Mama J Says: “If I’d known the details of our birth beforehand I’d have been scared, but it was an empowering and humbling experience, you’re so much stronger than you think!! Mindset really is everything when you approach birth – I’m really glad we did so much Hypnobirthing practice and educated ourselves, as it meant we dealt with the challenges as they happened and felt informed when things were suggested to us. I feel absolutely no trauma from the experience, if anything I feel really positive about it!!”
Hope you’re well. I just wanted to introduce little baby boy! He was born 28th August at 11:04, 6lb 4oz. He’s an amazing little thing and we feel very lucky!!
So here is my birth story..
My husband and I attended your Complete Hypnobirthing Course when I was about 24-27 weeks pregnant. Throughout my third trimester, we practiced the hypnobirthing techniques almost daily. I made a tick list of the scripts and other exercises that we worked through together, and it became a really lovely part of my pregnancy to share together, particularly on any days that I felt anxious. Despite being consultant-led and some reservations from doctors earlier on in pregnancy, we were hopeful for a home birth, and this was supported by my midwife and, towards the end of my pregnancy, also by the doctors. We rented a birth pool, sorted all the other bits and bobs (of which there are many with a home birth) and I really felt I could envisage it…I was excited!! My husband and I talked at length about whether it was the right decision, and read a lot about home births and risks vs benefits, especially after getting some unpleasant attitudes from certain healthcare professionals and well-intentioned others.
However, despite our planning and wishes, baby had other ideas!! By the time I was 13 days over my estimated due date, I went for a stretch and sweep at the midwife-led unit. The midwives said my cervix had changed and was starting to dilate so I was really hopeful that things would begin naturally very soon! At the appointment they also recommended I see a consultant, who was incredibly pushy about a hormonal induction; he went in very heavy with the scary risks of stillbirth because I was now nearing ’14 days overdue’. It was a horrible conversation that felt like a battle that he was trying to win. He even seemed shocked that I asked for time with my husband to talk it over to decide! Luckily there was an amazing midwife who helped us navigate it (she even scolded the doctor for patronising a heavily pregnant woman!) and we went home to think it over with a plan to go in for CTG monitoring the next day.
The following morning the CTG monitoring showed our baby had a healthy heartbeat. But there were still some concerns as baby had always measured on the smaller side. A home birth was no longer an option and the midwifery led unit was closed due to staffing, so we could either go home and wait for labour to start naturally or have induction. We talked to the lovely midwife looking after us about induction. She was really balanced in her discussion, explaining clearly the risks and benefits, and she was really supportive of whatever we wanted to do. She explained exactly what an induction entails.
After this conversation we felt it was the right time for the hormonal induction. I’d been so reluctant to go down that route after hearing horror stories from other women, but after speaking to the midwife it was no longer scary – which just shows the importance of clear, balanced information rather than scaremongering!!
My husband went home to get the hospital bags and I was admitted to the induction suite. We had some absolutely lovely midwives looking after us there. I started off with the prostaglandin pessary, which just gave me some cramps – I was able to comfortably eat the leftover chow mein that my husband brought in for me and to walk around the concourse for a coffee! So far, so good. Unfortunately though this didn’t lead to much dilation and baby’s heart rate did not cope well with the hormones. They recommended removing the pessary after several hours, giving us a break to let baby recover, then trying again in the morning. We got a couple of hours sleep then tried the pessary again.
This time baby just about handled the hormones and I got to 2cm dilated after several hours, which was enough to go to delivery suite for waters to be broken. Throughout this time I’d been in the shower (warm water on my back was soothing as the surges ramped up) and used my tens machine (definitely recommend for early labour!). Another lush midwife came to collect us; she very kindly organised for me to have the one birth pool on delivery suite! I was very happy about this! Until she broke my waters and found a LOT of thick meconium, indicating baby was distressed and should be on continuous monitoring, which can’t be done in water. Baby’s safety was more important than me being in water, so I was on the throne chair overnight. At shift changeover we had a couple of absolute legends looking after us – Beth the Geordie midwife and her student Angharad; they supported us through a challenging night and we will always be grateful to them!!!
Waters breaking had a very minimal impact on dilation; I was now over 36 hours into labour with really regular and intense surges, but each vaginal examination showed limited progress. The midwives were so encouraging about how I was managing without pain relief and how my heart rate never went above 60 even during the height of each surge – I’d done so much Hypnobirthing breathing practice during pregnancy and it helped hugely with keeping calm during that time. Doctors kept coming in to talk about plan of action, suggesting a synthetic oxytocin drip to get things going. I wanted to avoid this if possible (following baby’s previous reaction to hormones!), so we agreed for me to go on birthing ball to see if being upright and moving around would help dilation. Several hours later and still very little progress, I was getting so tired and starting to struggle. I also knew the syntocinon drip was the only option left to increase dilation, and knew this could be more painful, so I requested an epidural, which was administered quickly.
