If you had asked me, even up until week 30 of my pregnancy, I had never planned on having a natural childbirth experience. I am a yoga instructor, meditate regularly, eat and live as naturally as possible, but it hadn’t really crossed my mind as something I would ever be able to accomplish. I did, however, know right away that I would be taking a Hypnobabies prep class for the birth of our daughter. That sounds a little uneducated, considering Hypnobabies is a natural birthing prep course, but I figured I would take it, get some useful tools, and have an epidural if I needed one (which I figured was absolutely what would happen). Hypnobabies was right up my alley, considering the mind body connection, focus on the breath, and turning inward, so I was drawn to it as the prep course for us, whether or not I would have an epidural during the process.
We started our live Hypnobabies class in Lexington with Julie Six (also our doula) during week 33 and, much to my surprise, I immediately knew I was completely committed to having a natural childbirth, and Hypnobabies was going to be my ticket there. Even more surprising was my husband’s desire and commitment to a drug free and choice-based birthing as well. So far I felt my pregnancy had been very easy (no complications or sickness; not a single thing to complain about) and immediately implementing the tools from even class one of Hypnobabies was empowering. As we progressed, it was amazing how many people would ask about my exams and how effaced or dilated I was, and it was both interesting and liberating to let them know my decision (and the reasons behind it) to not know any numbers during my pregnancy. I found I wanted to keep my decision to have a natural childbirth almost a secret. I soon realized that when you tell people this, they either quickly tell you their birth story (usually a choice-less disaster) and the reasons they did use an epidural (hellooooo bubble of peace!) or they patronize you with how much of a martyr you are and how you must be so amazing to “take one for the natural team”. I was proud of my decision, but felt these conversations increased my stress and created unneeded tension. There was a time this did come up with my brother and his wife and I was very thankful for the fear clearing track, so that I could erase any doubts or fears that heated conversation had created.
The Hypnobabies six week course ended, but my pregnancy continued, and as the weeks ticked by into week 39...40...41..., the stress and pressure definitely increased. We were having a hospital birth and felt that our needs and wishes had been met and would be met during our birthing time, but there was a fine line at the 42 week mark where my husband, my doctor, and I all had a different threshold as far as risks and benefits. At my 41 week and 3 day check up, I had decided to consider “stripping membranes” if it meant that later in the week, I would avoid Pitocin induction (I knew my options and was weighing them carefully, with Pitocin being the last option I would exercise). It was during this exam, after asking for my Bishop’s score before deciding whether or not to strip, I received my first numbers, and it was disheartening. My doctor said I was 0% effaced, 0 cm dilated and my Bishop’s score was maybe a 1. I almost unraveled on the spot and left the appointment with a time to come in for my Pitocin induction, since my doctor said there was no way I would make ANY progress by the 42 week mark at the end of the week. I left and I cried and I called my husband. That night, we regrouped and I realized I had inadvertently abandoned my Hypnobabies training in getting and listening to the numbers that day, and my dear husband and doula reminded me that we had almost endless choices still. This was an amazing and refreshing moment, and we made a plan that combined choices, education, and decisions that made my husband and me comfortable with how and when to proceed. I called my doctor and pushed my induction appointment to Friday that week, which was the 42 week mark. I told them I just HAD to give my body until at least this point, because my baby knew her birthday and I just knew my body would figure it all out. The next day, I pulled out all the stops to get my body ready for birthing time: I had a prenatal massage and an acupuncture treatment (an ABSOLUTE MUST for anyone...these were amazing), I downloaded the “Baby come OUT” Hypnobabies track and listened to it alternating with affirmations non-stop, I meditated, I stretched, I squatted, I used a breast pump and I used evening primrose supplements. The next morning, I woke up super early to very regular, very easy pressure waves. I hadn’t had a single pressure wave or even pre birth wave during my pregnancy so I was absolutely elated to feel something, albeit light and easy. I laid awake timing them for fun, listening to birthing affirmations and even told my husband what I was feeling a few hours later. It was a work day and, being still pre dawn hours, we stayed in bed and giggled at the excitement. When we decided to get up, I moved and had a huge gush of fluid (slightly pinkish) come out, assuming this was my water breaking. We got really excited then, but I sent my husband to work and dealt with really irregular pressure waves all day. My mucous plug came out early afternoon, but other than that, I was perplexed because nothing else was happening. We decided to have a huge dinner of eggplant parmesan and then head to the hospital at around 9pm, since I had assumed my water had broken almost 15 hours earlier, and we figured it was almost time to start monitoring the baby if that was the case.
