My first baby was born on the hospital delivery suite.
I learned hypnobirthing as a way to avoid panic during labour. I like feeling in control, and I was afraid that the unpredictability of labour (when it would start, how long it would go on for, what it would feel like etc.) would cause me to spiral into anxiety, and make the whole experience really unpleasant.
I also didn't really want to use any pain relief as I was put off by the side effects, and I hate being in the water, so I was keen to find alternatives. I did the hypnobirthing course at the end of my second trimester. For the rest of the pregnancy I listened to the hypnosis tracks every day, usually straight after coming in from work which was a great way to relax and wind down. I worried at first that it might not be 'doing anything' but I noticed that I found it easier and easier to relax into hypnosis each time I listened.
I also read positive birth stories. I stuck birth affirmations up all over the house and I protected myself from other people's horror stories, telling them I would hear all about it after my own baby was born! I stopped working at about 36 weeks as I was very tired by my commute and felt strongly that my body needed to rest.
I had acupuncture and reflexology from 38 weeks, to prepare my body for the birth. My due date came and went and I became very impatient. I wanted to avoid any kind of induction so I declined the offer of a membrane sweep at 40 weeks.
At 40 weeks 6 days I went about my normal day. I went to a reflexology appointment and commented to the therapist that I was noticing some crampy feelings. Then I went to the hairdresser (this must have been me nesting and getting ready for the baby!) where I noticed the crampiness again. I went home and relaxed on the sofa. By the late afternoon I noticed that the crampy feelings (not painful, just achy) were coming in waves and decided to time them. After an hour of them being 5 minutes apart and lasting around 40 seconds, I texted our doula to let her know. She told me to relax as it might be the start of something, or it might just fade away again. She suggested I have dinner and an early night. I got into bed at about 9pm and went to sleep.
I woke at around 1am with a mild contraction. I knew instinctively that it was different. I woke my husband and asked him to stick the TENS machine on my back. I put my hypnobirthing relaxation track on and went back to sleep with my earphones in. I woke every now and again with a contraction and used the TENS machine. After a couple of hours I felt restless and was finding it difficult to sleep. I wasn't in terrible pain but I couldn't get comfortable. By 5am I was kneeling on all fours resting on a mountain of pillows and using my TENS machine with each contraction, but I could still talk easily during them. They were closer together (about 3 mins apart) and lasting around one minute. I asked my husband to call our doula but I didn't feel I needed her to come over yet.
And then around 8am, I did want her to come so my husband rang her again. My contractions were becoming gradually more intense and I was increasing the strength of the TENS machine. I was now really focusing on my breathing during contractions. I took a couple of paracetamol and was sipping lucozade. Our doula arrived at around 9.30 and encouraged me to eat a bit. I had a few bites of toast with honey but I didn't have any appetite. I moved to a kneeling position on the floor, resting on the side of the bed. Our doula applied counterpressure to my sacrum (bliss) when I had a few contractions which I felt in my back. The contractions were much more intense now and two minutes apart, lasting a minute, I went to the toilet and had three back-to-back contractions and a big mucus show which was a bit of a surprise!
Immediately afterwards I felt a shift. I came out of the bathroom and had a contraction standing up, holding on to my doula for support. I was making low moaning noises during my contractions and swaying. Our doula suggested that this would be a good time to go to the hospital (we had asked her in advance to guide us on this) and called them to advise we were coming. I was booked into the birth centre but we were asked to attend triage first. It took my a while to get out of the house and into the car as the contractions were coming more closely together. The drive took less than ten minutes, and I only had a couple of contractions in the car. I told my husband that I could feel pressure and he encouraged me to take deep breaths and listen to my hypnosis track (I still had my earphones in).
When we arrived at the hospital, our doula told us not to bother unloading the bags and to just go straight in. I had a few big contractions walking to triage, and the midwives watched me have one and told me to go straight up to the birth centre. I was moo-ing away like a cow, but even then I was still asking our doula whether this was the 'real thing' and whether I was really in labour. I think I was waiting for something dramatic to happen, but it never did. She said I definitely was in labour and we headed upstairs.
When we arrived at the birth centre we were greeted by a midwife who asked for a urine sample (impossible!). The sensations were extremely intense and I was feeling immense pressure at this point (probably bulging waters). I was examined and the midwife said I was 5cm dilated although I can't imagine how she determined this because I wasn't able to stay still during the examination.
The midwife then listed to the baby's heart rate and said that there were decelerations that she was not happy with. I was rushed on a bed up to the delivery suite. I had my eyes closed the entire time and was listening to my hypnosis tracks, and felt pretty calm. I had the gas nozzle in my hand but wasn't using it much as I didn't really like it. I told the midwives that I felt like I wanted to push and they told me to breathe through the sensations, but my body was pushing involuntarily with each contraction.
When we arrived in the delivery room I could hear a lot of commotion (my eyes were still closed). I could sense my husband next to me the entire time. I asked our doula to tell me what was happening. She quietly and calmly talked me through the people in the room and encouraged me to just relax and focus on my breathing, reassuring me that I was safe. It took quite a few attempts for the midwives to break my waters, and when it did the relief was huge. But just for a moment because then I heard someone say "that's the head". I was quite shocked then as I had in my mind that I was only 5cm dilated and I thought I had lots more labouring left to do. I asked my husband if it really was the head - and when he said yes I thought he was lying to me!
