don’t birth the head too quickly!
This week’s birth story comes from a lovely couple who attended a TCBS Hypnobirthing Course with Anna Demetriou of This Mother Can covering online and Philadelphia (USA).
Lauren gave birth at a birth centre attached to her local hospital in London, in March 2020 – days before the first lockdown was declared in the UK owing to COVID-19.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful story with is!
I had grown up with the narrative that birth was something awful, painful and horrendous which had to be ‘got through’, and I only knew a couple of close friends who seemed to have given birth without intervention and horror stories. As such, when I found out I was pregnant in July 2019, despite being very pleased I was anxious about the part where I had to ‘get the baby out’. I got some book recommendations for ‘positive’ birth stories and started reading the real birth stories in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, one every night before bed. I also read The Positive Birth Book by Millie Hill. The first time I opened the latter, I actually felt physically sick to be reading about birth and the thought of having to do this myself in a few months. Thankfully, once I had finished that book I felt so much calmer and had an idea of the kind of birth I wanted. I started visualising my ideal birth every day and I practised birthing positions as part of the weekly pregnancy yoga course I took.
I was lucky enough to be able to do a hypnobirthing course with Anna of This Mother Can, and this was such a game changer, not only for me, but also for my husband, who revealed in our first session with Anna that he was anxious about his role as an advocate for me during birth and was worried about how he could help. Anna’s calm and practical approach left us both feeling reassured, and for the first time my husband in particular felt more confident about his role in the birthing process, and we both started to feel more prepared for what was to come.
My husband was really supportive: he listened to the hypnobirthing visualisation tracks that Anna gave us with me every night as we fell asleep and was sometimes around as I listened to my affirmations every morning. Not a big reader, he also read a few chapters of The Calm Birth Method that I marked out for him and was clear about my birth plan and how I wanted birth to progress, supporting me in my choices for a pool birth at the Midwife Led Unit adjacent to our local hospital. We also decided to be supported by a Doula for the birth itself to take away some of the pressure.
I finished work four weeks before my due date at the end of February 2020, and felt good about everything. The start of my maternity leave flew by with all the things I was sorting for the nursery, packing my birth bag, washing clothes for the baby’s arrival, and avoiding the news of the impending global pandemic. Two weeks before my due date I had my 38 week midwife appointment and was told baby was only 1/5th engaged. I was sure she would be born after her due date.
Nine days before my due date I woke up feeling ‘heavy’. I carried on with my day: a trip to the supermarket to try and buy some hand sanitiser and toilet roll (unsuccessful on both counts), housework, and my last therapy session in the evening. I had started to feel increasingly uncomfortable throughout the day; the heaviness would sometimes increase and it felt as though the baby was periodically moving in and out of my pelvis. My therapist lives at the top of a big hill; I walked up it as I had done every week previously and told her that I was feeling uncomfortable so apologised in advance for moving a lot on the couch during our session – by this point I was only really comfortable sitting on my birth ball.
Therapy finished at 8:30pm and I walked down the hill to get on the train. As I was on the train, I experienced some painful cramps, and it dawned on me that maybe I was actually beginning my labour. By the time I got off the train at 9:15pm I was on the phone to my husband telling him to meet me part way home, as I was having surges and finding walking more difficult. I think he thought I was exaggerating or that these would be Braxton Hicks and would stop when we got home, but when he saw me, he realised that this wasn’t the case. It was a slow walk home as I kept having to stop due to the surges. My husband was timing them and I was having 3 surges of 60 seconds or more within 10 minutes by the time we got home.
As my husband was on the ‘phone the Doula and the Midwife Unit there was a pop and my waters went over the carpet. This was more of a trickle than the gush you see in films! The surges were now happening in earnest and I was trying to breathe through them, which was difficult, especially in the car on the way to the Midwife Unit. I presented at Triage at 10:30pm and was told that I was already 6cm dilated. I had to walk around to the unit and was waiting for the birth pool to fill up whilst I got undressed. I remember that my surges were really painful at this point and I began to doubt whether I could continue. My breathing had gotten lost somewhere. My Doula talked me through each surge whilst I was using gas and air; this started to help a little bit but what really calmed me was getting into the water and smelling the lavender she kept offering me.
I don’t really remember what happened in the pool; my memories are fragmented. I remember that it was dark and the pool was lovely and warm; I remember the midwife telling me she was leaving and another would be joining; I remember midwives checking the baby’s heart rate; I remember having gas and air and a cold compress on my forehead; I remember being on all fours and moaning like a cow; I remember breathing in the gas and air. I remember moving into my birthing positions that were like second nature, going from all fours into bringing a leg forward to make more space; I remember breathing out like a horse through contractions and was vaguely aware that my husband was surprised by this. I remember feeling annoyed by interruptions from the midwives and smelling lavender. I remember feeling the baby’s head moving in and out of my pelvis during surges. I remember telling a midwife that she could not check on me anymore as it was breaking my concentration. I remember knowing that my baby was girl, despite having not found out the sex during pregnancy.
Finally, I remember being really aware that my baby’s head was near to being born and I remember deciding that on the next contraction I would push it out (not a good idea! The head should be born slowly with panting breaths to prevent tearing) and I did so, surprising myself and everyone else. I remember the feel of my baby turning, being told to reach my hands through, and catching her in the water to bring her to my chest. I remember the euphoria of feeling that we had done it and she was here and looking at her little face and thanking God. I remember my husband crying and I prompted him to take a photograph of us. I remember her looking at me intently as if to say “Hello Mummy, that was all a bit much!” She was born at 1.15am, less than five hours after I’d left my therapy session.
Afterwards I had wanted to birth my placenta naturally, but unfortunately my contractions disappeared, so after waiting 45 minutes I had an injection and abdominal massage to birth it. I then had to have stitches for an internal second-degree tear (again, don’t birth the head too quickly!), which I found a more uncomfortable experience than the birth itself.
My birth was exactly as I had visualised it and the calm birth skills I learned were invaluable to helping me have the calm birth I wanted. The student midwife who was there told me afterwards that it was the calmest birth she had witnessed. I had such a positive birth experience and I would recommend that everyone take the fear out of birth, read up on it, practise their breathing and visualise the birth that they want.
Thank you so much to Lauren for sharing her beautiful calm birth story with us!
If you want to create your own positive birth you can start today!