I have been sort of avoiding this post because a) I know it is going to be a long one and b) I have been slightly sleep deprived lately and so am having difficulty collecting my thoughts on the matter and c) I know birth preferences are a touchy subject and don’t want my blog readers (Hi Mom!) to judge me based on what I chose for myself and for my baby.
Anyway, here goes.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Hypnobirthing it is basically amped up, modern day Lamaze. Hypnobirthing teaches you relaxation and breathing techniques with the goal of entering a sort of self induced hypnotic state that enables you to have a natural birth.
I can’t remember when I first heard about hypnobirthing but when I became pregnant I decided that having, or at least attempting to have, a natural birth was important to me so I checked it out, decided that I wanted to give it a try and so enrolled in Melissa Spilsted’s hypnobirthing course. I think I was about 22 weeks when we went to the first of our two Saturday sessions. The sessions consisted of a bit of the science of giving birth, introducing and practicing the breathing techniques and the visualizations, options for birthing positions and watching hypnobirthing videos. The videos were what really convinced me. You saw all manner of women giving birth calmly and naturally…and while watching these videos I often thought to myself if they can do it then so can I.
So the classes were good in terms of presenting the material and giving you ample time to practice and become familiar with the breathing, but like all difficult things it is really up to you to do the work. Luckily in hypnobirthing the work involves lying down, relaxing and breathing! The two main things I practiced were the Rainbow Relaxation and the Birthing Affirmations. I would listen to the Birthing Affirmations every morning on my walk to work and I found that they really made me feel very positive and confident about labor and giving birth. While listening to the Rainbow Relaxation I would practice my breathing techniques and would then fall asleep…I literally never made it to the end of the recording before falling asleep…of course when I was pregnant I was especially good at falling asleep!
So I practiced and practiced and all this practice really helped to focus my energy and attention on me and on my baby. I didn’t feel at all worried or stressed about pushing the baby out…I felt that my body and my baby would do what they were supposed to do and that we would be fine. I was actually looking forward to going into labor…first because obviously I wanted to meet my baby, second because I was HUGE and ready to not have a giant baby baby inside of me but also because I wanted to see how I and my body would react and I was eager to try my Hypnobirthing strategies. And because Hypnobirthing also puts emphasis on the partners I felt that Daddy R had confidence in me too…and that proved invaluable on the big day.
As I have mentioned in a previous post, the actual labor is a bit of a blur but this is how I recall the sequence of events.
I was due May 10. I went in for an appointment with my OB on April 27 hoping to hear that progress was being made and that Baby C might arrive any day only to hear that Baby C wasn’t even engaged yet. Talk turned to having a caesarean. My OB was pro natural birth and said he would let me go at least two weeks past my due date in hopes that Baby C would decide to come out but he said in his experience that if the baby isn’t engaged at week 38 then they aren’t likely to engage. Tears. Feelings of disappointment. And a call to a local acupuncturist who specializes in fertility and pregnancy. I think I had two rounds of acupuncture before my next OB appointment. I again hoped to hear that Baby C was ready to enter the world but he was still not engaged. I didn’t totally give up hope but I was resigning myself to the idea of a c-section when I started to feel uncomfortable.
My stomach started to periodically feel slightly achy around May 5. Since at this point I was convinced that Baby C was going to be stuck inside me forever more I just chalked this up to being nine months pregnant. Friday morning I woke up and got ready to meet a friend for a coffee and while I was waiting for her I had definite moments of a more extreme cramping feeling. I got home from coffee and had another friend over for morning tea…this is what you do on maternity leave when you don’t have anything to do but wait for the baby…and while we were having morning tea I started leaking. I called the hospital and told them I was leaking and they said that while it didn’t sound like I was in labor they would be happy for me to come in and be checked out. So I called Daddy R, took a shower and double checked my hospital bag. Off to the hospital we went.
At the hospital they monitored me…and I was having contractions! I loved the contraction monitor…you could see the length and intensity of each contraction and could see how you were progressing. Anyway, they decided that I had a hind-water leak which is where there is a small hole in the sac allowing some of the fluid to leak out. As Baby C was still not engaged, as my contractions were still very manageable and as my waters hadn’t broken they said I could go home and continue to labor there. They did advise me to put a towel under me if I sat in case my waters did break…more on this later.
