‘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.

A guiding STARR

One of the most challenging situations during birth is when something unexpected happens that necessitates a radical re-think of approach. I have heard so many examples of this in birth stories – and the way in which labouring women and their partners are able to negotiate these twists and turns in the birth journey seems to have a significant impact on their birth experience, both in the moment and in their memories of the event.

I’m not just talking about the big dramatic denouements – the unexpected breech baby who prompts a dilemma about c-section versus vaginal breech birth – the very quick labour with a baby who arrives before the midwife does – the labour that starts spontaneously hours before a planned c-section. It’s also the seemingly smaller events that nonetheless change the course of a labour, or introduce elements the mother wasn’t expecting – a birth pool that can’t be filled for some reason, meaning the mother must seek alternative sources of comfort – a labour that is proceeding so quickly and smoothly as to make a planned epidural pointless – a partner stuck in traffic on the way home from work – a chosen birth centre that happens to be full on the night.

Almost anything could happen – and most probably won’t. It would be impossible and even counter-productive to try to prepare for every possible situation, and perhaps what is more useful is the ability to stay flexible with the unfolding of events, adapting to the circumstances as they arise in the moment while staying true to the spirit of our wishes for this birth. In Mindful Mamma courses we do a visualisation based on the idea of a tree, which represents a woman’s wishes for her birth experience – firmly rooted in well-practised mindful hypnobirthing techniques, able to bend and sway with whatever the weather happens to be on the day, but remaining its essential self.

What can help us to harness this mental flexibility when it’s most needed? I’ve been thinking about a way to capture the steps involved in this kind of mental manoeuvre that’s practical and easy to remember. Maybe what we need when everything is at sea – when we seem to be pulled away from familiar shores on tides we didn’t know were there – is a guiding star: something we can re-set our co-ordinates by, a light in the fog.

This approach is loosely based on the RAIN acronym, suggested by various mindfulness teachers for dealing with difficult emotions (explained here by Tara Brach). But these steps are specific to a mindful hypnobirth, and expressed as STARR.

Stop – the first step is to stop and acknowledge the situation – step outside it for a second to recognize that in this moment, something unexpected is happening. It can be tempting in such moments to rush forward with some kind of action. Instead, take a moment to press pause, and label the situation as an event we weren’t expecting but still have a choice in how to respond. This step might also involve asking others who are involved to press pause – for example asking the midwife or obstetrician for some time, to let this turn of events sink in, before you continue the discussion.

Techniques – use your practised techniques to calm your body and mind. Unexpected events often create anxiety, but any decision is better faced from a place of calm and focus. Perhaps 321 Relax, the lengthening breath, or the shoulder anchor.

Allow – accept that this situation, whether we like it or not, is happening right now. As Tara Brach puts it, “allow life to be exactly the way it is” – because it’s already that way. When we allow a situation we can bring our full attention to it, seeing clearly how best to respond.

Re-plan – it’s time for plan B. How can you adapt your birth preferences in light of what’s happening now? You may well find that many of your wishes can be carried out in a slightly different way. Even in the most medical of birth scenarios there is room for negotiation and choice. Small changes to the atmosphere in the birth room (lighting, sounds, the way people speak or stay quiet, how the baby is greeted and welcomed once born) can make a big difference to the parents’ experience of their baby’s birth. This is the moment for BRAINS – you may need to gather more information (for example to make a decision on a suggested intervention) and for re-planning. If you could summarise your key birth preferences in one or two bullet points, what would they be? Now express that to the people who can help you achieve them. As Sophie Fletcher writes in Mindful Hypnobirthing (p.195), it can help to clarify the following three points (and write them down if possible): ‘1. These are the facts I was given. 2. This is the choice I made. 3. These are the reasons I made that choice.’

Relax – use your mindful hypnobirthing practice to help you through this twist in the journey. What techniques will work in harmony with any interventions you choose to accept? What techniques can you use in place of something you’d planned that is no longer available to you? Using your skills can help you stay calm and focused, enabling you to get the best you can out of any situation.

Women deep in the zone of labour probably won’t be thinking about what all the letters of an acronym represent. This one’s for birth partners – as the labouring woman’s supporter you’re ideally placed to pull this out of your back pocket if it turns out it’s needed. ‘Ok – let’s do STARR’ – you can guide your birthing woman through each step.

There is little point spending a pregnancy preparing for all sorts of birth scenarios that are unlikely to happen to you. But some forethought on the steps you would go through in any situation that requires a change of tack is time well spent.