I was secretly, completely anxious about giving birth for a second time. My labour and birth with Nora – although very medicalised with an induction, drips and an epidural – was so straightforward and completely complication free. I worried that this time I wouldn’t be so lucky and what if something went wrong. I also knew that, because Nora arrived pretty quickly, the chance of me having time for an epidural this time around was slim. That’s when I knew I needed to do something to take control of my labour process and allow my body to do what it’s designed to. I’ve previously blogged about the natal hypnotherapy session I attended. Hypnotherapy is supposed to help make you feel more prepared and less scared of giving birth by equipping you with a set of skills to help you control your pain, relax, and ultimately enhance your labour experience. After attending the full day workshop, I listened to my relaxation tracks as often as possible and faced the thought of labour head-on with a positive mind. I could do this!
On Monday, 18 April 2016, I woke up knowing that this would be the day our lives would change forever. Our team of three was about to gain an extra member. Despite a sweep or two, I was a week over my due date and it was time to forcibly evict baby from my overly hospitable uterus. I had arranged for my sis to come and look after Nora, as we had to leave at 7:30am to be at the hospital to start the induction process at 8am. I remember Nora was still sleeping and I tried desperately not to wake her while I pottered around making sure I had all the bits I needed. I couldn’t face the thought of saying goodbye to her, knowing that life as we knew it was about to change drastically. Obviously, I stepped on the wrong floorboard and my anti-sleeper was awake immediately, none the wiser of the imminent arrival of her baby brother. She was too excited that Auntie Em was there to look after her and, quite frankly, couldn’t care less that I was off out for the day!
We arrived at the hospital and spent half an hour trying to get the bloody parking machine to work. Anyway, by the time we got sorted and into my labour suite, it was almost 9am. My lovely, lovely midwife Sam (hi Sam!) got me settled in, monitored baby and assessed me. I was 1cm dilated and baby was head down so we were A-OK to go ahead with the process. I was a little disappointed that I was only 1cm. They say your cervix never fully closes after you give birth, so in my mind I was completely unfavourable for labour, baby’s head was still really high in my pelvis, and I was anticipating a really, really long day. I was given a good stretch and sweep and got my first Prostin pessary at 9:15am. Now it was a waiting game. We wandered around the hospital and stopped for a Costa. I took full advantage of being massively pregnant and had a massive hot chocolate and some cake – I needed the energy after all. We stomped about the hospital corridors for a while; I could feel a few twinges here and there, but nothing notable. I had been advised to sit on a birthing ball to help bring baby’s head down, so we headed back to our room to bounce around for a bit.
It was 3:15pm and time to be reassessed. The ball bouncing had totally worked, and I was getting what I thought were really frequent and quite uncomfortable pains. The monitor confirmed I was having three contractions in every ten minutes but my second internal examination showed I’d only progressed to 3cm-ish – so disappointed. The next step was to have my waters broken. I was so keen to avoid any kind of medical intervention and to have a pool birth, so we decided to give it another two hours before rupturing the membranes. My lovely reflexologist, Liz (who is also a wonderful midwife), kindly came in to perform some reflexology on my feet, to see if she could get things moving. I listened to my natal hypnotherapy track throughout the session and breathed through the surges – the reflexology seemed to make them stronger and more frequent. I remember sneaking a look around the room while this was happening, and both Ste and my Mam were fast asleep. The relaxation tracks totally work. After a lovely, calming hour, it was time to get those waters broken. What followed, I can only describe as a raging torrent of water. Seriously, I do not know how it was physically possible for me to hold that amount of water inside of me. (Ste took a Snapchat of the aftermath and sent it to my sister. Cheers, Ste.) I remember, at this point, my sis sent me a Snapchat of Nora wishing me good luck. It was just far too much for my extreme hormonal state and I had a mini breakdown. Things really accelerated from here. I got back on the ball after a trip to the toilet. I couldn’t believe how much my bump had shrunk without all the fluid; the surges were becoming more intense and I caved and asked for some Paracetamol. My Mam laughed and asked if I wanted anything stronger! I was so worried that this was just the beginning of the pain and that I wouldn’t be able to handle what was about to come, so decided to stick with the Paracetamol before moving on to anything more hardcore.
So, I guess the time now must have been about 6pm, and that’s when my extreme pacing began. I wish I’d worn a pedometer that day – I can’t imagine the number of steps I took! I found the only thing that alleviated the pain a little was constant movement and deep breathing. I could feel the nausea creeping in and I started to panic a little. It was the nausea and sickness with Nora that caused me to need an epidural, and I so desperately wanted to avoid that this time. I took a sick bowl with me on my pacing travels and it totally was needed. Thankfully, I was given an injection – which really bloody hurt, by the way – to relieve the nausea and allow me to get on with my labouring. I must have been examined again around about this time, and I was 5cm dilated. I remember thinking “Oh my God, how can I only be 5cm and this be so intense?!”. The good news was that I was now able to get into the pool. Ste knew how much I wanted a water birth and asked that the pool was made ready for me.
At this point, I had to say goodbye to my lovely midwife, Sam. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive and easygoing midwife throughout my induction process and labour and I will be forever grateful for that. If you do read this, thanks a million, Sam. You are a wonderful midwife. Luckily, the midwife who took over happened to be one of my Mam’s best friends and someone I’ve known my entire life. I was so relieved and felt super safe in Michelle’s care. The pool was now ready for me. I remember I needed to get changed into my vest top I had brought for labouring in the pool. I literally had my poor Mam strip me off, all dignity had well and truly left the room at this point.
At 7:45pm I made it to the water. The pool was amazing, I sank into the surprisingly warm water and felt some instant relief. The lights were dimmed and I felt a huge sense of calmness. I knew this would be over soon and that each surge was one step closer to meeting our baby. I slumped myself forwards over the side of the pool and focused on my breathing. I remember hearing Michelle comment on how quiet I was and that hypnobirthing is miraculous – I desperately hoped I would stay this collected.
I felt the urge to push almost immediately and hoped I was doing the right thing. I was told to trust my body and carry on with what I was doing. I decided that maybe I should get out of the pool for ten minutes to be assessed, just to make sure everything was as it should be, I tried to stand up but my body had other plans and I had to push. From here, things are a bit of a blur. I remember almost choking Ste to death holding onto his t-shirt and telling him there was no way I could do this. I could hear my Mam saying I wonder if she is fully dilated and I assured her that his head was well and truly on it’s way. I almost laughed when I found myself thinking about the numerous episodes of One Born Every Minute I’d ever watched, and thought “Remember to pant”. I pushed again and again, and his head was right there. I’d done it, on my own, in the water with no pain relief at all. I sat back and waited for another surge and there he was. Michelle quickly scooped him from the water and handed him to me … every ounce of pain I’d felt was completely removed from my mind. He was finally here. 18 April 2016, 9:05pm, 9lbs of perfection. I held him close, his little body just under the water to keep him warm and examined his beautiful face, a face I’d seen before, exactly like his big sister’s.
I have never felt more empowered than at that very moment. The female body is nothing short of amazing. My birth went exactly how I had hoped, I did it and he was here and safe and perfect and healthy. I am so grateful and extremely proud that I’ve been able to experience the miracle of giving birth in its more raw form. Of course it was painful, but it was also intense, powerful and instinctive. Through my hypnotherapy I allowed my body to do what it was designed to do. It didn’t take the pain away but it allowed me to trust in myself and my body and birth Woody calmly and instinctively, without any panic or fear.