The birth of Willow

new baby

by Sam, Gemma and Willow

When I found out I was pregnant, I was both excited and anxious about the birth. The only negative experience I encountered was the horror birth stories from other parents, which created my anxiety around whether I would be able to 'cope' with the pain during labour and birth.

We attended the course (at about 22 weeks pregnant), alongside two other couples. We are both very open-minded so unlike many people that you mention the word 'hypnobirthing' to, we were not sceptical and knew that it didn't mean that I would be hypnotised and feel no pain during birth! The course consisted of theory and practice, focusing on nature's role in birth i.e. my body is designed to birth my baby; the environment in which to birth my baby i.e. calm, safe, controlled; my partner's role during labour and birth. We practised deep relaxation techniques, using music and scripts, breathing and visualisations, use of positive words/affirmations and discussed choices for labour and birth. The course did outline pain-relief options available and unexpected scenarios such as ventouse/c-section, which I found useful as we were of the mind-set that 'anything could happen'.

Straight after the course, I felt strangely confident and enthusiastic about labour and birth and immediately considered having a home birth, which I would not have done prior to the course. I felt that I had the confidence, knowledge and techniques to allow me to have a natural birth, with minimal intervention, with Sam playing a vital role as the 'gatekeeper' - so all I had to concentrate on was my intuition and relaxation when the time came.

We practised the relaxation techniques regularly, until I could fall into a deep relaxation easily. We would play the River Dawn CD (60 minute piano recital) whilst Sam read from a script, or I practised my breathing and visualisations. I had post-it notes around the flat with my favourite
empowering statements, which I would read everyday. I had the picture of the best position for birth on my mirror, with the words 'Upright, Forward and Open' written on it – which became a bit of a mantra! We listened to the Katherine Graves Colour and Calmness CD in bed and I did not manage to hear the end of it as I always fell asleep – which I assumed was a good sign! By the end of my pregnancy, I could recite almost all of the positive affirmations from the CD word for word, so something had been going in.

We did practice less towards the end of my pregnancy, but I felt confident in what I needed to do and we discussed Sam's role too, as he needed to be sure I could fully concentrate on hypnobirthing while he would deal with everything else as far as possible. We drew up a birth plan for me and a separate plan for Sam, outlining his role.

During the time we were practising hypnobirthing, it helped to stop talking to people about labour and birth as negative stories were of no benefit to listen to. That was the most difficult thing to deal with, alongside people telling me I was 'brave' to be considering a home birth.

I remained low risk throughout my pregnancy and at the 36 week midwife check, concerns were raised about the home birth option due to access issues to our flat, so we had to rule it out, but did feel the Midwife Led Unit at Medway Hospital was still a good option as they had a birthing pool which is something that I wanted at home, but had ruled out for practical reasons.

At 36 weeks and 3 days I went into labour and was advised by the hospital I should be admitted immediately. Given I was in the very early stages and not in any pain, I wanted to remain at home for as long as I could to minimise the time we would spend in the hospital environment. Being at home meant I was calm and relaxed. Sam and I watched a comedy DVD series for several hours, ate some breakfast and I practised the breathing techniques whilst spending most of my time on the birthing ball.

When my surges lasted around 45 seconds long, we faced the inevitable fact that we would need to go to hospital. I became distressed at what lay ahead, but Sam was reassuring in that we would still be able to use hypnobirthing regardless of what would happen.

On arrival at hospital, we took the stairs instead of the lift to Triage as we were advised could help progress labour! When we were taken to our room on the ward, I immediately felt more relaxed and 'got into the zone' by playing the River Dawn CD, sitting on my birthing ball, using the breathing and visualisation techniques. I felt completely in control and even used the mantra 'I am in control' which felt very empowering. We were not interrupted much during this stage, which allowed me to progress my labour calmly. Sam even had a nap as I was happy to labour alone at that stage.

The surges were getting stronger and after several hours, we walked down to the delivery suite. I still had my birthing ball, blanket and pillows from home and the midwife dimmed the lights in the room. The midwife asked for our birth plan, which we gave her and to our delight she said that she could accommodate most of what we wanted. This was very reassuring for Sam and I, and although they wanted to monitor me constantly, I asked them to use a mobile monitor instead– which they did. I recall taking some encouragement from Sam to move around as once I got in a position I liked, I wanted to stay there – but several hours passed and I hadn't progressed much. The midwife suggested I have a bath, which I did, but I didn't really enjoy it as I wasn't fully immersed in the water and started to get cold which made me more tired. When I got out of the bath, the surges were a lot stronger and were more frequent. I was totally exhausted but still using the breathing techniques to get through the surges. We introduced the TENS machine – which I'm not sure helped in terms of pain-relief but did act as a distraction. I pushed the level up to number '3' at the peak of the surge as this felt enough for me (the TENS does go up to 12). Sam ensured that I had water, food and lip balm throughout, which I've no doubt kept my energy levels up. After around 18 hours of labour, the midwife was talking to Sam about pain-relief but I was adamant that I didn't want any. However, after some negotiation, we agreed that Pethadine could help me relax during surges to allow me to get some rest. About 20 minutes after the Pethadine was administered, I felt very relaxed and a bit spaced out. I thought the Pethadine would act as pain-relief, but it had no impact on the strength of the surges – it just meant that I was completely relaxed in-between, enough to sit comfortably on the bed against my pillows.

I recall some doctors coming into the room trying to ask me about a steroid injection they wanted to give me. As per our plan and in line with our hypnobirthing techniques, I remained in my zone and did not respond to their questioning, so Sam took control and told them we would think about it and they should come back later. They didn't return.

A couple of hours passed and the midwife asked if I'd like some gas and air. I used it intermittently as I wasn't able to use my breathing techniques to full effect when using the gas and air. I'm not sure that it helped as it made me more tense, but we did laugh!

The next time I went to the loo, I had a double surge and recall thinking to myself that I could be in the transition stage, I told Sam about the surge, then I felt the urge to push.

Sam encouraged me to get on the bed, initially on all fours, then on my knees draped over the bed which had been tilted upright. I used the downward breathing technique to an extent, but felt an overwhelming urge to push hard and felt very primal and made groaning noises for the first time! I held onto Sam (he was the other side of the bed head) and went with the surges. This stage felt quick and our baby girl was born naturally at 12pm, within an hour of active labour. She was incredibly calm when she came out and didn't cry, we are sure this is a result of the calm labour and environment into which she was born.

I had wanted to hold her immediately, but when Sarah tried to pass her through my legs to me, she realised the cord was too short! So Sam cut the cord (we had planned to wait until it had stopped pulsating).

Sam held our baby whilst I delivered the placenta, with the help of the injection to speed things up, it happened very quickly and easily. I had planned to deliver the placenta naturally, but was too exhausted, as it can take up to an hour to expel.

I held Willow (I'd named her by then) skin-to-skin and she breastfed immediately, which was truly amazing.

The entire birth experience was a very positive one for me, and Sam. Hypnobirthing taught me to trust my instinct and be confident, which allowed me to be in control during labour and birth. Using the visualisations helped me to remain calm and relaxed, even in the hospital environment. Willow is a very calm, happy baby which I know is as a result of our birth experience. I am now a huge advocate of hypnobirthing and highly recommend it, I will certainly be using it again.