On Wednesday night I really didn’t sleep well, my pelvis was especially uncomfortable (I had suffered with Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction almost throughout my entire pregnancy). I recall thinking when I woke up Thursday morning...I hope today isn’t the day our baby decides to come into the world as I am so tired and I could really do with just one more good night’s sleep!! My mother-in-law happened to be visiting for just one night but I was so tired I had text her to tell her she best let herself in as hopefully I would be having an afternoon nap.
I love spending time with her but this particular day I just had this really strong urge to want to be on my own hiding away under a duvet. Rather strange for me but I look back now and my body was telling me to be still and peaceful and just rest. At the time I was annoyed as I had these grand plans for that day - it was only day 3 of maternity leave & I had made a hinch (cleaning) list & batch cooking list! I never got round to either of these…! (thankfully my lovely mother in law did for me the next day)
That evening I felt rather uncomfortable at dinner time. I was very tired and had niggly mild period-like pains. My mother in law made me a hot water bottle for my ‘what I thought was my pelvis playing up’ and I went to bed early but although tired couldn't get comfy enough to fall asleep properly, despite listening to my favourite hypnobirthing MP3 track on repeat which until this night had been a guaranteed way to fall into a deep and peaceful sleep. I wasn't in pain, I was just restless and uncomfortable.
Aboutt 9.30pm I started thinking that these niggly feelings were coming and going, I figured this must be what people call braxton hicks. It was niggly and a bit odd but not painful so I didn’t think much of it until I woke an hour later. I was still convinced this must still just be braxton hicks but a little nudge in my brain made me do 3 things:
Text my husband to tell him I was having these rather rhythmic tightening feelings but that i wasn’t in any pain. But perhaps just in case he shouldn’t stay up too late!! He was up chatting away with his mum enjoying a bottle of wine and I knew it could end up being a late one for them both as she was only here for one night!
Opened the Freya contraction timer app and decided to use it...just in case
Used my ‘relaxing breath’ breathing technique that Sarah had shown us to still my mind and my body and ease back to sleep
I woke again at 5.30am and still I experienced no pain, just this rhythmic niggly feeling. Again like light period cramps that would come and go. I just couldn’t really get comfortable.
So I got up and started some yoga - a friend of mine is a yoga instructor and did a birth positions session for me just the week before. She showed me a pre-birth flow pose which involves visualising a lotus flower opening. So there I am in the bathroom at 5.45am repeating this. It was a wonderful moment of absolute calm and I felt so connected to my baby.
I can recall this so vividly still now a few months later. I felt so calm but I just knew now that this little baby was on its way. I kept up my easy breathing and tried to go back to bed with my hypnobirthing tracks on from Sarah. At 6am my app informed me “you are in active labour”! I was thinking well I think you are wrong little app because this can’t be what ACTIVE labour feels like. Can it? I had Sarah’s voice in my head telling me that actually yes it really can and so trust your body! I continued to time the contractions using the app and at 6.30am when they were 2minutes apart and approx 30 seconds each I decided I probably should wake my husband up.
The conversation was so calm and collected … before we started Sarah’s course we both imagined I would wake one night in pain and panic and we would have a flustered moment before dashing off to the hospital at the speed of light. There was no drama. We were both calm and in control of our thoughts. It is actually quite amusing looking back now but went along the lines of…
Me: “Bill just to let you know I’m going downstairs to watch tv as I just can’t get comfy. My app says I am in active labour by the way. But this could just be those braxton hicks. But just in case it isn’t I thought I best let you know I am downstairs!”
Bill: “Oh. Ok - well I text my boss last night anyway when you said you felt uncomfortable so i’m already working from home today”
Me: “Great. Perhaps just take your phone off silent in case I need you”
I went downstairs and Bill actually came with me. I got to the bottom of the stairs and felt quite an intense surge. So Bill helped me roll my exercise ball into a good tv viewing spot. But apparently there wouldn’t be time for TV.
Having never done this “giving birth thing” before I felt so well informed from Sarah that I felt actually I had done this 1000s of times before. I felt so tuned into my body. I informed Bill we should call our hospital as it is an hours drive away so maybe we should just give them a heads up about the fact the app says this is active labour and I was starting to believe it now as when the surges came I was really having to concentrate.
Bill and I did the easy breathing in between surges and our ‘surge breathing’ (breathing round a square) for during the surges. I guess I had practised these so many times before these breathing techniques just came so naturally.
