Our third son and first hypno-baby was born on November 17. I’ve been wanting to share our birth story with the group ever since, but I had no idea how long it would take me to finish writing it now that we have a newborn, a two-year-old, and a not-quite-four-year-old! Anyway, I finally finished it…only two months later! I remember our Hypnobabies instructor joking that hypno-birthing videos weren’t very exciting to watch, and when I go back and read my story it really doesn’t make for very interesting reading...the birth was so easy and uneventful. So here goes.
A little background… Our oldest son, Ian, was breech and was born by planned c-section. Then with our second son, Malcolm, I had a VBAC, but two aspects of the birth were not as I had envisioned: I was induced with pitocin as well as AROM, and I chose to have an epidural. I went into Malcolm’s birth intending to attempt as natural a birth as possible, but we didn’t do anything specific to prepare for that–we just reviewed our materials from the hospital childbirth class we took when we were expecting Ian, and we practiced some breathing, and I did take prenatal yoga classes, which were wonderful. At five centimeters, however, I was unwilling to continue coping with the pressure waves and chose to have an epidural. I was thrilled with the result, of course–Malcolm and I were healthy and safe, and I got to have the VBAC that I so desperately wanted. But I knew that I still wanted a natural birth experience with our next baby, and I knew that I would need more intense preparation to achieve that goal.
So, when I became pregnant this time we decided to take a group Hynobabies course to prepare for the birth. We really couldn’t afford to pay a babysitter for six consecutive Friday evenings in addition to the course fee, so my husband Bill only attended one of the classes with me. Even though I went to the classes by myself, Bill was very much a committed Hypnobabies birth partner. He kept up with all the reading and read scripts to me every other night. And I was extremely faithful to the the Hypnobabies homework schedule–I listened to my Joyful Pregnancy Affirmations every day without fail, I always listened to a hypnosis CD on the nights we weren’t doing scripts, and I practiced my finger drop/eyes open childbirth hypnosis techniques several times a day throughout. It wasn’t easy to find time to practice and be a stay-at-home mom to two little ones, but I made myself find the time–I really wanted to prepare for the best possible birth experience. I had also been using my finger drop technique to switch off during Braxton Hicks pressure waves for the last few weeks. We had arranged childcare so that Bill could attend the class six birth rehearsal on November 19, but I felt confident that I had enough tools to be ready even if the baby came before the birth rehearsal.
On the evening of November 16, Bill and I read a script together and spent some time talking about which Hypnobabies cues and verbal prompts I thought I would find most useful. I also did a fear clearing session that night to release a nagging worry that I would be too tired to birth naturally. I had been sleeping terribly for several weeks, no more than an hour at a time before I woke up for any number of reasons–because I was uncomfortable or because a child needed me or because my mind was racing. I was really concerned that I was not going to have the energy to make it through my birthing time without resorting to medication to manage the discomfort, especially if my birthing time ran long. I had done two previous fear clearing sessions, one to address concerns about high blood sugar and another to deal with almost obsessive worries about fetal positioning, and I was amazed at the way they really did help me release those fears. After listening to the fear clearing CD that third time, I felt much more relaxed and confident about my ability to summon the strength to birth naturally regardless of how tired I might feel when my birthing time began.
Anyway, between that last fear clearing session, my Hypnobabies rap session with Bill, and having checked off almost everything on our baby to-do list, I felt peaceful and ready, both practically and mentally.
I slept particularly badly that night. I lay awake for hours thinking, and noticing an unusual amount of pressure on my cervix. I had an indistinct sense that something felt different, but I just lay there waiting to fall back to sleep. I finally drifted off for a while, and then at 6:20 I opened my eyes and felt a trickle of fluid. I knew at once that I had not urinated and was pretty sure my water had broken. So I went to the bathroom to put on a pad and went back to bed and told Bill that I had some news and thought my water just broke. He said “O. M. G.,” which I thought was hilarious because it was totally unlike him. I lay there enjoying the surreal moment and waiting to see if I would continue leaking, and sure enough, about 10 minutes later I felt a huge gush of fluid, and less than a minute after that, another. There was no question: my water had broken, and we would soon be meeting our little boy or girl.
