‘I felt such a natural high afterwards’

Nell’s birth story – by Jen
The thing about hypnobirthing through Mindful Mamma was that I found in the weeks and days leading up to birth that I wasn’t fearful or concerned at all. I carried on doing very normal things (although that’s a must when you have a pre-schooler anyway) and felt positive towards birth.My waters spontaneously broke on Friday 16th around 6.30pm, two days before my due date. Funnily enough it was a full moon. I’ve since seen that many midwives (and is there some research?) say that full moon = more women’s waters breaking. My expansions (my favourite word) started about 2 hours later. After settling Ada to bed, we actually got my parents round pretty quick and were on route to the JR by 9.45pm. Everything felt like it was ramping up and a hot water bottle just wasn’t doing enough. We listened to the instrumental music from Mindful Mamma in the car which I found calming. During an expansion, I focused using the golden thread breath. I found labour more intense than I imagined, which although was a lot to cope with, it still didn’t alarm me too much.I didn’t love the maternity assessment unit (stark, uncomfortable and bright) at all, but fortunately once I was taken to the delivery suite (4cm at 11pm) we set about making the room cosy. I liked my midwife, she was quiet and calming and I had written my requests in my birth plan which she did take time to read. We brought our warm nightlight from home which instantly made the room feel calm. We played the Mindful Mamma music on the CD player. Apart from that, I just bounced on the birth ball and used gas and air. The noise of gas and air was helpful to keep focused on the breath.She was born at 1.59am on Saturday 17th September. I have never known anything as intense, as this was a VBAC and I had not experienced labour before. Despite having shoulder dystocia right at the end (ow) all was well, and I felt such a natural high afterwards. I couldn’t believe I had pushed her out. 8lbs 2oz with a full head of hair. She breastfed within the first hour and I was keen to do this skin to skin. She wasn’t even weighed for a couple of hours which was nice. We have called her Nell which means bright, shining one.

‘We kissed, and I felt a surge of oxytocin’

Rowan’s birth story – by Caroline 


It was an amazing experience and one that I’d really like to share. Not to gloat, but to spread the idea that childbirth can be a wonderfully fulfilling and empowering experience.  It’s so often we only hear negative stories, yet spreading positive childbirth tales is essential so that others aren’t scared of labour, or expecting the worst.  ‘I did it, so can you,’ is more powerful than you can ever imagine.

After all, it is more likely that you will have a nice simple birth than that things will get complicated, it’s just that people sometimes feel guilty telling a good birth story when others have had a tough time.

I read several books on natural childbirth, two I’d like to mention are Spiritual Midwifery and a Guide to Natural Childbirth by Midwife Ina May Gaskin which as far as I’m concerned are books that could literally change the world, and are a must read for every pregnant woman getting you into a positive mindset in preparation for birth. Also Dr Gowri Motha’s The Gentle Birth Method, which gives you a plan to follow when you’re wanting to prepare for a natural drug free labour. I also trained in hypnobirthing with Guin at Mindful Mamma.

Here’s my experience…..

I woke up around 3.30am feeling a mild cramping sensation in my tummy. Even though I was 2 days away from my due date I put the cramps down to some wind and constipation. I was in denial that I would go into labour early. We’d being doing some major renovations in our home that had finally finished on the Friday. I’d booked for cleaners to de-dust the entire house on the Saturday, and Sunday was meant to be a day for relaxing as a family of 3 before we became 4.

I slept through the cramps, but at around 5.45am could no longer sleep, so went to the loo. It took me a little while to realise that the very mild cramps I was experiencing were exactly 5 minutes apart and each lasting for 30 seconds. My husband Alex woke up as I came back to bed and I told him that I thought something might be happening. We lay in bed cuddling and chatting for an hour or so. We timed the cramps as they got a little closer together. I turned and looked at Alex; ‘I think we better fill the pool’ I said. ‘I’m glad you said that because I was thinking exactly the same.’

We got up, and Alex began filling up the birthing pool, he made some toast and peanut butter as we thought it a good idea to eat whilst I still could. But as we pottered around the house, the contractions seemed to die down. I thought, ‘we could be here all day and night.’

At 8.45am we skyped Alex’s parents, and chatted for twenty minutes or so. My cramps were so mild I barely had to do anything to cope with them. Melissa our daughter had swimming at 10am and I managed to persuade Alex to take her. I also gave him a shopping list, as I was planning a roast chicken for lunch and had friends coming over. He reluctantly agreed, but insisted on calling the midwife just to let them know that something might be happening today.

When they left for swimming, I wandered around the house feeling a bit lost. Then I thought that if I was going to give birth today, I may as well have clean hair. So I jumped in the shower. As I was washing my hair Alex called back to say that the midwife would be with me in ten minutes time (around 10.30am) I thought, okay that’s fine, she’ll probably just check me then leave me to it until things pick up. Then I cleaned the shower!

