First Time Mom Carolyn’s Fast, Easy Hypnobabies Birth
“I kept listening to Easy First Stage (Hypnobabies main birthing day track) on my phone. Fred did a great job using my Peace cue (Hypnobabies technique for instant physical comfort) during pressure waves (Hypnobabies word for contraction), and between the waves, we talked and joked like normal.”
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Our birth story started on Friday, January 25, exactly two weeks before my guess date (Hypnobabies term for due date). That evening my husband, Fred, picked me up from work, and I told him excitedly I’d felt a pressure wave (Hypnobabies word for contraction) for the first time in my pregnancy. He asked if that meant the baby was coming soon, and I said I didn’t know but that for some reason I felt like the baby would come early. We went home, watched a cooking show on Netflix, and decided to try making homemade pasta for dinner the next night. Little did we imagine how we would actually be spending the weekend!
At 2:30 the next morning, I woke up feeling strangely crampy and thinking my stomach was upset. After I tried using the bathroom, to no avail, it occurred to me that I might be having more pressure waves. I curled up on the living room sofa and listened to two Hypnobabies tracks (Visualize Your Birth (Hypnobabies track that walks you through the perfect birth) and Your Birthing Time Begins), which helped me focus and relax. The waves started coming a little more frequently, and I downloaded an app to time them just in case they were the real thing. As they got more intense, I tried to lessen the discomfort by telling myself the waves felt like a warm, loving hug or a blood pressure cuff that was fully inflated. They really didn’t feel like a hug, so during each wave I chanted, “Blood pressure cuff, blood pressure cuff!” and was able to feel the sensation as pressure, not pain. However, feeling like I was stuck in an extremely tight blood pressure cuff for sixty seconds at a time was still somewhat uncomfortable.
I kept timing the waves on the app. I thought I must be doing it wrong because the app said the waves were almost a minute long and about three minutes apart. I knew if that was true I should go to the hospital right away, but the sensations were so manageable that I was sure it could not be time yet. (I have had period cramps that were far worse.) Around 7:30 am, I got into a hot shower to soothe some of the pressure. I leaned against the wall and rode through a few waves, envisioning them as ocean waves surging forward and carrying my baby toward me in a tiny boat. Fred woke up around then and came into the bathroom looking for me. I told him I’d been having pressure waves pretty regularly and showed him my phone with the timer app on the bathroom counter. He said, “So should I cancel my jiu-jitsu class for this morning?” I told him definitely yes.
He left to go cancel the class, and I got out of the shower and almost immediately discovered some bright red spotting. That convinced me that today was the day. I called my OB’s office and told the doctor on call about the pressure waves and spotting, and he said he’d let the hospital know I was on the way. I had my bag packed, but Fred did not, so I sat in the car and listened to Easy First Stage (Hypnobabies main birthing day track) until my phone died (it was supposed to be charging in the car, but the charger didn’t work). Half an hour later Fred loaded the car with our overnight bags and some snacks, and we headed to the hospital. I kept listening to Easy First Stage on my phone. Fred did a great job using my Peace cue (Hypnobabies technique for instant physical comfort) during pressure waves, and between the waves, we talked and joked like normal. At one point I asked him, laughing a little nervously, “What did I sign up for nine months ago?!” I was excited to give birth, but it was still sinking in that we were having the baby today.
We got to the hospital around 9:00 am. A valet brought out a wheelchair for me, which I accepted because it was a bit icy on the pavement. I told the front desk attendant, “Good morning, I’m here to have a baby!” She chuckled and directed me to the labor and delivery ward on the third floor. I was worried that the nurses there wouldn’t believe my birthing time had started because I was very calm and able to walk and have a normal conversation, but they greeted me kindly, checked me in, and directed me down the hall to an exam room.
A nurse came in to do an internal exam. After a few seconds, she said, “I need to get someone else to confirm this, but it seems like you’re eight or nine centimeters dilated. You can start pushing soon!” Fred and I were thrilled. We couldn’t believe I was so far along already—I had only been dilated one centimeter at my last exam two weeks before. I gave the nurse my list of birth preferences, which included having no pain meds. She said, “I’m glad we don’t have to crush your dreams of having an epidural!” since I was almost too far along to get one anyway.
In the birthing room, Fred turned on Easy First Stage for me, and I asked for some water to sip. (Aside from my Hypnobabies tracks, a cup of water was the only thing I used to manage the discomfort during the rest of the birth.) The doctor came in to examine me and asked if she could break my water, and I said yes. A warm flood of pea-green water came out, releasing a lot of the pressure in my belly. There was meconium in the water, so the doctor said we would need to have the NICU staff there for the birth and would not be able to do delayed cord clamping or immediate skin-to-skin like I had wanted. I was disappointed but willing to do whatever was safest for my baby.
