On the 12th September, our lives were blessed with a ray of sunshine named baby Juan Govinda. We had gone into ‘latent’ labour on the evening of the 9th of September, and I had fully expected labour to last only hours (I had envisioned four hours in my Hypnobirthing class). It had never entered my consciousness that Juan’s birth would be anything other than a simple, straightforward birth, and that my body would do what it was designed to do. Therefore, it came as a bit of a shock when the labour ended up being a long drawn out affair, ending in an intervention.
I wanted to write this piece, as despite everything, the birth was a relaxed event – calm, manageable and for the most part enjoyable! The main reason why Juan’s birth was so calm and manageable, was that we had spent the previous 18 weeks practicing Hypnobirthing techniques – which is all about using relaxation, affirmations and calm breathing during labour. Visual aids were plastered all over the apartment; especially behind the toilet door (much to the surprise of our unsuspecting guests!) we listened to daily affirmations and followed relaxation scripts. I ‘talked to the hand’ to any negative birthing story I heard. I read Marie Mongan’s Hypnobirthing book almost 3 times – constantly bombarding my consciousness with positive affirmations for a gentle birth.
This really worked, as throughout the days I spent in labour, my husband and I drew on almost all the resources we were taught. When, after awhile it was clear that our birthing was going down a different track to what we expected, one particular Hypnobirthing affirmation helped immensely: “I will calmly meet whatever turn my birthing may take”.
Most of the labour was spent at home in our apartment, which has a really nice energy. We had lavender oil burning, gentle music playing and soft light filtering throughout the apartment. Each surge was met with complete relaxation and limpness in my body and deep breathing. After some time, we were admitted to the RBWH Birth Centre, where I was overjoyed to realise that my midwife-of-choice was on duty – Deb, who I had only met the previous week, but had formed a bond with in our short half-hour session.
Gentle hours passed in the birth centre, and we were able to utilise the facilities – the birthing ball in the double headed shower, the blissfully relaxing bath. Unfortunately, even though the surges were coming regularly and with reasonable intensity, my labour wasn’t really progressing. This may have been due to the baby’s position – as he needed turning, but as he was putting pressure on my back I found it uncomfortable to do the positions necessary to turn him.
When my water was broken and it contained meconium, which meant that my stay in the birth centre was over and I was handed over to doctor care in the birth suite, I knew that this was a time where I really needed to keep my cool. We drew on the Hypnobirthing decision making techniques when discussing options with our care providers – and allowed level-headed decisions to be made.
I will admit that at one point I did briefly lose my cool. I was given unexpected news and it was all too much to take on board, and I literally gave up. I started crying and succumbed to disastrous negative self-talk – despite the loving words being lavished on me by my husband and Deb. I lay on the bed (for the first time, as generally I was actively moving about, guided by positions my body felt comfortable with) – and breathed in gas. As fear overtook my body, as opposed to relaxation, endorphins cramped my uterus, and the contractions were unbearable. After 10 minutes of this self-pity and extreme pain, something snapped, and I pushed myself off the bed, threw away the gas and started Hypnobirthing again. It was much easier and painless to be relaxed than be distressed, plus, I’d come so far to let negativity ruin the experience. At the same time, Deb, my midwife, gave me some other news and the pep-talk I needed – in the tone that I needed to hear at that time. I was back on track again for an empowered birth!
I later found out that my labour had, in medical terms, ‘failed to progress’. As a result, the doctors put me on Syntocinon (Synto for short) – which is an inducing drug that takes over the body’s natural rhythm with an artificial rhythm. I had done my research, so I was very much aware that this was make or break time. For the next two hours, I HypnoBirthed through increasing dosages of Synto. Each half-hour the dosage was increased, and it was only through sheer determination (and surprisingly the support of one of the initially hesitant doctors) that got me through it. In the last half hour, the room was full – there were two doctors, around four midwives and a student (we joke that we’re surprised there was no news team!) – all watching in awe as I rode through each intense artificial surge after another, with the support of my husband. I later found out that this was unprecedented – one of the midwives explained that she’d never seen anyone manage such a high dosage of Synto without pain relief.
Another funny anecdote that to me proves the effectiveness of Hypnobirthing was when I had first moved to the birth suite and the doctor expressed his concern that I hadn’t had any contractions since arriving there. I replied that I’d had at least 3 in the last 10 minutes and hadn’t he noticed that I’d had one whilst we were talking? He arched his eyebrows in surprise before uttering: “I’m sorry, I am just used to women birthing very differently.” Hypnobirthing women labour with gentleness, calmness and quiet – unlike the movie-style hysteria that one normally associates with labour!
In the end, I did require an intervention, as was baby Juan’s choosing. I remembered the words that Melissa, our Hypnobirthing teacher, had told us during class on a number of occasions – that she truly believes that the baby knows the safest route into the world. I was really impressed with the hospital staff and their compassion and ability to keep my husband and I in good spirits. I don’t remember this time as one of disappointment or panic, but a happy time, as I knew my baby was finally coming to me. I remember laughing and cracking jokes, and practicing deep breathing so that baby Juan would remain calm.
Then, the moment came when baby Juan was born – under bright lights – but there was no cry of distress, even when he was being washed and his lungs checked for meconium. At last he was placed on my chest for skin-to-skin contact and bonding. He was so beautiful, and clearly shared his Daddy’s features. Calm and alert, within minutes he was rooting around looking for my breast, and not long afterwards had self-attached and was breastfeeding with innate natural instinct.
Juan is 9 days old now, and our friends and family comment on how alert, peaceful and calm he is, and also how relaxed and calm my husband and I are. I firmly believe this is a result of all the Hypnobirthing practices we’ve done – and the knowledge that if during the labour we were able to calmly meet whatever came our way, so too can we with parenting.
Juan’s birth wasn’t textbook Hypnobirthing – but in my mind, there is absolutely no doubt as to the effectiveness of the techniques. The whole process was an amazing experience and one that we can only look back upon with a sense of pride and strength. In parting, I just want to say that no matter what turn your birthing takes – it’s all a
matter of attitude – you have the ability and strength for your birthing experience to be gentle, calm and rewarding.
Cherie and Leland, Hamilton, Brisbane
(written by Cherie Pasion, 21 September 2012)
Note: Our midwife, Deb, also wrote up an entry about Juan’s birth. Not only is Deb a compassionate (and passionate) midwife, she also has a beautiful way with words: http://www.familymidwives.com.au/i-watched-you-dance/