens?” ). But I started practising hypnobirthing at 37 weeks (better late than never!) and developed a new-found sense of calm, trust and confidence.
So, this exact time two years ago, I'm having mild surges (AKA contractions) every 20 minutes or so. I can mostly ignore them. I'm pottering around the house, doing bits of jobs but mostly resting and relaxing. I know labour is coming because the surges are getting closer together. I'm feeling excited. A little apprehensive yes (thinking “I hope this hypnobirthing stuff works!!!!”) but this is a million miles from a few months ago. My husband Phil is at work and has no idea what is unfolding at home – I feel perfectly safe and calm on my own.
My sister-in-law comes round about tea time and I tell a little white lie when she asks if there are any signs of baby yet; “no signs yet" I say. But I know that I will most likely have my baby in my arms tomorrow.
I'm listening to my relaxation CD and my birth affirmations to get me in the zone.
I've also just eaten the rarest of steaks - my body was craving this. It must have wanted the extra energy for what was coming.
I feel calm, at ease, and excited.
17th May 20.00 hours
Ok...things are building up in intensity. My surges are getting more powerful and regular now - coming every ten minutes.
I’m finding it much harder to ignore them and I consciously have to stop what I’m doing and breathe through them.
I’m in the bath but I end up on all fours because this feels most comfortable. I laugh to myself because no part of my abdomen or back are remotely submerged in water! I've realised the bath isn't doing much and I feel the need to move around.
I'm coping ok. But I need Phil here to talk to me and reassure me. I ring him from the bath. This is the first he's heard from me today so he's surprised when I call him. "Time to come home huni" I say, "I need you here. I’m ok though, so don't rush". I also ring my friend Lisa...I’m supposed to be having a massage tomorrow. I ring and say "I don’t think I will be coming tomorrow" (don't think lol). I get out the bath and put my comfy pyjamas on. I feed the rabbit thinking it may be a while until he gets his next meal and wait by the window for Phil.
17th May 21.30 hours
I'm on all fours in the lounge, rocking back and forth whenever a surge comes.
Shit. This REALLY hurts.
The Peter Kay DVD that we were watching to distract me and make me laugh is now irritating the hell out of me, as Phil is concentrating more on that than me. "Turn the tv off!!!". He does as he's told.
The retired midwife from over the road pops in. She looks at my face and says immediately "I don’t think you're anywhere near huni. You're too calm. In a couple of days you can have a sweep and that will intensify everything". Holy shit. I…am…screwed. A couple of days??!! Like this?! To then intensify?! I look at Phil in mild panic...I seriously can’t do this for a couple of days. The surges are already really strong and regular. How am I going to do this for a few days. And then cope as they get stronger?
Phil reminds of me something we learnt about, regarding early labour and Hypnobirthing: My endorphins haven't kicked in yet. I’m feeling everything for what it really is. I also remember that hypnobirthing women can be VERY deceiving about how far along they really are.
Right....I give myself a little talking to. "Stay calm. Relax. You can do this. Remember everything you've learnt". I reach for my TENS machine and Phil puts it in place on my back.
Oh...man...that feels AMAZING. I have totally got this.
18th May 03.00 hours
I am in the zone. No other way to describe it.
When I feel the "warning sign" that a surge is coming I tell Phil "one's coming" and I start my coping strategies that I learnt through hypnobirthing.
I pace in and out of every room. Rocking. Groaning when the surge peaks. I breathe fully and deeply. Phil reminds me to relax my entire body.
Some of them are really weak...like a strong period pain...and I’m like "pfft...that won’t have done ANYTHING". Some are really short and sharp and come with very little warning. They only last 20 seconds but these ones are the hardest. But they are over almost as soon as they come.
Some are exactly like I expected; it builds up over about 30 seconds, peaks for about ten seconds and I’m briefly like "Woah! This is strong!", then it comes down the other side and goes away completely. These are the best ones (can’t believe I’m thinking that!); as I know they're breathable and are making the most changes to my body. It almost feels like I’m "riding" these surges, like they’re washing right over me, and I feel pretty damn good.
Phil is super calm. Stood on the landing like my guardian and protector. He reminds me to breathe, and that I’m doing really well and he's really proud of me.
We practiced massage techniques in pregnancy but I don’t want to be touched at the moment. I just want him to be there. His calm presence is really reassuring.
My affirmations CD has been on loop for HOURS. It's driving phil crazy but its keeping me calm and focused. I don’t really know what time it is, or how long I’ve been doing this for. It’s like I'm in a little bubble.
Phil goes to fill up a hot water bottle and I cradle it. There is so much relief in a humble hot water bottle!
He's passing me cordial to drink.
I spot some of the baby clothes I’d strategically put around the house, to remind me of my goal, and I read out my birth affirmations as I pass them by during my pacing.
18th May 07.30 hours
I have no idea how long I've been doing this. The sun came up a couple of hours ago and it made me chuckle that everyone else has been sound asleep, blissfully unaware of what we're doing.
I've been sat on the loo for an hour. I can feel a lot of pressure "down there" and the loo helps relieve this. And when a surge comes I have to tap my foot on the floor to distract myself. "Why are you doing that?!" Phil keeps asking.
My affirmation CD is still on and it's keeping me calm and in the zone. Phil asked for a 10 minute break as "he's going mad" from it. I agree, but then it goes BACK ON after only 5 minutes.
