I promised that I would write a follow up to my first article about hypnobirthing, and truly expected to be doing this in the weeks directly following the birth. I realise, in retrospect, how foolish this was, as the sleep deprivation immediately following the birth of any new-born is quite debilitating!
Now I am approaching something akin to a routine (sort of; not really…) I’ve decided to come back to you to let you know how the techniques I discussed previously actually worked in a real-life labour situation.
My early labour wasn’t ‘as standard’ because I had to be induced, due to various issues including high blood pressure and pain from SPD. I had some mementos with me to make the delivery space my own; a charm woven by a family member; a rock from the beach; a shell. I wanted to remind myself of all the little things that matter to me, and my trinkets from nature always help to calm me. Plus, the element of water seemed appropriate for a birthing time; cleansing, renewing, and a reminder of the womb.
I was in the antenatal ward waiting to have my waters broken for around 18 hours, and during this time I re-listened to my birthing tracks, and tried to focus on what I would be visualising once the labour started. The visualisations we had worked on focused on removing yourself to a place in nature; a favourite place that would be calming and safe, although my midwife was keen to stress that you might forever after associate that place with labour!
So this is the early stage, you know the bit they always tell you lasts for hours and hours, mild contractions and so forth. They always tell you it goes a bit faster when you’re induced, but they fully expect to have to put you on an oxytocin drip to help things along, as well as breaking your waters. My labour this time went so fast that the drip was never needed. My waters were broken by two midwives at around 4.30am. The first midwife couldn’t quite manage it, as the baby’s head was so tight up against my cervix, they couldn’t get the ‘hook’ into a good position. A more experienced midwife took over and, ‘pop!’, painless but gushy, it was all over. For now. Within an hour, I was experiencing contractions.
I focused on the techniques I had been taught; travel to a favourite place, be there in your mind, be calm… and three, two one… relax. I breathed through the tension and found that although each fourth contraction or so was stronger, I could manage it the same way, and I was impressed how well I was coping.
I was taken down to the delivery suite at 7.30am, and was already feeling like the contractions were very strong and very close together, however I kept zoning out, breathing, and above all just trying to focus on what I had learnt and not all the niggling anxieties that were floating around such as:
- I’m needle phobic, what if I need to have the drip?
- What if the pain gets too much?
- What if I need to have an epidural? (Epidurals can be particularly problematic with SPD sufferers as you can over extend your pelvis and be in agony later on.)
- I’m so tired; I can’t do this!
The relaxation techniques certainly helped, but nothing could take my mind completely away from these fears.
I was examined, and the midwife was surprised when she told me I was already six centimetres dilated; another midwife said I didn’t look like I was labouring at all! This was one of the impacts, and you have to be careful with this: you don’t look like you’re in as much pain as you really are. Because you’re focusing on breathing and taking your mind somewhere else, it can appear to medical professionals as if you’re not as far along as you are. You can appear calm and at ease, nut that’s because you’re keeping your mind quiet while letting your body do all the work!
This is where I let go and lost focus. The baby’s head seemed to be pushing against my tailbone, which was agonizing, and I literally forgot to breath. The midwives had to tell me again and again to keep breathing. I was terrified. In hindsight, I think the reason I struggled at this point is because, as mentioned in the previous article, I had not been able to get to all the sessions on hypnobirthing due to ill health, so had not had the relaxation technique as ingrained into me as I would have liked. Also, the baby was coming so fast that I had very little time to recover from a contraction before it was all happening again!
The second stage of labour is where the baby has left the cervix and is on the way to meet us! It was literally seconds for me. It was traumatic, ridiculous, to the point that three midwives shoved a huge, soft mat under me in case the baby shot out, so it wouldn’t bounce! I’m not even joking. It hurt so much, but this baby was coming fast. Sophie, the main midwife, popped out to refill my water bottle as I was so thirsty, and when she came back in the head was out. Seconds later, the baby was born and they were passing her through my legs so I could see the gender. My little girl. Ember. Unbelievable. What a rush of emotion. A pure moment of magic.
Needless to say that during this few minutes of madness my hypnobirthing techniques did not get a look in, except perhaps that having been so calm and collected during early labour probably meant I had more energy at this point, which of course was a big bonus.
I had the injection to help hurry the placenta along; yeah, my needle phobia wilted in the face of wanting this to be over now, thank you very much. I still winced and cringed when they stabbed me though. One of the most bizarre experiences of my life was wandering around the delivery suite carefully clutching my own and Ember’s umbilical cord like a really gross string of pearls. There was the worry they were going to have to catheterise me and drain my bladder as the placenta wasn’t shifting. I focused, relaxed once more, and managed to expel it. Once last triumph for hypnobirthing, as by this point I was really exhausted!
If you’ve lasted this long through what has been, I accept, a pretty graphic description of giving birth, I hope you’ve gained some insights into the benefits of hypnobirthing. I only heard about it a couple of months before Ember was born, and boy am I glad I did. Yeah, there was still pain. Yeah, I had to stay in for observation, and I wasn’t magically recovered from my pre-pregnancy ailments. In fact, I was only allowed to go home on the basis that I was visited and monitored daily, and I wasn’t discharged from care for a good few weeks. But I can say that the labour was fast; there were no major interventions, and I didn’t have to have stitches, which I was really surprised about. I’ve also occasionally used the relaxation techniques since, to help me sleep, and on top of that, I’ve discovered I find it easier to meditate now, as if I’ve permanently trained my mind to relax more.
If you, or a partner, family member or friend are expecting a little one, it may well be worth asking a medical professional about being referred for guidance on hypnobirthing techniques. There are videos and testimonials online, but I found the guidance I received from my specialist midwife was the best. Whatever techniques you may decide to use, I wish you a safe and special labour, and joy in meeting your new arrival.
About the Author:
Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.
She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.
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