Wilf's Birth Story
It has, quite remarkably, been three months since our unit of four became a five. I have been meaning to blog our birth story ever since and in many ways, I’m surprised it has taken me this long to share what was an overwhelmingly positive experience. I suppose I’ve been a bit worried that anything written in the newborn-brain-fog wouldn’t do our story justice but I’m not sure the fog is going to lift any time soon (I can still barely string a spoken sentence together) so I’m going to do my best.
As most of you will know, Wilf is our third baby. My previous two deliveries were less than ideal and, if I’m honest, had left me feeling pretty negative about labour. I won’t give you the full background on Henry and Jude’s deliveries as this could easily become Essays in the Unmumsy Births volumes 1-100 but in a nutshell, I had preeclampsia with Henry and a ‘failure to progress’ with Jude, leading to two very ‘medical’ feeling births: me on my back, bright lights, lots of bodies in the room, ALL the drugs and a total loss of control on my part – the low point being during birth two, when I went on strike at 10cm dilated, sploshing about completely naked in my waters, refusing to push and declaring that I was dying (out of sheer terror, I think – I can still remember the panic!)
Wilf’s birth could not have been more different and three months later I'm still on Cloud 9 about how well it went. Shortly after I’d had Jude (who was ‘definitely going to be our last, thank you and goodnight’) I wrote that in the unlikely event that I ever had another one, I would give hypnobirthing a bash and I cannot begin to tell you how glad I am that I did. I honestly feel that the whole delivery was a testament to hypnobirthing.
On the morning of 12th December, I had ‘the show’ (always makes me want to do jazz hands) and started to feel a bit funny. I had Henry’s nativity play at the local church at 10AM and by the time I was sat down listening to him singing Prickly Hay I was having light contractions every 15 minutes or so (way more intense than Braxton Hicks but I could still chat through them). Back at home, they continued in the same manner for the best part of the day (not yet enough to head to the hospital) so I did my best to chill out, watching The Holiday (love that film), drinking tea and eating biscuits.
At 4PM, I attempted a nap to bank some sleep and help me relax but found I could no longer sleep through the contractions, which were around every 10 mins. At 5pm, my waters broke all over the living room floor (proper comedy waters gush like in the movies, it was everywhere). It was at this point that I had a bit of a worry as I realised, with all the excitement over things ‘kicking off’, that I hadn’t felt the baby move for a couple of hours. After phoning triage at the hospital, I was told I needed to go in just to check the baby’s heart rate and although I had hoped to relax at home for a lot longer to minimise hospital time, I needed peace of mind that he was OK, so we loaded the car with the hospital bags (yes bags, as James has his own bag with snacks and drinks to 'keep him going') and off we went.
I don’t know if it was James’s driving or the sudden change of plan but during the 10 minute car journey I had three contractions and they were pretty intense! With Christmas songs on the radio, I started breathing as I’d been practicing - in for 4, out for 8 – and felt pretty calm and relaxed as we arrived. The midwives were not expecting me to be in active labour when I turned up and I think my calmness on arrival was deceiving, so we were told to wait in the general triage waiting area. This was not ideal as by this point I was having contractions every 2-3 minutes and could no longer sit down. I waddled over and told the lady on the desk that things had changed and I needed to get to a room in the birth centre ASAP (the polite way of saying ‘shit’s getting real’).
We were put in an assessment room to check Wilf’s heart rate which was fine, thank God, but my blood pressure was not and it was at this point that I feared my calm birth was about the fly out the window. Given my history of preeclampsia, the rapidly increasing blood pressure was a big concern and after consultation with doctors, I was told that the recommendation was to send me to labour ward and not the birth centre as planned. I was also informed that a water birth was no longer recommended, due to an increased risk of fitting associated with the blood pressure drama. If there was a Sliding Doors moment of the labour, where everything could have changed, this was it.
I remembered Siobhan (my hypnobirthing teacher)’s encouragement to ask questions about the risks and benefits of any decision (and needing to change my mind set about ‘not being allowed’ to do things). Given that I was already having contractions every two minutes, I asked if it would be at all possible to get into a pool and reassess my blood pressure from there, as I had a strong feeling the baby would be making an appearance very soon and I was terrified that laying on my back on a labour ward would set me back. Our midwife, Rosie, was brilliant, and given that my blood pressure was not yet an emergency situation (let me be clear: if it had been deemed at all dangerous, I would have waddled at speed to labour ward), she agreed to try it my way for a bit in the hope that the pool would relax me.
