Francesca, a first time mum, attended one of our hypnobirthing courses in the summer. She was so calm and in control when she arrived at the hospital that even the midwives didn’t think that she was in labour. Here’s her story…
Before I fell pregnant I had never heard of hypnobirthing. People started to tell me about it quite early on in my pregnancy but I never gave it any serious thought. I’d booked my NCT class and figured I didn’t need to do hypnobirthing as well…
That all changed at 26 weeks when we found ourselves in hospital at 3am after two days of regular tightening’s and having just had a major bleed. My suspected preterm labour thankfully turned out to be a false alarm – but a major reality check.
Like a lot of people, I had issues with hospitals. Unlike a lot of people, I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 23 and seven years later was still dealing with the post-traumatic fallout and a major case of doctor fear. But for me the only thing scarier than giving birth in hospital was not giving birth in hospital. Conundrum. My solution? To throw every possible pre-birth preparation technique at the problem I could think of. Yoga, mindfulness, daily affirmations, perineal massage, NCT, positive birth groups, private hypnotherapy and, of course, hypnobirthing.
I went into labour one sunny Thursday in early August. It was about 5am when the cramps woke me, but having had cramps every night since Monday, along with a fully-fledged false labour scare complete with a trip to hospital, I thought nothing of it. I got up as I had for the last four nights, made myself some breakfast and put a film on to distract me. By the time my partner Dan got up a few hours later the surges were still coming so I asked him to stay home from work ‘just in case’.
I was 38 weeks and had my routine midwife appointment at midday so figured I would just wait till then and see what she thought. In the meantime I pottered about, ate some pasta (at 8am) and went for a walk. Despite moving at the pace of a snail and having to stop and lean on Dan while I breathed through surges which were, by now, intense and regular, I still didn’t really believe I was in labour.
The midwife appointment came and went. She agreed that I could potentially be in labour but after watching me breath through a few surges didn’t seem that concerned so I figured she was probably just being polite and, as I suspected, that I wasn’t really in labour. So off we went. We stopped at the bakery, I did a bit of grocery shopping, brought a few extra ‘just in case’ emergency supplies and meandered on home. The surges were intense, but manageable. I took every one as it came, breathed and focused, then got back on with my day. I sat in the garden and ate my muffin from the bakery, did some laundry, tidied my desk and even had a nap.
At about 3pm I woke with intensifying cramps, so finally decided that maybe I better start timing them. I put on the hypnobirthing rainbow relaxation track for a while, dozing and timing surges, before mustering the motivation to go and have a pee. With a jolt I looked down and saw a lot of blood. All I could think of was my scare at 26 weeks and that something must be wrong. Despite being worried I continued to breathe through surges and used my affirmations to keep calm on the way to hospital.
But once there still no one seemed to really believe I was in labour, and as a result even I continued to not really think I was – we were only there because I was worried something was wrong with the baby. I was rigged up to the monitoring machine and told I needed to wait to be examined by a doctor. Half an hour went by, the surges intensified, I sent Dan to get the midwife who told me I still needed to wait. Another 20 minutes, strange noises were starting to come out of me; I sent Dan off again and was told again that I needed to wait. 10 minutes after that and suddenly feeling like I wanted to push, Dan was dispatched a third and final time with instructions to bring the midwife back to examine me, which she finally did. Over the sound of someone who sounded a lot like me mooing I heard her exclaim with surprise that I was already 9cm. Finally I was rushed to the delivery unit, and finally I really realised that I was actually in labour – and probably just about to have a baby.
All then was whirlwind. People rushing, midwives talking and doctors scrambling to get a cannula in my arm to dispense the antibiotics I needed because I had Group B Strep. I continued to breathe and managed to keep my focus, but somewhere amid the chaos, or perhaps because my baby wasn’t in quite the right position, the actual birthing phase ended up taking quite a lot longer than anyone expected.
After almost two hours of trying to breathe my baby out(but having no concept of how much time was passing) my midwife started to talk about ‘options’. I knew what this meant, and I wasn’t up for it. Having had such a rushed arrival to hospital I hadn’t ended up on the birth suite like I wanted and had instead found myself stranded on a hospital delivery bed. In the fog of labour I couldn’t think how to change position from all-fours but now knew that I needed to do something. Dan managed to get a birthing stool in the room and after that things finally started moving.
While our midwife nipped out of the room to find her supervisor I pushed for all I was worth. By the time she and the supervisor were back in to talk me through intervention options the baby’s head was crowning and I could feel I was almost there.
Oscar arrived shortly after without intervention or pain relief, at about 10pm and weighing 8lbs 8ozs. Looking down and seeing his naked little body on the cushion beneath me I remember feeling overwhelmed with both awe and relief. I had done it. He was here; and he was perfect. It was love at first sight. He didn’t cry at all, and as I held him I kept asking if he was okay – why wasn’t he crying? But of course he fine, and in retrospect I feel strongly that the reason he was so calm is because I was so calm – throughout my pregnancy, labour and even the birth. He was a hypnobirthing baby!
I feel immensely grateful that I decided to sign up for a hypnobirthing course, and in particular with Bumps ’n Babies. The fact that Sharon was also a midwife gave me enormous confidence in what I was learning. Even in the face of intervention I managed to keep my head, and keep breathing, which given the fear I went into this pregnancy with, is a miracle beyond description.
In the days following Oscar’s birth, and as I fell more and more in love with my son, the relief I first felt quickly turned to pride that I had managed to do this extraordinary thing that is giving birth. It’s an experience I will carry with me always, and I suspect forever be one of the most amazing things I have ever done. Giving birth has changed me as a person; it’s made me stronger and more believing of myself. Four and a half months on I still can’t really believe I did it, but the evidence is sat here grinning in front of me, so I guess I did!