Even before falling pregnant, I knew I wanted to arm myself with the best possible tools to give birth, to give my baby the calmest, best start I could muster.
I knew I had the strength to do it, but remaining calm is not my strong suit. So I am sure when I asked Holly, one of my oldest friends, a friend who knew me through my most tempestuous teenage years and beyond, to teach me hypnobirthing, she knew she had her work cut out.
I really enjoyed our lesson, so did my husband, Tom. Holly left us feeling calm and prepared. I practiced with my relaxation tracks and centering my busy mind in earnest.
I woke up at 2.00 am on Wednesday night, thinking I had wet myself, because of course that is what you assume has happened when you are 38+5 pregnant!! I got up to tell Tom, who was sleeping in the living room due to my walrus-like snoring, and clear up the mess. We went back to sleep pleased that I was having mild contractions and that it was all happening. By the time I woke up again at 7 my contractions had stopped. I called my midwife and had an appointment with her on Thursday lunchtime, taking with me a delightful array of "waters"-soaked sanitary towels and a wee sample for her inspection. The outcome being that I would have to go to St. Richard's the following morning at 8 for an induction if nothing had started by itself. Filled with dread we went home. I hoovered, mopped and bounced on my ball in the hopes of kicking labour into gear. At 6 we went for a dog walk; I think I moved faster around the common than I had in months, but it worked! I had contractions all evening, enjoying each one, smug that I had dodged induction. I remained relaxed all evening, just sat and watched a film. The dog took the first shift as my labour buddy, so Tom could get some sleep before the day ahead. I listened to the relaxation tracks in bed and focused on staying relaxed through each contraction. At 4 I woke Tom up as the contractions were speeding up. I cuddled him with each one. At 6.30 he called the hospital to say we were coming in as my contractions were coming every few minutes.
We set off to St. Richard's via Fittleworth to drop the dog off at Mum and Dad's. I felt sick in the car and kept my headphones on for most of the journey and cuddled my pillow.
We arrived at about 7:30 and went up and down in the lift as we had forgotten which floor we needed, luckily I hadn't lost my sense if humour. We finally got to the labour ward at 7:45 and got sent to an assessment room to wait. Our midwife came in to see us, still talking about induction, not having been in labour before I didn't like to say that I really thought I was beyond induction, so I listened to what was going to happen and agreed to an examination. Leanne, our midwife started the examination and exclaimed "Oh wow" I was already 7cm. She apologised repeatedly throughout the day for having said that, but she couldn't believe I was so calm and that far along. There weren't any rooms available, so we stayed in our little curtained cocoon for a couple of hours. Leanne suggested we continued as we were as we were doing really well, so I carried on bouncing, holding on to Tom and horse-breathing during the contractions. I dipped in and out of listening to the relaxation tracks, mainly to block out the girl crying beyond the curtain.
I was supposed to be staying on labour ward because I have hypermobility, but as I was still so calm when a room with a pool came up on the birthing centre I was allowed that. So at 11:30 we started our very slow waddle over to our room, stopping to bounce with each contraction.
Tom blue tacked my birth affirmations at eye level next to the pool so I could see them without my glasses. By the time the pool was full I was ready to push. Leanne encouraged me to go with my instincts. That was at about 12:30. It started off really well and with only a few pushes her head was visible. Leanne was sure she would be born before lunchtime so stayed with us.
After a few hours of pushing in and out of the pool, we decided that despite Phoebe's heart rate remaining happy, I needed to go back to labour ward for assistance. I was disappointed that she wasn't going to be born in the water with just my own efforts, but conceded that this was the best option.
The atmosphere changed dramatically when we got into our new room. Several midwives were on hand to support Leanne, who had worked far too long without any lunch, each one who came in remarked it wouldn't be long, her head was visible, blah blah blah. Leanne tried to tell them we had been in this situation for hours and despite their best intentions their comments only served to frustrate me. For the first time all day I was beginning to lose my calm. When several "one more pushes" came and went the decision was made to use the vontouse and give me an episiotomy. As soon as this happened it really was "one more push". At 4.50 Phoebe Annabel Lovejoy was born, covered in her own poo. After a brief stint on my chest she was taken to check her breathing and Tom went with her.
As I sat covered in sweat and baby poo, with tea and toast in hand, I had a quiet moment to reflect on the day.
I enjoyed birth. I can't say it was pain free, but it was empowering. I am glad I embraced each aspect of labour and let my body do it's thing. It didn't go 100% to plan, but what does? Leanne has said she wants to be with us at the birth of our next child to prove to me it shouldn't have been as hard as it was in the final stage.
Without Holly, Tom and I would have had a very different day, she gave him and I the tools to accomplish labour as a couple and she gave me the inspiration to start my personal research into positive, active birthing.
By Millie Lovejoy