The next two hours were everything I had hoped birth would be this time around. James put some gentle spa music on, we sprayed some relaxing room spray and I went into my own zone, focusing on breathing and, lo and behold, my blood pressure went DOWN! I had requested to have no internal examinations (as these really stressed me out in previous deliveries) so was left to my own devices, with Rosie monitoring Wilf’s heartbeat with the hand-held Doppler thingy while I was in the pool. For an hour and a half, I barely made any noise except to breathe as I'd practiced and I really made use of the visualisation techniques, particularly a hot air balloon one where I imagined the hot air balloon inflating as I felt a contraction coming on, and then floating away as it eased off. I found it really helpful to have something to focus on and I can’t even begin to tell you how different it was to Jude’s birth, where I swore, shouted and begged everyone to put me out of my misery.
At around 11:25PM, I felt like things had changed and that the ‘up’ breathing I’d practiced was no longer working - like something was pushing down into my bum and I knew it was time to change to the ‘down breaths’ (I’m laughing as I type this, aware it sounds a bit wanky but IT WORKS, I promise IT REALLY WORKS!) Despite having had zero internal examinations, I just knew it was time for him to arrive and I can’t tell you how nice it was not to have people saying ‘you’re 10cm, it’s time to push, no you can’t go on strike’ like I’d had before – this time, the midwives just trusted from what they were observing that I knew what to do.
After 20 minutes of bearing down into my bum using the candle-blowing-out breaths (which I had practiced when going for a poo, yes really) accompanied by a bit of cow-like mooing, Wilf’s head was out. I felt so calm, even stopping to have a chat about the colour of his hair, and shortly after with one final big poo-push the rest of him followed, just before midnight. The cord was wrapped twice around his neck which made me panic momentarily (“OMG DO SOMETHING!”) but he was absolutely fine and Rosie helped me get to him onto my chest. The feeling at that point was total euphoria. I have never been prouder of myself and after two pretty negative births I almost felt like this birth had put the others right, somehow. Wilf was 8lb 13oz – my biggest baby yet – but I’d had paracetamol and codeine only, as I just didn’t feel like I wanted anything else (I’ve sampled ALL the drugs in previous births and never enjoyed the sensation of being ‘out of it’, though I did find the epidural pretty magic with Henry).
Post-birth, things very nearly got medical again when the placenta got stuck and had to be manually manipulated out by poor Rosie (not going to lie, this was basically like being fisted), but again I breathed through it and the atmosphere was not at all one of panic. After tea and toast, some skin-to-skin and Wilf’s first feed we left the hospital just a few hours later and were back at home by 5AM, meaning Henry and Jude had gone to bed like normal and woken up to find a baby brother!
I know every birth is different but I am convinced that the reason this birth was so different was due to the time I’d spent with Siobhan and the resulting calmness and confidence I had in my own decisions. I’m so glad I decided not to have any internal examinations and pushed for a water birth (clearly if I had considered this a real safety concern I would have reacted differently but I was so sure the pool would help and that he would arrive soon, and he did!) and the biggest game changer of all was the breathing. The most important tool ever, I felt in control (almost) the entire time.
I have had so many messages since I mentioned hypnobirthing asking if I would recommend it and I honestly can’t recommend it enough (and this goes for every type of birth - including induction and c-section - it's not all about drug-free water births). I'd say there is probably a spectrum as to how 'into' the hypnobirthing you get and I reckon I was somewhere in the middle - I never got used to calling contractions 'surges', James never once joined in with reading me any of the 'affirmations' (nor did I particularly want him to) and I would be lying if I said I didn't feel pain but bugger me, it was 100x better than I ever imagined birth could be. This comes from a sceptic - someone who was worried she might have to start chanting or sacrifice an animal under a full moon while wearing tie-dye – when in actual fact, it was just a course geared towards making every type of birth as positive as possible.
I did hypnobirthing with Siobhan, founder of The Positive Birth Company, who, alongside classes, also offers a digital download pack with all the hypnobirthing resources you could need for just £35. For more information visit the website or see @thepositivebirthcompany on Instagram.
I have not been paid for this post. I am sharing because I would like to give something back to Siobhan who gave me a birth experience I will remember fondly forever (and which has gone some way to drowning out the memory of the swearing and the 10cm strike).