Ann our midwife arrived just as I was drying my hair. She chatted away to me as I breathed through the contractions that were slowly picking up. She checked my dilation and found that I was already 4cm. ‘These mild contractions are obviously doing something…..Just carry on with whatever you’re doing’, she said.

‘I might bake a cake’ I said (something I’d done in labour with Melissa), we had enjoyed it with a glass of bubbly the day she was born).

Ann said she was going to pop up to the hospital to pick up the delivery box, but that she’d be straight back in twenty minutes or so. I thought that’s fine, but we’ve got a while left to go so no hurry.

When she left I decided to listen to my hypno-birthing CD, and settled into the ‘birthing room’ we’d prepared with dim lights, a birthing ball and a bed to lie on. Things felt manageable as I took myself off to my ‘safe place’ that I had visulised every day in practice for the real thing. After a while I soon realised that I was in no way capable of baking a cake. The cramps were strengthening.  Ann returned and I was having to concentrate more on every contraction which had lengthened to around 40 seconds and were 2-3 minutes apart.

Alex returned with Melissa from swimming at 11.30, I was sitting in our ‘birthing room’ on the birthing ball listening to my CD. He made some lunch for us and I managed half a bowl of soup and a slice of bread. I wandered around the kitchen in a hypnotic state leaning on various pieces of furniture during a contraction; the piano, a bar stool, a kitchen chair, my husband etc.

By 12.15 I started to say I didn’t think I could do it any longer. Alex reminded me that I was doing it, and that when it starts feeling impossible, that’s because I’m probably very close to having the baby.

By 12.30 I was on all fours in the birthing room, growling a low growl which vibrated into my chest during each contraction. ‘I need to get in the pool now’, I said. ‘It’s not ready yet’ Alex said, and he and the midwife began boiling kettles of water to get it to the right temperature. I asked Ann to check me and she said that she wouldn’t like to do it for another 4 hours. 4 hours I thought! I’m not going to last that long!!

The pool was wonderfully soothing, I flopped into the warm water and hung on with my head resting on the side. Alex knelt beside me saying encouraging words. I kept saying I didn’t think I could go on and Alex said that it was the first time I’d said this in 9 months of pregnancy, and that I could do it, I was doing it, and plus I’d done it before. We kissed, and I felt a surge of oxytocin which sped up the contractions.

A second midwife arrived. I told Ann I wanted to push. She said go on then. I was surprised that she’d let me push without knowing if I was fully dilated, but she said to trust my body. I could do nothing else but push. I pushed with all my might, and felt my waters break into the pool. It was a wonderful feeling of release. I reached up and could feel the hard surface of my baby’s head.

Then I heard the midwives talk among themselves. I’m just going to call the delivery suite, your baby has pooh-ed itself in the womb. Meconium can be sign that your baby is in distress. I had had this with our daughter Melissa and as my waters had broken earlier in labour we had ended up in hospital even though nothing had been wrong.

A surge of fear overcame me and the next contraction was weak and uneventful, it reminded me of how the power of the mind can progress or stall labour. Alex reassured me – it’s just a formality, they are following protocol.

Then Ann said the magic words – I don’t think you’re going to have time to make it to hospital. She had faith in me. I gathered all my courage and declared out loud that this baby was going to be born right now. As I said the words I had a very strong contraction that pushed the baby’s head into crowing position. All I could say was ‘burn’ as I was stretched to the maximum. Nobody could work out what I was saying, and as I was in the pool, nobody could see at what stage I was at.

The midwives asked me to lean back (I had been crouching in the pool). I remember  thinking ‘you’ve got to be joking, I can’t move out of this position’. Alex helped me move and they exclaimed that they could see the head. ‘I know’ I thought.

With the next contraction the baby’s head was out, and with one final push so was the body. I reached down and guided my baby up and out of the water and onto my chest.  It was 13.13pm exactly. He opened his eyes and looked at me, coughed and spluttered a little, then with a small cry began breathing and turned pink all on his own – 10 Apgar score! The midwife checked and saw that he was a little boy. He was perfect in every way and we immediately fell in love.

We climbed out of the pool and cuddled up on the bed all draped in towels and a dressing gown. All the time, Melissa our daughter had been sitting at the kitchen table next door watching Hotel Transylvania with headphones on.

Shortly after I delivered the placenta naturally, and they checked to make sure I had no tears – what a relief. We settled down for cuddles on the bed and a breast feed. That’s when the last photo was taken. Later we weighed him and he was exactly 8lbs.

I celebrated with a cup of tea and a Snickers bar! Melissa met her little brother, once her movie had finished, we’d decided a name and put clothes on baby Rowan.

Four hours later I was making gravy for a roast chicken that Alex had cooked. We had a glass of wine and were in bed by 9pm. A perfect day!

‘I was calm throughout!’

