Max's Hypnobirth Day
I'm absolutely over the moon to say our little baby boy arrived on Tuesday 16th Dec at home in our pool, exactly as we'd hoped, after an amazing journey.
Pete had his work Christmas dinner on Monday night and I'd been dashing about like a demented reindeer dropping off parcels, visiting musician friends and my parents during the day. I got home about 11pm and started feeling very emotional and tetchy. Pete rolled in shortly after, quite jolly after several large glasses of fine wine to go with his steak, and I'm sorry to say I wasn't in the mood to be very festive or even gracious. He knew something was wrong as I being very closed up, grumpy and angry for no particular reason as we turned the lights down and rolled over in bed. I put it down to being over tired, then went for yet another pee. My heart made a bit of a lurch when the tissue came back pink with blood. Instantly my mood changed, like a giant switch had been flipped. I bounded back into the bedroom where Pete had already started to drift off into a merry sleep and proudly showed him my show and said I think it's started. He groaned. Then muzzily came to as the gentle horror of his situation stated to sink in.
About 10 mins later, I felt some gentle surges like Braxton hicks, but I knew this time they were in earnest. Then suddenly at 1:30am my waters broke and there was no mistaking it. Quite a huge gush. With the surges, more and more clear, slightly viscous liquid came cascading out into the loo. I felt joyful and euphoric, seeing the funny side of Pete's fast impending hangover, while internally thinking I might be doing this more independently than I'd have liked, but also calmly and gratefully accepting that I felt fully able to cope.
I tried to let Pete go to sleep, thinking it would be ages before anything progressed much. When I lay down I felt for baby and he had shifted around from his fave position and stopped moving. I gently prodded and did all the things that usually got a response but nothing back. The waters were clear so I knew he hadn't poohed already, but a friend of a friend recently had a still birth and I suddenly wanted reassurance that he was ok. We waited another 10 mins and still no movement so I rang the hospital and explained the sistuation. She said to come in to Triage to be monitored straight away. I drove us up to the Queen Elizabeth hospital.
The midwife hooked me up to the machine and after an agonising few seconds found the strong heartbeat. What relief. I thought the hospital environment would have made me feel more unsettled, but I felt my resolve to have a peaceful home birth solidify into absolute conviction there. As we listened to the heart beats from the cubical next to us and our baby's colliding loudly like the charging hooves of the Grand National going by, Pete started to look very peaky as his hangover started to take hold. There was a woman in labour making very loud and pitiful groans in the room beside us and I felt so sorry for her. She sounded scared and out of control. I was very pleased and a little smug to realise I was totally unaffected myself, I deeply knew I would be feeling different by her stage.
We had to stay hooked up for an hour then the midwife on duty said she would need to do an internal examination with a smear test -style metal device, which I've totally forgotten the name for but really hate as they are so cold, clinical and uncomfortable. I asked if this was really necessary at this stage and she said she couldn't let me go home without first checking if my waters had broken. I explained I was completely convinced they had, (I told her they had gone at home at 1:30am when we arrived at about 2:15am but she had forgotten), and she still said she would need to check. I explained we would like a home birth using hypnobirthing techniques and that I really wanted to avoid as many internal examinations as possible. She looked at me very sceptically as if I was clearly mad, naive and silly. Pete asked what else the considerable amount of fluid exactly matching the description of amniotic fluid could be please? She grumpily said she didn't know, urine? I tried to politely say I knew what pee looked, smelt and felt like but at this point another midwife appeared who had popped in to check on me during the monitoring and been very nice and jolly. She totally came to my rescue, diplomatically handling the situation beautifully without making her colleague seem over-ruled, yet giving me a clear indication that she thought an examination at this point unnecessary. The first midwife had already gone on at length about risk of infection after 24 hours if I hadn't gone into labour. The results from the monitoring had shown clear surges, one about every three-four minutes, lasting 20-30 seconds. I said I felt sure I was in the first stages of labour, but that if in 24hrs baby wasn't here, of course I'd have the antibiotics. She was going to make me sign something to say as much, then later changed her mind after talking to the other midwife again. Her manner had totally changed as she said goodbye and I felt massively empowered and happy to have been able to stand my ground in the face of her condescending turns of phrase. Your training here was invaluable and Pete and I both heard your voice in our heads several times during that discussion.
It was harder to drive home and I took a wrong turn even though we only live 8 mins away and I've done the drive a lot. As the surges were becoming stronger I felt joyously, deliriously happy that our baby was on the way. My sympathy for Pete was not immense but I didn't feel angry at him, just a little disappointed that our preparation together would be put to the test in a new and not exactly ideal way. I really hoped he'd be able to sleep it off in time to fully be engaged in the here and now as our birth process unfolded and we prepared to meet our baby.
He went to bed when we got home after removing a dead mouse from the bath which our cat, The Parf, had kindy seen fit to leave as a birthing snack. He's never caught a mouse in his life, so he'd obviously sensed great things were afoot and wanted to contribute in his way. Bless him. Pete also kindly disinfected the bath with some of his stockpiled Milton spray.
