I had been having practice surges once a day approximately every other day for a week. On Easter Monday, I had an active day, we went to the garden centre, then we went for a walk and in the evening went to pick up a chest of drawers. I didn’t have a sense that anything would happen very soon. I was only 40 weeks + 1 day pregnant. That evening, I made the Italian aubergine recipe that Saveria gave us during our HypnoBirthing classes, it was delicious! We then went to sleep.
At 2 a.m., I was woken up by surges and thought they were still practice surges so I went back to sleep.
At 5 a.m., my membranes released in a big gush and I woke up Dan. We both got up and waited for the rest of the waters to come out in the bathroom.
I then started doing my calm and surge breathing. It was second nature to me by then because I had practised so much. It helped because it made the event feel like a normal, day-to-day one, it felt like I wasn’t in labour. I was just practising. So much so that my husband headed back for our bedroom and back to bed. I said, ‘No, Dan, this is it! No going back to sleep!’ I must have appeared so relaxed and so ‘This isn’t it’ that he thought he would get another forty winks before things heated up!
My surges were coming regularly every few minutes. Dan phoned the midwife and I spoke to her on the phone, then handed the phone back to Dan (Dan told me later that the midwife had said she would send out the on-duty midwife to us as a precaution but it didn’t sound like I was in full labour yet). I just went about the house, folded some laundry, made a cup of raspberry leaf tea (that I had been drinking for weeks), as if nothing special was happening. I didn’t force myself to ignore it – I just found it easy to carry on my normal life (though admittedly I wouldn’t have been awake at 5 a.m. normally!) Dan put on some music, a playlist that he had prepared previously and that I had approved of.
I had a bit of diarrhoea at some point, took it as a good sign and just had a shower. Then I got into my bikini while Dan checked that the temperature had reached 37°C in the birthing pool (Dan had been using it as a jacuzzi just 7 hours before!), and I slipped into it 15 minutes later. It was heaven. It was in our bedroom, right next to our bed. Dan switched on some lamps so that the lighting was low and relaxed, and the HypnoBirthing posters I had set up on the wall a couple of weeks before were still there, so the room was now ready for my HypnoBirthing labour.
At 5.50 a.m., the midwife arrived. After talking to me on the phone, she had thought that I would be about 1cm dilated when she arrived, but when she saw a bit of poo in the pool upon her arrival, she realised that I was probably more dilated than that! She said I had to get out of the birthing pool so she could perform a vaginal examination. I was really comfortable in the pool and didn’t want to get out of the lovely warm water, but I agreed to it. As soon as I got out, the surges felt stronger and somewhat uncomfortable. I laid on our bed and the midwife examined me. I found out later that at that point, I was already fully effaced and fully dilated but, as per our birth preferences, the midwife didn’t say anything. I gladly went back into the pool, thinking I must have some way to go, though I vaguely heard, as if unconsciously, that the midwife was calling the second midwife and asking her to come ‘NOW!’… Dan reminded the midwife to ask the second midwife to bring a doppler that could be used underwater as the first midwife hadn’t brought one (even though she knew we were having a water birth, but maybe because she thought she would be coming back later in the day?) She kept asking me to stand up so she could check baby’s heartbeat and I didn’t like having to stand up out of the water.
I carried on doing my breathing in the pool. Sometimes I asked for water and Dan held the glass whilst I drank from it. At about 6.15 a.m., my surges were getting more intense so I asked Dan to read some of the affirmations and birth prompts, and repeat the name of my birth colour, orange. He also reminded me to use the ‘3210’ deepening technique, and at some point I found myself doing the ‘horse lips’, even though I hadn’t learned how to do this and had never heard of it (it’s Saveria who pointed out, when I told her my birth story, that this is what I had done. The body obviously just knows what to do instinctively, if we only let it…). By then, I definitely needed Dan’s assistance, and he was just brilliant. The breathing was not so automatic any more so I needed help, especially with the counting. It helped to bring me back to the present, to stay relaxed and to not worry about anything. I remember tensing up quite a lot at some point and telling myself I mustn’t, so I leant over the edge of the pool and did more ‘horse lips’ while exhaling, my arms hanging over the edge, looking at the ‘opening rose’ poster the whole time.
Then I remember shouting to Dan, ‘Get the womb bag!!!’ Dan went to get it and came back, talking softly to me about my womb and how it was slowly opening, helping me to visualise my uterus with the draw-string bag that had become ‘the womb bag’. ‘Open it, open it!!!’ I urgently asked. When he opened it and let the little beany teddy out, I sighed a sigh of relief and relaxed again. All was well.