From Emma

Just to say that our beautiful son has arrived! My health deteriorated a lot during pregnancy, I had diabetes but more seriously obstetric cholestasis at a crazy high level (even on the maximum drugs my bile acids were over 300!) so they decided that I should be induced at 34 weeks and six days. To be honest I felt terrible so was pleased to start the process!

The induction went on and on ( 28 hours of it!) until they finally decided on an emergency c section.

Weirdly, for a generally anxious person, even for that amount of time I was calm throughout! I think the course had much to do with it. I found the counting (3,2,1 relax relax relax) particularly helpful. It helped my husband too- we did the counting down from 50 when they broke the waters which was particularly uncomfortable.

Thanks so very much for all of your help- we are all doing really well and needless to say it has all been more than worth it! I have recommended the course to many people already. I am truly loving being a mum!

‘It was the most empowering experience of my life’

Jasper’s birth story – by Kat

Our beautiful boy, Jasper, joined our family last Saturday morning 🙂 Despite all the medical concerns, he and I are both absolutely fine. He ended up being on the 50th percentile, not the 3rd as had been predicted!! Amazing that they could have got it so wrong really… But we felt well looked after and the mindful hypnobirthing was amazing for helping us prepare for/cope with such a medicalised labour induction.

‘321, relax relax relax’ was great for all the examinations, bursting of waters, and for the painful self-administered injections I’ve had to give myself since for my blood clotting condition. And it was really helpful to stay in the moment between contractions and focus on how short they really are, rather than dreading the next one (as was the case when I had my daughter).

Jasper quite literally flew out after just 4 hours without any pain relief or intervention, and I can honestly say that it was the most empowering experience of my life. All was calm and relaxed until the last 15 minutes when I started to transition, at which point both Christian and I forgot to employ any of the techniques – I ‘went a bit primal’, but even that was quite liberating and helped me to find the strength to get him out (just 2 pushes for the head and 1 for the rest of his body).

Thank you for helping us with this journey. It couldn’t have gone any better given the circumstances, and I’d recommend the course to anyone.

‘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.

‘The birth was incredible’

Isla’s birth story – by Beth

The birth was incredible and I had her at home. All of the midwives were impressed with the hypnobirthing! I didn’t feel any pain throughout the labor -just intensity. And I focused on the time between the contractions, like you taught us, and it was heavenly. Thank you for teaching me about that. Isla was born over 9 pounds and I did the whole thing without pain relief. I didn’t even use the TENS machine we purchased. There were no signs of distress throughout the labor but once she was born, it became really clear that she was struggling to breathe and had inhaled meconium so we were transferred to the hospital. I also hemorrhaged and lost quite a bit of blood so I was unable to have a natural third stage.

Isla was in intensive care for three days and then was able to be in my room for an additional three days. All of the doctors said there was nothing that could have been done to prevent what happened because everything happened during delivery and the outcomes would have been the same for both her and I if she had been born in the hospital. In fact the doctors in ICU told us they were really pleased she was born at home because despite being very physically distressed, she was extremely calm and relaxed. Also, she had no drugs in her system.

We plan on coming to the home birth group meeting and sharing our story. We both have wonderful memories and feelings about the birth and are so happy with the home birth.

‘Every contraction brings my baby closer to me’

Joshua’s Birth Story – by Lauren

I was 5 days overdue and becoming increasingly impatient. Up until the weekend (this was Sunday) I had been fairly relaxed about when labour would start but I was becoming more and more uncomfortable and really ready for things to start happening.

I had declined a stretch and sweep at 40 weeks and as excited and impatient as I was feeling, I was fully geared up to refuse one again at 41 weeks and had armed myself with all the information I needed in order to decline induction until it was absolutely a necessity.

I went for a walk with my Dad during the day and remember joking about how it would save him a trip from London where he lives if I went into labour while he was already here. He left at 5.30 pm. Gary left for his night shift at 6 pm and I settled myself in for another night of waiting.

At 8.30 pm I went to spend a penny and on walking back down stairs felt a warm trickle. I ran back upstairs thinking ‘Oh my God it can’t be, can it?!’ My waters had definitely broken and I tried to stem the flow as instructed but water kept coming.

I hadn’t really prepared myself for my waters to go first as I’d read that it happens in 20% of pregnancies so, as a fairly average individual, I assumed I wouldn’t buck the norm and that my contractions would start first. I grabbed my copy of ‘What to expect…’ and looked up what to do. It said that labour normally follows between 12-24 hours later. Okay I thought, I’ve got a while but yeh things are happening, I was very excited.

I called the midwife at Chipping Norton who said that it would probably take a while to get going and to keep them posted but that she was on the night shift so didn’t expect to see me. I then called Gary and explained what had happened and what the midwife had said and told him to hang on at work as there was no rush, that I’d call him again in an hour and let him know how I was. I also called my Mum who was going to drive down from Cheshire and she said she’d leave then so as not to get caught in any rush-hour traffic in the morning but that she’d let herself in and see us in the morning.

