“My gut instinct told me that I had to listen to it and go against everything that I had set my mind to. Doing that saved my baby.”
Thanks to Laura Ellington for sharing her birth story. Laura practiced hynobirthing with The Calm Birth School instructor Katie Stockdale of Peace Love Birth.
“Before I begin my story, I must warn you that it’s a long read but one that I wish I had read before my birth. I also think it’s important to remind you of a very important statistic that we should all be mindful of: about one in four babies in the UK is born by caesarean section.
After five days of labour (yes that’s right… five days!!) my baby was born by emergency caesarean. For many hypnobirthing mothers that may be your worst nightmare, as in an ideal world we envisage having a drug free home birth in a birthing pool, whilst we listen to relaxing music and meditate and breathe our way through the process.
The thought of a caesarean may make you think that all of the skills that you have learnt and practiced via hypnobirthing go out of the window; my experience taught me that you actually need the tools and techniques of hypnobirthing more if your birth starts to go off plan – and mine couldn’t have been further away from my original plan!
Having suffered from anxiety in the past, I was desperately trying to find some ideas of how to combine mindfulness with birth and I was searching and searching but never quite finding what I needed. Then I was blessed to see an advert on Facebook posted by Katie Stockdale about her hypnobirthing classes using the Calm Birth School’s methods.
Finally!! I had found what I was looking for! The classes, the further reading, the exercises… They all made me feel empowered, in control of MY birth (I had quite a strong fear of birth being done to me like a procedure, rather than me being in control of the birth of my baby), and the knowledge that I acquired from these resources made me feel absolutely physically and emotionally capable of handling whatever turns my birthing took.
My birth preferences involved, I suppose, what you’d mostly expect from a hypnobirthing mother: a midwife lead birth centre, no intervention, no pain killers, a birth pool, a calm atmosphere of darkness, relaxing music and aromatherapy etc. and in my head that was absolutely how my birth was going to be. I had no health problems so why wouldn’t it go that way? A lovely, calm, eight hour process in a peaceful environment… like a visit to a spa but with the birth of my child being the goal rather than just a bit of relaxation!
It turns out that the universe had a very different plan for me. One that I never expected, but although for some it may sound extremely traumatic, it was calm. I was relaxed, and I am grateful that my baby was brought in to a world where his calm and relaxed mother was ready for him. Where his mother doesn’t feel traumatised or upset by the twists and turns that the birth took. Where his mother doesn’t feel disappointed despite the journey to his arrival not going quite as she had planned.
It’s Wednesday evening and I’m 40+5 and surges start. By Thursday evening they are quite strong and 3.5 minutes apart. I head to the hospital as instructed, but they send me home to wait for them to be three minutes apart. I manage to get some sleep. Friday comes and the surges are now inconsistent so we wait. Saturday and still no consistency. I went for a walk and tried lots of lovely things to boost my oxytocin levels (my partner was amazing during these few slightly frustrating days by really looking after me with massages, aroma therapy constantly being vaporised into the room, tickling and stroking my back… basically everything you’d want from your birth partner!)
By the very early hours of Sunday morning, the surges had become quite strong and were between 2-3 minutes apart, so we thought this is it! and got a taxi to the hospital…1cm dilated… Four days of surges and only 1cm dilated! But it was OK because I was breathing through my contractions and I had faith that my body would get us there.
The hospital admitted me as I was 41+2 by this point and had already been in the early stages of labour for four days. This was also when they told me that I would not be able to use the midwife lead birth centre as they were concerned about how long it was taking my body to get to established labour. Although I was disappointed, it was fine because I could still make a birth suite into a nice relaxing and calm environment and that’s exactly what I did. Lights off, music on, comfortable clothes etc.
Six hours of quite strong and intense surges had passed. 1.5cm dialated. The midwife (who I absolutely adored because she was open, informative and absolutely more than happy to answer any question I had) suggested that perhaps they break my waters to get things going. This was something that I had been absolutely against throughout my entire pregnancy. I was adamant that I was going to refuse any sort of intervention unless they gave me a good medical reason. But something inside of me just told me to do it. Let them break your waters. I was extremely surprised with myself when I went ahead with it.
So they performed the procedure, out came my waters… They were green… That’s right… My baby had pooped inside of me. Luckily it was a relatively recent poop so most of it just came out nicely with the waters and was highly unlikely to have distressed the baby. It was as though a part of me knew that my waters needed to no longer be within my body and my intuition told me to let them come out now.