I also remember saying, ‘I want a banana!’ while hanging over the edge of the pool. It made the midwife and Dan smile. It made me smile. I could smile between surges. All was well. And the banana was very tasty!
Yes I knew all was well but the midwife started saying I should now push. She knew I was 10cm dilated, so I guess she got a bit worried that it was taking ‘so long’ for me to feel like breathing my baby out. But I felt that our little baby was coming down, nice and slowly but surely, so I didn’t want to push. I wanted to let my body and my baby do what they were supposed to do, just like I had learned during our HypnoBirthing classes. The midwife then said, ‘Well, you have two options: either you push when I tell you to, or you carry on what you’ve been doing but it will take much longer’. Dan and I said at exactly the same time, ‘We’ll carry on as we’ve been doing’.
Then the midwife checked my tummy and my baby and realised that what I was doing was working very well indeed, that my baby was descending just fine. So she suddenly became really supportive and copied what Dan was saying: ‘Remember to breathe down’, ‘Breathe your baby down’. Birth breathing really helped. It was great to just know what to do when.
Every time I breathed out, my baby’s head came out a bit and then went back in. Dan told me that later. I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time, it would have scared me, even though I now know that it’s perfectly normal. I felt my baby twist around as he was half in, half out, such a weird feeling! Then I felt he was so close to being out that I just pushed him out (rather than breathe him out) during the last two surges.
And so at 7.50am, about three hours after labour started properly, our little baby Ethan was born, 7lb 1oz, absolutely perfect, and quiet, calm and alert. My perineum was intact. All this perineal massage with olive oil and squirting capsules of evening primrose oil must have helped. I’m sooo glad I persevered with that!
We left the cord to pulsate, as per our birth preferences, whilst I was holding baby Ethan in my arms, it felt wonderful. The midwife asked if I wanted an injection to help the placenta to come out, even though our birth preferences said I wanted to deliver it naturally. The midwife kept checking the cord to see if it was still pulsating, and for some reason, I said, ‘Don’t pull it out!’ The midwife reassured me that of course she wouldn’t! The placenta then came out within 10 minutes. I pushed it out in two surges. It was just HUGE!
Ethan only cried when the midwife wiped his face, as he had stuff coming out of his nose. He was all slippery with vernix, especially on his back, so it was a bit tricky to hold him, but I remained in the pool and he took his first feed within 40 minutes of his birth. Then we wrapped him in a towel and went to bed.
The birthing was even better than how I had envisioned and imagined it (and I had envisioned it many times, although at best I thought it would take 5 to 8 hours). I felt on top of the world, not tired at all, and it was just so lovely to be at home, in our own bed, not in hospital and surrounded with screaming babies, but just with Dan’s parents here in our house when Ethan was just 4 hours old! It was a beautiful sunny day and we opened up the patio doors. It was just magic and I would do it all over again next week!
What I loved the most about the hypnobirthing method
- I used the blue satin ribbon early on while folding the laundry. I had used it so much prior to labour to remind me to soften my circular uterine muscles that it was a very strong reminder to remain relaxed while in labour so that my cervix would open easily and my baby would descend comfortably and effectively.
- Having the womb bag was definitely helpful. Saveria’s recommendation to use all the props we could/wanted was really useful. It was a powerful visualisation. I don’t think I had envisaged using it in such a way on labour day – I didn’t think I’d need it. Its usefulness came about in the strangest way!
- If I hadn’t done HypnoBirthing, I know that I would have been scared, just like the other mums who haven’t done the classes.
- Dan knew what to do, I couldn’t have done it without him, he was so fantastic, reminding me what to do, saying just the right thing at the right time, because we had practised so much. He’s now a strong advocate of HypnoBirthing!
- Having learnt in the Hypnobirthing classes how the cervix naturally opens during birthing really helped a lot. Knowing about the biology/chemistry of it meant that we knew we weren’t doing something impossible (some people say it’s like trying to get a melon through a small hole, this is not true at all!). We were confident that my body and our baby knew what to do naturally.
Some people, after hearing my birth story, have said to me, ‘Oh so you didn’t have a real birth experience!’ (because it was a calm, quick, extremely comfortable birth), but that is quite unfair. I put in all the work and it paid off. Dan and I worked very hard at it and we were rewarded with a beautiful, calm, quick birth.
What Dan has to say about hypnobirthing and Ethan’s birth
Because of the confidence gained during the course, I had total faith that Kamilya could birth our baby naturally at home in the way we wanted. Birth is a natural process and I knew that Kamilya could do what Nature had intended.
As well as confidence and understanding, the course gave us a wide variety of tools to use on the day, and we used them to their full potential, resulting in the calm and prompt arrival of our beautiful baby boy Ethan.