My Birth Story – Hypnobirthing and Doulas Cheshire
Mini Mumbler III made his entrance into the world last Tuesday! Baby Rory was born after a speedy 3.5 hour labour, with the help of the wonderful midwives at Macclesfield Maternity Unit and my lovely doula Nikki from the Doula Element. Many of you will already know that I was keen to try hypnobirthing this time round and had signed up for the Wise Hippo Course at Mother Nature Sanctuary in Bollington. I had no idea what to expect and decided to blog about my experience to give other mums to be who might be considering hypnobirthing an insight into what it was all about. You can read my blogs of previous sessions here, here and here.
My decision to have a doula wasn’t taken lightly – we’re not exactly rolling in money and they don’t come cheap. However, when talking about the prospect with a friend, she asked me how much I spent on my wedding, holidays etc and pointed out that when you think about a doula’s role (to give you some extra support and reassurance when bringing your baby into the world), they’re actually a snip! I was anxious about the prospect of a VBAC andwe had some savings so decided to take the plunge and, having asked for recommendations from the lovely, ever helpful members of the chat group, decided on Nikki from the Doula Element. I’m really glad we did.
In my final hypnobirthing session I’d learned about the best positions for labour (upright and forward is the key!), been taught how to ‘hum’ rather than push the baby out, practiced the final ‘script’ – the Sea of Serenity, intended to be listened to during labour by way of relaxation tool – and Siobhan, who runs the course, had showed me some massage techniques Mr Mumbler could employ to help soothe me during surges. Siobhan is a highly experienced masseuse and her ‘soothing strokes’ were AMAZING. I wanted to ask her to pop along to the labour and do a few but thought it unlikely she’d agree so just made a mental note of that she was doing to show Mr Mumbler. I can’t recommend Siobhan enough – she really did become a friend over the course of our sessions and went far above and beyond what I could ever have expected – drawing on her personal experience, addressing my worries with genuine concern and asking her many contacts for any input she thought could help me further.
So, that was it. I’d had all my hypnobirthing sessions, Nikki and I had finalised my birth plan, arrangements had been made for the Mini Mumblers when the day came, and I was busy practicing how I was going to breathe through my surges and “hum the baby out”. All we needed now was for the baby to decide it was time to make an appearance!
The early hours of 23rd July were like any other. Well, that’s not strictly true – both of my children decided sleep was for losers and had apparently colluded to tag team screaming fits all night. It was as if they could sense the time was near when they were going to have to share their Duplo, and they weren’t happy about it. Mini Mumbler II finally went down at around 3am, just in time for me to get about 2 hours sleep before I was awoken by a need to go to the loo. I noticed some blood, concluded it must be the ‘show’ but knew that labour could still be hours or even days away so sent Nikki a quick text to let her know things might be happening, and headed back to bed.
As I laid back down, I noticed a few slight twinges and started thinking this could be the early stages of labour I’d heard so much about. I’d been advised to use this time to relax, have a bath, watch a film and rest up ready for things to really kick off. I’d already downloaded a film I’d been wanting to watch for ages and made a few playlists so I got out of bed, had a shower and headed downstairs, almost excited by what was going to happen next. Within minutes of being downstairs however, the slight twinges I’d been experiencing had become really intense. I was starting to suspect that these might be the surges I’d learned about at Wise Hippo – I was however a little confused as to where the early stage I was so looking forward to had gone…?!
I called up to Mr Mumbler that it was probably sensible to call his parents to come over, and phoned my mum for reassurance that this was indeed labour and not imminent death. By the time the call had ended the surges were coming every couple of minutes and lasting nearly 60 seconds. At this stage I’d really love to say I was in control, breathing through the surges, heading to my happy place in between and sitting by my Sea of Serenity. I really want this to be an honest account of how hypnobirthing worked for me however – and that wouldn’t be strictly true. The speed with which things appeared to be happening totally threw me and it was as if I’d never even heard the word hypnobirthing, let alone been practicing it for weeks. Luckily for me, Mr Mumbler, somewhat unexpectedly, had apparently been listening when I had relayed the principles of hypnobirthing to him (his shift patterns meant he couldn’t come along to the sessions) and was on hand to calm me down, help me to relax and and remind me how to breathe (or in fact to breathe at all)!
