When I was a little girl I always dreamt of having twins but never thought that that dream would become a reality. I was born with a rare condition called hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism that was not formally diagnosed until I was twenty one. I spent my teens at the mercy of intrusive tests and doctors that often spoke over me and left me feeling empty inside. One specific phrase was always circling my mind, ‘you may never be able to have children’. My husband Ben is the first person I ever shared this with. He was so supportive and I just knew that he was ‘the one’. After exploring treatment options we were over the moon in the summer of 2010 when I fell pregnant with our eldest daughter Eliza. It was at this time that a friend introduced us to hypnobirthing.
Ben and I used these relaxation techniques throughout my pregnancy and in preparation for Eliza’s birth. We decided to have a home water birth and in 2011 she was born safely and quickly at home, weighing a healthy 7lb 5oz. My labour was enjoyable and we were especially proud that we remained so calm despite our midwives not showing up until just thirty minutes before her birth! We had been so busy organising the pool and standing together throughout surges that neither one of us had noticed the hours drift by. At the point when the midwives arrived I was fully dilated and hadn’t realised it, I just felt the need to bear down and breath my baby out. This was my light bulb moment and I couldn’t wait to do it again. I truly loved the experience despite having a retained placenta and an unfortunate transfer to hospital for its removal in theatre.
Starting the fertility journey again for our second child was not going to be as easy as we had hoped. We were no longer entitled to funding and so had to find other avenues to provide a sibling for Eliza. I am part of many fertility networks and after following the donor journey of a friend I realised there were people out there less fortunate than ourselves that would love a child to call their own. She introduced me to egg sharing. I would undergo funded IVF but would donate half of my eggs to an anonymous couple. After many discussions and counselling sessions we decided to go ahead. Unfortunately our first IVF cycle was to be unsuccessful, as was our second, but we did have one embryo left to freeze. In the mean time we went on to try ovulation induction with injectables.
I still remember the day I tested. Finally after such a hard year there it was ‘pregnant’. I cried so much, I was so happy that we had finally made it! Due to the nature of our treatment the clinic booked me an early scan. They looked worried, ‘this may be a blighted ovum or it may just be too early’. There appeared to be a small sac but no baby on the ultra sound, I was devastated and cried all the way home. I was advised to have a re-scan in a weeks time. Ben tried to reassure me as I had had ‘some’ pregnancy symptoms, I had been feeling nauseated and swollen but wasn’t sure if it was just my imagination. When I arrived at my local hospital I was very anxious. The lady reassured me and turned the screen to face me. I could see two dark sacs. ‘Are they my swollen ovaries?’ …’no’ she said, ‘they are your babies’.
In the weeks that past I wanted to share the news but we decided to wait until the twelve week point. Straight away I started to practice hypnobirthing with my husband. We dedicated an evening a week to relaxation techniques, positive affirmations and light touch massage. We were so excited to be able to plan another homebirth, but this time with our twins! Little did we know that we were about to face some big hurdles. When I arrived to my booking appointment everything seemed fine until I saw ‘high risk’ written on my file.
High risk care meant that I would be having care between midwives and obstetricians. I had come to expect that this may be the case as others had warned me that I would not be ‘allowed’ to have a homebirth, or a water birth on the midwife led unit. It was explained that I would have to have a hospital birth on the consultant led unit, that they had a specialist room for birthing multiples. We decided to visit this space and booked a tour of the hospital. The rooms in the midwife led unit were gorgeous, spacious and welcoming. A home from home environment. The multiples room however was the only one on the consultant led unit that was not decorated. It was cold and uninviting. There was medical equipment everywhere and it looked like a dumping ground for unused equipment. In the corner was an operating table and loose tiles hung from the ceiling. As soon as the tour had finished my husband and I looked at each other. ‘There is no way we are birthing our babies in there’.
