10 ways to savour your last days of pregnancy

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Hollie de Cruz, co-founder of The Calm Birth School shares her tips for relishing the run up to your baby’s birth.

So you’re nearing full term. You’ve finished work; you’ve bought the pram and assembled the nursery furniture. You’ve folded and re-folded 200 bright white muslins and now all you need is your baby. The last days of pregnancy can be a funny old time. Your friends and family are harassing you via every form of contact available to see if you’ve had the baby yet (oh, let me just check my vagina…NO!), strangers in the street tell you you’re massive, and of course you’re excited to meet this sweet little human who you’ve been growing and nurturing for so many months.

We all know that due dates should be taken with a pinch of salt. Full term is considered anything from 37 to 42 weeks, which makes it quite tricky to hone in on when exactly that magical day will arrive. When caregivers and well-meaning friends start talking about you being “overdue” at a day past your 40 week guess date, it’s no surprise that many women start feeling anxious and fed-up, or even bored of playing the waiting game. I want to let you in on a little secret though. When you stop worrying about times and dates, this period can be one of the most precious times of your entire life and – embraced openly – can even help prepare you for a better birth experience.

How’s that you say? Well when we feel relaxed and happy we naturally release endorphins. Endorphins are the feel-good hormone of love, and they go hand-in-hand with oxytocin – a key hormone that’s required for labour to begin. If we are anxious and stressed we produce adrenalin, which not only inhibits labour from starting, but makes things much less comfortable and efficient when they do. The good news is that you can’t produce endorphins and adrenalin at the same time, so if we focus on maintaining a state of calm and happiness, we are more likely to enjoy this period AND have a better birth. So over at The Calm Birth School we’ve put together our top tips for what to do whilst you’re waiting for your little one. And remember, the only one who’s privy to this due date is your baby. Trust them.

1.     Write up your favourite affirmations: That’s right, we recommend picking five to ten affirmations that really resonate with you, and not only affirming them to yourself now, but writing them down so that you can look at them when it’s time to birth your baby. Get your birth partner involved with this too. If they know what your favourite affirmations are, they can whisper them to you during labour and that feels AMAZING. If you’re looking for affirmation ideas, go and check out @calmbirthschool and @lovelybirths on Twitter, or @londonhypnobirthing on Instagram.

2.     Write a letter to your baby: Okay so it sounds a bit daft, but we believe in the power of prenatal bonding over at The Calm Birth School. Use this time to connect with your baby – tell them you can’t wait to meet them, and that their birth is going to be gentle and joyful. Writing this in a letter means they’ll have a lovely keepsake to look back on when they’re older, and will help you identify that innate bond you’ll call upon on your baby’s birthing day.

3.     Pamper yourself: You probably haven’t been too close to your toes in a while, so take the opportunity to go and get a relaxing pedicure or manicure. Sit back and relax with a good book or a magazine and enjoy this precious quiet time to yourself. Or why not get your hair done? It may be a while before you’re back to your blowdrys, so make the most of it now and feel as fabulous as you truly are.

4.     Make time for you and your partner: This is a really important one. Sometimes we’re so busy rushing around to get things ready for the imminent arrival, that it’s easy to forget that this is the last time it’s going to be just the two of you. Indulge in it. If you have the funds, splash out on a little babymoon, but even a day by the sea, a lovely walk in the forest or a romantic meal for two can be a lovely way to connect and appreciate each other before your life expands. And bonus points for getting physical! Intimacy promotes the production of those wonderful endorphins I mentioned earlier, and might even get things going if the time is right.

5.     Read about breastfeeding and go and buy your nursing bras: Many mums are so focused on the birth that they forget to think about what life will be like with a new baby. If you’re planning to breastfeed, read lots about it and equip yourselves with the knowledge and tools you need – just like you’re doing for your birth. I also suggest buying your nursing bras now – choose something super comfortable and pretty, so that you feel well supported and of course every bit the beautiful goddess that you are!

6.     Cook some food: That’s right. When your baby arrives you are going to be occupied with staring at their amazingness for about 90% of your time, but you don’t want to live on Wotsits, so start filling your freezer now. Make big batches of things that can be easily heated up and don’t require too much prep (or washing up).

