*My birth story has been very carefully worded, it was a very positive and empowering experience for me and I would do it all again in a heartbeat however we did have a few complications. If you are pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant or just anxious about birth, please think about whether you want to read this. My son got a little stuck on the way out which is a fairly rare complication, it was unforeseen and unforeseeable so I wouldn’t want anybody to read this thinking it will happen to them. The rest of my labour and birth was dreamy and pretty text book. My focus in telling my story is to share a POSITIVE birth story, aided by Hypnobirthing at a Midwife Led Birth Centre from a first time Mum.
My Positive Birth Story
I had lots of signs in the few days before my waters broke that baby was on route, which was both frustrating and exciting in equal measures, we were so ready to meet him already! I kept forcing myself to remember positive birth affirmations and tried to channel all that excitement into calmness.
I woke up at about 7am on Saturday 19th October (40+1) to a complete surprise, my waters had most definitely broken. I called LabourLine and they asked me to pop into Bournemouth Birth Centre for assessment about an hour later. Hubs and I were really excited by now as we knew the baby was coming this weekend without a doubt but I wanted to stay focussed on being super calm, relaxed and generally helping all that Oxytocin do its job as we had learned was the key to things progressing in our Hypnobirthing course. I was keen to avoid induction which I knew would be on the cards if my labour didn’t start within 24 hours.
At the Birth Centre we were assessed and sent home to wait for contractions. We made a quick detour for a big breakfast and by the time we arrived home at about 9am I was pretty confident that I was having contractions every 5-7 minutes. They felt like mild period cramps. I got some comfy clothes on and got on my birthing ball and carried on timing. By 11am the contractions were intensifying, lasting over a minute and coming every 2-3 minutes so I called the Birth Centre again and they told me to come in when I was ready. Everything was happening quicker than I expected but I was still calm and collected and just using my breathing techniques through each surge. They really do come in little waves so I was able to breathe through them and feel in control.
When we arrived at the Birth Centre I asked to be examined and was 4cm dilated already. I was so relieved! My Midwife started running the birthing pool for me and I just kept on breathing through every surge. I had made a note in my birth plan that I didn’t want repeat examinations or to be offered pain relief and my midwife was amazing, just sitting quietly out of sight, keeping an eye on babies heartbeat with a monitor every now and again. Once I got in the pool I felt so good, the warmth of the water was incredible for the intense surges but after about an hour I asked for some gas and air to take the edge off. Definitely the right decision. That stuff is magic! My husband held the gas and air for me and just kept offering words of encouragement between each surge.
I started to feel lots of pressure and was told to go with whatever my body felt like doing which was to push but after a while we both realised that not much was happening so my midwife suggested a change of position to see if that helped things. We tried the birthing stool but again, after a while it was clear babies head wasn’t getting any further so my midwife asked if she could examine me. On further examination I was only about 8cm dilated but because babies head was really low I felt the need to push, unfortunately he obviously wasn’t getting very far.
By now it was about 4:30pm. My midwife suggested I go onto all fours to try and ride out the urge to push while I fully dilated. At this point I felt I was really struggling because the urge to push was so intense and the surges were still coming thick and fast. I asked for a transfer to the hospital for an epidural and some Pethidine to ride out the last bit. That transition stage really doesn’t mess about (and everything they say about it is true!!). My midwife did call the ambulance for me but the wait time was potentially hours because there wasn’t an emergency. I carried on trying to ride out the surges, unfortunately the Pethidine didn’t do anything for me so I just carried on with gas and air and breathing. I got through each surge by mentally telling myself that every surge brought me closer to my baby and I knew that the surges weren’t getting any more painful or intense. I knew I could cope with each one because I had done it before so it was a case of mind over matter and lots of gas and air.
At some point my midwife noticed a change in the sounds I was making and asked to examine me again as she felt things had moved along and I could be ready to start pushing again. I was very keen to know things were happening so was happy to be examined although getting onto my back from an all fours position was not fun so I asked her to be super quick (she was!). Sure enough she felt babies head and that was all the encouragement I needed to get pushing!
