I am a Mother of 2 young children. Both of them were born drug free in water in the comfort & security of our family home in Glasgow.
Even now, as I type these words, I can hardly believe that this was my experience. You see, I spent my whole life terrified of the prospect of pregnancy & childbirth. I’d avoid the stories of friends & family & quickly switch over whenever childbirth was featured on TV. It wasn’t that I disliked children, quite the opposite in fact, I adore children & spent time studying child development & early years education when I left school; but the idea of another person growing inside my body & then of their agonising departure from my womb, left me in a cold sweat. I reasoned that maybe I was just a person who wasn’t destined for Motherhood.
Then I met my husband. Even though I wouldn’t realise for some time to come, (& as predicted by my own Mother!) this was a game changer. The early years of our relationship were filled with dogs, dining out & daytrips, then we busied ourselves with property renovations & wedding plans. Finally, at 29 years old, it dawned on me. I wanted to have a baby. Initially, I kept these feelings to myself, like if I confided in someone it somehow made the situation more real. I wrestled with my conscience for a while & simultaneously discovered websites such as Baby Centre & Netmums. I tentatively dipped into a few forums & was terrified & curious in equal measure as I read about pregnancy & childbirth. At this point most of what I read, further intensified my innately squeamish disposition.
Eventually, what had now become an obsession, couldn’t be hidden any longer. My ‘biological clock’ was ticking & I had to tell my husband. . Of course, he was delighted. I decided that I would reserve my fears for the day when I was actually staring down the barrel of a positive clear blue pregnancy test, little did I know that day would only be a few short weeks away!
Once I was over the initial “shit… oh shit” stage of acceptance, I developed an insatiable thirst for knowledge. I wanted to know everything there was to learn about the physiology of pregnancy & birth. Every spare moment I had was spent with my nose buried in a pregnancy magazine or online forum. The idea of childbirth still terrified me & I found myself wondering about elective caesarean section under general anaesthetic.
Then one evening whilst browsing the available pregnancy support groups on Baby Centre, I found a group called “Hypnobirth Mums & Mums to be”. I joined out of curiosity but quickly realised I was exactly where I needed to be. These ladies were speaking my language! The more I read the more I realised that I wasn’t scared of the process of birth, I was terrified of medical intervention. As I learned more about the process of active birth, about the hormones present & the roles they play, the less I feared natural birth. This realisation did reinforce that i needed to do all I could to avoid intervention though. Still I was shocked to find myself considering birthing at home with the use of self-hypnosis.
I took some time, to further research birthing at home & to make a private decision on whether I felt it would be the best choice for my baby & I. I suspected that I would have my husband’s support but I wasn’t so sure how our family & friends would feel. I had read a lot about the negativity some people had faced when they opted out of medicalised, hospital care. If this was to be our choice, then I needed to be as well informed as possible, in order to reassure our loved ones.
The more I read, the more this felt like the perfect fit for me. I now knew that I was scared of intervention & I reasoned that the best way to avoid that was to stay away from hospital. My recently acquired knowledge assured me that pregnancy & birth were not medical situations to be treated or managed, but entirely normal & natural events to be supported in their natural form. So long as my pregnancy played out with no concerns for my baby or I, we would be sharing our first intoxicating embrace in the safety & privacy of our own home. Now all I had to do was broach the idea with my husband.
I chose to raise the subject the following evening over dinner. He knew how excited I was about our pregnancy but also that my joy was overshadowed with fear. I began to tell him about my research & about the practice of Hypnobirthing. I had considered that he might feel Hypnobirthing was ‘hippy-hocus-pocus’ so you can imagine my delight when his response was nothing short of complete agreement. My husband didn’t know much about childbirth, but he knew enough about biology to know that birthing mammals retreated to safety & security to welcome their young into the world. To him, my plans to birth at home made perfect sense too. To our minds it definitely could not hurt to aim high! We would still have midwifery care, though if anecdotal evidence was to be believed, that care would be more focussed, relaxed & respectful at home, than in a busy hospital. With our decision made, I felt like a weight had been lifted. I was no longer a woman with no control of her fate, in fear of what was going to happen to me. I was a woman on an empowering journey. At this moment I didn’t know how we were going to get there, but I had faith that everything was going to be ok. My first encounter with Mother’s intuition perhaps?
