This is the story of Mila’s hypnobirth, the birth was short, the story a long and beautiful one that shows just how those bumps in the road can be got around. It shows how things shift and change, and reminds me why mindfulness and hypnosis are so good at teaching us that nothing is permanent, and everything is manageable. Thank you to the wonderful Kym and Pete for sharing Mila’s hypnobirthing story. I remember your journey starting and was so privileged to be a part of it. I hope you, the reader, enjoy it!
My first child, Oliver, was born by ventouse after a 36 hour labour, I suffered a double episiotomy and had a post partum haemorrhage which required a blood transfusion. I later went on to develop a uterine infection which required a course of strong antibiotics which put an end to our fledgling nursing relationship. With my second child I was determined that I would do everything that I could to make things different for us both.
Eleven years had passed between my pregnancies and while many of my friends had very similar birth stories to my first, I had also begun to hear different stories, of home births, hypnobirths, drug free births, and I knew before my second child was conceived that if I was to have another child I would need to find out how some people could have these ‘easy’ births and others, like me, had such a difficult time. My first baby was 8b1.5 oz, so while he was a sizeable baby for me at 5ft0’’, he was certainly no giant, and I knew many women of small stature birthing much larger babies without difficulty, so I felt sure this wasn’t the reason.
As a counsellor with a special interest in the mind/body connection I decided that the only way to really understand the success that my friends and sisters had experienced with hypnobirthing was to train as a teacher, I had heard of Mindful Mamma via friends, and as someone who already practised mindfulness I was drawn to the unique approach of incorporating mindfulness with hypnosis. The training was a real eye opener and I remember by the end of the first day getting back to my hotel room and crying for what seemed like hours as the trauma of my first birth was released and I recognised deep in my body and soul that what had happened during my first birth had been unnecessary, my buried feelings of fear and failure about giving birth lifted and I felt a sense of trust in my body as a woman, designed to grow and birth babies, returning.
Some months later Pete and I decided that the time was right for us to try for a baby, and within a few short weeks we were blessed.
Almost as soon as I found out that I was pregnant I began using the Mindful Mamma meditations on a daily basis, to relax and connect with the baby growing inside me. Pete and I would listen together before falling asleep at night, and I would often use them when resting during the day too. I developed an insatiable appetite for you tube videos of natural, hypno, home and water births. Conditioning my mind to see birth as natural, relaxed, easy and without the need for any medical intervention.
When we went for our booking in appointment at 8 weeks we explained to the midwife that we would like to have a home birth, she was supportive but told us that as I had a previous pph (post part haemorrhage) I would need to see a consultant to have this signed off as they would usually suggest a hospital birth rather than birthing at home or even the midwife led unit.
The appointment with the consultant was scheduled for when I was 30 weeks pregnant, and couldn’t come quick enough for me, I was desperate to have him agree to our home birth and knew that I would need to do a lot of work on my mindset if he refused and I had to give birth in hospital – which wasn’t what I wanted. When the appointment finally arrived we discussed the risks and options with the consultant and while he said that due to the risk of a second pph, he ‘would recommend’ a hospital delivery, he wouldn’t stand in our way of having a home birth and supported our decision. It was clear in my mind that my previous pph had been caused by the cascade of medical interventions that had happened during my first birth and I felt sure that if I could labour and birth differently this time a pph wouldn’t occur.
I felt elated at this news, and felt I could finally start planning our home birth…until… at our 34 week appointment the midwife told us that our baby was lying in a breech position, our daughters head was under my ribs, bottom and legs down, she explained that this could affect our desired home birth and that if the baby didn’t turn by 37 weeks we would be again looking at a hospital birth, or even a cesarean section.
Determined again that this wouldn’t be the case I spent the next two weeks doing inversions, scrubbing our floors, and Pete, who was now half way through training to be a hypnotherapist himself used a script for turning breech babies, after he used this I knew our baby was moving differently and I secretly felt he had been successful in getting her to turn around.
