I look back on my pregnancy fondly. I felt connected with my baby, beautiful and empowered. I was lucky enough to avoid all morning sickness and aside from being diagnosed with gestational diabetes, we had a pretty smooth sailing 9 months.
We chose to do HypnoBirthing, taught by my sister in law, Mish. We weren’t overly strong minded about what type of birth we wanted, however our main priority was to obtain as much information as we could to ensure we were informed in order to make the decisions we felt right for us. We strived for a natural birth, however more importantly we wanted to ensure whatever way we brought our little one into the world, that it was a special experience.
The HypnoBirthing course definitely set us up with the knowledge and tools for a beautiful birth. I practiced the breathing techniques and listened to my affirmations almost daily. My husband, Jimmy really benefited from the course and this became so evident during labour when he became my pillar of strength.
Jimmy and I had spoken at length as to whether we wanted a support person with us at the birth. From the outset we both felt quite strongly that we did want support, but we didn’t want just anyone. We chose to ask Mish to be our support person as we knew she would be great, ensuring our birth preferences were respected and reminding us of techniques to help us through labour. I also felt a strong need to have my sister, Mandy, at the birth as she is always the one I turn to for advice and support in life. It felt quite special to us to each have a sister there to support and welcome our baby with us.
As the 40 week mark approached, I felt calm and patient. Many people asked if I was uncomfortable or over it, but the truth was, I was very happy and not in any rush for labour. I loved being pregnant, I loved touching my belly and feeling the kicks, but mostly I felt safe with my baby close to me. It was much more daunting thinking about having the baby on the outside and if I was going to be a good mum.
Surprisingly I wasn’t nervous for labour. I don’t remember spending too much time thinking about it in the lead up. It was like I had studied for an exam and there wasn’t any more information that I could take in to do any better, I was ready for it and what was going to be, would be. I’m sure this is because of our HypnoBirthing practice. We had written a birth plan, our midwife was very supportive of our choices, we had our support people on call and we were ready for when bubs wanted to arrive.
Due to my gestational diabetes, I knew that my midwife would need to discuss induction if I were to approach 41 weeks with no signs of labour. Therefore once 40 weeks passed by, I was ready to start trying natural ways to bring on labour. I was pretty sure I had lost my plug around 39 weeks and I had been having tightenings, but aside from that I really didn’t notice any clear signs of labour. I was expressing colostrum, rubbing clary sage on my belly, walking each night and I had some foot reflexology massages.
On Thursday 28th February, Mish visited during the day. We talked about my upcoming appointment with my midwife and what my options might be for induction. I didn’t want to be induced. I had hoped for a spontaneous labour so I could experience all the natural hormones that would support me through labour. I was nervous about the cascade of interventions as I wanted to avoid a c-section. After Mish left, I decided to go get a foot massage.
During the massage I started to have cramps like period pain. I knew this could be an early sign of labour, but I also knew I could have them for days before anything progressed so I was trying not to get my hopes up. The cramps became stronger and I was nervous that I was in the middle of a shopping centre potentially going into labour. When I got home I began to time the cramps, they were 3 minutes apart, lasting anywhere between 20 and 40 seconds. I messaged Jimmy at 4.30pm to let him know I was experiencing some cramping and he also was quite calm responding with ‘maybe tonight’s the night’. I wrote to Mandy and let her know about the cramping, she called me immediately in excitement and it was then that I realised, yes, this is actually happening, my baby is coming!
Jimmy arrived home from work an hour later and I told him this was it; I was in labour. We were both excited but it also felt a little surreal. We had been planning for this for so long and the time had come, but it wasn’t fast paced, waters breaking, rush to the hospital type of scenario. It was slow and calm and we had time to consider what to do. We walked around the block to keep things moving. This was not an easy stroll, I needed to stop, be quiet and breathe through each surge. I took a photo of the sky to capture how the earth looked the day my baby decided it was time, of course it was a beautiful blue sky.
After our walk, I ate some dinner between each surge as I knew I would need some food in my belly to give me energy for the night. The surges were still 3 minutes apart, 40 seconds long and were becoming more intense. We had learnt that a good time to head to hospital were when the surges are 3 minutes apart, last for 1 minute long and had been continuing for two hours, knowing this I felt like I wasn’t too far off, but I had only been having surges for a couple of hours and thought surely I wasn’t ready for hospital yet.
We called Mish at around 7pm to let her know I was in labour. She was teaching a class at the time and was coming over as soon as she finished. I remember asking Jimmy constantly ‘Is Mish on her way? When is Mish getting here? How far away is Mish?’ I needed someone who knew what labour looked like to come reassure me that yes, this is labour and yes, you’re doing things right and yes, if you want to go to hospital then go.
