I had been having pressure waves for two weeks as we approached Owen's guess date. I knew they weren't the “real thing” yet and I felt impatient for his arrival, though prepared and fearless. We had given the midwives our birth plan which asked for lots of privacy and quiet. I felt respected and supported by everyone potentially involved in the upcoming birth.
We went home and by 7:00pm the pressure waves started again with greater intensity. I knew this was “it” and accepted it with uncharacteristic calm. I sat in the rocking chair and listened to my Hypnnobabies birthing day affirmations CD several times in a row. I tried to use my Hypnobabies finger drop technique to stay in hypnosis but I was having trouble doing that so I just stopped and focused on relaxing. I know I didn’t practice that aspect of Hypnobabies enough. It wasn’t automatic enough for me. The pressure waves stayed about 8 minutes apart for awhile and I found myself vocalizing a lot to get through them. I wouldn’t have described them as painful, but definitely intense. Nathan finished getting us prepared to go to the birth center, but was at my side at the beginning of most pressure waves. He didn’t have to do much. His presence alone seemed to be all I really needed. He timed the pressure waves and things seemed to change pretty rapidly during this stage. He wasn’t sure when to call the birth center, but by 1 or 2 in the morning the pressure waves were 4-5 minutes apart. I asked him to call since I knew I was ready to go. Nathan called the midwife on call, who turned out to be Catherine, and she met us at the birth center. I had a cervical check before going to our birthing room but declined the 20 minute fetal heart rate monitoring. I asked to be told how far dilated I was. I knew I could end up being disappointed, but I really wanted to know. I was 5 cm. That made me happy even though I knew that things could take a while yet.
Catherine was getting the tub ready when we got to the birthing room so I got in right away. Looking back, it seemed that as I took off my clothes, I also was stripping away the modesty that would only have inhibited the primal-ness that I needed to allow. I stayed in the tub for the majority of the time since it was so relaxing and helpful. I remember letting my whole body relax, moaning at a low pitch and basically just floating. The pressure waves felt long and I asked Nathan to rub my back since I felt a lot of pressure there. When I was tempted to feel overwhelmed, I mentally told myself, “It's just pressure” over and over again to reframe the sensations I was feeling.
(Editor's Note: This is a key component of Hypnobabies. Birth is an intense experience, but Hypnobabies moms know they can choose whether to experience their pressure waves as painful, or as intense pressure. And all the conditioning of the mind that is done during the weeks of practice leading up to the birth helps a mom to make these choices with confidence.)
Nathan and I were the only ones in the room for most of the time. We had the Hypnobabies Early First Stage track playing in the room but I found it very hard to concentrate on it. It just seemed like background noise to me. I asked Nathan to read relaxation cues to me instead and those were much more helpful. I wish more of the scripts were written out so that Nathan could have read them to me rather than having to listen to them on CD.
(Editor's Note: There is no one right way to use the tools. In Hypnobabies, our students learn a whole toolbox of tools, and can use what works best for them when their birthing time comes.)
Catherine gave us tons of privacy and came in occasionally to briefly monitor Owen's heart beat with a handheld doppler and to take my vitals. Thinking back, it is hard to say how often she was there since time lost all meaning to me. Catherine was a little concerned about Owen's positioning since he needed to move down a bit more so she helped me with the robozo and a side lying leg release during about 6 pressure waves. Nathan kept me hydrated with electrolyte water that he held up to me with a straw and also fed me Clif Bars and string cheese bite by bite in between pressure waves. It was really helpful in keeping my strength up.
At around noon I was in the tub and started to feel a little pushy. Nathan called in Catherine and she checked my cervix. I was all the way dilated besides just a lip of cervix. She said I could try pushing if I wanted to. I tried but it seemed that Owen needed to move down a bit more so Catherine and Vicki (another midwife who had arrived in this later part of my birthing time) recommended that I sit on the toilet to encourage my pelvis to open so that he could move down.
While sitting on the toilet I pushed a little and my water broke. I immediately felt uncontrollable urges to push so they helped me back in the tub since I wanted a water birth. I tried pushing there in a few positions for a little bit but I felt really nauseous and my pushing was really ineffective. Vicki offered me some honey but I said I really didn’t want food because I felt like I was going to throw up. I never did though. I think this was the only time that I felt truly overwhelmed just because of the sudden intensity of the nausea and pushy feelings. I really needed Nathan at this time, just to reassure me. Catherine and Vicki recommended that I get on the bed so that they could be of more assistance to me. I did feel disappointed about not having the water birth I was planning on, but then once I was on the bed, those feelings immediately fled as I felt so much better. My body knew the water birth wasn’t going to work.
I tried several positions on the bed. Lying on my side worked for awhile and then on my back for the end. Nathan cradled my head in his lap which was nice as I could feel his reassuring touch and presence the whole time. There wasn't much he could really do but that didn't bother me a bit. Just knowing that he was there to support me and that he loved me were exactly what I needed. He was a wonderful supporter in exactly the way that I needed him. Catherine and Vicki did an excellent job of keeping me liberally doused with olive oil and directing my pushing so that it was effective and controlled. I really appreciated their help during this phase. Without their direction, I would have pushed myself to much more exhaustion with much less effectiveness. I was also very vocal during this but made sure to keep my sounds low down--not screams. I remember yelling, “Come out!” at Owen during a few pushes and that really helped. I was really exhausted and Catherine and Vicki held up a mirror after each round of pushing so that I could see my progress. They also encouraged me to reach down and touch Owen's head. That was the best motivation! Once Owen's head was out, Catherine had to remind me to push a few more times to get the rest of his body out. I was so tired that I had just stopped pushing after his head was out and I felt that relief.