At our next appointment I was nervous as the midwife palpated my tummy, and relieved when she told us we had indeed managed to turn our little one around, she was head down and it was full steam ahead for our home birth!
On the 26th of February, at 40 weeks and 4 days pregnant, we decided to go for a walk up the White Horse, I had wanted to be fit enough throughout my pregnancy to walk the loop around it which ended with a steep incline. As I stood at the top of the hill I felt like I was standing on top of the world, empowered, and ready for the birth of our baby.
We went to bed as usual that evening, and as had become usual I awoke at around 3am needing to go to the toilet. As I sat there for what seemed an eternity I realised that I wasn’t having the longest wee in the history of man, my waters had broken! I woke Pete up and told him, and we phoned the midwives, although they initially asked us to come in to be checked over they agreed to come out to us instead. Two midwives arrived around 3.30am with our home birth box, they checked and agreed that my waters had gone, they could feel that I was having contractions but I couldn’t feel anything other than gentle irregular tightening. One midwife wanted to put a canular into me and started asking about my shoe size having seen how tall Pete is(6ft4) in comparison to me, I knew she was trying to ascertain whether she thought I would have difficulty delivering a potentially large baby, and she questioned what I expected would happen if I was to have another bleed while delivering at home. I felt unruffled by this and calm as I told her that we would deal with it if it happened. She then said that as my waters had broken I would be given 24 hours to go into established labour at home, and that after that I would have to go into hospital because of the risk of infection. I felt the pressure of the medical model but also determined to just stay within myself and believe in myself and my baby. After they had gone I decided to get back in to bed with Pete and listen to my mindful mamma music, I dozed on and off, feeling relaxed and excited knowing that whatever happened our baby would be here soon.
At 8am we asked our friend to come and pick up Oliver, as this was our plan for when I was in labour and I continued to relax in bed. Around 10.30am we decided to watch a film together, I struggled to get comfortable – (which wasn’t unusual at this stage of pregnancy! ) and decided that I’d rather be up and moving around instead. Pete went downstairs and prepared our living room which is where I had decided that I wanted to give birth. He closed the curtains, turned on twinkly lights and blew up the birthing pool ‘just incase’, but we didn’t feel that we needed to fill it with water yet. I stayed upstairs bouncing on my birth ball, the curtains were still drawn and it felt right to me to stay in one small area of our bedroom. Pete popped up and down checking in on me.
At around 12 o clock I could feel that the tightenings that I had started to notice were getting stronger and that I was naturally using my lengthening breath in rhythm with them. Pete came in and sat on my birth ball while I leant on him and we chatted, he decided that he wanted to fill the birthing pool, always one to be prepared for any eventuality! While he went downstairs to fill the pool I decided to start timing my contractions or ‘surges’, as they felt like they were becoming quite regular. To my surprise they were coming around every 3-5 minutes and lasting around 50 seconds, as I watched and timed over the next ten minutes or so they increased in frequency and length to every 2-3 minutes and over a minute in length. I decided that I needed to come out of my bedroom and started to pace in the hallway, recognising from my first birth a desire to stay on my feet. Pete was still downstairs and I sent him message at 12.20pm saying ‘I seem to have started to make a noise like a coffee percolator!’ I was in good spirits, aware that my breathing wasn’t staying as I’d practiced and that I wanted to hum or make other noises as I breathed out.
Pete came and helped me downstairs, I wanted to see what the room looked like and thought maybe it would be a good time start doing some of the activities I had planned for early labour – like reading blessing cards from the women at my blessing way, and making a ‘twiddler’ out of the special beads I had chosen. When I got downstairs I was overwhelmed by how beautiful the room looked, the pool was almost filled and had a cover on to keep the water warm.
The surges started to feel really strong quite soon after I was downstairs, and I asked Pete to call the midwife, just to let them know. They asked to speak to me and while I was on the phone to them I had a contraction which made it impossible for me to speak. They said that they would send a midwife out straight away.