7.     Ditch your alarm clock: You will probably never need an alarm clock again, so just bin it now and enjoy some last minute lie-ins. Have breakfast in bed, read a great book and just enjoy some extra well-deserved Zzzs.

8.     See your friends: If you’re on maternity leave, arrange a lunch date with some of your girlfriends or meet them after work for a nice dinner. The chances are you’ll want to stay close to home for a while after your baby is born, so use this opportunity to go into town, see an exhibition, and let your lovely friends nurture and support you. If you don’t feel like going out, organise a girl’s night in.

9.     Go to the cinema, on your own, in the day! This was one of my favourite things to do when I was on maternity leave. It felt like such a treat to go and see a film during the day, and you practically have the whole cinema to yourself. Combine it with a gentle walk home or lunch with friends and you have yourself an excellent day!

10. Relax: It sounds simple, but it can sometimes be the one thing that’s overlooked. If you feel tired, go to sleep. If you feel stressed, relax. This is a great time to just look after number one. So listen to a deep relaxation MP3, have a warm bath with some essential oils, and practice your breathing techniques so that they become second nature when labour begins.

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The Calm Birth School is the world’s first online hypnobirthing course. Videos and MP3s are delivered to your inbox once a week for four weeks, so that you can create a calm and positive birth experience from the comfort of your home. Enroll now atwww.thecalmbirthschool.com/course or email hollie@thecalmbirthschool.com for more information.

Birth Story Of The Week – Imogen and Fin

I have always only thought positively about what my births would be. I am surrounded by a cascade of medical interventions and hospital births as part of my job as a neonatal nurse, this medical picture of birth is my everyday. However I knew that this was not how I wanted to birth my babies. I knew I wanted something else but wasn’t sure what that was. Don’t get me wrong, I did worry and was concerned enough that things might “go wrong” that I choose to have my birth in a hospital, but I was determined to labor my way, safely, with as little intervention as possible.

I heard about Hypnobirthing when I was first pregnant, the idea that we could put ourselves in control of our birth and that breathing, relaxation, visualisation and the power of positive thinking would enhance our delivery seemed right up our street. This was what I had been looking for, now I had a name for it. HYPNOBIRTHING. Having the support of my partner in the role of “gatekeeper” throughout, protecting my birthing space & advocating for us when I was otherwise engaged, really appealed to me. “We are in this together”, we can do this.

This was back in 2008 & hypnobirthing was not as visible as it is today. I looked into Hypnobirthing and discovered that we could go on a course, so Chris & I signed up to a weekend course. It was everything we had hoped & we left feeling more confident & relaxed about our labor & delivery. We discovered the power of breathing, positive imagery and relaxation & Chris became familiar with the process of birth & how he could advocate for the birth we wanted & protect our environment.

I was excited and tried to share this with my colleagues but a lot of them thought I was naive & that it was unrealistic to think that I could birth my baby without intervention and pain relief. I stubbornly ignored them & continued to share my views & quietly got on with being pregnant. We listened to the CD, practiced guided imagery, wrote our script & waited, not very patiently, for our baby to arrive.

Because of what I do I was nervous about going over my “due date” so had agreed with my midwife to have a sweep on my due date. I had this with no noticeable effect. So we booked another for 6 days later. On Monday 21 July 2008, we caught the tube to the hospital, with just my handbag.

We were expecting to just have a sweep & then go home…

I was examined by a Dr & told that I was 3cm dilated, really, did that mean I was in labor & didn’t know it? I was given another sweep, which was VERY uncomfortable, and told that I was going to be admitted when a bed became available. How exciting, today we were having our baby.

Chris went back home to get our things & I went for a walk along the South Bank. Some time between walking & getting a bed my contractions started, quietly. I was confident in my breathing & had been listening to my CD and practicing my relaxation but I really wanted Chris with me.

I walked into the hospital at 12ish, was introduced to my midwife and settled into my room. I turned off the lights moved all the unnecessary equipment out of the way, drew the curtain around the resucitaire & kept moving around the room. All the while my contractions were continuing, but they were nothing I couldn’t handle. When Chris arrived back with all our things I was in the bathroom, in the dark focusing on my breathing.

