Birth story - Bex and baby Phoenix
I really want to make sure that I do this incredible story justice and include all the pieces of information that I feel contributed to the truly magical birth experience that I had. For that reason, I have split my story into three sections - feel free to skip straight ahead to the birth bit if that is what you're here for! But there is a chance that the other sections may be useful, reassuring or informative to some of you!
The impact of Hypnobirthing outside of pregnancy and birth.
Using our BRAINs
The Positive Birth of Phoenix
The Impact of Hypnobirthing Outside of Pregnancy and Birth
My husband, Tom (I will name check him here as he is such an important part of all of this!) and I attended a Hypnobirthing course run by Siobhan in Birmingham in June this year, when I was about 27 weeks pregnant. It very quickly became apparent how much about birth that we didn't know we didn't know! Learning about oxytocin v adrenaline really was eye opening and really put into perspective some of the more negative associations we had with birth.
It is worth noting here that I have suffered with an anxiety disorder for most of my life which was formally diagnosed when I was in my late teens. As Siobhan worked through the breathing techniques and relaxation scripts with us it became very clear to me that relaxing was not a skill I had ever mastered - I just replaced one activity (work) with another (tv, cooking, reading…). I had previously had CBT as treatment for my anxiety but had not found it successful and was concerned that the techniques Siobhan was teaching may not work for me. When Siobhan explained that relaxation was a skill to be learnt through practice I felt a huge shift in my confidence levels. Tom and I started practicing the relaxation scripts that night and have continued to do so every day since. After the course, when my friends asked how it was the words I used were “potentially life changing” - and I was absolutely right. Birth and pregnancy aside - I have used the relaxation techniques numerous times to calm down and I can think of at least three specific occasions when they have brought me back from the brink of a panic attack; something I have never been able to do before.
Using our BRAINs
At my 7 week checking appointment I had a BMI of 37.74. This defaulted me to consultant led care. At 11 weeks I had my first consultant appointment at hospital which was not a positive experience. At the end of the appointment, which was neither reassuring or the two-way conversation I expected it to be, I voiced my desire to have a home birth only to be laughed at (literally) by the consultant and midwife present. After getting over the initial shock of my experience Tom and I became determined to gather as much information as possible in order to understand why my BMI was promoting so much concern from the hospital team when our community midwives seemed confident that a natural home birth was a real possibility for us.
After learning about the BRAIN acronym for information gathering, Tom and I started to actively use this technique to question the suggestions of the hospital staff. My pregnancy was completely normal aside from my BMI and my anxiety disorder (it's worth nothing here that hospitals are a huge trigger for my anxiety so it is unlikely that a labour ward delivery would ever have been the best thing for me or my baby). By 30 weeks we had the confidence to make a fully informed decision, sign ourselves off consultant care and switch to the home birth team. You will see from our birth story that this truly was the best decision we ever made. The hospital was keen for me to have a labour ward delivery, with continuous monitoring, induced before 41 weeks. As you will see, my actual experience was VERY different from this.
The Positive Birth of Phoenix
After a few weeks of being told that my baby was very low in my pelvis, but not really feeling any other indicators of labour, it all started at quarter to one in the morning on the 10th of October 2018, 40 weeks + 8 days. I woke up and went to the toilet and when I came back to bed I felt mild cramping in my lower abdomen and back. As the cramping started to get more rhythmic I really had that “Christmas morning” feeling, knowing that we would be meeting our baby soon. By half past two, the surges were coming 3 in every 10 minutes and I was quietly swaying and breathing through them. At this point Tom and I made the decision to call his parents to come and pick up my step-daughter. Waking her and explaining that the baby was on its way was such a beautiful moment - she was so excited!
At 3am I was on all fours on our bed calmly breathing through a surge when I felt a pop and started leaking fluid. I stood up and moved to the bathroom and there was a full gush of fluid as my waters broke! Tom came in and all I said was “I'm not weeing!” - we both laughed as more gushed out. At this point Tom (mop and bucket in hand) called our midwife (Dani) to tell her that our baby was on the way. She asked about the surges and if we felt she needed to come straight away, to which I said that there was no need for her to rush. She agreed to speak to us again in two hours, by which time my surges were very close together so she headed over and arrived with us at about half past five.
In the meantime, Tom did an incredible job as “Keeper of the cave”, setting up the electric tea lights, putting on spa music, spraying our room spray and filling the pool all whilst calmly reassuring me that I was a goddess and he was so proud of me. During this time I was sick twice, but it was very manageable and I felt like it was a good sign from my body that things were progressing.
When Dani arrived she watched a few of my surges, checked my blood pressure, temperature and listened in to baby who she described as “very happy in there”. I agreed to an examination at which point I was told that my cervix was very favourable and 2cm dilated. I didn't feel disheartened at this, despite not officially being in “established labour” as my surges were strong and consistent and I just knew that my baby was coming soon. Dani explained that she thought it was best for her to leave us to it for a while as things would progress more quickly without her watching. I did have a wobble at this point. Dani had been our named midwife since we switched to the home birth team and we were so glad (and lucky) that she happened to be on call, I did worry that if she left she might not be able to come back. After some reassurance from her and Tom, Dani left with advice not to get in the pool yet as it might slow things down but to have a bath or shower.
