Thanks, Laura, for this amazing account. This is a brilliant demonstration of our philospohy- positive, imperfect birth. (I say positive with confidence because this legend of a mother has told me that’s how she feels about it). We cannot control everything in birth. We can do lots more than you possibly think, and we can own our responses too. This makes all the difference. #doitlikeamother
Monday 19th June 2017 was not only mine and my husband Neil’s 9-year anniversary, it was the day before my due date. I woke up with a feeling I’d started to lose my waters, however it was such a small amount I wasn’t 100% sure, and would keep an eye on it. I spent the whole day walking around Leigh and Southend seafront with a friend, 28 degrees and no breeze so I was knackered by late-afternoon! I had only lost a tiny (and I mean tiny) bit more water throughout the morning but I thought best to ring triage anyway. They really didn’t think it was my waters as it was such a small amount & hadn’t continued to trickle throughout the day.
A few hours later I had a couple of light tightening’s I thought may be Braxton Hicks, and on telling Neil he said we should cancel our anniversary meal in case it was the start of things. I insisted we go as it was only up the road, I wasn’t even convinced it was the start of things, but if it was it would be the last chance we’d have to go out for dinner just the two of us for a long time! During the meal I had a few more tightening’s which ended up getting stronger and closer together, so we realised were actually early surges! Funnily enough we were having a curry (spice that baby out & all that jazz) but headed home the second we ate our last mouthful (no dessert, unheard of!)
By 9pm the surges got a lot stronger, and continued to do so over the next couple of hours, so Neil rang triage around 11pm. They said as we were only in the very early stages of labour and it was late, we should try and get some rest. I was now kicking myself for having such an intensive day in the sun, I was already tired and knew it could be hours or god forbid, days. I think it was this thought that made me have my first ‘I can’t do this’ meltdown. Neil sorted me out and helped me get back in the zone, counting for me to do the 4 7 breathing. (He said afterwards he was a bit worried at that point because he really didn’t expect me to panic so early on). As expected, lying down was the worst positon for a surge, so resting was pretty impossible. The times when the surges were further apart and I managed to fall asleep, I woke with unmanageable pain; I think the fact I couldn’t feel the surge coming and couldn’t prepare with my breathing made it worse too. So I decided to stay awake, but told Neil he should sleep so he could be more useful to me later on.
After an hour or so I had to wake him because the surges were getting closer together and I really needed his support. We went through the night doing 4 7 breathing and changing positions on and around the bed while watching Russell Brand’s Ponderland (hilarious) with the fan on as it was exceptionally hot. My cat had come and lay on my pillow next to my head; he never does things like that so clearly sensed something was happening. I was sick a couple of times and went to the toilet, both of which I knew were good signs. The surges were getting stronger, but went through stages of being close together, then further apart.
Neil rang triage again at 7am and they said the same as they had previously, surges needed to be consistently 3 minutes apart for at least an hour in order for me to be in established labour, and suggested having a bath to relax. The bath worked wonders! I was completely relaxed as Neil washed my hair and poured warm water over me, our little baby kicking away. It was at this point I realised how magical the situation was, just the two of us together for the last time, waiting for our baby to join us. I went from being really tired and slightly struggling, to feeling so positive and like I could enjoy what we were doing together to bring our baby into the world.
We went downstairs for a change of scenery and watched The Mighty Boosh, which was hilarious and reminded us of when we first got together. We laughed and chatted in between surges, and Neil was brilliant at making me eat and drink, even though I ended up being sick again mid-afternoon. The surges were really strong but still very erratic, sometimes really close together for quite a while, and sometimes quite far apart. At around 3pm things had really cranked up a notch; every time a surge came it was followed by a shooting pain up my back and the feeling of needing the toilet (I waddled to the toilet after every surge, just in case!).
It was shortly after this I had my second ‘I can’t do this’ meltdown. I felt like I was struggling to get through the surges, no position and not even my ball were helping, and I panicked not knowing how much more intense it was all going to get. Neil reassured me that I was doing amazing, and brought down my favourite positive affirmation cards and laid them out on the floor where I was kneeling on cushions, which really did help as I repeated them to myself. He rang triage again and explained the feelings I had but they said that was all normal, and my surges were still too erratic for me to be in established labour. They said I could go in if I wanted but recommend staying at home as long as possible so I didn’t get sent home, which obviously would’ve been my worst nightmare.
