I came to the idea of hypnobirthing very gradually. It seemed a bit new-age and hippyish when I first heard about it (long before I had a baby) - trying to hypnotise yourself while in labour? Not for me, thank you.
However, when one of my best friends used it and had a really positive experience with the birth of her first child, I began to change my opinion.
It wasn’t until I became pregnant that I properly looked into hypnobirthing and fully understood the purpose of it: to give yourself the tools to have a positive birth experience, regardless of the circumstances of the birth. Luckily for me, Beth qualified as a hypnobirthing instructor just when I needed her!
I had regular scans during my pregnancy due to an ovarian cyst, and although my baby had always measured fairly big, on my final scan at 36 weeks, he was estimated to be 8lbs already, so it was recommended that I be induced at 39 weeks. Hypnobirthing gave me the confidence to ask questions of the doctor and make sure I was happy with what was decided.
My birth plan stated that I would like a water birth with as little pain relief as possible, but that isn’t quite what happened!
I went in for my induction at 1am on Sunday 22nd November. Due to Covid restrictions, my partner couldn’t come onto the ward with me, but the midwife in charge couldn’t have been more welcoming. The pessary was put in for 24 hours, during which time I started to have some ‘tightenings’ but my labour did not start. Once the pessary came out, I had to wait another 13 hours before a room became available on the labour ward to have my waters broken. Throughout this long wait, I listened to my hypnobirthing MP3s to keep myself calm as I felt quite anxious with all the waiting. Once we got into the labour ward, my partner was able to join me. I was examined and was very disappointed to learn that I was not dilated at all. I was given the option of starting the whole process again, or having a prostin tablet inserted for 6 hours in the hope that that would dilate me enough for my waters to be broken. I went for the latter option. Unfortunately, this tablet was not quite inserted correctly and it caused me massive pain. I had to use my breathing techniques just to get through it! After an hour we called the doctor back and she examined me and realised the tablet has broken up a bit and a tiny bit had gone where it didn’t belong - so she suggested a bath to wash away the excess. This meant we had to move all of our stuff to a new room, which had a birthing pool. The bath made me feel a hundred times better and my partner read me some of my affirmations. We felt positive that the baby would be on the way soon.
At midnight, the 6 hours was up, and I was strapped to the ECG machine to check baby’s heart rate before my waters were broken. At this point, my baby decided to have a 3 hour dance party and his heart rate was all over the place. By 3am, he had calmed down, but the Duty midwife told my partner to go home and get a bit of sleep and that they would check me again at 6.30 and break my waters when the day shift began at 7.
Sure enough, at 7, they were able to break my waters as I was 1cm dilated. My partner arrived soon after and we got my playlist on so I could move around a bit and get the oxytocin flowing! I was hooked up to a syntocinon drip, and within an hour I was feeling contractions.
I felt positive and excited at this point and I was able to breathe my way through the contractions for quite a while. As the contractions became stronger, I got into the birthing pool, which helped a lot and I was able to use my breathing techniques for a while longer. I vividly remember my partner reading my affirmations to me while I was in the pool - he did this throughout the labour and it really helped to have something to focus on. However, because of the cannula in my hand, I couldn’t get into the positions I wanted to be in in the pool, and the contractions were becoming unmanageable. I asked for some pain relief and was offered diamorphine, which in hindsight, wasn’t the best idea for me. It made me quite sick and incredibly sleepy, but didn’t take away the pain. I felt at this point that I was losing control of the situation and my partner was concerned that I wasn’t ok. My breathing went out the window because I was so out of it, and I knew that I needed something a more powerful to be able to focus my mind again.
I asked for an epidural, and we were moved to another room (our third!) for that to be administered. Immediately I felt better, regained my sense of humour and was able to focus on my affirmations and my breathing again. It was about 6.30pm at this point. I was examined and I was 4cm dilated. I felt a bit disappointed as we were 12 hours in at that point, but my partner reminded me that 0-4cm was the longest bit (another gem from our hypnobirthing course). Although I was exhausted, I began to feel excited that we were nearing the end. The epidural didn’t completely numb my lower half, so I could still move a little on the bed and change my position slightly so I was able to get some sleep. But being in an upright forward position was now out of the question. Time was marching on, and towards midnight the doctors came in to speak to me about a c-section, (something about it coming up to 24 hours since my waters had broken) but something told me that the baby would arrive before the 24 hours was up, so I focused on my affirmations and tried not to let it make me anxious.
Sure enough, by 2am I was 6cm dilated. Then by 4am I was 8cm and the midwife said she would examine me again in 2 hours. Around 5am though, I really felt the urge to push and the surges were becoming hard to manage even with the epidural and gas & air. The midwife examined me again and confirmed I was fully dilated. However, she advised that we should wait another hour. I expected this as Beth had covered it in our course, but in the moment it felt impossible that I could wait an hour without pushing! I made it through with the help of gas & air, but thank god for the breathing I was taught. Just thinking the words “I breathe in calm. My body and mind relax down” was enough to take my mind off the contractions enough to get through them.
When the time came to push, I was almost 24 hours into labour and completely shattered, but I knew it was the final hurdle. I used my J breathing, and somehow managed to push my baby boy out into the world.
The birth I had was absolutely not the birth I imagined, but I was so grateful to have the information and techniques that Beth taught me. It meant that not only was nothing a surprise - I was prepared for every eventuality - but that even in the most difficult parts of the labour, I had something to fall back on. Affirmations, breathing… they seem like nothing at all, but when you are so exhausted and feel you have nothing left to give, they really help to get you back on track.