First birth experience
My previous experience with my first birth was that it had been ingrained it me that it was a painful experience so I was fearful. I was told all of the options for pain relief and why wouldn’t you use them, so it was almost predestined I would go down this route. I was induced without realising that a)I could say no, and b)that it would make contractions more painful. Because I was fearful they gave me pethidine for pain and I didn’t realise this is a mood enhancer so became more anxious. The more anxious I got the more I feared what was to come and so opted for an epidural before I even knew if I could cope. The whole process then slowed down and I had to have lots of interventions, suction and forceps, and because they were concerned about baby they kept putting needles into her head to check her. It was hugely traumatic for me, 22 hours, and a very stressful entry to the world for my baby. She was also very unsettled for months. Fear, mistaken beliefs, pain relief and not trusting my natural instincts did not work for me, our baby or the team working with me at the hospital.
Second pregnancy and introduction to Natal Hypnotherapy
During my second pregnancy a friend told me about hypnobirthing. I read a book about it and how fear causes the muscles to tense therefore making it more painful and how interventions are really not needed as the body is designed to do this by itself. This all made sense after my first birth experience, so I attended the Natal Hypnotherapy Workshops to learn the skills to use. Using these as well as a CD at home I began to prepare for a different birth. I no longer felt fear but excitement about the birth and trying a new approach. I also gained confidence in my ability to do this. As the day drew nearer some anxieties crept in but I was able to replace these with positive and calming thoughts.
Four days before my due date, on the Saturday at midnight, I had the bloody show so knew the time was near. The following day I rested at home experiencing cramps and back ache but was very relaxed. Midnight on the Sunday a sensation began that I soon realised with timings was contractions starting. The sensations came every 15 minutes lasting about 30 seconds and I was able to rest in bed through the night with the use of my mind map, CD and visualisation techniques to pass them. I imagined breathing in a green light to give peace to the baby and breathing out a red light with any negative thoughts leaving me. I also reminded myself they weren’t pain but sensations of muscles opening and viewed my womb as a flower opening to let my baby come out.
In the middle of the night they were 10 minutes apart and by the morning 5 minutes and lasting 45 seconds. They had grown stronger but very manageable. By the time I had used my visualisation thoughts they had passed. Soon after that they were 3 to 4 minutes, coming up for lasting 60 seconds, and I had to stop talking or walking to concentrate on working through them. My instincts told me it was time to go to hospital so I had time to create a peaceful environment again that end without it all feeling rushed or stressful. For me personally as relaxing as it would have been to continue at home, being a naturally anxious person I felt I wanted the security of hospital ‘should’ something go wrong. And as much as I love water and find it relaxing I chose not to go for a water birth in the spirit of merely keeping it simple and being on a bed! I knew I wanted to be on my knees over the headboard this time to let baby come naturally down as opposed to lying down as I had with my first, makes no sense looking back!
When I got to the hospital my waters broke and I had a rush of contractions so I knew things were close. I sat on a birthing ball leaning on the mattress to work through them. Compared to my first birth, struggling, finding out I was only 1/2cm and being dejected, I was very proud to find I was 6 cms and had got there feeling in control and relaxed. I was aware the rest of the cm’s would go quickly at this point and as they intensified I did start to question if I could do it but no sooner had doubts crept in contractions had passed and my body was just getting on with it and in autopilot where I had programmed myself into relaxation over so many hours. My husband also reminded me to breathe and relax. I had my mind map on the wall, my CD on, the room was dark and warm, the midwife and my husband were calm and quiet.
There was a huge urge to push and even though I felt I couldn’t cope at one point with how overwhelming the sensations were, I trusted my body and just kept breathing the baby down until she came peacefully into the world.
People on the desk outside said they couldn’t believe someone was giving birth in the room it was so quiet. People coming in the room said they couldn’t believe a baby had been born as it was so clean and tidy (my first birth the room was noisy, chaotic, messy with equipment). And the midwife team said it was a text book birth, so calm and such a pleasure for them to be part of. They couldn’t believe I had come in at 9.30am and she was born with such ease by 11am. I was treated very well on the ward after that, like royalty! I was even known as the ‘star of the ward’. I felt immensely proud of myself and so grateful for the gift I had given my child, she was so serene and continues to be. Soon after I was up, showered, lunched, checked over and home by the evening. Amazing.
An entirely different and surreal experience to last time. I still can’t quite believe how smoothly it all went and how calmly I dealt with it this time. The key words that Cathy put in her affirmation for me were ‘instinctual’ and ‘empowering’. I followed each of my instincts and they were all the right ones to follow with each choice I made. And I felt hugely empowered by being in control and doing it all by myself using just my body each step of the way. I consider it my greatest achievement in life so far. I could cry with gratitude to Cathy.