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A speedy natural birth!

On 29th April 2020 (39 weeks and 5 days), our beautiful baby boy entered the world following an amazing positive birth experience. Jayce was born naturally at the Jersey General Hospital during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. I truly believe that how well it went was due to the tools provided and knowledge learnt on May and Jan's hypnobirthing course, which we attended as group sessions in February. I wished to share our positive birth story to hopefully encourage others to be able to have a positive experience also.

When friends initially recommended the hypnobirthing course to us, we were both a bit sceptical, imagining it was something to do with hypnosis and would be a bit 'hippy'. Regardless, we signed up and I'm so glad we did. It's safe to say that up until this point my knowledge of birth was limited to what I had seen on TV and horror stories from people who had shared their negative birth experiences. Whilst I was embracing being pregnant, having been lucky enough to have a low risk pregnancy with no complications, I am someone who needs to be prepared and I felt like I was going into birth a bit blind. The hypnobirthing course turned out to be the ideal preparation.

On Monday 27 April, there were a few occasions throughout the day where I had what felt like menstrual cramps. I was feeling really tired so I went to bed around 9pm. At 11pm I was (rudely!) awaken by my hubby Nick who asked me to turn over as I was snoring in his ear! I then found myself awake with what felt like menstrual cramps alongside back ache coming every 10-20 mins for about 60 seconds. I managed to get back to sleep after about an hour and a half. I woke occasionally during the night to the cramps but didn't record them as surges as I wasn't certain they were, and from the course I knew it was early days and rest was very important if labour was on its way.

On Tuesday 28 April, from 6.30am I started recording them as surges on the Freya app and they were coming on average every 10-12 mins for about 60 seconds. I used the tools learnt on the hypnobirthing course during each surge - the up breathing technique (guided by the app) and a tens machine on my back (boosting when each surge came). Throughout the day I had a warm bath with candles and music to relax, watched some funny feel good films / tele for oxytocin, went for a walk, bounced on an exercise ball, and lay down to rest when I could. Around 9am and 2.30pm I noticed my mucus plug had leaked. In the evening we had a nice take away for dinner and then I went to bed about 9pm. I didn't get too much sleep due to the surges coming every 10 mins or so but I tried my best.

On Wednesday 29 April, at 6am I had a liquid leak and thought it might be more of my mucus plug but it turns out it was my waters breaking, apparently there wasn't much because baby's head was low and blocking the rest. The surges started getting closer together but were not that consistent, usually somewhere around 4-8 mins between them. They were quite intense in my back (turns out this was because he was back to back at this point) - I just kept thinking it was only a few up breaths and then it was over each time. I took a paracetamol about 7.30am. By 9am, although I didn't have 3 surges within 10 minutes consistently, I felt like I needed go into hospital so we left the house and called the maternity unit on the way. We were asked a number of questions including whether we had any symptoms of corona virus, which neither of us did.

When we got to the hospital, the surges were getting more intense as I was walking from the car park so I was given a wheelchair ride to the ward. I vomited when I got into a room at the maternity unit. After chatting to Lee-Ann (the lovely midwife who delivered my baby) in between surges and sharing my birth preferences with her (designed using tips provided on hypnobirthing course), I agreed to an examination at about 10.45am. She explained that I was about 4/5 cm dilated, baby was back to back at this point and that the surges felt intense - she said we should move rooms to go and deliver the baby - yay! She offered me some codeine for pain relief purposes which I took but shortly after I vomited again, so she offered me an anti sickness injection before we moved rooms.

I changed into my nightie, the lights were dimmed and Nick put on my acoustic covers playlist. Whilst I had wanted to try a water birth, the use of the birthing pool was unfortunately suspended due to COVID-19. I decided to adopt a standing position leaning over the bed (upright, forward and open position as learnt in hypnobirthing). Nick and I were both swabbed up our noses to test for the corona virus. I felt the pressure lower down and the movements / urges to push started, I used gas and air and found it was brilliant for me - the feeling it gave, having something to bite down on and use to regulate my breathing as it made noises when breathing in and out, I was pretty much 'mooing' through it. I also had a wet flannel I held on my forehead, Nick gave me sips of drinks in between surges and both him and Lee-Ann offered words of encouragement (especially when I voiced a few doubts that I could do it) whilst helping to keep my breathing on track.

The body is totally amazing and I could feel it doing its thing to move the baby out, it was doing most of the work for me - just as I had learnt on the hypnobirthing course. My favourite part was when baby's head was out and we were waiting for the next surge in order for the rest of the body to be delivered, although it felt like a long time I knew exactly what was happening so was able to remain calm whilst waiting.

My labour was recorded as 2 hours and 10 mins (from time of examination to delivery) which is apparently quick! Jayce was brought up between my legs, I took my nightie off and lay on the bed for skin-to-skin cuddles. At this point I think I was a little in shock. I was given the injection to deliver the placenta quicker due to the amount of blood I had lost. The umbilical cord turned white quite soon after birth so it was clamped and Nick cut it. Jayce had immediate skin-to-skin contact with me, and this worked out to be for about 2.5 hours as bits of my placenta got stuck so had to be removed safely and I needed a few stitches for a couple of minor tears. Funnily enough, a cover of the Shawn Mendes song 'Stitches' happened to be playing at this point so we had a giggle about that. Weighing and measuring was delayed, and then he was confirmed as 8lb 1oz. Jayce then had skin-to-skin contact with Dad afterwards. All of this was in line with our birth preferences. It was also really nice of Jan to pop in and say hello when she had a couple of minutes.

After the birth I was really well looked after by a variety of wonderful midwives who also provided great support with breastfeeding. In March I had attended the mindful breastfeeding course with May (online via Zoom due to social distancing restrictions) so I had a good base knowledge and then lots of supported practice meant that it was successful and I left feeling confident. I stayed in hospital the first night. On the 2nd day I passed a large blood clot and it was felt that I should be monitored a little longer so I stayed in hospital for another night, which we believe was helpful as it reinforced the breastfeeding techniques with the help of the midwives. I actually really enjoyed my stay in hospital, and the only noticeable difference with the pandemic was that all midwives and other hospital staff were wearing PPE.

I feel so positively about the whole experience. I knew what was happening and what my body was doing the whole time. Lee-Ann was amazing and supported my birth preferences so that it went the way I wanted it to. We are so grateful to May and Jan's hypnobirthing course for everything, we're certain it would have been a completely different experience without it!

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