While sometimes it was hard to maintain this perspective, going into pregnancy I consciously surrendered to the fact that my mind was never going to be able to comprehend what was happening. Therefore, my primary goal throughout the pregnancy and labour was to help my mind to be quiet and surrender to letting my body do what it was designed to do in as gentle and nuturing a way as possible. When my husband, Scott, and I came across hypnobirthing, we knew it would give us the perfect set of tools to help me achieve that. Here’s our bump’s birth story…
After what was days and days of pre-labour, things finally tipped into the active phase at 7:30am on Friday 12th September. I’d had a very healthy pregnancy (with a few minor scares along the way – decreased fetal movement on a few occasions, a bit of unexplained blood loss etc) and had spent untold hours practicing our hypnobirthing tools, thanks to the tuition of Lisa Spence from Empowered Hypnobirthing. The practice I did the most was listening to the Affirmations track on repeat while out walking most mornings and looking up at the gum trees swaying in the breeze. I was soon to find out how important that repetitive activity would be to bringing our bump earth-side.
On the morning of September 12th, I was so relieved when our midwife, Lizzie, told us we were definitely in active labour at what was meant to have been my third sweep appointment at 9:30am. Scott and I were sent off for a walk around the hospital grounds for an hour, but after 30mins (and a Frosty Fruit to keep me going) we were in the birthing suite and feeling like things were really moving along.
I got in the bath at around 11am and from this point onwards really went into myself. I wouldn’t have found that zone and been so comfortable there if it wasn’t for all the hypnobirthing practice. You really do go inside yourself and draw on every primal instinct you have to allow your body to do what it was designed to do. This is where the repetition of walking, deep breathing and listening to the Affirmations track came into its own – I wanted the track on repeat and to listen to nothing else!! It was on repeat for the next 8.5 hours!! With each surge I also automatically visualised the gum tree branches swaying in the breeze and used this to feel myself sway through the surge. With each affirmation spoken by Melissa, I repeated it in my mind and felt my whole body accept it and do whatever it said. This continued for the next six hours while I was guided through a variety of active labour positions by our amazing midwife. I never once considered lying down and was amazed, even at the time, by how suggestible I was. If she’d said “Stand on your head”, I probably would’ve done it! Likewise, if she said “Why not try an epidural?”, I would’ve said yes. It really proved to me the importance of having caregivers who’re supportive of your choices. One of the choices I’d made was for there not to be any references to time, in the hopes that time distortion would really work for me and it did! The only time I was conscious of how much time had passed was when Lizzie broke my waters and told me the time. It was 2:30pm and I honestly thought I’d been labouring for half an hour by then, not five hours. I was so excited by that that I just slipped back into my hypno zone knowing that it’d all have finished before I knew it. Time distortion in labour is real!
Looking back I can see when transition was, but even Lizzie wasn’t sure at the time as I was so calm. The only difference for me was that I started saying “I can’t do this” in between each surge. But when Scott & Lizzie would respond with, “you can, and you are”, I’d nod and another surge would start. I was very vocal throughout the day – and asked Scott afterwards if he felt like I was in pain as I was so noisy – but we both agreed it was just a primal groan with each surge that sounded completely natural.
In regards to pain, the only time I felt pain was just before the second phase. Lizzie asked to examine me as, without really realising it, I’d started breathing down and she’d noticed things had shifted. She excitedly told us that I was 10cm… but there was a lip of cervix left. She asked if she could push it over so the second phase could properly start and we agreed. Scott cuddled me as she did it… But that was a mistake! It hurt like crazy and I screamed in his ear before biting his cheek. Whoops!
As soon as the second phase started, I had the most satisfying urges to push. Sadly there was no nice, gentle J-breathing for me, my body was on a rampage and needed to push…hard! Every surge was like a volcano erupting inside me. It was the most incredible feeling and such a rewarding part of labour. I loved it! Although, instinctively, I started to feel like something wasn’t quite right after a while, like bump was stuck, and I started vocalizing my concerns in between surges. It also felt off to me that the position that was most effective for me to really work with the power of my body was almost fully reclined and on my side – not quite the squat I’d envisaged! Lizzie eventually said that the doctor needed to come and see me. She told me I’d been pushing for 1.5 hours and that protocol meant the doctor needed to come. 1.5 hours?! It had felt like 5 minutes!
The doc came in, watched a few surges and then said she’d check back in half an hour. That was a long half hour! I kept asking after every surge whether the half hour had finished. I knew instinctively by that point that I was going to need some help to birth my baby. There was such immense power behind each surge, and I had bump crowning almost to his/her eyebrows, but then bump would rock back inside me again. Scott found this part of the labour the most frustrating as he just wanted to reach his fingers in and pull!
After the half hour was up, the doctor came back in and watched another few surges before having a discussion with Lizzie. Lizzie then asked me to move up onto the bed. I refused, but instinctively I now knew I needed help to get Bumpo out. in saying that, I physically did not feel like I had the power in my body to do anything other than push! But, of course, with some gentle persuasion and a lot of physical support from Lizzie and Scott, I managed to get up somehow. The discussion the doc and Lizzie had had was about how they both now thought that our bump was posterior. We have no idea when our bump turned, but they were certain now that it was round the wrong way.
I had no idea that that was what was going on and all I remember thinking was “these surges will hurt while I’m on my back” as I got up onto the bed and then started to panic for a moment when I saw the stirrups come up. It was then that Lizzie mentioned the posterior diagnosis. I knew bump would be here in a heartbeat but also felt instinctively that I needed help to get him/her out. So I just hunkered down, grabbed the backs of my knees and kept pushing. The next flurry of activity revealed to me that they needed to suction cap bump to get him/her out, most likely give me an episiotomy, we wouldn’t be able to delay cord clamping and I’d need an artificial third stage. If I didn’t instinctively know that I needed help at this point, we would’ve questioned it all, but I knew I needed a hand.
The episiotomy was done and the suction cap went on in between two surges and with that next one I was told to push as hard as I could. My expulsive reflex went into overdrive and out shot our bump so fast that the doctor hardly had a chance to catch her! She was in such a rush to meet us in the end that she appear sunny-side-up – facing us to say hi straight away!
I had her on my chest for four seconds and then she was whipped off. She’d done a poo in her final moments inside me and they needed to suction her mouth before she took her first breath. While she was over there Scott and I kissed in jubilation and then I said “Oh! What is he?” (We were 100% convinced we were having a boy). Scott went over to check and pulled off the towel to reveal… No bits! He ran back over to me and said “we have an Ellie!” We both cried, hugged and kissed for a few moments before SHE was back in my arms. I kept asking her if she was really a girl while she lay there quiet as a mouse staring up at me. After a little while she started to cry and I began singing ‘You are my sunshine’ which I’d sung every morning during the pregnancy as I rubbed oil on my belly. She instantly quietened and looked at me as if to say “Ah! You’re the person who’s been signing that song!” 15 minutes later she was rooting around and she latched on first go.
We were so overjoyed to have achieved such a natural birth (not even panadol!) and to have brought our wee girl earth-side in such a loving, calm and supportive way, even if she did need a moment of help at the very end. She’s a very contended little bub who was smiling at us after two weeks and continues to light up each day for us.
Thank you to Sarah and Scott from Sydney, who were taught by Hypnobirthing Australia Practitioner Lisa Spence, for sharing this beautiful birth story with us. xx