As I couldn’t sit still I decided to bake a birth-day cake for my baby (I can’t take the credit for this idea – I stole it from my NCT teacher) and after an hour, as my sponges were cooling I called Gary again to say that nothing else was happening. We decided at that point though that it was probably a good idea for him to come home, if I went into labour in the morning he would have had no sleep and that wouldn’t be a good start.

He arrived home at 11pm. I’d taken two paracetamol as instructed by the midwife and was getting ready for bed. At 11.15 I felt something happening. I remember thinking ‘Thank God we decided Gary should come back’. The midwife asked what we would like to do with regards to coming into the unit and we said that our plan was to stay at home as long as possible.

My first contraction felt quite strong, like an urge to go to the bathroom. I spent the following hours between the bathroom (I found it comfortable to be sitting on the toilet) and lying prone (as much as possible with the bump) on my bed. Early on I said to Gary ‘I’m scared, it really hurts’. I had expected the contractions to start like period pain and gradually get worse but they started as they meant to go on, strong and steady. Once I realised that the intensity wasn’t growing I settled into a bit of a rhythm with them, the intensity remained the same for the whole of my labour.

I remember my Mum arriving and Gary on/off the phone to the midwife but I wasn’t really aware of what was happening except for the contractions, I lost all sense of time. At one point Gary said to the midwife on the phone okay we’ll see you in an hour or so and I clearly remember thinking ‘What?! We need to go sooner than that’ but the time went like a blur and the hour felt like just a few minutes.

I was dreading the car journey but I held my Mum’s hand in the back of the car and breathed through the contractions. The breathing techniques that we’d learned during the hypnobirthing course worked really well to keep me focused and to stop any panic from rising. Gary also put on my ‘anchor’ music in the car which I’d visualised so many times and I think that was comforting too. The only drama was that we got stuck behind a white van travelling 40 mph in a 60 down the windy country roads at 3 o’clock in the morning – I just remember Gary saying ‘What are the chances?!’

We arrived at Chipping Norton and went inside to meet our lovely midwife Lesley, I had written in my birth plan that I wanted to have one examination to determine how far dilated I was and I remember all I was thinking at this point was ‘Please be 5 cm dilated, please be 5’ as I really wanted to use the birthing pool and this was the condition. Before being examined though I had to breathe through a couple more contractions, Lesley asked Gary whether they were coming more frequently than before and he said he wasn’t sure but he thought so. When she examined me I was fully dilated – I couldn’t believe it. I was whisked straight into the pool – it was about 4 am.

The water felt really good and the next couple of hours felt in one way like they went on forever and in another way that it was by in a flash. It didn’t feel like very long before Lesley and my second midwife Stevie were telling me that they thought it was time to start breathing the baby down (I can’t remember if that’s exactly what they said but I knew the baby was on his way). The contractions were very painful but I concentrated on the affirmations I had made, especially the one which said ‘Every contraction brings my baby closer to me’. I tried to focus on each contraction and think that ‘Okay, that one is over now and I don’t have to repeat that one’. Gary was with me, holding my hands and reminding me to breathe, telling me how proud he was and how excited. I was definitely ‘roaring like a lioness’ but not out of fear, it came from somewhere deep and felt powerful, not panicked.

The stinging sensation when the baby came down made me thankful that we had practised perineal massage as I wasn’t scared of the sensation, I knew what it was and although it was more intense I knew again that it meant the baby was coming soon.

I think I was physically exhausted and it seemed to take a while for me to muster enough energy to push the baby out, the head came out and I was so relieved, we were about to meet our baby. Lesley asked if Gary or I would like to lift him out of the water and I said ‘Oh let Gary’ I felt so tired. When it came to that final push though I was on all fours (I had to keep shifting position because of cramp in my calves) and Lesley said that because of the positioning I should reach down and lift the baby from the water.

When he popped out he shot backwards and I reached down, I couldn’t find him… ‘I can’t find him, I can’t find him!’ I shouted so Lesley gently pushed him forward between my legs in the water and I took hold of this tiny, red, slippery baby and pulled him from the water. I was in total shock. I just remember looking at Gary and looking at the baby and tears filled my eyes. Our baby was born at 06.20 am on Monday 28th April 2014.

Lesley and Stevie helped him to latch on and I sat with him suckling in the water for about 45 minutes. When I was ready to get out, I passed our son to Gary who held him, skin-to-skin whilst the midwives helped me from the water. I delivered the placenta naturally with no problems and was very happy to come away with just two minor lacerations to my labia. My perineum, my worry throughout my whole pregnancy and for years before, had come though intact. I cannot say how relieved I was, I am.

We had the proverbial tea and toast and moved to another room to recover. I just couldn’t stop looking at the baby, unable to believe that he was mine. We left the unit at 2.30 pm and went home to see my dad, Gary’s parents and eat our cake!

