‘I remember smiling at the end of each contraction’

Eric’s birth story – by Bec

Before the birth – preparation

When I first got pregnant, I was surprised to find I wasn’t feeling nervous about birth at all; that it was just part of the rite of passage of having a baby. I thought to myself, if I could keep this level of calm for the birth, everything would go well. After a lot of research, I decided on a home birth, but I felt that in order to pull it off, I needed to do a lot of mental preparation.

Fairly early on in my pregnancy I had stumbled across a hypnobirthing video – it focused on the mother in a pool, alone, and showed her breathing deeply and calmly at the latter stages of labour. I was stunned – I wanted to give birth like this! How had she stayed so calm? Every time I heard the term “hypnobirthing” from then on, I heard a positive story.

I read Marie Mongan’s and Sophie Fletcher’s hypnobirthing books, downloaded the Mindful Mamma meditation MP3s (which I listened to most nights to help me drift off to sleep), and also booked onto a Mindful Mamma course to get some practical techniques to use. Not only was the workshop useful for me to learn how to apply the techniques, it also gave my husband Andy something practical and proactive to do during labour.

I also prepared for my birth choice by going to a local home birth group, which increased my confidence in feeling that home birth was the right choice for me, and with support from hypnobirthing, I could do it.

As we approached the birth, Andy and I gathered everything we had learnt together. I picked out the techniques from the course and books that I liked the best and thought would work and talked them through with Andy. We started thinking about the birth space – our kitchen – and how to set up a pool in there and make it really relaxing (which meant leaving up the Christmas fairy lights!). Soon my kitchen was covered in visual and mental aids – mantras, paperwork with tips for labour, scan pictures and pictures to remind me of the meditations I’d covered.

As my due date approached, I was ready but not desperate for my baby to be born. One of the mantras I’d found during hypnobirthing was “my baby knows the right time to be born” and therefore I trusted him/her to arrive when they were ready. So instead of worrying or being impatient, I channelled my energy into enjoying maternity leave instead.

The night before I went into labour, I told a close friend that I felt suspicious that night that something would happen – and it did!


I woke up on the 10th January at 4am with what I described to myself as “painful bowel movements”. I tried to go back to sleep, but I kept feeling the same uncomfortable sensation so eventually around 5am decided to get up and eat something. Having never experienced labour at this point, I wasn’t yet convinced that this was it. I warned Andy that I was feeling something, but decided to wait until 7am to wake him up properly in case it was all for nothing.

As time went on, the feeling was starting to become more of a period-pain like cramp rather than bowel movements, and quite frequent but irregular. To take my mind off things I picked up my knitting, listened to my meditation MP3s and labour playlist, and also tried out some deep breathing. I started to become more convinced something real was happening, so just in case, I began to prep and de-clutter the kitchen, turned on the fairy lights, moved the fold-out mattress and my birth ball into the kitchen, and woke up Andy with a cup of tea. I also set my oven timer to display 0:00 so that I didn’t clock-watch throughout the day as I wanted to experience the “time-distortion” that can happen with deep meditation.

Whilst Andy finished prepping the kitchen by bringing out the pool and mats, I started to think about using the TENS machine I had bought to see what it was like and if it did anything, and told a friend of mine (who was a big fan of TENS). Her response was “do you really need it?” – and this really caught me in my tracks. If I tried the TENS now, would this lead to a spiralling of different types of pain management and a different direction to where I wanted to go in? As I didn’t *need* it, I decided against trying it out and I really thank that friend for catching me there and then!

After timing the sensations I was feeling, Andy suggested we call the midwife as I was still having 3 of them in 10 minutes. Still not really believing I was in labour, I agreed that he should call them, but tell them it’s probably nothing. When the midwife turned up at around 10am and did the first internal examination, I was 4cm dilated! I couldn’t believe it.

The next few hours were mostly tea and chat whilst the birth pool was filled. I continued to bounce on the birth ball or laid down during what I now knew were contractions. I was still mostly using long inhalations and exhalations to get through them, but occasionally led by Andy who did the 3-2-1-relax-relax-relax exercise and helped me visualise blowing a feather across a lake. I remember smiling at the end of each contraction and reminding myself that each one would be bringing my baby closer to me.

By 1.30pm I was 6cm dilated and the half-filled birth pool was starting to look enticing. Once it was full and I got in, I immediately relaxed into it and it gave me a chance to have a breather as things slowed down for a while (as generally happens in a pool). I also found that I now had control over when I had a contraction. If I stayed still, I didn’t have a contraction and could relax and rest. When I decided to change position, it triggered another contraction. I used this benefit of the pool to pace myself for a while.