I raised my concerns with my community midwife and she put me in touch with the Supervisor of Midwives. She was great and helped us write a birth plan that would meet the consultants half way with their demands. I agreed to be on the consultant led unit but in the water birthing room, if it was available on the day. I requested to have predominantly midwife led care and interventions were to be used only if entirely necessary and the reasons for these were to be clearly explained to my husband and I so that we could make informed decisions on my babies birthing day. I decided to decline continuous monitoring and the siting of epidurals and canulas as these would prevent me birthing in the water. Instead I opted for intermittent monitoring and water and/or gas and air to help with any discomfort I may feel. I was confident that I could birth my babies naturally and I expressed how important it was that I felt comfortable in my birthing environment to aid this process. I knew from my first experience of birth that I would want to be active and birthing upright, even if this was not possible in water when the day came. I explained the importance of my hypnobirthing techniques and creating a relaxing environment to birth in. That these wishes needed to be respected and requested that my husband and doula were to be the only persons present for the majority of the birth, alongside my midwife.
Although the consultants were not entirely happy with my plan they appeared to have accepted it. However as the weeks went by things took a turn and I was called in for more and more regular ‘meetings’. The stress of these meetings was starting to take its toll on my husband and I. We were being labelled as an ‘issue’, and were made aware that higher bodies were discussing our ’case’. We felt this was totally uncalled for. I was in extremely good health and had no underlying health issues that could affect the birth, no increased BP or signs of pre-eclampsia and regular growth scans showed that both girls were doing extremely well. Despite all of this we were bombarded with comments about putting our babies at risk of dying and constantly reminded about the risks of stillbirth past 37 weeks. This scare mongering was very upsetting as our babies health was always at the fore front of our mind and any decisions we made were always informed decisions. No actual facts or figures could be presented to us when we requested them and our own research showed that the majority of risks for twins surrounded identical twins and those sharing a placenta. Our girls are fraternal and were in separate sacs with separate placentas.
In our eyes we were the ideal candidates for a natural twin birth. The babies and I were in good health and twin one was head down throughout most of my pregnancy and showing no signs of changing as I approached the third trimester. Twin two was breech but I was told this shouldn’t be a problem for a vaginal birth as she may move once twin one was born. As it happened I felt a strong pressure in my side as I approached 36 weeks, followed by a dizzy spell. This pressure was twin two changing positions. She was now head down too, so even though I was being advised to book an elective c section or induction at 37 weeks I saw no medical reason to do so.
At 38 weeks I had had enough and made the brave decision to change hospitals. The staff at my new hospital were much more in favour of natural twin birth and supported and respected our wishes. We agreed to regular weekly monitoring and additional scans to check babies and placenta health. This seemed like a fair compromise and I was pleased to hear that the midwives supported hypnobirthing mums and could see its benefits for mum and baby. Everything was progressing well and at 38 & 39 weeks I agreed to a sweep to move things along a little. This seemed like the most natural intervention I could endure. However it was an awful experience and at 40 weeks the babies had still not arrived, so clearly my body was not ready. We still wanted to avoid induction and so I had some alternative therapies including acupuncture, reflexology and a hypnosis fear release session with friends. I felt a million dollars and slept peacefully that night.
At 40 weeks and 2 days my labour started spontaneously. I felt a pop and excitedly woke my husband. It was strange as I was sure my waters had ruptured but there was no water in sight. Once at the hospital I was pleased to see the birthing room I wanted was free. It was spacious with a large birthing pool and natural landscape on the wall. At this point we called Tamara, our doula and friend, despite the time being just 2am she ventured down to join us. The next few hours passed peacefully. I had dimmed lights, relaxing music and the two most important people with me. They were a great support system and stopped any un-necessary interruptions. The pressure in my back was getting stronger and stronger so my doula advised that I keep changing positions. I leant over my birthing ball and rocked peacefully whilst my husband massaged my back. My doula added a heat pack and it was such a great relief. I think I even snoozed for a little while.
