Helen & Baby Ezra's Home Hypnobirth February 2016
Thursday 11th February was a normal day, five days before my due date. For over a week I’d had occasional surges during the night, but labour had never materialised. Although I felt prepared and fairly confident about giving birth, I expected to get to my due date. During the day I took my three year old son to a play group, my Dad visited for lunch and then we spent the afternoon at a friend’s house.
We headed home at around 5:30pm, and as I sorted tea for my son I wasn’t sure if my waters had broken-there was no major gush so I wasn’t sure. After getting changed I was wet again within minutes, and I realised my (hind) waters had gone. I text my husband to let him know so he could head home from work sooner rather than later. The next couple of hours were the most stressful of the entire experience, as I wasn’t sure whether to ask my Mum to pick up my son or not. I had no idea if I was going to be able to get Rafi to sleep at bedtime, or if labour was going to start properly before that time. I didn’t want him to suspect anything was amiss as I knew he would want to stay up and be part of the action. During pregnancy, childcare during labour had been something that worried me. Rafi he had never slept out without us before but I couldn’t guarantee that labour and birth would all happen during the night while he was asleep. When my husband got home we made the decision to ask Mum to pick up Rafi to go to hers for supper (with emergency PJs in his bag), and that we would let her know if nothing had happened by nine or ten o’clock, as we’d collect him so he could sleep in his own bed as usual.
Once Rafi had left with his Grandma (around 8pm) I felt like I needed to get much calmer and focused in case labour started fully. Between 8pm and 11pm I listened to the hypnobirthing CDs in the dark, trying to relax and focus. The hind waters continued to trickle and I felt odd sensations including strong Braxton Hicks/mild surges and a lot of movement from the baby. I now know this was the baby getting into a better position for birth- it’s back moved to my left side and head engaged, whereas throughout pregnancy it’s back had been down my right side and the head never engaged. During this time there was no real pattern or strength to surges. I felt restless, not knowing if things were going to kick off for real before Rafi’s bedtime. I didn’t know whether to try rest or be more active by walking or sitting on the birthing ball. I was irritable and restless but continued to listen to the scripted hypnobirthing CDs. During this time my husband set up the living room as we’d planned, by inflating the pool and covering carpets and furniture in plastic sheets and towels, but also creating a calm environment with candles and a bit of a ‘nest’ of duvets on the sofa. We had already bought black-out curtains for the room as I knew from the birth of my son that I wanted a dark space to feel safe in during labour.
Some time after 11pm I felt that I wanted to be in the living room so headed downstairs to lay on the sofa. I had only been there about five minutes when I heard an audible ‘pop’, followed with a gush of water. I managed to jump up and catch most of the fore waters in my son’s potty! A minute or two later a strong surge waved over me and my husband held me up as I breathed through it. I used the ‘up breathing’ technique we had practised in the hypnobirthing sessions. Nine minutes later another surge came, then another five minutes after that, then another four minutes later. We made the decision to fill the pool at that point (it takes about 30 minutes to fill) and called delivery suite to inform them that labour had begun. While the pool filled, my husband supported me by holding my upper body weight; I found standing leaning forward to be the most comfortable position during the surges. I felt very quiet and much calmer once there was a rhythm to the surges and I understood that it was actually happening. I focused on my breathing and visualisation of a red hot air balloon rising during every surge. We played the backing music to the hypnobirth CDs (without the scripts) and I felt safe in my own space. My husband stayed quiet throughout also, offering drinks in between surges and physical support during, but not talking or asking questions; he seemed to realise that I needed quiet to stay focused. Although the surges were strong and fairly close together, I felt like I could manage them easily if I just remained focused on the breathing technique and imagining the red balloon.
Once the pool was filled I decided to get in, which was lovely-warm and comforting. The community midwife arrived shortly after this. She made her presence known in the doorway and said she’d already read my birth plan in the office during the week, so didn’t intend on examining me as I’d indicated in the birth plan that I’d prefer not to. She stayed in the kitchen for some time before talking to John about the possibility of monitoring the baby soon. John communicated with the midwife on my behalf so that I could remain focused. In between surges, the midwife came into the room to try to listen the baby’s heartbeat with the sonicaid. She struggled to hear it properly due to the baby’s position, but said she was confident I was labouring well and the baby was moving, so left to sit in the kitchen again, as she could tell continuing with the noisy sonicaid was distracting me.
I continued to labour kneeling in the pool and became aware that the baby was moving lower, as I felt a lot of pressure and remembered the sensation of the baby’s head beginning to crown from my first birth. I also realised my breathing had changed slightly; I was doing ‘down breathing’ technique without thinking, and the gaps between surges became slightly longer. At this point I decided to keep quiet. I knew full well what my body was doing, but didn’t want to alter the atmosphere or break my focus by alerting my husband or the midwife. So I said nothing and just knew my baby was close. This kind of gave me extra confidence, as I was surprised to realise I was close to the end and had coped well so far by anchoring myself to the breathing technique. By this point the visualisation had just become the colour red. The midwife came in to the living room when she heard my making some noise. She said afterwards that I had been so quiet until this point that when she heard some guttural noises she knew I must be at the pushing stage so came to assist, and by the time she got the torch on, the baby’s head was already out! The midwife just advised me that that I could reach down to feel the head and that during the next surge the shoulders would probably be born and to just let my body do it itself. During these two surges I didn’t consciously push, I just continued to breathe through. My baby was born at 2:09am. I was able to lift my baby out of the water myself, and the sense of achievement and relief was massive. We were ecstatic that the baby had arrived and I was so pleased I’d managed a calm and quick labour with no pain relief other than the warm water and the hypnobirthing techniques. It’s difficult to know at what time I was technically in established labour as I had no internal examinations, so the breaking of the fore waters at 11:30pm was taken as the start of established labour, so recorded as about 2 and a half hours of labour with a 4 minute pushing stage.
Afterwards, the midwife continued to follow my birth plan, leaving the umbilical cord to stop pulsating before it was cut. We discovered that the baby was a boy and I was able to give him his first breastfeed on our sofa. The second midwife arrived before the placenta was birthed, and Ezra was weighed-coming in at 7lb 9oz. The midwives helped John to tidy up towels and birthing equipment and then they left us in peace to enjoy our new baby. Rafi arrived with Grandma later that morning to greet his new baby brother.
I am so pleased we learned the hypnobirthing breathing and visualisation techniques that helped me through the surges, and also learning about the physiology of birth (which gave me a better understanding of what I was feeling, and to remove the fear and allowing my body to work effectively in labour). The hypnobirthing session about language and mindset was also instrumental in the way I coped in labour; instead of thinking about ‘pain’, I concentrated on idea of the surges being powerful and purposeful, and that my body would not create a baby that I could not birth. I’m also glad we had the opportunity to learn about and consider the best conditions for birth and for me personally, so I was confident in my choices on my birth plan.
Thank you so much to Charlotte Keyworth from the Gentle Birth Company for the hypnobirthing course.
Thank you also to my Mum for having Rafi for his first sleepover, and John, my husband, a fantastic supportive birth partner in the births of our two sons.