I was still using long in and out breaths to breathe through contractions at this point. My helpers had been feeding me water and fizzy Lucozade – I soon asked for the fizz to be taken out of the Lucozade as it made me burp when I was trying to breathe deeply!

Another breathing technique I used was breathing through the phrasing of the music of the tracks on my labour playlist, which had been playing quietly in the background. My choice of tracks was based on slow, relaxing songs and music with deep personal connections to me – such as our first dance song and some of my all-time favourite tracks. Each track made me smile for different reasons – and I remember smiling after most of my contractions. If a part of the music I really loved came on during a contraction, I really went with it, allowed myself to get lost in the sound for a moment and breathed along with the tune.

After an hour or so in the pool, the midwife suggested I get out for a while to get things moving along again. After having gained control over my contractions in the pool, I was reluctant to get out at first as I knew they’d start coming fast again, but I also didn’t want things to slow down to the point they stopped. I decided to get out and got dressed, and sure enough they started up quickly again.

My next check was at 5.30pm and at this inspection I was 8cm dilated but the midwife managed to stretch me to 9cm. My waters still hadn’t broken at this point but were bulging and ready to go any second. I could feel the pressure myself and could feel some frustration building. There was some talk about the midwife breaking them for me, but because they were so close, we decided to wait. Sure enough, as I was stood by the pool, they finally gave way and the pressure and frustration subsided quickly.

After that, it was time for me to get back in the pool again and back to having control over my contractions. I began to think about what other breathing techniques I had covered in my preparation, and remembered watching a useful video about sounds women make during labour. I decided to try out some “mooing”, conscious that the video had explained that the deeper the noise was, the better – so I focused on trying to keep the noise I was making relaxed and deep. I “mooed” my way through the next couple of hours through to the pushing stage. I also had my first “urge to push” soon after getting back into the pool – it took me by surprise as my body did just take over me for a second and there was nothing I could do about it.

At around 9.30pm, the midwife explained to me the “purple line” some women have on their lower backs when they are fully dilated, and that I had a very clear one showing in the pool, so there was no need to do another internal examination or get out of the pool again.

As things progressed further and I started feeling the urge to push again, I switched to balloon breath (clenching my fist and blowing into it), which I loved as a technique and had practiced before going into labour – I liked the fact you could feel that breathing that way changed the feeling of the out-breath internally, and would help during pushing. My body switched from letting me have control over contractions to doing what it needed to do – it told me when to push, and using balloon breath, I just had to guide it, hold it and go with it. I spent most of my time in the pool at this point on all fours/kneeling with my arms over my side as it felt the most comfortable, though I was recommended to “squat” a couple of times to allow gravity to give a little helping hand.

I started to feel like the head was beginning to come, and the midwife was really encouraging and guiding me at this point, telling me how “open” my body was, to go with the breaths and what my body was trying to do. She seemed to completely get what I was aiming to do with my birth and birth plan. Andy was using the mantras “we’re going to have a baby soon” and “we get to find out if it is a boy or a girl”, and we also used another anchoring technique we’d developed where our foreheads touched and sometimes making eye contact. It really helped me engage with him and what we were doing.

My breathing at that point was switching between balloon and deep breathing, and when I felt the stretch as the head started to come, I remember it made me gasp (like stepping on something sharp) – but I still managed to maintain control. As the cycle of the head coming out and contracting continued, I got to a point where I could “hold” the breath and push to stop it retracting in so far again, and each contraction then made the next push and stretch a little stronger and motivated me to keep going – our baby would be here soon if I kept doing this.

As the stretch got bigger and bigger, eventually there was one more “argh” from me, and the head came out. I was encouraged to give one more little push to get the chin out, and remember it felt like a little “pop” as it was born. Andy remembers that seeing the head there staring out of the water was a very strange experience! With one more big push, the baby came out and was guided straight up onto my chest and wrapped in towels in the water.

I asked the time and was surprised it was still the 10th January, at 11.29pm – I thought I’d laboured into the next day. At this point, I was sitting back in the pool and Andy was round me, with the baby on my left side. We looked at each other and then I held the baby back slightly so we could see – and as we suspected (and secretly wanted, but wouldn’t admit it), he was a boy!

‘3 pushes and she was out’

Sara’s birth story – from Yasmin

Just to say a massive thank you for all your advice and support at the Mindful Mamma course and home birth group.

