Sunday, 5 July 2015

The home HypnoBirth of Ellie Wood - mindset, preparation and a bit of a surprise!

Hi I'm Karenna and I run Hope and Honey - offering HypnoBirthingChildbirth ClassesFertility Coaching and Birth Pool Hire in Perth, Western Australia.

I recently gave birth to my beautiful daughter - Ellie and here's our birth story.

The birth of my first daughter, Isla, was pretty long (27 hours!) and you can read the full story here. It was a really positive home water birth, but at times I struggled mentally to keep strong which I think resulted in the long labour. So this time, I was determined that this labour would be shorter and that I wouldn't let any fears or doubts into my mind.

I prepared for the labour using the HypnoBirthing hypnosis and affirmation tracks - listening to them regularly and even more so in the final weeks. This relaxation time was also really important in preparing for life with 2 under 2! The repetition of the affirmations was especially good and there were 3 in particular that really resonated with me so I printed these out and stuck them around the house. Every time I went to the fridge or my daughter's room, I read the affirmations and the words and meanings really stuck in my mind and came to me during the birth. (Read more about how effective positive affirmations can be)

I also prepared for the birth doing perineal massage and using the Epi-No (more information here) This is a great practical way that you can prepare for birth and I did this at the same time as my relaxation. For me, this was really important for my home birth as I didn't want to have any post-birth complications due to tearing and have to be transferred to hospital after a successful home birth. Of course, if you have a great, relaxed natural birth you are less likely to tear anyway but for me it was helpful for my mindset to know that I had prepared my perineal muscles for birth. This may seem a slightly alien concept to some but it's something I always ask my clients to consider doing as research shows perineal massage in the lead up to labour reduces tearing and other related complications.

Another thing that I always 'preach' is patience when waiting for baby to arrive - viewing your due date as a relaxed estimate and not putting pressure on yourself. As I approached and went past my due date, it felt pretty hard to practice what I preach! I was torn between my rational side - knowing that baby will come when baby is ready and irrational impatience. My husband had joked that he wanted out of something at work on a certain date and for some reason this date got stuck in my head and I felt frustrated when this date also passed.

On the day my labour started, I remember finally finding peace - truly believing in what I 'preach' and finding patience. After waving off friends after dinner at our house, I started to feel a few twinges. As I'd been experiencing these for a couple of weeks I wasn't expecting them to turn into anything. Our other daughter Isla must have known however that this was it. Normally very good at going to bed, we tried for nearly 2 hours to get her happily into her cot. All the while, I was getting surges and starting to think this could possibly be it but keeping that to myself in case it wasn't.

At 9pm, Isla finally went to sleep and instantly my surges came on much stronger. I finally said to my husband, Lee, I think this is it - time to get set up. So we set to work, changing beds, getting out towels and preparing the birth pool. I must say changing sheets on the bed was a lot of fun whilst getting strong surges but it was probably good for me - keeping active in early labour is a great way to get things going.

Finally we felt all prepared and I got onto all fours, leaning on the birth ball, in front of the fire. It was a lovely stormy night with the rain hammering down and it felt so cosy to be in front of a roaring fire. The fire was something I'd actually pictured as part of my labour as well as it being at nighttime. I desperately wanted to birth overnight with our other daughter Isla managing to stay asleep so we didn't need to call on friends to help out. So I felt lucky that this was what was happening so far.

By this point, my surges were coming every 2 minutes and we rang our midwife Wendy to let her know I was definitely in labour. We decided to just keep going ourselves and call her in half an hour to update her. I was using a contraction timing app to get an idea of how frequent and how long my surges were. Although this was a bit of a distraction - it did make me laugh when it kept flashing up 'Go to hospital or call an Ambulance IMMEDIATELY!'

The living room was cosy with the fire, candles and my favourite tunes playing. Time didn't really seem a factor and it was actually over an hour before we called midwife Wendy again. At this point, I was starting to feel a little nauseous at the end of each surge and was using low moaning noises to help me through each surge. As soon as Wendy heard this, she was at the house within 5 minutes. I remember Wendy arriving, taking my blood pressure and then saying she was going to start her notes and set up. This was about midnight I think. My surges were becoming pretty intense and I kept asking if I could get into the birth pool - I now needed something to assist me. Lee and Wendy were still fine-tuning the temperature and level of the pool so asked me to wait. At one point, when changing over between the hot and cold taps (and the resulting pressure difference) the hose fired out of the pool snaking across the living room and soaking me during a particularly strong surge. We had to laugh - the water was dripping down the walls and I was also dripping wet! Poor Lee was running around towelling down the walls and furniture whilst trying to fill the pool and trying to help me through my surges!

