Emily’s Birth Story
I had done SO much preparation and research in the lead up to our birth. Being a first-time mama, I was so mindful of going into pregnancy, birth and postpartum as calm, capable and empowered as I could be. We did a private hypnobirthing course with an incredible local instructor and doula, Tia. She ran four sessions in our home between 15 and 22ish weeks of pregnancy – which allowed so much time to implement all we had learned (which was a LOT!).
I woke up early morning on the 7th, still pregnant (I was 41+4) and still frustrated that our little one hadn’t joined us yet (despite drinking all the raspberry leaf tea, eating all the dates and labour lasagne, bouncing on fitballs, curb walking … haha). I woke up my partner and had a little sook, worried that our home birth plans were at risk if I went “post dates” and needed an induction. He was so reassuring and implemented the calming tools we learnt in our course to help me regain focus. He had said earlier in the week ‘in this entire pregnancy, we haven’t once made a decision based on fear, why would we change that now?’ and I found that SO grounding and affirming.
At 8am I waddled off to acupuncture and after standing up at the end of the session, I felt a really light release/trickle in my undies. I went to the bathroom and was pretty sure it was my waters (definitely a distinct smell!) and tried to stay calm ever when I was SO excited that this meant bubs was closer!
My sister was over visiting from Dublin and so the three of us spent the day together. We went for a gorgeous walk along the bay, hung out in the sunshine in our backyard, walked to the icecream shop in the afternoon and then settled at home. Tightenings started becoming more wave like over the day, occasionally needing me to stop and breathe, but still totally manageable. They were really inconsistent, coming between 10 and 50 minutes apart. But I was just reassured that SOMETHING was happening.
At 9pm, we sent my sister to our sister in law’s for the night, just in case things kicked off. And the moment she left, it was ON. Nick and I jumped in the shower, hoping for shower and bed to manage a few hours sleep before anything started, but bubs had other plans. As soon as I got in the shower at 9:30pm, surges started coming every 4 to 5 minutes. Still manageable with breathing but intensifying. I grabbed my TENS when I got out of the shower, hoping to start early and get on top of the building intensity. I’m so glad I did! The TENS was a gamechanger – I loved having something to focus on with monitoring the time in between surges, the duration of them and then hitting ‘boost’ whenever a pesky wave built.
I laboured on the bed for about an hour, using very gentle movement and the TENS to ride out the surges. I also popped my ‘rainbow mist’ meditation on in my headphones which helped to centre me and keep me calm. But then I very instinctively started incorporating sound – using low moans to match the intensity of the surges. This worked incredibly well for me (even though I had always envisioned a ‘silent’ hypnobirth – that just wasn’t the way I was meant to birth!). I started getting really shaky, which I assumed was a build up of adrenalin in my body as it had nowhere else to go! So I moved to the living room, where our birth pool, music, fairy lights and fire place were set up. It was the most beautiful, oxytocin rich environment! I laboured on the birth ball for about 30 minutes, willing the adrenalin to leave my body and just trying to relax into the surges. I was really dopey and calm in between surges, almost dreamlike and it was such a blissful feeling.
I moved to the shower, hoping the heat and steam would calm my body as the shakes were pretty intense. It worked really well as I laboured on all fours with the water directed on my back, continuing my breath and sound to ride the waves. The surges were intensifying, with the sensations radiating down my hips and legs, but it always felt doable. I never once felt like I couldn’t get through. Tia had explained that there’s a difference between physiological ‘pain’ (where the body is working well and doing what it’s meant to) and acute pain. This mindset continued to reassure me when my body was working a little too well (!) and the intensity increased.
I all of a sudden needed to simultaneously vomit and use the toilet. I was sick in the sink (I NEVER vomit and didn’t throughout the whole pregnancy but labour was making sure I was absolutely cleared out before birth!!) and my partner said I used the toilet about 7 times in between contractions (moving from bed to bathroom) whilst I was labouring!
Nick contacted our beautiful midwife, Sam, at about 1:15am. He explained that my surges were around 3 minutes apart, lasting for 45 to 60 seconds and that, although I was still ‘me’ in between surges, I was working hard when they were on. She got to us within 20 minutes and spent time observing me to determine where I was at. At one point I turned to her with a very sulky face and asked ‘am I definitely in labour?’, she laughed and reassured me that I was. I was so nervous this was ‘early labour’ and I would be in it for days!
At 2am, she offered me to get into the pool. But this was always going to be a last resort tool for me, to use the water when all else was failing, so I opted to labour for a few more surges on the bed. Nick never left my side and utilised soft touch massage and then our ‘anchoring touch’ whenever I was in a surge. We had our beautiful playlist on which made the whole space seem so calm.
I decided to move to the pool and, although I haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly when I hit ‘transition’, this was certainly the most intense part of labour … walking the 15m from our bedroom to the pool in the living room. Being upright made them so much more intense and I bent over the kitchen bench on the way, shoved a tea towel in my mouth and low moaned the surge away. Having a tea towel to muffle the sound helped so much and I ended up taking it to the pool with me!
The water felt incredible but relief was short lived as I felt a real shift in experience as soon as I was in the water. There was a really intense downwards pressure, both from my bum and also my vagina. Almost right away my moans shifted to a more guttural grunt as my body started involuntarily baring down at the top of the surge. This lasted maybe 30 to 40minutes. I was on my knees, leaning on the edge of the pool with Nick on the other side, holding my hands and using my sound/breathing to figure out where I was in the surge. He’d tell me when I got to the ‘crest’ and remind me the surge was subsiding, and then as soon as it was over he prompted me to ‘flop and relax’. This was hugely helpful as I started getting a little panicky and feeling very sorry for myself when one surge lasted 3 minutes and only gave me a 30second break before the next one! Sam told us she could see our little one’s head, with visibility about the size of a 50c piece, and that we would probably have our baby in our arms within the hour. But 5 minutes later, there was a huge surge and I felt a massive release after my body continued to bare down. Sam announced ‘oh my goodness, its head is out!’, and then seconds later ‘its body is out! It’s in the pool!’. It all happened so fast and on that one surge! Nick scooped bubs from the water and Sam unlooped the cord, it was wrapped a few times around baby’s neck but I didn’t worry for a second. I just felt so calm and peaceful seeing our baby for the first time.
Bubs was put on my chest and we spent a few minutes just adoring it (I just kept saying ‘oh hello!’ and ‘it’s so nice to meet you’!!) before finding out that we had a little girl. Our incredible, wonderful, phenomenal midwife actually managed to catch this on film and it’s my most treasured footage ever – meeting our daughter for the very first time.
The tools learnt through hypnobirthing, The Birth Class and many many books (!) helped us to have the birth of our dreams. We have recommended Hypnobirthing, and its associated text books, to all of our friends and family. We are just so grateful to have been able to bring our little girl earthside in such a beautiful and calm w