I bought some highly recommended books, my favourite of which is Childbirth without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read. Every spare moment (when I wasn’t asleep from early pregnancy induced exhaustion!) was spent reading. I learned about pregnancy, hormones, the labour process & how it can be hindered or helped, birthing positions, placentas, delayed cord clamping & much more besides. I didn’t inform myself at all well regarding breastfeeding, an error I would later regret & one which could fill another blog all to its self!
I began Hypnobirthing practice. Initially, I concentrated most on fear release as even though I was assured that I was making the right decision, I still had reservations regarding my ability to cope with the pain which was so well documented & regaled by the women I knew. I practiced in the evenings, listening to positive affirmations as I drifted off to sleep. Quickly, with my practice my insecurities melted away & I began to find confidence in my body’s ability to birth this baby that it was nurturing. I began to feel excited to experience the power of my body.
As the months passed & my belly grew, I was pleasantly surprised that for the most part, we were supported in our aspirations of a home-water-hypnobirth. To my delight & most importantly, our local NHS Trust in Glasgow were entirely unreactive to our decision. My antenatal care had been passed over to the Homebirth Community Midwife Team & at each appointment, I met with the same lovely, reassuring Midwife, in our local clinic. I didn’t realise at the time, just how important this continuity was. There was not a single issue arising from the care I received before, during or after my baby was born. I was never in doubt that I was in excellent, experienced & knowledgeable hands.
I continued with my Hypnobirthing practice & turned my attention to creating a birth plan. It was detailed & firm in tone, but with the get-out clause that I would listen to my body, my baby & my midwife on the day. We can never entirely plan our birth, but it was my belief that I could increase my chances of the hands off birth I wanted, by paying attention to my body & my baby & by being respectful of birth in it’s primal form.
Like all first time Mums I presumed that my gestation was likely to be 42 weeks! Despite my knowledge that babies are routinely born spontaneously, anywhere between 37 & 42 weeks. There was no way that I could ever be lucky enough to welcome my baby to the world in the earlier realms of this ‘window’. I used up annual leave & finished work at 34 weeks pregnant. I spent my days pottering around at home, walking my dogs & taking long hypno-relaxation induced naps. It was heaven. My 37th week was a restless one, I finally understood the true meaning of nesting as I cleaned every inch of our house in preparation for our baby’s arrival. Despite my intentions to never leave the house, I was advised to prepare for hospital transfer, just in case. I put the finishing touches to my hospital bag which was bulging at the seams with paraphernalia I would never use.
My 38th week began on a Monday & I was an emotional time-bomb. I was excited & scared in equal measure. My best line of defence was to retreat to my place of safety. I climbed into bed & listened to my fear release scripts & positive birth affirmations on a loop until, as it always did, it reduced my anxiety to allow me to eagerly anticipate my baby’s birth again.
Friday the 16th of April arrived & I was 38+4 & as ever, I was in uncharted territory. I felt a little nauseas & was having some fairly impressive hot flushes. I decided to get dressed & take my dogs for a gentle walk in the beautiful Spring sunshine. Praying I wasn’t coming down with a bug.
By late afternoon I had another visit of intuition. Something encouraged me to ring my husband before he left work, to let him know he should consider clearing his desk. I didn’t feel that birth was in any way imminent, but I did wonder if our baby might arrive before he was due to report back on Monday.
In retrospect, I’m still surprised that at this point I didn’t freak out & run for the hills. Here I was, the same woman who couldn’t even bear to watch a contrived birth on Casualty, cool as a cucumber as the finish line of my first pregnancy was in sight.
That night at 11.30pm I got into bed. Within a few seconds of settling down, I was surprised by a physical & audible ‘pop’ as my membranes ruptured. I got out of bed, sorted myself out & reasoned that I’d better get some sleep. I didn’t even come back downstairs to inform my husband. Cool. as. a. cucumber!! I settled back into bed, closed my eyes & without conscious thought, my positive affirmations began to swim around my head.
