Mabel's Birth Story

A wonderful birth story for you from a powerful mother. The lovely Gemma and Liam came to my Faversham group class when pregnant with their second baby. This is such a wonderful read and a real testament to Gemma's strength and determination to birth her daughter feeling empowered, confident and supported so beautifully by Liam. Their plans changed not once but multiple times but I will let Gemma tell you all about that! I challenge you to remain dry eyed when you read this (I didn't!) Love Sophie x 

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Mabel's Birth Story:


When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter I was never particularly afraid of giving birth, I assumed it wouldn’t be pleasant but it would only be a day out of my life and I would get through it. My husband and I didn’t really prepare for the birth with regards to making it a more personal experience, we mostly found out about the process and pain relief methods. When it came to it, it wasn’t exactly straightforward. She was back to back and I couldn’t keep down any food or water due to continuously vomiting. That, combined with a few other issues, and I think both myself and my husband panicked a bit as we felt totally out of our depth.

When I became pregnant with our second daughter I was actually quite fearful of giving birth again and looked into hypnobirthing as a way to help. I felt a bit of a fraud when enquiring about the Kent Hypnobirthing course, like it should only be for first time mums and as it was our second time around I should have this whole birthing malarkey down! I communicated this in my enquiry and the lovely Ray replied and told me that in fact both her and Sophie had only come to hypnobirthing on their second births which really reassured me.

We took the course in Faversham with Sophie and both found it really helpful. It even made me view my first birth in a more positive light. Yes, our first birth wasn’t ideal but we got through it and had our beautiful daughter! We spent the next couple of months preparing for birth in a way we didn’t with our first. I listened to the MP3s and definitely took on Sophie’s advice about relaxing every day! We spent a really good evening choosing our birth playlist and discussing the pros and cons of each track, we took it very seriously! They had to be (on the whole) positive, not too fast and mostly mean something to the both us. We loved the playlist so much that we both listened to it in the lead up to the birth for our own enjoyment and I think it will continue to be one of our favourite playlists going forward which will be lovely as it has a whole new set of memories attached to it now.

We decided this time we would like to have a home birth and hire a pool as I wasn’t able to have a water birth the first time around and due to lack of rooms available, I had to labour on a full ward for a few hours which wasn’t the best. We planned the lighting, aromatherapy oils, music and we were really feeling positive about the whole thing until I had my 36 week scan which showed that the baby was estimated to be over the 95th percentile for weight. This meant that there was an increased risk of shoulder dystocia and at our home birth risk assessment we were advised not to have a home birth. Although I knew that I couldn’t be refused a home birth, we felt more comfortable listening to the medical advice in our case. We pushed to be able to go into the midwife led unit which is located in the ward next to the delivery suite in our hospital but the 95th percentile was over their guidelines and although they do judge each case on its own merit, they had recently had a bad case of shoulder dystocia and so weren’t willing to make an exception. 

Our plans changing from the lovingly planned home birth to going back to the delivery suite really set me back, much more than I thought it would. At 36 weeks pregnant and after weeks of feeling really positive and confident, I found myself feeling fearful of giving birth again. I contacted Sophie who was so helpful with practical advice about different people to contact and sending me positive birth stories. She reminded me to listen to the tracks and use my affirmations and generally start to focus again. My husband was brilliant at being positive about the change of plans and worked hard to reassure me that it didn’t have to be like last time and we could make a delivery suite birth into the kind of birth we had hoped for. Slowly I started to come round to the idea and ended up feeling back in control and positive about our change of plans.

I was scheduled for another scan at 39+6 and this time it showed the baby was on the 93rd percentile so I could now go to the midwife led unit or have a home birth. However, due to the fact the baby was still measuring large we decided to go to the midwife led unit as we were very close by in case there were any complications.

The night before I went into labour I had no indications of what was to come, I was actually joking with my husband about how lazy our little girl was being as she just didn’t seem to want to make a move to join us just yet! My husband wanted to try out some acupressure techniques that he found on YouTube that were meant to trigger labour (he is still convinced that’s what happened in our case!). So at 10pm while massaging my very swollen feet, he did a few of these acupressure techniques and we went to sleep. I woke up at 2am with some tightenings but I wasn’t sure whether it was just strong Braxton Hicks again as I had had this a few times in recent weeks. I went downstairs to sit on my birth ball and start listening to our playlist (I think I really I knew this was it which is why I started listening to the playlist). About half hour later I realised that my waters were starting to trickle when I stood up so I went to put on a pad. After a few more trickles I realised that my waters were very slightly yellowy so I called the midwife led unit and after listening to me experience a surge and hearing that my waters were a bit yellow, they advised me to go and see the assessment unit at the delivery suite in case I had meconium in my waters but that if I didn’t, they would be happy to have me.

I called my mum to come and look after our daughter and she was over in 15 minutes while my husband and I gathered our things. At this point I was having a tightening about every 8 minutes but I was fully expecting them to slow down with the transfer to hospital and to be sent back home to labour for longer. When we got in the car we put our playlist on and began the drive. It was definitely uncomfortable being forced to sit down during my surges. I wanted to lean forward but couldn’t find a safe way of doing this in the car. We arrived at the hospital just after 4am and I had to stop a few times on the walk to the delivery suite and lean on the wall to breathe through my contractions. They seemed to be coming more regularly than they were at home which briefly made me think about my previous labour (irregular but frequent contractions as she was back to back). However I made myself focus on the present and remember that this time didn’t have to be the same. We got to the delivery suite and we were taken into a room to be assessed. The midwife took away my pad to test my waters for meconium and unfortunately it did have it in which meant I wasn’t able to go to the midwife led unit or use the pool. Despite how much the thought of this scenario bothered me in the last few weeks I found that it didn’t actually phase me when it came down to it, with the help of my husband I remained focused on breathing through my surges and just staying present. The midwife wanted to just observe me for a while to see how I was doing but also wanted to monitor the baby to make sure she wasn’t in distress due to the meconium. I said that I wanted to stay active and she said that would be OK after she’d been able to monitor her for a little while. Laying on the bed was not great, my body wanted to move around and I found I was in a lot of pain laying back. Around this time my blood pressure was taken and found to be really high, I also started vomiting so I agreed to have an anti sickness shot as I didn’t want to become dehydrated like I was in my first birth. When the anti sickness kicked in I was given some medication to bring down my blood pressure too as they were quite concerned with how high it was.

