You must think we’d forgotten about you. It’s been nearly a year since David and I did your hypnobirthing course, and Isabel is 9 months old today! I’m really sorry it’s taken so long to write, but as I’m sure you’re used to hearing, time just really gets away with a new bub to care for.
I have been really wanting to write down my birth story, and despite the 9 months that have passed it is still a really vivid memory. And despite everything that occurred, it was an overwhelmingly positive, beautiful experience.
The story begins with Isabel seemingly signalling her readiness to come out a couple of weeks before her due date – I had 3 episodes of ‘false labour’ in weeks 38 and 39. These involved some very regular surges, not too painful, but then I’d convinced myself to expect them not to be! I was absolutely convinced she would arrive early, or at worst on her due date. Because of all this and the usual impatience to hold your baby in your arms, I allowed myself to be convinced to have labour induced only a few days after my due date.
So the appointed day arrived, and having had a sleepless night due to regular (20 min) surges, I prepared myself for labour. However once I was up and about the surges became erratic, so I tried to relax and have a ‘normal day’, knowing I was booked in at 8pm to have the prostaglandin gel inserted. I’d managed to gather my birth team around, and we decided to head out for a curry for lunch to see if that might kick things along a bit. After that and a bit of wandering around the shops my surges had become regular again at around 5 mins. So we headed to the hospital ‘just in case’ it was the real thing this time.
Of course at the hospital things slowed down again, and the midwife established that I had not started dilating at all (damn!!) but they got me settled in anyway, and at 8pm the gel was inserted. By 11pm the midwife suggested David and Nicky, my birth team, should go home and get some rest, and I should try to get some sleep, as it was unlikely anything would start moving until morning. I was too excited to sleep, so I watched some TV and tried to read a magazine.
By about 2am the surges kicked in quite strongly and I could no longer just distract myself, so I called the midwife to see if she thought I should call David. She suggested that maybe I’d like to try getting in the spa for a bit before waking him up, so she ran me a bath and I hopped in and that was basically where I stayed for the next 14 or so hours! It was wonderful – I laid there doing my breathing exercises and a bit of rocking while a jet was directed at a particularly uncomfortable spot on my belly.
I think I napped between surges (or was in a bit of a trance), as the night passed quite quickly. The midwife came in periodically to check the baby’s heartbeat, and was really impressed with my calmness and progress (she was my first angel, looking after me through the dark lonely hours). At around 6am she said she had to run a full trace on the heartbeat, so I’d have to get out of the spa. I was distraught… this was my coping strategy and I did NOT want to get out. So I called David, realising I’d need my team around me to help me find a new focus. I coped reasonably well but hopped straight back in the spa as soon as I was allowed.
I continued the same way for several more hours – I found the breathing exercises really helped me to focus through and over the surges, and then completely relax between them. David and Nicky read off the ‘cheat sheet’ and said supportive things when they sensed I needed them. My waters spontaneously broke sometime that morning, so we knew things were progressing well.
However, the next hurdle was that the spa pump mechanism sprang a leak, and there was a bit of drama as they called maintenance in, who kept singing out for me to turn off the jets… which was really unacceptable to me – but then they explained it was leaking into the nursery downstairs and was actually in danger of shorting out the electrics in NICU! Fortunately the midwives arranged to move me fairly quickly to a new room, and once we were settled in (and we found out the nursery was OK) we even decided it was all pretty funny.
By about 4pm the new midwife decided to get me out of the spa to run another trace. Also as I had been fighting an urge to push for some time I agreed with her suggestion to try some gas. I found this really helped me to stop pushing, but of course it also stopped me balloon breathing! Then my obstetrician (who’d been checking in with the nurses by phone but hadn’t been in to see me since the previous evening) decided things weren’t happening fast enough, so he suggested to the midwife that I have a drip put in to get things moving. By this time I was about 7-8cm and was quite happy with things, so I declined.
Next thing, ½ hr or so later, he showed up to give me a lecture! He observed the trace, and chatted for 5 mins or so holding his hand on my belly, then decreed ‘in my 30 years experience as an obstetrician, I can tell you that you are not 8-9 cm dilated (which the midwife had just advised), you are probably only about 6cm and we could be here all night if we don’t get a drip into you’. After labouring for more than 14 hrs I felt like crying when I thought I was only just over halfway there, so with a bit of added encouragement from the birth team who said ‘you can do this even with a bit more intense surges’, I agreed.
