Susannah's email to me, WHICH she titled "jasmine's birth story - How hypnobirthing got me through"
I've heard many mums joke that soon after it is over you forget the birth, and particularly how painful it is, perhaps that's nature's way of making sure you do it again! I have always had a low pain threshold and I was extremely worried about the birth which is why I decided to do hypnobirthing. I always thought I'd take pain relief if I needed to and wanted to give birth in a hospital in case anything went wrong, but I also wanted a strategy to stay calm, which is why I took Zoe's course.
the hypnobirthing course
I had done meditation and yoga before but didn't know much about hypnosis nor hypnobirthing. I really enjoyed the day and Zoe's relaxed, informative training and personal reflections. I found her readings of the hypnobirthing scripts instantly and extremely powerful. It gave me the kick start and confidence I needed to then practice with my husband on our own.
After completing the course I felt great and decided to be really open to this approach. It helped me relax during pregnancy.
I drew pictures to help my visualisations and I read the 'positive birth book'. Here are some photos of my positive affirmations prep:
I knew about the importance of terminology and that in hypnobirthing circles we use more positive language to describe birth, words such as intense. Whilst I wholeheartedly agreed with that approach, | knew a lot of women who said giving birth hurt a lot and so I was open to taking drugs. Keeping options open was part of Zoe's teaching approach. And honestly, for me it definitely was painful. However with hypnobirthing, I had the best tools to manage that pain and in the end I gave birth to a healthy baby with no drugs.
Looking back on the birth
It feels like only the other day but somehow four months on, I am blessed with a beautiful, spirited, strong little daughter called Jasmine and I'm busy with everything that comes with being a new mum.
I still do remember the experience and the feelings very clearly, despite that fact that during the Labour there were moments when time stood still, I had no sense of time and my sense of what was happening at all was very hazy. I like to think this sense of time standing still is because I was in the 'zone', and I definitely went into my own world, particularly during my time in the birthing pool.
So to go back a bit, in total my Labour lasted 3 days, beginning on on the Thursday morning when I started to have a very heavy feeling in my pelvis as my baby was deeply engaged and ending on Saturday night.
When it started it wasn't painful I just felt very full, and I felt a strong compulsion to be weightless so I went swimming. Later that day, I started getting feelings I can only describe as being like period pains and I had some mild bleeding, which I believe was the 'show' and I didn't sleep well as these early surges continued overnight.
The next morning I felt it was all going to happen, so I cancelled my lunch plans with my parents in central London and my mum came to me and kept me company/distracted me as the surges intensified throughout the day.
We had a lovely day. I showed her my affirmations and this poster I'd created with images of butterflies and visual prompts for the hypnobirthing and I also made sure she knew my birth plan backwards!
I particularly drilled into her Zoe's advice to ask lots of questions of medical staff and what the alternatives are for any recommended interventions in case they came up.
Together we did some scripts and I also spent quite a lot of time on my own, listening to Zoe's and my own recordings, practicing breathing and looking at my positive statements. I also took Zoe's advice and watched lots of comedy box sets whilst rocking, bouncing, leaning on my Swiss ball.
husband arrives home
By the time my husband came home I'd experienced some extremely 'intense' surges and i couldn't even talk to him when he stepped in the front door. My mum was very worried and I think I would've gone to hospital then had we not done the course together. But instead my husband helped me get back into the zone, doing some more practice and we stayed home for as long as possible.
As the surges became longer and more frequent I started using the TENs machine - it was a lifesaver! Come midnight I'd taken myself off to the downstairs loo (like a mammal) several times and I felt like I needed some stronger pain relief, so as my husband began talking about going to bed (!). I insisted it was time to consider going to hospital. But we still waited a bit longer until I decided I really wanted and needed hard drugs!
at St thomas' hospital
To get me through the cab I put my headphones & scripts on, had my scented scarf ready and tried to focus on my breathing. Once we got to the hospital, although I was extremely uncomfortable I was pretty calm so they didn't examine me straightaway. It was 3am by the time they did. I was 4cm dilated at this point and the midwives were so impressed I'd got to this point without any drugs they made me feel like I didn't need them. Also because I wanted to stay in the home from home midwife led unit, I decided I'd go with the water birth as my main source of pain relief.
