I’m going to be completely honest here when I tell you that I am a complete wuss. Not only am I a complete wuss but I had also been dreading giving birth since I found out what was involved. Well, who wouldn’t? When the realisation that the stork wouldn’t be bringing me a baby hit home and not only that but any child would be emerging from my front bottom, I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect. Then when words such as stitches, agony, forceps and tears crept into my consciousness, followed by others like incontinence and episiotomy, I became truly terrified. And slightly obsessed. There’s a specific term, ‘tokophobia’, which means fear of childbirth. I definitely had it.
I sought out birth stories whenever I could, both personal accounts from women I knew and those in literature/on the net/on telly. A sizeable proportion of births seemed like distressingly negative experiences, which often led to longer term trauma or problems bonding with the baby. I felt like giving birth naturally just wasn’t for me – I couldn’t do it. I would have to save up three grand to go private so I that could have an elective caesarean. And I was thinking all these things when I was single and had no idea whether I might even be able to conceive or not.
Then I heard about hypnobirthing. It offered the possibility of a calm and relaxed birth, a comfortable birth. I decided that this was definitely for me, should I ever meet the right man, settle down and want to have a family. Fast forward a couple of years and I had met my lovely man, Rich, and we eventually decided that we wanted to have a baby together. Happily we did manage to conceive quickly and I started looking for hypnobirthing tutors in the local area.
One of my closest friends was also expecting, although 11 weeks earlier than me. She and her other half were also keen to learn hypnobirthing. We found a lovely hypnobirthing teacher, Marie, and all had lessons together at my house. Both Rich and I enjoyed the sessions and found them to be very informative and relaxing. I found the fear release guided hypnosis to be very useful and this was something I followed up by myself several times during my pregnancy. Rich and I both listened to one of the relaxation mp3s almost every night of my pregnancy after doing the course and it was very effective. So much so that he would often drop off when he was just reading next to me and not supposed to be listening to the mp3 at all! Marie is an ex-midwife and currently works as a doula, health visitor and breastfeeding counsellor. Her knowledge and experience were invaluable and her sense of humour and humanity much appreciated. I also came across Dany Griffiths and her Tums2Mums hypnobirthing website and bought her distance learning course, as it contained some extra mp3s and a really useful workbook.
So, with our planned homebirth all booked in and our delivery kit waiting with the birth pool in the spare room, my due date came and went. Two days (Weds) later I began having contractions and the day after (Thurs) that my waters broke. My contractions were easy to handle with my TENS machine and hypnobirth mp3s. The midwife had come out to the house that day and I was 3 cm dilated. Then everything stopped. Then started again overnight and then….stopped again in the morning. I went into hospital on Friday to be checked over and they wanted to augment my labour (same as being induced but when labour has already started) at that point as my waters had been broken for over 24 hours. We declined this, but said that we would be happy to come in for monitoring each day. I fully expected that the contractions would kick in again with a vengeance at any moment and our baby would be born a few hours later. However, an extremely miserable Saturday and Sunday passed with stop start contractions and me going for acupuncture each day. I was not able to get comfortable in any position from Wednesday onwards. Only in water was I able to feel some sort of comfort. Car journeys were torture. Richard and I had talked on Sunday and decided that we would go in for augmentation on Monday, as I was in so much pain and had barely slept or eaten for 5 days. However, we had promised the doctors that Richard would take my temperature every 4 hours and on the Sunday evening, I mentioned that I felt hot. Richard took my temperature again and it had risen above the level that the doctors had given as a limit. Just as well I had packed that emergency hospital bag! We grabbed it and headed off to the hospital.
It’s fair to say that I had very mixed feelings about going in to hospital to have our baby. I had really wanted a home birth, with as little intervention as possible. Now I would have to be hooked up to a hormone drip to hurry things along throughout my labour and I would also be given IV antibiotics. In addition, I would have continuous monitoring belts across my abdomen, which would restrict my movement. On the plus side, I would have a midwife with me at all times because I was on the drip and having IV antibiotics. I had heard lots of bad things about being induced and really wanted to avoid the cascade of intervention that often follows induction. I was also frightened that once on the drip, my contractions would ramp up to a level that I couldn’t cope with and any thoughts of using my hypnobirthing techniques would be forgotten.
As it happened, my labour was fine. I put my hypnobirthing mp3s on and listened to them over and over again. The cannula was inserted into my hand (this was not painful, actually – I was surprised) and the drip and antibiotics were started at 11pm on the Sunday night. I used the ‘Rainbow Relaxation’ and ‘Surges With The Sea’ tracks to get myself into a deep state of relaxation. As my contractions increased in frequency and intensity, I carried on listening to the mp3s and also used the golden thread breath that I’d learnt in my pregnancy yoga class. I could feel pressure, but not pain. At about 6am, I started having very intense surges that felt like falling off a cliff, in that I could feel a build up and then gave in to the sensation. The contractions were still not painful. I could just feel a massive amount of energy with each one. The first one took me by surprise and I remember asking the midwife, “What the hell was that?”! She told me that it was an involuntary pushing contraction and I would soon be able to start pushing. She checked me at 7am and there was a small cervical lip, so asked me to wait another hour and I then started pushing just after 8am. Unfortunately, my midwife finished her shift at 8am and another midwife and student then joined us instead. They were pleasant and encouraged me in my pushing. Hypnobirthing theory is that you should breath the baby down. However, there were concerns about the baby, so I had to forget about that and get pushing. Unfortunately by this point I couldn’t even feel my contractions. Not at all! I had to get the midwives to tell me from the monitor when they were happening. I pushed for an hour and a half and then the doctors performed a foetal scalp blood test on my poor baby and she was one point above the level that indicates distress. Although she was literally only one centimetre inside my body, a small episiotomy was performed (now that smarted with no anaesthetic) and she was born with the help of a ventouse (a vacuum device) at 10.08am on Monday 19th September 2011. Our daughter’s APGAR scores (these are scores out of ten that measure a baby’s condition at birth) were 9 and 9. 🙂
Although the birth was quite different to how I had imagined or hoped it to be in terms of being quite heavily medicalised, it was still quite comfortable and certainly not painful. The only pain I experienced was when the doctor cut me without any anaesthetic and that was only momentary. It was also the only time I made any noise! I am certain that hypnobirthing was a major factor in this and would recommend it to anyone, but I would also say that you must practice it religiously. The medical staff were amazed that I had been hooked up to the hormone drip and not had any pain relief at all. I was elated and high as a kite on endorphins after the birth and one of the first things I said to Richard was, “I want to do it again, tomorrow!”. I think that says a lot.
Have you used hypnobirthing techniques during labour? How did you find they worked for you?