As I quickly approach my second birth, I am reflecting more and more on my first birth with my daughter Quinn. This is the birth that led me to this amazing positive approach to birth – one I had never heard of or seen prior to researching something to help with my fear around birth.
I’ll take it back and start from the beginning…it turns out my husband, Max, and I needed the help of IVF to conceive. After a long journey to get to the point of being pregnant, I hadn’t even considered the fact I would actually have to give birth but it didn’t take long before my joy of falling pregnant turned to fear at the thought of birth. I tried to find a Doula (in my mind a referee for if Max told me to ‘relax’) but because I was due on 2 Jan everyone I contacted was away from the festive season. So I gave up on my search and just decided that I would find a way to manage. After all – isn’t that what everyone else did?
My care was with a Midwife through the Armadale Hospital Midwifery Group Practice and I was really happy with her. Due to my IVF conception, I was required to see one of the hospital Specialists to be checked over and ensure there were no high risks presenting. All was fine and even though I didn’t have any risks presenting, the Specialist booked me in to see her every 4 weeks as well as 4 weekly scans. It was tough seeing the Midwife, Specialist and all the scans but we managed because we thought that was what we had to do. The hospitals policy for IVF conceptions is that they should be induced at 40 weeks, however I was really happy that all parties agreed there was no need for me to go down that path if everything continued low risk.
We attended the hospital antenatal classes and the one thing that sticks in my mind was the talk about pain relief. This triggered my fear in a very real way. I did not like any option available for either myself or my unborn baby. This is the first time I questioned ‘just getting the epidural’ because everything up until that point made me think it was something I would happily do. So I really started to spiral with my fear and this made me question the way I envisaged my birth. Why would pain relief be my first option when I don’t even like taking a panadol for a headache?
So my search for someone or something to help me with my fears started again and at 36 weeks I found the Hypnobubs online course (the online version of the Positive Birth Program I teach today). Max was immediately on board so I downloaded the course and we jumped straight in. It all made so much sense and my fears were quickly easing. That is not to say I didn’t have meltdown moments but Max was the strongest support and was able to get me back on track (without a ‘just relax’ in sight!).
I told my Midwife we were using hypnobirthing and although I was her very first client to use these techniques, she was happy to accommodate my requests and work with me using this method as my pain relief along with the birth pool. My 40 weeks hit and although there was no pressure to induce immediately, there was talk of booking in at 40+10. I didn’t like those discussions but I entertained them because I thought I didn’t have a choice and at 40+5 my Midwife booked me in for an induction date. Thankfully at exactly 41 weeks, I woke with some tightenings and I was pretty sure it was go time!
I woke at 6.30am after a full night sleep and thought ‘Ooo, what’s that?’. My first surge! I then had another one about 10 minutes later and that got me a bit excited (because I had been having braxton hicks for weeks prior but nothing regular), then after the third at what seemed to be a regular time apart I decided I would start timing them. They were coming regularly but were very manageable so I decided to let Max sleep while I had a slow start to the morning timing my surges. We already had a Midwife appointment booked for 9am that morning so off we went. My Midwife confirmed we were in early labour but said it could go on like it was for a while before I was in established labour. She offered a stretch and sweep to try and kick things along and I agreed – I still had that fear of the induction date having being booked and a stretch and sweep felt like the best way to ensure that wouldn’t happen.
By the time we got home from that appointment it was about 10am and my surges were really starting to intensify. I was sitting on the fit ball leaning over the arm of our couch with Max doing light touch massage during each surge. We thought we would try to watch some Brooklyn 99 in between my surges but I needed it to be quiet during my surge so the start/stop was too distracting so we gave up on that.
After about 1.5 hours (with no concept of time as it was happening but things seemed to be moving quickly) I had a real urge to lie down so I took myself to bed and laid on my side. Max was still doing light touch massage but I remember starting to feel really agitated and just could not get comfortable. Then – my waters broke! Boy did that supercharge the intensity of what I was experiencing. We called my midwife and she said she wanted us to come back to hospital. It was about midday at this stage so I got myself up and tried to get ready to get to hospital while Max tried to get some lunch sorted and pack the car. I had a quick rinse off in the shower and as I got out I couldn’t move myself. I was forward leaning over the bathroom sink, my legs were shaking, my mind was telling me I couldn’t do it. I was alone at that time and I needed Max – but every part of me had gone within and I couldn’t call out. Thank goodness I recognised these signs of transition because it was the main thing that helped me get through that time.
