I have already written about my second pregnancy in a previous blog, 36 Weeks and Counting about how I felt my chances to do things differently to my last pregnancy had been taken from me, and how frustrating this was. Now I want to talk about how I dealt with the changes I faced when actually giving birth, and how hypnobirthing aided in that. I would recommend reading the above blog first if you haven’t already, just to give you some background in how I felt prior to giving birth.
During my first pregnancy, I had been really interested in the concept of calm birth, but I had never explored hypnobirthing, so that was something I wanted to do this time. I have never been particularly good at relaxation techniques or deep breathing, so practicing hypnobirthing really was a challenge for me. I had the added challenge of working full time, whilst having a 2 year old and a house to keep on top of, all things which can be conducive to stress, and make it difficult to find the time to sit and focus and listen to relaxation playlists or practice breathing. I would try to practice the breathing in the car, and listen to my affirmations audio when folding the washing.
I ended up leaving work a bit earlier than intended, giving me a couple of weeks where I had a bit more free time, but I still didn’t get much practice in, as I was spending so much time trying to get prepared for the baby coming. Unlike the last time, where everything was done and dusted by his due date, this baby didn’t have a nursery and I hadn’t finished packing my hospital bag. We didn’t find out what we were having either this time, so I decided to just fill this baby’s drawers (currently housed in our spare room, which will at some point become a bedroom for 2 year old, and the baby will then move into his nursery) with our sons newborn clothes. I wasn’t bothered about a girl wearing boys clothes, especially as he had a lot of quite neutral things anyway, but I was pretty sure this baby was a boy anyway.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that we weren’t really prepared. We would have managed, we had newborn nappies (cloth and disposable) and things like that but none of the big jobs were done. We didn’t even have a name settled, just a long list of names we liked but didn’t love.
One thing I did have ready though was my birth plan, or what I find more useful to call, my birth preferences. A plan suggests a previously thought out way for a particular event or activity to happen, and labor is so unpredictable, often those plans don’t pan out, and that can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety, which is counterproductive in any situation, particularly when giving birth. If you have a list of preferences and things you would like to avoid where possible, what options you would choose in the first instance and what you do as a last resort, can really help you to feel more relaxed about it. At the end of the day, the most important part of childbirth is birthing your baby in the safest way possible, and if you are able to accept any changes in your preferences, and respond calmly, it will make a huge difference to your experience. I really recommend reading Your Baby, Your Birth: Hypnobirthing Skills for Every birth and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth as well as attending pre-natal yoga.
Our pregnancy was progressing well, but due to low PAPP-A hormone and a risk of a low birth weight for baby, I was booked in to be induced on my due date which was the 17th of March. I had asked about having a sweep, but was advised current advise was not to do this unless you got beyond 40 weeks, as the baby can bob in and out of the birth canal with a second pregnancy. My community midwife intended to ask my consultant if she could do this at what would be my last appointment with her before my induction.
My husband finished work on the afternoon of 5th of March, taking some annual leave before the baby was due to arrive. We had a long list of things to do, and probably just enough time to do them all. On the morning of 6th March, I was lying in bed, and I realized something felt strange. I would usually feel the baby have a good wiggle and kick at that time. I lay on my left and lay very still. Nothing. I tried moving to the other side, making my movement a bit more vigorous. This brought on the tiniest of movement, that didn’t last long. When my husband woke up, I told him that I was worried. This wasn’t the first time I had experienced reduced movement, and even though it had always been fine, I knew it was worth getting checked out. My husband set off to take our son to nursery, and I rang PAU, who suggested I should have breakfast and then head in as soon as I could.
Sure enough, everything was fine – the monitor picked up baby’s movements and heartbeat fine, and my health checks were all fine. However, because I had been in a few times – including once in the previous two weeks – for reduced movements, they wanted to do a growth scan – I had already had several of these – later that day, just to make sure all was well.
