Annabelle, my first baby and hypnobaby was born on Friday, March 12th.  I’m sorry, but my story is long!  I’m just not good at condensing these things!

I was feeling some cramping off and on Wednesday, which was my guess date, and I began to feel extremely excited.  Andrew and I made a spicy dinner and went walking afterward to see if we could help baby move down.  I had read something about “curb walking” (walking with one foot on the curb and one in the gutter), so I figured I would give that a try.  I don’t think I’ll ever do that pregnant again – my calves were still killing me during and days after the birth!  That night, I was having a hard time sleeping as I had begun having some more intense pressure feelings in my lower back, especially.  Sometime around 4am, I decided there was a definite pattern to them, and decided I would pay closer attention.  I picked up my ipod and put on the Easy First Stage script, using that as a timer.  My waves were consistently 6 or so minutes apart throughout the script, so afterward I decided to relax in the bath.  I soaked and got all freshened up, still timing my pressure waves at roughly 6 minutes apart – some coming as close as 5.  There had been a power outage in the night, so I knew Andrew’s alarm wouldn’t go off.  I woke him at his usual 6:45 and told him it was time to get up, but that maybe he should just stay home today.  He called and let his shop know he wouldn’t be in and we had a bit of cuddle time.  We decided to get up and have some breakfast and take a walk.  I was starting to have discomfort in my lower back with each wave, so we stopped and Andrew applied counter pressure with each one, which was helpful.  We went back inside and I timed a few more waves.  By now they were closer to 3-4 minutes apart.  I decided to call the hospital to let them know I would probably be in sometime that day and to find out which doctor was on call so that I could mentally prepare for that.  No such luck – they wouldn’t tell me over the phone.  My plan was to stay home as long as possible, so Andrew and I just hung around the house and prepared things all morning.  He had a quick 11:30 dentist appointment and things with me seemed to be moving along at a slow, easy pace so we decided he should keep it and I rode along just incase things should speed up.  I hung out in the car listening to my headphones and trying to stay relaxed.  Afterward, we headed home, had some lunch, and walked a bit more.  Things seemed to be speeding up, so we started getting excited.  I decided to clean the floors and get the house ready to come home to, so I set to work on that, with pressure waves 3-4 minutes apart the whole time.  By the time I got ready to mop, Andrew had tired of watching me stop to breathe through waves, so he told me it was time to stop.  We decided to head in the direction of the hospital and if things hadn’t picked up any more, we would walk on the beach for awhile before heading all the way up.

*BOP* During the car ride, I started to lose focus.  I was really feeling intense pressure, which I had to admit was not at all comfortable, in my back.  I started to cry, feeling like I was failing.  Between waves, I put my headphones back on and tried to get back to a relaxed state.  When we neared the hospital, Andrew realized he had left all of my snacks at home, and I knew I would want some things to keep my energy up during the rest of my birthing time, so we changed our plan and went to the store across the street from the hospital to stock up on vegetable broth, juice, and Lara Bars : )  Instead of heading back down to the beach, we decided to go on base (military hospital) and just walk around the track for awhile.  After two laps, I was tired and hot, so we decided to head over and find out how things were progressing.

It was an incredibly, uncharacteristically busy time in the hospital, so the nurse I had spoken with in the morning had not prepared my chart and the staff did not seem happy to see me.  We waited awhile while they prepared a place for me in triage.  The nurse took us back and immediately handed me a gown (my birth plan said I would not wear a hospital gown) and gave hurried orders for me to change and give a urine sample.  When she walked out, I hugged my husband and cried.  I felt so frustrated.  They put me on the monitors to see how things were going and my pressure waves started to slow down – quite possibly as a result of the terrible feeling the hospital experience had given me so far.  They monitored for awhile and then checked my cervix to find me at barely 3cm.  They recommended that we take a walk and then come back in two hours, but after that experience and 12 hours with so little change, I just wanted to go home.  I was almost completely effaced and baby was at zero station, so I knew it wouldn’t be long, but I needed some rest.