Because it was the middle of the night and they were short staffed, we then had to wait until 8am to get a pool when the day shift started and I was assigned my main midwife. This was obviously disappointing and if I'd have known that at 3am, I probably would have asked for an epidural - however again the hypnobirthing got me through.
We were lucky to have a room, which I sprayed with the Neals' Yard Remedies room scent I'd used in my practice and I put up the poster I'd made with my positive affirmations, statements and images that made me feel good. I remembered all my practice, my visualisations and I tried to focus on the fact that my baby and I were a tag team, each of us working through it and each surge was bringing us closer together.
Throughout this whole time, I was regularly checked but otherwise left alone and the hours just went by in a blur. I was extremely uncomfortable standing, walking or lying down. I just had to rest on the Swiss ball. I mostly remember just staring out the window at Westminster bridge watching night buses go past, whilst listening to my hypnobirthing prerecords on repeat whilst bouncing on the ball. I couldn't have got through the night without my Tens machine!
Once my midwife Anna arrived, she took the time to speak to us about our birth plan and looked at my poster with my affirmations on it. She totally got what I was trying to do and was extremely supportive. In fact throughout my time in the unit, all the midwives I had at St Thomas' were amazing, they loved the fact we were doing hypnobirthing and full of praise for our pictures and little props I'd brought from home to help create a peaceful, calming environment.
'water - the perfect partner to hypnobirthing'
I would also highly recommend water as the perfect partner to hypnobirthing. In the end the doctors decided I should give birth outside of water, in my room. But for eight hours, I benefitted from being warm and weightless, being able to swim with my surges in the water and move my body in anyway I wanted without feeling as much pressure in my pelvis. When I felt like bearing down, it really helped with my downward breathing. By this point though I couldn't do scripts but I was able to play the music I'd listened to throughout my practice which helped me do the breathing naturally.
In the water, soft mood lighting of changing colours, relaxing 'zen' music, essential oils in the water and the dark warm room definitely helped me to abandon myself to the pain, to enter a sort of meditative state in which I wasn't trying to escape from the pain but to breathe through it. Along with the support from my husband, my mum and the midwives this soporific environment really helped me to get into the zone and stay calm through the whole experience.
It was extremely challenging getting out of the water, I was about 8cm dilated so moving into another room was really difficult but i remember looking at the sunset over the Thames (our room looked onto the river and Parliament) and feeling awed by the fact that the whole day had passed when time had stood still for me.
intensity steps up
At this point whilst being examined my waters broke and I remember from this point the intensity stepped up and became much more extreme. I kept looking at my poster for inspiration and the river (thinking about ripples) as I approached what I think must have been 'transition'.
Now the dance playlist came on to get me through the final phase and I bounced on the ball, then somehow got on all fours as I began pushing. The TENs machine was no longer effective.
The whole experience became more primitive, I started making growling noises I had no control of and I was given some gas and air (right at the end) and Clary Sage essential oil to help me get through the final stage.
I can't really describe what those final pushes felt like, and once her head was out we had a scare as the cord was wrapped round her and the heartbeat was dropping so they had to perform a small tear to get her out. This was all really scary, but I just held onto my husband the whole time, kept breathing and followed the midwives' instructions. And then finally we heard my daughter's cries. I was shocked and awed when they put her on my chest, and despite the fact my whole body was throbbing I was just totally focused on her.
The magnitude of what I'd been through was somehow cemented by holding this little creature.
Zoe - that was a very long-winded description so feel free to edit but I wanted to write this testimony for myself anyway and give you some feedback too.
I really will recommend you as I thought you were fab, you made me feel totally at ease and I'm so so glad I did hypnobirthing. Although it was really painful and we had hairy moments, ultimately I think I had a good experience as births go which I'm so grateful for. I genuinely believe that as well as the amazing staff at St Tommies, I have hypnobirthing to thank for that. Because I was so calm I didn't panic and was able to let my body do what it was built to do.
Susannah, Tom and Jasmine