I didn't want to have a bath or shower as the pool was not yet full and I was worried that we wouldn't have enough hot water to fill it if I had a shower too. Despite advice from our lovely midwife, as soon as Dani left, I got in the half full pool! The relief was immediate and heavenly. I had mastered breathing and swaying through the surges but was finding it very difficult to be comfortable in between, the water allowed me to float in between and that felt incredible. Dani was absolutely right, my surges did slow down but this really allowed me the rest I needed and after the birth we all agreed it was the right thing for my body at the time. I was so relaxed and focused in the pool that Tom said to me at one point “Darling, if you're going to fall asleep, I really think you should get out of the pool!” - I definitely wasn't going to fall asleep!
At about half 8 in the morning I felt a real shift in my surges and I could feel my body start to push and I asked Tom to call Dani. Dani and another midwife who we had met during pregnancy (Sarah) arrived along with a student midwife, Amy, at about ten past 9. I had said in my plan that I didn't want any students at my birth (mainly due to a negative experience with a student sonographer a year previously when I had miscarried) and I'm embarrassed to say that I was a bit rude to her when she was taking my temperature at one point (I really didn't like the probe in my mouth). But Amy was absolutely amazing and I am so glad that she was there.
Sarah, Dani and Amy watched a few of my surges in the pool and we had a brief conversation about things appearing to slow down. Sarah asked if they could examine me, which I declined, purely because I knew I would be uncomfortable laying down. The midwives were amazing at suggesting different positions to move things along and encouraged me out of the pool. I remember someone wrapping a towel around my naked body and suggesting I might like to wear a nightie - I remember shouting “Nooooo, I'm so hot!!!” - it was unseasonably warm on the 10th of October! I knelt down on all fours leaning on the seat of our sofa with a towel draped over me and continued to breath (and moo!!!) through the surges. I could feel one of the midwives routinely lifting my towel and having a good look.
In between the surges Amy continued with the monitoring of my pulse, temperature and baby's heart rate. She kept repeating that my baby was really happy and in my head I kept saying “Yes - I know!” - this is confidence that I attribute purely to Hypnobirthing as at no point during my labour or delivery did I feel at all anxious or panicked- very unusual for me - I just knew what to do and it all felt very natural.
After sometime against the sofa, Dani suggested I had a wee to help move things along. I moved on to the toilet and continued to surge there and tried my very best to have a wee! I even ran the tap for encouragement but nothing would come! After a few toilet surges and more checks from Amy, Dani explained that they would really like to check me as I had been pushing for a while and didn't seem to be making progress. I found out afterwards that the midwives were really struggling to tell if they could see Phoenix's head or not - this was because I had A LOT of bloody show which was dripping out and Phoenix had A LOT of hair and they couldn't tell what they were looking at and were concerned that he had possibly moved back to back.
Eventually I agreed to examination, which was absolutely the right thing to do. I laid on my back on the sofa for probably half a minute as Dani had a quick feel and told me I was 10cm and the baby was in a perfect position. This must have been about ten to 11. At this point I almost knocked Dani out of the way and declared I was getting back in the pool!
Once in the pool I got into a position where I was kneeling with my arms on the side of the pool and my head low, holding Tom's hands while he whispered encouragement and affirmations to me. Sarah encouraged me that with each surge I should bring my bum down to my heels, which I did. Soon I began to feel my baby's head descend down then slowly rise back up with each surge. I remember declaring to the midwives (as if they didn't know!) “The head is kneading it's way out! It's good that it comes out gently!”
Pretty soon after this declaration I was encourage to feel between my legs and felt my baby's hair! With the next surge I heard Sarah say that she could see the forehead and the nose and asked Tom if he wanted to go around and look. I'm afraid I didn't let him! I needed his hands to hold. After another intense surge the head was out and the baby's body followed easily. Dani said “You've done it! You can bring the baby up!” I remember saying that I didn't know how… but eventually twigged and lifted him into my arms. “He's a boy! We have a boy!”
After two years and three miscarriages I was holding my perfect son. The very best moment of my life so far. I held him in the water for a long time and he quickly latched on to feed. After sometime I started to feel another light surge and asked Tom to hold our baby. At this point Amy clamped the cord and Tom cut it, almost straight after this I delivered the placenta with ease and was able to get out of the pool and continue my golden time with my son.
Phoenix came calmly into the water at 11.18am and weighed 7lbs and 11oz. His big sister met him later that day and our family of 4 was finally a reality.
Tom and I remain exponentially grateful to our incredible midwives for facilitating our dream birth and the amazing Siobhan for helping set our path for the best journey to our magical day, and for giving us the life changing power of relaxation. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Finally - thank you to my exceptional husband, my best friend, my rock, who gave me light touch massage and read the scripts every day leading up to birth and who was the best “Keeper of the cave” who ever lived. He is a calm, strong and ever kind captain of our family and guiding light for us all, the best husband and Daddy ever.
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