First Time: The Birth of a Mother and Baby Ania
I hadn’t given childbirth a lot of thought before I became pregnant with my first daughter and although news of my pregnancy evoked a general feeling of joy in everyone I told, there were people who gasped with fear at the thought of giving birth. I was warned of the many ailments to expect in pregnancy and everything in the media seemed to portray birth in a negative light. Despite this, I really enjoyed my pregnancy, doing my best to stay healthy and remain positive. I didn’t experience any of those pregnancy ailments and I had a very short labour, giving birth naturally to my baby precisely on the due date with only the help of a TENS machine and a calm, relaxed mind courtesy of Natal Hypnotherapy.
Not everything went as planned, my daughter passed meconium so I had to give birth on the labour ward, strapped to a machine that was monitoring baby’s heart rate but I took this in my stride and got on with the job instinctively and without fear. Hypnobirthing doesn’t guarantee a certain type of birth but it helps you to remain calm in any situation and calm is always going to be the best thing you could be for your baby!
The hypnobirthing techniques I learned gave me a focus and that became my escape to another world, a world in which I could birth my baby naturally and instinctively no matter what was going on around me. I felt empowered to train as a Hypnobirthing teacher to help dispel fears of childbirth and to effectively prepare women and their partners for birth.
Second time: The home breech birth of Amalia
I thought I knew what I was doing and was expecting a very straightforward run. The pregnancy itself was textbook but I was told the baby was breech at my second scan and it got me thinking. Although there was plenty of time for baby to turn, I wondered what would happen if she didn’t…
I was hoping to have a home birth this time and began preparing for that using the Natal Hypnotherapy CDs. At 32 weeks I had another routine scan which showed that baby was still breech so I thought I’d better take action. I tried everything to encourage her to turn including hypnosis, moxibustion, reflexology, osteopathy, inversions and lots of standing on my head!! All to no avail as the next scan at 38 weeks showed that she was still head up and bum down so I was booked in for an ECV (manual attempt at turning baby). This failed and the hospital gave me no other option but to have a caesarean one week later. I was distraught, I felt like I could birth this baby normally but was shocked that the hospital were so keen on c-section. I went home and began to explore my options with the help of my brilliant doulas, Caron Smith and Maisie Hill.
Eventually I found the wonderful Maya Midwives who happened to be experienced in vaginal breech birth and very keen to support me.I was listening to my Natal Hypnotherapy prepare for home birth CD again every day, sometimes two or three times a day and I made a poster for my bedroom wall with affirmations and other positive thoughts about the birth.
My due date came and went and then a week later there were still no labour signs. The midwives advised that I didn’t do anything to augment the labour, such as acupuncture or reflexology because breech babies must come when they are ready if they are going to come at all. So I waited and waited. The Hypnobirthing helped me to remain calm, relaxed and focused at this stressful time when friends and family were growing increasingly concerned. When I reached 42 weeks I decided to go to hospital for a scan and CTG monitoring to make sure everything was ok. The doctors said baby was doing really well and couldn’t find anything at all wrong but would be happier if I’d have a caesarean the next day. My instincts told me to wait a little longer and so I agreed to come back two days later for more CTG monitoring. In the meantime I began to prepare myself for the caesarean (by listening to the Natal Hypnotherapy CD) as it was becoming increasingly likely that I might have to give in at some point. Again the CTG monitoring showed that everything was fine but I agreed to go in the next day for my bloods to be taken in case the caesarean was necessary. Although I was more prepared for it, I couldn’t understand how my body could grow this baby, keep her nourished for 9 months and then just abandon her and me when it was time to be born.
That very night I woke at 4am with contractions that felt ‘different’ to the Braxton hicks I’d been having for weeks so I called the midwife, Andy, and she arrived an hour later. I wasn’t in any pain at all but had been preparing for this for months using Natal Hypnotherapy so didn’t really expect to be. There was about an hour where the contractions were really intense but at no time painful and our daughter was born two and a half hours later (bum first) at 7:30. Andy said it was the quickest birth she’d ever seen, so quick that Viv, the second midwife missed it! I used only a TENS machine and Natal Hypnotherapy techniques and our beautiful breech baby daughter, Amália Rose, was born calmly and peacefully in our bedroom. Her birthday is 7th October 2012, 17 days past the due date. I couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome, I am so glad that I trusted my instincts and my baby and that I had the support of such wonderful midwives. I will treasure that moment forever.
Third time, well prepared: Silvana’s birth story
The actual birth was so quick that I feel I need to rewind a bit and reflect on those last days of pregnancy – ‘zwischen’ as it’s called in German (I love that they have a name for it). It’s that place of ‘in between’ – in between two worlds, not quite asleep and not quite awake. I was heavily pregnant with a ginormous bump – no hiding and people asking about my due date everywhere I went. I appreciated the interest but my answer was always the same “I’m not sure of the exact date – baby will come when he or she is ready”. I had no idea who was growing inside of me at this point, I wasn’t counting the days or the weeks, only my blessings as I had suffered a miscarriage just over a year earlier so I was extremely grateful for this swollen belly full of life, a little miracle growing inside. I was handing control over to my body because I knew she was capable of great things, even with the miscarriage she knew what to do, how to heal and how to begin new cycles. My second daughter was born at 42 weeks and 3 days, bum first at home, if I could manage that surely I could manage anything…or so I had to keep telling myself!
May 2018: The nest is prepared, pictures and affirmations adorn the birthing room, birth pool blown up and tested by big sisters!
