Editor's Note from Anne: Hearing Michele tell me this story was one of the main reasons I became a Hypnobabies Instructor!
Elena’s Birth Story
We loved the Hypnobabies program and will do it again if we have another baby. Besides doing a ton of reading on my own (Ina May Gaskin, etc.) and going to a few Childbirth Collective classes, the Hypnobabies program was the only childbirth education that we did. I ordered the home-based program because we were looking to save money (to pay for our doula and placenta encapsulation) and I knew I had enough discipline to do it on my own. Although I did miss a few times, I very consistently did the hypnosis tracks every day and the affirmations CD at least once a day, sometimes twice. I usually listened to the affirmations on my bus commute to work, which put me in a good mood and set the tone for the day. The affirmations CD really was my favorite and I think made the most difference for my birth. I was confident in my birthing ability and truly believed birth could be easy and awesome.
My birthing waves began a week before our daughter, Elena, was born. They were mild, short, and quite regular, helping my body to gently and slowly prepare for our baby's arrival. During this week I went about my routine as usual – going to work, attending Bellyrama and the State Fair, and listening to my Hypnobabies tracks. With the breath as my focus, I made my inhale and exhale as smooth and full as possible, matching the intensity of my breath with the intensity of each pressure wave.
As I went to bed on the evening of August 30th, the pressure waves continued to come at a regular pace and were strong enough to wake me. Luckily I was able to doze in between them, but by 1:00 am I was having trouble sleeping and a warm shower sounded like a good idea. After showering I was able to get some more sleep, but by 4:00 am I was back out of bed. I distracted myself by going on the computer, ate some food, fixed my hair and timed my pressure waves, which were 5 minutes apart. I focused on my ujjayi breathing, sending deep breath all of the way down to my pelvic floor, becoming a witness to each wave pulsing through my body. It amazed me that when each pressure wave ended I felt absolutely no discomfort. Although each pressure wave required my full concentration, they were not nearly as bad as I anticipated. I kept thinking back to a birthing lecture we attended where someone reenacted how a woman might behave during the phases of early labor, active labor, transition and pushing. During the active labor/ transition phase the woman was making TONS of crazy noise and acting like she was in agony. I didn’t feel this way, so I doubted I was in active labor, but wasn’t really sure. At 5:30 I woke my husband and told him something was different. He could see that I was quite serious and focused with each pressure wave. I called our doula, Holly, around this time to tell her that my pressure waves were more intense and quite close together. I got the impression that Holly didn’t really think I was in active labor either, although she did not say that. Perhaps it was because I called between my pressure waves and was very calm on the phone. I told her I had a midwife appointment at 7:00 am that morning and she said I could postpone it if I liked. Something told me I should probably go, in fact, I really WANTED to go. I headed to the bathroom before our appointment to just sit on the toilet. Oh how good it felt!! My husband Garett was outside of the bathroom and could hear me saying to him over and over “I love the toilet so much. I just love the toilet.”
We arrived at our midwife appointment a little early and the doors were not open yet. There were two other couples waiting outside and by this point I was pacing the hall and it clearly looked like something was happening. I had to wonder what the other couples were thinking. When I finally checked in I had to do the mandatory pee in the cup, which sounded like the most terrible idea ever at the time. I did it anyway. As we were waiting in the exam room I turned to Garett and said, “I’m so afraid she is going to check me and tell me I am not even dilated”. I had not had any internal exams up until this point, so I had no idea what the status of my cervix was. My favorite midwife walked in, could tell I was uncomfortable, and asked if I would like to be checked. “Yes!” I exclaimed. I made my way up onto the exam table and after a moment she said very calmly in her lovely British accent, “Well, the baby is very low”. Pause. I laid there wondering what she would say next. “We are going to get you a wheelchair and take you straight to labor and delivery because you are at 9 cm. You are having a baby this morning!” I couldn’t believe it! I was shocked (and happy!) and I started crying. She gave me a hug and told me to wait for my wheelchair. Honestly, I felt like I could walk across the street to the birthing center, but I got in the wheelchair anyway. When we arrived at the front desk they were expecting us, but there was also some paperwork to fill out. Our room was not quite ready, but I felt ready for the room. We had to wait a few minutes and I remember getting crabby standing there. By 7:40 am we were in our birthing room and they were strapping the monitors on my belly for the 20 minutes they needed to. I turned on the TV and was glad to see my usual Good Morning America on. I continued to have pressure waves and was in very good spirits. Garett called Holly at some point to inform her this baby was coming soon – I think she was surprised! The belly monitors were on longer than 20 minutes and I didn’t really like just laying there, I wanted to move, so I requested they take them off. I got up to go to the bathroom and when I did I felt “pushy”. The nurse went to get the midwife and I went to sit on the toilet (my favorite!). The midwife couldn’t get there right that moment, but when the nurse came back and saw me on the toilet she freaked out. She told me I needed to get off of the toilet immediately or I would have my baby in the toilet. I thought this was funny and though to myself “I am not having this baby in the toilet. Just let me be!” I waddled back towards the bed as the midwife came in the room. She checked me again and I was complete. She also broke my water, which came out murky and brown. The NICU team was called so they could be there when Elena was born in case she had swallowed meconium and was not doing well. Holly arrived somewhere around this time and told me my Hypnobabies training was definitely working for me. I told her I wasn’t doing any of the self-hypnosis, in fact, Hypnobabies had not really crossed my mind the last 12 hours. She assured me it was working subconsciously anyway because I did not look like a woman who was about to push a baby out. The midwife and nurse agreed. I guess I knew I was going to have a comfortable, easy childbirth, just like I had trained myself to think for months.
