The only way to fully capture how thankful I am to have completed the Hypnobirthing Australia course with Hannah is to start from the reason I first wanted to do hypnobirthing. In February 2015 I watched a close friend get booked in for an induction at 37 weeks. She had a balloon catheter inserted, which fell out, Cervadil, ARM, Syntocinon (synthetic Oxytocin), epidural and in the end ended up with an emergency caesarean occurring between a Monday and Wednesday. After watching her experience of this process I feared birth. I saw how unempowered she felt and how traumatised she was by what had happened and simply knew that shouldn't be how any woman should feel after giving birth to her child. My quest began.
My friend (above) suggested hypnobirthing to me. I initially thought hypnobirthing was just for ‘crazy hippies’. I started my own research into birth and guess where I ended? Hypnobirthing was perfect; it was everything I felt birth should be.
As soon as I found out I was pregnant I got in contact with Hannah from Adelaide Hypnobirthing. She was very patient with me in scheduling our course as we were in the process of selling our house, finding and buying a new house and moving. We got started at 20 weeks. My husband was a little resistant as he would have preferred to not be in the room for the pending birth of our child as he gets nauseous when it comes to all the glory that comes with childbirth. Hannah was great with him when explaining everything and describing what would be in videos she was showing us. Seeing my husband's knowledge of childbirth grow and listening to him tell others about his new found knowledge was one of the best things about the course.
We completed our hypnobirthing course at 30 weeks. I had pictured my hypnobirthing birth in a country hospital, in a birth pool. I was sure I'd go over 40 weeks, labour for as long as possible at home and have the most amazing (and different to my friend's) experience. I'd passed my glucose test and the rest of our health was all on track. At 31 weeks it looked like everything was going to plan.
The weekend before my 32 week check up I found myself lying awake at night because the soles of my feet were intensely itchy. I had been on Dr Google throughout the night and had just hoped I was being paranoid and that it wouldn't be what Dr Google told me it might be. I attended my GP and was sent for a non-fasting blood test the next morning. The following afternoon my GP called me and told me my liver function had increased and I had to go to the hospital emergency department to speak to a specialist. I went to the hospital and was hooked up to a CTG then told I needed to have fasting bloods taken. I had the fasting bloods taken first thing the next morning. At 3pm the hospital called me and told me I needed to come in and speak with a doctor and that I may want to pack an overnight bag as I may be admitted.
On Friday 13th of October I was diagnosed with very severe cholestasis. Normal bile acids are under 10, severe cholestasis is diagnosed at bile acids of 40 or more and mine were 108. I was admitted to hospital and the risks for our little guy were explained to us, including the increased risk of stillbirth. I started medication immediately.
I was discharged on Saturday afternoon but had to go and have my fasting bloods taken again Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon the hospital called to advise my bile acids were now 208 and my liver function had also gotten worse so they wanted to admit me again.
Between Sunday and Wednesday I had fasting blood tests every morning and also had to have an ultrasound of my liver. We were advised that if my liver was failing I'd need to be induced fairly quickly, if not, I'd be induced at 37 weeks as this was the best management with the risk of stillbirth. By Wednesday my bile acids were improving and my liver function had stabilised so I was discharged.
I had to attend the hospital for fasting blood tests and monitoring twice a week until 37 weeks. Thankfully my itchiness was near non-existent. The worse feeling was the stress of always hoping the little guy was ok.
So there I was, booked in for an induction at 37 weeks (just as my friend had been). I spoke with the OB about what I could do to try to prepare my body for what was about to come and she approved antenatal expression and acupuncture. I immediately contacted Lea Papworth and booked in for a total of 5 acupuncture sessions during my 35th and 36th week and commenced expressing at 35 weeks. I listened to the fear release track and baby come out track. I had Clary Sage Oil on my clothes and pillows from 36 weeks. I spoke with Hannah and read several positive induction hypnobirth stories and knew it was possible to still have my calm, positive birth even if I had to be induced. But I won't lie, I was still scared I would end up with a caesarean and still wanted to avoid that if possible.
My induction date came and unfortunately I hadn't gone into spontaneous labour as I had hoped. But thankfully, I had progressed enough for the doctor to use the balloon catheter to get me started. The balloon catheter was inserted at 6:30pm. I practiced my relaxation breathing through the procedure and didn't feel uncomfortable. Hubby went home for the night, I read my hypnobirthing folder again and put on my tracks to go to sleep.
