Eva’s Hypnobabies Home Waterbirth with a Surprise Ending
“The waves were quite close together now and felt different than before – more pushy. By now the midwives had arrived and I heard them setting things up. The birth tub still wasn’t filled, and I was beginning to worry it wouldn’t be filled in time. On one pushy wave, still lying on my side on the bed, I felt something come out – bloody show. On the very next wave, my waters released. “She’s coming!” I exclaimed!”
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My first birth was a hospital waterbirth using Hypnobabies under the care of midwives and attended by my husband and our hypno-doula, Laura. It was a calm and peaceful journey to bring my son into the world. My Hypnobabies techniques kept me grounded, calm, and internally focused throughout my 20-hour birthing time (Hypnobabies term for labor). When I became pregnant with our second child, my plan was the same as for my first. I received care from the same team of midwives, again with plans for a hospital waterbirth and to have my husband and doula Laura in attendance. Like my first, the pregnancy was progressing smoothly and without complication.
However, the world soon became much more complicated. As I was starting my third trimester, states were issuing stay-at-home orders to stem the spread of COVID-19, which had been recently declared a global pandemic. Hospitals were formulating and re-formulating COVID-19 policies. Hospitals were allowing only one support person to accompany people in their birthing time. In New York City, some hospitals briefly barred any support person at all. Hospitals were locked down and eerily quiet; receiving prenatal care, I was greeted by people in masks waiving symptom checklists and keeping me at a six feet distance. When I went to the lab for my gestational diabetes screening test, the phlebotomist was also acting as receptionist. I was the only patient there.
I started wondering about an out-of-hospital birth. I had already been having a nagging anxiety about the hospital midwife practice that I couldn’t seem to shake. This was only worsened by changing policies and schedules with COVID-19. I also was anxious about the uncertainty of what hospital COVID-19 policies would look like during my birthing time, as these were changing weekly, nor did I have confidence that these policies would be sufficiently nuanced to appropriately accommodate childbirth. At 30 weeks, my doula sent me a list of local homebirth midwives and I started making inquiries. In the initial interview with Kate, a local homebirth midwife, I immediately felt at ease. I was able to be open with her in ways that I wasn’t with my previous midwives and I found her responses thoughtful and reassuring. For example, in the anatomy ultrasound at 18 weeks, baby had been labeled as being in a breech position. While I rationally knew babies changed position frequently at that stage and that >95% of babies are head down at birth, it continued to worry me. I couldn’t shake the “breech” label that I’d seen on the ultrasound pictures. I hadn’t found space to express this to my previous care team and felt silly for worrying about it. With Kate, I just blurted it out. She was kind and told me all the things that I knew but needed to hear. Pandemic or not, I had found the midwife I wanted to attend my birth.
One aspect of Hypnobabies that I’ve found especially powerful in both my births is the Visualize Your Birth track. For my first pregnancy, I had visualized time of day, weather, progression of the first stage of my birthing time, all of which came to pass. I also had a strong sense that my son would be born on his guess date (Hypnobabies term for due date). And he was. For my second pregnancy, I also had a strong image of how things would start (around 11am, after being outside with a cool breeze and not too hot) and the specific date of the birth (this time a few days after my guess date). I also made a point of visualizing later stages of my birthing time as well. I hadn’t visualized the later stages for my first birth, and while these later stages did go smoothly, I experienced moments of anxiety at not being sure what to expect next. This time, armed with the experience of my first, I visualized that I would be able to feel baby’s progress and descent in these later stages, especially in the pushing phase. With my first, I felt like I pushed and pushed, but didn’t feel progress until suddenly baby emerged. This time, I wanted to feel baby’s progress, to breath baby out gently, and to know that she was coming. I also visualized a shorter pushing phase.
As my self-predicted birth date approached, I noted that the weather forecast was quite hot, with a dip in temperatures coming later in the week. Thus, I thought perhaps things would be delayed, as I assumed that the envisioned environmental conditions would be more influential than any specific calendar date. On the morning of my self-predicted, I went outside to examine my neglected vegetable garden. I made a number of mental notes about tasks I might undertake that day – pruning, weeding, transplanting. I remember listening to our wind chimes and the birds’ songs. I felt a cool breeze, despite the predicted heat for the day. I came back inside and remembered that I still needed to respond to some emails, so I sat on an exercise ball at my computer while my son watched Sesame Street and my husband went out to do some errands. At 11:47 am, I felt my abdomen tense and then release. At 11:57 am, I felt it again. At 12:07 pm, I texted my husband that I thought things might be starting. At 12:17 pm, I emailed a work colleague to let her know that I needed some documents within the hour to finalize, as baby was probably coming that day!
I did my best to write unfinished emails in between waves (Hypnobabies term for contractions) every 10 minutes. After a little while, I lied down and listened to the Hypnobabies Birthing Day Affirmations track. Then I had lunch, during which my husband noted that I seemed to be pausing every five minutes instead of ten. Indeed, the main waves were still 10 minutes apart, but a mini wave had also appeared right in between! After lunch, I again sat at my computer on my birthing ball to finish revising the documents I had been sent. It was hard! The mini wave was getting stronger and I was having to pause every 5 minutes. It was a relief when I finally sent that last email; I again went to lie on the bed and listened to more birthing day affirmations.