I spoke calmly to the midwife while bouncing slowly on the ball, even while having a surge with a little pause to concentrate. If I am honest I don’t think she quite believed I was in active active labour!
She suggested I had a bath and just well took it easy as if I did the long journey too soon they would only send me home again. Bill offered to run me a bath but got about 5 steps out of the lounge before I informed him I didn't think I had time for that bath.
Again, I have to add here it was a quiet calm informing...no dramatic Eastenders moments here!
I also calmly informed him I was going to be sick now!!! Looking back this makes me laugh because I usually hate being sick and i’m pathetic about it. But this felt different and just normal and again I kept thinking about all the things Sarah had talked to us about and the importance of remembering to trust my body! Thankfully I made it to the downstairs bathroom before I was sick.
I proceeded to sit here for a while as I just really needed to concentrate on a few surges and be still. My husband sheepishly asked if he had time for a shower - he did - and he got me some cookies to nibble on while he was gone.
After a bit of a faff with me listing a few extra items I would like to take with us we set off during rush hour!!! to Frimley Park Hospital. We knew the journey would take an hour, although I was very calm and completely time unaware. I had my journey pouch pre-packed with the following items and I am so pleased I did as it kept me in a wonderful calm and relaxed state the whole way even as the surges intensified:
Eye-mask (no need for me to be seeing the road ahead and getting worried about traffic jams or dangerous drivers)
Headphones I could listen to my hypnobirthing tracks
Positive affirmation cards from Sarah should I feel I needed any hand-held reminders
Aromatherapy rollerball for pulse points (I use the ThisWorks sleep one as I love it)
I can’t recommend enough anyone with a car journey to hospital, no matter how short, to pack to hand your headphones, eye mask & favourite scent. I had so enjoyed packing my little car journey bag. It made the trip something to look forward to. I like packing for holidays, so why not put the same excited positive energy into packing this little pouch too!.
The journey was absolutely fine and I was really pleased I had remained in such a lovely calm state and I could feel that everything was progressing steadily - no set backs.
Upon arrival I felt the surges were very strong and so I did have to stop a couple of times and lean on Bill to really concentrate on my breathing & to be sick on the corridor floor on the way to the Mulberry Suite, which again very uncharacteristically I shrugged off and carried on walking! Leaving poor Bill standing there wondering what he should do...find someone to clean it up or come with me!!
Upon arrival at the ‘check in desk’ at the Mulberry Suite I commenced a very calm introduction to the midwives when another very intense surge took over - I think it was now that they believed that despite how calm and coherent i was that perhaps I really was in active labour.
We were shown across the corridor to a private room - set up brilliantly for an active birth. I told the midwife I wanted, if possible, a waterbirth and she offered me an examination explaining the reasons why it would be a good idea e.g. not to get into the warm water too soon.
Almost immediately into the very gentle, completely respectful and painfree examination she said “right, I best go get that water running!” She explained it may take up to 30 mins to fill the pool and after checking both Bill and I were ok making ourselves comfortable in our room and accessing anything we wanted she went to prep the waterbirth suite.
She explained this would be our room now and to move things and use it however we wished. I tried using the birthing ball briefly but couldn’t get entirely comfortable. But it wasn’t more than a few minutes and our lovely midwife was back and suggested I got undressed. This took me a little while!
She returned to say that when they tested my urine my ketones were rather high and she would like me to have something sugary - she gave Bill some honey and spoon...and he proceeded to feed me small mouthfuls of this and lucozade sport throughout the rest of my labour! Even at the time this made me laugh as I felt a bit like some kind of spoiled princess!!
The waterbirth suite was an amazing sight - our midwife had put on wonderful spa music, dimmed the lights to a low purple glow and it was cosy and warm and welcoming. It felt magical stepping into that setting. I felt so secure, so safe, so calm and happy!
The water was wonderfully warm and my pelvis felt instantly comfortable. Our midwife stayed with us but was so quiet and unobtrusive, without me barely even noticing she would do her observations and she kept the water wonderfully warm throughout.
Bill switched the spa music to our hypnobirthing tracks and I took the midwife up on the offer of trying the gas and air and I enjoyed having this to concentrate on as the surges intensified.
Again, I must stress I was not in any pain. They were just all consuming and felt powerful - I felt powerful!
