On Friday 26 February 2021, I woke up just before 1.30am experiencing my first surge and knew this was different to anything I’d felt before. I was almost certain it was the start of labour and that we were one step closer to welcoming our baby boy to the world. I was exactly 41 weeks pregnant and we had been waiting patiently for this life-changing moment.
Practicing hypnobirthing in the months running up to birth meant I felt prepared about what to expect, reassured that my body would know what to do and, for the most part, in control. It also helped me to practice relaxation techniques and feel as calm as possible, which was something really important given I had struggled with generalised anxiety in the past.
My lovely husband Rob started to create a calm and peaceful environment in our bedroom by turning the lights low, scattering tealight candles and playing our chosen relaxation music. While setting up the TENS machine he encouraged me to focus on my breathing, which was a welcome reminder as I learnt how to manoeuver through my surges.
Unexpectedly I found comfort in retreating to our en-suite bathroom and sitting down to breathe through the sensations. There was something safe about how small, dark and cool the room was. Fortunately it was a good place to be because I was sick a couple of times as my surges became more intense, around 3.30am.
When back in the bedroom I used the birthing ball and enjoyed soft-touch massage on my back to keep me relaxed. Both my dog and cat had joined us upstairs now and it felt like they knew something major was happening and were helping to protect me, bless them. I love that we were all together and I’m sure this worked wonders for my oxytocin levels!
My surges became stronger and more frequent quite quickly and we knew it was time to call the birth centre when they were around four minutes apart. Rob called them at 4am and they told us to make our way in. We started to get ready shortly afterwards, which wasn’t easy given the speed I was progressing. I remember putting one foot into my trousers after a surge, then experiencing another one before I had chance to put my other foot in. We set off in the car at 5.20am and arrived at the hospital 20 minutes later.
I had to go into triage alone due to Covid regulations which was quite nerve wracking. It was hard to stay relaxed, especially in the hospital toilet trying to provide a urine sample mid-labour and being sick at the same time! I knew there would be some checks on arrival but I wasn’t expecting it to take the best part of an hour, which felt like a lifetime at that point. Fortunately I was able to keep coming back to my breathing techniques. During the physical examination the nurse confirmed I was 4cm dilated and asked if my waters had broken. A couple of minutes after I replied with “no, not yet”, my waters released there and then.
At 6.30am Rob was able to join me and we headed up to the birth centre together. My birthing room exceeded expectations – it was just lovely and even had a canopy of fairy lights above the birth pool. I knew I wanted to use a birth pool during labour, if possible, but wasn’t fully sure I would deliver my baby in the pool. Mainly because I haven’t ever been confident in water, which sounds daft, but did mean I was a bit wary (although I really didn’t need to be). The midwife started to run the bath and Rob let her know we had been practicing hypnobirthing and started to set up the room as he had at home.
I’m really proud of the way I progressed through active labour, with confidence, control and calmness. It was almost like I was in my own zone, fully focused on following my instincts and listening to my body as it prepared for the delivery of my baby. I used gas and air, which definitely took the edge off the sensations, but as things went on I reached a stage where I felt like I needed something stronger. I got out of the bath at 7.45am for the midwife to examine me. She looked at me with a smile and said “you’re 9cm dilated, this baby is nearly ready to make an appearance!” I was in the transition phase of labour where my body was getting ready for the pushing stage, which explained why the surges felt so intense. The fact that my baby was on his way gave me a renewed sense of encouragement and strength. I climbed back into the pool and focused once again on my breathing. This time visualising my long exhales travelling through the birth path to bring the baby down.
At 8.46am I delivered my baby boy, just over seven hours after labour started at home. The midwife gently swept him up from the warm water and placed him on my chest. It was such an incredibly special and emotional moment meeting my beautiful son, Teddy George White. My heart was so full, I’ve never felt love like it!
That next hour was so precious. I lay on the bed holding Teddy closely, embracing skin-to-skin contact and looking down in awe at this amazing little person we had created. I was hoping to be able to breastfeed so asked the midwife for guidance, and felt fortunate that Teddy took to it quite well.
After I had enjoyed the famous post-birth tea and toast, I had to see the consultant for stitches but was able to stay in the same room. This meant I could watch Rob have some personal bonding time with our son which brought me so much joy. We were able to travel home later that day and start our new, exciting chapter as a family.
When I reflect back on my birth story I feel really happy that it followed the route we were hoping. When writing our birth preferences we had set out for a natural birth with minimal intervention but were prepared for things to go differently. A lot of people told us it was pointless creating a birth plan because they often end up going out of the window, but I found it empowering to educate myself on the different ways our baby could enter the world and have an idea of how we would like things to go. We felt informed, prepared and calm, and were fortunate to have experienced the birth we wanted. For us this was possible with lots of preparation, continued support for each other, our lovely hypnobirthing expert, and some good luck.