So he set up the drip and was about to leave when the midwife said ‘aren’t you even going to give her an internal?” He said he didn’t need to (after all he had already made his decree) but decided he would check anyway… and here is the fun bit… he checked, said ‘I think we have a very good chance of having a baby by 7pm now’, then turned on his heel and left! We then discussed with the midwife what had just happened, and worked out that because I was so calm and serene he thought there was no way I could have been in transition (hence his 6cm decree) but then he checked and confirmed I was in fact at 8-9 cm but couldn’t admit he was wrong, so he thought he’d just let the drip take the credit.
However he was foiled in this ambition, as a little while later my hand started feeling really cold and when I looked at it, it was swollen to twice it’s normal size… the doctor had ’tissued’ the drip (failed to find the vein)!! The midwife removed it straight away and went off to find another doctor who could try again. As it was a very busy Friday night on the labour ward, it took her about an hour to find an anaesthetist who could reset the drip, by which time I was almost fully dilated! We worked out afterwards that the drip was only in place for the last 20-30 mins of my labour, and as such probably wasn’t really needed at all. Fortunately I didn’t discern any major change in my surges once it was in place.
These last few hours were passed on a fitball and propped against the bed or David, doing a bit of pelvic rocking, a lot of sleep breathing, and intermittently sucking on the gas. It was nowhere near as pleasant as the spa had been, but I couldn’t get back in due to the gas and the drip.
Right towards the end, the urge to push became increasingly impossible to ignore, even with the gas, so the midwife checked again and discovered that I was at 10cm but a small lip on my cervix was stopping the head from coming down. She suggested, if I was up for it, that with the next contraction I could give a little push while she tried to push the lip aside, and – hallelujah – it worked! She instantly became my new angel, and my hero!
She then said ‘right, just pant when the next contraction comes, I have to ring the doctor, I’ll be right back’. I decided (ever the rebel) to do the J breathing rather than panting (no point wasting time here!) She came back after 1 or 2 surges and started readying the room for the birth, and suggested that I keep panting! To which I replied that I couldn’t – I had after all been fighting the urge to push for hours already! She said ‘wouldn’t you prefer to wait for the doctor?’ I replied that at this point I really didn’t care who delivered the baby so long as it came out! So she agreed it was OK to start pushing, and I did a few more gentle J breaths.
Then the doctor arrived, just in the nick of time, and started the ‘1 man cheer squad’, basically railroading me into a full-on breath-holding puuuush. I think it took approximately 3 of those before the head crowned – and another 1 or 2 before it emerged. We have photos of every stage of the head emerging, thanks to the doctor’s unique method of getting a little push followed by a little waiting and panting, as each part of the head emerges – first the eyes, then nose, then mouth, then chin!
Unfortunately I did have a moderate tear, but I subsequently found out Izzy’s head was in the 90th percentile, so I couldn’t be too surprised. The surprising thing was that the ’embroidery’ was done without even a local anaesthetic, and I barely even noticed! And the punchline to the story was that she was born at 7.05pm, to which the doctor commented ‘see I told you we’d have a baby by 7pm’!!
I later found out I was the talk of the delivery suite, with none of the midwives quite able to believe I’d gone through the labour I’d had with only gas for pain relief. My birth partner Nicky (who is a trained nurse) queried them on this and found that I was the only first-time Mum any of the midwives could remember who had been induced and not had an epidural, and that in fact they had trouble remembering anyone who’d arrived at hospital less than 8cm dilated who hadn’t ended up wanting one!! They all complimented me on being so calm and serene and relaxed throughout the experience, and a few even visited me on maternity ward over the next few days to chat with me about ‘how I did it’!
Even more amazingly, my doctor came in on the Sunday, after telling me he wouldn’t be in until Monday as he was away for the weekend (as I should have guessed from the urgency to get the baby out at a reasonable hour on Friday night!) He wanted to congratulate me on how brilliantly I’d done, and to ask me how I had done it. He had previously assured me he knew all about hypnobirthing and had even done a course, so I explained I had simply done the course, then listened to the CDs, then done the breathing exercises throughout, plus used the spa as much as possible. He was absolutely amazed that it had been so successful and said that it defied his professional experience. I figure this is about as close as I could expect to an apology for his lack of faith in both me and the midwife during the birth!
Isabel was (and is) absolutely perfect. She is a strong-willed little miss, and unfortunately the promise that a calm birth would result in a calm child didn’t ring true in her case! She was born with a very healthy set of lungs (no ‘newborn cry’ for her) and real tears from day 1! But when she’s not upset, she is an absolute delight, full of smiles and sparkles for anyone who pays attention to her. So the good news is we always know where we stand with her!