Rameka & Harry
It all started on Wednesday 29th May 2019, at 40+4. Interestingly, we happen to know the day we conceived and, based on that, this was our actual “due date”! I woke up at 3:50am to use the bathroom, and since the night before, I had been feeling quite achey and heavy in my pelvis and back, not unlike the feeling you get when you have your period. I did have an inkling that something might be about to happen…
At the same time, my husband, Harry, woke up with a start, asking me if I was ok. I replied that I was, and he said that he was just dreaming that I was in labour! Ten minutes later, at around 4am, I had my first surge. I waited until I had another one, about 8mins later, and then another, before rousing Harry to tell him that I thought the baby was coming.
He was really excited but, in line with everything we had learnt hypnobirthing with you, he wisely suggested that we should both try to sleep, given it was only around 4:30am, and given we did not know how long this would go on for. I tried, but of course, around 6am, I said I couldn’t sleep out of sheer excitement, but told him that he should sleep. I came out into the living room, made myself some breakfast, and watched some TV while bouncing on my birthing ball. I stayed like this until about 8:30am and I was having regular contractions every 7mins or so. I was feeling calm, relaxed and in control, and decided to go and have a shower and update my husband.
The rest of the day was lovely - just as we pictured our birth to be. We locked ourselves away, me alternating between bouncing on my ball and snuggling up to Harry, and we watched films and ordered in lunch. I then decided to have a lovely warm bath with some essential oils at around 3 or 4pm. I listened to my hypnobirthing tapes, lit some candles, and tried to relax, but after about an hour or so I found it quite uncomfortable to be lying on my back in the bath. My surges were around 5 mins apart before getting in the bath, and then slowed to between 6 and 7mins apart, so I decided to get out. We mooched around for a few more hours, trying to regulate the contractions again by watching some comedy (Jack Whitehall!) to get the oxytocin flowing, just as we had learnt. Around this time, the contractions began to become a little bit more intense - at least to the point where I had to breathe through them, using my up breathing and my hypnobirthing visualisations. It was still all super relaxed, super manageable, and super exciting. I had also been using clary sage essential oil (gifted to us by you!) all day with a diffuser but also eventually just sniffing directly from the bottle whenever I had a surge. I felt like the scent of the oil immediately gave me an immediate sense of calm and focus. I even felt like it distracted me from the intensity of the surge and I had also read that it could help regulate or bring on contractions.
Then, as we moved into the evening we had one or two disturbances. Firstly, we had a knock at the door from a relative who was just passing by. We chose to ignore it, but our cleaner recognised her and let her in. I panicked, wanting to labour quietly and privately, but Harry went downstairs and reassured me that he would tell our guest that I was out of the house. During the 15 or 20mins he was downstairs, the contractions amped up a little again in both frequency and intensity again, and I felt uneasy not having Harry with me for even a few minutes. I was texting him frantically asking when he’d come back, and eventually he managed to get rid of our guest. What surprised me was that Harry really was my anchor of calm throughout the whole experience. Something about having him close by me helped keep me feel calm, grounded and protected. I know that part of this was also because I knew I could relinquish some control of the whole process to him, because he was so well-versed in hypnobirthing too, and could guide me in the right direction if things started to slow down or speed up, take control of speaking to the hospital, and generally make sure I was eating and hydrated. I felt safe with him by my side, and I could then completely focus on breathing through my surges.
Unsurprisingly to us even at the time, after the arrival of the unwanted guest, my surges slowed again to 7mins, which, after over 13 hours was quite frustrating to me. This, of course, slowed things down more. We then had a second intrusion with Harry's dad coming over, letting himself in and calling up the stairs to see if we wanted any dinner! This is where everything we’d learnt with you was utterly invaluable. Harry had taken control of timing my contractions at this point, could see exactly what was happening, and made it his mission to keep me calm, and to keep my oxytocin flowing. Also, by this point, I had started to get the most intense pain in my back both during but also between contractions. He suggested I get in the shower and set it up with my birthing ball inside so that I could bounce comfortably on it, as well as turning out the lights and lighting some candles. He knew that this is just what I had visualised for my birth experience, and that these are the things that relax me in any given situation. We had music playing, and the hot water on my back was the most beautiful relief. While I did step out periodically to cool down, I was in the shower for around 4hrs, and Harry kept me hydrated and energised with sips of water and Lucozade Sport. I bounced on my ball to the beat of the music and something about the rhythm really helped me ride the wave of each surge.