As mentioned, I was determined with this labour to keep focused and not let any fears or doubts creep into my mind. For me, birth is a bit of a solitary exercise - no one can do the surges for you and you can only rely on your own mind and body to guide you through. I know this will be different for others but this is an area I struggled with during Isla's birth - expecting others to be able to help in more ways than just being supportive and present with me. Birth is a journey that within my mind I have to walk alone. The only points where I found my focus dropping was when Lee was trying to help me with massage or words of support as I almost wanted to reach out to him and ask him to bear some of the load. His support was paramount but actually I needed to be completely inside myself - I couldn't let myself reach out to him.

After a particularly strong surge, I was almost begging for the relief of the pool. Wendy asked me to go to the toilet for a wee before I got in as a full bladder can actually inhibit labour / the descent of the baby. I knew getting to the toilet was going to be tough. I'd spent all of the surges leaning over the fit ball on my knees and when I had moved upright the surges were much stronger. So with some trepidation I set off down the corridor. A surge came on strong half way there - Lee held me up and told me I had to keep quiet not to wake little Isla - a tough moment!

I made it to the toilet and had a couple more strong surges there. Wendy and Lee were still tinkering with the birth pool. All of a sudden, I felt this monumental movement within me - I could feel the baby descending and twisting. I shouted for Wendy and Lee and said "it's happening, she's coming right now." It all happened so quickly - I felt her moving downwards and then the head coming out. I didn't push, or in fact do anything at all. It was like an unstoppable force I was witness too and almost not a part of. The head came out after a few seconds and then there was even more unbelievable movement as she twisted and turned (360 degrees apparently!) and literally twisted her way out. It's only at this point as her shoulders and body emerged that my waters broke. Her head came out completely in the membrane (something called 'en caul' which is quite rare and many midwives believe to be lucky). I remember Wendy holding the membrane up wondering what to do with it!

The birth happened at 00.40 - so the labour was only 4.5 hours - amazing!

So here we were all squashed into our tiny toilet - Ellie was straight up on to my chest and latched on to feed almost immediately and I couldn't believe it was all over. Even with the last strong surges, I still had no idea how far along I was into my labour and after a long labour the first time had expected it to be much longer. I think Lee and I were both in a bit of shock at how quickly it had happened by comparison to last time.

At this point, our two student midwives arrived in time for the third stage. I was still chewing on my pulsatilla tablet (homeopathic remedy which can assist the placenta to come out) when I felt the placenta coming. Only ten minutes after birth, the placenta was out, Ellie was feeding well and I was still sat on the toilet in awe of what my body had just done.

We moved into our bedroom, Lee cut the cord (read more about the benefits of delayed cord clamping here) and Ellie continued to feed for at least another hour. It gave the midwives a chance to recoup, write notes and have some chocolate cake and tea! So it was a couple of hours after the birth that Ellie was weighed (7 lb 9 oz) and checked (perfect!).

One of the best things about home births is afterwards - you are in your own bed, in your own home and no one has to go anywhere. It felt amazing that Ellie was here with us, we'd had our perfect birth with no interventions or examinations, no talk or knowledge of 'how many centimetres dilated' I was and no tearing. It was just as I'd visualised and hoped for - short, overnight and Isla woke up in the morning to meet her new baby sister!

I am ever grateful and amazed by the HypnoBirthing techniques for helping me achieve the birth we wanted. My mindset never wavered and I put that down to the preparation beforehand using the relaxation, affirmations and visualisations. That and also my absolute determination! Also a huge thanks to the Community Midwifery Program here in Perth who make home birth possible.

If you'd like more information on HypnoBirthing and how you can achieve the birth you want, contact Karenna from Hope and Honey.

Monday, 8 June 2015

How can positive birth affirmations help me have an easy, comfortable birth?

My birth will be easy because I'm so relaxed and confident - my favourite positive birth affirmation
Hi I'm Karenna and I run Hope & Honey offering HypnoBirthing, Fertility Coaching, Childbirth Classes and Birth Pool Hire in Perth, Western Australia.

One of my favourite things about working with clients is seeing their confidence grow and see the change from fear of birth to being excited about their labour.

So how does that happen and how can you make that change and be truly looking forward to the birth of your little one?

Partly it's about education - learning about the natural process of birth and how our body responds to relaxation and reacts to fear. Another part of the transformation is 'changing your mindset' - sounds a bit tricky eh? Well it doesn't have to be!

Our minds work through pathways. When we develop a habit our brain trundles down the same old pathways. When we want to create a new habit or train of thought - we have to create new pathways and that can be hard at first. It's almost like trampling down a new path in a meadow - it's hard at first and you have to consciously do it, but after several times it becomes easier and soon you can walk down that path easily and without much thought.

A great way of creating new positive thoughts about birth is to use positive birth affirmations. An affirmation is:

  • a positively phrased statement to yourself
  • phrased in the present tense
  • simple and short
  • a statement that starts with the word 'I/My/...'
E.g. - I am choosing healthy food that makes me feel good. The practice of doing affirmations allows you to begin replacing some of your stale, worn-out or negative mind chatter with more positive ideas and concepts. It is a powerful technique, one that can in a short time completely transform your attitudes and expectations about life, and thereby totally change what you experience. 

