I suffer with a back condition called Spina Bifida Occulta. Although this does not disrupt me day to day, other than back ache now and again, I was told when I was diagnosed that I would not be able to have an epidural.
When I fell pregnant the idea of not having this pain relief option worried me. I had no idea what sort of pain threshold I had and I wanted every option available to me in birth.
Throughout my pregnancy I suffered with (severe morning sickness and nausea) which lasted until week 34 in my pregnancy. I was severely dehydrated and medicated to help control the sickness. As the months passed and the sickness didn’t, I assured myself I was weak and the thought of going through labour really scared me. If I was struggling to cope with pregnancy, how would I cope with labour? The constant sickness, coupled with my back condition led me to believe I would have a problematic birth.
My husband Ben had a good friend at work whose second son had arrived very quickly on the bathroom floor! Despite the quick arrival, his wife had an enjoyable and easy birth. Ben came home and told me all about this natural process of coping with pain and really encouraged me to research further. This was my introduction to Hypnobirthing.
We signed up to a course with Leanne where she spent 2 days providing us with all the necessary tools to practice hypnobirthing. The course was really insightful and gave me the confidence I was lacking. It taught us the science behind how our bodies work through labour and how to work with our bodies through pain.
Most evenings before bed, my husband and I would listen to our relaxation mp3’s together and I was surprised at how quickly I relaxed and how quickly I fell asleep – I’m not normally a very good sleeper and usually take a long time to drift off. Sometimes I was asleep before we’d even finished the relaxation!
I read the book provided and practiced as much as I could. I definitely could have practiced more and could have deepened my hypnobirthing ability. This is why I am now a great believer in Hypnobirthing, because despite not committing fully to the practice, it was still so effective.
Six days had passed from my due date and the midwives booked my induction date. After learning about induction during my hypnobirthing course, I was adamant I did not want this for my baby. Up until that point, I had tried all the natural tricks and ate all the foods, but in the end it was a membrane sweep followed shortly afterwards by a session of reflexology that kick started the process.
At 10pm that same evening, following the sweep and reflexology, my surges started. We were just getting into bed and the intensity of the contraction caught me off guard. They started off lasting roughly 1min every 10mins. I was so uncomfortable and had the urge to sit on the toilet during every surge. I ran a bath at midnight to try and ease the discomfort but nothing was helping and the surges were getting stronger. At 1am (3 hours after the first one) I woke my husband for his help. This is when we decided to start our hypnobirthing.
He helped me into bed and put on our relaxations. Whilst lying on my side, he stroked my back and helped with regulating my breathing. Within minutes my surges dropped from 10mins apart to 4 minutes apart and the app timer (yes, I had a surge app timer!) flashed up that I needed to get myself to hospital or call an ambulance.
I rang the midwife who advised me to stay at home even longer and not to come to the hospital until the surges were 2 minutes apart. We lived 30mins away from the hospital and neither Ben nor I were comfortable waiting that long.
Ben booked a Zipcar (which afterwards I discovered was 1.5miles away and involved him sprinting down the streets of Dalston in the early hours) and we decided to get closer to the hospital.
When we set off my surges were 3mins apart. Ben drove at 15mph down Holloway Road while I focused on my ‘upward’ breathing. We arrived at the hospital at 3am, but the main entrance to the hospital was locked! We walked round in circles in the hospital grounds for a while until we accessed the maternity unit, but I continued to focus on my breathing. Thankfully it was confirmed that I was 4cm dilated and was admitted at 3.30am.
Ben said afterwards that I was very quiet and introvert. I had my eyes closed and didn’t want to talk to anyone – I just needed to concentrate. I was joined in the ward by a noisy screaming mum in labour, which temporarily threw me off focus, but concentrating on my breathing kept me relaxed.
After sitting on the toilet for yet another surge, I felt the urge to push. I got back on to the bed and felt I needed to let someone know. The midwife came to check on me and when I explained I needed to push, she told me not to as she’d only just checked me and I was 4cm. She told me I had to resist the urge to push. As she turned to walk out of the curtains, my waters broke. Straight away she checked me over and I was 8cm!
They rushed me through to the delivery room (I say rushed… they actually made me walk down the corridor which I remember was incredibly difficult at the time). They started filling up the birth pool and asked if I needed anything. At this point I asked for gas and air, which most definitely gave me some relief.
I was helped into the pool and with eyes closed, focused again on my breathing, this time with gas and air. I remember the midwife saying that Ben and I were doing a great job on our own she was going to “leave us to it”. She went to the corner of the room out of sight, and within minutes I heard Ben make a noise like “Errmmm”. Two midwives came over to check me and the head was in sight. The midwives told me at this point I needed to push on the next surge. After 3 pushes my baby boy was out. He arrived at 6.23am and was absolutely perfect.
I will never forget the midwife saying it was the most incredible birth she’d ever seen and at that moment amongst the love and euphoria, I felt very proud of myself.
Despite not even playing a relaxation or affirmation in the hospital, the knowledge from the course and my hypnobirthing practice had proven to be very powerful. I talk to everyone I see about how amazing Hypnobirthing was for me and am even considering becoming a teacher myself now. I would highly recommend it to every woman approaching labour.