Around 10:30pm I needed to urinate but when I went to the toilet I was having difficulty getting any more than a trickle out, then as I sat there the balloon catheter fell out (just as my friend's had). The midwife came to check me and advised I'd probably need the Cervadil but she would go check with the senior midwife. The senior midwife came to check and advised I was dilated 1cm so she thought the first balloon catheter hadn't been inserted correctly so she would insert another one. By the time this was done and the little guy was checked again on the CTG it was around 12am Tuesday morning.
I started experiencing period type pain almost straight away this time. By 12:30am it was too uncomfortable to lay in bed. By 1am I asked for something to help me sleep with the hope that if I got 4 or 5 hours sleep it would help with the upcoming labour. I was given some tablets at 1:20am. The pain continued. It was quite uncomfortable and I was thinking “if this pain isn't contractions, I'm not sure how I'm going to cope with labour!”. I was walking around and rocking my hips to try to improve the pain. I managed to get back into bed at 3am and crashed until 4am. By 4am the pain had subsided but I was still unable to sleep.
Given the timeline of the two balloon catheters the midwives were uncertain as to what time they would remove the balloon catheter. At 8:30am my body decided for them. I went to the toilet and once again it came out. This time it seemed to have my mucus plug attached to it so they were all hoping that meant I was dilated enough to break my waters.
I had several discussions with midwives and doctors about whether we should attach the electrode to the little guy's head and decided to go ahead with this to ensure better monitoring, more mobility and less interference during labour. We also discussed whether I wanted the syntocinon started straight away or whether I wanted to wait an hour. Given I was only 37 weeks and had only had 1 hour sleep we decided it would be best for me to not waste any time and start straight away.
At 11am a cannula was inserted in the back of my hand. At 11:15am the midwife assigned (who was relatively new) performed an examination and unsuccessfully attempted twice to break my waters. She called the senior midwife who came in at 11:30am and advised I was 3cm dilated and broke my waters with no problems. I experienced no discomfort during this procedure; regardless of the fact I had just had several doctors tell me it would be painful and I could use the gas if I needed. The syntocinon started by 12pm.
I ate some lunch and waited to get some contractions. I was having small contractions I could barely feel at the start then they slowly got more intense. They increased the syntocinon every 30 minutes. I started getting 5 contractions every 10 minutes of moderate intensity. They had to experiment with the syntocinon to try to decrease the number of contractions but increase the length of each one. They decided I was in established labour at 3pm.
I was walking around and standing going floppy during contractions. I spoke with the midwives about what positions they thought would be best for me at this stage as I wanted to be comfortable but conserve as much energy as possible given I was unsure how long labour would take. They helped me move through several positions trying to find out what would work best. I spent some time standing next to the bed and some more time sitting on the CUB I had hired from Hannah, slumped over pillows on the bed while resting but sitting upright during contractions. I had my husband doing light touch massage on my back during this time and he put my hypnobirthing tracks on. I quickly found the positive affirmations track was working best so just continued to have that playing on repeat.
I asked the midwife when she thought I should contact my student midwife to come in. She advised I would have an examination at 7pm and I could probably contact the student midwife after that with some more information. By 6pm I decided to contact my student midwife to come in for the examination so she would get the chance to go through a good part of the labour with the midwife.
I promised myself I would wait until my examination before getting in the shower as I thought I was in for the long haul and wanted to keep it up my sleeve. With difficulty, I got on the bed on my back at 7pm and had my examination. I had been uncertain whether I wanted to know how far dilated I was throughout labour but the midwife advised I was 6cm. She was happy with the progress.
I got in the shower straight after the examination. I admit I did some labour math and thought to myself, I may be in labour for quite some time. My only thoughts about pain relief were that if my labour continued for another 8 hours or more I would need a rest and the only way I would get that would be if I had pain relief. I was reminded from one of the birth stories I had read that I may just go from 6cm to fully dilated in less than an hour.
I started to just focus on the efficiency of each contraction and tried not to bother myself with how long I may be in labour.
My husband had to run home to take care of the dogs quickly as we knew we'd be in for a long night. He was gone for 40 minutes and while I missed the light touch, the 40 minutes went quickly. When I look back I realise that once I started to focus more on the efficiency of my contractions and resting in between, time went very quickly.
