The benefits of attending hypnobirthing for my husband and I began even before the birth of our baby. Mid way through attending the course in Perth with Vicki and learning about an empowered birth, we chose to switch our obstetrician from one who was eager to start induction at week 39 and who seemed to have strict timing regulations for birth (and only 15 minutes tops to talk to me about my concerns at my monthly consults) to one who was happy to listen to our concerns and supported our birth preferences. This put us at ease for the rest of the pregnancy.
My pregnancy progressed well over 40 weeks and although my husband and I were very skeptical about having an induction at 41 weeks and 4 days, it was the right thing to do. We chose to drag out any form of intervention for as long as possible using the BRAIN technique with our OB. I truly believed that my body and baby would know when the right time was.
Prior to my due date, we discussed and tried many natural induction methods from bouncing on a fit ball to curb walking and consuming copious amounts of dates, pineapples and red raspberry leaf tea. Yes – nipple stimulation, orgasms, acupuncture, massage and sex were all attempted as well. Nothing worked. At 40 and 41 weeks, my membranes were swept at my weekly appointments but apart from having period-like cramps that would come on and disappear and strong Braxton Hicks tightenings, our baby had decided to stay put. At 41 weeks we were shown how my placenta had started to calcify and the risks of letting the pregnancy go up to and possibly past 42 weeks was discussed. That was when we decided that an induction was the best way forward. We gave ourselves 4 days past 41 weeks after the final stretch and sweep to let things happen naturally but apart from losing my mucus plug, I did not go into labour.
On the 1st of January, we turned up at the hospital – calm and not with me penguin walking myself down the hallway. A Cervedil Pessary was inserted around my cervix at 5 pm after a vaginal exam that confirmed that my cervix was not dilated enough for a balloon catheter. That night my doula made a visit and dropped off some mushroom broth and bliss balls. I made sure to eat and keep well hydrated and my husband and I watched a bit of Friends while trying to keep a mix of nervousness and excitement at bay. Before going to bed, a midwife came in to offer me some panadol and a sleeping pill so that I’d get enough rest before the possible onset of labour the next day or some time at night.
I started having noticeable period-like cramps that woke me at around 1 am on the 2nd of January, 2021. By 2 am I was having surges that made lying down on the bed uncomfortable. I moved to sit on a fit ball instead and lay the top of my body against the bed – things felt better that way. My husband helped set me up with a TENS machine that my doula lent me a few weeks prior to my due date. Having the TENs machine on while sitting on the fit ball felt amazing. Prior to attending hypnobirthing, I had no idea how effective a TENS machine would be for pain relief. I was able to go through a good amount of time with my surges coming on this way. Everything seemed manageable at this point. I used the bathroom between surges and found blood in my urine – called the midwife and she mentioned that it was all good signs that I may already be in labour without needing a drip. A few more hours passed by, the surges were coming on quite strongly now and I urged my husband to contact our doula.
When my doula showed up, I was on all fours on the ground with the intensity of my TENs machine dialed up a lot more now. I cannot remember how quickly from there my surges started becoming so intense they were noticeably hard to breathe through. I kept my focus on my breathing, I knew how important this was during labour. My hypnobirthing affirmation cards were already placed around the room and surge of the sea was playing on repeat in the background.
There was a change in midwives and my new midwife wanted to monitor my baby’s heart beat. I insisted that I wanted to stand while this was done as I could not handle the surges while lying down. My husband and my doula tried massaging my back to help me deal with the surges but that did not feel good for me at all so I declined attempts to be touched. I went from doing squats by the side of the bed, to going back on all fours, to leaning back in a standing posture while my husband supported me with a rebozo to collapsing my upper body on the side of the bed in wide squats. Moving from side to side like a tree blown in the wind felt amazing and then having the boost button activated on the TENs machine with every surge was even more amazing. It felt great to be actively moving as I managed my surges.
The cervidil pessary was still on my cervix at this point and the surges were getting very close to each other. For a good amount of time, I had three intense surges coming a few seconds apart. My doula was observing the surges on the monitor and every time she saw one coming she would hit the boost button on the TENs machine and I felt like hugging her when she did. I was so eager to get the monitors off me – I wanted to move around the room, I wanted to get into the shower and let the water run over my back, my legs and hips felt so tense regardless of how much I tried to relax them because I was moving so much. Sense of time completely escaped me.