I hadn’t even considered home birth until you suggested it may be a good option for me on the course and I’m so glad you did. I had a very positive experience giving birth to baby Sara at home on Monday. The pregnancy, the birth and these early days after have all been enjoyable, the complete opposite of my first experience with my son.

I was able to manage my contractions so well, when I called the midwife I thought I had ages to go but within 5 minutes of phoning I couldn’t fight the urge to push! So baby Sara actually arrived before the midwife! My mum called 999 and the paramedics arrived just as the head was born, 3 pushes and she was out. Although it didn’t quite go as planned it was a very positive natural experience and everything I’d hoped for. So just a big thank you once again!

‘They really listened to me and my birth plan wishes’

Mani’s birth story – by Nadia

A little belated with the news but our little beautiful boy was born 2/11 at 19:45. Mani weighed a massive 8.5 lbs and still growing! He’s healthy and well and took to feeding easily which is great.

Jonny and I couldn’t be happier.

The birth didn’t go exactly to plan, he was 9 days overdue and although labor started spontaneously (although we did have 2 stretch and sweeps and acupuncture) it was very long (36 hours in total).

I arrived at the Spires Thursday morning, 7cms dilated, which explains the pain I was in! We had the luxury of the pool all day and a fantastic midwife, the hypnobirthing MP3’s were on repeat and were extremely calming. I used 321 relax relax relax and in between contractions which were so intense I was very calm. The only pain relief used was this and entonox. I felt strong urges to push from about 12pm but this went on until about 6pm all the time I was getting more and more exhausted and to be honest was asking for all the drugs and cesareans which my midwife reminded me I didn’t want or need! But at 6.30pm we ended up going downstairs to Delivery Suite which I was so ready for. We learned he was in a bad position and were given the options and BRAINS without Jonny needing to ask for them. In the end he was brought out successfully using forceps.

Although it wasn’t exactly the birth I had imagined, planned for and wanted I can’t tell you how positive I think it was. The staff upstairs and downstairs were incredible. They honoured everything they could and really listened to me and my birth plan wishes. The obstetricians were amazing and I feel in extreme gratitude for their work we really are so lucky with this hospital. After everything was finished the obstetrician came up to me and said with all the will in the world I wouldn’t have managed to get him out through pushing and we did the right thing I felt so empowered and reassured what a kind thing for him to do.

Anyway I thought I would share this because even though it wasn’t what I had hoped for it was exactly what I would have wanted now knowing the way it was. We are so lucky and grateful for the delivery suite and I will always remember that.

‘I would do it all again in a flash’

Yasmine’s birth story – by Christina

By the time Yasmine emerged on the first day of spring, she and I had been working on it for about five days, and we’d had a colourful journey involving walks in the park, cake with friends in a pub, nearly two days of belly dancing, showering and resting in a midwifery led unit, and a final sprint in the labour ward, culminating in a forceps delivery with me on my back, numb from the waist down and surrounded by people in scrubs.

That last step contrasted sharply with what I had hoped for – to do all the physical work myself, to feel everything, and to avoid drugs and other interventions. But shortly after Yasmine was born I was saying that I would do it all again in a flash. Three months on I feel just as positive.

I put my happy experience down to the preparation I did using mindful hypnobirthing and belly dancing techniques; the invaluable conversations with Guin, my main source of wisdom on hypnobirthing and positive birth, and with Sarah, a doula; the attitudes of the staff at the John Radcliffe; and the efforts of my birthing partner, Matteo, who worked very hard to help ensure that my birthing preferences were respected, despite not understanding the reasons for some of my choices. I never felt pressured into doing anything, and when it became clear that interventions might be wise, everyone continued to show respect for me and my choices. I felt I could trust the people surrounding me in scrubs, and that we were working as a team through those final pushes and pulls.

I’m sure there are many reasons why bonding with Yasmine has been effortless for me, but I do know that if I hadn’t prepared as I had, or had the support and respect of the people around me, I may well have felt nervous and disappointed about some aspects of the birth, and, importantly, Yasmine and I might not have been able to breastfeed as quickly and successfully as we did that morning and continue to do.

‘Simple, undisturbed, raw and beautiful’

From Becky

The day finally came and we flourished! It has been a hard few weeks though on the run up to the birth! After the positive birth movement meeting at your home I set about getting my ‘head game’ in shape and rereading sections from Hypnobirthing, Ina May, Sarah Buckley and others. I really felt like I was getting a handle on things by that week and felt ready and positive about what I wanted for the labour and birth.