The scan went fine, baby was still looking happy and healthy. I don’t know why, but I felt a “but” coming. The midwife who had performed the scan advised me that the baby’s weight had dropped from the 25th percentile to the 10th. She went to speak to the consultant and while she was gone, I said to my husband that we should be prepared for the possibility that they are going to suggest bring our induction forward. We tried to reassure ourselves that this would be unlikely, and instead they would book me in for another scan.
I was wrong.
She came back, and asked how we felt about being induced, and that they wanted to bring it forward. The predicted baby weight was 6lb1 and as the weight had dropped off the curve, they were keen to get baby here sooner rather than later. We agreed this was the best course of action, and off she went again to check the diary.
It certainly wasn’t how I hoped to go into labor, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t upset, angry and scared. It is moments like these, when you really need to try and adjust your attitude. I had really wanted to go into labor spontaneously, but this was the safest option. We couldn’t predict what would happen in the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy, and they didn’t know for certain why the growth had dropped off, but doing this gave us a bit more control over the safe arrival of our baby. So we called my mother-in-law to make arrangements for my little boy to stay with her. The midwife came back and told us they had a space for me tomorrow, we had to come back for 14:30.
We left the hospital, and went home to try and complete as much on our to do list as possible before 14:30 the following day. I kept thinking I couldn’t believe that my baby would be with us at some point over that weekend; it was exciting and terrifying. That afternoon, we picked our little boy up from nursery and took him to his Grandparents house. He was very excited to being staying with them but I felt very upset, like I was abandoning him to replace him with another child. My mother-in-law told me this was a normal feeling, but assured me it wasn’t the case. She also told me not to worry that I might not love them both the same, as this also wouldn’t be the case.
I slept badly that night, a combination of nerves and excitement keeping me awake. I felt exhausted by morning – or so I thought, it’s nothing compared to the level of exhaustion I have felt in last 8 weeks – but there was no stopping the day ahead. We got up, continued trying to tick off things on our to do list, then went into town for breakfast. We paid a quick visit to my Mam at work, my second birthing partner, and we went back home.
When we got home, I hand expressed some colostrum – something I had started doing the night before, and had always been my intention due to feeding problems I had with my little boy – finished packing our suitcase.
At best, I had hoped for similar experience to my son – 2 pessarys and the baby would be here by the following afternoon – but I was aware that it might not go that way. I tried not to let this thought disrupt my calm, positive thoughts.
To a point, the process certainly did follow the same pattern. When we got to the hospital they “checked us in” – showed us to my bed, where the toilets are, etc – and a doctor came to discuss the process with us. Then the midwife took me for my first pessary. Now, having a pessary inserted behind your cervix isn’t exactly comfortable, but I found that the breathing techniques learned from reading the aforementioned hypnobirthing book really helped. That, and squeezing my husbands hand. Once this was in, I needed to be on the monitor for about half an hour.
After that, it was a 6 hour waiting game. I spent some time bouncing on the birth ball, then we went for a big walk. We basically did this on a loop, then my husband went home and I waited some more. It’s really hard waiting about in the hospital, but I had my book, and the birth ball, and I had our tablet with a couple of movies on.
A great mantra to use during pregnancy/birth/parenthood/life is “this too shall pass” I love it. It came in handy here.
After a little while, I started to feel some cramps. I assumed these were just an after effect of having the pessary put in, but I secretly hoped it was the start of my contractions. When they next put me on the monitor, they were picking up as tightening/contractions, to the point that they asked if I wanted any pain relief. I didn’t feel the need for any at this point, I wanted to be able to feel them, and be aware of any changes.
At around 22:30 they took me along to examine me. It was really uncomfortable – it would just keep getting more uncomfortable – and I wasn’t progressing so they gave me another pessary. The midwife was hopeful that even if it took me a while to get me there, my labor would be similar to my sons, however she advised it would be unlikely that I would be able to have the birth pool, as they would most likely want to monitor me closely. This was another challenge, but it was something I had expected. So I removed it from my preferences and concentrated on the other things I hoped for – preferred delivery position being hands and knees, only gas and air for pain relief, among other things.