At some point it became necessary for me to have continual monitoring, my midwife was great, still letting me move around & position myself where I felt comfortable. She never interrupted me to “assess” me or tell me to get on the bed. This allowed me to focus on my breathing & use the hypnobirthing techniques to relax and stay calm. This gave me confidence & kept the atmosphere in the room relaxed and I felt safe & supported. In the end I was most comfortable kneeling on the bed, resting between contractions. The time between contractions didn’t seem long at all. And then 4 hours and 45 mins later after not much pushing, but a very memorable “Ring of Fire” Fin was born. I helped to pull him out (catch him as he fell out with the help of gravity) and then held him skin-to-skin, uninterrupted.

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AMAZING. He was here! Weighing 3.4kgs. Love him.

I can honestly say I loved every second of his birth (I know, my labor was relatively quick). I was able to have him with no pain relief (not even a paracetemol), have skin to skin straight away, establish breastfeeding & go home 6 hours after he was born. At no stage was I scared of the pain (this was true throughout my pregnancy) I knew what that pain was and what it meant and that it was bringing my baby closer to me. I have no doubt that my amazing labor & delivery was directly related to the skills & confidence I had in my body’s abilities that I gained from hypnobirthing & I don’t hesitate to share this with anyone who will listen (and those that don’t).

Calm Birthing

Let me tell you a little story. When I was a student midwife 10 years ago I was looking after a woman with my mentor who has having a ‘hypnobirth’. This term was a bit alien to me and it certainly didn’t sit well with some midwives and doctors. ‘Surges how ridiculous’ laughed some members of staff in the staff room at hand over. ‘Labour is painful there’s no way she can think it isn’t going to be’ remarked the anaesthetist. I was young and inexperienced but trusted my mentor as we continued to support this woman and partner through their birth.

Skip forward 9 years and Hypnobirthing is something I’ve seen become more and more popular in birth. It is single-handedly changing birth in more ways than anything I’ve seen in a long time. I witnessed women birth their babies so peacefully that I didn’t even think they were in labour. I’ve seen women had to change their plan from a home birth to a hospital birth because of complications but remain calm, and in control through the transition. I’ve also supported women who have been so traumatised by their first birth who have used hypnobirthing techniques to over come their fears and gone on to have wonderful second time births. At no point did I hear any whale music or see Paul McKenna appear with a pocket watch. No vagina whispering or an incense stick in sight.  And on a personal note I had an induction with my second daughter, yes it was a water birth but it was horribly painful, sometimes violent and I felt at times totally out on control. If only I learnt some hypnobirthing techniques to help me ‘let go’ of that fear.

So here is Hollie from London Hypnobirthing and co founder of The Calm Birth School to put all those myths aside about hypnobirthing and explain about her new exciting adventure!

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What is The Calm Birth School?
The Calm Birth School is the world’s first hypnobirthing video program. It’s a four-week antenatal home study program – combining the core principles of hypnobirthing and active birth – training women and their birth partners to create calm, joyful births from anywhere in the world.

How did the idea of a video course come about?
A lot of women will find hypnobirthing classes near them, and we both love teaching women face-to-face and have been doing so for a number of years. However, in this time we’ve had lots of enquiries from all around the world from women who can’t find a practitioner near them, or women who don’t have the time to travel to a weekly class. We have responded to this need with The Calm Birth School home study program, by bringing our tried and tested techniques to you, so that you can enjoy the benefits of hypnobirthing in a way that suits your lifestyle and location.

Hollie, can you tell us a bit more about you and Suzy?
For a start, we’re every day mums on a mission. We don’t knit our own houmous or henna lotus flowers on our bellies. We like a G&T and the odd round of disco dancing, and yes, we sometimes pick Wotsits out of our kids’ noses. In fact before having our own children, our lives were far removed from breathing techniques and relaxation, as we both had busy careers in the media and design industries. For both of us though, having our own positive, euphoric, comfortable births (which believe me, I didn’t think was possible!) made us want to spread the word of hypnobirthing and stop women dreading birth. From that, we have been independently running our own hypnobirthing classes in London since 2011, and have now joined forces to create The Calm Birth School – providing a holistic and flexible approach to women’s antenatal care. I live in West Dulwich with my husband and son, Oscar, and Suzy lives down the road in Ladywell with her husband and two children, Caesar and Coco.