After a little while, during one contraction, laying on the bed all became too much and I just had to get up during it, I physically couldn’t lay back on the bed any longer as it was going against everything my body was telling me to do. The midwife then put the clip on the baby’s head to monitor her and that allowed me to move around more freely which was much better. My surges were now coming about 4 times every 10 minutes and I was on gas and air. I was surprised at how quickly I seemed to be progressing, especially as my previous birth had lasted 3 days! It wasn’t long after I reached the ‘transition’ point where I thought I couldn’t do it and started asking for an epidural. My husband and the midwife kept reassuring me how well I was doing and that I was doing it and soon I found myself really going into my own little zone. I was on the bed on my knees, leaning over the head of the bed and rocking my hips. It was not a conscious decision, my body was just taking over and it felt good to listen to what it wanted to do. I focussed on listening to the music and began to zone out everything else in the room. Then in what seemed like no time (but in reality it must have been a while!) I remember “coming round” a bit and starting to hear the midwife talking to me about pushing. I really tried to focus on what she was saying and follow her coaching. It felt really challenging but also like I was in control, totally different to my previous birth. Then at 9.13am, our little Mabel was born weighing 9lb 6oz. The relief after was amazing, it’s like I came from being somewhere far away to being back in the room again. After she had been checked I lay down on the bed and we had our first cuddle and feed, it was amazing how quickly and easily she latched on. 

I am so glad that we chose to do the hypnobirthing course with Sophie, I don’t know what would’ve happened if we hadn’t but without the support I think Mabel’s birth would’ve been very different.  It allowed both myself and my husband to have confidence in ourselves and our choices. It really did bring me a sort of closure with regards to my first birth too and as we are not planning on having any more children I feel like I went out on a high! 

June's Birth Story

I'm am so, so pleased to be sharing this amazing story. When Charlotte and I first spoke on the phone she was very fearful of what her birth would bring, in fact all through the course she was very sure that she would give birth in the hospital. I was so excited when she told me about June's birth and that she had chosen the Midwife led unit in the end. Not because it matters where a person gives birth, that is totally (TOTALLY) their choice but because it shows how far she had come. She was choosing where to give birth from a place of confidence not fear. She was choosing to believe in her body and that is a very powerful decision! Now grab a cup of tea and have a read. (Ray)


It was about time that I shared my birth story with you. And may I start by saying that like many, the idea of giving birth seemed like the most impossible and scary thing I could ever imagine. As soon as I was pregnant I panicked about how this baby was coming out of me, and this is where I discovered Kent Hypnobirthing and it was quite honestly life changing. 

I was 41 + 1 days pregnant. My midwife had been fantastic, and I wasn't due to see her again until I was 41+ 3, which would be ten days after I last saw her. There was no pressure for a sweep or induction, however by this point I was well and truly fed up. Everything hurt, and the anticipation of becoming a mother and finally meeting this baby girl was all too much. If the baby wasn't here by that Saturday, I had discussed it with my boyfriend and I was going to have a sweep, I didn't want to be pregnant for another minute. Luckily for me it didn't come to that....

I woke up on the morning of Thursday 27th of April at about 2 AM for my tenth toilet trip of the night, luckily that night I switched the bathroom light on, and had, what I now know to be, a 'show'. After 20 minutes of googling it I decided to go back to sleep and proceeded to wake up every two hours with the typical cramp like period pains that lots of people tell you about. I decided not to wake my partner and tell him, as I thought 'maybe this is it' and if so I would need him to get as much rest as possible to help me through it all. I woke up in the morning and the cramp like period sensations were still continuing, I thought if this was the day it was happening that I had time to send Jack to the tip to clear the rest of the things on the balcony that I've been staring at me for the past three months. I also made an epic brunch of poached eggs on muffins with chorizo, avocado all topped off with hollandaise sauce, very pleased about that! I also did some cleaning, as again, if this was the big day I couldn't be bringing my baby home to a dirty house (it was anything but, after giving birth and having a baby I truly understand what a messy / unclean house means). 

After this we decided to go for a walk, as we had done every day for the past three weeks. I'd been really fed up and quite emotional, each day was a mental struggle, not to mention the Snooker World Championships were on....much to my boyfriend's delight. During our seaside walk, I then decided I wanted a McDonald's cheeseburger (I finally gave in to the cravings), followed by some ice cream at our favourite gelato shop, all in all the day was going well. Every so often I had to stop because the cramps intensified but wasn't really sure if I was in labour or not at this point, and I really didn't want to get my hopes up. 

