My baby girl turned one yesterday, so felt it a good time to share my birth story.
When I got pregnant I was terrified. As a midwife, I had seen so many women in pain, begging for an epidural and thinking they were dying. How the hell would I cope with labour?! My colleague and friend had set up her business teaching HypnoBirthing a few years before. She suggested I come along to a course as she knew how anxious I was. I had no idea what to expect and my partner (who is very scientifically minded) was dubious to say the least. After the first session I was hooked. We were shown a video of a woman birthing in the pool, fist pumping and sobbing with joy when her baby was born. If she could do it, so could I surely? From then on, I worked my socks off on my days off and when I got home from work. I listened to positive affirmations; practised breathing techniques; read any positive birth stories I could get my hands on (many of which featured on your blog) and performed perineal massage. I also read some really influential texts, such as Grantly Dick-Read’s ‘Childbirth without Fear’ and all of Ina May Gaskin’s books. I was exhausted but determined to have a good birth. There is a lot of pressure on a pregnant midwife I feel. I didn’t want to be the one who was gossiped about in the tearoom as ‘not coping’ in labour.
One day after my due date at 3am, my waters broke. I went into midwife mode. Calmly got out of bed, checked the loss was clear and popped a pad on. I didn’t tell a soul, not even my partner until 8am. I phoned the midwife led unit where I was planning to birth and told them that my waters broke but I wasn’t contracting. I declined to go into the unit for a speculum examination (a look inside the vagina to check the waters have definitely broken) and told the lovely midwife I would like to wait to see if any contractions started. As a trained professional, I knew what I was doing and was desperate for my labour to start. I felt this was more likely if I stayed in my own environment. Ha! After hours of bouncing on the birth ball, watching films and pacing round the lounge, I was still only having mild tightenings every 10 mins. At 4pm, my mobile rang. It was the sister of the midwife led unit. She wanted me to go in and get checked out. Reluctantly I agreed as I knew time was ticking on. One of my closest midwifery pals was the lucky lady who got to perform the examination which was so bizarre. She informed me that my waters had in fact broken but my os (cervix) was closed. I was booked in to be induced the following morning. I felt so deflated.
We drove home and I made my chap stop en route to grab us some dinner. We got home and I ran a bath with my essential oils and put my HypnoBirthing relaxation CD on. As I got into the bath and started practising my breathing techniques, I felt something start to happen. A really powerful (not painful) tightening sensation across my tummy. They started happening every three minutes from then on. My chap came in with dinner for me (the fresh filled pasta with sauce – student grub!) and preceded to feed me over the side of the bath. I felt so relaxed and in control. My body, now fully fuelled, really began to work, with the sensations getting more intense. I must be contracting, I thought, though it really didn’t hurt. At about 11pm, I climbed out of the bath and preceded to pace our bedroom. All of a sudden, I felt the need to be at the unit. I phoned at 1am and informed them I was coming in. The five minute journey was no picnic. On all fours, on the back seat, I mooed like a cow all the way there. Once at the hospital, I stood nervously at the lift, which is directly outside the Delivery Suite. I was so anxious I would be seen by a colleague. I didn’t want to added pressure of being upstairs on the midwife led unit and colleagues on the wards and CDS knowing I was labouring! The midwife who cared for me was amazing, a previous mentor of mine when I was a student midwife! She didn’t want to examine me until 24hours after my waters had broken just in case I wasn’t in fact labouring. I was very calm so I’m not sure she was convinced! 3am (24hours) came and went. I wasn’t examined as she could tell after two hours of observing me that I was labouring. I wasn’t asking for any pain relief either, which would be another indication for a vaginal examination. At 4am, I felt my baby drop down into my pelvis further and rotate. This was accompanied by an overwhelming need to push (like an urge to vommit!) I had no control over this feeling which I hated as I had felt so in control up until this point. I couldn’t possibly be fully dilated though, surely? I had only started contracting properly at 7pm and still didn’t feel pain. I was in the pool at this point and expressed my confusion to my fab midwife who suggested I had a feel myself. So, in the pool, in front of my mum and fiancée, I preceded to examine myself!! OMG, I was fully dilated and could feel the head! I was doing it! The next two hours were hard work. I did everything I could to get my baby out. I squatted, sat on the loo, got in and out of the pool and pushed like mad. At times, It felt like my baby was just not going to fit through my bones. I remembered one of the affirmations which talks about your baby being perfect for your size though and that kept me calm and focused. At 6:23am my perfect girl floated into the world into the warm water of the pool and was bought up to the surface by her daddy. I had done it. Less than 12 hours of active labour, no pain relief at all and an intact perineum! Amazing! I felt like I could conquer the world, it was such an awesome feeling – the hugest high ever.
HypnoBirthing totally helped me stay calm throughout my pregnancy and in the immediate postnatal period as well as the labour. I was so inspired by this amazing movement that I decided to train as a Practitioner. I have now taught one group of parents in my mat leave and will continue throughout this year. I will be returning to work next week as a Community Midwife and I can’t wait to try and help more women feel better about birth. If I can do it, so can anyone.