“It felt really challenging but also like I was in control, totally different to my previous birth…”
This weeks Birth story comes from Gemma and Liam who attended one of our TCBS Instructors, Sophie Cartwright’s group classes in Faversham, Kent.
“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 tightening’s 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!”
To find out more about TCBS Instructor led classes, find out if there is someone teaching near you here!