It was a completely incredible experience, I have tried to capture it here but words cannot describe it really. I feel incredibly humbled to have had such a wonderful experience. I wouldn’t change it for the world and feel somehow more whole having been through it together with Gary. I am also incredibly thankful that I was able to have the birth I wanted, for me and for Gary and for Joshua. It was exactly as my birth plan was written, the only difference being that I chose to birth in the water instead of getting out. I am so glad that I didn’t have any intervention and that I didn’t have any pain relief, I wanted to fully experience the birth without any haziness and I was able to do that. Our baby was so alert when he was born, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

‘Even if things don’t go as expected it is still possible to have a positive experience’

Alfie’s birth story – by Claire

I just wanted to pass on our good news – the arrival of baby Alfie on the 6th January.

Well, the labour process was interesting and ended up being quite far removed from the natural birth I wanted but I felt so positive about the whole experience and that the right decisions were made at the right times. I remained in control, relaxed and calm throughout even when it became apparent the outcome was going to be different to what I had wanted and planned. We were able to communicate our thoughts and feelings to the staff at the JR and they were wonderful in complying with our wishes and ensuring all the other medical team also kept calm and didn’t rush anything.

In short I got to 8 cm dilated in the pool, just using the breathing techniques (and entonox), but after 6-7 hrs from onset of labour it was apparent there was a problem with it progressing. I then asked for an epidural as I couldn’t control the urge to push much longer, which was affecting the dilation of the cervix. I got to 9 cm assisted with drugs but then the final bit just wouldn’t happen! Labour had been approx 17 hrs by this point and we felt that every opportunity had been given for a natural birth but there was a reason he wasn’t coming! (He was looking the wrong way too).

I was then prepped for a C-Section and Alfie was delivered safely. He weighed 10lb 2ozs! His weight and position meant that he wouldn’t have come naturally, without dislocating his shoulders!

Unfortunately the epidural hadn’t really worked for the c-section and I started to haemorrhage, since I could feel them stitching/sorting me out, I then was put under GA and went for surgery. In all I lost nearly 2.5 litres of blood, so I am anaemic and still recovering but other than that we are both doing well.

I just wanted to share my story to say even if things don’t go as expected it is still possible to have a positive experience and sometimes medical intervention can be useful, necessary and carried out in a calm and controlled way! I wouldn’t have been able to keep such a positive outlook if I had not been to Mindful Mamma! So thank you for all we learnt on the day and the opportunity to use my new found skills to remain calm and relaxed throughout what could have been a very fraught time!

‘Calm, confident and focused during my pregnancy and labour’

Bryony’s birth story – by Claire

I just thought I’d drop you a line to let you know about the safe arrival of our little girl Bryony Emilia and how the Mindful Mamma course helped us. You might remember, my husband Rob and I came to your workshop back in April because we were expecting our second child and hoping for a VBAC after an emergency c-section with our first daughter (I am the lady who embarrassingly burst into tears during the introductions at the start of the day).

With this 2nd pregnancy I went past my due date and having had an emergency c-section first time round, I agreed to be booked in for a c-section at 42 weeks if I did not go into labour naturally by then. Two weeks passed, the day of the c-section came and despite acupuncture, yoga and long walks I still hadn’t had a single contraction so I sadly resigned myself to another caesarean and planned to use the hypnobirthing background music and breathing techniques during surgery.

Then on the morning of the scheduled c-section as we arrived at hospital I started to get contractions! I was moved to the delivery suite where our little girl was born the next morning (8lbs 10oz and 15 days late) naturally with no pain relief other than gas and air. The experience was amazing, I was discharged from hospital the next day and nearly three weeks later we are all enjoying our new arrival and remain elated.

To a great extent, I attribute our successful VBAC to the things I learned from you and the Mindful Mamma course which helped us to leave behind the fear I had from my previous experience of birth and stay calm, confident and focused during my pregnancy and labour. I used a lot of the tips and advice you gave us and listened to the hypnobirthing tracks almost constantly during labour – after our little girl was born the midwives commented on how calm I was and one said ‘I don’t know what you were listening to on your headphones but I want some of it too’!

‘It was an amazing moment when I held him in my arms’

The birth of Edward Michael (7 lbs 15 oz) – by Maddy

On Monday evening, Dave and I did FaceTime with his parents. Jan said I looked like I was in the fed up stage of pregnancy, and she was right. I was 15 days past the due date and had been waiting for something to happen for a fortnight. I had been doing everything on the list to bring on labour, and even some things which weren’t on the list. That day I’d eaten chillies, bounced a lot on the birthing ball, and even ran a few steps during my walk. I went to bed with a heavy heart, as the next day I had an appointment at the hospital to be induced, and I had wanted to keep the birth as natural as possible.