We got home and the cramps were still happening and becoming a little more frequent, whilst messaging a friend she reminded me about the tens machine I had, so I decided to put that on and bounced up and in my birth ball whilst watching episodes of Friends remembering about all the oxytocin and I need to release. I was doing my breathing and my boyfriend was secretly timing, what I now know to be contractions. Because he'd been on the Hypnobirthing course with me he really did play an essential role in the whole labour and birth process which I am eternally grateful for

I carried on like this for a few hours made a few phone calls and watched a few more episodes of Friends and then all of a sudden I decided that I needed to call the hospital, the sensations were intensifying and I needed some reassurance. This is the point for me which was the lowest, as the lady on the other end of the phone essentially laughed at me and said I couldn't be in labour because I can still talk. Being typically British I tried my hardest to keep myself together whilst on the phone and actually was a lot worse when I was off the phone, however her telling me that really made me lose confidence in myself and in my body. I burst into tears and Jack had to really calm me down. 

However she did say that she would put me through to someone at the MLU who I could speak too. The midwife on the phone said I could go into the MLU if I wanted to, it was really up to me. Jack knew to keep me a home for as long as possible, so he really tried to persuade me to stay at home for longer. Eventually I insisted I wanted to go in and he went downstairs to pack the car. When I went in the car there was classical music playing and everything was calm and luckily it was dark outside.

It was about 7:45pm, and on the way to the hospital, which is only two minutes drive, we nearly collided with another vehicle. He came out at us at the roundabout out of nowhere, we couldn't believe it as the breaks slammed on. Jack was brilliant managed to remain calm throughout. As soon as I went into the MLU and I met the midwife on duty who was called Emily, I burst into tears. I told her I couldn't do this, she was just what I needed, and she spoke to me in a really soft calming voice and asked me if I'd like to be examined? I thought about it for a moment and decided it was best to know where I was at, so she examined me and I found out I was 3 cm dilated. Emily told me that the MLU was empty that evening and I was more than welcome to stay, get into the pool, eat some food and just see how things progressed. This is exactly what I did, she brought me a whole tray of snacks: cheese, biscuits, crisps and ice cold apple juice. The birthing pool was filled up, and it was so much bigger and warmer than I imagined. The lights were down really low, and I continued contracting, breathing in and breathing out with Jack there to talk me through it. Music wise we hadn't put a playlist together which maybe was a bit of a mistake, but I was more than happy with the old school hits on the radio ranging from 70s disco to a bit of Take That. 

At this point I had been having contractions for quite a while, and they asked me again if I'd like to stay or go home. There was no way I was going home, so they admitted me as a patient which I was over the moon about. After some hours, another midwife came and asked it I was I aware of my pain relief options, and soon as she said this I wanted the gas and air. In hindsight I would definitely avoid people saying the word pain relief or using that language whilst in labour for as long as possible, as soon as she said this I thought I needed it where as before she said this, I hadn't really thought about it too much. 

I continued with the gas and air and my contractions were now going through my whole body. Before they had been quite manageable on all fours, where as now they had me standing up and walking around in the pool. Emily asked me if I would like to be examined again, I decided yes, I would and I got out the pool and onto the bed. She examined me, and as soon as she'd finished the examination I went to the toilet, as i'd be drinking so many fluids.....ice cold apple juice was my new favourite thing at this point. This is again where hypnobirthing helped my boyfriend, as I now know that I was still 3 cm still at this point but Jack said that I could not hear this news. He ensured that Emily only told me positive news, I went back into the pool and Emily told me that everything is progressing nicely she didn't mention anything about measurements and I didn't ask.

I felt really comfortable in the MLU, the atmosphere, the lighting, and Emily all made me feel really comfortable, however by this point it was probably three or four in the morning and the contractions were getting more intense and happening more frequently. They monitored the babies heartbeat throughout, and her position, which I was more than happy with, they then asked me if I would like to to be examined again, and I declined. However the surges were becoming really intense and I decided that I would really like the next level of pain relief. I requested pethidine, which took quite some time for it to arrive, as they needed to find a doctor. When it arrived I had to get out the pool, and I would have to stay out the pool for at least three hours. The idea of the pethidine was for both Jack and me to get some rest, the room we were in was huge, and they'd made a bed for us both to relax in. I decided against getting examined before the injection, and then the rollercoaster really began. Over the next two hours I could not sit still, I couldn't do anything but pace. I wanted to go to the toilet but I couldn't sit down to go, I couldn't even relieve myself stood up. I also couldn't sit down on the bed, all I wanted to do was walk walk walk around that room. Although Jack was trying to be really positive, I knew he really wanted me to get rest and kept saying I should sit down. However I just couldn't explain to him what was happening and I physically couldn't sit still or sit down even if I wanted too, after two hours of this and breathing all the way through, the midwives offered me another examination which I decided was a good idea. During this time I was sick four times and also I'm not sure if was my mucus plug but had something very big and something very red slap down on the floor. I remember Jack asking me what the noise was, and although I was in discomfort, I remember being really excited to see something that big come out of my body as I knew it was another step closer to the end.

It took at least half an hour for me to be able to get on the bed for them to examine me. This is where it gets really good, when they examined me they said I was 7-8 cm dilated. I jumped for joy (I actually didn't, but mentally I did), I knew this meant I wasn't far away, I was near the magic TEN CENTIMETRES! It was approaching 8 AM at this point and Emily who had seen me all the way through the evening was due to finish her shift, I couldn't believe it. But then they brought in just what I needed my new midwife Cara. Emily was what I would describe as kind, softly spoken and exactly what I needed to get me through to that point. Cara was, as my boyfriend describes, the kind of coach that you need in football when you have five minutes to score to win the FA Cup. Now that I was this far, the contractions didn't really let up, I kept breathing, using gas and air however Cara told me I couldn't get back in the pool till at least 8:30am because then that would be three hours since I had the pethidine injection. I begged to go back in the pool as I knew that the contractions were much more manageable when I was in the water, however rules are rules. Just before I got back in the pool my waters broke in spectacular fashion, I would call it true Hollywood style, again I was elated I knew that this was another sign that meant I was closer to the end results. Without Hypnobirthing I wouldn't know any of what was happening to my body, what all these different signals were, so for this and was truly grateful. I finally got back in the pool which was now full of fresh water, and it was finally 8:30am. 

