Mama E – “Overall not much about my birth plan was implementable – partly due to the Covid-19 restrictions, but largely also due to my contracting the preeclampsia. However, the strategies we learned at Hypnobirthing helped us to stay calm, ask the right questions, and cope with all that was thrown at us.”
Firstly, we would like to thank you for helping us develop the strategies that gave us a positive experience – it would have been totally different if we hadn’t done hypnobirthing.
At 38+2 I had a scan booked at UHW during which I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. The consultant Hassan explained what preeclampsia is, and that he would be looking to induce me ASAP, and how this night effect my birth plan (e.g. no pool). I went back to my husband in the waiting room and explained, focussing on the happy fact that we would have our baby soon! I was sent straight up to the Obstetric Assessment Unit, where I was put onto a trace monitor and blood & urine tests taken. I was given BP tablets and they checked my BP and monitored the baby every four hours including at night. The midwife Seren & consultant Jess were great, but it took all day and evening for my urine results to come back so they didn’t pressure me into making a decision on an induction. At around 6pm (my scan was at 11am) mild contractions started, which got gradually stronger and closer together. I used our Hypobirthing up-breathing, visualising a big red balloon being blown up then floating up into the sky, and inhaled lavender and clary sage from a handkerchief. The ward had four beds, all with curtains pulled closed, but obviously you could hear everything going on. My husband and I tried to stay relaxed and block everything out; to make each other laugh, we watched Alan Partridge and listened to music before he left at about 8pm. At 10pm a midwife called Nicola came to do my obs, and saw I was having surges which showed up strongly on the monitor. I was very calm and relaxed and felt happy that the baby may be coming, meaning I could avoid the induction. Nicola said that I was in early labour but that it may stop. She asked if I was Hypnobirthing, I said ‘yes’ and told me to keep doing what I was doing because it was working well. At around midnight, another woman on the ward started snoring – honestly the loudest most obnoxious snore you’ve ever heard. I tried my best to ignore it and focus on breathing; I had music on in my earphones, read my book etc, but it was just so noisy that I got stressed and the contractions stopped. I walked out into the corridor to read my book and try to escape the noise. At about 2am, while I was rolling on the birth ball out in the corridor, surges restarted but not as strong or as frequent. I found that I needed the music on really loud to drown out the snoring (even halfway down the corridor!) which affected how well I could focus on my breath. Nicola saw me and at 4am told me to lie down on a bed in a side room to get an hour of sleep as, one way or another, I was likely to be in labour the next day. I felt excited that the baby was getting ready to come. I slept for 2 hours before I had to go back onto the ward. At 10am another consultant came and told me that I had to have an induction because the repercussions of preeclampsia. I explained to her and the midwife Rhiannon, that contractions had started in the night but stopped because of the noise, and that I would like to wait and see if they would restart again by themselves. At tea-time, Rhiannon moved me into a private side room, which was much quieter and more comfortable, and explained a bit more about the induction process, the pros and cons and suggested that I have a stretch and sweep, which I decided to think about. I was able to use the BRAIN strategy from Hypnobirthing, which helped. A new midwife called Emily came in the evening, who was clearly very keen for me to have an induction and asked me why I was apprehensive. She said that her children were born by induction and it was fine. That night the contractions started again; this time stronger than the night before. Again, up-breathing helped and I talked to the baby throughout. My partner helped me and joined in with the breathing, but unfortunately the surges stopped at around 2am when someone came in to take my obs, so we both went to sleep. In the morning Seren was back and I asked her to do the stretch and sweep to see if that would speed the contractions up. Unfortunately, my cervix was tucked up tight behind the baby’s head which was very low in my pelvis, where it had been for about a month already, and it couldn’t be reached at all. I was really disappointed as this meant that the contractions I had been having hadn’t affected the cervix, and I was nowhere near being ready to give birth. I asked if the consultant would come and speak to us again about the induction process, and Jess explained calmly and clearly how it all works, answering all our questions. It was clear that the process could take up to 5 days, and the longer I waited the greater the risk became of me needing an emergency section. I agreed I would go for the induction and packed up my things ready to go to the induction ward. Unfortunately, we had yet another anti-climax as there was no bed available until the next day at the earliest! The next day I went for a long walk around the hospital grounds, up and down the stairs and even did the ‘Bring Sally Up’ squat challenge to try and get things going. I watched the Simpsons movie to try to relax, and chatted with a lovely cleaning lady. Finally, at around 6pm the midwife Vicky came to say that there was a bed ready for me, and took us up to the induction ward. This ward was much calmer, lighter and brighter than the OAU, and we felt pretty relaxed. We stayed calm and positive, looking at the illustrations of Cardiff landmarks on the curtains; I was put back onto the monitor and then the surges restarted. Another woman came into the ward who was quite upset and panicky; again, you could hear everything because we were just separated by curtains. The midwife sat and talked with her, before she went for a bath. When she came out 20 minutes later, the midwife examined her and she was rushed out on the bed because the baby was coming! We also had an intercom in our bay, next to my bed, therefore every so often ‘Housekeeping to bay 5 please’ etc would ring out. I kept up-breathing, kept inhaling my oils, and tried to see