‘As long as the baby is healthy’
This is was my mantra. After four miscarriages and years spent squinting for second lines on tests, my hopes for my second labour had always just begun and ended with having a healthy child.
It had gone from being the most important thing to the only important thing. My own needs and wants were so far in the background that it was easy to forget I had any agency in the process at all. Pregnancy and birth was something that needed to happen despite me - my high BMI and incompetent cervix - not because of me. My body had let me down so many times that I couldn’t imagine a birth where it wouldn’t.
As I approached viability with this pregnancy, I finally started to believe that we may actually be completing the family we’d started with our three-year-old daughter.
This would be my last labour, an end to a lot difficult journey.
The first time round had seen a 16-hour labour, two hours of fruitless pushing, forceps, an episiotomy and a later tearing of my stitches.
I wanted something better this time.
A friend recommended The Calm Birth School after the techniques helped her remain focused through her ceiling falling down mid-birth!
I wasn’t convinced.
How on earth could huffing and puffing stop a pain that’d previously made me feel like I was dying?
Still sceptical, I contacted Katy after seeing a post on Facebook and quickly laid out my potted history. She was reassuring, calm and positive from the outset.
By the time the course rolled round it transpired that my lovely husband was even more of a cynic than I was. He didn’t want to buy into anything that he felt would impact my willingness to listen to medical opinion in an emergency. That meant that I attended the course alone.
Thankfully the other people there were amazing. We’d all coincidentally had children before and were looking for a way to make our second labours more positive.
Katy instantly put me at ease.
Everything she advocated – visualisation, relaxation, audio tracks - had a solid physiological basis.
She gave us plenty of space to talk about our previous experiences and healing old wounds as well as spending time talking about C-sections, inductions and births that might not necessarily run to plan.
I’d always felt that my medical history was too complex for anything like an ideal birth. I worried that the course was primarily for people lucky enough to have serene home births. I was completely wrong.
I left the weekend feeling instantly calmer and more empowered.
Over the rest of my pregnancy, I actually began to enjoy playing the MP3’s and practicing the breathing techniques. It became a quiet time at the end of each day just for me and the baby to bond.
I began to dilate as soon as my cervical suture was removed at 37 weeks. A week on I was still only 2.5cm dilated and the midwife warned it could be hours or weeks.
Where I'd once have been impatient, I found myself taking the opportunity to appreciate the last days of pregnancy.
Four days on, I woke at 6.30am and felt slightly wet.
I went to the bathroom where my waters released. This was exactly the same way my first labour had started. This time though, I wasn’t scared. I had a dozen comedy films recorded, playlists of music made, affirmations written up and candles by the bath. Even when I stood up and realised my waters were dark green and that they contained meconium, I didn't feel panicked. I called the hospital who asked me to come straight in, called my mum round for childcare and got dressed. My husband and I arrived at the hospital at around 7.00am by which time I was having very mild tightening. It felt like my flesh was being slightly pinched in the fly of my jeans.
My only concern at this point was the baby. As soon as I was put on monitoring and heard her heartbeat, I felt myself relax. I was aware that I was having surges but they felt so manageable with TCBS breathing techniques that I was able to chat to the midwife through them. She didn’t’ check me, telling me we’d have a while yet and I’d likely be put on a hormone drip ‘to get things going.’
I easily let go the idea of the unhurried I'd imagined.
I began playing the affirmations MP3 out loud and, figuring we had lots of time, asked my husband to go home and get my headphones. I then requested to come off monitoring to go to the toilet. Once there, I felt my body begin bearing down. In shock, I pulled the emergency lever by the toilet and the room filled with medical staff. Suddenly, the surges became constant. Someone helped me to the bed and I managed to breathe and focus myself back to a place of calm as I had a vaginal exam. My husband arrived just then and both of us were stunned when the midwife said there ‘just a lip’ left and I was 9-9.5cm dilated. The bed was raised, I stood over the side of it and summoned all my energy to breathe my baby downwards. I had a moment of thinking I couldn’t do this. Then I reminded myself I was doing it.
I could hear Suzy’s voice in my head.
I was birthing with women everywhere and all through history.
6lb13oz baby Maya was born with a single push at 8.55am. I had no tears, no grazes and didn’t need any intervention.
It was all so fast that I hadn’t had a chance to discuss a birth plan with the staff but they automatically delivered her onto my chest and implemented delayed cord clamping. Me, my husband and our new baby girl were then left alone uninterrupted for an hour. Maya fed and slept skin-on-skin.
Due to the meconium in her waters, Maya needed 12 hours of observations but we were allowed home that same night.
Not only did hypnobirthing transform my birth experience it also helped immeasurably postpartum. I took Katy’s advice of a whole week in bed and have found I feel so much more empowered in controlling visitors and outside input in these first precious days. Maya is now eight days old and we are all feeling the benefit of her calm entrance into the world. She’s feeding well, sleeps decent stretches and is forming a bond with her big sister. I physically feel stronger than I have for the last nine months.
Looking back on the birth, I’m still in awe. It’s incredible to me that the sensations I felt in my first and second labours were the same.
I’ve never felt so strong and powerful. I’m so proud of myself – an incredible feeling to take into this new chapter of motherhood.
I never could have imagined I could find birth pleasurable but I really did. In fact, I feel a little sadness that our family is done here as I’d love to give it another go.
I’d tell any mother-to-be to give hypnobirthing a try. You matter, your experience matters. It took me a long time to realise that.