I'm preparing for the birth of my second baby at the moment. Here are my top 3 birth affirmations - the ones that really resonate with me:

  1. My birth will be easy because I'm so relaxed and confident
  2. I release my birth over to my body and baby
  3. My baby is perfectly positioned for an easy, comfortable birth

Imagining your baby is perfectly positioned for birth - a good positive birth affirmation
But there are many more to choose from...

  • I am focused on a smooth, easy birth
  • I am prepared to meet whatever turn my birthing takes
  • I put all fear aside and welcome my baby with happiness and joy
  • I deepen my relaxation as I move further into labour
  • My mind is relaxed, my body is relaxed

So why not try using some affirmations when preparing for your birth? You can say them out loud, listen to some recorded affirmations or my favourite - print them out and stick them around your house. I find this really helpful as you see these statements and images regularly - helping your mind take in these statements repeatedly.

It's natural to be apprehensive about an upcoming birth and that's okay, but if you're feeling fearful or negative - try using affirmations to help you change your mindset and be able to get excited about your labour. For more information or to book HypnoBirthing or antenatal classes, visit Hope & Honey.

Positive Birth Affirmation Example

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Does HypnoBirthing Work? A Hope and Honey client shares how it helped her birth quickly, gently and easily

Hope and Honey offer HypnoBirthing, Fertility Coaching, Private Antenatal Classes and Birth Pool Hire in Perth, Western Australia. Here is a birth story from a HypnoBirthing client, a 2nd time mum who benefited hugely from the whole journey of HypnoBirthing.

"I was 40 weeks + 5 days it was Saturday the 7th February. I was relaxed and not at all anxious about the +5days I was very keen to let labour start naturally without any intervention. I had been swimming everyday and walking as much as possible to support this. I went to bed the night before after eating a vindaloo curry and slept as usual with no signs of anything happening.
K & Baby B after their gentle, calm HypnoBirth
I woke up at 0730hrs and was planning on swimming again with my husband and daughter, I felt some tightening shortly after I ate breakfast at around 8am, I wasn’t sure that it was a contraction so I carried on getting ready for the pool. I felt a few more tightening sensations and began to think that it was contractions. I used an app on my phone to time them and had 3more in very close succession, I realised at this point that I probably wouldn’t go swimming however I didn’t rush to ring the hospital or anything like that as I was keen to stay home as long as possible.

I put on my affirmations and had a shower and got dressed my surges continued every 2 minutes and were getting more intense. I did my relaxation breathing and continued with the affirmations whilst walking around the house. I called a neighbour to look after my daughter and I just felt really calm about it all at this point. At 1010am, all of a sudden with the next contraction I felt a real sense of pressure and I was very nauseous. I instantly knew the head was bearing down, I felt scared at this point and called the hospital. I was very uncomfortable and anxious. We arrived at the hospital at 1040am, I knew the baby was well on its way to being born my contractions were further apart but lasting for longer. I stood at the side of the bed trying to restore my inner calm and just trying to do my surge breaths.

The midwife attached some monitoring and then examined me confirming I was fully dilated but membranes were intact. I was instructed to begin pushing whenever I felt the surges, I was asked to lie on the bed at this point which I really found uncomfortable but my obstetrician needed to rupture my membranes because she saw that baby looked tired from the monitoring and was suspecting meconium in the waters. Once the membranes were ruptured there was indeed meconium present and so a paediatrician was called, I was putting lots of energy into my breathing but fear had defiantly taken over at this point. I was experiencing a lot of pain and wanted it to be over.

Karen, Baby B and Big Sister M
Luckily I didn’t have to wait long as my beautiful baby girl was born exactly 1 hour after arrival at the hospital at 1140hrs, only 3.5 hours after the onset of labour. I did have an episiotomy because Beatrice had her hand up on her face during delivery.

Hypnobirthing was a real journey for me, it helped me plan out and make decisions about how I wanted my birth to be. I planned it, I visualised it and it happened. My hypnobirthing practitioner really opened my mind and introduced me to techniques and therapies I hadn't known before. It was about more than just the labour itself and I feel I benefited hugely, I will and have recommended it."

Karenna from Hope and Honey says - "K had a very quick first birth with her first daughter nine years previously. In some ways because it was so quick, there was a bit of fear still there from this birth even though overall the experience had been positive. So through HypnoBirthing, we worked on reducing that fear and by the end of the classes, K was really looking forward to the birth and had planned out everything she wanted. I'm so pleased for them both that their journey was as they wanted, loved working with them and love keeping in touch with them and seeing pictures of Baby B growing up already!"

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Baby Leo's HypnoBirth - Client tells all...