Jimmy encouraged me to put the TENS machine on as early as possible. I went and had a shower first and when I got out Jimmy had prepared the lounge room, turned the lights off, lit some candles, cushions ready for me to kneel or lay wherever I wanted, my affirmations were up, diffuser was on and calm music playing. He had prepared everything perfectly. Thinking back at this makes me so proud of how amazing he was in supporting me. We put the TENS machine on and I was in my zone. I was quiet except for my breathing and my eyes remained closed. I pressed the TENS with each surge and at that point I had no idea just how much I would rely on that little button. I recall wanting to sit on the gym ball a lot. Jimmy was in front of me, my hands on his knees, my forehead resting against his and we were breathing. At this point I needed so badly for my forehead to be against his, looking back I find this moment so special.
Mish arrived and I don’t think she was there for long before I wanted to go to hospital. It felt like it was time. I arrived at hospital just after 10pm after labouring for 6 hours. I walked straight in and kneeled on the floor in the waiting room while everyone else sorted out a room. We walked down the corridor to what felt like the furthest room in the hospital.
Jimmy and Mish prepared the room, though I was oblivious to most of what was happening around me. The lights were turned off, diffuser and music on. My midwife and Mandy arrived soon after and I had all my support group with me. Mish had started to squeeze my hips during surges and along with the TENS I found this to work perfectly for me. Though this meant that Jimmy had to be there to squeeze my hips for every surge, if he wasn’t there Mish and Mandy stepped in. Jimmy was by my side the entire time, he was so present, breathing with me, whispering to me that I was half way through a surge, that I was beautiful, that he was proud of me, giving me sips of water etc.. He could not have been any more perfect.
For most of the labour I kept my eyes closed, this was how I concentrated, how I stayed connected with my body and my baby. I listened to those around me and felt their presence while I did what I needed to do. When I did open my eyes, they weren’t for long. I have a vivid memory of opening my eyes while my head was resting on the bed and my sister was next to me, we shared a smile at each other and I closed my eyes again.
I laboured for quite a while kneeling on the floor over the bed. I moved into a few different positions, on the toilet, kneeling on the bed and lying on my side while someone held my leg. I preferred kneeling on the floor and being on the toilet. I had always thought I would like to try the bath or shower but I didn’t want to take the TENS off.
I remember Mish reading the ‘balloon trip’ to me, encouraging me to visualise the flower opening and playing the HypnoBirthing affirmations. When I was losing energy and getting tired, Mish offered me honey and when my belly was weighing on my back she encouraged Jimmy to use the rebozo.
My breathing during surges became very primal. I was loud, but I didn’t care. After a few hours at hospital I began to get quite tired and I had no idea how far I had progressed. My midwife was present but also gave me lots of space to labour as I needed. I eventually asked if I could have an examination as I wanted to know how dilated I was. I knew there was a chance I might only be a few centimetres, but I felt I needed to know so I could get my head in the game one way or the other. It was around 12.30am when the midwife checked and I was 9cm; I was so relieved and excited.
The surges were like cramps that waved through my body, I had some dull lower back pain but mostly I just felt immense bottom pressure. I pictured the muscles squeezing to push my baby further and further down. I pushed for a long time. I recall looking around at my support people and saying ‘I’m tired, I need help’. I didn’t ask for pain relief, nor did I want it, but in those moments, I was definitely looking for those around me to give me the encouragement and reminder that I was soon going to meet my baby. I am glad my support people didn’t offer me pain relief in these moments.
My midwife reminded me to go to the toilet as a full bladder may have been preventing the baby from coming, but I struggled to pass any urine. I had a catheter inserted and after this I felt like things progressed quickly and soon the head was visible.
We were approaching two hours of pushing but the baby’s head was rocking back and forth in my pelvis with each surge. The midwife was checking the heart beat after each surge using the doppler and whilst the baby was perfectly healthy, following hospital protocol she called the doctor to examine and make sure the baby hadn’t turned posterior. I had another examination which was more painful than the first. The baby was perfectly positioned for birth, however given the time I had already been pushing the doctor suggested a vacuum delivery may be safest.
I was hesitant to agree at first as everything had been going so well and I hoped to be able to birth without any instruments. I was given a bit more time to push but my body was tired, I didn’t have the energy to push harder and I felt ready to accept help. Jimmy and I considered our options and made the decision to proceed, it felt right. The doctor prepared for a vacuum delivery.
With my husband holding me, my sister on one side, my sister in law on the other and my midwife close by, I was being supported to breathe and push and eventually my baby’s head was out. A few more pushes and with Jimmy helping the doctor, the baby’s shoulders were free and there was my beautiful baby being passed up and placed on my chest.
A perfect, healthy baby boy was looking up at me, nestling his face up towards mine. He was slippery and warm against my bare chest. I was so relieved, so proud and so in love. Harrison Peter, named after his two grand fathers, was born at 4.31am.
I had a special couple of hours with Harrison on my chest before he was checked and weighed by the midwife. Then Jimmy stripped off his t-shirt and had his first skin to skin hug with his son.
The oxytocin rush following the birth was incredible. I was so proud of myself and everyone in the room. I was so grateful for my amazing support people and my eyes welled with tears of joy every time I reflected on the birth – I couldn’t have asked for a better birth experience.