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and baby Harriet

"My birth story starts a few weeks before baby actually arrived, and my birth plan had always been to stay at home for as long as possible. I had even started to consider the possibility of a home water birth. Unfortunately this became impossible as my pregnancy progressed, firstly as my baby was breech, and secondly as my blood pressure was rising by the day. We were offered a procedure to try and turn the baby, but armed with the knowledge and power gained during our hypnobirthing course, after assessing the benefits, risks and alternatives, we made an informed decision to decline the turn and let nature take its course. We were told it wasn’t possible that she would turn by herself, and therefore they recommended a c-section. After doing plenty of research, we were due to go and discuss this further with the consultant at 39 weeks, but before we went in I was given a quick scan to check her position again. Lo and behold my gut instinct had been correct, and she had turned 360 degrees to a head down position somewhere between 38 and 39 weeks. Because of this late (and apparently unusual!) turn, I was advised to go to the hospital as soon as I had any sign of labour, to have another scan and ensure that she had not turned back again.

This is where my birth story really starts. I had a show on Wednesday morning. As requested I immediately phoned the hospital for a scan, however I had already made the decision that I would not be staying. So I went in for the scan only, which confirmed that she had remained head down. After a day of monitoring due to high blood pressure we declined induction, and returned home, with an appointment for the next day in antenatal to check my blood pressure again. 

That night my surges started in earnest. I used all of the hypnobirthing techniques I had been taught, including listening to my relaxing playlist that I had been preparing for weeks, essential oils, visualisations and breathing techniques, and laboured through the night. The surges were becoming stronger and closer with each hour. I can honestly say that I had feared this moment greatly. Even after the hypnobirthing course I had felt scared of what was to come, yet this night actually turned out to be incredibly special. I can’t describe how or why, but I look back on it with really fond memories. It was just me, my husband and the dogs, in the small hours, at home in our bedroom together, which felt like a little nest, getting ready to welcome our baby into the world. For the first time I thought, yes, I can do this! Neither of us slept, as the surges were becoming more and more frequent, but I felt safe and cosy at home. I decided that my goal was to get through to the morning and then we would go to hospital if they were frequent enough.

As the sun came up, they were about two minutes apart. Then just as we were about to leave, frustratingly they seemed to get less frequent, going from one every two minutes to one every thirty. This was frustrating and confusing but I told myself it was all part of how my baby wanted to arrive. So we put hospital on hold and instead tried to carry on with our day. We walked the dogs and watched some TV until it was time to go for my blood pressure appointment, all the time having half hourly surges. Once at the hospital I explained what was happening and they said it’s quite common for labour to stall in daylight hours (which makes sense with everything May and Jan taught us) and that they would place a bet that it would start again that night. 

By tea time I was exhausted having not slept the night before, and despite my blood pressure they agreed I could go home. I walked the dogs with my husband on the sand dunes, and after a chinese take away, promptly fell asleep. However after only an hour I woke to find my surges had started up again, and this time they went back to two minutes apart straight away. So off we went to hospital, knowing that this time we wouldn’t be coming home until we had our baby. When we arrived my surges were incredibly powerful and very close together, so we (and the midwife!) were surprised to discover that I was only 2cms dilated. I continued having powerful surges, extremely regularly (almost continuously) for some time, yet I was not dilating as expected. For this reason I was given drugs to increase the intensity, however I still wasn’t dilating. After some considerable time passed, I was tired, and my resolve was waning. I therefore opted for an epidural. The hypnobirthing course had taught me that there is no “wrong decision” or “perfect birth” and despite that fact that I had wanted to avoid an epidural, I had never ruled anything out, and at this point, both my husband and I knew that it was right for me.

After more drugs to increase the strength of my surges, I finally got to the stage where I was able to push. Yet again the hypnobirthing techniques taught to us on the course were invaluable. We had not only been taught mental techniques for labour, but May and Jan had also taught us physical techniques, one of which was how to breathe through pushing. For this reason I knew exactly what to do, and how to make my pushing really effective. Unfortunately, with each push our baby’s heartbeat started to drop, and we knew she was in distress. After performing an oxygen trace on her head, the medical team started to prepare theatre and I was told that if baby wasn’t here in the next ten minutes I would be taken through. I was desperate not to end up in theatre after everything that had already happened, and the motivation of this thought gave me the strength to get her out. With the aid of forceps, our baby girl was born at 4.45pm on Friday evening, and this was when everything that had happened made perfect sense. She had the cord wrapped around her neck quite tightly, and with each contraction, she had been trying to move down, but the cord had been pulling her back up, which explains why I wasn’t dilating despite everything! It also completely validated, in my mind, the decision we had made to not accept the procedure to try and turn her earlier. The hypnobirthing course had made me feel empowered enough to make those decisions, and after her birth I firmly believed even more that our decision was the right one, and that she had been in a breech position for a reason. Baby knew best!

Despite all of this drama I was incredibly calm throughout. This is very unlike me, and I was scared that I would panic during Labour, or would be unable to cope. Yet somehow, despite everything, I didn’t feel scared for a single second, nor worried, I just felt totally in the moment and focused on what I needed to do with each passing minute. I am absolutely certain that without hypnobirthing I would not have been able to deal with everything so calmly, and I doubt I would have been able to push my little girl out with such determination and belief that everything would be ok. 

We remained in hospital for a while after delivery due to some post birth complications, and the mindset hypnobirthing had taught me really helped, not just in labour, but through the post natal period as well. 

Despite the fact that my birth had some complications, it has affirmed to me that we are all capable of amazing things. We have the power within us to do anything we want to if we set our minds to it. We have a strength within that we will never know until we really need it. The hypnobirthing course with May and Jan helped me to find the tools that allowed me to access that strength when I needed it the most and I cannot thank them enough. My little girl is 11 weeks old as I write this, and I would do it all again for her in a heartbeat (something I truly never thought I would say!)

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