As predicted, my due date of 3rd December came and went, all of the other girls in my NCT class had had their babies and I was beginning to wonder if we were going to have to wait until Christmas! The one positive was that it gave my father plenty of extra time to complete the renovation of our kitchen which, despite his promise that it would take 4-5 weeks had already taken 8 weeks plus!
I continued, as I had done for some weeks, to listen to the Birth Preparation CD on a daily basis and was amazed to find that, even after all this time, I would on occasion ‘wake up’ during the recording and hear parts that I had never consciously heard before.
On Tuesday 10th December, as my father was laying the last few tiles of the kitchen floor my contractions began. Greg and I were hoping to surprise everyone with news of the baby’s arrival and weren’t planning on announcing the labour, so I calmly asked my father if he would be finished and leaving shortly because “I needed space and quiet to listen to my hypnotherapy CD”. He has since said that he had no idea what was happening and didn’t even cotton on when Greg arrived home an hour and a half early! Unsure what to expect Greg and I checked the hospital bags, set up camp in the sitting room and prepared a carbohydrate heavy meal in anticipation of what was to come. I also found and read the instructions for the tens machine! We were excited not only by the prospect of meeting our little person but also by the fact that his/her birthday would be 11/12/13!
My contractions were fairly regular at about 8 minutes apart and 1-1.5 minutes long. They were bearable (like short and very intense period cramps) and I found that breathing through each contraction and focusing on the fact that they would pass within 90 seconds at the most really helped. Well, Tuesday night came and went, Wednesday passed, as did Wednesday night…the contractions were regular, at between 5 and 8 minutes but I was reassured by the midwife that we were in the ‘latent’ phase of labour and should stay at home as long as I was comfortable. By now the tens machine was in play and I have to say it was invaluable!
By Thursday afternoon the contractions had intensified but we still weren’t hitting the magic 3 in 10 minutes. I was uncomfortable and unable to lie down but otherwise coping well. Greg and I were still camped in the living room which now resembled a ‘den’ built by children out of duvets and pillows. At about 2am on Friday morning Greg had decided that it was time to go to hospital and called the ward. As expected, the midwife asked to speak to me and after keeping me talking for the obligatory 5 minutes, determined that we still had a way to go and should stay at home. I clearly didn’t sound as though I was in enough distress.
By 5am, completely shattered and desperate to sleep, I tried to lie down on our bed. As soon as I did so I felt the urge to push and woke Greg up, telling him to get ready. Greg again phoned the ward and the midwife asked to speak with me. By this time I was sat on the toilet rocking back and forth because it was the only place that was remotely comfortable (I had visions of giving birth on the toilet like someone out of an American documentary!) After speaking with me the midwife concluded that the baby was back to back which was causing the urge to push and that there was still some way to go (again, I was far too calm and able to speak). When I asked what to do with the urge to push, she told me to ignore it!! It was clear that she thought Greg and I were being anxious first time parents (I was imagining the looks between midwives when Greg’s second call came in) but said that “because my husband was clearly anxious, she would have us come in to the antenatal ward to be assessed but it was highly likely that we would be sent home”.
As we walked to our car the urge to push was strong and I honestly didn’t think I could get into the car. Fortunately the traffic wasn’t too bad and we made it to RSCH just after 7am. Our timing was impeccable as the night staff were handing over to the day shift and so Greg and I were left in the waiting room for about 45 minutes. When a midwife finally arrived we were taken through to the assessment unit and chatted away with me outlining the progress to date and the latest diagnosis that the baby was back to back. There were two other couples in the unit, one lady was squatting on the floor and the other was crying and pleading with her husband to make the pain stop. It was at that point that I decided that if I had to get to that stage, I didn’t really fancy the whole ‘birth thing’ anymore! I waited for a contraction to pass and then got on to the bed, chatting to the midwife as I did so. She said that from talking to me and seeing my general state, I was going to be some way off but she would do the internal examination in any case. I shall never forget the look on the midwife’s face when she did the examination – I was fully dilated and we were ready to go!! Our midwife was clearly shocked that I was fully dilated and did comment that Natal Hypnotherapy does on occasion catch them out.
We walked through to the delivery suite and were introduced to our midwife Claire. Claire asked if she could examine me again to ensure that I was fully dilated so as not to push on the cervix and soon confirmed that I was. After the birth I asked Claire whether she had genuinely believed that I was fully dilated and she said that when we arrived she had been pretty skeptical!
