Birth Story Of The Week – Jo and Betsy

In light of the Guardian’s story on hypnobirthing and it’s ever increasing popularity, today’s birth story from Jo describes how learning the techniques taught on her hypnobirthing course helped her overcome her fears from her previous traumatic birth, Tissues at the ready!

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My first daughter’s birth in 2012 didn’t exactly go to plan. I read all the books, did NCT, talked to friends and wrote my birth plan. Not once did I prepare for not being in control or for an emergency caesarean. I was left pretty shell shocked and it took me a while to get my shit together. I felt a bit like I had failed at the most important thing in my life. But I focused on the fact my beautiful daughter was fine and healthy. And I vowed never to do it again. Birth that is.

When I discovered I was pregnant again in May 2014 all the fears I’d stuffed to the back of my mind came back to life. I felt terrified and hated the thought of going through it all again. I spoke to my friend and midwife Clemmie at length about my worries. She knew how traumatic it had been first time round but right from our first conversation about it she said it would be different this time. I trusted her – she’s a wonder woman birth warrior, and my friend after all.
 
I knew I wanted to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). I had felt like I’d failed first time round, even though I’d gone through a long and hard labour resulting in caesarean, it somehow didn’t count as giving birth. Just because I didn’t push the baby out the usual way, I hadn’t done it ‘properly’. What does that say about the pressure on women surrounding birth?!
 
Clemmie suggested hypnobirthing and put us in contact with the lovely Hollie at London Hypnobirthing. We booked on to a course in October (my EDD was early January). I thought we’d probably be experiencing a few ‘and you’re back in the room’ moments but I was willing to give anything a shot. I spent the time busying myself with my stressful job and looking after a 2 and a half year old. I also fretted furiously about how the baby would fit into our family, and our house, and would I love it as much as my daughter? Was that possible? And all the other hormonal things that go round a pregnant woman’s head.
 
So October came and we started a loft conversion (wtf were we thinking?) and our hypnobirthing course. Right from the first session I felt differently. We learnt relaxation techniques and did breathing activities. We discussed birth in a safe and calm environment. There were only four couples and it felt very relaxed and intimate. My husband Tom was sold straight away, he took to it immediately. There was no hippy dippy stuff, just normal people looking to learn ways to relax and welcome their babies in a calm way without fear. We watched videos of births that were so calm the babies were born asleep! We did some work on releasing fear which helped the two of us talk honestly about the things we were worried about to do with the birth. Turned out our fears were identical. One of the fundamental things I took from the course was the belief that I had every right for my voice to be heard and that I could birth this baby the way I wanted.
 
Over the next few weeks I began to feel really quite excited about the birth and looked forward to meeting our baby. Something I never thought I’d do. One thing I wasn’t excited about was the endless builders coming and going from our house. Don’t do a loft conversion while you’re pregnant!
 
I was determined that our little girl had Christmas without the new baby stealing the show, plus Clemmie was going away for a couple of days so I told the baby to stay put and went about enjoying Christmas. I got quite emotional towards the end of my pregnancy and every day with my daughter felt significant. Our last days as a three. I’m ridiculously sentimental at the best of times but this was off the scale! It got to the point where Tom banned me from looking at baby pictures and videos of my daughter because I kept making myself cry…
 
I’d bought a soft doll to leave for my daughter if she woke up one morning and I wasn’t there (as in gone to have the baby…). I left it until the Saturday on the last weekend of the school holidays to wrap it up and wrote her an extremely soppy card (for someone to read to her). Tom said gloomily, “looks like I’m going back to work on Monday then” and we went to bed. I knew I was ready so the baby could come when it wanted.
 
At 4am I woke with mild period pain. This time round I completely and utterly trusted my instincts, I knew this was it. I put my relaxation mp3 on and closed my eyes. I must have gone back to sleep because at 6 I woke and realised the surges (hypnobirthing speak for contractions) had started. I woke Tom and told him to call his parents to come and get our daughter. Considering they were on high alert and live ten minutes away it seemed like it took them forever to get to us! My daughter woke up and I got her dressed, gave her a million hugs, packed her a bag and ended up opening her present with her. My hormones got the better of me and I was holding back some serious tears. When she left the house at 8 the surges instantly got a whole lot stronger.

I had a bath and Tom texted Clemmie. I think she got to us about 10am and at that point the surges were quite strong but I was breathing through them and feeling fine. I could feel adrenaline running through me and I was trying to stay relaxed. During Hypnobirthing we learnt about how adrenaline can slow labour or stop it altogether. I really didn’t want that to happen. Our second midwife arrived and was instantly warm and supportive.

