Have I got a treat for you guys!!
Recently I’ve been chatting to some of the lovely people who have taken the time to write comments on my posts to a) see how they are getting on and b) pick their brains for ideas because I tend to write about what’s going on for me right here and now.
[It may surprise you to know (yeah right) that almost no planning goes into this blog, except in my head. I literally sit down on the day and write about the latest thing I've been thinking about. Some might say that's what gives Mum's Days its charm. Others may not.]
I have had some wonderful suggestions back and this particular post comes curtesy of my pregnant, soon-to-be-pushing, friends. Sophie, who is currently 21 weeks pregnant, in particular is interested in hypnobirthing and asked if I could I ask my nephew’s mum for her story. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? My own birth-story is one of planning something (in my mind, of course) and the opposite happening (here’s what I wanted to happen, here’s what actually happened) so this is an ideal, positive story we can all take hope from.
Almost a year ago Diane, Rowan’s mum, had a home birth with no, I repeat, no drugs. Not even gas and air. She believes entirely that this is down to hypnobirthing and the fact that she was home, surrounded by the things she loves and her partner, Laura, there to support her.
Get the tissues ready!
Rowan’s Birth Story – 2nd February 2012
Our son was born at home without the assistance of drugs or gas and air. I really feel that this was possible because I was and am truly convinced of the ability of women’s bodies to excel at this amazing process and so I was able to remain calm and relax my mind and my muscles.
At 8 pm I felt a contraction that was quite different to the others twinges and period-type pains that I had experienced during the day. It was not necessarily more painful, it just swept over me with the awareness that this was the start of my labour and that our baby was going to come tonight. We leapt into calm action.
We had been meaning to make a poster in the days leading up to the birth. The poster was intended to remind us of the methods we had learned in the natal-hypnotherapy course we took and through the natal hypnotherapy cd we had listened to for 9 months. The poster was supposed to include the visualisations and tips that I had gathered from reading and from other women over the course of my pregnancy.
So between contractions we assembled the ideas and images that we wanted to be reminded of during the birth. Earlier that day I had drawn a sketch of our baby swimming out to join us, and we added this to the poster. Although this seems like a strange activity at the start of labour, we enjoyed being creative, communicative and reminding ourselves of what we knew.
My contractions were about 20 minutes apart and they seemed to take me into another world and then drop me back to this existence. They were like a momentary out of body experience. I had to concentrate very hard to resist tensing up my muscles during the contractions. Laura was marvellous at reminding me to breathe and itemising the areas of my body that I should relax. As each contraction passed I realised that in the rest period I was quite able to communicate and describe the experience to Laura and give her information on what I wanted her to do during the next contraction. Throughout Rowan’s birth I was aware and gratefully delighted at how strong and composed Laura was. She behaved like she had attended many home births rather than this being the first for both of us!
We decided we should go to bed and get some rest. My contractions were about every 10-15 minutes and I had the amusing thought that in between contractions I was missing the sensation. I didn’t want my labour to falter. I was ready for it to happen this night! Plus, with each contraction I felt like I wanted to let my bladder or bowels release, so I didn’t want to stay in our bed with the nice bedding, I wanted to move to the other room with the futon we had prepared with the waterproof sheet!
The time passed very quickly. Laura kept a log of the contractions and their spacing. We moved into a kind of dreamy semi-aware state in the back bedroom and bathroom. It was our little familiar space that we had created. I was aware of the sensations that my body was experiencing but I was not monopolised by them.
I spent a lot of time on the toilet, voiding my body of all the blockages that I didn’t need. I lay in the bath while Laura had a short lie down on the bed. I started to call out to her when my contraction began and ended, but after a short while I just lay there and experienced them. I found that making a low moaning, or ummmming noise helped me to release the tension, but I did not want to shout or cry.
Laura helped me out of the bath and we lay down and started to use the TENS machine. This was really helpful. It relived some of the pain and also it gave me the sensation that I was involved with what my body was doing. I was quite prepared to submit my conscious mind to the primal urge and force of my body, but I still wanted to let my mind have a little say-so.
The TENS machine also helped me to indicate to Laura when the contraction started and finished as I had zoned into my own space by then and did not want to communicate verbally. On reflection, this is a really crucial point. Laura understood that I was still there and communicating with her, but that she should not ask me questions about what I wanted to do next. We had discussed this before the birth.
At one point I was violently sick and didn’t make it to the toilet. This was probably Laura’s lowest point and she would probably have been glad if someone else could have swooped in to clean that up!
I suggested calling the midwife around 2.30 in the morning. Laura did and explained that I had been using natal hypnotherapy so that when I spoke to the operator through a contraction I did not sound unreasonably calm.
I was delighted when the midwife arrived. She examined me and said that I was fully dilated! Hurray! I felt a huge wave of achievement and power.
The pushing stage did not go so well.. I had imagined myself on all fours in a position assisted by gravity. In the end I was on my back with my legs in the air, because this was what was working.
The midwives took the baby’s heart rate frequently – it was a steady 120 bpm, so the baby was not experiencing distress. She took my heart beat at 65 bpm and I felt a quiet satisfaction when she commented that this was the lowest heartbeat that she had ever taken from a labouring woman.
I could hear the midwives talking to each other and Laura about their concern that I had been pushing for a long time and that they should contact the labour ward which might mean a transfer to hospital. I will forever be grateful to them that they were confident enough to use their professional knowledge and discretion and so continued to let me labour on at home.
I swam up from my personal head space to say that at the time – I think. Maybe I just thought it very hard!
Still at this time, although the baby’s head was a bit stuck and I was not very comfortable, my overwhelming feeling was one of frustration rather than pain. We had a mirror positioned between my legs and I could see our little baby’s head peeping into view and then withdrawing again. Time and time again.. I can honestly say that even at this point I still felt like I had the capacity to withstand more pain and this must be the result of the hypnotherapy that we did.
I felt like my contractions were not strong enough to help me push and I was running out of energy, but the little rush of adrenaline from fearing a transfer to hospital gave me the strength to finally push the baby out. What an achievement!!
Our baby lay on my stomach for at least 10 joyful minutes before I gained the strength to lift and see what sex he was. We were elated, empowered and emotionally strong. We felt like we had achieved a significant and amazing rite of passage. Rowan’s birth was not ecstatic, but it was inspiring.
I feel as though this calm, relaxed story is what I had hoped for but was in actual fact the total opposite of my long but frantic experience! I did feel a bit of a failure after Reuben was born – what if I had had him 200 years ago, would I have coped? Would we have both survived? Mike helped me to come to terms with it and actually, given the rate I recovered, the answer to both these questions is yes. So, going forward the 2 main things I have learnt from Diane are:
1. I should have taken the hypnobirthing more seriously (as opposed to treating it as an opportunity for a nap) – I’m taking a course next time.
2. I should have communicated more with Mike so he could have helped me through the 24 long hours we were at home when I “wasn’t in labour” (I bloody well was) – Diane and Laura’s bond throughout was really touching and what I had hoped for but I never explained that to Mike.
Thank you for sharing your story Diane! And Happy Birthday, Rowan xxxx