As you know, I was very apprehensive about birth. Our first son Levi, born in 2014 at 37 + 5 wks, was a tough labour. My waters exploded at 10pm on a Sunday night and I experienced pretty nasty contractions until he was born at 6.41pm the following evening. I was placed on a oxytocin drip at noon and by 2pm I had an epidural. Levi was born posterior and I received 3rd degree tears and a nice episiotomy to boot. The experience left me quite shell shocked and exhausted.
So fast forward to 2016 when we received the news I was expecting again. I instantly wanted a better birth than with Levi - I didn't even care what that looked like - as long as it was better! I was the most enthusiastic hypnobirthing participant! I listened to my tracks religiously - shower, car, bed, lounge! Anywhere I could! I had affirmations coming out of my ears! Given Levi was also born posterior my main focus was an anterior delivery so my pregnancy was quite uncomfortable as I was constantly on one side or leaning forward! I also exercised and continued with a varied program of walking, bootcamp, pilates, aqua natal exercise classes and yoga - just to make sure I wasn't missing anything.
My pregnancy was all going well until about 33 weeks when I was told that my baby was measuring quite large and this posed a risk for me given my previous birth. It meant I had 2 choices: c section or early induction. I was 100% against a c section as a personal choice for me as running after a 2 year old and figuring out a newborn was not something I wanted to do! I chose induction which meant it was going to happen early. Tuesday 25 October was chosen and I was going to be 37 + 5 which I thought was quite nice even though it was early.
Even though I was fully participatory in this decision, I spent hours and a fair chunk of money trying to kick start labour naturally. I did several sessions of acupuncture, a number of acupressure massages, aromatherapy, hypnobirthing tracks, curries. But nothing worked. At my last appointment, on Monday 24 October, my cervix was still high, the baby was not fully engaged and I was told that I needed to have gels that night. I definitely felt sorry for myself and shed a lot of tears!
I hate hospitals. They remind me of the sick and dying. Plus they smell funny! So having to spend the night in a delivery room wasn't the way I wanted to start my birth experience. However, the midwives were brilliant and made me feel as comfortable as possible. We made the room as nice as we could and I even managed some sleep. 2 lots of gels were administered overnight starting at 8.30pm. By 730am I was 1.5cm dilated and the baby still hadn't descended so my waters were broken. This made everything move much quicker. By 10am I was only 2cm dilated but my cervix was very thin and they expected me to move quite quickly. My birth plan was such, however, that I didn't know any of this. I felt that knowing these figures would have completely thrown me. I was moving into a less positive headspace even though I was listening to my tracks and practising all my breathing techniques. By 1130am the pain was unbearable and I asked for an epidural. I wasn't against an epidural but I did want to see if I could do it without it. This actually turned out to be the best thing ever.
After the epidural my labour did slow down. However, it allowed me and my body to relax. My mind needed to recharge and focus. I continued my tracks until it was time to start pushing. After discussions with the midwives and my doctor, I asked for my epidural to be topped up. It isn't that I didn't want to feel the sensations, but I wanted my body and breath to do the work. I pushed for approximately 40 minutes. I pushed for 1 hour and 41 minutes last time so this was a breeze! I focused on my breathing. I was relaxed. In short, the epidural allowed me to have the exact birth experience that I wanted. I breathed my son down, providing pressure through pushes. As per my birth plan, I wasn't directed when to push. I listened to my body and felt for the contractions. The midwives and doctor gave me some instruction and feedback which was perfect. I knew what to do and my medical team were 100% behind my big wish - No Tearing!
I was so relaxed during the final moments of delivery that my husband took a photo of me (how kind!) but it completely captured the moment. It was quiet. My favourite song was playing. My eyes were closed and I could feel my baby slowing descending as he was such a wriggler. It was everything hypnobirthing should be so if you are ever in a class about epidurals - please pass on to everyone that the epidural was a key tool for me. I used all the techniques including this form of pain relief which gave me confidence and strength.
Elijah Peter was born at 2.50pm on Tuesday 25 October 2016. Almost 18 hours after my induction started and about 7.5 hours after my waters were broken. Importantly, I had no tearing AT ALL and he was in an anterior position! I only received 1 stitch for a graze. He weighed 8lb 1oz (3.6kg) and was 48 cm long.
Thank you so much for all your advice and knowledge. Although I still hate hospitals and needles, I am not afraid of birth!
Liz, Caleb, Levi & Elijah
Birth story shared with permission.