I was alternating between standing with my forehead resting on the wall, my left hand holding onto the rail to hold myself up, the shower head in my right hand pointed down my front and my right elbow stabilised on the part where the shower head attached to the bar, and sitting on the edge of the shower seat. Again, I wanted to conserve my energy but I quickly found I felt like my contractions were more efficient if I stood up.
I had felt like I was in for the long haul. I was focused on taking one contraction at a time and focused on visualising each contraction to be as effective as possible. Once I stopped concerning myself with everything out of my control (length of labour and dilation) I felt as if time flew. My body knew how to birth my baby. I started to feel like I could feel more pressure on my bowels when I had a contraction. I thought I'd be nowhere near fully dilated yet so used this in my visualisations to remind myself to let my pelvis and hips relax during each contraction and pictured my cervix opening up and my little guy's head moving down.
I had expected that in transition I'd feel like I was losing it, like I needed pain relief and/or that I couldn't take any more. I didn't feel like this at any point. I felt very comfortable just focusing on each contraction so had convinced myself I wasn't at transition yet.
All of a sudden, my body started to push. I was focused on doing my surge breathing with each contraction but all of a sudden I had no control, my body was perfectly doing the bearing down breathing and my mind was now just along for the ride. I remember at one point it was as if I was having an out of body experience with my mind narrating with thoughts like “ok, try to maintain surge breathing, you got this, you got this, oh look body just took over and there was that short sharp breath and then the long bearing down, oh here comes another one”.
I would describe what I felt as his head moved up and down as stretching with a burning sensation rather than painful. I continued to labour in the shower with my midwives monitoring me and the little guy from outside the bathroom. My husband was still doing the light touch massage on my back.
The little guy's heart rate was dipping with each contraction. It was picking up again after but they were starting to get concerned. They then advised they needed me to get out of the shower and into the bed on my back for an examination as they thought I might be pushing on my cervix. I was pretty sure I could feel his head moving up and down with each contraction. It took the entire team about 5 minutes to get me out of the shower and into the bed for the exam. This was one of the hardest parts of my labour. As soon as the midwife commenced the exam she announced I could get back up, she had barely inserted her fingers and could feel his head.
I stood back up and was told I needed to get him out quickly. The midwives (and I later found out the doctors who were ready to storm into my room) were concerned about the little guy. I stood beside the raised bed with my hands and head on pillows on the bed and was coached through getting him out quickly. My body could definitely feel the difference from being left to labour how it was supposed to versus having to basically continually bear down with all my energy and more. Knowing I was doing it for his wellbeing was all that I needed to decide I needed to speed things up. I had to log back into my consciousness to override my bearing down and that was difficult. I would still describe it as stretching and burning rather than painful but this was the part of my labour where I actually felt like I had to 'labour'.
At 09:54pm Lincoln Harry King was born. He was passed between my legs to me while the midwife detached the electrode attachment that was stuck on my leg. I pulled him to my chest. My student midwife injected the oxytocin into my thigh. They wanted me on the bed ASAP which was difficult with the blood I was standing in and all the cords I had attached to me, but we got there. I was able to cut his cord and cuddled him while they delivered my placenta and cleaned up.
When the time came for the damage to be assessed I had been expecting to hear 2nd or 3rd degree tears and stitches would be required, purely because I had to push him out so quick. To my surprise, I only had one very small first degree tear, not much more than a graze so no stitches required.
We got an hour of skin to skin while everything was cleaned up around us. I was up and in the shower around 90 minutes after. Lincoln scored 9 at 1 and 5 minutes on the APGAR Scale. He weighed 3.182kg and was 50cm long. He was perfect.
We did it. I immediately felt in awe of what had just happened. After all my fears, we maintained our focus and when I surrendered to my body, my body gave me the birth I could have only dreamed of given the circumstances.
I found that reading other people's positive birth stories really helped me to stay focused and this is the main reason I wanted my birth story published; to help bring positivity to others. The other reason is to thank all the people involved in creating our birth story. I think it is important to remember that even if your birth path is turning into your greatest fear, as mine was, you can block that out and just focus on allowing your body to do the best job it can, and you can still experience your calm positive birth.
We will be recommending hypnobirthing to anyone and everyone! I will be forever grateful for Hannah's guidance and the support from my birthing team. It's certainly an experience I never want to forget!
Edriana, Kris and baby Lincoln.
Edriana and Kris attended private Hypnobirthing classes with me to prepare for their calm, positive and empowering birth. Birth story shared with permission.