Here is a lovely hypnobirthing story from clients H & T who welcomed little Leo into the world recently. I think it’s so important to share real, positive birth stories so thank you to H&T for sharing this with us x 

(For more information on HypnoBirthing, visit Hope & Honey)

H writes “On Sunday I just wasn't feeling very well...that evening I woke to cramps at 3am coming pretty consistently every 9mins lasting about a minute. I kept trying to sleep listening to affirmations until 7am when T woke now they were 5mins apart and I was doing my surge breathes.

We continued the surge breathing and I tried to listen to my affirmations etc this continued until 12pm and we were umming and ahhing about whether to go into the birth centre or not...the 'pressure' was so bad, I felt I wanted to go in as I needed a bit of we did.

We kept going for an hour or so after our arrival and then I wanted a VE (vaginal examination) to see where I was at. I wanted the bath so bad for relief...unfortunately I was only 2cms. This was disheartening for me as I was struggling with the pain.

The midwives knew my plan and we're very supportive. They offered me morphine with finergin to take the edge off and I was happy to try. Five minutes later my waters broke and it had thick green meconium. T and the midwife stayed very calm but we all immediately knew I had to be transferred to King Edwards.

Off we went and they explained that if I didn't dilate to at least 4cm by next exam them I would need Pitocin (artificial induction). They also advised that this would increase the pain significantly.

I was ready for an epidural anyway by this stage. So that's what we did. Immediately I felt huge relief and was able to get some much-needed sleep. With my body now relaxed at my next VE I was 6cm (avoiding induction..yay!), then not long 9cm, then it was time.

I was able walk around with no catheter and I wanted to squat as I breathed the baby down. We kept going for 1.5hr and then baby got a bit distressed. They called the doctor in. At this point I was like right...I'm gonna get this baby out...all I could think of was forceps for some reason! Unfortunately by now the epi numbed me just a little too much down my thighs and I couldn't use my legs the way I wanted to. Onto the table and we discussed everything with the doc...delayed clamping and physiological placenta delivery...

I was helped on the type of pushing we needed, he was coming but the doctor said she could see my perineum looking to tear in a not ideal place and so she asked to snip..and just small snip and he was out!!! Skin to skin...delayed cord clamping...i did start bleeding a bit, so after about 10mins they injected me to get placenta out. Leo weighed 8.1lb /3.66kg and was 51cm long.
All in all...our 'plan' changed a lot....but I have absolutely no regrets what so ever and if anything, I feel really proud of myself and T with how we handled everything. Toby was totally my rock. Holding it together...doing everything right, despite me pushing him away sometimes and me telling him to push my knee up harder right at the end...bless him...he was my outlet. I felt comfortable yelling at him vs anyone else. He handled me so well. I love him to bits.

Overall, we felt really informed, confident to speak up and just went with what felt right for us.

T and I are so grateful for your hypnobirthing sessions as it was so pivotal to our birthing day and beyond. Thank you!"

Karenna from Hope and Honey says – “I love this birth story as it shows how plans can change but you can still feel happy with how the birth went. Much of this is to do with being informed and confident about all your choices and about your important involvement in all decisions throughout the birth. HypnoBirthing and antenatal classes are invaluable in preparing you for birth, helping you be confident together, know about your options and to have a voice. Thank you so much for sharing your story H&T and for our lovely fun classes together!”

Monday, 24 March 2014

Baby Bella's HypnoBirth - A client's birth story

I had been really focused about our hypnobirth following our sessions with Karenna from Hope & Honey. I wanted to get into the zone so I arranged a fear release session with a local hypnobirth practitioner here in Esperance as we had moved here 6 weeks earlier from Perth. It was great to feel that deep relaxation I had with Karenna during our classes in Perth and made me feel empowered to have the birth we wanted. 

It was three days before our due date and I had been feeling niggly all day, I had been productive making a garden junk art piece on my hands and knees with power tools though so keeping the theme of an active pregnancy! Pete was working a late shift, about 9.30 pm I went to the bathroom and thought I saw the mucus plug so called my sister to check, I then sat on the fit ball watching TV. My sister, who is a nurse, thought it was the plug and said it could be a week before anything else happened. Pete called about 10 pm to check on me and while I was sat there chatting to him my membranes released! He came running home and I put on my positive affirmations and sat relaxing in the living room. 

As the hospital is so small here we rang about 10.30 pm to tell them about the membranes releasing, they said to come back in when the surges became closer together, I had some surges but nothing too strong, my lower back was aching so I hopped in the bath. About 12.30 the hospital called me and asked me to come in to check I actually was in labour. We went in and met the midwife Sandy who was lovely, she respected all our birthing choices and made me feel really at ease. After a quick examination she let us go home. We stopped at the servo to get milk and I had a huge surge, I breathed through it visualising my blue balloon, the staff at the servo were somewhat alarmed at this lady in labour buying milk at 1.30 am! 