I went back to my bed, and back to the monitor again, where they saw I was still getting slight contractions. I popped a comedy on the tablet and tried to doze off. When I eventually did feel myself getting sleepy – as sleepy as one can get in a hospital – I lay down. I find hospital beds generally quite comfy, and enjoyed feeling like I was lying in my own little den. However, lying down seemed to quell my cramps, leaving me to worry that I had somehow slowed the progress down. I tried not to worry though, and felt confident that my baby would be with us by the following afternoon.
At about 4:15 they put me on the monitor again – you don’t get much rest in hospital – then they took me for another examination. It was here that things seemed to spiral a little for me. I hadn’t progressed at all, but the midwife was able to give me a full sweep. They did say that they may have been able to break my waters at that point, but it wouldn’t necessarily start my labor, and so I might find myself in more discomfort for longer. I would have to wait 18 hours before they could give me another pessary.
I cried out of frustration. My son had come so quick, and this baby didn’t seem to be budging. I went back to bed, and tried to get some rest. That morning I had my breakfast and spent time going between the ball, and back to bed. I wanted to stay active but to also get rest. By this point I was feeling so exhausted and knew it would only get worse, You need so much energy when giving birth though, I had to find some from somewhere.
My husband came back and we again spent the day going for walks and bouncing on the ball. I rested where I could, but I spent a lot of the day in tears, which in itself can be draining. I was struggling with the slow progress, I was tired and uncomfortable, and with each hour that passed, I was getting a little scared. It occurred to me that things weren’t progressing because my body wasn’t ready to give birth – I was being induced ahead of my due date, and I hadn’t shown any signs of being close to spontaneous labor. I felt that this might make my labor more difficult, or even lead to complications. The midwives were very reassuring though, and once I had had a chat with one of them, I felt a lot calmer.
That evening after my husband left, my mother and sister came to sit with me. It was nice to have their company, and a good distraction. It did also present another challenge – as we all know, birth can be unpredictable, and the closer I got to Monday, the less likely it would be that my mother could be there to be my birthing partner. She would have to be at work early on the Monday morning, and she didn’t want to have to leave me part way through my labor if the baby hadn’t come yet, and she wouldn’t be able to leave work part way through the day if my labor hadn’t started. We agreed instead that my sister would be there again, as she was with my first birth.
Then they left, and just like that I was alone, and into my second night in hospital. I remember starting to feel like Rachel out of Friends at some point. We were in a 4 bed room, and since I Had been in on the Saturday, three women had come and gone to have their babies, while I waited for mine. I did feel a little solidarity with another woman in the room, who came in just after me, and was there the whole time I was. I later found out she went home before I did, but we likely had our babies on the same day.
I got into bed and started watching Paul, one of my favorite comedies, in the hope that I might drift off to sleep. However between the staff switch over, the tea round and having my BP checked regularly, there was little time for rest. As the night progressed, I was eventually put back on the monitor, but the baby’s heartbeat was hard to pick up. I had to sit and hold the Doppler for around 40 minutes which was awkward and uncomfortable.
By midnight they were starting to talk about possibly giving me another pessary,. That would mean another 6 hours to wait before being checked again, which felt very discouraging, but I tried to remain positive and tell myself that everything they were doing was for the best. I would be lying if I didn’t have moments of just wanting the baby out, whatever it took. But i kept coming back to the calm birth that I wanted so desperately.
At around 12:45am, I was examined again, and it was at this point they determined they could break my waters! How very exciting! But first I needed to go back on the monitor – I lost track of how many times I had been strapped up to that thing – and then at 1:30am they came and got me, and took me to the delivery suite. My husband met us there, and I felt instantly calmer and positive when I realized we were in the same room that I had given birth to our son.
