This is the first of three perspectives of the same hypnobirthing experience.
Liz is a professional writer so it is well worth reading the whole story. She had quite a journey.
Then read Liz’s husband, Andy’s experience.
Finally, read Sarah‘s story. Sarah is Liz’s sister and a registered midwife and has written about her experience supporting Liz and Andy’s birth.
Liz’s Birth Story
When I found out I was pregnant this was my plan:
– Get induced (so I wouldn’t be anxiously waiting)
– Have an epidural
– Learn NOTHING about labour as it was too scary to think about.
As someone with a fair amount of anxiety, I thought this was the best way to cope – just not even think about labour until it was happening.
I soon began to realise that this was not going to be helpful and I started looking into to ways to stay calm leading up to and during labour. This is when I read about Hypnobirthing.
I researched classes in Perth and found that Pip’s class would suit me best as I was going to deliver at a private hospital – St John of God Mt Lawley (formerly Mercy). My sister Sarah is a midwife and I wanted her there for the birth along with my husband Andy, so I was even happier when Pip said they were both welcome to attend the class with me.
When I told Andy and Sarah about my plan to attend a hypnobirthing class I got a mixed reaction. My sister hadn’t looked after any women using it but read the link I sent and thought it would be good for me. Andy thought it was “a bit hippy” but if its what I wanted he would support me (after the class he changed his tune of course!).
I loved the class so much. Pip helped make me feel calm about the birth and lead up by empowering me with knowledge and techniques that would form part of a “toolkit”.
When I first discussed my plan to hypnobirth with my obstetrician I got a very positive response. He was supportive of my desire to have a natural birth (he does not book women in for elective caesareans without a medical reason) and said: “my aim is to not intervene in the labour at all, so you need to really discuss your preferences with your midwives.”
The only thing he was concerned about was that my pregnancy was from IVF. He said it’s not meant to be higher risk but statistically, they are, so he would see how I was going at 40 weeks and possibly look at an induction. I asked if he would let me go over 40 weeks, as I was not keen on being induced (haha how things changed!) He said if everything was going well with the baby and me then he would reassess at term. I felt happy with this response as I was having a very trouble free pregnancy!
My pregnancy continued along uneventfully, although I was often measuring a couple of weeks ahead when the midwife or obstetrician measured my fundal height. I was told not to be concerned as I could just be having a big baby. I wasn’t scared of giving birth to a big baby but I kept having visions of a massive toddler sized baby in my arms!
I listened to the affirmations track any chance I had – in the car, at work, in the bath. I also listened to Rainbow Mist and Surge of the Sea before bed or when having an Epsom salts bath. I also stuck the affirmations and breathing techniques on the fridge to see every day.
Andy and I wrote up my birth preferences and checked them over with Sarah. Andy took his copy to site with him (he is a FIFO worker) to make sure he knew everything we wanted off by heart, as well as the scripts and affirmations I wanted to use during the birth.
During my pre-admission interview with the midwife, I went over some of my preferences and she was excited that I was planning to hypnobirth. She said all the midwives would be supportive and she even hoped she was in birth suite when I went into labour! I was feeling SO excited, calm and positive about meeting our son.
The fear returned leading up to my hospital run ante-natal class. What if going to the class would undo all the hard work I had done to make myself feel calm about birthing? I was especially scared about the birth video they would show – I had in my head it would be a woman screaming in pain! As it turned out the class was amazing. They reiterated a lot of what we had been taught in Pip’s class and they were very supportive and encouraging to women having a natural drug free birth. The woman in the birth video was hypnobirthing too!
At my 32 week appointment, the midwife sent me for an ultrasound to check my baby’s size as I was still measuring “large for dates”. The scan showed that I had a lot of amniotic fluid and the baby had a large tummy (in the 97th percentile) and an average sized head (in the 50th percentile). This all pointed to the possibility of gestational diabetes (even though I had tested negative at 28 weeks).
So, I had another glucose test, which was also negative and my obstetrician sent me for another ultrasound at 37 weeks to see if anything had changed.
As I was having the scan the sonographer went quiet and kept checking the cord pulse. She then picked up the phone and called in their onsite obstetrician. I started to feel anxious. My baby still had a large tummy, average sized head and I had a lot of fluid… but now the cord was around his neck. I knew that nuchal cord was not an issue but then the obstetrician started using words like “catastrophic consequences” and “neural damage” because I was at risk of having a shoulder dystocia (baby getting stuck at the shoulders, which is an obstetric emergency) in labour because of his body size. I think she could see that I was starting to get upset and she said I shouldn’t worry and that my obstetrician was very experienced and he would advise the best course of action. I left the scan and all I had in my head were the words… “catastrophic consequences”. I called my sister and she calmed me down and told me to remember what I learnt in hypnobirthing and to make sure I listened to my tracks that night. She said she would come to my next obstetrician appointment with me.