The anaesthetists were wonderful. It sounds strange but I have a really lush memory of this time with my labour playlist going, LED candles, essential oils and immense positivity from the midwives, doctors, my husband and me – midwife kept saying it felt like a party room!! I accepted the syntocinon drip, which caused a massive drop in baby’s heart rate and a dramatic moment with several people coming into the room and giving me an injection to bring it back up. I felt woozy after this and was v grateful for the epidural as it allowed me to get a couple of hours sleep.
Next midwife changeover and there was another really wonderful lady, who was calm and supported us through the next challenge. I’d been labouring for 48 hours and v minimal progress, so doctors heavily recommended a caesarean. I agreed at this point that it was the only option – my surges had been 3 in every 10 minutes for hours and hours, and the midwives kept confirming to me that they were as strong as could be. The only way to try and increase dilation was using more hormones but the baby’s heart rate hadn’t coped with any hormones up to that point. Everything moved v quickly after that – epidural topped up, prepped for theatre, introduced to the many people involved in a C-section.
I was taken to theatre and it was the craziest whirlwind experience. I remember an anaesthetist kept running ice down my leg and pinching me to check the epidural was working, talking to another doctor about her opinions of Grey’s Anatomy, the feeling of a lot of rummaging in my belly, lots of meds topped up as I kept feeling dizzy and nauseous, my husband stroking my head while wearing his funny outfit, and then the obstetrician saying “he’s out, look at the size of his feet!!”.
Our little boy was born at 11:04 on August bank holiday Monday, weighing 6lb 4oz. He was ‘shocked’ when he came out so they took him straight over to a table and gave him lots of oxygen. I was desperate to hold him and this was the only time through the whole labour and birth that I found really hard to deal with. My midwife kept me updated, the neonatal team came straight to see him and tried really hard to get him breathing on his own, but they just couldn’t. They brought him over to me and put him on my chest (while I was being stitched up behind the curtain) for a few minutes so I could hold him before they took him to the NICU. He was more wires and tubes than baby at this point but I remember it being the most incredible moment, he turned his face to me and put his little hand to my mouth. I cried a lot after they took him to the NICU. That bit really was hard. The obstetricians talked me through our caesarean birth. Our baby boy had been wedged in the birth canal and his head wasn’t pressing on the right area, meaning however strong my surges, I just wasn’t dilating. She said there’s no way he ever would have come out vaginally. Our little boy was 14 hours in the NICU, and he was able to come off his drip because my husband popped home to get the colostrum syringes out of the freezer – the lovely NICU nurses gave him these and I’m so grateful for that! I wanted my husband to be with our son so my mum rushed in to sit with me in recovery… apparently I didn’t make much sense for a while from all the meds and emotion!! Our baby was brought to me on the transitional care unit at 1am, and it was wonderful!!
We stayed there for 5 days while he had IV antibiotics and very frequent observations. It was hardly the start to newborn life that we’d planned but it was actually a godsend: I had BRILLIANT breastfeeding support meaning our little boy was above his birth weight solely on breastfeeding within 5 days (apparently unheard of!), and we had lots of time to get used to looking after him in hospital without being bombarded by visitors. Bringing him home was very exciting and overwhelming all in one go.
We’ve settled really well into life with our little boy and he’s chunking out nicely – he seems unscathed by his slightly dramatic entrance to the world! So many things happened that I hadn’t wanted and had not really let myself believe would happen. Quite apart from no home birth and no pool, I had continuous monitoring for over 48 hours, almost every possible stage of induction, multiple vaginal examinations, countless healthcare professionals involved, an unplanned caesarean, and 5 nights in hospital with a little baby on IV antibiotics. It was about as medicalised as you can get! But I feel totally at peace with the whole situation and know that all the interventions were essential to get him out safely. From the moment I was admitted to the induction suite to the minute he was born, and even during our prolonged stay in hospital, I never felt scared. I’ve never felt closer to my husband, and I was so proud of myself for dealing with each stage of the situation as it happened.
If I’d known the details of our birth beforehand I’d have been scared, but it was an empowering and humbling experience, you’re so much stronger than you think!! Mindset really is everything when you approach birth – I’m really glad we did so much Hypnobirthing practice and educated ourselves about all the different possible interventions, as it meant we dealt with the challenges as they happened and felt informed when things were suggested to us, and I feel absolutely no trauma from the experience, if anything I feel really positive about it!! I also really cannot praise the staff enough for the excellent care! I’d had some shaky interactions with healthcare professionals during pregnancy but once admitted, everyone was brilliant – I felt total confidence in their skills and all the midwives, doctors and MCAs were incredibly compassionate. It’s definitely worth leaning in to any support that’s available.