11.45pm – Dave and I were about to turn the lights off when we heard a popping noise. I rushed to the loo and my waters broke. I went to phone the hospital and felt contractions starting. They were intense right from the start, and Dave and I rushed round finishing packing the hospital bag. I had thought contractions would start gradually and we’d have plenty of time to do this, but it was a mad dash.

We started timing contractions and they were very regular and continued this way throughout the labour. They were every two minutes and lasted a minute.

At the hospital we went to the maternity assessment unit. The midwife there examined me, but this wasn’t easy as the contractions were intense and close together and during them I wanted to stand and hold on to Dave.

The midwife transferred us to delivery suite. We had hoped to go to the Spires midwifery-led unit, but because I was past 42 weeks, that wasn’t permitted. We went to one of the delivery suite rooms. The midwife put monitors on me to hear the baby’s heart, and they were wireless so I could still move around easily. Most of the time I was leant over the birthing ball. For a couple of hours I used the TENS machine, and I found it very effective as a distraction. Then I started using gas and air as well as the TENS machine, as the intensity of the contractions increased. The gas and air was useful as it lifted the pain a little, but it also helped my breathing as I could hear it, like you hear your breathing when scuba diving. The sound was relaxing.

During this time Dave was making sure I drank water, giving me a cold flannel to press against my forehead, and giving me encouragement and praise. I was in my ‘zone’ and I only wanted to communicate with Dave about essential things. I was leaning over the ball and didn’t want to look at anyone or even really be touched or massaged. However I did want to know that Dave was right there and I disliked it when he left the room to go to the loo.

On my birth plan I had put that I would like to use the birthing pool and this was something I felt strongly about. When we arrived the pool was in use. Dave kept asking the midwife about it and put pressure on them to get it cleaned and ready for me. I am so grateful to him for this as having that to look forward to really helped me.

At about 3am I was able to get into the birthing pool. Dave said I immediately looked more relaxed when I got in. I continued with the gas and air and by this stage I was pushing. The midwife was able to feel the baby’s head and give me an idea of how dilated I was. She said it wasn’t too far to go and this helped. The pushing stage was quite intense, and by this stage I was moaning loudly with each contraction, which felt like a natural thing to do.

At 4.24am our son Edward was born. The midwife caught him in the water, and handed him to me. She didn’t tell us he was a boy, but let us see ourselves. It was an amazing moment when I held him in my arms. Dave was also in the pool by this stage and held him.

The next stage was to give birth to the placenta. I did this naturally, whilst feeding the baby, as this helps the process. It felt like having mild contractions and the placenta was soon out.

The midwife examined me and noticed I was losing a lot of blood and called in a doctor. The doctor said that I needed a few stitches, and they also put me on a drip with saline solution and syntometrine, which makes the uterus shrink and stops blood flow. Another doctor came in to do the stitches. In a way this the most painful part of the birth, probably because I wasn’t mentally prepared and was exhausted from the labour. They used a local anaesthetic but I could still feel a lot, and used the gas and air. I had to hold back tears and it was a big relief when it was over.

All in all it was an amazing experience and the birth went exactly as I’d hoped. I believe the hypnobirthing gave me the confidence to manage the contractions and avoid drugs for pain relief. What a way to welcome Edward into the world!


Dave’s recollections of the birth

We were lying in bed having watched an episode of Parenthood. We could not understand why labour hadn’t started naturally, but were resigned to having an induction anyway. Then, at around 2330, there was a small clicking noise and the bed shook slightly. Maddy jumped up and went to the bathroom without saying a word. I shouted after her, and she replied that yes it might be waters breaking, but there was blood present, so should we ring the hospital. Though I had a reasonable recollection of having heard this was fairly normal, I googled bloody water breakage and the advice was still to ring the hospital. I felt it odd that I was checking the internet in such a rush; the pressure of the situation was clear, but contrasted by the previously relaxed setting. Maddy rang as I got dressed and started getting more things together. We were advised that since Maddy was 2 weeks + overdue we should go in to get checked over. This sounded like a classic case of going in 24 hours early only to be sent home. Maddy grabbed a few more things to add to the suitcase while I packed the food bags. Maddy had promised I could boil some eggs to go with the sausage and tomato sandwiches, pepperami, plums, oranges, crisps, nuts and chocolate. Now she seemed reluctant and looked a bit pained as she lent over to get something from the underbed drawers. So I asked if there was any sign of a contraction. That’s when she said they’d started as soon as the waters broke. I swiftly opened the contraction timer app and gave it to Maddy. Within a few minutes it was clear the contractions were over 40 secs long and only 2 mins apart, and that Maddy was seriously underplaying the discomfort she was in.

We loaded up the car and left the house at 0020, Maddy sitting on a shower curtain. I focused on driving as smoothly as I could and remembering the route. Maddy had control of the contraction app.