When the monitors were removed and my doula ran me a hot shower, all the lights in the room were dimmed and my hypnobirthing tracks were still playing on repeat. The shower felt absolutely amazing – I stood the whole time, just letting the warm water run across my back. Both my husband and doula allowed me to have my own time in the shower. I took loud deep breaths and pulled against the support bar in the shower as the surges came over me. They were so incredibly intense, like I could not have imagined before. I did not want to have any clothes on and did not care who laid eyes on me – to be honest, I did not have a care in the world at that point – every inch of me was concentrating on my surges. Again I do not know how long I was in the shower for.
My first suspicion that something was amiss was when I felt the urge to urinate but try as I may, I could not empty my bladder. Thankfully at that very same moment, my OB finally came by to check on me. My OB suggested having a catheter inserted to drain my bladder and he was eager to check how far dilated I was. As I changed into something dry and went to lay down on the bed, I prayed that I would not experience a surge while this was done. Having the catheter inserted, the pessary removed and then checked for dilation after was immensely uncomfortable and painful – I vocalized every bit of my discomfort, I think at one point I felt I wanted someone
to take a knife and stab me with it. My OB explained that the pressure I was feeling was from my amniotic sac bulging into my cervix. At this point I was 5 centimeters dilated and I agreed to have my membranes ruptured to release some of the pressure I was feeling, I immediately felt a bit more relieved once this was done.
Having my membranes ruptured meant I had to be monitored again to see if the baby was still doing ok. She wasn’t – my baby had become slightly distressed and it was hard for the midwives to detect a proper heart rate now. Despite my greatest efforts to keep mobile, I had to get on the bed and lie on my left side for a while so that they could get a stable reading to make sure baby was doing ok. I wanted to be back in the shower but I had to gather everything I had within me to get on the bed. Experiencing surges while lying down on my side was horrible. I felt like I could not breathe properly. Nitrous Oxide was brought into the room at this point and I declined although it was just kept there in case I needed it. I did not think I could cope well at all from then so I told my doctor that I wanted an epidural and I wanted it RIGHT NOW. Unfortunately, there was only one anesthetist on call and there was an emergency C section being carried out when I requested the epidural which meant I had to wait a good long while before anything was available.
The only way I could handle the intensity of my surges while lying on my side was by breathing with so much growl – I held my doula’s hand so tightly it felt like I was going to break her fingers. During surges I felt like biting and scratching – both my doula and husband sustained a few bite / scratch marks as they supported me. I did not find there was much rest between my surges and when I could not take it any longer, I succumbed to the gas and air with encouragement from my doula. I was initially afraid it would make me nauseous but at that point nitrous oxide was my saving grace. I inhaled more deeply than I ever did before and removed the mask when I vocalized my out breaths.
Once baby’s heartbeat stabilized, I immediately got up onto all fours on the bed and started breathing differently this time – I was startled at the sounds that emerged as I took breaths. One of the midwives now thought that perhaps I was in transition and asked if I felt like pushing. Honestly, the whole way through I felt the urge to push. I agreed to a vaginal examination to check how far along I was, I don’t think I was anywhere close to pushing as a few minutes later my doula had a chat with the midwife and she wanted me to get into a few different positions to move my baby’s head into a better position to descend.
Two hours after I had requested it, the epidural was finally available. Before going into labour I decided that I was not going to have an epidural unless I really needed it. My labour already felt long and I was quickly running out of steam, the surges were so intense and close to each other that I knew I needed some rest in order to have the best outcome. The anesthetist explained a lot before I was made to sit on the bed and curl my back up like a prawn. I could not for the life of me sit still with the surges coming every few minutes. My husband was terrified of needles so my doula sat in front of me and tried to hold me still. I squeezed her arms so tightly and found the insertion of the epidural felt like nothing compared to my surges. It took a while but what I felt after was absolute heaven. My left side had gone more numb then my right side but as the power of the surges faded to my senses it did not matter a huge deal to me. Without the pain I
was able to rest more. I knew I would be confined to the bed and monitored constantly but I was ok with that. I tried to eat but could not down more than some mushroom broth. I tried to sleep but could not drift off. My OB finally came around to check on me and see how far dilated I was – at that point I was only 6 centimeters dilated. It was discouraging knowing that after all those hours, I was only one extra centimeter dilated but my elation at not feeling the overwhelming sensations of my surges masked that disappointment. I was given more time and encouraged to rest and think positive.