At my next appointment (38 weeks) my anxiety was out of control. I blurted out what the other obstetrician had said at the scan and he said: “well I don’t blame you for feeling anxious!” He felt my tummy and the baby’s head was still free and high of my pelvis. He explained the risks of a large baby and shoulder dystocia to me, reassuring me that there were plenty of things that could be done before any “catastrophic consequences” occurred. He said we can discuss options at the next appointment (wait for spontaneous labour, have a caesarean or hope that the head will engage for an induction). He knew of my strong desire to have a vaginal birth and was supportive of this but I really just wanted to say then and there – Can I please have a caesarean RIGHT NOW. I didn’t feel safe anymore; I started to feel like I was selfishly pursuing a vaginal delivery over the safety of myself and my baby. Thankfully my sister talked me out of it before my next appointment. She was great at re-iterating what happened in the appointment and reassured me that my obstetrician had not seemed worried. At the next appointment, the baby’s head had still not come down but I told my obstetrician I wanted to wait longer before any intervention. He was happy with my decision.
I did lots of work on my fitball as well as seeing my chiropractor and acupuncturist for my regular appointments. I asked them to do what they could to help my baby’s head come down. I used acupressure points, went for loads of walks and tried to stay upright as much as possible… even though some days I could have laid on the couch ALL day.
I went for my 39-week appointment hoping for the best. He felt my tummy and unfortunately, the head was still high and free. He said, “I am admitting you to hospital”. I said “next week?” and he said “no… now”. I asked if I could spend more time at home and he said no. I took him seriously, as up until now he had been fairly casual with me, allowing me to make my own decisions but now he was concerned enough to admit me. The reason was the high head and high amount of fluid (polyhydramnios) – I was a risk for cord prolapse. He was concerned if my waters broke at home the cord could come down before the head, which was an emergency. The risk was low but thinking back on it – hospital was the best place for me.
It was all a bit of a shock but I was thankful he was still giving me the chance to have a vaginal delivery. I would use every last chance I had to achieve this. I was hoping that I would go into spontaneous labour or at least by the time I was 40 weeks the head would have come down and I could be induced (as I still had to consider the large baby + shoulder dystocia risk). If it had not, then I would be looking at a caesarean.
My week in hospital was a mix of emotions. I cried a lot! I tried to keep busy by going for a lot of walks around the hospital, using a fitball, going for coffees and I caught up on a lot of the gossip mags and TV!
The midwives who monitored me were amazing. They never made me feel like an idiot for “waiting it out”. Some spent time explaining to me what would happen in the event of shoulder dystocia, cord prolapse and caesarean. I felt better being educated and they all told me lots of positive stories – especially about how great a caesarean can be. I was so scared that the surgical procedure of a caesarean would mean the birth of my baby would be sterile and impersonal.
I emailed Pip and told her the situation. I had been keeping her up to date since the “large for dates” scan and yet again she was supportive and provided me with information to read. She suggested I start listening to the Affirmations for a Caesarean Birth and the hypnobirthing track – Butterfly Garden – Relaxation for Caesarean.
I wrote up my birth preferences for a caesarean in preparation for that being the outcome and this helped me feel in control of the situation.
When I compared these preferences to my original ones I realised that they weren’t really that different!
There were a few days that my obstetrician was away so I had another one see me in my room. She made me feel like I was doing the wrong thing and started throwing scary statistics at me and said: “This is very strange to just be waiting in here for something to go wrong, why don’t you just have a caesarean now?” I said I wanted to wait to see my own obstetrician again before making a decision and I wasn’t even 40 weeks yet. If I am having a planned caesarean, I only want him to do it because I have a rapport with him and I trust him. I didn’t just want some random obstetrician doing it when I still had choices. I felt very upset after seeing that obstetrician as I had just gotten my head around what was happening and had started to feel positive again – even about a planned caesarean. When she saw me again on another day she made some more negative comments but I ignored them.
When I next saw my obstetrician on the Monday, I was 40+1 weeks. The baby’s head was still high and the cervix closed. He gave me the option of trying the Prostin gel (hoping it would open the cervix enough to break my membranes and he could lower the head) or just go straight for a caesarean on Tuesday afternoon. He explained the risks of both and said I should discuss it with the midwives and they will let him know of my decision.