And this bit is a bit of a blur, I remember breathing breathing breathing and using the gas and air to the point Cara maybe suggested I could use the gas and air a little less.....Jack told me he was trying to hold my hands and I just didn't want him to touch me. I knew from what Ray had said, that I needed to try and to not clench my hands, and I needed to relax as much as possible. I was really in the zone, even one of my favourite songs came on from Rocky which is Eye of the Tiger, and I didn't even acknowledge it. The noises that are coming out of me at this point really primal, again Ray told us that this might happen. I just remember breathing really intensely and really heavily - I knew I was so so close.

At this point I had to laugh (in hindsight) I remember that my bowels were now emptying, this was being cleaned up instantly, with what can only be described as a sieve from the poundshop. Apparently I came out of my zone and concentrating on breathing to tell Jack off he was trying to help them with the clean up operation. I think I told him he's not paid to do that, if the roles were reversed I wouldn't be caught doing the same that is for sure. 

This next bit wasn't quite as calm as I'd imagined it, but my body definitely took over. I'd reached the part I'd learnt about called transition, which I was not expecting to be so strong. I thought it would be a bit like when you are hungover and can't be bothered to get off the settee to go and get a Domino's Pizza but eventually you got up and did it. I remember shouting quite vividly at Cara, Jack and the other midwife that was in the room that I couldn't do this and quite frankly they could just get the baby out with me or otherwise forget it. This is where everyone was amazing, telling me the right things I needed to hear. They told me I WAS doing this and I COULD get the baby out. I had already come this far and there was just a little bit further to go, eventually I could feel the baby right near the exit I wanted to push but Cara said don't push yet and again from Hypnobirthing I remembered that there was two different times or feelings of when I should push, so somewhere in my subconscious this was embedded within me and I held off pushing for as long as I could. 

Eventually I told Cara I couldn't hold off any more and she said I should push, she was behind me with a mirror telling me she could see the head and to wait until the next contraction before I pushed for the shoulders. I managed to do this, and then June powered on out through a pool of blood. Jack said it was the most amazing thing he'd ever seen, they brought June up onto my chest and I just couldn't believe that it was all done and that she was finally here. I remember just holding her bum and staring at this little squishy face, which is now so recognisable. Her umbilical cord was abnormally short so I had to really bend over to make sure that I wasn't tugging on my placenta but also that she was above water enough so that she wasn't swallowing it.

The other midwife that was in the room, usually works on labour ward and she had a face that was a little concerned because June had come out the pool and she was blue. We knew that this was common with water births, however we were still quite alarmed as we'd totally forgotten this information. I remember asking Cara if everything was okay repeatedly and she kept telling me it was all totally normal. Jack then cut the umbilical cord and straight away the colour started coming to June, she started to turn a lovely pink. After what seemed like forever, she started to cry. They then took her off my chest so that I can get out the pool and then Jack held her. 

Before they took me out the pool they mentioned in my notes that I had said I would like to birth the placenta naturally, and this is also their recommendation on the MLU in Margate. By this point I couldn't imagine birthing another thing, so I said I wanted the injection....Jack tried to talk me round as he knew I wasn't thinking straight. They got me out the pool and onto a stool, rather than the injection my midwife said why not push once more and see what happens. At this point my placenta slapped down into a box that was placed underneath the squatting stool and that was that. Even though I've seen pictures of it, I couldn't help but stare at it, it was so much bigger than i'd imagined. And after the placenta came out I was over the moon. 

They supported me over to the bed, my legs were shaky, and then came at me with the trolley, I was sure they were going to tell me I would need five stitches or more.....but actually I only had two grazes. It was explained I could have one stitch if I wanted, but that would cause me as much aggravation as the graze itself. If I just looked after it over the next few days - I'd be fine. So that was that, no stitches for me, I was elated and mostly in disbelief. 

As I managed to drink so many fluids during labour to keep myself hydrated, this was the point I just couldn't keep any more liquid inside of me. I'd been relieving myself in the pool, but now it was time for me to go on the bed. Apparently you're supposed to have your first wee measured, I'd already put a stop to that. And forgive me if this isn't what you want to read, but I'm sharing all the graphic details because I think it's so important to know that when you're in labour you just do not care about these things, I felt really free. It's really instinctive, for those people that think very worried about pooing during labour quite frankly you just don't give a shit (even though you've just given about 10 in the pool). Next up was a shower, which was just the best feeling ever, and food has never tasted so good. 

We went into the MLU at 8 PM on Thursday night, and June was born at 9 AM Friday morning. In total I was in there for 13 hours before she arrived, and I was in the pool for the majority of that apart from the three hours where I had the pethidine injection. We then stayed in for one night and then it was off home. June's now 9 weeks old, and I can't remember life before she was here. 

Myself and Jack cannot recommend Hypnobirthing or Ray enough, knowing what was happening to my body, knowing what I needed to do to help my body during the labour process was so enlightening. It also gave Jack a really important role to play too. 

The midwifes at the Margate MLU were beyond fantastic, and I recommend Hypnobirthing to everybody I see that is pregnant (sorry about that), it's really changed the way I think about myself and my body. I think it's really important for women to be empowered to be able to make choices about themselves during this unique experience. 

Lots of people ask me how the birth was with a pained face, and I always respond with the fact that I had a really positive experience. I tell my birth story to as many people as I can (who ask to hear it mind), not because I want to boast, but because I want to change the stigma about birth being negative horrible process. Yes, it's not a walk in the park but my goodness with all the tools I had in my kit from Hypnobirthing, it helped me get through it. I honestly believe it gave me the best start to motherhood I could of wished for. 