The midwives and the consultant who had been called were telling me when and how to push which I found confusing and unhelpful. Instead I just listened to my body and pushed as hard as I could for the next couple of contractions. I gave consent for an episiotomy (didn't feel it at all despite only being given the local a few seconds before) and head and body were born with the next two contractions. The relief was immense. I couldn't believe I'd really done it! My husband announced the sex and we were thrilled to have a baby girl.
We had planned on delayed cord clamping but I consented to the syntometrine injection to speed up the birth of the placenta as the midwives wanted to test the cord blood gases. The placenta arrived shortly afterwards. I had to have quite a lot of stitches, so I used the gas and asked my husband to hold our daughter while our doula gave me support and reassurance.
Despite things not going quite according to our preferences I was very happy that I managed to stay calm. I didn't feel panic or anxiety. The sensations were manageable throughout the labour. I am convinced that the hypnobirthing practice I did meant that being relaxed became an automatic behaviour which I found easy and familiar, even during the intensity of labour. I would definitely say that it was a positive experience.
I had my second baby at home. Having used hypnobirthing with great success for my first birth, I decided to take a refresher course and listened to the track again most days for the last trimester of my pregnancy. I had fantastic care from my community midwives and with their support and encouragement I decided to plan for a home birth (with an open mind that I may decide to transfer to hospital during the birth if this felt like a good decision at the time). I had acupuncture and reflexology regularly for the last few weeks of my pregnancy, and felt relaxed as I passed the 40 week mark.
At 40+3 I had a busy day, going to a 5th birthday party in the morning and hosting a family tea at home for my daughter's second birthday (it was her birthday the next day). I felt quite uncomfortable all day and was having lots of Braxton Hicks contractions. I went to bed feeling totally normal, then woke after a few hours later feeling what I knew was a 'real' but very mild contraction, and instinctively I knew it was the start of labour. I looked at the clock and it was midnight - I couldn't believe I was going to have two children with the same birthday!! I got my husband to put the TENS machine on my back, I popped my hypnobirthing relaxation track on, put in my earphones and went back to sleep. By around 3am the contractions were lasting around 1 minute and coming every 2-3 minutes, but they were still very mild. I was finding it hard to get comfortable and sleep properly, so I just rested and used the TENS machine with each contraction. By 7am they were still lasting around 1 minute and coming every 2-3 minutes but they were gradually intensifying. I wanted to be alone but asked my husband to stay close by in the next door room, and I focused on my breathing.
We asked our doula to come at around 10am and I said I was worried that my contractions weren't getting longer or closer together. Until this point I'd been lying on my side in bed (not the best I know, but I was tired and feeling lazy!). She suggested a change in position, and a trip to the loo. I settled into a kneeling position, resting my arms and head on the side of the bed. The contractions began to intensify, and I started needing to focus during them but was chatting quite normally in between. We decided to call the home birth midwives to let them know. After a chat to the midwife on the phone I decided I didn't need them to come out yet. About ten minutes later I started to feel just a hint of pressure with each contraction - after a fast pushing stage with my first baby, I decided to call them back and ask them to come out. They arrived and took my temperature and blood pressure and listened to the baby's heart rate - I didn't want to be examined so they sat quietly doing their notes while I carried on labouring. Apart from regularly checking the baby's heart rate (working wonderfully around me without needing me to change positions etc) they left me to it which was great. By this point it was around 1.30pm and the contractions were moderate but still very manageable.
At around 2pm the contractions started to become very intense, and requiring all my focus, with rest in between - but they were still 3:10 and lasting 1 minute. I was feeling a lot of pressure with each one and suspected this was my waters bulging as with my previous birth. At 2:31 my waters released with a 'pop' feeling and for a few seconds I felt huge relief from the pressure. There was meconium in my waters (I wasn't aware of this at the time) and so the midwife had a look - and she said she could see the baby's head. With one push at 2:32 the head was out and at 2:34 the baby was born. I'll never forget the feeling of lifting that warm, wet body up to mine. I felt a sense of total euphoria and was so proud that I'd done it! We were delighted to discover we had another little girl. After a few minutes of skin to skin I turned over into a sitting position with my back against the side of the bed. After 6 minutes when the cord had stopped pulsating it was clamped and cut, and one minute later the placenta was born. I had one stitch to a tiny vaginal wall tear and used the gas and air while it was done. After over an hour of skin to skin and once she'd had a little feed, the midwives weighed and checked the baby. I got into bed with a cup of tea and snuggled my baby while the midwives wrote up their paperwork and had a couple of well-earned biscuits. All in all an absolutely brilliant experience - I would definitely recommend home birth to anyone who is considering it!
I am now a hypnobirthing teacher myself and offer classes in North London and Hertfordshire. I'm a big fan of sharing good birth stories and have started to collect some on my own website, www.birthmind.co.uk.