I decided to do HypnoBirthing on the advice of people for whom it had worked. Also my dad is a Doctor and had told me that any relaxation techniques I had under my belt during the birth could really help.
Me and my husband Louis hooked up with another couple, good friends of ours and shared the HypnoBirthing classes at Michelle’s. It was a lovely, calm environment and Michelle was always really kind and listened to all our many worries and fears.
At first, some of the exercises felt ridiculous and it took a while for me not to feel self conscious and to be able to really slip into a deep state of relaxation in the class, but when it did happen, I realised I had really sunk into something deep, and I saw how easy and quick it could be to release yourself from your body.
The combination of the videos she showed us, which were incredible, the ritual of going there, and the homework, really built up a confidence. We practised a lot. I almost studied for the birth like it was an exam. I found Marie Mongan’s book that Michelle gave us really useful. If you can get your head round the concept of fear, equalling tension, equalling pain, you’ll work hard to not be scared as you know it works against you.
My husband and I would practice regularly. That is super important as at the beginning he spoke too fast, or slow, or tried to put on a sort of hypnotist’s voice which just made me laugh. Finding the speed and tone to speak in is vital in order to give yourself over to someone and place your trust in them. Some of the exercises just didn’t work for us and it was a sometimes-frustrating process of trial and error, to find out what I responded the best to. Louis could see how I best relaxed and he built up a sort of order of exercises. I seem to remember the thermometer and the balloon, and some of the rainbow exercises worked well. The breathing helped me so much as well as I’m prone to panicky chest breathing, and if you give and take all your breath from your stomach you don’t end up panicky!
I found that propping myself up on pillows, half sitting up was the best position to relax and concentrate.
As soon as I started having contractions, during the Thursday night, I started to practice my relaxation techniques and tried to rest as much as possible. On the Friday day I seemed to have very mild contractions all day. I just breathed through and I thought it was a false alarm, but things got going early evening. I was planning a homebirth so the house was all candlelit, with rugs and towels and biscuits and music galore, with an enormous birth pool in the centre (that we’d already had a practise filling up). I spent the early moments of the contractions watching some old films with my mum and husband but as they got more intense I felt I needed the comfort zone music and more concentrated silence. Every single time I had a contraction I used the HypnoBirthing. I just imagined my body, everything except my stomach, switching off completely. I thought about the muscles that are doing their job, opening up a drawstring bag, and I just breathed them the tools they needed, oxygen, and closed my mind. It took strength of mind but I never let one go without me doing that and they didn’t hurt because of it.
In between, I wondered around the house, chatting to my mum, having tea, ignoring it completely. At around 7pm I started to feel a bit emotionally exhausted and I had a long bath and chat to my father. I could feel my strength going due to tiredness. He urged me to stay focussed. I got dressed and my mum and Louis suggested we go out for a walk! I couldn’t think of anything worse. Leaving my little cosy nest and going out into the cold dark night did not appeal. But we did it. We all needed a change of scene. We walked round to my brothers. It usually takes 15 minutes but it took about 45 as I was constantly stopping to have a contraction. Louis and my mum would hold me on either side as I had them, or I’d lean on a wall. The walk was obviously speeding things up.
When I got to my brothers I had a glass of wine and some fish pie. I was in good spirits and they were very supportive and sweet. I fiddled about trying to put the tens machine on but it seemed to only annoy me. Looking back I can’t believe I had gone on that walk! After being there around an hour and having contractions every three or four minutes, I suddenly felt I wanted to be at home. It was quite a walk back. Things had sped up.
Back home Louis and I lay on the bed and decided we wanted to do some practice routines. We had intermittently been doing that all day. We thought we needed to practise for the big event. In fact, by going so deeply into a trance, during which Louis said I lifted my hand and did things he told me to do – but I don’t remember it at all as I was so deep and I think this moved things on even further; he said I had about three contractions while in a sort of trance but barely noticed. At home, it’s worth mentioning I did spend a lot of time sitting on the loo. It just felt safe to be there. My mum sat by me staring saying ‘I’m just making sure you aren’t going to have the baby in the loo!’
At 11pm I decided to call the midwife. I was still very calm, and I was aware of how calm I sounded but how close I felt I was and how much I needed them to come. They told me that judging from the sound of my voice I probably wasn’t very far dilated, so they would pop in but not bring any equipment etc. I said I was doing HypnoBirthing and joked that I am actually not as calm as I sound but I’m pretending to be calm. I had never really had a vaginal examination during the whole of the pregnancy so I was pretty nervous. I was so worried they’d say I was only dilated 3cm and go way, or that it would hurt, and every time they tried to do it I’d have another contraction so I felt I couldn’t lie on my back. I was shaky and cold. So we stopped and made some tea and did a relaxation routine and I calmed down.
When they finally checked me they were utterly amazed. I was dilated 7cm. They said they hadn’t seen anything like it and apologised for not believing me. Suddenly it was all stations go. The midwives went and got their equipment, Louis got the water temperature right in the pool and I prepared to get in. It took a while. Moving from one place to another required a focus, and felt hard. But getting in the pool was utterly amazing. I had a whole new sense of warmth and comfort. Things remained the same with regular contractions, stronger, harder ones during which I would cling to Louis’s hands and he would repeat some of the HypnoBirthing affirmations, and in-between I’d be chatting and laughing.
At around 3.30am I could feel everything getting very intense. The head was pushing and I felt I needed some extra help. I didn’t feel like shouting but I think I did shout, just to sort of make everyone realise how I needed something. I tried to drag on gas and air but it confused my breathing. I wouldn’t, couldn’t let Louis leave me for one second. I clutched onto him for dear life and started to realise I needed to push. My waters then broke. The midwives told me to move towards the middle of the pool. I sort of squatted and my body beared down. I didn’t really need to push my body seemed to be pushing for me. The second time I did push, trying to J breathe but my body really took over. With three pushes the head popped out. It was an incredible moment, I was being supported on either side, from my mum and husband and the head was out and we were laughing saying how ridiculous it was that we were waiting. One more push and the baby was out. Into the water, and I caught him. Otto.
The placenta came out easily and I had no tearing. The worst bit was being sick when I stood up and saw the blood in the pool (I also think the gas and air didn’t help!).
It really was such a good birth experience I would recommend HypnoBirthing to anyone who is about to have a baby, whether or not you are planning a homebirth. It’s a wonderful tool to have in your life to also help you sleep and relax as things get harder later on with a young baby in tow.
I highly recommend Michelle. She is calm and kind and a great listener!