After a stillbirth with our firstborn daughter Sophie and what felt like a traumatic birth with Eleanor our 2nd daughter, I was very keen to try some new things to keep my anxiety in check. Due to lockdown we started a hypnobirthing course with Kerry late into my pregnancy with James. The course came right at the right time; after numerous scans and appointments alone due to Covid. I felt my anxiety creeping up and felt I needed to focus on something else to help me through the rest of the pregnancy and ultimately the birth.
My husband Rob wasn’t very keen to give hypnobirthing a go, he thought it would be a “New age hippy thing” all about chanting! Although I was keen, I was skeptical about what it could offer, having already had 2 pregnancies and births, I didn’t think it would change my thinking and attitudes, but was open to try and improve upon old experiences.
Well we were both proven wrong, hypnobirthing is all about arming you with information, giving you confidence to ask questions and giving you the tools and techniques to cope with the anxiety and fear that many parents feel surrounding pregnancy and an impending labour!
Personally I didn’t stick to listening to meditation every day or practising the breathing every day, but I made the hypnobirthing work for me and what I needed from it. I found when at appointments alone and when scans seemed to always bring up a new and different anxiety I tried use the techniques and on the whole they worked in those situations.
The biggest thing that resonated with me that Kerry taught was that fear and anxiety equal increased pain, I don’t know why this hadn’t resonated before, as a nurse I’m constantly telling people to “breathe through pain” and to “take nice steady breaths” when interventions are painful. But the knowledge taught through the course, and the breathing techniques were a game changer when it came to labour. Even just remembering how you hold your body and remembering to relax can help, throughout labour Rob was often saying “shoulders” to remind me to relax my shoulders and to change my posture so I wasn’t tensing up therefore inevitably feeling less pain and coping with surges much better.
The birth story
Things continually seemed to be an uphill battle, appointments and scans alone, anxiety and fear creeping in that a stillbirth could happen again. I had originally wanted a home birth but due to covid it wasn’t to be.. The next best thing would be a natural birth at the birthing centre with minimal interventions.
However baby James had other plans… And his growth had curtailed towards the end of my pregnancy, due to past medical history the consultant wanted to induce within 2 days. I was devastated, it brought back old memories of with our first daughter Sophie and a lot of anxiety. I did momentarily forget about the knowledge taught and completely panicked on the morning of induction, that was until my fabulous community midwife came to see me. I explained how everything wasn’t going to plan and it wasn’t going to be the birth I had with Eleanor, she simply said why can’t you still have the birth you want.
Suddenly a switch flicked and all the hypnobirthing techniques and knowledge kicked in and I thought yes I can do this and I was prepared and I can have the birth I want. I don’t think that without the hypnobirthing I could have turned my thinking around and gone from being a hysterical mess to calm and collected and ready to birth a baby.
So I was induced at about 10.30am with the prostaglandin pessary, things seem to get started almost straight away so I popped the tens machine on and listened to some of the relaxation music until hubby arrived at 11.30am. By 15.30pm I felt like things were really moving along, at this point I started with the gas and air and genuinely felt like I was going to have a baby soon so the midwife checked me at 1.30pm, expecting to be told that I was nearly there… Nope 1cm dilated!
I did have a fleeting thought that I wouldn’t last long with just gas and air if the pain carried on as it did, but I didn’t panic and feel hysterical, I just felt that I just had some insider knowledge and could hear Kerry’s words of encouragement inside my head to trust my body and to go with what was happening, so I laughed saw the funny side and carried on. My waters broke naturally shortly after, just after 4pm things were really heating up and I was popped on the monitor to check baby’s movements and the midwife checked me again at 4.20pm this time I was 7cm dilated… From 1cm to 7cm in just 50mins!
I felt almost elated that baby was almost here.. I could again hear Kerry in my head giving me knowledge about transitioning and that feeling that when you just want to go home and “not do this anymore” that baby would soon be here.. I don’t think I once said that throughout this labour “I couldn’t do this anymore” something I repeatedly said throughout Eleanor’s labour.. throughout that labour I just felt fear and panic, but Kerry had given me all the information, knowledge and essentially trust in my body that I could do it this time and not to be scared by what was happening.
I almost feel like I had an out of body experience that my body just did what was so natural and there was nothing I could do to stop it or help it. I didn’t feel like I was pushing and I was never told to push, the midwives just let me do my own thing and didn’t interrupt, whilst I was busy concentrating on letting my body do what it was needing to do, and it felt bizarrely amazing, and almost superhuman. 10 minutes of (not) pushing my son came a little stunned into the world. So after a very quick 1hr labour, he was here… he was whisked to the resus table as he came out a little shocked but he quickly came round and was completely perfect and healthy. I tore due to the speed at which he came, so whilst the midwifes saw to me my husband Rob got to have some first cuddles with his son.
How did hypnobirthing help
My husband Rob found the hypnobirthing really useful, with Eleanor’s birth I think he was traumatised, not really knowing what to expect, feeling like a spare part and not very useful. However throughout the labour with James he felt more part of the picture, he knew what to expect and he remembered things that Kerry had told us that were useful throughout James’s labour, even if it was something as simple as saying “shoulders” every now and then.
We had all our 3 sessions over zoom, and I know that could put some people off but it honestly felt like Kerry was in our dining room. She has a way of putting you at ease and still packing in all the information you need.
I honestly feel that I got the birth experience I desperately wanted due to doing this course, and it helped Rob and I recover from some on the traumas we felt we had experienced with our first 2 children as it made it such a positive experience. So we really couldn’t thank Kerry enough.
Also it helped massively that our wonderful community midwives were totally on board with hypnobirthing, as had seen the amazing calm births some women had in the past. With amazing community midwives and a fantastic hypnobirthing teacher it created the dream team of care and support throughout this pregnancy and I really can’t sing everyone’s praises enough.
So if you are a bit skeptical and think it’s not for you, just try one of Kerry’s sessions you won’t be disappointed and even if like me you don’t follow it fully there is something for everyone to take away from the course that will most likely lead to a positive confident you and birth partner and therefore a more positive birth experience.