Also, like any good birth story, this one contains generous doses of T.M.I. You've been warned!
|On my way into the hospital where my daughter was born|
My ideal imagined birth story went something like this: labor at home for as long as possible, arrive at the hospital 7 cm dilated, experience no pain, only peaceful euphoria, and spend only a few hours in the hospital before giving birth. That wasn't at all what happened, but in retrospect the way my birth happened was its own kind of perfect, and hypnobabies helped a lot.
A week ago, I felt like I would be pregnant for 41-42 weeks at least... I was having basically no signs of labor being eminent, and I wasn't even sure I'd "dropped." On Wednesday (39 weeks 3 days) I had a dream that I would go into labor that day... I'm never usually the kind of person to experience or believe in things like that, but when I woke up on Wednesday morning I felt a little gush of fluid. I mentioned it to my doctor at our appointment that day, but he didn't think it could be my water... I actually asked for a cervix check, and my cervix was back and closed. That night, though, I started experiencing my first real pressure waves (aka contractions). They were pretty irregular but different from any Braxton Hicks I had been experiencing, I was having more little leaks of fluid, and then I passed something that looked like clear mucus... suddenly I felt very sure that I wouldn't' make it to my due date, let alone to 42 weeks! I listened to my fear clearing track and birthing day affirmations that night, and experienced pressure waves all night long... I tried to sleep but didn't get much. I finally got out of bed at 6 AM, only to have the pressure waves slow down to once every 20 minutes at most. The feeling of the pressure waves unnerved me a little, because they didn't just feel like "pressure"-- they felt more like period cramps, and I felt a little bit of panic that my hypnobabies tools might not work the way I expected.
All day Thursday I had very irregular pressure waves and more little leaks of fluid. I found the section in my hypnobabies book about when to go to the hospital, and how to tell the difference between a leak vs. a gush of fluid, very helpful, and I'm so glad I didn't go the hospital then. Thurs night my husband and I went out to a local arts festival with some friends... I kind of didn't tell those friends that I was starting to experience regular pressure waves again. When we were leaving, I had a bigger gush of fluid (luckily still not TOO much to soak through the pad I was wearing), and I had a strong feeling that I would be in actual labor soon.
At 2:30 AM Friday morning, I got out of bed and started timing pressure waves. They seemed to be about a minute long and were coming about every 4 minutes. I was also having more gushes of fluid. Suddenly I decided that I DID want to go to the hospital, even though I knew I wasn't quite as far along as I'd planned. I listened to the hypnobabies fear clearing track in the car, and we arrived at the hospital at about 4:30 AM, along with our doula.
At the check-in at L&D, I had a cervical check. I was trying to mentally prepare myself to be "just" 4 CM dilated... only to hear that my cervix was CLOSED, though 60% effaced. They hooked me up to a monitor and I was having regular pressure waves, 5 minutes apart. I listened to birthing day track 1 while I was hooked up to the monitor, and I just focused on thinking "open, open, open" with each pressure waves. They became a lot easier to deal with when I stopped thinking about what they were supposed to FEEL like and instead focused on what they were supposed to DO. I felt very glad each time a pressure wave came, and I focused on welcoming them and helping them become stronger. They actually looked kind of like the humps of a camel on the monitor, and I really think that the second "hump" represented when I would focus on welcoming the pressure wave using my hypnobabies techniques.
The hospital was very full that morning, so they actually gave me the option of switching to a different hospital. Technically I wasn't allowed to return home because my waters had broken, but I considered doing that anyway... yet somehow I just really wanted to stay in a hospital and focus on being calm in that new situation. The pressure waves were uncomfortable when I was in the car, so I was glad I didn't drive home. Instead, we parked pretty far away from the second hospital, walked around the block, went out for breakfast, and finally checked in at 7 AM. The second hospital had a much warmer atmosphere, and I was very glad we ended up there.