The gas and air was noisy and I started to enjoy hearing the air rattle away. I had little conversations with Bill in between surges.
Everything progressed really well. I continued my princess-like state by requesting Bill get the flannels I had packed from our room and make them super cold for my forehead and neck!
I knew I was heading to the transition phase as for the very first time a little bit of self doubt started creeping in. I started thinking about whether I should tell our midwife I was feeling very tired! But I was able to very quickly remind myself of how Sarah had explained this was so normal and that adrenaline kicking in now and other hormonal changes this was indicating the transition phase and that very very soon we would be meeting our baby.
So I didn’t tell our midwife I was tired I just knew I needed to change position now and let gravity help out a bit - again something we had discussed with Sarah. I moved so I was on my knees leaning into the side of the birthing pool. I was also a little louder with my breathing in and out now, almost groaning the air in and out.
Our midwife clearly knew things were about to happen and explained to Bill that there was a call button on the wall that shortly she would ask him to push - which would call for a second midwife to be present for the birth to take the necessary notes.
She calmly told me not to push and that she would help instruct me to just breathe nice and deep - just breathe. I knew it was time to switch to my ‘birth breathing’ and I think I took the midwife quite by surprise as she suddenly asked Bill to press the button but just a few breaths later our little girl was out! I heard our midwife say “ohhh baby”! So there wasn’t time for that second midwife to make her notes after all!!
I could feel our baby’s movements as she travelled out on her birthing journey. I genuinely felt she was working with me. I remember feeling her start to come out and the little gentle assistance our midwife gave by holding her head as the rest of her little perfect body followed.
Our midwife had carefully read our birth preferences and placed our baby in my arms and let us enjoy this wonderful moment together, knowing we had requested optimal delayed cord clamping.
I would say it was a peaceful moment but baby Elaria certainly made her entrance into the world known by shouting her little head off! Again, very respectfully and when she felt appropriate, our midwife suggested I come out of the water and she discussed with me the vitamin K injection. She explained that as they couldn’t measure blood loss (due to being in the water) that the injection may be a good idea in order to not delay placenta delivery. I was very happy with this and had made clear in my birth preferences I would happily consider the injection.
Bill and baby Elaria enjoyed some skin to skin while I relaxed on the comfy bed next to the birthpool and delivered the placenta. This wasn’t painful but I could feel it - I can only describe it as a rather strange feeling but not uncomfortable. Throughout this we had a lovely chat with our midwife and by this point baby Elaria had stopped her shouting so all was very peaceful!!
I declared to Bill and the midwife that I would happily do that again!!!
If you had asked me in that moment how long I thought I had been in the water I would have said maximum one hour. It was actually 3.5 hours! It was the most incredible experience of my life. Genuinely the best day of life to date.
I had a 2nd degree tear - which I have to say I was totally and utterly unaware of - and our midwife suggested we moved back to our room so she could do my stitches. I didn’t feel a thing and the midwife and I chatted away happily while she did these, giving Bill and Elaria more cuddle time together.
Back in our room we were provided with plentiful tea and toast and privacy. We enjoyed several hours of skin to skin time and to just be peaceful together. It was magnificent. I enjoyed a wonderful bath (I had taken with me my own bath products that I liked the smell of) and washed my hair. I couldn’t believe how relaxed and comfortable I felt … I had just birthed a tiny little human but other than feeling tired I felt really good! That's that wonderful oxytocin again I guess!
If you had asked me a year ago to describe what I thought birth was going to be like it wouldn’t have been this. This is all thanks to Sarah’s guidance, positivity, support and strategies.
I was able to enjoy the most magical birth experience and I just wish every woman was as informed as I was so that they too can enjoy this incredible, empowering and natural experience for their births.
I get really excited when someone tells me they are pregnant now and I ask them if I can tell them my birth experience!
I still use my hypnobirthing strategies and tracks now. While establishing breastfeeding I used my easy breathing lots. I listen to one particular track almost every time I go to sleep or just to have a little moment of relaxation while Elaria naps.
I use my visualisations when I’m having a tough day … being a mum is full of the most magical moments but also some challenging ones.
Our little baby is a fan of being awake more than she is asleep, so some days at the moment are really quite tiring! So being able to take a moment to revisit my safe little beach setting in my mind is so wonderful. I feel I have a toolkit for life.
30 May, 2020