Upon examination at the hospital I was told I was 6cm dilated and sent to the delivery room. Again, I’d love to say I remained focussed on my breath and in control at all times but again, it wouldn’t be entirely true. In fact I think when Nikki arrived I was shouting for an epidural in fairly colourful terms. You might, then, be a bit confused as to why I’m such a big fan of hypnobirthing?! Well, I didn’t have that epidural for one. I’m not against epidurals – quite the opposite; I’d had one with Mini Mumbler 1 and it gave me massively welcome relief in the throes of a prolonged induction. I was 8 cm dilated by the time the anaesthetist arrived however and Nikki and the midwives reminded me that whilst it was very much my choice, things may well slow down if I went ahead. I had flashbacks to the mammoth labour I’d had with Mini Mumbler 1 and decided to go ahead without it. Those who know me well will know this was no mean feat for me – I’m a massive panicker and don’t cope well with pain, so to refuse an epidural is testament to the confidence hypnobirthing gave me in the ability of my body to birth my baby, and in myself to deal with the pain. I repeated my favourite birth affirmation in my head over and over again – ‘my body and my baby know what to do, ‘my body and my baby know what to do…’
Secondly, whilst my lapses of concentration were pretty plentiful, Mr Mumbler and Nikki were able to calm me down each time by reminding me what I’d learned with Wise Hippo. As each surge arrived we really did work as a team with them both reminding me to remain upright and forward, to breathe through the surge and, most importantly, to fully relax so my body could guide the baby down without facing obstacles from clenched muscles and excessive adrenalin. Each surge passed without a complete meltdown and I have no doubt this was thanks to the fundamentals of hypnobirthing and that I would have descended into moments of real panic without it.
During the surges, every fibre of my being wanted to tense up, grit my teeth and hold my breath until it had passed. But Wise Hippo had taught me that remaining relaxed and ‘open’ was key to helping my baby make its way into the world easily so every time I felt myself clench I thought back to my sessions with Siobhan and made a real effort, with the help of Mr Mumbler and Nikki, to focus on my breath and relax my muscles. Each time I did I could feel the pain easing slightly and by the time I’d gathered myself together and concentrated on my breath, the surge had ended.
Three hours after I had arrived at the hospital, and 4 hours after the show, Baby Rory arrived safe and sound. His entrance into the world was swift, calm and without drama – the opposite to that of his big sister! He also barely cried – I’d been told this can be a feature of babies born using hypnobirthing since the trauma they experience is minimised. I like to think this is the case for Rory, as opposed to him just keeping shtum in the hope nobody noticed him and he could be claimed by a different, calmer mum…!
My decision to have a doula, and for it to be Nikki, was absolutely the right one. In the run up to the birth she was calm and reassuring, a great antidote to my at times completely irrational worrying. It helped Mr Mumbler to relax in the knowledge that his only role would be to support me, not to deal with any medical or birth plan issues. Both of us also felt better knowing that I had an additional birth partner in case he was on shift when labour started. Nikki is a great believer in hypnobirthing and, alongside Mr Mumbler, was fundamental in reminding me to practice what I’d learned when things were all getting a bit much and I was doubting my ability to carry on. I found her presence both familiar and reassuring and am so pleased I bit the bullet and went with her.
So there we have it – my labour using hypnobirthing! Don’t get me wrong, I’d been hoping to recreate one of the births I’d watched on Youtube where the mum remains completely calm, makes very little noise and looks like she’s just doing a bit of yoga rather than giving birth. That didn’t quite happen – and I really want this to be an honest account of my hypnobirthing experience. I want to show how it can help every type of woman with every type of concern and anxiety about her birth and that you don’t need to be a practicing yogi or meditation expert to use it and see the benefits. Hypnobirthing can’t fundamentally change your personality – I’m a natural born panicker, I don’t like pain and I’m not great at relaxing when those two emotions are in play. In hindsight, knowing these things about myself, I would have been amazed had my birth followed the Youtube video route, but that doesn’t matter – as Wise Hippo teaches, its about the right birth on the day for the woman. Hypnobirthing helped me achieve what I previously thought was impossible for me – a straightforward birth and one which meant I was back home eating pizza just hours after delivering Rory! And if I used a few choice phrases and screamed a bit along the way, who cares?!
Siobhan runs the Wise Hippo hypnobirthing course at Mother Nature Sanctuary in Bollington – for more information check out the website here. Nikki is a Cheshire based Birth & Postnatal Doula who also offers Antenatal Workshops and Infant Feeding Support. Check out her website here.