Our midwife was incredibly kind and calm. We didn’t once discuss our birth plan, but she had clearly read our notes and preferences, as she just seemed to fit perfectly with what we wanted.
This is where things do get a bit lost… My sister was with us for pretty much all of my last labor, and she kept really good notes. This time however, she came in part way through so I am writing this mostly from memory, so bear with me!
I wasn’t in the room long before they broke my waters. It was a little uncomfortable, but not too dissimilar to how I remembered it from the last time – the basically nick it with a little hook, and it pops. There was bit more of a gush than there was with my son, but again, not a massive amount of fluid.
Have you ever watched a film or a TV show, where the waters have broken and the contractions start instantly, and you’ve thought “well that’s unrealistic!”? I will never think that again. My contractions started within minutes of my waters being broken. I used an app called Full Term to record my contractions. They were mostly 3-4 minutes apart, and lasted around 40 second to 1 minute. They did vary a lot more than when I had my son though, sometimes they would die off, and then start back up straight away! I would find myself crying out “no, no not another one, I’ve only just finished one!” at times.
During my last labor, I had worn underwear and a maternity pad to catch my waters, however this time I had nothing on my bottom half and it felt much more natural. It was never even mentioned. I had also desperately needed the loo during my last labor, and had been unable to go, but felt much more relaxed this time, and managed to do so, meaning I wasn’t also worried that I was going to wet myself!
I was put on the monitor pretty much straight away, and they noticed that with each contraction the baby’s heart rate was dropping. The midwife didn’t seem concerned at all, but instead said it was just something they needed to keep an eye on, and as a result, I remained calm. This is the sort of thing that would cause my anxious mind to panic, so her attitude really helped. It meant I had to stay on the monitor though, and that meant being on the bed, something I had wanted to avoid. I was very active during my labor with my son, and wanted to be so during this one, as I felt it helped a great deal. I managed to keep myself moving a little on the bed by doing little bounces and hip sways during my contractions.
The environment was, for a hospital delivery suite, perfect – the midwife suggested lowering the lights, and we put Smooth FM on the radio, meaning there was a collection of lovely, familiar songs playing throughout the labor, and after. It’s now our favorite station to listen to at home.
The midwife kept moving me on the bed, to try and get the baby’s heart rate to pick up. I think my favorite position was lying on my right hand side – my husband and sister were on that side, and I sort of cuddled my husbands hand to me and listened to them chatting. I kept my happy places in my mind and retreated into them in between contractions. These were a combination of being in Strawberry Fields in Central Park, during our honeymoon, and watching our son toddle about in our local woodland. The memory of my son was so peaceful and relaxing, that I started to drift off in between surges, and as a result, one snuck up on me! My husband and sister kept close to me, kept their hands on me at different intervals, offered me soft touch massage and read my birth affirmations out loud. These small details made my labor so peaceful, and I’ve reflected on them time and again.
For the first few hours, I managed to breath through the surges, using the breathing techniques from the hypnobirthing book I mentioned earlier. I did eventually reach the point where I felt I needed a little extra help, and asked for the gas and air. I was sick after my first few goes on it, and felt a little light headed, but I quickly became used to it. I don’t feel that gas and air actually takes the pain away, but rather it helps you to focus on your breathing and distracts you.
The baby’s heart rate was still dropping with my contractions, so the midwife decided it was best to attach me to a saline drip, to see if this improved things. This unfortunately wasn’t a great experience, it took three attempts in three different veins across both of my arms, to get the cannula in. In the end it was an anesthetist who did it, and he did it so swiftly, and with very little discomfort, I did wish it had been him that had done it in the first place. When this didn’t make a difference, she asked if she could place a clip on baby’s head, which I consented to. This was a little uncomfortable, but by this point, so was everything.
I was eventually able to stand up, but not venture away from the bed, so I asked for the bed to be raised so I could lean over it and sway. My surges were faster and stronger at this point, and my husband and sister rubbed my back as I swayed, encouraging me through it.