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A lot of people are put off by the term hypnobirthing, what would you say to that?
In creating The Calm Birth School we wanted to dispel the myths of what people think hypnobirthing is. Yes it sounds weird, but drawing on our professional experience of working with hundreds of pregnant couples, we’ve been able to tailor make our own program and cut out the fluff. No vagina-whispering, kumbaya-singing, goddess-channeling nonsense. Just scientifically-proven calming and relaxation techniques, so that you know what is happening in your body and how to work with it.

You sound pretty fired up about this.
You can say that again! We know birth can be different to what the media is intent on showing us. We know it can be comfortable and calm and we know birth is changing. Suzy and I are totally committed to creating positive births all over the world. We’re on a mission to reduce the birthing horror stories, one informed woman at a time, and that’s why we’ve created this virtual course – so women and their partners can empower themselves and learn these incredible techniques without taking their slippers off.

Is it just designed for those planning home births?
No way. Whether you’re planning a hospital, home, or midwife-led birth, The Calm Birth School will guide you and your partner through our unique method for creating a smooth birth experience…all from the ease of your armchair. So that for the rest of your pregnancy, you’ll feel fearless, not freaked out! Whilst we love a home birth, we understand that they’re not for everyone, and we believe that the best place for you to birth is where you feel the most safe, comfortable and private. Your birth environment is paramount to a great birth, but we will educate you on your choices and teach you how to create your nest wherever you choose to birth.

Is the course only for first time mums?
Absolutely not. The Calm Birth School home study program is for everyone. Whether it’s your first baby or your fifth, our unique program will equip you with the tools for the empowering birth experience you deserve. In fact, our techniques have been proven to help mums who’ve had previous traumatic birth experiences overcome these to change their birth this time around.

So how exactly does this video course work?
Well unlike all of your other pregnancy-related appointments, we come to you! The Calm Birth School program is a video course that will be delivered to your inbox once a week for four weeks. That’s 12 short videos split into 4 classes, so that learning the secrets of positive birth can fit into the nooks and crannies of your day. And to make sure you don’t miss out on the benefits of a face-to-face class, you’ll feel completely taken care of in our private Facebook group where you can connect with other pregnant couples, and with our bi-weekly teleconferences.

Does The Calm Birth School guarantee a pain-free birth?
No, we can’t make claims quite that bold. Birth is a natural physiological event and as such there are many affecting factors that can be out of our control. What we can guarantee is that you will feel more prepared for a better birth, and a positive birth experience. In our eyes, hypnobirthing is about controlling what you can, and letting go of what you can’t.

We will teach you some amazing techniques that will stimulate the production of your body’s natural pain-relieving hormones, but as with anything, the more practice you put in, the more effective these techniques will be on your baby’s birth day. That said, in our experience, around 76% of the mums we’ve taught have given birth with NO pain relief whatsoever.

We are so excited about the launch of The Calm Birth School, that for the next 14 days we have a very special gift for you. We are giving away FREE hypnobirthing classes that you can enjoy in the comort of your own home. Click on this link to claim your classes today!http://bit.ly/freehypnobirthing

Preparing For Birth – The Only 7 Things You’ll Ever Need To Know

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This was recently sent to me by a Hypnobirth teacher Shirley who felt that if women follow this advice no matter what road their birth takes they will have been fully informed the whole way, increasing their chances of a birth that is calm, relaxed and a positive experience. I couldn’t agree more so with permission I decided to share it with you all.

