My hypnobirthing journey began when I discovered I was pregnant with my second baby. My first labour had been a scary experience, and I felt totally unprepared when I went into labour at 41+3 weeks. I knew I wanted it to be different this time, so I completed my teacher training whilst 30 weeks pregnant and it changed how I thought about birth completely. I went from being an avid hospital birth fan, to thinking a home birth would suit our family perfectly this time. I did my research on the benefits and the risks associated to a home birth and was surprised to find out that it was actually a safe environment to have a baby in so long as mother and baby were well both before and during labour, and support was in place. I imagined being in the comfort of my home and welcoming our new arrival in peace and tranquillity. Baba, however, had other ideas!
I had an induction at 36+2 weeks due to intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). I had been monitored weekly from 32 weeks with doppler scans and ultrasounds. While they never commented on there being an issue with the cord blood flow, they were concerned that baba’s weight was tailing off the bottom centile. I’ll always remember that it was on the Wednesday at my 36-week appointment that I watched in dismay as they plotted the weight on the ultrasound scan, and immediately knew that the weight was below where we wanted it to be. The consultant suggested an induction on the Thursday or Friday that week. Although I knew this was always a possibility, I had convinced myself that everything would be fine so I sat in shock that I had gone from believing that our second baby would arrive in December to suddenly realising it would be at the start of November! We hadn’t organised anything for baba’s arrival. We franticly dug out our moses basket and some tiny baby clothes, attempting to get our heads around the change of plan. I was also torn as I wondered if he was on the small side but also healthy, as my daughter Penny had been a bit wee (6lb 3oz) when she arrived through spontaneous labour. I anxiously considered whether they should consider delaying an induction longer to see if the growth would pick up. The consultant felt that baba would cope better during labour at 36 weeks rather than delaying which would make labour harder on him if he remained small. We considered the information available about IUGR and we decided that it was best to go ahead with the induction.
Although it wasn’t the circumstances we had hoped for, we managed to make it a positive experience and I truly believe that that was due to using hypnobirthing. We spent our last morning with Penny taking her to the park and she chatted about baba as she pointed to my belly. She happily went off to her grandparents on the Thursday afternoon and we spent the rest of the day getting ready for hospital. It was a mixture of anxiety, excitement and disbelief knowing that our baby was going to be born the next day. We felt so emotional being away from our little girl too.
I had made a detailed birth plan for a home birth which I then had to adapt for a hospital birth. I had wanted to use the birthing pool however it was the hospital policy not to use the pool at 36 weeks due to monitoring the baby. So, no pool for me. I was disappointed but accepted that it wasn’t meant to be. We rocked up at 8am on Friday morning and were shown to our room. I’ll admit it didn’t fill me with joy as it was the opposite of what I had imagined but here we were and it was up to us to make it work for us. We went in armed with fake candles, my KG CD, affirmations, scripts to read and loads of food and entertainment. We hoped that it might be a quick labour and envisaged that we could be home complete with baba to watch the new series of Still Game that evening!! It quickly became obvious that this baby was in no hurry to come out to play!
My first internal examination was carried out… I wasn’t looking forward to this. I can’t imagine anyone jumps with joy at the prospect! I had hoped to avoid examinations so we discussed that they would only do them if necessary. The consultant had hoped to rupture the amniotic membrane to encourage labour but I was given gel to soften the cervix as there were no signs of it being ready. Skip forward 6 hours and numerous trips to the on-site café and all was quiet other than the odd gentle surge. The membranes were ruptured at this point…all remained relatively quiet. I tried using the birthing ball to get into a good upright position but my surges felt more powerful when I was semi-reclined on the bed. I was surprised at this but I went with what felt right for my body. I listened to the CD with Katherine’s voice many times over the day which felt familiar and comforting as we had listened to it every night for the past 6 weeks as we went to sleep. I focused on my “up” breathing and used visualisations to go with this whenever I felt a surge. I saw birds flying into the sky and the upward feeling of this worked for me! It felt manageable and I didn’t need any further pain relief. This contrasted with my previous labour as I had found the surges unmanageable quite quickly. I had panicked and didn’t know how to handle the sensation. Having a good understanding of what my body was doing made all the difference to psyche. I felt that oxytocin flow!