We arrived and parked in our usual spot. The outer automatic doors opened, but the inner ones didn’t. I slid them open manually – not easy, but not so hard it felt like breaking and entering. Maddy knew where to find the maternity assessment unit, which is on the floor you enter the building on. At 0040 we were in the waiting area, contractions were becoming more intense and Maddy was assuming the position we assumed we’d never use.

We got taken into an assessment room, where the midwife examined Maddy and explained that the blood was due to the baby being so well engaged that waters had to seep a long way past something or other. The midwife seemed surprised Maddy was over 4cm dilated and that something or other had thinned a good amount.

I asked about moving us up to Spires, but we were not allowed because we were over 2 weeks late. Don’t think we knew this would be the case, not that we could have changed much if we had known. I stated how keen we were to use the pool, and that this was our priority, whichever floor we ended up on.

The assessment midwife led us through to a birthing room, where we met our midwife Ruth. Generally, everything was on slightly higher alert as a result of being 16 days overdue. This meant they wanted to put a monitor on and would require doctor signoff on things like getting in the pool. The monitor is good in that it is wireless, but bad in that it has awkward straps. The monitor instrument showed foetal heart rate and a number that represented a rough guide to whether a contraction was occurring. As described by others, it was hard not to become obsessed/ concerned by the intermittent bleeping of the monitor, nearly always giving false alarms due to poor alignment/ contact of the sensors.

Once it was clear we were settled in the room for a while, I rushed to car to get suitcase, mood board and food. I had to go for a wee behind a tree. The rushed wee seemed fitting for the situation. When I returned to the room, I really noticed how ridiculously warm it was in the hospital. Must have been 25 deg C plus.

Ruth encouraged Maddy to try the gas and air. I was hoping it would be effective, since I’d heard the extra oxygen helps the baby, plus I wanted the chance to have a go myself.

Maddy got down to having contractions whilst kneeling on the floor and resting her arms on a gym ball. I provided sips of water, kept the cold flannel cold and started and stopped the contraction timer app. Everything that wasn’t related to a contraction, had to be completed within the one minute between contractions. Mainly this was either Maddy and me, or me rushing to the loo (I’d had a pint of orange squash just before bed).

As the contractions intensified, Maddy asked for the TENS machine. The electrode pads have an adhesive gel side that is so sticky that it is maddeningly difficult to remove from the release liner and then get them off your hands. I had to control my breathing to focus on positioning the pads between/under the monitor straps while Maddy writhed and groaned through contractions. Once on, Maddy quickly turned up the power to halfway – 5 times more than she’d tried in the lounge. The switching of the TENS machine boost mode on and off became the marker for the contraction length.

I asked again about the pool. The patient was out of the pool, but still in the room. I asked Ruth to check again and requested that the room be prepared and pool filled as soon as it became vacant rather than waiting for the message to get back to us that it was available.

While Ruth was out of the room, I took about 5 consecutive lungfuls of gas and air, span out a bit, and, giggling, encouraged Maddy to do the same. The gas and air made a distinctive sound as it flowed through the pipe. This became the confirmation/ feedback that Maddy was breathing through contractions. Maddy tried using the iPod with the hypnobirth track, but there were too many distractions.

Ruth reported that there was still some concern about the baby’s heart rate during contractions. Apparently around 130bpm = good, <115 bpm = bad. This became a renewed focus for me, though I wasn’t too concerned. I had a look at the monitor print out for patterns; it was clear where contractions occurred by the decrease in heartrate, but other than times of poor signal, the drop looked repeatable and rarely lower than 115bpm.

The contractions were getting longer (sometimes over a minute) and at peak intensity Maddy really struggled not to tense up completely, hold her breath and actively push. I had to shout “breathe through the contraction!” and “focus on the sound of the air!”. It was hard to tell if this was ridiculously inappropriate at this stage and therefore just really annoying for Maddy. But she did manage to force some breathing, which meant a little more oxygen if nothing else. Sometimes I counted down the last 10 to 20 seconds of a contraction, I didn’t attempt the 50 second mirror counting as I knew I wouldn’t get the numbers right. Ruth asked Maddy if she was “feeling any pressure” during contractions. I wasn’t sure what this meant, as it was clear Maddy had been feeling surges of pressure from the moment her waters broke. So I asked “Do you mean is she feeling the urge to push?” Ruth confirmed and encouraged Maddy to push if she wanted to. From the two birth videos I’d watched, I thought it was advisable to hold off the active pushing for a bit to give things a bit of time to stretch. I queried, but Ruth just said push if you feel you want to. I was also keen not to rush things while we were yet to confirm pool availability.

I was now pretty hungry and sensed that opportunities to eat the food I’d brought would become increasingly limited. Only an egg would be up to the task. I grabbed it from the food bag during a 45 second lull, and asked Ruth if it was ok to eat it. Then I cracked the shell against the floor and peeled it beside Maddy. It was tasty.