I spoke to the midwife who did the rounds with him. She was amazing in helping me rationalise my options. I started to feel concerned that I was being selfish again and she reassured me that there is no way my obstetrician would have given me options if it was unsafe. Even though my obstetrician told me he wasn’t confident the Prostin would work, I still wanted to give it a shot. If it didn’t work, I was still on the list for a caesarean on Tuesday. At least I will know I tried EVERY LAST option. I didn’t want to come out of this with any “what ifs”.
So that night they put two lots of Prostin gel in at 6 hours apart. When my obstetrician came in on Tuesday morning my cervix had not changed and the head was still high. So a vaginal birth was not to be. At 2 pm I would go down to theatre for a caesarean.
I was ok with it. I knew I had tried everything and this was going to give me a healthy baby. It was time to get excited!
I started listening to my caesarean affirmations and the relaxation track for the rest of the day and went for a walk as well. They gave me permission to have my sister in the theatre as well as Andy as she was a SJOG midwife – I was so lucky as normally only one support person can be in theatre. My obstetrician said all my birth preferences would be met. I felt so happy and thankful that I had him as my obstetrician.
When they came to collect me for theatre, the panic suddenly rose and I started crying but I put in my earphones, closed my eyes and started listening to the relaxation track. My sister was stroking my arms doing light touch massage as I got taken down to theatre.
We got down to the pre-op area and I kept listening to my tracks whilst the anaesthetist put the cannula in. The midwife told me my obstetrician had been called back to birth suite for a delivery so I would be delayed. She went to the theatre to tell the others and my back started hurting so I rolled over to change positions and my waters broke. My sister yelled for the theatre staff to get the midwife and she grabbed some gloves and checked for the cord. The midwife came running back and checked properly for the cord and it hadn’t come down thankfully. Then the surges started – every 3 minutes and were quite intense.
I just kept breathing through them and tried to stay calm – focusing on timing them with Andy.
After about 30mins my obstetrician arrived and examined me. He said the head was still free and high and he was concerned that as those strong contractions had still not moved him down – then a vaginal birth will fail. He told me it was still my choice – go back to birth suite and try or continue with the caesarean plan. He left me to discuss it with the midwife, my sister and Andy. My sister and the midwife thought I should go for the caesarean because they thought there must be a reason he still hadn’t moved into my pelvis but I was so conflicted. Andy didn’t know what to do… The obstetrician came back and I hadn’t decided. I pleaded with him to tell me what to do. Then he said – other obstetricians would not have given me this many opportunities and he thought it would be sensible to continue now with the caesarean… so I agreed and I felt relieved.
The caesarean was an incredible experience! I listened to the hypnobirthing tracks on my headphones and my sister did light touch massage when the spinal block was being put in. The first one failed and I started shaking but I just tried to go deeper within myself when he did the second one. I kept the relaxation track playing with my eyes shut when they were doing all the “work”. My obstetrician kept leaning over the drapes to check on me and reassure me – but then he realised and said jokingly “I bet you want me to shut up now!” I really have no memory of those first minutes as I was so deep into the relaxation track. It was like I was asleep!
My obstetrician leaned over the drapes and snapped me out of it and said excitedly – “are you ready see your baby?” And he said, “lower the drapes”… and I saw his head coming out and then the body! It was amazing. The paediatrician took him and put him straight on my chest like I had asked. Both my arms were free to hold him to my chest. He just lay there – us staring into each other’s eyes. I remember checking him all over – he was perfect. It was so surreal… everyone was commenting how calm he was while being born and in the time afterwards. He had an APGAR score of 9 at birth and at 5 minutes after.
He only got taken off my chest when I started to feel like I was going to be sick – I was ok with that, as they gave me some more drugs to help and I felt really spaced out – I don’t think I could have held him.
At that point, Andy cut the cord and he was put back on my chest and wasn’t taken off me until after I had been recovered in my room and had fed him the first time. He has fed perfectly since he was born.
My sister said she was surprised how calm I was during the caesarean process given my history with anxiety and I honestly think hypnobirthing was the reason why.
Even though I didn’t get the original birth I wanted, I still had a beautiful birth experience resulting in a healthy boy. It was a far cry from the impersonal scary procedure I thought it would be. I went into that caesarean with no “what ifs” and I really believe that because of the knowledge and support I had from my caregivers, Pip, Sarah and Andy – I had the best birth possible given the situation I was handed.
Born 4.33pm on 21st April 2015
Weighing 3.99 kgs (8 pounds 13 ounces)
Measuring 51cm long