1. Learn to understand the birth process from start to finish and what factors can help and hinder it

2. Learn about your birth rights so you can make informed decisions that are best for you and baby

3. Look into your choice of place of birth ( if not at home ) and find out what their statistics are for interventions and c-sections, if these are high you should question this and maybe reconsider a different birth place

4. Find out what your place of births’s policy and procedures are. By knowing in advance you will know certain suggestions are policy and not what is necessarily best for you. Remember it’s your birth – your choice. You should never be told to do anything only be given options. Every option offered to you should include benefits and risks and should have alternatives

5. Mothers should know latest studies, show for first time mothers its safer to give birth on a Midwife Led Unit, followed by homebirth. For second or subsequent babies it’s home, then Midwife Led Unit, hospital comes third both times (The Birth Place Study)

6. Preparing your body by regular, gentle exercise, eat healthy and drink plenty of water. Birth is very physical. Everything you consume and breathe goes to your baby. Most importantly prepare your mind, the easiest way to do this is through hypnobirthing. Hypnobirthing ALWAYS makes a difference. What you put in is everything!

7. Your guess date (due date) is only an approximate date, your baby will come when they are ready and just like apples on a tree they ripen at different times. There is no such thing as a late baby only different lengths of pregnancy. So smudge the date you are given into a rough estimate, 5th of May becomes late April to mid May. 27th June becomes mid June to mid July.

www.yobabymusic.wordpress.com/hypnobirthing

www.thecalmbirthschool.com

www.londonhypnobirthing.co.uk

Birth Story Of The Week – Tracey and her Twins

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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

Birth Story Of The Week – Gemma and Leo

Today’s birth story comes from Gemma founder of the blog Bristol Foodie. Gemma emailed me after following my blog for a while she says – “Whilst pregnant I was bombarded with horror stories of birth – and as a result many women seem to see a traumatic birth is an inevitability. I hope that you can publish my story and share my experience to show your readers that birth doesn’t have to be horrific – in fact with a little self belief and confidence in your body, it can be an amazing experience which you can treasure!”

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“I was overjoyed to find out I was pregnant but very nervous about birth inparticular tearing and needing stitches. Just thinking about it made me shudder! I knew that fearing birth would only make the experience more traumatic so decided very early on to try hypnobirthing and pregnancy yoga with local company, Purely Pregnant.

I was amazed by how quickly my perceptions changed! I quickly learned to block out all of the horror stories about childbirth that (unhelpfully) people love to share and focussed on the birth I wanted rather than the one I feared. Hypnobirthing was really transformational, after a matter of weeks I was feeling so confident and excited about our upcoming birth that when my boyfriend suggested home birth, I decided to go for it!

I enter week 40 convinced I’m going to be late. Mum on the other hand was convinced that I would have the baby within the week and when I go to my local NCT cafe session, my NCT teacher says the same. At this point the birth pool is still in boxes and I’m due to have a new boiler delivered that week Eeek!

As luck would have it, that very night, I wake up with pelvic discomfort. I toss and turn as the discomfort comes and goes and at 3am wake my boyfriend, Sam. “It’s happening”.

3.00am I leave Sam asleep and go to watch TV, after all it will be hours before things really kick off. I put on David Attenborough’s Planet Earth, bounce on my birthing ball and do the “calm breathing” we learned in hypnobirthing.

4.00am I’m trying to not be too neurotic about timing contractions but at 4am curiosity gets the better of me. They’re closer than I thought, 5-6 minutes apart lasting a minute each. I wake Sam “I think we need to start putting the pool up”

For the next couple of hours Sam battles with the instruction manual for the birthing pool whilst I continue my relaxation techniques. The contractions are manageable at this point, a tightening sensation coming and going.

6.00am Surges are every 3-4 minutes and we ring Central Delivery Suite to let them know I’m in labour. I’m feeling okay so we agree for me to take a paracetamol and to ring back when I feel that I need more support.

8.00am Two hours later the surges are starting to feel more intense. No longer sitting on my birthing ball, I’m most comfortable on all fours. At 8.30ish we call CDS again and ask for a midwife.

At some point between 8am and the midwife arriving, British Gas arrived to drop off our boiler due to be installed the next day. I was in the living room and not really aware of what was going on but Sam tells me that the delivery men moved pretty quick when he told them I was labouring in the living room and that we were having a home birth!