Right away I had some lessons in being calm and assertive, and stating what I wanted. The hospital gave me a hospital gown to wear, and told me that wearing my own jersey dress wasn't an option. I said that I felt much more comfortable in my own clothes, and asked if they could make an exception. Nobody ever said anything else to me about what I was wearing, and I was very glad that I was in my own dress when I was walking the hallways and the stairs of the hospital during my long labor!
After about two hours, the doctor in the new hospital finally checked me. I was still having pretty strong pressure waves, about 3-5 minutes apart. At this point I was dilated to 1.5 cm, 70% effaced. My doula was amazing about helping me focus on the positive, and hypnobabies helped me also stay deeply relaxed and focused on helping the pressure waves do their job. Throughout the next few hours, I walked the hallways and rocked on a birthing ball a lot, relaxing into a deep squat with each pressure wave. I felt like my "lightswitch" was in the middle position pretty much the whole time... I felt just kind of calm, in my own world. (Actually, when I DID start having a more animated conversation between pressure waves, I found that my pressure waves slowed down, so I had motivation to stay calm!)
After a few more hours, we were told we could move into the natural birthing room even though I hadn't had a cervical check in a while (so they didn't know if I was in active labor). I was glad of this, because when they DID check my dilation, it was just 2 cm... though now I was 90% effaced. I FELT, though, like my pressure waves were becoming much more intense (and often more than a minute, less than three minutes apart)... they seemed like the description of active labor, not latent phase. This was the hardest part of my birth... I struggled with the idea that it could feel SO intense when I wasn't even to the point where I could be accepted into a hospital without broken waters. I did a fear clearing session to deal with the worry that "real" labor would be SO much more intense, though that worry took a while to fade away. I kind of gave myself a vacation from trying to help my labor progress at that point, and for about an hour I focused on just laughing, talking, and listening to music.
Soon I started to really NEED the hypnobabies tools to help me deal with each pressure wave. My doula (who wasn't a trained hypnobabies doula, but did amazingly anyway) would read me parts of the scripts in the birthing guide while my husband would hold me up during the contractions. The intensity of the contractions meant that I now needed to focus on pain relief rather than on helping the pressure waves work, and I focused on putting my light switch in the OFF position before each one. It became very uncomfortable to stay lying down during the intermittent monitoring, but when I moved around or stood in the shower it was manageable.
Finally, I had another cervical check, and I really hoped to see progress... I was actually starting to feel a teeny bit pushy. I was 100% effaced... but all I really heard was when the doctor said that I was "4... no, let's say 3.5 centimeters" dilated. A lousy 3.5 cm! But I just put it out of my mind, and took off to walk the stairs with my husband and doula one more time. (We had to sneak out of the birthing ward each time to do so... if I were in my hospital gown, I doubt we could have managed the escape. :) I allowed myself to give tiny little pushes at the start of each pressure wave, because that's what my body was telling me to do... I didn't tell anyone, though, and I focused on relaxing for the rest of each pressure wave. I NEEDED the scripts. When we got back, I sat in the shower on the birthing ball for about an hour and sang any song I could half way remember that seemed uplifting. I saw a video on youtube before my birth of a woman singing during her pressure waves, and while my voice is nothing like hers and I completely butchered the lyrics of every song I sang, it REALLY helped me in that moment focus on things other than the pressure.
My voice started seriously breaking at the start of each pressure wave, and I found myself feeling VERY pushy. The doctor offered to check my dilation, but I said I didn't want another check... I'd just heard that I was 3.5 cm two hours before, and because I was already starting to feel pushy then, I didn't trust that to mean anything. But on my next pressure wave, I PUSHED... all out, gutteral, powerful bearing down. It wasn't anything I could control or cared to stop. Then I agreed to be checked by a midwife. She reached inside to feel my cervix, looked confused, and said, "it's not there." In just TWO hours, I had gone from 3.5 cm dilated to FULLY dilated and ready to push!! I couldn't believe it, and I was just amazed that my body knew exactly what to do. Pushing wasn't optional, and making sounds wasn't a choice... it was just what I was doing. We put on the "birthing stage 2" track and were off! It was such a relief to be able to do exactly what my body wanted.