The hot water was amazing and reduced the tension of the surges immediately. I was torn between wanting them to get stronger and longer as soon as possible, but then also wanting to give Pete time to recover and come and join the party. I stayed in the bath over an hour and the surges had slowed right down. When I got out I put on Kind of Blue and got on my birthing ball. With some clary sage on a tissue the surges returned to regular three in ten quite quickly. After an hour or so walking around the kitchen I started to feel a bit light headed so tried to eat some porridge but projectiled this up ten mins later. I kept breathing into the surges but found I couldn't stay on the ball for them, having to lean on a chair or kneel down for them. I was pleased that things seemed to be progressing well, but also felt very tired and probably had low blood sugar. Time was doing odd things, seconds stretched but hours vanished. At about 7:30am I woke Pete up and asked him to call the midwife. I knew I wasn't ready for them to come but I just wanted to get Pete involved somehow and I needed some support at this point. He was brilliant. The few hours sleep had galvanised him and from the moment he woke up he was a pillar of strength and reassurance. He got me energy drinks and got me to eat some lovely fruit salad and things instantly seemed more positive.
He got the pool out and filled it up. Oh it was heavenly. But as with the bath, it slowed things right down again. I spent an hour in it and reluctantly got out, thinking of the 24 hour antibiotic hospital visit deadline and wanting to get things going again. Pete made me eat some soup and bread as my energy levels kept crashing and the surges were getting harder to stay relaxed though. My shoulders kept taking the weight of my body as I lent over the sofa or on the stairs, then the tension would rapidly spread through my body, despite my consistent wave visualisations and long deep breaths, in through my nose and out through my mouth. I started barking massage requests at Pete between surges and they helped a lot. Soft touch massage was great in between surges too but during them I found I didn't want to be touched.
The midwife we spoke to on the phone, Mariette, was brilliant, gentle, warm and kind, giving us lots of moral support during several update conversations in the afternoon. I loved the woman before she'd even arrived as she just knew what to say without being patronising or pushy. We had printed out our birth preferences but realised only after the birth that we'd never even show it to her. She just instinctively knew how best to support us and gave me the most reassuring, gentle internal examination. I was sitting on towels folded around the toilet seat by the time she arrived. I can't remember what time as it had stopped meaning much. Pete was giving me shoulder rubs I between surges and I kept asking how long they were getting. The time from 45 second ones to over 60 second ones seemed to last forever, but it was a milestone when they suddenly seemed to intensify and lengthen.
The only thing I wanted to do was lean my head and upper body into Pete while he kept breathing with me and reaffirming my ability to do this and telling me how well I was doing. He kept feeding me soup and bread between surges which really kept me going, though was hard to force down. It was the toughest section of the whole labour. I felt I couldn't move from the toilet and although it was a nice calm, small, dark space, I temporarily felt a bit trapped by my body and how hard it was becoming to relax enough. I had very high expectations of myself, but in my darkest, most unsure hour I wouldn't have been able to stay positive and push on, literally, without Pete. He was just amazing. When he went downstairs for something I would be desperate for him to come back in time for the next surge as he made them so much less intimidating.
When Mariette arrived she calmly did what she needed to do, checking blood pressure and heart beat, working around my surges and being incredibly sensitive. She really didn't put any pressure on me having an examination, but by then I needed to feel I was getting somewhere. I said only tell me if it's good news. Fortunately it was. I was five-six cm dilated and shortly afterwards started having some bearing down urges. The toilet I was in was on the second floor. The stairs between the basement where the pool was and my safe little bolt hole felt like a descent of Mount Everest. I remember thinking: Focus on the water. Just get to the water, everything will be easier then. And it was. Marietta was sounding excited when she called the second midwife and I was surprised at how quickly the transition period had happened.
As soon as I made it to the pool, a massive light went on at the end of the tunnel. Pete got in with me and though I was shivering uncontrollably, my mood instantly changed and the endorphins hit home. The second stage was incredible. I felt like superwoman and knew I could give birth beautifully. The bearing down surges were incredibly powerful and it was a refreshing change not to have to fight the tension, just go with it and relish its unstoppable power. It was like relinquishing the controls to my body which just knew how to do everything. I was cracking bad jokes in between and could really relax and genuinely feel empowered and joyful again. I knew we were going to do it. On our terms, as we'd planned.
Pete talked Mariette through finding his climbing head-torch in our tardis-like kitchen cupboard under the stairs and I found it funny watching her peering into my birth passage with the same torch that Pete had used when we climbed the Cullin ridge in Skye, plus numerous camping and surfing trips. The urge to bear down was a very exhilarating one, a determined Mother Nature took over and I was carried along on a tidal wave of energy rippling down determinedly through my body. I breathed strongly down with the surges, making a less-than-meditative sound as I did so which felt primeval and gutteral to my core. I felt utterly invincible again, despite massive shivering fits which convulsed every muscle in my body.