Around 30 minutes later I experienced my first uterine surge. I stayed put. Ten minutes later I had another & when the third arrived I decided I should get out of bed & let my husband know what was happening. I was surprised by how close together they were now coming & by my compulsion to keep moving! This is the first point where I remember being grateful for our plans to stay at home, to help with the power of these sensations, I had to keep moving. How on earth would I cope with getting into the car & the journey to hospital?
It was now around 1am & I decided to time my surges using an iPhone app. I also asked my husband to begin preparing the pool. At 2am I called the hospital to let them know I was confident that I was in labour & to request a midwife come check me over. As all of this was going on, I never felt worried or afraid. I felt happy, excited & confident that my baby & I were capable & knew what to do.
Our lovely midwife, Caroline arrived around 3am. She quietly observed as I followed my instincts, moving from room to room. She asked for my birthing plan & spent some time familiarising herself with the points within it. As a little time passed, my breathing became increasingly animated & Caroline double checked whether or not I’d like to be examined to establish the progress of labour. I had noted that my wish was for hands off care only, but she was right to check as I now felt it would be reassuring to know the state of play.
Around 3.30am, examination revealed that I was in established labour & I was invited to get into the pool if I wanted to. Getting into the warm water was like being enveloped in the biggest, warmest embrace. I felt relaxed, safe & confident. My weightless body was free to move around to find a comfortable position & soon the rhythm of my surges returned.
An hour or so later it became apparent that our baby’s arrival was imminent. Here I was, nearing the second stage of labour with not a hint of fear or concern. The situation demanded my full attention & I was without doubt ‘in the zone’ but I was never overwhelmed & it never occurred to me to ask for the pain relief which I knew was available. I know it sounds crazy but I wouldn’t describe my birth experience as painful. Powerful – Yes! Intense – Yes! But not painful. I now completely understand the Fear=Tension=Pain theory of Hypnobirthing. I was not fearful or tense & therefore I didn’t experience overwhelming pain.
24 minutes after the onset of my second stage of labour our daughter made her entrance into this world at 5.06am, 5.5hrs after my labour began. Perfect & plump, her large dark eyes were wide open & she didn’t make a sound. Initially, this concerned me but I was quickly reassured by Caroline who unbeknown to me was efficiently observing & recording her Apgar scores. (9 at 1 minute, 10 at 5 minutes & 10 at 10 minutes). Our 7lb 4oz baby girl didn’t cry until she was around 12 hours old & that would continue to be her temperament throughout infancy.
We were elated! I had achieved my hand off homebirth! I felt like a superhero & had never been more in love with my husband or my life! Without a doubt, this experience was made possible by my discovery of Hypnobirthing. The practice allowed me to address my fears & build my confidence & whilst hugely beneficial during pregnancy & birth, the breathing techniques I learned also proved to be invaluable during my postnatal recovery.
In the days that followed I was enveloped in the intoxicating bubble of post birth, oxytocin fuelled, new baby bliss. The midwives visited us each day & during the last of these visits I asked for details of the local baby massage class. I was so disappointed to discover that there wasn’t one. That day, the absence of a service for new parents to learn how to massage their babies swirled round my head. It seemed to be too obvious, too awesome to be viable. I figured it couldn’t hurt to have a Google & find out about training.
Fast forward 9 months & instead of returning to my previous employment, I embarked upon the terrifying & exhilarating journey of self-employment, teaching local parents Baby Massage via my new independent business – Baby Bliss.
My own personal hypnobirthing journey has taught me so much more than I expected. It taught me strength, it taught me courage & it taught me to have faith in my abilities. These traits in turn encouraged me during the short days & long exhausting nights of early Motherhood & beyond into self employment. My Hypnobirthing practice was so much more than just antenatal education. It raised topics for research & discussion, which would shape how i raise my children to this day.
My experiences of Motherhood have inspired me to work to build a small but thriving business, working locally with families to support them as they find their way on their own parenting pathways. I feel immensely proud of the supportive community we have become….
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