When we got home the surges got really strong. I got in the shower on all fours and breathed through them, over the next hour they got increasingly strong and I lost focus to breathe through them. I woke Pete and got him to take me back to the hospital. Pete kept counting my breathing, reminding me of the affirmations, and rubbed my back. We arrived back at about 2.30 am Sandy examined me and I was 7cm dilated, I felt lost in the intensity of the surges and a failure I couldn't breathe through them, I used the gas and air as I felt I could no longer cope. Over the next 3 hours I crawled around the floor during surges and did relaxation breathing between them. I then remember feeling really scared the baby was too big to birth, Pete kept repeating "you will birth a baby the right size for your body" he was amazing, he kept me calm, used light touch massage, gave me ice and water and never left my side. 

Although I felt I had cheated by using gas and air, I kept thinking about the affirmation "I will calmly meet whatever turn my birthing takes" knowing every surge was closer to meeting my baby. 

I seemed to go into a primeval head space and made a lot of noises during the surges, so much so the day after the birth I still had a sore throat!! When I hit transition Pete recognised it immediately, I was begging for morphine and feeling I couldn't go on, I rang my sister who was a gentle encouragement for not only me but also Pete. The midwife got the morphine together and Pete told her not to give it to me and that I could do this without it. I am so glad he had the strength to do that and I think hypnobirthing gave him the confidence to stay true as much as was possible to our birth plan. 

The birthing room had an amazing birth chair and Sandy suggested I use it. I then stopped using the gas and air and breathed down as far as was possible for the next hour. It got really intense though after the hour and I knew the doctor had been called in. After a further 20 minutes Sandy told Pete that I had 10 mins or they would need to intervene as they were worried about the baby. Pete gave me huge encouragement to let go and meet our baby so for 10 mins I put all my energy and focus into meeting our baby. 

At 7.30 am Bella came sliding into the world, Sandy put her straight onto my chest! I then got into the bed and with the cord intact had skin-to-skin for an hour. She was alert and crawled up to my breast and latched on straight away. It was an amazing feeling to know I had done it!! We delayed the cord clamping until it stopped pulsating and I then birthed the placenta. 

I did have a second degree tear that had to be repaired and a very sore throat but apart from that I felt elated. I then had a shower and Pete had skin-to-skin with Bella for another hour before she was dressed and wrapped. For the next 48 hours she was the most chilled out baby, I didn't let them measure her at birth and we waited 3 days to bath and measure her. She knew who Pete and I were straight away and the beauty of being down here in Esperance is all the uninterrupted time we have had to bond with our little girl. 

Although I wasn't as true to the hypnobirthing principals as I would like I felt it gave me confidence to meet my birthing day without fear. It also helped Pete make informed choices for our family during the birth. Having done the classes with him I felt unconditionally supported and loved throughout the whole experience, I know Bella is a happy settled little girl who was birthed in the best way possible. 

Thanks for all your knowledge, help and encouragement. Without the classes I think our birth would have been far more medicalised, so I know Pete, Bella and I have a lot to be thankful for.

“Becky – you are amazing and you did such a fabulous job. In no way were you untrue to the HypnoBirthing principles and you were absolutely not a failure for using gas and air. There is no failure in birth. HypnoBirthing is all about being informed, being relaxed and creating a good birth environment. You did all that so well and I’m so proud of both you and the journey we took together. Sending big hugs to you and Baby Bella!” Karenna, Hope & Honey

For more information on HypnoBirthing or to book a class with Karenna, click here. 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Getting the support you need, but not too much...!

The last few weeks of pregnancy are a funny old time - unfortunately for many of us the glow of the second trimester has transitioned into more of a hot, flustered, uncomfortable kind of look and that glow is normally a sheen of perspiration if you're battling through an Australian summer and fielding a million phone calls!

It's also a time when you can feel at your most vulnerable - every twinge gets you on edge thinking 'Is this it?'  and you're spending more time at medical appointments and sometimes it can all get a bit stressful with test results and the possibility of plans changing. Plus it's difficult to get comfortable with the baby mountain making sleeping and resting not as easy as it used to be.

So you've got a lot going on! How do you get the support you need but not too much?

Only you can decide what is right for you, but my advice is to speak up and set some guidelines about what you would like now and especially around the birth. Only yesterday I was speaking to several new mums who were bemoaning the myriad of badly timed visitors to hospital just after the birth or the annoyances of people 'popping in unannounced' to the house. It was something they found quite upsetting or are still angry about.

Let me just say, I'm not being a grinch here - so much love and support is needed at this time but think about it ahead of time and you can get the best support you need without having horrible stories to tell afterwards of being exhausted, boobs out, desperate for a shower and finally getting down to a nap when Uncle Fred calls unannounced!

One idea is to have a buffer - either your partner, family member or good friend - whose job it is to field all the calls, texts and facebook messages and let everyone know when they can and can't visit. Some people also pop a sign on their door when they don't want to be disturbed. You can also tell the midwife on duty if you don't want any visitors at certain times. Everyone wants the best for you so will respect your wishes and right to privacy.