Auden's birth story (part 2)

[Now full disclosure before we dive in to part 2 of Han's story (you can read Part 1 here), Han is married to my brother, she is my best friend and to add to the existing in each other's pockets nature of our relationship she also lives next door to me. All of this meant I was right next door as she gave birth, and through our thin walls I could hear the pool being blown up, and as things progressed the beautiful moans, growls and roars that so many birthing women make, coming from their dining room. To me those noises are amazing - they tell us when birth is getting close, they help her navigate the sensations she is presented with. Read on for a beautiful re-telling of the day Auden joined the family (Ray).]

 

Labour

I can confirm that starting labour with a celebratory chippy tea and Prosecco is a wonderful way to begin the most truly epic work you’ll ever undertake. We returned home feeling calm and excited and Dave put Frankie, our 5 year old, to sleep. I wanted to keep oxytocin flowing, and prevent my body going into ‘high alert’ sogot I got in to bed and watched some Gilmore Girls (my pregnancy/new born days guilty pleasure) during which I was breathing through my rapidly increasing surges.

In between reassuring and holding me, Dave bustled about; tidying, lighting the fire and candles and blowing the pool up. A storm had picked up outside sending gusts of wind howling down the chimney and sneaking in through the gaps in the floor boards. But it felt wonderful to be cocooned inside our home in our candle lit 'birth cave’, curtains drawn against the squall. Around 9 pm I began to slowly shut down to the outside world, and go within myself.  I leaned on the kitchen counter and moaned and hummed through the surges. I then moved into the lounge and laboured in front of the fire whilst leaning on the sofa. I felt relaxed and in control. Dave was secretly timing them and started talking about calling Lucy, my doula and Sue, my midwife. I wasn't convinced things had progressed enough but he informed me the surges were 2 minutes apart and lasting a minute and a half. Lucy arrived around 11 and Sue around midnight. She took one look at me, and called the second midwife. It looked like birth was imminent with the regularity and strength of my surges. It certainly felt intense but I had a niggling feeling that something wasn’t quite right and that I still had some way to go. As it turned out I was right, and in it for the long slog. 

My surges continued every 1 or 2 minutes or faster, and growing in strength for the following 9 hours. Yikes. 

There was enough of a gap between surges for me to catch my breath and steady myself for the next one; and a definite predictable rhythm (unlike last time where I think my panic made them disordered) but not enough to process any of it, rest or even sit. I kept needing the toilet, and found that I wanted to be private too. Consequently I found myself most comfortable labouring in the bathroom with Dave and a single lit candle, watching the silhouettes of the trees thrashing around in the storm outside. 

Here's the things that supported my labour:

• Breathing. Rather than focussing on the physical sensations of labour, I focussed on keeping my breathing regular, humming, and a breathy 'ahhh' noise, depending on the strength of the surge. 

• My labour ‘dance’; standing and swaying my hips in a sort of figure of 8. 

• Pressure and constant rubbing on my lower back. Sue, Dave and Lucy all took turns, but Dave mostly bore the brunt of the arm ache afterwards.

• Smiling right into the face of each contraction. Sometimes I’d see a contraction building as a sort of menacing sentient thing, and I’d remind myself to breathe and hum, experience its grip on my body fade, then laugh in it’s face as it cowered. 

• Using laughing as a sort of vocal technique helped to keep my face relaxed and body calm. (sounds odd but it worked!) 

• My Suzy Ashworth birth affirmations which ended up being on repeat for 9 hours- my poor birth team! I zoned In and out of them but it felt calming to constantly reassure myself that I was calm, confident and safe. That my baby knew what it was doing. That my surges could not be bigger than me because because they were me. That I could do this. 

My doula, Lucy. I got a lot of strength simply knowing that she, and all she represented, was there. Her presence reminded me of all the fears we had picked apart, and the demons we slayed together. She reminded me of the confidence I had built in myself and my body. At a more bodily level, she brought snacks and water and kept the pool warm. She placed a cool flannel on me when I needed grounding in the last hour. She tidied up, fetched things we needed (often without us even having to mention it) replaced the candles and stoked the fire, all of which meant Dave could stay with me, and my birth cave still felt cosy and welcoming. She also ensured my desire to be alone was honoured by my midwives as much as safely possible.

My mindset preparation with Ray and Lucy clearly paid off. With those things my intense back labour was genuinely manageable for 90% of the time.  I was focussed within, in my zone, eyes closed, riding the waves. Bear in mind my baby was (unbeknownst to me at this point) back to back which is supposed to be more painful and I thought I had a low tolerance for pain. Huh. 

The wild last hour 

I had deliberately not wanted to know the time or how far along I was; I just went on riding my surges. But I began to feel tired around the same time I noticed it was getting light outside. How could I have been labouring so intensely for so long?! The birth my midwife thought was imminent given the strength of my surges was still not happening 9 hours later. Sue gently informed me that she would need to leave soon to sleep which I really wanted to avoid. The second midwife had already left because it still hadn't happened.  I felt exhausted and was losing heart. I was at a crossroads and decided to be checked to see how dilated I was; Sue would stay if I was close but would need to leave if I wasn't far along. I was 7 cm’s dilated, Sue said she'd stay (hurray!) and also informed me that my baby was back to back (oh no!). My world rocked around me. I- with my low pain tolerance- was calmly birthing at home with a back to back baby. Whoa. 