After pushing for about two hours, Owen was born at 2:53pm, with the top of his head/side of his forehead presented first (chin wasn't tucked), posterior, with one arm flung across his chest holding his opposite shoulder, and screaming! Catherine helped me catch him and then I laid him/held him on my belly. A shot of pitocin was needed to aid my utereus in clamping down as I lost a lot of blood after Owen was out. After the placenta detached, I only had to push once to get it out. Vicki and Catherine seemed surprised that it was taking so long for the cord to stop pulsing. Then they clamped it and Nathan cut the cord which he previously wasn’t sure that he wanted to do. My perineum remained intact, though I did end up with a small tear right next to my urethra which Catherine needed to repair. Of anything, I remember the injections prior to the repair hurting the most of the entire experience.
After I was in a more stable condition and we'd had some time to bond, attention was turned to Owen's stats. His Apgars were both 10. Our beautiful sturdy boy weighed 10 lbs 2 oz and was 22 ½ inches long. Nathan and I stayed at the birth center with Owen until around 9:00 or 9:30 pm, just bonding with Owen and being observed by Catherine and Vicki to make sure we were okay before going home. We were back home and in our own bed by 10:00 or 10:30 pm! We were so lucky to have Karla as our tuck-in doula!
(Editor's Note: Can we all just say WOW! A 10-pound, brow presentation, posterior baby! And no perineal tear! Utterly amazing!)
In regards to our decision to use Hypnobabies: I guess in the end we didn’t have as much of a true Hypnobabies birth as we could have, but I am completely fine with that. I got what I needed from my preparation and that’s what matters to me. I think that for me, having a positive attitude about the idea of birth and being able to go into my birthing time without fear were the most valuable things that I got from Hypnobabies. For Nathan, it helped him feel confident that he had the education and tools he needed to help me during my birthing time. I loved the pregnancy and birth affirmations. I liked the practice that I got with being relaxed and the idea of reframing sensations in my mind so I wouldn’t tense up or tell myself that I was in pain. Hypnobabies also helped me feel empowered by giving me a great education about pregnancy, birth, and all my options. I felt much more in control. When it came to actually being in my birthing time I guess I just felt like I didn’t need to be in hypnosis for my pressure waves and that it was more distracting for me than anything else to try to remember to do finger drops and all of that. Nathan and I used what worked for us at that point and just didn’t worry about it.
As for the pushing stage…I think the factors complicating Owen’s entrance into the world due to his size, positioning and presentation just made it necessary for things to go the way that they did and I am totally at peace with that. Without so many compounding factors, I may have been able to get through the pushing phase in a way that would have allowed me to reframe the sensations as just pressure and stretching. What the midwives provided me with for support was just of more use in my situation than the pushing track was. Maybe if he’d been a smaller baby who was lined up perfectly I could have breathed him down more and used more hypnosis, but that wasn’t my situation this time around.
(Editor's Note: There is no one "true" Hypnobabies birth, and there are no failures in Hypnobabies. Some moms never actually use their finger drop, or listen to a CD, but their hypnosis and their tools are working for them, whether they are doing anything consciously or not. Even when the birth goes in an unexpected direction, as it did here, Hypnobabies was helping, giving these parents confidence and calm to "accept any path their birthing takes". That phrase is a key component of many of the scripts and affirmations that moms listen to in Hypnobabies.)
Would I take a Hypnobabies course again if I could do it all over? Absolutely! Would I use the Hypnobabies’ tools more if I could redo Owen’s birth? No, I really wouldn’t—things went as they were meant to and I experienced everything in the way that I needed to. Would I use the tools more with a future birth? I would use the aspects of Hypnobabies that were helpful for that particular birth which might or might not be the same aspects as for Owen's birth. Would I recommend Hypnobabies to other families? Yes! Even without the hypnosis aspect, the empowering education is worth every cent and every minute. Add in the relaxation and hypnosis aspects and it becomes an even more powerful tool during a woman's birthing time. The benefits don't just stop once the baby is born. Knowing that I birthed my own baby with my own power has given me a confidence that I never had before. I am proud of myself for Owen's beautiful birth and that gives me power.
And of course, I would most definitely recommend Morning Star! The support of knowledgeable and experienced midwives who 100% believe in your ability to birth your own baby is priceless. From early pregnancy to postpartum care, we always felt valued and cared about. At the Morning Star Reunion Picnic, we had the opportunity to visit the room where I birthed Owen. How many families get to go back to where their babies entered the world? As I stood in that room, memories rushed into my mind and I realized that during my birthing time that room was like another world to me, detached from the rest of reality. It was there that I had the most spiritual moments of my life, and there that our child entered our lives and we realized a new depth of love as we became parents.