I hadn’t really decided whether I wanted to use the birthing pool but I decided that I would try it and so Claire filled the pool as we sat chatting. Getting into the pool was a bit surreal; I was sat naked with Greg to my left and Claire to my right just waiting! I remember saying to Greg that he must be finding the whole thing really boring – just watching me sat in a bath, chatting whilst we waited for things to get moving! Greg said that Claire shot him a look of disbelief when I made that comment! My contractions were about 6-8 minutes apart and quite quickly I worked out that with each contraction I would get 3 pushes, so as the contractions came I put my head on my knuckles, breathed and worked through my 3 pushes. It was as though someone was flicking a switch, the contractions would come, I’d focus on the 3 pushes and as soon as the contraction passed, Claire, Greg and I would go back to discussing football, NHS tea bags and all sorts of other things. It was all remarkably civilised – there was no screaming and the only time I swore at Greg was when he made reference to it being Friday 13th! Claire loved us because I had massively over prepared a huge bag of food, sweets, Jaffa cakes etc and we let her have her pick – Jaffa cakes, PG tips and haribo tangfantastics are the way to a midwife’s heart!
Unfortunately the birthing pool seemed to slow things down and Claire cunningly coaxed me out saying that she’d like to change the water before the baby arrived. Once out of the pool things moved fairly quickly, I was most comfortable up on my knees and so knelt on the bed.
As before, I worked with the 3 pushes each contraction and remember saying to Claire that I just wanted to hear her say those magic words “I can see the head”. The pushing wasn’t exactly comfortable but it wasn’t as bad as I had expected plus, I really felt like I was doing something and we were so close to meeting our little person that I just wanted the contractions to keep coming. After what seemed like a few short minutes Claire announced that she could see the head and lots of hair! Our baby’s head was born at 12:01 but the shoulders got stuck and so I turned onto my back and told to push. Had I been watching the birth on TV (Call The Midwife or One Born Every Minute) I suspect this would have seemed quite dramatic but I was so calm and felt completely confident in the midwives looking after me that I just did what they told me to do and at no time felt even remotely scared or panicked. Our baby girl was born 7 minutes later at 12:08 and just kept coming and coming – she was extraordinarily long and was not a dainty little girl, weighing in at 9lbs 2oz!
Apgar scores were 9 at both 1 and 5 minutes and she latched on straight away to feed, it was all perfect. Unfortunately we then had a bit of a Holby City moment as I suffered a fairly large post-partum hemorrhage. I’m not very brave when it comes to all things hospital but I lay back as 6 or so people whizzed around me putting in cannula, giving me injections and doing whatever needed doing. Greg held our baby girl and we were both so calm, completely confident in what was going on around us. If you had asked me beforehand how I thought I would cope in that situation I would have expected to be terrified, crying and panicky but I wasn’t at all – the whole environment was totally calm.
The drama was over almost as soon as it has started and we were again left with Claire our midwife, again we were laughing and joking and nick-named our not so small baby girl – Helga the shot putter! It was all so amazing and although I had just gone through the process of giving birth I still couldn’t believe that she was ours and was convinced someone had wheeled her in from another room.
I think we became fairly infamous on the ward, having come in fully dilated, been so calm and given birth to a 9lb + baby without any pain relief at all. So many of the midwives came in to see our little girl and to congratulate us, saying how well I had done. I felt a bit of a fraud accepting their praise because I didn’t feel like I had done anything out of the ordinary or “amazingly well” – it had felt like the most natural thing in the world – my body knew what it wanted to do and I did what it told me to do. 15 minutes after the birth I told Greg that I would do it again in a heartbeat which to me says a lot about the whole process and both how natural and “right” it was.
I could not have wished for a more perfect birth experience, yes the labour was long and the hemorrhage wasn’t ideal and did take a good few weeks to recover from, but it was the most amazing and totally natural experience. I’m not a particularly body confident person, not one to prance around the house in the nude and before the birth I was dreading my first post-partum shower (the sagging skin etc) but the birth process actually changed the way that I feel about my body – I was so proud of what my body had done that I didn’t mind the way it looked at all.
I have suffered with an anxiety disorder since I was young and I was really concerned that it would negatively affect my pregnancy and the birth but I was the calmest I have been for years. No doubt the hormones played a part but I firmly believe that the Natal Hypnotherapy was a huge factor. Greg, who prior to the course viewed hypnotherapy with some skepticism, is a complete convert. He was so calm throughout the labour and like me, cannot speak more positively about the whole experience and Natal Hypnotherapy. I honestly didn’t think birth could be like that – I thought it was going to be pretty horrendous, painful and scary but it was just simply amazing. I feel really lucky to have had such a positive experience and blessed to have a healthy, beautiful baby girl.
The only negative from the whole experience…Poor old Greg, whenever he complains about any form of pain he is met with the response that I gave birth to a 9lb 2oz baby girl after a 4 day labour with no pain relief……!
So that is the story of the arrival of our daughter, Charlotte Elisabeth Nicoll. Cathy, thank you so much for all of your guidance and support – if you ever need some advocates in support of Natal Hypnotherapy, Greg and I are happy to be top of the list!