Those first few hours and days with you and your baby are so precious - spend a bit of time upfront thinking about what you would like, telling everyone and you can get the best support you need without Uncle Fred syndrome!


For more advice and information, why not sign up for Hope and Honey's childbirth education classes or HypnoBirthing?

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The Birth of Isla Wood: Hope & Honey Personal

Hi, I'm Karenna and I run Hope and Honey - offering HypnoBirthing, Childbirth Classes, Birth Pool Hire and much more in Perth, Western Australia. Every birth is a journey. Here is my journey through the home, hypnobirth of my first child – Isla.

Every birth is completely individual. I’m sharing my story as I am passionate about birth, not because I believe this is how birth should be for everyone. This is what was right and what worked for me. It’s important that we celebrate birth regardless of the ‘who, what, where and how’ and it’s important that we celebrate each other’s births even if we wouldn’t make the same choices ourselves. I hope this story may help just even one person to believe in their body’s ability to birth naturally and to promote home birth as an option for those that want it.

So this is my story. It’s a bit long, so you may want to grab a cuppa first! (Please note as per the HypnoBirthing philosophy contractions are referred to as ‘surges’ throughout)

I had been niggling for days, gasping at each little sensation and saying to myself – Is this it? Am I in labour? The day after my estimated due date, I had a fabulous day out doing all the things I love. Somehow I think I knew it was coming. That evening I started feeling more cramps. I woke up at midnight experiencing tightening sensations and couldn’t sleep, so I got up and spoke to my family abroad whilst monitoring to see if these potential surges were coming regularly. By 3am, they definitely were and so I woke up my husband Lee. The sensations were like period pain and I could happily talk through them but did start using my some deep breathing at this time. 

I tried to use a clock and an I-Phone app to monitor my surges as I knew we had to keep an eye on timings to be able to report to the midwives. In the end I actually found this incredibly off-putting as when a surge was starting I had to come out of my focus to check the time or press a button and the same at the end. Eventually I stopped doing this as I was finding it counterproductive.

As the surges were coming every 5 minutes, we called the midwife who came about 4.30am. She confirmed I was in labour and after a few checks (see below) asked us to keep in touch.

One option I always discuss with my clients is vaginal examinations – whether you would like to have them and if you do - if you want to find out how many cm dilated you are. It’s so easy to get hung up on those numbers when in labour and it can be incredibly demoralising if, for example, you have been labouring for a long time and then find out you haven’t made much progress.  Personally I didn’t have a strong opinion over it and knew it wouldn’t affect my mindset at that stage so was happy to find out. I was 3cm dilated and the head was SO low, the midwife thought things might happen quite fast…..Nope!

Lee and I spent the next few hours relaxing together. We went for a couple of walks around the neighbourhood, watered the garden, dozed a bit and tried lots of different positions and techniques to get comfortable. Walking and moving around was great, it really moved the surges forward. I also found I was comfiest on all fours. As they thought Isla was in the posterior position, being on all fours is the best position to assist the baby to turn into the easier anterior position. I somehow must have instinctively known this and naturally got into this position the most.

Lee continually reminded me to eat and drink, just small sips and small snacks. He was constantly there with a straw near my mouth without being asked. I wasn’t hungry, so in some ways I had to force a little bit of food down but man was I thirsty!

Surges were coming every 3-4 minutes at times and Lee was asking if we should fill the birth pool…Nope!

As it turned out both my named midwife and back up midwife from the CommunityMidwifery Program were on leave that day. So Angela came to check up on us next. I definitely think this was meant to be. Angela, like myself, is a trained HypnoBirthing Practitioner and we just bonded straight away. My labour hadn’t really progressed much and so she worked with Lee to use a HypnoBirthing script to relax me. Unfortunately it was a little too effective as my surges slowed considerably. She thought it was time for a rest so sent us off to bed for a few hours with surges only coming every 6-10 minutes now or even disappearing.

Refreshed from a nap, I found I was almost controlling the timing of the surges by how much I moved around or how relaxed I was. I needed to keep active and present to keep labour on track.

One of the most effective things for me during labour was kissing Lee and nipple stimulation. This is something people can be a bit funny about and I understand that. I can also imagine that I would feel more inhibited using this technique if I wasn’t at home. The hormone (oxytocin) that controls surges is the same hormone released through kissing, nipple stimulation and sex. It’s the hormone of love. By harnessing it and using it for my labour, the surges became much stronger and more frequent. I know it’s not for everyone, but I would strongly advocate giving it a go as it really moved me forwards. Whenever labour seemed to slow, the midwives would start making jokes about needing some ‘private time’!

By now my breath was my main focus. As I felt a surge coming I would inhale deeply and use several breaths to carry me through each surge.

Both Angela and I started to sense I had some sort of mental block that was stopping me progressing. I was using visualisation, especially going to my favourite Scottish island in my mind, and this assisted me through the surges but there was something more. I couldn’t for some reason visualise Isla – the end goal.