Neil dug out the tens machine but I really didn’t like it. After an hour I tried it again as the surges had got even more intense, and I do think it helped slightly, but the breathing and Neil counting definitely helped more. Despite the surges being long and intense, and me making a lot of noise to get through them (which Neil afterwards described as a ghost!) the breathing made them feel shorter than they actually were. I couldn’t comprehend we’d be going as long as we had, which is weird as you’d expect time to go slow when you’re in a challenging situation like that for as long as we had been. At 5.30pm we made the decision to go into hospital, as I was really struggling and Neil could see that things had gone up yet another notch. The thought of travelling to the hospital in rush hour and having surges in the car filled me with dread, I was demanding Neil get a midwife come to us instead (obviously way too late to be thinking about a home birth!) Luckily we live very close to Southend Hospital so I just had to get on with it.
Upon arriving at the Midwife Led Unit I was examined. I remember the midwife, Alicia, saying ‘oh hunny’ and I was waiting for the dreaded ‘you’re “only” 2cm’ so I was overjoyed when she said I was 10cm and I’d done amazing getting to this stage at home. In hindsight, I should’ve trusted myself and my body and known that I had indeed been in established labour for some time, but being a first time mum you genuinely don’t know how much more intense it’s going to get, so I naively trusted someone on the end of the phone who based their assessment on the regularity of my surges. Doh!
Unfortunately, the rooms with pools were full, but I went into a lovely air-conditioned room with a huge bean bag (aka cloud) that I kneeled over; the gas and air a god send! I still didn’t feel an overwhelming urge to push, and the midwife told me to just go with my body and if I didn’t feel the urge then I shouldn’t. I remember the cool room suddenly getting very hot and a bit feeling out of it, the conversation between Neil and the midwife in the background as if it was half a mile away. It turned out my temperature went exceptionally high, so the midwife asked if we could go to another room for me and baby to be monitored. I explained I really didn’t want to be stuck on a bed; she said not a problem I could kneel on it & move around once our heartrates were checked, so I agreed. However mine and baby’s heart rates were much higher than they should be, so a doctor arrived and I was given some hydration fluid by IV drip. They checked to see if my waters were there but they weren’t, which made them suspect they had indeed broken the morning before like I thought, which was now 35 hours previous. The doctor explained they wanted to give me antibiotics due to the risk of infection to me and baby, as this could be what was making our heartrates and my temperature so high. The antibiotics were also given by IV drip.
The next hour was a bit of a blur, as more and more people arrived into the room. They wanted me to deliver asap, as the baby’s heartrate was not going down. At one point I heard someone say ‘resus’ then wheel a machine in. The worst started to run through my mind, so I closed my eyes and started again with the 4 7 breathing. The doctor explained that he wanted to give me an episiotomy and use ventouse to help baby out, which I agreed to without question. I was actively pushing on my back; the opposite of everything I’d learnt and prepared for through hypnobirthing. But I was exhausted and didn’t even think about wanting to move. I was so worried about the baby but managed to stay calm through breathing and zoning out. After some time, the doctor talked to me about a potential c-section as baby wasn’t coming, which panicked me as I really didn’t want to go down that route after we’d worked so hard together at home to get to this stage. When the anaesthetist arrived and told me she approved me for a c section, it gave me the extra motivation I needed to get the baby out. So at 7.53pm on Tuesday 20th June (my due date & 25 hours after it all started) our little girl Indy Alexa was born, weighing a tiny 5lb 11 with a head full of hair and lovely loud lungs; a sheer joy to hear after the last hour of chaos.
I remember the doctor saying you did it well done, you did it. I was thanking him but he kept thanking me and Neil and shaking our hands. I felt incredible seeing the perfect little baby on my chest and knowing what Neil and I had been through together to get her there. I felt rock!
Reflecting on the experience, the main thing I question is whether things would’ve went the way they did had I of gone into hospital sooner. They may well have though, and I know I made the decisions I felt were right for me and the baby. I feel immensely proud of myself and Neil for bringing Indy into the world safely, and so grateful for the help and care we received. Despite the last couple of hours taking a dramatic turn and not going at all to plan, the time at home together was exactly what we wanted. Extremely challenging but calm and magical at the same time. Hypnobirthing and a positive mind-set not only changed my birth experience, it changed my life. As has the arrival of our wonderful little girl.
If you’d like to know more about hot to step into this way of thinking about birth (i.e. that you are an absolute badass Goddess who is DOING IT, not some damsel in distress it is happening to) then check out our courses here.
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