This explained the fast contractions vs slow progress, constant toilet trips and agonising lower back. I had a little panic but I gave myself a talking too. I reminded myself of the journey i’d taken, and the confident, calm mindset I had slowly pieced together for myself. I would just keep riding it. My baby was close now and there was no way I was going to hospital. I set my jaw, took a deep breath, and readied myself to carry on. 

My waters broke during this check and when the next surge came, it came like sudden thunder. I climbed back in the pool and what I now know as transition, hit. Really fucking hard. It took only one hour from the point my waters broke at 7cm to him coming out so it was fast, plus he came out facing the right way up which means he did all his turning in that last hour. Ouch. It felt like my pelvis was trying to break free of my spine. My breathy 'ahhh's became shouts and the surges were much longer too. I remember saying 'whoooaaaa' through one of them and asking 'what was THAT?!' afterwards. There wasn't time for an answer before another thunderous surge hit. I felt like I’d transported to another place, alone; it was frightening and actually quite trippy.  My body entirely took over. It raged and thundered, clenched and shuddered, screamed and roared. I panicked. I remembered some advice from a friend who wished she’d asked for gas and air at her home birth, and I promptly asked for it. (a detour from birth plan A). This helped me to stop the panic, control my breathing again and took the edge off the pain. I needed Dave to rub my back really hard, constantly. Lucy repeatedly placed a cool flannel on my face and neck, whilst Sue sat close, held my hand, and reminded me to relax my face and breathe. Lucy and Dave's hands on my body and Sue's voice pierced the fog to reach 'the place' I was in, in an eerily disembodied way. I remember saying to them 'don't stop!’I was so grateful for those gentle touches and words that led me back in the room, back to reality: I wasn't alone. I was loved and supported. I could do this. This was normal. Everything was ok.

I am still amazed at the unknown and involuntary strength I experienced in my own body. I suddenly began to bear down; the most overwhelming and powerful instinct. I didn't push at any point. My 'aahhh's were ending in low guttural growling sounds that emerged from a part of me I didn't know existed. I felt my baby slowly descend through my birth canal, crown and emerge. (I felt that! I mean, whoa!) When Sue told me to stop and breathe his head out, I was miraculously somehow able to stop that powerful bearing down instinct, and do it. It's one of the proudest, most defining moments of my life. My baby came out in two enormous surges whilst I was on my hands and knees in the water and I immediately turned, did a bit of birth pool gymnastics to disentangle his cord, and pulled him to my chest in disbelief. 

It was OVER! I DID IT! He was HERE! 

Dave was sobbing and utterly in awe. I was shaking and crying and babbling 'my baby, my baby, my baby!’ just like I greeted Frankie-Rose. To finally have my slippery wriggly squawking babe on my chest was so very sweet. He was here! He calmed immediately and lay on me with hisbeautiful dark eyes open; blinking and staring at his new world. (Here! He was here!)

If I was indeed somewhere else during that wild last hour, then I returned a different woman. I had managed to birth my baby at home, free from intervention. In those moments I was triumphant. Fearless. Free of demons.

Afterwards

After an hour and a half of fruitless pushing I opted to have the injection to birth my placenta which gave immediate relief. Lucy wrapped us up in blankets on the sofa and brought me tea and some fresh mango (divine!) whilst my baby- whom we later named Auden- and I breastfed and snuggled, and I basked in the glow of my newfound strength and the sweet relief of it being over. 

Frankie was heart-rendingly sweet when meeting her brother; 'Hi baby, this is your big sister. I talked to you in mummy's tummy!' It felt incredibly luxurious to climb into our freshly made bed with my whole family shortly afterwards where we just looked and looked at our baby. I remember us all wallowing in our duvet; me taking turns breathing each of my children in, in a decidedly feline way; body almost vibrating with oxytocin and love hormones. Blessedly, Lucy cleared up downstairs, put the pool away, prepared my placenta and brought us food- meaning our house felt peaceful, clean and tidy.  

Lots of people who have home births talk about feeling invincible afterwards but I didn't. I felt glowy, triumphant, relieved and so glad to hold my baby, but I was bone weary. My labour, by all accounts, was hard. I also initially felt disappointed about that last hour of my labour. I didn't expect it’s wildness or pain. I thought I had really lost control, but my team told me I held it together ‘beautifully' considering the back to back labour, and even smiled and laughed through some of the last surges too. They talked of feeling honoured to witness me, which stupefied me initially, how could THAT be an honour?! But I now see that it was. It just felt so much more intense, so much more animal, than I anticipated it would. 

It felt like I was somewhere else, maybe even someone else for that last hour, like I journeyed into some primal female place to bring forth my baby. I didn't know I could make noises that sounded like that, or that my body was capable of such involuntary strength. Now I've had time to debrief and process it all I actually feel honoured that I experienced it. Like my midwife later said, there is always an element of wildness, of loss of control in birthing, and that’s what makes birth the raw, beautiful, life changing thing that it is. I tapped into the same primal mammalian instinct that millions of women have tapped into before me. In my lack of control I was actually my strongest, my most profound womanly self. 

The day my second baby was born was the most surreal, exhausting, transcendent day of my life.

[This post was cross posted on Han's blog Seeds and Stitches, You can read more about her birth preparations and generally gorgeous life over there.]

Auden's birth story (part 1)

I am so excited to share this birth story with you all! One of my favourite parts of doing what I do, is being part of the journey. The Mums and Dads we work often arrive at their first class a little cynical, a little unsure if what we offer will really make a difference but excited to give it a go anyway. And genuinely they transform in front of our very eyes. They shift into parents who are confident, assured and oh so ready to own their births. It's an amazing privilege to be part of. Han and Dave exemplified this process beautifully, and as you read this (and Part 2 very soon) you'll see how their commitment to working on their mindset, to researching what would work best for them and to building such a kick arse team around them paid off hugely in Han getting the healing birth she needed, although not necessarily the one she expected but I'll leave that bit for her to tell you. (Ray)

"He was born amid a spring time storm with midwives and doula whiling past the still hours by the crackling fire and Dave supporting you as you moaned and hummed and worked"

Lucy, my wonderful doula.