Even though all I wanted was him close by, Harry noticed that I was progressing better and faster when he left the room, so he sat outside the bathroom and I knocked on the shower glass when I felt a surge rising, and then knocked on it again when it finished, so Harry could time it. During these hours, he was in communication with the birth centre as he noticed my surges getting closer together. But soon enough the back pain became incredibly intense. I would put the water at its hottest when I felt a surge rise, and I’d start with the shower head on my back and then follow it round to my tummy as the surge peaked. That provided me with some relief, but as the hours passed, I kept asking Harry questions about what the hospital were saying and querying why we couldn’t go in yet. Eventually I forced him to tell me what was going on and how far my surges were apart, since I felt like I had been working very hard for hours. After much protestation from me, he finally told me that my contractions would speed up, regulate and then they would slow down again. I felt myself losing all motivation at this point. I got out of the shower, and I felt totally defeated. I tried different positions, and sat watching some comedy with a hot water bottle on my back to try to get my oxytocin levels up again (and this did help!) The tools we had learnt while studying hypnobirthing really were invaluable. They helped us regain control and gave us a deep understanding of my body, allowing us to focus and just listen to it to give me what I needed in order to birth our baby into the world. Even when labour did not follow the structure that we imagined it would, we were able to understand what was happening, and why, and try to remedy that.
Eventually, the hospital told Harry that we could come in once my contractions were 2mins apart for four hours. That amount of time was just inconceivable to me, and at this point it had been almost 22hrs. I didn’t understand why I was being given this guidance, and by this point I had been saying for several hours that I thought the baby was back to back, having listened to and read so many birth stories throughout my pregnancy. I just knew that this is what was happening to me, because by now I had absolutely no relief from the intensity of the pressure in my back in between contractions. Also, through my whole pregnancy, primarily due to hypnobirthing, I had complete confidence in my ability to be able to manage the entire birth peacefully and without pain relief and be able to birth my baby in the most positive and calm way possible. There was no doubt in my mind that I could do this, so when I was faced with an intensity that was beyond that which I had imagined, I just knew that there was another factor in play and that my baby was back to back. I felt so in tune with my body, that it was an instinct, and it helped me understand what was going on.
Despite that, though, Harry could feel me losing motivation from pure exhaustion, from the crushing pressure in my back, as well as the back and forth of guidance from the hospital. Like an angel, he sat outside the shower and read me positive affirmations. The love and support I felt from him in that moment maybe helped my oxytocin levels rise again. He helped me get centred again and remind myself that my body was made to do this. I had also lost concept of time for a long while now. After an hour and a half more in the shower, I really wanted to go to the hospital, because I wanted to know where we were in the whole process, and I also wanted a midwife to confirm my thoughts about the baby being back to back. Somehow, I felt like moving and going to the hospital was us doing something productive, and that it would somehow get things going more quickly. So we began to get ready. We were both quite nervous that I would be sent back home due to the irregularity of my surges and the stop/start nature of my labour all day, but as I got dressed, my waters broke all over the bed. Immediately I felt a slight release of pressure in my back, and I felt confident and re-motivated now that I could see that something was happening. We got our things together and got in the car.
The lack of relief from suddenly having no hot water on my back, compounded by sitting upright in the front seat was quite uncomfortable, but my surges were coming thick and fast, and with my new motivation, I felt like I had some control back over it.
We got to the hospital, and on the walk to the maternity unit, the intensity of the surges caused me to double over on the floor several times. I felt like I just wanted to curl into myself in a foetal position to ride the wave of each surge, so that’s what I did. Eventually, when I was called in to be examined, the midwife confirmed what I had known all along. That my baby was back to back. She also confirmed that I was 7cm dilated. I was so relieved. I felt some comfort in knowing that the last 24hrs had not been completely purposeless and that my body had been doing something even though my contractions were so irregular. She gave me some gas and air to take the edge off, and it really helped me to focus on my breathing and stay calm during each surge. They sped up very quickly. The midwife also confirmed that the baby had moved off my back slightly, and onto his side now, and so it looked like things were moving in the right direction. I think I felt strangely empowered by the news that he definitely had been back to back. Firstly, I felt so proud of myself for being able to do something which I had read was notoriously extremely challenging, but also empowered by the fact that I knew my body so well. It made me feel like I had never lost control, even when it felt like it.