Soon after that, the transformation stage (Hypnobabies word for transition) began. The pressure waves became longer and a lot more intense. They did not register as painful, but the pressure was incredibly intense and uncomfortable. I forgot to use my light switch (Hypnobabies technique to enter hypnosis) and started howling and screaming through each wave just to release the pressure. I asked for the head of the bed to be raised vertically and draped my arms and chest over it with my eyes closed. I also had to wear an oxygen mask because the baby’s heart rate was a little low. Fred kept playing my tracks out loud; after a while, I barely heard the words, but the familiar voice and music kept me in a calm and focused zone. In retrospect, transformation would have been a great time to use counter pressure, but Fred and I had not actually practiced using it and I forgot about it in the moment. He did try to gently rub my back, and I snapped, “Don’t touch me!” followed by an apologetic “I love you.” Staying in my own inward zone with my eyes closed was the only thing that felt good to me. I did feel really bad that my screaming would make Fred think I was suffering. I thought about explaining that it didn’t hurt—the inescapable, viselike pressure was just extremely frustrating—but I wanted him to take my experience as seriously as possible, so I decided to tell him afterward.
After an hour or two, the nurse said she was going to check to see if I was fully dilated and ready to push. I told her, “I am pushing!” The baby was starting to crown. The nurse told me to reach down and feel the head; it was wet and very hairy, and it felt quite surreal to be touching my baby. I began pushing gently with each wave after that, still on my knees leaning over the bed. I had read and been told several times that pushing is involuntary, like vomiting, which I took to mean I wouldn’t have to do much work. (I would soon discover that in my case at least, this was not true.)
The doctor, several nurses, and the NICU staff came in, and the doctor said I needed to finish pushing on my back with my feet in stirrups because the baby’s heart rate was still low. That was the end of my mother-directed pushing experience. After getting in position on my back, I closed my eyes again and kept them closed for the rest of the birth. The whole team started shouting at me to bring my knees to my chest, push, and hold for ten seconds, over and over. I pushed as hard as I could each time, but I couldn’t sense anything happening. Fred told me later that every time I pushed, the baby’s head would come out a little bit, then go back in again, then come a little further out with the next push.
However, I wasn’t aware of any progress, having emphatically declined a mirror. I did not want to see what I looked like in that state. In retrospect, a mirror might have helped a lot by allowing me to see the baby’s progress. The lack of progress (from my perspective) got so discouraging that I asked if I could get on my hands and knees for better leverage, but the doctor said no—the baby’s heart rate was still too low. I was concerned to hear this but knew that the only thing I could do to help my baby was to keep pushing, so I focused on doing that. From time to time the doctor would do some perineal massage, which I barely felt. Throughout the whole pushing stage, I didn’t feel any pain. Pushing felt really physically satisfying, although it was very hard work and the baby still wasn’t coming out. The doctor started helping me with the vacuum, which I would have declined if asked beforehand, but in the moment I just wanted the baby sucked right out of me.
Finally, after fifteen or twenty minutes of pushing, I felt an amazing stretching sensation, a small sharp twinge, and the baby’s head and body came shooting out in one big push. The doctor laid the baby on my belly, and I put out my hand and felt a tiny, warm, slippery, wiggling body. I opened my eyes and saw my daughter Isla for the first time. She was red, dark-haired, and covered in white vernix. After nine months of waiting for her, I couldn’t believe she was suddenly out.
The NICU team whisked Isla to the back of the room to suction out the meconium. Fred went with them to watch. He hadn’t been interested earlier in cutting the cord, but a nurse handed him scissors and he did it. Isla was six pounds five ounces and twenty inches long. Despite the meconium and low heart rate during birth, she got an Apgar score of 9 out of 9.
The doctor palpated my abdomen, and a few seconds later the placenta came slithering out. Fred asked in horror, “Is that her liver?!” It turns out that the whole time I was pregnant, he thought the placenta was a type of liquid and was very surprised to see a large, purple, mushroom-shaped organ coming out of me.
The NICU team brought Isla back and laid her on my chest. She was beautiful and exquisite, with delicate long eyelashes and a full head of dark hair. It was an amazing moment: only three hours after we arrived at the hospital, I was holding our first child in my arms. While I was nursing her, the doctor stitched me up, which is when I discovered I’d gotten a second-degree tear. I didn’t feel either the tearing or the stitching; despite my forgetting to use my light switch, the hypno-anesthesia I’d practiced worked on its own, for which I was profoundly grateful.
I am so thankful for my calm, fearless, and almost painless Hypnobabies birth. Taking the home study course and reading birth stories from other Hypno-moms gave me a lot of confidence and excitement about giving birth, and my experience was even easier and more manageable than I’d expected (and much faster). A few minutes after Isla was born, I told Fred, “I could do that again!” The doctor and nurses were impressed, and one nurse said she had rarely, if ever, seen someone handle giving birth the way I did. I’m looking forward to another amazing, peaceful natural birth whenever baby #2 comes along!