Laura’s Birth Story
Written by Laura Hollis
I Never Thought Birth Could Be Gentle
Before going to the MyGentleBorn’s Childbirth Course based on HypnoBirthing, I wouldn’t have believed that a drug-free natural birth could be possible for me and was in awe of those who did it. I had been relieved to find out that the Swiss hospital I was planning to deliver my second child at had Entonox readily available, as I used this while delivering our first daughter in the UK. Little did I know this birth would go differently than I expected.
During the two-day course, I and another expectant couple learned about the key HypnoBirthing ethos that delivering a baby is a natural process your body is designed for and the expectant mum shouldn’t be afraid of. Fear causes you to tense up your body so allowing it to take hold during childbirth is counterproductive.
We heard about cultures where mothers give birth without painkillers and yet there is not the fear surrounding childbirth that prevails in the western world. We also watched videos of mothers who had peaceful, straightforward births, showing us that it is possible. The course featured an exercise where we each worked on releasing our own specific fears surrounding the upcoming delivery. Most of my fears were based on the birth of our first daughter in the UK, as it was not what I would describe as a perfect delivery.
I had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes during my first pregnancy and so had to be on the higher dependency labour ward instead of the midwife-led birthing centre at our hospital in Cambridge.
Throughout the labour I had to wear a monitoring belt that was wired up so my movement was limited. I spent much of the labour on hands and knees on the bed but when the time came to push I was asked by the midwife to lie on my back so that they could keep the monitoring belt in place. I struggled to deliver the baby – I wonder whether partly due to the less than ideal position – and the medical team decided the baby was getting distressed and that they needed to intervene.
The doctor over-ruled the midwife who questioned whether an episiotomy was really needed so an incision was made and a ventouse (a machine that uses air suction to attach to the baby’s head) was used to pull the baby out. My daughter was left with a bruise on her head from the ventouse and the stitches I had as a result of the episiotomy took an extremely long time to heal. While I was glad the baby was safe and well I felt disappointed I didn’t get to experience delivering her myself.
In addition to helping us identify our fears and work on releasing them, the HypnoBirthing childbirth course gave us tools to call on during the different stages of childbirth, including breathing techniques, calming and confidence-building visualisations, and endorphin-releasing massage. Our homework right up to the birth was to listen to HypnoBirthing audio and practice taking ourselves into a deeply calm state, relaxing every muscle.
“I began to struggle because the surges were becoming so strong my whole body was shaking after them, so I asked my husband to use light touch massage, another HypnoBirthing technique designed to release endorphins. That helped take the edge off and feeling his presence and support was comforting.”
Labour Begins at Home
After several weeks of pre-contractions and a false alarm that made us visit the hospital at less than 37 weeks pregnant, at 4.45am on my husband’s birthday, three days past the baby’s due date, the familiar feeling of my stomach tightening and period-like cramps started. For an hour or more I led there focusing on how my body was feeling, without rolling over to say anything to my husband as I didn’t want to get his hopes up and then it not go anywhere yet again. The contractions kept coming every 15 minutes and began to feel stronger than any I had in the previous few weeks so I started to hope, finally breaking the news to my husband that he may be getting an extra birthday present.
We stayed in bed resting for more than two hours and I started using the techniques I learnt on the MyGentleBorn Childbirth Course. With each contraction (known as a surge in HypnoBirthing language) I used long, slow in and out breaths and concentrated on relaxing every muscle in my body, especially my jaw as this has a connection to the pelvic area. I also started trying to think positively, reminding myself that birth is a totally natural process and not to panic and fight my body, to try to go with it.
At 7.20am I got up and had a bath and the surges started to become stronger and more frequent as I was moving around. At 8.30am our toddler woke up and we spent the next couple of hours having breakfast as a family, giving my husband his birthday presents and getting my daughter ready to stay with friends, all with me stopping occasionally to breath through the surges. At 9.45am I thought my waters had broken but later realised it was the ‘bloody show’.
Just after 10am our friends picked up our daughter. The surges weren’t coming any more regularly so we decided to stay at home for a while longer. I watched a comedy DVD to try and boost my endorphins and kept changing activity – walking, bouncing on a yoga ball, or rocking on my knees – as I desperately didn’t want the contractions to stop again. It was a gloriously sunny day and the light was pouring in to the house. Usually a good thing, but in my labouring state I couldn’t stand it and remembered that a room with low light is better for keeping labour going, so I went and hid in a darkened room with a HypnoBirthing track on my iPod.