The midwife then suggested we use a TENS machine - which we had all along, but hadn’t even thought to use! Primarily because the most intense part of the whole day was spent in the shower, but also because I snapped at Harry at one point that I didn’t think it would work anyway. That turned out not to be true! The gas and air, coupled with the TENS machine, was amazing. I could totally concentrate and ride the wave of the surge. It became completely manageable. What felt like immediately after using the G&A and TENS, I felt a powerful pressure, and the midwife confirmed that that was the baby coming whilst I was still in the examination room in Triage. Things were progressing very fast. They began to prepare a birthing suite for us, and I asked for the birthing pool to be filled. Whilst that was happening, I was told that I tested positive for Group Step B - which we had not been told before. Very strangely, I had actually declined the test for Group Strep B, but two weeks before I gave birth, I ran into a friend in the antenatal unit of the hospital who told me that when she had her first baby, she had not been offered the test for GSB and it turned out that she had it, and her baby became extremely unwell in the ICU for a couple of weeks. Given that after this conversation I went straight into my appointment with my midwife, I asked to be tested too, just to be on the safe side. Turns out, I also tested positive. Anyway, they administered some antibiotics through a cannula in my hand, and I focused on my surges with the help of the TENS.
By the time it was time to get into the pool, the pressure of the baby coming lower and lower was escalating faster and faster. I felt a sense of calm and control, and the sensation of the water was just amazing. He must have moved from my back by this point, because I don’t remember the back pain bothering me at all after this. I don’t even remember the surges bothering me very much either. The intensity of the pressure of the baby moving further down took over, and what happened next was like an animal instinct.
I kneeled in the pool facing Harry, and whenever I surged and I let go of all tension in my body while he held the weight of me up (poor guy!). I just wanted him super close to me all the time. The pressure became so powerful, and I was shocked to discover that the sensation really was like I had heard so many people describe it - like the feeling of being sick. Not being able to stop it, and your stomach just heaving. I was sick a little bit, and poor Harry had to catch it in his hands. This part of the birth was my favourite. It felt so purposeful, I felt so in control, and the faith I had felt in myself and my body throughout my pregnancy had come back to life. I was making these guttural noises through each surge, and the deep sound of them really helped me breathe the baby down. I wasn’t even thinking about it at at the time; I just let my voice and my body do whatever it felt to do. The midwife eventually told me that she would be taking the G&A off me, as she believed the baby would come faster without it. I protested, because I was really feeling comfortable at this point, and I was convinced it was because of the G&A. I’d only had it for an hour at this point. But it seemed that it wasn’t really the G&A that was giving me relief. It was just relaxing me, letting me focus on my breathing at a time where I had lost my rhythm and my ability to breathe when the back pain was taking over. In what felt like 10mins (but was closer to about 30-40mins), I finally felt the head crowning. It kept slipping up and down the birth canal, and I remember asking lots of questions, like whether this was normal and ok, and whether the baby was ok each time they checked the heartbeat. At this point, I had moved and was sitting in the birthing pool with Harry still holding me up underneath the arms. I felt his head crowning with my hand, and my body totally did all of the work and pushed for me. I remember just giving in to the intensity with the guttural noises I was making. It was such a reflex. I don’t remember feeling any pain during this part at all. I would describe it as the most powerful and purposeful sensation imaginable. I remember feeling the burn for a matter of seconds but allowing my body to push through it to birth his head into the world, just as I had learned. It was hard, but also easy. I just felt so calm. Then I waited for the next surge to rise before his body was born into the water at 7:19am on Thursday 30th May 2019. They put him on my chest, and within 2hrs of me arriving at the hospital, I had given birth to the most beautiful baby boy.
Despite the labour being more challenging than I had envisaged, at the same time, it absolutely was as empowering and spectacular as I had imagined it would be. We were able to use all of the tools we had learnt to experience exactly the birth we had wanted. We laboured at home for almost the entire duration, and then when we did get into hospital, it was the most mindblowingly powerful experience I could ever have imagined. The final stages were so genuinely enjoyable, I felt like I could do it all over again. I also could not have done it without Harry. He was truly my anchor of calm in my darkest moments, and I like to describe it as “our birth” because it wasn’t just me birthing my baby. We did it together, all 26hrs of it. We came out with even more than just our beautiful son, if that is even possible, because what we experienced together was just so incredible - and I really believe it is testament to you and to hypnobirthing that we were able to have such a positive and wonderful birth.