This is the story of how my beautiful son, Roger, came into the world.
Mark and I struggled to conceive, and it was only after more than a year of painful and invasive IVF treatments that I finally fell pregnant. I am so grateful that the technology exists because without it we would not have our beautiful son. But there is no denying that it is an unpleasant process, and maybe the most significant aspect of the treatment that makes it unpleasant is the feeling that you are passing the autonomy of the most intimate part of your body over to a team of medical professionals. These professionals tell you how many times a day to inject your body with synthetic hormones, when you can make love to your partner and when you cannot, and they grade everything from the growing follicles to the eggs you produce, and to the embryos that they create on a scale. In short, it is very difficult to feel that you are not constantly failing.
I knew I wanted my birthing experience to be different from my conception. I wanted autonomy of my body back. I wanted some privacy and intimacy back. I wanted to feel as if I was an active part of my birth and not just a patient. So I told Mark that I wanted to do hypnobirthing.
I must admit that he was sceptical at first.
Having watched me suffer through the terrible side effects of IVF treatment he wanted to spare me from any further pain. He honestly believed that the more intervention we had, the safer I would be, and the safer our baby would be. But he could tell it was important to me so off we went to hypnobirthing classes. It was incredible to see his attitude change. After our classes with Pip Wynn Owen from Birth Savvy, he was completely committed to the hypnobirthing process, and it was him telling all our family and friends about the benefits of a natural birth.
As I said, Mark and I were completely committed. So, we really did our homework. I fell asleep every night listening to the meditations while Mark did soft touch massage, I repeated my affirmations constantly, and in the third trimester, we started to do the birth rehearsal every day. We got the house ready. We wrote our birth plan. We were planning to stay at home as long as possible, we were going to enjoy the first part of the birth in our lounge room which has beautiful light and a lovely view of the garden. We had the candles ready; we had the aromatherapy diffusers; we had the birthing ball.
Then at 39 weeks and 5 days my doctor discovered that my amniotic fluid had dropped to a dangerously low level. Our baby had to come out. I had to be induced. My doctor talked me through the induction process. I would be admitted to the hospital at around 4 pm, the doctor would come in at 5 pm and place a pessary containing prostaglandin against my cervix. The pessary would stay in overnight and at around 9 am the following morning the doctor would come back, break the waters and start a drip of syntocin to induce labour. I was very distressed. I didn’t want more synthetic hormones pumped into my body; it was the worst part of IVF all over again.
All of our preparations had centred around labouring at home, being able to move around freely and feeling private and intimate. And to top it all off, the nurse wanted to admit me immediately, she advised me that they were her instructions from the doctor, that I was expected to go home, pack a bag, and report to the hospital in an hour. I asked her if our baby would be alright overnight. I wanted to some time to get my head around the change in circumstance, rewrite my birth plan and go in for the induction the following day. She refused. She had already told the hospital I was coming. I asked why she couldn’t just call the hospital and move me to the next day. She told me the Doctor wanted me to go in that day. I asked her if we could check with the Doctor if I could have that extra 24 hours. She advised that the Doctor was now in with another patient so we couldn’t ask him. I said I was happy to wait. She told me she had people waiting too. I said I was happy to wait in the waiting room as long as it took. So she gave in, called the hospital, and moved me to the following day. I had to fight really hard to get the extra time and I am so glad I did. I was upset and feeling sad and overwhelmed and they were not the emotions I wanted coursing through my body at the start of my birth.
So, Mark and I went home. I spoke to my sister who is a midwife. She explained that sometimes with induction, after the waters are broken in the morning, you can wait until lunchtime before starting the intravenous syntocin, to see if labour starts without it. I resolved to call the doctor first thing in the morning and ask if we could do that. Anything to avoid synthetic hormones again.
I had a bath. We did a meditation and I had one last really spicy curry, hoping that I might go into labour that night and avoid the induction. The following morning, I was 39 plus 6, and I was ready to meet my baby. We rewrote our birth plan. We packed our bags and arrived at the hospital at 4 pm. We were checked in by a lovely nurse, we told her we were doing hypnobirthing and we gave her a copy of our birth plan. Then she left us alone to wait for the doctor. I sat cross-legged on the bed and did my hypnobirthing breathing. On each breath I repeated a different affirmation, I told myself that I was safe, that I was ready to meet my baby, that I would calmly embrace any turn my birth might take and, most importantly, that this was a perfect room in which to give birth to my baby. I remember repeating that over and over, “this is a perfect place to meet my baby”.