4 hours later, my OB returned to check my dilation again, I was 7 centimeters dilated. Again only another centimeter and I started to worry. Perhaps it was because I was lying down and not in an upright position? We switched my position again, this time with me sitting upright, leaning over several pillows so that my lower body was still supported well on the bed. Because my left side seemed a lot more numb than my right, the midwives were not very comfortable with me going onto all fours on the bed as suggested by my doula. My OB said he would return in 2 hours to check on me again. He was great at comforting me and emphasizing that we would not push for a c-section unless it was absolutely necessary. He advised that my body was contracting like a trooper and the surges were coming strong and steady and baby was not in distress so there was no need to intervene.
While waiting, I tried my best to rest, to breathe and let go of any worries. I used all my resources from hypnobirthing to think positive and envision my baby descending lower and lower. I had conversations with my doula and husband about my worries. I got them to read me the excerpt on the opening lotus flower. At so many points, I felt really emotional and wept thinking about how I had come into the world and the pain that I would have caused my mother. I wept thinking about the last 10 months of being pregnant and feeling my baby’s kicks growing and feeling sick and thinking that I would lose my daughter from a miscarriage in my first trimester. It was like a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions suddenly overcame me. And I could not stop the flow of tears even if I wanted to.
I was checked again 2 hours later by my OB, his expression concerned me this time. He advised that my cervix was swollen from the last time he checked me and that my dilation had remained at 7 centimeters. He also advised that baby was in a good position but baby’s head was now bulging where she was trying to descend further into the birth canal, there was no need to be concerned about bubs having a weird shaped head despite this. Together with my husband and doula, we discussed our options. Because everything was still going well with baby and myself, again using the BRAIN technique, we decided to give it another hour for things to progress naturally.
However, an hour later, when I was checked again, my dilation had regressed to 6 centimeters. Bubs head had not descended any further and my contractions were still going very strong. When my OB noticed that my urine was starting to become blood tinged he advised that there was a definite obstruction now and that it was not advisable to wait any longer. Especially since my cervix was becoming more and more swollen due to the strong contractions as well. We all knew what had to be done and at approximately 10 pm I was wheeled in for an emergency C section.
By then I was really tired and thought that surely this part of my delivery would fly by quickly and I could finally meet my baby. Both my husband and doula were allowed into the theatre wearing scrubs. They were both by my side the whole time. Because there was an imbalance in what I felt on the left and right side of my body, I was given a strong dose of top up through my epidural. Unfortunately, my body did not react very well to this and as the c section progressed, my entire body started convulsing and shivering. I could not relax and wanted to be knocked out with GA but it was too late to administer that.
Luckily, I knew exactly when my little baby was born and there was a moment of relief where my body was able to process that I had birthed a human being and I was able to hold on to my little one for a mere minute. I was later informed that my baby’s cord was wrapped around her neck, preventing her from descending through the birth canal past a certain point. During these moments, it took superhuman effort to breathe and just be for a while, appreciating the moment I got to hold my daughter for the first time and look into her tiny eyes. However, soon after I felt like I could not maintain that skin to skin contact any longer and started throwing up. My blood pressure dropped drastically and I passed out. The epidural had to be removed immediately and I was given an adrenaline shot to regain consciousness later so that I could breastfeed my baby.
The birth of Kaia definitely had its twists and turns but we were there to meet them in the calmest way we knew as they happened. Without having the knowledge and awareness about pregnancy and birth, I am unsure if my experience would have been an empowered one where I felt like I was completely a part of the decision making process during labour. Facing the unknowns with the knowledge we gained from the classes we attended helped us approach everything positively despite the circumstances.
Dimi, Akash and Kaia (born on the 2nd of January, 2021).