This week’s story comes from Alice and Tom who completed a TCBS Course with Rosie Gilderthorpe who is now based in Plymouth.

“Before we started our hypnobirthing course I was very nervous about giving birth and really didn’t want to think about it. I was sure it would be a painful and horrendous experience that would have to be endured in order to have a baby.

I came to Rosie wanting to know more about actually giving birth, beyond the media representation and anecdotal evidence. I wanted to feel more in control and be able to approach giving birth positively.

After our intensive course both Tom and I understood so much more about the process of giving birth and the biology (and therefore how we could approach it better). We also were able to discuss our roles in the birth and Tom felt empowered and important in the birth process. I was able to talk about giving birth without having negative emotions and was able to approach the birth without fear or dread.

We created a birth plan that allowed us to think about the best case scenario but also acknowledge what compromises we might have to make and how we would make those decisions.

The Big Day!

I was ready to go into labour in the week preceding my “due date”. On the Sunday before I felt unwell and thought my surges might be starting, but it turned out to be Braxton Hicks. This meant though that when they did start on Monday night (about 9.30pm) I could recognise the difference and knew that the labour process was starting. They were spaced out and very manageable so I went to bed about 10.30pm to see how long I could sleep for.

At 1.30am I woke up having more regular surges and unable to sleep any more, partly to do with anticipation as much as anything. I went downstairs and watched Victoria Wood on Netflix, while having lots to eat and drink and using the bouncy ball to stay as comfortable as possible.

I was keeping a check on how often and how long each surge was and by about 4.30am they were about 10 minutes apart and lasting around a minute each and I was finding it harder to manage on my own. I had used the MP3s and now felt I needed some emotional support from Tom.

Tom ran me a bath and I used the water to help me relax, which slowed the surges down. After I got out the water I started using the TENS machine to help manage the surges when they came. Over the next few hours things sped up and slowed down which I found frustrating. I felt really ready to be in established labour and I wasn’t. I managed a couple of 45 minute naps, both of which really slowed everything down and so I decided to forgo any more sleep to get things going. Tom was great at keeping a check on the timings, talking me through the surges and feeding me throughout.

By 11pm on Tuesday my surges were 1.5 minutes long and about 5-6 minutes apart and I was ready to be in hospital, and so we called them up. They asked me if I wanted to stay at home longer or whether I wanted to come in, but I felt like I wanted a professional opinion as to where I was at. Whilst the TENS machine and paracetamol had got me this far I felt like I wanted the water options available in the Sanctuary.

We arrived in the hospital knowing that all the suites with the birthing pools were occupied, but I knew I could have a bath and it was likely that they would become available as our labour progressed. The midwives working with us were so helpful, and they put us in a room without a birthing pool but with soothing lighting and plenty of space for me to walk around, which I found helpful.

The surges were becoming harder to manage as I was really tired by this point. Tom was holding me up as the surges were cresting and emotionally and physically supporting me.

The midwives checked me and found I was about 3cm dilated, I had been prepared for this (thanks Rosie!) but still felt a little deflated I wasn’t further along. The tiredness was really getting to me. They ran a bath for me, there was calming lighting and essential oils used in the bathroom and it was so relaxing. However, I found the bath removed the control I had on the surges. Tom was unable to tell when they were happening and I was so tired I kept nodding off in the bath. I found I was unable to communicate how I felt and what I wanted and with hindsight I should have got out of the bath sooner.

When I got out of the bath I was shattered and knew that I hadn’t progressed much further. So we discussed the next steps with the midwife. I really wanted to sleep and I felt that extra pain relief was needed. Tom asked all the BRAIN questions before I had the diamorphine. My big concern was the impact on the baby but sleep was needed (it had been about 48 hours since I last properly slept). I was prepared for this to slow everything down but felt that with a bit of rest I would be emotionally and physically resilient.

Tom asked the midwife if he could sleep when I was sleeping, as he was shattered too, and we both closed out eyes for a nap. This lasted 30 minutes (it was now about 4.30ish) and I woke up to find out my waters had broken. In my very groggy state I got up to go to the toilet, where I fell asleep a couple of times, which meant Tom woke up unsure where I was!

I had a very strong urge to push, I didn’t associate this with being ready to give birth though. The midwives spotted it though: I was fully dilated and ready to go!

There was no time to fill the birth pool, although I did have to crawl into a different birthing suite that had more equipment in. The next bit felt like no time at all. I ended up pushing whilst sat on the birthing stool, supported by Tom behind me. The midwives were great at instructing me when to push and how best to do this. I probably pushed a bit too much at points, I was ready to get the baby out and felt frustrated when after a big push I could feel him moving back up a little bit. This lasted about an hour.

Then Joseph arrived at 6.01am in all of a rush.

I was completely overwhelmed that I had a baby and relieved it had all happened. The euphoria is indescribable and I was desperate to get him in my arms and say hello. It didn’t quite work like that, as he was a bit groggy and unresponsive and needed medical attention, so we had to cut the umbilical cord straight away. However Tom was able to do this. I had torn and needed to pass the placenta immediately and get stitches. Both of these decisions were made quickly by the midwives but they explained everything and we knew they were the right decisions.

Tom had the first skin to skin contact while I was being attended to, but soon we had time post birth to reflect on what had happened. Overall I consider my birth a bit like a marathon (although having a baby is better than a medal!). The euphoria and sense of achievement are there, but I remember the challenge of it all. I am not afraid of doing it again but need a bit of recovery time!

I have recommended hypnobirthing to my pregnant friends. Anything that helps you prepare and makes you feel like you have some control is invaluable.”