So home we went. And of course as soon as we got home I felt like my contractions really intensified. They were still tolerable but I couldn’t walk through them anymore…I was pacing the house and when I got a contraction I would just lean up again a wall and breathe and wait for it to pass. I labored at home for probably about two hours before we decided to head back to the hospital.
We got back to the hospital around 6:00 and were monitored again. At this point Baby C still wasn’t engaged…it seemed he just did not want to come out of there…and there was again talk of potentially having an emergency caesarean. But I was focused on myself and my contractions. The contractions were definitely becoming more intense but I just kept walking and doing my breathing and I was able to cope.
At one point I started shivering and just couldn’t stop and this really interfered with my hypnobirthing techniques because I couldn’t relax. I wasn’t comfortable lying down or sitting, I could only be standing and pacing. The midwife convinced me to lie down so she could cover me with warm blankets, and as soon as I was horizontal, my waters broke! And there was so much liquid! The towels that they told me to put under me would not have even stemmed the tide! And it just kept coming and coming and coming. This was perhaps the most surprising part of the labor for me. I just couldn’t not believe how much liquid was coming out of me. The midwives were running for higher ground! Anyway, I had a shower and was feeling more relaxed so the midwives decided I should go up to the ward to continue to labor. I am not sure why I was sent to the ward when perhaps I should have been admitted to the birthing suite. I mention this only because much of hypnobirthing involves setting yourself up in a calm environment…playing music or listening to the Rainbow Relaxation recording, dimming the lights, taking a bath…and because I was transferred here there and everywhere I never had the opportunity to do this.
So I am up in the ward and the contractions are continuing. My waters breaking made me much more comfortable and so I was able to labor lying down. The contractions are getting stronger and stronger so I said to Daddy R…who is basically asleep on the day bed…that I think we should buzz the midwife to come and check on me. He mumbles something like I am sure you will be fine. And since at this point I am pretty much in the hypnobirthing zone I just continue to go within myself and labor. Keep in mind every time I have a contraction more liquid comes out and so I am soaking wet in bed…seriously this water breaking thing is no joke. Finally around 1:00 on Saturday morning I feel like something has changed so I buzz the midwife…she takes one look at me, grabs a wheel chair and scoots me down to a birthing suite, the doctor is called and I am immediately coached to start pushing. I attempt my hypnobirthing breathing down for about an hour but not enough progress is being made so I agree to try to push. And I push and I push and I push in all different positions and Baby C makes a little headway (pun intended) but he doesn’t make enough. I can feel myself getting tired and it seems that the contractions necessary to push are coming less and less frequently. Finally around 3:30 I have an episiotomy and Baby C is born!
I have to say in my mind the only aspect of labor that I found difficult was getting stitched up afterwards. After hours of having people between my legs, I just wanted to shut my legs and enjoy my baby. Of course I was admiring Baby C but as soon as he was born I think all the walls I had created to block the pain collapsed and I felt that the stitches hurt and I just wanted to be left alone with Baby C and Daddy R.
Speaking of Daddy R, I want to mention how important it was to me to have Daddy R there. Leading up to the labor and birth I was afraid that I wouldn’t want his support. I tend to be very independent and as in hypnobirthing the goal is to retreat into yourself and let your body take over and do the work I was worried that I wouldn’t appreciate him trying to help. But when I was in labor I was so grateful he was there. He was a wonderful partner and coach. Besides calling one of his friends on speaker phone from the car on the way to the hospital not to discuss the baby but to talk about footy, he was caring and encouraging.
And after the birth Baby C and I had skin to skin time for about half an hour before they weighed and measured him. Then he and Daddy R had skin to skin time while I showered. It was beginning to dawn on us that we were parents!
So, my conclusions after using hypnobirthing?
In retrospect I wish that I had been set up in a birthing suite earlier. Or I wish that I had buzzed the midwife on the ward earlier because I think I had been having the urge to push and didn’t realize it and so wasted opportunities to breathe Baby C down. I think that if there is a next time I will be more aware of what this stage of labor feels like and more able to understand what my body needs to me to do. But all in all it was an amazing experience. If you are wanting a natural birth but aren’t sure about how to go about it, I would definitely recommend hypnobirthing. The strategies hypnobirthing give you work but perhaps more importantly hypnobirthing really helps you to believe in yourself and your body and your baby. I came out of my labor feeling very positive, I recovered quickly and was able delve into motherhood!
If anyone else has a hypnobirthing story, or any birthing story for that matter, that they would like to share, please feel free to leave it in the comments!