Whiling away the hours staring at our new-born son, I often find myself casting my mind back to his birth. The memories I have are not of the horrific scenes we are so often bombarded with in today’s society, but of positivity, empowerment, sheer determination, and a sense of awe in regard to the power our bodies possess, and our mind’s ability to remain completely focused at such a time.
I spent the first 35 weeks of my pregnancy consumed with negative thoughts about child birth and feeling absolutely terrified about the pending assault my body was gearing up for – until I met Louise, that is. Admittedly, the whole idea of hypnobirthing seemed a bit nonsensical to my mathematical mind, but after attending a Hypnobirthing Essentials Workshop in early January, I left Louise’s home with a completely changed mind-set, and an affirming “I can do this” outlook.
I diligently put into practice the skills I learned, and listened to one of the tracks each day. I knew that whatever effect (or not) the Hypnobirthing would have during my labour, at the very least it was an enormous comfort during those last few long weeks, and really enabled me to stay focused, positive, and (dare I say it) looking forward to D-Day.
At 41&2, the day I was booked for an induction, I began experiencing mild cramps at around 2am. I was mildly excited (as I really didn’t want to have to be induced) but equally, I didn’t want to get too enthusiastic as I had had a sweep that evening, and knew that the cramps could just be a result of that. A few hours later my husband suggested that he should work from home that morning, just in case it was the real deal, and after eating a hearty breakfast, he ran me a bath and set me up with a pen and paper so that I could note my contractions (and he could get on with his work!). As another hour ticked by, it had become evident that labour was beginning to progress.
Around that time, we began to play the hypnobirthing tracks, and I found myself comforted by the familiar sound of Louise’s voice, and ‘escaping’ to the various visualisations I had practised during the preceding weeks. A wonderful complement to this was my husband’s calm and collected assurance: he had attended one of Louise’s evening workshops for Dads and was completely in sync with the atmosphere I wanted to maintain, and perhaps more importantly, understood the importance of it.
By 3pm I had reached the notable “3 in 10” point, and rang our doula to suggest we make our way to the hospital. But to my utter dismay, she suggested seeing whether I could go another couple of hours(!). My husband jerry-rigged the TENS machine to me to give me a bit more support while we stayed at home, but I was already so deep in the zone, that I couldn’t distract myself enough to concentrate on operating the machine, so he had to follow me around the house and press the appropriate buttons at the appropriate moments on my behalf.
Central London traffic was at its peak so we waited until 7:30pm to head to the hospital. The music-only track played on loop in the car which really helped me to stay in one rhythmical breathing pattern (in hindsight, he probably shouldn’t have been driving while it was playing, but he did say that it prevented him from using the horn at least five times).
We arrived at the hospital and I was examined by one of the midwives who said that I was already 9cm dilated, and I felt a renewed sense of motivation that I was almost there… Pausing for contractions to pass every minute or so, I eventually arrived at a lovely room in the birthing unit at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. The birthing pool was being filled, the lights were dimmed, and there was no bed in sight – the atmosphere was almost serene. I stripped off my clothes and straddled the pool the instant I was given the green light (emerging myself in the water can only be described as total heaven).
I don’t remember much about the next chapter, other than our doula telling me that I’d already been through Transition and was now in the ‘rest and be thankful’ phase. This aptly-named period was a pleasant reprieve and allowed an opportunity for me to join in some lucid conversation, eat quite a few custard crèmes, and rehydrate. And just when I thought it was all too good to be true, the midwife asked me to get out of the pool because the baby had turned around, and was now facing sideways…
To be honest, the next 3 hours are all a bit of a blur (the gas and air is largely responsible for this!) but as I continued to labour in various positions to try and encourage him to re-right his ways, I was so completely focused on the music, Louise’s voice and the powerful surges consuming my body that the anxiety in the room never affected me. I do recall my body producing some very agricultural noises, and although I was aware of a lot of talking going on around me, I had no idea what anyone was actually saying – I just KNEW, instinctively, that my body would do what it had to, and it was only a matter of time until all would be fine, and I’d be pushing my baby out.
Fast forward an hour and a half, and with no such success, the midwife explained that she would like me to be transferred to the hospital wing so that I could have some further assistance. I asked her whether I could take the gas and air with me, to which she replied “no, but they’ll have some waiting for you when you arrive” – that was all the catalyst I needed! The contractions resumed almost instantly, and next thing I knew I was lying on the floor, on my side and pushing.
Little George entered the world at 3:03am that morning, looking at the side wall and with the cord twice wrapped around his neck….. the midwife later told me that in her entire career she had only witnessed one other woman deliver a sideways-facing baby naturally, and this was later affirmed by the other midwives on the unit who also congratulated me on enduring such a difficult delivery.
So, although not everything went according to plan, I cannot recall one moment throughout those 24 hours where I felt as though I wasn’t in control, or the pain was insurmountable. I wholeheartedly attribute the skills I learned from Louise to our positive birth experience, and urge anyone who is feeling anxious about their own labour to attend one of Louise’s workshops – IT WORKS. My husband never even had to “shake the apples”!