I have recently become a father for the second time. Less than 48 hours ago, my new baby son was born, sharing his birthday with his teenage sister.
I am currently filled with a mix of emotions, as I’m sure all new parents are. I’m overjoyed that my child has been born and that he’s healthy. I worry for his future given the turmoil Britain is currently in, just days after voting to leave the EU. But right now I want to talk about how I’m so proud of his mother for coping brilliantly with a lengthy labour that departed radically from what we had hoped for. I believe that one of the main things that helped her cope was hypnobirthing and the techniques she learned on that antenatal course.
My partner, K, was nervous about pregnancy, due to the typical horror stories about birth that everyone likes to tell, and the various media representations of screaming mothers in agony during the birth. So as part of our preparations during pregnancy, we attended a course in Hypnobirthing.
Initially I was sceptical, mostly because the name seemed dubious to me, and the language used in the advertisements for most of the courses were full of over the top, pseudo-scientific nonsense. However I went along with an open mind and was pleasantly surprised to find that the course teaches a number of really practical focusing and calming techniques. The aim is for the mother to be able to put herself into a highly focused state, where she can remain calm and have control over her fear and anxiety levels. Reducing stress levels in this way can also help to reduce pain. One aim is for the mother to work with her body during labour rather than against it.
We had planned for a home birth, as the familiar surroundings and non-medical setting would be more relaxing. Additionally we had an inflatable birthing pool so that K could also benefit from all the advantages of a water birth while at home. We ended up, 24 hours after the waters broke, heading to the hospital in an ambulance for a medically assisted birth.
After the waters broke in the early morning, K laboured nicely at home as the latent stage of labour progressed, with contractions coming frequently but irregularly. I went to work as normal in the morning but then came home after lunch as things seemed to be moving along nicely. By early evening we called the midwife and they attended to assist. Unfortunately it turned out that K was only 3cms dilated and still in the latent phase so they left until full labour was achieved, suggesting she have a bath and then use a TENS machine to help with her backache.
Shortly after the midwives left, K went upstairs and started getting much more intense contractions, on an fairly constant basis. An hour and a half later I called the midwives back and K was 9cm dilated. With the birth seemingly imminent, we had no time to get the birthing pool ready and we were upstairs in the bedroom, rather than downstairs where we had intended for the birth to happen. A bit of impromptu furniture shifting later and we had everything set up for the birth. The midwives were excellent and let K breathe the baby down, following the prompts of her body but due to the baby’s position it took a long time to get to 10cms and K ended up tired out and so was the baby as his heart rate was taking longer to recover after each effort to birth. We were also approaching 24 hours since the waters had broken, so we took the decision to head in to hospital for assistance.
One bumpy and longer than necessary (due to taking a wrong turn on to a long street peppered with speed bumps) ambulance ride later, where K used Hypnobirthing relaxation breathing to prevent herself pushing when contractions happened, we arrived at hospital and went straight to a delivery room. The baby had to be monitored constantly and so K ended up on her back in a delivery bed (one of the least helpful birthing positions possible, neither upright, forward nor open). Rather than breathing the baby down, K had to actively push and due to the position of the baby it became apparent that he wasn’t coming out with assistance, so a forceps delivery was required. K did this with only some local anaesthetic, the calmest doctor in the world and some application of the hypnobirthing focusing techniques.
I’m proud of K because she managed all of this with virtually no pain relief - just a TENS machine on the lowest setting and an injection of local anaesthetic just prior to the forceps delivery. She managed to remain calm throughout the labour and the journey to the hospital. Even during the delivery there was no screaming, she was just focused on the task in hand. I’m amazed how well she coped as each part of our birth plan fell by the wayside. She was focused and followed the signs of her body, working with the contractions. No, she wasn’t a vision of serenity throughout (as some of the hypnobirthing videos would have you believe), she got tired and frustrated at times but she worked through and coped superbly.
Given her anxiety levels at the start of pregnancy, I think the practical techniques learned during the hypnobirthing course and practised throughout the pregnancy really helped. K is an amazing woman, and I’m so pleased and proud of her achievements.