When I say I was in labor for almost 48 hrs, with strong contractions and no pain relief for over 15 hrs and no sleep for around 40 of those hrs, you might think I had a negative birth. But I want to start this story off by saying I had a POSITIVE BIRTH. Reflecting on Ollie’s birth I am SO PROUD of myself. I was stronger than I knew I could be, I stayed calm and stuck to my breathing the whole time and even though we went through lots of different scenarios in the end our baby boy was placed on my chest with open eyes and a little cry and nothing else in the world mattered any more.
So here it is, my hypnobirth birth story (sorry, it’s a bit of a long one)…
On a Friday evening (the day before my estimated due date!) I noticed the Braxton Hicks I’d been getting randomly for a couple of months, becoming more regular. We both had a feeling that this was the very beginning of meeting our baby! We went to bed wondering what the next day might bring and unexpectedly I woke up at 1am because my waters had released – I was so excited I woke Jase up straight away. It was officially happening. We called our hospital and because of the risk of infection once waters release they asked us to visit for a checkup. We arrived at around 3am. They did some tests and everything looked good for us to go home and come back 12 hrs later for another check up or when/if my contractions were stronger.
We got home at 4am but I couldn’t sleep. Little did I know I really should have made the effort to get some sleep then because I would be awake for the next 40 hours. The next day my contractions were getting a stronger but were still 10 mins apart. We ended up back at the hospital for the tests at 2pm and everything still looked good so back home we went to wait and see if the contractions would get stronger. If they didn’t I was booked in to be induced at 11pm that night, which I really wanted to avoid.
As we got home my contractions ramped up. We went for a walk in the park and I had to stop every 5 mins close my eyes and breathe, because my contractions were now so strong. By 7pm my contractions were 2 mins apart and getting quite intense. I felt like it was time to go to the hospital so we called to let them know we were on our way. By the time we arrived I couldn’t move during my contractions so I needed a wheel chair to get to the maternity ward. I’m so glad we left when we did!
It had been 19 hrs since my waters had broken and since I’d slept. In the birth room Jase helped me change and put on my birth playlist. Two songs in and it was annoying me, so I asked him to change to my favourite hang drum playlist and that’s what was left on for the next 26 hrs. Our midwife had read my birth plans (A, B + C) and was going to do everything she could to help me achieve a natural birth without pain relief. At this point I was 1cm dilated with 9cm to go.
During the next hour my contractions became stronger and I was no longer able to talk to Jase or our midwife (who was an angel sent from heaven by the way). I had bouts of vomiting and shakes so strong I could not walk. But I was just so focused on my breathing and visualising my natural birth that most of the next hours are just a blur.
At 11pm my midwife took Jase aside and let him know she did not think I would have the energy to make it through a natural birth if I didn’t get some rest. She suggested he talk to me about taking a special ‘cocktail’ through my drip to give me 2 hrs of sleep and some time to let my body rest and regain some strength – I said yes right away, I needed a break.
Fast forward to 2am on Sunday and I was now 3cm dilated and the ‘cocktail’ was wearing off. I then spent another 8 hrs breathing through my contractions – I spent time in the bath, on the bed, on the ball and in a chair. Each time a contraction started I told myself “this is as strong as it will be, it is already easing.” The feeling of my contractions is so hard to explain. It’s the most intense thing I’ve ever felt.
At 10.30am my Dr arrived and I was 5cm dilated. She felt that things were not progressing and was concerned that baby was showing signs of stress. My uterus had become fatigued and needed to relax to help things along. It was then a c-section was proposed as a next step. I cried hearing this. To be prepared I said yes to an epidural. Which would be needed for a c-section, but which we were more so hoping would help relax my body just enough to help me reach 10cm and have the birth I really wanted.
Before my birth I did not realise that an epidural could actually help you achieve a natural birth because it helps to relax and open up your muscles.
Even though I felt a little deflated after working my way through 15 hrs of strong contractions without pain relief, to be told I may have to have a c-section, I decided to refocus on working with my midwife to do whatever we could to avoid it. But even if this birth ended up being a c-section I was proud of how hard I’d worked, and no matter the outcome I was going to meet my baby TODAY!