Part 1: Preparation

I first gave birth 5 years ago; an experience that veered between not ideal and pretty damn traumatic, albeit with the sweetest ending.  The preeclampsia that had threatened since week 34 finally reared its ugly head at 37 weeks, along with puffer fish levels of swelling and a huge amount of protein in my urine, and I was induced. We were relatively informed about our options and felt like we advocated for ourselves pretty well given the knowledge we had at the time. But I found the induction unfathomably fast and frighteningly painful. My body went into shock I felt like a kitten drowning; feebly battling merciless waves of pain. My baby went into distress, the doctors lost her heartbeat, and she was dragged out of me in an emergency ventouse birth. My experience of this birth firmed up the belief I already held about myself; that I simply cannot cope with pain. That calm birthing is for other women, stronger women. Not me.  

I approached my second pregnancy cloaked in these beliefs; these demons, and with nightmares about drowning and blood and vomiting with shock. But I was determined that it would feel different. I rested and ate well. I chose 1:1 hypnobirthing sessions with Ray from Kent Hypnobirthing. I hired a doula called Lucy. I eyed my demons levelly. 

During our hypnobirthing classes we slowly pulled apart then pieced together our vision of what my birth could be; nothing short of revolutionary for us. We learned about the cocktail of hormones our bodies create to deal with the pain of labour and that by focussing on the positive birth I wanted rather than fearing the worst I could literally rewire my brain and body to manifest a better birth. I learned that no matter what the outcome I could feel calm and empowered. I learned I had a choice and could advocate for myself at every turn. I learned about the importance of keeping my neocortex, my thinking ‘monkey brain’, busy with breathing techniques in order to allow my body to do it’s thing, unhindered. I learned how relaxing and breathing into contractions rather than clenching my body against them made them less painful. In essence, I learned about the myriad ways our bodies are beautifully made for birth. 

With Lucy, my doula, we covered similar ground as above, but I also cautiously unfurled my fears about birth and motherhood. Over cups of tea, dark chocolate and dates, and often by a crackling fire, I pinned these fears down and we turned them this way and that and picked them apart. They buckled under our scrutiny. I aired my demons about my pain tolerance and my beliefs that calm empowered birthing just wasn't for me. Our conversation strayed beyond the imminent birth and into the wider, sometimes harder areas of marriage and parenting. I processed and processed and processed some more, in a space Lucy held beautifully open for me. Then we banished those fears and demons and I began to feel confident my bodies capability to birth. 

Sue, my midwife, never wavered in her belief in my strength. That in itself meant our appointments left me feeling light as a feather, and confident in my body. I couldn't have wished for a better medical ally in the quiet calm birth I wanted.

At my blessingway, my friends tied red wool around their wrists; and then around mine. We spoke aloud the names of our mothers and grandmothers; allowing me to symbolically claim theirs and their mothers and grandmothers strength and wisdom as I approached birth. I felt held and loved by these women and found myself touching the red bands frequently through my pregnancy, birth and very wobbly first week.

And I wrestled with where I wanted to birth this baby. I initially thought I'd choose a birth centre birth. I have a small house with nosy neighbours and thin walls and I was worried I wouldn't feel comfortable enough at home. I lose my shit when I stub my toe and generally consider myself someone with a low pain threshold and I found the pain of my first labour intolerable. But after studying all the options, the compass stubbornly fell to home-birth, every time.  I can’t overstate what a huge deal this was for me, taking away the epidural I so sorely needed last time. But birthing at home simply gave me the best chance of having the positive birth I wanted. It's where oxytocin would flow most freely; it's where I'd feel my most relaxed and calm, it would be comforting and familiar. I wouldn’t need to worry about transferring. I'd have total control over my environment, and I knew I'd feel more confident advocating for my birth choices on my ‘turf’. It would be the closest I could get to creating the private dark cave I found I craved.

I now remember the last days and weeks of my pregnancy as a dream like sensory blur; the smell of wood smoke, clary sage and lavender. The feel of wet sand and mud under foot. The sound of my Calm Birth School affirmations mixed with the whistle of the wind whipping through the trees and over the pebbles of the beach. The warm hands of my husband, gently easing the aches in my back. Flickering candle light by the baths I shared with my daughter. 

My birth nightmares turned into dreams that made me smile when I woke up. I felt ready.

In order to avoid hospital monitoring and a potential chemical induction down the line, I had a cervical sweep at 41+6 days which Sue said she would do in my home. After the horror of vaginal examinations last time I was a little worried, but there is a vast difference when you're in your own home with someone you know and trust. It barely hurt. Sue said I was 2 cm dilated, that my babies head was low, but that he had changed sides to his back being on my right side, rather than left. This was a precursor for what was to come, he continued turning and was (unbeknownst to me) ‘back to back’, something that often makes birthing harder and more painful. 

Laboury feelings began stirring in my womb within a few hours; a definite notch up from the mild period pains I had been experiencing for the previous 3 weeks. We had a chippy tea and Prosecco with my family who live next door, during which I was having regular but mild surges. I was relaxed, calm, and quietly excited. It felt wonderful to be doing something normal with my family, yet simultaneously experiencing my body begin this incredibly miraculous journey to birth. I knew with certainty that I would meet my baby very, very soon. 

Part two to come soon!

 

[This post was cross posted on Han's blog Seeds and Stitches, You can read more about her birth preparations and generally gorgeous life over there.]

