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Empowering birth for 2nd time mom. She wasn’t completely comfortable throughout the birth, but her Hypnobabies helped her have the natural birth she wanted.
I got a lot out of reading all of the birth stories of other mothers using Hypnobabies, and am happy to be able to share my own successful experience. I did not have a painless childbirth (so you might want to turn on the BOP here), but Hypnobabies allowed me to feel in control, keep a positive attitude, and ultimately to have the natural birth I really wanted. I’m still kind of in shock about how amazing the experience was, and that I really did it!
To provide some context, this was my second baby. The first, three years ago, was a less-than-ideal hospital birth. My water broke before labor began, and pretty intensive induction had to happen to get things going. This led to the classic cascade of interventions, and I only narrowly avoided a c-section. The worst of the interventions was the narcotics that I took, since they didn’t seem to help with the pain, but made me so out of it that I couldn’t communicate and felt out of control and isolated. I really wanted to avoid narcotics this time around, along with all of the other things (epidural, episiotomy, vacuum extraction, etc.).
This time around, I started hypnobabies at 28 weeks, and was very diligent about doing the scripts, affirmations, and daily finger-drop practices. During the maintenance phase, I slacked off on the daily affirmations, since I found them kind of annoying. My spouse (Michael) and I joked a lot about the bubble of peace since we were a little embarrassed about the new-agey-ness of using hypnosis, but we got over it eventually.
To get to the birth: I had been having practice pressure waves for weeks, some of which would get fairly regular and intense and lead me to think I was moving into active labor. So by the time I got to 41 weeks, I was getting pretty tired and frustrated with myself. At my 39 week appointment, my OB told me that he was going on a spur-of-the-moment two week trip to France on the day after my guess date. I hadn’t seen anyone in his large practice except for him, but he assured me that everyone was great. I had to take several very deep breaths at this news! I ended up having a doctor who I’d never seen before deliver Daphne, but since we were forewarned, Michael was ready to be assertive with our wishes.
I started having more regular pressure waves (or “tummy squeezes” as we referred to them with our toddler nearby the whole time) around 4:30 in the afternoon on the 17th of September, but I could tell it was very early on if it was the real thing at all. When visualizing my ideal birth as part of the practice, I had always visualized early labor happening during the nighttime, and doing it all by myself. I think that because I am a night owl, I really wanted the peace of being by myself during the night, and that’s exactly how it worked out. I went to bed that night as usual but woke up around 2am not able to sleep through the waves. I tried going into the “off” position while lying in bed, but found it too difficult (and, frankly, painful) to lie still through a wave. This made me discouraged about all the hypnosis practice I’d done, but I just decided to try all of the other tools before giving up. I got up then and started puttering around the house a bit, timed some waves, and then decided to make some cookies for the hospital staff just in case. Cookie baking is an ideal activity during early labor, it turns out, since you can go slowly and because it’s such a comfortingly familiar activity (at least for me). I did continue to time waves at this point, and they were pretty consistently 8 minutes apart, lasting about a minute. During each wave I would lean my forehead against the wall, say “peace” to myself, and pictured my cervix opening. It sounds cheesy, but it really helped keep the focus on what the waves were accomplishing, and made me feel good about each one instead of thinking of it as some kind of ordeal to get through. Others have described them as pressure moving up the uterus, or around the back. For me, I didn’t notice any pressure at all. Instead, all of the sensation was concentrated in my cervix, and it was almost exactly as if I was way overdoing it on a stretching exercise. I tried “painting” on my anesthesia, but it didn’t fully take care of the pain.
When my three-year-old and spouse woke up, I got dressed and we did our usual morning routine. He took her to school with her sleep-over kit since I was pretty sure this was it and that my friend would be picking her up from school that day. She was very excited and kept rubbing my back and saying “peace” during each wave, which was so sweet (but frankly, I wanted her out of there as soon as possible!). After she left, the waves continued at the same pace (6 min or so) but got more and more intense. I got through some in the cat position (on all fours); another handy position was standing in a doorway so that I could press the wall against my lower back. The most annoying thing was that the baby was so low that I had to pee after every single wave! My husband is really supportive, but I found myself still wanting to be by myself, and feeling the littlest bit self-conscious about having him there watching me through each wave. So I suggested that he go ahead and attend his theater rehearsal that morning, since it’s only a 10-minute drive away. I read a little bit in between waves, listened to “easy first stage” (which was great, except for during pressure waves I found it very annoying that the script was telling me that they didn’t hurt!). He was hesitant, but he went! I finally called him about 1pm and told him that I wanted him home again, but that I also really wanted a strawberry lemonade and to stop and get one (this is weird, since I don’t usually drink or even particularly like these!). At this point the baby felt really low, and one of the only positions that was comfortable was on my birth ball (which I hadn’t previously found to be comfortable at all).