the humour-induced oxytocin in everything! By the time all of this had happened, and someone had come to check on me, it was 10pm. My BP was very high and a consultant registrar came and explained calmly that we must go now to the delivery suite, because my BP was dangerous and the baby needed to come out as quickly as possible. They gave me another tablet to try to lower my BP quickly, then ran me through the corridors and down in the lift, in a wheelchair. Because I had been having contractions, I was breathing in my lavender & clary sage and kept my eyes shut the whole time, up-breathing to stay calm. I focussed on the fact that the baby would be here soon. We arrived to a lovely, quiet, dark room with one other woman in, this time hidden away behind a grey curtain. The registrar and midwife commented on how calm I was, and that I was breathing in my essential oils. A midwife called Emily (a different Emily to the OAU) explained that we would be starting the induction process, but first she’d like to examine me. The cervix was still tucked up behind the baby’s head, and even though she tried very hard to get it, she couldn’t reach, which was extremely uncomfortable. She said we would try the Propes pessary and hopefully she would be able to get it into the right place. Emily came back and administered the pessary at about 11:30pm. The contractions became very strong very quickly and were pretty painful. I was leaning on the back of the bed, my partner was helping me with my breathing and I was visualising the balloons blowing up and floating away. At about 2am I asked him to call the midwife to request gas and air. A new midwife, Sharon, came in and said I couldn’t have gas & air whilst the pessary was in, which would be until I was either in 2nd stage labour, or twelve hours had passed. She needed to examine me to establish where I was, which I agreed to, and again it was really uncomfortable. She then told us that I wasn’t even in labour. She told me the pool was in use, but perhaps I could go in it later. I said that the consultant told me I couldn’t use the pool with preeclampsia to which she replied witheringly, ‘You can’t use it if you are in labour, but you aren’t in labour so you’re basically just having a bath.’ This was the first time I panicked or felt that I couldn’t do it, and I started to cry. She suggested that I have some pethidine which would take the edge off the contractions and might help my cervix, and me, to relax. I agreed and felt the effects almost immediately. Despite her somewhat brutal bedside manner, she made the right call and the contractions continued to increase rapidly in strength, frequency and length, but because of the pethidine I was able to zone out in between them, and no longer felt unable to cope. My partner was brilliant, lying with me on the bed and talking me through the visualisations and up breathing as each contraction came and went. A couple of hours later, a new midwife called Sue came on with a student called Seren. Sue was bright and breezy, suggesting that we would try to get me in the pool. However by this time I was on all fours on the bed feeling my body start to push! It was exactly how people say – I wasn’t trying to push, my body was doing it regardless. I said ‘I’m pushing’ and she asked me if I felt it in my bottom, to which I nodded and she said with a little scepticism (I can imagine the handover Sharon had provided) that she needed to examine me. This examination was not uncomfortable, and I begged her in desperation, ‘Am I in labour now?!’ to which she replied ‘You are nine and a half centimetres lovely, the baby is coming.’ A tidal wave of relief hit and I knew I could do it! She wheeled me on the bed to a labour room and gave me gas & air. My partner was helping me and holding my hand, though during this stage. Sue and Seren were really encouraging, positive and clear, helping me to keep pushing and coached me where needed saying things like ‘keep it going for as long as you can’. Two hours later Sue suggested an episiotomy would be needed to prevent tearing, to which I agreed and then at 9:19am the baby came out, head and body all at once. It was absolutely amazing. Sue deftly wiped him down a little and swiftly passed him straight to me. I popped him inside my nightie where he stayed for an hour while Dad cut the cord and the placenta was delivered. An hour later, baby rooted for his first feed, and then my partner held him skin to skin while Sue did my stitches and checked me over. Seren brought us tea and toast which we ate while cwtching up in a haze of exhausted bliss. A while later, Sue took the baby to weigh, and we discussed the vitamin K injection; I had specified oral administration, however she advised that he may not get all three doses due to restricted home visits. Therefore, we agreed to the injection, and he didn’t flinch. We arrived in the postnatal ward and the nurses and midwives were extremely kind and helpful. Baby’s blood sugar was low because of the BP tablets, so they gave him dextrose and some formula to bring it up quickly; again, they discussed all of this with me. They helped me to express colostrum and to get feeding established. My partner wasn’t allowed to stay but was allowed to visit us the next afternoon. We stayed an extra night just to make sure feeding was established. Again, the midwives and nursery nurses were so helpful and supportive. The days were a bit of a revolving door of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, cleaners and catering staff; all fantastic, trying to get as much checked and done as possible due to the lack of community follow-up. On the second day (day 6 overall), the hospital announced that there were no visitors allowed at all, but thankfully I was discharged and a wonderful healthcare support worker called Sue helped me carry the baby and all of our things down to meet him outside the Women’s Unit. Overall not much about my birth plan was implementable – partly due to the Covid-19 restrictions, but largely also due to my contracting the preeclampsia. However, the strategies we learned at Hypnobirthing helped us to stay calm, ask the right questions, and cope with all that was thrown at us. This combined with the numerous outstanding staff across all wards and teams (yes, even Sharon), made what could have been a really stressful and panicky birth experience a positive one, where we felt in control and positive at (almost) all times.