I called my parents and gave them the news; my dad was coming to watch the kids during my birthing time, and we had asked my mom (a natural childbirth advocate and veteran herself) to attend the birth in a doula capacity. I knew it could be a long while before my pressure waves started, but since my parents were coming from over an hour away I thought it would be a good idea to give them a heads up. They said they would get ready and head over to our house soon, and I told them not to rush and that I would call them back when I started having pressure waves.
Well, my pressure waves started about an hour after my water broke; I called my parents back and told them I thought they needed to head in our direction and they said they would get on the road as soon as they could. I started using my lightswitch as soon as the pressure waves started–sitting down and switching off during the pressure waves, and then switching back to center so I could move around. They were pretty irregular, maybe every three to five minutes apart, but sometimes farther apart than that, fairly short but also fairly strong. I noticed right away that they were coming on very strong and peaking immediately, and then tapering off slowly, and not lasting very long. This would be the pattern right up until transformation.
It was a very busy morning. I took a nice long shower, tidied up the house, did some laundry, called Ian’s preschool to tell them he wouldn’t be in, baked some brownies for the nurses (which we forgot to bring to the hospital), and brewed a strong infusion of red raspberry leaf tea. Eventually I checked in with my doctor’s office. When I had visualized my birthing time I always saw myself staying at home as long as I could, but when the time came I felt very aware of the fact that I was a VBAC and I wanted to stay in touch with my doctor. The nurse told me to come into the office at 11:00 a.m. (which was the soonest we could get there since my parents weren’t there yet) and they’d see where I was and probably send me over to the hospital. We continued making our last-minute preparations and packed the car. I had intended to start listening to Hypnobabies CDs as soon as my birthing time began, but I found that what I really wanted to do during these first few hours was just putter around the house and play with the kids–so that’s what I did. I listened to music, too, and the Ipod shuffle was spinning some particularly good tunes that morning, which I took as the first of many signs that the day was somehow blessed or charmed.
My parents arrived around 10:30 and we headed over to my OB’s office; my mom stayed at the house and we said we’d call her when we were on our way to the hospital and would meet her there. At the OB’s office they got us back to a room and my primary doctor, Dr. F, came in to do an exam. She said there was no need to use litmus paper to confirm that my water had broken because fluid was gushing all over the exam table–she actually said “we may need a bucket here.” She did an exam and said I was three to four centimeters dilated and about 50% effaced, and that the baby was at -1 station. All very encouraging news. When we first arrived she was talking about doing a non-stress test before we headed over to the hospital, but after the exam she said that wasn’t necessary because she could feel the baby bopping around in there while she did the exam and could tell he or she was doing great.
I was pleased to learn that Dr. F was on call until 1:00 p.m. the next day, so, unless my birthing time ran quite a bit longer, she would likely be there to attend the birth. I was starving–I had eaten a bowl of cheerios and a banana for breakfast but that had long since worn off–so Dr. F said to go get some lunch and then head over to the hospital. Bill asked at this point about requesting a natural childbirth-friendly nurse at the hospital, and Dr. F said she would call ahead and tell them we were on our way and also request that we be paired with a nurse who enjoyed working with NCB couples. I had not written out a birth plan, but Dr. F and I had discussed the few items that were most important to me: a saline lock instead of an IV, intermittent fetal monitoring, delayed cord-clamping, and the fact that I would be using Hypnobabies and wanted a natural birth. She typed up notes in my chart about my wishes with respect to those items, “to plant the seed,” she said, so that the nurses and OB on call would know what we wanted. That being said, I was still glad that she was the doctor on call because it meant we wouldn’t have to negotiate the specifics again with a different doctor. It was another fortuitous circumstance.