When he got home with the amazingly tasty lemonade, we timed some more waves and found that they were about 4 minutes apart. Now I was really moaning through each one, and hanging on Michael, which felt good. I was really worried about showing up too early at the hospital, but started thinking that it was probably time to go.
I waited until a wave had passed while Michael loaded the car, then we shot out the door. Our small community hospital is only 10 minutes away, and I hoped to get there with only one pressure wave in the car. I turned on the “easy first stage” script, which really helped me feel calm and in control (one line that kept repeating itself in my head was “I am safe and my baby is safe.”). The one pressure wave was managed and we arrived at the hospital. I told Michael to leave the hospital bag in the car, since I was still worried that I’d get sent home (note: don’t do this! Take it with you, since you won’t want your support person to leave for an instant!). We made it inside after a few more waves (I had my ipod on the whole time and would just stop and hang on Michael), and I let Michael figure out where we were supposed to go. I had to take the headphones off to answer a few questions once we got to labor and delivery, and they sent me to the bathroom to change. I got into a triage room and the nurse came in and set me up on the monitor and checked me out. She quickly told me that I was staying, since I was 7 centimeters and she could barely measure because the baby’s head was in the way! I was elated! At this point (or maybe sometime before), I entered transition, and since I was hooked up to the monitor, I couldn’t use the positions that I wanted. The room seemed unbearably hot (it was…it’s an old facility and the AC couldn’t keep up with the central valley heat). Michael just held my hand and kept saying “relax” and “you’re doing a great job” with every wave, and began blowing on my face during each wave. It felt wonderful, both because it was cool and because it smelled pleasantly and familiarly of old coffee, just like always!
Somehow everything he did was exactly what I needed, and despite feeling like it was nearly unbearable, there was also a calm voice in the back of my head the whole time, telling me that this was transition, that everything was going as it should, etc. Several times I felt like saying “I can’t do this anymore,” but instead I found myself saying “I can do this” out loud. The calm voice inside my head kept repeating things from the scripts, too, like “relax your jaw, keep your bottom limp and loose,” etc. With this self-coaching, I was able to fully relax in between waves, which I think really helped. The nurse was gone much of the time (it turns out that there was a rush at the time we came in).
The oddest, and in retrospect the coolest, thing about transition was the calming “safe place” images that would flash into my mind during and between waves. I’d come up with a pretty generic safe place that never felt particularly meaningful when I was doing the scripts. When things really got going, though, my subconscious dredged up three or four images that I would never have thought of. For instance, I kept picturing my grandma’s pink and lavender floral bathroom that we used to lock ourselves in as kids and pretend was our own glamorous home, or a pond that I once went swimming in when I was 19 and visiting France. That strawberry lemonade kept reappearing, too, and every time I thought “wow, that was such a great drink!” The other strange thing that happened was that I realized that I could stay on top of each wave by singing (I know that others have reported this, but I am emphatically NOT a singer!). It wasn’t really singing, it was more a high-pitched “woo-hoo-woo-wooooooo” with some scales thrown in for good measure. Michael started giggling when I let loose with this, and kept saying, “it’s so cute!” At the time, I really didn’t like him laughing at me, but I certainly understand it now! The nurse asked Michael if we’d been doing some kind of Lamaze training, and he just said no (he didn’t mention hypnobabies, unfortunately), and she said, “well, you’re certainly doing something right!” She offered me something for pain, and it didn’t even cross my mind to say yes, and she didn’t ask again.
My water broke during a wave while the nurse was gone, and it was all I could do to say “Water broke! Water broke!” to her when she came back in, and then I had to resume my creepy singing. The pressure at this point, instead of feeling relieved, felt even more intense, and I thought, “I wonder if this is that pushing urge people were talking about.” Just as soon as I thought that, the singing abruptly changed to a low-pitched “Urgggggg” sort of sound, and I told the nurse I felt like pushing. She ran off and got another nurse, and there was some debate about whether to try to get me to a delivery room or to try to set up the triage area (probably about 12×12 feet in area) for the delivery. The other nurse said, “let’s go,” and they started pushing the bed out of the room. I felt great at this point; it was kind of cool to have a physical change of scene to mark the transition to the second stage of labor. However, the delivery room was kind of a shock. There was the usual bed, and then these two gigantic lights like what the dentist has, only larger. I think I said something about being at the dentist, and Michael laughed. It wasn’t very peaceful, but nothing seemed to matter anymore, as I was pretty deep inside myself. I somehow got onto the table (there was no discussion at all of alternative pushing positions, but at that point I didn’t care and just needed to push). I started to push and a new nurse, who was the only one I didn’t really like, told me sternly not to – right!