My mum is here to help with the girls, Maya Midwives on standby, Pedro is poised (no last minute trying to move house this time) and I’m ready when you are baby…
As I wait patiently, I enjoy resting, preparing, listening to my Hypnobirthing tracks in the sun on the trampoline, swimming and cycling until about 40 weeks, spinning babies exercises, pregnancy yoga with Rhian, massages from Andy and the girls and creating birth art. We painted the Earth on my belly at around 36 weeks, made a belly cast on a sunny afternoon with our midwives and they also organised a Mother blessing for me together with my wonderful sister. A magical evening where my close friends and family came together to honour my transition and wish me well for the birth. Each person brought food to share, a bead to make a necklace for me, a poem to read out and we all made a candle holder that I would use during the birth. Ania and I also made a pregnant torso from clay, I did pastel drawings of how I envisaged the birth and coloured the birth affirmation colouring book that I produced with my good friend Judith McWilliam. I have absolutely loved this time with very few commitments, where I could just ‘be’ and enjoy ‘being’ pregnant not ‘doing’ too much. Slowing down, following my heart and waiting for new life to appear…
22nd May was one of the due dates I was given but I don’t attach much importance to it. Wisdom comes from experience and a great midwife team! I am fully aware that there is no science behind the estimated due date. Sarah Bayley, osteopath extraordinaire comes over and offers me a treatment. I am feeling ready.
Andy palpates and thinks the baby is posterior (back-to-back). I have a moment of concern and then she assures me that there is time for the baby to move and “Don’t worry, you can push them out any which way”. Exactly what I needed to hear.
25th May: For the first time I wasn’t feeling up to yoga last night so I went for a swim this morning and did lots of lengths to encourage baby to assume a more favourable position for birthing. Later that day I am really uncomfortable. Struggling to walk at times and having shooting pains in my lower back, top of pelvis and I couldn’t sit down. The only comfortable position for me was on all fours! My mum thinks this is ‘it’ so we call the midwife, Andy, who comes over and says she can feel that the head is really low. That’s why I couldn’t sit down! She decides to stay the night just in case. What a woman! My mum stays up with her providing cups of tea and plenty of cake that she and the girls had made in a frenzy when they thought the baby was about to be born. No further signs of labour so Andy leaves at 7am and I try to get more sleep.
26th May: After the false alarm my mum goes to Mind, Body Spirit Festival with my sister and we have a blissful, restful day at home. Nowhere to go and nothing to do. The girls busy themselves playing all day and I rest in the room I had set up for birth, listening to my Hypnobirthing tracks. I feel today could be the day!
At around 5pm we go for a royal walk-about Muswell Hill and bump into almost everyone we know. My friend in Planet Organic makes me a Fatigue Fighter Juice and tells me “You look ready” then someone else comments “you’re walking far too easily to be having a baby anytime soon!”
I fall asleep putting Amalia to bed and Pedro falls asleep with Ania until we are woken at about midnight by a piercing alarm. Pedro goes to check it out and finds our neighbour on the doorstep in a white dressing gown. Pedro thinks he’s seen a ghost! All goes quiet and we return to slumber until a massive storm breaks out. Thunder and lightning illuminates the whole sky. Perfect night for a rainbow baby to be born!
27th May 2am – I wake up again needing the toilet this time – after a couple of times I wake Pedro and wonder if this is it. No contractions at this point. He springs into action and calls our Midwife, Andy, then starts filling the birth pool! He learned from experience that he should listen to me and also to start filling that pool as there was no time for it last time…
2:30am – Andy arrives and now I’m having quite strong contractions but I’m still able to hold a conversation in between. I’m in the birthing room now, using the birth ball and leaning against it to help through the surges.
2:45am – I go back to the toilet and feel the waters break . Very convenient! Andy tells me “Baby will be here soon” so I get into the birth pool and she asks if we should wake the girls and get my mam. I decline! Meanwhile my mum has returned home from watching my cousins ‘ride the night’ at Buckingham Palace. She makes tea for Andy and starts filling pans of hot water to bring the temperature up in the birth pool. The contractions are really strong now and I feel like I’m making a lot of noise. Andy had called the second midwife, Nicole but no time for her to make it. I feel ‘the ring of fire’, Andy can see the face, I feel the baby moving down, my body fully open now. Andy encourages me to “go with it” – again just what I needed to hear. I am gripping Pedro with all my might, breathing deeply and focused and out comes the head…rotating carefully one shoulder and then the other, left arm then right..a beautiful dance to be born into the water…my body as relaxed as it can be…monkey brain fully switched ON and thinking brain firmly switched OFF…doing what millions of women have done before me…bringing new life into this world…going with the sensations and soon the whole body is out and I reach down to pick up my baby lifting her bum first up into the air and Pedro announces ‘IT’S A GIRL’ at 3am. My mam comes in and I am overjoyed. I DIT IT! That moment of euphoria and absolute relief as I sit holding my baby in the pool – I will never forget it.
I made a human-being and delivered her to the world. Physically I have gone through a major metamorphisis – the biggest of my life and probably for the last time…
I followed my heart, I listened to my body and to my baby, I was fully supported by wonderful midwives, Pedro and my Mam and we all worked together as a team to bring this baby Earthside. A 9lb bundle of loveliness but no rush to be weighed and measured…the placenta is released…no stitches needed. Birth works. And so we enjoy this special time skin-to-skin cocooned in our birthing zen-den until morning and big sisters rush upstairs to find a newborn baby! We all enjoy oxytocin fuelled precious snuggles, delicious treats delivered to us by the kindest of neighbours, family and friends and visitors on our terms.
Now to enjoy the fourth trimester and the first forty days….pressing pause…taking it slow…listening to my body…resting…recovering…nourishing new life….