The value in preparing for childbirth.

Congratulations! You’re pregnant!

What was that moment like for you? Who were you with and what did you do when you found out?

I remember being pretty sure that I was pregnant so I decided one Saturday morning to get up early and pop down to the chemist for a test. I’ll never forget that moment when I saw two lines! For a brief time I was the only person in the world who knew I was pregnant! What a feeling! Nothing had changed for anyone else but my life had just changed forever. I went through to my husband who was still sleeping and told him the news. That was one way to wake him up! We both lay on the bed for a while in disbelief. Then the anxiety crept in. “What if we can’t do this”? “Our lives won’t be the same”! “How will we manage”? We chatted for a while and we saw the smiles grow as we chatted and we ended on high fives with “Let’s do this” and “We’re not going to let having a baby change us”! Woo!

So we got excited, I got nauseous and we hid our amazing secret for a few weeks. The scan I had at 12 weeks confirmed I was indeed pregnant and it started to feel much more real. We now had 6 months to get ready for this baby arriving. We carefully researched what pram and car seat to get. What kind of parents we would be, what equipment we needed (or were told we needed) and imagined how easy this baby gig was going to be!

 

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Waving hello!

 

There was a glaring omission from my prep work…. childbirth. Yip, I was not going to think about that at all. It was going to happen but there wasn’t much point in thinking about it as it wasn’t going to be pleasant and you didn’t know what would happen, right? As we got further down the line I allowed myself to watch One Born Every Minute. A lot. I didn’t like the look of it much, though the sight of the babies got my hormones raging. I went to the antenatal classes offered through my health centre, spoke to people I knew and I read some horror stories online. That was me prepped. The antenatal classes had some useful info but I can’t remember much about them to be honest.

I got to around 38 weeks and the real anxiety sank in. I became obsessed with wondering if I was in labour, I desperately wanted to know “how will I know”?! I felt irritated that no one seemed to be able to tell me. I became fearful of leaving the house myself incase I went into labour and had the baby on the bus or street! Every twinge had me wondering if this was it. My due date came and I was sure labour would start on the dot at midnight. It came and went. So did the following week. By now I was barely getting out of bed, other than to freak myself out with more births on tv. I  consented to a sweep, just get this baby out! My lovely midwife didn’t manage and it was so uncomfortable. I wanted her to try again despite this. She did and was still unable to do the sweep. Next, I was offered an induction. With absolutely no thought about what that meant I eagerly accepted. I had heard it could be more painful but I didn’t really know more than that. It was arranged for 11 days after my due date.

Perhaps knowing that this was booked allowed me to relax a little as labour started spontaneously the day before. I very quickly went into panic mode. I found the contractions painful and didn’t know what to do with myself. I wanted to go into hospital but they advised paracetamol and a warm bath. Neither helped, I felt too anxious and afraid. Eventually I was admitted around 7 hours after my first contractions. I cried a lot, was sick and begged for pain relief. I was wheeled through to the birthing centre and was given some drugs at last! They helped a little but I lay down and tried not move. Any movement triggered a contraction and I’d rather avoid those thank you very much!

Once the drugs had worn off I went into the pool. It felt a bit better. I sucked on gas and air like my life depended on it. I growled at the midwife when she asked me to get out of the pool, insisting that I pee or I would be catheterised! I never thought about this until I was writing this blog and I can’t quite believe she said it. I had to check with Jim that I didn’t imagine it! The water was the only place I felt relief. Knowing what I know now, I was removed from a feeling of comfort at a time when I was struggling and there was no medical reason for doing so. Perhaps it would have made a difference had I remained undisturbed. This is something we focus in in hypnobirthing.

 

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Not looking too happy here

 

I had the special bonus of an ovarian cyst which Penny was pressing against. Flash forward to being told it was a “failure to progress”, baby’s heart rate dipping and me being asked to consent to forceps or a possible C-section. I was unsympathetically told to calm down as I screamed in agony at the obstetrician giving me an examination. The added pain of the cyst was unbearable but there was no acknowledgement of this. I was whisked to theatre, given an epidural and our gorgeous daughter Penny was delivered by forceps and weighing in at 6lb 6oz. It was over and as I held my daughter I felt an amazing rush of love. I was so glad she was safe and in my arms at last. I did however feel a little stunned from the experience. I then went to the post-natal ward and my parents turned up shortly afterwards shouting my name in the ward trying to find us! Bless, they had been anxious too!

I spent two nights trying to figure out breastfeeding and how to deal with this little person who needed me to take care of her every need. I was shouted at for pulling the curtain around us during the day by an over-zealous support worker as I wanted to nap and apparently you don’t do that on the ward in the day as they need to be able to see you… I wasn’t even told that they wanted me to remain the second night until I asked later on in the day. There certainly didn’t seem to be any choice and no conversation took place about the pros and cons of staying or going home.

So I’m guessing that if I could go into this as unprepared as I was, that other women will do too. I don’t believe that “no one can prepare you for labour”. Those of us who are passionate about educating women are going out there to do just that. You definitely can prepare yourself. It’s true that we don’t know what will happen in labour but you can certainly prepare by arming yourself with knowledge and techniques to help you.

When else in life would we go into something and do no prep work beforehand? You’d prep for a job interview, for an exam or before stepping into a car. Think of all the research that goes into picking the best child car seat, best pram, breastfeeding or bottle feeding and can you see where I’m going with this?

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It’s sad that we can put so little faith into having a positive birth experience that we don’t take the time to really look into it. I knew when I was pregnant the second time that I wanted to be more informed and that’s when I looked seriously into hypnobirthing. I’m not exaggerating when I say it has changed my life. I’m so grateful for doing the course and teaching it to others is just amazing. I’m part of a movement which is empowering women to become knowledgable and assert their rights to have a more positive experience.

There was so much I didn’t know the first time. I had no idea how my hormones worked with the uterine muscles and that by being relaxed my body would work much more effectively. No idea that simple breathing techniques would help me avoid using drugs for pain relief. No idea of the benefits of delayed cord clamping. No idea of trying to be gently active prior to labour and in early labour. No idea of the effects on labour of being observed. I can’t believe how naive I was when I look back. I wanted a drug-free, natural birth but didn’t have a clue how best to try and put this into practice and I didn’t do my homework. In contrast with my first labour experience, my second was drug-free as I found the breathing technique amazingly helpful. It was an induction for intrauterine growth restriction and I’ve written about it in a previous blog post here if you would ke to read how hypnobirthing helped me. The medicals involved in our care were fantastic and were a great example of what the support should be.

So please think about what birth preparation means to you. The birth of your child is an amazing life experience. I’ll bet it’s the biggest thing that will happen in your life. You’ll always remember it. I’ve heard many women recount their birth experiences and I’ve heard the hurt and pain that it’s caused. Some go as far as never want to experience birth again. Looking after your mental health prior to birth can help towards preventing mental health issues post-partum.

There are lots of educational options available, I’m passionate about hypnobirthing because I know it works and I also like the practical side of it. It’s evidence-based and everything clicked into place once I had the information that I needed to know. So yes, we don’t know what will happen during labour but we can understand the process of labour at a deeper level and we can understand how our mind and body work together. We can carefully consider our preferences and have more confidence if events take place that we need medical support in. I think there is so much value in that.

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Here are a few books by some amazing authors who will help get you thinking about birth in a different way:

Katharine Graves – The Hypnobirthing Book

Michael Odent – Primal Health

Ina May Gaskin – Ina May’s guide to childbirth

Sarah Buckley – Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering

Milli Hill – Positive Birth Book

 

 

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