The doctor, who I’d never met, showed up then and introduced himself (although he never introduced or mentioned the two residents who were with him, which was weird). At this point it gets just a little blurry, although I remember the (nice) nurse telling Michael “your wife is awesome!” which made me feel great! The nurses and doctors started coaching me on pushing, holding my breath to counts of 10. I kind of feebly said that my body wanted to do little pushes, but nobody paid any attention (Michael says he didn’t hear me, so maybe I imagined saying something assertive!). The doctor was really great about coaching me on how to push (and to stop making noise and channel that energy), and at one point he stopped and said, “but what do I know? You’ve actually done this before, and I haven’t!” That also made me really like him!
I’m not sure how long I pushed, but there were what seemed like nice long breaks in between each session to rest. It was kind of awkward from my perspective, since I was lying there completely calmly, legs spread wide open with a bunch of people staring at my hoo-ha with nothing much to do. At one point, one nurse asked another if she’d gotten her flu shot yet, and I was reminded once again of being at the dentist and having the hygienist chat with the dentist over my gaping mouth. Basically, it was kind of surreal! The pushing itself didn’t hurt but was very intense and hard work. Finally everyone was cheering at the end of a count of 10, and he said that the baby had made it under the bone. I geared up for one more go, and one of the nurses said, “look at all that hair!”
Then I really gave it everything I had, and as the baby crowned I heard myself start screaming in a really loud and scary way, totally disproportionate to the pain I felt…it was weird how out of my control my voice was! I heard the doctor say “I’m just going to make some room here” and then felt him make an incision, which I was so disappointed about (although I was beyond worrying about much at this point!). They also put a catheter in at this point to drain my bladder and make more room, which I barely felt at all. With the next push, the baby’s head was born, and I could see her little face. I felt such enormous relief once her head was born, but I also felt that I didn’t have any energy left for the rest of her body! Luckily the shoulders and the rest of her came out almost without my trying, and there she was! The placenta followed soon after, and actually felt kind of good to deliver. The nurses whisked her off to be toweled off, and I heard the nurses exchanging guesses about the weight (one nurse said, “she’s at least an 8-pounder,” which amazed me, and the other nurse said, “we’ve got a shorty here,” which disappointed my basketball-loving husband!), but they quickly brought her back to me and put her on my chest. It was 4:30pm, just about two hours after arriving at the hospital. I couldn’t see her face much, since it was up so high on my chest, but she was incredibly calm and alert, and just looked all around. She looked like a baby from a movie, all plump and pink (she weighed almost 8.5 pounds!) I offered her a breast, and she did some nuzzling and licking, and just a little bit of nursing right away. It was so sweet! Michael gave me a big kiss, and we just looked and looked at her. Or at least, I tried to focus on her, because meanwhile the doctor and the two residents were working on stitching up the tear that I had gotten despite the episiotomy. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t pleasant, and my legs were so tired that they started shaking and I felt like I just could stay in that position any longer. And the doctor was patiently explaining the procedure to the residents, and one of them was manning the needle and thread, and was being (it seemed to me), incredibly slow about it.
I can’t say that the whole experience was pleasant, or that I even ever want to do it again, but at the same time it was incredibly powerful, and gave me a huge sense of accomplishment. I still am kind of on an endorphin high from the experience, over a week later, and feel like there isn’t much I can’t do! It was so much better being part of the experience instead of feeling so isolated and removed from what was happening to me like I was with my first birth. I also feel like I sort of undid the anger and disappointment that I still felt about that first birth by being so successful with this one – I’m sure there are lots of other reasons for this, but I can’t help but think that my lack of baby blues this time around have something to do with the Hypnobabies (I cried uncontrollably for days after my first baby was born). The Hypnobabies training didn’t work in the way that I expected it to, but it definitely worked!
The other big help was reading all of the other birth stories on the site, which made me so sure of myself and where I was in the process – I could almost hear reassuring lines from other moms’ stories in my head at different points of labor!