ISABELLA’S POSITIVE ABDOMINAL BIRTH
In March 2018 my baby passed away at 26 weeks gestation, two days later I was induced and after 30 hours of labour I gave birth to him, my stillborn son Arlo. It was an unthinkable, devastating, life changing experience. Ten weeks later I fell pregnant with my rainbow baby, Arlo’s little sister, my daughter Isabella.
When I first started thinking about Isabella’s birth I felt excited and empowered. I had choices, something I didn’t have when birthing Arlo. I had no idea what to expect when induced to give birth to my son, it was a very medicalised situation. Despite the tragedy and trauma, I felt like a superhero, I conquered 30 hours of induction and labour to birth my baby.
This time around I wanted to experience spontaneous labour. I hoped to have a bath at home while my partner Rich worried about when we should head to the hospital, I was keen to remain active and not be confined to a hospital bed, I wanted to give birth in a non-medicalised environment like the birth centre, to be drug free and to be in water. I felt strong and awakened to the possibilities of making my rainbow baby’s birth the most beautiful experience for all of us.
We booked a hypnobirthing course with Lydia of ‘My Hypnobirth London’ and I started to read amazing positive birth stories and books that encouraged women to have a say over their birth, rather than lie back and be told what to do. Hypnobirthing encouraged me to harness my inner wild woman and feel strong, empowered and capable. I started to really look forward to birthing Isabella. I had to learn to stop using language like ‘Am I allowed…’. and understand that the decisions were all mine and Rich’s, we just had to make them in the most informed way possible. The acronym BRAIN became one of our greatest assets. Whenever faced with a decision we would ask ‘What are the BENEFITS?’ ‘What are the RISKS?’ ‘What are the ALTERNATIVES?’ ‘What does my INSTINCT say?’ And finally, ‘What if we do NOTHING?’
Hypnobirthing equipped us with the skills and confidence to stay calm, relaxed and focused in late pregnancy when decisions needed to be made. And we used these invaluable skills during Isabella’s birth, but not in the way that we had planned.
Owing to a diagnosis of gestational diabetes at 30 weeks and our baby being in a flex breech position (feet down!) we were booked in for a C-Section at just over 38 weeks. This new plan was very far away from the birth I had been planning. I wanted a non-medicalised birth, but now I was due to give birth on an operating table. However, during our hypnobirthing course Lydia showed a video of a ‘Gentle C Section’ or as it is also known an ‘Abdominal Birth’. It was truly beautiful and inspiring, it showed me that I could still apply my hypnobirthing techniques and my personal wishes to this new direction. And so I wrote my abdominal birth plan and continued to practise hypnobirthing. I recited affirmations that embraced these new circumstances; ‘My baby’s journey into the world will be safe and calm’. ‘I will have the birth that is right for my baby and my body’. ‘I feel relaxed and confident as I prepare for my baby’s birth’, ‘I know that the decisions I make are the right ones for my baby and me’.
On January 31st at 7.30am I put on my hospital gown and Rich changed into his scrubs. I dabbed some lavender oil onto my gown, I’d been using lavender oil throughout my hypnobirthing practise and associated the smell with relaxation. At 8am our bereavement counsellor who we have been seeing since Arlo’s stillbirth came to wish us well and walk us to theatre, it was so relaxed.
Once in theatre Rich worked on connecting his iPhone to the theatres Bluetooth speaker and I was introduced to the team and had a cannula put in my left hand. This was important because I’m right handed and I wanted that hand free to hold my baby. By chance our entire theatre team were female, a brilliant, inspiring way to birth my mini feminist!
I sat on the edge of the operating table and Rich sat on a stall in front of me holding my hands. We closed our eyes, took deep breaths and played a hypnobirthing track through the operating theatre speaker. Our synchronised breathing and 321 ‘relax’ techniques washed over me and my fear disappeared. I was breathing in gold flecks of light, sending life down to my baby and breathing out a dark green mist… symbolic of any fear I had within me. I was transported to the beach that I always visited during my practise. I felt calm and peaceful. When the track finished, the spinal anaesthetic was in and I was numb from the belly button down. I was so relaxed.
As the theatre team began, Rich and I exchanged a few words of excitement and hit play on our Spotify playlist. I could feel people doing something on my tummy but I felt no pain. I continued to feel relaxed and excited for the birth of my baby. It was just a matter of minutes before we were told to listen out for my waters being released… we knew that once the waters are out, baby will be out a minute later. And she was! We heard the waters, they lowered the curtain as requested in my birth plan and out she came! Our daughter! Her beautiful cry rang out, filling my heart with joy. I recognised her immediately, it was as if I’d always known and loved her. She looked beautiful. I cried, feeling so many emotions for our long-awaited rainbow baby. The first voices our baby heard were mine and Rich’s along with a soundtrack of London Grammar’s ‘Hey Now’. As I greeted my baby with love and overwhelming emotion, I told her how pleased we were to see her and that we have been waiting for her for a very long time.
Rich trimmed her cord and she was placed on my chest for skin to skin. While my placenta was birthed and I was stitched up, our little family marvelled at each other in a bubble of love as Fleetwood Mac played. Rich and I both used our phones to take photos throughout the birth, capturing memories of the most incredible day.
The whole experience was absolutely magical. Our wishes were entirely respected and the control and calmness was exactly what we needed. I absolutely loved Isabella’s birth. I am so pleased that we were able to make it so personal and perfect for us. I don’t feel any less powerful for having an abdominal birth, I had the birth that was right for my family. I feel so proud that I harnessed my inner strength and positivity to make Isabella’s birth as special and enchanting as it was. A truly positive birth experience. It was undoubtedly the best day of my life.