I felt under no pressure to fit into a timeframe

This week’s story comes from one of my newly trained instructors! Madeleine gave birth last year and her experience had such a lasting impact on her that she decided to train to teach other to feel strong, confident and empowered when it came to their births. Maddie is now part of Worcestershire Hypnobirthing.

A year ago, I experienced the deepest relaxation I have ever felt in my life. I was 40 weeks + 6 days pregnant and I was having reflexology in a last hope to bring on my labour naturally, following several sweeps. I had eaten my 6 dates a day for the last month, had taken my raspberry leaf tea capsules religiously and was continuously on my feet, running around after my not even 2-year-old. I was doing everything I could to avoid a medical induction of labour, so that I could birth my baby at home.

At 3:30am on Thursday 14th June 2018, I was wide awake. You could say I was on high alert. I felt hungry so went downstairs for a snack. It was already light outside. I had a huge urge to go to the loo (which I knew could be a sign of early labour), then went back to bed. As I lay beside my sleeping husband, I still couldn’t sleep, so I reached for my phone and started chatting with friends in a different time zone. They were the only other people awake at that time.

Around 5am I felt the baby move suddenly, and then felt a bit of a gush, then another. It was nothing dramatic, just that feeling when you start a heavy period. I didn’t second guess what it was, being already 2 weeks past my guess date. My immediate thought was “Hurray, the reflexology worked!” I was incredibly calm as I went to the bathroom to get a sanitary towel. I suppose I had been mentally preparing for this moment for the past several months, practicing my hypnobirthing techniques with the wonderful Hannah from Worcestershire Hypnobirthing.

Around 6am my husband, Alan, began to stir, and I told him my waters had released. He grinned at me and said, “It’s happening!” Shortly after, our daughter Elodie awoke and Alan got her dressed and ready for nursery. At about 7am we had breakfast together, and I felt the first few sensations of labour. I told Alan that I thought I felt a slight tightening, not a surge exactly – very sporadic and more like menstrual cramps than actual surges – but things were definitely happening. Before Alan set off for nursery with Elodie, we told her that by the time she got home, she would have a little brother or sister. I remember holding my first born so tightly, thinking that this would be the last time that I would hold her as my only baby. I would soon have 2 babies, just 23 months apart.

As we had planned a home birth with a birthing pool, there was a very relaxed feel about the whole thing. As my surges began, very gently, I was washing dishes at the sink and using the countertop to lean on, slowly rotating my hips. I managed to hang a load of laundry outside on the line as it was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. I remember holding onto the garden fence when I had a surge, and breathing through it, then continuing to peg out the laundry. Alan was in the kitchen baking apple cakes – his grandmother’s recipe – so we could have the spirit of his beloved “Bubby” in the house. I went about the house adding essential oils to my diffusers in the bedroom, lounge and kitchen. The house smelled like clean linen, freshly baked cake, spice, lavender and clary sage as well as the open lilies and peonies which adorned the kitchen table, the room where I planned to give birth.

Around mid-morning I thought it might be a good idea to go for a walk in the park, about half a mile from our house, just to really get things going. I got to the end of our drive and was doubled over with the intensity of two big surges and had to focus all my energy on my breathing, so we returned to the calmness of our lounge. I listened to my birth rehearsal MP3 as my surges became stronger and more frequent. I used my birthing ball, rotating wide circles with my hips at first, then on all fours, with my head resting on top of my arms. As I had done in my previous labour, I imagined I was floating on a Lilo in the sea, under a warm sun. I was then listening to my Relax for Birth MP3 and was completely calm. Meanwhile Alan began to fill up the birthing pool.

It was around this time we called our local maternity hub to cancel an existing appointment for extra foetal monitoring (because I was so overdue) and triumphantly announced that I had gone into spontaneous labour. Just before midday my surges were becoming more frequent, 3 every 10 minutes, lasting 45 seconds or more, so we contacted triage and were told that they would send a midwife. I knew that my wonderful midwife Maria had clinic at the hub all day, so was not expecting to have her attend my birth, although I had hoped by chance that she, or my previous midwife Linda, would be able to attend. Both had fully supported my decision to give birth at home, despite some special circumstances along the way. Shortly after we made the call to triage, about 1pm, the doorbell rang. You can imagine my surprise and joy when I opened the door and saw Maria smiling at me! She was accompanied by the lovely midwife Sarah, who had carried out one of my sweeps, with the greatest care and sensitivity, and the lovely student midwife, Sophie, whom I’d also met at one of my antenatal checks. When Maria had heard I’d gone into labour, she had asked someone else to cover her clinic for the rest of the day, so she could attend my birth. I was ecstatic. This was The Dream Team!

We went upstairs to our lounge where I had been chilling out with my birthing ball, listening to my affirmations, and calm breathing. I was using my Wave Breathing every time I had a surge and it was so incredibly effective. It completely took my mind off the surge and focused it on the breath. My body was working in complete harmony. Between surges I was chattering away to the midwives, so much so that things started to slow down a bit. I remembered not to panic when my surges didn’t come as frequently and decided to get back into my zone. Everyone knew I was having a surge when I stopped talking and my inward breaths were prolonged. Every time my body surged, the room would fall silent and I was able to completely focus on nothing but my breath.

Just before 2pm Sophie gently asked if she could check to see how dilated I was, and I agreed. My “entourage” and I went upstairs to our bedroom where Sophie checked me and told me I was 3cm, but my Bishop score was high, meaning that my cervix was softer and thinner. This was good news! Maria had told me that birth is not linear, that just because it takes several hours to get to 3cm, doesn’t mean it will take another several hours to get to 6cm, for example. This is also something I learned from hypnobirthing. Unlike my previous, induced, hospital labour, without any hypnobirthing tools, I felt under no pressure to fit into a timeframe.