When Clemmie examined me at 11am she said I was fully dilated! I couldn’t believe that I’d got to 10 without any difficulty. It gave me a massive massive boost. Tom and both midwives started gathering towels and bin bags and began to prep our bedroom for a birth. There was a bin bag underneath me and Tom was getting ready to catch our baby! Obviously not in the bin bag… I couldn’t believe I might even have a home birth! This would have exceeded our wildest expectations. As the surges intensified I started to push. All the while we were eating a lot of jelly babies (a good birth bag addition).
 
After a little while of pushing time seemed to stop, as did the contractions. So I was off the bed and walking around the house. Some of the things you can try if contractions stop are, walking, nipple tweaking, relaxing, laughing but nothing would get them going. And the longer they stopped the more anxious I became. Not because this had happened during my first birth, it hadn’t, but because I could feel myself getting more and more tense and frightened that things might not go to plan.
 
Eventually Clemmie and our other midwife said that it might be a good idea to go into hospital to be assessed to see if we could get some help getting contractions going again. FYI if you have had a previous caesarean a doctor will want to assess you before giving you Syntocinon due to risk of scar rupture.
 
So off we went in an ambulance (that I didn’t even know was outside), no blue lights but I felt pretty disheartened. Tom and our second midwife were trying to keep my spirits up but I tried to concentrate on the relaxation mp3 on my phone and drown out all the distractions. We got to hospital about 1.30pm I think. The room was ready and Clemmie was there and she did everything she could to carry on the vibe from home. I had to have a scan so the doctors could assess whether the baby was in a good enough position for a realistic chance at VBAC. To my delight the baby was perfectly positioned and we were given the go ahead for the drip. So, with feet in stirrups, foetal monitor on and a mouth full of jelly babies we waited for the drip to kick in. Not the most dignified time of my life but I was buzzing with the thought I’d meet my baby soon and I think the scan really helped to reassure me that all was ok. 
 
I began to get pretty tired and hungry and I think adrenaline was pumping. I got the shakes but then the contractions started coming pretty quickly. For some reason which we still don’t know, I couldn’t feel a single one. I’d had no pain relief but I had to be told when a contraction was coming by Clemmie looking at the monitor and saying ‘right, go for it!’ and I would push my heart out. At one point she had a stern word with me and told me to use my voice and any swear words I could think of to help push the baby out.  I felt like we were an amazing team, working together to help and guide me and birth this baby.

Because it was taking a while the doctor (in consultation with the midwives) decided that it might be a good idea to use a kiwi (kind of suction cup) on the babies head to help it down the last bit. Attaching this was possibly the most painful part of the whole labour but was over in minutes.

With two big pushes the baby’s head finally came out and that is when I knew we’d done it. The little body followed soon after and Clemmie very quickly instructed the doctor to stand back and let Tom discover the sex and then tell me it was a little girl! Then Tom got to cut the cord. I couldn’t believe it. We’d actually done it!!!!! And it was a girl too! I remember not quite believing what had happened. 
 
Our second amazing midwife had to swap with another amazing midwife and while paperwork was done and handover completed there was a little period of time I’ll never forget. This little person had come from me, I felt instantly connected, instantly knowing of her. She was mine! That is what I’d missed with my first birth. I’d felt so separate from the final event and the baby and Tom were taken out the room straight after the caesarean. Tom was so relieved everything was fine. He couldn’t quite believe it either!

Some wise woman found me a lasagne. It was honest to god the best thing I have ever eaten. Hospital lasagne.


I couldn’t thank Clemmie enough for her support. She and her colleagues had helped me achieve something I never thought I would. She said she’d come to me the next day and kissed me and my girl goodbye. 
 
The wonderful women got me ready to go to the ward. I was cleaned up and put in to my pjs and helped to the loo for my first wee. I just couldn’t stop smiling. I spoke to my mum on the phone and told her the beautiful baby girl snoozing on me had come out my vagina. My dad arrived with my sister, I told them this beautiful girl had come out my vagina. As I was wheeled to the ward, I told all the people in the lift that I’d just pushed this baby out my amazing vagina!! There was a lot of vagina praising going on. And then it was just the three of us in a cubicle, knowing that this little baby had always had a place in our family. We couldn’t wait for her to meet her amazing big sister. So Betsy Clementine met her big sister the following morning, and it was love at first sight.
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3 thoughts on “Birth Story Of The Week – Jo and Betsy

  1. A lovely birth story and a successful VBAC after a traumatic first birth. Wonderful that the Mum such a positive experience and even though she had to be transferred in labour to the hospital the woman viewed the whole birth positively. The midwives did an amazing job.

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