The intensity of the contractions changed and pushing became my only focus. You can really start to feel progress with each push but it was definitely hard work and I had to change my breathing technique to stop ‘breathing through them’ and actually use all my effort to push my baby into the world. It’s a very different feeling from contractions but with every push my husband and the (now two) midwives gave me lots of praise and encouragement, told me what they could see and spurred me on. Being told your baby has a head of hair and knowing the finish line is so close was amazing and really gave me that extra boost when I was getting tired.
At 9:02pm my babies head was born and I breathed a sigh of relief. Unfortunately this was where things got a bit scary. I don’t want to focus on the scary bit too much as I think it’s really important that anybody reading this takes away lots of positives from my experience because that truly is how I feel about it even now but I also want to be honest about an unforeseen, unpredictable complication that all turned out OK.
I had specified in my birth plan that I really didn’t want an episiotomy and my midwife acknowledged this but asked if she could give me some local anesthetic in case she needed to give me one, in the end she actually didn’t manage to. It seemed my baby wasn’t quite ready to come out after all as his shoulder was stuck. I have since found out that about 1 in 200 vaginal births will have something called Shoulder Dystocia which is where babies shoulder gets stuck under Mums pelvis. Midwives are highly trained in freeing babies from this position quickly but of course in a Midwife Led Unit there are no obstetricians so they have to manually help to free baby. I later learned that most babies are freed pretty quickly and there are no issues. My baby was stuck for quite a while longer than he should have been and this is when things got a bit scary.
However, what I saw and heard in the 15 minutes following his head being born was the most efficient, well versed team of professionals jump to action in a calm yet very urgent manner. Quick decision making, firm yet encouraging instructions from the staff that flooded the room to ensure they could free my baby. Words of support and praise to ensure I didn’t feel panicked while the number of medical staff in the room multiplied as the minutes progressed. I could tell something wasn’t quite right and after what felt like an age (it was 12 minutes) I was told to push as hard as I could and my baby would be born. And there he was, this little blue alien plonked on my tummy looking completely shell shocked with his big eyes wide open.
The midwives cut the cord and took him to the baby resus table just as the ambulance crew and a team of emergency doctors from the main hospital arrived. There were probably 20 people in the room by this point but it was like the most organised fire drill you have ever witnessed. Every single person knew their job, what needed to be done and jumped into action. I had no less than 4 midwives looking after me and about 15 people looking after my baby, who after a few rescue breaths let out a big wail of a cry.
Baby (and husband) were then rushed to Poole hospital to make sure he was OK while I stayed at the Birth Centre for a separate transfer. I couldn’t have asked for better care while we were separated and the staff at Poole called through to let me know all was OK with baby all the while I’m getting texts from hubs with pics of our son and updates on his welfare. After lots of checks to make sure baby was doing OK, my husband was handed his newborn son for a good hour of cuddles which they both loved. I joined hubs and baby a few hours later and every single member of staff made a huge effort to make sure I got that skin on skin as quickly as possible whilst still tending to my needs.
We spent that night and the following night in hospital while Neonatal doctors and physiotherapists made sure my baby was recovering from his ordeal and hadn’t suffered any lasting effects. He’s absolutely fine by the way and three weeks on he is gaining lots of weight and thriving!
We have been blown away by the care we received and the after care we have been offered to make sure we are mentally and physically recovering from what could have been an experience we didn’t want to remember but we both feel very grateful, super lucky and just incredibly happy to be home, safe and well with our little boy. Hypnobirthing was without a doubt the one tool that helped us both to remain calm throughout my labour and following our sons arrival and I am so pleased we chose a Midwife Led Unit, despite the complications, I still got the birth I hoped for and feel nothing but empowered and so very grateful for our wonderful NHS heroes.
If you are considering anything in preparation for birth I would highly recommend a hypnobirthing course for all parents to be & birth partners. Even for your 2nd, 3rd or 4th arrival!
If you have ANY questions or want to talk about a similar experience, please do reach out. My husband and I have been offered a birth debrief / birth afterthoughts service on multiple occasions and we plan to take this up when we are through the newborn fog so that we can digest what happened and ask lots of questions. It is so important to process and digest experiences like this and all of the medical professionals that we have encountered have stressed this.
Even if you had your babies 20 years ago, if you feel like it would help to go back over your birth please contact your hospital and ask for there Birth Afterthoughts Service or try The Birth Trauma Association. Don’t just bury it, it could make all the difference to talk it through, even if just with an understanding friend.
Mrs G x