Unfortunately it was now my body that wasn’t playing ball- the days and then weeks were passing! At the end of the 40th week, midwife was beginning to make murmurings of inductions and I (reluctantly) agreed to be evaluated for one at the JR on Friday 21st (41+6). I really didn’t want to be induced, so on Tuesday I had a stretch and sweep, booked acupuncture and shiatsu for Wednesday and another stretch and sweep on Thursday. By Thursday afternoon, I was beginning to feel wave like period pains coming at 20 min intervals on a long walk around Blenheim grounds. The hospital called while we were on the walk to confirm my appointment for Friday and then based on my symptoms, agreed to push it back to Saturday 22nd to induce if I didn’t go into labour naturally before then.

That night by enormous blessing, the labour did start properly! Went to bed early but was woken by the first strong contraction about midnight. Less than an hour later Ian was sticking the TENS electrodes to my back and we both quietly slipped downstairs leaving the sleeping Ella in our bed. We lit candles, made tea, put some soft jazz on and Ian fed me bananas and dates while I laboured through the night. Every new contraction, I would go to another sunset on another beach or sip my margarita under a different palm tree on a different island…. 🙂 This went on until about 2am when we called Spires to pre warn them that I would likely be coming in later, and though my contractions were 5-5.5 mins apart, I was coping using my Hypnobirthing methods and was able to breathe well through each one. My bowels were starting to clear with gusto by this point with a few contractions over the toilet!

Ella woke up at 3am and I had my mother sleep with her in our bed and went back downstairs. When it got light in the early hours and with an hour of slide lying rest on the sofa, the contractions grew further apart to 6-8 mins and were mildly less uncomfortable but I needed the rest and was grateful to have an hour or so dozing (as I am sure Ian did too!).

Morning came and with Ella awake, my mom took over her breakfast needs and Ian and I took a stroll up and down my garden in laps. I would inhale the lilac in bloom at the bottom of the yard and then moan though another contraction holding Ian before resuming walking. Contractions were back to 5 min intervals and I took myself upstairs to call Spires to let them know I was coming in. I now felt increasing rectal pressure, wasn’t breathing as well through the contractions and knew this was the time to go. We left at 9:15am.

On being buzzed in at Spires the midwife greeted us and I had a whopper of a contraction that was like none previous to it. I felt I had arrived, I felt safe and was ready to abandon myself to birth the baby. Very quickly we were brought to a room for the paperwork and vital tests and then brought to a birthing room. From there I soon began to bear down to push her out. It all happened very quickly and with barely time to get the hang of what I needed to do to make the gas and air have some kind of analgesic effect for me. Our little girl was born less than an hour after arriving at the JR and with no need for any intervention or examination of any kind. Just simple, undisturbed, raw and beautiful. Just as I hoped it would be.

The Hypnobirthing refresher course alongside the accompanying book and Positive Birth Movement meeting prepared me very well this time. I was capable and in control of my birth from first contraction to first latch! Thank you so much, Guin, for all your support. May many women get to experience (and enjoy!) positive and undisturbed birth through this method and through your teachings.

‘I found the hypnobirthing techniques really helpful’

I just wanted to let you know that our lovely daughter arrived safe and sound last Tuesday. I had a natural birth after a spontaneous labour – no inductions – hooray! I did need to have my placenta manually removed in theatre afterwards but even that was fine. I found the hypnobirthing techniques really helpful in managing the last few weeks of pregnancy and the early stage of labour. I may have panicked a little when the second stage was quicker than expected and needed a swift dash to the Spires! But again the techniques helped once we were at the Spires and the BRAINS checklist was really useful in making an informed choice about interventions for placenta removal.

Our doula was brilliant and we were both so pleased to have her on our ‘team’. Thanks for talking through the benefits of doulas with us!

Thanks also for your support at the positive birth sessions I attended and at the hypnobirthing course. I really feel these made a difference to our experience and we are really enjoying our time with our lovely baby and her big sister.

‘Focus on the now, you’re okay’

Ava’s birth story – by Nina

I didn’t find labour too bad at all. I kept waiting for it to become unbearable but it never did and I believe that it is all because of the Hypnobirthing class.

It was 14 hours in total, 10 I did with nothing but oils and 10 to 1 affirmations and the last four I used Gas and Air, continued playing the Mp3 clips, 10 to 1 affirmations and oils. My contractions were regular from the start at 7 mins and 50 secs for each one. Waters broke at 0.50 am and got to JR at 8am. I was 10cm dilated by 1pm (and this is the only time I was examined), she was in a bit of a funny position but thankfully moved.