We watched Anchorman 2 to pass the time. (NB. I do not recommend a Will Ferrell comedy while midwives are coming in and out of the room! His use of language can be pretty embarrassing as I’m sure you can imagine if you have watched any of his films!!) We listened to a lot of 90’s radio. I felt really chilled listening to it. My favourite moment was breathing through a surge while “Creep” by Radiohead was playing and having a laugh with the midwife about our music choice. Ladies and gentlemen, this is how the Stranges do hypnobirthing!
Labour continued to progress very slowly and concerns were growing for baba’s ability to cope, so the syntocinon drip was introduced. Another intervention I had hoped to avoid. I entertained some gas and air during examinations as I found them particularly uncomfortable (although I did quite enjoy that drunk feeling accompanied by the giggles). However, I found that I managed the surges much better without it even when they were incredibly powerful when the hormone dosage was increased to its maximum. I continued throughout the night and into the wee hours of the morning, yet still baba Strange held off from gracing us with his presence.
A further examination at 8am showed that my cervix was 3cm dilated and the monitoring of baba indicated that he was becoming distressed which led to me being prepped for a caesarean section. The surges were almost continuous by this point and I suddenly felt the strong urge to push which I could not stop. I got pretty vocal at this point and I won’t go into my other bodily functions! In the short space of time from consenting to a caesarean to being introduced to around 40 members of staff (ok, that’s a slight exaggeration, it was right in the middle of the staff changeover but I was introduced to a lot of staff) and being given an epidural, the cervix was fully dilated. We were offered the chance to go back to the delivery ward to deliver without further assistance. We felt baba had had enough, we were both exhausted and didn’t want to risk him becoming distressed again and so he was delivered with “gentle forceps”. I use this term as the obstetrician said it was a “beautiful, gentle forceps delivery”. Everything was so clear this time, I felt in control and able to discuss my options with the obstetricians, I met so many faces in theatre and could talk clearly. I apologise to the nurse whose hand I crushed during a surge!
We had not known the sex of baba and it was a beautiful moment when little Louis was lifted up to greet us. We finally met our boy at 9.06am on the 5th of November 2016 weighing in at 5lb 5oz. A small boy but what he lacked in size he made up for in volume! A quiet boy he is not! We spent the rest of the day getting to know him and it was an unforgettable moment when he met his big sister that afternoon. She cuddled and kissed her “baba“ and has adored him ever since. He is a lucky boy having her to look out for him.
I am so grateful to have learned about hypnobirthing and experienced it during labour. I am certain that it made a huge difference to my state of mind and I managed the surges so effectively with the breathing techniques. Our society can be so negative towards labour, we hear that it will be frightening experience, it will hurt and it will be rather traumatic in some way. I have heard many negative birth stories (my own first experience included), that we have no control over our decisions and I hear the phrase “they don’t let you” a lot. I have been introduced to a world where it is a positive beautiful experience, women are educated about how to use the mind effectively in labour and to take control of their body. Using and adapting hypnobirthing to suit your own circumstances is empowering. We need more positivity in this world and I feel lucky to be a part of passing that knowledge onto other parents.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the midwifery team at NHS Forth Valley who I met both throughout my pregnancy and during labour. Thank you for always listening, taking the time to chat to me and helping me feel safe when I was at my most vulnerable. You guys are amazing. Also thank you to the obstetric team and theatre staff, I appreciated all you did for us.
Finally thank you to my rock Jim. You kept me sane, you came to endless antenatal appointments with me and you supported me all the way. You gave me encouragement when I introduced you to hypnobirthing and I am so glad that it helped you too as I know how worried you were first time round. We went into it this time with our eyes opened. Life now has never been busier, I’m knackered ALL the time but can’t think of a better reason to be than seeing our babies develop and grow into awesome wee people every day.