|Ottilie's Hypnobirth Day
This is the beautiful arrival of baby Ottilie, told from the perspectives of both mum (Emily) and dad (Oli).
Emily: In 2011 Oli and I had a beautiful son named Digby. He filled our world with joy, and continues to do so every day, but the circumstances of his birth did not. Like most expectant couples, we handed ourselves unequivocally into the care of the NHS. We respected and followed its procedures and didn't consider that there might be another way.
My waters broke at 41+5 weeks, but the greater powers insisted I was still induced that day because of the looming bank holiday weekend. The resulting labour began hard and fast and swept me away on a tide of drugs and broken expectations. Digby was born 13 hours later after a huge amount of intervention, blood, sweat and tears.
Three years on, as the due date approached for the birth of our little girl, I began to fear the process repeating itself and looked into how we could empower ourselves to have the most natural birth possible. The answer was hypnobirthing. Gina's course was a revelation to us. By the end, we were informed, relaxed and without fear. We were reborn and ready to meet our daughter.
At 40+6 weeks, I woke up at around 4.30am with mild stomach cramps. Hoping these were the early rumblings of labour, I began to time them. Sure enough they were occurring regularly, but ever so mildly. I went back to sleep. By 7am they were slightly more intense and closer together so I decided to start preparing our home for the birth.
I called the labour ward sometime between 8am and 8.30am to notify the community midwives. I could no longer talk during surges, and was relying on my breathing techniques. I visualised waves rising and falling in my mind. As the surges became more enveloping, I breathed even more deeply and walked around our bedroom, where Oli was beginning to fill our birthing pool.
At 9.25am, two midwives arrived and respectfully read our hypnobirthing preferences. They discussed between themselves about being very quiet around us and said they'd get out of our way for a while by sitting in the next room. I knew the birth was close and asked that they stay, which made the lead midwife want to examine me.
Knowing that I had every right to refuse this intervention, I agreed to it out of curiosity. But she wanted me to lie on my back for the examination. With only one minute at the most between surges, I refused and asked that she examine me standing up. To my surprise she said this wasn't possible, so I laid down and experienced a sudden surge, which was almost unbearable. The midwife quickly finished so I could get back onto my feet and in control. I was fully dilated.
But water was still trickling into the pool, which was a long way from being ready. The speed at which my labour had progressed meant that we also hadn't put on our relaxation music or oil burner and we hadn't begun any light-touch massage - something we had done a lot to relax and prepare for the birth. I felt like my body had reached full dilation on autopilot, without being hindered by fear. The hypnobirthing preparation had truly opened my mind and body.
Shortly after the examination my waters broke and, while leaning over with my hands on the bed, my body just began to push the baby down. I remember hearing the lead midwife, who was behind me, ask, 'Are you pushing? Are you pushing?' I couldn't reply, but I heard the other midwife, who was in front of me, across the bed, say with enthusiasm, 'I think she is!'
With the redundant pool taking up most of the floor space near the bed, I climbed onto the bed to give birth on my hands and knees. Around three surges later at 10.03am, Ottilie Muriel entered the world, perfect, pink and alert, weighing 8lb 2oz. She was passed through my legs so I could cradle her to my bare chest. It was the most euphoric moment of my life. I couldn't believe I had given birth in my own home, without any pain relief, intervention or coached pushing. It was as nature intended.
With some careful repositioning, because Ottilie was still attached to the umbilical cord at our request, I turned around to sit on the bed so the physiological third stage could begin. As Ottilie latched on, the midwife asked me if I had any urge to push. I didn't. After 25 minutes, she asked me to stand so gravity could assist the delivery of the placenta. At this point, Oli cut the cord, which had finished pulsating and, with a small push, the placenta was delivered intact.
Ottilie scored 10 in her two APGAR tests. We owe our amazing experience to the power of hypnobirthing. Gina gave us the knowledge, tools and self-belief to give birth at home, without fear and without the temptation to reflect on our son's less serene, hospital birth, three years earlier.
And now the story from dad...
Oli: It was Sunday 30 March, Mother's Day. Emily woke me up at 8am saying with a little grin that I wouldn't be going into work the next day. She seemed sure she was in labour but was busy folding and putting away clothes and carrying on as usual. I suspected we had a long way to go.
In my mind, I had a sequence of planned events to work through before I could begin to support her. Top of the list was taking our son downstairs to his grandparents. Then I had to prepare our bedroom for the birthing pool: roll out the tarpaulin, position the pool on top, lay towels around it, fit the pool's liner, connect the hose to the bathroom tap and fill the pool, keeping an eye on the water temperature. In the event, and despite having already inflated the pool and read the instructions, these steps took a long time to complete.
When the midwives finally arrived and it became clear that a pool birth was no longer an option, I gratefully abandoned the half-full inflatable and began to give Emily some light-touch massage and words of support. By this point she was on her hands and knees on the bed. Between surges she quite lucidly asked questions to the midwife. As the baby's head began to emerge, the second midwife asked Emily to hold back as she was coming quickly. She did so and, slowly, little Ottilie's head entered the world and I saw her tiny face. Tears were suddenly running down my face and I was unable to talk.
After some special skin-to-skin time, Emily and Ottilie were ready to be separated. Emily needed to stand to deliver the placenta, so I cut the cord, which had turned white, and was then passed Ottilie, bundled up in towels. Before long, Emily was up and in the shower and then busy clearing everything away!
We couldn't have asked for a more natural birth. Apart from not being able to have a waterbirth, we achieved everything on our list of birth preferences. I attribute this entirely to our hypnobirthing course, which erased Emily's fears of being in a lot of pain and out of control. She fully believed that she could have a completely different birth experience second time round, and that belief, together with the learnt breathing rhythms, allowed her body to complete its solo job of growing and then birthing our baby.