I had a sweep on Sunday morning, at which point my midwife said I was at 2cm which was the best thing she could have said and made me feel hopeful and excited that we may not be too far away from meeting our baby. We then went out for breakfast, wondering if it would be the last time we did that alone and also went for a pretty long walk along the canal and across fields. It was a really lovely positive morning, all the while I was having period like sensations which I thought were related to the sweep. These continued through the afternoon but we still went about our day wondering if this was the start of something but not wanting to get our hopes up. There was no pain at this point. We cooked and ate a tasty dinner around 7.30 and then started to get ready for bed.
At 9pm the intensity of the surges picked up and by 10pm we had been timing them for almost an hour to be consistently 4 minutes apart lasting 45-60seconds. I instinctively used the up/open breathing, it felt completely natural even though breathing was the toughest part of hypnobirthing practise for me. I also used the image of a hot air balloon being blown up/lifted off the ground through each contraction; using that image to focus on what my body should be doing- opening the cervix. We rang the birth centre who said that first babies often take their time so suggested I get some rest and call back when contractions were every 3 minutes for 2-3 hours. Whilst I felt things were progressing faster than perhaps the hospital appreciated and knew sleep was definitely not on the cards, I had a bath and then decided to switch the TENS machine on. In hindsight we should have told the midwife on the phone that I was 2cm at the sweep that morning.
Contractions were continuing to intensify until they were coming every 3 minutes lasting 1 minute. We called the birth centre again at 1am and this time I spoke to them rather than Josh. I explained that I was anxious because this was a new experience for me and I wanted some reassurance, but mostly because I felt things were progressing faster than they appreciated and that I didn't think I could manage the pain with hypnobirthing techniques and TENS for much longer - self doubt phase perhaps???(except I did manage to! By keeping calm and testing out different positions until I was happy). However I wasn't able to convey that message over the phone (should trust my instinct more!!!) And so agreed to wait another 30mins and call back then. The birth centre was keen for me to wait another 2 hours.
In the next 30minutes I used every technique I had practised to take me through each contraction, it was instinctive and the most helpful thing was to let my body do what it wanted; make the noises it wanted and get into the positions it wanted. I didn't fight any of those instinctive actions, which is something I had taken away from hypnobirthing and other guidance.
I managed to last 90minutes before calling the birth centre back and at this point I was stronger and more forceful letting them know I was coming in rather than looking for their approval. Josh readied the bags and car and just before getting in the car I said to Josh I was starting to feel an urge to push. At that point he threw everything he could into the car and got me in too. (About 3.15am)
The 90minutes after the second call to the birth centre, the car journey and the time before the examination were the toughest and I was longing for the gas and air. By having a home birth next time I think I would be able to cope better with that period; both because I would be more prepared in terms of expectations but also because the physical transition from home to the birth centre was long and tiring with contractions coming every 2minutes.
After being assessed I was delighted to find out I was 10cm (now just after 4am)! It was like a weight had been lifted and everything I had practised had been worthwhile to get me to 10cm quickly! I was so excited to meet my little baby. The pool was filled just incase I decided I wanted to use it.
I took the gas and air, although didn't go overboard, for about 45minutes during each contraction. All the while my midwife respected my wishes of not having too many interventions and instead opting for mother led pushing. She sat calmly on the end of the bed and was a wonderfully reassuring and calmly influence. For this reason and since things were progressing fast, I chose not to go into the pool and instead said another lady could use it. I have to put this ability to still think logically and lucidly down to the hypnobirthing type zone I was in (confident and in control). After 45 minutes our midwife suggested I change position and try pushing without the gas and air. Much to my surprise taking away the gas and air was the best thing I did. I was able to concentrate on the contractions, imagine my baby coming down and get the hang of what I was supposed to do to achieve an efficient push. At this point our midwife asked if I wanted a little directed help and having built up a rapport I accepted. Again, this was nothing but reassuring and baby arrived very soon after recieving that advice at 5.45am. Baby Etta was alert, calm and perfect. And a girl, much to our surprise!!!
- More than anything else the hypnobirthing practise made me feel calm and prepared before giving birth. I felt comfortable and in control of decisions that needed to be made and trusted my baby and body throughout labour. Without hypnobirthing I suspect I would have been much more panicked and nervous
- Although my birth preference was very much 'mother led' and 'no interventions' when I got to the birth centre, the advice and reassurance from the midwife's checks/telling me where and when to push was wonderful and just what me and my baby needed to feel relaxed. Although this was different to my original birth preference I remained open to change and am so pleased I accepted the help.
- Next time I will strongly consider a home birth. I do think I managed through my toughest part without pain relief because of when I travelled to the birth centre and I think I would be calmer knowing I didn't need to move next time.
- Trust my instincts. Even though this was my first baby I knew things were progressing faster than the midwives could tell over the phone
- Don't fight anything that feels instinctive/right. For me that was the noises I needed to make, the positions I got myself into and accepting advice from the midwife. I found myself becoming nervous when the midwife left the room which was such a surprise for me, but something I accepted in the moment and I'm so glad I recognised that and asked her to stay at the end of the bed.
I don't feel like it was the 'perfect' birth because I don't think that exists, but it was the best it could have possibly been for me, Josh and Baby Etta, even though we didn't get to take advantage of all the lovely labour plans we had (films, funny TV shows, playlists, video messages from friends etc)- we saved them up for the week post birth instead.
I'm so very grateful for Carys' help, calming influence and putting some of the techniques/hypnobirthing ideas into a practical context for us.