Our Jamaican / Irish / English baby was born last Thursday, 22nd March, weighing in at 8lbs and 7ozs. I was in hospital for just 1.5 hours before having him, though I’d been having contractions for a while before that… even at the market shopping that morning!
The day started with me driving my husband to work. I was feeling ‘crampy’ and hoping the baby was on its way. I was a few days late and hated the thought of artifical induction. I met a friend for our weekly veggie run to Coronation Market. She was fairly hungover, and looked worse when I told her how I was feeling! I wanted to go though, needed to get the shopping in before the baby arrived…
At the market, the vendors were all asking me when the baby was coming, to which I replied “er… today I think!” As I was squatting down over a huge pile of potatoes, one vendor told me to be careful not to bring the baby on. I explained that was the whole idea, but I’d try not to have it on his potatoes.
After driving the veggies home, I went to baby group; a weekly meet up of expat mums that I’ve been going to the last few weeks, for a bit of support and plenty of chocolate brownies! The surges were a bit stronger by then and getting more regular, but I thought I probably had hours to go yet. So I stayed and chatted, though every 10 minutes I suddenly had to sit down!
When I got home at 12.30pm, I rang my husband to come soon but told him no need to hurry. I felt calm and in control, excited to meet the little person I’d been carrying inside of me! I’d been preparing for the birth back in Ireland with some hypnosis for childbirth, both private sessions and reading Marie Mongan’s book, ‘HypnoBirthing’ although I never actually attended the course. I’d also listened to the relaxation MP3s nearly every day for the second half of my pregnancy.
I tried to make some lunch but was unable to eat more than a mouthful. Then I got suddenly sick. Hmm.. Then I emptied from the other end too and knew for sure the baby was on its way. My contractions were getting stronger and I couldn’t concentrate on anything outside myself for more than a moment. I just managed a text to my husband saying ‘Come soon!’ then lay down to listen to my relaxation MP3s, using techniques I’d been practicing for months.
Unsurprisingly, H hadn’t understood the urgency of my text and didn’t come home until 3pm. By then, I was pacing circles, and working hard to stay calm and focused through the breathing techniques I’d learnt. He was a bit shocked when he timed my surges, now less than 5 minutes apart and 45 seconds long. But then, a man arrived to fix our faulty burglar alarm that’d been driving us crazy for months! After an hour of him tinkering with it, I knew we were running out of time and H asked him to go. I’d say he was pretty relieved considering the circumstances!
We headed to the hospital in rush hour traffic and torrential rain. At one point, I was having a contraction by a bus stop full of people all gawping at me! We arrived at Andrews Memorial Hospital at 4.15pm. The nurse attempted to make me do some paperwork, but I was too inside myself for any of that, so she showed me to a bed, while H humped in my gear from the car in the rain.
I’d been in hospital for an hour when the first ‘wave’ of the delivery phase came crashing through me. Until that point, I’d been completely calm, not in any distress at all, just listening to my Mp3s. I was relaxed, swaying and kneeling up on the bed, able to talk to H between surges. The hypnosis techniques had been working brilliantly. But this was completely different, like some external force smashing right through me. I sat up bolt upright, and tried to get out of bed, telling the nurse I had to go the loo! She wasn’t having any of it, said that was the baby coming. With her and H on each arm, they waddled me next door to the delivery room. My doctor, Shaun Wynter arrived, right on cue; an excellent, if old-fashioned obstetrician who’s delivered many of the ex-pat babies I’ve met here. He was fully gowned up, and calm and lovely as always.
I wasn’t though. For those first few delivery contractions, I’d lost all of my control and focus. I was at the mercy of huge waves of pain that seemed to have nowhere to go, smashing me to pieces inside. Retrospectively, I wish that at this point, someone had helped me regain my calm and focus; and got me to try different positions. The hypnotherapy sessions I attended hadn’t involved my husband, so he didn’t really know how to help. And, although I thought I’d agreed in advance with Dr. Wynter that I didn’t want ‘directed pushing’ or to lie in the suppine position, probably because I was panicing (and because it’s all they know), suddenly he and the nurses had me on my back and were all getting me to bear down as hard as I could. The pain was excruciating. I nearly twisted H’s hands off as he told me over and over he loved me and I could do it.
But it wasn’t enough. They said I had to push for a count of 10 or longer. As the next two waves hit, I didn’t push at all, I was yelping ‘I can’t do this’ to H as the pain took over again. H was absolutely brilliant; taking my face in his hands and telling me all I had to do was breathe and listen to the doctor, push and the baby would come. I’ll never forget his smiling face, his blue eyes beaming encouragement and his hospital gown hanging jauntily off one shoulder. As the last wave hit, I pushed until I felt like my body split open and suddenly our baby was born!
As the doctor handed up my blue, blood-splattered baby, I thought I’d killed him by pushing too hard. I kept repeating ‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, poor baby…’ as I reached out to him, his tiny arms rigid and shaking in the air and the blue umbilical chord bulging down from between his legs. But suddenly that first new-born cry magically came out of him! Here was my baby boy!! I’d done it!
I’d definitely recommend HypnoBirthing to anyone aiming for a natural birth. The hypnotherapy sessions and the MP3s definitely made my labour quicker and easier and let me feel in control of the pain.
But next time, I’d get H fully on board, as the official course has loads of practical advice for partners. I would have loved it if he’d been able to help me regain control of my breathing in the delivery phase, and been more confident in sticking up for my birthing choices. Also, perhaps I’d have been able to have just ignored the directives to push and insisted on remaining in a different position – my confidence faltered, but they would have hardly forced me had I been more insistent.
Giving birth lying on my back with directed pushing was hardly the calm, gentle HypnoBirth I’d been hoping for, and I believe this contributed massively to the pain (and tearing) I experienced right at the end. But that was just the last few minutes of what had otherwise been a very gentle, natural birth, so all in all I can’t complain!
Andrews Memorial Clinic was excellent, small, very friendly and non-clinical and I loved the nurses singing hymns on the ward in the morning. It was great not having to be apart from H for weeks either side of the birth, as I would have been if I’d flown home. Plus, he may never have made it on time. Having his face beaming confidence and love into mine gave me the strength I needed at the end. And, who else was going to let me nearly twist their hands off? (I’ve got a strained wrist 11 days later so I must have been twisting it pretty hard!)
I’m delighted I got to experience childbirth in all its raw elemental glory; bringing B into the world was the most acutely hyper-aware moment of my life and I hope you don’t all think I’m mad for sharing it with you. I just wanted to tell my story, and hope that it gives confidence to any expectant mums out there who want to have a natural delivery. Go for it!