Even though it went very well from a medical point of view, I’d experienced the birth of my first son as something quite traumatic. It had been an unassisted delivery, but I’d found it incredibly painful and had felt out of control through most of it. I’d requested an epidural but hadn’t got it, and had had flashbacks about it for weeks. Thinking about it made me cry, and guilt ate up at me, because I was certain I would never be able to put myself through it again, which meant my son would never have a sibling…Fast forward a couple of years, and I was enough over the trauma to get pregnant again. My pregnancy was as hard as my first, and I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarium.
Thankfully though, I read about hypnobirthing about 10 weeks before my due date, and found a podcast in which Siobhan explains what hypnobirthing really is. Convinced by her explanations, I immediately went to her website and purchased the digital pack. Absolute best decision I could have made! I spent the next ten weeks completing the course, sharing the relevant episodes with my husband, and religiously practising my breathing, reading positive stories, etc. And what a difference it made!
My surges started around 9pm, except I didn’t recognise them immediately. I’d had quite a few false alarms, and I didn’t recognise the feeling either from my previous experience or from how it was described in the hypnobirthing course. It just felt like someone had put their hands in my vagina and was trying to pull it open. When my husband came to bed, he asked me if they were surges, and I told him they weren’t, that it was probably just my body doing yet another weird thing in preparation for birth. I did tell him to go sleep on the couch though, because there was no way he’d be able to sleep next to me as I was wide awake.
Now that he’d mention it though, the doubt was planted in my mind and I started mentally tracking them. I realised the feeling did last about one minute each time and came back fairly regularly. I went to the toilet (diarrhoea had been a constant companion of mine for a few days/weeks) and once I was sitting rather than lying down, the feeling suddenly became familiar!
By 11pm, I was finally convinced this was it, and I asked my husband to wire me to the TENS machine, so I could start stocking up on all the lovely hormones. He brought my yoga ball up to our bedroom and I told him to try and have some more sleep. I called the midwives around midnight just to check how close together the surges should be before I went to the hospital. They were very manageable, and I wanted to stay at home as long as possible, but I also didn’t want to give birth in the taxi! They were very happy for me to stay at home for as long as was manageable, but said I should come to the hospital if they got to 3 minutes apart.
By 1am, my surges were 3-4 minutes apart, however, they didn’t feel too powerful yet so I still wanted to wait a little bit longer to give both my husband and toddler as much sleep as possible. At that point, my heart was breaking in a million pieces at the idea of waking up my toddler in the middle of the night to let him know that Mummy and Daddy needed to go to the hospital, but it was becoming quite obvious that I wouldn ‘t be able to hold it off until morning!
We eventually called the neighbors and one of them came to stay at our place. My husband woke our eldest to let him know, but of course, he found it quite hard to get back to sleep. I remembered then to call the midwives to let them know I was now coming in, and asked them if they could get the pool ready. The taxi arrived and my husband was still with our son, who was in tears, probably both tired and confused. Considering how close the surges were getting, I decided to get into the taxi alone, and let my husband join me when he could. My priority was for my son not to be left scared and confused. (Incidentally, he woke up back up as soon as my husband left, and our neighbor ended up playing with him through the night!)
At 2.30am, the taxi dropped me off at the maternity entrance, only for me to discover it was closed at night! So, with my TENS machine still on and two backpacks, I started walking around the hospital to get to the main entrance, feeling quite proud that I was not only able to do that but also leave a couple of video messages to some girlfriends!
I reached the birth centre, and after another stop to the toilets, the midwife took me to the birthing room. The pool was already half-filled. The midwife checked how far along I was, and I was a little disappointed when she told me I was 2cm dilated. The surges had been perfectly managed and I thought I’d come in much too early and could have let my son sleep a little longer. My cervix was however very soft and she reassured me I’d been right to come in, and that centimetres didn’t mean much with a second pregnancy.
My husband arrived just then and she updated him. We didn’t want to slow down labor, and since I felt perfectly in control just walking around with the TENS machine, I waited until getting into the pool. My husband set up my oil diffuser and connected my phone to our speakers, so that I could hear the Freya app more easily. I put him in charge of tapping the app whenever a surge started as I found it very helpful to have the calm and steady breathing count. I’d been using the app for weeks to do my breathing and relaxation exercises, and by then, my brain and body were pretty much programmed to relax at the first few notes of piano! I used the birthing ball a little bit but actually felt best just walking around.
At one point, I noticed a big pool of water near the birthing pool and panicked that it was leaking and I wouldn’t get my water birth, but the midwife had just forgotten to turn off the tap and it was overflowing! We turned it off and my husband called the midwife. We all started mopping but she told us to focus on our birth, so we let her to it, even though I felt well enough for my husband to help her between surges, so long as he’d take me in his arms when the surges hit.
The surges eventually grew quite powerful and I asked the midwives if they could check me to see if I could now get into the pool. They told me I could just go in without them checking dilation. I was worried about slowing down labor, but they reassured me that 1) it didn’t seem likely at this point and 2) I could always step back out if needed. Labor didn’t slow, and hot water was absolute bliss!
Labor progressed steadily, and I stayed in perfect control through the whole of the first stage. I was waiting for the “transition feeling” I’d read about, but couldn’t really identify it. There came a point when I started panicking a bit though, but I think by then the feeling was already in my bum. I found the down stage very difficult to cope with and lost control for 5 or 6 surges. The midwives realised before my husband (and even myself) that I was starting to panic and encouraged me to focus back on my breathing, but I didn’t really manage, and the down breathing went out the window. I managed to regain control once baby’s head was out, and was incredibly focused / determined for the push that would get his shoulders out, literally growling! The midwife passed him between my legs and I found myself with this curled-up warm little body in my hands! One of the midwives quickly removed the cord that was around his neck and I sat back in the water, with my little wonder against me.