We went to Bruegger’s Bagels to get some lunch, and on the way I listened to the Birthing Day Affirmations CD and kept switching off during pressure waves. The nice people at Bruegger’s actually gave us our lunches for free when they learned I was in the process of having a baby (I drew some attention to myself my putting my head down on the counter during a pressure wave); I had sausage, egg and cheese on an everything bagel. From there we drove over to Women’s and walked from the parking lot to maternity admissions. I was already noticing that my pressure waves really picked up in frequency and strength when I walked; we had to stop a couple of times so I could lean on Bill during pressure waves.
I finished listening to the Birthing Day Affirmations in the waiting room, and my mom met us there. We walked back to our room and met our first nurse, Kim, and got settled. I put on the old flannel shirt I brought to wear instead of a hospital gown, and it felt wonderful to wear my own clothes. Kim had apparently gotten the memo about the IV and the monitoring, because we never had to say anything to her about either. She sent for someone to come in to start a saline lock and she said we’d just get a quick strip on the monitor and then I could be off the monitor for an hour. The nurse got the saline lock in on the first try–so much better than with my second child, when it took two nurses and four tries to get an IV started. Again, fortuitous.
Then I sat in bed and Kim hooked me up to the monitor. The pressure waves immediately slowed down when I sat down in the bed–I think I only had two or three in about 20 minutes on the monitor, and they were noticeably less intense. I also learned quickly that changing positions or sitting on the birthing ball wasn’t really an option while on the monitor because it kept slipping off and losing the baby’s heartbeat and having to be readjusted. I was pretty frustrated about this inability to move while on the monitor, and we were all concerned that the pressure waves would slow so much that they would want to augment with pitocin. But the minute I got off the monitor and started walking around again the pressure waves picked right up again. I’m really glad that I insisted on intermittent monitoring, because walking was key to keeping my pressure waves coming.
I spent the afternoon walking the halls and rocking on the birthing ball, and I listened to the Deepening CD once. Around 4:00 Dr. F checked in with us and I decided to let her do an exam to check my progress. I was four to five centimeters dilated and about 80% effaced, which she said was good progress. She said we could augment with pitocin to speed things up, but she also said she knew we didn’t want to do that, and that since baby and I were both doing fine we would just keep doing what we were doing. At that point my pressure waves were still pretty irregular and not lasting very long, and they were still following the same pattern: they’d come on very strong and then slowly peter out. I had some jello, and then some chicken broth, and I drank a ton of water and used the bathroom a lot. I was really very comfortable–talking with Bill and Mom, and laughing and smiling a lot between pressure waves. We had been listening to the Hypnobabies relaxation music all afternoon but it got a little boring after a while. For some reason I had always envisioned myself listening to “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd during this birthing time, so we listened to that, and it was, just as I thought it would be, perfect for the moment.
I lost track of time eventually–I was really not aware of what time it was at all throughout most of the afternoon. But at some point, things began to change. My pressure waves became stronger and longer, and I started feeling sick. I never did throw up, but I felt pretty nauseated for a while. I became conscious of the fact that I needed something more, so I listed to Deepening again. While I was listening to that CD, the pressure waves became much more intense, and I had to really focus on relaxing deeply with each one–trying to become limp and loose with every pressure wave. By the time the CD was over the pressure waves were coming very fast–one right on top of the next. I started to feel alternately hot and cold, throwing off my shirt one minute and shivering the next minute. At this time I started to find it very useful–necessary even–to vocalize during the pressure waves. I’d repeat either “Peace” or “Open” over and over throughout the pressure waves–and that felt good.
There was a shift change at some point during this time, and our new nurse, Lauren, came on. I was unaware of this exchange, but apparently when she came in the room and saw that I was doing deep, HB-style breathing, she tried to instruct me to breathe differently–”he he hooo”–and Mom and Bill had to explain to her that I was using hypnosis and that this breathing was key to deep relaxation. Anyway, she caught on fast and was soon using the “relax” cue just as readily as Mom and Bill were. During this time, by the way, either Bill or Mom always had a hand on my shoulder and kept using the “Relax” and “Release” cues, and I think they continued reminding me how well I was doing and that each wave was opening my cervix and bringing me closer to meeting our baby. But honestly I was so inwardly focused at this point that I was aware of very little that was said to me or that was going on around me–I was working hard to maintain control. The pressure waves were very intense, and I do believe at one point I actually said “I can’t do this.” I don’t think I really believed that, but in any event things were moving so fast by then that I didn’t have time to dwell on that despair. I also remember feeling distressed because Lauren couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat on the monitor (which she was just holding up to my belly instead of strapping me into it or requiring me to stay in one position). She was very calm and assured me that everything was fine, that the baby was just so low in my pelvis that she was having trouble locating the heartbeat.
