Birth Story - Lea and baby Sophie

*Positive Hospital Birth Story from Hong Kong!*

Sophie was born on 17 June at 39+5 weeks, after a 1,5 hour labour with nothing but up breathing and a yoga ball... I still cannot believe I am the one telling that story!!

A bit of background: my son was born 2 years ago in the same HK public hospital, requiring epidural, episiotomy and a bit of a rushed delivery with poor respiratory function in the first minutes. Without any trauma at all, I can say that I wanted to know better and do better this time - I knew I could not change the settings, so I had to come prepared in order to stay on top of things. In HK, water or home birth are not a possibility. In the public system, when you get to triage below 3-4cm dilation, they don't allow you to go home but they keep you in the ward with your husband allowed in only at visiting hours - pretty hard for a first time, back-to-back prelabor. So I took in everything I could during my whole second pregnancy: hypnobirthing books (M. Mongan, G. Mothra), the Digital Pack upon advice from my best friend ♡, online research, yoga classes, and finally hypnotherapy sessions with recordings that I could listen to during the last weeks, as a training. I also gradually involved my partner - very reticent at first, but when he saw me getting more and more relaxed, and physically getting the best of my pregnancy, he got on board with his own tools (relaxation, talking, massages), which I found lovely.

Now I am not sure exactly which of the above "worked", and I must add that I have been extremely lucky, too - but I do think my mindset did a lot of the work. Knowledge is power!

I had been on leave for just one week and went on a hike on Friday 15 June (39+3) hoping to get things moving, and here they were: mild surges half an hour or so apart on Saturday morning. I waved them off as Braxton Hicks and went on with my weekend - namely: my partner's birthday on Sunday! I had planned a surprise lunch with friends in a nice restaurant and decided to keep it as scheduled. We had a lovely, relaxing time, and my surges stretched to an hour or two apart (nice break!) only to pick up again on the way back. Once home they were coming about 7 minutes apart, with a bit of mucus plug coming out, but very manageable and at 6pm I was able to skype my family without letting them know. My partner was timing the surges and decided to ring our son's nanny; she arrived at 8pm, after we put him to bed, and by then I was chilling on my yoga ball, quietly up breathing through slightly stronger surges coming every 5 minutes. My partner had to insist for us to leave; I was too comfy and afraid to be early! We struggled to find a taxi (Sunday night fun...) but I used every tree and fence to ride my surges, gently bending forward. A bumpy 30-min ride later (with surges every 2-3min) and in triage we were, at 9.30pm.

My partner was immediately sent off to do the paperwork and I was asked a million questions to which I tried to reply calmly, eyes almost closed, as if I was on the verge of sleep. I had to change into the hospital pajamas and pee on a stick. I was told my blood pressure was too high and I tried to just ignore the info. At 10pm I accepted to be examined: they said I was 3cm and it made us eligible to go to labour room right away (I think the night was pretty quiet). My midwife introduced herself as Miss Gaga and immediately read my birth plan, where I had highlighted that I did not want to be monitored on my back (painful memories). To my surprise, she accepted to monitor me seated on a yoga ball, which was way more work for her as she had to constantly adjust the straps! I heard her tell my partner that I was doing great and that she was not willing to interfere - I cannot describe how happy I was to hear that. I was breathing calmly and silently on my ball, one ear bud on with positive affirmations, my partner massaging my back, and I did not want to try anything else. Pressure was intense but not painful, and every return to calm after a surge was PURE BLISS - which sort of made the surges worth it! Difficult to describe, but I never felt that relaxed; a bit like when you wake up early in the morning, then realise that it's Sunday and you can go back to sleep - times 100000!!

Around 10.45pm, my body started to shake, and the midwife asked whether I had the urge to push. I was not willing to say, because I had it too early with my first and I was too afraid to be disappointed with my progress; instead I was repeating "I want to sleep, please let me sleep..." I was looking at the clock thinking, girl, if you tell me I am still 3cm, you're gonna hear about an epidural! She finally made me get up on my feet then examined me on all 4 on the bed: it was 11pm, I was fully dilated, ready to push. At first I kept breathing silently, but soon realised that my voice was helping my body; I tried all sorts of noises and breathings, between down breathing and pushing, my upper body leaning against the raised bed headboard. Around 11.15pm, each surge brought out a big bubble of amniotic fluid but no head, so Miss Gaga suggested (gently but firmly) to manually break the waters on the next surge, and we accepted. After that it all accelerated and she suggested that I changed position to slow down the descent and avoid a tear - and I thought, fine, I'll put less effort into it then, but don't move me! I did feel the "ring of fire" - in fact I was kind of negotiating with myself: ok, let's wait for the next one - no wait, next one again... The sensation of my whole body pushing was overwhelming and I felt completely taken by how powerful it was, and I just wanted to ride that wave. Finally her head was out and I immediately stopped pushing as I remembered my first birth, except this time baby had large shoulders and I did struggle a bit.

Finally she was all out at 23.32pm, on time for Daddy's birthday!! I turned to lay on my back and we had a great skin-to-skin time with delayed cord clamping by Daddy. I did tear a little, right on the episiotomy scar, but the only thing I felt was the local anaesthesia syringe before a few stitches. I was not granted a physiological 3rd stage, the staff pushed for my consent on the injection, and my guess is: as I am O- and Hong Kong has very short blood supply for this type, the official guideline is to take all possible precautions to avoid haemorrhage. I was not that bothered anyway - my baby was born!

All I can say is: I had the birth I was dreaming of. I was calm and fully conscious the whole time. I couldn't believe I had made it to that relaxed space within myself, in such a short time and without any pain relief - neither did my partner! Sophie is an incredibly calm baby and she breastfeeds like a boss, already over her birth weight on the 5th day, with 5-hour stretches at night. My firstborn has become the most affectionate big brother. Where does this list stop?? My biggest thanks to Siobhan, to everyone in the group for their stories, and to the amazing Miss Gaga who went on telling all the nurses how great my birth was ♡. All the strength I needed was within me... thanks to you!!

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