I’m more vocal now. When a surge comes I do a lot of "throat singing"....where is that deep voice coming from?! Is it even me? I rock back and forth on the loo (what a sight eh?!). My waters release as a “pop” then a trickle when I’m on the loo. "Woo hoo no clean up job!" I remember thinking.
I’m not sure what to do as Phil wants to take me to hospital now. I’m pushing gently at the peak of each surge. But I’m not remotely distressed or suffering in any way. "What if to get there and I’m only a few centimetres?" I say to Phil (which, looking back, is funny on so many levels. But there was a small part of me STILL WAITING to be distressed and in a lot pain...not relaxed and chatting between surges). "Rush hour will start soon, so we either go now, or in 2 hours" Phil says very practically. "We'll go now" I say. Whinston gets fed again and I tell him he's going to have a brother or sister soon!
I get in the back of the car on all fours. My body couldn't sit in a seat if it wanted to. Phil sings to me in the car to distract me which is AMAZING. I’m watching everyone on their way to work thinking "you have no idea what's happening in this car!" I’m gently pushing and breathing through my surges as they come.
And we're nearly at the hospital....
18th May 08.00 hours
We're at the hospital. Phil goes up the multi story car park and parks the car on level 5. He takes an ETERNITY to park, as he tries to get the car perfectly in the bay. "Hurry up!" I say.
I pile all my stuff in his arms. CD player, birth ball, my hospital bag, my hot water bottle. I’m still a bit concerned that I’m not in active labour, as I’m so calm and really quite comfortable so I need EVERYTHING in case I’m only early on.
I carry my notes and we walk across the foot bridge and stop when a surge comes. I’m lifting one of my legs when it peaks because of the pressure.
We keep walking and stopping…walking and stopping. At Costa Coffee in the hospital I stop, and push/breathe. People are starring. I’m wearing my PJ pants and Phil’s hoodie. "I must look hilarious" I think to myself.
We get in the lift, I’m pushing gently. "Good luck" someone wishes me. “Thank you!!!!”
We ring the bell at labour ward, we're waiting outside a good ten minutes as I have 3 surges in this time.
A friendly midwife, Jayne, opens the door and welcomes us in. She takes a history from me. I knew she was thinking I was early on in labour because we’re in an assessment room, not a delivery room. I’m also chatting quite happily to her. "Wait ‘til a surge comes" I think to myself "You'll see how far along I am". A surge comes and that Amazonian woman noise comes out of me. Deep, throaty singing. And I’m moving up and down to distract myself from the pressure. I’m doing my long, slow, deep breathing to stay calm and focused.
The surge goes. And I’m smiling and chatting again. "You're pushing aren't you?" Jayne says. "Yes. I have been for an hour". "Right...delivery room". And we go across the corridor to our delivery room.
I see mild panic on Phil’s face for the first time. "Stay calm Phil, if you panic, I’ll panic" I say. And I see him adjust his face as he gets himself calm again. "I can see baby's head huni" my midwife says. "Do whatever comes naturally to you". I’m offered gas and air. I decline and my midwife looks at me in surprise. But I’m happy with what I’m doing. My TENS machine is still on but it's still only at half strength. When i press the boost button during a surge it makes my head float away (that's the only way I can describe it!)
“I’m doing it!!! I’m fully dilated!!!” I think to myself. And I feel fricking awesome.
18th May 08.50 hours
I gradually start to feel my baby move down my body.
I feel his head move down millimetre by millimetre as he descends.
I’m stood up and Phil is plastered to me. I have my arms round his neck to support me.
This feels really WEIRD. But it’s not painful in the slightest. I prepared for this stage on my hypnobirthing course. I can see why it’s very overwhelming though for some girls who aren’t prepared for these sensations.
I’m still stood up with Phil supporting me. I am open more than I have ever been, and it’s a strange feeling but not painful.
I look down and notice Phil has his new trainers on and I tell him to take them off so they stay clean.
With each surge, I feel my baby move down. Phil says, because his abdomen is against mine, he can feel baby descending through me too. Wow AMAZING!
This takes time and I ask my midwife to repeat to me over and over "You are fine. You are safe". I feel unmovable. A steam roller could not move me. I feel incredibly strong and powerful. No fear. No distress whatsoever.
I feel his head being born and it stings. My midwife puts cool water on me to relieve this sensation.
Oh relief!!! When the head is born.
We wait for a few minutes. It’s very strange having a child half in half out! ….but then he is born. And he is lifted to my chest. HE!!!!!
I did it! I feel like some kind of Wonder Woman!!!!
18th May 16.00 hours
I don't want to go to postnatal ward and stay over. I feel well, my birth was straightforward and I don’t feel the need to stay. I’m happy breastfeeding etc with my experience as a midwife and health visitor.
The grandparents have been to labour ward to meet Samuel ("did I pick his name too quickly?" I think to myself). We planned on it just being us 3 for the first couple of hours, but I’m so ecstatic with Samuel, and desperately keen to tell them about my amazing birth, that I can't wait to see them all and for them to meet him.
I’m offered a wheelchair to take me to the car...which I initially decline, but realise I’m wobblier on my feet than I thought.
We get in the car. "This is it! Our new family" Phil says. I ring my mum and ask her to come home with us for a bit to settle us in; I feel more nervous than I expected with a new baby. And she does. She makes us a much needed cup of tea and settles us in at home. "What do we do now?!" I say to Phil when she leaves. "No idea".
Love Rachel xxx