Hollie & Karl
A little bit of background
“You’ve got to be in the room with me” I said to my fiancé Karl when I was at least 20 weeks pregnant, I was of course talking about during labour and his response was fairly apprehensive to say the least. I mean it was all very new still, and already I was talking about the grand finale (let’s grow the baby first eh?). I don’t think Karl had thought that far- neither of us really had, but his nervous disposition was enough to make me realise that I should start thinking about it. Was I scared for labour too?
At that time I wasn’t frightened at all, I was fuelled on excitement, shopping for baby clothes (incredibly unpractical outfits but mega cute all the same) and let’s face it I was only half way into the wonderful world of pregnancy; meeting our boy seemed like light years away.
After a few fleeting chats with some friends who had either not long given birth or were pregnant I decided that hypnobirthing sounded like a great idea. For those of you that know me, I’m a particularly positive person. I truly believe that our mind and thoughts are immeasurably powerful and that how we think and behave determines more than what we give credit to. Essentially I believe that what we are is what we attract; and one of the many secrets of hypnobirthing is positivity; so it was a no brainer.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with hypnobirthing, it is a practice that equips a mother and father-to-be with the tools that they need to have a calm and natural birth. HB was without a shadow of a doubt one of the best things I have ever done, well apart from giving birth and having a beautiful son, but that goes without saying. In a very small nutshell, through breathing techniques, visualisations, relaxation methods, affirmations and scenario planning, this method offers the soon-to-be mother with a plethora of ways to navigate her way through labour and birth relying only on the strength of her mind and body to deliver her baby safely to her.
As soon as I understood that giving birth is a normal physiological process; much like breathing, I was able to lose sight of any fears that I may have had regarding child birth and began to feel at ease with the process. I very quickly learned to trust myself with the miraculous task of bringing our little human into the world, regardless of the turns that my labour and birth may take. Labour and Birth is so negatively portrayed through stories and the media, it really is no wonder that so many of us are frightened about it- with anxiety taking over the single most important and special days of our lives. Over the course of my pregnancy I prepared myself for not only a natural labour, but also any instances that I may need an intervention. I think this is very important, to know your options and be accepting of a plan B. The feeling of being in control for this moment is of the upmost importance, and is only possible once you arm yourself with the information you need.
Due Date Week
The week of my due date I received a letter from the hospital which informed me that I am a carrier of Group B strep. Now mamas if you haven’t heard of this I would recommend you give it a little research. GBS is a natural gut bacteria that 25% of women carry, and while it is absolutely normal and harmless for the mother, if transmitted to the newborn baby during childbirth it can have severe implications for their health. This new information knocked me for six, my hands trembled as I read the pamphlet included in the letter, my eyes rolling over the statistics and how it could affect our little one. After a some much needed research I discovered that GBS being passed on to a newborn can be easily prevented, with a drip of antibiotics at the beginning of labour. The only part of my ‘birth plan’ that changed due to this is that I needed to get to the hospital a little earlier than I was planning to on that magical day.
Labouring – For the rest of this post I will be referring to contractions as ‘surges’ as it’s a more positive word and one used in hypnobirthing.
Oh that’s what a surge feels like? They were rolling in every 5-6 minutes on Saturday 27th April and with the worry of GBS in the back of my mind, we made our way to the Birth Centre.
Suitcases in hand (you guessed it, I overpacked) we were guided into our birthing suite, a double bed, birthing pool and a peaceful vibe radiating from the dim lilac lighting. I should add that as I was using hypnobirthing methods I opted to not have my dilation checked at any point. This is because it can slow down the labouring process or make a hypnobirthing mother lose focus if she isn’t as far as long she imagined. Labour can take many many hours, so if after the first 10 I had been told I was only 3 cm, I may have just gone home.
We sat back, got comfy and waited for the surges and my body to let us know it was happening. Although I was surging throughout the night, I wasn’t yet in active labour as my contractions weren’t close enough or consistent, so we used this time to rest in anticipation for the big moment and made our way home at 5am on the guidance of our midwife who said to come back when my surges were more regular.
The Real Deal
Let’s start this next phase by getting the most cliché part of my labour out of the way; my surges rolled in on Sunday 28th April while I was quite happily tucking into an Indian takeaway- textbook I know but I kept calm and curried on (mum joke alert).
With the strength of the surges increasing we gulped down the last bit of a mega tasty Dansak and made our way back to the birthing centre. The drive to Cambridge was at sunset and Karl and I couldn’t hold in the excitement of meeting our little boy sometime soon. With each passing car and as the sun swooped lower into the horizon we could feel that we were getting closer to meeting him.
