‘I just want to do it all over again!’

Francis William’s birth story – by Jude

My first birth was not what I had imagined it would be. I had gone into hospital after work at 37 weeks for a check up as I had been having a very small amount of watery discharge at night for a week or so. Naively, I didn’t think it was anything significant. I was totally unprepared for being told I was going to be induced there and then and wouldn’t be going home without a baby! And so followed the artificial rupture of membranes and the induction drip as well as the foetal monitors. Hooked up to all the paraphernalia, I was encouraged to lie on my back on the bed and think about taking drugs for pain relief. I accepted the gas and air and bit down hard. The contractions came thick and fast and at one point the drip had to be turned down as I was in so much relentless pain and not coping very well. When the time came to push I was being shouted at to put my chin on my chest and push as long and hard as I could. And when the baby was taking too long to come out, I was threatened with ‘assistance’. Luckily, he came shortly after. Then came the traumatic managed third stage – 1000ml blood loss and a placenta that wouldn’t come out when they pulled at it, so had to be removed manually, bit by bit. Afterwards, I felt like I’d been beaten up. After four weeks I had a secondary haemorrhage due to retained placenta.

After this, I was determined to have a different experience second time round. But after an appointment with the consultant at the hospital, I discovered that they wanted me to be on the delivery suite with a cannula and active third stage. All based on the complications during my first birth. I had a strong belief that the bleeding and retained placenta were due to the induction and my lack of preparation and that if this labour started naturally and all was well, I didn’t want any intervention unless it was absolutely necessary. We tried in vain to explain this to the consultant, head of midwives and birth centre manager, who all said it was absolutely necessary for me to have those interventions for a safe birth. They would not allow me in the birth centre (on the same corridor as the delivery suite) if I didn’t agree to them. This put us in a very difficult situation and caused quite a bit of stress during the later stages of my pregnancy.

I discovered the Mindful Hypnobirthing book quite late on but didn’t look back. I started listening to the tracks straight away and decided to book us onto one of the courses. We found the course incredibly useful and motivating. And we really appreciated the practitioner spending the time to talk with us afterwards about our plans for birth. Her advice was quite a turning point for us as I decided to speak to an independent midwife. After a teary few days of not knowing what we should do for the best, the midwife instantly made me feel totally at ease with my decisions not to have a cannula or managed third stage. It was so refreshing to be told that a home birth would be a completely viable, and probably the best, option. This, along with all the reading I had done, gave me the courage and strength to opt for a home birth against the hospital’s advice.

I’m so glad we did. I felt so relaxed and ready for the birth. We had affirmations on post-its all around the house – which I still can’t bring myself to take down! I have such wonderful feelings when I think about the process of hypnobirthing. The few weeks of preparation beforehand were invaluable and filled me subconsciously with power and ease. Like rehearsing for a performance, I have been feeling the post-performance blues when you just want to do it all over again!

I was 39 weeks and my mother had arrived from London to stay the night and help with pre-baby preparations. At 1pm she set about cooking and cleaning and I noticed I had had a bloody show. I put my two year old to bed for a lunchtime nap and as I was standing in the kitchen writing a shopping list, my waters started to trickle. I headed to the toilet where they continued to trickle for a while. I had no contractions at that point so mum suggested I rest while she did the shopping. I rang Dan to tell him what had happened and he headed straight home despite my reassurance that it may not happen for hours.

After about half an hour I felt a gush of water come with a pop. Within a few minutes contractions had started, fairly mild but they seemed quite close together compared to how often I thought they would be. I guessed about every 7 or 8 minutes. Dan appeared shortly after a few contractions and began busying himself with tidying and getting the front room ready. I told him not to put the sheets down yet as it would probably be ages until the time came to actually get the baby out!

He rang the midwife who arrived at 2.40pm. She timed the contractions as being 5 minutes apart, lasting 30 seconds and I felt fairly comfortable and able to breathe through them. After a little bit, she checked the colour of the water on my pad and noticed traces of meconium. Policy was that I had to transfer straight to hospital. Dan was an incredible birth partner. He asked lots of questions about the risks and what options there were, but with repeated concerns about the fact that we would be putting our baby at risk if we didn’t go, we eventually decided to make our own way to the hospital (and declined the ambulance she wanted to ring for us). I felt so disappointed at this point.

As Dan was packing the car and the midwife was packing hers, I felt like I really needed to do a poo so took myself off to the toilet. When they all came back in looking for me I think they realised that this baby was closer than I thought. The midwife then rang for an ambulance. I was still in a bit of denial as to just how close the baby was to coming but just couldn’t believe that it could all happen so quickly. Where were the hours of pacing around the house, listening to my hypnobirthing tracks and having a warm bath? I made my way back to the front room where the midwife examined me. I was 8-9cm. I knelt on the floor, leaning on the sofa and Dan. I could hear my son in the other room talking to Grandma which was lovely. The contractions had changed now and were pulsating surges making me want to push. I let out long low horsey breaths as each one came and went, trying to remember to relax fully in between. I breathed into a lavender scented hanky which helped so much. Dan was giving me prompts and encouragement the whole time. I was aware of the first ambulance arriving, which turned out to be a fast response car (the midwife was very panicked by this, realising that there was no way we were going to hospital now and the baby was going to be born at home!). The second ambulance arrived and so there were now three paramedics standing in the doorway watching my birth! I wasn’t particularly aware of it thankfully and managed to stay centred and focused on the task in hand. I remember Dan doing mirror countdown which really helped.

After what felt like a very short amount of time, I could feel the head crowning. With a few more contractions, our baby boy had arrived at 16.28. All 9lb 10 oz of him! There was no need for the resuscitation equipment which the midwife had so feared, as the baby started screaming loudly almost immediately! He was passed through my legs and I held him in my arms.

Now came the third stage. I had decided on a physiological third stage despite being told I shouldn’t due to what happened in my first birth. I had a deep sense of trusting my body to do this bit safely, and knowing that the labour had gone smoothly and naturally so far, the best thing to do was to let it continue. The cord wasn’t clamped and as I sat with Dan and our baby, in came our two year old to meet his new brother. He looked so pleased and proud and gave me a big hug then kissed the baby. I could feel contractions coming and going every now and then. I tried a few different positions to help aid the placenta out and pushed when I felt the urge. After 45 minutes the midwives were quite keen to give me the injection which we resisted. Standing up, I remember saying I could feel my body doing it with each contraction, and sure enough, with one more contraction and a fairly big push, the placenta appeared, in tact and complete, after 58 minutes of waiting. And I had only lost an estimated 500-600ml of blood. At this point I felt so proud. Proud of myself for breathing through the birth and feeling in control of our choices and proud of Dan for protecting our birth space so sensitively. The midwife gave me a few stitches and then we did transfer to hospital in the end in order to get the baby monitored for 6 hours just to make sure the meconium hadn’t caused any problems. All was fine and we were home at midnight.

I am so glad we discovered the mindful hypnobirthing resources and attended the course. It gave us confidence, calm and knowledge which enabled us to have the birth we wanted. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Thank you to Guin, our hypnobirthing practitioner, for guiding us through the course and helping us on our journey to the birth we knew we had the potential to have.