Asking again about the pool, the response was that a doctor had to ok it. We were advised that monitoring could only be every 15 minutes in the pool, which increased the risk of still birth. I asked for clarification that actually there were no risk signs from the monitoring so far, meaning the only reason to continue monitoring was being 16 days overdue. So we opted for the pool with limited monitoring. I wanted to get us into the pool as quickly as possible, so when Ruth said the TENS pads needed to be removed, I got to work taking everything off.

In the pool room, the water did not look as deep as it could be, so I asked for a top up. Saying Maddy would be a bit “half in, half out” was a useful keyword, knowing that this can be an issue for the baby in terms of making it ambiguous when the first breath should be taken. More water was dutifully added.

As soon as Maddy got into the water she looked way more comfortable. Just the position facing and leaning up against the side looked more natural, let alone the ability to stretch out behind and move her legs.

Ruth now checked Maddy from behind using a knackered old torch and a shiny spatula as a mirror. After about 10 mins, Ruth could feel the head and called another midwife as part of policy when birth is imminent. I asked for a 5 min warning so that I could get in the water too (Maddy had managed to keep it surprisingly clean). In the meantime I rushed off to the first room and changed into my swimming shorts and red t-shirt.

I got in the water as soon as I got back and 5 mins later, Eddie was born and passed to Maddy. He immediately gasped for air and opened his eyes as he came out of the water. Cried a bit and looked stunned, but was very alert. Not really covered in any goo. The pool water was also basically clear apart from a couple of blobs resting on the base. After resting in the pool for 5 mins or so, the midwife brought some scissors for me to cut the cord. I checked out the quality of the scissors, seeing how well the blades could be made to shear against each other. They weren’t too bad, so I applied a pre-tension and though offered a central portion of the cord between two clips, I cut as close to the baby clip as possible to minimise the stub left to rot.

I hopped out and the midwives helped Maddy and Eddie out. Maddy lay on the bed with the back raised so Eddie could lie on her chest and feed, which brought on the cramps of the third stage. When Maddy delivered the placenta, Eddie was given to me for some skin to skin, made possible by my front opening shirt. The room was so warm and Eddie and his face in particular was very red. Eddie did not like being weighed – performing what I’ve since learned is a succession of Moro reflexes. I refused the chance to look closely at the placenta. If I was asked now, maybe I would, but at the time there was such a strong preference for looking at Eddie instead.

At 0815, once Eddie was wrapped up and given back to Maddy, we both tried to call our parents. Maddy struggled to get through, but I got hold of my Dad and got him to put Mum on the line. As I described to my Mum how well Maddy had done and how much had happened in so little time, I turned to see Maddy had started to cry, which is when the emotion of it all hit me too. I finished up the call as quickly as possible and went back to Maddy. The midwives offered tea and toast, which was delicious. I peeled an orange and fed it to Maddy as she fed Eddie again.

At 0850 I headed outside to send Hangout and Whatsapp messages. Soon after, we were moved to the observation ward at the other end of the floor. Very little space for luggage, but it was nice to be beside the window. The central heating remained ridiculously hot; the radiators were on full blast below the window, so I opened the widow.

After we’d settled in, I went back out to the car for some fresh air and to send messages. I sat in the car to put my phone on charge and stared straight ahead. The tail end of a hurricane had swept through during the night and trees were swaying and loads of leaves blew about.

When I got back to the ward, we tried to get Eddie to feed again, but it was proving difficult. A midwife offered to help, and in the end hand expressed 1 ml into a syringe and gave that to Eddie. She commented that it was like Jersey milk. I explained that Maddy was from Guernsey, where they consider Jersey milk to be relatively thin.

Later I helped Maddy to shower. It was very strange leaving Eddie, now asleep, in the midwife station.

At around 5pm, I changed Eddie’s nappy (the first huge meconium one) and then left to go home to lie down for a bit. Unfortunately, this meant I hit rush hour, so sat in traffic for 30 mins just to get out of hospital, making it hard to stay awake in the car. Once back at the flat I ate a large bowl of French onion soup, had a shower and then slept way too deeply; the countdown alarm noise was horribly confusing. When I eventually dragged myself out of bed, it was hard to focus on what I needed to take back with me. I couldn’t stand the thought of taking more hot onion soup back for Maddy as agreed.

I got back to the ward around 8, ready to change another mec nappy, using the windowsill for nappy change items. I stayed quite a long time past the end of visiting hours. I didn’t envy Maddy having to stay the night – the place could not be described as cosy, particularly the only nightlight option, which was above the bed and shone straight into Eddie’s eyes. I went home and got a 8 hrs solid deep sleep, which felt like quite an indulgence, but did mean I was more useful the next day. On Wednesday morning I arrived to find all the car parks full, so had to queue to get in. Maddy was at a Baby Cafe, after which we stayed in the cubicle having various tests until Maddy was discharged around 5pm. The car seat straps were checked and off we went. It was great to get home.