It was at this point that my surges really increased, and I started to feel my body pushing. I voiced this and midwife advised me that was fine, so long as it was just my body pushing and I wasn’t forcing anything. I could feel the clip on the baby’s head, it felt as though it was going to come straight back out. It was quite a powerful feeling, knowing that my body was doing what it was meant to do.
The midwife was still struggling to pick up the heartbeat with me standing up, so it was back to the bed for me. I then got a really horrific contraction, and she immediately started to say encouraging things to me, talking me through it and telling me that I could do it, that I had made so much progress and was doing well. She clearly understood how important my birthing preferences that were still available to me were.
Another midwife had come in at this point to assist her, and my main midwife left the room just to go and fill out some paper work. I was stating to tell my sister and husband that I couldn’t go on, and I felt might need further pain relief, when I got an incredibly powerful surge, and felt that the baby was coming. I told them they needed to get the midwife – I believe my words were something along the lines of “Bring her back, the baby is coming now, or at least I feel like it is!”
They shouted her back through, and she came in with a knowing smile and said she hadn’t thought I was far off. It all happened very quickly after that. I tried to avoid forced pushing, but I really wanted the baby out. I was so tired, and I was in pain. I feel I let my body do a lot of the work, but I did push myself. I was allowed to keep puffing on the gas and air (if you read my blog about having given birth the first time, the midwife advised me to stop, and told hold my breath, whilst pushing my chin down to my chest) which helped me to focus my breathing. I was on my back – she didn’t want me to go on my hands and knees as she wanted to have the best access due to the heart rate having been dropping – but I wasn’t in stirrups. I was able to wiggle my hips back and forth between pushes to ease the pain a little.
As the baby started to come out, I felt an incredible burning pain – I’ve heard this referred to as a ring of fire – and almost like I was going to split in half. I didn’t feel like I could go on, and yet I did somehow. The next thing I knew, our baby was out, and I was being told to look down as the midwife held this little bundle up and I saw our baby girl! I couldn’t believe what I was looking at! Born at 6am exactly, and weighing 6lb5, an oz less than her brother had weighed at birth. I can at this point vividly remember what it felt like to give birth to her.
They placed this beautiful baby girl on my chest, and prepared me to deliver the placenta. The midwife was really keen on us doing delayed chord clamping, and I believe she gave it till it stopped pulsing but to be completely honest with you, I am not sure how long it took. They gave me the injection to allow them to pull it out, and as the midwife went to do so, she realized it was splitting – which is what happened during my first labor as well – and so I had to deliver it myself. I found this incredibly hard, and unlike my first labor, it seemed to hurt quite a lot. I don’t know if this was just because by this point I was so exhausted and sore, or what but it was really difficult.
They checked me for any tearing – again, I had similar injuries to my last labor – and then got me stitched up. I felt it a bit more than I did the last time, and found it hard to focus on the conversation around me.
She was weighed and checked, and had her vitamin k injection, and I was stripped of my clothes so I could do skin on skin. I loved just lying in bed holding her to me, listening to the radio. The room was starting to get lighter bit by bit, and after some time my sister had to leave. I was not prepared at all for what happened next.
As she was leaving, I shuffled a little and it caused quite a painful cramp, which felt different to the normal post labor cramps. Whats more is that it didn’t then go away. I shuffled a bit more, feeling like I just needed to shift something, as though something was stuck or had moved, and then I felt some bleeding, which is of course normal as well. It felt like a lot, a bit like a flood and I just made the health care assistant aware, as I felt like I needed the pad changing that was under me – and my sock, which probably should have altered me to the fact that something was wrong – and she said it looked all perfectly normal, which was reassuring, and off she went.
I’m not sure how long after she had left that this happened, but I knew something something was wrong – the pain I had started to feel hadn’t really let up at all, and I suddenly started to feel dizzy and lightheaded. I was scared I was going to drop the baby, and I struggled initially to put across that I felt something was seriously wrong. I told my husband to take her from me and get someone quickly.