My mum suggested that instead of seeing my blockage as a large immoveable object, to think of it as something fluid. I started to visualise a long, flowing piece of fabric and on each surge was pulling myself along this fabric like a tug of war. My only opponent was myself however. I just wasn’t completely releasing, letting go and surrendering to my body and I wasn’t sure why. I knew the theory but couldn’t move it into practice.

Also I had always visualised giving birth at night, in the dark. The pool was set up in the back room with large windows overlooking the garden. I felt almost exposed being in there during the day, but knew at night it would be cosy and welcoming. That in itself could have slowed me down.

I’m not sure exactly what changed, I wish I could put my finger on it – but soon I started to will on each surge. Moving my hips around to bring them on, bringing my baby closer. I remember saying to myself and others – Bring it on! I was in the zone.

I spent a lot of time on all fours with my head planted into a pillow. By now, I instinctively felt that I needed to use noise to move through each surge so with each exhale I made a low moaning sound and found this incredibly helpful.

Angela asked if she could check progress as we needed to decide when to call for the second midwife. Again, I had no strong opinion about a vaginal examination and was happy to know how we were getting on. I remember knowing that regardless of how well progressed I was – this was my journey and the speed of progress would be what it was meant to be. Therefore I consented, knowing that it wasn’t going to affect my mindset, and was happily told I was 7cm, very stretchy and Isla was very low. Angela wouldn’t explicitly say what position Isla was in, so I took this to mean she could still be posterior. Knowing that this can in some cases cause longer and more painful labours, I was probably best making light assumptions than knowing for sure as that information could have set me back.

Our back up midwife, Katherine, and our student midwife, Dani, were here now – I was aware of their arrivals but needed to keep under, keep in my zone.

Again, I’m not sure what changed. I think I was tired and running out of energy but I started to doubt myself. It wasn’t fear of the surges as such – it’s hard to explain. In some ways I was thinking – I can do this now, but how much more intense will it get and can I handle that? But on the other hand, deep down I knew I could handle it so that wasn’t the blockage – I think it was just tiredness as I had been laboring for nearly 24 hours by this point.

The Community Midwifery Program midwives are typically more hands-off than you would find in a hospital. However, they of course have parameters in which they must work and with not much progress I was starting to get close to the ‘action line’. I was getting very tired and we needed to move things on so we chatted and decided to break my waters. I found this to be a horrible but yet fantastic release of pressure. Apparently tough as old boots, this would have been hard to break naturally and it did the trick – we got moving. Angela said she was sad that we had had to intervene – again I felt no disappointment; just that this was my journey and it was much more important to be able to keep labouring at home.

At this point, Lee filled the pool. I actually resisted getting in it for quite a while (preferring to plant my face in my pillow still!) as I knew it could slow me down by relaxing me too much. Eventually with the beautiful darkness making my birthing room cosy and inviting and by the flickering light of candles, I took a dip in the pool. Heaven! But I promptly started falling asleep in between surges! For the next hour or so we moved through lots of different positions – walking outside in the garden, sitting on the toilet, kissing Lee, on all fours and in the pool. The surges were intense but manageable and I was bringing them on through movement and slowing them down by relaxing in the pool.

Soon however I just couldn’t cope with the surges out of the pool, I had to stay immersed and this is when the heat and buoyancy of the water really come into their own. In the final stages of dilation, the pool was like a cocoon, giving me that layer of support and the darkness was that extra layer of privacy and comfort which I instinctively needed.

These last few hours are a bit of a blur – I was definitely in labour-land. I had my favourite music on but only remember hearing one song (tuning into the lyrics of a John Mayer song saying you can’t stop this train and smiling at that!) I had all the team around me but really could only tune into Lee and Angela’s voices. I moved positions in the pool, again sitting resuming the all fours position mainly and just enjoyed the warmth of the water and how effective it was making low moaning noises through each surge.

I can’t quite remember whether I felt a strong downwards urge, but I remember sensing a change. I refused to believe the midwives that Isla was there and ready so they made me check myself. I was astounded to feel the wrinkles of skin on her head and the ridge of her skulls as they were moulded ready for birth – it just didn’t feel real.

The next stage I remember is ‘getting Isla round the U-bend’- which is the best description of how it felt. It was incredibly frustrating – with each surge I would direct so much energy and feel her moving down, using several breaths for each surge – only for her to slip back. After a while, I started to panic and was saying to everyone – I’m failing, I can’t get her round. They reassured me this was completely normal and it is in fact a positive as each time she comes forward, she is gradually stretching the tissues. However mentally, this was incredibly difficult. I was using SO MUCH energy and felt like I was getting nowhere.