When the doctor arrived at 5:30 pm, I was feeling calm and positive and happy. He inserted the pessary and I asked him if the following day we could hold off with the intravenous syntocin until lunch time. He was very kind about it, but he said no. The amniotic fluid was very low, and it had already been 24 hours since the scan, he was worried about the safety of the baby. He told us to order some take out, to watch a few movies and that he would see us in the morning. In preparation for the following day he told us that he would respect our birth plan but that I could change my mind and have pain relief at any time, he said I didn’t have to be a martyr.
Mark and I chatted until about a quarter past six, we were just scrolling Uber Eats choosing what to get for dinner when I felt something, like a cramp. It passed quickly but a few seconds later, I felt another one. I got to my feet and started walking around the room. Within ten minutes, the surges had become consistent and strong. Mark started to get the room ready, on went the hypnobirthing playlist, he dimmed the lights, he stuck up our affirmations, he put LED candles throughout the room and put my clary sage into a tissue so that I could smell it between surges. Mark was timing the surges on an app and at 6:30 pm the app told us to go to the hospital.
The surges were intense and by 8 pm I couldn’t stand up anymore. I squatted on the end of the bed and Mark rubbed my lower back during each surge. I concentrated on his touch and closed my eyes and listened to the affirmations playing. I kept telling myself, “you are strong, you are strong, you are strong.” It hadn’t been my favourite affirmation during pregnancy, but on the day that was the one, I kept repeating to myself.
The nurses were meant to come and check on us periodically, but that night there just happened to be three emergency caesareans on the birth ward, so we were left alone. Because that was exactly what we wanted we didn’t press the bell for any attention. At 9:30 pm the lovely nurse who had checked us in, popped her head in to say that she was sorry she hadn’t been in to check on us and that the night shift nurse would come and introduce herself shortly.
At 9:45 pm the night nurse arrived, I was deep in my trance and she spoke to Mark, as we had asked in our birth plan. She explained that the next step in the induction process was that she would give me some Panadol and a sleeping tablet and that I should try and get some sleep before the following day. Mark told her that I was in labour and wouldn’t be sleeping. She explained that sometimes a side effect of the pessary was cramping sensations that felt like labour but that these would peter out. Mark again said that he thought I was in labour and asked how we could tell whether the surges were actual surges or side effects. She advised that the only way to tell was an internal examination. Mark relayed this information to me, and I consented.
She performed the examination and I was four centimetres dilated. She couldn’t believe it, she had assumed because we hadn’t rung the bell and asked for attention or pain relief, that we couldn’t be in actual labour. She left to ring the doctor and Mark and I kept doing our thing. Breathing and riding the surges like waves. She came back at 10:10 pm and told us that the doctor had requested that she take the pessary out. When she took it out, she advised us that she didn’t think she could feel any cervix but because the water bag was bulging it was hard to be sure. She asked if we wanted her to break the waters and we agreed. She went back in to break the waters and confirmed that I was fully dilated. I had gone from 4 centimetres to 10 centimetres in 20 minutes. I knew then that I was going to birth my baby naturally, imminently, without an IV drip. I was elated.
Around 11 pm I felt a sudden urge to move onto my hands and knees. The surges changed; they were still intense, but they were deeper, more primal. I could tell I would be meeting my baby soon. The doctor arrived at 11:30 pm. He helped me with the final stage of labour, when he could see the head, he turned me over onto my back and asked me to slow my breathing down, he delivered the head slowly to prevent tearing. I still had my eyes closed. Our beautiful baby boy was delivered at 12:12 am, exactly on his due date. I held him and nursed him while I delivered the placenta naturally, without an injection of syntocin. I had done the entire thing, from start to finish without any pain relief, not even gas and air. I felt like a goddess, a warrior, a fierce mother. I never for a second felt like a martyr.
I am so grateful to Pip Wynn Owen and to hypnobirthing for our birth. I will always look back on our birth as a bonding, empowering, phenomenal experience. I am eternally grateful that birth allowed me to appreciate how amazing the female body is and how inherently strong women are.
You can find your closest Hypnobirthing Australia Classes HERE.
Find out more about our Hypnobirthing Online Course HERE.