I continued to pace around, and opened one of the blessing cards, although I found it difficult to concentrate as all of my attention was being drawn in to my body and managing my breathing. I felt as though I wasn’t getting much rest between one surge and the next.
At 1pm a midwife called Louise that we hadn’t met before turned up in ‘normal’ clothes rather than in uniform, ‘I am a midwife’ she explained cheerfully, ‘I didn’t expect to be going out of the office today so I didn’t have chance to put my uniform on’. I couldn’t have been more glad to see anyone ‘not in uniform’. Louise immediately felt like she could have been an aunt or other close female relative or friend, and I think not being in uniform really helped with this. We had a chat about what had happened so far and how I was doing, and Louise suggested that she examined me, I wasn’t looking forward to this as I knew it would mean laying down when I wanted to be upright. I felt that my surges were quite strong, although I was coping with them well and joked, ‘If you tell me I’m only 1cm I’ll be really upset!’
At 1.30pm Louise examined me and broke the news to me that I was indeed, only 1cm and that my cervix was still posterior. I remember feeling a little scared at this point as I really felt that my surges were coming quite strongly. Louise tried to do some breathing with me as try as hard as I could to use the lengthening breath, I just wanted to make noise on the out breath, I felt like I was making a ‘mooing’ noise. As I wasn’t considered to be in established labour Louise said that she would go home, as her shift was almost finished and that she would get someone to check on me again later. ‘Do you have to go?!’ I said, half laughing, but actually meaning it, I knew that I didn’t want her to go and that my body was working quicker than it looked.
Louise suggested that I get in the pool as that might help me to relax. As I got in I instantly felt the relief provided by the warm water, and not being on my feet allowed me to get into a more comfortable position leaning over the edge of the pool. As I did this I had the biggest surge yet and could feel that I had an urge to push. I held on to Pete and said to him and to Louise, ‘I can’t do many more like that!!’, they reassured me that I could and to just relax, I felt an imperceptible exchange of knowing between myself and Louise, as we looked at each other and she tried to get me to breathe rather than make noise through the next surge, which was another big one. Pete talked to me, reassured me and boosted my confidence as the next few surges came; they all felt really intense, I felt very powerful during them, I knew I needed to follow what my body wanted me to do, rather than try to do anything a particular way, for me this meant making much more noise than any of the women I’d seen on youtube! Making noise, literally roaring, helped me to cope and to feel strong, it was a primal urge and I couldn’t have been quiet if I’d tried! Louise asked if I felt I needed to push and I said that I did.
At this point I think Louise knew that I was in transition and attempted to call the office to send the second midwife, as it was she had trouble getting through, and when she did I was making so much noise that they couldn’t hear her!
Louise asked if she could examine me again to check what was happening. I had to turn on to my back in the water to be examined, which I didn’t like, but I will never forget my feeling of joy as she looked into my eyes less and said, ‘you’re going to have this baby now, you’re fully dilated!’
Once I knew I could push my body took over in a totally different way, it felt like I was doing something, rather than just managing what was happening to me. I felt our baby moving down bit by bit. As she crowned there was a stinging sensation, and then quickly her head was out, I looked down to see her, and shifted position so that Louise had her hand underneath her as I breathed the rest of her out and she was born into the water, into my hands, where I then lifted her out of the water, she cried immediately and I was overcome with amazement, she was perfect, ‘We did it!’ I exclaimed to Pete. At 2.04pm, 34 minutes after the first examination, our daughter, Mila Francesca, was born.
Pete put a towel around me to keep me warm as we had been told that this helped to prevent haemorrhaging.
When Mila’s cord was clear of blood and had stopped pulsating, Louise clamped the cord and Pete cut it. I handed Mila to Pete so that I could deliver the placenta. I opted for a managed third stage to help prevent haemorrhage, Louise gave me a shot of syntocin in my thigh and I quickly delivered the placenta, no haemmorhaging, blood loss normal. The second midwife arrived a few minutes later