So anyway, I carried on. I was still in the zone. I was still determined to have this baby in a calm and positive way with no more interventions… But nothing happened. Still at 1.5cm. My amazing midwife, who again had been a fantastic support for me, asked a question that I specifically said not to ask on my birth preferences, but that she knew that she really had to ask at this stage: “Would you like to discuss using syntocin so that we can attempt to move things a long a little?”
Again, I had been a very expressive and opinionated person about syntocin and about how the risks were too high and how it is essentially forcing your body to do something that it is just not ready to do. After all, our bodies are absolutely naturally designed to birth children so why on earth would you ever consider syntocin? But again, there was something inside of me telling me to go ahead and do it. I honestly couldn’t tell you what it was, but I knew that I had to do this. I knew that this birth was not going to happen without a bit of help and I knew that I had to take a chance… So I did just that.
I had read that syntocin can make labour more painful, so I got really in to the gas and air and my midwife told me to be open minded about pain relief after I had again(!) told her my very strong opinions about not having any desire to try pain relief. After about the fifth increase of syntocin, the pain had become too much. I’ve always been pretty resilient when it comes to pain, so although it may sound as though I’m being dramatic, my body needed help to cope.
As soon as I expressed my need for help with the pain, I was then swiftly given an epidural. A form of pain relief that I never ever though that I would need. And I tell you now, it saved me! If I had gone on any longer without it, I honestly do not know how I would have gone forward, or even stayed still. I couldn’t have managed another minute of that pain.
So we carried on. Waters broken. Syntocin in. Epidural and gas and air keeping me going. Keeping me strong. Affirmations going around my mind. It may not be what I wanted or expected but I can do this. My body will do this. I am one step closer to meeting my baby. I am focused on my breathing. Visualising my baby moving down, my cervix opening and my baby coming to meet me.
It was now about midnight. Monday morning. Having been on the CTG almost this entire time, we see my baby’s heart rate start to fluctuate. Severely. From very high to low. The syntocin had caused my uterus to contract 5 times in 10 minutes and this was very distressing for the baby. They stopped the syntocin to see if things would calm down. They didn’t. They checked my cervix… 3cm dilated.
A doctor said to me “as much as you don’t want to hear this, I fear that your labour is not moving forward, and you have now been in the early stages of labour for five days. Your baby is also in distress and we need to discuss an an emergency C section”. Without even a second of thought, I agreed to it. Again it was a case of knowing that something wasn’t right and knowing that I just had to move forward and get this baby out of me.
I had my emergency C section. The team were fantastic. My birth partner stayed strong (even though I knew every fibre of his being was terrified) and out my baby came, and I heard him cry. Apparently he also smacked the doctor across the face so that actually made the midwife laugh as he entered the world. My partner got to hold my baby. I feel after the hell that he had been through that day and the strength that it required for him to get through it, he absolutely deserved to hold our son in his arms first. He was taken out with our baby by the midwife while I was stitched up.
After it was all over the surgeon came and spoke to me and told me that it seems as though the reason that the labour hadn’t progressed is because the baby was too big to have gone through my pelvis. He never would have been birthed naturally.
I couldn’t believe it. For 9 months I had planned and researched and studied natural births, coping strategies, and written what I thought was the world’s most amazing birth plan. But on the day that I actually go in to hospital, my gut and intuition told me that I had to listen to it. I had to trust it and it was OK to listen to it and to trust it and go against everything that I had set my mind to.
Doing that saved my baby.
Remaining calm in very adverse circumstances, saved my baby. Making decision that I knew in my gut were the right decisions for me at that time, saved my baby, and again let me stress that although my birth story may sound traumatic, it really wasn’t. Yes my partner and I have spoken about it since and even cried about some of the emotions that we both experienced (this probably wasn’t helped by us both being tired from having a brand new baby!) neither of us feel damaged or upset about the experience. We have our beautiful baby boy. We are both safe. We got through it. Whatever twist and turn came up we handled it. We remained calm. We breathed our way through it!
So thank you The Calm Birth School. Thank you Katie Stockdale. Together you gave me the knowledge and power that I needed to listen to myself even if listening to myself goes against what I thought I would be doing!”
Essa Shabbir born 7th May 2018.