At around 6am I requested to get into the birthing pool but after checking me the midwife on duty didn’t feel I was far enough into established labour. This happened with my first pregnancy too. If you are calm people often assume you are not very far on but I just knew things would increase rapidly from that moment on. My doula was very supportive and said, ‘just remember it is just a number, you are doing great’. By the time the midwives changed morning shifts I was in the pool. I felt urges to bear down and the pressure in my back was becoming more intense and very different to what I had experienced with my first birth, I now know that this was probably because Emily was back to back but we had no idea that this was the case at the time. I continued to use my hypnobirthing surge breaths in between surges to stay calm and relaxed. My new midwife was amazing. She had experience of twin birth and immediately put me at ease with her confidence and calm persona. She could see that my labour was progressing quickly and requested I get out of the pool for some intermittent monitoring but gave me the choice to return if I wanted to. I was offered gas and air and used it to change positions.
By about 8.30am I was upright on the bed, leaning over my ball and rocking back and forth. I made some humming noises as I rocked back and forth and this helped me stay relaxed. Another hour passed and I decided to lean over the back of the bed. Being in this upright position felt comfortable and I was able to rest a little between surges. They were now coming very frequently and I was advised that I was fully dilated. At 10.21am Emily Grace was birthed gently into the world weighing 7lb 5oz. She didn’t make a sound but instead just looked up at me, she was so calm and relaxed. I was able to hold her in my arms while I waited for her cord to stop pulsating.
Five minutes passed and my surges were yet to return. I was asked to turn around and was shocked to find a room full of medical professionals, I was so deep in self hypnosis that I had no idea they were there! My midwife was very impressed and told me that it is rare for a mum to birth a back to back baby without any interventions. After a further ten minutes I could see that the medical professionals were getting uneasy as my surges had yet to return and they had started to prepare a drip. After getting through my entire labour without any interference from others I was reluctant to let it happen now. My doula could see that I was uneasy with this and advised that I try latching Emily onto the breast as this may help them return. I started to feel some mild surges and so my husband and Tamara helped me get back into the upright position. Ben held my hand and told me that I was doing great and that he was so proud of me. Tamara held Emily so that I knew she was in safe hands.
Within less than five minutes Eryn Roses’ head was birthed. This time it felt so fast. Eryn was in the perfect birthing position with her waters intact. I remember a silent wait for her body to emerge and then she just appeared weighing a healthy 6lb 15 1/2oz. I couldn’t believe that both my girls were born with their waters intact. This is seen to be rare but very lucky. I felt so blessed that they were both born safely into the world. We waited for Eryn’s cord to stop pulsating and then both girls were returned to me for skin to skin. I remember just staring at them, amazed that my birth had gone exactly as I wanted it to. Both girls immediately latched on to feed and I was so proud of them.
About half hour passed and I was advised to have the injection to aid the placentas delivery. I was a little anxious about this after my previous retained placenta and more than anything I did not want a repeat of that experience. I did not want to be taken away from my babies. Ben watched the girls and Tamara held my hand. Just having her there with words of encouragement reminded me that I could do this. Sure enough within about another fifteen minutes I birthed the placenta. I remember being amazed by its size and noticed that both girls placentas had merged into one giant one. We chose to keep the cords and Tamara had them arranged in a heart shape. Every time I look at them I am reminded of my wonderful birth experience. I had no stitches and was told that if I wanted to I could go home that morning or if I preferred I could stay on the midwife led unit for a night. This is unheard of at The Princess Alexandra hospital but the medical professionals were so proud of my birth and the way it went that they saw no reason why I should be denied this relaxing opportunity. I had a lovely stay with my girls and drove myself home the next morning.
My amazing birth experiences have led me to my recent Wise Hippo instructor training. Now that it is complete I cannot wait to begin my classes and empower other women to make confident, informed decisions about their special births. After all, every woman deserves the right to have a wonderful birth experience! You can find out more about me and my hypnobirthing classes at www.birthingcalmly.co.uk