… That Afternoon …
Finally, at 1.30pm, we decided that, although the contractions were still erratic in frequency, they were getting stronger and we should make the three-minute drive down the hill to our local hospital. When we arrived we went straight to the delivery room and got settled in. A monitoring belt was strapped to my bump so that the midwives could keep an eye on the baby’s heartbeat and the frequency of the contractions. I was pleased that this belt was wireless so I could move around and even get into the birthing pool with it on. This was one of the key things that I believe made my second birth experience totally different than my first as I could choose to be in whatever position I wanted.
At 2.25pm the on-duty gynaecologist did an internal examination and found I was around 3cm dilated. My husband put on some relaxing music and dimmed the lighting while I kept moving around. As they came in and out the medical team commented on what a relaxed atmosphere there was in the room. Just under an hour later I was rocking on my knees on the floor with my upper body resting on a yoga ball breathing through the surges when the midwife who would later deliver our baby came to introduce herself as she had just started her shift. As I knelt upright to speak to her my waters broke. From there the labour took a much faster turn.
At around 4pm I got into the birthing pool. I hadn’t been dead set on using a birthing pool but I was open to giving it a go and I was glad I did. I love being in water and the weightlessness it gives you during labour really does seem to help. At first I was still happy to chat with my husband but soon the surges began ramping up and I had to focus internally to cope with them. I noticed I was making a moaning sound with each surge that I wasn’t really in control of. I tried to concentrate with all my might on using the HypnoBirthing breathing and to relax every muscle. I began to struggle because the surges were becoming so strong my whole body was shaking after them, so I asked my husband to use light touch massage, another HypnoBirthing technique designed to release endorphins. That helped take the edge off and feeling his presence and support was comforting.
At 5.15pm I felt the urge to push and the second stage of labour began. Of course I wasn’t checking the clock – time had become a distorted blur to me – but my husband was dutifully noting down the important moments. Shortly before this I came to the point that I didn’t think I could take any more, but remembered hearing on the HypnoBirthing course and the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) course I did in the UK that this feeling often comes just before the pushing begins, so that gave me the hope and strength to keep going as the end was in sight. I think this kind of clarity of thought was thanks to me being free of any painkillers during this birth. I’m so glad I went without Entonox, as my head was less blurry than when I delivered my first daughter and I felt more in control this time.
My husband said he enjoyed feeling more involved in this birth because I was much more able to communicate with him.
Seeing the Light Through the Tunnel
I don’t know quite how I got through those final stages of pushing. It was most certainly one of the hardest things I have ever done. I was so focused internally I don’t think I opened my eyes for the final 45 minutes but I heard the words of my husband beside me as he reminded me to loosen my jaw and gave me words of encouragement, and I followed the directions of the midwife and gynaecologist as they advised me to change position or internalise the noises I was making to use my energy in the best way. It took every ounce of my energy and mental strength, particularly to get through the crowning, but then I heard the midwives telling my husband the baby would be here with the next contraction and asking him to get into position ready to catch the baby in the water. Finally I felt the utter relief of the baby’s release and the indescribable, surreal joy of my husband handing the baby to me. It took us a moment to remember to look, and then my husband declared, “It’s another girl!”
The joy turned to worry shortly after, however, as the midwife was concerned the baby wasn’t breathing properly because she had the umbilical cord around her neck when she was born and was caught underwater for a moment. The cord was cut and the baby was hurried over to be placed under a heat lamp and a pipe with oxygen was held close to her mouth. Still in the birthing pool, all I could see was a huddle of people around the baby, including my husband, which was a little scary. Thankfully it didn’t take her long to start breathing normally but her blood oxygen levels were monitored for a while to make sure. Finally she was brought back to me for our first cuddles out of the water.
A couple of months before having our second daughter I would not have believed a natural birth without painkillers would have been possible for me. The HypnoBirthing course gave me techniques that worked alongside those I had learned in pregnancy yoga classes and helped me to believe in myself and my body’s natural ability to give birth. I think this and the support of a hospital I trusted made it possible for me to have the kind of birth I wanted.
I’d heard such good things about the hospital and its focus on natural birthing, and had so many good experiences with the friendly staff there, that I really trusted them to do the best for us and our baby, which I believe was vitally important to allow us to have a successful birth. We will be forever grateful that her birth was such a good experience in Switzerland.