By now, I had been labouring for nearly 27 hours. I was aware of the midwives talking to Lee in the kitchen next door about progress – god knows how as I couldn’t tune into much but was hyper aware of this conversation. I remember Lee coming back into the room and being much tougher with me, not explicitly saying the ‘H’ word (hospital) but I knew this threat was looming. He said ‘you have to do this now’ and I remember feeling panicked as I just didn’t know how. Well he actually said – “Aisle 14, Bag of Concrete, Toughen the f**k up” – much to everyone’s shock and laughter. Cheeky sod!

My energy levels were so low by this point and I was flabbergasted by the amount of energy I needed during each surge to move her down. By now, noise and my breath were my absolute everything. As I felt each surge coming, I would breathe in and then exhale using all my energy and voice to move her downwards. I definitely wasn’t screaming – the noise was part of the energy and Angela could really tell how much progress I was making by the tone of my noises. It was primal – I needed that noise but afterwards I was so surprised and now joke I must be the loudest ‘Hypnobirther’ ever!

Originally I thought I would labour on all fours as I had done throughout, but I found myself almost horizontal in the pool with lee holding me under my shoulders and my legs pushing against the other edge of the pool. I also had an anchor strap – two handles attached to the birth pool, almost like water skiing, which were absolutely amazing and just what I needed.

With each movement, everyone could see the head except me. I started to feel like I was tearing but not where I expected to around the perineum, but up at the top and this was surprising and stung a lot (I actually didn't tear and just had a couple of grazes). In the end I had to just not care about that and once I decided that she came round the ‘u-bend’ for the final time and stayed there. It was time and I couldn’t believe it. I literally had to go past common sense, reason, what felt right and shut everything out. With lots of encouragement and one huge, monumental downward surge, the head was out.

Now this was one of the strangest parts of the labour for me. I remember looking up at Angela and saying ‘stop pushing her back in, what’s happening’ as there was this phenomenal amount of movement and pressure as little Isla turned her head from side to side. I honestly can’t fully describe that feeling of her moving like that – but nature is a wonderful thing as she positioned herself ready for the next surge. I will never forget that crazy feeling.

With the next surge, her whole body emerged and Dani lifted her up onto my chest. Looking down on this pink, wriggly, little thing – I couldn’t connect the last 27 hours and the last 9 months with that moment, it was surreal. Immediately alert, pink, moving and healthy – we all cooed and stared at her for about 20 minutes.  I think I was in a little bit of shock – only maybe 15 minutes before I was battling with myself thinking I couldn’t do it but here she was. Dani helped me to test whether her cord was still pulsating which was more difficult than I thought and our natural third stage unfolded really naturally.

Once the cord had stopped giving Isla all her blood from the placenta, Lee cut the cord and taking his shirt off had some skin-to-skin time with his new daughter.  After the birth, I had taken a small homeopathic remedy from my little childbirth kit. I’m not sure whether this did assist but I got out the pool and within a minute my placenta was out.

The midwives kindly set up our bedroom for us so we could take Isla straight to bed. For the next couple of hours, they checked on Isla and I and also assisted us with the first breastfeed. It was important for me to try get Isla to self-latch if possible. Lying in bed, we put Isla on my chest and within minutes her little head was bobbing up and down and she made her way to the breast. Hand expressing a drop of colostrum to help her find her way, with no assistance at all she latched on. I was ecstatic – this was just what I wanted.

After a quick shower and a gorgeous cup of tea, with all observations complete, we waved the midwives off and had a glorious six hours of sleep in our own bed. Waking up to the snuffles of our new daughter and our new life as parents, we felt so lucky to be at home and healthy.

Looking back on the experience now two weeks later, there are a few things that took me by surprise and that will alter my view and possibly my teaching about birth. As a birth professional, I knew the theory but until knowing this experience for myself there was always going to be a gap in knowledge.

I think the two main take-away learnings for me are the sheer importance of the power of the mind and the energy I needed during the second stage.  I couldn’t believe how much I could ‘control’ the surges through relaxation, movement and my state of mind. When I wasn’t in the zone, my labour slowed, and it was sometimes hard to keep in that zone. I felt so lucky to have been at home and been supported by such a great team. I can only imagine how much harder it would be to keep my mind on track in an unfamiliar setting and with the additional pressure of hospital policies.

For me the other main learning was about the second stage or pushing stage of labour. In HypnoBirthing, we teach people to breathe their babies down. I definitely did use my breath as my main tool in this phase, but it took me by surprise how much energy I needed with that breath. It was quite simply the hardest thing I have ever done. Speaking to Angela about this, she said that every woman and every labour is different but that some women need a huge amount of energy whereas others can more easily and quietly move their babies down. I will definitely bring this range of experiences into my practice from now on.

To sum up – a phenomenal experience. I’m so glad I had the support to do this at home and am eternally grateful to the midwives and the Community Midwifery Program, but mainly my husband Lee who was incredibly supportive of all the theory and plans leading up to the birth and was like a blanket of support, comfort and love throughout the birth.

Much love xxx

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