I had always had an interest in having an unmedicated birth, as I liked the idea of experiencing all the sensations of labour and seeing what my body was capable of. My mum, who is a midwife, gave birth to me unmedicated, which helped me view it in an achievable, positive light. I’d also heard about hypnobirthing before through a friend, and thought it sounded like a good way to prepare for the birth I wanted. I knew my cousin had done Hannah’s hypnobirthing course and couldn’t speak highly enough of it, so I enrolled in the course when I was 29 weeks pregnant and am so glad I did!
The course had a strong focus on practical topics such as what actually happens to your body during labour, the role of your birth partner, how to write a birth plan, and of course pain management techniques. Another focus of Hannah’s course is accepting whatever path your birth takes, which for a Type A personality like me, was really valuable.
I had a difficult pregnancy, with terrible morning sickness until about 36 weeks. I was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which came as a shock as I had no risk factors or family history of it, as well as some signs of pre-eclampsia towards the end. After learning about how interventions can have a cascade effect, I was keen to avoid an induction for as long as it was safe for me and my baby. Hannah’s course gave me the confidence to have conversations with my doctors and midwives about possible interventions, particularly regarding an induction due to gestational diabetes, and ultimately led to me feeling confident to wait until I went into spontaneous labour.
My water ended up breaking at 2am on the 23rd of May, when I was 40 weeks and 3 days pregnant. My contractions started right away. I knew I needed as much rest as possible for what was to come, and I was able to doze through the early ones, however by 3am, I decided to start timing them. They were mostly lasting around a minute, and were about 5 minutes apart in the beginning. I woke my husband Daniel up to let him know that I was pretty sure this was it, and I called the hospital at 3:50am to let them know that I was in labour but was managing well at home. They advised me to stay home and call back around 7am.
At this stage I was using a TENS machine (which was fantastic!), my birth playlist, the birth breath technique, and holding combs in my hands to distract me. I was also smelling the essential oil I had used through my hypnobirthing practise which my brain had learned to associate with a positive and relaxed state. Daniel alternated between sitting with me to support me and packing up the car to head to hospital. During this time, I was deep in my hypnobirthing zone and found it difficult to have a conversation or to judge how much time has passed. Eventually, at about 8am, Daniel decided we needed to start heading to hospital. This was another advantage of having partners at Hannah’s course - he had a good idea of when things were ramping up and it was time to get moving.
Getting dressed and into the car, and the contractions I had on the way to hospital, were some of the hardest moments - I had to keep repeating one of the affirmations we learned in the course, ‘I can do anything for 60 seconds’, to get through them. I have almost no recollection of walking from the car to the birthing suite.
When we arrived in the suite, something triggered the fire alarm, and this meant all of the doors were locked and my husband couldn’t get my bag from the car, which had my tealights, affirmation cards and essential oils in it. The sound of the alarm was deafening, the room was brightly lit, and I felt myself start to lose control of the contractions and thoughts of ‘I can’t do this’ started to creep into my head-in hindsight, I must have been nearing transition without realising.
I asked for some gas and to have the bath filled, as I had been planning for a water birth. The midwife was asking me to lie on the bed so she could listen to the baby’s heart rate and see how I was going, but lying on my back at this point was excruciating and I wasn’t able to stay still. I’d requested in my birth plan not to have my dilation checked if possible as I didn’t want to be discouraged if I wasn’t far along. She struggled to find the baby’s heartbeat with the doppler, which really panicked me. She then used a CTG and it was a huge relief to hear the heartbeat loud and clear.
Shortly after this, the fire alarm and lights were finally turned off, and Daniel was able to grab my bag and set up the tealights and my birth playlist. This, combined with the gas, brought the experience back under control for me. Just as the midwife told me the bath had finished filling and I could get in, I had an instinct to kneel on the ground and lean forward over the bed, and yelled to the midwives that this baby was coming now!
After about 15 minutes of pushing, our baby was born at 9:36am - about an hour an 15 minutes after we arrived at the hospital. It was a moment that will stay with me forever; the room was dark and lit with tealights, my music was playing, I was holding my husband’s hand, and I’d done it! We had chosen not to find out the gender and reaching down to grab her and seeing she was a girl was the most incredible moment. We had our first magical cuddle while Over the Rainbow played in the background. We named our new daughter Scarlett, which is what my mum had wanted to call me before deciding it was too radical back in the day!
Birth was the most empowering experience I have ever had. While it was undeniably challenging and pushed me to my limits, I loved the experience of working as a team with Daniel and am in awe of what my body was able to do. If I decide to have more children, I am already excited to give birth again.
I could not have had the experience I had without Hannah’s course. I love that the course gave me the tools I needed to give birth with minimal intervention, which allowed me to be up and moving
around and listen to my body’s instincts of how best to bring my baby safety into the world.
I always feel a bit frustrated when I hear people say there is no point in trying to prepare for birth, or that there is no point having a birth plan. Hannah explained that giving birth is a superhuman effort, so of course it makes sense to prepare for it-and in regards to birth plans, that it is OK to hope and plan for more than just you and your baby coming out of the experience alive! I would recommend hypnobirthing to everyone - thank you Hannah!
Photos and birth story shared with permission.