Soon I began pushing when my body felt like it. I liked being on all fours, leaning over the back of the bed. Holly and Garett put cold washcloths on my head and neck and gave me water when I asked. I could usually get 3 good pushes before the urge to push would subside and I would rest and drink. I remember saying a couple of times “I don’t want to push, I don’t want to push”. It wasn’t that the pushing was painful (there was a lot of pressure though). I remember being scared to push, fearing that at some point it would become extremely painful. I couldn’t imagine how this baby could possibly come out. The midwife kept saying “the more you push the sooner you will see your baby”. This wasn’t terribly motivating because, honestly, I was also scared to meet my baby. Scared to be a mother. Scared of my future. But even if you don’t want to push, you have to push. There are no other options. When you realize you can’t escape it, you embrace it. And then I became determined. I wanted to switch positions. I tried the squat bar, but started to get hip cramps. Then I was in a semi-reclined position with my knees bent up by my sides. The nurse and midwife commented on how flexible I was. “It’s the yoga”, I said. After a few more pushes the midwife said, “Reach down and feel your baby! Feel all of that hair on her head!” I reached down and touched the top of her wet, furry head. I retracted my hand and was not comforted by touching just the top of her head because I knew that I still had to push her WHOLE head and body out. A few more pushes and I could feel some real progress. At this point I was seriously vocal. I was very quiet during my pressure waves, but not while pushing! Vocalizing felt productive and good! The midwife said, “Imagine pushing your baby up towards the ceiling!” So I did. I imagined baby coming down and out and shooting her up towards the sky. Holly, Garett, the midwife and the nurse were all cheering me on as I gathered all of my power to push. I became a witness to all of the sensations in my body. The sensations changed as her head was born –I could feel burning and some tearing (although, seriously, this was not terrible, it just was) and then her whole body quickly slid out - what an awesome feeling! It was instant relief – physical and mental. All of the anxiety of wondering how that baby could possibly come out – and then I did it! So empowering! Garett was there to catch her with his bare hands- what a proud papa! The NICU team was there just in case, but after a few suctions Elena started crying loudly at 9:39 a.m. and then they left. The placenta delivered a minute later after a small push and we all looked at it as the midwife explained the various parts. Then it was placed in a container for Holly to take to be dehydrated and encapsulated. The nurse then pressed on my belly to help my uterus clamp down, which was quite unpleasant. We initiated breastfeeding immediately so that Elena could keep her blood sugar up. Breastfeeding was not immediately successful, as we both had to learn. She managed to get a little colostrum right away in the first few minutes as the midwife stitched me up. The nurse once again commented that “she needs to learn yoga” after seeing such a calm birth. It really was a calm and comfortable experience, and I wouldn’t change a thing. My Hypnobabies training and the power of focused breath were invaluable.
When they placed a slippery Elena on my chest right after she was born I remember thinking “Wow, this is my baby. This is it, this is for real”. It was overwhelming. I wondered throughout my pregnancy what emotions I would feel when they handed my baby to me for the first time – immense love, fear, anxiety? Would I be moved to tears? To my own surprise, no. A large part of me was still acting as a witness to all of the events. I didn’t feel an instant bond or extreme love when they placed her on my chest. It’s a lot to process – this experience of giving birth. However, in the hours and days afterwards my heart felt like it exploded wide open. Everyday I am moved to tears at the beauty of this precious soul in my arms. And everyday I take a moment to appreciate the absolute miracle she truly is. We are so blessed.