As soon as I had been examined things really started to quicken up. My surges became much more powerful and there was very little time in between. Maria acknowledged this as I held onto the end of the bed, rocking my hips. I knew I had to get down 2 flights of stairs to my birthing pool before it was too late. The warm water sounded so inviting. I remember for the first time that day thinking about pain relief and wondering why no one had mentioned it. I then remembered that my birth plan specifically asked not be offered pain relief. I felt empowered by this decision as I was able to completely manage my sensations and knew that I would be able to have gas and air as soon as I asked for it, but only when it felt necessary. I had done pretty well so far with not even so much as a Paracetamol, just my own breathing and relaxation techniques. 

We made our way slowly to the kitchen, which even on a bright June day was semi dark and serene. The blinds were drawn and there was a light breeze blowing through the open window and patio doors. Before I got into the pool, I was quite sick, but I knew this was another good sign that my body was getting ready to deliver my baby. Once I had been sick, I felt much better. It was about this time that I asked for some gas and air, as the surges were so powerful, and I felt I needed something to help me get back into my zone. Sucking on the gas and air really helped me to get back into a good breathing rhythm again. I took off my nightshirt without any inhibitions and stepped into my birthing pool. The water was so comforting. The weight of my pregnant body felt supported. Alan was at the edge of the pool with the gas and air, holding my hand when I wanted to feel his reassuring touch. It felt so intimate. My midwifery team were sitting on the other side of the room, observing quietly. Everything seemed to phase out, except the sound of my even breath and the water lapping against my skin, as I instinctively twisted and turned into different labour positions. At one point I raised one leg over the edge of the pool and stretched it out behind me. This would have opened my pelvis as wide as possible, helping my baby to navigate through the birth path. I wasn’t aware of doing this, but one of the midwives captured this extraordinary moment on camera.

My brain became hyper-focused on the music. Alan had painstakingly created a 9-hour playlist for the occasion and the music was comforting and calming, like the water. I was enveloped in a perfect state of calm and focus. I knew I was safe, and I knew that I was getting so close to meeting my baby. In fact, at the point where it was most intense and I wondered how much longer I could go on, there was a voice inside telling me that I had reached the point of transition, and that thought was enough to keep me calm. I heard someone mention something about towels and I knew again we must be getting close, but I also wondered if my mind was playing tricks on me. Was I imagining that I was closer than I really was to meeting my baby? Time seemed to have sped up. It felt like I was in the pool for only maybe half an hour, but it must have been longer. A lot of hypnobirthing mums report this distortion of time.

Soon I felt myself open-up and I could feel my baby’s head crowning. It was the most intense stretching sensation. I reached down and touched the top of my baby’s head. I don’t recall having any great urge to push or bear down, but I do remember trying to “breathe my baby down,” focusing my outward breath downwards, towards my baby. I roared like a lion with each breath. It was primal. Within minutes, the head was out, and I was ready to catch my baby, but after experiencing a couple more, strong surges and no further movement, my amazing team stepped in, quickly but calmly. They asked me to get out of the water and assisted me, with my baby half born, onto a blanket beside the birth pool. I instinctively got onto all fours and out slipped our little amphibian (born half in the water and half on land), right there on the kitchen floor, at 5:03pm. I had been in established labour for just 3 hours. I looked down between my legs and there she was, all 9lbs 15oz of her. “It’s a girl!” I announced to the room. Minutes later, we were both wrapped in towels and she was at my breast.

I had planned a physiological 3rd stage, but as I started to get anxious about my mum arriving home with Elodie at any minute, my oxytocin started to dip. After an hour passed, I was advised to have the Syntocinon injection, which I gratefully accepted. Although I was elated, I was exhausted too. I had been so much in my zone I had forgotten to eat or drink anything since I had been sick, and my blood sugar was crashing. Soon after delivering my placenta however, Elodie met her new little sister for the first time and my mum met her new granddaughter.  We cracked open a bottle of champagne and made placenta prints on the floor with the midwives. It was amazing! My birthing team made me feel like a hero, but they were the real heroes.

Before the midwives left, I had a lovely hot shower in my own bathroom. It was like the shower you experience when you get home from camping at a festival and you haven’t showered for 3 days. Sophie examined me for any tears, and I was fortunate not to have any. After everyone had left, it was amazing how quickly we just feel back into our normal routine. Alan put a pizza in the oven, and after dinner it was Elodie’s bedtime. It was so nice to have never left home, so that we could immediately be all together as a family. One of my greatest anxieties leading up to the birth was about leaving Elodie, and in the event I couldn’t have wished for a better outcome. That just it though – I had wished for it to happen just like that. I had prayed to give birth during the day, while Elodie would be safe at nursery and look what happened. I really believe in the power of visualisation.

I now look back at this wonderful birth with so much love and gratitude. I thank the three incredible women who were at my side, as well as my amazing birth partner. I am especially thankful to my midwife Maria, with whom I’d built a strong relationship and trust, for supporting my vision of a home birth and for going out of her way to be there. I also thank my wonderful hypnobirthing instructor for giving me the confidence, the vision and the tools to be able to have my ideal water birth at home. Most of all, I am thankful for the beautiful baby who was safely delivered into such a loving, peaceful environment. Happy 1st birthday to our precious little girl, Beatrice Marigold. We love you Bebe!

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