Jenna & Nathan’s story: The birth of Lelia
Article for Birth Matters Magazine
Like most women, my preconceptions or should I say misconceptions of birth and labour were not positive. It’s funny how women are so quick to tell you all the horrible parts, almost like it’s a competition of who had the worst birthing experience. So you’ll understand when I say it really blew my mind to hear my neighbour say to me that she really ‘enjoyed her birthing experience and that it was just lovely’ – and all completely natural without drugs (thanks to Hypnobirthing)!! As of that day, my idea’s around birth would never be the same. I guess this was the starting point for us in our pregnancy and birthing journey. Like most first time couples we had no idea where to start. We knew that we wanted to look into this Hypnobirthing thing and also that we wanted to have a private obstetrician for peace of mind and reassurance. We weren’t sure that the two would mix together well though. And that was the case with the first OB we went to see. After 2 visits, we realised that if we wanted to try for a natural, intervention free birth, we would need to find another OB. Since midwives seemed to be the most supportive of Hypnobirthing, we asked around a few midwives for an Obstetrician recommendation (we figured any OB recommended by a midwife would definitely be good!) – and they all pointed us in one direction, Obstetrician Dr. Warrick Smith. We immediately got a positive impression. We were upfront about our desire to do the Hypnobirthing course and asked would he be supportive in this. I think it’s so important when embarking on this journey to make sure you’ve got the full support of your professional team. About 3 months before our baby was due we spent 2 weekends with Melissa Spilsted from Hypnobirthing Australia™ learning about natural childbirth and that it is not something to be feared, rather, something that can be a beautiful and an empowering experience for both you and your baby. She taught us (from her personal experience of three wonderful birthing experiences) that a woman’s body is perfectly designed to give birth and much fear comes from doubting this innate ability. She also taught us that there are things you can do in preparation for birth to allow your body to do the job effectively and efficiently. She taught us many techniques including relaxation, breathing and visualisation which we could ‘train’ with before the birth. Not only this, but she also taught us to trust our own instincts and bodies. Although most of us were firth time parents, that doesn’t have to mean that we don’t know what is happening in our bodies or that we should trust them any less. Hypnobirthing is not something you can learn about once and then just hope it works on the day! You need to be focussed and practice regularly (daily) in the lead up to your birth. The more comfortable you are with the techniques, the more it just becomes second nature – and the easier it is to access these skills and strategies on the day. And let me tell you – THEY WORK! I had been listening to the affirmations cd daily for over a month and practising the relaxation techniques probably every second day for some time before the birth. I started getting much stronger practice contractions (braxton hicks) on the Tuesday and all day Wednesday. They didn’t bother me, so I just kept active, spent lots of time outside walking the dog and listening to my affirmations. Thursday morning I woke up at 7am and asked Nathan to look at his watch as I thought perhaps they were finally in a more regular rhythm. They were about 3 minutes apart….so we took the dog for a walk for an hour. By the time we got home they were a minute long and only 2 minutes apart. Thought I’d better shave my legs and put some makeup on at this point before driving to the hospital! We arrived at the hospital about 10am ” they told me I was only 4cm dilated and being my first baby I could just go home as it would likely be another 9+hrs before anything would happen. I felt disappointed at this. But I kept reminding myself about one of the video’s Melissa had shown us where the mother went from 3cm to fully dilated and ready to birth in just 15minutes. That was all I kept focusing on in my mind. Nathan went to move the car while they did their monitoring and by the time he came back (a bit after 11am at this point) I stood up and all of a sudden said to him “I need to push ” this baby feels like she’s going to fall out!”. He encouraged me to remain calm, thinking it was all still a way off and wanted me to conserve me energy- the nurses came in with the same misconception….until they checked me and then frantically started calling Warrick to tell him the baby was on her way out NOW! I think we only spent about an hour in the actual birthing suite before our lovely little Lelia Rose was born at 12.50pm. My waters exploded over everyone only right before she was delivered (I didn’t laugh at the time, but in my mind I found this amusing). We had asked Warrick during our regular appointments that he not release my waters unless absolutely vital. So I was really happy that right at the end this happened naturally. We were so pleased to have taken the time to chose an Obstetrician who was willing to support us in the birth we wanted – for the most part he just let Nathan and I do our own thing, offered encouragement when I needed it and told me I was doing a wonderful job and our little girl would be here very soon. He didn’t interfere in the natural birthing process and was very gentle and calm about explaining a couple of things to us throughout the labour (i.e.; Lelia had got a bit impatient and there was meconium in my waters). I don’t want to make it sound like it didn’t hurt or wasn’t very hard work – it was all of that as well. But I guess the difference was it was never out of control. There were times, particularly towards the end where mentally I was wavering and just wanted her out already – and this was the part where Warrick really helped. He respectfully asked Nathan’s and my permission to help talk me through the very last part of delivery. Up until that point I had been more than OK with just Nathan talking to me and encouraging me to remember what I’d practiced and to relax my body…..but for that last 30 minutes or so when it was hard work, I appreciated the guidance from Warrick so much. It made me feel confident again and was just what I needed. The breathing techniques Melissa had taught us made the surges/contractions so much more bearable. There were a couple of surges/contractions at the point where I started to feel the need to ‘push’ where I was a little panicked and forgot about my breathing ” and far out, the difference!! They hurt a lot more! I could see how it would be very easy to get panicked and caught up in the ‘pain’ if you didn’t have the preparation and the support person to get you back on track and know all the right things to say. I’ve spoken a lot about the Hypnobirthing course and choosing the right carer – but all of this wouldn’t have had the same effect if I didn’t have a wonderful, supportive husband by my side. It’s absolutely crucial if you are going down the Hypnobirthing path that your partner or support person do the course with you and be 100% on board. Nathan and I practised the relaxation techniques together and this enabled him to be really tuned in to all that was happening in my body on the day. When I was tensing up, he could tell and would put his hand on me and gently remind me to relax which would allow the process to happen. He encouraged me and reminded me about how wonderful this was in between contractions and how excited he was to finally be meeting his baby girl. He gave me so much strength. Once Lel ia was born, Warrick placed her on my chest straight away. She was incredible. She crawled her way to my breast with very little help and started feeding within minutes (and hasn’t stopped since!). The nursing staff were wonderful – after they’d done some tidying up of everything, they just left the three of us there together to bond and be alone for the next 3 hours where we cried together, laughed and just stared at this perfect little baby girl who was ours. It was such a special time. It was so lovely not to be rushed and just to be able to enjoy each other and the amazing experience we were having. We called our families and shared our excitement with them. Lelia just stayed on my bare chest the whole time, feeding and sleeping. I got to have a nice long shower while Nathan then got to enjoy some skin on skin time with our baby girl for an hour. There is no doubt in my mind at all that it was the techniques we learnt in the Hypnobirthing Australia™ course, choosing the right carer, having a wonderfully supportive husband and the prayers of my family, that we got to have an incredible 3 hour birth, without drugs or fear. (Oh, and Raspberry leaf tea!!! I highly recommend – I think it helped too!) Everything about Lelia’s birth was joyous. I was amazed that even though I was completely focused and in my own little world with my eyes closed the entire time ” I’ve never in my life been more aware of absolutely everything going on (in the room and in my body). Afterwards I felt so proud of myself and the very next day I actually said to Nathan that I’m looking forward to next time already!!