It took about an hour for me to get out the house, into the car and to the hospital (a 5 minute drive). Max dropped me at the door and I was met by my Midwife while he went to park the car. We took the stairs up to the labour ward and got into the assessment room. It was all such a blur at this time but my Midwife did a vaginal examination and the urgency for her to get me into a birth suite and the pool filled up increased. I remember her saying to me ‘just tell me if you need to do a poo’ and I went to the toilet and had a sudden urge to. Max was close by and I said quietly to him that I really needed to and he relayed that to my Midwife. Nothing come of that – I assume she was still scrambling to get a room as it was a really busy day on the ward. When I had to get up and move to my birth suite, that urge went away.
As soon as we got into the birth suite, I was in the shower leaning forward onto Max’s legs as he sat on a chair and ran water over my back while they filled the birth pool – twice (they didn’t like the colour of the water the first time). Max was helping with making sure I was breathing long, deep breaths to keep me calm and in control. Then I finally got the go ahead to get into the pool and as soon as I entered it was instant relief! I was SO happy I was in that pool and knew this is what my body and mind needed.
We got some relaxing music on and the diffuser to set a nice birth space. I was leaning forward over the edge of the pool and although I didn’t need much from Max at this point, I did need him there for me to hang onto during each surge. After some time, I was starting to get that poo urge again. As I felt it was time to change in breathing, my Midwife asked me to turn over to be on my back because she couldn’t see what was happening. Everything inside me was screaming ‘Nooo! I don’t want to’, but I did because she asked me to and I was so suggestible in my birthing state (and if I’m honest, I didn’t know I had a choice to say no).
As my baby started crowning, the excitement in the room increased. My Midwife, the supporting Midwife and Max were getting so excited for me saying baby was nearly here! This got me excited and it caused me to unwillingly switch from following the urges of my body to then pushing it harder than I felt it was wanting to. I did end up with tearing and I often wonder that if I had of just listened to my body whether I would have been able to avoid that.
But I did it! I birthed my baby girl and pulled her up onto my chest just before 5pm that same evening. I was in complete shock at what I had just done without any pain relief – without even a panadol or the gas and air! I was assisted out of the pool and onto the bed to birth my placenta. I could feel the endorphins and oxytocin coursing through my body and Max said he couldn’t believe the natural high he was seeing me on. It was truly something else!
I birthed my placenta 1 hour after the birth of my baby and shortly after the doctor came in to stitch me up. My Midwife did some preliminary checks on our baby girl and I was able to go shower while Max cuddled our precious bundle that had just entered the world. I felt incredible! I was sore, but I barely noticed that. We got moved to the ward where I would be settling in for the night. My parents bought us some food (we never did get that lunch that Max was trying to prepare as I was transitioning), the new grandparents got in a quick 10 minute visit before visiting hours were over and that was that. All in a days work…I had naturally birthed my baby in the most positive of circumstances when I was filled with fear only months earlier.
I don’t want to take anything away from how positive that experience was for me, but there are a few lessons that I will be taking into my second birth that I thought I would share:
- I don’t have to agree to an induction if there are no risks presenting (and even if there are risks, it’s still my choice). This put pressure and stress on me towards the end of my pregnancy and also encouraged me to agree to a stretch and sweep when I didn’t really need that painful and intrusive intervention.
2. I would have been better prepared for my transfer to hospital and my time in the assessment room – eye mask, headphones with music. With that urge to push as soon as I arrived at hospital, I think my change in settings and the checks conducted on me stalled my labour slightly.
3. I wouldn’t have changed positions when the Midwife asked me to as baby started crowning.
4. I would have asked for no talk / chatter / encouragement as baby was crowning so I could really tune into the urges of my body.
Ultimately, I have never been so proud of myself or something I have done before. It has also lead me to this incredible journey of sharing the program with other women and helping them achieve their own positive births. It is so possible and I am living proof of that.