Back at home, I took another bath and then tried to sleep between waves while listening again to easy first stage.  Andrew made a heat compress for my back and that, too, helped me to relax.  We slept a bit together and at some point during the night I decided that I was, in fact, in pain, and that it was a signal from my body to do something.  I got out of bed and alternated between sitting on my birthing ball and laying my upper body across the couch between waves and actually getting up on the couch on all fours and doing pelvic tilts during them.  After awhile, I really began to sense some change and went back to bed to try to time a few more.  They seemed to be coming at 2-3 minutes apart by now and I felt things intensify.  I went to the bathroom, where I had my “bloody show”, which gave me some reassurance that I was right – things were moving along.  I continued with my pelvic tilts while Andrew called the hospital and again got the car ready.  *End BOP*

This time, I intended to arrive relaxed and focused, so I started a script before getting in the car, where I curled up with a blanket, closed my eyes, and just focused on my relaxation.  Once there, I kept listening while my husband talked with the nurses and they readied triage for me.  This time, when directed to put on the gown, I smiled and let them know that I wasn’t planning to wear one.  They seemed a little surprised, but informed me when they came back in again that they saw I had a birth plan and had read it.  From that point on, everything I had asked for was noted by every person who came into contact with me.  It was amazing.  I didn’t even have to use the extra copies I had brought of my birthing preferences, because everyone made a point of reading the copy the doctors had put in my chart.

Once hooked up to the fetal monitors, my waves slowed down again, but I tried to stay calm, confident, and excited as I waited, and listened to Easy First Stage.  When the doctor came in to check my cervix this time, I was pleased to hear that I was 6cm and fully effaced.  I wasn’t at the 8 or 9 I was hoping for, but that was okay.  *BOP* Upon confirmation that this was the real deal, the nurse who had been working with us wanted to insert my heparin lock.  I never wanted one in the first place, but this was an area where I agreed to compromise because it was very important to the doctors.  So, I didn’t have an IV, but I did agree to have a hep lock in place.  I was feeling very uncomfortable, strapped to the chair and monitors in triage and really wanted to wait until I was a bit more comfortable to have the hep lock inserted.  The nurse, however, had a different plan.  Suddenly, she was sitting next to me, prepping my arm.  I asked if she could wait and she completely and totally ignored me and stuck the needle in.  I was furious.  The only other difficult part in triage was when the doctor came in to go over consent forms with me.  I had pre-registered, so I thought I was done with paperwork and was glad I hadn’t been asked  to sign anything okaying the full range of interventions.  Apparently they save all that for when you’re admitted.  The doctor started in with a statement about how childbirth is one of the most dangerous things a woman can do today, which I thought was completely inappropriate, and then went on to carefully go over everything he needed me to consent to.  I sat and listened as he explained the circumstances in which I might need a blood transfusion, a C Section, and so on.  He went into the risks of each, all things I knew and all things I really didn’t need to be hearing right then.  If I birth in a hospital again, I will make every effort to take care of paperwork like this ahead of time, and to shush the doctors if a similar situation arises.  At least he paused when I was having pressure waves!  *End BOP*

The hospital was more full than it had ever been so I had to wait awhile in triage while they moved a mom from one of the birthing rooms to a postpartum room and cleaned it for me.  I was absolutely thrilled when change of shift came and a nurse who I know came on and asked for me.  She worked at the local birthing center prior to coming on at the hospital so she’s very respectful of natural birth and is just extremely warm and caring.  When she came in and let me know she was going to be my nurse, I knew immediately that things were going to be so much better during the rest of my stay : )  Soon the doctors changed shifts as well, and I learned one of my favorites, a doctor who trained along with midwives, came on.  Everything was working out beautifully.

I was finally in my room sometime around 8:00am.  *BOP* Once there, I spent 20 minutes out of each hour on the fetal monitors and these were the most challenging times.  It was hard for me to work with the pain in my back when I was stuck in bed. *End BOP*  When the monitors were off, everything was wonderful.  It was just me and my husband in the room and he was so good.  He applied heat and pressure to my back, let me lean on him as needed, and reminded me to relax and breathe with every wave.  I can truly say that each hour felt like much less.  The time went very, very quickly.  I used the windowsill to squat, bounced on the birthing ball, stood and swayed back and forth, and also worked through quite a few intense waves in the … restroom.  That turned out to be one of the most comfortable positions – I wish I could have pushed there!  I vocalized more than I expected I would, with rather loud mms and aahs as my waves peaked.  That and the breathing gave me something to focus on and was quite helpful.  I am so glad that I had the practice with deep breathing from each script, because that was really what got me through and helped me to stay relaxed and focused through the more intense waves.  My nurse commented a few times that I was “so relaxed and zen.”

