I want to go into this post saying that I had all of the same anxieties and worries about giving birth that most women do. I tend to dislike the unknown in life, so not knowing what to expect when it came to labour and birth gave me some pretty negative feelings towards the experience from the beginning of my pregnancy. However, I decided that I wanted to prepare myself as much as I possibly could and so I started reading into hypnobirthing and its benefits when facing this inevitable part of having a baby. I bought a couple of books, downloaded some tracks to my phone and attended an antenatal course which focused quite heavily on the techniques involved in hypnobirthing (but, evidently, I didn’t get to finish).
All that being said, I was still practising and was not well-versed in these techniques when baby girl decided to make her appearance 3 and a half weeks early. Because of this I can’t say that I used all of those things that I’d learned during my labour and birth as I had not had enough of a chance to really perfect how I would prepare and go through all the different stages. If we’re lucky enough to have another little one, I would definitely start practising hypnobirthing techniques earlier on, maybe starting around 20 weeks.
So, we were late on in the pregnancy, but not on high alert on the day of July 18th. We thought we still had a few weeks to go, I was still working and we hadn’t even attended the hospital to find out where the midwife or labour wards were (the first visit was that evening). I’d had no Braxton Hicks contractions and I’d made peace with the fact that I was going to be pretty uncomfortable for the rest of the pregnancy – baby was super low and made any type of movement tricky and painful. Husband and I had finished work around 5pm and had headed straight to our local hospital for that first visit to the midwife unit for their two-part parenting class that I just mentioned. We’d come home around half past 7 and had settled into watching TV for a couple of hours. Just before 10pm I decided to head off to bed and asked husband to head upstairs with me in case I needed help with getting comfortable in bed.
I was sat on the bed with him and, all of a sudden, there was a (excuse this word) gush! I have never experienced my waters breaking, but I was pretty sure that this was it! Luckily, I was wearing a pad so the bed was safe and I quickly ran to the bathroom. I found the appropriate telephone number for the labour ward and gave them a ring, explaining what had happened. I had no pain at this point, but they wanted to see me to check whether my waters had, in fact, ruptured and because this would be premature labour. My waters were still ‘leaking’ (bleurgh) on the way to the hospital, walking to the unit and waiting in the waiting room, so that was fun, as it very much looked like I’d had an accident.
We were shown to a dark and empty labour ward (we had to stay in the consultant led area rather than go to the midwife led unit as we were classed as premature) and I was hooked up to a monitoring machine to check on baby. I was glad for the quiet, dark environment as this was something that I was hoping was going to contribute to a relaxed birthing experience. Baby’s heart was beating a little fast for their liking, so I was told to drink a lot of water. When I say a lot, I’m talking jugs full. The pains slowly started around midnight and we were told to get comfortable as we wouldn’t be going home. This was when husband briefly popped home to get all our stuff; luckily the bags had been packed for a few weeks, so everything was ready to go.
If you’ve spoken to a woman who has given birth and she tells you that time loses all sense of meaning when in labour, she wasn’t lying. The only way I know approximately when things unfolded is through what my husband tells me and the time stamps on my phone’s messages. It was about 1:15am when husband got our belongings from home and the pain was getting a bit worse. Time went on and the pain kept intensifying and I was finding it hard to speak through each contraction. I used the birthing ball, my breathing techniques and leaning on the back of the hospital bed to get me through. At some point in these next couple of hours I was examined and was told I was 3cm dilated. I wasn’t yet in established labour and so could not receive the gas and air I would’ve liked at this point, I just had to keep going as I was and wait until things developed further. It is very true that experiencing contractions and then being told that you are much less dilated than you think is hard to take and you do wonder how you will get through hours more of labour when this is only the beginning. The next few hours passed in a haze of contractions, vomiting (be ready for this – I wasn’t and nearly didn’t have anything to catch it!) and a whole lot of deep breathing.
After a little while of the pain getting worse and thinking that I was only 3cm dilated I started to waiver on my decision not to have pain relief. If I had known at this stage that I was nearly 8cm and almost ready to push I most definitely would not have had the pethidine that I ended up getting and would likely not have been offered it. However, I was not examined before the injection was given, only afterwards when I felt ready to push. If I had to pick out any negatives at all about our care whilst in hospital it would be related to this. We were left to our own devices a bit – presumably after I was examined and found to be 3cm, they thought it would be a while before I progressed to a point where I was ready to give birth. We had to seek out midwives on any occasion we needed assistance and we even had to get our own containers so that I could vomit into something! For a first time mum who was giving birth prematurely I was anxious and needed to be reassured that all was okay; we were lucky that my labour and birth were super straight forward, so I didn’t need any extra help, but a reassuring word every now and again would’ve really helped me to relax. I know these wards are super busy and everyone is stretched, so I really don’t fault the care we received most of the time we were there, but it was a slight mark on my otherwise super positive experience.
I was given the pethidine injection at around 5:00am and could feel myself relax and be more able to handle the intensity of the contractions. It was only a short while after this that I felt the unmistakable urge to push and we called for a midwife. After being examined and found to be 8cm, I was wheeled into the delivery room. By 6:00am I was ready to start the pushing phase and felt a huge amount of strength to deliver our baby and meet our sweet girl. I was expecting to hit a point in the labour when I would want to give up and have the overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t do it anymore, but that never came, so with each wave of a contraction I pushed and pushed and pushed, excited to see the face of our little miracle. I was encouraged beyond measure by my husband, my mum and the two midwives in the room with us at this stage and even got to feel baby girl’s head with my hand at one point.
At 6:38am and with one last push she was here and we’d done it! She was whisked away to the oxygen machine next to the bed as she needed a little bit of extra oxygen (caused by the pethidine) and I needed to deliver the placenta but she was soon brought back all wrapped up and ready for cuddles. I passed her over to her daddy and nonna whilst I was handed back the gas and air to have some stitches sewn and we were then able to give feeding a go. She was a very healthy 7lb 9oz – big for a baby who was 3 and a half weeks early – she must have been fully cooked and ready to come into the world!
We had a couple of hours in the delivery room to feed, bond and I got to have a shower, before being moved to the recovery ward to settle into looking after our sweet bundle. We had to spend a few extra days in hospital due to baby’s low blood sugars and a bout of jaundice, but we came home as a family of three 3 days after her birth. Looking back, those days in hospital helped with establishing breastfeeding and allowed us to get comfortable with how to take care of our precious baby before getting back to reality at home with a newborn without the help of midwives whenever we needed them.
Thank you for sticking with me for this post, it was such a fun one to write as I got to think back about the special day we brought Ella into the world. I had such a positive birthing experience and was honestly talking about doing it again just a few short hours after she was born. I know not everyone is lucky enough to get an experience like mine, but I truly believe that my practice of mindfulness and hypnobirthing techniques in the weeks leading up to the birth were so beneficial in keeping me calm and focused. Add to that the support I had from my husband and my mum and I felt like a warrior going through labour and birthing our baby in just a few short hours. I hope that if you are a mum to be that my experience goes just a tiny way in helping you feel a bit less apprehensive about what’s to come.