When Pete got in behind me to hold me his body warmth and support took away the worst of the shivers. I knew we were on the home straight and felt utterly elated and excited to be about to hold our baby for the first time. We were so engaged in the present, the hazy last few hours slipped away and all fatigue dropped away, another giant switch inside, as surprising and welcome as when my waters broke. No doubt the oxytocin and endorphins pumping into my system were orchestrating this epic high, and golly I wouldn't have missed this experience for the world. I'm not sure how long the second stage took but it felt like a dance to the finishing line. I think it was around 40 minutes but could have been less. I was flying high a time bubble of positive, super euphoric baby anticipation. Soon after I hit the pool, our two second midwives arrived to take over from Mariette. I was able to welcome them chattily, between shivers and surges.
Pete asked Polly if she'd mind putting the kettle on as our boiler had suddenly stopped working, right on cue. The poor woman must have heard that as often as I've been asked how tall am I. I quietly scolded Pete but we were both giggling. She was a brilliant sport and got the hot water on, then had the glamorous task of grabbing a sieve as my last downward surge had been particularly strong. I didn't feel embarrassed in the slightest as she gave chase to my little poohs which seemed to want to evade capture. All usual social taboos might as well have applied to a different solar system, let alone planet, but I remember joking with her about the perks of the job. In the build up to this day, I'd thought Pete would be a bit more squeamish about this happening, but he didn't bat an eyelid and kept supporting me and encouraging me. Mariette checked the baby's heart rate and all was perfect. She didn't do any internal examinations but when I put my finger gently inside I could feel the top of a hairy head. This was just a jolt and a joy, I knew he would be here in a matter of pushes. I was feeling cold but it ceased to reach my inner state of focus and calm, even when convulsions of shivering took my body over. Mariette was reluctant to go at this last stage as things were moving along so rapidly and smoothly, but she'd had a very long day and had children of her own to look after, so bade us farewell. I would have hugged her if I hadn't been somewhat occupied. It all felt like a party. The ultimate welcome party.
The strong bearing down surges were moving baby into position beautifully and after about four I could feel his fury little head about 3cm inside me. In the next couple he eased down so his head was crowning. This was the part I had expected to smart, but it just felt exhilarating and powerful. I was flying so high on endorphins and oxytocin, it was like running the last few hundreds yards of this marathon punching the air and celebrating the approaching finish, having baby in my arms. I really wanted Pete to catch him/her as he left my body and to be the one to announce the sex as he placed baby on my chest, so when he got out for a pee he stayed out and went down the other end. The extra space in the pool helped me to get an even better position, and the next couple of pushes were very positive. I could feel the curve of his head, and at the end of each surge I felt him slipping back inside a bit. This gave me time to relax into the next surge, but it was also a bit of a tease.
Finally I knew he was so close to being free, his head was teetering on the very balance point. Right then I knew this was the last surge and took a deep final breath, bore down and out he glided, in one swift, smooth long flow, head, shoulders, knees and toes. It was an incredible sensation as he passed through the birth canal so easily and Pete received him and laid him straight up to my chest. His eyes were wide open and he stared up while he filled his lungs and let out his first indignant yell to greet us and the world. His head had a generous top half of white vernix, making him look like a warrior. His body was lovely and pink though, with only blue feet and hands. I held him as he stared up unblinking and it was the most breathtaking moment. He was just so perfect and felt so familiar instantly.
After 20 mins in the pool we were getting cold and though the cord was still gently pulsing, decided he needed to be warm. Pete cut the cord and held him while I delivered the placenta into box held above the water by Polly. Then Polly and Erica helped me get him to feed, skin to skin, for the precious colostrum. He was very squirmy and wanted to suck his hands rather than my breast but we got there in the end.
I had a few minor abrasions and a couple of tiny little tears which Polly gave me a couple of stitches for but nothing bad and certainly nothing to touch my euphoria. They have healed really quickly.
All three midwives absolutely loved being a part of such a gentle, natural birth and were obviously buzzing as well. Max was born at 9:30pm after an active labour of about three hours.
Max has a slight posterior tongue tie which they are going to do the small snip op for to make to easier to latch, but he's feeding well and my nipples are getting used to it with the occasional help of some shields, thank goodness for silicon! Breast milk helps to sooth the nipple in the teat when he finishes feeding. It is also amazing for clearing blocked noses too, miracle stuff.
We went for a lovely long walk in the woods today and I ran back to meet my friend, a 20 min jog with no problem.
Max is simply the best Christmas present ever, and he arrived in time for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary too!
Pete and I would like to say a massive thank you for your brilliant training and words of calm wisdom. It was the birth we had both desperately craved and with your help we turned our positive visualisation into a joyful reality and gave Max the best introduction to the world we possibly could. He's had skin time with mum and dad every day and is a very chilled out, loveable baby who is so cute it hurts.
If you would like us to come and talk to any of your groups to answer questions and reaffirm how well these techniques work, we'd be delighted.
Heather, Pete and Max
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