The first thing I said after my epidural kicked in was “I know this sounds strange, but can I please brush my teeth!” – almost immediately I was back to my normal self. Jase had offered me my toothbrush a number of times already but I had no memory of it and apparently had said no! With my self-controlled epidural I could choose when to give myself more pain relief with a button. I could still feel my whole body and my contractions – but they were much more subtle. I decided not to even let myself imagine a c-section happening but instead used all my energy to visualise my natural birth.
At 12pm the epidural was working to help relax my body, but now my contractions were slowing down, which is not what we wanted. We were still on a time limit before the Dr would recommend a c-section as the safest option. So I said yes to having an oxytocin drip to help get my contractions going again. By 2pm I was 6cm dilated – I was making progress!
At 3pm the midwife noticed that the baby was not moving into the right position and found a fluid build up near baby’s head. She used a hook to release this section of the amniotic sac so that the baby would hopefully line itself up correctly (I didn’t feel this at all).
By 4pm baby had moved into the perfect position and it was looking positive for my natural birth. Now it was a matter of the midwife moving me every 20 mins to keep the baby moving down. I had to trust my body and my baby were doing what they needed to while I focused on resting. If things worked out the way I wanted them to I was going to need a lot of energy to push – because my uterus was so fatigued it wasn’t going to be helping me. And now it was time to wait it out and see if I could get to 10cm within the next few hours…
And finally here is the ending of my birth story… Even though it might sound like I had a negative birth – I look back and feel SO PROUD of myself. It’s not an experience I want to forget or move on from. I want to remember how much strength I had, how positive I was able to stay no matter what scenario I was facing and how I ended up meeting my baby boy full of JOY. Throughout the entire birth I had not once screamed, I had kept to my slow breathing and kept as calm as possible. For me this was important, it’s how I wanted it to be – but of course there’s nothing wrong if you want to scream during birth. Everyone’s story is unique. Looking back though I didn’t realise at the time how tense my body had gotten. Even though I managed to do calm breathing I think my stress had settled into other areas of my body without me noticing.
Between 4pm and 6.30pm I went from 9cm to a full 10cm – I was over the moon to hear this. At this point I knew my natural birth was going to happen. Me, my baby, Jase and the midwives had done it! We’d all worked together to get to this point and it was almost time to push.
Because my uterus was exhausted it was not going to be helping me to get the baby out – I had to use every ounce of energy I had left to push. Before I knew it the midwife, my Dr and Jase were surrounding me and it was time! My midwife helped me try a few different positions to see which one would have the clearest path for the baby. Once we’d decided on one I had to wait for the beginning of each contraction and basically push for dear life.
The first few pushes felt like nothing was happening – but the midwife said she could feel the head! Two more pushes and one of the most amazing moments of my life – she told me I could reach and touch his head. I never thought this is something I would want to do – but in that moment it’s everything I needed to give me the motivation to keep going.
Jase recalls that moment and he said he literally saw my face light up as I touched our baby’s head for the first time. From there it was just two more pushes and our baby was out. Our Dr held him up and we both shouted “It’s a BOY.” With a little cry he was placed on my chest and time seemed to stand still as we stared at him. We’d been waiting to hear that cry for a long time and it was sweeter than we could have ever imagined.
Thanks to the amazing work and skill of my midwife I had no tearing or stitches. It would have been easier for her to agree to the c-section 24 hours earlier, but she fought hard to help me achieve my natural birth. She was truly an angel. Because we were at the hospital for four shift changes we had this midwife when we arrived and then again when Ollie arrived. We couldn’t believe our luck to have her for two of the most crucial time periods of the birth.
I also have to say that having done our hypnobirthing classes before the birth was incredibly helpful for both of us. We gained the knowledge we needed to be confident enough to ask questions and challenge decisions we weren’t 100% comfortable with. We learnt how my body and the baby both work together during the birth and what we could do to make it as smooth as possible for both of us. Jase learnt how he could support me and be the birth partner I needed to keep calm and relaxed. I spent the last few months of my pregnancy practicing the visualisations and breathing techniques that I know are the reason I was able to make it through 48 hrs and have the natural birth I’d so dearly hoped for.
If you’re in Zug, Zurich and Lucerne I can highly recommend Karis from Open Hand Birthing as a wonderful, down to earth hypnobirthing teacher. From beginning to end Karis was an amazing part of our support network. If you decide to get in touch with Karis let her know I sent you!