At around 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon, the doctor came in and checked my cervix again.  She said that I had only a slight anterior lip of cervix and could gently bear down at any time, but that I should let them know when I really felt the urge to push.  My membranes were still intact at this point, and the doctor explained that she didn’t feel it was a good idea for a full term baby to be born en caul.  I had in my birthing preferences that I did not want my membranes ruptured artificially, because I did not want my pressure waves to intensify before it was time.  However, I had never heard of any concerns over the baby being born in the bag of waters.  I didn’t have any background knowledge on the issue, and I was becoming quite tired, still with no urge to push, so I decided to trust the doctor on that one and sometime around 3:30 I had the nurse bring her in to break my water.  Either my waves didn’t intensify all that much, or I had successfully brought myself deeper into relaxation, but the next bit was just very exciting.  I knew that the time was near.  I began feeling the urge to push several waves later, so the nurse checked my cervix and said she didn’t think I’d be pushing for long.  She went to notify the doctor and the corpsman who would take care of everything for the baby came in as well.  Then, the nurse and my husband went about setting up the squat bar.  I started out trying to use that, but couldn’t quite get the hang of it.  Instead, my husband sat on the edge of the bed and I squatted on the ground in front of him, using him as support.  Pushing was wonderful.  I just loved knowing that I was that close to holding my baby.  When it got close enough that I could feel her head, I decided to move to a side lying position, as it felt best to push hard, and I didn’t want to push her out faster than my body could stretch.  I moved up to the bed and Andrew stayed right beside me while the OB literally sat on the end of the bed and waited.  She was totally hands-off, which I really appreciated.  The nurse held my foot up during pressure waves so I had something to press against.  At one point, I guess my leg got very near the doc, because she said I could feel free to prop my foot on her shoulder!  Such a wonderful doctor!  Up to this point, the baby’s heart rate had been beautiful, but toward the end, the doctor grew concerned over how deeply it was decelerating and said that I needed to get her out with the next couple of pushes.  At this point, I really started pushing long and hard.  She was coming, but it took more than a couple of pushes.  Finally, the doctor calmly said I could either push really hard now, or we could cut an episiotomy.  I think she knew that was the motivation I needed.  My response was an exhausted, “Let’s do the not episiotomy one!” and my beautiful daughter was out in the next two pushes.

It happened so fast that I didn’t even fully realize she’d been born until she was on my chest.  She was perfect.  I was surprised to see a full head of dark hair.  She looked just exactly like her daddy.  I just enjoyed holding her skin to skin while the corpsman came over and started rubbing her vigorously with a very coarse towel. That part broke my heart and I got a bit protective.  I told him she was fine and he said she had to get dry or she’d get cold.  I told him to put blankets over her and she’d be fine.  I was too busy staring my baby to tell which, but either the doctor or the nurse backed me up on that one and soon I was snuggling my sweet girl without any other unwanted hands disturbing us.  We bonded while the doctor gave me a few stitches.  I gave the baby a few minutes to see if she would go to the breast on her own.  She inched toward it, but didn’t show an interest in latching just yet.  Eventually, I handed her over to her daddy so he could take her over for her measurements.  I just stared – he looked so comfortable holding her.  She was a tiny 6lbs and 15oz and 19.25 inches long.  When I got her back, she nursed a bit and the three of us were left alone to bond.

I had to be moved to another room for the night as my room was needed for another birthing mom.  Unfortunately, because the hospital was so full, Andrew was not allowed to stay the night with us.  Around 10pm, he headed home to get some rest.  I kept my bed in a semi-reclining position, so that I could sleep with my sweet girl in my arms.  The next morning, we were both doing well enough that I was able to convince the pediatrician and the OB to send us home early.  Their general rule is to keep first time moms for 48 hours, so we were happy to be heading out the door immediately after Annabelle’s 24 hour screening.

I believe I really could have practiced my hypno-tools more.  I never felt that I could really visualize my birth, and I very seldom practiced my finger drops.  I could have prepared myself better, but I’m so glad that I used the program.  I truly felt confident and relaxed most of the time and I was able to accept everything that my birthing time brought.