Christy's birth journey: A tale of two very different hospital births

Words by Christy

One of my favourite, favourite things about what I do is being part of the journey that mums and dads to be go on over the course of our sessions together. Christy and Jon's journey was such a pleasure to watch unfold. To watch them unpacking what had happened last time, and to really grasp what they were capable of with this upcoming birth. It was really a beautiful thing to see. As they left my house after that last session I had no doubt at all that whatever twist or turn their birth took, what would unfold would be a beautiful thing. They're confidence was infectious. Now, over to Christy.... (Ray)

George – born 2012

I was 39 weeks when labour started and it lasted 18 hours. I woke in the morning, I’d only begun my maternity leave a day or two before and had no warning labour was imminent. I wasn’t even convinced it was contractions starting as I wasn’t sure what they were meant to feel like, although after a few hours I was pacing the house and when it got to the point I couldn’t sit down, I decided to wake my husband and perhaps get to the birth centre in Maidstone. On arrival I was examined and told I was 4 cms and in established labour, however after feeling my bump the midwife could not tell which way the baby was lying. To be on the safe side, I was to be taken to Pembury Hospital, in the ambulance, with lights and sirens. This experience on its own adds significant drama to the whole process! However, on arrival I was relieved to find there was a room with a birth pool available, as I’d wanted a water birth. The only thing that came out of my free antenatal classes was that I wanted a water birth and I was too frightened to accept any drugs!

At some point, my step daughter arrived, she was desperate to meet her new baby sibling. It was the three of us in that room for what seemed like an age. I remember looking at the clock at 4pm and thinking it must surely end soon. My step daughter brought me water, I crushed my husband’s hand when I was gripped in a contraction and as the evening wore on I was getting tired. Late in the evening I had another vaginal examination that determined I was 10 cms dilated. We waited and waited but the contractions slowed and then stopped altogether. My memories are very fuzzy from the afternoon onwards, I recall telling my husband to get the midwife as I’d had enough and wanted a caesarean, and shouting at him when he didn’t know how to respond. Then later being told I was going to be taken to theatre, I may need an emergency Caesarean but they would try with the forceps first. I was given an epidural, the most magical moment of the birth as I was all consumed with the negative physical experience, I’d almost forgotten there would be my longed-for baby at the end of it! I was then taken to theatre, I felt absolutely nothing, I was told when to push and felt quite removed from the whole process. I delivered my son who was placed briefly on my stomach and taken away to be attended to. It took a ventous, forceps, an episiotomy and a team of people under white lights to deliver my baby. He was wrapped in a towel and placed by my thigh as we were wheeled back to the delivery room, where I got to cuddle him for the first time. He head was bruised from the delivery, as was I, but it was finally over.

 

Kit – born 2016

It was when I was pregnant for the second time and about five months in that I realised the birth bit was inevitable (I really couldn’t back out now!)  I was going to have to deal with my fears and approach it differently if I wanted a better birth. My husband and I took Hypnobirthing classes as soon as possible. The classes gave us both the opportunity to examine and come to terms with what happened the first time, taught us more than we thought possible about how your body works to birth your baby and showed us how we can prepare for the best birth for us. In a very short time, I had gone from quite frankly dreading the birth to actually looking forward to it! It gave my husband the tools to be an active birth partner who was needed and valued beyond measure in that birth room. 

The labour started at 41 weeks and lasted 7 hours. This time I had planned for a home birth, something my husband had not wanted for because he was concerned they weren't safe. But our hypnobirthing classes proved to us why it was a perfectly valid option. I woke about 2am and realised my waters had broken but I was comfortable so went back to sleep. I woke again around 8 am and after an hour or two of strengthening contractions I phoned the midwife. As soon as we determined my waters had broken but the amniotic fluid was not clear, she told me I needed to come to the hospital (Medway this time). This was not what I had wanted or planned for – I’d only roughly packed a hospital bag because I didn’t believe I would need to go in! Yet I was not as disappointed as I’d expected, as I felt confident in what was happening and why. We went into the hospital and after a stint labouring in the waiting room, I was taken to a room and examined. I was told I was ‘only 3 cms’ but was allowed to stay anyway, no birth pool this time. I didn’t have any of the ‘classic hypnobirthing’ things during labour that I wanted – time in peace at home, a quiet space, dimmed lights with my birth pool and relaxation music (I took my relaxation CD to hospital but the wrong disc was in the box!) yet I had prepared for this birth in such a positive way, that all these factors just didn’t matter. I was supported by my husband and I cocooned myself with my arms against him. I laboured in a relaxed way, and I swayed against him with each surge and I knew the baby wasn’t far away. I got onto the bed as my legs were tired and whilst on my back began to push.  I didn’t need any coaching, my body knew what to do - in a way I don’t recall from George’s birth. It wasn’t a quiet birth, (not screaming or shouting, it was more of a loud groan), but it was calm. Soon after baby Kit was brought into the world and was straight in my arms. I had no ‘pain’ relief as I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t need it. The experience was amazing, intense and so charged - the memory still brings tears. Our midwife said that at one point during the labour she had to wipe a tear, seeing us so connected. 

The difference in my mindset between the two birth was like night and day. Despite my antenatal classes with George’s birth, I didn’t fully understand the reasons decisions were made and I didn’t realise that I had any say in the matter! I was shocked at the labour and felt it was something happening to me that I needed to endure – that I was supposed to LABOUR to deserve my baby. By the time I was in labour with Kit, I knew my options, I knew what I wanted to happen and I knew how to cope if it didn’t go to plan. Most of all, I knew I had wanted a beautiful birth, that was calm and loving and a memory to be cherished. Hypnobirthing and dedication gave me just that.