Around this time I started feeling like I really needed to push. Lauren said she would check me just to see where we were. I was aware that everything I had been experiencing–the nausea, the temperature changes, the shaking–were classic signs of transformation, so I was hopeful that good progress had been made, but I don’t think anyone expected to hear that I was at nine-and-a-half centimeters, with just a little lip of cervix left. That was music to my ears and really banished the brief moment of despair I felt earlier, since I knew now that we were getting really close. The urge to push intensified, and I started bearing down with the pressure waves. I think it was then that she called Dr. F to come in.
Things were happening so fast at this point and I could barely move–I remember needing help to change positions. Dr. F came in and started suiting up and getting out the big spotlight and Lauren was preparing the bassinet for the baby, but I still didn’t know how close we were until someone wheeled over the mirror and I looked and saw a huge bulge where the baby’s head was, and a bit of wrinkled head starting to emerge. I pushed once or twice on my hands and knees, and then a couple of times side-lying, and eventually I got into the sitting C position, with Bill and the nurse holding my legs. I definitely lost track of my Hypnobabies training during the second stage. I forgot to put on the “Pushing Baby Out” track, and I consciously gave in to the coached pushing– I wanted that baby out and I knew we were only a few pushes away. I groaned and grunted and screamed like a crazy person, but not necessarily because it hurt that much. The noises came completely naturally with the effort of pushing. As the baby crowned it became apparent that baby’s hand was up next to his or her face–so the head and hand came out together!
I pushed for what they later told me was a total of eight minutes, and our baby was born at 9:02 p.m. I looked down and made the announcement myself: “It’s a boy.” We named him William, and he was perfect. I was wearing nothing but my bra at this point, and Dr. F put him on my chest immediately. She waited several minutes for the cord to stop pulsing and then let Bill cut the cord. At some point obviously I birthed the placenta–no cord traction or pushing on my belly–all I remember was being asked to give one more push. I was just too enthralled to notice much more than the beautiful baby on my chest. Will screamed bloody murder and was beet red–very different from Malcolm, who, though perfectly healthy, was very quiet and a purplish-pale color. Will was robust and healthy–his Apgar scores were 9 and 9. They left him with me for a good hour, and we nursed and got to know each other for a while before they weighed him–7 pounds 6 ounces, 20 inches long. Then Bill finally got to hold him before they took him to to the nursery.
It’s been almost two months since Will was born, and I still feel euphoric every time I think about his birth. We have had three very different birth experiences, each one wonderful in its own way, but this one was really, truly amazing. I am so glad I chose Hypnobabies–I really believe that it allowed me to have the beautiful natural birth I had always dreamed of. I can’t say that it was a completely comfortable birth, but it was really close. And anyway, I never expected a 100% discomfort-free birth. What I expected was that I would have a beautiful, mostly comfortable, natural birth, and that is exactly what happened.
The Hypnobabies relaxation tools–my lightswitch, the hypno-anesthesia, the cues, the CDs–were indispensable and I definitely did use them, but I think the “re-programming” was the most valuable part of the program for me (and the most enjoyable–I loved the Joyful Pregnancy Affirmations). Hypnobabies helped me train my mind to believe that pregnancy and birth are natural and normal, to release fear of the unknown, and to trust my body’s ability to do what it was perfectly designed to do. I went from hoping for a natural birth to knowing I would have one. So to all the Hypno-mamas out there–best of luck to you. Hypnobabies works–all you have to do is let it work.
Thanks to Sarah from the Hypnobabies Yahoo Group for allowing us to share her story!