Someone – possibly a midwife, but I’m not sure – was laying me down and telling me that everything was fine and then I’m not really sure what happened. In my mind, there seemed to be more people coming in, feeling my tummy, checking my blood pressure, which was dropping. I had some clots that were stuck and was loosing blood. It was fine though, and they could clear the clots there and then. They gave me the gas and air back, and talked me through it, someone was at my side, holding my hand and talking me through my breathing, and someone else set away clearing the clots. It felt like someone was scraping my insides out – which was basically what they were doing – and I couldn’t do it, I cried out and they stopped. The woman performing this procedure advised me that it was doable, and if I could just get through it, it would be over quickly. They gave me a few moments to catch my breath and I told them to try again – but I just couldn’t take it, and at this point I had lost my grip on my birthing practice. I would have to go to theater for them to finish removing the clots.
At this point, I was in tears and shaking. There seemed to be a million things happening at once. I have no idea really what was going on around me, I was just aware of one woman advising me of possible complications and what they needed to do, and I just kept repeating that it was fine, they could do whatever they needed to do, but she kept telling me – in a very caring, sympathetic manor – that she had to make me aware, and I had to sign to say that I understood and consented. Signing was incredibly hard. My husband was trying to be reassuring in the my other ear, and for reasons that I don’t quite understand I kept apologizing to everyone.
Then they were starting to wheel me away, and all I could think was what if I didn’t come back from it. I told my husband what I wanted to name the baby, and that I loved them. I wanted to make sure she had a name, just in case. Which sounds incredibly dramatic, but in the moment, I had no idea what was going to happen.
In the theater, A LOT was happening. A lot of medical terms were being thrown about, there was a midwife or two, a surgeon, two anesthetists, and I’m pretty sure there were some other people in there too. They were doing all sorts – I had to drink this really sweet liquid to help prevent any issues with reflux, they were advising me of all sorts of things including the fact that I was going to be intubated, I had a second cannula put in, and that’s just the stuff I can clearly remember. Then they injected me with the anesthetic and asked me to count backwards from 10,. I started to count, and tried to picture my family, focusing particularly on those happy images I had used during labor.
The next thing I knew, I was waking up bit by bit. I felt so groggy and I’m not sure when I really started to feel awake. I had an oxygen mask on, and felt terrified. My husband was sitting next to me with the baby, and I had a new midwife. I wanted to take the mask off but was advised it was best to keep it on, and I had a catheter, which was a strange experience. I had lost 1.8 litres of blood, or 3.1 pints, and had the clots cleared. I was eventually wheeled back to the delivery suite, and was given 1-on-1 care with the same midwife for the rest of the day till she went home. I looked like a ghost and felt wobbly and tired. I was in pain as well, and when I mentioned this to the midwife, she told me someone had literally had their arm inside of my uterus, scraping the clots out, so she wasn’t surprised. This makes me feel sick still.
We spent much of the day dozing in the delivery suite, and I had the baby on my chest for much of this. I had a shower – very difficult with a catheter – and when my husband had left, my sister and parents came for a visit. I was eventually transferred back to the ward, and would spend a further 3 nights in the hospital. On the 3rd night, I was given a blood transfusion and I put on iron tablets.
Now, two months on, I am still taking the iron tablets. Due to lockdown, I’ve not yet had any bloods taken to monitor my blood count, and although I initially continued to feel wobbly and exhausted, I do feel like I have been recovering quite well. I’m still exhausted though. I imagine that will just continue!
The midwife didn’t once tell me how dilated I was, or which stage of labor I was in -another thing I really loved about her – and as I didn’t have someone taking notes this time, I can only go off my records. My labor was established at 3:00am and was recorded as lasting 2 hours and 49 minutes. My second stage was established at 5:49am and lasted 11 minutes. I delivered the placenta at 6:20am and my third stage last 20 minutes.