At the hospital, I had an initial exam and my husband and doula found out I was about 80% effaced but still wasn’t dilated at all. The tests to confirm my water releasing were inconclusive which made things very frustrating and confusing. Because of this, we were checked in for the night and we ultimately decided (after a few hours of breast pumping and irregular pressure waves) to get some sleep and make next decisions in the morning. I had made some dilating progress overnight so, again to avoid pitocin as long as possible, I decided to try a foley bulb and Cervidil to speed things along. Wow this helped with progress almost immediately! My husband and I walked the halls for a few hours while the foley bulb worked its magic and after about 4 hours, my water truly broke (not sure if the fluid in early morning the day before was a forebag or just major fluid from the mucous plug about to go) and my pressure waves really started going. Things started to get real (and fun!) and my husband, doula and I worked together to implement our Hypnobabies tools and methods. Although things moved fast at first, my body really took its time to move things along. I wasn’t being made aware of my numbers (dilation, etc) but my doula and husband were. Hours and hours went by and I used so many positions and methods to get things moving (shower, hands knees, peanut ball, etc) and we were making slow steady progress. My favorite position to have pressure waves was slow dancing or hanging on my husband, which meant about 12 hours of work on my feet (my husband’s back a few days later felt the effects too!). The pressure waves were intense but completely manageable and I went through waves of being freezing cold to burning up every few minutes. I was never in “pain”, but it was certainly the hardest work I had ever done. I had chosen to be on the monitors about every 15 minutes out of the hour, which really broke up the time and positions for me as well. Baby girl was doing great the entire time, even though the whole process was so long and mom and dad were very very tired. Several times when I would sit down for pressure waves, I would close my eyes in between and get a little sleep in, but other than that, we were up through the night. I threw up three times, which the three of us celebrated since we knew each time meant the start of a new stage or some sort of progress. We worked all night and once my vocalizations changed to that guttural, pushy sound, the doctors checked me out. I had to do a little more work to get a slight lip of my cervix completely dilated, but once that happened I was ready to push! Those last few pressure waves to get the cervix completely dilated were by far the most intense moments of my life. I had to use the peace cue out loud over and over and it helped to bring me back to the present moment, move the anesthesia to where I needed it, and ultimately feel only the pressure sensations, rather than any pain at all.
At about 5 am, once we had made the call to start pushing, I had plenty of stamina and energy back (even though I was so so tired) and we put on the Pushing Baby Out track out loud. The best surprise came when the doctor asked me how I wanted to push and I very matter-of-factly told her that I wanted to push on my side, with a huge excited smile. This doctor (who was not the doctor I had seen through my pregnancy) said “That’s great, but, let me tell you something. Your Doctor let me know we have a really BIG BABY in there, so I would like you to push on your back in stirrups.” My heart sank a little, but we talked it over, weighing risks and benefits of the size of the baby, shoulder dystocia and the lithotomy position. Thank goodness for the Hypnobabies class and my doula, because we were so educated on this subject and felt like we made yet another fully informed decision! We compromised and I started pushing on my side. I think everyone was waiting to see if I could make any progress, or whether the news would come to the doctor that it was time for a c section. Even after my first push (mother directed of course!) the nursing staff knew this baby was coming out vaginally. I made excellent progress after my first two pushes so they went to grab the doctor, switched me to my back (using foot pads and not stirrups, careful not to have pressure on my tailbone) and a few pushes later our baby girl was out. I felt completely in control during pushing and was amazed at how I could feel every inch of her 9 pound 10 ounce body moving down and out. Using peace cues and breathing my anesthesia down was so helpful to make this part one of the most enjoyable moments of my life.
I feel very lucky. I feel like I ultimately had the birth that I wanted and deserved to have. Was it exactly what I had visualized every week as part of my hypno home play? Definitely not, but I was prepared for every exciting twist and turn and my birthing time and my baby ended up perfect and healthy. There was major stress (being “post-due”, having a long birthing time, learning of a potential “big baby”) near the end, but without my Hypnobabies tools and the support of a loving husband and amazing Hypno-Doula, the outcome would have been completely different and we wouldn't have had the joy of such an empowering, educated, amazing experience!