My husband had been updating our doula and midwife about my status. He told me that our midwife had asked him to update her if the waves become closer together or if I started to vocalize. I didn’t think the vocalizing was a good indicator for me, as I had been extremely inwardly focused and externally quiet with my first. At this point, around 4 pm, I decided to take a shower. As I was standing in the warm stream of water with waves coming over me, I spontaneously started vocalizing. Making low tones helped direct the intensity of the waves. I felt like I was concentrating that intensity and sending it towards my cervix. I was starting to think that perhaps it was time for everyone to come. But the shower felt so good, it took me a while before I wanted to get out.
Around 5 pm, I was out of the shower and updated my husband. He asked our doula to come and updated our midwife. From my first birth, I remembered my doula mentioning that sometimes people like to sit on the toilet during their birthing time, a place where we naturally relax our bottoms. She had said that you can sit backwards and rest your head on the tank. This appealed to me, so I decided to try it, grabbing a pillow to cushion the tank. Sitting on the toilet was intense, but it also felt good to be able to relax through the waves and fully surrender to the process. It felt productive. I stayed there for a good long time and that’s where my doula found me once she arrived just before 6 pm. (She later told me they call the toilet the “dilation station”, which I thought was apt). My doula had brought her three-month-old (which we had discussed ahead of time) and the first thing I heard when she came into the bathroom was the cooing of her baby. What a delightful sound in the throes of birth! I had no idea that baby noises would be so comforting. My doula put her hand on my shoulder and used the Release & Relax cues (Hypnobabies cues to go deeper into hypnosis). I immediately relaxed even more under the strong, calming pressure of her hand.
Soon after that, I started feeling that perhaps I needed a break from the intensity. I felt like lying down. My doula helped me up and I walked slowly into the hallway between the bathroom and our bedroom. I lunged against the wall and stretched through a few waves. Then, just as I was starting to head to the bedroom, a wave interrupted me. I again pushed against the wall in a lunge. But on top of that wave came another wave, and another, and another. It really did feel like being in the wake of a boat, up and down, waves coming rapidly and a bit chaotically. “Aha,” I thought, “This is transformation (Hypnobabies term for transition)! I guess I won’t make it to the bedroom just yet.” And just like that, I surrendered once again to the experience, feeling like a canoe bobbing up and down. My doula massaged my back and hips. She said she could feel baby moving down.
Following transformation, I finally did make it to the bed to lie down. It was a relief, though it took me a few waves to get fully settled and comfortable, as I was pausing and going deep into hypnosis for each one. The waves were quite close together now and felt different than before – more pushy. By now the midwives had arrived and I heard them setting things up. The birth tub still wasn’t filled, and I was beginning to worry it wouldn’t be filled in time. On one pushy wave, still lying on my side on the bed, I felt something come out – bloody show. On the very next wave, my waters released. “She’s coming!” I exclaimed!
A few more waves later, I got the news I wanted: the tub was full! The water was warm, and my body felt buoyant. I leaned over the cushy side of the tub, kneeling. During waves, I could feel baby moving further and further down, just like I had visualized. I was continuing to vocalize during waves and my doula reminded me to make low tones. Unlike my first birth, I didn’t feel like I was bearing down or deliberately pushing; it felt gentler and more internal – my muscles knew exactly what to do. Another wave came and I felt baby move even lower and then…she started hiccupping, which was a bizarrely unpleasant sensation. Luckily, it didn’t last long. Soon after, my midwife said she could see the head!
During the very last wave, I felt the urge to push. As baby emerged, it felt like my body was unfolding; an image of a flower bud opening to full bloom flashed in my mind. After I felt what I assumed was her head emerged, the urge to push didn’t stop, so I kept pushing. Then I felt some kind of limb emerge. And then another and another and another. It felt like the limbs just kept coming and I just kept pushing them out. How many limbs could she possibly have?? Honestly, it felt like giving birth to an octopus. At the end of that one long push, she was out, only 10 minutes after I had gotten in the birthing tub. As I reached into the water and pulled her up to my chest (all two arms and two legs of her), I heard my midwife exclaim, “She came out breech! It wasn’t a head. It was a butt!” This explained my sensations. First her bottom had emerged, then her legs unfolded, followed by her body, arms and shoulders, and finally her head. A surprise breech birth! My original fear had actually come to pass, but it had turned out just fine.
My recovery from this birth was amazingly easy. I had just a small first-degree tear. When I tell people about my daughter’s birth and that she was breech, I can see them shudder at the idea. I think they are envisioning adult proportions. They also assume that because she was breech, the birth and recovery must have been difficult. Nothing could be further from my experience! My birthing time was smooth, intuitive, and intense but comfortable. Her emergence was an especially gentle experience for me (and I hope for her, too!). She was born exactly as she needed to be.