I believe it was all about being in the right mindset, and the bit that helped me the most, especially in the pushing and crowning phase was saying to myself, focus on the now, you’re okay, and I was okay and breathing into my hand to bear down.
I also found myself making that mooing sound, which made me chuckle inside.

I unfortunately had to have stitches for a 2nd degree tear, as Ava came out with her hand on the side of her face. She weighed a healthy 7.5 lbs. And I have sprained my Coccyx bone, all of this has been more painful than the delivery itself.

Thank you so much! We are forever in your debt!

‘Hypnobirthing made such a difference!’

Tomás’s birth story – by Margarita

I am very happy on how my home birth went. Hypnobirthing made such a difference! Together with all the information/preparation I did. Tomás was born in the water after 8 hours of soaking 🙂

I made a birth panel and was so useful for keeping concentrated. Also I bought some wireless headphones! With them I didn’t listen to the boiling kettle or the midwife chatting! I wanted to kill people chatting around 🙂  Also had a shift change and hated the new midwife but was too late to say something. She kept trying to intervene and do more examinations than needed (my doula said she might have been new to homebirth). Well the thing was that luckily I was too confident!

From all the visualisations I learned, I used one that came to my mind just there. As I was using gas and air I imagine that I was a fire extinguisher and I with my out breath I was trying to turn off a big fire by making a fan movement with my head from left to right. It was so powerful!
Ignacio was perfect, he kept calm (or at least pretended) all the time and was very helpful. He translated me very politely to the midwife. I was so glad to have a second language 🙂

For me all this experience has been amazing! And still can’t believe it sometimes.

‘Welcoming the contractions, the stronger the better’

I did one of your October classes and am writing to let you know that our baby was born into water at the Spires on Saturday (40+2), weighing 7 lbs 13 oz.

My contractions started on Friday around 6.30pm, and I used a TENS machine from about 9pm onwards, mostly walking in circles around our extension and watching the moon come and go behind white clouds. During this time I mostly did 321RRR for contractions (which I had found helpful during dental work the previous week!) as I couldn’t quite mentally hang on to the other exercises. I found the music very helpful and kept it on throughout, until stage 2 when I wanted quiet. We went to hospital at about 1am and I was only 3cm dilated but the midwife said that that means nothing with a third baby! I was finding by then that the TENS wasn’t enough and I wanted to get in the pool. My husband and I were both worried that this would slow things down (as it did with my first baby). By this stage I was already exhausted because it was so late and life at 9 months pregnant with 2 small boys is hard going! In fact I was fully dilated 2 hours later. It was a very intense 2 hours and I felt like I was mentally working hard to stay positive and calm, helped by the music and images of welcoming my baby, opening the door, welcoming the contractions, the stronger the better. But it was hard work! My waters broke at 3.05 and he was born at 3.35, latched on minutes later. Despite the injection, I had no after-cramps and so at 50 mins post delivery I still hadn’t delivered the placenta. Fortunately the baby latched on again and I had enough contraction to work with, and pushed the placenta out 58 mins post delivery, 2 mins before they would have rushed me to theatre. Phew.

Now at day 5, our baby boy remains a peaceable little chap and we are delighted with him. Looking back at my births, the first was by far the longest and hardest. From this distance the second seems easy. The third felt very mentally challenging despite the hypnobirthing, but I think without your course it would have been considerably harder. The midwife was certainly impressed – she kept saying she didn’t know why she was there, really, I was doing so well by myself, and she couldn’t believe how calm and chilled I was. I didn’t feel chilled! I think objectively I was quite calm, and in control, even though it wasn’t easy. Also, I managed to breathe through the crowning much better this time without pushing, and just got a small nick to the forchette, which didn’t need a stitch. In fact, I think I’m already basically healed, and that was due mostly to staying calm and focusing on breathing and letting my body do its thing.

‘Just wanted to say how effective it was!’

From Victoria

I’m delighted to say that we now have a beautiful baby girl. I just wanted to get in touch to say how extraordinarily invaluable hypnobirthing turned out to be.

The music and the meditations were central to the early stages of labour and made such a difference to how I managed the pain; to the extent that pretty much all the midwives and doctors I encountered throughout labour were continually surprised by how far I had progressed as the techniques I used kept me much, much calmer than I would have expected.

Just wanted to say how effective it was! A million thanks from us all.