9.30am The midwife has arrived and contractions, at 3 minutes apart are getting stronger and stronger. By now, I’m making a low “ooooh” sound as I exhale on each surge. My mooing might have sounded odd but at the time I found it was a really useful way of keeping my breathing calm and controlled.

I take two more paracetamol, put the hypnobirthing CD on and climb into the pool. As I lie back in the warm waters of the pool my whole body relaxes. For me, the water didn’t lessen the intensity of my contractions, but allowed me to relax and recover between contractions so I could rest and preserve energy for later stages.

11.30am Contractions start to slow and the midwife recommends I get out of the pool. We don’t know if my waters have broken. The midwife says I’m still in early stages of labour and I assume the pushing sensation I’ve started feeling for some contractions is the baby resting on my bowel as he moved down.

Sam is doing an amazing job helping me to breath calmly but I know that I’m struggling to cope. “I’m going to have to go to hospital.” I think to myself. “If this is early labour how much more intense will it get?!” I feel disappointed but know that I’ve done everything I can.

12.30pm We agree its time for the midwife to give me an examination. “Well” she says, “your waters haven’t broken, but your cervix is gone!” she looks and sounds surprised as am I! “I’m fully dilated?!” I can’t believe it, just a few more hours to go! I’d heard of people going through moments of “I can’t do this any more” and struggling to cope as they go through transition (7-10cm dilation) and in hindsight my moment’s of self doubt weren’t me giving up but must have been my transition from first to second stages of labour.

Full of relief and excitement as I enter into the second stage II get back in the pool, relaxing into the water. A second midwife arrives and my contractions get even stronger. I’m calling out to Sam and “mooing” with every contraction now, clinging on to him as I feel my muscles tighten. Its getting hard to stop myself tensing up with each surge but Sam’s continual coaching “breathe… breathe… slowly Gem… slowly” helps me to slowly exhale and stay in control. As I breathe out and relax everything feels so much better. In these moments I realised just how powerful my hypnobirthing techniques were things were certainly much more painful when I was tensed up. I’m so pleased I spent all that time practising how to relax myself, these skills came in really handy when I needed them most.

I feel the baby bearing down and start doing the “J breath” I learnt in hypnobirthing to try and breath him down. I focus on staying relaxed and working with each contraction, trying to stay relaxed enough to let my body take over and push as it needed to.

2.00pm My waters still haven’t broken. I stand in the pool and lean on Sam in the hope that gravity might break them and that our baby will follow soon after. I push hard with the next contraction but my waters stay in tact. The midwives break my waters as the next contraction builds. I push hard again, and let out a bit of a scream as I feel a searing, white hot pain and am swiftly guided back into the pool by the midwives as my waters and baby come out in one contraction.

2.05pm My baby is passed up through my legs and I lie back in the water with our son on my chest, Sam’s arms around the two of us. Tears of joy stream down my cheeks, the pain from minutes earlier already a distant memory. Weighing 6lb12oz, we call him Leo.image (1) (1)

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The next task was birthing the placenta which actually felt like more effort than the baby! I happily accepted gas and air for this part feeling just too exhausted to push without some help.

Leo had come out so quickly that I had a little tear and needed stitches (luckily these could be done at home). This was the thing I had been dreading most of all but in reality it was fine. I had gas and air, local anaesthetic and I didn’t feel a thing!

Sam confided in my afterwards that Leo came out so quickly that he was expecting me to have a much more serious tear and the midwives agreed. Perineal massage had seemed like a pretty arduous daily task during the last couple of months of pregnancy but I’m pretty sure that this was what made the difference between a second and fourth degree tear.

In the weeks that have passed I’ve loved seeing the look of disbelief on people’s faces when I describe my birth as “amazing” but it really was! Yes it was hard work, and the contractions got incredibly intense but I managed to stay in control throughout. I’m so pleased that I was able to give our beautiful baby Leo such a wonderful welcome into the world.

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I was terrified of birth at the start of my pregnancy but managed to really turn things around. I hope that sharing my experiences will help other women who may feel anxious about birth to have confidence that our bodies are designed to do this and that whilst complications can and do occur, childbirth isn’t always a traumatic experience it can be an amazing one!