Later that evening, after about the first 6 hours of labour, my surges became every two minutes or so and lasting over 100 seconds each. At this point I strapped up to the Tens Machine, (a magical contraption that sends electrical impulses down your spine to reduce the pain signals to the brain) and oh boy does it work. I also took two paracetamols. Along with the tens machine, through every surge I breathed in for 4 and out for 6. These were deep inward breaths with my eyes closed and during this time I would visualise my baby coming safely and calmly. I also imagined that every breath inflated a giant balloon and with every exhale a ribbon unwound around my womb, a visualisation of everything opening and releasing. In addition to this, I might add that I dropped the F bomb a fair few times too, that isn’t a hypnobirthing technique but it definitely works to some degree.
Karl was so incredible and made for the most amazing birthing parter; he ensured I was hydrated, communicated with the midwives and reminded me throughout that I can do this, and that soon we will be meeting our little human. It’s a really good thing to prep your birthing partner beforehand on a few things that they can do to help you during labour, that way while you are experiencing surges you won’t need to worry so much about asking for particular things and can save your energy too. It’s the little things that Karl did like stroking my back or finding things in my suitcase that really allowed me to keep my mind clear, he also did things to create a relaxing atmosphere; setting up a lavender diffuser and was the official labour DJ, playing my relaxation music and affirmations.
With every surge I found myself deep squatting through it or on my knees, resting my arms against something, with my head between my arms. The two positions I found myself in and out of for the next 8 or so hours. I also sipped down Lucosade Sports, sat on the birthing ball, and lay in bed to rest. Always focusing on relaxing, and breathing through it, keeping those positive vibes flowing and turning to Karl for love and support.
It’s happening…8am on April 29th and time for the midwives to switchover, in walked Rosie and Kiera who were the wonderful midwives taking over for the rest of my labour and would also be the beautiful humans who would be there for Archie’s arrival into the world. Soon after their shift began they quickly decided it was time to fill the pool and for me to get into the water- I was soooo happy and excited to see these surges out in the pool.
In just a nursing bra, I got into the birthing pool and went through the motions of surges for a further two hours. The wonderful Rosie; a trainee midwife, was such a magical part of my labour journey. It’s so crazy how things work because I had said in my birth plan that I wouldn’t like a trainee midwife to be present. My mind changed in a split second because Rosie had such a calming presence I just knew I wanted her there with me and on this journey. I couldn’t be happier with the decision for Rosie to be one of my baby catchers, and soon found out that she is a qualified hypnobirthing teacher (so meant to be). It just goes to show that birth plans are there as a guideline only and you should absolutely remain flexible!
Anyway, lets get back to the pool. Rosie, Kiera and Karl all sat quietly around and would occasionally whisper positive affirmations to me “you are in control” “you know what to do” “you are doing so well”…it was just what I needed.
As I was getting ever so close to meeting our son, and the surges came in stronger I asked for Gas and Air. I decided to use three breaths per contraction; I don’t love the feeling when you have too much and can feel a little spaced out so I kept it minimal, so just knowing it was there was a great aid.
And then there it was, my body had the most magnificent urge to push. I cant’ explain it, but I began bearing down, the quiet tranquility of my slow and calm breathing dissipated and was swapped instantly with much louder breathing and moans. I can’t quite put the feeling into a better description than “it feels like I am about to take the biggest poop of my life” and I did genuinely say this at the time too. Now, in addition to the surges was this added urge to push and in some way release my little boy. During this time I did “J” breathing, I breathed in deeply as I inflated and filled my tummy to make room for Archie, and breathed out with control and a rather loud “ahhh” sound, driving my stomach downwards. In Rosie’s own blog, she quite eloquently summed this part up “it wasn’t about being the most quiet birth, it was about her being in control and empowered”. I did feel in control and with every breath and loud moan I felt my baby coming closer to me.
Finally my waters broke (see this doesn’t always happen like it does in the movies in the back of a taxi or as the first sign of labour).
In between moans, deep breaths and short rests I envisaged our little one making his way into the world. I imagined flowers opening up (because that’s easier to imagine than a vagina getting bigger) and soon enough Archie’s head was coming.
With a final huge breath, push and moan, and the most unexplainable feeling I felt Archie make his way into the water. Rosie pushed my little human through my legs and guided him towards me. I looked down to see him making his way through the water and finally in front of me. I pulled him up out of the water with help from Kiera and Rosie and put him onto my chest, in what can only be described as the most magical moment of my entire life.