In the final phase of labor, the only annoying thing was the doctors insisting on monitoring... I was NOT going to lie still on my side or back during pressure waves, but they were having trouble finding my baby's heartbeat on the monitor and were adamant that I needed to be monitored for 5 minutes every 15 minutes (which would quickly turn into more than 5 minutes when they didn't get a consistent reading). I was deeply in the zone at this point and just felt comfortable saying NO to the monitoring. I made sure that they picked up my baby's heartbeat from time to time (and it was always perfect), but I refused to be strapped down to the monitor for five minutes. They started to pressure me to put a scalp electrode into her head, but my husband and I said NO... we could see that our baby was doing fine (they could pick up her heartbeat, just not continually) and we didn't want anything screwed into her head. At that point the doctors kind of left the room in a huff, which was great, because they left me in the care of a very supportive midwife.
In retrospect, the way I pushed is one of the only things that I might have done differently... I allowed myself to be coached by other people (the midwife, my husband, and my doula) instead of just completely listening to myself, and I think it might have been better for me to just do exactly what my body demanded. But at that point I just wanted my baby out as quickly as possible, especially since the doctors were giving me such a hard time about the monitoring. I had just two little stitches, but I might have avoided even those had I allowed myself to direct my pushing phase.
After only about an hour of pushing, my daughter was born at 1:05 AM on Saturday-- pink, crying, and perfect. Her APGAR score was 9/10, which is the highest score they actually give. She was put right onto my chest and actually managed to latch on and nurse in that first hour. She was very alert and looked straight into my eyes and my husband's eyes.
Now she's three days old and wonderful. :) I feel great, and I feel like my birth actually has really empowered me as a mother... I FELT my body taking over and doing things in exactly its own way, and in its own time, and I'm trusting my instincts as a mother too. (Having a good bubble of peace seems even more important now that I'm faced with an onslaught of parenting advice!) We continued to make our own decisions after the birth, insisting on staying with our baby at all times and convincing the doctors to let us out of the hospital on Sunday night instead of Monday morning.
Some things I learned about using hypnobabies during my birth:
The lightswitch and relaxation cues are very important, but even
more important turned out to be all the messages in hypnobabies about
staying relaxed, confident, and making my own decisions.
There were times when I didn't feel like my hypnobabies tools were
working, because I did feel pain and didn't always feel positive. But
then my husband said something to me about how I looked like the very
calm, cheerful woman we saw on a youtube video of a hypnobabies birth.
That surprised me and helped me realize that I didn't know what was
going on inside her head either, but I WAS succeeding at staying calm
and relaxed. Whether I felt pain or not wasn't really important... what
WAS important was what I did with that pain. My husband and doula are
actually now big converts to hypnobabies!
I had to use hypnobabies in a way that worked for me, which was
different at each phase of my labor. Sitting in the shower and singing
wasn't a tool I read about in hypnobabies, but it was exactly what I
needed at that moment.
Progress is progress, and your body knows what to do. My labor
wasn't following the "script" I thought it would, but my relaxation
helped everything advance steadily.
Having a doula was amazing. I really debated whether it was worth
it, because I felt very confident in my ability to handle birth, but
she was SO helpful... both in pointing out the progress I was making
(when I told her I felt like I needed to throw up, for example, she
said, "Wonderful! That's a great sign!") and in helping me with
hypnobabies cues. My husband often supported my weight during a
contraction while she read to me.
Everything really is all worth it when your baby slides out. :)
Without hypnobabies, I think it's quite likely that I would have had pitocin and an epidural at least, and perhaps a c-section because of "failure to progress." With hypnobabies, I had an all-natural birth in less than 24 hours without any kind of intervention, despite no dilation when I arrived at the hospital, and now I mainly remember how deeply I felt like I was in the zone, relaxed, and listening to my body for my birthing time.